Heritage Minister Recognises Women Who Built Waterloo Bridge With National Heritage Listing
- Women who worked on the construction project to dismantle the temporary Waterloo Bridge and build the new one officially recognised in a Grade II* re-listing on The List by Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch, to mark National Women in Engineering Day - 23rd June
- #Built By Women campaign calls for information about other historic sites built by women to celebrate Women’s role in creating England’s historic environment
Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch has re-listed London’s iconic Waterloo Bridge to recognise the role women played in the construction project during the Second World War. The re-listing was recommended by Historic England, beginning the #BuiltByWomen campaign to properly recognise the women who built England.
The Ladies' Bridge
Although it's nicknamed "The Ladies' Bridge" by guides who tell the story to tourists on Thames riverboats, the women who worked on the Waterloo Bridge construction project have never been officially recognised. The part they played has been largely forgotten until now.
A reticence in the building trades to admit women into their ranks at that time was probably the reason the role of women was kept quiet but evidence recently uncovered by construction historian Dr Christine Wall, has confirmed that women were involved in the project in dismantling the temporary bridge alongside the new in 1944. This has now been properly recorded on the National Heritage List for England (The List).
Share your information
To celebrate National Women in Engineering Day (Tuesday 23 June), the Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch, Historic England, the Women’s Engineering Society, Karen Livesey, who directed the documentary The Ladies’ Bridge, Christine Wall and The Point People are issuing a joint call for information on other historic structures built or designed by women.
We want to hear from researchers, historians, community groups, as well as the families of the women who built England. Anyone whose female ancestors were involved in shaping historic places is urged to get in touch. Please share your information on social media by using #BuiltByWomen or submit your evidence by emailing us at [email protected]
The #BuiltByWomen campaign will result in better recognition of the way that women have contributed to the historic environment, through the National Heritage List for England, which is managed by Historic England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Where there is enough evidence of women's involvement in historic buildings and structures, Historic England plans to include new listings in the The List.
From its origins in 1882, the List has grown to include almost 400,000 buildings and sites across England. These range from prehistoric monuments and battlefields to shipwrecks and post-war offices. They all benefit from legal protection and the List is growing in size and popularity, with more than a million visits annually from people who want to understand more about England’s special historic places.
Women's contribution on record
Now the campaigners are calling on individuals and groups across England to submit any evidence they have about the role women have played in listed buildings, so that the List can be updated where there is significant evidence to show women’s involvement. This is part of a broader effort from Historic England to understand and celebrate the role of under-represented groups who have left a deep impression on England’s history and historic environment.
Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to ensure our great female engineers are properly recognised. This project will show the remarkable achievements of the women who broke conventions to help build Britain and inspire the next generation of female engineers, architects and builders."
Emily Gee, Head of Designation at Historic England said: “Women have always been involved in shaping places – through patronage, design, labour, craftsmanship, alteration and decoration. These roles have historically been overlooked, but as important research, understanding and awareness reveals their hands, it can illuminate many fascinating and inspiring stories. We hope that, through our call-for-evidence, we can draw on others’ research and record the role of women in the National Heritage List for England. The list is a vital national asset for recording England’s history.”
Jen Lexmond of The Point People said: “Too often women’s stories are ignored or unacknowledged, as in the case of the Waterloo Bridge. The stories we tell and imagery we have so strongly shape our collective unconscious — what we think women and men are, can do, can be, can aspire to. We applaud Historic England for re-listing the Waterloo Bridge to include this new evidence of women’s crucial role in building the iconic structure. We echo their call to the public to share more examples of women’s forgotten contributions. Our campaign to see a Blue Plaque placed on the bridge to recognise women’s contribution continues, and we hope to see our application shortlisted by English Heritage by the end of this month.”