A bridge at Westminster was proposed in 1664 as the nearest bridge to London Bridge was at Kingston, 16km away. However, it would take another 90 years before Westminster Bridge was opened, nearly 700 year after the Saxon London Bridge.
In the mid to late 17th century there was considerable opposition for the bridge from Corporation of London, the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and Watermen, all who were receiving good money from the long and sometimes dangerous Westminster ferry crossings.
London was rapidly expanding in the early 18th century and along with a new timber bridge being opened at Putney, Westminster Bridge finally received parliamentary approval. Designed by the Swiss architect Charles Labelye it was built between 1739-1750 using an engineering method later used on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
The original Westminster Bridge suffered from major subsidence and became expensive to maintain. Replaced in 1862, the seven-arch wrought-iron bridge
we see today was painted green to match the leather benches in the House of Commons. Lambeth Bridge, the next bridge up river, is painted red to match the leather benches in the House of Lord's.
The ‘new' Westminster Bridge was designed by the Thomas Page with Gothic detailing by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the re-built Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament).
The South Bank Lion is made from a ceramic stone called coade. The recipe for this artificial waterproof stone was created by Eleanor Coade in 1770. Due to its high quality and ability to be moulded into complex shapes it became a popular 18th and 19th century building material. Coade was used for statues, monuments and building facades, including on Buckingham Palace and the Royal Navel Collage, Greenwich.
Originally painted red the South Bank Lion was one of three which stood above the entrance to the Old Lion Brewery, where the Royal Festival Hall now stands.
Looking like new, all three lions survive to this day. His bigger brother is at the entrance to the All England Rugby Football club, Twickenham, and his smaller brother stands over one of the gates into Kew Gardens, South West London.