- The birthplace of the city 5. Safety gates
- Multifunctional construction 6. Defeating pollution
- The first traffic jams 7. Navigation season
- A perfect location 8. The royal birds
A. Almost 2,000 years ago, the army of Ancient Rome landed on the coast of Britain and headed north. Soon they came to a wide, deep river. The army could neither walk across it nor find an alternative route. The only solution was building a bridge. The Romans found a place where the river was relatively narrow and built a bridge. Then they founded a settlement, which they called Londinium. Today it is known as London.
B. The Romans soon discovered that Londinium was an ideal site for a port. Their bridge prevented large ships from going up the river, so all trading ships had to stop and unload at Londinium. It made Londinium an important trading centre and stimulated the growth and development of the city.
C. The first London bridge over the Thames was built of wood – and then rebuilt time and time again. Later, a stone bridge was constructed. By the 1350s there were nearly 200 houses and shops on top of the bridge, and the road across it was very narrow. It was very difficult for carriages, horses and people to move across the bridge. They often couldn’t pass one another and had to spend hours on the bridge.
D. When the Thames flooded, it covered London with water. After a bad flood in 1953, people began to look for a way to control the river. In 1982 the Thames Barrier was opened. When its gates are raised, they form a steel wall more than half a kilometre long across the Thames. It prevents flood water from reaching London. More than 90 times, the Thames Barrier has saved the capital from flooding.
E. Nowadays, Tower Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world. The walkway between the two bridge towers provides a perfect sightseeing platform to enjoy a magnificent view over London. Inside the towers there is an exhibition, which tells the history of the bridge via photos, films, and other media. Tower Bridge also performs its original function of providing a road across the River Thames.
F. In Britain, swans have privileged status. Since the 1100s, all unmarked swans on any public lakes or rivers in the country have belonged to the Crown. The swans on the River Thames are called Mute Swans. They have a bright orange beak with a black spot on the top. Every July, a special ceremony called “Swan Upping” takes place on the Thames at Windsor. All the swans are caught and their markings are checked and recorded.
G. Nowadays, the River Thames is the cleanest river in the world that flows through a big city. This is a great achievement because only fifty years ago the river was so dirty and poisoned that it was declared biologically dead. Special plants to clean the water were built in the 1950s. Soon, special laws were issued to stop factories letting their dirty water go into the river. Strict government measures have saved the river.