‘Waterloo Bridge’, says Mr Bradshaw, ‘was commenced in 1809 and opened with great state in 1817 on the anniversary of the battle from which it takes its name. A million of money was expended in this structure, which Canova has pronounced the finest in the world.’
Canova was the greatest sculptor of his day (1757-1822). Interestingly he was the Pope’s envoy at the Paris Peace Conference after Napoleon’s defeat, to argue for the restitution of works of art taken from Italy to Paris.He visited London in 1815. And here is one of those ‘fun’ facts: The Falier family of Venice was one of Canova’s keenest Patrons – do you read Donna Leon’s books? The Three Graces, one of his best known pieces, was commissioned by the 6th Duke of Bedford and is now in the V&A.
Waterloo Bridge no.1 was designed by John Rennie, built 1811-17, and opened by the Prince Regent on 18 June 1817. Canova therefore would not have seen the completed bridge…. It was a toll bridge, the tolls only lifted in 1877. In 1923 there was serious settlement, and a temporary bridge was built alongside. In 1936 the bridge had to be demolished.
Waterloo Bridge no.2 was built between 1937-42, during WWII, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It is known as ‘The Ladies Bridge’ because it was built mainly by women, a fact which has apparently never been recognised. The women were ‘given’ the work on the understanding that they would relinquish their jobs (and skills) once the men returned from war.