Children’s Singing Games: “London Bridge”

Children Playing London Bridge Game

Your weekly listen for 1/5/16 is a traditional English children’s game called “London Bridge”.

The earliest known record of the song was made in 1744, although the game is similar in form to other children’s games from the Middle Ages so it is likely much older. There are several variations on both the lyrics and on how to play the game.

In the version I teach in class, pairs of adults or older children form the “bridge” with their arms, as shown in the illustration and the video, and younger children walk under it. When we sing “My fair lady”, on the final word in the refrain, the bridge collapses and catches anyone who happens to be underneath! Hopefully, giggling ensues, the bridge is “rebuilt”, and we sing another verse.

Below is a painting of London Bridge as it would have looked around the time the song and game likely evolved. As you can see, it does indeed look quick precarious, as there were several buildings on top of it with tunnels through them which wagons and foot traffic had to navigate in order to cross. There was a saying that the bridge was “for wise men to cross over and fools to cross under”.

Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom for the video demonstration of how to play the game. We’ll be doing this in class this week!

London Bridge- Tudor Era

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.

Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair lady.

Build it up with bricks and mortar,
Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar,
Build it up with bricks and mortar,
My fair lady.

Bricks and mortar will not stay,
Will not stay, will not stay,
Bricks and mortar will not stay,
My fair lady.

Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair lady.

Iron and steel will bend and bow,
Bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair lady.

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

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