The London Bridge Experience
Come out of London Bridge station and follow the signs for Tooley Street and you can't miss the London Bridge Experience. A guide, dressed in a somewhat Dickensian style, with a gruesome scar across his cheek directs you across Tooley Street where you are met by a Beefeater who points you to the queue for the entrance.
Although only about 50 metres long, we had to wait some 50 minutes to get into the show. A tall, cadaverous man wearing a frockcoat and top hat was wandering up and down the queue, making cheesy jokes but not telling us anything about how long the wait would be. When Mathew (12) and I got to the front of the queue, the cadaverous gentleman asked us where we came from (he insisted that Mathew was Ronald Weasley and that I was his big brother) and when we told him he said that he had good news and bad news for us. The bad news was that we were from East Dulwich and the good news was that we would be next into the show.
Once through the ticket barrier, we had another ten minute wait while our party was made up to 25. The experience was set up in brick vaults under one of the bridge piers, and there were posters, faded and peeling advertising things from a celebration of Queen Victoria's jubilee, to a day out at the races and Huntley & Palmer's biscuits.
The first part of the experience comprised a series of rooms, each one representing a period of history. A member of our party was "volunteered" to be "Brownlow", immune to ghouls, ghosts and zombies who would ensure our safety throughout the tour.
The first room was hosted by Boudicca who told us how the Iceni destroyed the Roman bridge and gave us sterling advice on the best way to kill Roman soldiers. Then we moved on to a room where a Norwegian was more interested in beer and hairy women than in killing Danish Vikings. Next was the woman whose job it was to prepare traitors' heads for display on poles at the south gate to London Bridge. There was a number of heads impaled on poles, which in the circumstances looked remarkably cheerful!
From there we went into a room infested by a mad woman, clearly rendered insane by the Great Fire of London. Then we were transported to the mid-19th century, in a room which actually smelled of horse dung and rotting fish. The guide there was a beadle who told us about "the great stink" of 1858 caused by pollution in the Thames aided and abetted by Thomas Crapper's eponymous invention for the better-off. Last was an eerie display about the American millionaire businessman who bought the penultimate London Bridge and had it re-built in Arizona for some $4m.
At this point the tour of the tombs was about to begin, the really scary bit, but as Mathew is asthmatic, we were advised not to go on that part, so I can't offer any comments on it. Be warned though, children under 11 are not allowed to go into the tombs and those under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
All-in-all it was an interesting visit.
The London Bridge Experience & Tombs is open seven days a week 10am to 6pm except 24 December to 1 January 11am to 4pm; closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day
At the gate adults £21.95, children £16.95; family ticket £64.95
Online prices: adults 16.95, children £12.95, family ticket £49.95
Also look out for voucher deals!