"London Bridge" nursery rhyme

For whatever reason this song popped into my head today, and I began to wonder what exactly it meant, if anything. The only thing I could find on an internet search was that it might be loosely based on the destruction of London Bridge by invading Normans or Vikings. But what about locking up the lady in the bridge, and the lines about building the bridge back up with all sorts of materials?

It seems a lot of nursery rhymes have interesting histories.

Wikipedia’s answers seem fairly even-handed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge

I was gonna say it’s based on the Bubonic Plague, but then realized that one is “ring around the rosy”

I’ll shut up now…
Can anyone else help? London bridge is falling down, my fair lady!

The old Walt Disney Studio once made a very informative animated short that covered the history of the poorly-kept-up London Bridge (eventually destroyed in the Great London Fire of 1666). I believe it was called “The Truth About Mother Goose.”

The history of London Bridge was included in a half-hour programme on TV (shown only in the London region, I think) about the building of London just last night, so some of the info is fresh in my mind.

The bridge in question was the version completed in 1209 (replacing an earlier one which was destroyed by fire in the 1130’s). The rights to collect tolls - and the responsibility for the bridge’s repair & maintenance - were granted by King Henry III to his wife, Eleanor, the “fair lady” of the nursery rhyme. But she was a bit remiss in her responsibilities and the bridge fell into disrepair; hence the bridge was actually “falling down”. The tolls and the repair & maintenance were taken away from Eleanor and given to, I think, the Corporation of London.

It wasn’t a bridge as you’d recognise today: all along its length were houses and shops, with a fairly narrow passageway running through them. These were removed in the 1760’s and the bridge survived until it was decided to replace it with the version that was completed in 1831 and which now stands rebuilt at Lake Havasu.