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London mysteries: locked in love

Posted at 10:00 am, November 20, 2012 in Fun London, Secret London
Love Locks on the Golden Jubilee Bridge

Each week we solve one of London’s great mysteries (as submitted by you, the reader). This week  Karine from Forest Hill asks: Crossing the Golden Jubilee Bridge at Charing Cross last week, I noticed dozens of metal padlocks locked to the bridge’s railings. The locks are covered in messages: ‘Winnie and Heather Forever’, ‘Tess and Caro’, and drawings of hearts. What’s going on?

Now hear this, Karine…

This is a global phenomenon, known as ‘love locks’. To touchingly commemorate the permanence of the union between their souls, lovers nip down the hardware shop, splash a few quid on a padlock, then clamp it to street furniture. Yep: we’re welling up too. The locks are  engraved with the couple’s names, initials and a romantic message. The choice of landmark hinges on its significance to the couple’s relationship, be  it where they first met, got engaged or had their first dust-up over looking at other men/women. Once the padlock’s affixed, the key’s thrown away (usually into the river), thus rendering it an everlasting commemoration of the romance. At least until the local council turn up with bolt-cutters.

The origin of the custom is unknown, but chances are that it hails from overseas. Serbia’s Most Ljubavi bridge (the Bridge of Love) similarly sprouts a multitude of love locks, some of which can be traced back to World War II, but over the past decade, thousands more have been attached to  landmarks all over the world. There are so many padlocks on Moscow’s Luzhkov Bridge that the local authorities have installed treelike sculptures, so there are more things to attach locks to. Rome’s Milvian Bridge is on similar lockdown, thanks to Italian author Federico Moccia. His novel ‘Ho Voglia De Te’ (‘I Want You’) features a young couple who cement their affections by fixing a padlock to the bridge. A spate of copycat romances later and it looks like the police have had to secure the structure against a desperate gang of bridge thieves. Not all Italian cities are enamoured of the practice. Florence city council recently removed 5,500 love padlocks from the historic Ponte Vecchio due to oxidisation damaging the bridge’s metal railings. Lust? More worried about rust, mate. Jess West

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