London Bridge Is Falling Down Nursery Rhyme- Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More

London Bridge is Falling Down is a famous English nursery rhyme also popularly called My Fair Lady. You can sing the song as a singing game, though it is primarily a regular children’s entertainment song.

Let’s look at everything about this famous song and how it came to be.


Lyrics for London Bridge is Falling Down as Sung Today

London Bridge has nine verses with My Fair Lady, the refrain for each of them.

London Bridge is falling down
Falling down, falling down
London Bridge is falling down
My fair Lady

Build it up with iron bars
Iron bars, iron bars
Build it up with iron bars
My fair Lady

Iron bars will bend and break
Bend and break, bend, and break
Iron bars will bend and break
My fair lady

Build it up with gold and silver
Gold and silver, gold and silver
Build it up with gold and silver
My fair lady

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

Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair lady.

Set a man to watch all night,
Watch all night, watch all night,
Set a man to watch all night,
My fair lady

Suppose the man should fall asleep,
Fall asleep, fall asleep,
Suppose the man should fall asleep?
My fair lady.

Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
Smoke all night, smoke all night,
Give him a pipe to smoke all night,
My fair lady.

Other versions use these lines:

London Bridge is broken down,
Broken down, broken down.

Full Original Lyrics for London Bridge is Falling Down

Several versions of the song could have inspired the modern version.

  1. John Newberry’s 1744 Version

London Bridge
Is Broken down,
Dance over my Lady Lee.
London Bridge,
Is Broken down,
With a gay Lady.

The above is a version from Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book of 1744.

2. James Ritson’s 1784 Version

Build it up with stone so strong,
Dance o’er my Lady Lee,
Huzza! ’twill last for ages long,
with a gay lady

The above version appeared in the book Gammer Gurton’s Garland of 1784.

3. The Norse Epic Translation

London Bridge is broken down. —
Gold is won and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing —
Odin makes our Olaf win!

Historians have disputed the above version as having anything to do with the modern song. However, the lyrics resemble the contemporary rhyme. It is unclear if they inspired the writing of the song we know today as London Bridge.


Who Wrote London Bridge is Falling Down?

It is unknown who first wrote the famous nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down. Although the song could go as far back as the middle ages, records only appeared in the 17th century.

Lyrics with any resemblance to modern lyrics first appeared in the 18th century. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the song’s fame peaked in the USA and Britain.

The debut appearance of the rhyme in any published form was in The London Chaunticleres, a London comedic act. Though the comedy’s writers only printed it in 1657, they could have written it much earlier, in 1636.

The comedic act referenced a line from the famous song and also included some lines present in other earlier versions of the song. Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book in 1744 is thought to be the actual original version of the song.

The lyrics weren’t close to what we sing today, and the melody wasn’t even the same as we sing today. The bridge wasn’t falling. Instead, it was breaking down. There’s also no fair lady in that early version. Instead, there was a gay lady.

Since little is known about the author, the song’s history seems mere speculation.


What Does the Nursery Rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down Mean?

Historical experts have long argued that the song has some more profound meanings. However, all the theories have proven unfounded. Today, the song is a purely innocent source of entertainment for children.

However, we’ll still look at those other meanings in the next section.

What Is a Bridge?

A bridge is a structure that facilitates the crossing of people, cars, or other things across an obstacle, like a river or road.

Who Is a Lady?

Lady is a polite and formal way to refer to a woman. So any woman is a lady.

In the United Kingdom, Lady is also the title given to some women in the royal family for example Lady Diana.


Has the London Bridge Ever Fallen?

No, and yes. Although London Bridge has never wholly fallen, there has been partial deterioration. The bridge has survived several catastrophic events, such as a fire, an ice onslaught, and general population use.

It has been reconstructed a few times since its original inception. In those times, the bridge didn’t collapse as the song would have you believe. Workers merely broke it down to make a better bridge.

The only historical record that suggests the bridge fell is from a Norse poem. The poem talks of the time a Viking leader, Olaf Haraldsson, destroyed the bridge in 1014.

While it is an interesting historical perspective, it isn’t easy to prove its veracity.

Does The Rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down Have Any Dark Meanings?

Historical experts don’t seem to agree on whether there’s any dark meaning behind this famous rhyme at all. Still, that hasn’t stopped several theories about the song’s unclear origins.

Here are the most common theories.

1. The Theory of the Viking Invasion

The Vikings were Scandinavian seafaring warriors from the areas today known to be Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. According to this theory, the Vikings, led by their leader Olaf Haraldsson invaded Britain in 1014.

Though they didn’t successfully take over Britain, they destroyed The Bridge, inspiring the famous rhyme. While it’s unclear whether this happened, it inspired Norse poems, with the below lines being famous.

“London Bridge is broken down 
Gold is won and bright renown.

2. Immurement and The Stability of the London Bridge

Alice Bertha Gomme first put forward this theory in her book, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland. She suggests the singing game was a nod to immurement, an ancient practice of punishing people by encasing them in a doorless room.

Alice added people were encased in the bridge’s foundations to make it more stable. However, there is little archeological evidence of this account, and thankfully too as that would have been quite horrific!

3. The Age and Damage Theory

For a long time (till the 18th century), the London bridge was the only way to cross the River Thames. However, continuous use and several mishaps meant it needed constant repairing to keep the bridge in good working condition.

The time came when it became easier to dismantle the bridge and build another one. The first time that happened was in 1831, and later in 1972.

It is possible the dismantling could have led to the origin of the song. But as with all the other theories, proving that’s the case is complicated.

Who Was the Fair Lady In London Bridge Is Falling Down?

Silhouette of a lady from the 1800's with a parasol and a sketch of london bridge behind her

Many people often wonder who the fair lady in the song is. Several theories attempt to explain the identity of the fair lady in the song.

1. Virgin Mary, the Protector

From the Viking theory, the fair lady is said to be the Virgin Mary. The Vikings dismantled the bridge in 1014 on 8 September, supposedly the Virgin Mary’s birthday.

They, however, failed in their invasion of London. So the people said the city had the “Fair Lady’s protection.

2. Matilda of Scotland and Other Royal Consorts

Matilda of Scotland, King Henry I’s consort, commissioned the building of several bridges in the 12th century.

Eleanor of Provenance controlled all bridge revenue in the reign of King Henry III. The two are also speculated to be the fair lady the song is talking of.

3. A Member of the Leigh Family

The Leigh family of Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire claims one of their family members was immured on the bridge’s foundations in the 17th century. They claim she is the fair lady the song sings of.

Despite all these theories regarding the identity of the Fair Lady, it’s impossible to say who she was.

Is The Rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down In the Public Domain?

London Bridge is a public-domain song. That means that no one has the copyright to it and that if you want to use the song in your work, you can. Anything published or copyrighted before 1925 is considered public domain today.

(Disclaimer: This is a general–not a legally confirmed fact, and you need to do more research into the laws in your jurisdiction/country to ensure you may use this song)

London Bridge was first published in 1744, decades before 1925. That makes it a public-domain song.

But this does not apply to other people’s versions of it—for example, if you made a CD of you singing London Bridge, your version is not public domain. Therefore, I cannot resell it without your permission.

How Do You Sing London Bridge is Falling Down In Sign Language?

You can sing London Bridge in sign language. I found a resource on YouTube that can help you with that.

Lesson Plans and Activities Inspired By London Bridge is Falling Down

The following is a selection of Lesson Plans based on London Bridge. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.

What Is the Time Signature of London Bridge is Falling Down?

London Bridge has two beats in each measure, making its time signature 2/4, however as you will see in the sheet music below it can also be played in common time or 4/4.

Sheet Music for London Bridge is Falling Down

Can You Play London Bridge is Falling Down With an Instrument?

You can play London Bridge on an instrument with any of the below YouTube resources.


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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