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50m from Blackfriars

50m from Blackfriars

Blackfriars Bridge was built by Scottish engineer Robert Mylne and was started in 1760, being first opened in 1769 and called William Pitt Bridge at the time. It was 995ft long, built out of Portland Stone and cost only £152,840. The road was 28ft wide and each pavement was 7ft wide and like many London bridges it was a toll bridge in its early years.

When built it became the third bridge in London after London Bridge and Westminster Bridge and was built to satisfy the needs of the rapidly expanding city. The name ‘Blackfriars’ came from the nearby area which is named after a medieval monastery.

Perhaps due to the low cost, the bridge needed many repairs and by 1843 had incurred costs of £100,000. It was pulled down in 1864 with a new five arch iron bridge being built in its place which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1869. It was designed by Thomas Cubitt, was 923ft long and cost around £300,000. It became another toll bridge but toll free a few years later when the local government removed all bridge charges.

In 1881 there was a grand competition to design statues of figures on horseback to adorn the bridge. The winning designs were of Edward I, Henry V, William the Conqueror and Edward III. Due to cost, the figures were never cast. As a consolation to C. B. Birch who designed the statue of Henry V, he was awarded the contract to build the statue of Queen Victoria that stands on the north side. Other bridge adornments are of stone water birds on the piers, some with coloured bills.

To cope with the demand in traffic the bridge was widened by 30ft in 1907-10 and that’s pretty much the only major change since opening. At the north end the famous River Fleet discharges into the Thames under the bridge whilst near the south end lies the Tate Modern Gallery.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.