Victorian London - Thames - Bridges - Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriar's Bridge was erected from designs by Robert Mylne, Esq. ; and, considering the small expense at which it was raised, is a very noble structure. The first stone was laid in 1760, and the whole was completed in 1768, at the expense of 152,840l. The length of this bridge is 995 feet; the breadth of the carriage-way is 28 feet; and each foot-path 7 feet. It consists of nine elliptical arches, the centre one of which is 100 feet wide, and the two adjoining ones 93 feet each, thus exceeding by several feet the celebrated Rialto at Venice. The whole of this structure is of Portland stone. It commands some interesting views both up and down the river, and from the east side the towering majesty of St. Paul's Cathedral is seen to great advantage.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE. The work of Robert Mylne, a native of Edinburgh, and originally called Pitt Bridge. [see Chatham Place.] The first pile was driven June 7th 1760, and the first stone laid Oct. 31st, 1760. On Wednesday, Nov. 19th, 1768, it was made passable as a bridle-way; and it was finally and generally opened on Sunday, Nov. 19th, 1769. There was a toll of one halfpenny for every foot passenger, and one penny on Sundays, under June 22nd 1785. Government ultimately bought the toll, and made the bridge free. ..... Blackfriars Bridge consists of nine arches, and is 995 feet in length from wharf to wharf. It was erected in 10 years and three quarters, and executed at a cost of 152,840l. 3s 10d., - 163l. less than the original estimate. Mr. Mylne died May 5th 1811, and is buried in Wren's magnificent cathedral, of which he was several years surveyor, and of which this bridge affords a stately and imposing view. The bridge has since been lowered, and the open balustrade removed.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

BLACKFRIARS TEMPORARY BRIDGE. for the maintenance of traffic during the building of the new bridge, is open to the public, and is well worth a visit. It consists of a timber viaduct, with three openings for the river navigation, each 70 ft. clear in the span, and supported by iron girders. The roadway for vehicles is carried along the top part of the bridge. The footway is divided for a to-and-fro stream of passengers ; and there are three intersecting paths for crossing from one to the other. Gas mains, pipes, and lamps are provided for both the ways.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

The Bridge was built of Portland stone, and consisted of nine semi-elliptical arches, then introduced about the first time in this country, in opposition to Gwyn, who, in his design, proposed the semicircular arch. The columns were the most objectionable feature in Mylne's design, architecturally; for the line of the parapet being a curve, time pillars were necessarily of different heights and diameters. Between 1833 and 1840, the Bridge was thoroughly repaired by Walker and Burgess, at an expense of 74,035l., it is stated at a loss to the contractors. The foot and carriage ways were lowered; the removal of the balustrades, and the substitution of a plain parapet, altogether spoiled the architectural beauty of the structure. It is traditionally said that our great landscape-painter, Richard Wilson, used to make frequent visits to Blackfriars Bridge, to study the magnificent view of St. Paul's Cathedral obtained from it.
    At length, the Court of Common Council resolved to build a new Bridge upon time site of the old Bridge, but much wider; and the design of Joseph Cubitt was selected - to consist of five iron arches, surmounted by an ornamental cornice and parapet, and the iron floor covered with a layer of concrete, and paved with granite; each of the four piers having a massive column of red polished granite. A temporary wooden bridge 900ff. in length, having three arches of 75ft. span for the river traffic; the carriage-way is 26ft. wide, and above it, at an elevation of 16ft., two footways, each 9ft. wide, were erected: the old bridge was then closed, and its demolition commenced forthwith; the rubble and masonry above the arch-turnings was nearly 20,000 tons weight. The cost of this Bridge, four equestrian statues, and the temporary bridge, is stated at 265,600l., or 3l. per foot super. At 150 feet eastward an iron lattice girder. bridge had been constructed for the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

Construction of the bridge, 1868 [ILN Picture Library]

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Blackfriars Bridge is one of the handsomest in London, and would have a still better effect were not its appearance so seriously marred by the proximity of its neighbour, the Alexandra (London Chatham and Dover Railway) bridge. It was built in 1864-9 by Mr. William Cubitt from the designs of Mr. Page, architect also of Westminster-bridge, and though showing a tendency towards the same defects in design which occur in that structure, is beyond all question an immense advance upon it. It crosses the river in five spans, the centre span being 185 ft. The piers are of granite, surmounted by recesses resting on short pillars of polished red Aberdeen granite, and with ornamental stone parapets. The parapet of the bridge itself is very low, which, with the extreme shortness of the ornamental pillars at the pier ends, gives the whole structure rather a dwarfed and stunted look; but the general outline is bold and the ensemble rich, if perhaps a trifle gaudy, especially when the gilding, of which there is an unusual proportion, has been freshly renewed.  

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge - photograph


Blackfriars Bridge, 1,272 feet long and 80 feet broad, is made of iron, its five arches being supported by granite piers. It Cost 320,000, was built by Cubitt, and was opened in 1869. Parallel with it, and spoiling whatever good effect it might possess, runs the London, Chatham and Dover railway bridge; and the sloping roof visible in our picture is that of St. Paul's station. But no better view of the grandly proportioned dome and towers of St. Paul's Cathedral can be obtained than from Blackfriars Bridge, which, by the bye, owes its name to an old monastery situated on the bank of the river, and dating from the end of the twelfth century. The bridge which it superseded was of stone, and was built in 1769.