Victorian London - Thames - Bridges - Southwark Bridge

Southwark Bridge, which crosses the river by three colossal strides, between Queenhithe and Bankside, was originally projected by Mr. John Wyatt; and was designed and erected by John Rennie, Esq. The arches, three in number, being segments of circles, are composed of cast-iron. The centre arch, the span of which is 240 feet, rests upon two piers, from each of which springs a smaller one to an abutment on each side. The abutments are of solid masonry, as are also the piers. The whole of the iron work of this magnificent and massy, but apparently light and airy structure, was cast at the extensive iron works of Messrs. Walker, at Rotherham in Yorkshire. Its length is 708 feet. It was erected at an expense of 800,000l ; was commenced in September 1814, and opened in April 1819.

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

SOUTHWARK BRIDGE. A bridge over the Thames of three Cast-iron arches, resting on stone piers, designed by John Rennie, and erected by a public company, at an expense of about 800,0001. The first stone was laid April 23rd, 1815; and the bridge publicly opened April, 1819. The span of the centre arch is 240 feet, and the entire weight of iron employed in upholding the bridge is about 5780 tons.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

SOUTHWARK BRIDGE, of iron - 700 ft. long, with three arches, each of 240 ft. span - was constructed by Sir John Rennie, in 1815-19, at a cost of 800,000l. The City approach is from Queen Street, Cheapside.

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

SOUTHWARK BRIDGE, designed by John Rennie, F.R.S., was built by a public Company, and cost about 800,000l. It consists of three cast-iron arches: the centre 240 feet span, and the two side arches 210 feet each, about forty-two feet above the highest spring-tides : the ribs forming, as it were, a series of hollow masses, or voussoirs, similar to those of stone, a principle new in the construction of cast-iron bridges, and very successful. The whole of the segmental pieces and the braces are kept in their places by dove-tailed sockets and long cast-iron wedges, so that bolts are unnecessary although they were used during the construction of the bridge, to keep the pieces in their places until the wedges had been driven. The spandrels are similarly connected, and upon them rests the roadway of solid plates of cast iron, joined by iron cement. The piers and abutments are of stone, founded upon timber platforms, resting upon piles driven below the bed of the river. The masonry is tied throughout by vertical and horizontal bond-stones, so that the whole acts as one mass in the best position to resist the horizontal thrust. The first stone was laid by Admiral Lord Keith, May 23, 1815, the Bill for erecting the Bridge having been passed May 6, 1811. The iron-work, weight 5700 tons, had been so well put together by the Walkers, of Rotherham, the founders, and the masonry by the contractors, Jolliffe & Banks; that when the work was finished, scarcely any sinking was discernible in the arches. From experiments made to ascertain the extent of the expansion and contraction between the extreme range of winter and summer temperature, it was found that the arch rose in the summer about 1 inch to 1˝ inch. The works were commenced in 1813, and the bridge was opened by lamp-light, March 24, 1819, as the clock of St. Paul's Cathedral tolled midnight. Towards the middle of the western side of the bridge is a descent from the pavement to a steamboat pier. The bridge was opened free of toll, for six months, by the Lord Mayor (Lawrence), Nov. 8, 1864, with a view to its purchase, ultimately, by the City of London.
    "Within a fraction, London Bridge has as much traffic as all the rest put together, the proportions being-London equal to all; Westminster half of London; Blackfriars half of Westminster; Waterloo one third of lllackfriars; and Southwark one-fourth of Waterloo. -Bennoch on the Bridqes of London, 1853.

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

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Southwark Bridge has of late years been much improved by the introduction of a little colour into the painting of its ironwork arches which were formerly all in solemn black, and had a very heavy appearance. The credit of being the handsomest iron bridge across the river rests between it and Blackfriars Bridge; and on the whole though the latter is the more gorgeous, the former is perhaps the more striking. The length is 708 ft.,or little more than half that of Waterloo. The arches, three in number, rest on stone piers; the centre arch having a span of 402 ft. — the longest ever attempted until the adoption of the tubular principle—and the two shore arches 210o ft. each. From the inconvenience of its approaches this handsome bridge has been from the first comparatively valueless.

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