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Old Southwark Bridge (1819), site of
River Thames, London, UK
Old Southwark Bridge (1819), site of
associated engineer
John Rennie snr
date  1815 - 24th March 1819
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ322806
ICE reference number  HEW 527
photo  National Monuments Record
The rapid growth of London's population put pressure on the existing Thames crossings and it was proposed that a new road bridge be erected between Blackfriars and London bridges. The resulting bridge, by John Rennie senior, is unfortunately lost to us, as it was replaced by the current Southwark Bridge in 1921.
Rennie made an estimate for a bridge at this point in 1811, and when the Act of Parliament enabling its construction by the Southwark Bridge Company was passed in 1813, he was appointed engineer.
His bridge had only three spans: the Corporation of the City London having insisted on a wide waterway. He achieved this using cast iron arches. The centre span measured 73m the longest span in cast iron in Britain at that time. The two side spans measured 64m apiece.
Each span consisted of eight parallel cast iron ribs, each made up of 13 segments or voussoirs. In total, 5,780 tons of ironwork was needed. This was supplied by Walker Ironworks of Rotherham, who cast, transported and erected it.
The two river piers and the abutments supporting the ironwork were made of Bramley Falls and Whitby stone. Coffer dams were used for the construction of the piers. The river is deep at this point, so the dams had to be strong to resist the water pressure plus the occasional blow from passing barges.
Tolls were charged on the bridge until 1866, when the structure was purchased by the Corporation, who abolished them.
By 1909, there seems to have been some disatisfaction with the bridge and calls for its rebuilding. Demolition began in 1913 but was delayed by the 1914-18 World War. Its replacement, which is much wider and has improved gradients, opened in 1921. This is the Southwark Bridge we know today.
Resident engineer: Charles Meston
Masonry contractor: Joliffe & Banks
Ironwork: Walker Ironworks, Rotherham
"Lives of The Engineers" by Samuel Smiles, JohnMurray, London, Volume II 1862
reference sources   CEH LondBDCE1

Old Southwark Bridge (1819), site of