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Old Blackfriars Bridge (1769), site of
River Thames, London
associated engineer
Robert Mylne
date  1760 - 1769
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ316806
ICE reference number  HEW 2200
The first Blackfriars Bridge, originally named William Pitt Bridge and now demolished, was only the second bridge built over the Thames within the area of the City of London. It was preceeded by Old London Bridge, completed in 1209.
However, it was the fourth Thames bridge built in the wider London area, as the first Putney Bridge in was completed 1729 and the first Westminster Bridge in 1750.
The original Blackfriars Bridge was a masonry road bridge designed by Scottish architect and engineer, Robert Mylne. He won the commission soon after he came to London, having travelled on the Continent for some time. The Corporation of the City of London received more than 50 replies to their call for submissions, many from well-known people such as architect William Chambers and engineer John Smeaton.
However, they chose Mylne's design, which seem to have been his first bridge, and formally adopted it on 22nd February 1760. He was then appointed to oversee the works.
His bridge had nine semi-elliptical arched spans in Portland stone. His use of this arch profile led to a great deal of public criticism as elliptical arches were new to Britain. The central span measured 30.5m and the others diminished to 29.9m, 28.35m, 25.3m and 21.3m. The rise of the central arch was 12.6m.
The bridge was some 303m long and 13.7m wide. As part of the construction of its approaches, the Fleet Ditch, formerly a stream but around this time virtually an open sewer, was covered over. It was made to run under New Bridge Street and open into the Thames west of the bridge.
Although this was Mylne's first bridge, it demonstrated his mastery of masonry construction and building in water. It was a landmark in civil engineering design with excellent foundations and architectural treatment, including double Ionic pilasters above the cutwaters. The pilaster device was subsequently adopted by Rennie on the original Waterloo Bridge (now demolished).
During the nearly ten years the bridge took to build, Mylne received many other commissions for both bridges and hydraulic works. In 1771, he was appointed chief engineer to the New River system, which supplied spring water to parts of London, and had been constructed by Sir Hugh Myddlteon starting in 1609.
In 1832, the Corporation of London commissioned Walker & Burges to survey and report on the condition of Mylne's bridge. Their report confirmed that the structure and foundations were in poor condition. Repairs were carried out 1833-40. The bridge's gradient was also altered at this time by lowering the crown and raising the level of the approaches.
Despite this work, the Corporation eventually decided on a new bridge and work began on its replacement, designed by Joseph Cubitt, in June 1864. So, the present bridge, completed in 1869, is the second road bridge on the site, separated from the construction of the first by exactly one hundred years.
reference sources   CEH LondBDCE1BB
Location

Old Blackfriars Bridge (1769), site of