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Blackfriars Bridge (1869)
River Thames, London, UK
Blackfriars Bridge (1869)
associated engineer
Joseph Cubitt
date  June 1864 - 6th November 1869
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TQ315807
ICE reference number  HEW 2200
photo  Jane Joyce
The Blackfriars Bridge that we have today is the second road bridge on this site. It was completed in 1869 and opened by Queen Victoria, whose statue can be seen on its northern approaches.
The bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt, son of William Cubitt. Joseph had also designed the first Blackfriars Rail Bridge (1864) now demolished except for its impressive cast iron Doric columns, which can be seen in the river. He designed the central spans of his road bridge to line up with those of the rail bridge.
Five wrought iron arches span the river, supported on piers constructed in granite-faced brickwork. Above the arches, each side of the bridge has an ornamental cornice and parapet. The piers have pointed cutwaters to help direct the water flow.
The City of London wanted the structure to be ornamental and insisted on the inclusion of decorative elements. Cubitt used polished red granite columns, which sit on the cutwaters and support viewing platforms at road level. Each column is 3.3m high and weighs over 30 tonnes. The column heads have Portland stone carvings of birds and plants by the sculptor J.B. Philip. It is said that this bridge marks the boundary between sea water and salt water in the Thames and the choice of bird subjects reflects this idea: sea birds on the downriver side, fresh water birds on the other.
The Thames is a fast flowing river where it passes through London and the city's bridges are prone to damage from scouring. To help prevent this, Cubitt sank iron caissons deep into the clay riverbed. These are half filled with concrete and the granite-faced piers built atop them.
The central arch of the bridge spans 56.4m, the next two span 53.3m and the shore arches span 47.25m. The bridge's total length between abutments is some 281m. When the bridge was built, it measured 22.9m between parapets. However, it was widened by 9m on the west side in 1907-09 in order to accommodate tramways. The roadway over the central arch is only 3.2m higher than the road level at the banks, so the bridge does not have much of a gradient.
Blackfriars Bridge was built by Bridge House Estate Trust, the organisation set up in connection with Old London Bridge, which it owned and ran. The Trust became wealthy from rental and toll income generated by Old London Bridge, and from donations made by grateful merchants who used the bridge. Through its trustee, the City of London, the Trust still maintains all five Thames bridges that lie in the City area.
The first Blackfriars Bridge (1769) was designed by Robert Mylne. It was the second new bridge built on the Thames in London since the completion of Old London Bridge in 1209 (the original Westminster Bridge pre-dated it). By 1832, when the City commissioned a report, the structure and foundations of the first bridge were found to be in poor condition. Despite remedial works, it was decided that a new bridge was needed and Joseph Cubitt set to work.
The foundation stone for Cubitt's bridge was laid in 1865 and the bridge was opened by Queen Victoria on 6th November 1869, the same day she opened Holborn Viaduct.
reference sources   CEH LondBB

Blackfriars Bridge (1869)