| Back to the CRT page | F&M Home
An elaborate ceremony involving the burying of money and plate under the central pile marked the start of work for the original bridge in 1760.
When the replacement bridge was opened Queen Victoria was chased from the opening ceremony by the London mob in a republican frame of mind.
One of the reasons cited in support of the bridge's construction had been to purify the slums around the river Fleet and it was thought opening up the area to the south would help. Looking at the neighbourhood today the purification seems to have worked, even if it took some time. A clutch of terrible prisons, some slums, a smelly river and a criminal nest were all cleared long before the journalists, who arrived in the 16th century, left the area in the 1980s.
Photographs copyright Christine Marshall
There was a previous Blackfriars Bridge (originally named the William Pitt Bridge, after the Prime Minister) built between 1760 and 1769 by Robert Mylne, who won a competition to design it under slightly controversial circumstances. Initially the judges went for an entry by John Gywnn but changed their minds because they thought Mylne's design more elegant. The young Scotsman Mylne was seen as a bit of an upstart by the architectural establishment and pretty soon Dr Johnson (a mate of Gywnn) was heard huffing and puffing about Scotsmen building good bridges being as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian.
The current bridge is 281 metres long and (after widening in) 32.4 metres wide. It has pulpit-shaped pier heads to fit its name and on the cutwaters are columns of polished red granite. Beneath these are supports of granite that the sculptor J B Philip has decorated with plants and animals. Freshwater creatures and land birds on the upstream side and marine life and seagulls downstream reflect the role of Blackfriars as the tidal turning point. The low cast-iron balustrade completes what has been described as a 'Venetian-Gothic' effect.
The jaunty use of colour on the metalwork of Blackfriars Bridge today is a fine example of the restoration work that has gone on throughout London in the latter part of the 20th century. Not that these were the original colours but Blackfriars now rejoices in a lively red, white and gold motif with gold emblems fixed into the supports. For a variety of reasons (including wartime camouflage and pollution) many of London's bridges were in the early 20th century painted a dull grey.
Reviews of Cross River Traffic here