1274: Franciscan Black Friars had their monastery north of the bridge site.
1610: Camden -
The other Fort [ matching the Tower of London ] was on the West side of the Citie,
where Fleete, a little riveret
(whence Fleete streete tooke name), now of no account but in times past able to beare vesselles,
as I have read in the parliament Rolls, sheddeth it selfe into the Tamis.
Fitz-Stephen called this the Palatine tower or castle, and they were that in the reigne of William the Conquerour it was consumed by fire. Out of the ruins whereof both a great part of Paules Church was newly built, and also in the very plot of ground where it stood Robert Kilwarby Archbishop of Canterbury founded a religious house for Dominican Freers (whereupon we call the place Blacke Freers). Whereby a man might easily guesse of what bignesse it was.
Howbeit there stood in that place in the daies of King Henrie the Second (Gervase of Tilburie in his book entituled Otia Imperialia is mine author) two forts or castles built with wals and rampiers, the one whereof belonged to Bainard, the other to the Barons of Montfichet by right of succession. But nothing remaineth of them at this day. Yet some thinke that Pembroch House was a peece of them, which we terme Bainards Castle of William Bainard, a noble man, Lord of Dunmow, whose possession sometime it was, whose successours the Fitz-walters were in right of inheritance the Ensigne bearers of the Citie of London, and amongst them Robert Fitz-walter had licence of King Edward the First to sell the site of Bainards Castle to the said Archbishop Robert.
"The Thames OR Graphic illustrations of Seats, Villas, Public Buildings, and Picturesque Scenery" by William Bernard Cooke, 1811 -
Blackfriar's Bridge was erected after a design of Mr. Mylne;
and the first pile was driven in the midst of the river on the seventh of June, 1760.
The first stone was laid with great ceremony by the lord mayor, who attended with the aldermen, sheriffs, and city officers, in great state, on the thirty-first of October in the same year.
Beneath the stone the several British current coins were placed, and a plate with the following inscription:-
On the last day of October, in the year 1760,
And in the beginning of the most auspicious reign of GEORGE the Third,
Sir THOMAS CHITTY, Knight, Lord Mayor,
Laid the first stone of this Bridge,
Undertaken by the Common Council of London,
In the height of an extensive war,
For the public accommodation
And ornament of the City;
ROBERT MYLNE being the architect:
And that there may remain to posterity
A monument of this city's affection to the man,
Who, by the strength of his genius,
The steadiness of his mind,
And a kind of happy contagion of his probity and Spirit,
Under the Divine favour
And fortunate auspices of GEORGE the Second,
Recovered, augmented, and secured
The British Empire,
In Asia, Africa, and America,
And restored the ancient reputation
And influence of the country
Amongst the nations of Europe,
The Citizens of London have unanimously voted this
Bridge to be inscribed with the name of
This bridge, which was completed in the year 1769, is a very convenient and noble structure: it is of stone, and consists of nine arches, which being elliptical, the apertures for navigation are expansive. Its dimensions are as follows:
|Length of the bridge, from wharf to wharf||995 feet|
|Width of the central arch||100 feet|
|Width of the arches on each side|
reckoning from the central ones
towards the shores
|Width of the carriage-way||28 feet|
|Width of the raised foot-ways on each side||7 feet|
|Height of the balustrade||4 - 10 feet|
Over each pier of the bridge is a recess or balcony, supported below by two Ionic pillars and pilasters, which stand on a semicircular projection of the pier above high-water,
and have niches between them.
It spreads open at the extremities, by which means an agreeable as well as useful, access is formed to it.
During the time employed in erecting this bridge, a temporary one of wood was laid over the river for the accommodation of passengers, as well as for the sake of the toll, by which a considerable sum was raised while the work was carrying on, and a large accumulation of debt prevented. In short, this and subsequent tolls enabled the commissioners to pay the whole expense of building this bridge in less than twenty years after it was finished, although less than half what they were allowed to take by act of parliament.
Blackfriars Bridge 1764
Blackfriars Bridge, from Illustration of public buildings of London
1777: 'Blackfriers' Bridge from a picture in the possession of David Garrick Esqr.
Blackfriers Bridge from a picture in the possession of David Garrick Esqr. 1777
Black Friars Bridge. Jan. 18th 1797. From the West.
1802: Picturesque View on the Thames, Samuel Ireland -
THE noble addition of Blackfriars bridge
to the river Thames, whether considered as
an ornament, or an object of convenience to
our capital, cannot but yield the highest gratification
to the mind of every well-wisher to
the interest of this island, as well as the citizen
of this great emporium of the universe.
THE spacious and numerous public roads which the communication with the borough of Southwark, and the counties of Kent, Surrey, &c. have opened since the erection of this bridge, evince at once the judicious choice of situation for such a structure.
IN Febuary 1754, the city determined on building a bridge on this spot, and in January, 1756, a petition was presented to Parliament, in confequence of which an act passed, empowering the Mayor, &c. to procure a loan of one hundred an sixty thousand pounds, the sum required to complete this undertaking; the interest was to be paid out of the tolls granted by the act.
Amongst the many designs proposed for a bridge that of Mr. Robert Milnes was approved, and the firft stone laid on the 30th of October, 1760, by the then Lord Mayor. It was completed in the latter end of the year 1768, at the expence of one hundred and fifty-two thousand eight hundred and forty pounds, three shillings and ten-pence.
THE length of this bridge is nine hundred and ninety-five feet, the breadth of the carriage- way twenty-eight, and of the two footpaths seven feet each. It consists of nine eliptical arches, the center of which is one hundred feet wide. The eliptical form, as it gives more space, is well adapted to aid the navigation, though the circular is generally allowed to be superior in strength. The upper surface of this bridge forms, in the opinion of many, too large a portion of a circle, a fault generally imputed by foreigners, and perhaps with justice, to most of our buildings of this kind. The design of this bridge must be allowed to have an ample share of elegance. The Ionic pillars projecting from the piers give a happy relief to the whole, and appear singularly light and beautiful from the river. It were to be wished that the materials for this work had been selected of a more durable quality, as it might then have shewn to posterity the merits of its architect: who stands a fair chance at present of outliving his own work.
At the building of this bridge the city was authorised to fill up the channel of Bridewell dock, that:
King of dykes, than which no sluice of mud
With deeper sable blots the silver flood.
Blackfriars' Bridge, Ireland, 1802
1836: Blackfriars Bridge, Tombleson -
Blackfriars' Bridge, Tombleson, 1836
1842: Blackfriars' Bridge from upstream -
1842: Blackfriars' Bridge from downstream -
Blackfriars from Southwark Bridge, Thomas Shotter Boys - London as it is (1842)
Sailing barges loaded with straw are in the foreground while to the right the afternoon sun gleams on the white stone of St Paul's Cathedral and also catches the towers of St Mary Somerset and St Michael, Queenhithe leaving a further cluster of Wren church towers in the shadow. The gleaming Thames stretches beyond the arches of Blackfriars Bridge towards the distant buildings bordering on the Strand.
1856: The removal of the old London Bridge changed the tidal currents around Blackfriars Bridge (and placed several other bridges in peril). A survey showed that the increased currents had scoured away a considerable amount of sediment -
1856: The changes to the river above the 1823 London Bridge
First Blackfriars Bridge demolished. A design for a new bridge by Page,
who designed Westminster Bridge, was originally chosen,
but William Cubitt's design was eventually preferred.
1865: Cruchley's London (1865) : A Handbook for Strangers -
BLACKFRIARS TEMPORARY BRIDGE. for the maintenance of traffic during the building of the new bridge, is open to the public,
and is well worth a visit. It consists of a timber viaduct, with three openings for the river navigation, each 70 ft. clear in the span,
and supported by iron girders. The roadway for vehicles is carried along the top part of the bridge.
The footway is divided for a to-and-fro stream of passengers ; and there are three intersecting paths for crossing from one to the other.
Gas mains, pipes, and lamps are provided for both the ways.
The temporary bridge appears on the London Map of 1868 by Edward Weller
1868: Blackfriars' Bridge under construction -
Blackfriars Bridge under construction, 1868
1869: Current Blackfriars Bridge
replaced Robert Mylnes elegant stone bridge of 1769.
963 feet long, 105 feet wide
Five wrought-iron spans rest on massive river-piers ornamented with red polished-granite
columns. The capitals of the columns are carved with interlaced birds and plants,
and support pedestrian refuges.
Engineer: Joseph Cubitt. Contractor: Messrs P.A. Thom & Co.
Opened in 1869 by Queen Victoria who drove over it. The supporting granite piers are decorated with birds and flowers to honour St Francis, upstream are plants and fresh-water birds and downstream are marine plants and sea-birds. The bridge was opened on the same day as Holborn Viaduct and a Commemorative Medallion was struck showing both: -
Commemorative Medallion: above - Holborn Viaduct; below - Blackfriars Bridge.
So here is something that puzzled me at first - in both the following pictures the road bridge appears to be east of the railway bridge! The answer is that the Blackfriars' Station shown was actually south of the river. It was built on the site of Albion Mill. This is clearly seen on the London Map of 1868 by Edward Weller
Blackfriars Bridge Opening in 1869, and Railway Bridge
It is interesting that the tented seating along the bridge has been placed so as
to conceal the railway bridge from the spectators and no doubt Queen Victoria. (See Dickens below).
The Railway bridge is a much cruder structure than in the next picture.
Blackfriars Bridge and Railway Bridge
1875: Blackfriars Bridge, Henry Taunt -
Blackfriars Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1875
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1537
1880: Blackfriars Bridge with Blackfriars Railway Bridge behind it, Francis Frith -
Blackfriars Bridge with Blackfriars Railway Bridge behind it, Francis Frith, c1880
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames:
Blackfriars Bridge is one of the handsomest in London, and would have a still better effect
were not its appearance so seriously marred by the proximity of its neighbour,
the Alexandra (London Chatham & Dover Railway) bridge. [Blackfriars Railway Bridge] ...
It crosses the river in five spans, the centre span being 185 feet. The piers are of granite, surmounted by recesses resting on short pillars of polished red Aberdeen granite, and with ornamental stone parapets. The parapet of the bridge itself is very low, which, with the extreme shortness of the ornamental pillars at the pier ends, gives the whole structure rather a dwarfed and stunted look; but the general outline is bold and the ensemble rich, if perhaps a trifle gaudy, especially when the gilding, of which there is an unusual proportion, has been freshly renewed.
1897: Blackfriars Bridge, James Dredge -
Blackfriars Bridge, James Dredge, 1897
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230155a
1909: Blackfriars Bridge widened from 75 feet to 105 feet.
1914? Blackfriars Bridge -
Blackfriars Bridge in 1914?
1962: The Blackfriars Barge was found in 1962 during construction of an underpass. It was a keelless, flat-bottomed carvel-built barge 55' long. It had a cargo of Kentish Ragstone for building the City Wall. Pottery and coins enabled it to be dated to the late 2nd century.
1855: The Misers Daughter by William Harrison Ainsworth -
The Folly on the Thames, whither Beau Villiers and his party were steering their course,
was a large floating house of entertainment, moored in the centre of the stream,
immediately opposite Old Somerset House.
It was constructed in the latter part of the reign of Charles the Second; and thither the merry monarch, who was excessively fond of aquatic amusements of all kinds, would frequently repair with his courtiers and frolic dames. Thither also Queen Mary, the consort of William the Third, went on the occasion of a grand musical entertainment; and the place continued in vogue for many years, until at length, degenerating in its character, it became the haunt of a very disreputable part of the community.
The Folly resembled a large one-storied[sic] house, very long in proportion to its width, built upon an immense barge. There was a platform at the top, defended by a strong wooden balustrade, and flanked at each corner by a little turret with a pointed top, surmounted by a small streamer. These turrets constituted small drinking and smoking rooms, and were fitted up with seats and tables. In the centre of the structure was a sort of open belvidere, covering the main staircase leading to the roof. On this a large flag was planted.
The Folly was approached from the water by steps on three sides. It was lighted by a range of large and handsome windows, and entered by two doors, one at the end, and the other at the side. Within, it contained a long music-hall with a frescoed ceiling, gilded and painted walls, an orchestra and the necessary complement of benches, chairs, and small tables.
There was, moreover, a bar, where all sorts of liquors, materials for smoking, and other tavern luxuries were dispensed.
The rest of the structure was divided into a number of small apartments for private parties, and, in short, boasted every sort of accommodation afforded by a similar place of entertainment on shore.
In summer it was delightful the view of the Thames from its summit being enchanting. The coolness and freshness, combined with the enlivening influences of beauty, wine, and music, made it, on its first establishment, a charming place of recreation; and it cannot be wondered that the merry monarch, and his merrier court, found it so much to their taste.
The only surviving World War I, "Q-Boat" disguised armed merchant ship
to combat the new fangled submarine menace.
Now tea and dancing - it is said soon to be a Casino. What a sad loss!
1898: City Line Tunnel built.