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Blackfriars Railway BridgeBetween the road and rail bridges at Blackfriars is the somewhat surprising sight of rows of red columns stretching across the river. These are all that is left of the first railway bridge to be built here by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. The LC&DR wanted to build an extension from its terminus near Beckenham across the Thames to link up with the Metropolitan Railway at Farringdon. In doing so, they would be the first company to serve the City from south of the rver. They received authorisation from Parliament in 1860 and Joseph Cubitt was appointed to build the bridge. As the new bridge was to be very close to the Blackfriars road bridge, which was due to be rebuilt, there was a delay in agreeing the designs, and these delays were very costly to the railway company. In the end Cubitt was commissioned to built both bridges.
Blackfriars Bridge (part six)The widened bridge was officially opened on 14 September 1909. At 105 feet wide, it was the widest road bridge in London, and still is. The Lord Mayor was driven in his splendid gold coach from the Mansion House to a pavilion on the north side of the bridge. After the customary speeches, he declared the bridge open and drove the first tramcar across the bridge, to great cheers from the assembled crowds. The public tram services began that afternoon. It had been hoped that the subway would open at the same time, but there were delays because of the need to re-route the various pipes and sewers encountered. It was finally opened by the Lord Mayor 29 November and was to prove a great benefit to commuters, especially to those using the Underground and the trams. It was one of the first pedestrian subways built in London and is still in use today. The tram service ceased to operate in 1953, when the tracks were removed from the bridge.
Blackfriars Bridge (part five)At the four corners of the bridge were massive plinths intended to hold monumental bronze equestrian stayues, though no action had been taken by the time the bridge opened. It was not until 1880 that the Bridge House Estates resurrected the project by setting up a competition. Submissions were requested and several sculptors sent in models, but none was found to be suitable. The biggest problem was in finding the right subject matter for the sculpture. The least controversial idea was for historical figures such as Alfred the Great and the Black Prince, but there were also proposals for such subjects as “The Triumph of the City of London” and “Activity Directing Indolence and Sloth to Progress”! After years of indecision, the scheme was dropped in 1886, and lamp standards were placed on the plinths instead. The scheme was briefly revived in 1902, when it was suggested that equestrian statues of Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and the Prince and Princess of Wales should adorn the bridge, but fortunately this was not carried out. The plinths on the south side of the bridge can still be seen, now converted into staircases leading down to the riverbank.
Blackfriars Bridge (part four)Queen Victoria graciously agreed to make one of her rare public appearances to open the bridge, and it had been hoped the ceremony could take place on 24 May 1869, the Queen's fiftieth birthday, but the bridge was not ready in time. The official opening took place on 6 November, when the Queen also opened the new Holborn Viaduct. Although it was claimed it would be a fairly simple ceremony, pavilions capable of seating four thousand notable persons were erected on both sides of the bridge. Vast crowds were expected to line the royal route to get a rare glimpse of the Queen, and the temporary bridge was closed to vehicles and pedestrians for the day in case it collapsed under the weight of sightseers. The Queen arrived at Paddington by train from Windsor and then drove in procession over Westminster Bridge and along the south side of the river to the bridge, where she was met by the Lord Mayor. After the formalities, she passed slowly over the bridge and up to Holborn Viaduct for the second opening of the day.
Blackfriars Bridge (part three)By the middle of 1850 it became clear that the repairs had been to no avail when one of the piers began to sink, and the bridge was closed for temporary repairs. Wooden centrings were installed to support the two affected arches, some of the stonework was removed from above them to lighten the bridge, and sections of the parapet were replaced in wood, which was given a coat of stone-coloured paint to blend in with the real stonework.
Blackfriars Bridge (part two)Mylne's original design was highly ornate, with bas-reliefs and statues of naval heroes, but these were dropped to keep the cost down. The bridge that was actually built was more restrained, but still very classical, and was much influenced by the work of Mylne's Italian teacher, Piranesi. It was built of Portland stone, which is a beautiful material, but rather soft, and parts of the structure, especially the cutwaters, can be seen in William Marlow's painting of around 1790 to have been damaged by ice of passing barges. The bridge had nine arches, the piers being decorated with pairs of Ionic columns, above which were elegant refuges for pedestrians. The total cost of the bridge, including the approaches, was 230 000 pounds.
Blackfriars Bridge (part one)In the 1750s the City of London decided to build a grand new entrance to the City in the form of a bridge at Blackfriars. In 1759 it held a competition for a design for the new bridge, which attracted sixty-nine entries, including plans from John Smeaton, George Dance the elder, Sir William Chambers and John Gwynn, all seasoned engineers and architects. At first Gwynn's design was favoured, but in the end it was the innovative plans by Robert Mylne, an unknown architect aged twenty-six, which were chosen. Mylne was a confident and ambitious young Scotsman, who had been born into a family of masons and architects. He had just returned from four years in Rome, where he had won first prize for architecture at the prestigious Academy of St Luke. When he heard about the competition for the new bridge, he could not resist the challenge, despite his lack of experience in the face of competition from so many renowned and experienced masters.

Waterloo suicidesFor centuries people have been committing or attempting to commit suicide from London's bridges. The tide is so fast-flowing that few people jumping or even falling into the Thames have survived. Bridges were also a refuge for the extreme poor, as many of the homeless and destitute would spend the night huddled under the arches of bridges, as is shown in an engraving by Gustave Doré. During the nineteenth century, and particularly after 1840, The Times was full of reports of inquests of court cases relating to suicide attempts, as it was legally a crime and was often referred to a “self-murder”.
Waterloo bridge (part six)By the early 1950s trams were being phased out, and the Kingsway subway became obsolete after the last tram passed through it in 1952. It was later converted into an underpass by extending it on to Waterloo Bridge to allow northbound traffic to avoid the busy Strand intersection, opening in 1964. The exit from the tunnel where the trams emerged on to the Embankment has now been converted into a bar and restaurant.
Waterloo bridge (part five)The LCC had to get Parliament's approval and the provision of a grant from the Road Fund, but this was not forthcoming. When the Government offered to provide 60 percent of the cost of reconditioning the old bridge, the LCC reluctantly agreed, and during 1933 tenders were invited for the work to be carried out. A few months later, with Herbert Morrison the newly elected Leader, the Council decided that the debate had been going on long enough and decisive action was required. Morrison had been pushing for a new bridge since 1924, saying that what London needed was a bridge, not a monument, and he was now determined to get his way.