The Old Blackfriars Bridge

Looking to the East of Blackfriars Bridge is a crowded scene. You’ve probably spotted the shiny new railway concourse, but have you had a close look at this colourful crest?

Old Blackfriars Bridge

The ornate design reads London, Chatham and Dover Railway which extended into London in 1864. The Latin ‘Invicta‘ is the motto of the country of Kent.

The crest is related to these red pillars; now free from their original, heavy burden.

Old Blackfriars Bridge

They mark the location of the old railway bridge which carried the London and Dover into St Paul’s Station. It was designed by Joseph Cubitt but only had four tracks, so a new one (the current rail bridge) was built next to it 20 years later and the old bridge was removed (apart from the pillars) in 1985.

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Spotting these details, it got me looking a bit closer at the current Blackfriars Bridge…

Blackfriars Bridge Trivia

Old Blackfriars Bridge

The snazzy new Blackfriars Rail Bridge is the World’s largest solar-powered bridge. It’s made of 4,400 photovoltaic panels which make up 50% of the power needed for Blackfriars Station.

But back to the pedestrian one…

History underfoot

In the pedestrian underpass – which opened in October 1995 – you’ll spot some illustrative tiles including this one.

Old Blackfriars Bridge

It’s a picture from the Illustrated London News from 13 November 1869 of ‘Her Majesty Queen Victoria opening Blackfriars New Bridge’.

Not a great start

In a PR disaster, the Royal opening rather backfired when Queen Victoria was booed and hissed at during the ceremony.

Old Blackfriars Bridge

The Queen’s cool reception may have been resentment from locals whose homes had been demolished to provide easier access to the bridge, or it could’ve been that fact that the Queen had rarely been seen in public since her husband’s death, 8 years before.

Religious Hints

The area gets its name from the black-cloak-wearing Dominican monks who were based at this site from 1276-1538. It’s thought that the pulpit-shaped pillars on the bridge (also designed by Joseph Cubitt) are reminder of this history.

Old Blackfriars Bridge

Local Wildlife

Take a closer look at these pillars and you’ll spot different water birds on each side.

The East (downstream) pillars show marine life and seabirds like gulls;

Old Blackfriars Bridge

While the West (upstream) pillars have freshwater birds like swans for decoration.

Old Blackfriars Bridge

Both were sculpture by John Birnie Philip and reinforce the fact that Blackfriars sits at a tidal turning point.

A gruesome end

Blackfriars Bridge also has a sinister reputation after the body of Roberto Calvi, one of Italy’s most prominent bankers, was found hanging from the bridge – his pockets stuffed with $14,000 and 5 bricks – in 1982. First treated as a suicide by the Metropolitan police, forensic experts concluded in 2002 that he had been murdered by the mafia.

Anything I’ve missed on Blackfriars Bridge? What do you look out for on this river crossing?

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