The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 2

Allen, Thomas

1828

Blackfriars Bridge.

This bridge was built in pursuance of an act of parliament passed in the beginning of the year , by which the lord mayor, aldermen, and council were empowered to erect a bridge, and to levy a toll on all carriages, horses, and foot passengers, crossing it, for defraying the expence.

A committee was shortly after appointed to receive plans and proposals for the undertaking, and to superintend its execution, who, after examining several designs, gave the preference to that produced by Mr. Mylne; and the pile was driven in the middle of the river on the .

The preparations for the commencement of the building were carried on with such alacrity, that on the following, the stone was laid, at the north end of the bridge, by the lord mayor, in presence of the bridge committee, and a considerable number of citizens. The ceremony was performed by his lordship striking the stone with a mallet, the officers at the same time laying on it the city sword and mace. Several gold, silver, and copper coins of George II. were deposited under the stone, as was also a large tin-plate; on which, by order of the court of common council, was engraved a Latin inscription; of which the following is a translation:

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 his country

amongst the nations of Europe, The citizens of London have unanimously voted this bridge to be

inscribed with the name of

William Pitt

.

How evanescent a thing is this city affection! Of all the thousands who now pass this bridge daily, how few are aware of the, fact which this inscription records! The compliment which the citizens of 1760 unanimously voted, the citizens of later times have refused to confirm, and Pitt's bridge is now styled beyond all hope of alteration, Blackfriars. --Percy Hist. vol. ii . p. 138.

This bridge, which was completed in the year , is a very convenient and majestic structure, It is all of stone, and consists of arches, which being elliptical, the apertures for navigation are large, while the bridge itself, when viewed from the water, appears very low. The dimensions of it are as follow:

 Ft.in.
Length of the bridge from wharf to wharf995 
Width of the centre arch100 
Width of the arches on each side, reckoning from the centre one towards the shores98 
 93 
 83 
 70 
Width of the carriage-way--28 
Width of the raised foot ways on each side7 
Heighth of the balustrade on the inside410
Over each pier of the bridge is a recess, or balcony, supported below by Ionic pillars, and pilasters, which stand on a semicircular projection of the pier, above high-water mark. These pillars give an agreeable lightness to the appearance of the bridge on either side. The bridge spreads open at the extremities, the footways rounding off on each side, by which an agreeable and useful access is formed on the approach of it. At each end are flights of stone steps, defended by iron rails, for the conveniency of taking water.

The wooden frames on which the arches of this bridge were turned, were very ingeniously contrived for strength and lightness,

495

allowing a free passage for boats under them while standing. A curious model of of the arches of , in mahogany, showing the construction of the wood-work under it, with the foundations of the piers below, is preserved in the .

The total expence of erecting this bridge was a small sum when compared with , and still more with other bridges erected at a later period.

During the time employed in erecting this bridge, a temporary wooden 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 great accumulation of debt prevented. This prudent measure, with the care and attention of the bridge committee, in the management of the revenues arising from the toll, enabled them to pay the whole expence of the building in less than years after it was finished, with a toll less than half what they were allowed to take by act of parliament.

As the opening of this bridge entirely ruined a Sunday ferry, established at this place for the benefit of the poor of the fraternity of watermen, the bridge committee agreed to transfer consolidated to the rulers of the company by way of recompence for the loss; the interest of which is now appropriated to the same uses as the profits which were derived from the ferry. To defray the expence of lighting, watching, cleansing, and repairing this bridge, there is a particular fund set apart consisting of a small balance of consolidated , annuities, left after payment of the expence of erecting the bridge, the rent of some premises, and raised by bonds on the credit of the Orphan's fund, by virtue of an act passed in the George III. and assigned to the chamberlain for this special purpose.

This bridge, which is unquestionably the noblest in Europe, was originally projected by Mr. George Dodd, an eminent engineer. The original plan was to erect a temporary bridge of wood, which would have been accomplished for a comparatively small sum ;and from the profit, which would have been immense, to erect a stone bridge; but the city of London opposed that plan in parliament for successive sessions at an enormous expence to the company, who were finally compelled to abandon their project of a temporary wooden bridge, and to undertake the building of stone. For this purpose they increased their capital from to . So sanguine was the company of ample remuneration from the toll for their advance of capital, that the additional sum of was immediately raised among themselves, and the shares were at a guinea premium next day.

496

 

Accordingly in an act of parliament was passed, incorporating a company to be called

The Company of Proprietors of

the Strand

By an act of parliament, in 1816, the name was changed to Waterloo.

Bridge,

and to enable them to build a stone bridge from some part of the precinct of the Savoy, to the opposite shore at in . Before commencing the purchase of houses or land, was to be invested in per cent. stock, and was to be actually subscribed.

Mr. Dodd having been dismissed the company's service, they employed the late lamented John Rennie, the ablest engineer of the day, who, with much skill and unremitting attention, brought to a conclusion a work which will remain a monument to his ability, and of the liberality and public spirit of the proprietors.

The stone of the bridge was laid on the , by H. Swan, esq. M.P.; a bottle, containing coins of his late majesty's reign, was deposited in the stone, over which a plate with the following inscription was laid :

This foundation stone of the Strand bridge was laid on Friday the 11th of October, 1811, by the directors for executing the same. Henry Swan, esq. M. P. chairman, in the 51st year of the reign of king George the Third, and during the regency of his royal highness, George, prince of Wales; the money for building which was raised by subscription, under the authority of an act of parliament.

Engineer, John Rennie, F. R. S.

The names of the gentlemen, who have had the conducting of this work, are Henry Swan, esq. M.P. chairman; sir T. Tyrwhitt, knight; sir J. S. York, M. P.; sir William Rawlins, knight; Rev. J. Rush; J. Kingston; J. Duddell; V. Rutter; B. Bricknell; E. Bilke; J. Brogden, M. P.; and J. Morris, esqrs. directors.

On the , the committee reported to the proprietors that they had expended, including purchases of premises necessary for their works, ; that they had also contracted with the Rev. Mr. Jolliffe, of Merstham, and Mr. Banks, to pay them for building the piers and abutments, which were to be completed by , and they had subsequently made a contract with the same persons to turn the arches, and complete the bridge by , at the sum of The expence of making the approaches, paying the committee, engineers, solicitors, &c. would cost about ; making a total of ; but the last item was considerably exceeded. acres at Cuper's garden, which belonged to Jesus College, Oxford, and were let by them to Beaufoy and Co. for their manufactory of British wines and vinegar, were necessary for the bridge; and the value of Beaufoy's lease, which was short, and loss by removing their works and establishing new ones, was

497

ascertained by a jury at about The company became possessed of it, and it forms part of the road leading from the bridge to the obelisk.
Dimensions of the Bridge.
 Feet
Length of the stone bridge within the abutments,1242
Length of the road supported on brick arches, on the Middlesex side of the river,400
Ditto, on the Surry side,1250
Total length from the Strand, where the building begins, to the spot in Lambeth, where it falls to the level of the road,2890
Width of the bridge within the balustrades,42
Width of pavement or footway on each side,7
Width of road for horses and carriages,28
Span of each arch,120
Thickness of each pier,20
Clear water way under the nine arches, which are equal,1080
Number of brick arches on the Surry side,40
Ditto, on the Middlesex side,16
Height from the Thames,50

Waterloo, or Strand Bridge, as it was called, consists of elliptical arches, each of feet span, and feet elevation.

The whole of the outside courses of the bridge is Cornish granite, except the balustrades which are of Aberdeen granite; and the stones, like those of the temple of Solomon, were cut to their form before they were brought to the spot.

There are piles driven into the bed of the river under each pier; the length of each pile was from to feet, and the diameter about inches; there is pile to every yard square.

The scientific manner in which the centres were constructed was admirable; and as all the arches are of the same size, the centres were removed from those that were finished, and placed on the piers where the arches were not yet thrown; this was an operation that required great skill and care, and was ably executed.

When the centres were removed, so solidly and well was the masonry constructed, that in the middle they only sunk about inch. Those of the Pont le Neuilly in France, miles from Paris, which are nearly similar, sunk about inches in the middle, after the centres were taken away.

In circular arches, such as those of and Blackfriars bridges, the pressure on the centres before the key stones are put in place, is not near so great as in elliptical arches like those of Waterloo.

The toll-lodges, at each end of the bridge, are neat buildings

498

in the Doric style. There are turn-stiles attached to each (intended to admit the passage of person only at a time), at every movement of which some machinery, connected with an index in the toll-house, is worked, and, the index being secured in a locked box, the number of persons who have passed may be known by those in possession of the key, at any period of the day.

The rapidity with which this great work was erected is not the least remarkable feature in its history. The foundation stone was laid on old Michaelmas day, in , and on the , the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, the glorious memory of which it is designed to commemorate, it was opened with great pomp by the prince Regent in person, accompanied by his royal brother, the duke of Wellington, and along train of persons of the distinction.

The great extension of buildings in the borough of , Fields, and other parts on the south of the river bearing immediately on and Blackfriars, and consequent increase in the thoroughfare over these bridges, suggested the expediency of erecting an intermediate from the bottom of , .

The proprietors of this bridge conceived that a small toll would make an ample return for the capital required for its erection. A toll of penny from that proportion of foot-passengers alone would produce upwards of , which would be more than sufficient to pay per cent on a capital of , for which sum Mr. Rennie estimated that a bridge of cast-iron with stone piers might be executed, which though of less costly materials, would. rival in magnificence and splendour that of Waterloo itself.

An act of parliament was accordingly obtained in , for the erection of the proposed bridge; but a provision was inserted, that operations should not be commenced until of the admitted to be required were subscribed. The unexpected calls which had been made on the company had however so far damped the ardour for such speculations, that

499

years elapsed before the requisite sum was made up, and the work actually began.

The consists of immense arches of cast iron; the span of the centre is feet, and of the side ones . The weight of iron work is more than tons. The abutment is of fine masonry connected by dowels to prevent its sliding; and rests on gratings of timber supported by oblique piles. The piers stand on foundations or feet below the present bed of the river, and are abundantly secured by a flooring of timber, feet and a half thick, placed on piles.

The subscribers are allowed by their act of incorporation to receive per cent. annually on their shares; and the remainder of the receipts is to be laid by and to accumulate until it shall become sufficient to pay each proprietor double the sum he subscribed, after which the bridge is to be made free to the public.

An attempt was made in to excavate a passage under the Thames a little below , upon a very small scale, and was what, in the language of miners, is called a driftway. Its capacity was feet high by feet inches wide, supported by timber only. No serious difficulty was met with for nearly the whole breadth of the river. They proceeded feet without any obstacle of importance. Then indeed a considerable body of quicksand came in. This obstruction however was soon overcome; and the work proceeded feet farther, when it was impeded by a irruption of sand, within feet of the termination of their distance. This obstruction was surmounted also, and the work was resumed; but the time allowed for the operation being nearly expired, besides which, the ground where it was to commence having been appropriated to the Commercial dock, and a misunderstanding having arisen among the proprietors, it was determined to abandon the undertaking.

Nothing occurred in this attempt calculated to throw a damp on the work; for, even supposing a quicksand were to have been met with, it was clear (from the slender means which proved effectual to stop it then,) that it would soon be overcome.

In the present undertaking, there is very little analogy with the excavation attempted to be formed in . Instead of an excavation feet by feet inches, the excavation is

500

feet by ; no wooden props are used, and a strong brick waterproof arch closely follows the excavation.

In , the formation of the tunnel became an object of deep consideration with Mr. Brunel, the engineer, well known as the inventor of the block machinery at Portsmouth, and many other important works; and his inventive faculty, so ably displayed elsewhere, at last discovered and constructed a machine, where the mechanic powers were so combined as to promise complete success, in the great objects of supporting the ground, and protecting the men while at work.

He communicated his invention to his friends; and in the beginning of , a number of gentlemen were convened to consider and examine the plans; and all agreed they were not only practicable, but very likely to be crowned with success.

It was resolved to form a Company, to carry the same into execution under Mr. Brunel's superintendence. An Act of Parliament was applied for to incorporate the Company, which was granted without opposition; and on the d of , the Chairman of the Board of Directors, accompanied by many scientific gentlemen, laid the foundation stone, with appropriate ceremony.

The foundation was laid on a wooden horizontal curb, shod with strong cast iron; and on reaching the top, at the height of feet, there was also placed a wooden curb; and the curbs were connected and fastened together by iron rods passing through the brick work. The ground within was then removed, and this immense structure or tower was found to sink regularly for about feet, when it came to a bed of clay, where it stuck fast; thus the tower became a shaft.--The interior of it was further deepened as much as was thought necessary, and it was underpinned for a foundation. The shaft sunk in this manner may be truly said to be the greatest work of the kind ever attempted.

The shield constructed for protecting the workmen, by supporting the ground in all directions, consists of frames of strong cast iron, each independent of its neighbour, and altogether weighing upwards of tons; they are feet wide, and feet high, occupying the whole space from the bottom to the top of the excavation. Each frame is divided into floors or stories; in each of which a man is placed, to excavate the ground immediately opposed to him; so that they are calculated to contain men. All the men will proceed at nearly the same rate, and their task may be finished at the same time. The frames are then either all at once, or separately, moved forward; for doing which, screws are attached to them, bearing on the brickwork.

The frames being raised and lowered at pleasure, by screws. press against the top, and support the ground there: and being provided in front with small moveable boards, kept tight by screws pressing them forward, the pressure of the ground in that

501

quarter is resisted, except just at the spot where the workman is cutting. When they have cut away the breadth of board, they put it up again in its place, and screw it tight and remove another, where they again operate until all the ground opposed to their division of the frame is removed; the frames are thus moved forward, and the bricklayers build the tunnel close up to them.

The tunnel consists of a square mass of brick work feet by , containing in it archways or passages, each of the width of feet inches; each carriage road is feet inches wide, and feet inches high: and each has a foot-path feet wide. There is a central line of arches to separate the passages, some of them so wide that carriages may go from line of the tunnel to the other. The length of the tunnel will be about feet.

The works had proceeded a considerable distance under the river, viz feet, when a dreadful alarm was created on the evening of , in consequence of the water bursting into the Tunnel from above, while upwards of workmen were engaged below. For some days previous, the earth through which the miners were boring, was of such a description as to admit a leakage from the river of or gallons a minute; but as they were approaching a more favourable soil, no apprehensions of any danger were entertained until about in the evening, when the men engaged at the extremity of the excavation, observed the leakage to increase rapidly; and in a few moments afterwards a portion of the earth gave way, and the water rushed down in a torrent. The workmen fled towards the shaft in the greatest terror, while the water rushed after them with great rapidity. They ascended the ladder at a time, and succeeded in reaching the top in safety, all but individual, who was missing for a few minutes; he was soon, however, observed struggling in the shaft, where it had by this time risen to a considerable height. Mr. Brunel, jun. quickly descended to his aid, and succeeded in rescuing him from his perilous situation, at the moment that his strength was almost exhausted. From calculations made by the engineer, from the progress of the water in the shaft, it is supposed that about a cubical foot of the earth under the river must have fallen into the tunnel, where it had been recently excavated, and before the brick work had been raised to support it. It was attributed to what miners call

a fault

in the soil; that is, the meeting of the layers of earth where the water has always the least difficulty in insinuating itself. This accident delayed the progress of the work, but the hole has been completely stopped, and the cavity filled up chiefly by bags of clay. The works recommenced in September, with every prospect of a successful termination.

502

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[] Manning and Bray's History of Surry, vol. iii. Appx. xli.

[] The projectors of the undertaking were at the pains to obtain an accurate account of the persons, vehicles, and horses, that passed over these two bridges in the course of a day, and the following were the returns; the first taken on the 16th of October, and the second on the 22d of October, 1810. London Bridge. Persons56,130 Coaches and chaises871 Gigs and taxed carts520 Waggons587 Carts and drays2,576 Horses472 Blackfriars Bridge. Persons37,280 Coaches and chaises626 Gigs and taxed carts526 Waggons389 Carts and drays1,269 Horses433

[] Exceeding the celebrated arch of Sunderland by four feet.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
 CHAPTER I: History of London, from the Accession of William and Mary, to the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER II: History of London during the reign of George the Second
 CHAPTER III: History of London from the Accession of George the Third, to the year 1780
 CHAPTER IV: History of London continued to the Union
 CHAPTER V: History of London from the Union to the Jubilee, 1809
 CHAPTER VI: History of London from the Jubilee to the Peace of 1814
 CHAPTER VII: History of London continued to the accession of George the Fourth
 CHAPTER VIII: Account of the Civil Government of the City by Portreves, Bailiffs, and Mayors, with a list of the latter...
 CHAPTER IX: An account of the Aldermen and Sheriffs, with a list of the latter
CHAPTER X: Lists and brief Accounts of the various Officers and Courts within the City
CHAPTER XI: Some account of the Ecclesiastical Government of the city of London, with a List and Biographical Notices of the Bishops of the see
CHAPTER XII: Some Account of the Military Government of London, and the Artillery Company
CHAPTER XIII: An Account of the twelve principal Companies of the City of London
CHAPTER XIV: An Account of the Companies of the City of London, alphabetically arranged
 CHAPTER XV: An Account of the River Thames
CHAPTER XVI: Historical and topographical account of London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and the Thames Tunnel
CHAPTER XVII: Topographical and Historical Account of the Tower of London