Two railway bridges crossed the River
Thames side-by-side to Blackfriars Station formerly named St
Paul's. The downstream (easternmost) bridge of 1886, is currently
being used by Thameslink trains. The older 1864 bridge was dismantled
in 1985, leaving only four sets of quadruple-clustered cylindrical
piers with foliated capitals standing clear of the water on granite
plinths that stand on cast iron cylinders filled with concrete.
Joseph Cubitt and F T Turner designed the bridge, which was a
lattice girder structure.
In 1860 the London Chatham & Dover
Railway (LDCR) was allowed to build an extension from its existing
station at Beckenham to Ludgate Hill in the City of London. The
new railway line would cross the Thames beside Blackfriars Bridge.
As Joseph Cubitt was rebuilding the road bridge, it was agreed
that he should design both bridges. Work started on the railway
bridge in 1862 and the bridge and the station, then called St
Paul's, opened in 1864.
The wrought-iron girder railway bridge
has spans supported by masonry abutments and composite piers.
Since the bridge formed part of St Paul's Station it was given
a great deal of cast-iron ornamentation. The supports had ornate
Romanesque capitals and decorated with large, brightly coloured
shields incorporating the coat of arms of the LCDR.
The Blackfriars Railway Bridge carried
only four tracks and 20 years later it was decided to construct
a second railway bridge beside the first. Designed by W. Mills,
the new wrought-iron bridge opened in 1886. Its river spans match
the old bridge, and on the downstream side the bridge is decorated
with pulpit turrets, while on the upstream side there are Gothic-style
cast-iron parapets. Following the re-organisation of the railways
in 1923, the new Southern Railway decided to concentrate all
its long-distance and Continental traffic at Waterloo and Victoria.
As a result St Paul's Station lost all but its local and suburban
In 1937 St Paul's Station was renamed
Blackfriars Station and the St Paul's Railway Bridge lost its
identity to become just a widening of Blackfriars Railway Bridge.
However, by the mid-20th century the old bridge was considered
too weak to carry modern trains and the obsolete railway bridge
was eventually dismantled in 1984 and its approach tracks removed.
The land was taken up to provide offices such as the Daily Express
building to the south, which is somewhat thin as a result.
Today all that is left are the ornate
red columns of the original bridge. One of the cast-iron shields
bearing the insignia of the LCDR can now be seen on display on
the South Bank having been beautifully restored.
(Nigel Callaghan) ©2005