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One of the houses just down from the FT building on Southwark Bridge Road is the fictional home of Milly, Egg and the rest of the young lawyers in the television series This Life.
Underneath the bridge on the north bank Thames path are tiled representations of the building of the old bridge and plans for the proposed replacement. These all suggest industry and the guilds of London, progress and planning. Underneath the southern walkway is a chiselled depiction of one of the frost fairs with the good people of London eating and drinking and carrying on a huge party on the river itself.
Southwark Bridge photos copyright Heike Lowenstein
Southwark Bridge's Victorian forebear, designed by John Rennie was a footbridge on granite stone piers and abutments with three magnificent cast-iron arches. A contemporary commentator described it as: 'Charming, graceful and fairy like, spanning the waters in three moves combining engineering skill with architectural elegance'. For its opening at midnight on March 24 1919 the bridge was brilliantly illuminated but rather sadly the company behind it did not have much to get lit about as the cost of the bridge rose by more than a quarter during construction and the Southwark Bridge Company was in a mess financially before the crossing was even completed. In the end Rennie had to sue for his fee and the crossing managed to bankrupt the Rotherham foundry (Joshua Walker and Co. ) that supplied the iron for the 203 metre long bridge. Construction had started brightly enough, in 1814, and this simple, yet elegant, crossing stood until 1912.
The decision to build better approach roads and a new broader bridge was made relatively swiftly (by 1868 when the toll houses were removed). It was not until 1913 that demolition work began and, with World War I intervening, the current bridge was not completed until 1921. The original cast iron structure was rebuilt in steel to a design by Mott & Hay as engineers and Sir Ernest George as architect. Its five arches and four turreted piers are aligned with those of Blackfriars Bridge in order to minimise tidal scour and reduce cross currents. Sir Ernest George designed the unusual pierced turrets, though they appear to be based on sketches of a proposed (but never built) new bridge of 1877. In these sketches, by Horace Jones, the idea was to have statues in the 'sentry boxes' and also above them. As it is the 'boxes' remain empty and there is a circle on top of the turrets. The distinctive lamp standards, mounted on the balustrades, in the shape of a cross also fail in their original function. The lamp columns with three lanterns each and thirty columns on the bridge (one every 20 metres) dazzled passing boats, and so in 1956 they were cut off resulting in the current crosses on the side of the bridge.