Our five bridges are symbols of London’s history and beacons for its future
City Bridge Foundation’s primary purpose is to manage and maintain five of London’s key bridges, ensuring they not only serve the capital now, but will continue to do so, for as long as they are needed.
They require sustained investment and expert care – and their upkeep and overhauls are managed by a specialist team within City Bridge Foundation, who work closely with other stakeholders to ensure the public’s safety and security.
The surplus income from our stewardship of the endowment to maintain our bridges is what funds our grant-making work.
About our bridges
The River Thames has played a major part in the history of London. It has provided both wealth and opportunity by allowing the city to become a major port with links to Europe and the world.
London’s river crossings have underpinned economic, social and cultural exchange within the capital for centuries – ensuring the flow of people, goods, ideas, investment and more.
All five bridges that we maintain– London Bridge, Blackfriars, Southwark Bridge, Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge – cross the Thames into or close by the City of London and act as gateways to the Square Mile.
This world-famous icon of London was designed by the Victorian architect Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect, in collaboration with Sir John Wolfe Barry KCB. It opened in June 1894 after eight years of construction. It is a working ‘bascule bridge’ – with two central sections that can be raised and lowered using counterweights – and is supported through suspension and girders. It is constructed from a steel frame clad in stone and granite in Gothic style to complement the neighbouring Tower of London and is the only bridge where no part actually touches the City’s footprint.
The Corporation is required to raise the Bridge to all registered vessels with a mast or superstructure of 30 feet or more, free of charge, 365 days a year, at any time of day or night, subject to 24 hours notice. It is a protected piece of national heritage: with Grade 1 listed building status.
Tourists can physically visit the internal areas of the Bridge and see its engineering and the original Victorian engines used to power the lifting of the bridge and learn about its history and architecture in the Tower Bridge exhibition – and can access an increasing array of digital educational tools about the landmark. Income from the bridge’s operations and tourism flow back to the Foundation.
- In 1176, during the reign of Henry II, Peter de Colechurch, a priest and head of the Fraternity of the Brethren of London Bridge, began building the first stone bridge across the River Thames.
- It was completed in 1209 and stood for more than six centuries – before being replaced between 1823–1831.
- The current bridge was built between 1967–1972 and was designed by the City Engineer, Harold Knox King with architects Mott, Hay & Anderson and William Holford & Partners.
- Made of concrete with polished granite, the Bridge has three spans founded on concrete piers fixed deep into the river clay.
- It was opened by Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.
- A fund to look after the bridge started to accumulate from 1097, and over the ages grew to become City Bridge Foundation (the working name of the historic Bridge House Estates).
- You can read more about our history here.
- Originally built between 1814–1819, Southwark Bridge was purchased by the charity in 1868.
- The City of London had been trying to obtain control since 1827 so they could stop criminals using it to escape its jurisdiction by fleeing into Southwark.
- It was replaced between 1912–1921 with a design by Sir Ernest George and Basil Mott and comprises five steel arches with granite cutwaters and piers.
- As the first new pedestrian bridge to be built across the Thames for over a century, Millennium Bridge links the City of London at St Paul’s Cathedral with the Tate Modern Gallery at Bankside.
The Millennium Bridge was funded by the Millennium Commission, a UK public body that used National Lottery funding to help communities mark the start of the third millennium. City Bridge Foundation provided additional funding to ensure the Bridge was fully accessible. Also known as the‘Blade of Light’, the 325 metre steel pedestrian bridge was conceived by Sir Anthony Caro OM CBE and built by Ove Arup and Foster Associates under the project management of the London Borough of Southwark.
- It opened on 10 June 2000, and was transferred to City Bridge Foundation to own and maintain that February.
- Blackfriars Bridge was originally built between 1760–1769 and was initially known as ‘Pitt Bridge’ after William Pitt the Elder, who was prime minister from 1766 till 1768.
- It stood until 1860 when it was replaced with a design by Joseph Cubitt, of five wrought iron arches faced with cast-iron, on granite piers.
- Cubitt’s bridge was opened by Queen Victoria in 1869 and has stood ever since.
- The decorations include ornithological sculptures surmounting the granite columns on each cutwater, arcaded cast iron parapets and enormous attached columns in red granite with Portland stone capitals.
- The sculptures depict land birds on the landward side of the bridge and seabirds on the side facing the sea.