What Are The Red Pillars Next To Blackfriars Bridge?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 20 months ago
What Are The Red Pillars Next To Blackfriars Bridge?

Recently, we asked you what you've always wanted to know about London. Many of you sent in your questions, and we'll do our best to answer them (although we won't be able to answer every one — some things are best left as a mystery).

Photo: shadow_in_the_water

Ever noticed these red pillars in the Thames between Blackfriars road bridge and Blackfriars railway bridge? You can't really miss them in that colour, but what are they?

They formed part of the original railway bridge, built at this point across the Thames in 1864, when the London Chatham Dover Railway was extended across the Thames to what was then St Paul's Station.

The railway bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt, who was also redesigning the railway bridge next door, and was a very ornate design. It was only four tracks wide, so just 20 years later, the second railway bridge was built next to it to increase capacity to St Paul's Station.

In 1923, suburban railway services began to terminate at Waterloo and the St Paul's Bridge was rarely used. In 1985, the old bridge was declared too weak to support modern trains, and was removed — but the supports were left.  They were used as platforms for equipment in the recent rebuilding of Blackfriars station.

The above photo only shows pairs of red pillars, they originally existed in rows of three (see photos here). The third pillar in each row was absorbed into supporting the new bridge when it was built.

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Last Updated 11 August 2016


Years ago, in a piece of supremely bad Photoshopping, I suggested using the pillars as an archive for former Fourth Plinth commissions: https://londonist.com/2008/05/...


I love all this stuff.... just all all this history there if you look for it, and how it supported the building of the new bridge so still playing its part.

Ron Arnold

Don't tell Boris, he'll put a nasty office building on top of 'em.


I looked after the giant Dutch crane and attending tugs and barges when the old bridge was removed and cut up for scrap! It was my first project job when I came to London from my home in Bristol all those years ago! I did all the legwork and my boss got his photo in the Times!!


Are they listed, though? Presumably they're kept around because they're kind of interesting.

Matt Hodgson Barratt

Surely they should be kept around because if Blackfriars needed extending again the new platforms and trackbed could be put on top?


Please can I ask the mayor to consider an architectural competition for matching glass buildings on top. If the winner proved popular, they could be build & leased off. One to a bar & the other to a 30 seat coffee shop. Transparent platforms on them would make them astonishing attractions & glass causeways could link them to the footpath on the bridge.

They'd look great, be a huge draw for locals & tourists & give these forlorn bits of historical jetsam a purpose in life once again. It would also pay for the expensive upkeep of the pilings for posterity.

These pillars are forgotten now, because they've become irrelevant. Drink a pint on top of a pair of columns & you'll be talking about what they represent for weeks.

A open-air seating area on the roof would provide an astonishing 360 degree views of London for customers. Imagine popping-in for a hot chocolate & a watch the sunrise or sunset on your daily commute?

In passing Mr Mayor; Rule 22b of your competition would be to present a plan to allow it to be built in time for a roof table booking for two on the evening of 17th May 2022.