FANDOM


The Old Blix Bridge was an engineering marvel, albeit a tremendously dangerous bridge. The Bridge had three spans, the longest between South Blix and West Blix, the second longest between Newland and Bridge Island, and the shortest between West Blix and Bridge Island. The longest section was the first to be constructed beginning in 1825 and opening in 1842, the other sections being completed in 1850. The bridge's main span collapsed in 1903, but already several other bridges had opened, namely the West Bridge (later renamed the Blix Bridge), Lorris Bridge, and the Eastern Bridge. The Old Blix Bridge was seen as an extremely dangerous bridge, and was usually avoided. Between 1875-1903 the bridge was a popular red-light district, likely the second most popular red-light district in the city. Police refused to cross the dangerous bridge, allowing for a particularly prosperous district to develop. Thankfully, no one was harmed when the bridge collapsed because it was evacuated in time after the first pillar collapsed, and plans had been in place in case of a collapse.

Claude de Jongh - View of London Bridge - Google Art Project bridge

The Old Blix Bridge between West Blix Island and Bridge Island

Old Blix Bridge's distinctive feature — the extraordinary number of buildings constructed on it — took shape right away. Dwellings started to go up as soon as the bridge was complete and by the time we get to the 20th century, there are 598 buildings, all providing rental revenue.

The naturalist Thomas Pennet in Some Account of Blix wrote: "I well remember the street on Blix Bridge, narrow darksome and dangerous to passengers from the multitude of carriages; frequent arches of strong timber crossed the street, from the tops of the houses, to keep them together, and from falling into the river. Nothing but use could preserve the rest of the inmates, who soon grew deaf to the noise of falling waters, the clamours of the watermen, or the frequent shrieks of the drowning wenches."

At the southern end of the bridge was a span without an arch and here a drawbridge was installed. At this point a toll was gathered from people wanting to cross the bridge. Many merchants opted to avoid the toll by moving cargo up and down the river in small boats.

Navigating through the bridge in a boat could be very dangerous because the closeness and number of starlings backed up the river water, creating rapids. In some places the drop in water height from one side of the bridge to the other was more than the height of a man. Many people lost their lives 'shooting' the bridge and "Drowned at the bridge" became a common entry in the registers at nearby graveyards.

Besides houses, shops and a drawbridge, the bridge also had a chapel, located on the ninth pier from the south bank. The Church supported the building of bridges and it had a special reason for doing this. It was widely believed in the Middle Ages that since river crossings were dangerous they attracted the devil, and this tradition was carried forward by the very traditionalist Christian British protestant population of the West-end of South Blix. Bridges, in the view of the Church, provided a means of combating his work. Bridges with chapels on them or near them were thought to be especially potent. It was common for bridge builders, such as Peter of Colechurch, to have trained as a priest as well as an architect (or the equivalent at the time). Indeed, the word 'Pontefact' refers to one who has attained these combined qualifications. Encouraged by the Church, people frequently left money in their wills for bridge building and maintenance. But by 1875, the Church had left the bridge due to the development of a strong red-light district, first in the northern half of the south span, then gradually growing to the whole length of the bridge.