Bridge House Estates and the Bridge Mark
The Bridge House Estates – also known as the Bridge Estates Committee – was established to maintain the medieval London Bridge in 1282. Its origins can be traced back even further: to 1097, when William Rufus raised a tax to fund repairs to one of the bridge’s wooden predecessors.
The institution is named after its first headquarters, Bridge House, which lay on the south side of London Bridge, in Southwark. Nowadays it derives its revenue from a property portfolio and is responsible for all five City bridges. Its considerable surplus income is distributed via a charitable grant-making arm, the City Bridge Trust, to a wide range of projects benefiting the inhabitants of Greater London.
The Bridge Mark or Bridge House Mark is a graphic device identifying the Bridge House Estates and the bridges for which that body is responsible. It was probably designed by the surveyor William Leybourn (1626–1716).
The mark is said to be emblematic of the martyrdom of St George, and Leybourn may have adapted his design from one that originated in Southwark’s parish of St George the Martyr. Also known as the Southwark Cross,† the mark was employed by the former East Surrey Regiment and was incorporated into the arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark in 1902 – apparently to the annoyance of the Corporation of London. The mark does not appear in the arms of the borough’s expanded successor, the London Borough of Southwark.
As shown in the image above, the Bridge Mark consists of a circle over a saltire, or letter X, with the lower points of the X joined to form a base and the circle surmounted by a cross pattée. Over the centuries, slightly differing versions of the mark have appeared, with or without serifs capping the ascenders of the saltire, and with the cross pattée taking various forms.
Each of the City of London bridges has one or more Bridge Marks engraved somewhere upon it or embossed on a plaque, as do properties owned by the Bridge House Estates. The mark also appears on flags flying at Tower Bridge, as seen in the photo below.