Bridge House Estates and the Bridge Mark

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Bridge House Estates and the Bridge Mark


Sim­ple form of 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.

The pho­to­graph below shows the Bridge Mark in the mid­dle of Lon­don Bridge.
Hidden London: Bridge Mark on London Bridge

† In heraldic terminology, the Southwark Cross is described as an Annulet ensigned with a Cross pateé and interlaced with a Saltire conjoined in base.