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Walk Around Blackfriars - Albion Mills and Rennie

The map detail to the right shows the Blackfriar's area in the late 19th Century.

John Rennie Engineering Works

The Engineering Works is the work of the famous engineering company of John Rennie who was employed by Boulton/Watts.

 John Rennie, Iron founding and engineering John Rennie was born in 1761 in the unlikely sounding town of Phantassie in East Lothian, Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh University and in his early twenties entered the service of the famous engineers Boulton and Watt, for whom he designed the machinery for Southwark’s Albion Flour Mills, close by Blackfriars Bridge. These steam-driven mills became infamous; they were burnt down, some said deliberately. This may well have been the case, as large-scale milling like this threatened the livelihoods of traditional, small-scale millers. John Rennie’s Southwark Bridge, made largely of iron, was said to be ‘unrivalled as regards its colossal proportions, its architectural effects and the general simplicity and massive character of its details’. However, there had been many who had been against a bridge being built over this narrow point of the river because they thought that it might it get in the way of shipping. Unfortunately for fans of early 19th century engineering and design, Rennie’s bridge was replaced in 1912 by the present one. Old London Bridge, with its houses, gateways and traitors’ heads was demolished in the 1820s (?) but not after a new one, of stone, was built by John Rennie’s son – to his father’s design. Although this was replaced in 1972 by the present one, John Rennie’s bridge was sold and re-assembled at Lake Havasu City, Arizona! A myth that is often told is that its new American owners were disappointed when they saw it rebuilt; it is said that they thought that they were buying the one with the gothic towers and the bascules that can be raised and lowered – Tower Bridge!


Albion Mills

The Albion Mills burning down.

To see the 18th Century Panorama from the Roof of the Albion Mills click here!

This site was originally the site of the famous Albion Mills. Built by Matthew Boulton and James Watt, and possibly the original 'Dark Satanic Mill'. William Blake lived just down the road.


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire.

I shall not cease from Mental Fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green & pleasant Land.

(William Blake)





Ind. Rev.

The Lost Industry of Southwark Project is supported by:

the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs

Project Director- Kevin Flude

Email Kevin Flude. Cultural Heritage Resources

To find out more on Southwark visit the SOUTHWARK LOCAL STUDIES LIBRARY
& buy the excellent book by Leonard Riley entitled 'Southwark - an illustrated guide.'

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