The City Bridge Trust
, is the working name of the grant-making arm of Bridge House Estates and was set up in 1995. The Bridge House Estates are run by a committee of the City of London Corporation ("The City Lands & Bridge House Estates") the Chairman of which holds the honorific title of "Chief Commoner" and therefore cannot be an Alderman. The chairmanship is held for only one year as the responsibilities are so onerous. Originally established by Royal Charter
in 1282 to maintain London Bridge
, it later rebuilt it several times and built Blackfriars Bridge
and Tower Bridge
. It also purchased Southwark Bridge
from the toll-exacting private company that had built it, and most recently took over ownership and maintenance of the new pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge
, having provided a large amount of the funding for its construction.
The Trust took its name from Bridge House
, which was the administrative and maintenance centre of Old London Bridge located on the south bank
of the River Thames
, near the site of St Olave's Church
(since replaced by St Olaf House
in Tooley Street
). The site was constituted of at least two properties in Southwark. The first was that of Peter de Colechurch the warden of the bridge from 1163 and probably a monastic dwelling. The second property was the house left by will of Henry Fitz Ailwyn, first named Mayor of London, in 1215.
The bridge became part of the City's jurisdiction from 1282, and this led to the City attempting to extend control over Southwark, succeeding in acquiring the 'vill of Southwark' alias the Guildable Manor in 1327.
Known as The Bridge Mark
, the logo
of Bridge House Estates was one of the earliest logos ever in continuous use and can be found carved into stonework in many places along the riverfront. It has been the identifying emblem of the Trust for many centuries. The City Bridge Trust now uses the City of London
arms as an emblem.
It was thought likely that the mark as we know it today was designed by a famous seventeenth century surveyor, William Leybourn, drawn on a plan of 1680 which it is thought he adapted from a similar mark drawn against plots owned by Bridge House Estates on an earlier plan of St George's Fields in Southwark. However, the City Sword Rest from the Bridge House Justice Room (now in the north transept of Southwark Cathedral) is has a carved date of 1674 which has a Bridge Mark carved onto to it to balance the City's arms.
The sole trustee
is the City of London Corporation
. The trustee does not own the property of the trust — it may only be used for the legitimate purposes for which the fund was created.
Originally funded by tolls
on London Bridge, the rents and leases of the buildings that were on it and also by charitable donations, the Bridge House Estates acquired an extensive property portfolio which made it self-sufficient.
The Fund administered by the Bridge House Estates is solely responsible for the five City Bridges. There is no financial support from the Government or any other fund. If one of the bridges happened to collapse, the Charity would have to rebuild it out of the endowment. The good stewardship of the property and investments of the Estates by the City has led to the accumulation of surplus funds over any such demand on its resources. Therefore the City sought from the Charity Commission to implement a Cy-près scheme to extend its objects (purposes) since September 1995 to make charitable grants within the Greater London area.
In 2003, total income of the Bridge House Estates was nearly £35 million, and total expenditure and reinvestment was under £29 million. The total funds held by the Estates are in excess of £500 million.
In addition to its Royal Charter of 1282, the Bridge House Estates operates with respect to various legislative powers eg the Blackfriars Bridge Act 1863
, the Blackfriars and Southwark Bridge Act 1867
, the Corporation of London (Tower Bridge) Act 1885
for its maintenace role and for its general charitable role under the Charities (The Bridge House Estates) Order 1995
1047), and the Charities (The Bridge House Estates) Order 2001
(Statutory Instrument 4017).