Lion Bridge (over Apies River)

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GISKEY (Input giskey if applicable)
Condition Good to poor
Date of origin 1887
Previous names Arcadia Bridge
Place Lion Bridge
Street Church Street
Town Pretoria
Magisterial district Tshwane
Province Gauteng
Country RSA
GPS coordinates -25.745483, 28.201356
Planning authority name Department of Public Works of the ZAR
Architect/Firm Department of Public Works of the ZAR
Project architect/Designer Sytze Wierda
Commissioning owner
Current owner Government
Current occupant N/A
Previous uses Oxwagon and pedestrian bridge
Current use Vehicular and pedestrian bridge
Classification/Typology Bridge
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Completed in 1887, Lion Bridge stands as the oldest bridge over the Apies River and was declared a National Monument in 1981 (Willemse, 2010). The bridge carries historical and social significance as being the only bridge of this type remaining from the Z.A.R. period in central Pretoria. The bridge forms part of the richness of the Apies River area; it has survived the evolution of Pretoria and still retains its stature.

Current known heritage status

The bridge is subject to Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999) because it is older than 60 years.

Possible interested and affected parties


Lion Bridge dates from the early days of Pretoria when oxwagons were the mode of transport and gas lanterns were used for street lights. Arcadia Drift (which refers to the farm it was located on) / Meintjies Drift (named after the owner of the farm) (Janssen, 1991) where Lion Bridge is situated today was used as a crossing for oxwagons over the Apies River (Van der Waal & Associates, 1999). In 1888 the drift was transformed by the addition of a bridge known as Arcadia Bridge (Janssen, 1991). Unfortunately this bridge could not sustain the seasonal flash floods which lead to the implementation of Lion Bridge.

The region in which this drift was situated was known for its lion inhabitants and was also called "Leeudrif" (Swanepoel, 2007). At one stage 4 lions had to be shot for the livestock they killed. Whether this influenced the name of the bridge and the installations of the bronze lions is unclear. Janssen (1991) speculates whether the bronze lions and the name were derived from the Z.A.R. coat of arms at the time, or whether they were just a symbol of power.

More depth on the story of Lion Bridge with relevant dates:


The Government of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek commissioned Sytze Wierda and John J. Kirkness respectively for the design and construction (Pretoriana, no. 38, 1962) of two bridges over the Apies River, one being at Church Street (Lion Bridge) (Janssen, 1991).


Unfortunately, due to flash floods the Arcadia bridge suffered great damages (Pretoriana, no. 38, 1962) and required intensive repair work to be done. According to Janssen (1991) this was when Wierda started on a design for a new bridge. 


Arcadia Bridge was demolished and construction of the new Lion Bridge commenced (Janssen, 1991). According to Van Der Waal and Associates (1991) and the design sketches found in Janssen's (1991) article the bridge consisted of masonry piers and abutments and a timber roadway.


Construction of the bridge was completed with 4 bronze lions on pedestals, cast by MacFarlane Sun Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland (Swanepoel, 2007), and 2 gas lanterns in the centre (Van der Waal & Associates, 1999). In June 1894 the bridge was opened by President Paul Kruger as Lion Bridge (Van der Waal & Associates, 1999).

Description of alterations with dates affected

The timber roadway surface was replaced by a macadamised surface to accommodate new tram tracks and sidewalks. With this change the gas lanterns were removed (Van der Waal & Associates, 1999).


Vandals painted the bronze lions brown (Willemse, 2010) and currently (2012) it appears as if they have been repainted to resemble bronze (Barnard, 2012). 


Currently the bridge is covered in unsightly grafitti and the original bronze name plates on the pedestals have disappeared.

Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces

Lion bridge is recogniseable for its 4 bronze lions placed on pedestals at the ends of the bridge. The surfaces of the pedestals are of sandstone. Unfortunately vandals have spray painted graffiti on the pedetals which has not been removed.

The bridge allows for 2 way traffic flow in 4 lanes. It also has paved sidewalks on either side. Steel balustrades are painted in a dark green colour and consist of a large circular handrail on top supported by steel columns that are filled in with a simple pattern. The pattern is evident in the design sketches found in Janssen's (1991) article and, as is clear to see, has not been changed since. Consecutive circles from the start of the pattern below the handrail which are then connected to simple vertical members.



Images (figure numbers in viewing order):


BIA 14 Flooding.jpg
BIA 2 Designs- Janssen.jpg

BIA 4 Bridge-swanepoel .jpg
BIA 5 View onto brdg 2- swanepoel.jpg

BIA 15 Info plate.jpg
BIA 13 lion brdg 5.jpg

BIA 3 Lion-Janssen.jpg
BIA 10 lion brdg 6.jpg

BIA 11 lion brdg 7.jpg
BIA 15 lion brdg 3.jpg

BIA 12 lion brdg 8.jpg

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