Lion Bridge (over Apies River)
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
- South African citizens
- The Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria
- Pretoria Institute for Architecture (PIA)
- Pretoria Inner City Partnership
- Apies River Working Committee
- Van der Waal and Associates
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.
- Janssen, A. 1991. Die Leeubrug. Pretoriana, April, no. 98, pp. 44-48 (Online Africana Collection).
- Swanepoel, R. 2007. Pretoria 150 (2), pp. 6-11, Lecture held at University of Pretoria..
- South African History Online. Lions Bridge, Church Street, Arcadia, Pretoria. Viewed 19/05/2012. http://www.sahistory.org.za/places/lions-bridge-church-street-arcadia-pretoria.
- Van der Waal and Associates. 1999. Lion Bridge. Pretoria Inner City Partnership & Apies River Working Committee. Pretoria.
- Willemse, M. 2010. Kerkstraat se baken-leeus is nou skielik bruin. Viewed 19/05/2012. http://www.beeld.com/Suid-Afrika/Nuus/Kerkstraat-se-baken-leeus-is-nou-skielik-bruin-20100405.
- 1962. Wierdabrug oor die sesmylspruit. Pretoriana,
- 1999. Leeubrug. Van der Waal Collection, photographs.
Images (figure numbers in viewing order):
- Fig. 6, 8-11: Botha, M. 2012. Photo's of Lion Bridge. Mandi Botha. Pretoria.
- FIg. 1: 1962. Wierdabrug oor die Sesmylspruit. Pretoriana,
- Fig. 2, 7: Janssen, A.1991. Die Leeubrug. Pretoriana, April, no.98, pp. 44-48, (Online Africana Collection)
- Fig. 3, 4: Swanepoel, R. 2007. Copy of a lecture Pretoria 150 (2), pp. 6-11, University of Pretoria, 2007, Lesing. Pretoria 150, Swanepoel, Pretoria.
- Fig. 5: 1999. Leeubrug. Van der Waal Collection, photo's.