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ZAR Road Bridge over the Apies River - Leeubrug - Lion Bridge - Arcadia Bridge
Arcadia, Tshwane (Pretoria), Gauteng

Sytze Wopkes WIERDA: Design Architect
John Johnston KIRKNESS: Contractor

Date:1894 : 1910
Style:Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens


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25°44'43.88" S 28°12'05.17" E Alt: 1310m

It is the oldest existing bridge over the Apies River and the only remaining bridge in the centre of Pretoria dating from the days of the ZAR. It replaced the 'Arcadia' Bridge although keeping that name in some contemporary depictions. It has a coursed rough-hewn sandstone ashlar abutments and central pier, which carried steel beam superstructures spanning 14,6m. The deck was 10m wide flanked each side by 1,8m walkways. Each of the causeway walls was mounted by cast iron recumbent lions, still extant, which lent the bridge its name. They were cast in Glasgow, Scotland by the Sun Foundry, possibly as testimony to the site was earlier known as Leeudrif (Lions' Causeway) but also probably because the ZAR coat-of-Arms depicted a recumbent lion. The bridge was declared a National Monument (now Provincial Heritage Resource) in 1981.

(Richardson, 2001: 208)

Many people pass Lion Bridge in Stanza Bopape Street (Church St) without realizing that it is a national monument.

Before bridges were built, people made use of drifts to cross rivers with livestock and wagons. For years the Department of Public Works would build, maintain and improve drifts. These crossings remained dangerous and even caused deaths. After a flood, travellers had to wait for the river to normalize again.

The Dutch architect Sytze Wopke Wierda, was given the task to design two bridges crossing the Apies River. The Arcadia Bridge was completed in October 1888. Wierda had only been in Pretoria for a few days when he designed the bridges and did not realize the severity of the seasonal Apies River flood of the time.

The Arcadia Bridge was consequently damaged by floodwater in October 1890 due to its small size and lack of experience at the time it was designed. Demolition of the bridge started two years later and drawings of the new bridge were submitted in 1893.

Kirkness, whose brickworks were situated next to the Fountain Circle, was again appointed as the contractor in August 1893 and the new Lion Bridge, which replaced Arcadia Bridge, was completed on 22 June 1894. Sammy Marks heard of the earlier lion hunts that occurred regularly in the vicinity of Meintjes Drift and ordered four bronze lions from Scotland to be placed at the corners of the new bridge - hence the name Lion Bridge.

It was upgraded in 1910 by Rainer & Thomson, when the wooden deck was replaced by a macadamized surface and sidewalks were added.

The bridge was declared a National Monument on 31 December 1981.

(Friends of Tshwane Heritage Research Centre. Posted on Artefacts FB page)

Books that reference ZAR Road Bridge over the Apies River - Leeubrug - Lion Bridge - Arcadia Bridge

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J & Fisher, Roger C. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pg 99
Erasmus, Koos and Friebus, Hein. 2008. Vergete padbrûe van die ZAR : 'n oorsig van die padbrûe wat gebou en beplan is tydens die regering van die Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. Centurion: Koos Erasmus and Hein Friebus: . pg 44, 46, 45 (photos)
Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pg 208