London·Video

Meet the London woman who calls her relationship with the Blackfriars Bridge 'a love affair'

There's lots of excitement in London ahead of the official reopening of the Blackfriars Bridge on Saturday, but perhaps no one in the city is as excited as the bridge's number one fan, Judi McCardle.

'It's such a beautiful thing it kind of ignites a fantasy world' says bridge booster Judi McCardle

Meet the Blackfriars Bridge number one fan 1:07

Judi McCardle once told her two children that if anything bad were ever to befall her beloved Blackfriars Bridge, she would chain herself to it. 

I've had a love affair with the bridge.- Judi McCardle

Though you could argue she already is and was the moment she laid eyes on it. 

"When I first saw it, I was just taken. Just struck by the physical attraction, that bridge is amazing to me," she said.  "I know it's an odd thing, but I would say I've had a love affair with the bridge." 

It might explain why McCardle has never been able to live very far away from it, according to her son Lincoln. 

"She knows what she likes," he said. "It's been at least 20 years since she's decided where she's going to live based on the proximity to that damn bridge." 

Lincoln remembers when he was in high school, his mother came up with a plan to sell their family home on Empress Avenue and move his family to a white house immediately west of the bridge. 

There's no reason or logic to it.- Lincoln McCardle, Judi's son

"My mom tried for years to buy that house right beside the bridge," he said, noting that she was never able to acquire it, but also never let the bridge slip out of her sight from that point on. 

Even today, his mother lives in a highrise with a view that looks down on her beloved bridge. Inside, Judi McCardle has turned her home into a shrine with photographs and paintings, including one of Lincoln and his sister that was painted when they were children. The Blackfriars Bridge is in the background. 

This is one of the many paintings of the Blackfriars Bridge Judi McCardle has in her apartment. In the foreground are her children, in the background is the bridge. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

It was his mother's love of Blackfriars Bridge that inspired Lincoln to start a Twitter account in the bridge's name. He said at the time, the bridge's future was in doubt and he wanted to help raise awareness, not just for the sake of the community, but also of his mother. 

"I couldn't stand the thought of my mother chaining herself to that bridge," he said.  

Lincoln said he's never been able to get a definitive answer from his mother about what exactly it is about that bridge that's captured her heart. 

"There's no reason or logic to it," he said. "I think she just thinks it's beautiful and it's an important part of our heritage." 

If you ask Judi McCardle what exactly she sees that most of us don't, she'll tell you: 

"It means something, it's not just pieces of iron," she said. "It's such a beautiful thing it kind of ignites a fantasy world. It just feels like a safe and comfortable place, a place that allows you to dream.

"Children especially. If you've ever seen children fishing down there, they're in a different place." 

Judi's home, which overlooks the Blackfriars Bridge, is like a shrine. Everywhere you look, there are photographs, paintings and mementos of one of London's most iconic structures. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Drivers in the city might not see it that way. In a year when construction in the city has choked nearly every avenue into the community's bustling core, many people are looking forward to the return of a reliable shortcut into the business district when traffic is at its thickest. 

It's the kind of thinking McCardle doesn't understand. She doesn't see the bridge as a means of getting from point A to point B. 

"You have a large proportion of people who just want the fast movement of traffic of course," she said. "They don't have time to gaze out the window and see the beauty."

"I hope one day it is simply just a walking bridge. I hope that it will stay where it is and it will be a place to dream." 

The Blackfriars Bridge, seen here on the day before its official reopening, has been off-limits for some time as crews finish up its multi-million dollar restoration. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

While the long-term future of the bridge remains to be seen, its short-term future is far less fuzzy. On Saturday, a ceremony will take place to commemorate the bridge's official reopening.

It marks the end of a 13-month makeover for Blackfriars Bridge, one that saw the 143-year-old structure lifted from its abutments, disassembled and refurbished piece-by-piece, before being put back together again and returned to its original spot straddling the Thames River. 

Judi McCardle will ride in a horse-drawn carriage along with her son Lincoln and the granddaughter of the man who engineered the bridge.

"I'm really excited," she said. 

So is her son. While Lincoln may not own 20 to 30 paintings and photographs of his mother's beloved bridge, he does admit to sharing her fondness for the iconic structure. 

"It's hard to say whether I love that bridge or I love my mom so I care about the bridge," he said. "I think at the end of the day it's both." 

Judi McCardle might be the Blackfriars Bridge's biggest fan, a relationship she characterizes as 'a love affair' that's lasted most of her adult life. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca