Discover Tower Bridge | History, Facts, Highlights & More
Tower Bridge is a 127-year-old Grade I listed combined bascule and suspension bridge in London. The bridge was constructed to ensure better access to the East End of London. Tower Bridge continues to be a popular attraction because of its rich history, architectural grandeur, and spectacular views of London it offers. Read some interesting facts and stories about Tower Bridge, its history, and what makes it so popular.
What is Tower Bridge?
Why is Tower Bridge Famous?
Built over a course of 8 years, between 1886 and 1894, the Tower Bridge is one of London's most popular attractions, thanks to its Neo-Gothic architecture and lifting central sections. When it opened, it was the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world. One of the reasons why the Tower Bridge is so important is that it is the only bridge on River Thames that can be raised.
Where is Tower Bridge Located in London?
Address: Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP, United Kingdom
Tower Bridge, which spans over the River Thames connects the East End Borough of Tower Hamlets with the southeast Borough of Southwark.
Tower Bridge can be accessed by all major public transportation networks, such as the bus, tube, train, and even by riverboats. Alternatively, you can also drive to the attraction. However, you will have to make use of the paid parking facilities in the vicinity as Tower Bridge does not offer parking space.
If you have the time and you wish to explore as much of London as possible, we recommend walking or cycling to the attraction.
Tower Bridge Opening Hours
The Tower Bridge is open from 9:30 AM to 6 PM with the last entry at 5 PM.
Closed: 24- 26 December.
Visit duration: 1 hour
Best time to visit: The best time of the day to visit the bridge is during the early hours after opening.
Who built the Tower Bridge?
The decision of choosing the design for Tower Bridge was left to the Special Bridge or Subway Committee, which was formed in 1876. After a public competition to find a design, Sir Horace Jones' design was chosen and John Wolfe Barry, was selected as the chief engineer. When Jones died in 1887, George D. Stevenson took over the project.
History of Tower Bridge In a Nutshell
- The Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894, to ease road traffic to the east end of London while preserving access to River Thames.
- On 30 June 1894, the bridge was inaugurated by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
- In 1910, the high-level walkways were closed due to lack of use.
- In 1976, Tower Bridge moved from a steam-driven system to electrified hydraulics.
- To celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, in 1977, the Tower Bridge was painted red, white, and blue.
- Tower Bridge reopened to the public with a permanent exhibition inside called The Tower Bridge Experience in 1982.
Design and Structure of Tower Bridge
The bridge features two towers, both 65 meters high, built on piers that were sunk into the riverbed. The central span has been split into two equal bascules. The term 'bascule' comes from the French word for 'seesaw'. These bascules are operated by hydraulic power, to raise to their maximum angle of 86 degrees to let river traffic through.
Today, the bascules are still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam. You can find the original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are on display within Tower Bridge’s Engine Rooms.
The two side-spans on this 240 meter long bridge are suspension bridges, each 82 meters long. The walkways are located about 42 meters above the River Thames.
The Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones, the man behind Billingsgate, Smithfield, and Leadenhall Markets. The Tower Bridge was one of the last buildings in London to have been created in the Neo-Gothic style, or the Revival Gothic style, which had been popular all through the mid-18th century to the 1930s. This style was adopted because Queen Victoria was opposed to having a bridge built so close to the Tower of London and the aesthetics of the Neo-Gothic style would allow the bridge to assimilate to its surroundings. The Neo-Gothic style is usually characterized by pointed arches, turrets, and towers, all of which can be observed on Tower Bridge.
There were challenges involved in bringing together the architectural style with the then modern Victorian technology. But, the architects were able to blend these elements, such as the chimney that stands among the lampposts on the North Tower, in a way that the aesthetics were not compromised for the functionality.
Things to do at Tower Bridge
Start your trip to Tower Bridge by making your way through a grand Victorian staircase or fully accessible lift, to the North Tower. Take a trip down memory lane as you are transported back to the nineteenth century. Here, you will be able to learn about the fascinating history of Tower Bridge, with the help of interactive displays.
The Glass Floor
The glass floor on the tower bridge was installed in 1982 when it was reopened for pedestrians. From 42 meters over the River Thames and 33.5 meters above road level, this permanent feature provides visitors with a magnificent birds-eye view of London life. You may look down to find the famed red London buses and pedestrians speeding across the Bridge as river barges pass beneath it.
The Tower Bridge is located at a great vantage point. Visitors can go up to the walkways connecting the two towers and enjoy breathtaking views of the city. It is placed about 42 meters above the river Thames. If you happen to be on the walkway when the bridge is open, you can get a great view of the river and vessels underneath. You can also see the Tower of London, City Hall, the Shard, HMS Belfast from the Tower bridge.
Original Victorian steam engines, coal-fired boilers, drivetrains, and accumulators are on show at the Engine Rooms of the Tower Bridge, with interactive displays and information panels explaining how they work. You can learn about the force of steam and the innovative hydraulic system that lifted Tower Bridge's 1,000-tonne bascules at a moment's notice until the 1970s.
Tower Bridge Exhibition
The northwest tower of the bridge houses the exhibition entrance. Visitors who take the lift to the top of the tower are treated to a century-old film of the bridge opening in 1904, as well as views of Victorian London at the time of the bridge's construction. The exhibition gives you all the information you need to know about this iconic structure.
The South Tower is the last leg on your tour of Tower Bridge. You can descend from the walkways using a similar Victorian staircase or lift, as you used on the other side. You will be able to view plaques that commemorate the workers of the bridge. Here, you will find the Engine Rooms, engaging films, and information panels about the technology and the workers who kept this landmark running.
Tower Bridge Lifts | The Working Bridge
The Tower Bridge was created so that while ensuring people access to across the River Thames, river traffic activities would not be disrupted. This was the reason why a design that included bascules was chosen for the bridge.
Today, Tower Bridge continues to lift its bascules for registered vehicles that have mast or superstructure of 30 feet of more under the Corporation of London (Tower Bridge) Act 1885. . The service is provided free of charge. The Bridge is raised around 850 times each year.
Tower Bridge On Screen
Tower Bridge, being one of the most iconic attractions in London, has been featured on screen multiple times.
Movies: Some of the films that have featured the Tower Bridge are Gorgo, The Mummy Returns, Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), and Spiderman: Far from Home.
TV: The Tower Bridge has featured in revered television programs like Friends, Doctor Who (Aliens in London), and Killing Eve.
Music: The Tower Bridge has appeared in popular music videos like Will-i-am ft. Eva Simons - This is Love, Little Mix ft Jason Derulo – Secret Love Song, and One Direction - Midnight Memories.
Video games: The video games that have shown the Tower Bridge include The Getaway: Black Monday, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and ZombieU.