One of London's most iconic landmarks and architectural marvels, the Tower Bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge located above and across the River Thames. It is noted for its unmatched Victorian or Neo-Gothic style of architecture and has two towers connected by two walkways. It was constructed in the late 1800s for better access to the East End of London. Often confused with the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge is considered to be way more superior and majestic, visually. The bridge gets its name from the Tower of London, situated nearby.
More than 50 designs were submitted to the City of London Corporation when the idea was first proposed. Some are on display at Tower Bridge even today. It took 8 years of the Special Bridge or Subway Committee to approve a design. Finally, in October of 1884 the bascule and suspension design of City Architect Sir Horace Jones and Sir John Wolfe Barry was chosen.
The Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894. It took five major companies, and the hard work of 432 construction workers to complete the Tower Bridge. Two massive piers were built on foundations that were sunk into the riverbed. It took 11,000 tons of steel to create the framework of the bridge. The framework was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone.
On 30 June 1894, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and his wife, The Princess of Wales, officially inaugurated the Tower Bridge London with great celebration. The opening of this bridge was an important moment in the history of London because before the bridge opened, people used the Tower Subway which ran under the Thames.
Until 1974, the two bascules or walkways of the towers were operated using huge hydraulic pumps powered by coal-burning steam engines. It was then replaced by an electrical and oil-driven or electro-hydraulic system that takes only five minutes to raise the bascules and therefore, the Tower Bridge. Some of the original steam machines are now on display within Tower Bridge’s Engine Rooms.
On 30 December 1952, a bus leaped over one bascule to the other. Bus driver Albert Gunter was driving bus number 78 over the bridge when it suddenly began opening. Back then, a watchman was supposed to ring a warning bell and close the gates before Tower Bridge opened, which did not happen on that particular day. Acting quickly, Albert managed to accelerate and jump over to the other bascule without injuring anybody. He was also awarded for his bravery.
The Tower Bridge unveiled two new glass floor walkways in 2014. This was one of the more significant developments to the bridge structure and experience ever since it was first opened to the public. Located 42 meters above the River, the Glass Walkway allows for some very interesting views of London.
The Tower Bridge opens its bascules 800 times a year, which amounts to roughly twice a day. Although this seems like a big number, it is nothing compared to the first year of operation. In 1894, the Tower Bridge bascules were lifted 6,194 times, that is 17 times a day! Things have been more streamlined since, clearly!
In 1951, Frank Miller flew a plane through the Tower Bridge on account of a dare his 13-year-old son challenged him to. The dare got Frank 35 shillings but also cost him a heavy £100 fine in court. Interestingly, in 1912, another Frank flew his biplane between the bridge but his reason wasn't as amusing.
The London Bridge and Tower Bridge are two separate bridges, often confused to be the same. The London Bridge is located further upriver and is much plainer in comparison. The Tower Bridge is also considered to be London's most famous bridge and sees close to 500,000 visitors annually.
The Tower Bridge was the highlight at the 2012 London Olympics. Not only were the Olympic rings suspended from the walkways here but the James Bond movie sequence of the 007 and 'the Queen' (read: stunt double) flying through the bridge in a helicopter was also shot during the London Olympics opening ceremony.
The original color of the Tower Bridge was a shade of chocolate brown. It was only in 1977 that the Tower Bridge was painted red, white, and blue to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Between 2008 and 2016, the bridge went through some more transformations. It is around this time that the Tower Bridge took on the bright blue and white colors that we see today.
The Tower Bridge has continued to function as a vital crossing of the Thames. The Tower Bridge is used by over a whopping 40,000 people and nearly 21,000 vehicles per day. This is excluding the 800 times that the bascules raise to let ships through. This does amount to a lot of wear and tear. To maintain the integrity of the structure, the City of London Corporation has imposed a 32 km/h speed restriction, and an 18-ton weight limit on vehicles using the bridge.
A record-breaking 13-meter high Lego version of the Tower Bridge was built for the launch of the New Discovery car by Land Rover. Made using a total of 5,805,846 individual pieces, it beat the previous record by 470,646 bricks. If laid end to end, the bricks used in the construction would stretch for almost 200 miles, which is the same distance between Tower Bridge in London to Paris.
No, Tower Bridge is not the same as London Bridge. They are two distinct bridges in London. Tower Bridge is known for its distinctive appearance and location near the Tower of London, while London Bridge is a simpler bridge located nearby.
Tower Bridge is named after the nearby Tower of London. It's located close to this historic fortress and reflects its proximity.
Yes, Tower Bridge has a unique drawbridge design. Its bascules can be raised to allow tall ships to pass through the River Thames. It's one of the few bridges in the world that can do this.
The high-level walkways offer panoramic views of London and are an iconic feature of Tower Bridge. Visitors can enjoy spectacular vistas of the city from these walkways.
Tower Bridge was originally powered by steam engines. These engines operated the bascules, allowing the bridge to open for passing ships. Later, it was converted to electricity for operation.
Tower Bridge suffered minor damage during World War II but was subsequently repaired. It has not undergone major reconstruction and retains much of its original structure.
Yes, Tower Bridge has the Tower Bridge Exhibition, where visitors can learn about its history, engineering, and see the Engine Rooms, which house historic machinery.
While Tower Bridge is not individually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is part of the historic ensemble of maritime Greenwich, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.