The capital of England, London, is a metropolis that has not lost its old-world charm in the process of modernizing itself with architectural marvels like The Shard. One of the greatest representatives of the city’s heritage is the fabled Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge is a stunning achievement of engineering and one of London's most instantly recognizable monuments, with its Gothic spires and main bascule surrounded by spectacular suspension bridges. This page delves into the history of this celebrated structure.
By the 19th century, as the East End of London began to develop, there rose a need for a new river crossing. In 1876, the Special Bridge or Subway Committee was founded to develop ideas, and a public contest to choose a design for the new bridge was held. Over 50 ideas were offered for evaluation to the Committee, with some of them on display at Tower Bridge. However, it was not until October 1884 that Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect, suggested the chosen design for Tower Bridge as a resolution, in partnership with John Wolfe Barry, who was appointed as the engineer.
The construction of Tower Bridge began in 1886. Under It took eight years, five main contractors, and the tireless labor of 432 construction workers each day to build Tower Bridge. To support the building, two large piers were built on foundations deep into the riverbed, and the Towers and Walkways were built with nearly 11,000 tons of steel. To safeguard the underlying steelwork, this structure was covered in Cornish Granite and Portland Stone. When Jones died in 1887, George D Stevenson took over and he replaced the original brick facade with the iconic Victorian Gothic style that it is known for today. It cost £1,184,000 to finish building the tower.
The Prince and Princess of Wales officially opened Tower Bridge on 30 June 1894. Lord Chamberlain, Lord Carrington, and H. H. Asquith, the Home Secretary, were present for the opening ceremony. On the same day, the bridge lifted, after a two-minute delay, for the first time ever. A tug boat was required by an Act of Parliament to be on duty to help vessels in distress when crossing the bridge, an obligation that lasted until the 1960s. The Tower Subway was the quickest method to cross the Thames from Tower Hill to Tooley Street in Southwark until the bridge was built. Because there was no toll to cross Tower Bridge once it opened, the majority of foot traffic shifted to using it.
By the time the Second World War rolled around, Tower Bridge had become a major connecting point to the Port of London. This also meant that it became a target for enemy countries. Between 1940 to 1942, the Tower Bridge saw a few attacks that damaged parts of the bridge. In 1942, a third engine was installed in case the existing ones were damaged by enemy action. However, when the bridge was modernized this third engine became redundant and was donated to the Forncett Industrial Steam Museum.
On 6 December 1949, The southern section of the bridge was Grade I listed and the northern part of the bridge was listed on 27 September 1973. In 1982, the Tower Bridge Exhibition opened.
Tower Bridge was the world's largest and most advanced bascule bridge at the time of its construction. Hydraulics were used to run these bascules, with steam powering the massive pumping engines. The energy generated was stored in six large accumulators, ensuring that power was always available when it was needed to lift the Bridge. The accumulators supplied power to the driving engines, which raised and lowered the bascules. The bascules are still powered by hydraulics today, but they have been powered by oil and electricity instead of steam since 1976. The original pumping engines, accumulators, and boilers can now be seen in the Engine Rooms of Tower Bridge.
The Tower Bridge today is one of the most important ways across the river Thames. In fact, according to some estimates around 40,000 people cross the bridge on a daily basis.
Tower Bridge is now electrically powered and rises approximately 800 times each year, up to ten times per day in the summertime.
The greatest place to view the bridge being lifted is on the Tower Bridge's 11-meter-long glass walkways, which are 42 meters above the river.
The story of the bridge's construction is also narrated on these walkways, although the views of the river Thames outshine it.
Look down the glass floor to find the famed red London buses and pedestrians speeding across the Bridge as river barges pass beneath it.
Visitors can go up to the walkways connecting the two towers and spot iconic attractions such as the Tower of London, City Hall, the Shard, and HMS Belfast.
A. The Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in the world. It was opened in London in 1894 and has since been used for tourism and commute purposes. You can buy tickets to visit Tower Bridge here.
A. The Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894.
A. The Tower Bridge was built to carry pedestrians and vehicles across the river Thames. There was a need for a bridge to be built downstream of the London Bridge, and that is where the Tower Bridge came in.
A. On 30 June 1894, the Prince of Wales and his wife, The Princess of Wales, officially inaugurated the Tower Bridge London.
A. It took eight years to finish constructing the Tower Bridge in London.
A. The Tower Bridge is located near the Tower of London on Tower Bridge Road in the borough of Southwark.
A. The Tower bridge lifts about 800 times in a year.
A. Special Bridge or Subway Committee chose the the design by Sir Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barry for the Tower Bridge.
A. On visiting the Tower Bridge, you can explore the North and South Towers and the glass walkway that connects the two. You will also find an exhibition that narrates the story of the construction of the bridge as well as the Victorian engine room that houses the original machinery used to lift the bridge.