Bridge's image is synonymous with London.
Other than Big Ben, the bridge is probably the most recognizable attraction
in London. It is certainly the most decorative and spectacular bridge spanning
the Thames and is also a functioning drawbridge. It was painted blue in honor of
Queen Victoria's favorite color.
Construction of the Tower
Bridge lasted from 1886-1894 and the final cost exceeded £1,500,000. The hydraulic twin bastules weigh 1,000 tons
each. They are lifted when necessary to allow ships entry to the Pool of
London, the area of the Thames River between this, the most easterly of the
London bridges, and London Bridge. The former pedestrian walkway spanning
between the two towers of the bridge is a breathtaking 112 feet above the
surface of the Thames River. The Tower Bridge is now a museum. It can be toured for a modest fee. It is well worth
the admission price, however, to get the unobstructed view of the the city
and Thames River that is afforded from the old pedestrian walkway.
How A Design Was Chosen
The big problem for the Corporation of London
was how to build a bridge downstream from London
Bridge without disrupting river traffic activities. To get as many ideas as
possible, the "Special Bridge or Subway Committee" was formed in 1876, and opened the design
of the new crossing to public competition. Over 50 designs were put forward
for consideration, some of which you can see when you visit The Tower
Experience. However, it wasn't until
October 1884 that Horace Jones, the City Architect, in collaboration with
John Wolfe Barry, offered the chosen design for Tower
Bridge as a solution.
How It Works
When it was built, Tower
Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built
("bascule" comes from the French
for "see-saw"). It was a hydraulically operated bridge, using steam
to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was then stored in
six massive accumulators so that, as soon as power was required to lift the
bridge, it was readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines,
which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system,
the scules only took about a minute to raise to
their maximum 86 Degrees.
Nowadays, the bascules are still operated
by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven
by oil and electricity rather than steam.
Tower Bridge has a fascinating history, which is explored in full in The Tower Bridge Experience. Here are a few interesting facts
you may not have known:
- the high-level walkways, which were designed so
public could still cross the bridge when it
was raised, were closed down due to lack of use. Most people preferred to
wait at the bottom and watch the bascules rise up!
during an emergency, Frank McClean had to fly
between the bascules and the high-level walkways in his Short biplane, to avoid
- a London
bus had to leap from one bascule to the other when the bridge began to rise
with the bus still on it.
Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue to cele- brate the Queen's Silver
Jubilee. (Before that, it was painted a chocolate brown colour).
- Tower Bridge opened to the public for the first time since 1910, with a permanent
exhibition inside called The Tower