Tower Bridge is my favourite bridge over the River Thames out of the 34 that connect the two London embankments from the Queen Elizabeth II bridge in Dartford to the Hampton Court Bridge in East Molesey.
This year Tower Bridge celebrates it’s 120th anniversary and we were invited along to complete the tour to learn more about it.
My dad told me when I was a child that an American, Robert McCulloch, had visited London and wanted to buy Tower Bridge for his retirement real estate development on Lake Havasu. Only he made a mistake and bought London Bridge instead! This was a popular belief which is vehemently denied by Mr McCulloch and Ivan Luckin who sold the bridge but funny all the same.
I can certainly understand why anyone would want to buy the bridge as it is pretty spectacular and by visiting it we were able to see even more closely how unique this bridge is.
Tower Bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1894 after 8 years of construction. It was the result of a public competition to design a new bridge held in response to London’s massive growth and the need to connect both sides of the river as east London had expanded and was fast becoming an important trading port.
Sir Horace Jones won the competition and worked alongside civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry on the £1.1m project. For more details visit the Tower Bridge website
The Tour of Tower Bridge
The tour starts on the Tower of London side at the north west tower. A lift takes you up to the walkway level which is 44 meters above the river at high tide and you arrive in a small room where you can listen and watch a wonderful enactment that explains the history of the bridge and a few details of its construction.
You can then walk along the walkways and take in the breathtaking views of London to the east and to the west.
Descent is via a staircase on the south east side but there is a second video to watch with more construction detail first. There is a lift also for those in need.
The way down has plenty of art and interesting things to look at and on arrival at the bottom you are back out on the street again.
By following the blue line you are lead along the bridge and down onto the walkway along the Thames. Once under the bridge the blue line leads you to the Victorian engine rooms and here you can see how the bridge used to be worked. When it was built it was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built.
This was the winner of the most recent Design a Bridge competition, what do you think?
The bascules were operated by hydraulics using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was stored in six massive accumulators so when the bridge needed lifting the energy was available. The Accumulators fed the driving engines which drove the bascules up and down. The bascules only took about a minute to raise to their maximum angle of 86 degrees.
Today the bascules are driven by oil and electricity rather than steam but the original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are well worth a look as it is amazing. There are also interactive games to help the children understand how it worked.
There are constant art exhibitions on show adding to the wow factor and making this a great place to visit for all the family