Tower Bridge of London has become to be an iconic symbol of London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom of Britain. It is one of the five bridges in London, under the administration of the Bridge House Estates, within the charitable trust City of London Corporation.
The tower was built in the second half of the 19th century, because of the commercial development in the area of East End of London. Thus, it was needed a new river crossing besides London Bridge. Its design was chosen out of 50 projects, and it was built between 1886 and 1894, by five contractors, with the help of over 400 workers. Its special design was necessary in order to assure the sailing ships to go along the river of Thames. Therefore, the bridge is made out of two bridge towers, brought together with the help of two horizontal walkways. The bridge is accessible to both pedestrians and vehicles, and the towers are keeping inside The Tower Bridge Exhibition. Its actual color scheme is based on a combination of red, white and blue. This was changed from greenish-blue color in 1977, with the occasion of Queen Elisabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. The construction of the Tower costed around £ 1.184.000, the equivalent of £120 million in 2016. It was officially opened in 1894, by the Prince (King Edward VII) and Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark).
When it was built, Tower Bridge was seen as the most impressive and advanced raising bridge of its time. The hydraulic system raising the bascules was powered by steam. The steam-powered system was replaced in 1976 with engines using electricity and oil. Moreover, the Tower Bridge is the only one over the river of Thames that can be raised to let ships pass. Seeing the Tower Bridge opening is considered to be a sign of good luck.
Initially, the bridge had high-level open-air walkways, at the top of the two towers. Their purpose was to allow pedestrians to cross the bridge even when it was raised. However, most of the people preferred to wait for the bridge to go down, instead of using the stairs to these walkways. The consequence was that in 1910 the high walkways were closed. In 1982, the walkways were totally enclosed and opened to the public as a museum that hosts the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
In 2012, with the occasion of the Summer Olympics, which were held in London, the Olympic rings were suspended on the bridge. It was an event of great interest for the public, and a great opportunity to enhance the iconic image of the Tower Bridge of London.
Usually it is called the London Bridge. However, its actual name is Tower Bridge, the London Bridge being in reality further down the river. Some of the most interesting facts about it are below.
- The design of the bridge was chosen out of more than 50 projects.
- The bridge can be seen live, 24 hours a day. The link is here.
- It does not have an actual name, because is one of the few bridges of London that has towers. It is named after the Tower of London, located nearby, on one side of the Bridge.
- The Tower Bridge is 244m long, each tower has a height of 65m, and the tower is split into two parts that can be raised to an angle of almost 90 degrees, to allow access for the river traffic.
- The bridge opens at least once a day, and around 1000 times a year. The traffic on the river has been reduced, but is still having priority over road traffic.
- Over 40,000 people cross the river daily. To assure the longevity of the bridge, and to protect its structure, the City of London Corporation put a speed limit of 32km/h, and an 18 ton weight limit, for vehicles that cross the bridge.
- People also can throw parties in different spaces with spectacular views, set within the bridge towers and along the walkways. It is in fact one of the most popular venues of London.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition puts together for visitors and tourists the history of the bridge, with a very attractive exhibition. Recently, a new glass floor offers a breathtaking view over the high-level walkways and the Victorian Engine Rooms. The Engine Rooms keep the steam engines that powered in the past the bridge lifts. In 2015, it was awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Tower Bridge of London in 13 quick numbers
- 5 minutes takes to raise each half of the bridge, to let ships pass
- It was built in 8 years (1886-1894)
- 432 workers participated in the construction of the bridge
- 31,000,000 bricks were used, with 2 million rivets and 22,000 litres of painting
- Its construction costed £ 1.184.000, the equivalent of £120 million in 2016
- 18 tons is the weight limit for vehicles crossing the bridge
- The speed limit is 20 miles per hour
- Each bascule of the tower can be raised at a maximum angle of 86 degrees
- Its height is of 143 feet (43.5meters) above water, for the pedestrian walkways
- The height of each tower is 213 feet (64.9 meters)
- The bridge is 800 feet (243 meters) long
- The bascules are raised around 1000 times a year. There is no charge for the ships, but a notice is required
- Around 40,000 people cross the bridge every day, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Tower Bridge Exhibition,
Tower Bridge Road,
London, SE1 2UP,
Official website: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/