Tower Bridge is one of London’s most well known and iconic landmarks as well as being a must see attraction for tourists visiting the city, having walked, driven and cycled across it many times I decided it was time to visit it properly myself.
Having bought the tickets I boarded the lift which took me up to the top and into a small area where a video presentation was being screened on a loop about the history of the bridge and how it was built.
Here’s a little of what I learned. The bridge was opened in June 1894 and at the time was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever completed. The bridge took eight years to build, using five major contractors and the labour of 432 workers. To massive piers were sunk into the river bed and over 11,000 tons of steel were used to provide the framework for the towers and walkways. The framework was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steelwork and give the bridge a more pleasing look. The bascules were operated by hydraulics using steam to power the huge pumping engines. The energy was stored in six enormous accumulators, so as soon as power was required to lift the bridge, it was available. Despite the systems complexity it only took about a minute for the bridge to lift.
After watching the video presentation I then walked out into the now covered walkway which gives stunning views up and down the river, it’s hard to imagine how they would have been before they were glassed in.
In the centre of the walkway a large section of the floor has been taken out and replaced with glass giving you the most incredible view of the bridge and river below, it’s a bizzare feeling looking down from that height and took me some time to get used to but it’s fascinating to watch the traffic and the people below.
Both walkways are open so you can walk down one and back up the other one to get the best views from either side of the bridge. Both also have the glass floor and you’re able to spend as long as you like up there.
Having finished on the high level walkways there’s a short bespoke video from artist Stephen Biesty depicting the construction of the bridge, this is in the south tower. After watching the video I wandered down the beautiful staircase viewing the “Battersea to Bermondsey” LED lit motion sensitive artworks showing iconic buildings along the Thames.
Back outside and following the directions I entered the Victorian engine rooms which house the original bridge lifting machinery. The machinery is beautifully maintained and although no longer used to lift the bridge is still a fascinating place to visit.
I stood and imagined what it must have been like to work down in these engine rooms when they were operational, probably not a nice job, hot, cramped and dangerous, not the pleasant experience it is today.
Well that was my Tower Bridge experience, an enjoyable way to spend a few hours in London. Let me know if you’ve been and what your thoughts are.