What is London’s Tower Bridge?
Postcards and travel brochures often feature Tower Bridge as an image of London because it is so iconically associated with the city. When it was constructed, London was in the process of quickly expanding eastward into the Thames estuary, which necessitated the construction of a river crossing that was significantly less crowded than the London Bridge.
In 1894, the Tower Bridge was first opened to the public by the Prince of Wales, who would eventually become King Edward VII.
The Tower Bridge is a spectacular drawbridge that connects two sides of a two-sided suspension bridge. When the bascules are opened, tall-masted ships are allowed to enter the Upper Pool of London without being restricted.
At the tops of the towers, there are two public walkways that connect them. In the nineteenth century, the walkways were not covered and were exposed to the elements. Thieves and prostitutes frequently used these pathways.
In the present time, the walkways have been covered and transformed into a significant tourist attraction. In addition to providing visitors with unrivalled views of London, the attraction also features an exhibition about the history of the bridge.
History of London Tower Bridge
As a result of the East End of London’s rapid expansion during the 19th century, there was an increasing demand for a new river crossing. The City of London Corporation faced a big obstacle, which was figuring out how to build a bridge further downstream from London’s Bridge without disrupting the flow of river traffic.
Subway Committee or The Special Bridge was established in 1876 in order to generate ideas, and in the same year, a public contest was held in order to choose a design for the new bridge. The Committee was presented with over fifty different concepts for consideration, and some of these are currently on exhibit at Tower Bridge.
However, it wasn’t until October 1884 that the City Architect Sir Horace Jones, in cooperation with John Wolfe Barry, who was hired as the engineer, suggested the selected design for Tower Bridge as a resolution. According to the plan, the width of the bridge would be 61 metres, and there would be 41 metres of headroom underneath it.
The building of Tower Bridge got underway in the year 1886. On June 21st, the Prince of Wales was the one to officially lay the first stone in the foundation. The construction of Tower Bridge involved the arduous efforts of 432 workers for construction each day, and it took eight years and five main contractors to complete.
Two enormous piers were constructed with foundations that extended far into the riverbed in order to provide support for the project. Over 11,000 tonnes of steel were used in the construction of the towers and walkways.
The middle span was partitioned into two equal bascules that might be raised to make way for passing vessels. This structure’s exterior was clad with Portland Stone and Cornish Granite in order to protect the steelwork that was found underneath.
After Jones passed away in 1887, George D. Stevenson became the new owner. He is responsible for replacing the building’s original brick exterior with the distinctive Victorian Gothic architecture that it is renowned for today. The completion of the tower came at a cost of 1,184,000 pounds.
On June 30, 1894, the Prince and Princess of Wales presided over the official opening of Tower Bridge. During the opening ceremony, Lord Carrington, Lord Chamberlain, and Home Secretary H. H. Asquith were in attendance. On the same day, following a two-minute delay, the bridge was raised for the very first time in its entire history.
An Act of Parliament mandated that there be a tug boat in the vicinity of the bridge at all times, and this requirement remained in place right up until the 1960s. Its purpose was to assist any vessels that could become disabled while passing under the bridge.
Before the construction of the bridge, traveling from Tower Hill towards Tooley Street in Southwark via the Tower Tube was the most efficient way to cross the River Thames. When Tower Bridge first opened, there was no charge for pedestrians to cross it; hence, the majority of foot traffic changed to utilising it.
Due to the fact that it could only be reached by steps, pedestrians rarely used the open-air walkways, and as a result, they became a popular location for pickpockets and prostitutes. The pedestrian passageway, which had been closed since 1910, was restored in 1982 as a part of the London Tower Bridge Exhibition.
20th Century Era
Tower Bridge had developed into an important connection point to the Port of London in the years leading up to World War II, the world had. This resulted in it becoming a target for nations that were at odds with it.
Between the years 1940 and 1942, the Tower Bridge was the target of a few strikes, which resulted in damage to various sections of the bridge. In 1942, a third engine was installed only in case the two that were already there were destroyed or damaged by the enemy.
However, as a result of the modernization of the bridge, this 3rd engine was rendered unnecessary and was consequently given to the Forncett Industrial Steam Museum.
Both the southern and northern halves of the bridge were added to the National Register of Historic Places on different dates: the southern half on December 6, 1949, and the northern half on September 27, 1973. The Tower Bridge Exhibition first welcomed visitors in 1982.
Steam to Oil & Electricity
At the time of its completion, the Tower Bridge was the largest and most technologically advanced bascule bridge in the world. The operation of these bascules was handled by hydraulics, and steam was employed to power the enormous pumping engines.
The power that was produced was saved in six enormous accumulators, which ensured that there would always be electricity available if and when it was necessary to raise the bridge. Accumulators were used to supply electricity to drive motors, which were responsible for raising and lowering the bascules.
Hydraulics are still used to power the bascules in modern times; however, since 1976, oil and electricity have been used in place of steam to power them rather than steam. The Engine Rooms of Tower Bridge allow visitors to view the accumulators, pumping engines, and boilers that were originally installed there.
Lifts on the Historic Tower Bridge
- Daisy, the vessel belonging to the Harbour Master, was the first vessel to pass under the Tower Bridge. A succession of honorary vessels, including the gunboat HMS Landrail, The Conservator Steamer, The Bismark, and the Clacton Belle, followed it immediately afterward.
- In 1932, the Royal Eagle used to routinely make the journey across the Tower Bridge, transporting passengers between London and a number of coastal destinations including Ramsgate, Southend-On-Sea, and Margate.
- In the spring of 1954, thousands of people from all over the United Kingdom flocked to the banks of the River Thames to catch a glimpse of the Royal Yacht Britannia as it passed beneath Tower Bridge carrying Majesty the Queen and her court back from a six-month tour of the Commonwealth.
- Both the STS Lord Nelson and the MV Tenacious set sail on May 15, 2004, with the intention of passing underneath the Tower Bridge. Nevertheless, the authorities in charge of the bridge did not receive the lift ticket in time, which resulted in the ships colliding with the south pier of the London Tower Bridge.
- A Spanish cargo ship The Monte Urquiola was notorious for colliding with the Tower bridge on multiple occasions. The cargo ship caused three separate incidents of damage to the Tower Bridge between the years 1957 and 1967.
- During the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, a Bladerunner BR RIB 35 named “Max Power” was driven by former football superstar David Beckham under Tower Bridge with torchbearer Jade Bailey.
- Since 2013, the Tower Bridge has greeted more than thirty cruise ships each and every year as they enter the upper pool of London. The walkways of Tower Bridge provide visitors with a breathtaking vantage point from which to see the passing ships.
Highlights of Tower Bridge
Although it may be hard to believe, there is more to seeing the Tower Bridge than simply strolling across it or taking pictures of it from a distance. Visitors are now able to go within the bridge and observe London from a walkway that runs between the towers.
They can also learn a lot more about the bridge construction inside the Tower Bridge Exhibition Room, which is located on the lower level of the bridge.
The bridge’s glass walkways allow visitors to look down on the River Thames from a height of 42 meters and even watch boats and cars pass underneath the structure as they go below.
Because it is elevated above the West Walkway, the East Walkway provides visitors with a magnificent panorama of London’s skyline and enables them to identify a number of museums and historic buildings located along the Thames (including the HMS Belfast, the Tower of London, the Monument, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and even St. Katharine Docks, which are the beginning of the path to Canary Wharf).
In addition, the East Walkway is home to an exhibition titled “Great Bridges of the World,” which provides guests with the opportunity to gain further knowledge regarding the history of bridges located all over the world.
Victorian Engine Rooms
Visitors to the Tower Bridge Exhibition will also get the opportunity to tour the Victorian Engine Rooms, which are home to coal-driven steam engines that were formerly used to power the bridge lifts.
In the Victorian Engine Room, guests have the opportunity to not only learn about the engineering that went into the construction of the Tower Bridge through the use of photographs, films, and other forms of media but there are also interactive displays that allow guests to experience what a genuine historic steam engine would have sounded like and smelled like.
Visitors can walk across the Tower Bridge between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (from April to September) and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (the rest of the year) (from October to March).
Tickets for Tower Bridge
Adult tickets are priced at £9, children’s tickets are priced at £3.90, and student tickets are priced at £6.30. Admission is free for child under five years of age.
On the official website of the Tower Bridge, visitors can purchase discounted tickets, which include discounts for groups of seniors and families, also joint tickets for both The Monument and the Tower Bridge.
Adults can purchase a joint ticket for £10.50, while seniors and students can purchase one for £7.20, and children under 16 years of age can purchase one for £4.70.
If you want to go on a tour and pay for it, you have a few different options to choose from, and the cost of the tour will change depending on which option you go with.
There is the option of taking a private guided tour, which will take you on a comprehensive journey across the Monument as well as to the Tower Bridge (selected tours can avail this). A “Behind-The-Scenes Personal Guided Tour” is available for groups of at least six people and takes visitors on a journey through the Walkways, Victorian Engine, and Tower Bridge Exhibition. This tour is only available for a fee.
Standard ticket prices for “Personal Guided Tours” can be booked for £56 per group (for a maximum of 16 people), and a ” Personal Guided Tour for the private evening” can be booked for £21.50 per person (minimum 10 people are allowed for this booking).
A “Joint Visit” ticket can be purchased for £7.50 for students and seniors, £11 for adults, and £5 for children if it is known in advance that you will be going to both the Monument and the Tower Bridge on the same day.
There are a surprising number of restaurants in London that offer stunning panoramas of the Tower Bridge, and there are also some hidden gems tucked away on peaceful side streets. These are some of our top picks for places to eat in the surrounding area.
The Ivy Tower Bridge
The Ivy, which can be found on the south bank of the River Thames, is among the most well-known dining establishments in the area surrounding Tower Bridge. It is in your best interest to make reservations in order to avoid being disappointed.
You have the option of selecting hearty dishes like shepherd’s pie and the Ivy hamburger, or you can go for more nutritious dishes like sea bass fillet fried in the pan. The Ivy is open for dining throughout the day, beginning at 11:30 am during the weekdays and at 9:00 am on the weekends.
A large outdoor terrace with a view of Tower Bridge is available, and its separation from the street is effectively achieved by the use of plants and parasols. The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio was responsible for the interior’s vibrant orange and teal blue hues, which were used in the decoration.
Coppa Club Tower Bridge
The Coppa Club can be found on the north bank of the River Thames, in close proximity to the Tower of London. This casual eatery is open all day and Archer Humphryes Architects features chic interior design as well as a restaurant that seats 250 people and offers a breathtaking view of Tower Bridge.
Diners at Coppa Club can choose from three different seating areas: the indoor restaurant, the popular igloo pods, or the outdoor terrace. The Coppa Club serves uncomplicated and unpretentious fare for its patrons.
Imagine pizzas made with sourdough, linguine with Devon crab, and sticky toffee pudding. It is presented on chic blue-and-white stoneware with a Portuguese pattern.
Gaucho Tower Bridge
In addition to being well-known for its Argentine steaks, Gaucho is also known for their extensive wine list. With a partitioned-off terrace in the pedestrian zone adjacent to the More London fountains, the atmosphere is just as pleasant as the cuisine.
They offer a lunch menu that is pre-set in addition to an a la carte lunch menu option. Carpaccio of beef, spiral-cut churrasco de lomo, or spatchcock chicken is all delicious options. Finish with Argentine ice cream or a cheesecake flavoured with salted dulce de leche.
In the event that you are planning an event, the private dining room is the perfect location for it.
Le Pont de la Tour
You’ll find Le Pont de la Tour nestled in the evocative neighbourhood of Shad Thames. This riverside restaurant is known for its French cuisine and is considered to be one of the best options for fine dining near the Tower Bridge.
The delightful dining terrace boasts breathtaking panoramas of Tower Bridge. Watching the sun go down while passing the time here is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Rock oysters from Cornwall, steak frites, and apple tarte tatin are all delicious options. There is also an excellent menu geared toward children.
Within the Guoman Hotel, which is situated on the northern bank of the Thames and just below Tower Bridge, you’ll find this roomy bar and restaurant. There is a spacious outdoor terrace, in addition to two interior areas that both feature comfortable banquette seating.
During the summer months, this is an excellent spot to go to relax in the sun because it is open from noon until midnight every day. When the temperature starts to drop, find a comfortable spot by the fire pit and sip an Irish coffee to warm you up.
Getting London Tower Bridge
Address: Tower Bridge Road, London, United Kingdom, SE1 2UP
- By Tube: The Tower Hill station, which is the closest station, can be reached on foot in eight minutes.
- By Train: London Bridge is the station that is the most convenient.
- By Bus: The routes 15, 42, 78, 100, and RV1 are all good options for getting to the Tower Bridge.