Tower Bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge is close to the Tower of London and has gradually become an iconic symbol of London.
In the second half of the 19th century, it was decided that a new river crossing was needed downstream of London Bridge. A traditional bridge was not considered because of the need to allow access by sailing ships to the port facilities in the Pool of London.
A public competition was held with over 50 designs being submitted, it was decided to build a bascule bridge and Sir John Wolfe Barry was appointed engineer with Sir Horace Jones as architect. Barry designed the bridge with two bridge towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges.
Construction started in 1886 and took eight years to complete with two piers containing over 70,000 tons of concrete supported the bridge with over 11,000 tons of steel providing the framework for the towers and walkways. Cornish granite and Portland stone were used for the Victorian Gothic style façade. The finished bridge consisted of two bridge towers connected together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The bridge was officially opened in 1894 by The Prince of Wales and his wife, The Princess of Wales.
The bridge is 800 feet (240 m) in length with two towers each 213 feet (65 m) high, The central span of 200 feet (61 m) between the towers is split into two bascules, which can be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans are suspension bridges, each 270 feet (82 m) long, the pedestrian walkways are 143 feet (44 m) above the river.
The bridge is accessible by both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition which opened in 1982.
Tower Bridge is crossed by over 40,000 people (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) every day. The Bridge is opened over 1000 times a year for river traffic.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition is a housed in the bridge’s twin towers, the high-level walkways and the Victorian engine rooms. The exhibition uses films, photos and interactive media to explain the story behind Tower Bridge. The walkways provide views over the city and the Tower of London and includes a glass-floored section.
Although Tower Bridge is considered one of the iconic sights of London today, when it was built it was not always appreciated with a number of people considered the structure pretentiousness and absurd.
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