Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in London and one of the most easily recognizable bridges in the whole world. Up until this day, the bridge is mistakenly called by some “London Bridge”. The Victorian Gothic style of Tower Bridge is in harmony with another one of the capital’s most iconic structures nearby – the Tower of London. Every year, millions of visitors go there to take photos and enjoy the wonders of the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
Built in 1886–1894 due to increased commercial development in the East End of London and thus the necessity of a new river crossing, Tower Bridge is a combination of bascule (drawbridge) and suspension bridge. The decision for it to be a moveable bridge that can be opened to let boat traffic pass was taken due to the proximity of the harbour and its location in the direction of the sea.
Tower Bridge was designed by city architect Horace Jones together with John Wolfe Barry and its construction took 11,000 tons of steel. It is owned and maintained by the City Bridge Trust, together with another four of London’s bridges (London Bridge is among them) and connects the London Borough of Tower Hamlets with the London Borough of Southwark over the River Thames.
The famous twin towers of Tower Bridge are tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The operating mechanism to open the bridge is hidden at the base of each tower. Before the mechanism became electrified in 1976, steam power was used to pump water into hydraulic accumulators that were used to power the engines.
The bridge has a clearance of almost 45 meters when opened and its lifts are pre-scheduled and posted on its website for visitors to check. It is still a busy crossing of the Thames as according to data over 40,000 people cross it every day but the bascules nowadays are raised only about 1000 times a year as river traffic has reduced significantly over the years (but still has priority over road traffic).
The deck of Tower Bridge can be accessed freely by both vehicles and pedestrians, but the towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms can only be seen for an admission fee as they form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Inside it, visitors can learn all the details around the creation of one of the world’s most popular bridges and the way it works via photos, films, and other media.
They can also enjoy panoramic views from the walkways (which are 45 metres above the Thames) and have their breath taken away as they observe the traffic over the bridge and how it opens and closes to let ships pass below their feet through the 11-meter-long glass floors installed in 2004. Tower Bridge is close by several famous London attractions like Big Ben, London Eye and Tower of London.
In June 2012, a set of Olympic rings was hanged from Tower Bridge to mark the remaining month until the start of the Summer Olympics and after they ended was replaced by the emblem of the Paralympic Games to mark the start of the Summer Paralympics. To add, in July 2012, the west walkway was transformed into a 61-metre-long Live Music Sculpture and 30 classical musicians were arranged along the length of the bridge. This was the works of British composer Samuel Bordoli.