top of page
  • Writer's pictureErin

History - Tower Bridge

It's now time to start counting down the weeks until museums, art galleries and attractions can reopen, and I'm sure many of you are just as excited as me!

With talk of not being able to go on holiday abroad this summer, it's looking more likely that we'll have to stay put - but luckily for us we have London!

I didn't really do much in-between Lockdowns, as I was quite nervous about travelling around. But as soon as I've been vaccinated I'll definitely be making the most of London.

One thing I did do (perhaps because of the discount for City of London residents) was to visit Tower Bridge, and it was really fascinating! Not only being one of the most recognisable bridges in the world, it's an amazing experience being able to step inside it and learn more about its' history.

Designed by Sir Horace Jones and built between 1886 and 1894, it was the largest bascule bridge ever built ("bascule" coming from the French word seesaw). It's in the gothic style and meant to compliment its neighbour the Tower of London, with a steel frame clad with Cornish granite and Portland stone. It cost £1,184,000 to build - that's about a whopping £136 million in todays money!

The bridge does still open, albeit not as frequent as it did in its heyday (about 1000 times a year now). Only 24 hours notice is needed, and if you want to have a look at it in action (it's actually really cool!) head over to their website here to check lift times.

Well it's great if you're somewhere on the banks of the river waiting for a photo opportunity, but it actually takes quite a bit of time, and the traffic does get quite congested (foot and vehicle). This wasn't always a problem for pedestrians as they could use the walkway above - but it became known as a haunt for prostitutes and pickpockets, and police from either side of the river claimed it wasn't in their jurisdiction apparently. It was closed in 1910 and now forms part of the exhibition space.

The exhibition inside is well worth a visit - there's films, photos and interactive displays to explain why and how it was built. You can also access the original steam engines that once power the bridge bascules. They sometimes hold music concerts in there!

And of course there’s the glass walkway high above, which is frankly terrifying - they sometimes even hold yoga classes on it (definetly not my cup of tea, I scooted round the outside, you know, just incase).

And to finish, have you heard of the famous story when a bus jumped the gap?

On the 30th December 1952, Albert Gunter was driving the number 78 bus over Tower Bridge, and to his horror the bridge started opening! Back then a watchman would ring a warning bell and close the gates before the bridge was lift but it must have slipped his mind...

Gunter had a split second to react - did he slam on his breaks or put his foot down? He decided with the latter, and thankfully got his bus, himself and his 20 passengers safely to the other side. He was give a reward of £10 for his act of bravery.

What are you looking forward to the most when things start to reopen?

Heard in London

If you've enjoyed reading any of my blog posts, why not subscribe? You'll find the form on the homepage here.


bottom of page