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Everything you need to know about Tower Bridge

As you set out to explore one of London’s most iconic landmarks, it’s helpful to know the essentials about Tower Bridge. This legendary structure not only has a fascinating history but also provides stunning views for anyone who crosses it. So sit tight to find out everything you need to know about tower bridge!

Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a remarkable example of Victorian engineering, with its distinct design features and impressive moving elements. Spanning the River Thames, the bridge connects the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark, beautifully complementing the nearby Tower of London.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned London-goer, taking a stroll across Tower Bridge will undoubtedly enrich your time in the city. And remember if you keep your eyes peeled you may see Tower Bridge open – it’s a sight that you’ll certainly want to experience.

View of Tower Bridge from the banks of the River Thames

Tower Bridge History

Architect and Engineer

When exploring the history of Tower Bridge, it’s important to recognise the key figures behind its creation. The architect responsible for the iconic design was Sir Horace Jones, while the engineer who brought the concept to life was Sir John Wolfe Barry. Together, they shaped the vision of Tower Bridge, and their collaboration resulted in the beautiful structure you see today.

Design Competition

Before the construction of Tower Bridge, a design competition took place to choose the best concept for the new bridge. Architects and engineers submitted their proposals, and Sir Horace Jones was selected as the winner. His design featured a sophisticated bascule bridge and suspension system, which would allow the bridge to be raised for passing ships while maintaining a stable crossing for pedestrians and vehicles.

Construction Process

The construction of Tower Bridge commenced on 22 April 1886 and lasted for eight years. About 432 construction workers participated in the project every day, building the 200-foot tall, 800-foot long, and 250-foot wide structure. The foundations submerged in the riverbed measured at a depth of almost 8m, and around 31,000,000 bricks were used in the construction of the bridge.

During the construction process, there were several challenges the engineers had to overcome, such as the bustling River Thames traffic. Moreover, the bridge’s style had to complement the adjacent Tower of London’s beautiful appearance. The final result was an impressive feat of engineering and architecture that was officially opened on 30 June 1894 by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Tower Bridge Design and Structure

Bascules and Suspension

Tower Bridge is a combination of a bascule bridge and a suspension bridge. The bascules, or the moveable parts of the bridge, are operated by hydraulics and were originally powered by steam engines. These bascules allowed the bridge to be raised and lowered for passing ships, making it a functional and iconic design. The suspension bridge portion of Tower Bridge consists of two towers, massive steel towers, that support the upper walkways and the road, providing stability and visual appeal.

Materials and Construction

The bridge is constructed using a variety of materials, such as steel, granite, Portland stone, concrete, bricks, and rivets. The steel frame provides strength to the structure, while the granite and Portland stone exterior gives an aesthetically pleasing and timeless appearance. Concrete and bricks are used in the foundations, ensuring a solid base for the bridge. The use of rivets in the construction process to build tower bridge demonstrates the engineering techniques of the time, as they were the primary method for joining steel components together.

Engineering Innovations

Tower Bridge is a testament to the engineering innovations of its time. Designed by architect Sir Horace Jones and civil engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry, the bridge showcases a range of cutting-edge features from the era it was built in. These include the original hydraulics system, which used steam to power the enormous pumping engines, allowing the bascules to be raised and lowered. Today, the hydraulic system has been updated to use electricity and oil, making it more efficient and environmentally friendly.

In conclusion, Tower Bridge’s design and structure represent a blend of practical engineering, architectural style, and materials that have stood the test of time. The combination of bascule and suspension bridge elements, along with the use of steel, granite, Portland stone, and other materials, showcases the bridge’s innovation and elegance.

Visiting Tower Bridge

Walkways and Glass Floors

When visiting Tower Bridge, you can start your experience by climbing the North Tower and making your way along the East and West Walkways. These walkways offer stunning views of London and the Thames. As you walk across the iconic Glass Floors, you’ll be able to see the bustling river traffic below. Don’t forget to snap a photo for an unforgettable memory.

Tower Bridge Exhibition

Dive into the history and engineering marvel that is Tower Bridge with the Exhibition. As you descend the South Tower to road level, follow the blue line celebrating the workers who built the bridge. Finally, enter the Victorian Engine Rooms to learn about the hydraulic power used to lift the bridge and explore fascinating interactive galleries.

Bridge Lifts

One of the most captivating experiences during your visit is witnessing a bridge lift. When large ships need to pass, the bascules of Tower Bridge lift vertically, allowing river traffic to continue. Keep an eye on the official schedule so you don’t miss this unique event.

Guided Tours

For an enriching experience, consider taking a guided tour. Knowledgeable guides bring the history of Tower Bridge to life, sharing interesting facts and stories along the way. The tour includes access to areas not normally open to the public, providing a deeper understanding of this iconic London landmark. We reccomend visting the Tower Bridge along with our Tower of London tour

tower bridge seen from the walls of the tower of london

Tickets and Access

Ticket prices for visiting are £12.30 for adults, £6.20 for children, and £9.20 for students/seniors, while children under the age of five can get in for free. Discounted tickets are also available on the Tower Bridge’s official website. Additionally, if you have a London Pass, access to the Tower Bridge Exhibition is included.

Getting to Tower Bridge is relatively easy, with several Tube stations nearby, including Tower Hill, Borough, and Bermondsey. You can also take advantage of East London’s attractions, such as the Tower of London, Borough Market, and the South Bank, making your visit to Tower Bridge an unforgettable experience.

Opening Times and Admission

Tower Bridge is open daily 09:30-18:00 (closed from 24th-26th of December)

Address: Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP

What Are the Ticket Prices and Options?

Tower Bridge also provides a variety of ticketing options, such as fast-track entry and multi-attraction tickets. Popular paid tickets can be booked online directly from the official website or from the ticket office located at the attraction itself.

Ticket TypePre booked PriceWhat’s Included
Adult£12.30Towers, Walkways, Glass Floors, Engine Rooms
Child (5-15)£6.20Towers, Walkways, Glass Floors, Engine Rooms
Student/Senior£9.20Towers, Walkways, Glass Floors, Engine Rooms
Ticket prices fluctuate and may be subject to change

Tower Bridge in London’s Landscape

Impact on River Thames Navigation

When you visit Tower Bridge, you’ll notice its unique impact on Thames River navigation. As a movable bridge of the double-leaf bascule (drawbridge) type, it was designed to allow tall ships to pass through unobstructed. In fact, the Tower Bridge Act mandates the bridge to open for boats with a mast or structure 30ft (9m) or more, this costs the boat owner nothing they just have to provide 24 hours notice! The central span, counterweights, and counterbalanced bascules work together to raise the bridge smoothly and efficiently, ensuring minimal disruption to both river and road traffic.

Iconic London Landmark

There’s no denying that Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in London. Its distinct design and proximity to other attractions such as the Tower of London and Leadenhall Market make it a must-see during your time in the capital. While you might encounter other familiar sights like Big Ben and Hyde Park, the unique presence of Tower Bridge on the Thames truly sets it apart.

Transportation and Connections

Moving around London is generally easy, and Tower Bridge provides vital connections for various forms of transport. For pedestrians, the stunning high-level walkways offer captivating views of the cityscape. As you stroll across the bridge, you can admire the River Thames below and marvel at the engineering that has made this walkway possible.

In terms of public transport, numerous tube stations are within walking distance of the bridge. The closest stations are Tower Hill on the District Line and London Bridge on the Jubilee Line. Both lines provide convenient connections to other parts of central London. Additionally, several bus routes service the area, making it even easier for you to explore everything that Tower Bridge and its surroundings have to offer.

While visiting Tower Bridge, take advantage of the convenient transportation options to see other key attractions in the area. With the City of London Corporation’s support, you can also expect a reliable and efficient infrastructure as you move around this bustling city.

Tower Bridge Today

Modernisation and Engineering Upgrades

Tower Bridge, an iconic symbol of London, has undergone continuous modernisation and engineering upgrades since its completion in 1894. As you visit this famous landmark, notice how it still functions as a bascule bridge, lifting its roads like two giant see-saws to accommodate passing ships. However, there have been significant changes to the way Tower Bridge operates.

In the past, coal was used to power the steam engines that lifted the bascules. Nowadays, electricity does the job, making the process more efficient and eco-friendly. Additionally, during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the bridge underwent a comprehensive repaint, transforming its appearance from a drab brown to an eye-catching red, white, and blue. In 2012, Tower Bridge received energy-efficient LED lights, accentuating its stunning architecture whilst saving energy.

Connection to the Surrounding Boroughs

Linking the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark, Tower Bridge serves as an essential passageway for pedestrians and vehicles alike. Whether you’re sightseeing or commuting, appreciate the historical significance of this engineering marvel that has connected Londoners for over a century. Tower Bridge offers convenient access to nearby attractions like the Tower of London, St. Katharine Docks, and the contemporary Shard skyscraper, ensuring its continued relevance in today’s bustling cityscape.

Maintenance and Preservation

Maintaining and preserving Tower Bridge for future generations is an ongoing task trusted to construction workers and engineers. Regular maintenance consists of painting, cleaning, and updating parts essential to its operation.

Did you know that over 22,000 litres of paint are required to cover the bridge’s structure?

Promain -TFL paint supplier

The application of this paint not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also provides a protective layer from weather-related damage.

Safety is paramount to Tower Bridge’s operation. The bridge often undergoes inspections conducted by skilled engineers. Ensuring the mechanical and electrical components function efficiently guarantees the safe passage of pedestrians, vehicles, and the numerous ships passing beneath its majestic bascules.

As you explore Tower Bridge today, take a moment to marvel at this living piece of history and the collective efforts made to ensure its continued role as one of London’s most iconic and beloved landmarks.

Photo of the shard and tower bridge over the river Thames in London cityscape

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Tower Bridge located?

Tower Bridge can be found in London, spanning the River Thames between the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark. It’s an iconic landmark situated near the Tower of London.

How old is Tower Bridge and who designed it?

Tower Bridge was completed in 1894, making it over a century old. It was designed by Sir John Wolfe Barry and Sir Horace Jones, who were renowned architects and engineers of their time. You can learn more about the Tower Bridge’s construction history here.

Can you cross Tower Bridge on foot?

Yes, you can cross Tower Bridge on foot. There are pedestrian walkways on both the east and west sides of the bridge. These walkways provide beautiful views of the River Thames and the city of London.

What type of bridge is Tower Bridge?

Tower Bridge is a movable bridge of the double-leaf bascule (drawbridge) type. This means the bridge can be raised and lowered to allow large vessels to pass through. More details about the bridge can be found here.

Does Tower Bridge still open?

Yes, Tower Bridge still opens for river traffic, such as tall ships and cruise liners. The Bridge Lift Times can be checked here, with around 850 openings per year there’s a good chance you will witness it during your visit.

Are Tower Bridge and London Bridge the same?

No, Tower Bridge and London Bridge are not the same. While Tower Bridge is a famous and intricate structure, London Bridge is a simpler and less ornate bridge located further upriver.tower bridge seen from london bridge, easily confused!

Can you go inside Tower Bridge?

Yes, you can visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition. This experience allows you to explore the famous bridge that’s history, view its original Victorian engine rooms, and enjoy the stunning views from its high-level glass walkways. For more information on visiting Tower Bridge, you can check their official website.

About the author

Denisa holds the highest UK qualification for tourist guiding, the Blue Badge. She also holds a Management in Tourism degree and a National Tour guiding certificate for the Czech Republic. Denisa’s employment history has covered many roles within the tourism sector, she couples this with the ability to speak several languages. Denisa runs our customer-facing business, she frequently enjoys days spent guiding clients and authors our blogs.

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