Tower Bridge is one of the main thoroughfares across the Thames river in the city of London. The bascule and suspension bridge can take road and pedestrian traffic, as well as opening when required to allow river traffic to pass. Built during the Victorian era, it remains a testament to the engineers and architects of the time.
Work began on construction of the bridge in 1886, making Tower Bridge the first bridge east of London Bridge to cross the Thames and substantially reducing journey times for those from the east side of the city who wanted to get across the river. A public competition was held to find a design for Tower Bridge, which had to be built so as to allow river traffic to continue further down the Thames. The bridge was ultimately designed by architect Horace Jones and engineer John Wolfe Barry. The bridge was finally opened in 1894, taking its name from the nearby Tower of London.
The bridge was originally powered by steam engines which can still be viewed today, though they are no longer in use. At the time it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest bascule bridge (opening in a see-saw style) in the world, created using over 11,000 tons of steel and covered with Cornish granite and Portland stone. Today the heavy lifting work required for the bridge's operation is powered by oil and electricity. In total, 432 construction workers help to bring the bridge into existence.
In 1952 the number 78 bus was still on Tower Bridge as it began to open to allow a ship to pass through. Driver Albert Gunton managed to drive the bus across the widening gap just in time. In 1977, to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, the bridge was painted red, white and blue. The walkways on top of the bridge (enabling pedestrians to cross while it is open) were opened again in 1982 after having been closed in 1910 due to lack of use. For the London Olympics in 2012, five rings in the shape of the Olympic logo were hung from Tower Bridge -- the rings measured 25m by 11.5m and weighed more than three tonnes.
The bridge today
Around 40,000 vehicles cross Tower Bridge every day, which spans a distance of 225m. The two towers dominating the bridge are both 65m high. Altogether, the bridge is made up of more than 31m bricks, and the total cost for construction today would be £110m (it cost £1m in 1894). Boats wishing to have Tower Bridge opened must apply at least 24 hours in advance via email, telephone or post.
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