Tower Bridge is recognised around the world. It’s one of a number of iconic destinations that represents London and Great Britain.
What you see is the chosen design out of 50 others which were submitted to a competition launched by the City of London Corporation. They set up the “Special Bridge Committee” in 1876 to oversee the entries and select the most favoured design.
It took 5 contractors employing 432 construction workers 8 years to Build Tower Bridge. The construction was completed in 1894.
Over 11,000 tons of steel were used for the frame and overhead walkways, supported by the 2 huge piers which had to be sunk into the river bed. The steel frame is delicately concealed by Cornish granite and Portland stone. This is to protect the steel from the elements and provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance of the whole construction.
Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge (from the French term ‘balance scale’ or ‘see-saw’). The bascules were raised using steam power, taking about a minute to achieve the 86° maximum angle.
Steam power was used until 1976. Since then, electricity has been used to raise the bascules. The steam pumping engines and boilers are on show in the Tower Bridge Exhibition’s engine rooms.
In 1977 Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Before this time the bridge was a dull brown.
The walkways which join the tops of the towers were closed to the public in 1910 because of lack of use. People were prepared to wait for the bascules to be lowered rather than climbing the stairs to the tops of the towers.
In 1982 the Tower Bridge exhibition was opened and the walkways were opened to the public as an attraction. Visitors can now walk on a modern glass floor, providing a sky view of the bascules, when they are being raised and a panoramic view of London, 42 metres above the River Thames.
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Image sources: wikipedia.org
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