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Tower Bridge

Listed under Monuments & Landmarks in London, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Tower Bridge
  • Photo of Tower Bridge
  • Photo of Tower Bridge
  • Tower Bridge at night
Photo of Tower Bridge
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Completed in 1894 and still one of London’s most iconic landmarks, Tower Bridge is also a monument to its time. With the east of London becoming densely populated in the 19th century due to the major port and no bridges east of London Bridge, journeys were troublesome to say the least.

Under huge public pressure the City of London Corporation commissioned the building of a new bridge into the east. The question that begged to be answered was how to build a bridge that wouldn’t disrupt port traffic. Over fifty designs were put forward before Horace Jones, the City Architect, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, offered the chosen opening and closing design for Tower Bridge as a solution.

When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built ("bascule" comes from the French for "see-saw"). It was a hydraulically operated bridge, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was then stored in six massive accumulators so that, as soon as power was required to lift the Bridge, it was readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system, the bascules only took about a minute to rise to their maximum 86 degrees. It’s still a sight to see it opening today.

Nowadays, the bascules are still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam. The original pumping engines, accumulators and boilers are on show as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, and you can also see the current machinery and control cabins when you come on a "Behind the Scenes Tour". Also in the exhibition you get to see the plans for the other designs, while the walkway offers stunning views of London’s other landmarks.

Written by  John Johnston.

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