London Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, built 1886–1894, is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in
London which crosses the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, from
which it takes its name, and has become an iconic symbol of London.
The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by means
of two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal forces exerted by
the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The
vertical component of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical
reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule
pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge's
present colour scheme dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for
Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. Originally it was painted a mid greenish-blue
Construction started in 1887 and took eight years with five major contractors –
Sir John Jackson (foundations), Baron Armstrong (hydraulics), William Webster, Sir
H.H. Bartlett, and Sir William Arrol & Co. – and employed 432 construction
workers. E W Crutwell was the resident engineer for the construction.
Two massive piers, containing over 70,000 tons of concrete, were sunk into the
riverbed to support the construction. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the
framework for the towers and walkways. This was then clad in Cornish granite and
Portland stone, both to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a
The nearest London Underground tube stations are Tower Hill on the Circle and
District line, London Bridge and Bermondsey, and the nearest Docklands Light
Railway station is Tower Gateway.
In the second half of the 19th century, increased commercial development in the
East End of London led to a requirement for a new river crossing downstream of
London Bridge. A traditional fixed bridge could not be built because it would cut
off access by tall-masted ships to the port facilities in the Pool of London,
between London Bridge and the Tower of London.
The bridge was officially opened on 30 June 1894 by The Prince of Wales, the
future King Edward VII, and his wife, The Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark.
The bridge connected Iron Gate, on the north bank of the river, with Horselydown
Lane, on the south – now known as Tower Bridge Approach and Tower Bridge Road,
respectively. Until the bridge was opened, the Tower Subway – 400 m to the west –
was the shortest way to cross the river from Tower Hill to Tooley Street in
Southwark. Opened in 1870, Tower Subway was among the world's earliest underground
('tube') railway, but closed after just three months and was re-opened as a
pedestrian foot tunnel. Once Tower Bridge was open, the majority of foot traffic
transferred to using the bridge, there being no toll to pay to use it. Having lost
most of its income, the tunnel was closed in 1898.
Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge
House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It
is the only one of the Trust's bridges not to connect the City of London to the
Southwark bank, the northern landfall being in Tower Hamlets.
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