Built to make it easier for people to cross the River Thames, Tower Bridge is one of London’s most iconic structures and features a central section that opens to permit ships to pass. Take a look below for 21 incredible and awesome facts about Tower Bridge.
1. Tower Bridge took eight years to build, starting 1886 and finishing in 1894.
2. Even though some people call it so, Tower Bridge isn’t London Bridge. You have to go a little further upriver to find London Bridge.
3. 50 designs for the bridge were submitted in 1876 but they were all rejected. It wasn’t until Sir Horace Jones came along in 1884 that a design for Tower Bridge was finally approved. The design has been attributed to both Horace, an architect, and Sir John Wolfe Barry, an engineer.
4. Tower Bridge wasn’t Jones’ first iconic project. He also designed Smithfield Market, Leadenhall Market, and various other notable London markets.
5. Tower Bridge has two high-level walkways that were initially designed to enable pedestrians to cross the bridge when the central span was open. But after falling into disrepair, they became one of the more infamous Red Light Districts in the city.
6. The walkways were closed in 1910. But they are part of the bridge’s exhibition these days, so they are open to the public.
7. Albert Gunther was driving a bus across the bridge in 1952 when it started to open. Rather than panic, Gunther accelerated. He jumped over the gap, making it safely to the other side.
8. Decades earlier in 1912, Frank McClean encountered an emergency that forced him to fly his short biplane between the bascules of Tower Bridge.
9. Tower Bridge was initially a dull brown colour. To celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, it was painted red, white, and blue. It acquired the bright blue and white colours you see today during the 2008 – 2016 face-lift.
10. In 1997, Bill Clinton was forced to wait for 20 minutes while the bridge was raised to let a ship pass. This is because ships on the River Thames have right of way. The bridge will always open to let them pass regardless of the identity of the person who has to wait while this happens.
11. Tower Bridge has two levered sections that raise (at an 83-degree angle) to let ships pass. These sections are called bascules.
12. The word ‘bascule’ comes from a French word that means see-saw. Each section weighs an astonishing 1,100 tons!
13. The counterweights that swing to operate the bridge are found in a large cavern beneath the bridge called the Bascule Chamber.
14. Not only can you tour the chamber but it is sometimes used to host concerts. This is because it has incredible acoustics.
15. Initially, Tower Bridge was operated by coal-burning steam engines. In the 1970s, they were replaced with a system that uses electricity and oil.
16. There are more than 11,000 tons of steel in Tower Bridge.
17. More than 70,000 tons of concrete were used in the foundations to support the structure.
18. Construction involved the use of 2 million rivets and 31m million bricks.
19. 432 workers were involved in the construction of the bridge.
20. Tower Bridge is crossed by 40,000 people on a daily basis.
21. Even though the bascules are extremely heavy, the bridge is typically raised in five minutes.