Tower Bridge in London, a Triumph of Victorian Engineering, Turns 125

Tower Bridge in London

By Anna Breuer on 3 April 2019
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Tower Bridge, which crosses the Thames close to the Tower of London, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. In addition to being a beloved icon of the city, it is one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

It was opened by the Prince of Wales, who was also the future King Edward VII, and his wife, the Princess of Wales.

Built between 1886 and 1894, the bridge was designed so that hydraulic steam engines would raise and lower the two bascules or giant roadways to allow ships to pass through. The elevated walkway atop the bridge would allow pedestrians to cross when the bascules were open.

The bridge was designed by the architect, Sir Horace Jones, and the engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, in this manner because a standard fixed bridge at street level would have cut off access by ships to port facilities in the Pool of London, which is between London Bridge and the Tower of London. The bridge’s designers concealed the bascule pivots and operating machinery in the two towers, which are clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to match the nearby Tower of London.

Tower Bridge is often confused with the far less impressive London Bridge, which, until the late 20th century, was a stone-arched bridge that had opened in 1831. That bridge was sold to a Missouri entrepreneur who moved it to Lake Havasu in Arizona. At the time there was speculation that the buyer erroneously thought he was buying Tower Bridge, however, that was denied both by the buyer and the seller.

The upper deck was closed around 1910 after only prostitutes and pickpockets frequented it, as most people would not climb the stairs just to cross the Thames.  It reopened in 1982 as a tourist attraction and visitors can also view the now-unused steam engine rooms that were used to raise and lower the giant roadways.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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