Tower Bridge is such a symbol of London that an American oil baron apparently thought he was buying it in 1967 when he snapped up London Bridge, half a mile upstream. Robert McCulloch was building a new city in the Arizonian desert. What more could he want than a Gothic-style feat of Victorian engineering? McCulloch later denied he had mixed up the bridges, but the myth captures an important truth: think of a bridge in London and Tower Bridge springs to mind.
The bridge was built in the late 19th century to ease pressure on the capital’s infrastructure. London had become the world’s biggest city, with a population of 6.5 million. The design was the result of a competition in 1876 to create a Thames crossing that didn’t obstruct sailing ships. It was won by architect Sir Horace Jones, and developed with the help of engineer John Wolf Barry.
Work started in 1886 and took eight years. The cost was huge: £1,184,000 back then – the equivalent of £122 million today. Five constructors were involved and 432 labourers. Two piers were plunged into the river to support the structure, while more than 11,000 tons of steel provided the frame for the towers and walkways. The bridge was finished with Cornish granite and Portland stone. About 31,000,000 bricks were used and 22,000 litres of paint. The Gothic look, created by George D Stevenson, complemented the Tower of London, on the north bank.
The opening, on 30 June 1894, was a grand affair. The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and his wife, Alexandra of Denmark, cut the ribbon. Celebratory canons were fired from the Tower of London.
The classic London sight is to watch the bridge being raised and lowered. Twice daily times can be found on the Tower Bridge website. Boaters can also request additional lifts. The bascules open about 850 times a year. The first year, the bridge opened 6,194 times, an average of 17 times a day. River traffic takes priority as former US President Bill Clinton discovered on his visit to the capital in May 1997. Returning from a lunch with Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Clinton arrived at the bridge just as it was opening. His motorcade was duly split up.
Its great place. I have a plan to go there. Keep prayers.