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Tower Bridge Facts

Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous icons, but how much do you know about it?

The bridge is a bascule and suspension bridge located above and across the River Thames. It was built in the late 1800s to make it easier for East Enders to get around.

So let’s have a look at some facts so you can learn a little more about this amazing river crossing.

Tower Bridge Facts for Kids

  • Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894
  • It’s 244 meters long (800 feet)
  • The twin towers rise 61 meters (200 feet) over the Thames.
  • Steam-driven hydraulic pumps operated the bridge until 1976
  • 40,000 people walk across the bridge every day
  • 21,000 cars drive across the bridge daily

When was Tower Bridge Built

It was built between 1886 and 1894 but looks old because it blends in with the Tower of London. The impressive bridge took 8 years to build, and over 1000 workers helped. It took 11,000 tons of steel and is clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone.

The bridge you see today was actually designed for a competition in 1877 but wasn’t approved until 1884. It was designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones and Sir John Wolfe Barry

The bridge was built using hydraulics and steam but is now powered by oil and electricity. The bascules are raised 1000 times a year to allow ships to pass.

There were plenty of jobs to put the bridge together, including divers, steelworkers, carpenters, painters, riveters, steam crane drivers, and more.

The bridge was originally brown but was painted red, white, and blue in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

The Two Towers

The bridge is 800 feet long and has two towers, each 213 feet high. It can be raised in five minutes to allow river traffic to pass.

The two side spans are suspension bridges, and the pedestrian walkways are 143 feet above the river at high tide.

Official Opening

The Prince of Wales and Princess of Wales inaugurated the Tower Bridge London on 30 June 1894.

The bridge was raised over 6,000 times in its first year, and it’s still opened regularly. It’s also good luck to see it being raised.

Tower Bridge Exhibition

The Tower Bridge Exhibition launched a glass walkway in 2014 so visitors could admire the bridge from a unique perspective.

You take the lift or stairs to the North Tower and watch a film about Victorian London (when the bridge was built). You can see the types of cargo coming into London through Tower Bridge.

On the East Walkway, you can see east London from this walkway, but the west walkway has more visible landmarks, so you may want to spend more time there. You might also see tall sailing ships.

From the west walkway, you’ll see St Paul’s Cathedral, City Hall, the Shard, BT Tower,  the Monument, the Walkie Talkie, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Tower of London, HMS Belfast, and London Bridge.

The glass floor is very strong and directly over the part of the bridge that opens.

When you reach the South Tower, you can watch a film about people who worked at Tower Bridge and access the Engine Rooms from this side.

In the Engine Rooms, you can see the original Victorian Engines that power the bridge until 1976. Nowadays, they use electricity and oil hydraulics to lift the bridge.

You can learn more about a visit to the bridge here – https://www.towerbridge.org.uk

More Interesting Facts

On 30 December 1952, Albert Gunter was driving the number 78 bus over Tower Bridge towards Shoreditch. The road in front of him seemed to drop away. His bus was on a rising bascule as the bridge opened. A watchman was supposed to ring a warning bell and close the gates. The bridge had not yet begun to open on the north side, so he got all of his passengers across safely. Albert was rewarded with a day off work and a reward of £10.

Lake Havasu City’s founder thought he’d buy the old London Bridge and reconstruct it in his city to attract tourists and future investment, but the Lake Havasu City website denies that was the case.

The bridge was stuck open in August 2020 due to a mechanical fault but eventually reopened to pedestrians and traffic.

You must have a vessel over 9 meters (30 feet) tall and give the authorities at least 24 hours notice of your timings.

It opens on weekends in the summer, when tall ships and steamboats go in and out.

Tower Bridge Experience offers sunrise yoga classes on the high-level Walkways.

In 2012 the 5 Olympic rings cost £259,817 to produce and £53,000 to install on Tower Bridge.

The bridge can be hired for weddings, with tables all the way along the walkways and a backdrop of Victorian Steam Engines.

The city of London Corporation received more than 50 designs before choosing the bascule and suspension design in 1884.  

The Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 using 11,000 tons of steel and clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone.

The Tower Bridge was inaugurated on 30 June 1894, and the Harbour Master’s vessel, Daisy, was the first vessel to pass through Tower Bridge.

Frank Miller flew a plane through the Tower Bridge in 1951 on a dare from his son but was fined £100.

Part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony was held on the Tower Bridge, and the James Bond movie sequence was shot here.

The Tower Bridge was originally chocolate brown but was painted red, white, and blue in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

The Tower Bridge is used by over 40,000 people and nearly 21,000 vehicles per day and is subject to a 32 km/h speed restriction and an 18-ton weight limit.

Most bridges are not ideal locations for throwing parties, but Tower Bridge offers several event spaces with spectacular views.

The halfway point in the London marathon is on the bridge