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Spanning the River Thames since 1894, the London Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. At the time, it was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built providing full view of the city through a glass-enclosed walkway with museums in each tower house. It has become an iconic symbol of the capital and its construction is a skillful engineering achievement.
The second half of the 19th century saw the increase of commercial development in East London and became extremely crowded which led to the necessity of a bridge across the Thames. In 1876, the City of London Corporation decided the problem could no longer be delayed and faced a huge challenge of building a bridge since the area of the city has become a busy port. The “Special Bridge or Subway Committee” was formed to generate ideas, and opened a public competition to design the crossing. Over 50 designs were submitted but it wasn’t until 1884 that a design submitted by Sir Horace Jones, the city architect, was approved. He put forward a proposal for a low-level bridge on the bascule principle. “Bascule” is derived from the French word for see-saw, and the bascule bridge is a kind of drawbridge which works on a pivot and has a heavy weight at one end to balance the greater length of the other.
How it was built
It took 8 years to build the Tower Bridge with 5 major contractors and 432 workers involved in the construction. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. Its ornate Victorian Gothic style makes the bridge a distinctive landmark and harmonizes the bridge with the nearby Tower of London. The bridge is 800 feet (244 m) in length with two towers each 213 feet (65 m) high built on piers. The central span of 200 feet (61 m) between the towers are split into two equal bascules or leave operated by hydraulic methods and can be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The bascules, weighing over 1,000 tons each, are counterbalanced to minimize the force required and allow raising for five minutes. Six massive accumulators are used in the operation of the bridge that use steam to generate power and the power is fed to the accumulators. Using this energy, the bridge bascules are lifted up to a height of about 86 degrees. Electricity and oil were used in place of steam from the year 1976, and in addition, the bridge also uses navigation system for the signaling of ships and to control the traffic.
Visiting the Bridge
The grandeur of the Tower Bridge is one of the most visited attractions in London. A visit to Tower Bridge Exhibition is the most exciting way to enjoy the majestic view of the city through its high-level walkways between the two bridge towers, and learn about the working of the bridge and the history behind its creation via photos, films, and other media.
Built close by is another attraction from which it takes its name. The Tower of London English Heritage as played a prominent role in the country’s history. This remarkable castle was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. Come and book your Tower of London Tours and discover the legends attached to the Tour De Londre Tower of London. Add to your itinerary the Stonehenge Tours and unravel the mystery of these monolithic rocks.