BRIDGE OF LONDON
Victorian Steam Engines and Thames London Views
Tower Bridge bills itself as the "Most Famous Bridge in the World", but
that might be disputed by Brooklyn or San Francisco’s Golden
Gate, but is surely the most distinctive. The bridge’s Victorian era
stone towers and drawbridge span across the Thames River are unmistakable
other – though, some visitors to London mistakenly refer to it as London
Bridge. The London Bridge made from the nursery rhyme “London Bridge
is falling down” was dismantled a couple of decades ago and now oddly
spans across a lake inlet in Arizona, but does play a part in the story
of the iconic Tower Bridge.
The city of London was faced with a challenge in the burgeoning industrial age of the late 19th Century. The aging London Bridge was congested and a new bridge was envisioned down river, but with an eye to not disrupting the flow of river shipping. A committee was first formed in 1876 to collect public design concepts, but it wasn’t until 1884 that city Architect Horace Jones along with designer John Wolfe Barry submitted the radical plans for a steam hydraulic “Bascule” draw bridge. Although the bridge appears like towers of stone like a castle, the structure is actually of a steel framework, but covered with Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the metal from the elements and give the bridge a more attractive appearance.
The Tower Bridge first opened for carriage traffic in 1894, was recently featured in its construction phase as a background effect in the most recent “Sherlock Holms” movie (see Finding Sherlock Holmes Locations). The high upper walkways were intended for pedestrians to cross while the bridge was up, but largely unused by Londoners who found it too much of a climb. The walkways, often cold and windy, and out of sight from below, gained popularity for prostitutes to take customers, until they were closed to the public in 1910. The bridge managed to survive the bombing blitz of World War II and has been undergoing a refit and refurbishment. The Tower Bridge gets its name, not from its own towers but from its location on the river, with it crossing from near the Tower of London where the crown jewels are kept (see Visiting the Tower of London) to the South Bank.
Of course the bridge can be walked across, or admired from the river below on a Thames cruise boat (see Thames Cruises) with no charge, but for a visit to the upper walkways for a fabulous view of London and a look below at the Victorian era steam engines which once powered the lift mechanism, the Tower Bridge Exhibition presents the story of the bridge with films, photos and interactive displays. A must see for London visitors. The entrance to Tower Bridge Exhibition is located at the North West Tower of the Bridge; allowing entrance into the bridge structure and stairs to the high level walkways, now covered for all year round weather. After exiting the bridge structure, visitors follow a line to the Victorian Engine Rooms on the south side, with the historical musuem exhibits, which change from time to time.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition is open daily (except Christmas) - 10am to 6:30pm April to September (last admission 5:30pm) and 9:30am to 6pm October to March (last admission 5:00pm). Tickets for the Tower Bridge Exhibition can be purchased online. Admission for adults is £7. Children up to 15 £3, under five are free. A family ticket is available for £11. The London Bridge is included with a London Pass. © Bargain Travel Europe
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Tower Bridge Exhibition
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