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Why does Tower Bridge open?

27th October 2017 • Tower Bridge Blog

Why does Tower Bridge open?

Everyone knows that Tower Bridge opens to let tall boats pass thorough, but have you ever wondered where those boats are going?

Nowadays most boats on this part of the Thames are tourist boats but that hasn’t always been the case. When Tower Bridge was first built in the late 1800s, ships sailing on the Thames were carrying other important cargo.

The part of the Thames where Tower Bridge sits is called the Pool of London, which in the Victorian era was the busiest port in the world. Cargo ships were coming in from all over the world carrying goods such as sugar, tea and cotton- all the things a growing city needed to sustain itself. This cargo was offloaded into warehouses which lined the river banks between London Bridge and Limehouse (in East London) and so, when a new bridge was proposed next to the Tower of London, everyone involved in this industry was concerned – how would the cargo ships reach the warehouses on the other side of Tower Bridge?

Luckily, their concerns were listened to and it was made a condition of Tower Bridge’s design that it did not obstruct the sailing ships which needed to pass though. Over 50 different designs were submitted; all of them taking into consideration this problem, and the design which included opening roadways (bascules) was deemed the best.

Even though these cargo ships have long gone, Tower Bridge still opens roughly 1000 times a year. Visit our Bridge lifts page to see when Tower Bridge is opening next. 

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