Tower Bridge is London’s defining landmark. Whilst the image of its grand towers and rising bascules make it the most recognised bridge in the United Kingdom, if not the world, many confuse it with its neighbour, London Bridge.
The sole river crossing in London since the Roman times, the latter was simply called ‘London Bridge’, but its history has been anything but simple.
London Bridge as we know it was opened to traffic in 1973, being then only 47 years old. Now made of concrete and steel, it replaced a 19th century stone arched bridge, which in turn succeeded a 600-year-old stone-built structure.
Tower Bridge, on the other hand, has never fallen down. It stands today as it was built in 1894. It may look a lot older than 125 years but that was all part of Sir Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barry’s plan. Their aim was for it to blend in with Tower of London, and not become so much of an eyesore.
Who knew Tower Bridge would actually become the symbol of London, as it is today?
Things you probably didn’t know about Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is NOT a drawbridge
Drawbridges require ropes or chains to pull up the road, but Tower Bridge’s roads are too heavy to be opened like this. Instead it is a bascule bridge, which means the roads (bascules) move like two giant seesaws and pivot to open and close the bridge.
Tower Bridge used to have its own stables and horses
When Tower Bridge first opened, in 1894, there was concern that some horses may not be strong enough to pull their carts up the incline to the Bridge. In order to prevent potential traffic problems and keep London moving, Tower Bridge kept its own horses on site, coming to the rescue when needed.
Tower Bridge was the birthplace of the parachute regiment
In 1917, Thomas Hans Orde-Lees jumped off Tower Bridge with a homemade parachute. He wanted to demonstrate its effectiveness at low altitudes to the Royal Air Force. They must have been impressed as this has been credited as where the parachute regiment began.
Tower Bridge used to have its own mortuary
Rather gruesomely, in the Victorian times, bodies used to regularly wash up under the north side of Tower Bridge, and this area was given the name “Dead Man’s hole”. A mortuary was built to temporarily house these bodies until they were collected by the coroner. Thankfully, it’s not in use anymore.