The Women of Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, originally a giant steam engine, has historically been a very male working environment. However, over the course of the 20th-21st centuries, as society has changed, we have seen more and more women working at Tower Bridge.

Discover the stories of Hannah Griggs and Charlotte Olive Dora Burch, two of the first known female employees of Tower Bridge and the trailblazers for these women today.

If you have family members that have worked at the Bridge, or have a story to share, we would love to hear from you. Write to us at

Portrait of Olive Burch

Charlotte Olive Dora Burch

One of the first female employees working at Tower Bridge we know of was Charlotte Olive Dora Burch, known as Olive.

Olive was only 18 when she became a maid for the first Bridge Master, Lt Bertie Cator RN, and his wife, Violet Cator, and came to work in the old residence of the South Abutment in 1895. This was where the Bridge Master and his family would live before their quarters moved to the building on the southern side of the Bridge. The rooms were right above the road and must have been a noisy place.

Being a maid inside the Bridge must have had its difficulties. For once thing, there were not lifts inside and the stairs are steep. There are stories of how ropes were lowered from above with baskets tied to them to hoist the shopping up!

Read the original letter of appointment that Violet Cater, the Bridge Master's wife, sent to Olive when employing her. 

Olive Burch letter - pages 1 and 2

Pages 1 and 2

Olive Burch letter - pages 3 and 4

Pages 3 and 4

What happened to Olive?

Olive moved on from the Bridge after a few years. She got married and lived in Brixton.

Her family by marriage would go on to own various wheelwright businesses in Brixton and Camberwell and Olive looked after the accounts and financial matters. She very obviously was quite a highly educated woman.

Hear Olive's story

Listen to an interview with Olive's granddaughter, Liz Hunter, all about Olive's life and connection with Tower Bridge.

Listen to the podcast

Hannah Griggs portrait

Hannah Griggs

The discovery of another female employee at Tower Bridge, Hannah Griggs, was made by chance one day in 2016. One of our Welcome Hosts overheard a visitor talking to her friends about the family story that her grandmother was once employed at the Bridge.

Our team were very excited and encouraged further conversations with the family, to learn more about the history of Hannah.

This fantastic photograph of her has survived, which her granddaughter Susan Belcher, has let us use here as well as on display in the Engine Rooms.

The Bridge Master’s cook

Hannah was born to an unmarried mother in 1888. She probably began work as a kitchen maid in her early teens.

Hannah became a cook and worked at Tower Bridge for Bridge Master Captain Richard Wakeham and his family in the residence, the red brick and stone building that still stands on the southern approach of the Bridge.

Hannah Griggs and William Howard on wedding day

What happened to Hannah?

Hannah left Tower Bridge before WWI and moved to Hornchurch with her husband (to a house very invitingly called Cosy Nook).

She gave up her job when she married William Howard, a railway fire fighter, and later became mother to two daughters,

Elsie Howard born in 1915 and Lillian Howard born in 1927. 

She died in 1956, aged 68, and the story of her connection to the Bridge has remained in her family ever since. Her great granddaughter, Hannah, is named after her.

The women of Tower Bridge now

The women of Tower Bridge now

Women now make around 40% of Tower Bridge's workforce, holding positions that include Marketing Manager, Finance Officer, Security Supervisor and Education Manager.

It is thanks to trailblazers like Charlotte Olive Dora Burch and Hannah Griggs that so many women have become such a crucial part of the daily running of London's defining landmark.

Explore more

Discover more stories of the workers of Tower Bridge by visiting the attraction. 

Book tickets