Over the next year or so we will be updating our exhibition to give visitors more of an idea about life on and around Tower Bridge during its 121-year history. We’ve been asking people to share their remarkable stories and we just couldn’t keep this one to ourselves.
Philip Forrest had last visited the Bridge as a young man in the 1960s, when it was operated by the steam engines to lift the bascules, and when plans to open the abandoned walkways and lifts were still very far off. He still remembers his visit to the Engine Rooms: the acrid smell of coal mingling with the metallic and sweet smell of the engines and oil; the heat, and the gentle hissing and whirring of the running steam machines.
He is the son of Edward “’Ted” Forrest, who worked at Tower Bridge for 37 years between 1933 and 1970. He was born in 1908 in Deptford, trained as a bricklayer and worked in the maintenance team on the Bridge, which he managed as a foreman for many years. During WWII he also served as a volunteer air raid warden in Bermondsey – he was partially deaf, so he was seconded out from regular army service. On his retirement Ted received a certificate from the City of London Corporation and a golden (Accurist) watch - which is still in good working order!
Fiercely proud of his work, Ted kept two scrapbooks, which his son has now decided to share with us. We met him early in the New Year to talk about his father, the old bridge and to go through the books full of press cuttings and photographs, a unique and moving memento of life and work at the Tower Bridge.
If you have any stories to share, or know someone who has we would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dirk Bennett, Exhibition Development Manager