Reveal Tower Bridge's hidden stories

Tower Bridge is a unique landmark. Built as a working bridge to allow ships to pass while keeping road and pedestrian traffic running, it became a visitor attraction, and a venue hire and a filming location around 40 years ago. You might recognise it from a visit to London, or from a Hollywood blockbuster!

From heart-warming details about our workforce to operational secrets, curious facts to daring feats, we invite you to peel back the layers and reveal the hidden stories of a Victorian, yet ever-changing icon.

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New campaign creative - plane

The first flythrough

On 10 August 1912, aviator Frank McClean piloted his Short-Farman hydroplane between the road and Walkways of Tower Bridge. Not satisfied with his first exploit, he continued upstream, dipping under every remaining bridge as far up the Thames as Westminster. 

On the return trip, a sidewind hooked McClean into the water as he was attempting to fly under the Bridge. Fortunately, though, he was unhurt, and his beloved seaplane was towed to shore for repair. 

New campaign creative - workers

The workers

It took the tireless labour of 432 construction workers each day to build Tower Bridge, for eight years from 1886 to 1894.

The roles that helped to build the Bridge were the most varied, from bricklayers to divers, riveters to engineers. Many of these workers, like crane driver John Merker or driller John Heaney, came from Scotland with Glasgow-based company Sir William Arrol & Co, one of the Bridge's major five contractors.

A key Tower Bridge worker was Clerkenwell-born George Edward Wilson Cruttwell. He worked as Superintending Engineer under Sir John Wolfe Barry until 1897, and was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Bridge. 

New campaign creative - Elephant

The Glass Floors

Tower Bridge's Glass Floors were installed between November and December 2014. They measure 11.5 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, and comprise six different layers. Each of these layers weigh a whopping 530kg and are 70mm thick.

The Glass Floors are in fact so strong that they could hold the weight of six elephants or two London cabs! It took six weeks and a team of 20 to put each one of them in place.

The top layer of the Glass Floors is dubbed 'the sacrificial layer'. This is regularly replaced to ensure visitors get the best views, 42 metres above the Thames and 33.5 metres above road level.

New campaign creative - the Engine Rooms

The Engine Rooms

The Engine Rooms were once the beating heart of Tower Bridge. The steam engines powered the opening of our mighty bascules for over 80 years without fail.

Up to 1976, when the Bridge switched from steam power to electricity, around 30 people worked inside the Engine Rooms, every single day of the year. The stokers used to shovel more than 20 tonnes of coal per week!

These steam engines, alongside original coal-fired boilers, drivetrains, and accumulators, are now on display for visitors to enjoy.

New campaign creative - Bridge Lifts

Bridge Lifts

Tower Bridge's bascules were designed to open to ensure that vessels could access the Pool of London, the busiest port in the world during the Victorian era. In 1894, the Bridge's first year of operation, there were 6,194 Bridge Lifts. An average of 17 times per day!

The bascules were operated by hydraulics, then using steam to power the pumping engines. Since 1976, however, these bascules have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam.

The Bridge still opens for ships to pass, now around 800 times a year. Some of these ships are quite impressive, like JS Kashima and G√∂theborg of Sweden. Visitors can watch our mighty bascules in action through the Glass Floors, a truly remarkable experience.

New campaign creative - our visitors

A visitor attraction

Since 1982, we have welcomed thousands of visitors each year, from all over the world.

Tower Bridge is fully accessible to wheelchair users and buggies, despite being a 129-year-old structure. We have braille booklets and access tool-kits with sensory items that are available on arrival. 

Monthly, we host guided tours with British Sign Language (BSL) as well as autism-friendly Relaxed Opening. Quiet rooms are also on hand for anyone who requires one. Last but not least, the Bridge is also dog-friendly!

New campaign creative - Bridge Master

Our Bridge Masters

The First Bridge Master and Assistant Bridge Master were Lt Bertie Cator RN and Capt Richard Roberts. Their department was responsible for road and river traffic management, and they lived in the abutments, which are the two smaller towers at each end of the Bridge. 

In 1917, the two departments were merged by John Gass, who continued to serve as Superintending Engineer and Bridge Master until his retirement in 1930. He was succeeded by Lt John Buchanan RN, and next came Leslie Harold Priestly, the Bridge Master during the 1952 bus jump incident.  

The role of the Bridge Master gave space to the Director of Tower Bridge in 2014. The job of the Director of Tower Bridge not only includes the responsibilities of the Bridge Master, but also the management of the visitor attraction and venue hire.

New campaign creative - The Tower Bridge Cat

The Tower Bridge Cat

Up until the early 1980s, Tower Bridge had several cats living in and around our Engine Rooms. A Cat Manager was even employed to take care of them. Their role? Keep the mice away!

This strong link between the Bridge and cats inspired author Tee Dobinson to create 'The Tower Bridge Cat' book series. The award-winning books follow Bella, a fictional cat who lives with the Bridge Master, and goes on adventures in and around the Bridge.

Visitors to Tower Bridge can also follow Bella throughout the attraction and take part in the interactive Tower Bridge Cat Trail.  

New campaign creative - filming

An iconic filming location

Tower Bridge represents London in such a way that is no wonder why it regularly features on screen.

From silent films like 'Gorgo' (1961) to Hollywood blockbusters such as 2019's 'Spider Man: Far from Home', the Bridge has graced the silver screen from the beginning. The landmark also appeared in classic sitcoms such as 'Friends' and 'Dr Who', music videos like One Direction's 'Midnight Memories' and a number of games, including 'Watch Dogs Legion' (2020).

Looking at the Bridge, it is easy to understand why directors love it so much, and why it became such a London staple.

New campaign creative - bride

Venue Hire

Did you know that you can get married inside Tower Bridge? Or have your wedding party inside the high-level Walkways?

Our Glass Floors and Engine Rooms also make unique venues fo birthday parties and business dinners.

Celebrating a special occasion in such an iconic setting is unforgettable.

Ready to visit?

There is so much more to explore inside Tower Bridge, from the unique views of the city to the history of London's defining landmark. 

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