Tower Bridge is another much-photographed icon of London; all the visitors and tourists want to see it, although some erroneously think it is either London Bridge or the Tower of London.
The technology of ship building made an enormous leap-forward in the nineteenth century, mainly due to the engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and other similarly brilliant geniuses of inovation. However, as the ships became bigger, what happened on the shore had to change too. Wharves, cranes, docks, waterways, all had to accommodate the marine monsters of international trade and commerce.
From the middle of the nineteenth century the massive development in the East End of London forced the need for a new Thames crossing downstream of London Bridge. There were still masted ships, even the mighty iron-clad steamers had masts and an ordinary fixed bridge would prevent these ships reaching the Pool of London which is between London Bridge and the Tower of London.
A competition was launched in the 1870’s to come up with a solution and many designs were submitted including one by another giant of nineteenth century engineering, Joseph Bazalgette. Eventually a design was chosen, strangely enough it was a design by on of the judges… hmmm. The idea of a bascule bridge coupled to a suspension bridge was adopted… and after eight years of construction it was completed in 1894.
I found some interesting events surrounding the bridge, you’ll probably be able to find more, but here are some which particularly interested me:
- December 1952, a double-decker bus was crossing from the south bank, the bridge was about to rise but a warning wasn’t sounded and the gates to traffic weren’t closed. The bus was caught on the edge of teh opening and the driver quickly accelerated and the bus jumped the three foot gap and went down six foot safely onto the other side,without any serious injuries! Well done to the driver!
- April 1968 a RAF Hawker Hunter FGA.9 jet fighter flew through Tower Bridge;the pilot was protesting because there was going to be no official fly-past celebrating of the RAF’s 50th birthday The pilot flew along the Thames, past the Houses of Parliament, and under the upper walkway. he was later arrested and discharged from the RAF.
- In 1973 a single-engined plane wasflown under the walkway by a young stockbroker’s clerk who was accused of stock market fraud. He flew on to buzzed other buildings before flying north; he died when the aeroplane crashed
- August 1999, a flock of two sheep was driven across the bridge by a man using an ancient permission, granted as a right to him as a Freeman of the City of London; he was protesting at the rights of older citizens being eroded.