Tower Bridge Exhibition
Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle
TOWER Bridge is one of the most recognisable bridges in the world and at the Tower Bridge Exhibition you can learn about its history and how it was built; you can even visit the Victorian engine rooms that house the original steam engines that were used to power the hydraulic system; and you can enjoy breath-taking views from the high-level walkways.
Tower Bridge, designed by Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barry, was completed in 1894 after eight years of construction. It was a massive undertaking, as two massive piers had to be sunk into the river bed to support the 11,000 tons of steel that provide the framework for the towers and walkways.
It was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone though not just to protect the underlying steelwork but also to improve its overall appearance.
Tower Bridge is what’s known as a bascule bridge – ‘bascule’ comes from the French for ‘see-saw’ and is defined in the dictionary as ‘drawbridge on counterpoise principle’. This means, of course, that river traffic is not disrupted – an important consideration in the 19th century when the area east of London Bridge was a busy port.
The bascules have always been operated by hydraulic power – originally using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. However, since 1976, they have been driven by oil and electricity.