9 February 2003
On Stephen's birthday, a visit to Tower Bridge, seen here from an
angle less familiar to most of us. The bridge was completed in 1894, and
for almost 100 years was the easternmost bridge across the Thames.
From the northern approach to the bridge, looking across to the
Greater London Assembly building, last
seen two years ago under construction.
An even more unfamiliar view of the bridge, from the eastern
elevated walkway to the western. Originally the plan was that
pedestrians would use these when the bascules were lifted, but most
people chose to wait rather than ascend and descend. As a result the
walkways were closed from under use in 1910, until reopened in 1982 as
part of the Tower Bridge
On this rather murky day, a view to modern Docklands. It was because
the site for the bridge crossed the heart of London's docks on the
Thames that it was necessary to find a design for the bridge which
didn't disrupt shipping. Many years were spent analysing more than fifty
designs before the present one was settled upon.
From the western walkway, a view of HMS Belfast and the dome of St
The old and the new - the Tower of London and the Swiss Reinsurance
Tower, better known as the Erotic Gherkin
Looking straight up inside the southern tower, reveals some of the
steel superstructure - it is easy to forget with the gothic flourishes
that the bridge is a steel bridge, clad in non-structural stone.
One of the boilers, used until 1976 to generate steam to power the
pumping engines, which stored energy in six massive accumulators so
that, as soon as power was required to lift the bridge, it was readily
available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the
bascules up and down. Nowadays the hydraulic power is generated by
electricity rather than steam.
One of the engines.
A signal, previously used to indicate to boats when the bridge was
going to lift. Nowadays boats have to give at least 24 hours notice of a
request for the bridge to lift.
One of the symbols of London, which still lifts almost 1000 times a
year. See our trip on a paddle
steamer for two occasions on which we caused the bridge to lift.
Times of lifting can be found