Although its location is thought to have been very near the present one very little is known about the earliest London Bridge. The second bridge, which existed during Saxon times, was the bridge that became world famous in the nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down. It did in fact fall down in 1014. The original stone bridge was constructed in 1176. The present London Bridge was built in 1967 and is more than 100 feet wide.
The Tower Bridge was opened in 1894 after construction began nine years earlier. It is currently the only bridge in London that can allow ships to pass by rising. The complex lifting mechanism is used only 4 or 5 times a week as the Thames is seldom busy as a shipping and trade route. Tower Bridge is often mistaken for London Bridge which is rather dull in comparison but is often confused with Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge Experience is the name for the award winning attraction inside the bridge. The bridge’s history spans more than 100 years.
The Tower Bridge plans were devised around 1876 when it became extremely crowded in the east of London and it seemed a bridge across the Thames in that area of the city was a necessity. It would take a lot of discussions and another eight years before actual construction of the bridge started.
The bridge was designed by city architect Horace Jones in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry and was eventually completed in 1894. Nearly 450 workers and five contractors were involved in the construction of the bridge which is 265 meter long bridge. It took about 11,000 tons of steel to build the framework. Although at the time many Londoners disliked its Victorian Gothic design over time the bridge became one of London’s most famous symbols.
It was decided that the bridge would allow the passage of large vessels because of its location in direction of the sea and its proximity to the harbor. Therefore a decision was made to create a moveable bridge which could raise and lower to accommodate boat traffic. The mechanism to open the bridge is hidden in the two towers. Steam power was used to pump water into hydraulic accumulators which powered the engines until 1976, when the mechanism became electrified.
Each deck can be opened to an angle of 83 degrees and is more than 30 meters wide. When opened the bridge has a clearance of nearly 45 meters. At one time it was opened as much as 50 times a day but these days t is only raised about 1,000 times a year.
While a favorite tourist activity is taking photographs of the Tower Bridge you can also go inside the bridge and have an excellent view over London from the walkway between the two bridge towers.
Inside the bridge is the Tower Bridge Exhibition which is a display area that encompasses the walkway and the two famous towers where you can observe the Victorian engine room. Visitors can learn about the history of the bridge via films, photos,and other media.
Currently the bridge is undergoing a renovation project that should be completed in 2012. The Tower Bridge may close for several months during the renovations sometime in 2010.