Published 18 June 2013

Tower bridge : an astounding monument

Tower bridge : an astounding monument

It was on the morning of Tuesday 22nd October when we, the European class, arrived in front of Tower Bridge. I couldn’t help but gaze and marvel at its spectacular structure and design, but the morning breeze reminded us that we had to get our feet moving in order to enter the warm building if we didn’t want to freeze. No sooner had we arrived than a guide ushered us to a lift as he introduced himself. He was welcoming and had a nice sense of humour. Despite his Irish accent, I was able to gather all the information I needed about the bridge. I have to say that the bridge holds a pretty fascinating story behind it.

All began in the second half of the nineteenth century when the east of London, due to the increase of commercial traffic along the river Thames, sought the building of a new bridge, one that wouldn’t interfere or block river traffic that’s to say a bridge that allowed large ships to pass .

Many designs were submitted without success. It was only in 1884 that a bascule bridge by Horace James was approved. Unfortunately, the latter died the very same year leaving John Wolfe as the appointed Engineer.

The architectural plan consisted of building a 265 meter long bascule bridge, with the two halves of the bridge opening upwards and outwards thus allowing ships to pass through. Moreover, in order for the bridge to withstand the forces exerted by the mass of the two towers and bascules, two walkways were created.

The opening of the bridge has used steam hydraulic power until 1975 when it was replaced by a modern electro-hydraulic system. That year, the bridge was painted red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s silver jubilee.

Tons of events have taken place on this bridge such as wedding ceremonies, marriage proposals and even motor cross tournaments. Hearing the guide tell us all these stories about a plane which passed between the two spans and the bridge itself or that of a bus driver who became a hero after driving his bus from one side of the bridge to the other while it was opening and so on... made me feel connected to this bridge in some way.

At the end of our visit, we got to stride across the walkways above the city of London as we took in the view of the different skyscrapers and the Thames River. It sure was exhilarating!

I feel very privileged to have taken part in this tour. This experience was one in a million.