The latest in my blog series about areas in London, today I look at one of the most famous London landmarks – Tower Bridge.
A Tootle Around A Very Blue Tower Bridge
Where Is Tower Bridge?
An instantly recognizable, iconic symbol of London in the UK, Tower Bridge spans the River Thames. It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge (more about that a bit later on). One end of the bridge sits between The Tower of London and St Katharine Docks. The other end is at Butler’s Wharf and Shad Thames.
You can’t really miss it as the structure is so impressive with grey stone construction and wonderful blue metal work.
‘View Toward Tower Bridge‘ was taken as I walked alongside the River Thames by City Hall. A constant stream of boats included guided river tours go under the bridge. The middle of the bridge opens to let through taller boats, this happens a few times each day and there is a website that tells you the lift times so you can be there to watch!
Views From The Bridge
You can also get some great views from Tower Bridge itself as you walk across it. Or ‘tootle’ as I put it in the blog title. To ‘tootle’ means to travel around in a leisurely way. Or in my case, stopping every few hundred feet to take photographs!
At the Shad Thames end of the bridge you get a wonderful view of Butler’s Wharf, the old dock and warehousing complex that has undergone a stunning regeneration.
Then as you walk across the bridge there are some beautiful views of the river and the cityscape beyond as shown in ‘View From Tower Bridge London‘. That view looks from the bridge towards the entrance to St Katharine Docks, a luxury marina and apartment complex.
As you get to the other end of the bridge there are fabulous views of The Tower of London where traitors were held before they were beheaded. That will be the cheery subject of a future blog by the way.
The History of Tower Bridge
There is lots of information on line about the history of Tower Bridge which I won’t repeat but if you are interested take a look at Wikipedia and also on The Tower Bridge website. This is an extract from the latter:
It took eight years, five major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers each day to build Tower Bridge.
Two massive piers were sunk into the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the Towers and Walkways. This framework was clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the Bridge a more pleasing appearance.
The bridge opened in 1894 and at that time it was the biggest and most sophisticated bascule bridge (a bridge with a piece that can be raised and lowered) ever built. Originally powered by hydraulics and steam power, today oil and electricity has taken over from steam. The wonderful thing about the bridge is that it has an exhibition area showing all the original engines and boilers.
There is also a high level walk way that you can walk across – and stand on and look down through the glass walk way to watch the bridge raise should you be so bold. You can even take a yoga class looking down 42 metres (137 feet) to the activity below. Yep, maybe not…
Tower Bridge is so majestic and impressive it fills your senses, and the views across the river are so wonderful, so you can be forgiven for missing some little historic touches.
For example at The Tower of London end of the bridge (and a few other places) you can see the City of London Coat of Arms.
In this image, with the Tower of London in the background, this blue lamp standard on the entrance to Tower Bridge has the City of London Coat of Arms.
The arms consist of a silver shield bearing a red cross with a red upright sword. They combine the emblems of the patron saints of England and London. The Cross of St George with the symbol of the martyrdom of Saint Paul. The coat of arms goes back to 1381.
There is a replica (red) Victorian Penfold Pillar Box (mail box) which was erected in 1989.
The bridge has several beautiful Victorian turnstiles. The turnstiles were recently restored and painted in 2010 with paint that is expected to last 25 years.
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Tower Bridge
There are so many interesting interesting facts about Tower Bridge here are just five I have picked:
- The high level walkways were once the place for prostitutes and pick-pockets.
- Ships have priority over road bridge traffic. President Bill Clinton visited London in 1997 and his motorcade was divided as the bridge raised. The President had to wait 20 minutes.
- Several people have actually flown under the bridge. The first was in 1912 and the plane was a Shorts Brothers S.33 floatplane.
- A double-decker bus was caught on the bridge as it opened in 1952 and the driver had to accelerate to clear a three feet gap and a six foot drop (reminds me of the film Speed). Luckily no-one was hurt.
- The bridge was originally brown in colour. The bridge was then painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, then painted again the current colour blue during a major restoration project in 1982.
Walking Around The Tower Bridge Area
Actually, Tower Bridge is very ‘blue’. I rather like it, it is one of my favourite colours and I use it a lot in my art work.
I thought whoever parked this bicycle underneath the stairway at Tower Bridge had an eye for colour too!
There are so many things to go and see in this area including the Tower of London. But I think the cyclist may have just gone over the road to have lunch at one of the restaurants in St Katharine Docks, the subject of my next blog.
All of the images in my blog today are available to buy as prints. Just click on the image to go to a purchase page with more information.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!