Tower Bridge Facts for Kids – A Defining Landmark of London

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Tower Bridge is a combination of bascules (drawbridge or moveable bridge) and suspension bridge over the River Thames in London. It is located near the Tower of London, giving its name. In this article, we gathered information about the history of Tower Bridge, its design and architecture, location, how it works, famous events and incidents involving Tower Bridge, some interesting facts, and many other things.

Tower Bridge Facts for Kids

History Of Tower Bridge

History Of Tower Bridge

The history of Tower Bridge began in the late 19th century when commercial development increased in London’s East End. So another river crossing needed to be built downstream of London Bridge. An ordinary traditional bridge at street level could not be built because it would block sailing ships from reaching the port between London Bridge and the Tower of London.

It was a challenge for the City of London Corporation to build such a river crossing that work without disruption of river traffic activities. For this purpose, the Special Bridge or Subway Committee was created in 1876. The committee launched a public competition for the design of the bridge.

In 1884, the design of Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barrys was selected from over 50 designs submitted.

The construction of the bridge was started on 22 April 1886. The bridge was completed in eight years. On 30 June 1894, the Prince and Princes of Wales opened the bridge with great celebrations.

Architecture And Design Of Tower Bridge

Neo-Gothic architecture

Architecture of Tower Bridge

The architectural style of Tower Bridge is Neo-Gothic (also called Revival Gothic). Neo-Gothic architecture started in the mid-18th century in England. This style is influenced by Middle Ages architecture and can be easily recognized from the turrets, towers, and pointed arches resembling those of castles and churches.

As the bridge was to be built near the Tower of London, the Neo-Gothic architecture style was chosen to have appropriate aesthetics and not look odd with the Tower of London.

Design of Tower Bridge

A team of architects and engineers designed Tower Bridge under the leadership of Sir Horace Jones. Sir John Wolfe Barry was the civil engineer in the team.

The bridge is 244 meters (800 feet) long with two towers built on massive piers. The height of each tower is 65 meters (213 feet). Between the towers, two equal bascules split the central width of 61 meters (200 feet). To allow river traffic, the bascules can be uplifted to a maximum angle of 86 degrees. Each bascule weighs over 1,100 tons. To reduce the force required for raising, both the bascules are counterbalanced.

Over 11,000 tons of steel was used for making the framework of the bridge. The steel framework is then covered with Cornish Granite and Portland Stone to strengthen the framework, and to give the bridge a beautiful look.

Two side suspension bridges were built, which are 82 meters (270 feet) long, and hang on suspension rods. The suspension rods are attached to both abutments of the bridge and go through rods inside the upper walkways. The walkways span 61 meters between the bridge’s two towers. They lie at a height of 42 meters (137 feet) above the river. The purpose of the walkways was that the public could still cross the bridge when the bascules were raised.

How Tower Bridge Works?

Tower Bridge Works

Tower Bridge worked originally with six hydraulic accumulators and huge hydraulic pumps powered by steam engines to raise the bascules. In that system, a pair of stationary steam engines were pumping water into accumulators at a pressure of 5.2 megapascals (750 psi). Each accumulator has a 20-inch (52 cm) ram which exerts a heavy weight on the top to maintain the needed pressure. The accumulators then supply power to driving engines, which operate the bascules up and down. While the system was complex, the bascules were raised at their maximum 86-degree angle in only 60 seconds.

The original operating system was replaced in 1976 by a modern electro-hydraulic system. Hydraulic power is still used to operate the bascules, but electricity is used to drive them rather than steam.

Where Is Tower Bridge Located?

Tower Bridge is located downstream of the London Bridge on the River Thames. It lies near the Tower of London and the Old City Hall, between the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark.

Famous Events And Incidents Involving Tower Bridge 

Events And Incidents Involving Tower Bridge

The following are some of the major events and incidents involving the Tower Bridge:

  • On April 22, 1886, the construction of the Tower Bridge started.
  • On June 30, 1894, the Prince and Princes of Wales opened the bridge with great celebrations.
  • In 1910, the walkways of the Tower Bridge were closed because they were not used. These walkways were designed for the public to cross the bridge when the bascules are raised.
  • During the Second World War, Tower Bridge was slightly damaged by bombing that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941. It was restored in 1949 and the original roof of Welsh slate was replaced by a roof of Westmorland Green slate.
  • In 1952, the bus driver Albert Gunter was forced to jump his bus from one bascule to the other when the bridge started to rise and the watchman forgot to shut the gate ahead of the bascules lifting.
  • In 1976, the original steam-powered hydraulic system was replaced by a modern electro-hydraulic system.
  • In 1982, the walkways of the Tower Bridge were reopened to the public as an attraction and with an exhibition inside.
  • In 2012, Tower Bridge played a central point in the London Olympics. In that year, the Olympic rings were suspended from the Tower Bridge’s Walkways. In the opening ceremony, James Bond along with the Queen Elizabeth fly through the rings in a helicopter.

Interesting Facts About Tower Bridge 

Facts About Tower Bridge

  • Art historian Dan Cruickshank writes that architects aimed to ensure that the structure of Tower Bridge would remain for at least 90 years when its construction started in 1886. But now even after 130 years, the Tower Bridge is still as strong and beautiful as ever, which is proof of the great quality of its construction and design.
  • The Neo-Gothic architecture style for the bridge was chosen because Queen Victoria objected to the idea of bridge construction near the Tower of London.
  • To build Tower Bridge, 5 major constructors and 432 construction workers worked hard for eight years. The cost of the Tower Bridge was £1,184,000.
  • The original color of the Tower Bridge was brown. But in 1977, it was painted red, blue, and white in preparation for the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth.
  • During the first year, the bascules of Tower Bridge were raised 6,160 times for the passage of river traffic. Now, the bascules are raised about 900 times a year.
  • Tower Bridge is still an important and busy traffic route with around 40,000 crossings per day.

How Big Is The Tower Bridge?

Tower Bridge is 244 meters (800 feet) long, and its two towers are 65 meters (213 feet) high.

How Long Did It Take To Build Tower Bridge?

Tower Bridge took eight years to build completely. It took five major constructors, a labor of 432 construction workers, and a cost of £1,184,000 to build Tower Bridge.

Is The London Bridge The Same As The Tower Bridge?

No, the London Bridge is not the same as the Tower Bridge. Both are often confused due to their location and fame.

The London Bridge is the oldest bridge in London that crosses the River Thames. It was the only crossing over the Thames until Putney Bridge was built in 1729. It was reconstructed multiple times from timber to stone, concrete, and steel. Its current version was built in 1973. It connects London City with Southwark.

The Tower Bridge is a combination of bascules and suspension bridge built in 1894. It is located near the Tower of London. Due to its Neo-Gothic architecture, it serves as one of the most famous landmarks of London.

Why Is Tower Bridge Famous?

Tower Bridge is famous for several reasons, such as:

  • For its Neo-Gothic style of architecture
  • For its combination of bascules and suspension bridges
  • For its high-level Walkways that offer an astonishing view of London at 42 meters (137 feet) above the Thames River
  • As a defining landmark of London that is recognized throughout the world

What Is Inside The Tower Bridge?

Inside the Tower Bridge is the ‘Tower Bridge Exhibition’ housed in the towers, the Walkways, and Victorian Engine Rooms. It explains everything about Tower Bridge through photos, films, and displays.

Can I Visit Inside Tower Bridge?

Yes, you can visit Tower Bridge. It is open from 9:30 to 18:00. Inside the bridge, you can explore the Towers, the walkways, the glass floors, and the Victorian engine rooms. You can view areas of London from 42 meters above the Thames River.

How Long Does It Take To See Inside Tower Bridge?

A time of 60 to 90 minutes is usually allowed to explore Tower Bridge from the inside. You have to buy a timed ticket, which includes a visit to the Towers, the Walkways, the Glass Floor, and the Victorian Engine Rooms.

How Many Tourists Visit Tower Bridge Each Year?

Over 500,000 tourists visit Tower Bridge each year.


Murad Ali Khan is a researcher, writer & editor, who believes in generating quality content. He leads an awesome team of high school students, teachers & IT graduates who helps him in creating & maintaining educational Websites & Apps.
When not tinkering on the web, Murad enjoys going on hikes, read Latest Science News, plays tennis & hangs out with his friends.

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