One of the most famous river crossings in the world, Tower Bridge isn’t actually that old, at over 125 years. Still, the fact that it lifts up in the middle when large vessels are passing underneath makes it an icon that most children probably picture in their minds when singing ‘London Bridge is falling down’.
Planes have flown through it, David Beckham has steered a speedboat underneath it and in 1952 a double-decker bus really did ‘leap’ over the gap when the bridge started to lift without warning.
When it was finally finished in 1894 – working having begun in 1886 – Tower Bridge was steam-powered (seriously) and was considered a miracle of Victorian engineering. In 1974 it underwent a transformation, with an electro-hydraulic system installed, but you can still see the old steam engines inside the Engine Rooms. You can also access the walkways overhead, where you can take in the stunning views, not just up and down the Thames, but of the road below as well. Since 2014 – the bridge’s 120th year – there’s been an 11-metre glass floor in place of the upper walkway, so those with the stomach for it can gaze 42 metres down, or for something special, take part in a morning yoga class.
In peak visiting hours or during bridge lifts it’s not always easy to guarantee what time you will be able to access the walkways, and the bridge lifts actually take place more often than you’d think. Raising Tower Bridge’s two bascules is a service provided free of charge by the City of London Corporation, 365 days a year, night or day, to the relevant registered boats and ships. On average, Tower Bridge is raised 850 times a year, so next time you’re walking nearby, wait and see what happens, as it’s always a treat to see the bridge go up.