Downward dog, Tower Bridge style
Tower Bridge, London’s most iconic river crossing. An extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering in the heart of London. It’s no surprise then that it welcomes in excess of 600,000 visitors each year.
Taking in the view from the top of this 140ft beauty has had another dimension added to it with the recent installation of 2 glass floors to the raised walkways. For the daring amongst you, you might be keen to know that plans are in place to make yoga a regular occurrence on the glass walkways. A recent one off session sold out in under 24 hours, suggesting that when it comes to mind body and spirit, some like it with a healthy dose of vertigo.
If your timing’s right, you’ll catch one of the 1000 yearly bridge lifts too. In fact, it has been known to get stuck open during a bridge lift (for nearly a whole day in 2008!) but these technical faults are few and far between.
Prostitutes and pick-pockets
Over 50 bridge designs were submitted in response to an open call from the City of London Corporation. In the end the winning design was actually by a City of London architect, Horace Jones. It took 8 years to build, finally reaching completion in 1894.
The walkways were originally designed so that people could walk across the bridge when it was raised. However, the public didn’t use them as a crossing, especially since they were a thoroughfare for prostitutes and pick-pockets, so they were closed in 1901 and didn’t reopen until 1982.
Going down under
As well as the walkways and engine rooms, a lucky few get to experience underneath the bridge. We were fortunate enough to do just this last week. The descent down into one of the vast bascule chambers is via a steep spiral staircase. The bascule chambers are where the counterweight swings down as the bridge above ascends. It’s an awe-inspiring and somewhat eerie experience to be standing in such a large space under the river. If you ever get the chance to go, dress for rather arctic conditions!
Marriages, celebrities and a rogue bus!
There have been over 200 marriages on Tower Bridge, proving that love really is in the air. Tower Hamlets on the north side of the bridge holds the license, if you were wondering. As well as weddings, this famous bridge has played host to a number of celebrities. Its visitors include the Queen, Stephen Fry, Will Self and Sir Ian McKellen, to mention but a few. Even David Bowie came along for a jolly with his family the other day!
And the bus? Well, in 1952 a London bus driven by Albert Gunton had to leap from one bascule to the other when the bridge began to rise with the bus still on it. Everyone aboard was fine and the 78 bus can still be found on the same route today, minus the daredevil antics.
More info about the bridge and tickets can be found at www.towerbridge.com. Watch out for some rare behind the scenes tours of Tower Bridge as part of Totally Thames this September!
Author: Emily Acton-Edmiston
(Photos courtesy of Tower Bridge, City of London Corporation and Totally Thames)