Location: London, England
Completion Date: 1894
Length: 880 feet
Type: Movable (bascule), suspension
Purpose: Roadway, pedestrian
Materials: Steel, masonry
Longest Single Span: 200 feet
Engineer(s): Sir Horace Jones, Sir John Wolfe-Barry
By the end of the 19th century, the City of London had outgrown itself. Thousands of commuters relied on a single bridge — the London Bridge — to travel in and out of the capital city each day. The traffic jams were unbearable. Londoners awaited the completion of a new bridge across the Thames, the Tower Bridge, designed by Sir Horace Jones and engineered by Sir John Wolfe-Barry.
Once the bridge was completed in 1894, however, the public was appalled. Jones’ original design was simple and had a medieval style. But Jones died in 1887, and Barry added his own artistic touch. When the Tower Bridge opened in 1894, the journal The Builder cursed the bridge, calling it “the most monstrous and preposterous architectural sham that we have ever known.” But public opinion mellowed over time, and today, the Tower Bridge is one of London’s best loved landmarks.
The Tower Bridge is the only movable bridge of the 29 bridges on the Thames River.
When the bridge opened to river traffic in 1894, it was raised and lowered 1,000 times per year. Today, few ships actually travel on the Thames, so the bridge opens less than 100 times per year.
In 1952, a London bus had to leap from one bascule to the other when the bridge began to rise with the bus still on it. Luckily, no one was injured.
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