Address: Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 2UP


Time: Visitor Centre from 9.30 or 10.00am

Time Information:

Phone: 0207 403 3761

Entry Price: £9.00 for adult entry to Visitor Centre

900m from London Bridge

500m from Tower Hill

At one time, London Bridge was the only bridge in London, but gradually others were built due to demand as the city grew. By the 19th century, with the effect of the industrial revolution, London had become the busiest port in the world with an enormous number of ships sailing up the Thames. And they came from all over the world to the Dock area to the east of London Bridge.

This huge influx of business saw the east end of London grow substantially, but there was a problem. To get across the river, the eastenders had to travel all the way up to London Bridge and back down the other side or get a ferry across. They needed a bridge, but huge masted sailing ships needed access in and out without an obstruction. By 1876 Parliament had made the decision to build a vehicle crossing and the design was put open to the public.

The winning design was by city architect Horace Jones, who was ironically one of the judges, and engineer John Wolfe Barry. It was a bascule and suspension bridge which allowed the roadway to be raised to let the ships pass through. Construction started in 1886 and it was opened in 1894 by the Prince of Wales.

To ease congestion a foot tunnel had been built under the Thames in 1870 whilst above the bridge two walkways were built to save pedestrians waiting for ships to pass. The tunnel closed in 1898. The bridge cost over £1m, which was a vast amount and would equate to over £100m today.

The mechanism was powered by steam engines which stored steam in six accumulators ready for instant use. This method remained in operation until 1976 when it was replaced by oil and electricity.

In 1910 the overhead walkways were closed as they were seldom used and had become the haunt of prostitutes and thieves. In 1982 they were opened as the exhibition area which now attracts 380,000 visitors a year. The red, white and blue colours remain from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. There are vehicle limits today and for vehicles and vessels there is no charge.

Far from being the simple bridge that it was designed to be, Tower Bridge is now amongst the most famous London landmarks.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.