On this day in history : 30th June 1894 – Tower Bridge in London is officially opened by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and his wife, the Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark….
It was a beautiful summer’s day with a cloudless sky….tens of thousands of people flocked to see one of the Victorian era’s greatest feats of engineering declared ‘open for traffic by land and water’…. It was a pageant full of pomp and splendour and after the ceremony the bascules were opened to allow a flotilla of ships and boats to sail down the Thames….
In 1876 the City of London Corporation launched a competition for the design of a much needed new river crossing…. In all 50 designs were submitted – but it wasn’t until 1884 that the design of Sir Horace Jones and Sir John Wolfe Barry was finally chosen….
Construction began in 1896 and took 8 years to build, with 5 major contractors employing 432 construction workers between them…. The total project cost being £1,184,000 which equates to over £132 million in today’s terms….
Two huge piers of over 70,000 tons of concrete were sunk into the river bed to support over 11,000 tons of steel, used to provide a framework for the towers and road and walkways…. This was then clad in Portland stone and Cornish granite, not only for appearance but also to protect the steelwork….
The combined bascule and suspension bridge, named for the nearby Tower of London, is a much-loved iconic symbol of the city…. It is 244m (800ft) long between two 65m (213ft) towers built on the concrete piers…. A central 61m (200ft) span splits into two bascules which can raise to an 83 degree angle to allow river traffic through….it takes just five minutes to perform this operation…. At first this was operated by coal burning steam engines….but in 1976 was replaced by electricity….