The Tower of London is one of the most iconic landmarks in the capital and has become more than just a way for travellers to get across the Thames. It is now a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
Here at the Montcalm London City, we love the history of the city’s famous landmarks. If you’re planning to book one of our London hotel packages, we’ve put together a historic guide for you to read before visiting the Tower of London.
The early days
At the dawn of the 19th century, London was quickly becoming a metropolitan hub of trade and industry. This meant that more traders and distributors were coming in and out of the city every day. At that time, the River Thames was the most popular entrance into the city, which is what led to the development of numerous docks and harbours throughout the city. Unfortunately, this posed a problem for designers when it came to creating a new crossing down from the London Bridge.
In 1877 a committee was established to develop ideas for a new crossing that would reduce congestion on existing bridges while still allowing boats access to the Thames. For several years, there were over 50 different designs submitted to the committee for consideration. Amongst them, there were ideas for a subterranean tunnel system and a bridge that was suspended high into the air. It wasn’t until 1884 when it was decided that a bascule bridge would be commissioned.
After the plans were finalised and an Act of Parliament was passed, Sir Horace Jones was appointed to be the chief architect of the project, with Sir John Wolfe Barry as lead engineer. There was a set of strict specifications that the team had to stick to including details on the dimensions and style of the bridge. It needed to provide a certain amount of space for passing boats while maintaining a gothic design style.
Construction of the bridge officially began in 1886 and took the work of over 432 employees and construction specialists to complete. The build process took the combined efforts of five different major contract companies to finish over an eight-year period but the revolutionary bridge design finally came to fruition in 1894. More than 70,000 tons of concrete were used to create the platforms that the two towers now stand on. After putting together 11,000 tons of steel to create the main frame, the bridge was completed with Portland stone to create a clean finish.
Since its official opening by King Edward VII, the Tower Bridge has had a number of upgrades and refurbishments. The biggest change came in 1974 when the original mechanisms for the central bridge were replaced with a more modern system that consisted of improved gearing and hydraulics. The externals of the bridge were also given a facelift in 2004 when all of the paint was stripped off and replaced with the iconic blue and white that’s visible today.