Did you know that an eminent designer once claimed ‘a more absurd structure than the Tower Bridge was never thrown across a strategic river’. Well, it’s fair to say that, over the decades, the feelings of Frank Brangwyn towards this most iconic of London’s structures haven’t been shared by many others.
In fact, fittingly Tower Bridge still stands tall among the UK capital’s landmarks, having earned its place since its opening in 1894 as one of the city’s most enduring and essential of emblems. And, thanks to its fantastic exhibition, you can discover its secrets, how it works (by walking about its insides) and check out its latest feature – glorious glass floors to its walkways high above the road and the River Thames below.
To be specific, Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge that connects the north and south banks of the Thames and is within a couple of minutes’ walk of the mighty Tower of London. The term ‘bascule’ refers to the bridge’s two towers, which are linked by the pair of horizontal walkways. Those who get up close to the structure will notice its colours are actually red, white and blue – a colour scheme that’s remained the same for almost 40 years, dating back to 1977 when it was adopted in honour of HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. But why not do better than merely getting up close by actually going inside – and, via the exhibition, discover its twin towers, walkways and the mechanical marvels that are its Victorian engine rooms?
Providing fascinating film footage, photographic imagery and interactive displays to tell the story of how and why the bridge was constructed, the exhibition is a truly eye-opening insight into the bravura and ambition of Victorian engineering – and a delightful, nay whimsical step back into the steam age as you can examine for yourself the steam engines that originally powered the bridge’s awesome bascules. The exhibition then might be said to be one of a kind; a step into living history and definitely worthy of a short Tube journey should you have made your base one of our hotels, such as the Park Grand London Paddington.
The bridge’s history is the part of the exhibition primarily covered in the structure’s towers and walkways. And, of course, once you enter either of the walkways you’re blessed with unparalleled views of the city – both of Central London up-river to the west and of Canary Wharf and the rest of the Pool of London down-river to the east. What’s more, the walkways’ newly installed glass floors add an extra dimension to this experience. Indeed, the bridge’s publicity people claim they’re the most significant development to the exhibition since its opening all of 30 years ago – and quite frankly, it’s hard to disagree. And hard to resist visiting even if you’re not staying in the vicinity, but more centrally at the likes of the Paddington Suites London.
Why? Well, these glass floors ensure you can now fully appreciate just how tall Tower Bridge stands and just how important a part of the capital’s road and river network it is. Measuring 11 metres in length and just under two metres in width, each glass section is made up of glass panels that weigh a staggering 530kg each (and took 20 people to build and put in place), so don’t doubt the glass itself is thick, strong and built safely enough to take you and your fellow visitors’ weight!
Ultimately, though, it’s an exciting new highlight of the exhibition you must check out because it gives you the chance to spy all those cars and oh-so famous red London buses and black taxis whizz past 42 metres below, along with all the commuters and tourists buzzing about and the watercraft passing underneath. Plus, if you’re really lucky, you might even get to watch the bascules being raised beneath your very feet to let a vessel through – something once experienced, it’ll never be forgotten.