50 Fun Facts about Tower Bridge

It’s one of London’s favourite landmarks but how much do you really know about Tower Bridge? Before you buy your Original Tour bus ticket, learn all about the history of one of the most famous bridges in the world.

1)      Most people mistakenly call Tower Bridge “London Bridge”. London Bridge actually refers to another significantly less ornate bridge slightly down the river.

2)      The Prince of Wales, King Edward VII, opened the bridge over 120 years ago in 1894.

3)      Visit London features a 24-hour live stream of Tower Bridge.

4)      The name “Tower Bridge” alludes to the Tower of London which is only a short walk away!

5)      The bridge sits about 42 meters above the River Thames.

6)      The Tower of London, however, reaches a height of 65 meters.

7)      It cost almost £1.9 million to construct the bridge. That is equivalent to the sum of £124 million in 2016!

8)      Crossing the Thames in that area was only possible by using a tunnel under the river known as the Tower Subway before the construction of the Bridge.

9)      While the Tower Subway tunnels shut down since the construction of Tower Bridge, two of these tunnels still exist and are open to the public.

10)   One of the bridge’s most recent instalments is a glass walkway. If you time your walk just right, you can even view the raising of the bascules right beneath your own feet.

11)   Instead of stopping, Albert Gunton decided to jump a 1.8 m gap when his bus was caught on the rising south bascule in 1952. Fortunately, only minor injuries were suffered.

12)   Albert Gunton, later on, received a £10 bonus for his bravery!

13)   The bridge lift service is free of charge for boats passing through. All that is required, is to meet the criteria detailed by boat officials.

14)   Celebrating the 30th Olympic Games, 12-tonne Olympic ring was suspended from Tower Bridge. The bridge was closed for 12 hours to allow for the installation of the rings.

15)   River traffic below the bridge takes priority over vehicle and foot traffic above it.

16)   If you need to raise the bascules as you sail below the bridge, you must give 24-hours’ notice to the operators of the tower.

17)   Since 2014, Tower Bridge has featured a glass walkway atop the tower. Visitors can now watch all the pedestrians and vehicles walking and driving below!

18)   In August of 1912, Pilot Frank McClean flew between the Bascules and walkway to avoid a plane crash!

19)   The east side of Tower Bridge used to feature a morgue. There’s still a sign reading ‘Dead Man’s Hole’ at the base of the bridge.

20)   The Tower Bridge website publishes the times when the bridge lifts its roads, for all those dying to take a picture of it!

21)   Tower Bridge is the only bridge located on the Thames that lifts for ships passing below.

22)   Despite having a stone exterior, the bridge’s framework is composed of over 11,000 tons of steel.

23)   While most bridges around the world are used simply for transportation, Tower Bridge serves as a popular location to host parties.

24)   Steam was originally used to power the hydraulic lifting mechanism, a feat which it could accomplish in under a minute. Since then, oil and electricity have replaced steam.

25)   Planning the bridge was no easy feat. After 50 designs were submitted over the span of 8 years, a satisfactory design was finally agreed upon.

26)   In 1997, President Bill Clinton’s motorcade was split whilst crossing the bridge, revealing that ships passing under the bridge always have the right of way.

27)   The Chinese city of Suzhou features a replica of Tower Bridge.

28)   Constructing Tower Bridge was certainly no easy feat. It required 432 workers to complete the bridge’s construction.

29)   The bridge originally featured high-level walkways so that civilians could cross the bridge when it was raised. However, the bridge closed in 1910 due to a lack of use.

30)   While in use, these walkways proved to be a popular site for pickpockets.

31)   To celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Tower Bridge was painted red, white, and blue.

32)   Before the Silver Jubilee, the bridge was a chocolate brown colour.

33)   Tower Bridge lifts 777 times throughout the year, meaning that on average it opens about twice a day.

34)   While 777 times a year may seem like a lot, the bridge raised 6194 times in 1894, an average of 17 lifts a day.

35)   The tower features a massive amount of foot traffic with roughly 40,000 people crossing it each day!

36)   The bridge is a total length of 244 metres and is 61 metres wide.

37)   Tower Bridge enjoys a Grade I listed structure status, ensuring that it will stand tall and strong for many years to come.

38)   2016 renovations required the closing of all road traffic for about 3 months, causing costly congestion around the area.

39)   For all the history buffs out there, the Tower Bridge Exhibition educates visitors about the bridge’s history. Visitors can even visit the tower’s original steam engines. 

40)   Legend has it that Robert McCulloch, an American Entrepreneur, purchased London Bridge to be shipped and reconstructed in the United States, mistaking it for Tower Bridge! However, the vendor of the bridge, Ivan Luckin, debunked this myth.

41)   McCulloch’s purchase has proven to quite successful. It has continued to serve as one of Arizona’s most popular tourist attractions.

42)   In 1910, the high-level walkways were closed to the public because nobody was using them. They remained closed for 72 years and opened again in 1982.

43)   Constructing the bridge required sinking two massively large piers into the river bed.

44)   In 1968, Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter pilot Alan Pollock flew his plane through Tower Bridge because he was disappointed that his senior staff did not celebrate the RAF’s 50th birthday with a fly-past.

45)   Pollock was immediately placed under arrest after the incident and discharged from the RAF on medical grounds.

46)   In 1973, Paul Martin flew his plane under the pedestrian walkway twice after being placed on bail for stock market fraud allegations.

47)   Martin flew closely by other London buildings before crashing in the Lake District two hours later.

48)   Protester David Crick climbed a 100-foot crane near Tower Bridge dressed as Spider-Man in 2003. While atop the crane, police closed the bridge for 5 days as police feared for both his safety and the safety of nearby motorists should he fall.

49)   When a lift fell inside the North Tower in 2009, six people were trapped and suffered from injuries.

50)   Given the massive size of the structure, over 70,000 tons of concrete were sunk into the river bed to provide a foundation for the bridge.

So, there you have it. 50 facts about Tower Bridge. All that’s left to do now is admire the bridge in person. Book your tickets with the Original Tour for an easy way to see the city.