Walk Across the Tower Bridge
Excerpt from the book On a Tall Budget and Short Attention Span from the Teresa the Traveler Series.
Upon leaving London Dungeon, I looked at my map and noticed I was only a few blocks from the infamous London Bridge so I decided to see if it was still standing. Along the way I spotted a couple of familiar looking characters who introduced themselves as Bond, James Bond and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. They were on their way to a spy party on the HMS Belfast, Europe’s only surviving World War II cruiser turned museum and dinner ship.
They invited me along saying it would be“groovy baby”. However, I decided to stay on course and find London Bridge before it fell down.
The modern concrete bridge was not what I had expected. Apparently, a number of bridges had been built and destroyed on the site until 1831 when John Rennie was decreed to build a sturdy structure that could pass the test of time. It was rumoured that a virgin maiden was embedded in the concrete as a sacrifice hence the words: “my fair lady” in the song London Bridge. But there is no historical evidence supporting that claim.
In 1902 the bridge was widened from 52ft to 65ft in an attempt to combat London’s congested traffic, but that provedtoo much for the bridge’s foundations which began to sink an inch every eight years.
By 1924 the east side of the bridge was 3 to 4 inches lower than the west side and it needed to be replaced once again.
In 1967, London’s Common Council put the bridge up for sale and surprisingly enough it was purchased by American entrepreneur Robert McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for $2,460,000. After being disassembled, it was shipped to Arizona and reconstructed to span a man-made canal that leads from Lake Havasu to Thompson Bay at Lake Havasu City, an English styled theme park. London Bridge is Arizona’s second-biggest tourist attraction after the Grand Canyon.
The money from the sale of the old bridge was used to partially finance the construction of the new bridge which was opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. Cannon’s from Napoleon’s (the former dictator of France) military were used to construct the lights for the bridge thus incorporating a little history into the new structure.
Down the river, I spotted another bridge that looked more like the “London Bridge” I was expecting to see. I consulted my map and discovered it was the Tower Bridge, which is often confused with the London
The Tower Bridge
Increased commercial development in the East End of London during the second half of the 19th century created a demand for a new bridge to ease the congestion of the London Bridge. To avoid cutting off access to the port facilities in the Pool of London, a draw bridge needed to be constructed. The bridge was designed by city architect Horace Jones, in collaboration with Sir John Wolfe Barry. They won a competition in 1884 in which over 50 designs were submitted. Their plans called for two huge Towers built on piers with suspension bridges extending from them and a center span split in two that could be raised to let ships pass. Two massive piers containing over 70,000 tons of concrete were sunk into the river and a framework of over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. The bridgwas officially opened by the future King Edward VII on June 30th 1894.
The sun was setting making it the perfect time to take a stroll over the bridge to St. Katherine Docks on the other side where the lights reflecting off the water made a picture-postcard moment. I sat down on a bench and spent almost an hour basking in the glorious beauty of London at night. I love this city!
When I walked back over the bridge I was fortunate enough to witness it open up to let a boat full of drunken parties on a boat cruise through. I wondered how many boatloads of drunken people would have hit the bridge had it not been for that drawbridge.
For tips on visiting England CLICK HERE
For tips on visiting Europe CLICK HERE
For general travel tips on what to pack and how to plan ahead CLICK HERE
For tips on travelling on a budget CLICK HERE