| Back to the CRT page | F&M Home
In 1910 the walkways were closed to the public (they reopened in 1982 after being glassed in) because they were popular with suicides and hookers, the latter showing their ankles off to fine effect on them. Also, despite the close attentions of the police, a diver Benjamin Fuller, died in a plunge from the walkways shortly after the bridge
In the 1950s a double decker bus complete with passengers did have to make a jump for it as the bridge opened whilst it was crossing.
The Times describing it as 'the greatest engineering triumph of the Victorian age' and the Illustrated London News as a 'magnificent and most useful structure'.
The architectural press at the time did not care about political niceties or the clamour of public and mainstream press support and were scathing about the plans, describing the bridge as 'architectural gimcrack', 'a monstrous and preposterous architectural sham' and 'a discredit to the generation that created it'.
Tower Bridge photos copyright Anne Brassier
The idea of dressing up a steel bridge as a medieval castle was criticised by architects at the time it was built but conservationists were keen that the Tower of London should not be overshadowed by something too modern looking. Other architects have since have condemned its lack of purity but it is a good early example of a building complementing exiting surroundings. Something this fruity would never be made today but it has met all the demands placed on it at the time of construction which was to provide a route over the Thames east of London Bridge where a third of the population of London lived. Such a crossing would needed to ease congestion on London Bridge but not interrupt river traffic by blocking access to the busy upper pool docks, once known as the larder of London.
The first proposals for a crossing by the Tower were made in 1870 but the winning design and necessary parliamentary approval did not come until 1885. Between 1874 and 1885 thirty petitions from various public bodies were brought before the authorities urging either the widening of London Bridge or the building of a new one. All the competing architects had to address the problem that the upper pool still had large ships discharging their cargoes. This meant that any bridge would have to be high (or flexible) enough to allow the bigger trading vessels through. Amongst the fifty schemes considered included low-level bridges with swing openings of various kinds, high-level bridges with inclined approaches or with lifts at either end and a rolling bridge with sections that moved across a series of supports. A subway that is still used by the underground was built in 1870 but John Keith's plans for a giant sub riverian arcade complete with shops was vetoed. A free ferry option such as the one introduced with great success by Joseph Bazalgette at Woolwich was also dropped.
In contrast to some of the alternative designs the rather over ornate bascule (derived from the French word for see-saw and the contribution of the bridge's engineer John Wolfe Barry) bridge seems perfectly sensible. A bascule bridge is akin to a drawbridge that moves on a pivot with a heavy weight at one end balancing the greater length at the other. In 1976 1,200 ton bascules (counter balanced by 422 tons of lead and iron) were replaced by new ones as part of the conversion from steam power to electricity.