This is the first in a series of three about bridges that might have spanned the Thames. Americans think of Tower Bridge as a symbol of London, reinforcing that image organisers used the bridge as the centre piece of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Opened (literally) by the Prince of Wales on 30th June 1894 just three years before Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee the design has achieved an iconic status.
[I]ts Gothic tweeness won the day over 50 other designs submitted some of which were just barmy. The brief was to design a bridge capable of allowing ships through into the then-thriving Pool of London.
Falling into that category is this design by Frederic Barnett, a low-level scheme that, the architect promised, allowed an “uninterrupted continuity of vehicular and general traffic”.
Other designs to improve the completed bridge included a monorail straddling the towers and artist W. F. C. Holden thought that the bridge would be greatly improved if it were encased in glass and steel.
In 1910 the high-level walkways, which were designed so that the public could still cross the bridge when it was raised, were closed down due to lack of use by everyone except “professional ladies”.
Two years later Frank McClean had to fly between the bascules and the high-level walkways in his Short biplane, to avoid an accident.
In 1952 a number 78 London bus driven by Albert Gunton had to leap from one bascule to the other when the bridge began to rise with the bus still on it.
It wasn’t until 1977 that Tower Bridge’s chocolate brown was re-painted red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.