Saturday, 31 May 2008

Tower Bridge Exhibition

Along with Big Ben, Tower Bridge is probably one of the most iconic images of London. People across the world recognise images of this famous bridge (although many mistakenly think this is London Bridge) and flock to see it on arrival in London. It is, indeed, a magnificent structure.

I approached the bridge from Tower Hill tube station, walking by the Tower of London and attempted to take some arty photographs which, as you can see, really don’t look arty at all! At the ticket office my London Pass was swiped, my bags had to go through an x-ray machine and I was half heatedly frisked by a security guy (what exactly do those hand-held metal detectors detect? I didn’t buzz despite wearing a belt and having a metal clip in my hair!). I never resent these security measures if it helps prevent the risk of terrorism but I did hear a few mutters of dissent from the group behind me.

I was then stopped by a guy with a camera and asked to stand against the wall while he took my picture. At this point I began to wonder if security at Tower Bridge was, in fact, way over the top! It turns out it was actually for one of those theme-park style photo mementos which superimposes you onto an image of Tower Bridge. A great souvenir for a family but I didn’t bother to stop and look at my pic. Up we went in the lift while the operator informed us about what we would see when we reached the top. While he recited his script, he didn’t open his eyes once which was very disconcerting; either he was desperately trying to remember his words or he was scared of the lift!

The Victorian Gothic design of Tower Bridge not only looks stunning but is also an engineering marvel. The stone and metalwork detail is surprisingly beautiful up close and, when you discover how the bridge was constructed before the days of health and safety, you cannot help but be impressed!

Unfortunately on the day I visited, the bridge was not due to lift but I imagine it’s an incredible sight when a ship passes through. The bridge is raised about 1000 times a year so it’s worth phoning to check the schedule on 02079403984 to see what the Victorians described as the “Wonder Bridge” in action!

Tower Bridge has two high-rise walkways, 42 metres above river level, providing views up and down the River Thames. I arrived late morning and it was a typically grey London day so my pictures are perhaps not as impressive as they could be. By the time I had made my way around the engine rooms, the London sky had turned blue but too late for my supposedly panoramic pictures! Although I haven’t got a great head for heights, I enjoyed the views and seeing just how architecturally diverse the London skyline is. I was quite surprised at the number of cranes I could see which I guess means London is going to cram a few more buildings in to that skyline!

The engine rooms with their Victorian steam engines were not of great interest to me though you can’t help but be impressed by the pure scale of the operation involved. Like HMS Belfast that I visited afterwards, I guess the steam engines would have more impact on boys who are interested in machinery and suchlike.

Adult entry to the Tower Bridge Exhibition is £6.00 and it takes about an hour to look around depending on how long you spend taking pictures. I had free entry with my London Pass and, with so many of their other inclusive attractions in the area, it is undoubtedly a place worth visiting. I probably spent about another half hour taking photos of the bridge itself, which can all be seen on flickr.


Descartes said...

Well, it is a very pretty bit of business, isn't it? The whole idea that those smart aleck Victorians made it, just boggles the mind.

Sparkly Songbird said...

It is amazing when you consider that the Millennium Bridge 100+ years later wasn't safe when it first opened. Those Victorians certainly knew how to do it properly!

Best Sparkly Wishes x x