Tower Bridge Lifts

Tower Bridge Lifts | History, Facts, Opening Times

The capital of the United Kingdom has a special place in the hearts of tourists. London is not only a hub of the administrative function of a political superpower, it is also a melting pot of global cultures and disciplines. The architectural appearance of the city reflects the same, with the hypermodern structures coexisting with colonial buildings. One of the iconic structures of London is the Tower Bridge, often mistaken as London Bridge. The Tower Bridge has long been the center of human attention, partially due to its still functional lifts that allow traffic into and out of London’s upper pool.

What is the Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge Lifts

The Tower Bridge is a distinctive attraction that matches the Tower of London in terms of aesthetics. Built in 1894, the bridge measures roughly 240 meters (800 feet) in length and has a 76-meter-wide aperture. Its twin towers soar to a height of 61 meters (200 feet) above the River Thames. A pair of glass-covered walkways run between the towers and are popular with tourists. It is an engineering wonder, consisting of massive mobile highways that raise up to allow ships to pass. The Tower Bridge was powered by steam-driven hydraulic pumps until 1976 when electric motors were installed.

About Tower Bridge

Why Does the Tower Bridge Lift?

Historically, the river Thames has been an important trade route for Britain. The Pool of London that cuts through the city, was one of the busiest ports in the world when the Tower Bridge was built. Cargo shops from all over the world carrying important goods such as cotton, sugar, and tea came here. The goods would then be offloaded into warehouses along the river banks between London Bridge and Limehouse in East London.

As East London became more popular, there was a need for a newer crossing for the Thames. However, it was important that the bridge should not obstruct the large vessels carrying these goods. Therefore, a design that included bascules, or opening roadways, was selected for the bridge in the late 1800s.

Today, however, most boats on this part of the Thames are tourist boats.

Tower Bridge Lift Timings

Watching the vessels go by as you watch on from the walkways is one of the most recommended experiences on Tower Bridge. There are no fixed times of the Tower Bridge of London opening. However, you may find the schedule here with the timings for a few days in advance. Try to plan according to it and witness this famous phenomenon.

Plan Your Visit

How Often Does the Tower Bridge lift?

Tower Bridge Lifts
  • Tower Bridge opens its bascules about 800 times a year on average.
  • The bascules were lifted 6,194 times in 1894, the first year of Tower Bridge's operation. This adds up to about 17 times a day, on average.
  • Staff at Tower Bridge were on the lookout for vessels ready to sail through 24 hours a day back then. The bascules were opened as soon as the road traffic was cleared.
  • On January 1, 1971, the procedure was revised; now, ships must request a Bridge lift at least 24 hours ahead of time, and all requests must be made in writing.

Do you have to pay to open Tower Bridge?

No, it is completely free to open Tower Bridge. This has been the case since 1894.

Since River traffic has always had priority on this stretch of the Thames, Tower Bridge was so designed that it did not obstruct traffic on this stretch of Thames.

The lifts are completely funded by the Bridge House Estates, a 700-year-old organization that funds the upkeep of five bridges in Central London: Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, and Millennium Bridge.

However, if you wish to book a Bridge Lift, you must have a vessel that is more than 9m (30ft) tall and provide a notice of at least 24 hours, in writing. Any changes in arrival or sailing times must also be informed at the earliest.

Historic Tower Bridge Lifts

  • Daisy, the Harbour Master's schooner, was the first vessel to pass through the Tower Bridge. The Conservator Steamer, the Trinity House Yacht Irene, the gunboat HMS Landrail, The Bismark, and the Clacton Belle were among the honorary vessels that followed it.
  • The Royal Eagle used to make the trip across the Tower Bridge on a regular basis in 1932, ferrying commuters between London and a number of coastal destinations including Southend-on-Sea, Ramsgate, and Margate.
  • Thousands of Britons lined the Thames banks in the spring of 1954 to watch the Royal Yacht Britannia sail beneath Tower Bridge, carrying Her Majesty the Queen and her entourage back after a six-month Commonwealth tour.
  • The STS Lord Nelson and the SV Tenacious set sail on May 15, 2004, with the intention of passing under the Tower Bridge. However, the lift booking was not received by the bridge officials, forcing the ships to collide with Tower Bridge's south pier.
  • The Spanish cargo ship Monte Urquiola had a tendency of colliding with the Tower Bridge. The cargo ship struck and damaged the Tower Bridge three times between 1957 and 1967.
  • During the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, David Beckham drove a Bladerunner BR RIB 35 nicknamed 'Max Power' with Torchbearer Jade Bailey under the Tower Bridge.
  • Since 2013, the Tower Bridge has admitted more than 30 cruise ships each year into London's upper pool. From the Tower Bridge walkways, you may get a great view of these ships.

Interesting Facts About Tower Bridge Lifts

Tower Bridge Lift Facts
  • It takes the Tower Bridge about 75 seconds to open completely, and about 2 minutes and 30 seconds to open and close.
  • In 2009, Motocross star Robbie Maddison jumped across an opening Tower Bridge while doing a no-handed backflip.
  • In 1952, a double-decker bus was on the bridge as it started to open. The driver’s swift actions saved a lot of people.
  • In 2012, the Tower Bridge opened to let a large inflated rubber duck in for a promotional event.
Tower Bridge Facts

Visitor Tips

  • If you want to avoid crowds, avoid visiting Tower Bridge on weekends.
  • To ensure timely admittance, make travel arrangements ahead of time and arrive at your planned admission time.
  • Keep in mind that only card and contactless payments are accepted at London's Tower Bridge.
  • Please note that at Tower Bridge, only small bags are permitted.
  • Purchase your tickets in advance online to assure your access time.
  • Bring a face mask with you to Tower Bridge; you will need it for the duration of your visit.
Visit Tower Bridge in London

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All Your Questions About Tower Bridge Lifts Answered

Q. Why does the Tower Bridge lift?

A. The Tower Bridge lifts to let in vessels in and out of the upper pool of London.

Q. How often does the Tower bridge lift?

A. The Tower bridge may lift up to ten times a day during the busy period. All in all, it lifts around 800 times a year.

Q. How much does it cost to lift the Tower Bridge?

A. It is completely free to open Tower Bridge. The lifts are funded by the Bridge House Estates.

Q. When did the first ship pass through Tower Bridge?

A. The first ship passed through the Tower Bridge the year it was opened, 1894.

Q. Do I have to pay to see the Tower Bridge lift?

A. You have to purchase admission tickets to the walkway and if the Tower Bridge happens to lift when you are visiting, you will be able to see the lift.

Q. What are the Tower Bridge lift timings?

A. There are no specific Tower bridge lift timings. The slots are allotted as per the booking request. You can find the Tower Bridge lift timings here.

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