The Paviors’ Liverymen’s Committee organized a visit to Tower Bridge on Monday 9 May. The event was over-subscribed, so a ballot was held to select the 12 Paviors who would be lucky enough to attend.
This exclusive tour started at 10.30 in the morning, and was led by one of Tower Bridge’s experienced tour guides. Those Paviors attending undertook an in-depth exploration of the Bridge. This included the panoramic walkways suspended 42 metres above the River Thames, which gave far-reaching views across London. Also visited were the atmospheric Victorian engine rooms, which house the magnificently restored steam engines, accumulators and boilers. However, the highlight of the tour was being shown areas that are normally off-limits to the public by one of the Bridge’s senior technical officers. The Paviors visited the modern-day machinery rooms, the control cabin for the bridge lifts and the bascule chambers hidden underneath the Bridge.
The following facts emerged about the Bridge:
o Work on the Bridge was started in 1894 and 14 million rivets were use in its construction
o The Bridge’s internal metal frame is clad with Portland stone from Scotland, which gives the Bridge its well-known external appearance
o The caissons supporting the bridge each contain 70,000 tonnes of concrete
o The bascule chambers under the moving parts are surrounded by walls below water level that are between 6 and 12-metres thick
o The counter-weights weigh 420 tonnes
o There were 6,100 bridge lifts in first year
o There are now around 1,000 bridge-lifts each year (approximately three times a day)
o During 121 years of operation, there have been approximately 500,000 bridge lifts
o Passing through the bridge is free to anyone with a yacht between 9 metres and 42 metres high, and bookings must be made 24 hours in advance.
o The power for the hydraulics was changed from steam to electric in 1976
Paviors also heard that the Bridge was used as a landmark by the Luftwaffe during war, and that President Clinton was delayed during a visit when the bridge opened unexpectedly at short notice, and upset his security team – but river traffic always takes priority!
This most interesting visit concluded with a pub-lunch at The Vault, close to the southern end of the Bridge. The tour raised money for the Paviors’ charity funds.