For the next instalment of our series on Great Feats of British Engineering, we wanted to look at one of the most iconic structures not just in London, but the world: Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge is an excellent example of Victorian engineering at its best. As a combined bascule and suspension bridge, Tower Bridge allows vehicles and pedestrians to safely cross over the Thames, while also being able open and allow large ships to pass through.

In the latter decades of the 19th century, London became far more industrialised and saw increased commercial development, particularly in the East End. This led to the need for an appropriate bridge to allow the safe and efficient crossing of the Thames, while also letting tall ships pass safely through.

It’s for this very reason that a traditional fixed bridge, like others in London, would simply not be appropriate, and therefore it fell upon the engineers of the time to come up with a viable solution. A special committee was established in 1877, and eventually, after more than 50 designs being submitted, Sir Horace Jones’ design was approved in 1884.


Work on the bridge began in 1887 and took eight years in total. E.W. Crutwell was the resident engineer for the duration of the construction, which involved 432 workers.

The construction required over 70,000 tons of concrete and 11,000 tons of steel, both of which were clad with Cornish granite and Portland stone.

The total cost of the construction was around £1,184,000 – which today would amount to approximately £118 million – and was opened on 30th June 1894.

How It Works

One of the fundamental purposes for Tower Bridge was that it should be able to open and close efficiently, and originally this was achieved by a hydraulic system which used water pressurised at 750 psi and stored in several hydraulic accumulators, which were powered two steam engines.

In 1974, this mechanism was largely replaced by a new electro-hydraulic system, designed for greater efficiency.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the great feat of engineering that is Tower Bridge. Here at Airedale Springs, we love to celebrate and support great engineering, no matter how big the project. If you require torsion springs, tension springs or compression springs, we can provide you with the quality products you require. For more information, contact us today by calling 01535 643456.