The two towers of Tower Bridge dominate the skyline of London. The bridge is able to elevate its roadway to make way for boat traffice on the Thames.

Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic
  • On June 30, 1894, Tower Bridge in London opened to the public. Tower Bridge was the second major bridge to cross the River Thames near the metropolis of London. The “London Bridge” had existed in one form or another since the ancient Romans founded the city, and by the 19th century, thousands of drivers and pedestrians were using it every day. City planners and workers needed another bridge to improve the city's traffic problems. The new bridge would have to be moveable, or able to elevate part of its platform, in order to allow tall ships to reach the port of London. This is called a bascule bridge design.


    Today, Tower Bridge is an iconic symbol of London. It is a bascule and suspension bridge able to elevate its roadway for boat traffic. The bridge is 244 meters (801) feet long, with two large stone towers anchoring it in the Thames. The bridge is not named for its own towers, however—it is close to the Tower of London, an historic castle and prison.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    elevate Verb

    to raise higher than the surrounding area.

    iconic Adjective

    event or symbol representing a belief, nation, or community.

    public Adjective

    available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

    suspension bridge Noun

    bridge with its deck hanging from cables strung between towers.

    traffic Noun

    movement of many things, often vehicles, in a specific area.