Explore, Cruise and Open Tower Bridge! An Essential London Experience

Our very own Tower Bridge Tour and Cruise returns this Father’s Day, Sunday 21st June. Although still a ‘newbie’ on the block, it is exciting to see this event beginning to sail under its own steam. A Topsail Events and Thames Leisure original, this has become an essential London experience that has got people talking. This cruise is extremely value while also giving guests an unparalleled view of Tower Bridge from within and afar all in one event.

“Just a quick note to say “Thank you”… My wife and eldest daughter did the trip on Mothers Day. When we picked up my wife she had a real glow about her having had a really lovely afternoon – it was a fab Mothers Day treat… The simple things like a sensible priced bar, Gluten Free scone, ability to move freely between top deck (to feel the wind) and below deck (to warm up) made the trip such a pleasure – she felt really lucky to have had the opportunity – thank you.

I don’t think you need me to tell you, that Will is a wonderful vessel!”

Rob Stevenson – Tower Bridge Tour and Cruise, 15th March 2015

The Bridge

Built between 1886 – 1894, Tower Bridge was built in response to the growing importance of commercial development in the East End of London towards the end of the nineteenth century. The most eastern crossing of the Thames was still London Bridge, and by the 1870s pressure was growing for a new bridge. However, the Upper Pool of London was still an essential port, any new crossing had to able to allow tall-masted vessels to pass through. To design such a crossing a public competition was launched with all manner of entries from enormously high suspension bridges to large tunnels.

The winner was architect Sir Horace Jones and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry who developed a design involving two piers with towers from either bank joined by raising bascules. The result became one of the world’s most iconic bridges that remains at the heart of twenty-first century London, welcoming pedestrians, vehicles and, of course, ships to the Capital.

The Glass Floors

After climbing the steps up the north tower, the first stop on the Tower Bridge Tour and Cruise is the high walkway. Strung high above the road and between the two towers, these walkways were designed to be used by pedestrians needing to cross the river when the bascules were open. River traffic has declined a great deal since the bridge was constructed. Today, only tall-masted vessels or large cruise ships open the bridge every now and then so it has become a tourist spectacle. The disused walkways became the main event space for the Tower Bridge Exhibition for visitors to enjoy.

Last year, they installed strips of glass floor under the walkways so visitors could enjoy looking down from the dizzying heights at the traffic and red London buses below. The highlight of these new glass walkways comes when the bridge opens for river traffic – we can arrange this! Looking down as the bascules rise while a ship sails through is simply spectacular!

The Engine Room

The second part of tour takes visitors into the bowels of this great bridge. Although it was converted to run off electricity in 1974, the great steam engines that originally powered the bascles are both beautiful and grand to behold. Explore the great, ornately painted flywheels, polished pistons and vast accumulators that gave the bridge its power. There is also an interactive section for children (and adults!) where you can get a hands-on idea of how the bridge works.

Sailing Barge Will and Bridge Lift

Now the group board the vessel old Thames vessel Sailing Barge Will for a short cruise of the Capitals historic waterway. As a Thames Sailing Barge built in 1925, ‘Will’ is the perfect perfect partner for the Victorian Tower Bridge. As the work horse of Thames trade, the Thames Sailing Barges transported goods from Essex and beyond and kept the Capital clothed, fed and fueled for decades. With the advent of containerisation, cheap air freight and road haulage the river is no longer London’s lifeline, but the barges still make a welcome sight in central London.

As the largest ever built, ‘Will’ has been converted from trade to tourism by P&O. The shipping company used her a floating board room and beautifully mahogany panelled her saloon. Now as a passenger ship, she is the queen of the river. Both industrial and luxurious she will wow guests. Enjoy the cruise with a delicious cream tea and fantastic views of the city. As a tall-masted ship, ‘Will’ will once again open Tower Bridge only this time you won’t be looking down from afar but standing at her bow! The bridge will open twice during the cruise exclusively for the guests aboard!

Happy Father’s Day!

As the perfect gift for this Father’s Day, we are running next cruise on Sunday 21st June! Join us for this special cruise by booking tickets here or clicking here for more.

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