In the second half of the 19th century, increased commercial development in the East End of London led to a requirement for a new river crossing downstream of London Bridge. A traditional fixed bridge could not be built because it would cut off access to the port facilities in the Pool of London, between London Bridge and the Tower of London.
Over 50 designs were submitted, including one from civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The evaluation of the designs was surrounded by controversy, and it was not until 1884 that a design submitted by Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect (who was also one of the judges), was approved.
Jones’ engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, devised the idea of a bascule bridge with two towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules or leaves, which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge’s upper walkways.
The red line points at the first finish coat
I was asked to establish the colour and type of paint employed when the bridge was completed in 1894. I found that it had been painted fourteen times and that it was originally a greenish-blue colour. The arms of the City of London were the only elements gilded at that time. The existing scheme is based on the 1976 one applied for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
A short video of the process can be seen here and a slideshow below:
I have also worked on the neighbouring Southwark Bridge.
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