Happy birthday Tower Bridge: 125 years since London's leading landmark opened

June 30th is 125 years since Tower Bridge opened. Credit: ITV News

For 125 years Tower Bridge has been a defining structure, a world landmark, for thousands of people a way to get to work, a passing point on a boat's journey, a picture opportunity for social media and for many there's the personal connection.

In 1886, a mammoth eight year effort began involving hundreds of workers who quite literally risked their lives to create the bridge.

The divers who had to work nine-hour shifts in dangerous conditions to dig out nearly six metres of gravel to sink the bridge's foundations.

Dirk Bennett, who manages the Tower Bridge exhibition, describes them as heroes: "Respect to these guys, they worked under very difficult conditions. If you imagine the shoes alone weighed over 16 kilograms and the helmet 16 kilograms plus. All in and all they carried 87/90 kilograms of weight with them and had to work in the cold and the dark. It's really back breaking, laborious and dangerous work that they had to do."

Chris Earlie is the Head of Tower Bridge and says it's a miracle the structure was built in the first place.

One of the first women believed to work on Tower Bridge was Hannah Griggs who was a cook for the bridge master from 1911 to 1914.

Today, a giant poster of Hannah forms part of the Tower Bridge exhibition.

Hannah Griggs is believed to be the first woman to work at Tower Bridge. Credit: Tower Bridge

For Susan Belcher, Hannah Griggs' granddaughter, who never got to to meet her grandmother, there is a huge sense of pride.

"I feel part of the Tower Bridge family. I think it would've just been a job and she would've been grateful for a job and probably did it to the best of her ability, not realising that all these years later that this bridge is known throughout the world."

Ahead of the 2012 Games the Olympic rings were suspended on one of the glass walkways. Credit: PA

When all eyes have been on London, Tower Bridge has helped showcase the capital to the world.

Ahead of the 2012 games, the Olympic rings were suspended on top of one of the glass walkways.

Suzanne Pitts and Martin Pitts were married on Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge has even laid down the foundations for future relationships. Martin and Suzanne Pitts married 42 metres above the Thames last year.

Suzanne said, "Just to be in Tower Bridge was amazing. It brought our families, who comes from London, together. It brought them back a lot of memories."

Martin added, "It was a bit surreal at times to look out and think we're getting married on this bridge."

Over the weekend Tower Bridge will be celebrating its birthday with a number of events.

Five facts about Tower Bridge

  • US President Bill Clinton was stopped by a bridge lift in 1997 on an official visit to London. Under law, river traffic always gets priority and when a boat was approaching the bridge, the technical officer at the time had to stop Mr Clinton's motorcade.

  • In 1952 Albert Gunter was driving the 78 bus across Tower Bridge towards Shoreditch. Before he could cross, he soon realised that the bridge was about to rise. He made the split-second decision to accelerate the bus, clearing a 1.8m drop. He was given a £10 bonus for his bravery.

  • In 1977 Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

  • Over 50 different designs were submitted for Tower Bridge.

  • When it first opened the bridge would lift thousands of times a year. Nowadays the number is in the hundreds.

A structure which still catches people's attention 125 years on.