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Vanguard lorry on Tower Bridge, 1975

Tower Bridge

During the modernisation of London’s most famous bridge, Vanguard electrically disconnected, mechanically dismantled and removed for storage the Victorian hydraulic engines that were used to raise and lower the bridge, together with their 110-ton cast-iron accumulators.

We also removed the 100-person capacity hydraulic lifts by which pedestrians had crossed the bridge while the bascules were in the raised position. When the bridge first opened in 1894, there was so much river traffic the 1800-ton bascules spent most of the day raised. The only way for pedestrians to cross was either to travel in the 100-person lifts up to high level, walk across the footbridge and down the lifts on the other side or walk up through the oak staircases to the top.

The bridge structure was heated by gas throughout, consequently all the nooks and crannies and alcoves on either side of the staircase invited courting couples. The footbridge, 110 feet above road level, was also the chosen location for suicides. Within two years of opening the bridge, Parliament announced that the British Public could not be trusted. They were both conceiving and killing themselves and that put paid to the lifts, the staircases and the footbridge for the next 90 years until 1989 when Parliament decided the public had better places for their activities and re-opened the bridge to the public.

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