One thing the VV really liked about Guy Ritchie's film 'Sherlock Holmes' was the use of the city of London as an historical backdrop. We see the splendour of the Houses of Parliament and the sprawling filthy shipyards and docks where the sense of dynamic industry is exciting, not to say awe-inspiring. But, perhaps most spectacular are the film's climactic scenes which are set on the half-built Tower Bridge, a marvel of engineering which groans and sways above the Thames like some skeletal, living leviathon.
The bridge was built of necessity, for the levels of traffic coming in and out of London, particularly from the East End, had been increasing dramatically and London Bridge was no longer able to cope with the demand.
An view of congestion on London Bridge
The bridge was to be mediavel in appearance, with bascules raised by chains, just like a castle drawbridge. When lowered, carts and horses could cross. When raised, tall ships could sail beneath. The bridge was operated by hydraulics, with two pumping engines powered by steam. Below the steel-framed towers (which were clothed in stone to emulate the Tower of London) a tier had been sunk into the river bed, each one containing 70,000 tons of concrete. Amazingly - and those Victorian engineers really were amazing - the two sides could open and close in less than six minutes. And, all could be watched by pedestrians who crossed on suspended walkways above.
Tower Bridge was officially opened on June 30th 1894, when the Prince of Wales laid a foundation stone over a time capsule containing various papers and coins. The event was recorded by the artist, W. L. Wyllie and printed in the Graphic magazine.
Patrick Baty sourcing paint for analysis