This Saturday marks a rather odd moment, as Tower bridge will open to let a boat pass through. Notable, as the bridge has been firmly shut for several months while the road bridge was given a rather more than a quick lick of paint.

Slightly disappointingly, the first boat to go through is just a regular on the Thames, the MV Dixie Queen – an American style paddle steamer – which will do the usual trick of going through, turning around by HMS Belfast then heading back out again an hour later.

The “event” takes place at 5:30pm.

Would have been nice if it had been something special though.

I wonder how many of the motorists who are held back to let the bridge lift realise most of the lifts now are caused by a fairly small boat passing though – which has just coincidentally got a mast or pole that is too high to get under the bridge normally?

Although I live next to the river in Docklands, the closure of the bridge further upstream has had an effect on me, as big ships which might have gone past my flat to “do the tourist thing”, or Navy ships visiting HMS Belfast have all stayed away. It’s been quite boring, and I look forward to leaping up with the camera to snap whatever monster sized steel hulk looms past the living room every few weeks.

Getting back to the bridge though, it’s interesting to note that the the costs of maintaining the bridge and its running costs – and that of all the bridges within the City of London – are paid for by a trust fund and don’t cost a single penny to the taxpayer.

Originally established by Royal Charter in 1282, the Bridge House Estates initially managed just London Bridge, but later brought other bridges crossing the river within the Square Mile, and now manages all of them. Although its finances have wobbled at times, it is now sufficiently rich to not only maintain the bridges and keep a reserve for repairs – that in 1995, it sought a Cy-près declaration to allow it to make charitable grants outside its legal remit for bridge maintenance.

The grants now amount to an average of £15 million per year to charitable organisations in London. If you want to apply for a grant, the details are here.


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One comment
  1. We had to arrange a lifts at Tower Bridge when we handled the port agency for the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior. Her masts are too tall to pass under unless the bridge is raised.

    Incidentally the new Rainbow Warrior which is currently under construction will be too tall to pass under Tower Bridge even when it’s raised so she will be confined to the Lower Thames.


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