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New exhibition celebrates divers who built Tower Bridge foundations

A new permanent exhibition at London’s Tower Bridge will celebrate the divers who dug the foundations for the bridge.

Opening today (27 June), the exhibition will explore the engineers, architects and technicians who built and laid the foundations for Tower Bridge in the 1890s. 

The new permanent exhibition features newly-discovered photographs and stories from the construction of the bridge, including the story of Jack ‘Ginger’ Bateman and Samuel Friend Penny, head of the team of divers, who risked their lives to dig the steel foundations that anchor the 70,000t bridge to the river bed.

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Tower bridge divers

Jack ‘Ginger’ Bateman, one of the diving team

It took eight years, five major contractors and the labour of 432 construction workers each day to build Tower Bridge.

Two piers were sunk into the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000t of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. This framework was clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a more pleasing appearance

The exhibition explores the extraordinary engineering feats achieved during construction, and the recounting the technical accomplishments of sinking the steel foundations into the riverbed.

It includes the opportunity to explore objects from across the Bridge’s history and the opportunity to try on a Victorian diver’s helmet.

The exhibition continues in the Victorian Engine Rooms, which house the engines that once powered the bridge lifts, where visitors can discover the human histories of the people who have maintained the bridge since 1894.

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