Tower of London finally gets its working drawbridge back
- Credit: Richard Lea-Hair/Historical Royal Palaces
The Tower of London has brought the past to life by reinstating a working drawbridge for the first time since 1978.
The raising of the drawbridge after 36 years, following five months of construction, is a sight not seen at The Tower in over a generation.
“We worked with specialist craftsmen to help recreate the drawbridge,” explained Royal Palaces conservation surveyor Alex Attelse.
“It’s not every day you get to rebuild a medieval-style drawbridge. Seeing it in operation heralds back to the days of yore and evoking The Tower’s identity as an impregnable fortress.”
The original drawbridge built in 1834 to let munitions into the basement of the iconic White Tower from the Thames wharf would have spanned a water-filled moat.
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But the moat was deemed noxious and drained in 1843 on the orders of the-then Constable of the Tower, the Duke of Wellington.
The drawbridge was completely replaced in 1915. The tradition of raising it carried on into the 1970s, reflecting the role of the royal castle as a defended fortress with a garrison.
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But in 1978 this element was found to be troublesome, so it was permanently fixed in place, stripping it of its most important historical lifting feature.
The new drawbridge has been constructed with steel and English Oak cladding, using traditional carpentry methods, drawing on historical designs from 1914 and borrowing from the Victorians’ neo-Gothic fascination with recreating medieval structures. It is being raised and lowered on high days and holidays.