Tag Archives: London

26 Things You’ll Want to Know Before Moving to England


So you’ve decided to move to England and feel completely overwhelmed by the endeavor. Where does one even begin? Well, aside from packing up your flat, I will help you make this transition as smoothly as possible with these top tips.

This topic actually came about over coffee with my friend Tara. We were talking about ideas for another British book I’m writing and she mentioned moving to England. She knew it would be an enormous undertaking moving from the US to the UK but would love a book to guide her. Consider this your mini guide, my dear friend.

Before You Leave and After You Arrive

I know there is a ton of stuff to get done before you even think about leaving your country for England. Here are some necessities to tackle before you leave and after you arrive.

  1. Immunizations – there are routine immunizations required before moving to England, usually 4 to 6 weeks prior to your arrival. Your jabs depend on which country you come from so check with the CDC for details.
  2. Passport – make sure you have an update one and that it doesn’t expire for at least 90 days after you return to your home country. Remember to keep your passport current while you’re living in the UK.
  3. Work Visa – this is required for most countries right off the bat. Even US citizens, who can stay up to 6 months without one, would be required to get a work visa if you plan to move to England and secure employment.
  4. Banking –Once you arrived, make sure to bring your passport and work visa with you to your bank of choice. Standard bank fees and monetary exchange rates will apply. Check with the British Banking Association for details.
  5. Mail – most national postal services do not provide an international change of address online. Visit your nearest post office for proper procedure.
  6. Phone – using your own mobile service, even if they provide international service, will stick you with a massive bill. Best to get an inexpensive phone or a new SIM card for your smartphone at a UK service provider.

Traveling To and Around England

If you’ve read my post on the London Tube, you learned some helpful tips, tricks, and protocols when traveling by Underground. Below is some other savvy travel tips, as well.

  1. Your Flight – book your flight as far in advance as possible and at off-peak times if you can.
  2. Travel Insurance – A necessary evil in case your trip goes pear-shaped. If all goes well, consider yourself a jammy beggar.
  3. From the Airport – you’ll need to hire a car unless you have friends to pick you up. Rent a car instead of a cab to save loads of dosh.
  4. Oyster Card – this is a must for transport around London and when you want to scamper about the English countryside as well. Make sure to have cash on hand so you can buy a ticket anywhere an Oyster Card is invalid.
  5. Walking, Standing, and Driving – walk on the left, stand on the right when taking the escalator, and do drive on the left if you want to live.

Currency, Taxes, and Credit Cards

  1. Credit Cards – Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. It’s helpful for booking flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Check with your merchant to find out the fees and exchange rates that apply. Once you can get a debit card for your British bank account, this will help eliminate the need to carry cash.
  2. Cash – British pounds is the currency of the UK and it’s best to use until you secure your own British bank account. This minimizes banking and ATM fees.
  3. ATMs – use bank ATMs and avoid “independent” ones. Flat transaction fees and percentage charges apply when you use “out-of-network” ATMs so withdraw larger amounts. ATMs are still cheaper than exchanging your cash at a bank.
  4. National Insurance Number – the British equivalent of a social security number so you can work and they can take taxes out. Go to the UK government website for details.

Learning British English

On our BritWordaDay social media channels, you’ll see daily posts of British words. It’s our goal to help you learn these wicked words for when you converse with Brits. Dialects change as you move about England but I’ve got a perfect solution for you.

  1. Learn the Lingo –Great Britain has many dialects and you’ll need to swot up on those as you travel around the country. Trust me. It’s like learning a whole new language. Check out my book for a proper guide to British words and beyond.
  2. Proper Pronunciation – places like Derbyshire (darbuhshuh) and Leicester (lesstuh) are common examples. Listen and adapt to British pronunciations to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

Basic British Culture and Customs

There are several I could mention here, including the quintessential sarcastic humor employed by Brits regularly. Trust me, if they take the mickey out of you then you’re in. Oh, and they use the word “sorry” quite a bit.

  1. Don’t Take It Literally – Brits rarely say what they mean so learn to read between the lines. Check this out to see several humorous examples.
  2. Compliments – they typically make many Brits nervous and they will often deflect with self-deprecating remarks, even if secretly pleased.
  3. Weather – can be dodgy so it’s best to carry a brolly. Be prepared to discuss the weather…A LOT.

Know Your Onions about Food and Drink

Don’t believe all the disparaging remarks you hear about British food. They have many  tasty dishes both savory and sweet. When in England, ask the locals where they prefer to get their fish and chips or Indian curry.

  1. Tea – the preferred drink of the UK, a solution to most problems (or so you will be told), and, yes, it is a meal. Read my blog post on British tea to better understand this revered British custom.
  2. Drinking – is a national past time in the UK and a cornerstone of British culture. Even if you don’t drink, go hang out a British pub if you want to know the Brits.
  3. Food – the Brits offer many tasty treats like Yorkshire pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding but the Brits do love their offal (organ meat) and you’ll find it in things like Steak and Kidney Pie or Lancashire Hot Pot.
  4. Dining Etiquette – place your napkin on your lap instead of tucking it into your shirt. Say “please” and “thank you”. This is “British Politeness 101” Put your knife and fork together in the middle of your plate to indicate you’re finished. My book has a whole chapter dedicated this sort of thing.

British Electricity and Measurements

  1. Plugs and Voltage – the Brits use a specific 3-prong plug and the outlets are typically 220-240 volts. You can by conversion adapters but if you don’t want to run the risk of frying your blow dryer, buy a new one when you get there.
  2. A Mixture of Measurements – Distances on roads are calculated in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimeters and meters. Height is stated in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stones and pounds.

Hopefully, you’re feeling more prepared for your move to England. In my upcoming book this autumn, I’ll be sharing more detail about this very subject. If you want an easy-to-read top guide to British words and the various dialects of the UK for your move to England, then download my book from Amazon or iTunes.

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Savvy Tips for Using London Cabs Like a Boss


If you’re not used to riding in cabs, it can be a bit intimidating at first. For those outside the UK, who do not travel by taxi, adding British currency and culture to the mix requires some swotting up. Read on, dear neophytes, and soon you’ll be using London cabs like a boss!

Brief History of the London Cab

London cabs were once horse-drawn carriages called “hackney carriages” which dates back to 1662. With the introduction of automobiles, the design of the London cab has changed several times over the years. It was in 1945 that the iconic black cab became the London taxi we all know and love today. Though this traditional style has endured for over 70 years, London cabs come in all sorts of colors and are often plastered with adverts.

Use London Cabs Like a Boss

Hailing a Cab

If you’ve been to the Big Apple, you’ve may have heard locals yell to flag down a cab. It’s a bit different in London as townies are not as “shouty” as New Yorkers.

  • DO – hold out your arm to a cab and they will stop.
  • DON’T – shout “TAXI” to a London cab driver. Technically, it is against the law and they will not stop for you.
  • Mind Where You Stand – it’s always a good idea to avoid hailing a cab near a bus stop, pedestrian crossings or any obstruction.
  • Availability – if the word “TAXI” on top of the cab is lit up then it’s available for hire. When already in service the light is off.
  • Reaching Your Destination – before getting into the cab, go to the front window and tell the driver your destination or ask if you’re unsure. If it’s a hotel, restaurant or landmark, just say the name and they know the way including the quickest route.
  • Sit in the Back – when you’ve finished speaking to the driver, hop in the back. There’s enough room for a total of five people (3 on the backseat and 2 on opposite fold-down seats).

Black Cab Culture

Remember, things are done differently in London than in other cities. Mind the culture, lovelies, for when in Rome…I mean England…

  • Know the Lingo – Whether a bloke or a bird, cab drivers are often referred to as “cabbies” and cabs are still referred to as “hackneys” from time to time.
  • Getting Gabby – If you’re a chatterbox, then cab travel is for you. Cabbies are fond of chatting with their passengers and it is certainly welcomed. They are a wealth of London knowledge and are happy to offer suggestions and advice.

Hiring a Cab

It’s your first time in London. You’re all dressed up and you’d like to hire a cab to join your mates at the swanky pub across town. You can ring up a local cab company or use an app.

  • Distance Requirements – drivers are required to accept any hiring up to 12 miles or up to a one-hour duration if the destination is in Greater London. They are also required to accept any hiring up to 20 miles for fares starting at Heathrow Airport.
  • Taxi AppsKabbee is an online service for minicabs which are cheaper than hiring black cabs. It’s also an app that works on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows phones. For more cab apps, go to Transport for London – Taxi Apps.

Payment and Cab Fares

Cab fares vary due to time and distance. Your cabbie will tell you the fare once you’ve reached your destination. Fares are tracked by a meter and may be higher if there are delays or heavy traffic. Check out Transport for London Taxi Fare guide for details. Here’s some important fare and payment info:

  • Cash or Credit? – You can actually use cash, a credit or debit card, and there’s no extra charge for using your card.
  • Minimum Fare – you will pay a minimum of £2.60 at all times.
  • Extra Charges – extra charges must be added to the meter at the start of a journey.
    • There is an extra charge for up to £2 if the taxi is booked by phone or online.
    • There is an extra charge of £2.80 for journeys that start from Heathrow Airport.
    • There is an extra charge of £4 for journeys made on December 24 – 27 and December 31 – January 2.
  • Tariff Charges – There are 3 standard tariff periods set by Transport for London which increases fares at certain times and days of the week. Check out TfL Tariffs for more information.

Tipping a Cab Driver

  • For a Typical Fare – the customary tip amount is 10-15% of the total fare or round up to the nearest £1 and tell the driver to “keep the change”
  • Further Distance or Assistance – if you have a longer journey or the driver has assisted you with your luggage, it’s standard to tip a bit more and up to £5.

The Knowledge

London cab drivers have to pass a test called “The Knowledge” before they can drive a cab. The average time to study and pass the exam is 3 years because drivers have to memorize every London street within six miles from Charing Cross. This knowledge amounts to 320 routes, 25,000 streets, and 20,000 landmarks!

Did You Know These London Cab Facts?

Here are some interesting facts from Bloomsbury International:

  1. Most cabs in London are owned by the drivers and are run as independent businesses.
  2. London’s taxi industry is often ranked number 1 in the world.
  3. There are currently around 21,000 black cabs in London.
  4. Many black cabs have a turning circle of only 25 ft (8m). This means they can turn around in small spaces and go around very tight corners.
  5. The name “taxi” comes from the “taximeter” – the tool used to calculate fares.
  6. A cab must be tall enough to accommodate someone wearing a bowler hat!

Have you ever taken a London cab? Tell us about your experience by logging in and posting your comments or Tweet us at @BritWordaDay.

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10 Reasons Why I Love Big Ben


I know I am not alone in my love for Big Ben. This famous clock tower is the most synonymous icon with the United Kingdom. When you Google search London, Big Ben will always be among the top search results for this transcendent city. It’s the primo location shot in many films and Big Ben still one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.

Everyone has their own love story with Big Ben and I thought I’d share mine with you.

How My Love of Big Ben Started

The first time this young wide-eyed girl saw Big Ben was in the 1953 Disney animated film, Peter Pan. The next occurrence was in the ground-breaking masterpiece, with both live action and animation, of Mary Poppins. I was hooked and believed this clock tower was practically perfect in every way.

As an adult, I am still very sentimental when it comes to Big Ben. In fact, I have a confession to make. I dearly love the Tinker Bell films produced by DisneyToon Studios. I’ve watched each one several times. The animation is flipping amazing, the stories are very clever, and nearly every film includes a shot of Big Ben. Each time I watch the films and see that iconic clock tower, I cry.

I realized the tears were of longing. I fell in love with Big Ben, as a little girl, and wanted to see this amazing clock tower in person. The closest I’ve come, thus far, was seeing it on Periscope. The most amazing experience was a broadcast of the clock tower at midnight all lit up. The quarter bells would chime first, preceding the “father bell” and then, I heard him. It was Ben, the big bell, ringing out 12 times with that unmistakable BONG! Once again, I found myself shedding tears of both joy and longing. The sound was music to my ears but fueled the ache in my heart to personally see my beloved Big Ben.

A Few Facts about Big Ben

Before I get into the reasons why I love Big Ben, I thought I’d share a few interesting facts.

Elizabeth Tower

In 2012, for her Diamond Jubilee, the famous London clock tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower after Queen Elizabeth II.

Silence, Please

The bells of Big Ben were silenced during a few notable events:

  • Winston Churchill’s funeral on January 30, 1965
  • Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on April 17, 2013
  • A lengthy maintenance that was performed for 33 hours on October 25, 2005, on the clock and chimes.

Radio Broadcast

The chimes of this iconic clock tower were first broadcasted by the BBC on December 31, 1923. It is a tradition that continues to this day.

No Outsiders Allowed

The saddest fact I’ve learned, about Big Ben, was its restriction to outsiders. Only UK residents may tour the interior and it must be arranged by a Member of Parliament.

10 Reasons Why I Love Big Ben

Aside from being the number one tourist attraction of the UK, here’s my list of the top ten reasons why I love Big Ben.

  • The Nickname – the name “Big Ben” refers to the Great Bell of the famous London clock tower. It was speculated this nickname came from Sir Benjamin Hall, the overseer of the Great Bell installation. Another possibility of this nickname comes from English Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Benjamin Caunt.
  • Clock Face – there are 312 pieces of opal glass in each clock dial. A special light is illuminated above the clock faces when parliament is in session.
  • The Great Bell – the incomparable “bong” comes from a patched crack in the bell due to the faulty design of the original hammer. The bell was repaired, given an eighth of a turn, and fitted with a proper hammer to apply the correct striking force.
  • At Night –the entire tower is lit up at night and then goes into “lights out” mode after the stroke of midnight. After the stroke of twelve, only the clock faces are still illuminated.
  • Big Ben’s Survival– After a bomb destroyed the House of Commons chamber during WWII, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to chime every hour.
  • Queen Victoria – the Latin words, at the base of each clock dial, DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.
  • Location, Location – Big Ben has been named the most popular film location and seen in countless TV shows and movies.
  • Worth Its Weight in Pennies – a stack of pennies is piled on the pendulum to regulate the clock’s time.
  • Washing Up – using only soap and water, a group of window washers will abseil (rappel) from the belfry down to the clock faces to give them a proper washing up. This cleaning is performed every 5 years.
  • New Year’s Eve – this famous clock tower is the focal point of London’s New Year’s Eve celebration, highlighted by a massive fireworks display.

Do You Love Big Ben Too?

Is anyone else in love with this iconic London clock tower? If so, why? Log into our website and post your comments.

Big Ben Chimes at Midnight

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New Year’s Eve in London is Best

Image by © Terry Bouch/Demotix/Corbis

Without a doubt, London has to be one of the best places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Well, this year is no different and this iconic city has plenty in store. Even if you can’t make it to England’s capital this go around, you’ll know how to go out with a bang next year.

Top Venues

London Celebrates with Unicef

Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said he was thrilled to ring in the New Year with the renowned children’s charity, Unicef. Together, Greater London Authorities and Unicef want to raise awareness for the some 30 Million children without homes throughout the world. By supporting this event, Unicef endeavors to raise funds to aid homeless children due to wars and disasters, focusing on Syria and Nepal.

This upcoming event was so well received that tickets have been sold out for some time. To learn more about how you can help support Unicef in reducing child homelessness, click here.

Thames River Cruise

For those that like to party on the go, Thames River Cruises’ theme for 2015 is “disco” with loads of classic hits to boogie the night away.

  • Choose Your Boat – These 4 river cruise boats will transport New Year’s Eve guests along the River Thames and provide a primo spot to watch famed London fireworks.
    • Thames Princess Pier: Lambeth Pier (south bank near Lambeth Bridge)
    • Royal Princess Pier: Westminster Pier (north bank next to Westminster Bridge)
    • Viscountess Pier: Embankment Pier (Embankment Tube Station & Hungerford Bridge)
    • Old London Pier: Embankment Pier (Embankment Tube Station & Hungerford Bridge)
  • DJ and Dance – You can dance the night away with your friends or significant other to ring in the New Year in the upper saloon of these boats.
  • Full Bar – For a tipple or a pint, these cruise boats have fully-licensed bars. They are cash only so stop by the nearest hole in the wall before you disembark.
  • Finale – The boats will be moored at the Houses of Parliament, close to Big Ben, where you’ll be front and center for the New Year’s Eve fireworks display near the Coca-Cola London Eye.

Sky Gardens – Walkie Talkie

Imagine an aerial view of the Thames River, inside a swanky bar with elegant ambiance and live music. With a 360 degree view, you’ll have the perfect spot at midnight to see London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

  • Sky Pod Bar – While you wait for midnight to strike, enjoy a drink at one of the lamp-lit tables from this main-level bar, whilst soaking in the nightlife atmosphere.
  • Fenchurch – an upscale restaurant, which serves a British contemporary menu, overlooks the main area of Sky Gardens. If the main dining room is booked, you can reserve a table in the private room which has the best view.
  • Darwin – if the Fenchurch is booked, phone the Darwin Brasserie and reserve a table. With its laid-back luxe furnishings and sports box dining room, you’re sure to have a great view of the lower level and the Thames River.

The Shard

A dinner at the Shard does not come cheap but for New Year’s Eve, it’s a major wallet-buster. Entrance tickets start at £149 in which you’ll be handed a glass of champagne upon arrival. If you make the sort of dosh worthy of a truly posh dining experience, then this is for you.

  • Aqua Shard – located on the 31st floor, this restaurant of contemporary British cuisine also includes private dining rooms and a 3-story atrium bar.
  • Oblix – located on the 32nd floor, this 360 view of London boasts of a 6-course dinner with champagne and wine pairings throughout the meal for £450 per person. Yikes! I told you it was steep.
  • Hutong – located on the 33rd floor, this high-end Northern Chinese cuisine restaurant, based on the one in Hong Kong, will also give you panoramic views of London. From Dim Sum to dessert, plus a half bottle of champagne, you’re asked to drop £345 for this 5-course dinner. Ouch!
  • Lang – this confectionery is based on the world-renowned Shangri-La’s signature cakes, pastries, chocolates, and fresh-brewed coffee. I must visit this place.
  • Ting – on the 35th floor, this modern European cuisine restaurant, with an Asian twist, is based on the one found in the Shangri-La Hotel. It has spectacular views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the City Centre of London, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Canary Wharf. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea.
  • Gong – on the 52nd floor, this plush Asian cocktail bar gives you stunning views of London. Great for a late-night drink or a champagne toast for New Year’s Eve.

Thames Firework Display

London is well-known for its New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Ever since the city commemorated the start of the 2012 Olympics, with its massive pyrotechnic display, it has become the must-see for NYE. The north and south banks of the River Thames are packed with crowds of people waiting for Big Ben to strike midnight. The best viewing areas are cordoned off for those who have tickets, but you can still get there early and grab yourself a primo spot.

Guaranteed Front Row Seat

Filipino expat, Orion Hombre has been scoping around London ever since the Periscope app was released in March 2015. He thoroughly enjoys showing viewers this architecturally rich city and will be broadcasting for New Year’s Eve in London. Therefore, if you are unable to celebrate this momentous holiday in person, follow Orion on Twitter for updates about his upcoming NYE London broadcast. Download the app on your Apple or Android device and follow Orion on Periscope as well so you don’t miss it!

Your London NYE Celebrations

Any of you ever been in London to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Do you a have particularly nostalgic or exciting memory from your London festivities? Log into our website and post your comments below.

Sign up for our newsletter before 12/31 and learn how to do New Year’s Eve in London on a Budget!

NYE London Celebration Last Year

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New London Routemaster

Why a New Double-Decker?

by Tom Page from London, UK
Out With the Old

With production ending in 1968, after 2,760 double-decker buses were built, routemasters were finally withdrawn from normal passenger service, except for one heritage route (#15), in 2005. Despite its many refurbishments and overhauls, the routemaster endured the decades through popular public support. Though bus routes were limited, it was still felt that a thorough renovation of this London treasure was warranted.

After the 60 years the routemaster has been in production, it was time to update this iconic London transport to a more modern, fully accessible (for those with special needs), and environmentally friendly model.

Routemaster Revisited and Renewed

The withdrawal from service, at the end of 2005 by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, was due in favor of a fully accessible one-person-operated modern fleet, none of which featured a rear open platform. Removal of the renowned double-decker bus became a topic of debate in the 2008 London mayoral election. Boris Johnson was later elected mayor with one of his campaign pledges being to introduce a new routemaster aka the Borisbus. The first new model entered service on February 27, 2012.

Lean, Green, Accessible Machine

Green? Steady on! I thought they were red! Yes, my dear Anglophiles, red they are indeed. “Green” refers to the new hybrid diesel-electric engine which only uses the diesel when the electric motor needs charging. In test conditions, the new bus produced about half the carbon dioxide and a quarter of the particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

The bus has a step-free walkway on the lower deck from the front to the back, allowing easy access for people with mobility impairments and passengers with strollers. There is a large wheelchair bay directly opposite the center ramped door.

What’s lean about the new routemaster? The new design makes use of lightweight materials, with glass highlighting key features and consequently producing a light and airy feel inside the bus. The internal lighting is provided by LED clusters and there is a climate-controlled ventilation system. The new buses are also fitted with a communication system which displays text and provides audio announcements via loudspeakers, and a T-loop (telecoil) for users of hearing aids. The information displayed and announced typically includes the route number, destination, name of the next stop, and that the bus is coming to stop.

Operation, Routes and Fares

Routemaster Operation

The bus has three sets of doors, each with Oyster card readers, making it easier to get on and off. Inside, there are two staircases, one near the front and one at the back, for easy access to and from the upper deck.

During peak hours and for busier Central London routes, a conductor will aid the driver in operation of the routemaster. The conductor’s purpose is not to collect fares but rather to ensure the safety of passengers hopping on and off the rear platform as well as provide travel advice. When conductors are not present, the rear doors will be operated by the driver.


Real-time service information for all London buses, including the new routemaster, is provided by the Twitter Bus Alerts feed.

  • 8 – Oxford Circus to Bow Church
  • 9 – Hammersmith to Aldwych
  • 10 – Hammersmith bus station to King’s Cross St. Pancras
  • 11 – Liverpool Street station to Fulham Broadway
  • 15 – Heritage Route from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square
  • 24 – Hampstead Heath to Pimlico
  • 38 – Victoria to Hackney
  • 55 – Oxford Circus to Leyton
  • 137 – Oxford Circus to Streatham Hill
  • 148 – Camberwell Green to White City bus station
  • 390 – Notting Hill Gate to Archway
  • 453 – Marylebone station to Deptford Bridge

Bus Fare Options

Oyster card holders or passengers using contactless payment cards can use any of the doors to board. Passengers with a printed Travelcard or other printed pass or ticket must use the front door and show these to the driver.

Your Routemaster Experience

Though bus travel has declined despite the release of the new routemaster, it still remains a tourist attraction by these eager patrons. This mode of transport, unlike the tube, allows all the iconic scenery of London to be viewed to the travelers’ heart’s content.

Have any of you taken a ride on the new routemaster? If so, when and what was your experience like? Login and leave your comments below.


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Tower Bridge: The Necessity and the Experience


It was becoming a growing necessity for commercial developers to access the port facilities in the Pool of London in the latter 19th Century. A traditional fixed bridge would prevent access of tall-masted ships between London Bridge and the Tower of London on the River Thames. Therefore, a drawbridge of bascule design was constructed to provide access to and from the Upper Pool of London for registered vessels with a mast or superstructure of 30 feet or more. This was, of course, the renowned Tower Bridge.

The Architect, Design, and Construction

A Special Bridge or Subway Committee was formed in 1877 to find a solution to the river crossing problem. The bridge design was opened to a public competition and over 50 designs were submitted. After much controversy over evaluation of the designs, the committee awarded the project to Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect, in 1884.

  • Architect and Engineer – Though Jones was the architect of this innovative bridge, it was the engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, who devised the idea of a bascule drawbridge with two bridge towers built on large piers. Jones died in 1887 and George D. Stevenson took over the project.
  • Design – The central span was split into two equal bascules or leaves, which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge’s upper walkways.
  • Construction – Construction started in 1887 with five major contractors. Two massive piers, containing over 70,000 tons of concrete, were sunk into the riverbed to support the structure. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. It took 8 years through the employment of 432 construction workers to complete the bridge.

A London Edifice and Compliment to “The Tower”

The total length of Tower Bridge is 801 ft. (244 meters) with an impressive height of 213 ft. (65 meters), and its twin towers rise 200 feet (61 meters) above the Thames. The double leaf drawbridge has an opening of 250 feet (76 meters) wide with a clearance below of 28 ft. (8.6 meters) while it’s closed and 139 ft. (42.5 meters) when open. The original brick facade design, of Sir Horace Jones, was replaced with the more ornate Victorian Gothic style, which makes the bridge a distinctive landmark. This redesign was intended to harmonize the bridge with the nearby Tower of London.

Why Tower Bridge is Dear to My Heart

The primary reason Tower Bridge is so near and dear to my heart is that we have something in common. Tower Bridge was opened on June 30, 1894, and I, Jen Reckard, came into the world that very same day over 75 years later. One of these days, I am going to London for my birthday and will drink a toast to our mutual birthday. Tower Bridge has many exciting amenities and I plan to experience each one as a present to myself.

The Tower Bridge Experience

This iconic structure is not just an impressive crossing of the Thames. Tower Bridge is also an experience that should not be missed by visitors to London, England.

Locations and Nearby Landmarks

  • Location – Spans the River Thames East End between the Greater London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark, and is crossed by over 40,000 people daily.
  • London Underground – The nearest tube stations are Tower Hill on the Circle and District lines, London Bridge and Bermondsey, and the nearest Docklands Light Railway station is Tower Gateway.
  • Nearby Landmarks – Tower of London, HMS Belfast (museum ship), Shad Thames (historic riverside street), St Katharine Docks, London Bridge

Opening, Reopening, Events, Venues

  • Opening – The bridge was officially opened on June 30, 1894 by The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), and his wife, The Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark)
  • Reopening – The walkways, which allowed pedestrians to cross even while the bridge was raised, became hangouts for prostitutes and thieves and closed for many years. In 1982, however, Tower Bridge reopened to the public for the first time since 1910, with a permanent exhibition inside called The Tower Bridge Experience.
  • Events – In 1977, for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Tower Bridge was painted red, white, and blue from its original mid greenish-blue color. For the 2012 Summer Olympics a set of Olympic rings was suspended from the bridge to mark one month to go until the start of the games.
  • Lift Service – Today, the Tower Bridge lift service is provided free of charge to sailing vessels but subject to 24 hours’ notice. The service is available any time, day or night, 365 days per year. The double leaf bascules are raised between 850 to 1,000 times each year.
  • Unique Venues – A 360 degree experience of the glass-covered walkways (143 feet or 44 m above the river at high tide), the North Tower Lounge, the Victorian Engine Rooms, or you can book your dream wedding!

A Video of Tower Bridge in Action

This video will make you feel like you’re actually there, standing on the high level glass walkways seeing all the amazing activity of the Bridge. What’s your favorite thing about Tower Bridge? Are you dying to take a tour?

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Why is London Called The Smoke?


With the combination of coal fires and weather conditions, smog often settled over the city and London became known as The Smoke or Big Smoke, an expression still used lightheartedly today.

This came from the low grade post-war coal, burned primarily in homes, which caused an increased amount of sulfur dioxide, polluting the foggy air. Additional contributions to the cause of smog were the abundant coal-fired power stations in the Greater London area, including Fulham, Battersea, Bankside, and Kingston upon Thames, all of which added to the air’s contamination.

Other Words to Describe the Fog

Pea soup, or a pea souper, otherwise known as a black fog or killer fog, is very thick and commonly yellowish, greenish, or blackish smog caused by air pollution that contains soot and the noxious gas sulfur dioxide.

Pea soup fog was once rampant in UK cities, especially London. It resulted from the smoke of millions of coal-burning chimneys pooled with the mist and fog of the Thames basin. This occurrence was commonly known as a London particular or London fog, which resulted in the phrase, thick pea and ham soup or thick as pea soup.

The Great Smog of ‘52

The term “Big Smoke” originated from the Great Smog of 1952 and is known to be the worst air pollution event in the history of the United Kingdom. It lasted from Friday, December 5 to Tuesday, December 9, 1952, and then dispersed swiftly after a change of weather.

  • Cause of the Smog – It stemmed from a period of cold weather in which London residents burned more coal than usual to keep warm. This combined with an anticyclone (a large-scale rotation of winds around a central area of high atmospheric pressure) and windless conditions caused a collection of airborne pollutants, from the coal-burning chimneys, to form a dense layer of smog over the city.
  • Effect of the Smog – It caused major visibility issues with fog so thick, it disrupted the use of trains, cars, and transportation as a whole. Public events were canceled. The foremost consequence was the respiratory illnesses caused to over 100,000 people and there were reported deaths of some 4,000, all of which happened in these few short days. Later research put the final fatality rate at nearly 12,000 citizens of Greater London.
  • Response to the Smog – Being the worst case of smog the City of London had ever seen, with illness and death in the thousands, parliament finally took action to reduce air pollution.

Clean Air Act of 1956

An Act passed by the UK Parliament in response to London’s Great Smog of 1952. The stipulation made by the Act was the reduction of air pollution by way of ‘smoke control areas’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. Domestically, homes were shifted to cleaner forms of coal-burning, electricity, and gas. This was only enforced in some towns and cities but did reduce the overall amount of smoke pollution and sulfur dioxide. Commercially, the Act instituted the relocation of power stations away from cities and even for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The Clean Air Act was in effect until 1964 and then repealed in August 1993.

London Smog or Fog Literary References

“The Smoke” was such a phenomenon that it was often referenced in literature by many English writers. Whether by name or insinuation here are a few examples.

  • A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett – “Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night…”
  • The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot – “Unreal city, under the brown fog of a winter dawn, a crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.”
  • The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans – Arthur Conan Doyle – “a greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops on the windowpane…”

Can you imagine what it must have been like to live in London during those coal-burning days? It certainly explains all the filthy-looking characters in a Dickens novel. I think I would have wanted to move out to the country. For different reasons now, London is still covered with a blanket of fog from time to time.


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