Prior to building the bridge it could take half a day for the ship owners or merchants to travel by road from one side of the Thames to the other. To alleviate this inefficiency the Corporation of London decided to build another river crossing. The "Special Bridge or Subway Committee" was formed in 1876, and launched a public competition to design a new crossing.
The chief architect of the corporation was tasked with developing a specification and managing the competition. This head architect of the corporation was non other than the architect and designer of Leadenhall Market (featured in the first Harry Potter movie as Diagon Alley).
Over 50 designs were put forward for consideration, (some of which you can see when you visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition). All options were considered; a tunnel, but the technology was still in its infancy and had proven else where on the Thames been incredibly expensive; a high road way bridge, but it would have been impractical for the horses to pull their wagons and carriages up and over the bridge. Therefore the only practical option was to build a moving road way bridge.
In October 1884 Horace Jones, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, put forward their final design for Tower Bridge which was adjudged by the "Special Bridge or Subway Committee" chaired by a Mr Horace Jones as the winning design.
The bridge took a further 8 years to build and contains 11,000 tones of steel, as well as Portland stone and Cornish granite; unfortunately the great man did not live to see one of the great marvels of the modern industrial world completed.
History of the vault.
Originally the vault was the coal store for the engine rooms, coal would be unloaded from barges from the Thames directly into the space you are now standing. It would then be ferried across the road in railed wagons into the engine rooms to feed the boilers that drove the hydraulic accumulators that open and close the bridge.
The bridge converted from coal and steam to oil and electricity in 1976 and the Horace Jones vault no longer had purpose as a coal store it was therefore converted into the Garage for the “Bridge Masters” car before being eventually converted into a gift shop which closed in 2001.
In 2003 we began a 3.5 year project to convert the dingy disused space into the Vault Bar. the bar opened in 2007