London’s defining landmark, Tower Bridge, has brought the fantastical world of Hannah Griggs, a real-life cook at Tower Bridge in the 1910s, online to families, history lovers and Londoners for the very first time.
Tower Bridge’s ‘Making The Bridge Sing’ exhibition unveiled in January in the historic Victorian Engine Rooms and is now available online. Visitors can explore Hannah’s life as a cook in the famous towers and also as a keen gardener. Real elements of Hannah’s life are revealed alongside a specially composed musical narrative, which imagines dreamlike sights and sounds that she experienced while working at the Bridge to help her plants grow.
The idea for the exhibition began when one of the present day Tower Bridge team overheard a conversation between visitors on the Bridge: Susan Belcher was telling her friends the tale of her grandmother Hannah Griggs, and how she became the Cook-in-Service to the Bridge Master between 1911-1915. Within days the Bridge’s Exhibition Manager was in touch and Susan shared Hannah Griggs’ story, and her life at Tower Bridge.
Listen to the sounds of Hannah’s world
Making The Bridge Sing imagines the soothing and ethereal sounds of Hannah’s world, accompanied by images of nature growing around the Bridge. Viewers can click to listen to the birds chirping, the waves of the River Thames flowing below, the bees buzzing around Hannah’s plants, and the outside bustle as she goes about her work at the Bridge.
Watch an extract of ‘Time Bascule’
‘Time Bascule’, a film created by sound artist, inventor and filmmaker Di Mainstone and the focus for the exhibition, imagines Hannah to be experimenting with music – creating magical sounds by ‘playing’ different parts of the Bridge with unusual, invented instruments to help her plants grow. In a remarkable twist, it features some of Hannah’s London descendants.
Online fans can also watch behind the scenes footage of the making of ‘Time Bascule’, along with Di’s concept sketches for the digital art piece.
Di Mainstone has previously developed instruments to create music from the Brooklyn Bridge, Clifton Suspension Bridge and most recently Sunderland’s new Northern Spire Bridge. The New York Times has featured her as one of the “new generation visionaries” of the international digital arts scene.
Free activities to try at home
Families wanting to bring Hannah’s world to life at home can get creative with three free downloadable activity packs:
- Make Music: Experiment with musical instruments made from objects around the home
- Nurture Nature: Create origami flowers and try to grow new food from kitchen scraps
- Animate This: Turn Tower Bridge into a unique animation using found natural treasures
Designed to celebrate Tower Bridge’s 125th anniversary, the Time Bascule film and accompanying Making The Bridge Sing exhibition are part of an eclectic programme of arts, installations and intimate events to establish Tower Bridge as a must-see London cultural venue. Experience the exhibition here.