From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Road Transport
51° 27′17.64″ N 2° 37′40.44″ W

  • History
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
The Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the River Avon and Gorge, linking Clifton in Bristol with Leigh Woods in Somerset. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and now is a grade I listed structure.

William Vick in 1753, left a bequest in his will that £1,000 were to be invested with instructions that when the sum reached £10,000, it was to be used to build a stone bridge over the Avon at Clifton. By the time the fund reached £8,000 in 1829, the estimated cost of a stone bridge was 10 times that. A competition was held to find a design for the bridge, the prize was 100 guineas. Although Brunel submitted four entries, all entries were rejected.

In 1831 a second competition was held with new judges, the winner being the Eagle Foundry in Birmingham. Brunel took action and held a meeting with Gilbert and his design was then declared the winner. Although work started it was soon stopped by the Bristol Riots. Work resumed in 1836, although investment was poor. The towers were built, using unfinished stone, but the contractors went bankrupt in 1837. All work stopped on the bridge in 1843.

Brunel died in 1859, the bridge was still incomplete. The Institution of Civil Engineers felt that completing the bridge would be a fitting memorial, finishing the bridge with a slightly revised design. The construction work was completed in 1864 — 111 years after a bridge at the site was first planned.

The bridge has been the venue for significant cultural events such as the first modern bungee jump in 1979, the last ever Concorde flight in 2003 and a hand over of the Olympic Torch relay in 2012.