Clifton Suspension Bridge

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Coordinates: 51 ° 27 '18 "  N , 2 ° 37' 40"  W.

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge
use Motor vehicles (2 lanes), pedestrians, bicycles
Crossing of River Avon , A4 road from Bristol to Avonmouth
place Bristol
Entertained by Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust
construction Chain bridge
overall length 412 m
width 9.4 m
Longest span 214 m
Arrow height 26 m
height 75 m above the river
vehicles per day 11,000
start of building 1836
completion 1864
opening December 8, 1864
planner Isambard Kingdom Brunel
toll £ 1 for motor vehicles
Clifton Suspension Bridge (England)
Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon
The bridge as seen from Clifton
The Avon with the Clifton Suspension Bridge (Clifton can be seen on the right)
Carriage for the maintenance of the bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a chain bridge over the River Avon in southwest England . It is the symbol of the city of Bristol .


In 1754 the idea of ​​building a bridge over the Avon canyon came up. William Vick, a Bristol wine merchant, left an inheritance of English 1,000. Pounds with the instruction that if interest had accumulated 10,000 pounds, the money would be used for a bridge between Clifton (then part of Gloucestershire ) and Leigh Woods (then in Somerset ). Both places were sparsely populated at the time.

By the 1820s the legacy had totaled nearly £ 8,000, but it was estimated that a stone bridge could cost more than ten times as much. A resolution by parliament allowed a wrought-iron suspension bridge to be built and toll revenues to cover expenses. In 1829 a competition was held to find the best design for the bridge. Juror Thomas Telford rejected all entries and implemented his own design. The decision met with great resistance from the population, especially since the construction according to the design could have been extremely expensive. A second competition was held with Davies Gilbert as juror and won by Isambard Kingdom Brunel . He was employed as a project engineer and thus received the first major order.

Memorial plaque for the builder of the bridge


The first attempt to build the bridge according to Brunel's design failed in 1831 due to civil war-like uprisings in Bristol . The work was interrupted and resumed in 1836. In 1843 the rough towers were finished, but the money ran out too. In 1851 the iron parts that had already been manufactured were sold and used for the construction of the Royal Albert Bridge , also designed by Brunel .

Brunel died in 1859 at the age of 53 without seeing his bridge completed. Brunel's colleagues at the Institution of Civil Engineers thought the Clifton Suspension Bridge would be an excellent monument to the great engineer and began to raise funds to complete the bridge. In 1860 Brunel's Hungerford Bridge over the Thames in London was demolished to make way for a new railway bridge to Charing Cross Station . The suspension chains used there were bought up and reused for the Clifton suspension bridge.

The design was revised by William Henry Barlow and Sir John Hawkshaw . The bridge should be wider and higher and a stronger roadway. For this, the chains should be run three times instead of twice. In the case of the towers, the raw stone should be left and the cladding in the Egyptian style and the original sphinx heads should be dispensed with. Work on the bridge resumed in 1862, so it could be completed two years later. The bridge was inaugurated and opened to traffic on December 8, 1864, and has been in use without interruption since that date.

The bridge today

The bridge is now managed by a trust, which was set up by a parliamentary decision of 1952. Cars can use the bridge for a fee, pedestrians and cyclists can use it free of charge. The bridge is illuminated at night. The lighting was switched to LEDs in 2006 .

In 2002 it was discovered that the large red sandstone bridge pillar on the Leigh Woods side was not built as a solid construction, as was assumed for many years, but has 12 vaulted chambers up to 11 m high inside.

In 2003, for the Ashton Court Festival and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, so many people loaded the bridge at the same time that it was closed to those events the following year, 2004.

As a symbol of the engineering achievements of the region around the city of Bristol, the last Concorde (Concorde 216) flew at low altitude over the bridge on November 26, 2003 before landing at Filton Airfield .

Jumps from the bridge

For a long time the bridge had a bad reputation as a suicidal bridge. In 1885, 22-year-old Sarah Ann Henley jumped from the bridge and survived because her wide women's skirts, which were customary at the time, slowed down the fall and acted like a parachute . She was over 80 years old. Even today the bridge is the site of suicides . 128 people jumped to their deaths between 1974 and 1993. In 1998–1999 barriers were therefore installed to prevent jumping from the bridge. In the following years the average number of annual suicides fell from 8 to 4. Large metal plaques with the Samaritans' telephone numbers are attached to the bridge towers.

On April 1, 1979, four club members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge to perform the first modern bungee jumps .


Although the two towers look similar, they are different from each other. The tower on the Clifton side has openings on both sides and the arch in the tower is more pointed on the Leigh Woods side. According to Brunel's plans, sphinx figures were to be placed on both towers, which was very popular at the time - but they were never installed.

The 26 m high tower on the Leigh Woods side stands on 34 m high building ground made of sandstone.

Web links

Commons : Clifton Suspension Bridge  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ( Memento from September 1, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  2. engineering-timelines: Clifton Suspension Bridge (English), accessed on December 8, 2008