Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol



The Clifton Suspension Bridge crosses the Avon Gorge which is the border between Clifton in Bristol and Leigh Woods, North Somerset. It is a symbol and landmark of Bristol and a Grade I listed building of historic interest. 

In 1753, a stone bridge was suggested with the hope that a suspension bridge would be built later, but in 1831 a cast iron suspension bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was begun. Construction was stopped because of the Bristol Riots of 1831, and the bridge was only finished in 1864 by his colleagues in the Institution of Civil Engineers after Brunel’s death. The design was slightly revised and made higher, wider and with a sturdier deck.

The stone towers were originally intended to have an Egyptian design which was fashionable in the early 19th century, but they were modified at the time of completion due to costs. The towers still echo Egyptian monoliths, but it was planned to have sphinxes on the top of the towers which was also abandoned due to cost. It is 214.05 metres long, 9.45 metres wide and 75 metres above the high water level.

From 1155 until the industrial revolution, Bristol was one of the top three cities in the UK after London because it was a major sea port for centuries with imports of wine, grain and fish and later tobacco, tropical fruit and goods from the colonies. Today, motor vehicles, timber, fresh produce and petroleum products are imported among other things. Built around the River Avon with a coastline on the Severn Estuary it is located near Bath the popular spa resort.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is an elegant addition to the Avon Gorge and attracts tourists for many reasons. It looks beautiful when illuminated in the night. It was the site of the first modern bungee jumps in 1979, but today these are illegal. It is closed for several major festivals in the area because of the weight of the crowds that travel over the bridge.

The building of the Clifton Suspension Bridge was part of the television programme about The Worst Jobs in History. It was included in the section on The Worst Industrial Jobs in History. Today, it adds its remarkable beauty to the countryside. Guided tours that include information on the science, mathematics, design, technology and geography that were a part of the construction are available for tourists as well as school children.