Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Gorge, Bristol
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
begun 1836, completed 1864
ICE reference number
photo Jane Joyce
The 702ft span of this dramatic suspension bridge was the longest in Britain for 97 years after its construction. It takes road traffic across the River Avon at Bristol.
When he was only 25 years old, Brunel won a fiercely contested design competition held by the trustees of a legacy left by William Vick of Bristol for a crossing of the river at Clifton Gorge.
Work began on 21st June 1836 but the project was under-subscribed and two years later the money ran out in the midst of civil unrest in Bristol. Work ceased, leaving the completed towers and anchor tunnels in place. The huge wrought iron chains had also been made but they were now sold off and used in the construction of Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.
After Brunel's death in 1859, a group of leading engineers of the day worked together to realize his 1831 design as a memorial to him. Clifton Suspension Bridge finally opened to traffic on 8th December 1864.
Two monumental suspension towers of brick and stone support the chains, which are made of 7in by 1in wrought iron links, 24ft long.
Some of the links came from Brunel's Hungerford suspension bridge in London (1845, now demolished), his only other bridge of this type.
The bridge's deck is 31ft wide.
Amended designs by: John Hawkshaw and WH Barlow