Star.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar grey.png

Clifton Suspension Bridge

From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Location Map ( geo)
Clifton Suspension Bridge.jpg
Cameraicon.png View gallery (10)
From:  Leigh Woods, Bristol
To:  Clifton, Bristol
Gloucestershire • Somerset
Highway Authority
Opening Date
Additional Information
List No:  1205734  (Grade I)
Bridge Type:  Suspension Bridge
Length:  412m (1351 ft 8 in)
Max Span:  214.05m (702 ft 3 in)
Clearance:  75m (246 ft 1 in)
Engineer:  Isambard Kingdom Brunel
On road(s)
The bridge from Leigh Woods

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It carries the B3129 across the Avon Gorge with the A4 Portway and Portishead rail line also running under it. The bridge has a machine operated toll of £1.00 which must be paid using by contactless payment card or a special bridge card, and a speed limit of 20 mph. The Portway below the bridge runs in a tunnel to protect it from falling rocks in this narrow section of the Avon Gorge.

Before the bridge was built, there was a competition to design it. The main judge for the competition was Thomas Telford. Telford rejected all of the projected designs including eventual winner Brunel. The board then asked him to come up with his own design, which he did, but it was was rejected by the Bristol board. After some further discussions and new judges, the Brunel design from a second competition was chosen. The bridge deck sits approximately 75m above the River Avon, and is suspended by second-hand chains. These came from the former Hungerford Bridge in London, also designed by Brunel, for the bargain price of £5,000, and seem to have fitted with only minor modifications. The Hungerford Bridge had been designed later, but was already obsolete and due for demolition before his Clifton masterpiece was completed.

The bridge itself is a typical Suspension Bridge, albeit perhaps somewhat higher above the water level than is normal. The pillars though are in a Egyptian style, and were originally intended to be surmounted by Sphinxes. The first sods were cut in 1831 and it then took 33 years to build - there were some problems! The Bristol Riots caused some of the delay, while monetary problems caused the rest. The bridge was finished in 1864, five years after the death of Brunel, and completed thanks to fresh fundraising to complete the bridge as a monument to the great engineer. Today, the bridge is one of Bristol's main tourist attractions whilst still being a functioning bridge.

Tower Vaults

In 2002 it was discovered that the pediments below the towers were actually hollow, and contain a series of huge vaulted chambers. It had previously been considered that the spaces were full of rubble. Whilst these chambers were discovered, they were also sealed, because Brunel never imagined that anyone would desire to enter them in the future. In August 2016 two at the Leigh Woods end were opened to the public for guided tours.


Clifton Suspension Bridge
Related Pictures
View gallery (10)
Looking down Bridge Valley Road - Geograph - 174164.jpgB3129 Clifton Bridge -1 - Coppermine - 1583.jpgClifton Suspension Bridge.jpgA4 Portway - Coppermine - 16161.JPGClifton Suspension Bridge 2013.jpg
Crossings of the River Avon (Bristol & Bath)
AvonJoyces Pool Bridge • St John's Bridge • Malmesbury Bypass Bridge • Cow Bridge • M4 Viaduct • Christian Malford Bridge • Chippenham Bypass Bridge • Bath Road Bridge • Challymead Bridge • Staverton Bridge • Town Bridge (Bradford-on-Avon) • Stokeford Bridge • Bathampton Bridge • Batheaston Bypass Bridge • Cleveland Bridge • Pulteney Bridge • North Parade Bridge • Churchill (Southgate) Bridge • Midland Bridge • Victoria Bridge • Windsor Bridge • Destructor Bridge • Newbridge • Avon Bridge (Keynsham) • A4174 Bridge • Avon Bridge (Bristol) • Bath Bridge • Bedminster Bridge • Avon Bridge (Cumberland Basin) • Clifton Suspension Bridge • Avonmouth Bridge
Floating HarbourSwivel Bridge • Plimsoll Bridge

SABRE - The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts
Home - Discuss - Digest - Discover - Help