A Superb Engineering Example – The Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension BridgeOne of the U.K.’s famous bridges, landmarks and now visitor attractions, connects the Bristol areas of Clifton and Leigh Woods. This bridge, known as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, has not only stood the test of time but it is also an engineering marvel and a beautiful piece of work to admire. Perhaps it should, therefore, be no surprise, that the bridge was built by Isambard Brunel.

Interestingly though, also largely built bride Brunel the final bridge design was the result of a cooperative effort between one William Henry Barlow and a John Hawkshaw. However, it is fair to say that the final design by these two individuals was heavily influenced by Brunel’s earlier work. Brunel, in fact, saw the start of building work in 1831 but this phase of the building came to an end with the arrival of the Bristol riots.

The eventual new design proposed by Barlow and Hawkshaw differed from Brunel’s vision in a number of ways. The new design envisaged a wider and higher construction than in the original. The new design was also planned to be much stronger and to be based on triple chaining rather than Brunel’s proposal of double chains.

With the debtor Brunel in 1859, the final stage of work started on what was to become the eventual structure of the bridge. On completion and some access, the bridge was finally opened to the public in 1864.

Still standing and working today, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is in the hands of the trust (a charitable one) that bought a large number of shares from the earlier operator of the bridge, the Clifton Bridge company. This happened in 1949 and since then tolls have been charged to allow the bridge to be maintained and repaired. This need for repair, in fact, came about only when the level of traffic had increased substantially, and this occurred around 1921.

The appearance of the Clifton Suspension Bridge is well recognised throughout the UK with lots of imagery available on the web, in libraries and books written about it. It is a local icon for many, many, reasons. Picking just one of those, it is a fact that the first recognise bungee jump took place from this bridge.

Stepping forward into modern times, the bridge is a very large part of local Bristol life and is recognised as one of the architectural achievements in the country. As a result, the bridge has been awarded the status of a grade 1 listed building. It also has a modern visitor centre which guides the many millions who visited through the history and engineering of the bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge will amaze and delight both locals and visitors for many years to come. It is a salute to the great engineering legacy of British bridge building.

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