Clifton Suspension Bridge

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The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge, and linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, England. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is a landmark that is used as a symbol of Bristol. It is a grade I listed building.[2]



The idea of building a bridge across the Avon Gorge originated in 1753, with a bequest in the will of Bristolian merchant William Vick, who left £1,000 invested with instructions that when the interest had accumulated to £10,000, it should be used for the purpose of building a stone bridge between Clifton Down (which was in Gloucestershire, outside the City of Bristol, until the 1830s) and Leigh Woods in Somerset.[3]

By 1829, Vick's bequest had reached £8,000, but it was estimated that a stone bridge would cost over ten times that amount. An Act of Parliament was passed to allow a wrought iron suspension bridge to be built instead, and tolls levied to recoup the cost. A competition was held to find a design for the bridge; the judge, Thomas Telford, rejected all designs, and tried to insist on a design of his own, a suspension bridge supported on tall Gothic towers.[3] Telford claimed that no suspension bridge could exceed the 577 foot (176 metre) span of his own Menai Suspension Bridge. A second competition, held with new judges, was won by Brunel's design on 16 March 1831, for a suspension bridge with fashionably Egyptian-influenced towers.[3]

An attempt to build Brunel's design in 1831 was stopped by the Bristol Riots, which severely dented commercial confidence in Bristol. Work was not started again until 1836, and thereafter the capital from Vick's bequest and subsequent investment proved woefully inadequate. By 1843, the towers had been built in unfinished stone, but funds were exhausted. In 1851, the ironwork was sold and used to build the Brunel-designed Royal Albert Bridge on the railway between Plymouth and Saltash.

Coordinates: 51°27′18″N 2°37′40″W / 51.4549°N 2.6279°W / 51.4549; -2.6279

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