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I. K. Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge


Isambard Kingdom Brunel' Clifton Suspension Bridge has become the symbol of South West England's biggest city.

Bristol means “bridging point”, so it is fitting that its most recognized landmark is Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. Although the name refers to a much older bridge, Brunel's now famous creation is often used as the symbol of the city.


Isambard Kingdom Brunel (9 April 1806 – 15 September 1859)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a technological innovator who exemplifies the enormous achievements of the Victorian age. Named as the second greatest Briton in a BBC poll, Brunel’s impressive list of achievements includes the creation of the Great Weston Railway, the design of the ships SS Great Britain, Great Western and Great Eastern and the creation of numerous bridges and tunnels. However, the structure he is best remembered for a project that spanned his whole career, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

History Of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge

Building a connection across the Avon Gorge, was a far fetched, but desirable idea. It was first taken seriously in 1753 after a merchant named William Vick bequeathed £1000 for the construction of a stone bridge across the gorge. Almost 80 years later, in 1829, the first competition to design the bridge was held. The judge, Thomas Telford, decided that his own design was superior to all the entrants, so in 1831 a less biased second competition was held. Isambard Kingdom Brunel won this contest, and his first major commission at the age of 24.

By 1832 the bridge’s foundation stone was laid. However, the Bristol Riots later that year, followed by financial and political difficulties, meant that construction would take far longer than planned. Brunel’s masterpiece wasn’t completed until 1864, five years after his death.

Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge - Dimensions

- Total length, anchorage-to-anchorage – 1,352 ft (414 m)
- Total span, center-to-center of piers – 702 ft (214 m)
- Overall width – 31 ft (9.5m)
- Width, centre to centre of chains – 20 ft (6.1 m)
- Height (deck level above high water) – 245 ft (76 m)
- Height of piers, including capping – 86 ft (26.2 m)
- Height of saddles – 73 ft (22.3 m)
- Dip of chains – 70 ft (21.3 m)

Statistics taken from the Clifton Suspension Bridge's official website.

Today the Clifton Suspension Bridge, visible from all over Bristol, is considered to be one of the world’s greatest bridges. Brunel’s crowning achievement, has risen to meet the demands of the modern world (as four million vehicles pay to cross everyday), and has stood the test of time to become an icon of the Victorian Age.