Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is located in Bristol England, and spans the beautiful Avon gorge. This bridge has become the symbol of Bristol much like the Eiffel tower has of Paris, and the Opera house has of Sydney. The story of the Clifton Suspension Bridge began in 1754 with the dream of a Bristol wine merchant who donated his life savings to build a bridge over the gorge. To decide on a suitable design for the bridge a competition was held. Thomas Telford, the leading civil architect of the time was the judge. Mr. Telford attempted to submit his own design; however the decision to declare himself the winner was overruled and a second competition was held. This time, contrary to the recommendation of Thomas Telford, 24 year old Isambard Kindom Brunel was declared the winner and appointed project engineer. Brunel’s design consisted of a suspension bridge that spanned the breath of the gorge. Telford disagreed with the concept of erecting a suspension bridge of this size in such an exposed position. His doubt was likely a result of the near destruction of his last project the Menai suspension bridge. Nonetheless Brunel was given his first commission, and construction on the bridge began. The foundation stone was laid in 1831, however the project was plagued with political problems and by 1843 the project was abandon with only the towers complete. Before the political and funding problems could be resolved Brunel died an unexpected death at just 53 years old and the project had to be finished with out him. The design of the bridge was altered after his death. The original scheme was far more ornate with stone lions and Egyptian inspired decoration, these were left off the engineers who finished the project likely because these decorations are horrible difficult to maintain and very expensive to build.
Also the original design was narrower than the final structure; the increased width has an interesting story. Apparently a local land owner wished to drive his carriage to Bristol without having to walk or negotiate the steep roads on the sides of the gorge, so he convinced the engineers, and paid for the necessary modifications to widen the design of the bridge. It is fortunate that he insisted on this widening because the bridge as it was originally designed would have never been able to cater to modern traffic demands. The bridge was finished in 1859 and opened to the public in 1864.
Before the bridge was built the slip way was the only way to cross the river without taking a long detour. The slip way was crossed at high tide by rowing a boat across, and at low tide by crossing on series gangplanks that were tied together. Both crossings were fairly dangerous and extremely inconvenient and therefore a bridge was a very popular idea.
The Clifton Suspension bridge is world famous and one of the essential things to see in the West Country. It is a beautiful piece of engineering that is lovely...