The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge and linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is a distinctive landmark that is often used as a symbol of Bristol. It is a grade I listed building.
The idea of building a bridge across the Avon Gorge originated in 1754, 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 and Leigh Woods, both of which were barely populated at the time.
By the 1820s Vick’s bequest was nearing £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 suspension bridge to be built instead, and tolls levied to recoup the cost. In 1829 a competition was held to find a design for the bridge. The judge, Thomas Telford, rejected all designs and tried to insist on an expensive design of his own. A second competition held with new judges was won by Brunel’s design for a suspension bridge with fashionably Egyptian-influenced towers.
An attempt to build Brunel’s design in 1831 was stopped by the Bristol Riots, which severely dented commercial confidence in the city. Work started again in 1836, but 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.
Brunel died in 1859, without seeing the completion of the bridge. His colleagues in the Institution of Civil Engineers felt that completion of the Bridge would be a fitting memorial, and started to raise new funds. Work on the bridge was restarted in 1862, and was complete by 1864.
(Text from Wikipedia released under the GNU Free Documentation License.)
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