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33 years in the making: Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge


An international symbol of the city of Bristol since its opening in 1864, Clifton Suspension Bridge was Brunel’s first major project. And it remains one of Britain’s best-loved – and most useful – landmarks.

However, its journey into being was not a smooth one. The funding, design and construction of the bridge were all fraught with difficulty, as Brunel and his contemporaries worked at the forefront of engineering in their time, trying and testing unknown materials, techniques and theories. In fact, it was not until five years after Brunel’s death, and an astonishing 33 years since construction began, that the completed bridge was finally unveiled and pronounced ‘a fitting monument to [a] late friend and colleague’.

Clifton Suspension Bridge Statistics

1. Distance between the towers: 702ft

2. Height of towers: 86ft

3. Road width: 31ft

4. Height above high tide: 245ft

5. Chains anchored 70ft in the rocks

6. Total building cost: £100,000

7. The bridge has 4,200 links, each weighing ½ ton and 2ft in length, 400 connecting pins, 162 suspension rods and 81 cross girders

8. The suspension rods vary in height from the tallest at 65ft to the shortest at 3ft

9. The main chains are 20" longer on a warm day than on a cold one, due to expansion

10. 4 million cars and ½ million pedestrians cross the bridge every year

Extracted from 150 Years of Clifton Suspension Bridge by Michael Pascoe

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