The Clifton Suspension Bridge is the symbol of the city of Bristol. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel he never lived to see it completed, Brunel died prematurely aged 53 yrs in 1859, and the Bridge was completed as his memorial and finally opened in 1864.
Clifton Suspension Bridge is really something. I have a chronic fear of heights and had to hold my daughter's hand when we drove across it. She and her father then parked and walked back over it, leaving me in the car, while they took photos.
The bridge crosses the Avon linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, England. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, though he did not live to see its completion. It was built 1862-64. It has a span of 600 feet, and the original plan was to have Egyptian style towers at either end, but instead the rock was left in its natural state.
It is a toll bridge.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is the top sight for visitors in Bristol. For me it’s like the Golden Gate for San Francisco. High over the Avon River, at 75meters, it spans the Avon Gorge. It’s a beautiful bridge that becomes more beautiful during the night when it’s all lit up. It was designed by the famous engineer Isambard Brunel in 1830 (he also designed the SS Great Britain boat and the train station). The bridge started to built in 1836 but Brunel died in 1859. The bridge finally finished 5 years later in 1864. The height of towers is 26meters above deck while the span is 214 meters.
We had some nice views of the bridge from the Observation Hill while we were watching the sunset. At the same moment we noticed many children playing on the slide (the water on it was turned into ice). Extreme sports!...
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is the Bristolian icon, so I suppose my Bristol page isn’t complete without something about it. Bristol is a city of many bridges, of hugely varying interest, beauty and utility and whereas the suspension bridge rates high for the first two criteria it is actually of very little practical value, which accounts for the extremely long story of it’s construction: over a hundred years elapsing between the idea of spanning the Avon Gorge and it’s opening. Basically, it doesn’t really go anywhere important.
After a local merchant made a bequest for the constuction of the bridge in the eighteenth century nothing much happened until 1830 when a competition was announced for designs for a bridge. After a great deal of finagling Brunel suceeded in getting the commission. Work was started but after constructing the abutments and towers the money ran out: the structure languished in this state for a couple of decades before, upon IKB's untimely death, the idea of completing the bridge as a memorial was conceived. It's not quite Brunel's original design: originally the Egyptianesque towers were to be adorned with sphinxes and cast-iron plaques celebrating the manufacturing arts, the roadway is wider than originally conceived and the suspension chains and saddles were recycled from Brunel's Hungerford footbridge over the Thames near Charing Cross. (the saddles were an innovative feature actually devised by Isembard's father Marc, who in many ways is a more important figure in the history of technology that his son)
The bridge is simply an awesome piece of engineering. Based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it was completed in 1864. It spans more than 200m. On the side away from Bristol, there is a portakabin with a little (free) museum examining the history of the bridge.
A suspension bridge that spans the Avon Gorge resting on high cliffs above the muddy waters is definitely one of the most known landmarks of Bristol and a great example of 19th century engineering. The bridge was designed by Islambard Brunel who won the design competition that was held in 1829, but did not live long enough to see it completed.
The bridge is impressive seen from the side and so are the impressive views that can be seen when you walk across the bridge. To cross the bridge cars have to pay a small fee while pedestrians go for free. There is a Visitor's Centre nearby that houses and exhibition about the bridge's history.
The Bridge is also known as a suicide bridge. Between 1974 and 1993, 127 people fell to their deaths from the bridge. Now fences are really high, there are cameras everywhere and in order to fit into the age of mobile phones old SOS phone lines are replaced by plaques displaying the number of Samaritan's care that is waiting for your call day and night. So, if you have suicidal tendencies you better find some other high point in Bristol ;)
The Clifotn Suspension Bridge and the observatory with the camera obscura are already two sights worth a visit. But the third one at this place is somewhat hidden. In the observatory, you will also find the entrance to a natural cave, St. Vincent's cave. Via a long and tight staircase, you can ascend to this cave and have a marvelous look onto the Avon gorge. Once, there was a chapel on this place, but this fell into the gorge due to errosion. The cave itself looks somewhat shabby, unfortunately many tourists have left traces in from of "I was here" - writings and rubbish. The main point is the view!
Entrance fee is one pound (as far as I can remember) and has to be paid at the same desk as the fee for the camera obscura. The desk seemed somewhat strange to me without any kind of decoration and a friendly cashier watching TV. Please be aware, that due to the staircase, this place is surely not suitable for children and people who have difficulties to walk. There is even an age restriction for children, but as I had the required age, I can't remember that.
This camera obscura is the only one open to the public in England. It was built into an old windmill which ceased operations in 1777. After the windmill was redesigned into an observatory, the camera obscura was installed in 1829.
After paying a small entry fee (I think it was 2,00 pounds), you have to climb up the stairs up to the "dark chamber". A lens, installed on the roof, projects the bridge and the Avon gorge onto the vaulted table in the middle of the room. As you may assume, it is dark inside, so be careful when you enter. There is no guide or operator inside - you have to move the device on your own to see all the surrounding areas.
The entrance to a natural cave is also located in the same building. I think that the entrance fee for that, which you have to pay at the same desk, was 1,00 pound.
In my opinion, both were worth a visit - these two attractions enable you to see the beautiful landscape in a different way.
Bristol is perhaps not the most beautiful city, but this does not mean that it doesn't have beautiful city- or landscapes. If you walk along the right bank or River Avon, you will come to the Avon Gorge. Look at those big cliffs and enjoy the sight for a moment (For this, you have to ignore the traffic of hotwell road).
Here, you will also find the lower station of Clifton Rocks railway, a funicular railway which led from Clifton down to Hotwell Road. It was openmed in 1893, but closed again in 1934. After it served as air raid shelter as well as office for the BBC and airline BOAC during WWII, it was abandoned. There is still a group of people interested in restoring this funicular railway, but chances seem to be low to see it ever operating again.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel had a great influence on Bristol by designing Bristol's new train terminal, two steamships and the suspension bridge in Clifton. There were already plans to build a bridge over this place of the Avon Gorge in 1754. However, costs, riots, long discussions and further discomfort led to a delay until 1830, when a design presendet by Brunel won the race. One reason for that was probably the use of egyption-styled towers - at a time where egyptology became famous and popular. However, this egyptian influence is not really obvious today as the sphinxes were not placed on top of the towers due to budget reasons. After funds ran out in 1843, further construction was stopped and the material was used to build another Brunel-designed bridge in Plymouth. Brunel died in 1859 and it was decided to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge as a kind of monument for Brunel. The chains from Hungerfor Suspension Bridge (a Brunel-designed bridge in London which was demolished in 1860) were purchased and further funds were raised. In 1864, the bridge was finished and opened for public. Pedestrian and cyclists can cross the bridge for free, but a small fee must be paid by road vehicles.
Do not miss to visit the vistor's center or have a look from spectator's park (see main picture). Today, the bridge is one of Bristol's best known monuments, although it is a little far away from the city center. The beautiful landscape of the Avon Gorge, two small attractions close to the Bridge (a natural cave and a camera obscura) and the fancy district of Clifton makes it an interesting, but still not crowded place. If you like to walk, ascend/descend via a small path which you will find at the southern part of the bridge. It will lead you to the eastern bank of river Avon. Down there, there's a lot of traffic, but a nice view on the Avon Gorge. You will find the path leading down from the small terrace or leading up ... see below.
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