Design Icons: The Clifdon Suspension Bridge


The Clifton Suspension Bridge – part construction marvel, part work of art – took an incredible 111 years to complete from the idea first being proposed in 1753 through to its eventual opening in 1864.

In this time five different monarchs sat on the throne and engineering legend Isambard Kingdom Brunel died in 1859 without ever seeing the finished masterpiece he described as “my first child, my darling”.

Kingdom BrunelWork took so long to complete that, when finally opened, it was already surplus to requirements. It is neither the oldest, longest, nor highest suspension bridge in the world, yet it remains a monument to civic pride and one of the wonders of the industrial age.

Its 400m deck, linking Bristol and Somerset, hangs 75m above the River Avon from three independent wrought iron chains of 4,200 links so well constructed that only one has ever been replaced (one link was removed so scientists could carry out stress tests).

The landmark bridge has been a magnet for artists and photographers as well as providing a backdrop for many significant cultural events.

It was the site of the first modern bungee jump in 1979 and the last time Concorde took to the skies was for a flyover of the bridge before landing at nearby Filton Aerodrome. This beautiful Victorian superstar continues to be an icon of the internet era.

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