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Bristol Travel Guide

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a famous landmark spanning the beautiful Avon Gorge, and the symbol of the city of Bristol.

The bridge that links Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, was dreamt up by a bristolian merchant, William Vick, who left £1,000 invested to built a stone bridge, but the estimation to built the bridge would cost ten times that amount. After an Act of Parliament a competition was held to find the design for the bridge, being the judge Thomas Telford who rejected all designs and trying to insist in his own design, but it was a very expensive and was refused. In 1830 a second competition was held with new judges, and won Isambard Kingdom Brunel design for a suspension bridge with fashionably Egyptian-influenced towers.

In 1831 the foundation stone was laid but work did not start until 1836 due to political and financial difficulties. The towers were originally intended to be decorated in an Egyptian style and crowned with sphinxes but these were omitted due to cost. The project was abandoned in 1845 because of lack of money and the towers stood in splendid isolation for many years and were threatened with demolition. They were completed in 1843.

The bridge was designed for light horse drawn traffic but is actually wider than intended. A local landowner paid for modifications so that he could drive his carriage to Bristol without having to walk. The original design would not have been wide enough for today’s traffic. 11-12,000 motor vehicles now cross the bridge every day with a speed limit of 25 mph.

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