Tower at the Leigh Woods end of the bridge
For me, a trip to Bristol was always going to be a pilgrimage to see the opus of a collective noun of Brunels. On discussion with my friends, we’ve decided the correct collective noun for Brunels is a “Kingdom”, although I did like a “rivetation” and the other alternatives a “chain” or a “vessel”. Bristol is one locus of activity for the Kingdom.
In 1831, Isambard Brunel’s design for the Clifton Suspension Bridge won the competition for a bridge to span the Avon gorge. Construction began the same year but was stopped by the Bristol riots, work resumed in 1836, the main contractors went bankrupt in 1837. By 1843 funds were exhausted and as the work had exceeded the time limit stated in the Act, all work stopped. In 1851, the ironwork was sold and used to build the Brunel-designed Royal Albert railway bridge between Plymouth and Saltash. Brunell died in 1854, the Institution of Civil Engineers felt that completion of the Bridge would be a fitting memorial and started raising funds.
The bridge seen from the Bristol Zoo Gardens, there’s an observation platform in the cliff face in the foreground
A slightly revised design was made by William Henry Barlow and Sir John Hawkshaw, with a wider, higher and sturdier deck, with triple chains instead of double. Construction restarted in 1862 and was completed in 1864. The Latin inscription (The road becomes barely suspended) refers to the public amazement to the lightness of the bridge.