“My first child, my darling”- Brunel.
Six Suspension Stories on the eve of the bridge’s 150th birthday:
1. Brunel referred to the Clifton Suspension Bridge as his ‘first child’. Although sadly he never got to see his labour of love come to full fruition as he died 5 years before the bridge’s completion in 1864.
2. In his design Brunel planned for the abutment towers to be adorned with – the then fashionable – Egyptian sphinxes. (I think it would have been great, just imagine the keepers of the gate – answer a riddle and avoid the toll?)
3. In 1855 twenty two year old Sarah Ann Henley fell off the bridge, however her billowing skirts acted as a parachute and saved her.
4. The world’s first ever bungee jump took place off the suspension bridge in 1979 by two members of Oxford University Dangerous Sport Club. The two were then subsequently arrested.
5. The Leigh Woods side of the bridge is 3ft lower than the Clifton side in order to make it look level.
(The two towers are also non identical, but I’ll let you play spot the difference.)
6. When it was finished it was the world’s longest single span bridge at 720ft long.
While it no longer holds this record objectively it is an incredible piece of architecture and engineering. One of – if not THE – most iconic features of Bristol. I never thought I’d say this to an inanimate object…
Happy Birthday Clifton Suspension Bridge!