< PreviousChapter ToCNext >

Formation of a New Company and Completion of the Bridge, 1864

Several proposals for completing the bridge were made in Mr. Brunel’s lifetime, and he took every opportunity of furthering this object, which he had very much at heart. It was not, however, till about a year after his death that the superstructure of the bridge was actually commenced.

A company was formed in 1860 by some of the principal members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, ‘who had an interest in the work as completing a monument to their late friend Brunel, and at the same time removing a slur from the engineering talent of the country.’ [1] Mr. John Hawkshaw, F.R.S., and Mr. W. H. Barlow, F.R.S., were appointed the engineers, and Mr. Brunel’s old friend Captain Christopher Claxton, R.N., the secretary. The works were carried on with vigour; and the bridge was opened with much ceremony on December 8, 1864.

The chains were brought from the Hungerford Suspension Bridge, then in process of demolition. A description of the Hungerford bridge will be found in the note to this chapter. [2]

Although the Clifton bridge was not completed by Mr. Brunel, his connection with it forms a very important passage in the history of his life. Doubtless, if he had never heard of the proposed competition in 1829, or if he had been one of the disappointed competitors, he would have found some other opportunity of making a name in his profession; but, as a matter of fact, the Clifton bridge competition did give him the opportunity he desired, and all his subsequent success was traced by him to this victory, which he fought hard for, and gained only by persevering struggles. He never forgot the debt he owed to Bristol, and to the friends who helped him there; and he would have greatly rejoiced to see the completion of his earliest and favourite work.

[1] Speech of the Chairman, the late Captain Mark Huish, at the first general meeting, August 2, 1861.

[2] Some re-arrangement of Mr. Brunel’s design was rendered necessary in order to adapt the Hungerford bridge chains to the Clifton bridge, and there are three chains instead of two, as in Mr. Brunel’s design. The platform is stiffened by wrought-iron girders instead of by timber trussing, and the whole bridge is stiffened transversely by the wrought-iron girders at the sides, which are connected throughout by diagonal bracing. The clear width of the bridge is 30 feet, 5 feet less than originally intended. It should be added, that no attempt has been made to complete the towers according to Mr. Brunel’s architectural designs.

< PreviousChapter ToCNext >