How was the bridge built?

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How was the bridge built?

Folklore says that a the first rope across the gorge was taken by kite, or even by bow and arrow! The simplest and much more likely event was that common hemp ropes were taken down the side of the gorge, across the river by boat and pulled up the other side. These ropes were used to haul six wire cables across the Gorge, which were planked across and bound with iron hoops, making a footway.

Two more cables were added to make handrails - and at head height there was another cable, along which ran a 'traveller', a light frame on wheels that carried each link of the chain out to the centre.

As well as being a walkway the wire bridge acted as staging on which the chain rested as new links were added. The temporary bridge was anchored by ropes to the rocks below to provide stability in winds.

When the first chain was complete the second was built on top, then the third. With the chains complete vertical suspension rods were fastened to the chains by the bolts that linked the chains together.

Two huge girders run the full length of the Bridge, visible to us today as the division between the footway and the road. Two long-jibbed cranes (one on each side) were used to move 5 metre long sections of the girders into place where they could be attached to the suspension rods.

Cross girders underneath formed a rigid structure. The floor of the roadway was then put in place using Baltic pine timber sleepers.


A How The Bridge Was Built by Clifton Suspension Bridge on Vimeo.


In 1867 William Barlow who was one of the contracting engineers for the completion of the Bridge 1862-64, reported to the Institution of Civil Engineers that there had been two deaths during construction. This is the only documented record of which we are aware.



The chains and suspension rods are made of wrought iron.

The piers (towers) are built principally of local Pennant stone. The Leigh Woods (south) pier stands on an abutment of red sandstone. The Bridge deck is made of timber sleepers, 5 inches (12 cm) thick overlaid by planking 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Since 1897 the deck has been covered with asphalt.



Total length, anchorage to anchorage 1,352 ft (414 m)
Total span, centre to centre of piers 702 ft (214 m)
Overall width 31 ft (9.5m)
Width, centre to centre of chains 20 ft (6.1 m)
Height (deck level above high water) 245 ft (76 m)
Height of piers, including capping 86 ft (26.2 m)
Height of saddles 73 ft (22.3 m)
Dip of chains 70 ft (21.3 m)

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