On the 8th of December 2014, the magnificent Clifton Suspension bridge will be 150 years old. To mark the occasion, what better way than a massive fireworks display exactly 150 years after magnesium flares were lit to announce to the world that it was open for business – just before being blown out by the high winds!!
Spanning 702 feet and 3 inches of the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, the bridge’s total length is 1352 feet and forms part of the B3129 road.
The bridge was built with the initial design from Isambard Kingdom Brunel who sadly died before the construction was finished and it was amended by engineers William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw,
In the past it earned the name “suicide bridge” thanks to the number of people who threw themselves off the bridge before barriers were erected to prevent people from doing so. It became such an issue that the local government erected a plaque with the Samaritans phone number.
In April 1979 one of the first bungee jumps was performed from the 1500 ton structure by the University of Oxfords dangerous sports club but one of the luckiest people to have crossed the bridge was one Sarah Ann Henley, who in 1885 fell off the bridge but due to the heavily layered dress and petticoats she was wearing, she floated down the 245 foot drop with her dress acting as a parachute saving her from certain death. Miss Henley went on to have a full and rich life into her 80’s seemingly no worse for the mishap.
Not so lucky was flying officer John Greenwood who in 1957 attempted to fly an R.A.F Vampire jet under the bridge while performing a barrel roll before crashing into nearby Leigh woods killing himself and causing a landslide over the Bristol to Portishead Railway line. Since this time, only one other recorded aircraft has successfully flown under the bridge, which was a police search helicopter.
Although there is a fee for vehicles crossing the bridge, there is still an act in place to charge 5p for pedestrians and cyclists, but this has never been levied.
The massive fireworks planned won’t be the first display the bridge has seen. Back in 2006, the Clifton Suspension Bridge it saw its biggest display to date when it was the centre piece for the Brunel 200 weekend marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose designs inspired William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw.
The bridge is very close to the hearts of those living in the region and the celebrations will bring this community together to reflect on what an absolutely massive achievement it was to get the bridge across the huge expanse that is the gorge and the waterways close to Bristol.
In addition to the fireworks on the 7th December 2014 there will be a procession and a small re-enactment of the celebrations which took place 150 years ago, the North Somerset Community Brass Band and the parade will end at the newly completed Suspension Bridge Visitors Centre which was created thanks to National Lottery Funding.
Lets hope some of the visitors are around for the 200th anniversary of this majestic, Grade I listed structure.
Watch this space for more pyro news.
UPDATE – CHECK OUT THE LINKS BELOW 🙂