Preserving an Engineering Icon: Clifton Suspension Bridge to undergo Major Refurbishment

engineering careers  Preserving an Engineering Icon: Clifton Suspension Bridge to undergo Major Refurbishment

The Grade I listed Clifton Suspension Bridge, the iconic bridge that spans the River Avon in Bristol, is set to embark on a significant two-year refurbishment project starting April 2024.

The multi-million-pound endeavour aims to protect the bridge’s historic wrought iron chains and update its lighting system, ensuring the longevity and sustainability of this remarkable structure.

History and Significance of Clifton Suspension Bridge

Designed by the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Clifton Suspension Bridge took 33 years to complete and was officially opened in 1864. It is one of the most famous monuments to Brunel’s engineering prowess and has become an iconic symbol of Bristol.

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Interestingly, many of the bridge’s chain links, now 180 years old, were initially manufactured for Brunel’s Hungerford Footbridge in London, which opened in 1845. When the Hungerford Footbridge was demolished to make way for the Charing Cross Railway Bridge, engineer John Hawkshaw repurposed the chains to complete the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Details of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Refurbishment Project

The refurbishment project, awarded to engineering firm Taziker, will focus on protecting the bridge’s ironwork from corrosion caused by the salty air of the River Avon’s marine environment.

The process involves:

  • Applying a protective paint system across the chains, parapet girder latticework, and stanchions
  • Hand-painting the chains to ensure even coverage of three coats
  • Using specially designed tools to coat the gaps between chain links properly
  • Removing loose paint sections and treating surface corrosion before applying new coats

This approach is expected to keep the ironwork in top condition for at least 20-25 years.

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As part of the refurbishment, the existing lighting system, which has reached the end of its working life, will be replaced with an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative. This follows a consultation and planning process to ensure the new lighting minimizes light pollution,

The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, the charity responsible for maintaining and managing the bridge since 1953, has funded the refurbishment project by collecting bridge tolls. The Trust receives no funding from local or national government; the support of bridge users has been crucial in financing this vital conservation work.

The refurbishment project will be critical to preserving an important piece of our shared engineering heritage. By safeguarding Brunel’s original design features, this once-in-a-lifetime project ensures that the bridge will continue to inspire and serve future generations.

Work is set to commence in April 2024, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust has invited the public to follow the progress of this significant conservation effort through regular updates on their website and social media channels.


  • Clifton Suspension Bridge to undergo significant refurbishment starting April 2024
  • The two-year project aims to protect historic ironwork and update the lighting system
  • 180-year-old chain links to be hand-painted using specialized tools
  • Environmentally friendly lighting to replace outdated system
  • Funded entirely by bridge tolls, project led by Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust
  • Engineering contractor Taziker awarded refurbishment contract