Brunel Collection: Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust (1830-present) papers

Scope and Content

The papers of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust on deposit with the University of Bristol Special Collections include letter books of the Committee (1830-1857), minute books of the Board of Directors and Committee of Trustees (1830-1900, 1919-1955), cash books (1830-1867), Registers of Shareholders (1862-1952) and Annual Reports (1861-1951). The majority of the material relates to the administration of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, but there are a certain number of working drawings, surveys and plans (1857-1939). There is also memorabilia relating to the 1864 opening ceremony.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust was founded by the Society of Merchant Venturers following the bequest of Willam Vick, a wine merchant who left a legacy for the construction of a bridge across the Avon Gorge. In 1829, the Merchant Venturers announced a competition with a prize of 100 guineas for the most viable bridge. All of the designs were rejected by Thomas Telford, the Trustees' appointed judge, but they were later forced to abandon Telford's extravagent design with great embarassment. Isambard Kingdom Brunel's design was reconsidered and adopted by the Trustees, though it ran over budget and was abandoned in 1832. For thirty years, only two posts stood as the bridge across the Gorge, with a basket that could move along an iron pole strung between them. Following Brunel's death, work on the bridge was recommenced as a tribute to the great engineer. In 1864, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened. The Trustees continue to maintain and own the Suspension Bridge to the present day, and they employ a Bridge Master and staff to this end.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all bona fide readers.

Acquisition Information

The documents were placed on permanent loan by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust in 1972. Further deposits were made in 2002 (DM 1929).

Other Finding Aids

Typescript catalogues are available in the University of Bristol Information Services Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to photocopy documents must be obtained from University of Bristol Information Services Special Collections.

Additional Information

The University of Bristol Information Services Special Collections holds further materials relating to the construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge; such as the original competition designs and notebooks. They also hold writings of materials still held by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust.Office record books covering 1831-1862 are also available at Bristol City Record Office.