Term has begun at a fast and furious pace for our year 11 historians as they visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge on only the third day of the new term. The visit is part of the new GCSE History course whereby students have to undertake a site study. At the end of year 10 the students began investigating the bridge, finding out when it was built, why it was built, how the uses of the bridge have changed over time and what impact it has had on the lives of the people of Bristol. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the most iconic feats of engineering from the Victorian Age and is most commonly associated with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The bridge was built on the bequest of a wine merchant named William Vick who wanted to improve the trade links in Bristol across the Avon Gorge. However, due to many obstacles including riots and financial challenges it took over thirty years for the bridge to be completed and its original designer Brunel, died before its completion. In more recent times the bridge has had people bungee jump off it and had another iconic British feat of engineering fly over it, Concord.
In very wet conditions the students were fantastic, as we arrived at the bridge the heavens opened and we had a rather wet trudge across it to the visitor centre. The staff at the visitor’s centre were fantastic and adapted amazingly to enhance the students’ knowledge and understanding of the bridge in preparation for their GCSE. Students also discovered a number of interesting facts about the bridge including how they keep the road open in the winter as using grit would destroy the iron structure, and that in only 2002 they discovered that the abutments for the bridge were not solid concrete structures as previously thought. We would like to give a special thanks to the students and the team at Clifton Bridge.