Resurfacing of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

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Resurfacing of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge 007People have stopped and stared at the Clifton Suspension Bridge for almost 150 years. Spanning across the gorge worn by the River Avon as it passes through Bristol, the spectacular bridge became an engineering landmark almost as soon as it was completed in 1864.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge was the first of many major commissions awarded to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and this one at the very tender age of 24. Unfortunately it was not completed until after his death, some 33 years after the foundations were constructed. That said the iconinc image of the bridge is seen to represent Bristol for the last 150 years. It is a Grade 1 listed building and is recognised around the world as a symbol of engineering excellence.

I have been commissioned to photograph the resurfacing of the bridge by Pure Asphalt, the specialist supplier of mastic asphalt which is part of the overall contract by Dean and Dyball for the current makeover. The Clifton Suspension Bridge provides a very important road link between north and south Bristol and as such work carries on around the clock from Friday night to the early hours of Monday morning spanning over a few weekends. Pure Asphalt work in shifts to get the job complete over two weekends. The construction consists of a wearing course of 25mm overlying a 10mm base layer incorporating a stainless steel mesh reinforcement.

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The existing bridge deck is largely timber, 250mm x 50mm transverse planking on top of chunky longitudinal 250mm x 125mm timbers spanning 5 metres. Stainless steel metal strips are fixed on top of the planking transversely covering the gaps which all in turn supports the new mastic asphalt paving installed by hand by Pure Asphalt. The baltic pine timbers are certainly hard and difficult for the guys to fix into when stapling the wire mesh reinforcement. The construction photographs here show a number of these procedures which were undertaken all weekend, 24 hours a day.

You can see photographs of another of Brunel masterpieces in my blog post a couple of years ago here with structural engineers abseiling down the Royal Albert Bridge across the Tamar in Plymouth Saltash

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