The Hidden Bridge
The Hidden Bridge
The visible ingenuity around the bridge is quite inspiring - but hidden away out of site are even more marvels. The pier on the Leigh woods side gives a good idea how.
The pier on the Leigh woods side stands on a 33 metre red sandstone abutment. For a hundred and fifty years it was believed the support was solid. But amazingly in 2002 it was discovered the abutment was actually hollow - made up of a sequence of gigantic chambers.
There are 12 chambers in all, on two levels - which are linked together by tiny shafts just large enough for a man to crawl through. The biggest chambers at 10 metres or 35 ft - are almost three double-decker buses high.
The chambers have been effectively sealed since the bridge was built. No animals, bats, mice not even spiders have taken up residence, but, in several, huge stalactites up to 5 metres long can be found hanging in the dark silence.
High above - nestled under the roof of the two towers, sit the saddles. These gigantic fixtures join the chains that are anchored in the ground, to the chains that sweep across the gorge. The saddles sit on heavy duty rollers which absorb the movements of the bridge shifting under the weight of traffic, as well as the natural expansion caused by changes in the temperature.
Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust
The chains are firmly anchored deep underground to keep the bridge stable. They are bolted 17 metres below ground level into the rock of the gorge. The chains are about as deep underground as the visible chains are from the ground to the top of the pier. The tunnels spread out at the bottom where the anchors stretch out to the sides and are bricked in place - so there's no way they can come out. Just to be sure they were reinforced, with concrete in 1925!