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Suspension Rods

Working files created by consulting engineers, Howard Humphreys & Sons and their successors dating from the 1950s to the 1980s containing correspondence, notes and reports principally regarding work and investigations carried out on the suspension rods, the clevis plates, hanger straps and bolts. This series also contains project files of repairs and renewal to the suspension rods carried out in 2009-2011, 2014-2015 and 2020.

Component History

In 1877 two rods broke and in 1887 a further three rods in the centre of the bridge were damaged. While both breakages occurred during two gales, in 1887, consulting engineer, Thomas Airey attributed this damage to the prior weakening of the suspension rods due to the continuous fast driving of carriages over the bridge. This was used as evidence to be used for the passing of the 1888 Act, which enabled the Clifton Suspension Bridge Company to ban horses trotting on the bridge.
Under Airey's recommendation, around 100 top and bottom suspension rod bolts from the centre of the bridge were replaced with steel ones in 1891.
In July 1910 some of the steel bolts, attaching the ends of the suspension rods to the clevis plates were found to be corroded and accordingly, between 1910 and 1911, 103 of the 1 1/2 " bolts were replaced with Farnley iron bolts with case-hardened shanks.
In 1923 three suspension rods were tested: Leigh Woods north, nos. 10 and 24, and Leigh Woods south no. 7. The tests showed that there was a weakness in some of the welds used to construct the suspension rods.
In 1923 three suspension rods (short, intermediate and long) were removed from the Leigh Woods side for testing. In 1952, Howard Humphreys proposed to build on this by testing various components of the bridge. This included 12 suspension rods, 6 pairs of hanger straps, and 12 each of the lower and upper bolts. However, the full testing of all these parts was not completed.
In the 1970s a project was carried out to assess and renew the bolts holding the suspension rods to the hanger straps and clevis plates. In 1971 Howard Humphreys & Partners inspected 62 suspension rods; this confirmed that wear had taken place on the suspension rod eyes, the bolts, the clevis plates and the hanger straps. It was decided to replace the worn bolts with smaller diameter stainless steel studs. The worn suspension rod eyes were filled with weld metal then drilled and reamed out to accept an interferome fit PTFE coated bush. A finite element stress analysis of the modified suspension rods was undertaken. The clevis plates and hanger straps were fitted with two mild steel collars, then the gap between them and the worn hanger straps were filled with an epoxy resin material specially formulated for the job by Yarsley Research Laboratories Limited. The first onsite trials were undertaken in 1974 on two suspension rods, and following bolt corrosion problems, a second trial was undertaken using a different grade of stainless steel for the studs and using corrosion inhibitors. In 1977 the trial rods were inspected and found to be satisfactory. In May 1978 the replacement of the remaining 64 bolt assemblies was started and completed in the summer of 1980.
In April 2009 a crack was noticed in suspension rod 3 Leigh Woods North by a member of the public; this led to an investigation by consulting engineers Flint & Neill. Following recommendations from the investigation, ten suspension rods were replaced in 2010 - including the cracked suspension rod which has been displayed in the Visitor Centre since 2014 - and seven of the rods were refurbished. The rods which were replaced in 2010 were: CN4, LWS13, LWS34, LWN24, LWS8, LWN5, LWS16, LWS31, LWN3, LWN17. Further refurbishments of the suspension rods were carried out in 2014/2015. In 2020/2021 66 of the middle third of the suspension rods were removed for inspection and refurbishment as part of the completion of a 10-year refurbishment programme which involved removing, stripping, inspecting and then repainting the rods. The middle third section of the suspension rods the greatest fatigue issues due to their stiffness (the rods at the ends are able to flex more).

The Adrian Andrews Collection

  • GB 3493 AA
  • Collection
  • c. 1760s - 2016

• 20 CDs containing digitally-born and digital surrogate files of Adrian Andrews’ images and research, including drafts and proofs for the guidebook, Clifton Suspension Bridge, by Adrian Andrews and Michael Pascoe, (Broadcast Books, 2008) (c. 2000 – 2016)
• Two A3 portfolio folders containing original prints of various bridges (c.1770s – 1880s), copies and grangerized extracts from nineteenth-century publications (including The London Illustrated News, The Scotsman), photographic prints and negatives of Clifton Suspension Bridge and other bridges, photocopies of letters and papers from archives and photographic prints of exhibitions boards (2006).
• 7 lever arch folders and one folder containing prints, drafts for Andrews' publications and research notes concerning the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the history of bridge engineering in general and Kings Weston House, Bristol.
• One stereoscope and 209 stereoscopic photographs of bridges, including 84 images of Clifton Suspension Bridge (c.1850s – 1910).
• Three commemorative medallions: iron bridge at Coalbrook (opened 1779), London Bridge (opened 1831) and the Thames Tunnel (opened 1845).
• One hard drive containing approximately 32,500 images relating to Adrian Andrew’s historic research and design work.
• Collection of books and 7 framed prints relating to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the history of bridge construction and engineering.

Andrews, Adrian Harry Douglas

Reproductions of F. Gleadow's tracings and other historical reference drawings

In February 1972 Howard Humphreys & Sons, consulting engineers to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, prepared these reproductions of tracings made by F. Gleadow M.I.C.E in October 1903. Mr Gleadow acted as surveyor to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Company. His tracings were, in turn, made from original tracings lent by Messrs. Cochrane & Company of Woodside Iron Works, near Dudley, Staffordshire who were contractors to the bridge at its erection. This series consists of unannotated velograph tracings and paper diazotype copies of Gleadow's 1903 tracings as well as some photocopies of original 1860s plans.

Gleadow, Frederic, engineer

Four Seasons of Clifton Suspension Bridge

  • 149
  • Pièce
  • 2010

A framed four-season digital photograph montage of Clifton Suspension Bridge. Edition 1 of 200. Exhibited as part of the artist's series Bristol Through the Lens - part of the Bristol Festival of Photography in 2010 and subsequently shown at The New Room (2011) and St George's, Bristol (2012).

Beaumont, Sheona Dr

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