Is there a more iconic sight in Bristol than Clifton Suspension Bridge? Not including Turbo Island, of course. We’ve all seen it. Many of us have driven or walked across it. But have you ever seen its secret hidden vaults?
Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and once called his “first child, my darling”, has stood proud in Bristol since 1864. It was only 20 years ago, however, that a builder accidentally discovered 12 secret vaults hidden beneath it. He had been carrying out repairs on the bridge around the Millennium when he stumbled across them – thought to be one of the earliest elements of the bridge built in 1831, but soon sealed off when building plans changed.
Many suspected for a long time that these hidden vaults existed. But no one expected them to be quite as big as they are. The largest chamber is said to be as tall as three double-decker buses on top of each other. And they are quite a sight to behold too. The walls are made of lime mortar, while stalagmites and stalactites grow from above and below.
Now the public will have their first chance to see inside with Hard Hat Tours of two of the 12 vaulted chambers. During the tour, visitors will learn about the construction – as well as the strange discovery – of these red brick abutments that support the bridge. All this before donning a hard hat and high-vis jacket to explore the chambers.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to head down until next year. Tickets for public tours are available only from Easter to October each year. There are private tours to book too, for up to a maximum of 15 people. To learn more about Clifton Suspension Bridge and its Hard Hat Tours head here.