You may not know this, but Clifton Suspension Bridge is actually private property. It has been owned and run for the last 70 years by a charitable trust; the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust. The Trust does not receive any income, other than that raised through the toll for the maintenance and upkeep of the bridge: in fact that is funded entirely by the toll you pay when you cross in your vehicle. Each time you make that drive, you are helping to care for one of Europe’s few remaining historic iron chain suspension bridges, and one of Bristol’s most loved landmarks – thank you!
Permission to build a bridge and to charge tolls to pay for its construction and upkeep was originally granted by an Act of Parliament in 1830. A similar legal framework is still in place today. The Clifton Suspension Bridge Act of 1952 sets out how the Bridge is managed and run.
Between 1861 and 1953, the Bridge was run by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Company, which was set up by engineers John Hawkshaw and William Henry Barlow to complete the construction of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s abandoned dream following his death in 1859.
In December 1952 all the company shareholders were bought out and the organisation became a Trust. By this time the aging iron bridge was having to cope with increasing motor traffic so the 1952 Act incorporated a toll to pay for the mounting costs of maintaining and operating Bristol’s unique landmark.
Today, it is the Trust’s mission to preserve the Bridge “in perpetuity, to the highest possible standards, for the utility of the public.” The Trust’s work is overseen by a group of twelve specially-appointed Trustees who work on a voluntary basis.
The Act of 1952 specifies that two Trustees representing Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council sit on the board. The other Trustees are chosen for their specialist skills, such as engineering, and must live within a 20 mile radius of the famous grade-1 listed structure. There is a longstanding tradition of at least one Trustee being an academic engineer from Bristol University. Trustees have included renowned civil engineers, Professor Robert M. Ferrier, Professor Andrew Robertson, and Sir Professor Alfred Grenville Pugsley. The Trustees appoint a Bridge Master who is paid to manage the day-to-day running of the Bridge. The current Bridge Master is Chartered Civil Engineer Trish Johnson, the first woman to be appointed to the role.
The Trust’s small team of staff and volunteers includes Bridge Attendants, who keep the bridge operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; the Visitor Services team who look after historical records and artefacts and promote knowledge, awareness and understanding of the Clifton Suspension Bridge; and an Admin team, who keep everything running smoothly behind the scenes.
The Visitor Centre is funded by your donations. The Visitor Centre Volunteers provide a warm welcome to visitors, locals and schools, whether crossing the bridge or keen to learn more about its history. Their role is to educate and inspire, using the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Isambard Kingdom Brunel as an engaging way to learning more about history and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEAM).
This year – 2023 – Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust is 70 years old. That Brunel’s original 159-year-old wrought iron historical monument can still cope with today’s traffic use is testament to the Trust’s careful stewardship over the years.
Who is responsible for the Operation and Maintenance of the Clifton Suspension Bridge?
The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust is a statutory body created by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Act 1952 and subsequent legislation. The Trust is responsible for the Operation and Maintenance of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Is the Clifton Suspension Bridge ever closed?
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is open 24/7, 365 days of the year. There are occasions where it is necessary for the Bridge to be closed. Planned closures are advised well in advance through the Press, website (www.cliftonbridge.org.uk) and social media. For any short notice closures due to adverse weather or emergencies these will be sent via social media channels and our website.
When did the Clifton Suspension Bridge Open?
The Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened as a toll bridge on December 8th, 1864.
Can I walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge?
Yes – The Clifton Suspension Bridge has a footpath on either side, allowing visitors to enjoy the views over the city and the river. There is a suggested one way system in place (look out for the signage).
Where can I find out more about the Clifton Suspension Bridge and its history?
We have a Visitor Centre located on the Leigh Woods (North Somerset) side of the Bridge (what 3 words “bride.swing.ever”). The Visitor Centre is open seven days a week (excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) 1000hrs -1700hrs. There are also free tours on Saturday and Sunday starting from the Clifton side of the Bridge starting at 1400hrs or 1500hrs depending upon time of year.
Collecting Your Feedback
Booking a tour or workshop experience? Following your visit, we’ll send you a link to an online survey we’re conducting to help us learn more about our audiences/visitors and how we can give you the best possible experience. The survey should take less than five minutes to complete.
Our non-profit organization relies on SurveyHero.com for creating surveys.
Registered Charity Number: 205658
By order of the Bridge Master:
Jobs & Volunteering
Since 1st January 1953 the Clifton Suspension Bridge has been managed and maintained by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust (CSBT), a not-for-profit charity. The Trust does not receive any local or national government funding but must raise monies to preserve the bridge in perpetuity to the highest possible standards. An Act of Parliament ensures that toll money collected from bridge crossings is used specifically to achieve this aim.
Keeping the Grade 1 Listed Clifton Suspension Bridge in top condition is a year-round task.
There’s so much more to discover about the history of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. By making a donation, you could help fund new exhibits and displays in our Visitor Centre and keep it free to all visitors.
Events & Hire
The Trustees and Bridge Master consider requests for events on the bridge on an individual basis, depending on their impact to bridge users and the ongoing maintenance of the bridge.
Photography and Drones
The Trustees and Bridge Master would consider requests for filming and events on the bridge on an individual basis, depending on their impact to bridge users and the ongoing maintenance of the bridge.
Meet our Trustees
Find out more about our trustees and their role in looking after Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust (CSBT) is committed to respecting your privacy.