The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the new Heritage & Learning Centre, it was announced today. The project aims to provide improved information and activities for the estimated 500,000 people currently visiting the bridge each year.
Development funding of £36,400 has also been awarded to help the Trust progress their plans to apply for a full grant later in the year.
A new building, located within the bridge maintenance yard, is proposed to replace the temporary Visitor Centre that has provided a welcome but limited service for 6 years. It will give space for more varied exhibits and activities, and provide a new learning area for schools and other groups, as well as social and educational gatherings and lectures. Opened in 1864, the Suspension Bridge is of great historical importance. Its status as a Grade 1 Listed Building helps to ensure its original details and materials are preserved, which adds to the great interest the bridge holds for many people.
Says Visitor Services Manager Mike Rowland: “We plan to create a place for visitors to learn and deepen their appreciation of Clifton Suspension Bridge. We want to encourage local visitors, tourists, school children and engineering scholars to discover Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the Victorian engineer who designed the bridge – as well as his legacy and the context of what is regarded as one of his greatest creations.
“The new centre will provide lots of opportunities for visitors of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in the creation of displays about Bristol’s icon and its designer.
“During the past four years the existing temporary facility has welcomed an average of 57,000 visitors annually – including tourists from more than 100 countries – but we are keen to encourage more of the people who come to look at the bridge to visit the centre as well.”
The new Heritage and Learning Centre will be built alongside long overdue offices for the Bridge Master and his staff, as well as new storage and workshop buildings required to support the long-term maintenance programme on the bridge.
Dayrell McArthur, the Chairman of the Trustees, said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. The temporary visitor centre has proven that there is strong demand for information about the bridge and its surroundings, its history and its upkeep. We now have the opportunity to provide information and facilities for visitors in a permanent and attractive building. We can also achieve significant economies by building the Heritage and Learning Centre at the same time as the maintenance and administration facilities.”
Richard Bellamy, acting Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “We at the Heritage Lottery Fund are pleased to be able to support the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust and bring their vision a step closer to reality. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a truly iconic landmark, and a wonderful example of the impact that industrial heritage has on our cities and landscape. The Heritage and Learning Centre will give visitors more opportunities to explore the history of the bridge, and learn about its visionary designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. There is still work to be done in developing the project but HLF will be offering our full support in taking their application further.”