Bristol, The Opening Of Clifton Suspension Bridge
In 1860, a number of members of the Institution of Civil Engineers joined forces and formed a company to complete the bridge as a memorial to Brunel. The Clifton Bridge Company had share capital of £35,000 and was headed by chairman Captain Mark Huish (c1809-67), a civil engineer. The company's committee included many influential people, among them Sir Joseph Paxton, Brunel's eldest son Isambard Brunel, and leading engineers of the day.
The Illustrated London News recorded the opening ceremony, the front page being the main picture for the week of 17th December.
"The ceremony of opening the new bridge was attended with much festivity and pomp. There was a procession through the city of Bristol, composed of all the trades and benefit societies, bearing the banners and models illustrative of various callings. This procession, which came early, was immense in numbers, and took nearly three hours to wind through Bristol to the edge of the Clifton ravine, whence they wound down by the zigzag to the banks of the Avon.
There was another and more dignified procession, which came precisely at twelve o'clock to perform the actual ceremony. This procession did not arrive upon the ground till all the spectators and visitors were assembled, that is to say, till the approaches to the bridge were filled, till the heights of Leigh Wood were crowded, and the ledge of steep grey cliffs lined with dense masses of people.
The opening ceremony was performed by the procession crossing the bridge from Clifton to the Leigh Wood side, amidst a grand salute from the Volunteer Artillery. from the Somerset side the return was made in the same order to the Clifton or Gloucestershire end, when a halt was called in front of the grandstand erected for visitors; and Captain Huish, the chairman of the company, read a brief address setting forth the history of the undertaking, which was loudly cheered.
The Bishop of Gloucester offered up a prayer; after which, in a few brief words, the Earl of Ducie, for the county of Gloucestershire and the city and county of Bristol, and the Earl of Cork for the county of Somerset, each formally declared the bridge opened to the public for traffic, amidst renewed cheers, which were repeated again and again.
In the course of the afternoon a late dejeuner, or early dinner was given in the Victoria Rooms, to which all the chief visitors and the leading gentry of Bristol and its neighbourhood were invited.
During the night the bridge was illuminated with the electric light and with Bengal fires".
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