Sir John Hawkshaw and William Barlow

Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust

Billie the Bulb Billie the Bulb
Why was Hawkshaw and Barlow's book so short? It was an abridged version. BA. DUM. TSSSSSS.
Sir John Hawkshaw and William Henry Barlow courtesy of Institution of Civil Engineers

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is over 150 years old. It was built in Victorian times and it is 98% original!

It is built over high cliffs called the Avon Gorge and it is 75 meters above the river below. The bridge is famous in Bristol, and it’s visited by people from all over the world.

So that we can teach everyone about the bridge we have a Visitor Centre. In the Centre we explain how Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the first person to design and start building the bridge. We also talk about how it is engineered today, and the people who have made the bridge special.

Even though Brunel first designed the bridge in 1830, he only managed to build the foundations (Abutments) and the Towers before he ran out of money and had to abandon the project.

After Brunel died two engineers called Sir John Hawkshaw and William Barlow came along and completed the bridge in memory of Brunel. Brunel is very well known, but not many people have heard of Hawkshaw and Barlow.

So, we thought it was a nice idea to add more information about them, their families, interests and worldwide engineering achievements into our Visitor Centre.

To make sure that the new exhibition was accurate we had help from a lot of different people such as historians, descendants, local people, volunteers and school groups.

Everyone gave their opinion on what information they would like to learn and helped us make sure it was factually accurate. We told their story using objects, pictures, text and a fun touchscreen!

Hawkshaw and Barlow were really important engineers, we are proud to be able to show our visitors the full story of how the Clifton Suspension Bridge was built and celebrate Hawkshaw and Barlow for all of their achievements.

Important dates in history for Hawkshaw and Barlow

William Barlow helped with calculations to build the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in London.
Sir John Hawkshaw is appointed chief engineer for Holyhead Harbour.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel dies, leaving the Clifton Suspension Bridge (his first engineering project) incomplete.
Sir John Hawkshaw and William Barlow begin the project to finish off the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Sir John Hawkshaw becomes president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is complete! The opening ceremony was witnessed by thousands of people.
St Pancras station opens with its roof designed by William Barlow.
Sir John Hawkshaw completes the Severn Tunnel.
Sir John Hawshaw is knighted.
William Barlow invents the Logograph.
Sir John Hawkshaw dies.
William Barlow dies.

Did you Know?

  • Hawkshaw and Barlow completed the Clifton Suspension Bridge as a memorial to its original designer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
  • Sir John Hawkshaw designed and built the Severn Tunnel between 1873-1886.
  • Sir John Hawkshaw was related to Josiah Wedgewood and Charles Darwin.
  • William Barlow made his own type of railway track called Barlow Rail.
  • William Barlow was an inventor; he invented the first machine to record sound. He called it a Logograph!
  • William Barlow promoted the use of steel on railways, he was a pioneer of his time!
  • Sir John Hawkshaw worked on engineering projects all over the world, including a famous shipping route called the Suez Canal.
  • Without Hawkshaw and Barlow’s bridge deck design the Clifton Suspension Bridge would not be strong enough to be used by the 4 million cars that go over every year!