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Inside Clifton suspension bridge
Photograph: Aisling Magill

Take a look at the stunning vaults hidden under Bristol’s famous suspension bridge

The secret chambers were discovered by accident 20 years ago. And now they’re open to the public

Written by Glendalys Medina
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If you’ve ever visited Bristol, you’ll probably be familiar with the icon that is the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s quite the sight in itself, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Beneath the 191-year-old landmark there are 12 vast secret vaults, which were only discovered 20 years ago, and now the public can explore them for the very first time.

The vaults were found by a builder who was carrying out repair works around the turn of the Millennium. They’re thought to have been one of the earliest components of the bridge which was built in 1831 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his crew of builders.

Despite having been originally built as the platform for the bridge tower, the vaults were sealed off when building plans changed. And although modern engineers suspected they existed, they didn’t expect them to be as massive as they are – apparently the largest chambers can fit three double-decker buses stacked on top of each other. They’re pretty breathtaking, with walls made of lime mortar and stalagmites and stalactites growing from the ceiling and floor. 

The vaults will be open for the public to visit from Easter to October each year by booking onto an official 40-minute Hard Hat Tour. Worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to planning a trip to the city anytime soon.

You can find out more about the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the tours here.

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