The suspension bridge that links Buda with Pest is one of Europe’s most iconic bridges, a monument to Hungarian nationalist feeling of the mid-19th century and to Hungary’s recovery from the destruction of the Second World War.
The bridge was built on the initiative of County Istvan Szechenyi (1791-1860), the nationalist leader from whom it takes its name. Contracts were signed in 1836 with William Tierney Clark (1783-1852), the Englishman who designed the structure, and Adam Clark (1811-66), the Scot who built it. William Tierney Clark was born in Bristol and worked for a time at the Coalbrookdale Ironworks where, in 1808, he met John Rennie (1761-1821), who recommended him for a post at the West Middlesex Waterworks, after which he spent most of his life in London, designing suspension bridges at Hammersmith and Arundel, both of which have been demolished, and one at Marlow, which remains. He was unrelated to Adam Clark, who made his home in Budapest, and is buried there.
The bridge was opened in 1849, the year after the rising in Hungary against Austrian rule, and was constructed from iron imported from England. Its span is 197.6 m, and on either side the roadway passes through triumphal arches flanked by lions that were placed there in 1852. It was the first permanent bridge between Buda and Pest. Previously vehicles had to cross the Danube on pontoon bridges. The views of the two cities from the bridge are spectacular, and it is now a venue for an annual summer festival.
Adam Clark continued the line of the road over the bridge by a 350 m tunnel under Castle Hill on the Buda side of the river that was opened in 1857. The bridge was brought down along with Budapest’s other bridges, during the last stages of the Second World War in 1945. It was re-opened in 1949, the year of its centenary.