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Menai Suspension Bridge

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Map ReferenceSH57SE
Grid ReferenceSH5567071400
Unitary (Local) AuthorityIsle of Anglesey
Old CountyAnglesey
CommunityMenai Bridge
PeriodPost Medieval
The Menai Suspension Bridge was built to carry the road between London and Holyhead (later A5) (nprn 402349) over the Menai Straits, which it still does. It was designed by Thomas Telford and construction started in 1819 with completion in 1826. Two massive tapered limestone-faced masonry towers originally carried four sets of wrought iron chains from which the main road deck span, approximately 170m long, was suspended some 30m above water level. Subsequent modifications to strengthen the bridge included the substitution of steel chains and a more substantial deck. The masonry approach viaducts, abutting the towers, have four arched spans on the Anglesey side and three on the Caernarfonshire side.

RCAHMW, 17 December 2007.

Built between 1819 and 1826, the Menai Suspension Bridge is hailed as one of Thomas Telford's finest civil engineering feats. The bridge is located on the A5, historically the main supply and postal route between Dublin and London via Holyhead. Until the bridge was opened, travellers, goods, horses and carriages all had to be ferried across the notoriously fast currents of the Menai Strait, whereas cattle had to be encouraged to swim across in the hope the valuable animals would not drown.

The Menai Suspension Bridge is 416 metres long, measuring 176 metres between the two main pillars, and the chains suspend the road 30 metres above sea level to allow sailing ships to pass underneath it. The construction was funded by Parliament and cost £120,000. This did not include the £26,394 7s 6d compensation paid to Miss Silence Williams, the owner of the ferry service across the Menai. It is estimated that this was one of the highest sums payed to a single person in British history.

Since the days of its construction, Telford's bridge across the Menai attracted many tourists who came to marvel at the monumental proportions of the structure. When the first chain was installed on 20 April 1825, numerous people travelled to the banks of the Menai Strait to watch the spectacle which lasted just over two hours and which culminated with two workers passing along the upper surface of the chain. After its completion, many more travellers from abroad arrived to view the bridge. Among them were many civil engineers who inspected Telford's bridge from all angles, took their own measurements and admired his daring, but elegant design.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the Suspension Bridge underwent restoration and the pedestrian footpath was relocated from the centre to either sides of the bridge. The latest repair works were undertaken in 2005 when the bridge was repainted.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.
application/mswordETW - European Travellers to Wales ProjectArchive coversheet relating to the Menai Bridge gigapan project, carried out by Scott Lloyd and Rita Singer, October 2017.
application/pdfETW - European Travellers to Wales ProjectDescription of visit to Menai Suspension Bridge by Basile-Joseph Ducos from 'Itin?raire et souvenirs d'Angleterre et d'Ecosse, 1814-1826' (1826). Text available in Welsh, English, French & German. Produced through the European Travellers to Wales project.