Address: Menai Bridge, Anglesey, North Wales

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Phone: +44 (0) 1248 715046

 

Menai Bridge History

The Act of Union with Ireland in 1800 increased the traffic between Ireland and the Anglesey port of Holyhead, and Thomas Telford was given the task by the government to improve the travel route across north Wales and to the port of Holyhead. His main project was the crossing of the Menai Strait and an easier form of crossing was needed than the boats that ferried people back and forth. A bridge seemed the obvious solution and after he designed it, it was opened in 1826. When built, it was bigger than any other suspension bridge. 

The straits were busy at the time with four thousand vessels a year passing through. So a main stipulation for the design was that it needed to have at least 100ft of height down to the water so that tall ships could pass underneath.

When construction began, two towers were built, one on each side of the river, with the tower on the Anglesey side being built on the tiny ‘Pig Island’. The support consisted of 16 huge chains, with each immersed in linseed oil to prevent rusting. Tunnels were drilled into the ground on each riverbank and a third of the first chain was secured into the tunnel and draped over a tower. The same applied on the other side and when the central segment was winched into place, the first full chain was connected together. The other 15 chains were put in place over the next 10 weeks. Rods were then hung from the chains and the bridge structure connected underneath. The completion allowed the London to Holyhead time to be reduced from 36 hours to 27 hours.

The bridge took seven years to build and looks today pretty much as it did when first opened. In 1839, the surface was strengthened, and in 1938 the huge wrought iron chains that support the bridge were changed to steel. Resurfacing took place in 1999 to keep up with increased traffic demands. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge, but the charge was scrapped in 1940.

The A5 crosses the bridge, whilst the main A55 carriageway uses the nearby Britannia bridge.

In 2005, it was declared a World Heritage Site.

 

Menai Bridge Visit

Whether you drive, cycle or walk over, you get a great close-up view of this major landmark. It’s quite easy with bridges to just drive straight over, crossing it like driving down any other road. But this isn’t any old concrete structure. This is steeped in Victorian history, with the brick towers and the intricate steelwork giving it a quaint look when looked at closely. And the separate chain links are impressive when you look at the sheer size of them and imagine them being put in place all those years ago.

The Menai Heritage Museum is situated on the Anglesey side of the river and a host of information about the history of the bridge can be found there.

If you want to go down to the base of the bridge, to the water’s edge, it’s best to go down on the Anglesey side. There’s even a small park with a sign detailing the work involved in the construction.

And if you want a good distant view, drive from the bridge, again on the Anglesey side, towards the Britannia bridge and there are a couple of lay-bys on the left.