Menai Straits Bridge

The Menai Suspension Bridge from a viewpoint on the A4080 near the Britannia Bridge.

The Menai Suspension Bridge, or Pont Grog y Borth in Welsh, is a suspension bridge between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales. Designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826, it is one of the first modern suspension bridges in the world.

Construction

Prior to the bridge's completion in 1826 the island had no fixed connection to the mainland and all movements to and from Anglesey were by ferry (or, with difficulty, on foot at low tide). However, the Act of Union 1800 increased the need for transport to Ireland, and with Holyhead as one of the principal terminals to Dublin it was decided that a bridge was needed.

Thomas Telford was assigned the task of improving the route from London to Holyhead, and one of the key improvements was his design of the suspension bridge over the Menai Strait between a point near Bangor on the mainland and what was then the village of Porthaethwy which is now also known as Menai Bridge on Anglesey. The design of the bridge had to allow sailing ships 100 ft tall to pass under the deck at high water slack tide.

Menai Suspension bridge being painted -August 2005

Construction of the bridge began in 1819 with the towers on either side of the strait. These were constructed from Penmon limestone and were hollow with internal cross-walls. Then came the sixteen huge chain cables, each made of 935 iron bars that support the 176 metre span. To avoid rusting, each cable was first soaked in linseed oil. The bridge was opened to much fanfare on 30 January 1826 and succeeded in reducing the 36 hour journey time from London to Holyhead by 9 hours.

Later history

Damaged by winds in 1839, the road surface needed extensive repair, and in 1893 the entire wooden surface was replaced with a steel deck. Over the years, the 4.5 ton weight limit proved problematic for the increasing freight industry and in 1938 the original iron chains were replaced with steel ones without the need to close the bridge. In 1999 the bridge was again closed for around a month to resurface the road and strengthen the structure, requiring all traffic to cross via the nearby Britannia Bridge.

Menai Suspension Bridge in the evening

On 28 February 2005 the bridge was promoted to UNESCO as a candidate World Heritage Site, and, coincidentally on the same day one carriageway of the bridge was closed for six months restricting traffic to a single carriageway so that traffic now travelled to the mainland in the morning and to Anglesey in the afternoon.

The bridge was finally re-opened to traffic in both directions on 11 December 2005 after its first major re-painting in 65 years.

Surroundings

The nearest village is the village of Menai Bridge.

The Anglesey Coastal Path passes below the bridge. The bridge has a memorial to the Aberfan disaster victims on the Anglesey side.

Cultural references

A representation of the Menai Bridge inside a border of railings and stanchions is featured on the reverse of British one pound coins minted in 2005. The coin was designed by Edwins Ellis.