The Menai Suspension bridge, which crosses the Menai Strait, was the first iron suspension bridge of its kind in the world, and was probably Thomas Telfords most acclaimed achievement. With his extra improvements to the Holyhead to London road he managed to reduce the travel time from 36 hours down to 27 hours.
Work on the Menai Suspension Bridge commenced in 1819, and it was completed and opened on 30th Jan 1826. Building began with the stone pillars, the stone was quarried locally at Penmon on the northern end of the strait. The stonework was completed in 1824 and the task of lifting the main support chains began. In order to lift the central section of chain – each weighing 23 and a half tons – it took 150 men using block and tackle. Each chain was dipped in linseed oil to stop them rusting and prompted Lewis Carrol to include a reference to the bridge in ‘Through the Looking Glass’
White Knight says to Alice,
‘I heard him then, for I had just completed my design.
To keep the Menai Bridge from rust.
By boiling it in wine.’
One of the design requirements for the bridge was that it needed to have 100 feet of space under the main span, to allow for the passage of the tall sailing ships that plied the Menai Strait. Modern ships do not have this problem as the yacht in the next image shows.
In 1893 the wooden decking was replaced with steel decking and the original iron chains were replaced in 1938 with steel ones which significantly increased the load carrying capacity of the bridge.