The Menai Bridge (Pont Grog y Borth), North Wales

The Menai Bridge (Pont Grog y Borth), North Wales. Designed by Thomas Telford (1757-1834 ). Work began in 1819, and the bridge was opened on 30 January 1826. The Menai Suspension Bridge crosses the Menai Straits to join the Isle of Anglesey with mainland Wales. A couple of days after its opening the Morning Post reported that the first vehicle to cross it was the London to Holyhead Mail, the horses trotting across "in their regular pace." Next went Telford himself, with Sir Henry Parnell [Commissioner of the Holyhead Roads at that time], followed by a stream of carriages and foot passengers. The report concluded, the "inconvenient Ferry across the rapid Menai Estuary is thus, at last, annihilated...." [Click on this and the following image to enlarge them.]

Menai Bridge, 1840

Early engraving of the bridge from Finden (n.p.).

Writing in 1840, William Finden said that "[S]ince the day it was first opened, the Menai Bridge has been the wonder of every traveller, an object of pilgrimage for scientific men of all countries, and a source of daily advantage to the United Kingdom, which no other work would have supplied." The bridge continued to be widely praised not only for its convenience but also as a work of art. Black's Picturesque Guide to North Wales (5th ed., 1874), gives all the statistics of the bridge. For example, it explains that the "suspending power of the chains has been calculated to be 2016 tons, and as the whole weight of the suspended portion of the bridge is not more than 489 tons, there remains a disposable power of 1527 tons" (59). But it is the "union of strength and grace" that appeals most:

It is not from the elevation of the turnpike road, nor even when standing upon the bridge itself, that its majestic proportions are best appreciated; it is needful to descend, to stand beneath, and to look upward, in order to form an estimate of this truly admirable structure, especially of its union of strength and grace, in every part ponderous and gigantic, while yet the whole displays the perfection of lightness and elegance.... The Suspension Bridge is no longer a novelty...., yet the chain bridge of Telford can never cease to be admired for its elegance, in union with perfect security. It has now for more than forty years endured the strain of traffic and of storms, and it will abide a national monument, worthy of the master mind by which it was conceived. [59-60]

Modern photograph (23 December 2009) by Bencherlite, from Wikimedia Commons; early engraving from Finden (unnumbered pages), formatting by George P. Landow, and text by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Related Material


Black's Picturesque Guide to North Wales. 5th ed. Edinburgh: A and C Black, 1874. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 11 October 2014.

Finden, William. The Port, Harbours, Watering Places, and Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain. Illustrated by views taken on the spot. Vol. II. City Road, and Ivy Lane, London: Virtue, 1840. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of California Libraries. Web. 11 October 2014.

"The Menai Bridge." The Morning Post. 2 February 1826. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II. Web. 11 October 2014.

Last modified 6 October 2014