Menai Suspension Bridge

The Menai Suspension Bridge (Welsh: Pont y Borth, Pont Grog y Borth) is a suspension bridge to carry road traffic between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales. The bridge was designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826 and is a Grade I listed structure.[1]

Menai Bridge

Pont Grog y Borth
Y Fenai a Phont y Borth - Menai Staits and the Menai Suspension Bridge, Wales 02.jpg
The Menai Suspension Bridge viewed from the Anglesey side
Coordinates53°13′12.5″N 4°9′47.25″W / 53.220139°N 4.1631250°W / 53.220139; -4.1631250Coordinates: 53°13′12.5″N 4°9′47.25″W / 53.220139°N 4.1631250°W / 53.220139; -4.1631250
Carries A5 (London to Holyhead)
CrossesMenai Strait
LocaleAnglesey, North Wales
Heritage statusGrade 1
Candidate: World Heritage Site
DesignSuspension bridge
MaterialWrought Iron
Total length417 metres (1,368 ft)
Width12 metres (39 ft)
Height30 metres (98 ft)
Longest span176 metres (577 ft)
No. of spansMain: One
Arches: Seven
Piers in waterFive
Design life1893: wooden deck replaced in steel
1938/40: iron chains replaced in steel.
DesignerThomas Telford
Construction start1819
Opened30 January 1826: 195 years ago


The Menai Strait was created by glacial erosion along a line of weakness associated with the Menai Strait Fault System. During a series of Pleistocene glaciations (that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago) a succession of ice-sheets moved from northeast to southwest across Anglesey and neighbouring Arfon scouring the underlying rock creating a series of linear bedrock hollows. The deepest of these channels eventually became flooded by the sea as the ice sheets receded forming the Menai Strait.[2]

As Anglesey has been an island throughout recorded human history, the only way to reach it was by crossing the strait. However, this has always been a dangerous endeavour because there are four daily tides which flow in two directions creating strong currents and whirlpools that can sink small vessels. Despite the dangers, ferries operated all along the Menai Strait carrying passengers and goods between the island and the mainland. In 1785, a boat carrying 55 people ran aground at the southern end of the Menai Strait in a strong gale and began to sink. Before a rescue boat from Caernarfon could reach the stricken vessel it sank, only one person survived.[3] Likewise the main source of income on Anglesey was from the sale of cattle, and to move them to the markets of the mainland, including London, they had to be driven into the water and encouraged to swim across the Strait, which often resulted in the loss of valuable animals.[4]

In 1800 Ireland joined Great Britain in the Act of Union. This led rapidly to an increase in people travelling between London and Holyhead en route to Dublin. In 1815, the British Parliament enacted an Act to build the Holyhead Road with responsibility for the project given to civil engineer Thomas Telford. Despite some difficult geographical obstacles to overcome (e.g. Snowdonia and the Menai Strait), the route was chosen because Holyhead was the principal port for ferries to Dublin as it was the closest point to Ireland. After Telford had completed a survey of the route from London to Holyhead, he proposed that the best option was to build a bridge over the Menai Strait from a point near Bangor on the mainland to the village of Porthaethwy (which is now also known as Menai Bridge) on Anglesey.[4]

The site for the bridge was chosen because it had tall banks that would be high enough to allow the passage of sailing ships to pass underneath. Telford proposed that a suspension bridge would be the best option because it would have a span wide enough to cross the fast flowing waters of the Strait at this point. His recommendation was accepted by Parliament.[4]


A plan and view of the bridge made in 1820, prior to completion. Note the depiction of iron towers above the road deck, and a central walkway.

Construction of the bridge, to Telford's design, 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 (577 ft) span.[5] To avoid rusting between manufacture and use, the iron was soaked in linseed oil and later painted.[6] The chains each measured 522.3 metres (1,714 ft) and weighed 121 long tons (123 t; 136 short tons). Their suspending power was calculated at 2,016 long tons (2,048 t; 2,258 short tons).[4] The bridge was opened to much fanfare on 30 January 1826.[4]

Later historyEdit

Menai Suspension Bridge being painted in August 2005
The suspension bridge, over the Menai c.1840

The roadway was only 24 feet (7.3 m) wide and, without stiffening trusses, soon proved highly unstable in the wind. The deck of the Menai Bridge was strengthened in 1840 by W. A. Provis and, in 1893, the entire wooden surface was replaced with a steel deck designed by Sir Benjamin Baker.[7] Over the years, the 4+12-ton weight limit proved problematic for the increasing freight industry and in 1938 the original wrought iron[8] chains were replaced with steel ones without the need to close the bridge. In 1999 the bridge was closed for around a month to resurface the road and strengthen the structure, requiring all traffic to cross via the nearby Britannia Bridge.

On 28 February 2005 the bridge was promoted to UNESCO as a candidate World Heritage Site. On the same day one carriageway of the bridge was closed for six months restricting traffic to a single carriageway so that traffic travelled to the mainland in the morning and to Anglesey in the afternoon. The bridge was re-opened to traffic in both directions on 11 December 2005 after its first major re-painting in 65 years.[9]


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

Cultural referencesEdit

The bridge as pictured in a Staffordshire stoneware plate in the 1840s. (From the home of J L Runeberg)
Menai Suspension Bridge in the evening

The nearest settlement is the town of Menai Bridge. 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.[10] The coin was designed by British designer and engraver, Edwina Ellis.[11]

Operation Menai Bridge is the official funeral plan in the event of the death of Charles, Prince of Wales.[12]


White Knight 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."

Famous Welsh englynEdit

Uchelgaer uwch y weilgi – gyr y byd
Ei gerbydau drosti,
Chwithau, holl longau y lli,
Ewch o dan ei chadwyni.

— Dewi Wyn o Eifion[13]

High fortress above the sea – the world drives
Its carriages across it;
And you, all you ships of the sea,
Pass beneath its chains.

— David Owen (1784–1841)

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Menai Suspension Bridge, Menai Bridge". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Menai Strait (BMLSS Information)". Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Crossing the Menai Strait". Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bartlett, W. H.; Harding, J.D.; Creswick, T. (2009). The Ports Harbours Watering Places (Reprint ed.). BiblioLife. ISBN 978-1-115-95868-4.
  5. ^ Drewry, Charles Stewart (1832). A Memoir of Suspension Bridges: Comprising The History of Their Origin And Progress. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman. pp. 46–66, and Plates.
  6. ^ Kovach, Warren (2010). "Menai Strait Bridges". Anglesey history. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  7. ^ "Menai Suspension Bridge". Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  8. ^ The Saturday Magazine. Published by J. W. Parker: 212. 1835. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Bridge repainting nearly finished". BBC NEWS. 8 December 2005.
  10. ^ "UK 2005 Menai Bridge Circulation £1". Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  11. ^ "COINS DESIGNED FOR THE ROYAL MINT". Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  12. ^ "The Royal Family secret code words revealed - what they are and why they use them..." Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  13. ^ Llwybr y Llewod 8-13. BBC Lleol


  • Jones, Reg Chambers (2011). Crossing the Menai: an illustrated history of the ferries and bridges of the Menai Strait. Wrexham: Bridge Books. ISBN 9781844940745.
  • Norrie, Charles Matthew (1956) Bridging the Years – a short history of British Civil Engineering, Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd
  • Richards, Robin (2004). Two Bridges over Menai (new revised ed.). Llanrwst: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. ISBN 1845241304.
  • Daimond, Bob (2019). Menai Suspension Bridge – The First 200 Years. Menai Heritage. ISBN 978-0-9932351-3-9. Retrieved 11 September 2020.

External linksEdit

  • Menai Bridge Website Menai Bridge Town Partnership Website with details on the news, council, events and businesses of Menai Bridge
  • Menai Heritage A community project and museum celebrating the two bridges and the town of Menai Bridge
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