Telford’s masterpiece – a soaring suspension bridge over a stunning stretch of water
Thomas Telford had a keen eye for beautiful industrial design. Perhaps Britain’s greatest civil engineer, Scottish-born Telford left a legacy of roads, canals and bridges, including his magnificent Menai Suspension Bridge over the Menai Strait.
This grand endeavour began in 1819, with the building of the two large towers on either side of the river. Construction of the bridge was taken over by master mason, John Wilson, in 1820. He built a structure spanning 577 feet, for many years the longest suspension bridge in the world. Royal Navy sailing ships with masts up to 100 feet high once navigated the water, so Telford’s design had comply with this vital specification!
The bridge was finished in 1826 and formed the last, crucial link on the post road (now the A5) from London to Dublin.
Modifications to the bridge have kept it in action over the centuries. However, it is one of the original construction methods – soaking the iron bars in linseed oil before painting them to prevent rust – that may have inspired Lewis Carroll to include the following lines in the White Knight’s poem in his children’s book Through the Looking Glass:
I heard him then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep the Menai bridge from rust
By boiling it in wine.