Discover the lions on either side of the Menai Strait
A striking and elegant structure, the Britannia Bridge was revolutionary in its design when it was completed in 1850. Robert Stephenson was the man awarded the task of constructing a bridge to carry trains over the beautiful Menai Strait as part of the Chester to Holyhead Railway.
What made Stephenson’s design so special? He employed a technique recently developed by shipbuilders, in which wrought iron was used to make rectangular tubes; these then carried the track across the bridge. This method of construction was first employed on Conwy Railway Bridge, which had opened two years before. Eventually cheaper production of steel - a far more suitable material for bridge construction - would mean that wrought iron would become obsolete. Material and method were both very innovative for the time of the bridge, however, and inspired similar structures in Egypt and Canada.
Four stone lions guarded the entrances to the tubes, two at each side. (Curiously, the planned statue of Britannia was never built.) The beasts soon became a popular feature of the bridge, inspiring a famous local poem:
Four fat lions
Without any hair
Two on this side
And two over there.
A fire in 1970 meant that the bridge needed alterations, but happily the lions survived. Today they can still be spotted, proudly defending their magnificent structure.
- Accessible by Public Transport
- Buggy Access
A55 over Menai Strait
Bangor Station - 1.5 miles
Take first turning on left to the east of Britannia Bridge (Gwynedd side of bridge - Ffordd Bronwydd). Follow footpath to Pen y Bont and continue to lion monument (one of four) on west side of Britannia Bridge – easy access via footpath.
Also part of tubular bridge on display nearby.
No access to railway bridge
Full Grid Reference Number: SH 543708
OS Landranger map sheet: 115, 114
- Britannia Bridge, Bangor