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 Stevenson 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 Stevenson’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 became obsolete. Material and method were 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.