Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Menai Bridge, North Wales

click photo to enlarge
This handsome bridge over the Menai Straits between North Wales and the island of Anglesey is widely agreed to be the world's first large modern suspension bridge. It was designed by the great self-taught architect and civil engineer, Thomas Telford (1757-1834), a man who built canals, aqueducts, bridges, churches, prisons and roads. Telford's work on improving the highways of Britain was so remarkable that his friend, the Poet Laureate Robert Southey, nicknamed him "The Colossus of Roads!"

Work started on the Menai Bridge in 1819 and it was opened, to great public acclaim, in 1826. The construction of this bridge, along with Telford's work on the road system, reduced the journey time from London to the Anglesey port of Holyhead from 36 hours to 27 hours. Telford's brief had been to bridge the narrow Strait with a structure that would allow a 100 feet tall ship to pass under at high tide. His design used concrete, stone, iron, and 16 chain cables supporting the 550 foot span. The original deck involved wooden timbers, but in 1893 this was replaced with steel. In 1938 the iron chains, which had been soaked in linseed oil to prolong their life, were replaced by steel. I don't know if Telford was asked to design a bridge that combined utility with elegance, but that's what he did, and into that difficult to achieve mix he added longevity. The impact of the beautiful new bridge was such that the village of Porthaethwy near the Anglesey end changed its name to Menai Bridge!

This photograph was taken from the Bangor (North Wales) side of the Strait in the morning light. I used a wide angle lens stopped down to give a greater depth of field, and underexposed to keep the sky detail. In software I corrected the converging verticals, increased the brightness of the land and water, converted the colour image to black and white, and overlaid it all with a software version of my favourite red filter.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen