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Two Bridges over Menai

  • £3.50
  • £0.00
  • Author: Robin Richards
  • Publication Date 2004
  • Format: Paperback, 208 x 148 mm, 64 pages
A new and revised edition of an illustrated account of the building of the Menai Suspension Bridge (1826) and the Britannia bridge (1850 and 1972) over the Menai Straits, 1826 and 1850. 34 black-and-white photographs and illustrations. First published in 1996.

Gwales Review

Robin Richards's Two Bridges Over Menai offers a history of the Suspension and Britannia Bridges, setting them in their topographical and historical context. He describes the area prior to any bridge being built; the dangers of crossing these treacherous waters by ferry, the length of time taken for the voyage, and the habit of some ferrymen of increasing the fares whilst passengers were still on the boat. He shows the concerns of the locals for the loss of trade that the construction of a bridge would cause, particularly to the ferrymen. The book focuses mainly on the engineering skills of Thomas Telford and Robert Stephenson, not only in the design and location of the bridges, but also, in Telford's case, with the technical problem of preventing the ironwork from rusting.

The Menai Suspension Bridge was opened on 30th January 1826 and at 1.35am the Royal London and Holyhead Mail Coach, carrying mail for Dublin, crossed the bridge for the first time. The present structure underwent reconstruction between 1938 and 1941, when the ironwork was replaced by steel, to deal with increased traffic, with only the stonework being part of the original.

Richardson takes pains to point out the difficulties involved in the building of the second (Brittania) bridge over the Menai straits. Robert Stephenson, son of the famous George (of Stephenson's Rocket fame), was responsible for designing a tubular structure, to take trains, which was supported by strong towers. This bridge was opened on 18th March 1850. The present Britannia Bridge is not the original one, for disaster struck in the form of fire on 23rd May 1970, and the bridge in its present form was reconstructed in the 1970s.

Richards goes into detail, with technical drawings and black-and-white photographs, on the engineering aspects of building the bridges. This data is broken up with anecdotes, providing general and local interest. He conveys to the reader a sense of awe at the engineering feats involved as well as an appreciation of what the bridge must have meant to both the spread of communication and trade with the increased speed and convenience of travel.

In some parts the tone is slightly tedious; the section by Lord Cledwyn, for example, tells how many tins of paint it takes to cover the suspension bridge. Similarly, the average reader may not be particularly interested in the dimension of the long tubes, or other technical details.

This book will appeal to both those with a technical interest in bridge construction and engineering and also local historians, who may be able to find resonance in the anecdotes and the effect the bridges had on the area.

Julia Roberts