Rhoscolyn has a fascinating history, with its patron saint, Gwenfaen, first making her home and church here in 630 AD. Some say that the druids’ last stand against the Romans, who invaded Mona (Anglesey) in 60 or 61 AD, was at Cymyran, the inland sea between Mona and Holy Island and the open sea, south of Four Mile Bridge. Anglesey itself also has a very interesting history.
Menai suspension bridge
Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge across the Menai Straits was opened on 30th January 1826. But it was conceived seven years earlier, in 1819.
For centuries travel to Anglesey from the mainland was often hazardous. Ferries traversed the Straits at various places, but the currents are tricky and numerous boats capsized or ran aground, often with loss of life.
In 1800, Ireland joined the UK through the Act of Union. This meant that the numbers of people wishing to cross the Straits increased as politicians commuted to and from Ireland to parliament in London. The route from London to Holyhead became an important roadway representing a physical link between parliament and Ireland. Although well travelled, the journey was still notoriously dangerous.
In 1819, Thomas Telford, a civil engineer, began working on ambitious improvements to the journey between London and the port of Holyhead. Recognising the danger to travellers that crossing the Straits involved, he designed a groundbreaking piece of civil engineering – the Menai Bridge.
It was a triumph of civil engineering – the biggest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Sixteen huge chains held up 579 feet of deck, allowing 100 feet of clear space beneath. This allowed tall sailing ships navigating the seaway to pass underneath, whilst spanning the Straits at its narrowest point.
The Menai Bridge not only made Telfor’s reputation as a civil engineering superhero, it also dramatically reduced the time and danger of travelling from London to Holyhead. Along with Telford’s other improvements to the road, the journey time was cut 36 hours to 27! (ed’s note: we may think nearly four hours by train is a long trip, but imagine this!).
Caspar’s mystery silver object from the December edition