Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, & Technology
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British Bridges
Missouri Bridges

Bridges of the British Isles

The Menai Suspension Bridge
Britannia Bridge
Forth Bridge

Centuries of Civil Engineering

Telford, Thomas (1757-1834)
Life of Thomas Telford, civil engineer. Ed. by John Rickman.
London: Payne and Foss, 1838.
Water Supply
Image Index


Suspension bridges go back to the beginnings of human culture, but stiffened suspension bridges were not introduced until the early 19th century, by an American, James Finley. Thomas Telford, one of the great civil engineers of England, showed the potential of the suspension bridge when he successfully crossed the Menai Straits, which lie between Wales and Anglesea, on the route of the London-Dublin mail. The bridge was begun in 1819 and opened for traffic in 1826. The roadbed is suspended from sixteen chains, in sets of four; each chain is made up of flat wrought iron eyebar links that are eight feet long. The links were made under Telford’s supervision in the Shropshire iron works of William Hazeldine. Each link was dipped in hot linseed oil after forging, to prevent rusting.

With a central span of 580 feet, the Menai bridge was the longest clear span in the world when it was completed.


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