The World’s First Modern Suspension Bridge Opened to… Cattle Traffic

January 30, 1826

The Menai Suspension Bridge connecting the island of Anglesey with the mainland of Wales was opened to a great deal of fanfare. This structure, which crosses over the Menai Straits, is widely considered to be the world’s first modern suspension bridge.

Prior to the bridge’s opening, the only options for traveling between Anglesey and the mainland were by ferry or – if there was a low tide — by foot (risky even under those circumstances). Anglesey’s leading source of income involved the sale of cattle, which had customarily been led into the water and guided across to the mainland. It was decided at long last to build a bridge at that location, not only to get livestock across in an easier and safer manner but also to transport those animals more expeditiously to London and other regions.

Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford designed the bridge, and construction on it began in 1819. The bridge was built with 16 huge chain cables – each consisting of 935 iron bars – to support the 579-foot (176.5-meter)-long main span. In addition, towers made of Penmon limestone were constructed at each end of the bridge.

The Menai Suspension Bridge reduced the travel time between Anglesey and London from 36 to 27 hours. The bridge has also found its way into the larger culture. The structure, for example, is referenced by the White Knight while speaking to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s literary classic “Through the Looking-Glass.” The 19th century Welsh poet David Owen wrote a tribute to the bridge in which he proclaimed that “you ships of the sea, Pass beneath its chains.”

For more information on the Menai Suspension Bridge, please check out

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