Before the bridge was completed in 1826, the island had no fixed connection to the mainland. All movements to and from Anglesey were by ferry. However, the Act of Union 1800 increased the need for transport to Ireland, and with Holyhead as one of the principal terminals to Dublin it was decided that a bridge was needed.
Thomas Telford was assigned the task of improving the route from London to Holyhead, and one of the key improvements was his design of the suspension bridge over the Menai Strait between a point near Bangor on the mainland and what was then the village of Porthaethwy which is now also known as Menai Bridge on Anglesey. The design of the bridge had to allow for Royal Navy sailing ships 100 ft tall to pass under the deck at high water slack tide, and no scaffolding was allowed during construction which broke this rule.
Construction of the bridge began in 1819 with the towers on either side of the strait. These were constructed from Penmon limestone and were hollow with internal cross-walls. Then came the sixteen huge chain cables, each made of 935 iron bars that support the 176 metre span. To avoid rusting, each cable was first soaked in linseed oil. The bridge was opened to much fanfare on 30 January 1826 and reduced the journey time from London to Holyhead from 36 to 27 hours, a saving of 9 hours.
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