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Britannia Bridge

Britannia Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 12, 2018

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Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch) and Bangor: Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn), Wales (Cymru) and Gwynedd, Wales (Cymru): United Kingdom
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1972 By Builder/Contractor: Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company of Darlington, England
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
460.0 Feet (140.2 Meters)
Structure Length
1,512.0 Feet (460.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
2 Main Span(s) and 6 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Historical Books: Tubular and Other Iron Girder Bridges (1st Edition and Third Edition)

View Historical Book: General Description of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

View Historical Book: An Account of the Construction of the Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

View Historical Book: The Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges

The Britannia Bridge as seen today is largely non-historic, since a disastrous fire in 1970 destroyed the 1850 wrought iron tubular girders, and a new steel deck arch superstructure had to be constructed. However, the original 1850 substructure, which is itself quite substantial, was reused, and for this reason the bridge is listed on HistoricBridges.org. A section of the original girder on display and the ornamental entrance lions also remain.

The original 1850 bridge was designed by Robert Stephenson and William Fairbairn. Its design was similar to the Conwy Railway Bridge, which still exists today.

Grace's Guide has extensive further information.

Above: Historical image showing the original bridge.

Above: Historical image showing the original bridge.

Above: View of a salvaged section of the original riveted tubular girder. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Above: View of one of the lion sculptures from the original 1850 bridge. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings

Listed At: Grade II


Reference Numbers: 3674 and 5488

Originally built as a railway bridge for the Chester and Holyhead Railway, and designed by the renowned engineer-in-chief to the railway, Robert Stephenson, in association with Francis Thompson, the railway's architect, and Sir William Fairbairn as consultant engineer. The bridge made novel use of a continuous tubular construction of iron plates, forming twin tubes, set at the centre span 102ft ( 31m ) above the high water line, each pair spanning 140m (459ft 3in) between the intermediate water piers, the stonework built by Nowell Hemingway and Pearson, and the whole scheme cost 674,000. Each of the two pairs of tubes carrying the plateway, was 30ft high and 14ft 8in wide (9.1 x 4.45m), fixed at the centre with rolling expansion joints in the Anglesey and Caernarvon Towers. It was opened at a fine ceremony in 1850. The C & H Railway was amalgamated with the London and North Western Railway in 1858. After a serious fire on 23/5/1970, the bridge was extensively modified and strengthened to provide a road carriageway above and in addition to the rail track, designed by Husband & Co. for British Railways, using The Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co. Ltd. as contractors.

The bridge piers are of rock-faced Anglesey limestone (Penmon Marble), set on a plinth, and Runcorn sandstone and brickwork. Each of the 2 central water piers is 221ft 3in (67.5m) high from foundation on the sea bedrock, and rise with battered sides to a corniced top raised on large corner blocks forming voids, originally designed to take suspension chains over rockers, on each face, all in an Egyptian Pylon style. The piers are voided, and stone lintels 20ft (6m)long span the rectangular holes for the twin tubes, with bold plat bands at the level of the top and bottom of the tubes. Each side face carries a symbolic engineering motif based on linked driving rods. The outer spans spring to similar abutment towers, flanked by sculptured lions on high plinths (q.v.). A huge figure of Britannia designed by Thompson for the centre pier was never executed. Inscribed on the approach face to the mainland water pier 'Erected Anno Domini MDCCCL Robert Stephenson Engineer'. The modified bridge, opened on 11/6/1980, consists of braced rivetted steel section arches with 'N'-truss spandrels spanning between the earlier piers, with the roadway carried on stanchions above the railway. The side spans are in reinforced concrete.


One of four, one pair located on the mainland and one on the Anglesey side, flanking each entrance to the bridge. Designed by the Victorian sculptor John Thomas, who designed carvings for the new Houses of Parliament (1835-52), and erected prior to the opening of the bridge in 1850. Each lion cost 1,024.

Large sculpture of a lion couchant,25ft 6in (7.77m) long and 12ft 8in (3.86m) high; carved in a bold Egyptian style and built from 11 pieces of Penmon limestone. Facing S, the lion surmounts an ashlar limestone plinth which in turn surmounts a plinth of rock-faced sandstone.


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