Yesterday I was able to get a good view of Britannia Bridge from the Menai Straits below. It’s a noble structure, which one can’t really appreciate driving across it. It was designed by Robert Stephenson, who had been appointed engineer-in-chief to the Chester & Holyhead railway in June 1845. The first stone was laid on 21 September 1846. Stephenson laid the stone which completed the cornice on 22 June 1849 (I emphasise the speed of design and construction having just watched the Newsnight programme about the Garden Bridge). It opened to trains running from London to Holyhead in 1850. It’s impressively monumental, slightly Egyptian in the stonework piers, which may have been designed by Francis Thompson, the Company architect, contrasting with the vigorous horizontality of the tubework which was slotted through. It looks very different now because in May 1970 two boys dropped a flare whilst looking for bats, causing a massive fire, and the bridge was reconstructed with more conventional steel arches and a road deck on top.
As it was, as photographed by Edward Piper for the Shell Guide (I can’t help also quoting Lionel Brett’s description in the Shell Guide how ‘Britannia conveys confidence, resolution and a seeming inevitable rightness of proportion exactly in tune with one’s interpretation of the best of the Victorian age’):-
As it is:-