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Llantysilio Chain Bridge
River Dee, Llantysilio, Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales, UK
Llantysilio Chain Bridge
associated engineer
Exuperius Pickering
date  1817 - 1818 (chains), c.1876, 1928 - 1929 (current bridge)
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SJ197432
ICE reference number  HEW 727
photo  Stephen K. Jones collection
Llantysilio Chain Bridge is the third bridge on the same spot and is thought to incorporate some of the early 19th century iron chains from the original structure, making them the oldest known suspension chains still in use. The bridge was used to transport goods over the River Dee between the London to Holyhead Road (now the A5) and the Llangollen Canal, and later became a footbridge. Though built originally as an underslung truss, it was rebuilt as a suspension bridge. Disused since the 1980s, full restoration was carried out in 2015.
Entrepreneur Exuperius Pickering (c.1781-1835) wanted to be able to transport his coal, lime and iron bar along the two main transportation arteries in north Wales — the Llangollen Canal and the London to Holyhead Road. Around 1814, he thought of a connecting bridge over the River Dee at Llantysilio, north west of Llangollen, near his wharf on the canal. The idea enabled him to avoid paying the tolls on Llangollen Bridge (SJ215421).
The original bridge, built in 1817-18, was a timber truss structure. Its metalled roadway was surfaced with earth and stones. The bridge was supported on six oak posts in the river bed and its deck was strengthened by 12 underslung chains of wrought iron. The chains were forged at Pickering’s coke ovens near Pontcysyllte and consist of a connected series of links approximately 2.4m long with a loop at each end.
In 1818, French engineer (and suspected industrial spy) Joseph-Michel Dutens (1765-1848) met with Pickering in Ruabon, Wrexham, and surveyed the bridge. The following year, Dutens published detailed drawings of it in his Mémoires sur les Travaux publics de l’Angleterre. They are the only known plans of the original bridge still in existence.
By 1870, the bridge had fallen into disrepair and was dismantled. In 1876, Henry Robertson (1816-88), owner of Brymbo Ironworks near Wrexham and an accomplished structural engineer, rebuilt the bridge using the original chains. His design was similar in style to the first, though the supporting posts were of iron rather than oak.
Most of the second bridge — except for the chains — was swept away in a flood on 16th February 1928. Robertson’s only son and Brymbo Steelworks heir, Sir Henry Beyer Robertson (1862-1948), had the structure rebuilt to resemble Thomas Telford’s (1757-1834) Menai Suspension Bridge (constructed 1818-26).
The new bridge — the one we have now — is supported by simple iron-frame towers. One is constructed on an abutment on the north bank, the other on a masonry land pier to the south. Having no river piers, the bridge is relatively unaffected by flooding. Six of what are believed to be the original chains, three on each side, have been re-used as the suspension 'cables' from which the deck is hung, while two more chains provide added rigidity beneath the deck. They are the oldest known suspension chains remaining in use.
During the bridge's official opening in 1929, 45 people stood on the deck to demonstrate its strength. The total cost of the scheme was £303 11s (£303.55).
Llantysilio Chain Bridge was closed in 1984 for reasons of public safety, following a lack of maintenance. In 2011, it was purchased by Llantysilio Community Council and Llangollen Town Council. Restoration work began in October 2014 for completion in mid 2015, part financed by a £350,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The chain bridge is once again in use as a footbridge.
Contractor (1928-29): Brymbo Steel Company
Contractor (2014-15): Schemec Ltd of Eglwyseg
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH Wales

Llantysilio Chain Bridge