…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
If you’ve heard of Thomas Telford or are interested in architecture; roads, bridges, aqueducts and tunnels, then on BBC Radio 4 this week (30th January – 3rd February 2017), between 9:45am and 10:00am you can listen to the newly released book ‘Man of Iron’ by Julian Glover, about “Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain”. You can also listen online or download until the end of February.
I mention this because of my own little interest in such things. Since living on the Isle Anglesey in North Wales for over
a decade ten years (a “decade” makes me feel old, but “ten years” less so) I’ve become acquainted somewhat with the works of Thomas Telford, since he designed the first bridge linking this island with the rest of the UK, over 198 years ago. The Menai Bridge, as it became known, and Anglesey is mentioned early on in Episode 1 of the aforementioned recording and it always makes my ears prick up when Anglesey is mentioned on national radio, I’m not sure why.
Even when I read the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House a few years ago, first published in the 1850s, I was charmed to follow the passages depicting travellers going from London to the port of Holyhead (also here on Anglesey) since those travellers would have used Telford’s bridge and his roads. I wrote the following at the time of reading:
Images of horse-drawn carriages reminded me of the “Historic Route” signs that are present on the Anglesey-stretch of the A5 road … The A5 stretches 260 miles from London to Holyhead (Anglesey), it was designed to allow stagecoaches and the Mail coach to carry post between these two points (Holyhead being the port to Ireland), and it was completed by the famous engineer Thomas Telford with the opening of the Menai Suspension Bridge in 1826 – the first modern suspension bridge in the world. The construction of Stanley Embankment, linking Anglesey to Holyhead, was also overseen by Thomas Telford. This site was chosen, approximately a decade prior to Bleak House, to be widened to carry a train line and a tall dividing wall had to be built between road and rail so the trains did not startle the horses on the road – you’ll rarely see a horse on that stretch of road now, but occasionally I cycle it (startle-free).
This history of this road has sprung to my mind on the times I’ve cycled off Anglesey via this road (the A5) to visit or travel through North Wales, something I also did in 2013:
The A5 stretches 260 miles from London to Holyhead (Anglesey), it was designed to allow stagecoaches and the Mail coach to carry post between these two points (Holyhead being the port to Ireland), and it was completed by the famous engineer Thomas Telford with the opening of the Menai Suspension Bridge in 1826 – the first modern suspension bridge in the world.
Indeed, whenever I make a notable, blog-worthy, journey off Anglesey the bridge tends to feature.
Prior to that I had visited the Pontcysyllte aqueduct (shown above on the Radio 4 website I believe), a joint project I later learned, between Telford and William Jessop, and even when I travelled on to Scotland last year I came across Telford’s name imprinted on a bridge, albeit to acknowledge that that particular bridge replaced one of Telford’s.
As I learn from Part 1 of the book reading above, Telford was a Scot, carrying out building projects there also, and in hindsight it was surprising to find one of his bridges replaced because most are still in use. I don’t know why this particular bridge was replaced. I wonder now which other of Telford’s creations I travelled across and met with along my 1,000+ mile bike tour last year without realising it.
I’m sure the hard copy of Glover’s book will be a treasure to have; a proper book, hardback and totalling 448 pages. For now I will continue to listen in each day to what I can only assume is an abridged version on the radio.