Llangollen Bridge

button-theme-crimeLink to French translationLlangollen Bridge

llangollen_bridge_18th_centuryThe basic structure of this bridge has survived the forces of the Dee in flood since the 16th century. The picture on the right (courtesy of the National Library of Wales) shows the bridge in the 18th century and comes from Thomas Pennant’s books about his travels in Wales.

The bridge was widened to provide more space for road vehicles in 1873 and 1968. The large cutwaters (V-shaped stonework to divert the river around the bridge piers) are a defining feature of the bridge and provide extensions of the pavement from which you can view the arches.

The 16th-century bridge replaced an earlier structure, said to have been built by John Trevor shortly around the time he became Bishop of St Asaph in 1346 (not to be confused with another John Trevor who became bishop later the same century). That too was a replacement for an earlier bridge at this site which was possibly ordered by King Henry I (1068-1135).

llangollen_river_and_coracleIn the 1860s the bridge was lengthened when an extra span was added at the north end, to carry the road over the new railway. A stone tower with a castellated parapet was built at this end of the bridge at the same time. It rose two storeys above the road and was home to a café before it was demolished in the 1930s to improve the road layout.

In 1901 a policeman spotted Edward Jones, 20, on the bridge’s parapet, about to jump into the river. Edward wore the uniform of the Ruabon Volunteers and his eyes were “fixed and glassy”. He had a fit after the policeman grabbed him. He was later taken to court for attempted suicide (then a crime) and told magistrates that he’d been eating opium. He shivered and sobbed in court, having been deprived of the drug while in custody. His mother said she had given her boys opium since they were babies. It was ordered by the doctor for convulsions. The boys got to like it so much that she continued to feed it to them, into adulthood.

According to an anonymous verse from the 18th or early 19th century, Llangollen Bridge is one of the “Seven Wonders of Wales”.

The lower picture, from the 1890s, shows the bridge and one of the Llangollen fishermen who used coracles (small boats made of woven wood strips covered with animal hide) to fish on the Dee. His coracle is strapped to his shoulders in the picture.

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