Llantysilio chain bridge, near Llangollen

Llantysilio chain bridge, near Llangollen

The chains which hold up this bridge are the oldest in the world which are still in use. They have withstood countless floods and outlasted three previous bridge decks!

Photo of original chain bridge c.1875The first bridge was built in 1817 by local industrialist Exuperius Pickering, of Plas Kynaston, Cefn Mawr. His aim was to cut the cost of transporting coal and other goods by canal and road while bypassing tolls for transshipment at Llangollen. His bridge over the river Dee provided a link between the London to Holyhead road and what is now known as the Llangollen Canal.

The strong iron chains were probably made at his own foundry. A deck of wood and soil was laid on the chains, and the bridge gave many decades’ service. The canal near here wasn’t built for navigation but as a feeder channel. Exuperius lobbied the canal company to upgrade this section.

He built a hostelry, the Bridge Inn, on the neck of land between the river and canal. It was later replaced by the larger Chain Bridge Hotel. The old photo, taken by John Thomas, shows the original bridge and the hotel c.1875. It is shown here courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – National Library of Wales.

Railway engineer Henry Robertson rebuilt the structure in 1876, using the same chains. You can see a photo of his bridge on our page about the Chain Bridge Hotel. He had earlier engineered the railway from Ruabon to Bala (part of which is now the preserved Llangollen Railway). To maintain access to the chain bridge, a passage was provided under the railway near Berwyn station.

After floods wrecked his bridge in the 1920s, his son, Sir Henry Robertson, stepped in to rebuild it. This time the deck was suspended from the original chains. Sir Henry owned the thriving steelworks at Brymbo. This bridge also lasted for decades, but had to be closed in 1984 because it had deteriorated.

The derelict structure was eventually bought for a nominal £1 by local community councils and was rebuilt at a cost of £465,000, most of which came from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The bridge reopened in 2015.

Postcode: LL20 8BS    View Location Map

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