Waterloo Bridge, Betws-y-coed

Link to French translationWaterloo Bridge, Betws-y-coed

This bridge is a memorial to the sense of relief and euphoria felt in Britain when French leader Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by Britain and Prussia at Waterloo, Belgium, in 1815. This ended 23 years of almost continuous war with France.

Drawing of Waterloo Bridge
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

Cast letters along the arch of the bridge span spell out: ‘This arch was constructed in the same year the Battle of Waterloo was fought’. This is a little misleading. The bridge’s iron ribs were cast in 1815 at the Plas Kynaston foundry of William Hazledine but did not arrive at Betws-y-coed until 1816.

In the spandrels (the triangular space above the arch at each end) are decorative castings of four national plants: leek (representing Wales), rose (England), thistle (Scotland) and shamrock (Ireland).

The drawings shown here, courtesy of the Science Museum, are from a book about Thomas Telford published in 1838. The various cross-sections show the bridge's construction.

Waterloo Bridge has a span of 32 metres and was built to carry Telford’s London to Holyhead coach road (later the A5) over the river Conwy. It replaced Pont-yr-Afanc, to the south, which had only recently been built. The approach to the earlier bridge from the east was too steep for horse-drawn carriages to negotiate easily. Telford engineered a gentler slope to the new bridge.

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