On this day in history : 25th July 1795 – The first stone of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham, North East Wales, is laid….

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Credit : Arpingstone via Wikimedia – public domain

Pontcysyllte means ‘the bridge that connects’…. Designed and built by Thomas Telford and Williams Jessop it was considered a masterpiece of creative genius….and took around 10 years from design to completion….

Conceived as a waterway without locks the 307m long, 3.7m wide cast and wrought iron construction allows a cast iron trough to be supported 38m above the river on arched iron ribs…. The light but strong archways are in turn supported by 18 hollow masonry pillars; each of the 18 spans being 16m wide….img_3622

The mortar used was a mixture of lime, water and ox blood…. This may sound macabre but blood had been used in mortar for centuries; the haemoglobin found in blood helps strengthen mortar which is exposed to the elements – as it protects from breaking up in the freeze-thaw temperature cycles of climates such as ours here in Britain….

Above the 1.60m deep water trough a towpath was built and railings added to prevent pedestrians and horses from falling…. The project cost around £47K to complete – that is less than £4m in today’s terms…. The aqueduct was officially opened to traffic on the 26th of November 1805…. Since then it has been closed once every 5 years and the water drained to allow inspection and maintenance…. On the 27th of June 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was made a World Heritage Site and is now a major tourist attraction….

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