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Construction of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte pronunciation, Anglicised (pont - ker- sill - it)

The aqueduct is built on the local bedrock, each of the 18 piers is constructed of local stone, rising to a maximum height of 116ft (about 35m) above the River Dee. These supporting piers are tapered from bottom to top, measuring 27ft (about 8m) in width at the bottom and 17ft (about 5m) at the top. The piers and end stonework support 19 cast iron arches, each of which has a 45ft (13.6m) span supporting the iron trough and bridgework. It is said that the mortar used in the construction comprised of lime, water and Oxen blood. All of the original iron castings were produced at the Plaskynaston Foundry. Each casting dovetails into the next. To seal the ironwork, it is said that the joints were caulked with Welsh flannel dipped in boiling sugar, and then sealed with hot lead. The bridge section was made from cast iron, with overall dimensions of the ironwork being 11ft (3.3m) wide, 5ft 3ins (1.6m) deep and 1,007ft (305m) long. Once constructed the trough was filled with water and left to prove for about six months.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct had cost Telford about £45,000 to build and was opened on 26th November 1805, in the presence of about 8,000 onlookers. The opening ceremony involved the passage of six, horse-drawn boats across the bridge, and back again, on the mark of a cannon salvo by the Royal Artillery from a temporary platform below. The first two boats carried the managing committee and their families, the third carried the band of the Shropshire Volunteers in full dress uniform, and the fourth carried the civil engineers. The last two boats carried a cargo of coal representing the first commercial use of the aqueduct between Wales and England - the border being at the south end of the Chirk Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal just a few miles away!

Today's plaque - Pontcysyllte AqueductAn original plaque at the Trevor end read....'The nobility and gentry of the adjacent counties having united their efforts with the great commercial interest of this country in creating an intercourse and union between England and North Wales. By navigable communication of the three rivers - Severn, Dee and Mersey, for the mutual benefit of agriculture and trade, caused the first stone of the aqueduct of Pontcysyllte to be laid, on the 25th July, 1795, when Richard Myddleton - MP of Chirk, one of the original patrons of the Ellesmere Canal was Lord of the Manor and in the reign of our sovereign George III. When the Equity of the laws and security of property promoted the general welfare of the Nation, while the arts and sciences flourished by his patronage, and the conduct of civil life was improved by his example.'

Read more about: the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct or read about: other Aqueducts in the UK