Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Crossing the aqueduct


31 August 2012

Trevor, Wrexham County Borough

SJ 27032 41928; 52.96971°N, 3.08796°W


The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct spans the River Dee valley and links the villages of Froncysyllte in the south and Trevor in the north. It was built from 1795 to 1805 by Thomas Telford as part of a project to take what was then known as the Ellesmere Canal as far as Wrexham and Chester. However, the plan fell victim to competition from the railways and the route was never completed any further north than the Trefor Basin. This basin is supplied with water from the Dee at the Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio via a feeder canal along the Vale of Llangollen. This was constructed when the plans to reach the main water source north of Wrexham were abandoned. The feeder and the main canal from the Trefor Basin now form the Llangollen Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal network.

The bridge has 18 hollow, tapered stone piers and the waterway is contained in a cast-iron trough, comprising 19 sections built from two-inch thick plates. Its overall length is 1007 ft and its height is 126 ft. When it was built, Pontcysyllte was the world’s longest and tallest aqueduct, a record it still holds for the UK. It is a Grade I listed structure and is also a World Heritage Site.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales);
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (Wikipedia);
Llangollen Canal (Wikipedia)

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from the southern end

The aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal 126 ft above the River Dee

The aqueduct from the northern (Trefor Basin) end

Masonry piers

The voussoirs, reminiscent of a stone arch, in the cast-iron arches are purely decorative

The walkway has protective parapet railings, but the opposite side of the canal is open, giving a very exposed feel

Narrowboat crossing the aqueduct

Iron arches from below

Looking down

Crossing the aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Three of the tapering stone piers


7 thoughts on “Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

  1. It’s amazing to me that while Nelson was bashing those pesky French chappies at Trafalgar, Thomas Telford was supervising construction of this amazing structure! It still feels as if it was built much later. Lovely photos as always, Graham.

  2. You’ve hit on a point that makes Thomas Telford’s story quite sad I think. He was a true polymath and phenomenal engineer; so many of his structures are both breathtaking and groundbreaking and I don’t think the title The Colossus of Roads does him justice, yet so much of his work was very quickly superseded by the railways making many of his strokes of genius obsolete. Thanks for these pictures; they really capture what an amazing structure this is. I particularly like the looking down pic, looks as though you’re looking at a very far away pair of feet!

    • Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting Catrin. You make an interesting point about his work becoming obsolete – pity that after completing this structure the canal effectively never went any further. One of his achievements that I’m thankful has not been (totally) superseded is the Menai Bridge – can you imagine the congestion if we only had a single crossing?

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