Saturday, 16 October 2010

Pontcysyllte: stone, iron, sky - and boats..

While Nelson was busy with the battle of Trafalgar, Thomas Telford was supervising the construction of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, near Wrexham in North Wales. 205 years on, and the structure has lost none of it's charisma, gaining World Heritage Site status and rubbing metaphorical shoulders with wonders such as the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge. Thomas Telford's name is arguably almost as famous as Nelson's, but the Scotsman's activities were of a somewhat more practical nature. On this assignment, he required the help of William Jessop, an eminent canal engineer of the time and between them, they created a wonderful monument to the ingenuity and industry of their age.

One of the features of this bridge that fascinates me is that the vertical loading stresses are almost constant. When a boat passes over, it displaces it's own weight in water, unlike on a viaduct, where every vehicle passing over imposes a separate strain and weight on the structure.

Telford is one of my heroes. Rolt's superb biography (Sutton, ISBN 978-0-7509-4576-9) gives a touching and exhaustive account of his life, while admitting that the real man behind the engineering triumphs still eluded him. Why look any further than this bridge for confirmation of genius?

Wikipedia site for the Bridge  for the facts and figures.

Thomas Telford, Dumfries and Galloway  for a nice potted history of the man.


Anonymous said...

Just come across these shots now - very nice monochrome work. The light on the second shot is marvellous.

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you very much, Graham! It was interesting to see on your blog how you approached the task and solved the problems of photographing such an iconic (and difficult) subject!

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