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Volunteers wanted for major celebration to mark bi-centenary of Menai suspension bridge

The Menai Suspension Bridge - showing the original hangers - the bridge is pictured before the road widening work had taken place (Pic: Menai Heritage)

VOLUNTEERS are needed to get involved with a major celebration to mark the bi-centenary of the Menai suspension bridge.

Early discussions over plans to mark the auspicious anniversary in January, 2026, are just starting to get underway.

Now, a Menai Bridge museum which helps to chronicles the history of the iconic structure is looking for people to help out.

The Menai Heritage museum has put out a call for volunteers to get involved and help to plan with the forthcoming festivities.

It is hoped the auspicious event could potentially attract crowds of people to the area.

Engineers inspect the Menai Suspension Bridge (Pic: Dale Spridgeon)

The museum helps keeps alive the stories of the Menai – and Britannia Bridge and local area, and features information and an exhibition at the Thomas Telford Centre, in Menai Bridge.

Menai Heritage Trustee John Cole said: “We are hoping the bi-centenary will prove to be a massive celebration – something worthy of Thomas Telford and his pioneering work to develop this world renowned Menai Suspension Bridge.

“The bridge is not only of local interest but also of national and international importance, we hope people will come from far and wide.

“We would love to hear from people who would like to get involved with the celebration planning and the museum’s work.

“We are still in the early days of the discussions yet, but we have started putting the word out.

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“We hope the celebration could include everything from parades, to a flotilla of boats, even a light show, music events, and much much more.”

A 200-year commemoration of the bridge’s first stone which was laid on August 10, 1819, was marked by the museum, back in 2019.

But the bi-centenary celebrates the two centuries that have passed since the bridge formally opened, on January 30, 1826.

Then the opening event was itself marked by an excited crowd which gathered to cheer and wave colourful flags to the accompaniment of a band.

John Cole trustee at the Menai Heritage Museum shows Michael Portillo information about the Menai Suspension Bridge. As part of his ‘Great Railway Journeys in Wales’ series, he visited the museum to learn about the history and building of the bridge

According to John, the bridge was “the biggest, longest, highest and most sophisticated of its type in the world at the time of its completion.”

Although other bridges would later surpass its design and dimensions, it remains historically relevant as a mark of the ground breaking engineering, which led the way for others to follow.

The Grade I listed structure had been built by Telford, a civil engineer, to improve the journey time between London and the port of Holyhead.

The route had became important providing a physical link between Parliament and Ireland.

Suspended by giant chains it connects Bangor on the mainland of North Wales to the Isle of Anglesey a distance of 176m.

For thousands of years, the only way to cross the treacherous Menai Strait was to risk walking over at low tide or taking a ferry across the notorious, swirling waters – equally perilous.

Construction began with the imposing towers, made from limestone hewn from the quarry at Penmon, on Anglesey and hauled to the site by barge.

Originally, the bridge was supported by four sets of four iron chains and the roadway was deliberately set at 100ft above mean high water to accommodate tall ships.

Designed for horses and carts, it would eventually undergo a number of adaptations as traffic size and volumes increased.

Over the years it has seen a number of restorations, upgrades and repair projects include the recent work to replace the hangers.

A public engagement event was recently held at the Thomas Telford Centre where around 40 visitors heard about the project.

Attending were representatives from the Welsh Government, UK Highways 55 Ltd, engineering team members and Menai Heritage trustees and volunteers.

The exhibition included informative boards, 3D bridge models, a film illustrating phases of the work, and bridge parts were on show, including a hanger and socket.

According to organisers, visitors took “a keen interest” in the technicalities which the engineers were happy to explain.

They also described efforts to protect the special bridge and highlighted the “unique opportunity” to help maintain the bridge’s presence for many years to come.

For more information visit the museum, at the Thomas Telford Centre in Menai Bridge, or see its social media for more information on its work.