November 26: cnalle yn ‘r skyye

2012/11/26 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1805 opening ceremonies were held for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The navigable aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford (1757-1834) to carry the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee in east Wales (meaning that all of the associated town names are virtually unpronounceable, even for an Elf).  Telford already had made a bit of a name for himself with the construction of bridges and a few canals, but Pontcysyllte made him famous.  Its scale was (and is) immense: the longest and highest aqueduct in Great Britain.  A bit over 1000 feet long and fewer than a dozen feet wide, it rises 126 feet above the river.  The water travels in a cast iron trough on iron arched ribs spanning 53 feet and resting on hollow masonry piers that taper at the top.  Telford had practised with iron in earlier bridges, but the scale of this project was truly immense.  He had few guides for his application of the light, elastic materials of cast and wrought iron in such a setting; it was truly an innovative project that had immediate impact on industrializing Britain by knitting together a number of otherwise isolated industrial towns.  It is also a monument to that particular kind of Industrial Revolution-age imagination that saw nature’s challenges against humanity’s technological advance as one big game.  Goods and materials needed to be transferred across a craggy landscape; the question was not how to best manage the hills and vallies on their own terms, but how to avoid them by lifting a canal up into the sky.  And the answer to that question just required grit and smarts provided by one clever bloke.

Image: from above (from this source)

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You are currently reading November 26: cnalle yn ‘r skyye at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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