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Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford by William Raddon, after Samuel Lane line engraving, published 1831 acquired Martin Collection, 1861. Reference Collection NPG D6933 (National Portrait Gallery)

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Thomas Telford: The man, the work, the legacy….

A brief video celebrating the life of Thomas Telford to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth.

This film has been produced by the Institution of Civil Engineers.



The aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, is 1,007 ft (307 m) long, 11 ft (3.4 m) wide and 5.25 ft (1.60 m) deep.  It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft (38 m) above the river on iron arched ribs carried on eighteen masonry piers (pillars) with nineteen spans. Each span is 53 ft (16 m) wide.  An interesting fact about each pier is that the top portion of each pier is hollow.

Thomas Telford had previously worked a cast iron trough aqueduct on the Longdon-on-Tern aqueduct on the Shrewsbury Canal, still visible in the middle of a field, though the canal was abandoned years ago.  Part of what was originally called the Ellesmere Canal, it was the first major feat of civil engineering undertaken by Telford. In 1795, Thomas Telford still thought himself a stonemason and an architect and so was supervised by William Jessop, the country’s most experienced canal engineer in the building of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The iron was supplied by William Hazledine from his foundries at Shrewsbury and nearby Cefn Mawr.  It was opened on 26th November 1805, having taken around ten years to design and build at a total cost of £47,000 which included the massive embankments.  The Aqueduct itself cost £38,500 to construct.  Adjusting for inflation the Aqueduct cost in 1805 is equal to £2,300,000 as of March, 2013. However it must be noted that a structure of this type would cost more to build today due to other factors that didn't exist in the early 19th century such as statutory wages (adjusted for inflation), health and safety laws, building regulations, taxes and financing fees to name but a few.

At the time of the aqueduct's completion, the canal terminated at a wharf slightly to its north. A feeder to bring water from the Horseshoe Falls beyond Llangollen was completed three years later in 1808, and about 1825 the Plas Kynaston Canal, which was extended around 1830, was built to serve industry in the Cefn Mawr area.

Today, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is recognised by its status as a Grade I Listed Building and a World Heritage Site.

Kindly authenticated by Peter Jones (Local Historian)

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Visualisation


“Although this canal is only eighteen miles long, yet there are many important works in its course--several locks, a tunnel about half a mile long, and two aqueducts. For the most considerable of these last, I have just recommended an aqueduct of iron. It has been approved, and will be executed under my direction, upon a principle entirely new, and which I am endeavouring to establish with regard to the application of iron.” Thomas Telford

Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, Shrewsbury, Dated: 13th March, 1795.

Thomas Telford. Civil Engineer. 1757 - 1834

This is the spectacular view from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the 'waterway in the sky' which marked its 200th anniversary in 2005. Built by Thomas Telford, it carries the Llangollen Canal 126 feet over the River Dee and is seen as an engineering marvel.

To move around in the image, hold down your left mouse button and drag, or use cursor keys. Use "A" to zoom in and "Z" to zoom out.

Please be patient while the image loads.

See3D produced the above video to recreate a visualisation of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for the Royal Commision on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.