The aqueduct

Morning all. It’s guest blogger time here at The Adventures of Danda and Yaya. So it’s over to Rambler5319 for today. Enjoy!


I recently went on a trip over an aqueduct and will tell you all about it soon. First off we’re starting with a certain Thomas Farryner? Never heard of him? If I tell you he was a baker and he lived in Pudding Lane in 17th century London I reckon you know what’s coming next. He was apparently the King’s baker and it was the pile of wood that he used for keeping his ovens hot that caught fire; he and his servants were trapped in the house and had to climb onto the roof and jump to roof of the next door property to escape. It was that fire which unfortunately grew into what we now call The Great Fire of London. (Some estimates reckon as much as ⅔ of London was destroyed including over 80 churches. Christopher Wren was responsible for the rebuilding of over 50 of those churches along with St Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument which commemorates the fire.) The reason for mentioning it is because the anniversary of that awful day in 1666 was just a couple of days ago on Monday of this week (2.9.13), so 347 years ago to the day. Also significantly on 2nd Sept but this time in 1834 another Thomas, Thomas Telford, died. He was one of those amazingly multi-skilled folks with abilities in a wide variety of fields: civil engineer, architect, stonemason and road, bridge & canal builder; and he is the connection to today’s post.

We arrived at the terminus in Llangollen for our trip along the canal and, after ordering some lunch to have on the way, we joined the queue. The guy running the trip began calling out names and ours was called. We were invited to come to the front of the queue and be one of the first on board but we didn’t know why. Apparently if you order food you get to be first on. Pick of the seats – nice touch! After the usual safety instructions we set off at a leisurely 3 or 4mph. There are a couple of tight turns on the route where the boat can (and did) touch the sides of the canal just because it’s so long. In one section the boat hit the floor and, as with the side contact, we’d been advised in advance not to panic and go scrambling for the emergency exits. There is some commentary, by the crew, along the way but it’s not intrusive and does give you some more info about bits you’re passing. Eventually we came to a junction (Trevor Basin) where we turned right and headed towards the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Now back to our Thomas Telford. He was appointed resident engineer to the Ellesmere Canal Company in 1793 but had little experience of canal building; he was guided by the older & more experienced consulting engineer, William Jessop. It’s worth taking in a few statistics here: the aqueduct was opened in 1805 (just after Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar); it’s over 1,000 feet (304 metres) long, 126 feet (38 metres) high & 5ft 3” (1.6 metres) deep; the stone pillars holding it up are hollow; the water-sealing material used on the joins of the trough is the original stuff Telford used so it’s almost 210 years old. (I wonder if modern day sealants or even the boasts of super glue will last 200+ years.)

The canal originally carried local limestone, slate & coal as well as being a feed for water into the Shropshire Union Canal. The aqueduct still carries 50 million litres of water each day to supply the Cheshire area!

Interestingly, the idea of boat trips along the canal began in 1884 with a guy who had retired from the White Star Shipping Line (of later Titanic fame). He got the first boats from Liverpool and bought a couple of shire horses and began what has endured right up to the present time; there are still horse drawn boats as well as the motorised one we went on.

Here are a couple of pics of our boat.


And the ticket.image

Did you spot the name of the boat? – Thomas Telford

Here’s a view through the window. Check out the width of the edge on that side. And don’t forget it’s 126 feet (38 metres) down over that edge. Sorry about the reflection – it was just a nice sunny day!


This is a view of the aqueduct without any boats on it


Here are a couple of other boats going across.


This video (not mine) gives a good view and feeling of just how narrow the side of the cast iron trough is on the opposite side to the walkway before the big drop.

Once over the aqueduct it was a U-turn and berth. We disembarked and waited for the bus back to Llangollen.

Just across the other side from where we got off was this stone memorial.


There wasn’t time to go over and get a close up so here’s one on Flickr:

There seems to be a bit of a mystery on who “Canada Bill” was and I can’t help either. Made a few phone calls to the local area and even the tourist info office but nothing so far. All I can assume is that he worked as a miner for the Chirk Castle Limestone Company – also mentioned on the monument – and that perhaps he was a Canadian working in Britain; or maybe he talked about the place a lot and was going to live there.

Very enjoyable trip and good food.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Man, I am *so* envious of British history. In Australia, if something is 100 years old, we all get so excited :/


  2. […] you remember my post from a couple of weeks ago (The Aqueduct, 4.9.13) well this is part 2 of that trip (or the rest of day 1). After the aqueduct we headed out of town […]


  3. […] day break to Llangollen a while ago. Although I’ve done a couple of posts already on the trip (4.9.13 & 18.9.13) there is more to report on so here’s instalment […]


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