Holyhead Breakwater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Holyhead Breakwater and Lighthouse.

Holyhead Breakwater is situated at the north-western end of Holyhead on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. The Victorian structure, which is 1.7 miles (2.7 km) long, is the longest breakwater in the United Kingdom.[1] The breakwater, which is accessible in good weather, has a promenade on top which leads out to the Holyhead Breakwater Lighthouse.[1]


The purpose of the project was to enclose more than 400 acres (160 ha) of deep water to create a sheltered roads, in addition to Holyhead's pre-existing 276 acres (112 ha) harbour.[2] In 1848 the Chester and Holyhead Railway opened dramatically increasing the amount of sailings between Ireland and Great Britain.

Remains of the breakwater railway.

Work began in 1845 under the auspices of superintendent engineer, J.M. Rendell.[1][2] Following his death in 1856, the project was completed by John Hawkshaw.[2]

Up to 1,300 men were employed during the project; although more than forty men lost their lives.[3] Shaped blocks of 10-tonne limestone were used to create an outer facing wall that encased a rubble mound that was raised from the sea by dumping from ships and landward tipping.[4] Divers in submarine bells were used to create level foundations on which the tiers of facing stones were placed.[5] Men worked underwater using picks and hammers. Blasting was even undertaken using gunpowder sealed in watertight tin pipes.[5]

A broad gauge railway was used to carry more than seven million tonnes of stone from the quarries on Holyhead Mountain to the working areas.[1] The line eventually reached 1.48 mi (2.38 km) in length. In 1913 it was converted to standard gauge because a new engine was required after the original one had worn out.[6][7] The line was used to maintain the breakwater until the 1980s when it finally ceased operations.[8]

The breakwater, which took 28 years to complete, was officially opened on 19 August 1873 by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e Denton, A., & Leach, N. (2008). Lighthouses of Wales. Landmark Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84306-459-6. 
  2. ^ a b c Cragg, Roger (1997). Civil Engineering Heritage Series: Wales & West Central England. Thomas Telford. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0727725769. 
  3. ^ Hughes, Margaret (2001). Anglesey from the Sea. Carreg Gwalch. ISBN 0-86381-698-3. 
  4. ^ Smith, Mick R. (1999). "Stone: Building Stone, Rock Fill and Armourstone in Construction". Geological Society Engineering Geology Special Publication 16: 296. ISBN 1862390290. 
  5. ^ a b Jamieson, Alexander (1879). Dictionary of Mechanical Science, Arts, Manufactures, and Miscellaneous Knowledge, Volume 1. H. Fisher, Son & Company. p. 103. 
  6. ^ History of Rail Transport in Great Britain. PediaPress. 
  7. ^ Jones, Geraint I.L. (2005). Anglesey Railways. Carreg Gwalch. ISBN 1-84527-006-1. 
  8. ^ "Holyhead Breakwater". http://www.2d53.co.uk/. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 

Coordinates: 53°19′30″N 4°37′48″W / 53.325°N 4.63°W / 53.325; -4.63