Watch this video.

Footage from an open air music event staged beneath Pontcysyllte Aqueduct a few weeks ago.

You could do this much anywhere, and it would still be memorable.

But the fact it’s staged beneath a World Heritage Site – and probably one of the most iconic heritage structures in the UK – makes it special.

Not because the aqueduct provides an incredible back-drop for a concert (which it certainly does), but because Pontcysyllte has a special significance for people in North East Wales.

There is genuine love for this structure, because – I suppose – it’s more than just history.

It embodies a spirit. It’s a testament to something in our DNA in this part of the world.

New thinking. Hard work. Enterprise.

the gift of identity

When Thomas Telford and William Jessop finished Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, it was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world.

And though they lived in a different age to today’s visionaries – Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Elon Musk and so on – they belonged to the same breed. They were ahead of their time.

The techniques and ideas they developed at Pontcysyllte were game-changers that helped shape the world through their impact on engineering.

Locally, they helped keep the wheels of industry turning by allowing goods and materials to be transported across the Dee Valley.

Of course, railways gradually replaced canals as the main method of in-land commercial transport in the 19th Century. But Pontcystllte never lost its relevance.

It remained an important pedestrian link between the villages of Froncysllte and Trevor, and continued to support economic actvity in various shapes and guises.

Today, it’s as much a component of our local economy as it was in Telford’s time.

How so?

Tourism.

Along with Chirk Aqueduct, the Horseshoe Falls and the 11 miles of canal that make up the World Heritage Site, Pontcysyllte provides a major tourism attraction that’s still growing towards its full potential.

But over the past 200+ years it’s come to serve a deeper, less tangible purpose than economic prosperity (important though that is).

The aqueduct helps provide a sense of identity.

It reflects that spirit of invention and hard work in Wrexham County Borough that I mentioned earlier.

From John Wilkinson to the European Extra Large Telescope. From Elihu Yale to Nu Instruments.

We have many stories of enterprise, hard work and ingenuity to tell (see my earlier article ‘Blood, sweat and ideas’), but the aqueduct embodies the human spirit behind them all.

paying homage

So when 5,000 people gather on that field for Under the Arches every summer, sure – they’re there for the music, atmosphere, the party.

But I don’t think I’m being over-romantic in saying they’re also there to celebrate Pontcysyllte.

To pay homage to a structure that tells our story in Wrexham, and reflects some of the greatest aspects of our collective DNA.

PS…

If you’ve never been to the aqueduct before, you should go.

Around 350,000 other people visit it every year. And how can that many people be wrong?

pontcysyllte-aqueduct.co.uk