Category Archives: Engineering

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Seamen often curse and swear when they are aloft furling or reefing sails in a gale of wind; but I have never heard a sailor blaspheme on these occasions. Their language aloft is merely a mode of speaking. Although in the old days I have heard men blaspheme on deck, blasphemy was never heard aloft in a gale. To be aloft in a whole gale or in a hurricane impresses the mind with a sense of the almighty power of the Deity, and the insignificance of man, that puny atom, compared with the vast forces of the elements. In later life, I once said to a young man whom I heard using blasphemous language in a club: “If you were up with me on the weather yard-arm of a topsail yard reefing topsails in a whole gale, you would be afraid to say what you are saying now. You would see what a little puny devil a man is, and although you might swear, you would be too great a coward to blaspheme.”

And I went on to ram the lesson home with some forcible expressions, a method of reproof which amused the audience, but which effectually silenced the blasphemer.

The fact is, there is a deep sense of religion in those who go down to the sea in ships and do their business in the great waters. Every minister of God, irrespective of the denomination to which he belongs, is treated with respect. And a good chaplain, exercising tact and knowing how to give advice, does invaluable service in a ship, and is a great help in maintaining sound discipline, inasmuch as by virtue of his position he can discover and remove little misunderstandings which cause discontent and irritation. The discomforts of the Old Navy are unknown to the new. The sanitary appliances, for instance, were placed right forward in the bows, in the open air. If the sea were rough they could not be used. On these occasions, the state of the lower deck may with more discretion be imagined than described. As the ship rolled, the water leaked in through the rebated joints of the gun-ports, and as long as a gale lasted the mess-decks were no better than cesspools. It is a curious fact that in spite of all these things, the spirits of both officers and men rose whenever it came on to blow; and the harder it blew, the more cheery everyone became. The men sang most under stress of weather; just as they will to-day under the same conditions or while coaling ship. After a gale of wind, the whole ship’s company turned-to to clean the ship.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

James Watt – 1736

 

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Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote. 

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Below is an excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858 – featuring James Watt.

James Watt – 1736

James WattJames Watt was born at Greenock on the Clyde, on the 19th of January, 1736. His parents were of the middle class honest, ‘God-fearing’ people, with a character for probity which had descended to them from their ‘forbears,’ and was the proudest inheritance of the family. James Watt was thus emphatically well-born. His grandfather was a teacher of navigation and mathematics in the village of Cartsdyke, now part of Greenock, and dignified himself with the name of ‘Professor.’ But as Cartsdyke was as yet only a humble collection of thatched hovels, and the shipping of the Clyde was confined principally to fishing-boats, the probability is, that his lessons in navigation were of a very humble order.

He was, however, a dignitary of the place, being Bailie of the Barony as well as one of the parish elders. His son, James Watt, the father of the engineer, settled at Greenock as a carpenter and builder. Greenock was then little better than a fishing village, consisting of a single row of thatched cottages lying parallel with the sandy beach of the Frith of Clyde. The beautiful shore, broken by the long narrow sea lochs running far away among the Argyleshire hills, and now fringed with villages, villas, and mansions, was then as lonely as Glencoe; and the waters of the Frith, now daily plashed by the paddles of almost innumerable Clyde steamers, were as yet undisturbed save by the passing of an occasional Highland coble.

The prosperity of Greenock was greatly promoted by Sir John Shaw, the feudal superior, who succeeded in obtaining from the British Parliament, what the Scottish Parliament previous to the Union had refused, the privilege of constructing a harbour. Ships began after 1740 to frequent the pier, and then Mr. Watt added ship carpentering and dealing in ships’ stores to his other pursuits. He himself held shares in ships, and engaged in several foreign mercantile ventures, some of which turned out ill, and involved him in embarrassments. A great deal of miscellaneous work was executed on his premises – household furniture and ship’s carpentry – chairs and tables, figureheads and capstans, blocks, pumps, gun-carriages, and dead-eyes. The first crane erected on the Greenock pier, for the convenience of the Virginia tobacco ships, was supplied from his stores. He even undertook to repair ships’ compasses, as well as the commoner sort of nautical instruments then in use. These multifarious occupations were the result of the smallness of the place, while the business of a single calling was yet too limited to yield a competence. That Mr. Watt was a man of repute in his locality is shown by his having been elected one of the trustees to manage the funds of the borough in 1741, when Sir John Shaw divested himself of his feudal rights, and made them over to the inhabitants. Mr. Watt subsequently held office as town-treasurer, and as bailie or magistrate.

Agnes Muirhead, the bailie’s wife, and the mother of James Watt, was long remembered in the place as an intelligent woman, bountifully gifted with graces of person as well as of mind and heart. She was of a somewhat dignified appearance; and it was said that she affected a superior style of living to her neighbours.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858.


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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

James Watt – Steam-Engine – Hercules of Modern Mythology

 

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Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote. 

Below is an excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858 – featuring James Watt.

James Watt – Steam-Engine – Hercules of Modern Mythology

James WattNO country in the world presents such a combination of facilities for manufacture and commerce as England – coal and iron, ships and steam-engines, hardy seamen and ingenious mechanics. With these combined advantages the progress during the present century has been beyond example. In [1784] an American vessel arrived in Liverpool having on board as part of her cargo eight bales of cotton, which were seized by the customhouse officers under the conviction that they could not be the growth of America!

Last year there were imported at Liverpool not less than a million and a half bales of cotton from the United States alone! The first steam-engine used in Manchester was not erected till [1790]; it is now computed that in that city and the district within a radius of ten miles, there are more than fifty thousand boilers, giving a total power of upwards of a million of horses! The engine of Watt has proved the very Hercules of modern mythology, the united steam power of Great Britain being equal, it is estimated, to the manual labour of upwards of four hundred millions of men, or more than double the number of males supposed to inhabit the globe.

Mechanicians and engineers, unlike literary men, are never their own biographers. As an eminent living engineer lately observed, ‘We are so much occupied with doing the thing itself, that we have not the disposition, even if we had the leisure, to write about how it is done. The majority of the persons of this class have moreover risen from obscurity, and the companions among whom they passed their early days were, for the most part, like themselves, self-educated; neither caring to put on record what was worthy to be preserved, nor competent to record it. Hence these heroes of mechanical science passed away, leaving only their work behind them. Hence little is known of Savery, the inventor of the first working atmospheric engine; and it is matter of doubt whether he was the captain of a ship or of a Cornish tin-mine. Nothing of the history of his rival and subsequent partner, Newcomen, is preserved, beyond the fact that he was a blacksmith and a Baptist. Even the distinguished inventors who have lived nearer to our own time have been scarcely more fortunate; for we do not yet possess a single respectable memoir of Arkwright, Crompton, Brindley, or Rennie. Happily, however, the greatest name in the roll of English inventors left behind him a large store of valuable materials, which have been published by his zealous relative Mr. Muirhead, and who has now crowned his long labours by an elaborate ‘Life of Watt,’ the expansion of a former Memoir, which comprises all that we are likely to learn of a man to whom we mainly owe the greatest commercial and social revolution in the entire history of the world.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858.


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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

 

Englands Oldest Handicrafts

 

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ENGLANDS OLDEST HANDICRAFTS

 Below is an article from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox and George Latimer Apperson – published in 1899.  It covers the early English Handicraft trade and the beginning of working in precious metals.

WORKING IN PRECIOUS METALS.  by ISABEL SUART ROBSON.

Alfred’s Jewel – BackWorking in precious metals and in bronze was one of the earliest and most important industries practised by our forefathers in this country. Many antiquaries have questioned whether the production of decorative objects actually preceded the Roman invasion. According to Holinshed’s Chronicle “collars of gold and silver wrought for women’s necks” were a part of the tribute which the Emperor Augustus laid upon this island, and it is scarcely probable that ores would have been sought here by other nations if ornaments of metal made in this country had not been carried abroad.

The earliest settlements of Saxons undoubtedly included goldsmiths and bronzeworkers, for as a race they were accustomed to wearing ornaments of precious metal, made with a skill and artistic taste which do credit to their handicraft. The monasteries, in Saxon times no less than in later ages, were the schools and cradles of arts and industries. Alcuin, who was living at the close of the eighth century, and founded several monasteries, is especially mentioned in medieval chronicles as the patron of handicrafts. He was the friend of Charlemagne, and went on one occasion to Parma to confer with that monarch on matters connected with the goldsmith’s craft, and to discuss means for improving the making of crosses, shrines, and vessels for the churches. The results of this conference Alcuin confided to the monks in England, and richly chased, hammered and enamelled gold, silver, and bronze vessels made by his instructions long enriched the great abbeys of St. Albans, and Gloucester. St. Dunstan more than any other exerted himself to encourage handicrafts, and at the school founded by him at Glastonbury pupils were taught, among other things, working in precious metals and bronze. Later he was taken as the patron saint of goldsmiths, and the records of city companies abound in notices of the ceremonies which took place in his honour on special occasions. Many of the abbots were themselves noted artists. Bishop Bernward, who lived at the close of the tenth century, executed some beautiful Sticks (which are now in Kensington Museum) for the abbey where he learnt his art. Another Bishop-artist was Brithnodus of Ely, whose four images, covered with silver-gilt and precious stones, the glory of the abbey, had to go, with many other ornaments, to appease the resentment of William the Conqueror against this last stronghold of saxons.

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Further Reading and External Links

Bishop Bernward on Wikipedia

Matthew Boulton – Working in Precious Metals – 1773

Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote.  Below is an article from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson and published in 1899 – featuring Matthew Boulton.

Matthew Boulton – Working in Precious Metals – 1773

Portrait Medal of Matthew BoultonThe “Industrial Revolution,” as the struggle between handicraft and machinery has been called, largely changed the aspect of the gold and silversmiths’ work, though methods remained little different for many years. The picturesque in the old life became stern reality; the mediaeval workshop became the factory.

A representative worker in metal under these new conditions was Matthew Boulton, a native of that “ancient town of smiths,” Birmingham. He came to the craft as the potter’s son comes to the wheel, his father being the owner of a prosperous manufactory for stamping and piercing silver. To this business Matthew Boulton succeeded in [1759], resolved to still further extend it, and openly announcing his determination to adopt every invention which promised as good work at a quicker rate and diminishing labour.

When extended premises became a necessity, he purchased a tract of barren heath, near Birmingham, named Soho, where he started a factory for the production of “honest and artistic articles,” in gold and silver, steel, tortoiseshell and various compositions. One of his first inventions was a new way of inlaying steel, followed by many novel methods of decorating buttons, trinkets, buckles and ornaments. It is, however, for what he accomplished in the improvement of our coinage that Boulton’s name will be longest remembered. After assiduous experiments at his own factory at Soho he produced an improved coinage machinery, and also a perfected coinage which was introduced by him to the Mint of London, and also to the Russian, Spanish, Danish, and Indian Mints. It was only in [1882] that a Boulton Press, at the Mint, Tower Hill, was finally discarded.

Though co-operation enters largely into all work done by gold and silversmiths to-day, all really good productions are handwork, and the labour in many instances is as costly as the material used. The work differs from mediaeval handicraft in possessing less originality and individual flavour, whilst the workman is more a mechanical agent fulfilling another’s design than in olden days. In some cases the worker and designer are one, and a harmony of form and decoration is then gained, often missing in work which passes through several hands. The mediaeval smithing naturally forms the model with which modern workers compare their work, and it is their pride to acknowledge that, given time, they could produce plate equal in every point. To quote the words of a well-known metalworker of to-day, “the desire of the public to buy cheaply too frequently compels workers to send out articles much below the degree of excellence they could easily achieve.”

Much elaborate and beautiful work is done in Birmingham and Sheffield by means of the lathe or wheel upon which the metal is “spun,” and with the die with which metal is stamped in order to shape the article required. A vessel made by the latter process would have two completed halves, fashioned first, and the soldering of these together would form a second process. In point of durability and intrinsic value, such a piece of plate would fall far short of the handmade vessel beaten out of one piece of metal until the requisite shape was gained.

English artificers have always been quick to adopt new styles of work and the method of foreign workers.

Excerpt from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson and published in 1899

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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John

 

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Below is a piece on the Italian town of Amafi well known for its connections to The Hospitalliers of St John, The Mariners Compass and the Pandects of Justinian.

Excerpt from The Catholic World Volume 72 – December 1901

 Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John 

 Amalfi Panoramic ViewAmalfi was the Athens of the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been founded by emigrants from Melfi, the Greek city lying some seventy or eighty miles inland. We find mention of Amalfi in the sixth century; in the seventh it was governed by doges, and in the ninth Sicardo, Prince of Salerno, came there for the pious purpose of collecting the relics of various saints, and, being opposed in his intent by the no less religious inhabitants of the city, plundered and pillaged the town and carried off a vast number of prisoners. These prisoners afterwards got free, burned Salerno, the rival of their native city, and inaugurated thenceforward a wonderful period of prosperity for Amalfi.

The city now assumed a species of independence. The Emperor of Constantinople fixed there a tribunal for the settlement of all disputes regarding naval matters, and the Tabula Amalfitana, or Code of Amalfi, soon became recognized as the guiding laws for all Europe, and Amalfi was regarded as the foremost naval power in the world.

Amalfi in the time of Robert Guiscard had fifty thousand inhibitants. Its merchants traded all over the known world, and established colonies at Byzantium, in Asia Minor, and in Africa. They also instituted the order of the Hospitallers of St. John, who became afterwards known as the Knights of Malta, and these merchants were the foremost traders in the world, for only after their decline did Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa rise to greatness. It was consequently inevitable that at the time of the Crusades the city swarmed with armed men, and that from its port multitudes of knights, with the cross as a device, set out in the interests of the good cause and to satisfy personal love of gain and adventure.

Amalfi at this period was a proud and haughty city, and took every occasion of defying the Norman sovereigns of Naples. King Roger finally made war upon the city and, after two years of more or less constant attack and circumvallation, obliged it to capitulate in 1131, after which he placed it under a species of suzerainty while still allowing it perfect freedom as to its internal government.

A few years later Amalfi had a quarrel with Pisa. The Pisans took the offensive and, in spite of the efforts of King Roger to protect Amalfi, the enemy raided the city and carried off its greatest treasure, the celebrated manuscripts of the Pandects of Justinian, now one of the principal treasures of the Laurentian Library in Florence, the Florentines having taken it from the Pisans in the fifteenth century. The Pisans returned again in 1137, two years after their first attack, and obliged Amalfi to sue for peace. The little republic had thence forward lost its power and its primacy, and became subject to the Dukes of Anjou.

In 1343 the lower part of the town, which had been gradually undermined by the sea for at least a couple of centuries, collapsed and almost the whole of its buildings, with arsenals and harbor, were thenceforward covered with water. Amalfi from this on was merely an antiquarian relic of its former greatness. It retained, however, the glorious boast of having been the first of the dominating naval powers of Christian Europe, and of having given birth to Flavio Gioja, the man who in 1302, by the discovery for the Caucasian race of the mariner’s compass, led the way to the discovery of America and helped powerfully to spread civilization and practically to revolutionize the world.

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Further Reading and External Links

The Hospitalliers of St John

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

The Mariners Compass

The Pandects of Justinian

Thomas Cook – 1841 – The First Rail Excursion

 

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Here is an excerpt from Glimpses of Ancient Leicester by Agnes Johnson – 1906, it covers the dawn of the first rail excusion as a means of leisure travel in 1841.

Thomas Cook – 1841 – The First Rail Excursion

The project of running excursion trains at cheap fares was even in these early days dawning in the mind of our celebrated fellow-townsman Mr. Thomas Cook; for he arranged and personally conducted his first excursion (to Loughborough) on the 5th July [1841]. 

It was not until many years later that his system was developed to any great extent; but he gradually became known to all the world as the successful organiser of popular home and foreign travel; an undertaking which has conferred health and pleasure upon multitudes of his countrymen and women, and which has probably made his name and that of his son the late Mr. John M. Cook more familiar both on the Continent and in remote corners of the earth than that of any other Englishmen below the rank of royalty. 

Mr. Thomas Cook died in [1892], deservedly respected both for his enterprise in travel and for his untiring labours in the cause of Temperance.  

Excerpt from Glimpses of Ancient Leicester by Agnes Johnson – 1906

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Further Reading and External Links

Thomas Cook and the First Rail Excursion

Thomas Cook on Wikipedia

Thomas Cook Timeline

The Opening of Bolton Town Hall – 1873

 

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Bolton began as a small village becoming more important in the middle ages and allowed to have a fair.  By the mid 17th century it had a population of approx 2,000 growing to almost 20,000 by the early 1800s, and large enough to have its own Town Hall by 1873.  Below we cover the momentus Royal visit and opening of the Town Hall.

The Opening of Bolton Town Hall – 1873

Bolton Town Hall Opened, Thursday, June 5, by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales and a number of distinguished guests from Haigh Hall, the residence of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, where the Royal party had been staying on their visit to open the new Infirmary in Wigan.

The Royal visit to Bolton was made the occasion of an enthusiastically loyal and magnificent demonstration. The streets were profusely decorated with hundreds of Venetian masts and trophies of flags; triumphal arches and street balconies were erected; there was a grand procession of the Mayor and Corporation and leading gentry, with trade and friendly societies, escorted by detachments of Dragoons, Yeomanry Cavalry, and the local Rifle Volunteers, the Prince and Princess being met at the Chorley New Road boundary of the borough and thence escorted through the principal thoroughfares of the town for a distance of about three miles in the presence of immense crowds of spectators.

An address was presented to the Prince by the Corporation and His Royal Highness was presented with a magnificent silver key with which he formally opened the new civic edifice. A grand banquet was given in the afternoon in the Albert Hall at which the Prince and Princess were present, and the Prince on terminating his brief visit expressed his great gratification with the whole of the inaugural proceedings.

In the evening the town was brilliantly illuminated, while there was also a display of fireworks from the Public Park; medals were struck to commemorate the occasion; and Mr. Coxwells balloon “The Alexandra” made an ascent from the Park Recreation Ground, Mr. Coxwells assistant and Mr. Joseph Holliday, a local innkeeper, alone going up in the car, this being the third time Mr. Holliday had ascended in Mr. Coxwells balloons in Bolton.

Towards the decoration and illumination of the town the Corporation voted £1500, but only £1130 of this was spent. On the following evening (Friday) there was a brilliant ball in the Albert Hall; and on Saturday evening the festivities terminated with the performance of “The Creation” in the same Hall.

The Town Hall which was thus opened amid so much rejoicing cost altogether, including the site, about £170,000. The architects were Messrs. William Hill, of Leeds, and George Woodhouse, of Bolton, and, the structure has been pronounced by competent critics as one of the handsomest in design and best arranged internally of any civic edifice in the country. It stands on the site of the Old Pot Market on the west side of the then Market Square, since formally designated the Town Hall Square. The style of architecture is Classic, of the Corinthian order, based on Grecian models, the Town Council having resolutely set its face against Gothic. The building, which is of stone, is parallelogram in form, and covers an area of 3863 square yards, including the space occupied by the steps of the portico. The total length of the front is 204 feet, of the side 177 feet; the height to the top of the parapet is 63 feet, and the height of the tower is 200 feet. The portico is approached by a bold flight of 29 steps, having at each side near the top a pedestal on which reposes a sculptured lion, 12 feet in length by 6 feet in height. The portico, with its fine cluster of gracefully carved columns, is surmounted by a pediment filled with sculpture executed by Mr. Calder Marshall, R.A. These figures are full relief statues, 8 feet high, the central one representing “Bolton,” with a mural crown holding a shield that bears the borough arms; on her right is “Manufacture,” with a distaff, and leaning on a bale of goods; near her is a cylinder and wheel, and in the angle is the “Earth” pouring out her gifts from a cornucopia, and a negro boy bearing a basket of cotton; while on the left hand of the central figure is “Commerce” with the caduceus and a helm, and in the angle is the “Ocean” and a boy holding a boat by the bows. The fine domed tower which is placed over the principal entrance vestibule, and which contains one of the largest clocks in the country, having four dials each 12 feet in diameter, gives the building an additionally stately appearance. The clock has five large bells. The principal entrance to the Hall is by the portico in the east front, and this gives access to a vestibule 21 feet square, communicating directly with corridors 10 feet wide on each side and end of the Albert Hall, giving continuous communication round the latter and ready access to the Town Clerk’ s apartments, the Council Chamber, Borough Court, Mayor’s Reception and Banqueting Room, and other offices.

In the Albert Hall is a magnificent organ by Messrs. Gray and Davison, of London. The decorations throughout the Hall are of the most rich and elaborate character, and were executed by Messrs. Simpson and Son, of London. In the Council Chamber are tablets bearing the names of the Mayors of the borough, with the year of their mayoralty, from the Charter of Incorporation. The Albert Hall is 112 feet in length, 56 feet wide and 56 feet in height, and has a handsome gallery running round three sides. This room will seat on the ground floor 1466 persons, and in the gallery 334, making a total of 1800; whilst if standing instead of sitting there is room for 3000.

Seventy-seven years had elapsed from the first recorded project for the erection of a Town Hall for Bolton; and it is not unworthy of remark that the site selected originally by the old Trustees was the one on which the Town Hall of to-day at length stands.

Excerpt from Annals of Bolton by James Clegg published in 1888 at the Chronicle Office, Knowsley Street, Bolton.

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Chester and Holyhead Railway – 1838

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George Stephenson was a civil and mechanical engineer famous for building the first public stream locomotive in the world.  He worked closely with his son Robert Stephenson.  Here is an excerpt on the Chester and Holyhead Railway from the book The Lives of the Engineers Volume 3 by Samuel Smiles 1862, a popular book in our library.

Chester and Holyhead Railway

George StephensonWE have lastly to describe briefly another great undertaking, begun by George Stephenson, and taken up and completed by his son, in the course of which the latter carried out some of his greatest works we mean the Chester and Holyhead Railway, completing the railway connection with Dublin, as the Newcastle and Berwick line completed the connection with Edinburgh. It will thus be seen how closely Telford was followed by the Stephensons in perfecting the highways of their respective epochs; the former by means of turnpike roads, and the latter by means of railways.

George Stephenson surveyed a line from Chester to Holyhead in [1838], and at the same time reported on the line through North Wales to Port Dynllaen, proposed by the Irish Railway Commissioners. His advice was strongly in favour of adopting the line to Holyhead, as less costly and presenting better gradients. A public meeting was held at Chester, in January, [1839], in support of the latter measure, at which the Marquis of Westminster, Mr. Wilbraham, and other influential gentlemen, were present. Mr. Uniacke, the Mayor, in opening the proceedings, observed, that it clearly appeared that the rival line through Shrewsbury was quite impracticable. Mr. Stephenson, he added, was present in the room, ready to answer any questions which might be put to him on the subject; and “it would be better that he should be asked questions than required to make a speech; for, though a very good engineer, he was a bad speaker.” One of the questions then put to Mr. Stephenson related to the mode by which he proposed to haul the passenger carriages over the Menai Suspension Bridge by horse power; and he was asked whether he knew the pressure the bridge was capable of sustaining. His answer was, that “he had not yet made any calculations; but he proposed getting data which would enable him to arrive at an accurate calculation of the actual strain upon the bridge during the late gale. He had, however, no hesitation in saying that it was more than twenty times as much as the strain of a train of carriages and a locomotive engine. The only reason why he proposed to convey the carriages over by horses, was in order that he might, by distributing the weight, not increase the wavy motion. All the train would be on at once; but distributed. This he thought better than passing them linked together, by a locomotive engine.” It will thus be observed that the practicability of throwing a rigid railway bridge across the Straits had not yet been contemplated.

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce passed resolutions in favour of Stephenson’s line, after hearing his explanations of its essential features. The project, after undergoing much discussion, was at length embodied in an Act passed in [1844]; and the work was brought to a successful completion by his son, with several important modifications, including the grand original feature of the tubular bridges across the Menai Straits and the estuary of the Conway. Excepting these great works, the construction of this line presented no unusual features; though the remarkable terrace cut for the accommodation of the railway under the steep slope of Penmaen Mawr is worthy of a passing notice.

Excerpt from The Lives of the Engineers Volume 3 by Samuel Smiles 1862

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Further Reading and External Links

Chester and Holyhead Railway

Bolton and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal – 1772

 

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A recent news article about the Leeds and Liverpool canal being drained, prompted us to delve into our library to see what gems history holds.  Here’s an excerpt on its relation to the township of Bolton from the book Histories of Bolton and Bowling [townships of Bradford] by William Cudworth 1891.

Bolton and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal – 1772

The movement, originated in [1770], for connecting the town of Bradford with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, materially affected Bolton, as a considerable length of the Bradford Canal runs through the lower portion of the township. The first sod was cut on the 1st February, [1772], this being the earliest inroad made into the precincts of Bolton by anything approaching to the nature of public works. The subsequent fouling of the water, the closing of the navigation in [1867], and its re-opening in [1872] (just one hundred years after it was commenced), are matters of recent occurrence.

The Act for making a New Cut or Canal from Bradford to join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Windhill, under the title of ‘The Company of Proprietors of Bradford Navigation’ was obtained in [1771]. The Act for constructing the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was obtained in [1770]. The Bradford Cut was designed to start from Hoppy Bridge, Broadstones (the site of which is not far from the centre of Forster Square), passing through the townships of Bolton and Idle, till a junction was effected with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Windhill.

In May, [1772], an agreement was entered into by Abraham Balme, acting for the Canal Company, and John Rawson, of Bolton, for the purchase of land required from the estate of the latter for the construction of a portion of the canal. The price fixed upon for the ground required was after the rate of £60 an acre, Mr. Rawson to have a ‘pack and prime’ way thereon to and from Bradford and to and from Frizinghall Mill.

The first portion of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was opened for traffic in [1777], and about the same time the branch from Windhill to Bradford was opened under the title of the ‘Bradford Navigation.’ It is somewhat remarkable to what an extent the scheme of navigation from Leeds to Liverpool was indebted to the enterprise and capital of Bradford men. From a list of proprietors before us we gather that not fewer than 210 shares were held by forty-six persons in Bradford. John Hustler, the Quaker, of Bolton House, was the moving spirit. Mr. Hustler prepared a pamphlet in explanation of the plan of the canal, published in 1788, showing the commercial value of the navigation, the compilation of which was an evidence of his practical knowledge of such matters.

Excerpt from Histories of Bolton and Bowling [townships of Bradford] by William Cudworth 1891

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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – Leeds and Liverpool Canal Video News Clip