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From Eminent Engineers
W. & R. Chambers, Limited.
London and Edinburgh
Strangely the book is not dated, but it was covered (with gold type) by Birmingham Municipal Technical Day School in 1899 so it was clearly published before then.
The Carrying-trade of the Country-Benefits of the Bridgewater Canal-Earliest Canals in Great Britain-Manchester Ship Canal described.
NOT more than a century and a half ago, the roads of England were pronounced the worst in Europe, and not a single mile of canal-as canals are now understood-had been made. The manufactures of our country, struggling into notice, were greatly hampered by this lack of communication, few facilities for carriage existing, and distant markets being beyond reach. The little carrying-trade was necessarily of the slowest and most expensive kind, and goods were conveyed to the nearest port or navigable river, generally by long strings of packhorses, less frequently by the slow, clumsy stage-wagon. Packhorses conveyed from the Severn the clay used in the Potteries, bringing back in return coarse earthenware for export. The cloth-manufacturer of Yorkshire saddled his horse with his wares, and travelled from fair to fair as his own salesman; and the little cotton used
in the Manchester looms was transported from Liverpool in the same primitive fashion.
The wonderful growth of commerce and the industrial arts from that time received its first and greatest impulse from the construction of the Bridgewater Canal, between Worsley and Manchester and Liverpool, under Brindley; and Manchester may fairly claim the proud distinction of being the pioneer in opening up this country to commerce and manufactures, by means of improved internal communication.
From the day on which the Bridgewater Canal was opened, the cost of carriage of goods was reduced by three-fourths, and immediately, as if by magic, the change began. The trade of Manchester and the surrounding district grew by leaps and bounds, until, instead of receiving the bulk of our supplies from the Continent, as formerly, the habitable world has been ransacked to find new markets for our productions; and within the following fifty years three thousand miles of canal were made at a cost of fifty million pounds sterling.
Fifty years after the opening of the Bridgewater Canal, Manchester entered on a second enterprise of a similar kind and for a similar purpose; and the first really successful railway was made : the pioneer of a system of iron roads surpassing all that the world has ever seen. One of the principal objections urged against railways was that the canals, made after so much trouble and expense, would be ruined; and it was proposed by an eminent engineer to fill up the canals and convert them into railways (as has in some instances been done). But not a few of the canals have proved that they can compete successfully with railways; for raw material and the heavier class of goods they are a far less costly means of conveyance than any other in existence. The enormous expansion of internal commerce in Britain within this century was in no small measure due to canals. And at the very end of the century Manchester ventured upon a third enterprise exceeding the others in daring and outlay-the great Manchester Ship Canal-and making Manchester practically a seaport.
Though drainage and irrigation canals are sometimes used for the transit of vessels, they are designed for the passage of water; whereas navigation canals are level still-water channels solely constructed as a waterway for vessels, just as a road is formed for vehicles, and a railway for trains. Unlike roads or, in a smaller degree, railways, canals cannot adapt themselves to the irregularities of the country they traverse, by varying slopes or gradients, but must be formed of a series of level reaches, at different heights according to the lie of the country, connected at their extremities by locks or other means of transferring boats from one reach to the level of the adjoining reach. This renders the laying out of canals more complicated than that of railways, owing to the necessity of selecting the most suitable routes for long level reaches; though the work is facilitated by cuttings, embankments, aqueducts, and occasionally tunnels, as in the case of railways.
The earliest canals in England were the Foss Dyke and Caer Dyke, in Lincolnshire, respectively 11 and 40 miles long, constructed by the Romans, and' improved in the twelfth century; and the Foss Dyke is still navigable. The opening of the Aire and Calder Navigation, towards the close of the seventeenth century, was the first important step in inland navigation in England; but the development of canals in Great Britain, in the later half of the eighteenth century, was mainly due to the energy and resources of the Duke of Bridgewater, and the skill of his engineer, James Brindley, who designed and carried out several of the earlier canals, commencing, with the Bridge-water Canal, completed in 1772. A great number of canals were constructed between 1788 and 1805; a canal mania, similar to subsequent railway manias, occurred in 1791-94; and the last inland canal was completed about 1834.
Railways caused a great decrease in the canal traffic in England; but some waterways, such as the Aire and Calder and the Weaver Navigations, and the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, compete successfully with railways for heavy goods. Indeed, if the canals had not partially fallen into the hands of the railway companies, and if an effort had been made to secure uniformity in depth and in the size of locks on the principal lines, as in France, it is probable that a fair traffic would have been maintained with great benefit to the country. There are 3050 miles of canals in England, 154 miles in Scotland, and 619 miles in Ireland, making 3813 miles of canals in the United Kingdom, of which 1204 are owned by railways; whilst 120 miles of canals have been converted into railways. Apart from the Manchester Ship Canal, the largest canals of Great Britain are the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, with a depth of 15 feet, enabling vessels of 600 tons to go from Sharpness to Gloucester, a distance of 17 miles; the Aire and Calder Navigation, 9 feet deep, on which steam-towage with a train of barges has been successfully carried out; the Caledonian Canal, with a depth of 17 feet, which, by the aid of intervening lochs, crosses Scotland and affords a passage for vessels of 300 tons; the Crinan Canal, 12 feet deep, across the peninsula of Kintyre, providing a short cut for vessels of 160 tons; and the Forth and Clyde Canal, with a depth of 10 feet.
Until very recently, this country, from her manufacturing skill, and as the inventor and maker of the finest machinery in existence, has controlled the carrying-trade of the world, and competition outside of these islands was scarcely thought of. But we have found, somewhat to our surprise, that our competitors have been working diligently; that they have got and now make our best machines, and that their operatives work more hours in the day for much less remuneration. By more active canvassing for orders, by studying the requirements of customers, and by paying less for the carriage of goods, the foreigner, we find, is competing with us on more than favourable conditions. The English manufacturers and merchants have had to learn that not only abroad, but also in the home market, they were being undersold, and they began to inquire into the reason. In addition to the causes enumerated, it was found that the internal carrying-trade of the country was entirely monopolised by the railways, including carriage by canal; and a comprehensive report, published by the Associated Chambers of Commerce in 1885, showed that the rates for carriage of goods in this country were on an average fully twice as much as those paid by our continental rivals.
The Manchester Ship Canal is thirty-five and a half miles in length between its two extremities, and as Manchester stands sixty and a half feet above the sea-level, five sets of locks had to be provided to enable vessels to overcome this difference. It is the widest canal in existence, being nearly twice the width of the Suez Canal, and will allow steamers of the largest size to pass each other. Like the Suez Canal, it has a depth of water of twenty-six feet ; while it is three feet deeper than the Amsterdam Canal, and has a capacity fifty per cent, greater. The entrance to the canal from the Mersey is twelve feet deeper than the lowest dock sill in Liverpool, and will allow vessels of the largest tonnage to enter or leave the canal at any state of the tide. In many of our large seaports this can only be done at full tide; and occasionally ships have to wait some days for spring-tides before there is deep enough water to float them over the dock sill. In consequence, it may frequently occur that , of two steamers crossing the bar at the same time, one for Liverpool and the other for Manchester, the latter may be discharging her cargo before the other has got into dock. Steamers can never, except in case of accident, occupy more than half a tide in the passage through the canal.
While nearly the whole length of the two banks may be considered quay space, and the canal itself as a gigantic dock, there is besides ample provision made to enlarge the quay
and dock areas. For a considerable distance back from the canal there is a broad strip of land on each, bank, the value of which in the future it would be indeed difficult to estimate. The large dock area at each port is admirably arranged, and must have cost a considerable amount of forethought in its allotment for the accommodation of the immense quantity and variety of materials to be dealt with. The upper reach of the canal, which contains the Manchester and Salford docks, is over five miles long, three and a half miles of which are fifty feet wider than the usual breadth, in order to give additional quay space, and more room in the canal for vessels passing into and out of the docks. These docks cover one hundred and four acres, and the quay accommodation one hundred and fifty-two acres, giving quay and dock areas greater than many of the first-class seaports in the world. There is above the Mode Wheel locks greater dock accommodation than there is in the whole ports of Bristol or Cardiff. There are smaller docks at Runcorn and at Weston Point; and the construction of a large dock at Warrington is part of the scheme to be carried out later.
The cost of all this has, of course, been enormous, and has amounted already to fifteen and a half millions of pounds sterling, including the purchase of the Bridgewater Canal and the 4840 acres of land along both banks. The canal throughout, in all its details, has been constructed in such a way and of such materials as if it were intended to exist for some generations without repair or alteration, except in the way of being made more convenient or commodious as experience may prove necessary. It has been the fashion to compare it with the Suez Canal. ' Comparisons are odious,' we are told, and this one is especially so. , The Suez Canal has only one-half the capacity of the other, and in its construction is a mere ditch, through which steamers are allowed to move at the 'slowest speed possible, for fear of washing down the sandbanks of which its sides are formed. The speed of steamers along the new waterway is from five to six miles an hour; and the passage is completed-after making allowance of from twenty-five to thirty-five minutes' delay in passing the five series of locks-in about seven hours. The banks of the canal are carefully protected from injury caused by the wash from passing steamers, the prevention or repairing of which is a frequent cause of expense in canal management. The locks, with their massive gates, are pronounced the strongest and largest in the world. The first is at Eastham, where the canal begins; and there is tide-water for twenty-one miles to the next locks at Latchford, where there is a rise of sixteen and a half feet; thence to Irlam locks, seven and three-eighths miles -rise, sixteen feet; to Barton, two and five-eighths miles, with a rise of fifteen feet; to Mode Wheel, about three miles, with a rise of thirteen feet; and thence to Salford: making a total of thirty-five and a half miles, and a rise of sixty and a half feet.
All the deviation and main lines of railways and roads, with the Bridgewater Canal crossing the great waterway, are carried over by means of swing or high-level bridges with a clear headway above the canal of seventy-five feet. The Bridgewater Canal has for itself a swing aqueduct of novel and ingenious construction, weighing fourteen hundred tons. The headway of the fixed bridges over the canal-seventy-five feet-is considered high enough to clear the masts of cargo steamers, while those of larger tonnage will be able to lower their topmasts.
The canal has been made in order to carry goods to and from the largest and most populous industrial districts on the globe. Belgium is the most densely populated country on the continent of Europe, the density per square mile in 1891 being five hundred and thirty-nine persons ; while the average in England (without Wales) was at the same date just five hundred and forty to the square mile. Now, if we look at a map of Lancashire, and form a triangle by drawing lines from Stockport to Preston and Leeds, the triangle encloses a greater manufacturing population than any area of similar extent in the world, this area being equal to seven hundred and thirteen square miles, and containing a population of over five thousand four hundred persons to the square mile, or more than ten times the average square-mile population of Belgium.
While the population of Lancashire has increased about twenty-five per cent, within the last ten years, it is extremely probable that during the next ten years that increase will be more than doubled. Along the banks of the great waterway there is sure to grow, considering the advantages offered, a large !number of industrial works. Even now, the demand for sites is increasing rapidly, and a better situation could not be imagined, with the canal in front and railway communication behind; and before many years are past, the two banks bid fair to be lined with villages, and new as well as old industries. Still further to show the advantages and favourable prospects of the great waterway, it is already in connection with thirteen • established canals; and many others are making the necessary arrangements for completing such connection as will enable them to act as feeders to the Ship Canal. If we consider, also, the vast amount of raw material of all kinds which the canal will carry to Manchester and the great manufacturing districts in touch with it, and that this raw
material will be sent back down the canal again in the shape of manufactured goods for all parts of the world, we may form some faint idea of the tremendous amount of work the canal will have to perform.
This brings us to consider what are the prospects and earning capabilities of the canal-a matter which depends very largely on the saving of cost offered by the canal for the conveyance of goods between Liverpool and Manchester, and in the immunity from injury through avoiding trans-shipment and handling. When the Ship Canal scheme was brought before parliament, the scale of rates for the use of the canal and docks was fixed at a sum graduated for the different articles, which practically reduced the prices to fifty per cent, of the rates then actually exacted. But this is not all. The initial cost of bringing a cargo of cotton, for instance, from New Orleans to Manchester will not be much above the cost (if any) of bringing it from the same place to Liverpool. By canal the total cost is 7s. per ton from Liverpool; whereas, the cost from Liverpool to Manchester by the old method was 13s. 8d. per ton. The saving by the canal is thus 6s. 8d. per ton, which, on the eight hundred thousand tons expected to be carried annually over the canal, will represent a saving to the importers of £260,000. By taking the average cost of the carriage of thirteen leading articles by the old and new tariffs, we get a saving of 7s. 8d. per ton. Some of the proposed economies are very important. The saving on raw cotton, for instance, is 6s. 8d. per ton; wool, 8s. 8d.; sugar, 11s. 3d.; grain, 5s. 1d. per ton, and so on. No information as to the latest developments of canal-making in England is irrelevant in a sketch of the life of Brindley, to whom more than to any man we owe the inception and carrying out on a large scale, and to a successful issue, of so many of our earlier canals.
Early Years of James Brindley-Apprentice Millwright-Neglected by Master and Men-Too Conscientious-The Millwright puzzled-Brindley solves the Problem-Has Greater Shave of Responsibility-His Defective Education-Ingenious Machinery-Specimens from his Note-book-His Experiments with the Steam-engine.
In the life of this celebrated engineer, and active promoter of canal navigation in England, is found another striking instance of the power of self-taught genius in overcoming difficulties, and of humble worth attaining a well-merited distinction. Brindley may have been too entirely wrapped up in his work, but success would not otherwise have crowned his efforts, and that he was an enthusiast is shown in his reply when examined before a committee of the House of Commons. He had strongly urged in his evidence the superiority of canals over rivers for inland navigation, when a member asked, 'Pray, Mr Brindley, what then do you think is the use of navigable rivers?' 'To make canal navigations,' was his reply.
James Brindley was born in a humble cottage near Tunstead, three miles north-east of Buxton, in 1716. His father seems to have been a small cotter, of by no means steady habits at one time, and so the future engineer was more indebted to the care and industrious example of a good mother, who gave him what slender education she was capable of imparting. He worked at ordinary field labour until his seventeenth year, but had already shown a mechanical turn, evident in the making of models of mills, and in the delight he took in visiting and studying the machinery in a grist-mill, which he endeavoured to imitate by means of his knife and pieces of wood. No doubt this mechanical leaning aided his mother in deciding to send him to learn the business .of a millwright with Abraham Bennett,' at the village of Button, near Macclesfield. Here he began a seven years' apprenticeship in 1733. Brindley at first seemed slow and stupid, and both master and men were intemperate, so that one of the standing duties of an apprentice was to run for beer. Skilled workmen, at that time, too, were jealous of imparting their superior know-ledge, and so Brindley had to find out nearly everything for himself, and ' he only worked his way to dexterity through a succession of blunders.' Thus, when left to himself, he fitted in the spokes of a cart-wheel the wrong way, which, when his master returned to find what he had done, nearly ruined his business prospects.
But Brindley was determined to master his business in spite of the jealousy of the men and the neglect of his employer; and his successful repairs of some machinery in a silk-mill at Macclesfield showed that he had his eyes open all the time, and was a lad of no mean capability and discernment. ' I can yet remember,' he said long afterwards, 'the delight which I felt when my work was fixed and fitted complete; though I could not understand why my master and the other workmen, instead of being pleased, seemed to be dissatisfied with the insertion of every fresh part in its proper place.' At the supper on the completion of the job, Mr. Milner, who had been the means of getting Brindley employed at this important work, in reply to some sneers at the young apprentice, said: ' I will wager a gallon of the best ale in the house, that before the lad's apprentice-ship is out, he will be a cleverer workman than any here, whether master or man.' And by the end of the third year of his apprenticeship Brindley had proved to both his master and fellow-workmen that he was something more than the ' blundering blockhead' they had thought him.
Millers, when wanting repairs, would ask for the appren-tice in preference to even the master or any of the other men, which puzzled Bennett not a little. 'Jem,' he said once, when he found some mill gearing more than usually well repaired, ' if thou goes on i' this foolish way o' workin', there will be very little trade left to be done when thou comes oot o' thy time; thou knaws firmness o' wark's th' ruin o' trade.' But Brindley was too conscientious to adopt
An instance of the activity and earnestness of his mind in mechanical pursuits may here be mentioned to his honour. Bennett was asked to fix up the machinery of a new paper-mill about to be erected on the river Dane, and went over a mill near Manchester in order to gain the necessary experience. It was Brindley's opinion afterwards that his master must have inspected the taverns more closely than the paper-mill, as when he came back he knew little about it, and proved quite unequal to the task. When some progress had been made in the work, another millwright, who happened to travel that way, informed the people in the neighbourhood that Bennett would never execute the work, and was only throwing his employer's money away. This news being communicated to Brindley, and knowing he could not depend on his master's report, he determined to go and inspect the paper-mill for himself. Accordingly, instead of going home to his master's house on Saturday night, he took the road to Manchester, without saying any-thing to any one. Bennett was alarmed, and thought that his now useful apprentice had run off. Meanwhile, Brindley
tramped the twenty-five miles thither, saw the paper-mill on Sunday, by special favour, tramped other twenty-five miles back again, and was at his work as usual on Monday morning. He had not made notes, but he had the particulars stored in his head. Bennett allowed his apprentice to finish the work, which he did to the satisfaction of every one, making some improvements in the process.
Brindley had saved his master's credit, and henceforward had a greater share of responsibility. Before the expiration of his term of servitude, Bennett became too old to work, but young Brindley kept up the business with reputation and credit, and supported the old man and his family in a comfortable manner. After the death of Bennett, Brindley wound up the concern, and began business for himself at Leek in Staffordshire.
Brindley was twenty-six years of age when he began business in 1742. He soon became known as a capable and trustworthy workman. At first he had no assistance, but as his business grew he engaged an apprentice, and then a journeyman. Some of his early work consisted of the repair and fitting up of silk-mills at Macclesfield, corn-mills at Congleton, Newcastle-under-Lyne, and other places. He also taught himself writing, but never became proficient in this art, while his spelling was bad. The memoranda-banks he kept at this period are almost unreadable for this reason. But he carried most of his memoranda in his head, and from the habit he had of introducing improvements in his work, he was named 'The Schemer.' The successful erection of a flint-mill for the brothers Wedgwood, the potters, helped to make him better known. Remuneration at that period was of a very slender description, and he seems to have given advice and done work at this time for 2s. or 2s. 6d. a day.
He contrived and carried out an effective and ingenious method of pumping water from a mine on the Clifton estate, near Manchester, by means of a large water-wheel in the Irwell, the miners having previously been drowned out from a section of the pit. He took up a job which the superintendent of a new silk-mill at Congleton had proved himself incapable of carrying out. 'Tell me,' he said to the proprietors, who were in despair, ' what is the precise operation that you wish to perform, and I will endeavour to provide you with the requisite machinery for doing it; but you must let me carry out the work in my own way.' The proprietors were only too glad to do so, and he finished it to their entire satisfaction, with many improvements.
This entry from his pocket-book has reference to a new flint-mill, for grinding flint powder for the potteries near Tunstall. The spelling is worse than that of an idle school-boy: 'March 15, 1757. - With Mr Badley to Matherso about a new flint-mill upon a windey day 1 day 3s. 6d. March 19 draing a plann 1 day 2s. 6d. March 23 draing a plann and to set out the wheel-race 1 day 4s.'
The water-wheel continued in use forty years after the death of Brindley, and was found, when broken up, to have some features about it which differed from anything previously made. A windmill erected for John Wedgwood near Burslem, for grinding flints, was constructed on the new method of doing the work in water, an innovation which proved of great value to the workmen, who suffered from inhaling the fine particles in the air.
This was the era of wind and water power, but on hearing of Newcomen's pumping-engine, Brindley went to Wolverhampton to see what steam could do, and to study the construction of the novel machine. While impressed by it, he saw it was still so imperfect and ineffective, and the consumption of coal was so great, that it could only be profitably used when coal was very cheap and plentiful. He constructed a steam-engine at Fenton Vivian, Staffordshire, with wooden cylinders, bound together with iron hoops, instead of cylinders of iron. Experience made him give up the wooden cylinders; he adopted metal, and filled up the intermediate case with wood-ashes, and by other improvements reduced the waste of steam. Another engine, constructed in 1758, had the boiler of brick or stone arched over, and the stove over the fireplace of cast-iron. But five years later he had erected a pumping-engine wholly of iron; brick, stone, and wood being discarded.
Career of the Duke of Bridgewater-Education-Disappointed in Marriage-Determines to Cut a Canal-Passing of Canal Bill -Worsley Coal-fields-The Dawn of the Commercial Period -Gilbert and Brindley-Canal to Manchester-The Barton Aqueduct-Pecuniary Struggles-Ingenuity of Brindley in conquering Difficulties-Beneficial Effect of the Canal on Trade.
We are on the eve of the first canal undertaking, in which the names of the Duke of Bridgewater and Brindley will always be associated. We therefore introduce a notice of the Duke of Bridgewater and his canals here.
Francis Egerton, sixth Earl, and third and last Duke of Bridgewater, who has been styled the 'father of British inland navigation,' was born on the 21st May 1736. He was the youngest of five sons, all of whom appear to have been sickly, and, except himself, short-lived. Before he had attained the age of eleven, his father and three of his brothers had died. His brother John, who succeeded to the title, only enjoyed it for a short time, and on the 26th of February 1747-8, Francis became Duke of Bridgewater at the early age of twelve. Various circumstances concurred to prevent his education from being well attended to. His mother (Lady Rachel Russell, daughter of Wriothesley, Duke of Bedford) married, in the first year of her widowhood, Sir Thomas Littleton, and consequently he had but a small share of her attention and guardianship. He was, moreover, so weak and sickly, that his mental capacity was at one time suspected, and steps were taken to set him aside in favour of the next heir to the title. These were not, however, persevered in, and his health improved with his growth. His guardians sent him at the age of seventeen to make the tour of Europe, selecting for his companion and tutor Robert Wood, an eminent traveller, and author of well-known works on Troy, Baalbec, • and Palmyra. It is supposed that the artificial water-courses which he saw in the south of France and in Italy left impressions which had an effect, long afterwards, in determining his mind to those works through which his name has become famous.
Little, however, can be ascertained concerning this tour, and there is no reason to believe that the young duke visited Holland, which had always been the headquarters of canals and canal navigation. Neither is it clearly known how he employed himself from his return to England to the attainment of his majority. It is, however, certain that he went through the career of fashionable young men of that age and date. The Racing Calendar bears witness that in 1756 he began to keep race-horses. He occasionally rode races in person; for, although in after years a bulky man, he was at this period so extremely light and slender, that a bet was jestingly offered that he would be blown off his horse. One of his racing feats was performed in Trentham Park against a jockey of royal blood, the Duke of Cumberland. As an illustration of the sort of amusements in which the aristocracy indulged at that period, we may add that, during his royal highness's visit, a building was hastily run. up at Trentham for the playing of skittles. Prison-bars and other village games were also instituted for the recreation, of the noble guests.
A romantic circumstance is said to have caused the young Duke of Bridgewater to banish himself from the fashionable world and its follies. The reigning beauties of the court at that time were two daughters of an Irish gentleman named Gunning, the elder of whom had married Lord Coventry, the other being the young widow of James, Duke of Hamilton. With the widowed beauty his grace of Bridge-water fell violently in love; his suit was accepted, and the preliminaries of the marriage were entered on. But some rumours detrimental to the reputation of Lady Coventry meanwhile reached his ears, and believing them, perhaps too hastily, he attempted to hamper the match with the condition that the lady of his choice should give up the intimacy with the object of suspicion. Sisterly affection, as might be expected, revolted at such a condition; but the duke persevered, and the negotiation was broken off. Not many months after, the Duchess of Hamilton married John Campbell, afterwards Duke of Argyll. That prince of gossips, Horace Walpole, thus alludes to the affair in his letter to Marshal Conway, dated January 28, 1759: 'You and M. de Boreil may give yourself what airs you please of settling cartels with expedition. You do not exchange prisoners with half so much alacrity as Jack Campbell and the Duchess of Hamilton have exchanged hearts. It is the prettiest match in the world since yours ; everybody likes it but the Duke of Bridgewater and Lord Coventry.'
We find that the young duke did not immediately betake himself to the bogs of Lancashire on breaking off the match with his mistress, for another of Horace Walpole's epistles (one dated March 9, 1759, and addressed to Sir Horace Mann) relates that Bridgewater gave a grand ball at his house in London, and this was at least three months after the Duchess of Hamilton's engagement to 'Jack Campbell' became publicly known. And all the time the Duke of Bridgewater was courting the beautiful widow, another and far less romantic business was going on in which he had a warm interest-namely, a bill in parliament to enable him to cut the very canal to which he afterwards devoted his exclusive attention. The royal assent was given to this bill in the same month in which-the grand ball occurred. The ball, indeed, may have been given to celebrate the passing of the bill (March 1759). It is clear, however, that immediately after he had armed himself with an act of parliament, he vigorously set to work to carry out its provisions.
Among other possessions which he inherited, the duke had extensive coal-fields at Worsley, about seven miles from Manchester. This valuable property lay unproductive and untouched, merely because the expense of land-carriage would have raised the remunerative price of the coal above its market value. It was to remedy this that the young duke obtained parliamentary authority to form a canal from Worsley to Salford, adjoining Manchester. To carry out the provisions of the act, with a resolution which, in a man only one year past his majority, was as rare as it was praiseworthy, he turned his back on all the fascinations and éclat of a London life, to fix his residence in the Worsley manor-house, insalubriously situated on the edge of Chat Moss.
Early in 1759 the act of parliament empowering him to proceed with his proposed canal was passed. Another act was needed next year to carry the canal over the Irwell. Possessed of large, though somewhat encumbered, estates, he reduced his personal expenditure, resolving to devote every remaining shilling of his income to his novel and arduous undertaking. Happily, in looking round for practical allies, his choice fell on two persons, who, of all others, were best able to work out his design. These were James Brindley and John Gilbert.
A writer in the Quarterly Review says: ' The hour was at hand when the latent manufacturing and commercial energies of England were to be set loose by the inventions of Watt, and Arkwright, and Crompton. To their development the improvement of internal intercourse was an essential preliminary. The instruments for this great work were selected by Providence from the highest, the middle, and the humblest classes of society, and Bridgewater, Gilbert, and Brindley formed the remarkable trio to whom the task was delegated. Of these, Gilbert, whose functions as a coadjutor were the least distinct, has attracted least notice, but if his share in the transaction could be certified, we doubt whether it would be found that he contributed much less to its success than the other two.
'We are unable to trace with positive certainty the circumstances which introduced John Gilbert to the notice of the duke; but, as the elder brother Thomas was agent to the duke's brother-in-law, Lord Gower, by whose influence he sat for the borough of Lichfield, there can be little doubt that this was the channel of the introduction.' John Gilbert (brother of Thomas Gilbert, who originated the parochial unions which bear his name) was a land agent, and acted for the duke in the capacity of overseer, engineer, and general man of business. John Gilbert was much engaged in mining speculations. In some of these it is probable that he became cognisant of the merits of Brindley, who, so far back as 1753, had engaged in the draining of some mines at Clifton, near Manchester. We have no doubt that it was Gilbert who introduced Brindley to the duke, but we have no positive evidence of intimacy between Gilbert and Brindley earlier than 1760, when the brothers Brindley and Henshall, the brother-in-law of James, purchased the Golden Hill estate, full of minerals, in partnership with Gilbert. Gilbert was also an active promoter of the Trent and Mersey Canal, of which Brindley became the engineer, and is said to a trifling degree to have turned his influence with the latter to his own advantage, by procuring a slight deviation from the original scheme of the Harecastle Tunnel, and bringing it through his own estate. Gilbert is described by a surviving friend as a 'practical, persevering, outdoor man. He loved mines and underground works; was like to have been killed at Donnington Wood, when he was down in the work, by holding his candle too near the roof. The foul air went off with a loud explosion, and blew the gearing of the pit eye into atoms. He was saved by a collier throwing him flat down and lying on him in the drift, but had his stock burnt partly off his neck, and the crown of his head scorched. The collier was badly burned, but Mr Gilbert provided for him and his family. ... It is certain that in J. Gilbert's energy, perseverance, and firmness, the duke found a spirit kindred to his own.'
Brindley, the humble millwright, who, though he had obtained some reputation from improvements made in machinery for silk-weaving and for grinding flints for the Staffordshire potteries, was yet willing to engage himself to his noble employer at the low salary of half-a-crown per day, which was afterwards raised to one guinea per week. Round the humble hearth of the black and white timbered manor-house of Worsley, or of the still humbler village inn, Gilbert and Brindley, these two men of simple means and humble attire, planned and contrived from time to time the practical details of the duke's undertaking.
During the early progress of the work, it was discovered that the line chosen and prescribed in the act of parliament would be less advantageous to the public than if it were carried into Manchester, with a branch to Longford Bridge, Stretford. But in the way [of this two formidable difficulties presented themselves : in the first place, a new act would have to be obtained; in the second, a river (the Irwell) was to be crossed. The interest and political connections of the duke soon got over the first difficulty; but the idea of a canal being made to cross another watercourse, never having entered the head of any engineer of the day, was deemed utterly impracticable. Brindley, however, was not so easily daunted. After a careful survey of the new line, he decided upon building an aqueduct over the Irwell near Barton Bridge. The notion was looked upon by those who were made acquainted with it much in the same light as we now regard aerial navigation-as a fantastic project never to be realised. Even the duke was startled, and called in the advice of a second engineer eminent in his day, but rendered only eminent since by the unhappy reply he made to the duke when the site of the proposed aqueduct was shown to him. ' I have often heard," he said, ' of castles in the air, but never before was shown where any of them were to be erected.'
Nothing daunted by this verdict, the duke ordered the aqueduct to be commenced. The works, begun in 1760, were carried on with so much energy and success, that on the 17th of July 1761 the aqueduct was ready for water to be admitted into it. This was an intensely anxious moment for all parties concerned. The duke and Gilbert remained cool and collected, to superintend the operation which was to confirm or confute the clamour with which the project had been assailed. Brindley, however, betook himself to bed at the Wheatsheaf in Stretford, a way he had of securing retirement and freedom for thought. The water was admitted into the artificial channel, and instead of causing the arches to give way, as had been prognosticated, it passed over them without one drop oozing through ; and the bridge continued, with necessary repairs, to serve its purpose admirably, till removed in 1888 to give place to a steel aqueduct in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal. This great engineering triumph proved conspicuously the superiority of still water to running streams for navigation; one had but to compare the transit on the canal above with that on the river below. Nothing surprised spectators more than to see 'a boat loaded with forty tons drawn over the aqueduct with great ease by a mule or a couple of men, while below, against the stream of the Irwell, persons had the pain of beholding ten or twelve men tugging at an equal draught.'
The way in which the Barton Aqueduct and the embankments of the canal were made to resist water was thought very wonderful at the time. The secret of it all was thorough puddling with a mixture of clay and sand, well kneaded and applied to a thickness of about three feet.
A practical engineer writes that 'the construction of this aqueduct excited great admiration at the time; it was, indeed, an effort quite unprecedented in this country, and the engineer deserves the more credit, when we consider that his aversion to anything like books prevented him from deriving, by study, any information respecting those celebrated works of the Romans, in France, Italy, and Spain, which afforded the only example of aqueducts at that time known to the world.'
Arthur Young said that ' the whole plan of these works shows a capacity and extent of mind which foresees difficulties, and invents remedies in anticipation of possible evils. The connection and dependence of the parts upon each other are happily imagined • and all are exerted in concert, to command, by every means, the wished-for success.' He further says : ' In carrying on the navigation, a vast quantity of masonry was necessary for building aqueducts, bridges, warehouses, wharves, &c., and the want of lime was felt severely. The search that was made for matters that would turn into lime was for a long time fruitless. At last, Mr Brindley met with a substance of a chalky kind, which, like the rest, he tried ; but found that, for want of adhesion in the parts, it would not make lime. This most inventive genius happily fell upon an expedient to remedy this misfortune. He thought of tempering this earth in the nature of brick-earth, casting it in moulds like bricks, and then burning it; and the success was answerable to his wishes. In that state it burnt readily into excellent lime; and this acquisition was one of the most important that could have been made. I have heard it asserted more than once that this stroke was better than twenty thousand pounds in the duke's pocket, but, like most common assertions of the kind, it is probably an exaggeration.'
The vast expense incurred by these works often involved the Duke of Bridgewater in perplexing pecuniary struggles. It is well known that at one time his credit was so low that his bill for £500 could scarcely be cashed in Liverpool. Under such difficulties, Gilbert was employed to ride round the neighbouring districts of Cheshire, and borrow from farmers small sums (some of them as low as £10), which, when collected, were sufficient to meet the pressing demands for Saturday night. On one of these occasions an adventure befell him of no very agreeable nature. While journeying on, he was joined by a horseman who, after some conversation, proposed that they should change horses, and as the stranger's may have been the better of the two, Gilbert consented, and the man rode off. On alighting afterwards at a lonely inn, Gilbert was surprised to be greeted with mysterious marks of recognition by the landlord, who, addressing him as if he were perfectly cognisant of the object of his journey, ' hoped his saddle-bags were well, filled.' The mystery was presently explained; for Gilbert discovered that he changed horses with a highwayman whose steed had become so notorious on the road as to increase to a dangerous degree the chance of recognition and capture by the officers of justice. Gilbert was seldom unsuccessful in these borrowing expeditions, so highly was his master respected all over the country, and the duke was enabled to struggle on to the completion of his project. The whole of the works, including eighteen miles of underground canal in the Worsley coal-mines, are said to have cost £168,000.
From Worsley Basin the canal enters a hill, connecting the different workings of the mine. In Brindley's time this underground canal was only about a mile in length, but now extends to more than forty underground. The barges which pass through this underground canal are long and narrow. Brindley was author of many ingenious contrivances on this canal, such as a crane for loading and unloading the boats ; and a system of underground railways. His ' practical ability,' says Dr Smiles, 'was equally displayed in planning and building a viaduct or in fitting up a crane-in carrying out an embankment or in contriving a coal-barge. The range and fertility of his constructive genius were extraordinary. For the duke, he invented water-weights at Bough Close, riddles to wash coal for the forges, raising dams, and numerous other contrivances of well-adapted mechanism. At Worsley he erected a steam-engine for draining those parts of the mine which were beneath the level of the canal, and consequently could not be drained into it; and he is said to have erected, at a cost of only £150, an engine which until that time no one had known how to construct for less than £500. At the mouth of one of the mines he erected a water-bellows for the purpose of forcing fresh air into the interior, and thus ventilating the workings. At the entrance of the underground canal he designed and built a mill of a new construction, driven by an overshot wheel twenty-four feet in diameter, which worked three pairs of stones for grinding corn, besides a dressing or boulting mill, and a machine for sifting sand and mixing mortar.'
Mr Samuel Hughes, C.E., in his Memoir of Brindley, thus described the second canal of the Duke of Bridgewater and its beneficial effect on the trade of that district and of the country: ' The course of the canal from Longford Bridge (six miles from Worsley) to Runcorn Gap lies in a south-westerly direction for some distance, and about two miles from Longford Bridge it crosses the river Mersey at a place about five miles east of the junction of that river with the Irwell. The canal, continuing a south-westerly
direction, proceeds nearly to Altringham, where it bends still more to the west, crossing the river Bollon three miles beyond Altringham. After crossing the Bollon the canal bends round to the south, and again to the north, describing nearly a semicircle, and then continues in the valley of the Mersey, and nearly parallel with the river, as far as the crossing of the main road from Chester to Warrington. Beyond this road the canal bends round to the south in order to preserve the high level, passing for several miles in a southerly direction nearly as far as Preston, in Cheshire, when it turns again towards the north, pursuing a north-easterly direction for a mile and a half, and then changing to a westerly direction, in which it continues to Runcorn,, where it falls into the estuary of the Mersey.
' Let us now glance for a moment at the effect of these canals and the benefits they conferred upon 'the districts which surrounded them. In the first place, they opened a good water communication between Manchester, Salford, the populous neighbourhood around it, and the richest part of the South Lancashire coal-field; and secondly, they completed an efficient communication between Manchester and Liverpool, superseding the imperfect navigation of the rivers Mersey and Irwell above Warrington. The entrance of the canal at Runcorn was so designed that the barges could enter and go out at the lowest neap-tides, so that between the interior and the whole line of coast on both sides of the Mersey a communication was thus effected, with no interruption save that of a delay, at the worst times, of the interval from low-water to nearly high-water of the same tide.
'It is probable that the Duke of Bridgewater's enterprise was urged on by the greedy and extortionate spirit displayed by the proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Rivers Navigation, who, of course, had no competition before the Bridgewater canals were undertaken. On coming to his majority, the duke found himself charged for tonnage alone with an amount of 3s. 4d. for every ton of coal and other articles which had to pass from Barton on the Irwell up to Manchester, a distance of less than seven miles, this being the whole tonnage which the proprietors are entitled to charge upon goods which pass all the way up from Liverpool. Now, there being no way in which the produce of his grace's mines could be taken to Manchester, except by land-carriage down to Barton, and thence by the river, it will readily be conceived that such an extravagant impost was calculated to exclude his coal from the market, except at a loss to himself or at an immense charge to the public. The alarm with which these greedy proprietors viewed the subsequent proceedings of his grace, may be gathered from an offer which they made of allowing him the free use of their navigation for 6d. per ton, if he would consent to join his canal to their river. Fortunately his grace rejected this overture, continued to pay their demand of 3s. 4d. per ton for considerable quantities of timber and other articles, which for some time he was obliged to carry on the river, and at length completely triumphed over and fitly rewarded them by sailing barges of his own, both over and alongside their river, to the general delight and satisfaction of all but those who were interested in the old river navigation.
' The advantages of the Bridgewater canals will be better understood by considering a little further the state of the existing navigations at the time they were proposed. The proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation had then been incorporated about forty years, and such was the state of their navigation, that it was only at spring tides that boats could pass between Liverpool and their lowest lock. There were no wharfs or quays of any sort for landing and warehousing goods on any part of the river between Warrington and Manchester, a distance of twenty-six miles, and although their tonnage dues were granted on condition that they should render the navigation practicable at all tides, they had done nothing whatever to improve it below Warrington Bridge.'
Extension of the Bridgewater Canal to Liverpool-The Grand Trunk Canal Scheme-Difficulty with the Harecastle Tunnel -Duplicated by Telford-Josiah Wedgwood and Canals- Brindley's Method of Laying out Canals-The Construction of Harecastle Tunnel-Ingenious Devices-Effect upon the Work-people-Financial Difficulties-Cost of the Canal.
THE experimental result of this enterprise convinced the Duke of Bridgewater more and more of the advantages, as well public as private, of inland navigation. He therefore turned his thoughts to the extension of his canal to Liverpool. Difficulties from men, as well as from local circumstances, were here again to be encountered, but the perseverance and conduct of the duke surmounted all opposition, and an act of parliament was obtained in 1762 for branching his canal to the tide-way in the Mersey. This portion of the canal, which is upwards of twenty-four miles in length, is, like the former, without locks, and is carried over many large and deep valleys. But all difficulties were here also successfully overcome by the genius and economical plans of Brindley. He began his survey in the autumn of 1761, but the bill was opposed by the proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation. When examined as a witness before the committee of the House of Commons in favour of the bill, he is said to have supplied some very homely illustrations. When asked to show a model of a certain bridge, he procured a cheese which he halved, to represent the semi-circular arches of the bridge, and laying some rectangular object along the sections, he was able to show how the canal passed over it, with the river below. Puddling he illustrated by mixing clay until it was waterproof. When asked 'What is a lock?' he illustrated it at once by a chalk diagram. Lord Ellesmere considered that the method of constructing the canal on an uninterrupted level from Leigh and Manchester to Runcorn, and the concentration of its descent to the Mersey at the latter place, were striking evidences of the genius and skill of the engineer.
Subsequent acts were granted, and the duke, with the assistance of his skilful ally, Brindley, finished this extended line in five years. It is twenty-seven miles long, and all on the same level, so that no more than one lock was necessary ; but some of the embankments are very high, for the canal is carried over broad and deep valleys, and crosses the Mersey and the Bollon. Of course, the instant the greater work was completed, additional pecuniary returns poured in to repay the persevering duke for all his outlay and anxieties. Nor was he the only person benefited.. To show what advantages the public reaped from his undertakings, it is only necessary to state that, previous to the opening of the canal, the charge for carriage by water was 12s. per ton, and by land 40s., whilst by the mode of transit he had established it was reduced to 6s., or exactly half the old water conveyance. The Worsley and Manchester Canal reduced the price of coal in the latter town by more than one-half; for the old charge was 7d. per cwt., while the duke's coal was sold for 3 1/2d., and six score were given to the hundredweight.
In making the Liverpool and Manchester Canal, Brindley had many ingenious devices, such as double barges which carried clay, and discharged their load to the bottom of the canal on the withdrawal of a pin; a floating blacksmith's forge and shop; and carpenter's and mason's shop, which could be floated where wanted as the canal advanced. ' It is curious,' says Dr Smiles, 'to trace the progress of the works by Brindley's own memoranda, which, though brief, clearly exhibit his marvellous industry and close application to every detail of the business. He settled with the farmers for their tenant-right, sold and accounted for the wood cut down and the gravel dug out along the line of the canal, paid the workmen employed, laid out the work, measured off the quantities done from time to time, planned and erected the bridges, designed the canal-boats required for conveying the earth to form the embankments, and united in himself the varied functions of land-surveyor, carpenter, mason, brickmaker, boat-builder, paymaster, and engineer. We even find him condescending to count bricks and sell grass. Nothing was too small for him to attend to, nor too bold for him to undertake, when necessity required.'
As on the Caledonian Canal, which was carried through by Telford, the work was the means of training the workmen, and the carpenters, blacksmiths, and bricklayers soon became experts. When the work was in full swing, from four to six hundred men were employed, divided into gangs of fifty. A visitor wrote: ' I surveyed the duke's men for two hours, and think the industry of bees and ants is not to be compared to them. Each man's work seems to depend on, and be connected with, his neighbour's.'
The canal from "Worsley to Manchester cost the duke a thousand guineas a mile. That from Longford Bridge to the Mersey was like to ruin him. In order to economise, he lived at Worsley Old Hall in the plainest fashion, paid off his servants, and confined himself to an expenditure of £400 a year. Once when in financial difficulties, the duke discussed with Brindley and Gilbert the prospects of his second canal, which was straining his credit so severely, and he was inclined to be gloomy and depressed. ' Well, Brindley, what's to be done now ? How are we to get at the money for finishing this canal?' Brindley, after a pause, said, ' Well, duke, I can't tell; I only know that if the money can be got, I can finish the canal, and that it will pay well.' ' Ay,' replied the duke, ' but where are we to get the money ?' All were silent for a time, when Brindley suddenly started up. 'Don't mind, duke; don't be cast down ; we are sure to succeed after all.' The duke in his utmost straits would not mortgage his estates, but when his local credit was exhausted borrowed in all, from Messrs Child, the London bankers, on the security of the Worsley Canal, sums amounting to £25,000, the whole of which was paid off by 1769. The cost of the canal from Worsley to Manchester, and from Longford Bridge to the Mersey at Runcorn, was £220,000. Eventually it yielded an income to the duke of about £80,000 a year.
Even before the first canal was finished, Brindley had made a preliminary survey of a canal from the river Mersey to the Trent and Stour. At a public meeting at Wolseley Bridge in Staffordshire, on 30th December 1765, Lord Gower warmly supported the proposal, and Brindley's plan was discussed and agreed to with very little alteration. Other schemes had been proposed, but this had the backing of the Duke of Bridgewater, as it connected with his canal at Preston-on-the-Hill, near Runcorn. In giving direct communication between Birmingham and Liverpool, it also gave means of exporting many manufactured and unmanufactured articles, such as iron ore, lead, copper, coal, and slate. The Cheshire cheeses, of which many hundred tons were annually carried by land above forty miles to Wellington in Derbyshire, could be taken by water all the way to Hull and Liverpool at a much cheaper rate. From the Wiches in Cheshire, manufactured salt, which was carried on horseback to all the Midland counties of England, could also be more cheaply distributed. The expense of carrying the stone and earthenware from the rising potteries at Burslem was more than these cheap commodities could bear, while all the manufactures of Nottingham, Leicester, and Derby would receive a more ready outlet. This important canal starts from the duke's canal at Preston-on-the-Hill, near Runcorn, and passes southwards by Northwich and Middlewich to the summit at Harecastle.
The great undertaking in the construction of this canal was the tunnel, a mile and a half in length, under that part of the Pennine chain which separates Staffordshire from Cheshire. This tunnel was to constitute the highest point or 'summit-level' of the canal; and the supply of water was to be obtained from a system of reservoirs situated at a still higher elevation and fed by the surrounding hills. But tunnelling was a new experiment in engineering; many unforeseen difficulties arose to hinder the work, and it was only after eleven years of heavy anxiety and stubborn perseverance that this last link in the communication was completed. The carriage of a ton of goods from Liverpool to Wedgwood's Etruria, which had cost under the old system fifty shillings, was reduced to one-fourth. This tunnel, the pioneer of many miles of tunnelling since constructed, still exists. It is simply a long culvert, just large enough to allow of the passage of a single barge. There is no accommodation for hauling the traffic through, and the barges are consequently propelled from end to end by the exertions of the boatmen alone. Fifty years after its construction, the traffic on the canal had increased to such an extent that the mouths of the tunnel were perpetually blocked by a crowd of boats waiting to pass through, and the fights and quarrels among the boatmen for first place were a disgrace to the canal company. After much pressure, the authorities called in the Scotch engineer Telford, and to him was intrusted the construction of a second tunnel. The want of suitable machinery, of skilled labour, and of money, were obstacles comparatively unknown to Telford, and the new tunnel, large enough to allow of a towing-path, was constructed in three years. The two works, side by side, represent fifty years' progress in the science of engineering.
The canal next descended into the Potteries, passing Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, and Lane End, and south by Trentham, Stone, Shutborough, to Haywood, when it joined the canal which united the Severn with the Mersey. Next it followed the valley of the Trent, passing Rugby, Wilden Ferry, Nottingham, Newark, and Gainsborough, to the Humber.
Josiah Wedgwood, the celebrated potter, cut the first sod at Burslem, and there were great rejoicings. Wedgwood, confident in the success of the undertaking, purchased a considerable estate intersected by the canal, and proceeded in 1769 to build a fine factory, and cottages for his workpeople. From his admiration for the ancient Etruscan pottery, he gave the fanciful name of Etruria to his new works, and he emulated the grace of the antique models in his ware. The celebrated sculptor, Flaxman, was from 1775 employed to furnish designs for his 'Wedgwood ware,' of white cameo reliefs on a blue ground and the like. In this way what he found a rude and barbarous manufacture he raised to the level of a fine art; and he found his reward in the amassing of a fortune of upwards of half-a-million. Ten years after the Grand Trunk Navigation was open, from 15,000 to 20,000 persons were being employed in the earthenware manufacture alone, besides those employed digging coal and distributing goods. The total length of this canal was about one hundred and forty miles, and as usual Brindley laid it out in a way which gave as much of a dead-level of water as possible, and avoided rivers. Water he likened to a giant, which if you laid him flat on his back, loses all his force, and becomes completely passive whatever his size may be. The dimensions of the canal were 28 feet in breadth at the top, 16 at the bottom, and 4|- feet deep; but it varied a little in width according to the requirements of the traffic. The number of small aqueducts was about one hundred and sixty, and road-bridges one hundred and nine. There were five considerable tunnels, that of Hare-castle being 2880 yards long. About six hundred men in all were employed.
In the Life of Josiah Wedgwood (1894), by Dr Smiles, there are many references to Brindley's connection with the great potter. Wedgwood wrote to his partner, Bentley, in 1767 : 'I am afraid Brindley is endeavouring to do too much, and that he will leave us before his vast designs are accomplished. He is so incessantly harassed on every side that he hath no rest for either mind or body, and will not be prevailed upon to take proper care of his health.' Again, in 1768, he wrote: 'My wife and myself are to spend to-morrow with Mr and Mrs Brindley at Newchapel; and as I always edify full as much in that man's company as at church, I promise myself to be much wiser the day following. It is an old adage that a man is either a fool or a physician at fifty, and considering the opportunities I have had with the Brindleys and Bentleys of the age, if I am not a very wise mortal before that time, I must be a veritable blockhead in grain. ... I think Mr Brindley THE GREAT. The fortunate, money-getting Brindley may be an object of pity, and a real sufferer for the benefit of the public. He may get a few thousands, but what does he give in exchange ? His health, and I fear his life too, unless he grows wiser and takes the advice of his friends before it is too late.' The premature death of Brindley made this last sentence look like a prophecy.
In a letter of the period, dated September 1767, there is this description: ' Gentlemen came to view oar eighth wonder of the world, the subterranean navigation, which is cutting by the great Mr Brindley, who handles rocks as easily as you would plum pies, and makes the four elements subservient to his will. He is as plain a looking man as one of the boors of the Peak, or as one of his own carters; but when he speaks all ears listen, and every mind is filled with wonder at the things he pronounces to be practicable. He has cut a mile through bogs, which he binds up, embanking them with stones which he gets out of other parts of the navigation, besides about a quarter of a mile into the hill Yelden, on the side of which he has a pump worked by water, and a stove, the fire of which sucks through a pipe the damps that would annoy the men who are cutting towards the centre of the hill. The clay he cuts out serves for bricks to arch the subterranean part, which we heartily wish to see finished to Wilden Ferry, when we shall be able to send coal and pots to London and to different parts of the globe.'
Revenue from the Bridgewater Canal -Anecdotes of the Duke- Characteristics-At Trentham-Brindley's later Work- Marriage-Family-Death-Progress of fresh Canal Undertakings-Passenger Traffic on Canals-Sale of Bridgewater Canal-Anecdotes of Brindley-Powers of Memory and Observation-His Plan of going to Bed when in a Difficulty.
were cut in
AFTER this, artificial water-courses every part of the country-
Till smooth canals, across the extended plain,
Stretch their long arms to join the distant main.
O'er the lone waste the silver urn they pour,
And cheer the barren heath and sullen moor.
Now meeting streams in artful mazes glide,
While each unmingled pours a separate tide ;
Now through the hidden veins of earth they
How, And visit sulph'rous mines and caves below;
The ductile streams obey the guiding hand,
And social plenty circles round the land.
Thus, from the comparatively small beginning made by the Duke of Bridgewater's Worsley Canal, almost every district of Great Britain is now intersected by these convenient water-courses.
When the Grand Trunk Canal was finished, branching as it did into the Bridgewater line, it of course brought to the latter a vast accession of traffic; but the duke liberally
forbore to raise the dues, as he well might have done. It is likely, however, that he could, even at that early period of his success, well afford to act with liberality. That he was no loser by his forbearance, may be inferred from the fact that, when Mr Pitt imposed an income-tax in 1798, the return made by the man who had formerly been driven to the necessity of sending round to his neighbours to borrow small sums of money, was £110,000 per annum; and to the loyalty loan asked by the government some years later he contributed £100,000 at one time, and all in ready money !
It appears that, during the progress of his canals, the duke personally superintended the works with such assiduity, that he was familiarly known to almost every person in the neighbourhood, not only of Worsley, but of Manchester and Liverpool. 'His surviving contemporaries among this class mention his name with invariable affection and reverence. Something like his phantom presence for long seemed to pervade his Lancashire neighbourhood, before which those on whom his heritage has fallen shrink into comparative insignificance. " The duke's " horses still draw the duke's boats; the duke's coal still issues from the duke's levels. He left behind him an impression of power and authority.'
Whether his mind was too deeply absorbed in canals to allow him to think of matrimony, or his love affair with the Duchess of Hamilton had really left a lasting impression, cannot of course be decided; but the duke lived and died a bachelor. He would not allow a woman-servant to wait on him. It would seem that, during the after-part of his life, he seldom resided in London; at all events he kept no establishment there, but adopted the singular expedient of allowing a friend (Mr Carvill) £2000 a year
to be allowed to live with him when in town, and to invite what friends he pleased when he wished to entertain them. This engagement lasted till a late period of the duke's life, when the death of Mr Carvill ended the contract. The humble Worsley manor-house was most likely abandoned when his canals were completed. In 1797 we find him at Trentham, one of his great estates. Latterly, he acquired a taste, for collecting pictures, which he did with such judgment and liberality, that, after his demise, his gallery was valued at ,£150,000. But these paintings he seemed to regard as a business investment; in the case of some valuable flowers which had been planted at Worsley, he ' whipped their heads off, and ordered them to be rooted up.'
The Duke of Bridgewater having taken a cold, which rapidly became aggravated to influenza, died at his house in Cleveland Row on the 8th of March 1803, in his sixty-seventh year. The property he left behind was immense; that in Lancashire alone having been estimated to produce from fifty to eighty thousand pounds per annum. This estate he bequeathed to his nephew, the second Marquis of Stafford, afterwards Duke of Sutherland. Acbridge he left to his cousin and successor in the earldom of Bridgewater, General Edward Egerton. The dukedom became extinct. His canal property was left under trust to his nephew's second son, afterwards first Earl of Ellesmere.
In 1873, the Bridgewater Canal was purchased from Lord Ellesmere for £989,612, including the plant, valued at £150,000; and in 1887 it was resold to the Manchester Ship Canal Company for £1,710,000.
The person of Erancis, Duke of Bridgewater, was in his later days large and unwieldy; and he seemed careless about his dress, which was uniformly a suit of brown, something of the cut of Dr Johnson's. His features are said
to have resembled those of George III. His habits were temperate for those days of hard drinking; but he was greatly addicted to tobacco. He shrank from no experiment or expense if he thought 'utility was at the heels of it.' He had a curious habit of rushing out of the room every five minutes to look at the barometer. He is said to have smoked more than he talked, and he was also a great snuff-taker. Neither domestic enjoyments nor the pleasures of the table had attractions for him. What has been said of his coadjutor Gilbert may with justice be applied to his manners and character-namely, that he was a ' practical, persevering, outdoor man.' He preserved his love of riding to the last; and even in his reduced establishment at Worsley there were two horses and a groom. He was taciturn on all subjects except on his favourite one of canals, upon which he always had much to say. He never wrote a letter unless he could not help it. As a proof of his far-sighted shrewdness, it is mentioned that, in a conversation with Lord Kenyon, about the time he was beginning to reap the profits of his perseverance and sacrifices, when the learned judge congratulated him on the result, ' Yes,' he replied, ' we shall do well enough if we can keep clear of those (we omit his grace's habitual oath) tram-roads.' How completely has this fear been realised! Railroads, of which the trams used at the Northumberland coal-mines in the duke's time were the forerunners, threatened so materially to affect the canal interests, that a paragraph actually went the round of the papers, indicating that there was an intention of draining the Bridgewater Canal and converting it into a railroad.
Passenger service on these canals, which no one would take at £60 a year, on being worked by the duke, soon yielded a profit of £1600 a year. The duke frequently
travelled in his own passenger-boats, and loved to look at the busy operations at the Manchester coal-wharf. One of his regulations was that in the event of any possible deficiency in the coal supply, the poor folks and small customers should have the first chance. One day the duke was on the wharf when he was accosted by a poor customer. ' Heigh, meester !' he said, ' come, gie me a lift wi' this sack o' coal on to my shouder.' The man got the lift, when a neighbour who had been looking on, ran up and asked, ' Dun yo know who 's that yo 've been speaking tull ?' ' Naw ! who is he ?' ' Why, it's th' duke his-sen !' ' The duke!' said the man, dropping the bag of coals. 'Hey, what’ll he do at me? Maun a goo an' ax his pardon?' Meanwhile the duke had disappeared. At Worsley he was accosted in a similar manner by a boy who asked him to help in adjusting a load of coal on his back. ' Here, felly, gie us a hoist un.' The Duke asked a number of questions ere he helped the lad, whose acknowledgments were thus expressed : ' Wal, thou 's a big chap, but thou 's a lazy un.' While boring for coal at Worsley, the duke noticed that the men dropped more promptly when the bell rang than they resumed work again, the reason given being that they could more easily hear twelve o'clock strike than one o'clock. The duke, on hearing this, had the clock so altered that it struck thirteen at one o'clock. One day he saw two men grinding an axe, and three men waiting their turn beside them. He said nothing at the time, but the result of his consultation with the foreman was the setting up of a water-wheel to drive the grindstone. Punctual and methodical in his business concerns, he preferred to go and see those he was employing. He gave as the reason that ' If they come to me, they may stay as long as they please; if I go to them, I stay as long as I please.'
A fine of half-a-crown. was imposed on those miners who did not go to work at the usual hour on Monday morning, in order to break the habit of making that an idle day. A new road to the pit made about this time became known as Half-crown Road. Debts run up at public-houses were not recognised by the pay-agent, while a sick club and Sunday-schools were established. He seems even to have experimented with steam-tugs at Worsley, but he died ere the proposed steam navigation in canals had had a proper trial.
One who knew the Duke of Bridgewater writes : ' It was in the summer of 1797 that I passed a few weeks at Trentham with his grace. He was every day (as who in that eventful period was not T) very anxious for the arrival of the newspapers and intelligence from London, and when there was no London bag, which was then the case on Tuesdays, he called it emphatically a dies non. At table he rejected with a kind of antipathy all poultry, veal, &c., . calling them " white meats," and wondering that every one, like himself, did not prefer the brown. He rebuked any one who happened to say port wine, saying, " Do you ever talk of claret wine, Burgundy wine, &c. ?" In person he was large and unwieldy, and seemed careless about his dress, which was uniformly a suit of brown, something of the cut of Dr Johnson's. Mr --- of --- passed some days with us, and during his stay the duke was every evening planted with him on a distant sofa in earnest conversation about canals, to the amusement of some of the party.'
The canal acted as an agent of progress and civilisation in the Midland counties, and cheapened the carriage of commodities by about one-fourth. Wesley, when he revisited Burslem, where he had been previously pelted with clods of earth, remarked: ' How is the whole face
of the country changed in about twenty -years! Since which inhabitants have continually flowed in from every side. Hence the wilderness is literally become a fruitful field. Houses, villages, towns have sprung up, and the country is not more improved than the people.'
In his later years, Brindley superintended the making of other canals, including the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, passing Wolverhampton and Kidderminster, arid joining the Severn at Stourport; he had also to do with the laying out of the Coventry Canal to Oxford, the Birmingham Canal, and the Droitwich Canal connecting that town with the Severn, and of great value to the salt and coal industries. The Droitwich Canal is pointed out as one of the best specimens of Brindley's work. The Birmingham Canal was carried out by one of his pupils named Whitworth, and by Smeaton and Telford. The canal of forty-six miles between Chesterfield and the river Trent, at Stockwith, was projected by him, but only completed after his death. He tried where possible, as we have said, to have his canals on a dead-level, and would rather go round than through an obstacle, if he could thereby serve any important towns or villages. He was also consulted with reference to other important undertakings executed in his time.
The following is a list of the canals laid out and chiefly executed by Brindley :
The 'duke's canals' from "Worsley to Manchester, 10 miles; Longford Bridge to the Mersey below Runcorn, 24 miles ; Grand Trunk Canal, from Wilden Ferry to Preston Brook, 83 miles; Wolverhampton Canal, 46 miles; Coventry, 46 miles; Birmingham, 24 miles; Droitwich, 5 miles; Oxford, 82 miles; Chesterfield, 46 miles.
He made a survey of the Thames above Battersea for the corporation of London in 1770, with the view of improving the navigation, and reported in favour of a canal to run parallel with the Thames, which, in consequence of the execution of the Grand Junction Canal, was never carried out. As was the case with Telford at a later date, his advice was asked as to the draining of the low lands in Lincolnshire. He also devised a plan for cleansing the Liverpool docks of mud; a method of building walls against the sea without mortar; and numerous improvements in the machinery for raising water and coal out of mines.
For seven years (1765-1772) he received no salary, and all that was afterwards paid, on solicitation, to his widow was £100-a small and inadequate return, as she rightly thought, and as any one must see who considers the valuable nature of the service rendered and the great revenue yielded by the canals.
Brindley declined an advantageous offer from the Prince of Hesse in 1766, to construct a canal in Germany. When asked by the king of France to visit the Grand Canal of Languedoc, he replied : ' I will have no journeys to foreign countries, unless to be employed in surpassing all that has already been done in them.'
Brindley's powers of observation were very strong, and after due survey he settled almost intuitively what was the right direction for a canal. He had no pleasure in life save in his work. Once he was prevailed upon when in London to see a play, having never seen one before : it had a powerful effect upon him, and he complained for several days after that his ideas were disturbed, and that he had been rendered unfit for business. It was remarked of him that he never seemed to be in his element unless in planning or executing some great work, and his only fault was in endeavouring to carry on more concerns than could be attended to by any one man, however eminent his abilities. His memorandum-book shows his school education to have been of the scantiest; the words are spelt in the broad Staffordshire dialect, and the writing is painfully crabbed.
Mr Henshall, the brother-in-law of Brindley, writes : ' When any extraordinary difficulty occurred to Mr Brindley in the execution of his works, having little or no assistance from books or the labours of other men, his resources lay within himself. In order, therefore, to be quiet and uninterrupted whilst he was in search of the necessary expedients, he generally retired to his bed, and he has been known to be there one, two, or three days, till he had attained the object in view. He would then get up and execute his design, without any drawing or model. Indeed, it was never his custom to make either, unless he was obliged to do it to satisfy his employers. His memory was so remarkable that he has often declared that he could remember, and execute, all the parts of the most complex machine, provided he had time, in his survey of it, to settle in his mind the several parts and their relations to each other. His method of calculating the powers of any machine invented by him was peculiar to himself. He worked the question for some time in his head, and then put down the results in figures. After this, taking it up again at that stage, he worked it further in his mind for a certain time, and set down the results as before. In the same way he still proceeded, making use of figures only at stated parts of the question.'
Brindley's last great work was the projecting of a canal from Leeds to Liverpool; but owing partly to the difficulties of the country passed through, and partly to the scarcity of labourers brought about by the continental wars, the canal was not completed throughout until 1816, long after Brindley's death.
Very little is known regarding Brindley apart from his numerous works. On 8th December 1765, Brindley married a daughter of Mr John Henshall, a land-surveyor with whom he had close personal relations while laying out the Grand Trunk Canal. He was fifty at the time, and Anne Henshall was only nineteen; and after the marriage, he settled in an old mansion at Turnhurst, which, once occupied by the Bellot family, was near the colliery in which he was interested at Golden Hill, and also near the Hare-castle Tunnel. The immediate cause of Brindley's death was a wetting he got while surveying a branch canal between Leek and Froghall. He remained in his wet clothes, a damp bed at Ipstones completed the mischief, and the result was an illness from which he died on 27th September 1772, in his fifty-sixth year. He was buried at Newchapel, close by Turnhurst.
Brindley left two daughters; one of whom, Susannah, married a Bristol merchant named Bettington, afterwards known as the Honourable Mr Bettington, of Brindley's Plains in Tasmania. His other daughter, Anne, died in 1838, on a voyage home from Sydney.
A practical civil engineer, Mr S. Hughes, writes: ' It is important to remember that all the works he projected, planned, and executed, are comprised within a period of twelve years, and by far the greater part of them within the last seven years of his life. It is amazing to reflect that the man who had to struggle, without precedent or experience to guide him, with all the difficulties which attended the early history of canals, should himself have effected and originated so much. There can be no doubt that he possessed an intellect of the highest order, that his views were most comprehensive, and his inventive faculties extremely fertile. Brindley was quite ignorant in the vulgar sense of the word education, and perfectly unacquainted with the literature of his own or any other country. ... If we range the annals of the whole world, and include within our survey even those examples in sacred history where divinely appointed ministers were raised to work out great designs, we shall find no instance more remarkable, nor one which more completely violates the ordinary expectations and probabilities of mankind, than this in which the uneducated millwright of a country village became the instrument of improving beyond the bounds of sober belief the condition of a great nation, and of increasing to an incredible amount her wealth and resources. . . . Alone he stood, alone he struggled, and alone he was proof against all the assaults of men, who branded him as a madman, an enthusiast, and a person not to be trusted.'
Under Rennie and Telford, canal construction was continued, and old methods were improved upon. The Barton aqueduct of Brindley sank into insignificance before the works of these later engineers, whose canals, instead of winding round the hillsides to avoid cuttings, were led through hills and over valleys regardless of obstacles. Besides the completion of English canals, we owe to these two men the construction of the canal from the Forth to the Clyde and the Caledonian Canal, in Scotland; and the two parallel canals in Ireland which connect Dublin with the Atlantic. Thus, in half a century was the country covered with a network of waterways, giving an impulse to manufactures which had hitherto been shut out from foreign markets.
About the end of last century, a great impulse was given to the traffic on the canals by a Mr Baxendale, the agent of
Pickford, the well-known carrier. By his efforts, a thorough system of canal communication was established and maintained, and greater punctuality was observed in the arrival and departure of the boats. Express or fly boats also came into use for the more important merchandise and for passenger traffic. On the Bridgewater Canal, they plied with passengers between Manchester and Liverpool; and in the neighbourhood of the larger towns they conveyed the market-women home to the surrounding villages. In 1798, many of the troops for the Irish campaign were conveyed by canal from London to Liverpool. When the railway systems were projected, some of their greatest opponents were the canal companies, who fancied they saw in the new mode of transit utter ruin to their own traffic. Their traffic after the advent of the railways steadily increased; canal shares are still usually considered safe stock, and therefore seldom change hands. Both systems of communication have their advantages; and whilst the locomotive is the great economiser of time, there are many articles of commerce in the shape of building materials and fragile goods, in the carrying of which the canals are more suitable. _ They remain at the present day a lasting and still useful monument to the English enterprise and perseverance of the last century.
Edinburgh : Printed by W. & R. Chambers, Limited.
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