Picture of George Head

George Head

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IN 1835.


Two steamers, The Duke of Bridgewater and The Eclipse, ply daily from St. George's Dock, at Liverpool, to Runcorn. The former carries passengers for the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal packet boat, and the latter for that of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, or Old Quay Company, to Manchester. Besides these two parallel lines of communication by water to Manchester, there is also a third, though rather more circuitous, by the continuation of the Duke's Canal, which falls into that of the Leeds and Liverpool navigation at the town of Wigan.

It is interesting to observe, that the traffic between Liverpool and Manchester was carried on by these means of transport before the commencement of the railroad: and that in despite of the canals as well as of tribes of land vehicles of all descriptions, the railroad has successfully made its way.

The magnificence of the various works in and about Runcorn, when viewed in comparison with the size of the town itself, is particularly striking. The double chain of locks belonging to the Duke's Canal; the quays of the same establishment, and those of the Old Quay Company; the dock basin connecting, at Western Point, the town of Northwich, by the river Weaver, with the Mersey; as well as the St. Helen's Railroad and the Sankey Canal—all these objects may be considered, even at the present day, as specimens of splendid workmanship; forming also five separate grand channels of communication, all meeting in one point.

From the outer dock gates of the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal, the twin chain of locks, which surmounts by a sudden rise the height of nearly a hundred feet, affords a double facility for the vessels which trade upon it. Nothing can surpass the beauty of these locks; the regularity with which these paths are covered with red burnt shale from the foundries; or the economy of space within, appropriated to the quays and warehouse. The latter is a striking object on the banks of the river, exceeding in size most other buildings in the country of the like description; and as the canal communicates by a cut of four miles with Preston Brook, bearing by that route the vast freight of the potteries and the metropolis, the general indications of traffic, especially with the former, are on an extraordinary scale. The enormous heaps of material piled up, ready for embarkation, would be sufficient, one would think, to freight all the barges on the line for months to come; consisting of the sub-stances used in the manufacture of British china—such as flints from Kent and Sussex, pipe clay from Devonshire and Dorsetshire, besides a soft stone containing abundance of mica from Cornwall and Wales. At the same time, so perfect is the allotment of space, that the whole extent of ground is laid out with the care and order of a pleasure garden; the walks between these enormous heaps of flints and other materials (each heap piled in the neatest manner, and labelled with the owner's name) are highly kept, while the red shale in colour and consistence is better suited to the purposes of use and ornament than any kind of gravel whatever. Close to the river, near the magazine, stands the late duke's house—a temporary residence which he occupied while the locks were building, in order to superintend the operations.

At the outlet of the canal into the Mersey, which here, at low water, presents a flat, sandy bottom, and is not navigable farther at all times or seasons, a channel was originally made by cutting off and insulating a small nook of land which projected at its mouth. By this channel the tide passes freely both at ebb and flood, and it has, I believe, always uniformly produced the desired effect, namely, that of clearing away the mud of each succeeding tide, which would otherwise form a bar, and obstruct the entrance.

It is interesting to observe the numerous vessels mounting from the river, in two lines, to the summit of these locks, the masonry and workmanship of which are admirable. On the ascent adjoining the line are appropriate reservoirs; and I remarked that in every lock the water is let in and out by channels cut through the side walls, instead of, as is usual, by sluices in the gates.

Notwithstanding the number of tons of flints and stone unladen weekly on the duke's quays, and the present improved state of machinery, the primitive process of weighing by hand has not as yet been replaced by a better. Every individual stone passes through an ordinary scale. The machine is placed on the quay, and the stones are slung out of the vessel by a rough sort of crane. The usual draft is about three hundred weight, which, being weighed, is put into a wheelbarrow, and wheeled along a line of planks to the place of its destination. A considerable number of scales are in work at the same time, though, after all, surely some quicker operation might be devised.

The quays of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, or Old Quay Company, are adjoining those of the duke, a few hundred yards higher up the river. As the two lines of water communication from hence to Manchester proceed nearly parallel to each other, one cannot help admiring the noble spirit that gallantly faced the hill at starting, in the infancy of science, and with unknown difficulties ahead, leaving the humbler task of crawling along the Mersey and the Irwell to succeeding projectors.

Adjoining the canal basin there is a patent slip, for the purpose of drawing vessels out of the water previous to repairing them. It is on a small scale, suited only to vessels of two hundred tons or thereabout, and the machinery is different altogether from that at Whitehaven, hereafter described. In this the windlass, instead of being at the side, and moving vertically, is in the middle, And moved horizontally, the men pushing at ordinary levers. The frame on which the vessel is placed, is merely a couple of strong beams, which move upon a double row of stationary rollers.

Western Point, the outlet of the canal and water communication, leading by the river Weaver to Northwich, is about a mile below the canal of the Duke of Bridgewater. An embankment and wall of great length and Strength have been thrown up for the protection of the works within, at the mouth of the Weaver. The dock basin is of ample dimensions, its form is oblong. The numerous fleet of sturdy shallops to be seen at times within its gates is very remarkable. Considerable alterations and improvements are now in progress. The walls of the basin, which were originally built in a slanting direction, are to be perpendicular, which, besides an additional space taken in on one side, will considerably extend its dimensions.

It is singular that among the numerous projects of the day, that of throwing a bridge across the Mersey at Runcorn, although formerly proposed by an eminent engineer, has never been effected. At present, people are ferried across by a couple of men, who are not always to be found at a moment's warning: the landing place from Runcorn is at all times extremely incommodious, and that on the other side still worse. In fact, at low water, the passenger walks out of the boat on a plank, lands on mud and sand, and after walking on this compost upward of a hundred yards to the ferry house, he has then a mile to walk to the establishments of the St. Helen's Railroad, or that of the proprietors of the Sankey Canal, which latter leads also in a parallel direction to St. Helen's.

These two establishments, whose dock gates, of twenty-one feet in depth, open adjacent to each other on the Mersey, afford a picture of pent-up opulence, whenever, from the upper level, a fleet of small craft, and numerous coal wagons, are seen collected and waiting at low water to throw their cargoes on the river below, so soon as the tide shall cover the bare and deserted sands.

In the outskirts of the town there has been lately built, on the premises of a soap and soda manufactory, one of those stately circular chimneys which are becoming every day more general in the country, for the purpose of carrying off, by means of flues communicating far and wide among the buildings, all noxious effluvia arising from the works. These chimneys are fine specimens of modern brickwork; they seem to answer the object for which they are intended to perfection; and, certainly, in populous cities, might be applied to general domestic purposes. At first sight, the extreme height seems a startling objection, though, in fact, the consideration is but trifling; for a small walled space would ensure public security, by enclosing a base sufficient to receive, even were the building to fall, the whole of the materials.

The chimney in question is, I believe, the highest in England—that is to say, ninety-two yards, or two hundred and seventy-six feet to the top of the coping. The work was chiefly performed by two men, who never left the job from beginning to end. At times, as was related to me, they were assisted by others; but the higher the building proceeded, the more suspicious were they of their assistants; they generally contrived to find fault with them, and even picked quarrels with them. But they were always silent as to the true reason—namely, their fear of falling. The diameter of the chimney at the bottom, from outside to outside, is thirty feet—the slant an inch and a half in the yard at each side. The thickness of the wall at the bottom is nine bricks in length, diminishing to a brick and a half at the top.

I happened, in the summer of 1834, to see the manner in which this building was raised, the operation being performed without scaffolding, by means of a platform of boards at the lop, which was gradually raised, and up to which all the materials were drawn by a rope which passed perpendicularly down through the middle. The bricks were dexterously bound together, in parcels of about a wheelbarrow load each, and pulled up in the inside of the building by a tackle hauled by a horse on the outside. The horse walked onward away from the building, in a straight line, a bell always sounding when each load was ready—a signal with which the animal was fully acquainted. As the length of the rope was the same as the height of the building, I had no difficulty, by pacing the extent of the horse's walk, to ascertain the elevation: at that time it was one hundred and fifty feet.


Although little information is to be gained by travelling in a canal packet boat, I nevertheless determined to make one voyage by each of the three conveyances before alluded to. Having had a pleasant passage of a little more than two hours on board the Duke of Bridgewater steamer from Liverpool, I got on board the canal packet boat at Runcorn at about ten o'clock in the morning. As, previous to starting, the boat is always stationed on the summit of the locks, it was necessary to have the passengers' luggage conveyed to it on the backs of porters. The vessel was tidy and clean, with a first and second class cabin raised upon the deck; the roof flat, and benches provided to accommodate those who might prefer to sit on the top.

This mode of travelling, to an easy-going individual, provided it be not repeated too often, is far from disagreeable—there he sits without troubling himself with the world's concerns, basking in the sunshine, and gliding through a continuous panorama of cows, cottages, and green fields, the latter gaily sparkling in the season with buttercups and daisies. As to safety, provided he takes no pains to tumble into the water, no conveyance can be so secure. It is true, there is one drawback to the comfort of the traveller—namely, that within a dozen miles of Manchester, the water of the canal is as black as the Styx, and absolutely pestiferous, from the gas and refuse of the manufactories with which it is impregnated. It is proposed, I understand, to avert this evil by turning the course of the fetid stream elsewhere, though the future line of its direction will not probably be agreed on unanimously. The boat was towed at the rate of about five miles an hour by a couple of clumsy cart horses, driven beyond their natural pace, and working under all possible disadvantages, for half the strength of one horse was continually exerted to prevent itself from being dragged into the canal by the other.

It has frequently been observed, that to break a horse no other art is necessary than to conquer his temper; and those acquainted with the good qualities of the animal need not be told that a light hand on the bridle is, in point of fact, rather an appeal to his moral than his physical nature. Servants and postboys are above these considerations; and, in the present case, the two small boys, who rode each on one of these unfortunate horses, exhibited an utter insensibility to that lively state of muscle which is the result of a well-tutored mouth. They whipped and kicked as if sitting across a tree; while the horses lugged and reeled, exhibiting a perfect specimen of ill-applied force, one literally pulling continually one way, and the other another. In the mean time, the riders, in worsted stockings, with thick, country-made shoes, were healthy and active, jumping on and off, according to their fancy, without stopping the boat, or creating any delay. Sometimes they ran for a quarter of an hour together, and then they mounted in a way of their own, merely placing a foot on the chain trace, and a hand on the belly girt. Each boy was about twelve years old, yet these little fellows rode every day the whole distance—one day up, the next down—two-and-thirty miles, hot or cold, wet or dry, winter or summer. We were six hours on the voyage, arriving at four o'clock at Manchester.


The next day I returned to Liverpool by another canal route, the Leeds and Liverpool Navigation. This packet boat starts from Manchester at six o'clock every morning. We pursued the course of the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal towards Runcorn, till we left this line by a branch which proceeds to Wigan. At one point, a few miles from Manchester, the duke's canal passes over the river Irwell, the track of the Old Quay Company, by help of an aqueduct, which is not only above the river, but also above the turnpike road from, Liverpool to Manchester; whereby, as if things were turned upside down, coaches and boats may be seen at the same time passing, the boats above and the coaches below—and thus, in the triumph of human art, reversing the order of nature. The appointments of the boats, and the pace maintained, were precisely the same as the day before. There are several locks by the way; and the time expended from Manchester to Liverpool was fourteen hours. There are certainly no wonders on the route; and particularly, on a second experiment, a heavy sameness naturally arises out of the first conditions of the mode of peregrination—namely, that of moving on a level. Hence, the horizon is very generally bounded by the banks. Our boat was narrow; the two cabins were independent of each other, the intervention of the steward's berth completely cutting off the communication. The platform at the top, as in the duke's boat, was common property, resorted to by all.

Breakfast and dinner were provided on board at one shilling each meal, the steward very properly judging, that as custom exacted from his stores at each meal nearly the same quality of viands, no matter what that meal was called, his customers would eat as much at one as the other. Not even the most fastidious could complain of high charges. At dinner we had a salted sirloin of beef, garnished with a profusion of fried onions; and afterward, as if it were intended to lower the temperature of the stomach, radishes and lettuces, together with a good mild cheese. Notwithstanding the delights of the table, the voyage seemed desperately long, particularly while we were detained for half an hour for the purpose of loading and unloading at the town of Wigan. Here the "compound of villanous smells" was past all endurance, and the delay in this place that of purgatory. Nothing can surpass the untidiness and tilth of this warm nook, where the boats are made fast to the shore, which has more the appearance of a landing place in Lisbon than in Old England. We had on board what is usually called a "mixture of company" the second cabin being quite as full as it would hold.

Notwithstanding the perfect safety of the mode of conveyance, we were very near meeting with two serious accidents on the voyage. A woman contrived to pitch herself head foremost off the top of the platform, where she was sitting, down upon the deck. She fell with such violence that I really thought she must have been killed. As it was, she was not hurt, and as I picked her up, she sent forth a sigh which smelt so strongly of rum that I was happy to consign her collapsed form into other hands. The other adventure was that of a quiet, decent, respectable man, who, perhaps inadvertently, but from a cause somewhat similar, was unlucky enough, in attempting, on one occasion when the boat stopped at a village, to step on shore, somehow or other to misjudge his distance, and though he did step out of the boat, as it were very methodically to tumble into the water. In one moment he was "jugulo tenus," (up to the neck,) holding on by a set of red fingers to a plank on the shore. He was soon pulled on deck, and stood helplessly streaming and snuffling. The manoeuvre was so unprovoked and uncalled for, that he excited nobody's pity, not. even that of his wife—who, on the contrary, scolded him unmercifully. The lecture she administered caused even amusement among the bystanders, and was really sufficient, not only to recall the circulation of the blood, but set galloping all the humours into the bargain. The unfortunate fellow, suffering with such a ducking, and afflicted with such a wife, had not a word to say for himself; when he did attempt to speak, it was in a tone that resembled the snort of a hippopotamus. How he contrived to arrange his toilet among so many people I do not know, but he soon appeared again on deck in a dry pair of bright nankeens.

Among the tenants of the best cabin were a newly married couple—if such a description can reasonably be given of two young people travelling with a little infant, their firstborn, and a nursery maid in their train. This pair presented an interesting study of nature, were it only because it led one to estimate the different degrees of that dominion and power in which mankind exult, and also because it exhibited one of the very numerous ways there are in the world of being happy. I think I never saw a couple more rich in their own conceits, or more inclined to be satisfied with themselves and the things about them—and these were all on a small scale. He was a slight, weasel-shaped man, like a stunted stay-maker—the wife, little—the child, by appearance, an abortion—and the maid servant, little—fresh from the country, with clattering thick-soled shoes, and hair tied back, evidently on her promotion, in a little knot like a shaving brush, the length of one's thumb. The man and wife smirked and smiled on each other, and both gloated with eyes of affection on the dear baby. The lady, anxious to show to the rest of the passengers that she kept a maid servant, ever and anon was calling her from one part of the vessel to another to give her some trifling order. The little maid, nevertheless, seemed truly happy, and the more the child cried the more she jiggled it, and the more her active eyes travelled round and round, looking first at one person and then on another, while they sparkled with delight as she inhaled the pure fresh air. When the child dropped asleep, the mistress immediately set her to work on pieces of glazed, crackling linen contained in her bag, in order that she should not be idle. The child, too, was happy, for it was an ill-conditioned little thing, that delighted in crying, and it cried to its heart's content; and the more it cried the more its papa's eyes glistened as he suggested this, that, and t'other remedy.

On arriving at Scarisbrick Bridge, a little to the northward of Ormskirk, omnibuses and luggage carts were waiting for the conveyance of passengers to Southport, a watering place near the Ribble, and distant about six miles from the canal. This place is much frequented by the citizens of Manchester, a communication being continually kept up with that populous city by the canal. The vehicles leave Southport at nine in the morning, to meet the Liverpool boat on her way to Manchester; they then remain at Scarisbrick Bridge until four o'clock, the usual time for the arrival of the boat moving in the opposite direction.

The ground adjacent to the canal basin at Liverpool is covered with vast heaps of coal sent by the canal from Wigan. Hence, also, fly boats depart to Crosby and other places in that direction, eight times a day. I observed large quantities of the Cannel coal, and took some pains, both here and subsequently at Kendal, St. Helen's, and other places, to obtain the meaning of the term. A considerable quantity is procured at St. Helen's, though the greater quantity comes from Wigan. it is dug out of the same shafts with ordinary coal, but exists in different seams. It appears to be a substance between ordinary coal and jet. In Liverpool, and elsewhere, it is advertised by boards and placards—" Coal and Cannel sold here." It is invariably spelled "Cannel." If it have really taken its name from Kendal, the people of the town are not aware that it has any such origin; neither is there any reason that it should originally have been called Canal coal, it having been dug before canals were adopted, and transported together with larger quantities of ordinary coal. It seems to be the general opinion, that having been used to light the men at their work, and serving as candle, it became by corruption "Cannel" coal. It is singular how soon words and phrases creep into use, and totally obliterate every recollection of the cause that produced them.


In order to proceed from Liverpool to Manchester, by the third and last canal route, I got on board the Eclipse steamer, at the dock of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, or Old Quay Company, at twenty minutes before nine, and before eleven o'clock we arrived at Runcorn. The basin and docks here, and at Liverpool, belonging to this establishment, by no means equal in appearance those of the Duke of Bridgewater; in fact, a comparison throws them many degrees in the background.

At Runcorn, indeed, we came to anchor close alongside the packet boat; an obvious convenience to passengers compared with the ceremony of consigning their luggage to a porter, and toiling to the top of the hill— the level of the duke's canal. This advantage, however, is counterbalanced in the long run. The difficulties, in one instance, are all surmounted previous to the commencement of the voyage; in the other, the delay and trouble of passing the numerous locks are experienced during its continuance. The boat I was now in was of a heavier construction altogether than that of the duke. The cabin, instead of being on the deck was below, as in ordinary river or sea boats; and we were towed by three horses instead of two. Two boys rode in the manner and style before described; they had no stirrups, but rested their feet on the traces, so that sometimes they were high, sometimes low, according as the horse lay on his collar. Neither of them wore coats, and their trousers were as ragged as those of a scarecrow. The middle horse had no choice but to move on between the other two, unridden. The whole fare from Liverpool to Manchester was the same as before, viz., 3s. 6d. We left Runcorn precisely at twenty minutes alter eleven, and arrived at a quarter before six. A rough set of people were on board. It appeared not to be the fashion to pay first cabin fare; it seemed unnecessary, for no restriction was enforced among the passengers, consequently the exclusives suffered encroachment on their vested rights. Those of the latter class were but few; all were jumbled together; groups of people dirtily dressed and noisy. The men smoked tobacco and guzzled beer; the women did the same, and picked periwinkles out of their shells with pins. My powers of endurance here failed me, and having no redress, I abandoned my prerogative, and removed to the forecastle in search of good company. Although the course of this navigation chiefly passes through the Mersey and Irwell rivers, the voyage is uninteresting, the prospect being chiefly shut out by high, winding, muddy banks. At least seventy yards of low-rope are used; the extremity is fastened high on the mast above the crosstrees. The first artificial cut of the canal commences at starling, and continues for about eight miles; the others on the way are of less extent. Halting for a short time near the town of Warrington, we continued our passage, with little exception, on the Mersey, till arriving within ten miles of Manchester, at the confluence of the Mersey and Irwell rivers, which two streams are at this point equal in point of width, we proceeded for the rest of the voyage up the latter river.

The line of the new railroad from Manchester to Birmingham crosses the canal and the river Mersey at a point where both run parallel within a few yards of each other, by a viaduct now in progress of erection about half a mile below Warrington.

Two other viaducts are also building on the same line between Warrington and Northwich. These viaducts are both to be thrown across the river Weaver, within five miles of each other; the one two miles below Northwich, and half a mile below the bridge at Hartford, which bridge I paced, and found to be twenty-five yards across. The viaduct is to consist of four arches.

The above work I did not see in progress, except from the distance of half a mile, as I stood on the bridge; but I walked to the other, which is a great work, at a place called Button bottom. This viaduct is to be thrown across the river Weaver, and the canal parallel to it, both together, by twenty arches of sixty feet span, and sixty feet high from the crown of the arch to the bottom of the piers. The piers, in breadth eight feet, have the appearance of being rather slight in proportion to the dimensions of the work. However, the bottom is thoroughly sound, nor is there any obstacle in the way of the architect. I paced the temporary bridge over the river Weaver at this spot, which is forty-five yards in length. The workmen were then preparing to commence the first arch—the greater part of the piers was already finished. It was a noble sight while standing on the elevated ground on one side, to look across to the other, and see the vast structure rising from below. As I understood, the versed sine of the arches which spring from the piers is to be fifteen feet six inches. A horse windlass was erected on the southern side, in order to move materials up and down.

I remarked an appliance I had never seen before attached to the travelling crane, which latter contrivance is now generally adopted in every great work—namely, that instead of giving the transverse motion to the crane by hand at the top, that is to say, by men who, being at the top, push it along by hand, the same purpose was effected by means of two small cranes, one on each side, which, being connected by a rope with a crane at the top, were worked by men at the bottom. The full description of the travelling crane will be found in the chapter relating to Whitby.

I could not help thinking, as I saw the enormous stones of six and eight tons lifted up and down by the ordinary purchase of the wedge and Lewis hole, that this contrivance might be oftener applied than it is to common purposes. If, wherever stone or rock is accessible, a purchase of eight or ten tons may be obtained, by making a small hole three or four inches deep, an operation easily performed in the same number of minutes; it follows that by means of more holes, the effect might be multiplied accordingly.


To a stranger either landing upon the quays, or departing from Liverpool, the silent order and regularity with which the process of debarkation and embarkation is conducted are very remarkable. The commodiousness and magnificence of the docks are sufficiently well known; as to their extent, without other means of judging than those afforded by the eye, they appear, even now, at least equal in area to those of the metropolis. Besides, new ones of considerable dimensions are in a state of forwardness, both to the north and south of the present line. Few vessels are seen at anchor in the Mersey; the lading and unlading are altogether performed in the docks, the river being usually shallow, and the anchorage bad. At all events, the channel of deep water is so narrow, that were vessels to be stationary in the stream, the navigation would be impeded. I have heard it urged as a matter of complaint, that the space immediately adjoining the docks and belonging to the corporation, is preserved intact, and no buildings are permitted to be erected thereon, whereby extra cartage is incurred to the warehouses at a distance within the town. Yet it certainly does seem, that to this very regulation or prohibition are to be attributed, in great measure, the good effects alluded to.

Contrary to the usual order of things in a seaport town, and in London especially, where as one goes towards the waterside, one feels as if entering by the broad end into the spout of a funnel—here the broad end opens the other way, and the more one advances towards the point of embarkation, the greater appears the freedom of space.

On the extensive area of St. George's Dock, no idlers are to be seen, nor obstacles of any description to impede the passenger. Whether a single person, a boatload, or a shipload of people either go or come, is an object of consideration only to those whom it may directly concern; and though, at a vessel's arrival or departure, a trifling collection of persons is discernable on the landing place, the assembly merely consists of travellers, who, in a few moments, are lost in space, together with all their baskets and bundles. In the mean time the policeman treads the ground steadily, backward and forward on his station, having seldom occasion to accost an individual in the execution of his duty.

When it is considered that the Liverpool docks occupy already an unintermitting line along the banks of the river, verging upon three miles in length, the facilities above referred to are in part accounted for: added to which, all that knowledge can suggest or experience confirm, has combined to render the action of every one great outlet clear of the other. The three principal separate points are those of St. George's Dock, where the numerous passage boats ply, many of them every half hour in the day, to the various little watering places in the Mersey; and passengers embark, and return to and from every part of the world; the Clarence Dock, and those appropriated to the American trade, at the north end, the former exclusively containing steamers; and the large docks in the immediate neighbourhood of the new custom house, to which those of the Duke of Bridgewater and of the Railway Establishment are immediately adjacent, all these latter being at the south end of the line.

Hence, by the great tunnel, merchandise is conveyed under the town to the railway station at Edgehill. This vast subterraneous excavation, a mile and a quarter in length, viewed either with regard to the purposes to which it is applied, or its execution, as a channel of conveyance for live cattle, timber, and all sorts of merchandise, through the bowels of the earth, and below the site of a populous town, is a truly wonderful performance. I obtained permission, on one occasion, to pass through it; and though the passage was performed in utter darkness, it did not the less strongly interest me. This tunnel, as well as the splendid warehouses and quays at its mouth, is an indication, and a true one, of the vigour with which the projectors of the railway grappled with the undertaking. I have in the first page alluded to the various established channels of communication with Manchester which previously existed, and with which the railway necessarily had to compete. The operations on this spot exhibit an additional specimen of almost unlimited expenditure; an outlay against which, as a question of profit and loss, the proprietors have also had to contend, and in spite of which, their shares have attained, nevertheless, nearly a duplicate value. This consideration is peculiarly interesting, both as a pleasing example of the energies of the country, where men, with all the disadvantages of a new and untried project before them, undauntedly march on; as well as an earnest, in prospectu, of the general advantages likely to be derived from the extension of steam communication to London. And these advantages, I am fully persuaded, are too great to be fully estimated, till they are really felt.

It is quite impossible to enter, within any brief compass, on the beauty and symmetry of the arrangements which prevail among the warehouses, and within these extensive premises. The scene I was allowed, as a stranger, to contemplate unnoticed and unmolested; I was permitted to walk from end to end, and observe and admire the address and despatch with which multitudinous affairs were conducted. I particularly remarked the facility with which logs of timber, of the largest dimensions, and all descriptions of bulky and heavy materials, were slung on the carriages; the great size of the Dobbin wheels, ten feet in diameter, occasionally employed; and also the extreme length of the ordinary Liverpool cart, for the conveyance of cotton bags, eighteen feet from the tail board to the point of the shaft, which latter is totally overhung by the body with the exception only of four feet. These were the principal objects which diverted my attention. The load of these carts, drawn by a couple of horses, is about three tons. Among the timber lying on the ground ready to be sent by the carriages on the railway, I measured one stick, as which there were several others as large; it was a piece of squared timber, two feet the side of the square, and fifty-seven feet long. They allow, on the railway, four tons to a carriage, although not unfrequently they carry five; so that, as, to convey timber, two carriages are lashed together, a full load may be estimated at ten tons.

Among the cargoes put on the carriages, with the greatest ease and despatch, are pigs. This shows what management will effect; and, though strange, is at least true. Indeed this branch of business is so well assorted, that though, as to locality, the animals previous to departing on their journey are upon equal terms with the men and merchandise, as to actual juxtaposition they might as well be five miles asunder. This desirable object is effected by means of a back entrance into a pig-yard, where all the herds that arrive, on their way to Manchester, find accommodation. From this there is a small door, that leads down a wooden platform, placed on an inclined plane, to the carriage standing on the railway, close to the mouth of the tunnel, so that the pigs enjoy this right of road unmolested, and, in point of fact, step quietly out of their drawing room into their vehicle, each as easily as an old dowager into her chair waiting in the vestibule.

On the occasion of my passing through the tunnel before alluded to, I sat in the foremost carriage of a train, by which were conveyed, among merchandise of many descriptions, a quantity of pigs and live cattle. The carriages were drawn about three hundred yards within the mouth of the tunnel, upon a level, by a single horse, which, at the foot of the inclined plane, was unhitched and sent back. Preparatory to the ascent, the foremost carriage was made fast, by a messenger line, to the endless rope communicating with the stationary engine at the east end, when, at the signal of a bell, the wire of which reaches the whole length, viz., a mile and a quarter, the engine commenced its labours, and we trundled onward in the dark at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour. There are, indeed, lights at rare intervals within the tunnel; but, nevertheless, by far the greater part of the distance is performed in total darkness. As we passed along, a train came rumbling downward, by its own gravity, in an opposite direction. The effect was awfully grand at the approach of so stupendous a body rushing towards us in the dark, with a sound like that of distant artillery: while its conductor sat in front, holding in his hand a small glimmering lantern. The scene brought the regions of Pluto to the imagination, while the hogs grunted, and the calves lowed in funeral cadence, like a legion of discontented spirits.

The appearance was singular as we approached the opening at the extremity. Objects without were seen through a long dark tube, which gave them the semblance of shadowy forms enveloped in mist.

The manner of travelling by the Liverpool and Manchester railroad is now a great deal too well known to need any description; yet the oftener it happens to me to see a train on its arrival, or preparatory to its departure, the less I can refrain from attentively observing the excellence of the arrangements. In the first place, the mode is admirable, by which a hundred people or more are passed through the booking office one after another, each moving on, and followed by his neighbour, through a sort of gate, whereby every individual is allowed to take his time, without impeding or being impeded by another. Then, again, on the arrivals, it is surprising to see twenty or thirty carriages, laden with people inside, and a large proportion of luggage on the top, how quietly, rapidly, and dexterously to every man is handed his own, so that in three or four minutes all the wheel carriages in waiting are laden and gone. The method is merely this: the luggage being at the top of the carriages, nobody but the authorized porter is allowed to ascend. A platform of boards, forming an inclined plane to the ground, is erected, and down this platform every box or trunk is slid, and handed to its owner by one or two porters, who are stationed on each side at the bottom. How perfect is this contrivance, compared with the common mode of unloading a stage coach, where a lady's bandbox may, if not narrowly watched, radiate out of her sight in a crowd, in any direction ! Here no article whatever, be it where it may, can possibly be overlooked or unseen by its owner, all being collected at the top of the carriages in one single point, from which they come sliding along, one after another, down the same channel.

I went to the Clarence Dock to see a cargo of pigs unladen, from Ireland. They had arrived on board the steamer Drogheda, from Belfast, together with a number of oxen, sheep, and geese. The pigs were, contrary to my expectations, persuaded to walk out without any difficulty, by means of planks placed zigzag, and leading upward all the way from the hold.

The service of attending a cargo of pigs, and remaining in their company below—when it is considered that the flavour rising from their hides is so strong as to taint a column of air a mile long or more, and nobody knows exactly how broad—must be really arduous. I have understood, however, that such attendance is absolutely necessary, and regularly performed, in order to stir them up, as the only means, the creatures being so closely packed, to prevent their suffocation. At all events, on the present occasion, men were doing duty below manfully, in a hot and corrupted atmosphere. As each pig walked up the platform, Paddy behind with a small switch, whenever the animal attempted to swerve, persuaded him with a delicate touch on the rump. The animal probably mistaking this for the bite of a fly, gently placed one leg forward; this was no sooner set in its place, than another tickle of the switch on the other side caused him to advance the other. An Irishman can certainly, in common cases, do more with his pig than the native of any other country; and this is, no doubt, mainly owing to his treating the beast with kindness. A very short time ago I met a man leading a large boar in a string through the town of Lichfield. It was not necessary to inquire whither the latter and his gentleman usher were going, but I could not help stopping to have a little conversation with the man, to which the boar, with a playful glance of his eye,-actually seemed to be listening. The creature followed his master as willingly as a dog, a leathern thong being tied loosely round his thick neck; and I was assured that, by kind treatment alone, he had been brought to such a state of discipline as to be thoroughly depended on. Once or twice, during the time the man slopped, the boar seemed anxious to proceed; and though he did not put forth his strength, his weight alone called for a counteracting power. In order to stop him, the man placed one foot against his flank, as a purchase, and then, the other foot resting on the ground, he laid his shoulders to the draft, and pulled him off his centre.


On the parallel road, immediately contiguous to the docks, stands a building, formerly a wind mill, which having been some years ago accidentally destroyed by fire as to the internal part, has been converted into a hotel, or place of entertainment. It is not inaptly called the Rotunda Steam Packet Tavern, and certainly bears indications such as to induce merchant sailors and other persons of seafaring habits, those who know how to enjoy most of life's comforts within small space, to enter in quest of recreation. The flat roof, which is leaded, and furnished with benches, and a flag continually flying thereon all the year round, affords a gazebo, whence Jack, as he whiffs his pipe and boozes, may at the same time telegraph his messmate in the offing. The circle being the one, of all mathematical figures, that contains the most space within the least periphery, the assortment of apartments is such, that a snug cabin is to be obtained for parties of every description: and not only that, but a bedroom also, on emergencies.

It really was quite extraordinary to observe how completely every atom of space had been turned to account, the apartments within far exceeding, both in number and size, any probable computation to be formed on the outside of the house. Supposing the building at the bottom to be thirty feet in diameter, as I believe it is, one might reckon, on each floor, a room for every ten or even nine feet of circumference. It is true the staircase and chimney pass through the middle, although here the chef d'ceuvre of the architect may be said to rest, in having contrived the former as it were of extension without breadth or thickness, one to serve all purposes, and yet stand in as little space as a ladder. All disputes of precedence must, at all events, either be settled at the top or the bottom; and, in fact, it is so extremely narrow, that, though I did not examine the chimney, I should think it made little difference whether a man crawled up one or the other.


In one of the streets leading to the docks, Hanover-street, I observed in the window of a very small shop, two clocks, each of singular construction, so that I was induced to enter for the purpose of looking at them. I found the owner of the shop to be a poor Dutchman, an artist, by name Drielsma, who claimed no other merit than that of having merely invented the clocks, which, as they told the hour much after the same manner as other people's, had nothing to recommend them, except that they set about their work in a different way. Nevertheless, it appears to me that any application of a new principle, though not of itself to be turned to useful purpose, is always interesting, and fairly to be estimated as a step in the scale of science. In the mean time, no other measures were taken by Drielsma to bring his clocks into notice, (that of taking out a patent being, owing to his circumstances, quite out of the question,) than to prepare a huge sheet of elephant paper to receive the names of bountiful and scientific contributors. The paper was headed in beautiful text, and contained a brief statement of his object. The space below—blank. Besides the two clocks aforesaid, I saw very little furniture in his apartment, more than some watchmakers' tools, a few brass wheels, and an eyeglass.

The first of these clocks was what he termed a railway clock, inasmuch as, when it was placed on the top of a small inclined plane, it descended slowly by its own gravity—that is to say, about eight inches in thirty-six hours, while by the action of its descent it wound itself up. Therefore the owner had nothing to do but merely occasionally to lift it from a lower point of the plane, and place it on the higher. The inclined plane was an ornamental mahogany frame, in shape like an ottoman, the railway being formed by two brass parallel serrated ridges extending from top to bottom. The clock was in shape a cylinder, one of the vertical sides of which formed the dial plate.

The other clock consisted, in the first place, of an hour circle a couple of feet in diameter, having a pin in the centre to receive the index. The hour circle was fastened perpendicularly to the wall, and the index lay upon the table. When the index (or hour hand) was put on the pin, the machine resembled, to all intents and purposes, a small church clock; but the singularity of it was, that the hour circle being against the wall, and the hour hand on the table, as before said, the index need only be put on the pin, and spun round like that of an E O table, when, mirubile dictu ! it always stopped at the hour. And being, moreover, once set in its place, it continued to traverse the hour circle like the hand of an ordinary clock.

The only way I could account for the operation was this: The index was at one end barbed like an arrow. At the other end was a little watch, having one hand that traversed a dial marked with divisions. There was probably a small weight within this little watch, moving round the circular periphery, which weight, as it changed its position, altered the centre of gravity of the index. The weight being at the extreme point of its orbit, that is, at the greatest distance from the point of the barb, would predominate with the greatest force against the other end, and fall to the bottom. In that case the index would point to twelve o'clock. On the contrary, when the weight reached the nearest point of its orbit, it would act with least force against the other end, which other end would in its turn fall to the bottom, and point to six o'clock. As the above stated motions would be gradual, and not sudden, an equilibrium would be effected in every part of the circle, so as to attain the end proposed.

A few weeks subsequent to my visit to the artist, I happened to enter a magnificent shop containing all sorts of articles of vertu, at Buxton; where, among other objects of curiosity, I observed one of poor Drielsma's railway clocks. I recognised it in a moment, and immediately made inquiries on the subject. The gentleman in the shop replied that the article was one made by Drielsma, who had, he said, contracted to supply him with a certain number of them. I did not quite understand the remainder of the history, which related to some dispute about the articles of contract. However, as far I could understand, something being the matter with one of the clocks, he opened it, either to see whether anything was wrong in the inside, or to endeavour to mend it; and not succeeding in either of the two objects, he quarrelled with Drielsma.


I would recommend any grumbling, discontented person to pay a visit to Liverpool, merely for the purpose of seeing a. specimen of the art of living well and cheap, as regards the very important affair of dinner. There, chance led me on one particular occasion to Keels's Hotel, which is, I think, in the large street leading from the Mansion House to St. George's Dock; however, at all events, it is what is called highly respectable, both as to its position and elevation. Having mistaken the hour of departure of one of the boats, I was directed hither by the policeman, who, to his recommendation, added, in an awful cadence, that "the magistrates themselves very often dined there."

When I entered the coffee room, near a score of people were seated at different tables, some with their hats On, but all busily eating their dinner, and a chair and a table were provided for myself by a good-looking and very smartly dressed young woman, who officiated as waiter. Constant communication was held with the bar at the head of the room, at which three or four other females presided. Upon inquiring what I could have for dinner, the young lady produced the carte, whence it appeared that there really was everything that an Englishman could possibly desire, in the matter of roasted and boiled meats, meat pies, and pastry. Neither was the adage," Bis dat qui vito dat," (He gives doubly who gives quickly,) within these walls forgotten, for here a hungry man has no sooner made his selection, than in half a minute the smoke of the dish is curling under his nose. I think I never partook of a more glorious round of beef than that of which a plateful was placed before me, together with a delicate lily-white heart of a young cabbage. Next came a delightful apple dumpling well sugared, the fruit transparent, and the crust excellent. The garniture of the table was homely but clean, the dishes and covers of queen's metal, as highly polished as silver. And after having eaten a sufficient quantity to satisfy any reasonable appetite, the charge for the whole was only one shilling. To conclude—I asked a gentleman sitting at an adjoining table how much it was customary to give the waiter, to which he replied, with a look of surprise, Nothing. Had I not come to the conclusion long before, I certainly should have arrived at it now— namely, that so long as an individual can procure so very good a dinner for a shilling, and be waited upon by a tidy young woman into the bargain, England cannot be, in spite of a vast deal of modern philosophy, so very bad a country to live in.

The young person referred to was really the pink of her profession, her movements being quiet, quick, dexterous, and I may add, graceful in a great degree. With no one to assist her, she waited upon a score of people, who were no sooner satisfied than they went away, and were replaced by others: so that the whole set were nearly changed twice over during the half hour that I remained in the room. Her eyes were in every corner at the same moment; every guest found his wants attended to, as soon almost as he was aware of them himself. At all events, she was never for a moment still—dropping a fork to one, a piece of bread to another, craving pardon of a third, as she reached across the table for a huge mug, and somewhat in the attitude of a flying Mercury, exposed precisely as much as was decent and proper of a well-turned leg, and then away she would go to another quarter, wriggling about, in a way of her own, though somewhat in the French style, as if her feet were tied together, or like a figure on wheels wound up by clockwork. Such an active being surely never could be still, even in her sleep.

The more the business on her hands, the more rapid the succession of her smiles, which she dispersed gratuitously all around. Every man in the room was sure to obtain one, and if he happened to be young, certainly two, yet the "hoc age" mind what you're at, was always uppermost in her mind; and though she simpered and flirted, and even now and then put on a languishing air, as if suffering either by Cupid or the hot weather, no item, meanwhile, of things furnished on anybody's account was forgotten in the bill, and thus she went on from morning to night, attending to the interests of her employer, serving the customers, and in perpetual motion between the coffee room and the bar, so that no ant was ever seen at his work more lively and busy.

Notwithstanding this incessant occupation, she found time for her toilet. Her dress was in the style of a smart lady's maid. That is to say, she wore a figured muslin gown with full sleeves, and a small black silk apron. Her stays were tightly laced, her clothes well put on, and her feet neat to perfection. Her cap was adorned with blue ribands, and covered a profusion of ringlets.

Twelve months had rolled away, when on paying to this hotel a second and last visit, I saw the same young woman, on the same spot, performing the duties of the same office, in precisely the same manner, and in the same good humour with herself and all the rest of the world; and there still, I have no doubt, any other body who chooses to make the experiment, in twelve months more, provided she change not her condition, may also find her.

George Head, A Home Tour through the Manufacturing Districts of England in the Summer of 1835 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1836) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2009.

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