Part 5 out of 8
method of prompting them. Amongst our foreign visitors was M. Schneider,
proprietor of the great ironworks at Creuzot, in France.
We had supplied him with various machine tools, and he was so pleased
with their action that the next time he came to England he called at
our office at Patricroft. M. Bourdon, his mechanical manager,
I happened to be absent on a journey at the time; but my partner,
Mr. Gaskell, was present. After showing them over the works, as an act
of courtesy he brought them my Scheme Book and allowed them to examine
it. He pointed out the drawing of my steam hammer, and told them the
purpose for which it was intended. They were impressed with its
simplicity and apparent practical utility,--so much so, that M. Bourdon
took careful notes and sketches of the constructive details of the hammer.
I was informed on my return of the visit of MM.Schneider and Bourdon,
but the circumstance of their having inspected the designs in my Scheme
Book, and especially my original design of the steam hammer, was
regarded by my partner as too ordinary and trivial an incident of their
visit to be mentioned to me. The exhibition of my mechanical designs
to visitors at the Foundry was a matter of almost daily occurrence.
I was, therefore, in entire ignorance of the fact that these foreign
visitors had taken with them to France a copy of the plan and details
of my steam hammer.
It was not until my visit to France in April 1842 that the upshot of
their visit was brought under my notice in an extraordinary manner.
I was requested by M. Bouchier, Minister of Marine, to visit the
French dockyards and arsenals for the purpose of conferring with the
director of each with reference to the supply of various machine tools
for the proper equipment of the marine engine factories in connection
with the Royal Dockyards. In order to render this journey more
effective and instructive, I visited most of the French engineering
establishments which had been supplied with machine tools by our firm.
Amongst these was of course the famous firm of Schneider, whose works at
Creuzot lay not far out of the way of my return journey accordingly
made my way thither, and found M. Bourdon at his post, though M. Schneider
M. Bourdon received me with much cordiality. As he spoke English with
fluency I was fortunate in finding him present, in order to show me
over the works; on entering which, one of the things that particularly
struck me was the excellence of a large wrought-iron marine engine
single crank, forged with a remarkable degree of exactness in its
general form. I observed also that the large eye of the crank had been
punched and drifted with extraordinary smoothness and truth.
I inquired of M. Bourdon "how that crank had been forged?"
His immediate reply was, "It was forged by your steam hammer!"
Great was my surprise and pleasure at hearing this statement.
I asked him how he had come to be acquainted with my steam hammer?
He then narrated the circumstance of his visit to the Bridgewater
Foundry during my absence. He told me of my partner having exhibited
to him the original design, and how much he was struck by its
simplicity and probable efficiency; that he had taken careful note and
sketches on the spot; that among the first things he did after his
return to Creuzot was to put in hand the necessary work for the
erection of a steam hammer; and that the results had in all respects
realised the high expectations he had formed of it.
M. Bourdon conducted me to the forge department of the works,
that I might, as he said, "see my own child;" and there it was,
in truth--a thumping child of my brain. Until then it had only
existed in my scheme book; and yet it had often and often been before
my mind's eye in full action. On inspecting the steam hammer I found
that Bourdon had omitted some important details, which had led to a few
mishaps, especially with respect to the frequent breaking of the
piston-rod at its junction with the hammer block. He had effected this,
in the usual way, by means of a cutter wedge through the rod;
but he told me that it often broke through the severe jar during the
action of the hammer. I sketched for him, then and there, in full size
on a board,the elastic packing under the end of the piston-rod,
which acted, as I told him, like the cartilage between the bones of the
vertebrae, preventing the destructive effects of violent jars.
I also communicated to him a few other important details, which he had
missed in his hasty inspection of my design. Indeed, I felt great
pleasure in doing so, as I found Bourdon to be a most intelligent
mechanic, and thoroughly able to appreciate the practical value of the
information I communicated to him. He expressed his obligation to me
in the warmest terms, and the alterations which he shortly afterwards
effected in the steam hammer, in accordance with my plans, enabled it
to accomplish everything that he could desire.
I had not yet taken out a patent for the steam hammer. The reason was
this. The cost of a patent at the time I invented it was little short
of #500, all expenses included. My partner was unwilling to lay out so
large a sum upon an invention for which there seemed to be so little
demand at that time; and I myself had the whole of my capital embarked
in the concern. Besides, the general depression still continued in the
iron trade; and we had use for every farthing of money we possessed.
I had been warned of the risk I ran by freely exhibiting my original
design, as well as by sending drawings of it to those who I thought
were most likely to bring the invention into use. But nothing had as
yet been done in England. It was left for France, as I have described,
to embody my invention in an actual steam hammer. I now became
alarmed, and feared lest I should lose the benefits of my invention.
As my partner declined to help me, I applied to my brother-in-law,
William Bennett. He was a practical engineer, and had expressed
himself as highly satisfied with its value. He had also many times
cautioned me against "publishing" its advantages so widely, without
having first protected it by a patent. He was therefore quite ready to
come to my assistance. He helped me with the necessary money, and the
invention was placed in a position of safety so far as my interests
were concerned. In return for his kindness I stipulated that the
reimbursement of his loan should be a first charge upon any profits
arising from the manufacture of the steam hammer; and also that he
should have a share in the profits during the period of the patent
rights. Mr. Bennett lived for many years, rejoicing in the results of
his kindness to me in the time of my difficulty. I may add that the
patent was secured in June 1842, or less than two months after my
return from France.
Soon after this, the iron trade recovered from its depression.
The tide of financial prosperity of the Bridgewater Foundry soon set
in, and my partner's sanguine confidence in my ability to raise it to
the condition of a thriving and prosperous concern was justified in a
most substantial manner. In order to make the most effective
demonstration of the powers and capabilities of my steam hammer,
I constructed one of 30cwt. of hammer block, with a clear four feet
range of fall. I soon had it set to work; and its energetic services
helped us greatly in our smith and forge work. It was admired by all
observers. People came from a distance to see it. Mechanics and
ironfounders wondered at the new power which had been born.
The precision and beauty of its action seemed marvellous.
The attendant could, by means of the steam slide-valve lever in his
hand, transmit his will to the action of the hammer, and thus think in
blows. The machine combined great power with gentleness. The hammer
could be made to give so gentle a blow as to crack the end of an egg
placed in a wine glass on the anvil; whilst the next blow would shake
the parish or be instantly arrested in its descent midway.*
This is no mere figure of speech. I have heard the tea-cups rattle in
the cupboard in my house a quarter of a mile from the place where the
hammer was at work. I was afterwards informed that the blows of my
great steam hammer at Woolwich Arsenal were sensibly felt at Greenwich
Observatory, about two miles distant.
Hand-gear was the original system introduced in working the hammer.
A method of self-acting was afterwards added. In 1843, I admitted
steam above the piston, to aid gravitation. This was an important
improvement. The self-acting arrangement was eventually done away
with, and hand-gear again became all but universal. Sir John Anderson,
in his admirable Report on the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, says:
The most remarkable features of the Nasmyth hammers were the almost
entire abandonment of the old self-acting motion of the early hammers
and the substitution of new devices, and in the use of hand-gear only
in all attempts to show off the working. There is no real saving,
as a general rule, by the self-acting arrangement, because one
attendant is required in either case, and on the other hand there is
frequently a positive loss in the effect of the blow. By hand-working,
with steam on top of piston, the full force can be more readily
maintained until the blow is fully delivered; it is thus more of a dead
blow than was formerly the case with the other system."
There was no want of orders when the valuable qualities of the steam
hammer came to be seen and experienced. The first Order came from
Rushton and Eckersley of Bolton, who, by the way, had seen the first
copy of my original design a few years before. The steam hammer I made
for them was more powerful than my own. The hammer block was of five
tons weight, and had a clear fall of five feet. It gave every
satisfaction, and the fame of its performances went abroad amongst the
ironworkers. The Lowmoor Ironworks Company followed suit with an order
for one of the same size and power; and another came from Hawkes and Co.,
One of the most important uses of the steam hammer was in forging
anchors. Under the old system, anchors upon the soundness of which the
safety of ships so often depends--were forged upon the "bit by bit"
system. The various pieces of an anchor were welded together,
but at the parts where the different pieces of iron were welded
together, flaws often occurred; the parts would break off--blades
from the stock, or flukes from the blades--and leave the vessel,
which relied upon the security of its anchor, at the risk of the winds
and the waves. By means of the steam hammer these risks were averted.
The slag was driven out during the hammering process. The anchor was
sound throughout because it was welded as a whole.
Those who are technically acquainted with smith work as it used to be
practised, by what I term the "bit by bit" system--that is,
of building up from many separate parts of iron, afterwards welded
together into the required form--can appreciate the vast practical
value of the Die method brought into general use by the controllable
but immense power of the steam hammer. At a very early period of my
employment of the steam hammer, I introduced the system of stamping
masses of welding hot iron as if it had been clay, and forcing it into
suitable moulds or dies placed upon the anvil. This practice had been
in use on a small scale in the Birmingham gun trade, The ironwork of
firearms was thus stamped into exact form. But, until we possessed the
wide range and perfectly controllable powers of the steam hammer,
the stamping system was confined to comparatively small portions of
forge work. The new power enabled the die and stamp system to be
applied to the largest class of forge work; and another era in the
working of ponderous masses of smith and forge work commenced, and has
rapidly extended until the present time. Without entering into further
details, the steam hammer has advanced the mechanical arts, especially
with relation to machinery of the larger class, to an extent that is of
Soon after my steam hammer had exhibited its merits as a powerful and
docile agent in percussive force, and shown its applicability to some
of the most important branches of iron manufacture, I had the
opportunity of securing a patent for it in the United States.
This was through the kind agency of my excellent friend and solicitor,
the late George Humphries of Manchester. Mr. Humphries was a native of
Philadelphia, and the intimate friend of Samuel Vaughan Merrick,
founder of the eminent engineering firm of that city. Through his
instrumentality I forwarded to Mr. Merrick all the requisite documents
to enable a patent to be secured at the United States Patent Office at
Washington. I transferred the patent to Mr. Merrick in order that it
might be worked to our mutual advantage. My invention was thus
introduced into America under the most favourable auspices.
The steam hammer soon found its way into the principal ironworks of the
country. The admirable straightforward manner in which our American
agent conducted the business from first to last will ever command my
CHAPTER 14. Travels in France and Italy.
I have already referred to my visit to Creuzot, in France.
I must explain how it was that I was induced to travel abroad.
The French Government had ordered from our firm some powerful machine
tools, which were manufactured, delivered, and found to give every
satisfaction. Shortly after, I received a letter from M. Bouchier,
the Minister of Marine, inviting me to make a personal visit to the
French naval arsenals for the purpose of conferring with the directing
officials as to the mechanical equipments of their respective
I accordingly proceeded to Paris, and was received most cordially by
the Minister of Marine. After conferring with him, I was furnished
with letters of introduction to the directing officers at Cherbourg,
Brest, Rochefort, Indret, and Toulon. While in Paris I visited some
of the principal manufacturing establishments, the proprietors of
which had done business with our firm. I also visited Arago at the
Observatory, and saw his fine array of astronomical instruments.
The magnificent collections of antiquities at the Louvre and Hotel
Cluny occupied two days out of the four I spent in Paris; after which
I proceeded on my mission. Rouen lay in my way, and I could not fail
to stay there and indulge my love for Gothic architecture.
I visited the magnificent Cathedral and the Church of St. Ouen,
so exquisite in its beauty, together with the refined Gothic
architectural remains scattered about in that interesting and
picturesque city. I was delighted beyond measure with all that I saw.
With an eye to business, however, I paid a visit to the works which had
been established by the late Joseph Locke in the neighbourhood of Rouen
for the supply of locomotives to the Havre, Rouen, and Paris Railway.
The works were then under the direction of Mr. Buddicom.
I went onward through Caen to Bayeux. There I rested for a few hours
for the purpose of visiting the superb Norman Cathedral, and also to
inspect the celebrated Bayeux tapestry. I saw the needlework of Queen
Matilda and her handmaidens, which so graphically commemorates the
history of the Norman Conquest. In the evening I reached Cherbourg.
I was cordially received by the directing officer of the dockyard,
which is of very large extent and surrounded by fortifications.
My business was with the smithy or atelier des forges,
and the workshops or ateliers des machiness. There I recognised many
of the machine-tools manufactured at the Bridgewater Foundry, doing
My next visit was to Brest, the chief naval arsenal of France.
It combines a dockyard, arsenal, and fortress of the first class.
Everything has been done to make the place impregnable. The harbour is
situated on the north side of one of the finest havens in the world,
and is almost land-locked. Around the harbour run quays of great
extent, alongside of which the largest ships can lie--five artificial
basins being excavated out of the solid rock. The whole of the harbour
is defended by tier above tier of batteries. Foreigners are not
permitted to enter the dockyard without special permission; but as I
was armed with my letter of introduction from the Minister of Marine,
I was admitted and cordially received, as at Cherbourg. I went through
the Government foundry and steam-factory, for which I had supplied many
of my machine tools. I found the establishment to be the largest and
most complete that I had seen. From Brest I went to Rochefort,
an excellent naval arsenal, though much smaller than those at Cherbourg
and Brest. Next to Indret on the Loire. Here is the large factory
where marine engines are made for the royal steamers.
The works were superintended by M. Rosine, a most able man.*
The only man I ever met, to whom I might compare Rosine, was my
lamented friend Francis Humphries, engineer of the Great Western
Steamship Company. Both were men of the same type, though Rosine was
several octaves-higher in the compass and vividness of his intellect.
I was so much pleased with him that I spent two days in his society.
I have rarely met with a more perfect union of the sound practical
mechanic, of strong common-sense, and yet with a vivid imagination,
which threw a light upon every subject that he touched.
It was delightful to see the perfect manner in which he had arranged
all the details of the engine factory under his superintendence,
and to observe the pride which he took in the accuracy of the work
turned out by his excellent machinery. It was a treat to see the
magnificent and intricate iron castings produced there.
As M. Rosine spoke English fluently, we had discussions on a vast
variety of topics, not only relating to technical subjects, but on
other matters relating to art and mechanical drawing. He was one of
the few men I have met who had in perfection the happy accomplishment
of sketching with true artistic spirit any object that he desired to
bring before you. His pencil far outstripped language in conveying
distinct ideas on constructive and material objects. The time that I
spent in the company of this most interesting man will ever remain
vivid in my memory. It grieved me greatly to hear of his premature
death about two years after the date of my visit. He must have been a
sad loss to his deeply attached friends, as well as to the nation
whom he so faith fully served.
On my way to Toulon I passed through Bordeaux, and by Avignon to
Nismes. At the latter city I was delighted with the sight of the
exquisite Roman temple, the Maison Carree. It is almost perfect.
But the most interesting of the Roman remains at Nismes is the
magnificent Amphitheatre. In viewing this grand specimen of
architecture, as well as the old temples, cathedrals, and castles,
I felt that we moderns are comparative pigmies. Our architecture wants
breadth, grandeur, sublimity.
It appears to me that one of the chief causes of the inferiority and
defects of Modern Architecture is, that our designers are so anxious
to display their taste in ornamentation. They first design the
exterior, and then fit into it the interior of their building.
The purpose of the building is thus regarded as a secondary
consideration. In short, they utilise ornament instead of ornamenting
utility--total inversion, as it appears to me, of the fundamental
principle which ought to govern all classes of architectural structures.
This is, unfortunately, too evident in most of our public buildings.
See, for instance, our new Law Courts.
One thing I was especially struck with at Nismes--the ease with
which some thousands of people might issue, without hindrance, from
the Amphitheatre. The wedge-shaped passages radiate from the centre,
and, widening outwards, would facilitate the egress of an immense
crowd. Contrast this with the difficulty of getting out of any modern
theatre or church in case of alarm or fire. Another thing is
remarkable--the care with which the huge blocks of magnesian limestone*
I believe Dolomite is the proper geological term. This fine material
abounds in this part of France, and has materially contributed to the
durability of the Roman mason work.
have been selected. Some of the stone slabs are eighteen feet long;
they roof over the corridors; yet they still retain the marks of the
Roman chisel. Every individual chip is as crisp as on the day on which
it was made; even the delicate "scribe" marks, by which the mason some
1900 years ago lined out his work on the blocks of stone he was about
to chip into its required form, are still perfectly distinct.
This wonderfully durable stone is of the same material as that
employed by lithographers. Though magnesian, it is of a different
quality from that employed in building our Houses of Parliament.
As this was carefully selected, the latter was carelessly unselected.
It was quarried at random, in the most ignorant way; some of it proved
little better than chalk; and though all sorts of nostrums have been
tried, nothing will cure the radical defect. This, however, is a wide
digression from my subject of the admirable mason work,
and the wonderful skill and forethought employed in erecting that
superb arena and the other Roman buildings at Nismes.
I proceeded to Marseilles, where I had some business to transact with
Philip Taylor and Company, the engineering firm. They were most kind
and attentive to me while there, and greatly added to the enjoyment
of my visit to that remarkable city. From Marseilles I proceeded to
Toulon, the last of the marine dockyards I had to visit. There was no
railway between the places at that time, and it was accordingly
necessary that I should drive along the usual road. In the course of
my journey to Toulon I went through the Pass of Col d'Ollioulles.
It was awfully impressive. The Pass appeared to consist of a mighty
cleft between two mountains; the result of some convulsion of Nature.
There was only room for the carriage road to pass between the cliffs.
The ruins of a Saracenic castle stood on the heights to guard the
passage. It was certainly the most romantic scene I had ever beheld.
Looking down into the deep cleft below me, at the bottom of which ran
a turbulent stream, I saw the narrow road along which our carriage
was to pass. And then suddenly I emerged in full sight of the
Mediterranean, with the calm blue heavens resting over the deep blue
sea. There were palms, cactuses, and orange trees, mixed with olive
groves. The fields were full of tulips and narcissuses, and the rocks
by the roadside were covered with boxwood and lavender. Everything
gave evidence of the sunny South. I had got a glimpse of the
Mediterranean a few days before; but now I saw it in its glory.
I arrived in due time at Toulon. The town is not very striking in
itself. It is surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains of hard
magnesian limestone. These are almost devoid of vegetation.
This it is which gives so arid an aspect to this part of the coast.
Facing the south, the sun's rays, reflected from the bare surface of
the rocks, place one at mid-day as if in the focus of a great burning
mirror, and send every one in quest of shade. This intense temperature
has its due effect upon the workers in the dockyard. I found the place
far inferior to the others which I had visited. The heat seemed to
engender a sort of listlessness over the entire place. The people
seemed to be falling asleep. Though we complain of cold in our
northern hemisphere, it is a great incentive to work. Even our east
wind is an invigorator; it braces us up, and strengthens our nerves and
It is quite possible that the workmen of the Toulon dockyard might fire
up and work with energy provided an occasion arose to call forth their
dormant energy. But without the aid of an almost universal
introduction of self-acting tools in this sleepy establishment,
to break, with the busy hum of active working machinery, the spell of
indolence that seemed to pervade it, there appeared to me no hope of
anything like continuous and effective industry or useful results.
The docks looked like one vast knacker's yard of broken-down obsolete
ships and wretched old paraphernalia--unfortunately a characteristic
of other establishments nearer home than Toulon.
After transacting my business with the directing officers of this
vast dockyard I returned to Marseilles. There I found letters
requiring me to proceed to Naples, in order to complete some business
arrangements in that city. I was exceedingly rejoiced to have an
opportunity of visiting the south of Italy. I set out at once.
A fine new steamer of the Messageries Imperiales, the Ercolano, was
ready to sail from the harbour. I took my place on board.
I found that the engines had been made by Maudsley Sons and Field;
they were of their latest improved double-cylinder construction.
When I went down into the engine-room I felt myself in a sense at home;
for the style of the engines brought to my mind many a pleasant
remembrance of the days gone by.
We steamed out of the harbour, and passed in succession the beautiful
little islands which gem the bay of Marseilles. Amongst others,
the isle of If, crowned by its castle, once a State prison,
and the Chateau d'If, immortalised by Dumas. Then Pomegne, Ratoneau,
and other islands. We were now on the deep blue Mediterranean,
watching the graceful curves of the coast as we steamed along.
Soon after, we came in sight of the snow-capped maritime Alps behind
Nice. The evening was calm and clear, and a bright moon shone
overhead. Next morning I awoke in the harbour of Genoa, with a
splendid panoramic view of the city before me. I shall never forget
the glorious sight of that clear bright morning as long as I live.
As the steamer was to remain in the harbour until two o'clock next
day, I landed with the passengers and saw the wonders of the city.
I felt as if I were in a new world. On every side and all around me
were objects of art lighted up by glorious sunshine. The picturesque
narrow streets, with the blue sky overhead and the bright sunshine
lighting up the beautiful architecture of the palatial houses, relieved
by masses of clear shade, together with the picturesque dresses of the
people, and the baskets of oranges and lemons with the leaves on the
boughs on which they had been born and reared, the brilliant greenery
of the inner courts into which you peeped while passing along the
Strada Nuova, literally a street of palaces, threw me into a fervency
of delight. Here, indeed, was architecture to be proud of--grand,
imposing, and massive--chastely yet gloriously ornamented.
There was nothing of the gingerbread order here!
The plan of these palaces is admirable. They are open to the street,
so that all the inner arrangements may be seen. There is the court,
surrounded by arcades, the arches of which rest upon columns; the
flights of marble steps on each side, leading to the great hall or
the principal apartments; and inside the court, the pink daphnes and
Tangerine orange frees, surrounded by greenery, with which the
splendour of the marble admirably contrasts;--the whole producing a
magnificent effect. I remembered that Genoa la superba was one of my
father's pet subjects when talking of his first visit to Italy;
and now I could confirm all that he had said about the splendour of its
I do not know of anything more delightful than to grope one's way
through a foreign city, especially such a city as Genoa, and come
unexpectedly upon some building that one has heard of--that has
dimly lived in the mind like a dream--and now to see it realised in
fact. It suddenly starts into life, as it were, surrounded by its
natural associations. I hate your professional guides and their
constant chatter. Much better to come with a mind prepared with some
history to fall back upon, and thus be enabled to compare the present
with the past, the living with the dead.
I climbed up some of the hills surrounding Genoa--for it is a city
of ups and downs. I wandered about the terraced palaces surrounded by
orange groves and surveyed the fortified heights by which the place
is surrounded. What exquisite bits of scenery there were to sketch;
what a rich combination of nature and art! And what a world of
colour, with the clear blue sea in the distance! Altogether,
that one day at Genoa--though but a succession of glimpses formed a
bright spot in my life, that neither time nor distance can dim or
I returned to the harbour two hours before the steamer was to leave.
To commemorate my visit, I mounted the top of the paddle-box, took out
my sketch book, and made a panoramic view of Genoa as seen from the
harbour. I did it in pencil at the time, and afterwards filled it up
with ink. When the pages of the sketch book had been joined together
the panoramic view extended to about eight feet long. The accuracy of
the detail, as well as the speed with which the drawing was done,
were perhaps rather creditable to the draughtsman--at least so my
artistic friends were pleased to tell me. Indeed, many years after,
a friend at court desired to submit it to the highest Lady in the land,
and, being herself an artist, she expressed herself as highly gratified
with the performance.
[Image] A monk on board
The next station the steamer touched at was Leghorn. As the vessel was
not to start until next day, there was sufficient time for me to run up
to Pisa. There I spent a delightful day principally in wandering about
that glorious group of buildings situated so near to each other--
the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Campo Santo, and the Campanile or
Leaning Tower. What interested me most at the Cathedral was the two
bronze lamps suspended at the end of the nave, which suggested to the
mind of Galileo the invention of the pendulum. Thousands had seen the
lamps swinging before them, but he alone would know "the reason why."
The one swung at a different rate as compared with the other, being the
result of the chains being hung of different lengths. Hence Galileo's
discovery of the principle or Law of the Pendulum. This paved the way
for Newton's law of gravitation--one of the grandest laws of the
Some of the finest works of Andrea del Sarto, son of the Tailor,
are found here. Indeed, the works of that great painter are little
known out of Pisa and Florence. I was reluctant to tear myself away
from Pisa; but the Ercolano could not wait, and I was back in good
time, and soon under weigh.
The next port we touched at was Civita Vecchia, one of the most dreary
places that can be imagined, though at one time an Etruscan city,
and afterwards the port of Trajan. I did not land, as there were some
difficulties in the way of passports. We steamed on; and next morning
when I awoke we were passing the coast of Ischia. We could scarcely
see the island for a thick mist had over-spread the sea. Naples was
still hidden from our sight, but over the mist I could observe the
summit of Vesuvius vomiting forth dense clouds of white smoke.
The black summit of the crater appeared floating in the clear blue sky.
But the heat of the sun shortly warmed the mist, and it floated away
like a curtain.
[Image] Distant view of Vesuvius
A grand panorama then lay before us. Naples looked bright and
magnificent under the sunlight. The sea was so smooth that the
buildings and towers and convents and spires were reflected in the
water. On our left lay the Bay of Baiae, with its castles and temples
and baths, dating from the days of the Roman Republic. To the right
lay Castellamare, Sorrento, and the island of Capri. But the most
prominent object was Vesuvius in front, with its expanding cloud of
white smoke over the landscape. On landing, I took up my quarters at
the Hotel Victoria. I sallied forth to take my first hasty view of the
Chiaia, the streets, and the principal buildings. But, in accordance
with my motto of "Duty first, pleasure second," I proceeded to attend
to the business respecting which I had visited Naples. That, however,
was soon disposed of. In a few days I was able to attend to pleasure.
I made my way to the Museo Borbonico, now called the National Museum.
I found it a rich mine of precious treasures, consisting of Greek,
Etruscan, and Roman antiquities of every description.
Not the least interesting part of the Museum is the collection of marbles,
pictures, and articles of daily use, dug from the ruins of the buried
city of Pompeii. Every spare hour that I could command was occupied in
visiting and revisiting this wonderful Museum.
Herculaneum and Pompeii were also visited, but, more than all,
the crater of Vesuvius. During my visit the mountain was in its normal
state. I mounted the volcanic ashes with which it is strewn,
and got to the top. There I could look down into the pit from which
the clouds of steam are vomited forth. I went down to the very edge of
the crater, stood close to its mouth, and watched the intermittent
up-rushing of the blasts of vapour and sulphureous gases.
To keep clear of these I stood to the windward side, and was thus out
of harm's way.
What struck me most was the wonderfully brilliant colours of the rugged
lava rocks forming the precipitous cliffs of the interior walls of the
crater. These brilliant colours were the result of the sublimation and
condensation on their surfaces of the combinations of sulphur and
chloride of iron, quite as bright as if they had been painted with
bright red, chrome, and all the most brilliant tints. Columns of all
manner of chemical vapours ascended from the clefts and deep cracks,
at the bottom of which I clearly saw the bright hot lava.
I rolled as big a mass of cool lava as I could to the edge of the
crater and heaved it down; but I heard no sound. Doubtless the depth
was vast, or it might probably have fallen into the molten lava,
and thus made no noise. On leaving this horrible pit edge, I tied the
card of the Bridgewater Foundry to a bit of lava and threw it in,
as token of respectful civility to Vulcan, the head of our craft.
I had considerably more difficulty in clambering up to the top edge
of the crater than I had in coming down. Once or twice, indeed,
I was half choked by the swirls of sulphureous and muriatic acid vapour
that environed me before I could reach the upper edge. I sat down in a
nook, though it was a very hot one, and made a sketch or two of the
appearance of the crater. But I feel that it is quite beyond my power
either by pen or pencil, to convey an idea of the weird unearthly
aspect which the funnel-shaped crater of Vesuvius presented at that
time. An eruption of unusual violence had occurred shortly before I
saw it. Great rounded blocks of lava had been thrown high into the air
again and again, and had fallen back into the terrible focus of
volcanic violence. Vast portions of the rugged and precipitous sides
of the crater had fallen in, and were left in a state of the wildest
confusion. When I visited the place the eruption had comparatively
subsided. The throat of the crater was a rugged opening of more than
forty feet diameter, leading down to--Where? Echo answers, "Where?"
And yet there is no doubt but that the great mass of materials which
lay around me as I made my sketches, had been shot up from
inconceivable depths beneath the solid crust of the earth.
There still remains an enormous mass of molten materials that has been
shut up beneath that crust since the surface of the globe assumed its
present condition. The mineral matter that formed the globe had
converged towards its centre of gravity, and the arrestment of the
momentum of the coalescing particles resulted in intense heat.
Hence the molten condition of the globe in its primitive state.
The molten lava of volcanoes is the survival of that original cosmical
This heat has played a great part in the physical history of the globe.
Volcanic action has been, as it were, the universal plough!
It has given us mountains, hills, and valleys. It has given us
picturesque scenery, gorges, precipices, waterfalls. The up heaving
agent has displayed the mineral treasures of the earth, and enabled man,
by intelligent industry, to use them as mines of material blessings.
This is indeed a great and sublime subject.
I had remained near the mouth of the crater for about five hours.
Evening was approaching. My drawings were finished, and I prepared to
leave. My descent from the summit of the crater edge was comparatively
rapid, though every footstep went down some fifteen inches through the
volcanic ashes. I descended by the eastern side, and was soon at the
base of the great cone. I made my way by tortuous walking round the
erupted masses of lava, and also by portions of the lava streams,
which, on losing their original fluidity, had become piled up and
contorted into gigantic masses.
At the extreme edges of the flow, where the lava had become viscid,
these folds and contortions were very remarkable. They were piled fold
over fold,--the result of the mighty pressure from behind.
It was sad to see so many olive gardens burnt and destroyed;
the trees were as black as charcoal. It is singular to see the numbers
of orange and olive growers who choose to live so near to the
"fiery element." But the heat presses forward the growth of vegetation.
To be there is like living in a hothouse; and the soil is
extraordinarily fertile. Hence the number of vineyards quite close to
the base of Vesuvius. The cultivators endeavour to enclose their
gardens with hard masses of lava, so as to turn off the flow of the
molten streams in other directions; but the lava bursts through the
walls again and again, and the gardens are often utterly burnt up and
ruined. Almost every field at the base of Vesuvius contains a neat
little oratory, with a statue of the Virgin and Child, to which the
cultivators repair in times of peril and calamity. But chapel, statue,
and gardens are alike swept away by the tremendous descent of the
As the night was growing dark, I made my way from these riskful farms
to Rosina, a little village on the way back to Naples. As I had had
nothing to eat or drink during this thirst-producing journey, I went
into a wine shop and asked for some refreshment. The wine shop was a
sort of vault, with a door like that of a coach-house, but with a bench
and narrow table. The good woman brought me a great green glass bottle
like a vitriol carboy! It contained more than six gallons of wine,
and she left me with a big glass to satisfy my wants. The wine was the
veritable Lachryma, Christi--a delightful light claret--for
producing which the vineyards at the base of Vesuvius are famous.
After some most glorious swigs from this generous and jovial carboy,
accompanied with some delightful fresh made bread, I felt myself up to
anything. After washing down the dust that I had swallowed during the
day, I settled with my liberal landlady (indeed she was mightily
pleased with only tenpence), and started for Naples.
I had still an eight-mile walk before me, but that was nothing to my
vigorous powers at that time. The moon had risen during my stay in
the wine house, and it shone with a bright clear light. After a few
miles' walking I felt a little tired, for the day's exercise had been
rather toilsome. A fine carriage passed me on the road with a most
tempting platform behind. I hailed the driver, and was allowed to
mount. I was soon bowling along the lava paved road, and in a short
time I arrived at Naples. I made another excursion to the crater of
Vesuvius before I left, as well as visits to Herculaneum and Pompeii,
which exceedingly interested me. But these I need not attempt to
relate. I refer my readers to Murray's Guide Book, where both are
After completing my business affairs at Naples, and sowing the seeds
of several orders, which afterwards bore substantial results,
I left the city by the same line of steamers. I passed again Civita
Vecchia, Leghorn, Genoa, and Marseilles. On passing through the South
of France I visited the works of several of our employers, and carried
back with me many orders. It was when at Creuzot that I saw the child
of my brain, the steam hammer, in full and efficient work.
But this I have referred to in a previous chapter.
CHAPTER 15. Steam Hammer Pile-driver.
In 1840 I furnished Sir Edward Parry with a drawing of my steam hammer,
in the hope that I might induce him to recommend its adoption in the
Royal Dockyards. Sir Edward was at that time the head director of the
steam marine of England. That was after the celebrity he had acquired
through his Arctic voyages. I was of opinion that the hammer might
prove exceedingly useful in forging anchors and large iron work in
those great establishments. Sir Edward appeared to be much struck with
the simplicity and probable efficiency of the invention.
But the Admiralty Board were very averse to introducing new methods of
manufacturing into the dockyards. Accordingly, my interview with
Sir Edward Parry, notwithstanding his good opinion, proved fruitless.
Time passed by. I had furnished steam hammers to the principal
foundries in England. I had sent them abroad, even to Russia.
At length it became known to the Lords of the Admiralty that a new
power in forging had been introduced. This was in 1843, three years
after I had submitted my design to Sir Edward Parry. The result was
that my Lords appointed a deputation of intelligent officers to visit
my foundry at Patricroft to see the new invention. It consisted of
Captain Benison (brother of the late Speaker), and Captain Burgman,
Resident Engineer at Devonport Dockyard. They were well able to
understand the powerful agency of the steam hammer for marine forge
work. I gave them every opportunity for observing its action.
They were much pleased, and I may add astonished, at its range, power,
Besides showing them my own steam hammer, I took the deputation to the
extensive works of Messrs. Rushton and Eckersley, where they saw one
of my five-ton hammer-block steam hammers in full action.
It was hammering out some wrought-iron forgings of the largest class,
as well as working upon smaller forgings. By exhibiting the wide range
of power of the steam hammer, these gentlemen were entirely satisfied
of its fitness for all classes of forgings for the naval service.
They reported to the Admiralty accordingly, and in a few days we
received an official letter, with an order for a steam hammer having
a 50 cwt. hammer-block, together with the appropriate boiler,
crane, and forge furnace, so as to equip a complete forge shop at
Devonport Dockyard. This was my first order from the Government for
a steam hammer.
When everything was ready, I set out for Devonport to see the hammer
and the other portions of the machinery carefully erected.
In about a fortnight it was ready for its first stroke. As good luck
would have it, the Lords of the Admiralty were making their annual
visit of inspection to the dockyard that day. They arrived too late in
the afternoon for a general inspection of the establishment; but they
asked the superintending admiral if there was anything of importance
which they might see before the day closed. The admiral told them that
the most interesting novelty in the dockyard was the starting of
Nasmyth's steam hammer. "Very well, they said, "let us go and see that".
I was there, with the two mechanics I had brought with me from
Patricroft to erect the steam hammer. I took share and share alike in
the work. The Lords were introduced to me, and I proceeded to show
them the hammer. I passed it through its paces. I made it break an
eggshell in a wine-glass without injuring the glass. It was as neatly
effected by the two-and-a-half ton hammer as if it had been done by an
egg-spoon. Then I had a great mass of white-hot iron swung out of the
furnace by a crane and placed upon the anvil block. Down came the
hammer on it with ponderous blows. My Lords scattered to the
extremities of the workshop, for the splashes and sparks of hot metal
flew about. I went on with the hurtling blows of the hammer,
and kneaded the mass of iron as if it had been clay into its devised
After finishing off the forging, my Lords gathered round the hammer
again, when I explained to them the rationale of its working,
and the details of its construction. They were greatly interested,
especially Mr. Sidney Herbert (afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea),
then Secretary to the Admiralty, and Sir George Cockburn,
a fine specimen of the old admiral. Indeed, all the members of the
Board were more or less remarkable men. They honoured me with their
careful attention, and expressed their admiration at the hammer's
wonderful range of power and delicacy of touch, in this new application
of the force of steam.
The afternoon was a most important one for me in more ways than one,
although I cannot venture to trouble my readers with the details.
It was followed, however, by an order to supply all the Royal Dockyard
forge departments with a complete equipment of steam hammers,
and all the requisite accessories. These were supplied in due time,
and gave in every case the highest satisfaction. The forgings were
found to be greatly better, and almost absurdly cheaper than those done
by the old bit by bit building-up process. The danger of flaws was
entirely done away with; and, in the case of anchors, this was a
consideration of life and death to the seamen, who depend for their
safety upon the soundness of the forgings.
Besides my introduction to that admirable man, Mr. Sidney Herbert,
I had the happiness of being introduced to Captain Brandreth,
Director of Naval Works. The whole of the buildings on shore,
including the dockyards, were under his control. One of the most
important affairs that the Lords of the Admiralty had to attend to on
their visit to Devonport was to conclude the contract for constructing
the great docks at Keyham. This was a large extension of the Devonport
Docks, intended for the accommodation of the great steamships of the
Royal Navy, as well as for an increase of the graving docks and
workshops for their repair. An immense portion of the shore of the
Hamoaze had to be walled in so as to exclude the tide and enable the
space to be utilised for the above purposes. To effect this a vast
amount of pile-driving was rendered necessary, in order to form a firm
foundation for the great outer dock wall, about a mile and a quarter in
Messrs. Baker and Sons were the contractors for this work.
They were present at the first start of my steam hammer at Devonport.
They were, like the others, much impressed by its vast power and
manageableness. They had an interview with me as to its applicability
for driving piles for the immense dock, this being an important part of
their contract. Happily, I had already given some attention to this
application of the powers of the steam hammer. In fact, I had secured
a patent for it. I had the drawings for the steam hammer pile-driving
machine with me. I submitted them to Mr. Baker, and he saw its
importance in a moment. "That," he 'said, "is the very thing that I
want to enable me to complete my contract satisfactorily." Thousands of
enormous piles had to be driven down into the deep silt of the Shore;
and to have driven them down by the old system of pile-driving would
have occupied a long time, and would also have been very expensive.
The drawings were of course submitted to Captain Brandreth.
He was delighted with my design. The steam pile-driver would be,
in his opinion, the prime agent for effecting the commencement of the
great work originated by himself. At first the feat of damming out
such a high tide as that of the Hamoaze seemed very doubtful, because
the stiff slate silt was a treacherous and difficult material to
penetrate. But now, he thought, the driving would be rendered
comparatively easy. With Captain Brandreth's consent the contractors
ordered of me two of my steam hammer pile-drivers. They were to be
capable of driving 18-inch square piles of 70 feet in length into the
silt of the Hamoaze.
[Image] Space to be enclosed at the Hamoaze
This first order for my pile-driver was a source of great pleasure to me.
I had long contemplated this application of the power of the steam
hammer. The machine had long been in full action in my "mind's eye,"
and now I was to see it in actual reality. I wrote down to my partner
by that night's post informing him of the happy circumstance. The order
was for two grand steam hammer pile-drivers, each with four-ton
hammer-blocks.The wrought-iron guide case and the steam cylinder were
to weigh in all seven tons. All this weight was to rest on the
shoulders of the pile. The blows were to be about eighty in the
minute. This, I thought, would prove thoroughly effective in rapidly
driving the piles down into the earth.
I have said that the steam pile-driver was in my mind's eye long before
I saw it in action. It is one of the most delightful results of the
possession of the constructive faculty, that one can build up in the
mind mechanical structures and set them to work in imagination, and
observe beforehand the various details performing their respective
functions, as if they were in absolute material form and action.
Unless this happy faculty exists ab initio in the brain of the
mechanical engineer, he will have a hard and disappointing life before
him. It is the early cultivation of the imagination which gives the
right flexibility to the thinking faculties. Thus business, commerce,
and mechanics are all the better for a little healthy imagination.
So soon as I had returned home, I set to work and prepared the working
drawings of the steam pile-drivers. They were soon completed, conveyed
to Devonport, and erected on the spot where they were to be used.
They were ready on the 3d of July 1845. Some preliminary pile-driving
had been done in the usual way, in order to make a stage or elevated
way for my pile-driver to travel along the space where the permanent
piles were to be driven. I arranged my machines so that they might
travel by their own locomotive powers along the whole length of the
coffer dam, and also that they should hoist up the great logs of Baltic
timber which formed the Piles into their proper places before being
The entire apparatus of the machine was erected on a strong timber
platform, and was placed on wheels, so that it might move along the
rails laid down upon the timber way. The same boiler that supplied the
steam hammer part of the apparatus served to work the small steam-engine
fixed to the platform for its locomotion, and also to perform the duty
of rearing the next pile which had to be driven. The steam was
conveyed to the hammer cylinder by the jointed pipe seen in the annexed
engraving. The pipe accommodated itself to any elevation or descent of
the hammer. The whole weight of the cylinder, hammer-block, and guide
box, supported by the shoulders of the pile, amounting to seven tons in
all, rested upon the shoulders of the pile as a "persuader;" and the
eighty blows per minute of the four-ton hammer came down with
tremendous energy upon the top of the pile head. No soil, that piles
could penetrate, could resist such effective agencies.
[Image] Diagram of the Steam Pile-Driver
Explanation of the Diagram of the Steam Pile-Driver.--The chief
feature of novelty of this pile-driving machine consists in the
employment of the direct action of the Steam Hammer as the blow giving
agent, and also in the manner in which the dead weight of the entire
apparatus, consisting of the hammer-block C, the steam cylinder A,
and its guide-case B, is employed to importantly aid the effect of the
rapid and energetic blows of the steam hammer. These ponderous parts
rest on the shoulders of the pile H all the while it is being driven,
the pile in this respect being the only support of the apparatus A B C.
So that, besides the eighty blows per minute that the four-ton steam
hammer energetically deals out to the head of the pile from a four foot
fall the dead weight of the apparatus constantly acts as a most
effective "predisposer" to the sinking of the pile into the ground; the
hoisting chain D being let slack the while, so as to allow A B C to
"follow down" the pile H, while the eighty blows per minute are
incessantly showered on its head. The upward stroke of the piston,
with its attached hammer-block C, is arrested at the proper height not
only by allowing the steam that raised it to escape, but as soon as the
piston passes the escape holes X X, the confined air above the piston
at O rebounds, and so aids most effectively in increasing the energy of
the fall of the hammer-block C on the pile head.
There was a great deal of curiosity in the dockyard as to the action of
the new machine. The pile-driving machine-men gave me a good-natured
challenge to vie with them in driving down a pile. They adopted the
old method, while I adopted the new one. The resident managers sought
out two great pile logs of equal size and length--70 feet long and
18 inches square. At a given signal we started together.
I let in the steam, and the hammer at once began to work. The four-ton
block showered down blows at the rate of eighty a minute;
and in the course of four and a half minutes my pile was driven down to
the required depth. The men working at the ordinary machine had only
begun to drive. It took them upwards of twelve hours to complete the
driving of their pile!
Such a saving of time in the performance of similar work--by steam
versus manual labour--had never before been witnessed.
The energetic action of the steam hammer, sitting on the shoulders of
the pile high up aloft, and following it suddenly down, the rapidly
hammered blows keeping time with the flashing out of "the waste steam
at the end of each stroke, was indeed a remarkable sight. When my pile
was driven, the hammer-block and guide case were speedily re-hoisted by
the small engine that did all the labouring and locomotive work of the
machine; the steam hammer portion of which was then lowered on to the
shoulders of the next pile in succession. Again it set to work.
At this the spectators crowding about in boats, pronounced their
approval in the usual British style of "three cheers!"
My new pile-driver was thus acknowledged as another triumphant proof of
the power of steam.
The whole of the piles for this great work were speedily driven in.
The wall was constructed, and the docks were completed in an unusually
short time. The success of my pile-driver was followed by numerous
orders. It was used for driving the immense piles required for the
High Level Bridge at Newcastle, the great Border Bridge at
Berwick-upon-tweed, the Docks at Tynemouth, the Docks at Birkenhead,
the Docks at Grimsby, the new Westminster Bridge, the great bridge at
Kief in Russia, the bridge at Petersburg, the forts at Cronstadt,
the Embarrage of the Nile, at Yokohama in Japan, and at other places.
It enabled a solid foundation to be laid for the enormous
superstructures erected over them, and thus contributed to the
permanence of many important undertakings.
The mechanical principles on which the efficiency of the steam
pile-driver chiefly depends are as simple as I believe they are
entirely novel and original. The shoulder of the pile acts as the sole
supporter of the ponderous mass of the hammer-block, cylinder,
and guide-box. This heavy weight acts as a predisposing agency to
force the pile down, while the momentum given by the repeated fall of
the hammer, at eighty blows the minute, brings the constant dead weight
into full action. I am not aware of any other machine in which such a
combination of mechanical forces is employed.
Another very effective detail consisted in employing the waste steam in
the upper part of the cylinder for the purpose of acting as a buffer to
resist any undue length of the upward stroke of the piston.
But for this the cylinder covers might have been knocked off.
The elastic buffer of waste steam also acted as a help to the downward
blow of the hammer-block. The simplicity and effectiveness of these
arrangements form--if I may be allowed to say so--a happy
illustration of my "Definition of Engineering," the application of
common sense in the use of materials.
The folding-up steam pipe with which the steam was conveyed from the
boiler to the cylinder at all heights, and the way in which the folding
joints accommodated themselves to the varying height of the cylinder,
was another of my happy thoughts. In fact, this invention, like most
others, was the result of a succession of happy thoughts.
The machine in its entirety was the result of a number of common-sense
contrivances, such as I generally delight in. At all events, this most
effective and novel machine was a special favourite with me.
I may mention, before concluding this branch of my subject,
that pile-driving had before been conducted on what I might term the
artillery or cannon-ball principle. A small mass of iron was drawn
slowly up, and suddenly let down on the head of the pile at a high
velocity. This was destructive, not impulsive action. Sometimes the
pile was shivered into splinters, without driving it into the soil;
in many cases the head of the pile was shattered into matches, and this
in spite of a hoop of iron about it to keep the layers of wood
together. Yet the whole was soon beat into a sort of brush.
Indeed, a great portion of the men's time was consumed in "reheading"
the piles. On the contrary, I employed great mass and moderate
velocity. The fall of the steam hammer-block was only three or four
feet, but it went on at eighty blows the minute, and the soil into
which the pile was driven never had time to grip or thrust it up--
an impediment well known to ordinary pile-drivers. At the end of the
driving by my steam hammer, the top of the pile was always found neat
and smooth, indeed more so than when the driving began.
I may again revert to my interview with the Lords of the Admiralty on
the occasion of my first meeting them at Devonport. I was residing at
the hotel where they usually took up their quarters while making their
annual visitation of the dockyard. I was honoured with an invitation
to confer with Sir George Cockburn, Mr. Sidney Herbert, and Captain
Brandreth on a subject of considerable importance; namely, the proving
of chain cables and anchors required for the Royal Navy. The question
was mooted as to whether or not some permanent injury was done to both
by the test strains to which they were submitted before being put on
board ship. This was a subject of vital importance. The members of
the Board requested me to act as one of a committee to inquire into the
subject. I felt much gratified by the invitation and gladly accepted
On discussing the subject with these gentlemen that evening, I found
that Sir George Cockburn entertained an ingenious theory in support of
his apprehensions as the effect of "over-proof" straining of cables and
anchors. It was that they were originally in the condition of a strong
man who had to lift some heavy weight, requiring him to exert his
muscular strength to the utmost; and, although he might perform the
feat, it was at the cost of a permanent injury, and that he might never
be able to lift the same weight again. This, however true it might be
with regard to flesh and bone structures, was scarcely true with
respect to mechanical agencies. I proposed a simple experiment with
chain cables, which, it occurred to me, would show quite a different
result--namely, that the capability of resisting the severest
proof-strain would rise rather than fall at each successive proof of
the same chain cable.
To test the correctness of my supposition, we had a first-class chain
cable put into the proof machine,and subjected it to such a strain as
to break it again and again, until at last it was divided almost into
single links. As I expected, the proof or breaking strain kept rising
and rising as each successive remaining portion of the cable was torn
asunder, thus showing that no injury to the natural tenacity of the
chain had resulted from the increased proofs to which it had been
subjected, and that the last broken links had been much more resisting
than the first. The same class of demonstrative experiments was made
with anchors, and other wrought-iron work used in the service.
The Admiralty officers were much gratified with the result, as removing
a groundless but very natural apprehension, heightened, no doubt,
by the suggestions that had been made to the Admiralty, that their
standard proof strain was not only too high in itself, but produced
permanent damage to what at the outset was of the toughest iron.
My system of continued proof-straining was, in fact, another
exemplification of the "Survival of the Fittest"!
A very interesting truth came out in the course of our experiments.
It was that the chief cause of failure in the links of chain cables
arose, not so much from their want of tenacity, or from the quality of
the iron, but from some defective welding in the making of the links.
To get at this truth, many excellent cables as received from the
contractors, as well as veteran ones that had held great ships riding
at anchor in terrible gales, were pulled asunder link by link by an
intentional destructive strain by the proving machine.
An exact account was taken of the nature of the fracture of each.
The result was that in eight cases out of ten, the fracture was found
to result from a defectively welded part of the chain-link.
The practically trained eye could see the scoria which indicates the
defective welding. Though long unseen, it was betrayed at once when
the link was torn open by the proof strain.
My services on this committee proved a source of great enjoyment to me.
I had frequent occasion to visit the dockyards and workshops,
accompanied by Captain Brandreth, surveyor-general of the Admiralty
landworks,Mr. Thomas Lloyd, engineer-in-chief of the Admiralty, and
Mr. Jeremiah Owen, chief of the metal material required in the
equipment of the navy I was requested to suggest any improvement in the
workshops that I thought would add to the efficiency of the department;
and I trust that my recommendations proved of practical good to the
service. At the same time, I have reason to know that many of the
recommendations of the committee, though cordially acknowledged by the
higher powers, were by a sort of passive resistance practically
I was much amused, when I first went to Devonport dockyard, to notice
the punctilious observance of forms and ceremonies with respect to the
various positions of officials--from the admiral-superintendent down
the official grades of dignity, to the foremen of departments,
and so on. I did not care for all this panjandrum of punctiliousness,
but was, I hope, civil and chatty with everybody. I had a good word
for the man as well as for the foreman. I received some kind and
good-natured hints as to the relative official superiority that
prevailed in the departments, and made out a scale or list of the
various strata accordingly. This gamut of eminence was of use to me in
my dealings with dockyard officials. I was enabled to mind my p's and
q's in communicating with them.
The first Sunday that I spent at Devonport I went to the dockyard
church--the church appointed for officials and men employed by the
Government. The seats were appointed in the order of rank,
employments, and rate of pay. The rows of seats were all marked with
the class of employers that were expected to sit in them. Labourers
were near the door. The others were in successive rows forward,
until the pew of the "Admiral Superintendent," next the Altar rails,
was reached. I took my seat among the "artificers," being of that
order. On coming out of church the master-attendant, next in dignity to
the admiral-superintendent, came up to me to say how distressed he was
to see me "among the artificers," and begged me in future to use his
seat. No doubt this was kindly intended, and I thanked him for his
courtesy. Nevertheless I kept to my class of artificers.
I did not like the "breest o' the laft'"*
The breest o' the laft is the seat of dignity. The best places in
churches are occupied by "superior" people. In Scotland the chief men
--the Provosts, Bailies, and Councillors--have a seat appropriated to
them in the front part of the gallery, generally opposite the minister.
That is "the breest o' the laft."
The same principle pervades society generally.
principle. No doubt the love of distinction, within reasonable limits,
is a great social prime mover; but at Devonport, with the splitting up
into ranks, even amongst workmen, I found it simply amusing, especially
when introduced into a church.
I afterwards met with several veterans in the service of the Admiralty,
who are well served by such experienced and well-selected men.
It is the schemers and the satellites who haunt the contractors that
are the vermin of dockyards. I gave them all a very wide berth.
But worst of all are the men who get their employment through
parliamentary influence. They are a detestable set. They always have
some "grievance" to pester people about. I hope things are better now.
I may add, with respect to the steam hammer pile-driving machines,
that I received an order for two of them from Mohammed Ali, the Pasha
of Egypt. These were required for driving the piles in that great work
--the barrage of the Nile near Cairo. The good services of these
machines so pleased the Pasha that he requested us to receive three
selected Arab men into our works. He asked that they should have the
opportunity of observing the machinery processes and the system of
management of an English engineering factory. The object of the Pasha
was that the men should return to Egypt and there establish an engine
manufactory, so as to render him in a measure independent of foreign
help. For British workmen, when imported into Egypt, had a great
tendency to degenerate when removed from the wholesome stimulus to
exertion in competition with their fellows.
My firm had no objection to the introduction of the Arab workmen.
Accordingly, one day we received a visit from an excellent Egyptian
officer, Edim Bey, accompanied by his secretary Rushdi Effendi,
who spoke English fluently. He thus made our interview with the Bey
easy and agreeable. He conveyed to us, in the most courteous manner,
the wishes of the Pasha; and the three workmen were at once received.
Every opportunity was given them to observe and understand the works
going forward. They were intelligent-looking young men, about
twenty-five years of age. One of them was especially bright looking,
quick in the expression of his eyes, and active in his manner,
His name was Affiffi Lalli; the names of the others I forget.
These young men were placed under charge of the foremen of the
departments that each fancied to be most to his taste. Affiffi was
placed in the fitting department, in which skilful manipulation was
required. He exhibited remarkable aptitude, and was soon able to hold
his own alongside of our best workmen. Another was set to the turning
department, and did fairly well. The third was placed in the foundry,
where he soon became efficient in moulding and casting brass and iron
work. He lent a hand all round, and picked up a real practical
knowledge of the various work in his department. During their sojourn
in our works they became friendly with their colleagues; and in fact
became quite favourites with the men, who were always willing to help
them. But Affiffi Lalli was regarded as the genius of the trio.
He showed a marked and intelligent aptitude for acquiring technical
skill in all the branches of our business.
After remaining with us for about four years they were ready to return
to Cairo, and show what they had learned in practical and technical
mechanical knowledge during their stay in England. The three Arab
workmen were placed in their suitable departments in the Pasha's work
shops. But such was the natural energy of Affiffi, that when he was
set to work beside the slow, dilatory, and stupid native workmen,
he became greatly irritated. The contrast between the active energetic
movements which he had seen at the Bridgewater Foundry and the
ineffective, blundering, and untechnical work of his fellows was such
that he could not stand it any longer. So one fine day he disappeared
from the works, took refuge on board a British steamer, and at the risk
of his neck made his way back to the Bridgewater Foundry!
As we were reluctant to take back a man who had escaped from the
Pasha's employment--excellent workman though he was--we declined to
employ him. But I gave Affiffi a note of introduction to Boulton and
Watt of Soho, Birmingham, and there he was employed. He afterwards
passed into other firms, and having employed his skill in making some
needle machinery at Redditch, he settled down there. He married a
Warwickshire lass, and had a family--half Arab, half English--
and has now a thriving foundry and engineer workshop of his own.
This little narrative shows that the Arab has still much of the
wonderful energy and skill that once made the Moors masters of a large
part of South-Western Europe.
We had many visitors at the foundry--from London,
from the manufacturing districts, and from foreign countries.
One day a young gentleman presented a letter from Michael Faraday,
dated "Royal Institution, 29th May 1847," requesting me to pay him some
attention and show him round the works. I did so with all my heart,
and wrote to Mr. Faraday intimating how much pleasure it gave me to
serve him in any respect. I cannot refrain from giving his answer.
"MY DEAR SIR--That you should both show kindness to the bearer of my
letter, and prove that you did so with pleasure by writing me a letter
in return, was indeed more than I ought or could have expected;
but it was very gratifying and pleasant to my mind. I only wish that
the circumstances of my life were such as to enable me to take
advantage of such goodwill on your part, and to be more in your company
and conversation than is at present possible.
"I could imagine great pleasure from such a condition of things;
but though our desires, and even our hopes at times spread out
beforehand over a large extent, it is wonderful how, as the future
becomes the present, the circumstances that surround us limit the
sphere to which our real life is circumscribed If ever I come your way
I hope to see your face; and the hope is pleasant, though the reality
may never arrive.
"You tell me of the glorious work of your pile-driver, and it must be
indeed a great pleasure to witness the result. Is it not Shakespeare
who says, 'The pleasure we delight in physics pain'? In all your
fatigue and labour you must have this pleasure in abundance, and a most
delightful and healthy enjoyment it is. I shall rejoice to see some
day a blow of the driver and a tap of the hammer.
"You speak of some experiments on hardening and tempering steel in
which we can help you. I hope when you do come to town you will let us
have the pleasure of doing so. Our apparatus, such as it is, shall be
entirely at your service. I made, a long while ago, a few such
experiments on steel wire, but could eliminate no distinct or peculiar
results. You will know how to look at things, and at your hand I
should expect much.
"Here we are just lecturing away, and I am too tired to attempt
anything, much less to do anything just now; but the goodwill of such
men as you is a great stimulus, and will, I trust even with me,
produce something else praiseworthy.
Ever, my dear Nasmyth, yours most truly, M. FARADAY."
CHAPTER 16. Nuremberg--St. Petersburg--Dannemora.
In the autumn of 1842 I had occasion to make a journey to Nuremberg in
company with my partner Mr. Gaskell. We had been invited to a
conference with the directors of the Nuremberg and Munich Railroad as
to the supply of locomotives for working their line. As this was
rather an important and extensive transaction, we thought it better not
to trust to correspondence, but to see the directors on the spot.
We found that there were several riskful conditions attached to the
proposed contract, which we considered it imprudent to agree to.
We had afterwards good reason to feel satisfied that we had not yielded
to the very tempting commercial blandishments that were offered to us,
but that we refrained from undertaking an order that required so many
Nevertheless, I was exceedingly delighted with the appearance of the
city of Nuremberg. It carries one back to the mediaeval times!
The architecture, even of the ordinary houses, is excellent.
St. Lawrence, St. Sebald's, and the Frauenkirche, are splendid specimens
of Gothic design. The city is surrounded by old walls and turrets,
by ramparts and bastions, enclosed by a ditch faced with masonry.
Very few cities have so well escaped the storm of war and sieges in the
Middle Ages, and even in modern times. Everything has been carefully
preserved, and many of the best houses are still inhabited by the
families whose forefathers originally constructed them. But "progress"
is beginning to affect Nuremberg. It is the centre of railways;
buildings are extending in all directions; tram-cars are running in the
streets; and before long, I fear, the ditch will be filled up,
the surrounding picturesque walls and towers demolished, and the city
thrown open to the surrounding country.
I visited the house of Albert Durer, one of the greatest artists who
ever lived. He was a man of universal genius--a painter, sculptor,
engraver, mathematician, and engineer. He was to Germany what Leonardo
da Vinci was to Italy. His house is wonderfully preserved.
You see his entrance hall, his exhibition room, his bedroom,
his studio, and the opening into which his wife--that veritable Xantippe
--thrust the food that was to sustain him during his solitary hours of
labour. I saw his grave, too, in the old churchyard beyond the
Thiergarten gate. I saw the bronze plate commemorating the day of his
death. "Emigravit 8 idus Aprilis 1528." "Emigravit" only, for the true
artist never dies. Hans Sachs's grave is there too--the great
Reformation poet of Luther's time.
Adam Krafft must have been a great sculptor, though his name is little
known out of Nuremberg. Perhaps his finest work is in St. Lawrence
Cathedral--the Sacramentshauslein, or the repository for the sacred
wafer--a graceful tapering stone spire of florid Gothic open work,
more than sixty feet high, which stands at the opening of the right
transept. Its construction and decoration occupied the sculptor and
his two apprentices no less than five years; and all that he received
for his hard labour and skilful work was 770 gulden, or about #80
sterling. No wonder that he died in the deepest distress.
St. Sebald's and the Frauenkirche also contain numerous specimens of
his admirable work.
In the course of the following year (1843) it was necessary for me to
make a journey to St. Petersburg. My object was to endeavour to
obtain an order for a portion of the locomotives required for working
the line between that city and Moscow. The railway had been
constructed under the engineership of Major Whistler, father of the
well-known artist; and it was shortly about to be opened. It appeared
that the Emperor Nicholas was desirous of securing a home supply of
locomotives, and that, like a wise monarch, he wished to employ his own
subjects rather than foreigners in producing them. No one could object
The English locomotive manufacturers were not aware of the Emperor's
intention. When I arrived in the city I expected an order for
locomotives. The representatives of the principal English firms were
there like myself; they, too, expected a share of the order.
It so happened that at the table d'hote dinner I sat near a very
intelligent American, with whom I soon became intimate. He told me
that he was very well acquainted with Major Whistler, and offered to
introduce me to him. By all means! There is no thing like friendly
feelings in matters of business.
The Major gave me a frank and cordial reception, and informed me of the
position of affairs. The Emperor, he said, was desirous of training a
class of Russian mechanics to supply not only the locomotives but to
keep them constantly in repair. He could not solely depend upon
foreign artisans for the latter purpose. The locomotives must be made
in Russia. The Emperor had given up the extensive premises of the
Imperial China Manufactory, which were to be devoted to the manufacture
The Major appointed Messrs. Eastwick, Harrison, and Wynants, to supply
the entire mechanical plant of the railway. I saw that it would be of
no use to apply for any order for locomotives; but I offered to do all
that I could to supply the necessary details. In the course of a few
days I was introduced to Joseph Harrison, the chief mechanic of the
firm; and I then entered into a friendship which proved long and
lasting. He gave me a large order for boilers, and for detail parts of
the Moscow engines--all of which helped him forward in the completion
of the locomotives. We also supplied many of our special machine tools,
without which engines could not then be very satisfactorily made or
kept in repair. In this way I was in all respects highly remunerated
for my journey.
The enjoyment of my visit to St. Petersburg was much enhanced by
frequent visits to my much valued friend General Alexander Wilson.
He was a native of Edinburgh, and delighted to enjoy cracks with me
upon subjects of mutual interest. His sister, who kept house for him,
joined in our conversation. She had been married to the Emperor Paul's
physician, who was also a Scotsman, and was able to narrate many
terrible events in relation to Russian Court affairs. The General had
worked his way upwards, like the rest of us. During the principal part
of his life he had superintended the great mechanical establishments at
Alexandrosky and Colpenha, where about 3000 operatives were employed.
These establishments were originally founded by the Empress Catherine
for the purpose of creating a native manufacturing population capable
of carrying on textile and mechanical works of all kinds.
The sail-cloth for the Russian navy was manufactured at Alexandrosky by
excellent machinery. Cotton fabrics were also manufactured, as well as
playing cards, which were a Crown monopoly. The great establishment at
Colpenha consisted of a foundry, a machine manufactory, and a mint--
where the copper money of the empire was coined. General Wilson was
the directing chief officer of all these establishments.
Through him I had the happiness of being introduced to General Greg,
son of the great admiral who shed such honour on the Russian flag
during the reign of the Empress Catherine. He was then well advanced
in years, but full of keen intelligence and devoted to astronomical
pursuits. He was in a great measure the founder of the Imperial
Observatory at Pulkowa, situated on an appropriate eminence about eight
miles from St. Petersburg. The observatory was furnished under his
directions with the most magnificent astronomical instruments.
I had the honour to be introduced by him to the elder Struve, whose
astronomical labours procured him a well-earned reputation throughout
Europe. I had the rare happiness of spending some nights with Struve,
when he showed me the wonderful capabilities of his fine instruments.
The observatory is quite imperial in its arrangement and management,
and was supported in the most liberal manner by the Emperor Nicholas.
Indeed, it is a perfect example of what so noble an establishment
Struve most kindly invited me to come whenever the state of the weather
permitted him to show forth the wonderful perfection of his
instruments,--a rare chance, which I seized every opportunity of
enjoying. It was quite a picture to see the keen interest and intense
enjoyment with which the profound astronomer would seat himself at his
instrument and pick out some exquisite test objects, such as the double
stars in Virgo, Cygnus, or Ursa Major. The beautiful order and
neatness with which the instruments were kept in their magnificent
appropriate apartments, each having its appropriate observer proceeding
quietly with his allotted special work, with nothing to break the
silence but the "tick, tack!" of the sidereal clock--this was indeed
a most impressive sight! And the kindly companionable manner of the
great master of the establishment was in all respects in harmony with
the astronomical work which he conducted in this great Temple of the
Through my friendship with General Wilson I was enabled to extend my
acquaintance with many of my countrymen who had been long settled at
St. Petersburg in connection with commercial affairs. I enjoyed their
kind hospitality, and soon found myself quite at home amongst them.
I remained in the city for about two months. During that time I was
constantly about. The shops, the streets, the houses, the museums,
were objects of great interest. The view of the magnificent buildings
along the sides of the quay is very imposing. Looking from the front
of the statue of Peter the Great you observe the long facade of the
Admiralty, the column of Alexander, the Winter Palace, and other public
buildings. The Neva flows in front of them in a massive volume of pure
water. On an island opposite stands the citadel. The whole presents a
coup d'oeil of unexampled architectural magnificence.
I was much interested by the shops and their signboards. The latter
were fixed all over the fronts of the shops, and contained a
delineation of the goods sold within. There was no necessity for
reading. The pictorial portraits told their own tale.
They were admirable specimens of what is called still-life pictures;
not only as regards the drawing and colouring of each object, but with
respect to the grouping, which was in most cases artistic and natural.
Two reasons were given me for this style of artistic sign-painting:
one was that many of the people could not read the written words
defining the articles sold within; and the other was that the severe
and long-continued frosts of the St. Petersburg winter rendered large
shop windows impossible for the proper display of the goods.
Hence the small shop-windows to keep out the cold, and the large
painted signboards to display the articles sold inside.
I was also greatly pleased with the manner in which the Russians employ
ivy in screening their windows during summer. Ivy is a beautiful
plant, and is capable of forming a most elegant window-screen.
Nothing can be more beautiful than to look through green leaves.
Nearly every window of the ground flat of the houses in St. Petersburg
is thus screened. The neat manner in which the ivy plants are trained
over ornamental forms of cane is quite a study in its way. And though
the ivy is very common, yet a common thing, being a thing of beauty,
may be a "joy for ever." In the finer and most important mansions,
the sides of the flight of wide steps that lead up to the reception
rooms were beautifully decorated by oleander plants, growing in great
vigour, with their fine flowers as fresh as if in a carefully-kept
conservatory. Other plants of an ornamental kind were mixed with the
oleander, but the latter appeared to be the favourite.*
While passing through Lubeck on my way out to St. Petersburg I was much
struck with the taste for flower-plants displayed by the people of that
old-world city. The inner side of the lower house windows were all
beautifully decorated with flowers, which were evidently well cared
for. Some of the windows were almost made up with flowers.
Perhaps the long-continued winter of these parts has caused the people
to study and practise within-door culture with such marked success.
It is a most elegant pursuit, and should be cultivated everywhere.
It is thoroughly in character with the exquisite cleanliness and
tidiness of the houses at Lubeck.
About the end of my visit I was about to call upon one of my customers
with reference to my machine tools; for though I pursued pleasure at
occasional times, I never lost sight of business. It was a very dull
day, and the streets about the Winter Palace were almost deserted.
I was sitting in my drosky with my roll of drawings resting on my thigh
--somewhat in the style of a commander-in-chief as represented in the
old pictures--when I noticed a drosky coming out of the gates of the
Winter Palace. I observed that it contained a noble-looking officer in
a blue military cloak sitting behind his drosky driver. My driver
instantly took off his hat, and I, quickly following his example,
took off my hat and bowed gracefully, keeping my extended hand on the
level of my head--a real royal salute. The person was no other than
the Emperor Nicholas! He fixed his pecuniarily fine eyes upon me and
gave me one of the grandest military salutes, accompanied, as I thought,
with a kindly smile from his magnificent eyes as he passed close by me.
As I had been lunching with a Dutch engineer about half an hour before,
and had a glass or two of champagne, this may have had something to do
with my daring to give the Emperor, in his own capital, what I was
afterwards told was not a bow but a brotherly recognition between
potentates, and only by royal usage allowed to be so given,--namely,
swaying off the hat at arm's length level with the head, so as to infer
royal equality, or something of that sort. When I narrated to some
Russian friends what I had done, they told me that I need not be
surprised if I received a visit from the chief of police next morning
for my daring to salute the Emperor in such a style. But the Emperor
was doubtless more amused than offended, and I never received the
To anticipate a little. Soon afterwards the Emperor sent me a present
of a magnificent diamond ring through his ambassador in England--
Baron Brunnow. It was also accompanied, as the Baron informed me,
with the Emperor's most gracious thanks for the manner in which my
steam hammer had driven the piles for his new forts at Cronstadt, which
he had seen in full action. The steam-hammer pile-driver had also been
used for driving the piles of the great bridge at Kieff.
I next received an order for one of my largest steam hammers for the
Imperial Arsenal, and it was followed by many more. It is a singular
fact, as showing the readiness of the Russian and other foreign
Governments to adopt at an early date any mechanical improvement of
ascertained utility, that I supplied steam hammers to the Russian
Government twelve months before our Admiralty availed themselves of its
energetic action. The French were the first to adopt the invention;
thanks to the insight of M. Bourdon, who had the opportunity of
recognising its importance.
Before I leave this part of my subject, I must not omit to mention my
friend Mr. Francis Baird, the zealous son of Sir Charles Baird.
The latter was among the first to establish iron foundries and engine
works at St. Petersburg. At the time of my visit he was far advanced
in years, and unable to attend personally to the very large business
which he had established. But he was nevertheless full of geniality.
He greatly enjoyed the long conversations which he had with me about
his friends in Scotland, many of whom I knew. He also told me about
the persons in his employment. He said that the workmen were all
serfs, or the sons of serfs. The Empress Catherine had given them to
him for the purpose of being trained in his engine foundry, and in his
sugar refinery, which was another part of the business. I had rarely
seen a more faithful and zealous set of workmen than these Russian
serfs. They were able and skilful, and attached to their employers by
some deeper and stronger tie than that of mere money wages.
Indeed, they were treated by Sir Charles Baird and his son with the
kindest and most paternal care, and they duly repaid their attachment
by their zeal in his service and the excellent quality of their work.
The most important business in hand at the time of my visit to the
foundry was the moulding and casting of the magnificent bronze capitals
of the grand portico of the Izak Church. This building is one of the
finest in St. Petersburg. It is of grand proportions,--simple,
noble, and massive. It is built upon a forest of piles. The walls of
the interior are covered with marble. The malachite columns for the
screen are fifty feet high, and exceed everything that has yet been
done in that beautiful mineral. The great dome is of iron covered
with gilt copper. This, as well as the Corinthian capitals of bronze,
was manufactured at the foundry of the Bairds. The tympanum of the
four great porticos consisted of colossal groups of alto-relievo
figures, many of which were all but entirely detached from the
background. It was a kind of foundry work of the highest order,
all the details and processes requiring the greatest care.
To my surprise every one engaged in this gigantic and refined metal
work was a serf. The full-sized plaster models which they used in
moulding were executed by a resident French sculptor. He was a true
artist, and of the highest order. But to see the skilful manner in
which these native workmen, drawn from the staff of the Bairds'
ordinary foundry workers, performed their duties, was truly surprising.
It would make our best bronze statuary founders wince to be asked to
execute such work. Judging from what I saw of the Russian workmen in
this instance, I should say that Russia has a grand future before it.
Having satisfactorily completed all my business arrangements in
St. Petersburg, I prepared to set out homewards. But as I had some
business to transact at Stockholm and Copenhagen I resolved to visit
those cities. I left St. Petersburg for Stockholm by a small steamer,
which touched at Helsingfors and Abo, both in Finland. The weather was
beautiful. Clear blue shy and bright sunshine by day, and the light
prolonged far into the night. Even in September the duration of the
sunshine is so great and the night so short that the air has scarcely
time to cool till it gets heated again by the bright morning rays.
Even at twelve at night the sun dips but a little beneath the bright
horizon on the north. The night is so bright in the Abo latitude that
one can read the smallest print.
Nothing can be more beautiful than the charming scenery we passed
through in our tortuous voyage to Stockholm. We threaded between the
granite islands which crowd the shores of the Baltic. They are covered
with pines, which descend to the water's edge. We swept them with our
paddle-boxes, and dipped their bright green fronds into the perfectly
clear sea. For about two days our course lay through those beautiful
small islands. It seemed like a voyage through fairyland.
And it continued in this exquisite tranquil way until we reached that
crowning feature of all--the magnificent city of Stockholm, sleeping,
as it were, on the waters of the Malar Lake, and surrounded by noble
mountains clad with pines. With the exception of Edinburgh, Genoa,
and Naples, I had never beheld so noble a city with such magnificent
I spent but a short time in Stockholm, but quite sufficient to enable
me to see much that was grandly beautiful in its neighbourhood.
Lakes, rocks, and noble trees abounded, and exquisite residences peeped
out through the woods, giving evidences of high civilisation. Elegance
of taste and perfect domestic arrangements supplied every form of
rational comfort and enjoyment. My old friend Sir John Ross, of Arctic
celebrity, was settled at Stockholm as chief consul for Her Majesty.
He introduced me to several of the leading English merchants, from whom
I received much kind attention. Mr. Erskine invited me to spend a day
or two at his beautiful villa in the neighbourhood. It was situated on
the side of a mountain, and overlooked a lake that reminded me very
much of Loch Katrine. Fine timber grew about, in almost inaccessible
places, on the tops of precipices, and in shelves and clefts among the
rocks. The most important result of my visit was an introduction to
Baron Tam, the proprietor and chief director of the great Dannemora
I was at once diverted for a time from my voyage to Copenhagen.
I was most desirous of seeing in person this celebrated mine.
The baron most willingly furnished me with several letters of
introduction to his managers, and I proceeded to Dannemora by way of
Upsala. I was much interested by this city, by its cathedral,
containing the tomb of Gustavas Vasa, and by its many historical
associations. But I was still more impressed by Old Upsala, about
three miles distant. This is a place of great antiquity. It is only a
little hamlet now, though at one time it must have been the centre of a
large population. The old granite church was probably at one time a
pagan temple. Outside, and apart from it, is a wooden bell-tower,
erected in comparatively modem times. In a wooden box inside the
church is a wooden painted god, a most unlikely figure to worship.
And yet the Swedes in remote parts of the country carefully preserve
their antique wooden gods.
The great sacrifices to Odin were made at Old Upsala.
Outside the church, in a row, are three great mounds of earth, erected
in commemoration of Odin, Thor, and Freia--hence our Wednesday,
Thursday, and Friday. These mounds, of about 60 feet high and 232 feet
in diameter, were in former times used as burying-places for the great
and valiant. I went into a cottage near the tumuli, and drank a bumper
of mead to the memory of Thor from a very antique wooden vessel.
I made an especial reverential obeisance to Thor, because I had a great
respect for him as being the great Hammerman, and one of our craft,--
the Scandinavian Vulcan.
I drove back to Upsala, and remained there for the night.
It is a sleepy silent place. The only sound I heard was the voice of
the watchman calling out the small hours of the morning from his
station on the summit of the cathedral tower. As the place is for the
most part built of wood, this precaution in the shape of a watchman who
can see all points of the city is a necessary one in case of fire.
Next morning I hired a small sort of gig of a very primitive
construction, with a boy for driver. His duty was to carry me to the
next post-house, and there leave me to be carried forward by another
similar conveyance. But the pony No. 2 was about a mile off, occupied
in drawing a plough, so that I had to wait until the job was over.
In about an hour or so I was again under weigh. And so on da capo,
until about six in the evening, when I found myself within sight of the
great mine. The post-house where I was set down was an inn, though
without a signboard. The landlady was a bright, cheery, jolly woman.
She could not speak a word of English, nor I a word of Dannemora
Swedish. I was very thirsty and hungry, and wanted something to eat.
How was I to communicate my wishes to the landlady? I resorted,
as I often did, to the universal language of the pencil. I took out my
sketch-book, and in a few seconds made a sketch of a table, with a dish
of smoking meat upon it, a bottle and a glass, a knife and fork,
a loaf, a saltcellar, and a corkscrew. She looked at the drawing and
gave a hearty laugh. She nodded pleasantly, showing that she clearly
understood what I wanted. She asked me for the sketch, and went into
the back garden to show it to her husband, who inspected it with great
delight. I went out and looked about the place, which was very
picturesque. After a short time, the landlady came to the door and
beckoned me in, and I found spread out on the table everything that I
desired--a broiled chicken, smoking hot from the gridiron, a bottle
of capital home-brewed ale, and all the et ceteras of an excellent
repast. I made use of my pencil in many ways. I always found that a
sketch was more useful than a blundering sentence. Besides,
it generally created a sympathy between me and my entertainers.
[Image] The order for dinner
My visit to the Dannemora Mine at Osterby was one of peculiar interest.
I may in the first place say that the immense collection of iron ore at
that point has been the result of the upheaval of a vast volume of
molten igneous ore, which has been injected into the rock, or deposited
in masses under the crust of the earth. In some cases the quarried ore
yields from 50 to 70, and even as much as 90 per cent of iron.
The Dannemora Mine is a vast quarry open to the sky. When you come near
it the place looks like a vast deep pit, with an unfathomable bottom.
Ghostlike, weird-looking pinnacles of rocks stand out from its profound
depths; but beyond these you see nothing but wreaths of smoke curling
up from below. The tortuous chasm in the earth, caused by the quarries
beneath, is about half a mile long, and about a thousand feet wide.
[Image] Dannemora iron mine. After a drawing by James Nasmyth.
The first process of the workmen in the quarries below is devoted to
breaking into small fragments the great masses of ore scattered about
by the previous night's explosions. These are sent to the surface in
great tubs attached to wire ropes, which are drawn up by gins worked by
horses. Other miners are engaged in boring blast holes in the ore,
which displays itself in great wide veins in the granite sides of the
vast chasm. These blast holes are charged with gunpowder, each with a
match attached. At the end of the day the greater number of the miners
are drawn up in the cages or tubs, while a few are left below to light
the slow-burning matches attached to about a hundred charged bore
holes. The rest of the miners are drawn up, and then begins the
tremendous bombardment. I watched the progress of it from a stage
projecting over the wild-looking yawning gulph. It was grand to hear
the succession of explosions that filled the bottom of the mine far
beneath me. Then the volumes of smoke, through the surface of which
masses of rock were sometimes sent whirling up into the clear blue sky,
and fell back again into the pit below. Such an infernal cannonade I
have never witnessed. In some respects it reminded me of the crater of
Vesuvius, from which such dense clouds of steam and smoke and fire are
thrown up. In the course of the night, the suffocating smoke and
sulphureous gases has time to pass away, and next morning the workmen
were ready to begin their operations as before.
The ore extracted from this great mine is smelted in blast furnaces
with wood charcoal, and forged into bars. The charcoal is, of course,
entirely free from sulphur. When sent to Sheffield the iron is placed
in fire-brick troughs closely surrounded by powdered charcoal.
After a few days' exposure to red heat, the iron is converted into
splendid steel, which has given such a reputation to that great
manufacturing town. It is also the steel from which the firm of Stubbs
and Company, of Warrington (to which I have already referred),
produce their famous P.S. files.
After the explosions had ceased at the mine, I went with one of the
managers to see the great Bar forge. It was a picturesque sight to see
the forgemen at work with the tilt hammers under the glowing light of
the furnaces. I inspected the machinery and forge works throughout,
and had thus the opportunity of seeing the whole proceeding, from the
blasting and quarrying of the ore in the mine, the forging and rolling
of the worked iron into their proper lengths, down to the final stamp
or "mark" driven in by the blow of the tilt hammer at the end of each
bar. Having now thoroughly examined everything connected with this
celebrated iron mine, I prepared to set out for Stockholm in the same
way as I had come. To prepare the landlord for my setting out,
I again resorted to my pencil. I made a drawing of the little gig and
pony, with the sun rising, and the hour at which I wished to start.
He understood it in a moment, and next morning the trap was at the door
at the specified time.
Before I left Stockholm I made a careful and elaborate panoramic sketch
of the city, as a companion to the one I had made of Genoa from the
harbour a year before. I made this one from the summit of the King's
Park, which is the favourite pleasure-ground of the people.
I was ferried across in a little paddle-wheel boat, worked by
Dalecarlian women in their peculiar costumes. The King's Park,
or Djurgard, is doubly beautiful, not only from its panoramic view of
the city, the Malar Lake, and the arm of the Baltic, which comes up to
the Skeppsbron Quay, but also from the magnificent oak trees with which
it is studded. These noble trees, as foreground objects, are perfect
pictures. The masses of rock are grand, and the drives are beautifully
kept. No wonder that the Swedes are so proud of this beautiful park,
for it is the finest in Europe.
I left Stockholm for Gottenburg by steamer. This is one of the most
picturesque routes in Sweden. First, we passed through the Malar Lake
--one of the most beautiful pieces of water in the world. It contains
no less than fourteen hundred islands, mostly covered with wood.
Of course we did not see one twentieth part of the lake; we only
steamed along its eastern shore for about twenty miles on our way to
Sodertelye, where the Gotha Canal begins. We then reached the small
Maran Lake, and afterwards an arm of the Baltic. We passed numberless
islands and rocks and reached the Slatbacken Fiord, which we entered.
Beautiful scenery surrounds the entrance to the fiord. In the morning,
after rising up the locks between Mariehop and Wenneberga, and passing
through Lakes Roxen and Boren, we found ourselves at Motala, near the
entrance to the Wettern Lake.
Motala is a place of great importance in the manufacturing industry of
Sweden. When I visited it, the iron-foundry was in charge of
Mr. Caulson, a native of the country. I had known him some years
before in London, and had the highest opinion of his ability as a
constructive engineer. He was surrounded at Motala with everything in
the way of excellently arranged workshops, good machine tools,
as well as abundant employment for them. Indeed, this is the largest
iron-foundry in Sweden, where iron steamers, steam-engines, and rolling
mills are made. From its central position it has a great future before it.
The steamer crosses the lake to Carlsborg, at the entrance to the fiord
and canal that leads to Lakes Wiken and Wenern. The latter is an
immense lake--in fact, an inland sea. During a great part of the
time we were out of sight of land. At length we reached Wenersborg,
and passed down the Charles Canal. A considerable time is required to
enable the steamer to pass from lock to lock--nine locks in all--
down to the level of the Gotha River. During that time an opportunity
was afforded us for seeing the famous Trollhatten Falls--a very fine
piece of Nature's workmanship.
[Image] Part of Trollhatten Falls
Before leaving the subject of Sweden, I feel that I must say a word or
two about the Swedish people. I admired them exceedingly.
They are tall, fair, good-looking. They are among the most civil and
obliging people that I have ever met. I never encountered a rude word
or a rude look from them. In their homes they are simple and natural.
I liked the pleasing softness of their voices, so sweet and musical--
"a most excellent thing in woman." There was a natural gentleness in
their deportment. All classes, even the poorest, partook of it.
Their domestic habits are excellent. They are fond of their homes;
and, above all things, they are clean and tidy. They strew the floors
of their ground apartments with spruce pine twigs, which form a natural
carpet as well as give out a sweet balsamic perfume. These are swept
away every morning and replaced with fresh material.
With their many virtues, the Swedes are a most self-helping people.
They are hard-working and honest, true and straightforward.
In matters of commerce they are men of their word. They are
clear-headed, honest-minded, and keen in their desire for knowledge.
Their natural simple common sense enables them to clear away all
parasitical and traditional rubbish from their minds, and to stand
before us as men of the highest excellence. All happiness and
prosperity to dear old Sweden!
I set out from Gottenburg to Helsingborg, along the shores of the
Kattegat. From Helsingborg I crossed the Sound by a small steamer to
Elsinore, famous for its connection with Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
The old dreary looking castle still stands there. From Elsinore I went
to Copenhagen, and occupied myself for a few days in visiting the
wonderful museums. There I saw, in the Northern Antiquities
Collection, the unwritten history of civilisation in the stone, bronze,
and iron tools which have brought the world to what it is now.
This museum is perfectly unrivalled. I saw there the first section of
kitchen-middens--that is, the refuse of oyster shells, fish-bones,
and other stuff thrown out by the ancient inhabitants of the country
after their meals; together with accumulations of rude stone
implements, kelts, arrow-heads, and such like.
Then there were the articles of the Bronze Age, with war trumpets;
the articles of the early Iron Age, which also contain some remarkable
golden war horns. These are followed by the middle Iron Age,
and then by the later Iron Age. This part of the collection is superb.
But it is impossible for me to describe the wonders of the museum.
I was greatly interested too by the collection of articles at the
Rosenburg Castle. This is the only museum at Copenhagen which is not
free; but the price charged is very small. It contains an extraordinary
collection of royal clothes (what would Sartor Resartus say?), armour,
furniture, drinking vessels, and all manner of personal antiquities
connected with the Kings of Denmark.
I was especially interested by the collection of royal drinking
vessels, from the earliest, made of wood, down to the latest,
grand gold and silver flagons. What most amused me in respect to these
boozing implements were the pegs that marked the depths down to which
the stalwart Dane was able to swig at a pull one enormous draught of
wine. In some cases the name and date of the achievement of the heavy
drinker was engraved on the flagon to record his feat.
"Take him a peg down" was the ordinary saying, and the words have
become a proverb amongst ourselves. For we unquestionably have derived
a great deal of our drinking capabilities from our ancestors the Danes.
The whole of the museums at Copenhagen are excellent.
Besides those I have mentioned, are the Ethnographic Museum--the best
of its kind; the Museum of Coins, the most complete I have seen;
the Thorwaldsen Museum; the Mineralogical Museum; the Zoological
Museum, and many more. The custodians are most kind and civil; and
when they see any visitor interested in the collection, they take a
special pleasure in going round with him and pointing out the beauty
and rarity of the articles, imparting at the same time most interesting
information. I wish those melancholy taciturn "staff-in-hand"
attendant custodians of our British Museums could or would follow their
example, and thus aid the chief object of these costly institutions.
Holding the memory of Tycho Brahe in the highest regard as one of the
great pioneers of astronomy, I was much interested by a contemporary
portrait of him in the Town Hall; but still more so by the remains of
his observatory at the top of the great Round Tower, where he carried
on his careful observations by instruments of his own design and
construction. These, with many additions, he afterwards transported to
the island of Hveen, where the remains of his castle and observatory
are still to be seen; While I was mounting the Round Tower I could not
but think of the footsteps of the great astronomer who has made it
I left Copenhagen for Hamburg by coach. After passing through the
island of Zealand, I was ferried across to the island of Fyen, and
after that I proceeded along the mainland of Sleswick and Holstein.
I was much pleased with what I saw of the people of these provinces.
Their farmhouses and cottages were wonderfully clean and neat.
The women were all engaged in scrubbing and polishing. I believe I saw
more brass in the shape of bright door-knockers during my journey than
I had seen in all England. Even the brass and iron hoops round the
milk pails, by constant scrubbing, looked like gold and silver.
Every window had its neat dimity curtains edged with snow-white
trimming. The very flower-pots were painted red, to fetch up their
brightness to the general standard. I never saw a more cheerful and
happy-looking people than those whom I observed between Copenhagen and
Hamburg. They seemed to me to be very like the people of England--
especially in the northern and eastern parts--in their oval faces,
their bright blue eyes, and their light and golden hair, as well as
their active minds and bodies, which enable them to do their work with
hearty cheerful energy.
I went from Hamburg to Amsterdam by steamer; and after doing a few
days' business I went to take a peep at the fine collections of
pictures there, as well as at the Hague. Then I proceeded to
Rotterdam, and took ship for England by the Batavian steamer.
I reached home safely after my prolonged tour. Everything was going on
well at the Bridgewater Foundry. The seeds which I had sown in the
northern countries of Europe were already springing up plentifully in
orders for machine tools; and the clang of the hammer and the whirl of
the lathes and planing machines were working cheerily on from morning
CHAPTER 17. More about Bridgewater Foundry--Woolwich Arsenal.
The rapid extension of railways and steam navigation, both at home and
abroad, occasioned a largely increased demand for machinery of all
kinds. Our order-book was always full; and every mechanical workshop
felt the impulse of expanding trade. There was an increased demand for
skilled mechanical labour--a demand that was far in excess of the
supply. Employers began to outbid each other, and wages rapidly rose.
At the same time the disposition to steady exertion on the part of the
workmen began to decline.
This state of affairs had its usual effect. It increased the demand
for self-acting tools, by which the employers might increase the
productiveness of their factories without having resort to the costly
and untrustworthy method of meeting the demand by increasing the number
of their workmen. Machine tools were found to be of much greater
advantage. They displaced hand-dexterity and muscular force.
They were unfailing in their action. They could not possibly go wrong
in planing and turning, because they were regulated by perfect
self-acting arrangements. They were always ready for work, and never
required a Holiday or a Saint Monday.
As the Bridgewater Foundry had been so fortunate as to earn for itself
a considerable reputation for mechanical contrivances, the workshops
were always busy. They were crowded with machine tools in full action,
and exhibited to all comers their effectiveness in the most
satisfactory manner, Every facility was afforded to those who desired
to see them at work; and every machine and machine tool that was turned
out became in the hands of its employers the progenitor of a numerous
Indeed, on many occasions I had the gratification of seeing my
mechanical notions adopted by rival or competitive machine
constructors, often without acknowledgment; though, notwithstanding
this point of honour, there was room enough for all. Though the parent
features were easily recognisable, I esteemed such plagiarisms as a
sort of left-handed compliment to their author. I also regarded them
as a proof that I had hit the mark in so arranging my mechanical
combinations as to cause their general adoption, and many of them
remain unaltered to this day.
The machine tools when in action did not require a skilled workman to
guide or watch them. All that was necessary to superintend them was a
well-selected labourer. The self-acting machine tools already
possessed the requisite ability to plane, to turn, to polish, and to
execute the work when firmly placed in situ. The work merely required
to be shifted from time to time, and carefully fixed for another action
of the machine.
Besides selecting clever labourers, I made an extensive use of active
handy boys to superintend the smaller class of self-acting machine
tools. To do this required little exertion of muscular force,
but only observant attention. The machine tools did all the working
(for the thinking had been embodied in them beforehand), and they
turned out all manner of geometrical forms with the utmost correctness.
This sort of training educated the faculties of the lads, and trained
their ideas to the perception of exactness of form, at the same time
that it gave them an intimate acquaintance with the nature of the
materials employed in mechanical structures. The rapidity with which
they thus acquired the efficiency of thoroughly practical mechanics was
As the lads grew in strength they were promoted to the higher classes
of work. We gave to the foreman of each department the right to
recommend to a special rise of wages any lad who showed an extra
intelligent earnestness and assiduity in superintending his machine.
This produced an active spirit of emulation, which not only advanced
their efficiency but relieved the foreman from a source of irritation
in the discharge of his duties. I have already referred to the subject
in a former portion of this narrative; but it cannot be too strongly
urged upon the attention of proprietors of mechanical works.
Besides making first-rate workmen, this method prevents the lads from
getting into habits of workshop dishonesty, i.e. "skulking," and other
My system of non-binding of apprentices was the "perfect cure,"
if I may so speak. All that existed between us was mutual satisfaction
with each other, and that alone proved from first to last in every
respect a perfect bond.
So completely were the workmen in attendance on self-acting machines
relieved from the necessity of labour, that many of the employers,
to keep the men from falling asleep, allowed them to attend to other
machines within their powers of superintendence. This kept them fully
awake. The workmen cheerfully acquiesced in this arrangement,
as a relief from tedium, and especially when a shilling extra was added
to their wages for each additional machine. All went well for a time,
for men as well as masters. But now came the difficulty.
The system was opposed to the rules of the Trades' Union.
Their committee held that setting one man to superintend more than one
machine was keeping out of employment some other man who ought to be
employed. And yet, at the time that the objection was made, such
persons were not to be had. The increased demand for skilled labour
had employed every spare workman.
Nevertheless the system, in the eyes of the Union, "must be put down."
The demand was made that every machine must have a Union man to
superintend it, and that he must be paid the full Union regulation
wages. All labourers and lads were to be discharged, and Union men
employed in their places. As the times were good, and the workshops
were full of orders, it was thought by the Union that the time had come
to put the matter to the test. The campaign was opened by the
organisation of a powerful body, entitled "The Amalgamated Society of
Mechanical Engineers." It included every class of workmen employed in
the trade--ironfounders, turners, fitters, erectors, pattern-makers,
and such like. All were invited to make common cause against the
In order to make a conspicuous demonstration of their power,
the Council of the Union first attacked the extensive firm of
Platt Brothers, Oldham. The Council sent them a mandate to discharge
all their labourers or other "illegal hands" from their works--all who
were employed in superintending their vast assortment of machinery--
and to fill their places with "legal mechanics" at the then regulation
wages. The plan of the Union was to attack the employers one by one--
to call out the hands of one particular workshop until the employers
were subdued and obeyed the commands of the Union; and then to attack
another employer in the same way. The sagacity of this policy very
much resembled that of the ostrich, which hides its head in hole and
thinks it is concealed. The employers knew the drift of the policy,
and took steps to circumvent it.
A mutual defence association was formed, and a decree was issued that,
unless the demand of the Council against Platt's factory was withdrawn
by a certain day, every employer would at once close his concern.
The Union, nevertheless, stuck to their guns--but only for a time.
A strike took place. The works of some of the most extensive employers
of labour were closed. Everything was paralysed for a time;
the men went about with their hands in their pockets, while the women
and children at home were wanting food. After a few weeks the funds of
the Amalgamated Society became so reduced that the men gradually
retired from the contest. Meanwhile, such concerns as contrived to
keep their workmen in full employment--of whom we were one made use
of the occasion to act on the healthy system of what I have termed
"Free trade in ability." We added, so far as we could, to the number of
intelligent labourers, advanced them to the places which the Unionist
workmen had left at the order of their Council, and thus kept our men
on full wages until the strike was over. This was the last contest I
had with Trades' Unions. One of the results was that I largely
increased the number of self-acting machines, and gave a still greater
amount of employment to my unbound apprentices. I placed myself in an
almost impregnable position, and showed that I could conduct my
business with full activity and increasing prosperity, and at the same
time maintain good-feeling between employed and employer.
Another important point was this,--that I always took care to make my
foremen comfortable, and consequently loyal. A great part of a man's
success in business consists in his knowledge of character.
It is not so much what he himself does, as what he knows his heads of
departments can do. He must know them intimately, take cognisance of