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Rides on Railways by Samuel Sidney

Part 2 out of 6

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employed for ten and a-half hours during five days, and for eight hours
during the sixth day of the week, well paid, well housed, with schools for
their children, a reading-room and mechanics' institution at their disposal,
gardens for their leisure hours, and a church and clergyman exclusively
devoted to them. When work is ended, Wolverton is a pure republic--equality
reigns. There are no rich men or men of station: all are gentlemen. In
theory it is the paradise of Louis Blanc, only that, instead of the State, it
is a Company which pays and employs the army of workmen. It is true, that
during work hours a despotism rules, but it is a mild rule, tempered by
customs and privileges. And what are the results of this colony, in which
there are none idle, none poor, and few uneducated? Why, in many respects
gratifying, in some respects disappointing. The practical reformer will
learn more than one useful lesson from a patient investigation of the social
state of this great village.


Those who have not been in the habit of mixing with the superior class of
English skilled mechanics will be agreeably surprised by the intelligence,
information, and educational acquirements of a great number of the workmen
here. They will find men labouring for daily wages capable of taking a
creditable part in political, literary, and scientific discussion; but at the
same time the followers of George Sand, and French preachers of proletarian
perfection will not find their notions of the ennobling effects of manual
labour realised.

There are exceptions, but as a general rule, after a hard day's work, a man
is not inclined for study of any kind, least of all for the investigation of
abstract sciences; and thus it is that at Wolverton library, novels are much
more in demand than scientific treatises.

In Summer, when walks in the fields are pleasant, and men can work in their
gardens, the demand for books of any kind falls off.

Turning from the library to the mechanics' institution, pure science is not
found to have many charms for the mechanics of Wolverton. Geological and
astronomical lectures are ill attended, while musical entertainments,
dissolving views, and dramatic recitations are popular.

It must be confessed that dulness and monotony exercise a very unfavourable
influence on this comfortable colony. The people, not being Quakers, are not
content without amusement. They receive their appointed wages regularly, so
that they have not even the amusement of making and losing money. It would
be an excellent thing for the world if the kind, charitable, cold-blooded
people of middle age, or with middle-aged heads and hearts, who think that a
population may be ruled into an every-day life of alternate work, study, and
constitutional walks, without anything warmer than a weak simper from year's
end to year's end, would consult the residents of Wolverton and Crewe before
planning their next parallelogram.

We commend to amateur actors, who often need an audience, the idea of an
occasional trip to Wolverton. The audience would be found indulgent of very
indifferent performances.

But to turn from generalities to the specialities for which Wolverton is
distinguished, we will walk round the workshops by which a rural parish has
been colonised and reduced to a town shape.

* * * * *

WOLVERTON WORKSHOPS.--To attempt a description of the workshops of Wolverton
without the aid of diagrams and woodcuts would be a very unsatisfactory task.
It is enough to say that they should be visited not only by those who are
specially interested in machinery, but by all who would know what mechanical
genius, stimulated as it has been to the utmost during the last half century,
by the execution of profitable inventions, has been able to effect.

At Wolverton may be seen collected together in companies, each under command
of its captains or foremen, in separate workshops, some hundreds of the best
handicraftsmen that Europe can produce, all steadily at work, not without
noise, yet without confusion. Among them are a few men advanced in life of
the old generation; there are men of middle age; young men trained with all
the manual advantages of the old generation, and all the book and lecture
privileges of the present time; and then there are the rising generation of
apprentices--the sons of steam and of railroads. Among all it would be
difficult to find a bad-shaped head, or a stupid face--as for a drunkard not
one. It was once remarked to us by a gentleman at the head of a great
establishment of this kind, that there was something about the labour of
skilled workmen in iron that impressed itself upon their countenances, and
showed itself in their characters. Something of solidity, of determination,
of careful forethought; and really after going over many shops of
ironworkers, we are inclined to come to the same opinion. Machinery, while
superseding, has created manual labour. In a steam-engine factory, machinery
is called upon to do what no amount of manual labour could effect.

To appreciate the extraordinary amount of intellect and mental and manual
dexterity daily called into exercise, it would be necessary to have the
origin, progress to construction, trial, and amendment of a locomotive engine
from the period that the report of the head of the locomotive department in
favour of an increase of stock receives the authorization of the board of
directors. But such a history would be a book itself. After passing through
the drawing-office, where the rough designs of the locomotive engineer are
worked out in detail by a staff of draughtsmen, and the carpenters' shop and
wood-turners, where the models and cores for castings are prepared, we reach,
but do not dwell on the dark lofty hall, where the castings in iron and in
brass are made. The casting of a mass of metal of from five to twenty tons
on a dark night is a fine sight. The tap being withdrawn the molten liquor
spouts forth in an arched fiery continuous stream, casting a red glow on the
half-dressed muscular figures busy around, which would afford a subject for
an artist great in Turner or Danby-like effects.

But we hasten to the steam-hammer to see scraps of tough iron, the size of a
crown-piece, welded into a huge piston, or other instrument requiring the
utmost strength. At Wolverton the work is conducted under the supreme
command of the Chief Hammerman, a huge-limbed, jolly, good-tempered Vulcan,
with half a dozen boy assistants.

The steam-hammer, be it known, is the application of steam to a piston under
complete regulation, so that the piston, armed with a hammer, regularly,
steadily, perpendicularly descends as desired, either with the force of a
hundred tons or with a gentle tap, just sufficient to drive home a tin tack
and no more. At a word it stops midway in stroke, and at a word again it
descends with a deadly thump. On our visit, an attempt was being made to
execute in wrought, what had hitherto always been made in cast iron. Success
would effect a great saving in weight. The doors of the furnace were drawn
back, and a white glow, unbearable as the noon-day sun, was made visible,
long hooked iron poles were thrust in to fish for the prize, and presently a
great round mass of metal was poked out to the door of the fiery furnace--a
huge roll of glowing iron, larger than it was possible for any one or two men
to lift, even had it been cold. By ingenious contrivances it was slipped out
upon a small iron truck, dragged to the anvil of the steam-hammer, and under
the direction of Vulcan, not without his main strength, lodged upon the

During the difficult operation of moving the white-red round ball, it was
beautiful to see the rapid disciplined intelligence by which the hammerman,
with word or sign, regulated the movements of his young assistants, each
armed with an iron lever.

At length the word was given, and thump, thump, like an earthquake the steam-
hammer descended, rapidly reducing the red-hot Dutch cheese shape to the
flatter proportions of a mighty Double Gloucester, all the while the great
smith was turning and twisting it about so that each part should receive its
due share of hammering, and that the desired shape should be rapidly
attained, sometimes with one hand, sometimes with the other, he interposed a
flat poker between the red mass and the hammer, sharing a vibration that was
powerful enough to dislocate the shoulder of any lesser man. "Hold," he
cried: the elephant-like machine stopped. He took and hauled the great ball
into a new position. "Go on," he shouted: the elephant machine went on, and
again the red sparks flew as though a thousand Homeric blacksmiths had been
striking in unison, until it was time again to thrust the half-welded cheese
into the fiery furnace, and again it was dragged forth, and the jolly giant
bent, and tugged, and sweated, and commanded,--he did not swear over his task.
At length having succeeded in making the unwieldy lump assume an approach to
the desired shape, he observed, in a deep, bass, chuckling, triumphant aside,
to the engineer who was looking on, "I'm not a very little one, but I think
if I was as big again you'd try what I was made of."

Since that day we have learned that the experiment has been completely
successful, with a great diminution in the weight and an increase of the
strength of an important part of a locomotive.

We have dwelt upon the picture because it combined mechanical with manual
dexterity. A hammerman who might sit for one of Homer's blacksmith heroes,
and machinery which effects in a few minutes what an army of such hammermen
could not do.

If our painters of mythological Vulcans and sprawling Satyrs want to display
their powers over flesh and muscle, they may find something real and not
vulgar among our iron factories.

After seeing the operations of forging or of casting, we may take a walk
round the shops of the turners and smiths. In some, Whitworth's beautiful
self-acting machines are planing or polishing or boring holes, under charge
of an intelligent boy; in others lathes are ranged round the walls, and a
double row of vices down the centre of the long rooms. Solid masses of cast
or forged metal are carved by the keen powerful lathe tools like so much box-
wood, and long shavings of iron and steel sweep off as easily as deal
shavings from a carpenter's plane. At the long row of vices the smiths are
hammering and filing away with careful dexterity. No mean amount of judgment
in addition to the long training needed for acquiring manual skill, is
requisite before a man can be admitted into this army of skilled mechanics;
for every locomotive contains many hundred pieces, each of which must be
fitted as carefully as a watch.

If we fairly contemplate the result of these labours, created by the
inventive genius of a line of ingenious men, headed by Watt and Stephenson,
these workshops are a more imposing sight than the most brilliant review of
disciplined troops. It is not mere strength, dexterity, and obedience, upon
which the locomotive builder calculates for the success of his design, but
also upon the separate and combined intelligence of his army of mechanics.

Considering that in annually increasing numbers, factories for the building
of locomotive, of marine steam-engines, of iron ships, and of various kinds
of machinery, are established in different parts of the kingdom, and that
hence every year education becomes more needed, more valued, and more
extended among this class of mechanics, it is impossible to doubt that the
training, mental and moral, obtained in factories like those of Wolverton,
Crewe, Derby, Swindon, and other railway shops, and in great private
establishments like Whitworth's and Roberts' of Manchester, Maudslay and
Field's of London, Ransome and May of Ipswich, Wilson of Leeds, and
Stephenson of Newcastle, must produce by imitative inoculation a powerful
effect on the national character. The time has passed when the best workmen
were the most notorious drunkards; in all skilled trades self-respect has
made progress.

A few passenger carriages are occasionally built at Wolverton as experiments.
One, the invention of Mr. J. M'Connel, the head of the locomotive department,
effects several important improvements. It is a composite carriage of
corrugated iron, lined with wood to prevent unpleasant vibration, on six
wheels, the centre wheels following the leading wheels round curves by a very
ingenious arrangement. This carriage holds sixty second-class passengers and
fifteen first-class, beside a guard's brake, which will hold five more; all
in one body. The saving in weight amounts to thirty-five per cent. A number
of locomotives have lately been built from the designs of the same eminent
engineer, to meet the demands of the passenger traffic in excursion trains
for July and August, 1851.

It must be understood that although locomotives are built at Wolverton, only
a small proportion of the engines used on the line are built by the company,
and the chief importance of the factory at Wolverton is as a repairing shop,
and school for engine-drivers.

Every engine has a number. When an engine on any part of the lines in
connection with Wolverton needs repair, it is forwarded with a printed form,
filled up and signed by the superintendent of the station near which the
engine has been working. As thus--"Engine 60, axle of driving-wheel out of
gauge, fire-box burned out," etc.

This invoice or bill of particulars is copied into a sort of day-book, to be
eventually transferred into the account in the ledger, in which No. 60 has a

The superintendent next in command under the locomotive engineer-in-chief,
places the lame engine in the hands of the foreman who happens to be first
disengaged. The foreman sets the workmen he can spare at the needful
repairs. When completed, the foreman makes a report, which is entered in the
ledger, opposite the number of the engine, stating the repairs done, the
men's names who did it, and how many days, hours, and quarters of an hour
each man was employed. The engine reported sound is then returned to its
station, with a report of the repairs which have been effected. The whole
work is completed on the principle of a series of links of responsibility.
The engineer-in-chief is answerable to the directors for the efficiency of
the locomotives; he examines the book, and depends on his superintendent. The
superintendent depends on the foreman to whom the work was entrusted; and,
should the work be slurred, must bear the shame, but can turn upon the
workmen he selected for the job.

In fact, the whole work of this vast establishment is carried on by dividing
the workmen into small companies, under the superintendence of an officer
responsible for the quantity and quality of the work of his men.

The history of each engine, from the day of launching, is so kept, that, so
long as it remains in use, every separate repair, with its date and the names
of the men employed on it, can be traced. Allowing, therefore, for the
disadvantage as regards economy of a company, as compared with private
individuals, the system at Wolverton is as effective as anything that could
well be imagined.

The men employed at Wolverton station in March, 1851, numbered 775, of whom 4
were overlookers, 9 were foremen, 4 draughtsmen, 15 clerks, 32 engine-
drivers, 21 firemen, and 119 labourers; the rest were mechanics and
apprentices. The weekly wages amounted to 929 pounds 11s. 10d.

Of course these men have, for the most part, wives and families, and so with
shopkeepers, raise the population of the railway town of Wolverton to about
2,000, inhabiting a series of uniform brick houses, in rectangular streets,
about a mile distant from the ancient parish church of Wolverton, and the
half-dozen houses constituting the original parish.

For the benefit of this population, the directors have built a church,
schools for boys, for girls, and for infants, which are not the least
remarkable or interesting parts of this curious town.

The clergyman of the railway church, the Rev. George Waight, M.A., has been
resident at Wolverton from the commencement of the railway buildings. His
difficulties are great; but he is well satisfied with his success. In
railway towns there is only one class, and that so thoroughly independent,
that the influence of the clergyman can only rest with his character and

The church is thinly attended in the morning, for hard-working men like to
indulge in rest one day in the week; in the evening it is crowded, and the
singing far above average.

To the schools we should like to have devoted a whole chapter now, but must
reserve an account of one of the most interesting results of railway

There is a literary and scientific institution, with a library attached.
Scientific lectures and scientific books are very little patronized at
Wolverton; astronomy and geology have few students; but there is a steady
demand for a great number of novels, voyages, and travels; and musical
entertainments are well supported.

The lecture-room is extremely miserable, quite unfit for a good concert, as
there is not even a retiring room, but the directors are about to build a
better one, and while they are about it, they might as well build a small
theatre. Some such amusement is much needed; for want of relaxation in the
monotony of a town composed of one class, without any public amusements, the
men are driven too often to the pipe and pot, and the women to gossip.

In the summer, the gardens which form a suburb are much resorted to, and the
young men go to cricket and football; but still some amusements, in which all
the members of every family could join, would improve the moral tone of

Work, wages, churches, schools, libraries, and scientific lectures are not
alone enough to satisfy a large population of any kind, certainly not a
population of hard-handed workers.

* * * * *

WOLVERTON EMBANKMENT was one of the difficulties in railway making, which at
one period interested the public; at present it is not admitted among
engineers that there are any difficulties. The ground was a bog, and as fast
as earth was tipped in at the top it bulged out at the bottom. When, after
great labour, this difficulty had been overcome, part of the embankment,
fifty feet in height, which contained alum shale, decomposed, and spontaneous
combustion ensued. The amazement of the villagers was great, but finally
they came to the conclusion expressed by one of them, in "Dang it, they can't
make this here railway arter all, and they've set it o' fire to cheat their

On leaving Wolverton, before arriving at Roade, a second-class station, after
clearing a short cutting, looking westerly, we catch a glimpse of the tower
of the church of Grafton, where, according to tradition, Edward IV. married
Lady Gray of Groby. The last interview between Henry VIII. and Cardinal
Campeggio, relative to his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, took place at
the Mansion House of this parish, which was demolished in 1643.

About this spot we enter Northamptonshire, and passing Roade, pause at
Blisworth station, where there is a neat little inn.


Miles. Miles.

From Blisworth branches out the line to Peterborough, with sixteen stations,
of which we name above the more important.

The route presents a constant succession of beautiful and truly English rural
scenery, of rich lowland pastures, watered by the winding rivers, and bounded
by hills, on which, like sentinels, a row of ancient church towers stand.

The first station is Northampton.

* * * * *

NORTHAMPTON, on a hill on the banks of the river Nene, is a remarkably
pleasant town, with several fine old buildings, an ancient church, an open
market square, neat clean streets, and suburbs of pretty villas, overlooking,
from the hill top, fat green meadows, flooded in winter. Shoemaking on a
wholesale scale, is the principal occupation of the inhabitants. For strong
shoes Northampton can compete in any foreign market, and a good many light
articles, cut after French patterns, have been successfully made since the
trade was thrown open by Peel's tariff. There are several factories, in
which large numbers of young persons are employed, but the majority work by
the piece at home for the master manufacturers.

Northampton is also great in the fairs and markets of a rich agricultural
district, and rejoices over races twice a year, in which the facilities of
the railroad have rendered some compensation to the inn-keepers for the loss
of the coaching trade. Northampton was originally intended to be a main
station of the railway between London and Birmingham. The inhabitants were
silly enough to resist the bestowal of this benefit upon them, and
unfortunate enough to be successful in their resistance. In after years,
when experience had rendered fools wise, they were glad to obtain the present
branch through to Peterborough; but the injury of the ill-judged opposition
can never be cured.

The church of All Saints, in the centre of the town, has an ancient embattled
tower which escaped the great fire of 1675. St. Peter's, near the West
Bridge, a remarkably curious specimen of enriched Norman; St. Sepulchre's, a
round church of the twelfth century, all deserve enumeration. There are also
two hospitals, the only remains of many religious houses which existed before
the Reformation. St. John's consists of a chapel and a large hall, with
apartments for inferior poor persons; St. Thomas's is for twenty poor alms-
women. No vestiges, beyond the earthworks, remain of the castle built by
Simon de St. Liz, who was created Earl of Northampton by William the
Conqueror. Northampton was a royal residence during the reigns of Richard
I., John, and Henry III.; a battlefield during the wars of the Barons and the
wars of the Roses; but the ancient character of the town was almost entirely
destroyed by the great fire of 1675,--not without benefit to the health,
though at the expense of the picturesqueness of this ancient borough.

Northampton is important as the capital town of one of our finest grazing and
hunting counties, where soil and climate are both favourable to the farmer.

Large numbers of the Scotch, Welch, and Herefords sold in Smithfield, are fed
in the yards and finished in the pastures of Northamptonshire.

The present Earl of Spencer keeps up, on a limited scale, the herd of short-
horns which were so celebrated during the lifetime of his brother, better
known as Lord Althorpe,--at his seat of Althorpe, six miles from the town, and
also carries on a little fancy farming. The late Earl of Spencer was much
more successful as a breeder than as a farmer; indeed, it may be questioned
whether the prejudices of that amiable and excellent man in favour of pasture
land, did not exercise an injurious influence over the proceedings of the
Royal Agricultural Association.

Northampton returns two members to Parliament, and has a mayor and

The railway route from Northampton to Peterborough presents a series of
pleasant views on either side,--so pleasant that he who has leisure should
walk, or ride on horseback, along the line of Saxon villages, visit the
series of curious churches at Wellingborough, Higham Ferrers, with its
collegiate church and almshouse, Thrapston and Oundle, and other stations.
Within two miles of Thrapston is Drayton House, Lowick, the seat of the
Sackville family, which retains many of the features of an ancient castle,
and has a gallery of paintings by the old masters. The church of Lowick
contains several monuments, brasses, and windows of stained glass. Near
Oundle is to be found the earthwork of Fotheringay Castle, where Mary Queen
of Scots was confined, tried, and executed. The castle itself was levelled
to the ground by order of her son, James I. On leaving Oundle we pass a
station appurtenant to Wansford in England, of which we shall say a word

Here we may take coach across to Stamford in Lincolnshire (see Stamford),
unless we prefer the rail from Peterborough. There is a point somewhere
hereabouts where the three counties of Northampton, Lincoln, and Huntingdon
all meet.

* * * * *

WANSFORD IN ENGLAND.--If about to investigate the antiquities of Stamford or
Peterborough, the traveller will do well to stop at Wansford for the sake of
one of the best inns in Europe, well known under the sign of "The Haycock at
Wansford in England." This sign represents a man stretched floating on a
haycock, apparently in conversation with parties on a bridge. It is intended
to illustrate the legend of Drunken Barnaby, who, travelling during the time
of the plague from London northward, tasting and criticising the ale on the
road, drank so much of the Northamptonshire brewst that he fell asleep on a
haycock, in one of the flat meadows. In the night time, as is often the case
in this part of the country, a sudden flood arose, and our toper awaked to
find himself floating on a great tide of water, which at length brought him
to a bridge, upon which, hailing the passengers, he asked, "Where am I?" in
full expectation of having floated to France or Spain; whereupon they
answered, "at Wansford." "What!" he exclaimed in ecstacy, "Wansford in
England!" and landing, drank the ale and gave a new name to the inn of this
village between three counties. The inn (which belongs to the Duke of
Bedford) affords a sort of accommodation which the rapid travelling and short
halts of railways have almost abolished. But an easy rent, a large farm, and
a trade in selling and hiring hunters, enables the landlord to provide as
comfortably for his guests, as when, in old posting days, five dukes made the
Haycock their night halt at one time. On entering the well carpeted coffee-
room, with its ample screen, blazing fire, and plentiful allowance of easy
chairs, while a well appointed tempting dinner is rapidly and silently laid
on the spotless table-cloth,--the tired sportsman or traveller will be
inclined to fancy that he is visitor to some wealthy squire rather than the
guest of an innkeeper. When we add that the bed-rooms match the sitting-
rooms, that the charges are moderate, that the Pytchley, Earl Fitzwilliam's,
and the Duke of Rutland's hounds (the Beevor), meet within an easy distance;
that the county abounds in antiquities, show-houses like Burleigh, that
pleasant woodland rides are within a circle of ten miles, that good pike-
fishing is to be had nearly all the year round, while in retirement Wansford
is complete; we have said enough to show that it is well worth the notice of
a large class of travellers,--from young couples on their first day's journey,
to old gentlemen travelling north and needing quiet and a bottle of old port.

The last station, Peterborough, presents an instance of a city without
population, without manufactures, without trade, without a good inn, or even
a copy of the Times, except at the railway station; a city which would have
gone on slumbering to the present hour without a go-a-head principle of any
kind, and which has nevertheless, by the accident of situation, had railway
greatness thrust upon it in a most extraordinary manner.

* * * * *

PETERBOROUGH is one of the centres from which radiate three lines to London,
viz., by the Northampton route, on which we have travelled; by the direct
line, through Herts, of the Great Northern; and by the Eastern Counties, with
all its Norfolk communications. From Peterborough also proceeds an arm of
the Midland Counties, through Stamford, Oldham, and Melton Mowbray, and the
best Leicestershire grass country, to Leicester or to Nottingham,--while the
Great Northern, dividing, embraces the whole of Lincolnshire and makes way to
Hull, by the Humber ferries, on the one hand, and to York on the other. There
is, therefore, the best of consolation on being landed in this dull
inhospitable city, that it is the easiest possible thing to leave it.

Peterborough dates from the revival of Christianity among the Saxons;
destroyed by the Danes A.D. 870, rebuilt by Edgar in 970, it was attacked and
plundered by Saxon insurgents from the fens under Hereward the Wake, in the
time of William the Conqueror. At the dissolution of religious houses under
Henry VIII., Peterborough was one of the most magnificent abbeys, and, having
been selected as the seat of one of the new bishoprics, the buildings were
preserved entire. In the civil wars, the Lady Chapel and several conventual
buildings were pulled down and the materials sold. At present the cathedral
is a regular cruciform structure of Norman character, remarkable for the
solidity of its construction.

It was commenced 1117, by John de Saiz, a Norman. The chancel was finished,
A.D. 1140, by Abbot Martin de Vecti. The great transept and a portion of the
central tower were built by Abbot William de Vaudeville, A.D. 1160 to 1175,
and the nave by Abbot Benedict 1177-1193. The fitting up of the choir is of
woodwork richly carved. The greater number of the monuments, shrines, and
chantry chapels, were destroyed by the Parliamentary troops. Two queens lie
buried here, Catherine of Aragon and Mary of Scotland, without elegy or
epitaph, monument or tombstone.

The Cathedral viewed, nothing remains to detain the traveller in this
peculiarly stupid city. Within a pleasant ride of five miles lies Milton
House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam.

* * * * *

STAMFORD.--Although Stamford is not upon this line of railway, travellers
passing near should not fail to visit so ancient and interesting a town. Few
English boroughs can trace back more distinctly their antiquity. Six
churches still remain of the fifteen which, beside many conventual buildings,
formerly adorned it. For Stamford was one of the towns which, had not the
Reformation intervened, would have been swallowed up by the ever hungry
ecclesiastical maw. Stamford awakens many historic recollections. It has a
place in Domesday Book, being there styled Stanford: King Stephen had an
interview there with Ranulph, Earl of Chester. In 1190, the Jews of Stamford
were plundered and slain by the recruits proceeding to the crusades; and, ten
years afterwards, when Edward I. expelled the Jews from England, "their
synagogue and noble library at Stamford were profaned and sold." Many of the
books were purchased by Gregory of Huntingdon, a monk of Ramsey Abbey, a
diligent student of ancient languages; and thus the result of much learning,
collected in Spain and Italy, and handed down from the times when the Jews
and Arabs almost alone cultivated literature as well as commerce, was sown in
England, the last of European kingdoms to become distinguished in letters.
Stamford was the refuge of Oxford students on the occasion of disturbances in
1333. It was taken by the Lancastrian army of the North under Queen Margaret
in 1461, and given up to plunder; and, in 1462, when thirty thousand
Lincolnshire men marched, under the command of Sir Robert Wells, against
Edward IV., under the walls of Stamford they were defeated, and, flying, left
their coats behind. But the latest battles of Stamford have been between
Whig and Tory, and even these have ceased.

The houses and public buildings are all built of a rich cream-coloured stone,
which gives an air of cleanliness and even distinction, which is an immense
advantage. There are two fine hotels. The borough returns two members, both
nominated by the Marquis of Exeter, who owns a large proportion of the vote-
giving houses. The bull-running has been abolished here, as also at Tutbury,
in Staffordshire; but those who are curious to see the ceremony may have
occasional opportunities in the neighbourhood of Smithfield market, where it
is performed under the especial patronage of the aldermen of the city of


The next station after Blisworth is Weedon, properly, Weedon Bec, so called
because formerly there was established here a religious house, or cell, to
the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. The Church, a very ancient building, contains
portions of Norman, and various styles of English, architecture.


The importance of Weedon rests in its being the site of a strongly fortified
central depot for artillery, small arms, and ammunition, with extensive
barracks, well worth seeing, but not to be seen without an order from the
Board of Ordnance. In passing, a few mild soldiers may be seen fishing for
roach in the canal, and a few active ones playing cricket in summer. The
Weedon system of fortification eschews lofty towers and threatening
battlemented walls, and all that constitutes the picturesque; so that Weedon
Barracks look scarcely more warlike than a royal rope manufactory.

After Weedon we pass through Kilsby Tunnel, 2,423 yards long, which was once
one of the wonders of the world; but has been, by the progress of railway
works, reduced to the level of any other long dark hole.



Rugby, 83 miles from London, the centre of a vast network of railways, is our
next halting place.

That is to say, First, an arm of the Midland to Leicester, to Burton, to
Derby, to Nottingham, and through Melton Mowbray to Stamford and
Peterborough; thus intersecting a great agricultural and a great
manufacturing district.

Second, the Trent Valley Line, through Atherstone, Tamworth and Lichfield, to
Stafford, and by cutting off the Birmingham curve, forming part of the direct
line to Manchester.

Third, A line to Leamington, which may be reached from this point in three-
quarters of an hour; and fourth, a direct line to Stamford, by way of Market
Harborough; which, with the Leamington line, affords the most direct
conveyance from Norfolk, and Lincolnshire, through Peterborough to
Birmingham, Gloucester, and all that midland district.

The Oxford and Rugby Line, which was one of the subjects of the celebrated
Battles of the Gauges, has not been constructed; and it may be doubted
whether it ever will.

The town lies about a mile from the station on the banks of the Avon, and
owes all its importance to Laurence Sheriff, a London shopkeeper in the time
of Queen Elizabeth, who, in 1567, endowed a school in his native village with
eight acres of land, situated where Lamb's Conduit-street, in London, now
stands, whence at present upwards of 5000 pounds a year is derived.

Rugby was long considered the most snobbish of English public schools, a sad
character in a country where style and name go so far. Some twenty years
ago, when the Rugbaeans had the "presumption" to challenge the Wykehamists to
play at football, the latter proudly answered, that the Rugbaeans might put on
worsted stockings and clouted soles, and the Wykehamists in silk stockings
and pumps would meet them in any lane in England. But, since that time, the
Harrow gentlemen, the Eton fops, the Winchester scholars, and the Westminster
blackguards, have had reason to admit that Arnold, a Wykehamist, long
considered by the fellows of that venerable institution an unworthy son,
succeeded in making Rugby the great nursery of sound scholars and Christian
gentlemen, and in revolutionizing and reforming the educational system of all
our public schools.

The following, by one of Arnold's pupils, himself an eminent example of
cultivated intellect and varied information, combined with great energy in
the practical affairs of life and active untiring benevolence, is a sketch of


In the year 1827, the head mastership became vacant of the Grammar School at
Rugby, and the trustees, a body of twelve country gentlemen and noblemen,
selected, to the dismay of all the orthodox, the Rev. Thomas Arnold, late
fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and then taking private pupils at Laleham,
Middlesex. Transplanted from Oriel, the hotbed of strange and unsound
opinions, out of which the conflicting views of Whateley, Hampden, Keble, and
Newman, were struggling into day; himself a disciple of the suspected school
of German criticism; known to entertain views at variance with the majority
of his church brethren on all the semipolitical questions of the day; an
advocate for the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament, for the reform
of the Liturgy and enlargement of the Church, so as to embrace dissenters;
the distrust with which he was regarded by all who did not know him may be

It was a critical time, the year 1827; the mind of the country was then
undergoing that process of change which shortly afterwards showed itself in
the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, the passing of the Reform Bill, the
foundation of the London University, and the publications of the Useful
Knowledge Society. Old opinions were on all sides the objects of attack. At
such a period, public schools, with their exclusively classical teaching and
their "fagging" systems, were naturally regarded as institutions of the past
not adapted to the present. It seemed probable that a remodelling, or,
according to the phrase of the day, a "reform" of them, would be attempted by
the new intellectual school of which Lord Brougham was regarded as the type.
It was the views of this party which, it was anticipated, Dr. Arnold would
hasten to introduce into Rugby.

We now know that he did not do this, although he did reform not only the
school of Rugby, but gave a bias to the education of the sons of what is
still the most influential class in this country, which has lasted to the
present day, and that in a direction and in a manner which surprised his
opponents, and at one time provoked even his friends.

It may not be uninteresting to such of our readers as love to trace the
origin of those changes of opinion, which are at times seen to diffuse
themselves over portions of society from an unseen source, to learn how this
original man commenced his task of training the minds committed to him in
those peculiar tendencies, both as to feeling and thinking, which enter
appreciably into the tone of the upper classes of the present generation.

Dr. Arnold, from the day on which he first took charge of the school, adopted
the course which he ever after adhered to, of treating the boys like
gentlemen and reasonable beings. Thus, on receiving from an offender an
answer to any question he would say, "If you say so, of course I believe
you," and on this he would act. The effect of this was immediate and
remarkable; the better feeling of the school was at once touched; boys
declared, "It is a shame to tell Arnold a lie, because he always believes
you;" and thus, at one bold step, the axe was put to the root of the
inveterate practice of lying to the master, one of the curses of schools. In
pursuance of the same views, when reprimanding a boy, he generally took him
apart and spoke to him in such a manner as to make him feel that his master
was grieved and troubled at his wrong-doing; a quakerlike simplicity of mien
and language, a sternness of manner not unmixed with tenderness, and a total
absence of all "don-ish" airs, combined to produce this effect. Nor were his
personal habits without their effect. The boys saw in him no outward
appearance of a solemn pedagogue or dignified ecclesiastic whom it was a
temptation to dupe, or into whose ample wig javelins of paper might with
impunity be darted; but a spare active determined man, six feet high, in duck
trousers, a narrow-brimmed hat, a black sailor's handkerchief knotted round
his neck, a heavy walking-stick in his hand,--a strong swimmer, a noted
runner; the first of all the masters in the school-room on the winter
mornings, teaching the lowest class when it was his turn with the same energy
which he would have thrown into a lecture to a critical audience, listening
with interest to an intelligent answer from the smallest boy, and speaking to
them more like an elder brother than the head master. {67} They soon
perceived that they had to deal with a man thoroughly in earnest, acute,
active, and not easily deceived; that he was not only a scholar but a
gentleman, who expected them to behave as the sons of gentlemen themselves.
Their attention was awakened, and, although their fears were somewhat
excited, their sympathies and interest were at the same time aroused. This
was a good commencement; but Arnold was ready with other means no less
effectual for engaging their thoughts. He opened out to them at once "fresh
fields and pastures new," in the domain of knowledge; he established
periodical examinations, at which (if a tolerable proficiency in the regular
studies was displayed) a boy might offer to be examined in books on any
subject he might prefer, and prizes were awarded accordingly. The offer was
eagerly seized; modern history, biography, travels, fiction, poetry, were
sought after; the habit of general reading was created, and a new
intellectual activity pervaded the school. The writer well remembers the
effect produced on him when he heard that Arnold had lent one of the boys
Humphrey Clinker, to illustrate a passage in his theme. He felt from that
time forth that the keys of knowledge were confided to him, and, in proof of
this, his own little library, and those in the "studies" of many of his
neighbours, shortly doubled their numbers. French, German, and mathematics,
were encouraged by forming distinct classes on these subjects, and by
conferring for high standing in them some of the privileges as to exemption
from fagging, which previously had only attached to a similar standing in
classics. Modern history was also introduced as a recognised branch of
school study. The advantage of this was, that many of the boys, who, from
deficient early training or peculiar turn of mind, were unable to bring
themselves to proficiency in the regular Latin and Greek course of the
school, and consequently were idle and listless, found other and more
congenial paths in which intelligence and application would still meet with
their reward.

By these simple means, now generally adopted in classical schools, but up to
that time supposed to be incompatible with high accomplishments in classical
learning, the standard of intelligence and information was incalculably
raised, and the school, as a place of education in its wider sense, became
infinitely more efficient.

We should have stated that Dr. Arnold's skill as a teacher was unrivalled; he
imparted a living interest to all he touched, to be attributed mainly to his
habit of illustrating ancient events by "modern instances." Thus, Thucydides
and Napier were compared almost page by page; thus the "High Church party" of
the Jews was pointed to as a type of "the Tories." By means of his favourite
topic, physical geography, he sought to bring the actual theatre of events
before his pupils. Thus he would describe (when living at Laleham), the
Vatican and Janiculum hills of Rome, as being "like the hills on the right
bank of the Thames behind Chertsey;" the Monte Marie as being "about the
height and steepness of Cooper's Hill," and "having the Tiber at the foot of
it like the Thames at Anchorwick."

To philology even, the deadly science of dead languages, and the great
business of public schools, he contrived to impart life by continually
pointing out its bearing on the history of the races of mankind. The
interest thus given to study was something before unknown in schools.

So far we have confined ourselves to the effect of Arnold's system on the
mind, but the source of his most anxious thoughts and constant solicitude lay
deeper than this; it related to the spiritual condition, or, according to the
German phrase, "the inner life," of the boys. With his usual indifference to
personal labour he assumed the preachership of the chapel, declining however,
also, with characteristic disinterestedness, the salary attached, hitherto
given to increase the stipend of a junior master, and his famous "quarter of
an hour" sermons, into which he threw all the power of his character and his
intellect, no doubt gave him an opportunity of confirming, on certain minds,
that influence which was primarily due to his earnest acts of heart and head.

We here approach a portion of his career on which difference of opinion must
always exist. Impressed with an abiding conviction that all earthly things
were subordinate to the relation between man and his Maker; keenly
appreciating all that was "of good report," and impatient of evil, or what
seemed to him to be of evil tendency, even to intolerance, it must be
admitted that in Arnold there was something of the zealot. With his acute
sense of responsibility as to the spiritual state of the boys, it was natural
that he should seek to impress those with whom he was brought in contact, and
he did so. The personal notice he bestowed on boys of serious tendencies,
asking them to his house and conversing with them on solemn subjects had this
effect, and soon engendered "a sect" in the school. Now, the boys who were
thus susceptible and formed this sect, were generally of the milder order of
character, and not of that precocious virility which always gives influence
in a great school; hence arose among the natural leaders of the school, the
strong in character and the stout in heart and hand, a reaction against
Arnold and against Arnold's views, as being opposed to the traditional
notions of the school. This reaction was strengthened by the peculiar nature
of some of these views, such, for instance as those on the subject of the
code of honour. Arnold, although himself a man actuated by a nice sense of
honour, felt it his duty to set himself strongly in words against the code of
honour; it was the constant object of vituperation on his part, even from the
pulpit. His notions on this point, however, never gained ground with his
hearers, who could not be brought to believe that their master (himself as
true a knight errant as ever drew sword or pen,) was serious when he told
them that the spirit of chivalry was "the true Antichrist."

The attempt to introduce a more highly-wrought tone of religious feeling than
was perhaps of wholesome growth in very young minds was, therefore, not
without its drawbacks; the antagonism to some of his own views which it
called forth, combined with the utter disregard to established views which
characterized his own teaching, and which the school caught from him, told
upon the boys' minds. The direct and indirect effect of Arnold's school of
thought may indeed, now, we think, be traced in the general distrust of
hitherto received opinions, which, but little tinged in England it is true
with either licentiousness or irreverence, is nevertheless characteristic of
the present generation.

These effects are also more manifest now that Arnold's personal influence can
no longer be exercised. So long as he was at his post, his earnest
simplicity of character, his purity of life, his intellectual vigour, his
fearless seeking after truth, carried away the sympathies of all who were
brought in contact with him; not one of whom but will say, on looking back to
the impression he left on them, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there was
no guile!"

Thus the reform introduced into Rugby by Arnold, and indirectly into other
public schools through him, was then very different from that which was
anticipated from him. He did, it will be seen, none of the things he was
expected by his party to do. He strenuously inculcated the views of
Christian doctrine most opposed to those of the Latitudinarian party. {71} He
stoutly adhered to the system of "fagging," as being the best mode of
responsible government for the school "out of school," founding his opinion
on his own experience at Winchester, on which he often dwelt. He raised and
improved the standard of classical learning in its wider sense, so that the
scholars of Rugby gained a high standing at the universities; and by showing
that this was attainable consistently with acquirements in other branches of
learning, and with the utmost amount of intelligent interest in the knowledge
of the day, he confirmed that opinion in favour of the advantage of classical
learning, as a sound philosophical means of training the faculties for
worldly affairs, which we have seen lately advocated and applauded even in
the heart of Manchester itself, at the opening of Owen's College.

The change he introduced was thus more thorough, more deep and comprehensive,
than any which the suggestions of his partisan supporters would have
accomplished. It was a change in the very spirit of education, reaching
beyond the years of boyhood or the limits of school walls.


Instead of turning off from Rugby by the new route to Leamington, we will
keep the old road, and so push on straight to the great Warwickshire
manufactory and mart of ribands and watches. First appears the graceful
spire of St. Michael's Church; then the green pastures of the Lammas, on
which, for centuries, the freemen of Coventry have fed their cattle, sweep
into sight, and with a whiz, a whirl, and a whistle, we are in the city and
county of Coventry--the seat of the joint diocese of Lichfield and
Coventry--which return two members to Parliament, at the hands of one of the
most stubbornly independent constituencies in England; a constituency which
may be soft-sawdered, but cannot be bullied or bribed.

A railroad here branches off to Nuneaton, distant ten miles, a sort of
manufacturing dependency of the great city; and on the other, at the same
distance, to Leamington, with a station at Kenilworth.

In addition to its manufacturing importance, an importance which has survived
and increased in the face of the changes in the silk trade and watch trade,
commenced by Huskisson, and completed by Peel, Coventry affords rich food for
the antiquarian, scenes of deep interest to the historical student, a legend
for poets, a pageant for melodramatists, and a tableau for amateurs of poses

Once upon a time Kings held their Courts and summoned Parliaments at
Coventry; four hundred years ago the Guilds of Coventry recruited, armed,
clothed, and sent forth six hundred stout fellows to take part in the Wars of
the Roses; at Coventry the lists were pitched for Mary of Lancaster, and
Phillip Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, to decide in single combat their counter-
charges before the soon-to-be-dethroned Richard II.

At Coventry you will find the effigy of vile Peeping Tom, and can follow the
course through which the fair Godiva rode naked, veiled by her modesty and
flowing tresses, to save her townsmen from a grievous tax. To be sure, some
English Niebuhrs have undertaken to prove the whole story a legend; but, for
our parts, we are determined to believe in tradition and Alfred Tennyson's

There are three ancient churches in Coventry, of which St. Michael's, built
in the reign of Henry I., is the first; the spire rising 303 feet from the
ground, the lofty interior ornamented with a roof of oak, curiously carved,
and several windows of stained glass.

[COVENTRY: ill11.jpg]

St. Mary's Hall, a large building, now used for corporation council meetings,
and festivities, erected in the reign of Henry VI., is one of the richest and
most interesting vestiges of the ornamental architecture of England. The
principal room has a grotesquely-carved roof of oak, a gallery for minstrels,
an armoury, a chair of state, and a great painted window, which need only the
filling up of royal and noble personages, their attendants, and the rich
burgesses of Coventry, to recall the time when Richard II. held his Court in
this ancient city, and, with "old John of Gaunt," settled the sentence on
Harry of Hereford, and Philip of Norfolk.

In this chamber is to be seen a beautiful piece of tapestry, executed in
1450, measuring thirty feet by ten, and containing eighty figures.

In the free school, founded by John Moles, in the reign of Henry VIII., Sir
William Dugdale, the antiquarian and historian of Warwickshire, was educated.
The income is about 900 pounds a-year, and the scholars have open to
competition two fellowships of St. John's College, Oxon, one at Catherine's
Hall, Cambridge, and six exhibitions at either University. Previous to the
investigations of the Charity Commissioners, the fine school-room was locked
up, and the books of the library torn for waste paper to light fires. At
present, under the reformed system, the school is attended by a large number
of scholars.

There are more than a dozen educational and other charities for the benefit
of the poor, enjoying a revenue of many thousands a-year.

There are also several curious specimens of domestic architecture of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to be found in Coventry. It is, however,
on the whole, a dark, dirty, inconvenient city. The surrounding belt of
Lammas lands on which the freemen have the right of pasturing their horses
and cows, has prevented any increase in the limits of the city.

In the middle ages Coventry was celebrated for its "mysteries and pageants,"
of which an account has been published by Mr. Reader, a local bookseller.

The chief manufactures are of ribands and of watches, both transplantations
from the Continent. The electors of Coventry distinguished themselves by
their consistency during the Free-trade agitation. They exacted a pledge
from their members in favour of Free-trade, except in watches and ribands.
More recently these same Coventry men have had the good sense to prefer a
successful man of business, the architect of his own fortunes, to a Right
Honourable Barrister and ex-Railway Commissioner.


One thing needful to preserve the manufacturing position of Coventry is, a
first-rate School of Design--labour, and coal, and ample means of conveyance
they have, east and west, and north and south; and now the manufacturers only
need the cultivation of true principles of taste among the whole riband-
weaving population. For taste is a rare article, and many draughts of small
fry must be made before one leviathan salmon can be caught. Great advances
have been made recently in the production of the best kinds of ribands. A
specimen produced by subscription for the Hyde Park Exhibition of 1851,
proved that Coventry was quite able to rival the choicest work of France in
the class of machine-made ribands. The application of steam power to this
class of manufactures is of but recent date. Coventry surveyed, and this may
be done in a few hours, unless the traveller is able and willing to examine
its rich manufactories, it is difficult to resist the invitation of the
railway porter, bawling, to Kenilworth, Leamington, and Warwick, names
calling up a crowd of romantic associations, from Shakspeare to Scott and
Bulwer; but for the present we must keep steadily on to Birmingham, where
steam finds the chief raw materials of poetry and fashioner of beauty.


A run of nineteen miles brings us to what the inhabitants call the Hardware
Village, a healthy, ugly town, standing upon several hills, crowned with
smoke, but free from fog.

The old railway station stands at the foot of one of these hills, leaving a
drive of a quarter of a mile through a squalid region, almost as bad as the
railway entrance into Bristol, before entering into the decent part of the
town; but the new station, now in course of rapid completion, will land
passengers behind the Grammar School, in New Street, the principal, and,
indeed, only handsome street of any length in Birmingham.

At the old station there is an excellent hotel, kept by Mr. Robert Bacon, who
was so many years house steward to the Athenaeum Club, in Pall Mall; and at
the refreshment-rooms a capital table d'hote is provided four times a-day, at
two shillings a-head, servants included, an arrangement extremely acceptable
after a ride of 118 miles.


At the new station similar refreshment-rooms are to be provided, and it is to
be hoped that the architect will plan the interior first, and the exterior
afterwards, so that comfort may not be sacrificed, as it usually is in
English public buildings, to the cost of an imposing portico and vestibule.

As a railway starting point, Birmingham has become a wonderful place. In
addition to those main lines and branches passed and noted on our journey
down, it is also the centre at which meet the railroads to Derby and
Sheffield; to Worcester, Cheltenham, Gloucester, and Bristol; to London
through Oxford, by the Broad Gauge Great Western, to Shrewsbury and Chester
through Wolverhampton, beside the little South Staffordshire lines, which
form an omnibus route between Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley, and Lichfield, and
other iron nets "too tedious to describe."

To a stranger not interested in manufactures, and in mechanic men, this is a
very dull, dark, dreary town, and the sooner he gets out of it the better.
There are only two fine buildings. The Town Hall, an exact copy externally
of the Temple of Jupiter Stator at Rome, built of a beautiful grey Anglesey
marble, from the designs of Messrs. Hansom and Welch, who also undertook to
execute it for 24,000 pounds. It cost 30,000 pounds, and the contractors
were consequently ruined. A railway company would probably have paid the
difference; but, in such cases, communities have no conscience, so the people
of Brummagem got the Hall of which they are justly proud "a bargain."

The interior is disappointing, and wants the expenditure of some more
thousand pounds in sculptures and decorative details, to bring it into
harmony with its noble external effect. The great room, 145 feet in length,
by 65 feet in width and height, will contain upwards of 8,000 persons.

Musical meetings are held here periodically, for the benefit of certain
charities; but the sight best worth seeing, is the Hall at the period of an
election, or of political excitement, crowded with a feverish army of
workmen, cheering, groaning, swaying to and fro, under the speeches of their
favourite orators. Then in this Pagan temple may be seen a living specimen
of a Brummagem Jupiter, with a cross of Vulcan, lion-faced, hairy, bearded,
deep-mouthed swaggering, fluent in frank nonsense and bullying clap-trap,
loved by the mob for his strength, and by the middle classes for his money.
The lofty roof re-echoes with applause.

The temple, the man, and the multitude, all together, are well worth a
journey to Birmingham to see.

There is also the Free School of King Edward VI., in New Street, a stately
pile, built by Barry, before he had become so famous as he is now; which
supplies first-rate instruction in classics, mathematics, modern languages,
and all branches of a useful English education, after the plan introduced
into our public schools by Dr. Arnold, to the sons of all residents, at an
extremely cheap, almost a nominal rate. Ten exhibitions of 50 pounds each
for four years at Oxford or Cambridge are open to the competition of the

The salary of the Head Master is 400 pounds a-year, with a residence, and the
privilege of boarding eighteen pupils. Of the Second Master, 300 pounds.
Beside Under Masters.

These liberal appointments have secured a succession of competent masters,
and cannot fail to produce a permanent and favourable change in the character
of young Birmingham. The diffusion of sound classical learning was much
needed to mitigate the coxcombical pretensions of the half-educated, and the
vulgar coarseness of the uneducated. The inhabitants of manufacturing towns
are apt to grow petty Plutocracies, in which after wealth, ignorance and
assumption are the principal qualifications. Brass turns up its nose at
iron, and both look down upon tin, although half an hour in the world's fire
make all so black as to be undistinguishable.

Besides this, which we may term the High School, there are four schools
supported out of King Edward VI.'s foundation, where reading, writing, and
arithmetic, are taught.

The funds on which these magnificent ecclesiastical establishments are
supported, arise from lands in the neighbourhood which originally produced
only 21 pounds a year, and were part of the estates of the Guild of the "Holy
Cross." After being occupied first as fields and then as gardens, the rise
of manufactures and extension of the town of Birmingham, converted a great
portion into building land. The present revenue amounts to about 11,000
pounds per annum, and are likely to be still further increased.

Twenty years ago, school lands which are now leased for terms of years, and
covered with buildings, were occupied as suburban gardens at trifling rents.
Eventually the Birmingham Free School will enjoy an income equal to the wants
of a university as well as a school. Meagre accounts of the income and
expenditure of this noble foundation are published annually, under the
regulations of an Act of Parliament passed in 1828; but no report of the
number of scholars, or the sort of education communicated, is attached to
this balance sheet. It would be very useful; and we hope that the self-
elected corporation, who have the management, will see the propriety of
supplying it.

Birmingham also possesses a chartered college, "Queen's College," similar to
that at Durham; first established as a medical school by the exertions of the
present dean, Mr. Sands Cox, since liberally endowed by the Rev. Dr.
Warneford to the extent of many thousand pounds, and placed in a position to
afford the courses in law, physic, and divinity, required for taking a degree
at the University of London. Also a Blue Coat School, and School for the

In a picturesque point of view there are few towns more uninviting than
Birmingham; for the houses are built of brick toned down to a grimy red by
smoke, in long streets crossing each other at right angles,--and the few
modern stone buildings and blocks of houses seem as pert and as much out of
place as the few idle dandies who are occasionally met among the crowds of
busy mechanics and anxious manufacturers. What neatness--cleanliness--can do
for the streets, bell-pulls, and door-knockers, has been done; the foot-
pavements are, for the most part flagged, although some of the round pebble
corn-creating footways still remain in the back streets. One suburb,
Edgbaston, is the property of Lord Calthorpe, and has been let out on
building leases which entirely exclude all manufactories and inferior classes
of houses. The result has been a crop of snug villas, either stucco or
polished red brick; many of them surrounded by gardens and shrubberies, and a
few of considerable pretension. Of this suburb the Birmingham people think a
great deal; but, as it is built upon a dead flat in long straight lines, its
effect is more pleasing to the citizen after a hard day's work, than to the
artist, architect, landscape gardener, or lover of the picturesque.

Birmingham is, in fact, notable for its utility more than its beauty,--for
what is done in its workshops, rather than for what is to be seen in its
streets and suburbs. Nowhere are there to be found so numerous a body of
intelligent, ingenious, well educated workmen. The changes of fashion and
the discoveries of science always find Birmingham prepared to march in the
van, and skilfully execute the work needed in iron, in brass, in gold and
silver, in all the mixed metals and in glass. When guns are no longer
required at the rate of a gun a minute, Birmingham steel pens become famous
all over the world. When steel buckles and gilt buttons have had their day,
Britannia teapots and brass bedsteads still hold their own. No sooner is
electrotype invented, than the principal seat of the manufacture is
established at Birmingham. No sooner are the glass duties repealed than the
same industrious town becomes renowned for plate glass, cut glass, and
stained glass; and, when England demands a Palace to hold the united
contributions of "The Industry of the World," a Birmingham banker finds the
contractor and the credit, and Birmingham manufacturers find the iron, the
glass, and the skill needful for the most rapid and gigantic piece of
building ever executed in one year.

In order to appreciate the independent character and quick inventive
intelligence of the Birmingham mechanic, he should be visited at his own
home. A system of small independent houses, instead of lodgings, prevails in
this town, to the great advantage of the workmen.

It is only within a very few years that the working classes have had, in a
local School of Design, means of instruction in the principles of taste, and
arts of drawing and modelling; while, until the patent laws are put upon a
just foundation, their inventive faculties can never be fully developed. When
the artizans of Birmingham have legislative recognition of their rights as
inventors, and free access to a first-rate school of design, their "cunning"
hands will excel in beauty as well as ingenuity all previous triumphs.

The wealthier classes have, from various causes, deteriorated within the last
sixty years, while the workmen have improved within that time. Men who have
realized fortunes no longer settle down in the neighbourhood of their
labours. They depart as far as possible from the smoke of manufactures and
the bickerings of middle class cliques, purchase estates, send their sons to
the universities, and in a few years subside into country squires.
Professional men, as soon as they have displayed eminent talent, emigrate to
London; and the habit, now so prevalent in all manufacturing towns, of living
in the suburbs, has sapped the prosperity of those literary and philosophical
institutions and private reunions, which so much contributed to raise the
tone of society during the latter half of the last century. The meetings of
an old Literary and Philosophical Society have been discontinued, and the
News Room was lately on the brink of dissolution. Instead of meeting to
discuss points of art, science, and literature, the middle classes read the
Times and Punch, and consult the Penny Cyclopaedia. The literary and
scientific character which Birmingham acquired in the days when Boulton,
Watt, Priestly, Darwin, Murdoch, and their friends, met at the Birmingham
Lunarian Society, to discuss, to experiment, and to announce important
discoveries, have passed away never to return; and we are not likely to see
again any provincial town occupying so distinguished a position in the
scientific world. The only sign of Birmingham's ancient literary pre-
eminence is to be found in several weekly newspapers, conducted with talent
and spirit far beyond average. It is an amusing fact, that the sect to which
Priestly belonged still trade on his reputation, and claim an intellectual
superiority over the members of other persuasions, which they may once have
possessed, but which has long been levelled up by the universal march of
education. The richer members publish little dull books in bad English on
abstruse subjects, and, like Consuelo's prebendary, have quartos in
preparation which never reach the press.

In fact, the suburban system of residence and the excessive pretension of
superiority by the "pots over the kettles" have almost destroyed society in
Birmingham, although people meet occasionally at formal expensive parties,
and are drawn together by sympathy in religion and politics.

Nothing would induce an educated gentleman to live in Birmingham except to
make a living, yet there are residing there, seldom seen out of their
factories, men of the highest scientific and no mean literary attainments.

There are a number of manufactories, which, in addition to their commercial
importance, present either in finished articles, or in the process of
manufacture, much that will interest an intelligent traveller.

GLASS.--Messrs. F. & C. Oslers, of Broad Street, have attained a very high
reputation for their cut and ornamental, as well as the ordinary, articles of
flint glass. The have been especially successful in producing fine effects
from prismatic arrangements. Their gigantic chandeliers of great size, made
for Ibrahim Pacha, and the Nepalese Prince, were the steps by which they
achieved the lofty crystal fountain, of an entirely original design, which
forms one of the most novel and effective ornaments of the Crystal Palace.
The manufactory as well as the show-room is open to the inspection of
respectable strangers.

Messrs. Rice and Harris are also extensive manufacturers of cut and coloured
glass; and Messrs. Bacchus and Sons have been very successful in their
imitations of Bohemian glass, both in form and colour. Messrs. Chance have
acquired a world-wide reputation by supplying the largest quantity of crown
glass in the shortest space of time for Paxton's Palace. These works, in
which plate and every kind of crown glass is made, are situated at West
Bromwich. The proprietors have benevolently and wisely made arrangements for
the education of their workmen and their families, which are worthy of
imitation in all those great factories where the plan, which originated in
Lancashire, has not been already adopted. A letter of introduction will be
required in order to view Messrs. Chance's establishment, of which we shall
say more when noting the social state of the Birmingham operatives.

PAPIER MACHE.--Messrs. Jennens and Bettridge's works are so well known that it
is only necessary to refer to them for the purpose of saying that in their
show-rooms some new application of the art which they have carried to such
perfection is constantly to be found. Pianos, cradles, arm-chairs, indeed
complete drawing-room suites, cornices, door-plates, and a variety of
ornaments are displayed, in addition to the tea-trays and tea-chests in which
the art of japanning first became known to us.

Although Messrs. Jennens and Co. have the largest establishment in
Birmingham, there are several others who produce capital work; among them may
be named Mr. Thomas Lane and Messrs. M'Callum and Hodgson, who both exhibited
specimens of great merit at the last Birmingham Exhibition of manufactures.

But metals afford the great staple of employment in Birmingham, and we shall
avail ourselves, in describing the leading trades, and touching on the social
position of the workmen, of the admirable letters on Labour and the Poor in
Birmingham which appeared in the Morning Chronicle in the course of 1850.

* * * * *

BIRMINGHAM BUTTONS.--"A Brummagem Button" is the old-fashioned nickname for a
Birmingham workman. The changes of fashion, and the advances of other
manufactures, have deprived that trade of its ancient pre-eminence over all
other local pursuits; but the "button trade," although not the same trade
which made great fortunes in a previous generation, still employs five or six
thousand hands, of which one-half are women and children.

In the middle of the eighteenth century a plain white metal button was made,
which may occasionally be seen in remote rural districts, on the green coats
of old yeomen, wearing hereditary leather breeches. At that period the
poorer classes wore coarse horn or wooden buttons, chiefly home made, and the
tailor made, as well as the clothes, buttons covered with cloth. By degrees
very handsome gilt buttons came into wear, and continued to employ many
hands, while the blue coat which figures in the portraits of our grandfathers
remained in fashion.

In 1826, the Florentine, or covered button, now in almost universal use,
which is manufactured by machinery with the aid of women and children, was
introduced, and by 1829 the gilt button trade had been almost destroyed.

The change produced great distress, vast numbers of persons were thrown out
of work, who could not at once turn to any other employment. In 1830 a
deputation from the gilt button trade waited upon George IV. and the
principal nobility, to solicit their patronage. The application succeeded,
coloured coats with metal buttons came into fashion, and dandies of the first
water appeared in bright snuff-coloured, pale green, and blue coats, such as
are now only worn by Paul Bedford or Keeley, in broad farce. In 1836 a cheap
mode of gilding, smart for a day, dull and shabby in a week, completely
destroyed the character of gilt buttons, and brought up the Florentine again.
This change was, no doubt, materially assisted and maintained by Bulwer's
novel of "Pelham," which set all young men dressing themselves up like crows
with white shirts.

In 1840 a deputation to Prince Albert attempted another revival of the gilt
button trade, and at the same time the silk stocking weavers waited on the
Prince to endeavour to drive out the patent leather boots, and bring in the
low shoe. Both attempts failed. At present there are symptoms of a turn of
fashion toward coloured coats and bright buttons, which may be successful,
because the fashionable world abhors monotony. The flame coloured coats,
long curls, and pink under waistcoats of George IV., were succeeded by the
solemn sables of an undertaker; the high tight stock made way for a sailor's
neckcloth. For a time shawl waistcoats, of gay colours, had their hour. Then
correct tight black yielded to the loosest and shaggiest garments that could
be invented. Perhaps the year 1852 may see our youth arrayed in blue, purple
and pale brown.

But a very little consideration will prove that these artificial changes,
although they may benefit a class, are of little advantage to the community.
If a man gives 10s. more for a coat with gilt buttons than for one with plain
buttons, he has 10s. less to expend with some other tradesman.

The Florentine Button, first invented in 1820, and since much improved, is a
very curious manufacture. It is made--as any one may see by cutting up a
button--of five pieces; first, the covering of Florentine, or silk; second, a
cover of metal, which gives the shape to the button; third, a smaller circle
of mill-board; fourth, a circle of coarse cloth, or calico; fifth, a circle
of metal, with a hole punched in the centre, through which the calico or
cloth is made to protrude, to form the shank, to be sewed on to the garment.

"Ranged in rows on either side of a long room of the button factory, (says
the correspondent of the Morning Chronicle) are from 50 to 100 girls and
young women, from the age of fourteen to four or five and twenty, all busily
engaged, either at hand or steam presses, in punching out metal circles
slightly larger than the size of the button which is to be produced. Before
each press the forewoman is seated, holding in her hand a sheet of zinc or
iron, about two feet long, and four inches broad. This she passes rapidly
under the press if worked by hand, and still more rapidly if worked by steam,
punching and cutting at the rate of from fifty to sixty disks in a minute. As
they are cut they fall into a receptacle prepared to receive them. The
perforated sheets are sold to the founder to be melted up, and made into
other sheets. In other rooms younger women are engaged in cutting up
Florentine cloth, or other outside covering material, paste board and calico.
Of these a young woman can punch 57,000 a-day, and of metal, 28,000 a-day.
The upper discs are submitted by another set of girls to presses from which
each receives a blow that turns up an edge all round, and reduces it to the
exact size of the button. The lower disk is punched for the shank to come
through, stamped with the maker's name, or the name of the tailor for whom
the buttons are made, and coated with varnish, either light or black.

"The five pieces then pass into a department where a woman superintends the
labours of a number of children from seven to ten years of age.

"These little creatures place all five pieces, one after another, in regular
order, in a small machine like a dice-box, constructed to hold them, which is
placed under a press, when a firm touch compresses the whole together in the
neat form, which any one may examine on a black dress coat, without stitch or
adhesive matter."

This patent was the subject of long litigation between rival inventors, to
the great benefit of the lawyers, and loss of the industrious and ingenious.

Within the last twelve months Messrs. Chadbourne, button-makers, of Great
Charles Street, have adapted this Florentine button to nails for furniture
and carriages.

The Patent Linen sewn-through Button is another recent invention, which has
superseded the old wire button for under garments, than which it is cheaper,
neater, and more durable. It is composed of linen and circles of zinc.

Horn Buttons, with shanks, which are extensively used for cloth boots and
sporting jackets, are made from the hoofs of horned cattle, which are boiled,
cut, punched, dyed, stamped when soft, and polished by brushes moved by steam
power; the chief part of the work being done by women and children.

Pearl Buttons have become an important part of the Birmingham manufactures,
partly on the decline of metal buttons. They are extensively used on coats
and waistcoats, where gilt buttons were formerly employed.

The shell used in the manufacture of buttons, studs, card counters, etc., is
the mother of pearl, the Concha margaritifera of naturalists. Five kinds of
shell are employed:--First. The Buffalo Shell, so named because it arrived
packed in buffalo skins; it comes chiefly from Panama, is the smallest and
commonest, and sells to the trade at about 15 pounds a ton.--Second. The
Black Scotch, from the Sandwich Islands, whence it is sent to Valparaiso and
to Sydney, New South Wales, worth from 15 to 30 pounds a ton. The large
outer rim is of a blackish, or rather greenish, tint, the centre only being
white. The outer rim was formerly considered worthless, and large quantities
were thrown away as rubbish. Change of fashion has brought the prismatic
hues of the dark pearl into fashion for shooting-coats, waistcoats, and even
studs. It used to be a standing story with a Bristol barber that a square in
that city had been built on thousands of pounds worth of tobacco stalks,
thrown away as useless, until it was discovered that that part of the plant
was capable of making a most saleable snuff. And so in Birmingham; the
Irvingite Church, on New Hall Hill, is said to be built on hundreds of tons
of refuse shell, which would now be worth from 15 to 20 pounds per ton. The
third shell is the Bombay, or White Scotch, worth from 20 to 50 pounds per
ton. The fourth comes from Singapore, and is brought there to exchange for
British manufactures by the native craft which frequent that free port. It
is a first-rate article, white to the edge, worth from 80 to 90 pounds per
ton. The fifth is the Mother of Pearl Shell, from Manilla, of equal value
and size, but with a slight yellow tinge round the edge.

Pearl buttons are cut out and shaped by men with the lathe, polished by women
with a grinding-stone, and sorted and arranged on cards by girls.

Glass Buttons were formerly in use among canal boatmen, miners, and
agricultural labourers, in certain districts. They are now chiefly made for
the African market. The process of making them and studs is well worth

Beside the buttons already enumerated, they make in Birmingham the flat iron
and brass buttons, for trowsers; steel buttons, for ladies' dresses; wooden
buttons, for overcoats; agate buttons, for which material is imported from
Bohemia; and, in fact, every kind of button and stud, including papier mache.

The manufacture of brass shanks is a separate trade, and the writer of the
letters already quoted, states the annual production at, or upwards of, three
millions per working day. Of these, part are made by hand, but the greater
number by a shank-making machine, wrought by steam power, and only requiring
the attendance of one tool-maker.

"The machine feeds itself from a coil of brass or iron wire suspended from
the roof, and cuts and twists into shanks, by one process, at the rate of 360
per minute, or nearly 75,000,000 per annum. Some button manufacturers employ
one of these machines; the majority buy the shanks."

* * * * *

GUNS AND SWORDS.--According to Hutton, the historian of Birmingham, the town
was indebted for its occupation in supplying our army with fire-arms, to an
ancestor of a gentleman who now represents a division of Warwickshire, a Sir
Roger Newdigate, in the time of William III.

The story, however, seems only half-true. Hutton would imply that the first
muskets manufactured in England were made in Birmingham. It seems more
likely, that the connexion with William III. arose from the desire of that
monarch to have the flint-lock, which was superseding the match-lock on the
Continent, made in his own dominions.

At any rate, the revolution of 1688, which the romantic anti-commercial party
of Young England so deeply regret, gave Birmingham its gun trade, as well as
Hampton Court its asparagus beds.

When Walpole gave us peace, the attention of the manufacturers was directed
to fowling-pieces, and from that time forward Birmingham has contained the
greatest fire-arm factory in the world, although, of course, subject to many
fluctuations. Twenty years ago, "A long war soon," was as regular a toast at
convivial meetings of Birmingham manufacturers, as at any mess-room or in any
cock-pit in her majesty's service.

The government has made several attempts, by establishing manufactories with
public money and under official control, to become independent of Birmingham,
but the end has invariably been great loss and pitiful results in the number
of arms produced.

We hope to live to see the time when our navy will be built as economically
as our guns are made--by private contract--and our public ship-yards confined
to the repairing department.

During the war which ended at the battle of Waterloo, the importance and
prosperity of the gun-makers were great. It was calculated that a gun a
minute was made in Birmingham on the average of a year, but the Peace threw
numbers out of work and reduced wages very considerably.

Time has brought the trade to a level; indeed, it is one of the great
advantages of Birmingham, that the prosperity of the town does not rest on
any one trade; so that if some are blighted others are flourishing, and when
one fails the workmen are absorbed into other parallel employments.

The gun trade now depends for support on the demand for--first, cheap muskets
for African and other aboriginal tribes; secondly, on cheap fowling-pieces,
rifles, pistols, blunderbusses, etc., for exportation to America, Australia,
and other countries where something effective is required at a moderate
price; thirdly, on the home demand for fowling-pieces of all qualities, from
the commonest to those sold at the West End of London, at fancy prices;
fourthly, on that for fire-arms required by our army and navy; and, lastly,
on occasional uncertain orders created by wars and revolutions on the

There are a vast number of guns, or parts of guns, made in Birmingham, which
bear the names of retailers in different parts of the kingdom. Even very
fashionable gun-makers find it worth their while to purchase goods in the
rough state from Birmingham manufacturers on whom they can depend, and finish
them themselves.

This is rendered easy by the system. No one in Birmingham makes the whole of
a gun. The division of labour is very great; the makers of the lock, the
barrel, and the stock, are completely distinct, and the mechanics confine
themselves to one branch of a department. The man who makes the springs for
a lock has nothing to do with the man who makes the nipple or the hammer;
while the barrel-forger has no connexion with the stock-maker or lock-maker.

The visitor who has the necessary introductions, should by no means omit to
visit a gun-barrel factory, as there are a good many picturesque effects in
the various processes, beside the mechanical instruction it affords.

The following is the order of the fabrication of a common gun:--

The sheets for barrels are made from scraps of steel and iron, such as old
coach-springs, knives, steel chains, horse shoes and horseshoe nails, and
sheets of waste steel from steel pen manufactories.

These, having been sorted, are bound together, and submitted first to such a
furnace, and then to such a steam hammer as we described in our visit to
Wolverton, until it is shaped into a bar of tough iron, which is afterwards
rolled into sheets of the requisite thickness.

From one of these sheets a length sufficient to make a gun barrel is cut off
by a pair of steam-moved shears, of which the lower jaw is stationary and the
upper weighs a ton, of which plenty of examples may be seen in every steam
engine factory.

The slip of iron is made red hot, placed between a pair of rollers, one of
which is convex and the other concave, and comes out in a semicircular trough
shape; again heated, and again pressed by smaller rollers, by which the
cylinder is nearly completed. A long bar of iron is passed through the
cylinder, it is thrust into the fire again, and, when red hot, it is
submitted to the welder, who hammers it and heats it and hammers it again,
until it assumes the form of a perfect tube.

Damascus barrels are made by incorporating alternate layers of red hot steel
and iron, which are then twisted into the shape of a screw while at white
heat. The bar thus made is twisted in a cold state by steam power round a
bar into a barrel shape, then heated and welded together.

These are the barrels which present the beautiful variegated appearance which
gives them the name of Damascus.

The barrels, whether common or twisted, are then bored by a steel rod, kept
wet with water or oil, and turned by steam. The process occupies from two to
three hours for each barrel.

The next operation is that of grinding the outside of the barrel with
sandstone wheels, from five to six feet in diameter when new, driven by
steam. These stones chiefly come from the neighbouring district of Bilston;
in four months' work, a stone of this size will be reduced to two feet.

The employment is hard, dangerous from the stones often breaking while in
motion, in which case pieces of stone weighing a ton have been known to fly
through the roof of the shop; unwholesome, because the sand and steel dust
fill eyes, mouth, and lungs, unless a certain simple precaution is taken
which grinders never take.

After grinding, a nut is screwed into the breech, and the barrel is taken to
the proof house to be proved.

The proof house is a detached building, the interior of which is lined with
plates of cast iron.

The barrels are set in two iron stocks, the upper surface of one of which has
a small gutter, to contain a train of powder; in this train the barrels rest
with their touchholes downwards, and in the rear of the breeches of the
barrels is a mass of sand. When the guns, loaded with five times the
quantity of powder used in actual service, have been arranged, the iron-lined
doors and windows are closed, and a train extending to the outside through a
hole is fired.

Some barrels burst and twist into all manner of shapes; those which pass the
ordeal are again examined after the lapse of twenty-four hours, and, if
approved, marked with two separate marks, one for viewing and one for
proving. The mark for proving consists of two sceptres crossed with a crown
in the upper angle; the letters B and C in the left and right, and the letter
P in the lower angle. For viewing only, V stands instead of P underneath the
crown, the other letters omitted.

After proving, the jiggerer fastens the pin, which closes up the breech.

In the mean time the construction of the lock, which is an entirely different
business, and carried on in the neighbouring towns of Wednesbury, Darleston,
and Wolverhampton, as well as in Birmingham, has been going on.

The gun lock makers are ranged into two great divisions of forgers and
filers, beside many subdivisions.

The forgers manufacture the pieces in the rough, the filers polish them and
put them together. In the percussion lock, there are fifteen pieces; in the
common flint lock, eight.

By a process patented about eleven years ago, parts of a gun lock formerly
forged by hand are now stamped with a die. The use of this invention was
opposed by the men, but without success.

The barrel and lock next pass into the hands of the stocker.

The stocks, of beechwood for common guns, of walnut for superior, of which
much is imported from France and Italy, arrive in Birmingham in a rough
state. The stocker cuts away enough of the stock to receive the barrel, the
lock, the ramrod, and shapes it a little.

The next workman employed is the screw-together. He screws on the heel
plate, the guard that protects the trigger, puts in the trigger plate, lets
in the pipes to hold the ramrod, puts on the nozzle cap, and all other

After all this, a finisher takes the gun to pieces, and polishes, fits all
the mountings, or sends them to be polished by women; the lock is sent to the
engraver to have an elephant and the word "warranted," if for the African
market, put on it; a crown and the words "tower proof," if for our own
military service; while the stock is in the hands of the maker off and
cleanser, it is carved, polished, and, if needful, stained.

Common gun barrels are polished or browned to prevent them from rusting, real
Damascus barrels are subjected to a chemical process, which brings out the
fine wavy lines and prevents them from rusting.

All these operations having been performed, the barrel, the lock, and the
stock, are brought back by the respective workmen who have given them the
final touch, and put together by the finisher or gun maker, and this putting
together is as much as many eminent gunmakers ever do. But, by care and good
judgment, they acquire a reputation for which they can charge a handsome

For these reasons, with local knowledge, it is possible to obtain from a
Birmingham finisher who keeps no shop, a first-rate double gun at a very low
figure compared with retail prices.

Belgium and Germany compete with Birmingham for cheap African guns, and even
forge the proof marks. Neither in quality nor in price for first-rate
articles can any country compete with us.

* * * * *

SWORDS AND MATCHETTS.--The sword trade of Birmingham is trifling compared with
that in guns. The foreign demand has dwindled away until it has become quite
insignificant, and the chief employment is afforded by our own army and navy.
Nevertheless, good swords are made in Birmingham, which is the only town in
England where any manufacture of the kind exists, although the blades often
bear the names of more fashionable localities.

It is among the traditions of the Birmingham trade, that in 1817, when our
Government was about to transfer its orders for swords to Germany, in
consequence of the inferiority of English swords, a Mr. Gill claimed to
compete for the contract; and that in order to show what he could do, he
appeared before the Board of Ordnance with a sword, which he tied round his
thigh, and then untied, when it immediately became straight. In the end Mr.
Gill was the means of retaining the sword trade in Birmingham.

Sword-grinding is worth seeing. Sword-makers find their principal employment
in producing Matchetts, a tool or weapon very much like the modern regulation
cutlass, but stronger and heavier, with a plain beech-wood handle, worth
wholesale from 6d. to 9d. each. They are used in the East and West Indies,
Ceylon, and South America, for cutting down sugar-canes and similar uses. We
take the name to be Spanish; it is used by Defoe and Dampier. We only
mention the article as one of the many odd manufactures made, but never sold
retail, in England.

* * * * *

STEEL PENS.--All the steel pens made in England, and a great many sold in
France, Germany, and America, whatever names or devices they may bear, are
manufactured in Birmingham. In this respect, as in many others of the same
nature, the Birmingham manufacturers are very accommodating, and quite
prepared to stamp on their productions the American Eagle, the Cap of
Liberty, the effigy of Pio Nono, or of the Comte de Chambord, if they get the
order, the cash, or a good credit. And they are very right; their business
is to supply the article, the sentiment is merely a matter of taste.

There are eighteen steel pen manufacturers in the Birmingham Directory, and
eight penholder makers. Two manufacturers employ about 1,000 hands, and the
other seventeen about as many more.

We can most of us remember when a long hard steel pen, which required the
nicest management to make it write, cost a shilling, and was used more as a
curiosity than as a useful comfortable instrument. About 1820, or 1821, the
first gross of three slit pens was sold wholesale at 7 pounds 4s. the gross
of twelve dozen. A better article is now sold at 6d. a gross.

The cheapest pens are now sold wholesale at 2d. a gross, the best at from
3s.6d. to 5s.; and it has been calculated that Birmingham produces not less
than a thousand million steel pens every year. America is the best foreign
customer, in spite of a duty of twenty-four per cent; France ranks next, for
the French pens are bad and dear.

Mr. Gillott, who is one of the very first in the steel-pen trade, rose by his
own mechanical talents and prudent industry from a very humble station. He
was, we believe, a working mechanic, and invented the first machine for
making steel pens, which for a long period he worked with his own hands; he
makes a noble use of the wealth he has acquired; his manufactory is in every
respect a model for the imitation of his townsmen, as we shall show when we
say a few words about the condition of the working population; a liberal
patron of our best modern artists, he has made a collection of their works,
which is open to the inspection of any respectable stranger.

The following description of his manufactory, which is not open to strangers
without special cause shown, will be found interesting in a social as well as
a commercial and mechanical point of view.

* * * * *

GILLOTT'S STEEL-PEN FACTORY.--In the first department, sheets of steel
received from Sheffield are passed through rolling mills driven by steam,
under charge of men and boys, until they are reduced to the thinness of a
steel pen, to the length of about thirty inches, and the breadth of about
three inches. These steel slips are conveyed to a large roomy workshop, with
windows at both sides, scrupulously clean, where are seated in double rows an
army of women and girls, from fourteen to forty years of age, who, unlike
most of the women employed in Birmingham manufactories, are extremely neat in
person and in dress. A hand press is opposite each; the only sound to be
heard is the bump of the press, and the clinking of the small pieces of metal
as they fall from the block into the receptacle prepared for them. One girl
of average dexterity is able to punch out one hundred gross per day. Each
division is superintended by a toolmaker, whose business it is to keep the
punches and presses in good working condition, to superintend the work
generally, and to keep order among the workpeople.

The next operation is to place the blank in a concave die, on which a slight
touch from a concave punch produces the shape of a semitube. The slits and
apertures which increase the elasticity of the pen, and the maker's or
vendor's name, are produced by a similar tool.

When complete all but the slit, the pens are soft and pliable, and may be
bent or twisted in the hand like a piece of thin lead. They are collected in
grosses, or great grosses, into small square iron boxes, and placed by men
who are exclusively employed in this department in a furnace, where they
remain until box and pens are of a white heat. They are then taken out and
immediately thrown hissing into oil, which cures them of their softness, by
making them as brittle as wafers. On being taken out they are put in a sieve
to drain, and then into a cylinder full of holes, invented by Mr. Gillott,
which, rapidly revolving, extracts the last drop of moisture from the pens,
on a principle that has been successfully applied to drying sugar, salt, and
a vast number of other articles of the same nature. By this invention Mr.
Gillott saves in oil from 200 to 300 pounds a-year.

The pens having been dried are placed in other cylinders, and polished by
mutual friction, produced by reverberatory motion. They are then roasted or
annealed, so as to procure the requisite temper and colour, whether bronze or
blue. The last process is that of slitting, which is done by women, with a
sharp cutting tool. One girl, with a quick practised finger, can slit as
many as 28,800 pens in a day. They are now ready for the young girls whose
duty it is to count and pack them in boxes or grosses for the wholesale

It has lately been stated by one of a deputation to the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, on the subject of the paper duties, that steel pens for the French
market are sent in bags instead of arranged on cards to the loss of paper
makers and female labour, in consequence of the heavy excise duty on card

* * * * *

BRASSWORK.--Birmingham is by far the greatest producer of ornamental and
useful brasswork. In the directory will be found a list which affords some
idea of the number and varieties of the brass trade, as all these employ a
certain number of working hands, varying from two or three apprentices to
many hundred skilled workmen. It includes bell-founders, bottle-jack makers,
brass founders, bronze powder makers, brass casters, clasp makers, coach lamp
furniture, ornament makers, cock founders, compass makers, copper-smiths,
cornice pole makers, curtain ring, bronze wire fender, gas-fitting, lamps,
chandeliers (partly brass, partly glass), ecclesiastical ornament, lantern,
letter-clip, mathematical instrument, brass and metallic bedstead, military
ornament, brass nail, saddlers' ironmonger, (chiefly brass), scale, beam, and
weighing machines, stair rod, moulding and astrigal, brass thimble makers,
tube, brass and copper-wire drawers, wire workers and weavers, and many other
trades less directly connected with brass.

New articles are made in this metal every day. One manufacturer, who first
hit upon the hand-clip for papers, made a very handsome sum by it. The
Registration of Designs Act has been a great stimulus to certain branches of
this trade. Lucifer boxes are quite a new article, unknown the other day,
now manufactured in thousands for all quarters of the globe, Germany, Russia,
Holland, India, Australia, California. Then there are ornaments for South
American and Cuban saddles and harness; rings for lassos, and bells for
sheep, cattle, and sledges, brass rings, as coins for Africa; and weights for
weighing gold in California.

Among the branches of the brass trade which have become important, since the
increase of emigration about 5000 ship lamps have been made in one year, at a
cheap rate; and within the last five years brass egg cups have been sent in
enormous numbers to Turkey, where they are used to hand round coffee. South
America is a great mart for cheap brass ware.

Of this trade, it may be said, in the words of a vulgar proverb, "as one door
shuts another opens."

The use of china and glass, in conjunction with brass for house furniture and
chandeliers, has also created a variety, and afforded an advantageous impetus
to the trade.

Mr. Winfield is one of the manufacturers in brass whose showrooms are open to
the public. He also has claims on our attention for the wise and
philanthropic manner in which he has endeavoured to supply the lamentable
deficiency of education among the working classes.

He holds a very leading position as a manufacturer of balustrades, tables,
window-cornices, candelabra chandeliers, brackets, curtain-bands, and above
all of metal bedsteads, which last he has supplied to some of the chief royal
and princely families of Europe, besides Spain, Algeria, and the United
States. In all these works great attention has been paid to design as well
as workmanship, as was amply proved both at the local exhibition in 1849,
where a large gas bracket, in the Italian style, of brass, with Parisian
ornaments, excited much admiration; and in 1851, in Hyde Park, where we
especially noted an ormolu cradle and French bedstead in gilt and bronze,
amid a number of capital works of his production.

Mr. Winfield is patentee of a curious process for drawing out the cylinders
used in making bedsteads.

Messrs. Messengers and Sons have one of the finest manufactories in
ornamental iron, brass, and bronze, for lamps, chandeliers, and table
ornaments. For a long series of years they have spared no expense in
obtaining the best models and educating their workmen in drawing and
modelling. In their show-rooms will be found many very pleasing statues in
gold-colour, in bronze, and copies from antique types of vases, lamps,
candelabra, etc.

Messrs. Salt and Lloyd are also eminent lamp makers, and generally exhibit,
beside table-lamps, the last and best carriage-lamps.

Messrs. Ratcliffes are another enterprising firm.

All such of these manufactories as have show-rooms open to strangers, will be
found by an inquiry at any hotel; for although Birmingham is a large town,
everybody knows everybody, and the cab drivers will usually be found
competent to guide through the voyage of investigation.

Next, after brass, we will take steel, divided into heavy and light steel

* * * * *

HEAVY STEEL TOYS.--Heavy steel toys are the name by which, by a sort of
Brummagem Bull, a variety of articles which are the very reverse of toys, and
which are often not made of steel at all, are designated. Heavy steel toys
are tools or articles of an implement nature, used in domestic economy.

The list includes nearly 600 articles. Among these are included the tools of
carpenters, coopers, gardeners, butchers, glaziers, farriers, saddlers,
tinmen, shoemakers, weavers, wheelwrights, as well as corkscrews, sugar-
tongs, sugar-nippers, boot-hooks, button-hooks, door-scrapers, calipers,
printing-irons, dog-collars, chains, whistles, tinderboxes, and tobacco-

Hammers occupy a leading place, of which there are two or three hundred
varieties, belonging to different trades, each of which is divided into eight
or ten different weights. Birmingham has the largest share of the heavy toy
trade, although there are extensive manufacturers in Sheffield and
Wolverhampton. Fine edge tools are chiefly and best made at Sheffield.

This trade increases annually in importance, as it consists of articles which
are greatly in demand in new countries; and new markets are opened by every
new colonising enterprise of the Anglo-Saxon race. The manufacture includes
a great deal of wood-work for handles, as well as iron and steel. For
although many axes are made for the American market, after special patterns,
and with national mottoes, no handles are ever sent, as the backwoodsmen have
better wood for their purpose at command. Our axe handles are stiff; a
backwoodsman must have a flexible handle or haft.

The Germans once tried to compete with us in the home market, but the attempt
was a failure.

As an instance of the odd accidents that affect the Birmingham trade, about
three years ago, when flounces were in fashion, a great demand sprang up for
pinking irons, previously only used for ornamenting the hems of shrouds. A
workman informed the correspondent of the Morning Chronicle that he had
earned about 3 pounds a week for two years at making them.

The scientific tools of housebreakers are known to be made by certain
journeymen in the steel toy trade. On the other hand, hand-cuffs, leg-irons,
and similar restraining instruments are manufactured for home use and

Occasionally, London and Liverpool houses in the Brazilian or Cuban trade
have ordered suits of chains, intended for the use of slave-ships. These are
cheap, coarse, painted black, and horrid looking. Among the orders on the
books of a manufacturer, were several dozen pair of hand-cuffs for ladies.

* * * * *

THE EDGE TOOL MANUFACTURE, which is increasing in Birmingham, probably in
consequence of the repeated strikes at Sheffield, added to the superior
position of Birmingham as regards coal, and the markets of London, Liverpool,
and Bristol, is often carried on in conjunction with that of steel toys.
There are forty-five different kinds of axes; fourteen for the American
market, twelve adzes, twenty-six bills and bill-hooks, and upwards of seventy
hoes for different foreign countries--Spain, Portugal, South America, the
United States, and Australia, which will soon consume as much hardware as
America did fifty years ago.

* * * * *

LIGHT STEEL TOYS.--These include chatelains, watch chains, keys, seals,
purses, slides, beads, waist buckles, dress swords, steel buttons for court
dresses, bodkins, spectacle frames, knitting and netting implements, and
steel snuffers. Shoe and knee buckles, which were once universally worn,
alone employed five thousand persons in their manufacture, when it was the
staple trade of the town. The expense and inconvenience of shoe buckles sent
them out of fashion. Dragoons hung in the stirrup, and cricketers tore the
nails of their fingers in picking up cricket balls, from the inconvenient

The trade is extremely fluctuating, and depends very much on inventive taste
in which we are manifestly inferior to the French. Some articles we can make
better than they can, but they are always bringing out something new and
pretty. In small beads they undersell us enormously, while in beads of 1/6th
of an inch in diameter, and upwards, we can undersell them.

A visit to a manufactory of light steel toys will afford a great deal of
amusement and instruction.

* * * * *

MEDALLING.--DIE SINKING.--Here again are trades by which Birmingham keeps up
its communication with all the civilised, and part of the uncivilised world.
The first great improvements in coining the current money of the realm
originated at Soho, near Birmingham, at the manufactories of two men whose
memory Englishmen can never hold in sufficient respect--Matthew Boulton and
James Watt. They were the inventors of the machinery now in use in the Royal
Mint; for a long period they coined the copper money, as also some silver
money for the United Kingdom, as well as money of all denominations for many
foreign countries, tokens, and medals innumerable. They made coins for the
French Convention.

During the war, when money was scarce and small notes were in circulation,
many tradesmen, and several public establishments issued "tokens," which
were, in fact, metal promissory notes, as they were seldom of the intrinsic
value stamped on them. By this expedient retailers advertised themselves,
and temporarily increased their capital. Some successful speculators made
fortunes, others were ruined by the presentation of all their metal notes of
hand at periods of panic.

At any rate, the manufacture of these articles had a great deal to do with
the education of workmen for the medal manufacture which is now so
extensively carried on.

The dies from which coins and medals are struck, are, of course, all executed
by hand, and the excellence of each coin or medal depends on the skill of
each individual workman; therefore there has been no great improvement in
execution--indeed, some medals and coins struck two thousand years ago, rival,
if they do not excel, the best works of the present day. The improvements of
modern mechanical science are all in the die presses, and in producing cheap
metal. These improvements have enabled Birmingham to establish a large trade
in cheap medals, which are issued in tens of thousands on every occasion that
excites the public mind. Jenny Lind and Father Mathew were both excellent
customers of the medallists in their day.

The medallists are not confined to the home market; France has been supplied
with effigies of her rival Presidents, Louis Napoleon and Cavaignac, and we
should not be surprised to find that some day a contract has been taken for
the medals which the Pope blesses and distributes. Schools and Temperance
Societies are good customers, and occasionally a good order comes in from a
foreign state or colony, for coins. In 1850 Mr. Ralph Heaton made ten tons
of copper coin for Bombay, called cock money, so called because bearing a
cock on the obverse, from dies purchased at the sale at Soho.

The late Sir Richard Thomason was a considerable manufacturer of medals, and
a very curious collection may be seen at the showrooms of his successor, Mr.
G. R. Collis, who carries on the same trade, and is consul for a number of
countries between Turkey and Timbuctoo.

The most important part of the die-sinking trade, is that for making patterns
in brass, mixed metal, and iron in curtain bands, pins, lamp pillars,
cornices, coffin furniture, and all articles in which stamping has superseded
the more expensive process of hammering out.

Within the last twenty years, and notably within the last ten years, public
taste has required an increased amount of ornament in all domestic
manufactures; stimulated by this demand, great improvements have been made in
stamping, and excellence in the art of die-sinking has become more widely
diffused. The Birmingham die-sinkers admit that they are inferior to the
French in design, while in the execution of cutting heavy steel dies, they
are decidedly superior. Die-sinking is an art, like painting or sculpture,
which requires personal aptitude to enable an apprentice to acquire

It is carried on in Birmingham by men who work themselves, employing two or
three journeymen. The names of these artists seldom appear. A London or
Parisian tradesman undertakes an order which is passed to some noted
Birmingham House, which transmits it to a hard-handed man in a back street.

* * * * *

COFFIN ORNAMENTS.--The manufacture of ornaments for coffins is a very
important part of the trade, and it is curious to find, that even in this
last concession to human vanity, there is a constant demand for new designs.

Who is it that examines and compares the ornaments of one coffin with that of
another? We never heard of the survivors of a deceased examining an
undertaker's patterns. And yet, a house which consumes forty tons of cast
iron per annum for coffin handles, stated to the gentleman to whose letters
we are indebted for this information, "Our travellers find it useless to show
themselves with their pattern books at an undertaker's, unless they have
something tasteful, new, and uncommon. The orders for Ireland are chiefly
for gilt furniture for coffins. The Scotch, also, are fond of gilt, and so
are the people in the west of England. But the taste of the English is
decidedly for black. The Welsh like a mixture of black and white. Coffin
lace is formed of very light stamped metal, and is made of almost as many
patterns as the ribbons of Coventry. All our designs are registered, as
there is a constant piracy going on, which it is necessary to check."

Dies are cut in soft metal and then hardened.

Die-sinking is one of the arts so interesting in all its branches, from the
first design to the finished coin or ornament, that every intelligent
traveller should endeavour to see it.

* * * * *

PLATERS, GILDERS, AND ELECTRO-PLATERS.--Large fortunes have been made in
Birmingham by plating copper, "in the good old times;" but Sheffield was,
until within the last ten years, the principal seat of the manufacture.
Sheffield plate was a very superior article, and for years would look and
stand wear like silver. Plating was effected by laying a thin film of silver
on a sheet of copper, which was afterwards shaped into tea or coffee
services, forks, spoons, candlesticks, trays, tea urns, and other articles
for house use. It was also applied to harness, saddlery, and every thing
formerly made of silver alone. A great impetus was given to this trade by
our intercourse with the continent at the close of the war, which sent steel
pronged forks out of fashion. The first inroad upon the plates on copper was
made by the invention of white metal, called German silver. The next was the
discovery of the art of plating by galvanic instead of mechanical agency, now
known as electro-plating. The result of the application of electric power to
plating, however, has been to transfer a large share of the Sheffield plate
business to Birmingham. It is a curious fact that a veterinary surgeon (of
the name of Askew) invented the first German silver manufactured in England,
and that a Dr. Wright, of the same town, discovered the practicability of
electro-plating about the same time that several other persons had discovered
that metal could be deposited by a galvanic current, but had not thought of
applying it practically to manufactures.

The old system of plating is still carried on both in Sheffield and in
Birmingham; improvements have been introduced by the employment of a white
metal instead of copper as the foundation, and by grafting on, as it were,
silver tips to forks and silver edges to prominent ornaments; but the balance
of advantage in economy and facility are so greatly in favour of the electro-
plating process, that, no doubt, when the patents under which it is now
worked expire, its use will become universal.

Since the first patent was published, important improvements have been made
in France, Germany, and America, which the original patentees have
incorporated. Copperplates cast from wood cuts and stereotypes can be
reproduced with great facility and economy, and the exact touches of an
artist in clay or wax can be reproduced in metal without the translation of
casting. Nothing is too small or too large,--the colossal statue of an Amazon
on horseback spearing a lioness, by Kiss, the Berlin sculptor, exhibiting in
the Hyde Park Exhibition of 1851, was copied in zinc and bronzed by this
process; and, by the same means, flowers, feathers, and even spiders' webs
have been covered with a metal film.

At present, a handsome electro-plated teapot, exactly resembling silver, may
be purchased at what a Britannia metal one cost fifteen years ago.

Messrs. Elkington and Mason, the purchasers of the secret from the original
discoverer and authors of valuable improvements, are at the head of one of
the finest and most interesting silver and electroplating establishments in
the kingdom.

In commencing this new manufacture, the commercial difficulties they had to
overcome, in addition to those of a practical and mechanical nature, were
very formidable.

The Messrs. Elkingtons originally intended to confine themselves to plating
for the trade. But the prejudice against the new process was so great, that
the manufacturers of the needful articles could not be induced to try it.
Messrs. Elkington were, therefore, very unwillingly, compelled to invest a
capital in becoming manufacturers of plated forks, spoons, cruets,
candlesticks, tea services, and all the et ceteras of imitation silver. The
additional venture did not serve their purpose. The retail dealers, equally
prejudiced, refused or neglected to push off the new plate. More anxiety and
more expenditure of capital followed, for the patentees were obliged to
establish retail establishments in several cities in this country, America,
and our Colonies. The struggle ended in complete success; the use of electro
plate has become universal, and the manufacture is not confined to Messrs.
Elkington, but is carried on, under licence from the Patentees, by a vast
number of firms. The result, however, has been, as already stated, to
transfer a good deal of the plated trade of Sheffield to Birmingham, for the
former town has slowly and unwillingly adopted the new method, which has
deprived its manufacturers of their ancient pre-eminence. Electro-plating
has not, as was imagined on its first discovery, lessened the demand for
manual labour in the plate trade; on the contrary, it has largely increased
it, while extending the sale of a superior, and superseding an inferior,
class of goods.

Although for all ordinary articles, such as forks, spoons, teapots, etc.,
there are, no doubt, many manufacturers in Birmingham quite equal to Messrs.
Elkingtons, their manufactory is especially worth visiting; because, in the
first place, the whole manufactory is open, and conveniently arranged for the
inspection of visitors; and, in the next place, the firm pay great attention
to the artistic merit of their more expensive work. They spare no expense to

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