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  • 1851
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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 block.

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 place.

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 talents.

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 enterprise.

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 Wolverton.

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 creditors.”

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 corporation.

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 presently.

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 London.


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 imagined.

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 plastiques.

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 sonnet.

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.

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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 scholars.

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 Blind.

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. {81}

* * * * *

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 seeing.

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.”

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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 Continent.

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 mountings.

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 percentage.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 market.

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 board.

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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 toys.

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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- stoppers.

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 exportation.

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.

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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.

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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 buckle.

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.

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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 excellence.

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.

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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.

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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