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  • 1851
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obtain copies from the best antique models, and original designs from living artists, beside keeping up a staff of draughtsmen and modellers.

In the manufactory may be seen the whole history of a plated dinner service, from the pickle fork to the epergne, or vase, which crowns the centre of the table at a grand banquet.

In one room men are at work in cutting out forks and spoons from flat sheets of white metal, which is afterwards shaped, ornamented, engraved, and then, if to be covered with silver, subjected to the action of a current of electricity, produced by an immense pair of magnets–if to be coated with gold, to the action of galvanic batteries; this process requires explanation which must be sought in works, like Mr. Alfred Smee’s, especially devoted to the subject. Then comes the burnishing, by the action of leather-covered wheels and wire brushes, in steam-driven motion, and then the burnishing by hand, which is chiefly performed by young girls and women. And an agreeable and profitable occupation it seems to be.

The manufacture of such articles as teapots is equally interesting. In the process of joining such parts as the handle and spout by hard solder, that is to say, solder as difficult to melt as the main body of the object, one of the most valuable inventions for chemical processes, the blow-pipe, is employed with the aid of two other great scientific aids of modern times. The flame of the blow-pipe is made by a stream of gas, and driven, instead of by a man’s breath, by a steam blast, so that the mechanic has a power and a facility of manipulation which would be unattainable under the old system of working with a lamp and puffed out cheeks. There is great matter for reflection in the sight of the hundreds of ingenious industrious workmen and workwomen under one roof, employed mainly through the agency of three powers, which, if not discovered, were utilised in the last years of the eighteenth, and early years of the nineteenth century–Steam, Gas and Electricity.

In one series of the workshops of this same establishment, a considerable manufacture of genuine silver plate is carried on, and it is curious to find mechanics engaged in hammering out or chasing plate, using exactly the same tool that was employed in the fifteenth century, or perhaps in Roman times. No improvement has, or, as it would appear, can be, effected; all superiority now, as then, depending on the workmen.

A great deal of ornamental work, of a stereotype character, is done by stamping instead of chasing. The steel dies for this purpose form a very costly stock in trade. A single pair of dies for a sacramental cup will sometimes cost 150 pounds.

Among the modern improvements, we must not fail to note the patent seamless teapots of Britannia metal, and white metal, electrotyped–capital things for bachelors, the spouts are not likely to melt off on the hob.

The show rooms of this establishment contain, in addition to the ordinary contents of a silversmith’s shop, a number of exquisite copies in gold, silver, and bronze electro-plate of cups and vases of Greek and Etruscan execution, and of chased work by Benvenuto Cellini, and other master goldsmiths of the fifteenth century.

The Messrs. Elkington have doubled their trade since the Birmingham Exhibition in 1848, and there is reason to believe that, instead of displacing labour as was anticipated, this invention has increased the number and the wages of the parties employed.

* * * * *

The Britannia Metal manufacture is closely allied to the plate trade; an ingenious improvement, well worth examination, has recently been introduced by Messrs. Sturgis of Broad Street, by which teapots are cast whole, instead of having the spouts and handles soldered on.

* * * * *

The Gilt Toy and Mock Jewellery Trade, once one of the staple employments of Birmingham artizans, has dwindled away until it now occupies a very insignificant place in the Directory. Bad cheap articles, with neglect of novelty and taste in design, ruined it. In cheap rubbish foreigners can always beat us, but the Birmingham gilt toy men made things “to sell” until no one would buy.

* * * * *

FOX AND HENDERSON’S MANUFACTORY.–The London works conducted by Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co., who have become known to all the world by their rapid and successful erection of the Crystal Palace, are situated at Smethwick, about four miles from Birmingham on the Dudley Road. They were established after the commencement of the London and Birmingham Railway, for the manufacture of iron and machinery required in the construction of railways.

The shops, which are of large dimensions, are built in a quadrangle, enclosing a large area or open space, which is employed as a yard for material or finished goods as may be accidentally required. The first place into which the stranger is shown is called the Truck shop, and will accommodate three hundred carriage builders and carpenters. Adjoining it is the Boiler Makers’ shop, or, more properly, a shop for workers in plate-iron, for boilers are not made in the establishment, but iron doors, navy casks, and wrought iron railway carriages are produced in this department. These shops form one side of the quadrangle.

The forges, which are very numerous, occupy the first department of another side of the range of buildings. The forges, as is now usual, are supplied with air by the motion of a fan worked by the engine, and by the side of them many strong and stalwart arms are wielded with as much skill and ingenuity as distinguished some of the smiths of the middle ages. The Mechanical Engineering shops join the forges, and in them will be found many of those beautiful self-acting tools for which this age is so remarkable. There are drilling, planing, screwing, and slotting machines of various designs and adapted to different purposes, as well as numerous expensive and very perfect lathes. Here the switches used for conducting trains from one line to another are made, as well as all kinds of machine work. Connected with this is the Turntable shop, which is, to a stranger, as interesting as any part of the establishment, from the magnitude of the machinery and the ease with which gigantic masses of iron are carried about by the traveller to and from the planing and other machines. The Wheel shop, which is next visited, is chiefly used for the manufacture of railway carriage wheels, of which, as must be well known, there are many varieties. The Foundry and Anchor manufactory must not be omitted in an enumeration of the departments.

The other two sides of the quadrangle are occupied by saw-pits, painters’ shops, stores, offices, and all the conveniences required for carrying on a business which frequently gives employment to eleven or twelve hundred men.

The reputation of Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Co., has been long established among engineers for the construction of railway bridges, iron roofs, and works of a similar kind; but it has been made European, if not universal, by the rapidity and skill with which they have constructed the Industrial Exhibition.

Strangers, if introduced, are permitted to see the works.

Besides the manufactures we have enumerated and described, there are many others of more or less importance; and new inventions and the spur of enterprise are creating new manufactures in Birmingham every day.

There are manufacturers of steam-engines and other machinery, of stoves, grates, and other iron foundry. One firm (Messrs. Hardman Iliffe) employs a great number of workmen in making every kind of church furniture, from the most approved mediaeval models and the designs of Mr. Pugin. Another executes stained-glass windows. Saddlery and harness, or parts of saddles and whips, employ a certain number of hands; and not only imitation but a good deal of real jewellery is made. There is one large and curious manufactory of gold chains.

In a word, there is no town in the world in which the execution of work, however new or complex, in metal, wood, horn, or ivory, can be so certainly effected as in Birmingham.

There are not many merchants in Birmingham, in the large sense of the term. The chief mercantile business is done by parties termed factors, who in effect are, if not actually, the agents of great merchants. These “factors” purchase what they need for their wholesale customers from the manufacturers. About 2,000 of the Birmingham manufacturers are what are termed garret- masters; they work themselves, and employ a few hands. The “factor” buys as few as half-a-dozen tea-pots, or a hundred gross of pearl buttons, from these little men, until he makes up his number. His business partakes more of the character of retail than wholesale, and the grinding–technically slaughtering–system of the factors of Birmingham has an unfavourable Yankeefying effect on their character.

The principal mercantile houses are in direct communication with American houses, if not actual partners or agents. A panic in New York finds an immediate echo in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, just as a fall or rise of cotton in New Orleans is immediately felt in Lancashire.

It is worth observing, that in some instances great transactions are carried on with wonderfully little show in Birmingham, and no state. We could not give a better instance of the difficulty of “judging by appearances” than in the following sketch from nature.

There is a broad street of tall mean houses, which, except at the workmen’s dinner hour, seems always empty.

In this street is a large house of a dirty, faded appearance; the cobwebbed windows blocked up; the door with a broken knocker and a sad want of paint. It is evidently the ci-devant residence of a Birmingham manufacturer of the old school, before the suburbs of Edgbaston and Handsworth sprang up, now turned into a warehouse or receptacle for lumber. As to apply to the front door would be useless, you turn up a dark passage at the side, and reach another dingy door, which gives way with a rattle at your touch, and closes with a rattle and a bang; passing through you ascend a flight of creaking deal stairs, and reach a suite of low rooms, about as imposing in appearance as a deserted printing-office. A few juvenile clerks–the very converse of the snug merchants’ clerks of the City of London–are distributed about. A stranger would not give 50 pounds for the furniture, capital, and credit, of the whole concern.

And yet, in this strange place, is conducted a trade of many tens of thousands per annum, with branches in all the principal towns of Germany, Spain, Portugal, South America, and British India!

A rapid idea of the Birmingham hardware trade may be obtained from the extensive show-rooms of Messrs. Herbert, in the Bull-ring.

If we have failed to do justice to any branch of manufacture, we have a very sufficient excuse in the difficulty we experienced in obtaining access to manufactories, or even information as to what was worth examination.


After detailing at such length the material advantages of this interesting and important community, we should not be doing right if we did not present the reverse of the medal in certain drawbacks and deficiencies which seriously interfere with the prosperity and progress of “the hardware village.”

The Birmingham public are so often in the habit of hearing from their favourite orators that they are the most intelligent, moral, and intellectual people in the world,–that their town is the healthiest, and their opinions the soundest, of any community in England, that it is not extraordinary if they overlook blots which are plain enough to a stranger. Perhaps they are quite right; perhaps they are more honest, more sensible, more sound politicians, than any other British community. Perhaps, too, they are cleaner, more sober, and better educated than the towns of A, B, and C; but, without entering into comparisons, which, in such cases, are of no practical benefit, we shall proceed to show that, with all their excellent industrious, intelligent, and ingenious qualities, the people of Birmingham are much more dirty, drunken, and uneducated than they ought to be, considering that the town is in a very healthy situation; that the mass of the population is engaged in skilled employments, and that patriots, bearded and unbearded, are plentiful, who seem to have a great deal of influence, for good or evil.

First, then, as to drunkenness, the great parent of British poverty and crime–drunkenness, which is a greater tax upon us than the National Debt; let us see what share that has in the grievances of Birmingham.

It appears that in 1850 there were, including hotels, taverns, gin-shops, and beer-shops, altogether 1293 establishments for the supply of intoxicating liquors. The total number of houses in the borough being 43,000, it results that in every 33 houses one is a wine, beer, or spirit shop. That as the number of bakers’ and chandlers’ shops is only 871, there are 422 more shops engaged in selling drink than in selling bread, and if only four persons be supposed to be supported by selling liquors, that will be more than twice as many as are engaged in the gun trade, viz., 2400. Or to put the calculation in another form, if we allow the sum of 50 pounds per annum as the wages of the five thousand persons who live by the sale of intoxicating drinks, it will be found that the people of Birmingham must expend at least a quarter of a million on wine, beer, and spirits.

That too much is so expended is proved by the police returns, which show that out of 3400 persons taken into custody in 1849, nearly half the offences arose from intoxication.

In other respects, considering the population, the crime of Birmingham is rather below than above average. It cannot be said that it is either a brutal or dishonest, but it is essentially a drunken town. The causes of the prevalence of this degrading vice are several, and may be traced out very clearly.

Metal work is hard and thirsty work, but it may be doubted whether what is really drunk while at work, or immediately after work, does harm. But it has long been, and still is, the habit of the mechanics in a number of trades, to make a holiday of Monday; it has even a local name–it is called Shackling day, “Shackling” being a term which can be perfectly translated by the French verb, flaner. A Shackler must drink, if not smoke.

The more plentiful and pressing the work is, the more determined are the men engaged to make Saint Monday, and very often Tuesday and Wednesday also.

The time so lost when trade is at high water, and the losses imposed on the manufacturer by the consequent non-fulfilment of contracts, eventually form a second drawback on the earnings of the workman, in addition to the day’s wages lost, and the days’ wages spent on “shackling days.”

Secondly, it has been proved that a large percentage of the married women engaged in work factories are compelled so to work to support their families in consequence of the improvidence of their husbands.

Thirdly, in the same way children, from a very early age,–seven years, and even younger,–work in order to support their improvident parents.

Women engaged in work all day cannot keep comfortable houses for their husbands. An uncomfortable home drives a husband, no matter of what rank, to the tavern or the club.

The custom of sending children to work from the time they can earn sixpence a-week, renders education impossible. In the evenings they are only fit to sleep: on Sundays, in fine weather, the majority very naturally prefer walking in the fields to the dry task of acquiring knowledge, the value of which they are not sufficiently educated to appreciate.

The effect of the want of education and the habit of idle Mondays on the male population is sufficiently lamentable. A man who can neither read nor write, in addition to the abstract pleasure Saxons have in drinking, finds an occupation and a substitute for ideas in a pot and pipe. The effect on the female population is even more baneful. They are so fully occupied that they have neither time to write, nor to cook, to read nor to sew, and they become wives and mothers with no better qualification for their important duties than girls educated in a fashionable school, without being able to obtain the assistance of servants and governesses.

Wives engaged in factories are obliged to leave their children to the care of strangers or elder children, themselves scarcely above the age of children.

One consequence is, that according to the report of a committee of physicians and surgeons in 1840: “The ratio of infant mortality in Birmingham is very considerable, greatly exceeding that of the metropolis, and of the agricultural districts, though not as high as in some provincial towns.” “Severe burns and scalds, particularly the former, are so numerous, that in the general hospital two rooms are devoted for their reception.”

We have not been able to obtain any precise statistics of education among the operative classes; but we find that among criminals upwards of ninety per cent. are either totally or very imperfectly educated, and that of 15,000 young persons between the age of ten and fifteen engaged in manufacture, not more than 1,000 have an opportunity of education, except from Sunday schools.

In Sunday schools the instruction is confined to reading the scriptures and religious books, except in the schools attached to the meeting-houses of the Society of Friends and the Unitarians, the conductors of which have had the good sense to accommodate their plans to the peculiar wants of a manufacturing district.

No general movement seems to have been attempted to correct this crying evil of infant employment and neglected education, none of the patriots, bearded or shaven, have ventured to exert their strong lungs in so unpopular a cause: it is so much easier to stand on your own dunghill and abuse the lord of the manor than to put on an apron and a cap, mix up the lime and water, and whitewash your own cottage. But several manufacturers have honourably distinguished themselves by beginning the work of reformation at home.

Mr. Gillet, the pen manufacturer, whose work is principally done by females, admits no girls into his shops under thirteen; he makes ability to read indispensable, and gives a preference in obtaining employment to those who can write; and requires a certificate of regular attendance from a Sunday school teacher.

Mr. Winfield, who employs nearly five hundred hands, of whom few are women, established an evening school in 1844, at a charge of a penny a week, for his own work people, in which reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, and drawing, are taught, with occasional lectures on the principles of mechanics, natural philosophy, and history. A small library is attached to the school.

“When the school was first established, it was remarked that scarcely a boy knew his companion except by a nickname, and that fights on entering and leaving school were of common occurrence. At present the practice of nicknames has disappeared, and a fight does not take place once in three months.

“The proceedings of the evening commenced with a hymn. An orphan boy, fourteen years of age, a self-taught musician, placed himself before a small organ, provided by Mr. Winfield, and played the evening hymn. All the boys accompanied him with their voices, and sang very creditably; after this they were formed into their usual classes.

“The school labours under great disadvantages; the hours of attendance are not sufficiently long; even these few hours are infringed on when trade is brisk, and the men, working over-hours, require the boys to assist them; and from physical exhaustion of the boys after the labour of the day, they sometimes fall asleep over their books.

“A hymn is sung, a prayer said, and the bible read without comment, no catechism or doctrinal point is introduced. The school includes the sons of people of the Church of England, Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and Unitarians.”

Messrs. Peyton & Barlow, metal-bedstead makers, Mr. Bacchus, glass-maker, Mr. Middlemore, currier, and Messrs. Chance, glassmakers, have also established schools for the parties in their employ.

Mr. William Chance is an earnest philanthropist; he has established a ragged school, at his own expense, in Birmingham, open to all, and at his works in Spon Lane, West Bromwich, one school for his workmen alone, and another open to the neighbourhood.

The first school, in Spon Lane, is divided into three departments, for infants, for girls, and for boys. A weekly charge of 3d. is made, for which books and stationery are provided; punctual attendance and cleanliness are conditions insisted upon. The number of scholars, of whom one-third are from Messrs. Chance’s works, has steadily increased from the time of opening. The boys are instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, and the elements of drawing. The girls are taught plain needlework instead of drawing. No catechism is taught, but the bible is read without comment. One- half are the children of parents in communion with the Church of England, and the other half of Dissenters. In 1850 it contained 190 boys, 80 girls, and 150 infants.

It is difficult to rate too highly the advantage the operative classes obtain from the preliminary training afforded by infant schools. But infant schools are useless, if the education is to cease at seven years old.

The other school is strictly confined to the boys and men employed in the glass works. It opened July, 1850, with 110 scholars, all boys from twelve years of age, before which none are admitted into the manufactory. By degrees the men, at first deterred by shame, began to attend, and at present a considerable number avail themselves of the advantage for commencing or extending the imperfect education they had obtained at Sunday Schools.

These schools are not self-supporting, but are found, even in a commercial point of view, to repay the philanthropic firm by whom they have been founded and supported.

The Birmingham Free and Industrial School, founded in 1847 by the energetic exertions of the Hon. and Rev. Grantham Yorke, Rector of St. Philip, includes a day school for boys and girls above seven years of age; two industrial classes; and an asylum for deserted and orphans. The scholars are not of the class to which we are specially calling attention. We shall, therefore, content ourselves with mentioning the existence of such a School for the refuse population of this large town.

The deficient education of the working classes, consequent on unregulated infant labour, would alone be sufficient to account for the prevalence of the idle custom of losing at least one day every week in busy times, and the drinking habits, which are a blot upon a population of superior intelligence. But a still more demoralizing influence exists in the state of the dwellings of the working classes in Birmingham, which, although at first sight very attractive in appearance, forming neat courts of cottages, compared with the crowded lodging-houses of many manufacturing towns, are, nevertheless, lamentably deficient in two essentials for health and decency, viz., efficient drainage, and a sufficient supply of wholesome water.

In two thousand courts, inhabited by fifty thousand people, the supply of water is either obtained at great loss of time from wells, often dirty, sometimes fetid, or purchased at an extravagant rate from itinerant water- carriers.

A Private Water Company exists, but has scarcely been called upon at all to supply the houses of the working classes. Under these circumstances, with a clean external appearance, the filth in which fifty thousand people live seems to be only understood by the local Medical Inspectors, whose reports have hitherto produced so little effect, it is not extraordinary that after long hours of toil, the inhabitants fly to the bright saloons of gin shops, and the snug tap-rooms of beer shops.

We have dwelt thus at length upon the moral, and educational, and sanitary shortcomings of a town which can, no doubt, draw comparisons, very much to its own advantage, with other manufacturing district towns, because Birmingham is in a position to set an example, to lead the way in an all- important reform without consulting the opinions of the Ministers or the Parliament of the day. Birmingham may, if it pleases, go far toward affording every working man the means of drinking and washing in an ample supply of clean water, of living in a well-drained cottage, and of sending his children to school for two hours every day, without waiting for the decision of Parliament upon all the crotchets of the Chartists, or plans of the Financial Reform Association.

Pity it is that none of the well-applauded Brummagem patriots have pluck enough to battle a little unpopularity in so honest a cause. But clap-trap costs less trouble than work, and gets more cheers.

It is the misfortune of Birmingham to be sacrificed to the disagreements of two rival factions, one calling itself Conservative, and the other Radical, both filling the pockets and doing the work of lawyers at the expense of the ratepayers.

Nothing can be done until the municipal Corporation obtains the powers now vested in several sets of virtually irresponsible Commissioners. When these wars of the Pots and Kettles are ended, the ratepayers will be able to turn their undivided attention to local reforms without having their minds distracted by those little legal squabbles, under cover of which business is neglected, and pockets are picked. It is to be hoped that the session of 1851 will settle this point.

The whole kingdom is interested in the good government and prosperity of its greatest inland town. {113}


Before leaving Birmingham, it will be convenient to say something about Warwick, Leamington, Kenilworth, and Stratford on Avon, of which the one is the assize town, another the watering place, and the third and fourth the antiquarian or rather romantic lions of the county in which Birmingham stands first, for wealth, population, manufacturing, and political importance. Warwick, in spite of its parliamentary, municipal, and assize honours, would soon be as much forgotten as a hundred other dull little country towns, without local trade or local attractions, if it were not for the castle, the church, and the river, which, in connection with striking epochs in England’s history, will ever render it a favourite pilgrimage.

After being destroyed by the Danes, Warwick was restored by Ethelfreda, the daughter of Alfred the Great, who built a fort there, A.D. 913. At Domesday Survey it was a borough, and contained 261 houses, of which 126 belonged to the king. Members were sent to Parliament in the time of Edward I., when also the paving of the town and the erection of a wall round it were commenced. In the time of Philip and Mary, the first charter of incorporation was granted.

The town stands on the west side of the river Avon,–Shakspeare’s Avon, from which it is separated by Warwick Castle and grounds. It was formerly a little county metropolis, many of the families of rank and fortune had winter residences there; the Warwick balls were frequented by a select and exclusive set; a small theatre was well supported, and few races assembled more distinguished company than used to throng the Warwick course once a year, in family coaches and four-in-hands. All this grandeur has departed, Leamington has absorbed the wealth and fashion of Warwick, the town mansions have fallen into plebeian hands, the theatre has ceased to be a training school for the London boards, the streets are silent except when a little temporary bustle is produced by an influx of Birmingham attorneys, their clients, and witnesses, at the assizes, of stout agriculturists and holiday labourers on “fair days,” or the annual “mop,” when an ox is roasted whole, and lads and lasses of rosy rural breed range themselves along the pavement to be hired, or at the races twice a year, when, although the four horses with postilions and outriders are seldom seen, railroads from a distance, and Leamington from close at hand, pour a variegated stream of sightseers and gamblers on one of the prettiest pieces of ground in England.

Warwick has no manufactures, but, being a borough very evenly balanced between the two contending political parties, its inhabitants have enjoyed a fuller share of the favours of Government than has fallen to the lot of towns of more commercial importance.

Warwick stands on solid rock, in which the cellars are excavated; and this circumstance, added to its position on the top of a hill, renders it particularly dry and clean.

There are several excellent inns, supported by the surrounding’ farmers, which are much to be preferred to more fashionable hotels. The roast geese to be found at the farmers’ ordinaries on market days about Michaelmas time, are worthy of commendation; and the farmers themselves, being of a jovial and hospitable turn of mind, render these dinners pleasanter to a stranger who can dine at an unfashionable hour, than the eternal “anything you please, sir; steak or chop, sir,” in a solitary box, which haunts us for our sins in the coffee-rooms of English hotels.

Warwick deserves a long journey, if it were only for the sake of the fine woodland scenery which surrounds it for ten miles, but the castle is the especial object of attraction,–a castle which realizes almost more than any other those romantic ideas of a feudal abode which were first put into circulation by the “Castle of Otranto,” and became part of the education of our youth under the influence of the genius of Sir Walter Scott.

The castle rises upon the brink of the river, which foams past over the weir of an ancient mill, where once the inhabitants of the borough were bound by feudal service to grind all their corn. The best approach is from the Leamington Lower Road, over a bridge of one arch, built by a late Earl of Warwick. Caesar’s and Guy’s towers rise into sight from a surrounding grove. The entrance is through an arched gateway, past a lodge, where the relics of Earl Guy, the dun cow slayer, are preserved; and a winding avenue cut in solid rock effects a sort of surprise, which, as the castle comes again suddenly into view, is very pleasing. The exterior realizes a baronial abode of the fourteenth or fifteenth century; the interior has been modernized sufficiently to be made comfortable, still retaining many striking features of its ancient state. A closely cropped green sward covers the quadrangle, which was formerly the tilting ground.

The date of Caesar’s tower, the oldest part of the building, is uncertain. Guy’s tower, of the latter part of the fourteenth century, is in fine preservation.

The great entrance hall, a grand old room sixty-two feet by thirty-seven, is adorned with armour and other appurtenances to feudal state. At a great fire-place with fire dogs, room might be found for a cartload of faggots. A suite of rooms, commanding views of delightful scenery, are adorned with ancient tapestry, armour, and pictures by Rubens, Vandyke, Velasquez, and other eminent painters. Among the portraits are Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, Prince Rupert, and Charles I. on horseback, by Vandyke.

Hours may be profitably and agreeably spent in investigating the treasures of Warwick Castle. The grounds, although not extensive, are picturesquely arranged; in one of the greenhouses, the Warwick vase, an antique celebrated for its size and beauty, will be found. The numerous copies in various materials, but especially in metals, cast in Birmingham, have rendered the form of this relic of classic art well known.

After the Castle, St. Mary’s Church must be visited for its beautiful chapel with altar tomb, on which lies prostrate in humble prayer the effigy of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, styled “the Good.” This Beauchamp was Regent of France in 1425, during the absence of the Duke of Bedford, and carried on the war there with signal success. He was afterwards governor of the infant king, Henry VI. While a second time ruling over France, he died at Rouen on the 30th April, 1439. It was the daughter of the Good Earl who married Richard Nevil, created, on succeeding to the Warwick estates through his wife, Earl of Warwick, known as “the king maker;” a grand character in Shakspeare’s Henry VI., and the hero of Sir Bulwer Lytton’s “Last of the Barons.”

Then there is Leicester Hospital, founded in the time of Richard II., as two guilds, in honour of the Virgin and St. George the Martyr, which, after the Reformation, was re-established under its present name by Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as an almshouse for a master and twelve brethren, “being impotent or infirm men.” These last have been, in consequence of the improved value of the trust-funds, increased to twenty, and receive each an allowance of 80 pounds per annum: the master has 400 pounds. The buildings of this charity consist of a quadrangle, formed by the brethren’s lodgings and public kitchen, of a chapel of ancient architecture over the west gate of the town, and an ancient hall.

Previous to the Reform Bill, the influence of the Warwick family returned two members for the borough of Warwick: since that period they have as yet only returned one; but, in the absence of the countervailing influence of any manufactures, it seems likely that a popular Earl, of whatever politics, would be able to resume the ancient influence of the house, and again return two.

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LEAMINGTON, about two miles distant, may be reached by two turnpike roads and a pleasant footpath; the distance of all being about two miles.

Mineral waters, fashion, a clever physician, the Warwickshire hounds, the surplus capital of Birmingham, speculative builders, and excellent sanitary regulations have contributed to the rapid rise of this picturesque and fashionable watering-place; in what proportions it would be difficult to say.

The waters, which resemble mild Epsom salts, first brought the village into notice in 1794, although the existence of mineral springs at Leamington Priory had been recorded by Camden and Dugdale. In 1794 people drank harder than they do now, read less, played cards more, were altogether “faster,” and had more need of purifying waters and pump-room amusements. A long war shut out our idlers from the Continent, and created an additional demand for our native mineral produce. At a later period the talents of Dr. Jephson attracted an army of invalids and would-be invalids; Sir Walter Scott’s novels brought Kenilworth and Warwick Castle into fashion, just as Garrick, like a second Peter the Hermit, preached up a pilgrimage to Stratford-on- Avon. So land-jobbers and builders rushed to prepare tempting abodes for the armies of the sick, the sporting, and the romantic, who gathered round the springs.

Although the beautiful stone which has made Bath the queen of watering- places, was not to be had, the materials for Roman cement, then lately invented, were plentiful. With these aids the town authorities had the good sense to enforce cleanliness, and all manner of rules for making the streets fit for the lounging promenades of the well-dressed. Water-carts and brooms were kept in active employment; beggars and dust-heaps were under the eye of a vigilant police.

The result was, that at the expense of many ruined builders and speculators, Leamington grew from a pretty village into a fine town, peopled not only by invalids in the water-drinking season, and sportsmen in the winter season, but by a number of permanent residents of independent fortune, of all ranks between retired manufacturers and Irish peers. Attached to the manufacturing districts, it has become what Brighton is to the London Stock Exchange.

As hunting quarters, Leamington is convenient for men with few horses, as the meets are near and the railways convenient. An ill-natured opinion prevails that the scarlet coat is more worn there by fortune-hunters than fox-hunters, and that the tailor is a person of more importance with the majority of the field than the huntsman; but this story probably originates in the number of carriages full of pretty faces to be found at the cover sides round Leamington. The country cannot be compared with Northamptonshire or Leicestershire, or even Oxfordshire. The farmers are better sportsmen than agriculturists. Warwickshire landlords think more of the politics of their tenants, than of their intelligence or capital. Great improvements have, however, been effected within the last ten years, and we must not forget to mention that the Birmingham Agricultural and Poultry Show, which is the finest local exhibition in the kingdom, draws a great many of its exhibitors from this county.

Leamington, long without direct railway communication, is now wrapped up between the broad-gauge and the narrow-gauge, like a hare in a bottle-spit. The opening of the line to Rugby affords a new short way to London. The population will henceforward increase at the expense of its gentility, but the police and sanitary arrangements before alluded to, will always make Leamington a favourite with invalids, hypochondriacs, and flaneurs.

The multiplicity of these railroads compels us to abandon the plan of describing, as we pass, the more celebrated towns, mansions, or castles, because it would be impossible to follow out such a zig-zag of topography. It is better to take it for granted that the traveller will stop at certain places, and from them make excursions to everything worth seeing in the neighbourhood.

In this manner, as Birmingham gave occasion for an examination into the leading manufactures, we presume that Leamington will be the best central encampment for a survey of everything within a circle of ten miles interesting to the Antiquarian, the Historian, the Artist, the Poet, the Agriculturist, and the happy beings who have a taste for all these pursuits.

The number of interesting places within an easy walk or drive of Leamington, forms one of its great advantages as a watering place.

Either on foot or in a carriage (and Leamington is extremely well provided with carriages for hire), Warwick Castle, or Stratford-on-Avon, or Guy’s Cliff, and Kenilworth, or Stoneleigh Abbey, may be visited in the course of a day, or part of a day.

The detailed beauties of these places will be found fully set forth in county histories and local guides. A brief reference, sufficient to enable a traveller to make up a plan of campaign, will be all we shall attempt.

* * * * *

STONELEIGH ABBEY, the residence of Lord Leigh, is noticeable for its fine woodland scenery,–splendid oaks adorn the Park, and as having been the subject of a series of very extraordinary trials at the suit of claimants of the estate and ancient title. The true heirs of this estate have never been discovered; many claimants have successively appeared, and endeavoured to prop up their claims by extraordinary fabrications of evidence. For instance, a certain tombstone, bearing inscriptions of great importance, was not only described and sworn to by a cloud of witnesses, as having been at a certain year in Stoneleigh Church, but other witnesses, with equal circumstantiality, related how, on a particular occasion, this said tombstone was taken down and destroyed. And yet, it was clearly proved before the House of Lords that no such tombstone ever existed.

The present family are now secure in the estates under the Statute of Limitations, but the late Peer, up to a short period before the old title was revived in his favour, occupied Stoneleigh as a trustee, as it were, for want of a better claimant.

In the incidents of the Leigh Peerage, are the materials of half-a-dozen romances.

* * * * *

GUY’S CLIFF–where Guy, Earl of Warwick, and slayer of the Dun Cow, lived and died as a hermit, fed daily by his Countess, little knowing whom she fed–is situated on the banks of the Avon, about a mile from Warwick, on the high road to Kenilworth, and may also be approached by footpaths across the fields leading to the same village. The pictures of Guy’s Cliff have been extravagantly praised, but the natural and artificial beauties of its gardens and pleasure grounds constitute its chief attraction. For, says Dugdale, it is “a place of so great delight in respect to the river gliding below the rock, the dry wholesome situation, and the fair grove of lofty elms overshadowing it, that to one who desireth a retired life, either for his devotions or study, the like is hardly to be found.”

What Dugdale said two hundred years ago may truly be repeated now, especially in a warm autumn or summer evening, when the click of a water-mill adds sound to the pleasure to be derived from the thick shade of the lofty trees overhead, mossy turf under the feet, and the sight of flowing water. Henry V. visited this hermitage; and Shakspeare, on what authority we know not, is said to have frequented it.

* * * * *

KENILWORTH follows Guy’s Cliff, once a retired country village of one street, one church, and one inn, now vulgarized by being made the site of a railway station. At the risk of offending the Kenilworthians, we strongly advise the romantic youths and maidens inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s romance not to visit the ruins, which, although an excellent excuse and pleasant situation for a picnic, have nothing romantic about them beyond grey walls. The woods and waters which formed so important a part of the scenery during Queen Elizabeth’s visit, have disappeared, as well as all the stately buildings.

At the same time, imagination will go a long way, and it may not be a day ill spent after reading Laleham’s “Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth,” in which he describes what he himself saw when Queen Elizabeth visited the Earl of Leicester there in 1575, to journey over, especially if accompanied by a cold collation, including a salad of the Avon crawfish, and a little iced punch. It would be still better for good pedestrians to walk the distance by the fields and push on to the inn for refreshment, without which all tame scenery is so very flat. In the sublimity of the Alps, the Pyrenees, or even the great Highland hills, a man may forget his dinner; but, when within the verge of the horizon church-towers and smoking chimneys of farm-houses continually occur, visions of fat, brown, sucking pigs, rashers of ham and boiled fowls, with foaming tankards, will intrude unbidden after an hour or two of contemplation.

* * * * *

STRATFORD ON AVON, with SHOTTERY, where Ann Hathaway was courted by Shakspeare and CHARLECOTE, the residence of the Sir Thomas Lucy whom the poet immortalised as Justice Shallow, are all within ten miles of Leamington. On all these so much has been written that we will not venture to “pile up the agony” any higher. The best companion on the road to Stratford is Charles Knight’s Life of Shakspeare, which colours all the scenes of the poet’s life in Warwickshire with the atmosphere of the sixteenth century, and summons to meet us in the streets of Stratford costumes and characters contemporary with Falstaff, Shallow, and Dogberry so well, that we do not see the Clods in corduroys, the commercial Gents in paletots, and the Police in trim blue, whom we really meet.

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On leaving Birmingham, the railway almost immediately passes from Warwickshire into Staffordshire, through two parishes, Handsworth and Aston, which, presenting nothing picturesque in natural scenery or remarkable in ancient or modern buildings, with one exception, yet cannot be passed over without notice, because they were residences of three remarkable men, to whom we are largely indebted for our use of the inventions which have most contributed to the civilisation and advance of social comfort in the nineteenth century.

Two miles from old Birmingham, now part of the modern town, lies Soho, in the suburb of Handsworth, which, in 1762, was a bleak and barren heath.

In that year Matthew Boulton, the son of a wealthy Birmingham hardwareman, purchased Soho, and erected on it a mansion, with pleasure grounds, and a series of workshops, for carrying on the then staple trades of the town, in shoe buckles, buttons, and other articles included in the general title of “toys.” In 1774, Boulton entered into partnership with James Watt, and commenced, in concert with him, the experiments in which Watt had been for some years engaged for improving Savary’s imperfect Steam-Pumping Engine. After years of the concentrated labour of genius of the highest order, and the expenditure of not less than 47,000 pounds, their success was complete, and Watt’s inventions, in the words of Lord Jeffrey, rendered the Steam Engine “capable of being applied to the finest and most delicate manufactures, and its power so increased, as to set weight and solidity at defiance. By his admirable contrivances, it became a thing stupendous alike for its force and its applicability, for the prodigious power it can exert, and the ease and precision, and ductility with which that power can be varied, distributed, and applied. The trunk of an elephant that can pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to it. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses of obdurate metal like wax before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, and lift a ship of war like a bauble in the air. It can embroider muslin, and forge anchors, cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of the winds and waves.”

The march of death and time have removed all the men who were engaged in assisting James Watt and Matthew Boulton in their great works. The numerous mechanical trades in coining, plating, and other Birmingham manufactures, in addition to the construction of steam engines, which first turned the waste of Soho into the largest workshop in Europe, have passed into other hands, and been transplanted. The manufactory of steam engines, removed to another site, still exists under the name of the old firm; but within a very recent period the pleasure grounds in which James Watt often walked, in earnest converse with the partner to whose energetic and appreciative mind he owed so much, have been invaded by the advances of the neighbouring town, and sliced and divided into building lots. Aston Hall and Park must soon suffer the same fate.

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Very soon there will be no vestiges of the homes of these great men, but they need no monuments, no shrines for the reverence of admiring pilgrims. Every manufactory in the town of Birmingham is a monument of the genius which first fully expanded within the precincts of Soho. Thousands on thousands find bread from inventions there first perfected or suggested.

When Watt explained to Smeaton, the architect of Eddystone Lighthouse and the greatest engineer of the day, the plan of his steam engine, he doubted whether mechanics could be found capable of executing the different parts with sufficient precision; and, in fact, in 1769, when Watt produced, under the patronage of Dr. Roebuck, his third model, with a cylinder of block tin eighteen inches in diameter, there were only one or two men capable of giving the requisite truth of workmanship to air-pump cylinders of two inches in diameter. At the present day, as before observed in reference to Wolverton, there are thousands of skilled workmen employed at weekly wages, to whom the most difficult problems of Watt’s early experiments are familiar handiwork.

At Handsworth, too, working for a long life in the Soho manufactories as the servant, confidential assistant, and friend, lived another remarkable man, William Murdoch, the inventor of illumination by gas, and the author of the first locomotive steam engine, and of several important contributions to practical science, to which justice has scarcely been done.

William Murdoch employed coal gas so early as 1792, for the purpose of lighting his house and offices at Redruth, in Cornwall, when he was superintending the pumping engines erected there by Messrs. Boulton and Watt; for it was he who erected for them in that district the first Cornish pumping engine, with separate condenser. He had at that time in regular use a portable gas lantern, formed by filling a bladder with gas, and fixing to it a jet, which was attached to the bottom of a glass lantern, which he used for the purpose of lighting himself home at night across the moors from the mining engines.

His locomotive engine, made upon the non-condensing principle (since adopted in all engines for that purpose), was constructed, in consequence of a lameness which confined him to the sofa, and set to work at Redruth in 1784. It is still in existence in perfect working order, and was exhibited before a meeting of the Mechanical Engineers at Birmingham, in the year 1850, when a memoir of Mr. Murdoch was read, which has been kindly forwarded to us by the President, John M’Connell, Esq., C.E.

It is among the traditions of Redruth, that one night William Murdoch, wishing to try an experiment with his new invention, lighted the lamp under the boiler, and set it a-going on a narrow, smooth, hard-rolled gravel walk leading to the church, a mile distant. The little engine went off at a great pace, whistling and hissing as it went, and the inventor followed as fast as he could in chase. Soon he heard cries of alarm, horror, despair, and came up to the worthy clergyman of the parish cowering up against the hedge, almost in a fainting fit, under a strong impression that it was the Evil One in person who just hissed past him in a fire-flaught.

Those of this generation who remember their first encounter with a locomotive in a dark night, can realize the terror of a country clergyman on encountering so strange an apparition in a night walk.

It speaks as highly for Messrs. Boulton and Watt, in whose service he passed all the active years of his life, as for Mr. Murdoch, that on leaving Cornwall, he refused 1000 pounds a-year, which was offered him by the mining adventurers to remain in the county, in charge of the steam-pumping engines. Liberal as the offer seems, it would have paid them well, for on his departure the engines lost twenty-five per cent. of their working power.

Handsworth Church, near Soho, contains a marble statue of James Watt, by Chantrey, a copy of that erected in Westminster Abbey.

The railway passes Aston Hall, where James Watt and his only surviving son lived until his death a few years ago. The park contains some fine trees, and the house is a good specimen of the domestic architecture of the time of Elizabeth.

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It was sold for a trifling sum, with an imperfect title, which time has cured, to a speculating banker; and, after having been let to the late James Watt on a long lease, is now likely to exchange mansion and park for a congeries of cottages in rows, forming forty-shilling freeholders.

The passion which the mechanics of Birmingham have for investing in land has rendered land near that town dearer than in parallel situations near London.


The first diverging railway after leaving Handsworth, on the road to the north, is what, for want of a better name, is called the South Staffordshire, which connects Birmingham with Dudley, Walsall, Lichfield, and Tamworth, thus uniting the most purely agricultural with the most thoroughly manufacturing districts, and especially with that part of the great coal-field which is locally known as the “Black Country.” In this Black Country, including West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Dudley, and Darlaston, Bilston, Wolverhampton, and several minor villages, a perpetual twilight reigns during the day, and during the night fires on all sides light up the dark landscape with a fiery glow. The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome; the natural dead flat is often broken by huge hills of cinders and spoil from the mines; the few trees are stunted and blasted; no birds are to be seen, except a few smoky sparrows; and for miles on miles a black waste spreads around, where furnaces continually smoke, steam-engines thud and hiss, and long chains clank, while blind gin-horses walk their doleful round. From time to time you pass a cluster of deserted roofless cottages of dingiest brick, half-swallowed up in sinking pits or inclining to every point of the compass, while the timbers point up like the ribs of a half-decayed corpse. The majority of the natives of this Tartarian region are in full keeping with the scenery–savages, without the grace of savages, coarsely clad in filthy garments, with no change on week-days and Sundays, they converse in a language belarded with fearful and disgusting oaths, which can scarcely be recognized as the same as that of civilized England.

On working days few men are to be seen, they are in the pits or the ironworks, but women are met on the high-road clad in men’s once white linsey-woolsey coats and felt hats, driving and cursing strings of donkeys laden with coals or iron rods for the use of the nailers.

On certain rare holidays these people wash their faces, clothe themselves in decent garments, and, since the opening of the South Staffordshire Railway, take advantage of cheap excursion trains, go down to Birmingham to amuse themselves and make purchases. It would be a useful lesson for any one who is particularly well satisfied with the moral, educational, and religious state of his countrymen, to make a little journey through this Black Country. He will find that the amiable enthusiasts who meet every May at Exeter Hall to consider on the best means of converting certain aboriginal tribes in Africa, India, and the Islands of the Pacific, need not go so far to find human beings more barbarous and yet much more easily reclaimed.

The people of this district are engaged in coal-mining, in ironworks, in making nails, and many other articles, or parts of articles, for the Birmingham trade. Their wages are, for the most part, good; fuel is cheap; well supplied markets, and means of obtaining the best clothing are close at hand. But, within sixty years a vast dense population has been collected together in districts which were but thinly inhabited as long as the value lay on the surface, instead of in the bowels of the earth. The people gathered together and found neither churches, nor schools, nor laws, nor customs, nor means for cleanliness at first, nor even an effective police to keep order. And thus they became one of the most ignorant, brutal, depraved, drunken, unhealthy populations in the kingdom, unless it be a set of people in the same occupations in the neighbourhood of Manchester.

We shall never forget, some five-and-twenty years ago, passing near Bilston on a summer’s holiday, and seeing a great red, pied bull foaming, and roaring, and marching round a ring in which he was chained, while a crowd of men, each with a demoniacal-looking bulldog in his arms, and a number of ragged women, with their hair about their ears, some of them also carrying bull-dog pups, yelled about the baited bull. It gave us an awful fright, and haunted our childish dreams for years after.

The first change forced upon the governing classes, by feelings of self- protection was an organized police, and the “Black” people are now more disgusting than dangerous. The cholera of 1832, which decimated Bilston and Wednesbury, did something toward calling attention to the grievous social and sanitary wants of this district. In that pestilence several clergymen and medical men died, like heroes, in the discharge of their duties. Some churches were built, some schools established; but an immense work remains to be done. Bull-baiting has been put down, but no rational amusements have been substituted for that brutal and exciting sport.

In the northern coal fields, near Newcastle-on-Tyne especially, we have noticed that when the miner ascends from the pit in the evening, his first care is to wash himself from head to foot, and then to put on a clean suit of white flannel. As you pass along the one street of a pitman’s village, you will see the father reading a Chambers’ Journal or a cheap religious magazine at the door of his cottage while smoking a pipe, and nursing a child or two on his knee; and through the open door, a neat four-post bed and an oak or mahogany chest of drawers bear witness to his frugality.

In Wednesbury, Bilston, and all that district, when work is over you find the men drinking in their dirty clothes and with grimy faces at the beer-shop of the “Buttey,” that is to say, the contractor or middleman under whom they work, according to the system of the country, and the women hanging about the doors of their dingy dwellings, gossiping or quarreling,–the old furies and the young slatterns.

In the face of such savagery, so evidently the result of defective education, two opposite and extreme parties in the State, the anti-church Mialls and the pro-church Anthony Denisons, combine to oppose the multiplication of education that teaches decency if it teaches nothing else.

One great step has been made by the Health of Town’s Act, which is about to be applied to some of these coal towns; and railways have rendered the whole district so accessible that no foul spot can long remain unknown or unnoticed.

* * * * *

WALSALL, eight miles from Birmingham, the first town in our way, which may be reached directly by following the South Staffordshire, or by an omnibus, travelling half-a-mile from Bescot Bridge, lies among green fields, out of the bounds of the mining country, although upon the edge of the Warwickshire and Staffordshire coalfield,–indeed the parliamentary borough includes part of the rough population just described. It is very clean, without antiquities or picturesque beauties, and contains nothing to attract visitors except its manufactures, of which the best known is cheap saddlery for the American, West Indian, and Australian markets. They make the leather and wooden parts, as well as stirrups and bridles; also gunlocks, bits, spurs, spades, hinges, screws, files, edge tools, and there is one steel-pen manufactory, besides many articles connected with the Birmingham trade, either finished or unfinished, the number of which is constantly increasing. Walsall is celebrated for its pig-market, a celebrity which railroads have not destroyed, as was expected, but rather increased. Special arrangements for comfortably disembarking these, the most interesting strangers who visit Walsall, have been made at the railway station.

The principal church, with a handsome spire, stands upon a hill, and forms a landmark to the surrounding country. The ascent to it, by a number of steps, has, according to popular prejudice, produced an effect upon the legs of the inhabitants more strengthening than elegant, which has originated the provincial phrase of “Walsall-legged.” But this is, no doubt, a libel on the understandings of the independent borough.

The houses are chiefly built of brick, but it seems as if some years ago the inhabitants had been seized with an architectural disease, which has left its marks in the shape of an eruption of stucco porticoes, and one or two pretensious mansions, externally resembling jails or infirmaries, internally boasting halls which bear the same proportion to the living rooms as Falstaff’s gallon of sack to his halfpennyworth of bread. No doubt there are persons whom this style of house exactly suits, the portico represents their pride, the parlour their economy. What was intended for the Walsall public library consists of a thin closet behind a gigantic Ionic portico, now tottering to its fall; and in like manner a perfectly dungeon-like effect has been given to the principal hotel by another portico, which affords a much better idea of the charges than of the accommodation to be found within.

As a general rule in travelling, we pass by all hotels with porticoes to take refuge in more modest Green Dragons or Blue Boars.

Walsall has a municipal corporation of six aldermen and eighteen councillors. The Reform Bill, to increase the troubles of this innocent borough, placed it in schedule B, and gave it the privilege of making one M.P.

Fierce contests at every general election have been the result, in which some blood, much money, and more beer, have been expended. But neither party has thought it worth while to make the education of the savages of the Black Country a piece of politics, and, if any one did, he would only be torn to pieces between Church and Dissenters.

* * * * *

DUDLEY in Worcestershire, about six miles from Walsall by the South Staffordshire Railway, has a castle and more than one legend for the antiquarian, a cave, and limestone pits full of fossils for the geologist, and especial interest for the historical economist, being the centre of the district where the first successful attempts were made to smelt iron by coal,–a process which has contributed, almost as much as our success in textile manufactures, to give this small island a wealth and power which a merely agricultural non-exporting community could never have attained.

Iron was manufactured with charcoal in England from the time of the Romans till the middle of the eighteenth century, when the timber of many counties had been entirely exhausted by the process. In 1558, in the reign of Elizabeth, it was enacted that “no timber of the breadth of one foot square at the stub, and growing within fourteen miles of the sea, or any part of the river Thames or Severn, or any other river, creek, or stream, by the which carriage is commonly used by boat or other vessel, to any part of the sea, shall be converted to coal, or fuel for making iron;” {125a} and, in 1581, a further Act was passed to prevent the destruction of timber. “For remedy whereof it was enacted that no new iron works should be erected within twenty-two miles of London nor within fourteen miles of the river Thames, nor in the several parts of Sussex near the sea therein named. This Act not to extend to the woods of Christopher Durrell, in the parish of Newdigate, within the weald of Surrey, which woods have been coppiced by him for the use of his iron works in those parts.”

At the same period, we find from a letter in the Stradling Correspondence, {125b} that, while iron was made in Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, where not a pound is now manufactured, in Glamorganshire, at present a great seat of iron manufacture, iron was so scarce that an anvil was leased out at the rent of 3s. 4d. a year, {126} a rent at which, taking the then value of money, a very tolerable anvil could now be purchased.

When the woods of the kingdom began to be exhausted, attention was turned to pit coal, which had long been in use for fuel in the counties where it was plentifully found. A curious account of the first successful experiments is to be found, told in very quaint language, in the Metallum Martis of Dudley Dudley, son of Lord Edward Dudley (an ancestor of the late Earl Dudley and Ward, and of the present Lord Ward, who now enjoys the very estates referred to, and derives a princely income from the mineral treasures, the true value of which was discovered by his unfortunate ancestor), published in the reign of Charles II.

This Mr. Dudley was an early victim of the patent laws, which, to this day, have proved to be for the benefit of lawyers and officials, and the tantalization of true inventors and discoverers. The following extracts contain his story, and enable us to compare the present with the then state of iron manufacture:–

“Having former knowledge and delight in ironworks of my father’s when I was but a youth, afterwards, at twenty years old, was I fetched from Oxford, then of Baliol College, anno 1619, to look after and manage three ironworks of my father’s, one furnace and two forges in the chace of Pensnel, in Worcestershire; but wood and charcoal growing very scanty, and pit-coals in great quantities abounding near the furnace, did induce me to alter my furnace and to attempt by my new invention, the making of iron with pit-coal, and found at my trial or blast, facere est addere inventioni. After I had proved by a second blast and trial, the feasibility of making iron with pit- coal and sea-coal, I found by my new invention the quality good and profitable, but the quantity did not exceed above three tons a week.”

After this, the inventor obtained a patent from King James I., for thirty-one years in the nineteenth year of his reign. “But the year following the grant there was so great a flood of rain,–to this day called the great May-day flood,–that it ruined the author’s ironworks and inventions, and at a market town called Sturbridge, in comitatu Wigorniae, one resolute man was carried from the bridge in the day time.” “As soon as the author had repaired his works, he was commanded to send all sorts of bar iron up to the Tower of London, fit for making of muskets and carbines, {127} and the iron being so tried by artists and smiths, that the ironmasters and ironmongers who had complained that the author’s iron was not merchantable, were silenced until the twenty-first of King James.” “At the then parliament all monopolies were made null, and divers of the ironmeasters endeavoured to bring the invention of making iron with pit-coal within the compass of a monopoly; but the Lord Dudley and the author did prevail, yet the patent was limited to continue but fourteen years.”

This exception in the Statute of Monopolies, which incontestably proves the claim of the Dudley family to the honour of having invented the art of smelting iron with coal, runs in the following terms:–“Provided also that this Act shall not extend to, or be prejudicial to, a graunt or priviledge for the melting of iron ewer, and of maling the same into sea coals or pit coals, by His Majesties letters Patent under the Great Seale of England, made or graunted to Edward Lord Dudley.”

After the passing of the Act, it seems that Dudley Dudley made “great store of iron and sold it at 12 pounds a ton, and also cast-iron wares, as brewing cisterns, pots, mortars;” but, being ousted of his works, he again set up a furnace at “Himley, in the county of Stafford.” Himley Hall is the present residence of Lord Ward, the representative of the Dudley family. From that time forward, the life of the unfortunate inventor was but one series of misfortunes. Under Charles I. he got into law-suits, was the victim of riots set on by the charcoal ironmasters, and was eventually lodged in prison in the Compter. Then came the Great Rebellion, during which he had the disadvantage of being a Royalist as well as an inventor, and of having “Cromwell, with Major Wildman and many of his officers, as opponents in rival experiments tried in the Forest of Dean, where they employed an ingenious glassmaster, Edward Dagney, an Italian then living in Bristow,” but they failed. And so he was utterly ruined. On the accession of Charles II., he petitioned, and eventually sent in the statement from which the preceding extracts have been made, but apparently without any success. The king was too busy making dukes and melting the louis d’ors of his French pension, to think of anything so common as iron or so tiresome as gratitude.

The iron manufacture, for want of the art of smelting by coal, and of a supply of wood, which the march of agriculture daily diminished, dwindled away, until, in the middle of the eighteenth century, it was revived at Colebrook Dale by the Darbys. In the intermediate period, we were dependent on Russia, Spain, and Sweden for the chief part of the iron used in manufactures.

But one of the most curious passages in Dudley’s Metallum Martis, is the following picture of the Dudley coal-field:–“Now let me show some reasons that induced me to undertake these inventions. Well knowing that within ten miles of Dudley Castle, there be near 20,000 smiths of all sorts, and many ironworks within that circle decayed for want of wood (yet formerly a mighty woodland country); secondly, Lord Dudley’s woods and works decayed, but pit- coal and iron stone or mines abounding upon his lands, but of little use; thirdly, because most of the coal mines in these parts are coals ten, eleven, and twelve yards thick; fourthly, under this great thickness of coal are very many sorts of ironstone mines; fifthly, that one-third part of the coals gotten under the ground are small, when the colliers are forced to sink pits for getting of ten yards thick, and are of little use in an inland country, unless it might be made use of by making iron therewith; sixthly, these colliers must cast these coals and slack out of their ways, which, becoming moist, heat naturally, and kindle in the middle of these great heaps, often sets the coal works on fire and flaming out of the pits, and continue burning like AEtna in Sicily or Hecla in the Indies.” (sic.)

At present, for more than ten miles round Dudley Castle, iron works of one kind or another are constantly at work; no remains of mighty woodland are to be found. The value of the ten yard coal is fully appreciated, but the available quantity is far from having been worked out. The untouched mineral wealth of Lord Ward in this district was valued, ten years ago, at a million sterling. The small coal is no longer wasted, but carefully raised from the pits and conveyed by the numerous canals, tram-roads, and railroads, to iron works, glass works, and chemical works. But still heaps of waste, moistened by rain, do smoke by day, and flaming by night in conjunction with hundreds of fiery furnaces and natural gases blazing, do produce, on a night’s journey from Dudley to Wolverhampton, not the effect of one AEtna or Hecla, but of a broad “inferno,” from which even Dante might have gathered some burning notions.

The political croakers who are constantly predicting that the last inevitable change, whether it be a Municipal Corporation Reform, a Tithe Commutation, or a Corn Tax Repeal, will prove the ruin of England, should study the geographical march of our manufactures, and mark how, on the whole population, the rise of a new staple in one district, or the invention of a new art, constantly creates a new demand for labour. The exhaustion of our forests, instead of destroying, founded one great element of our world-wide commercial influence.

We make no apology for this digression, knowing that, to many minds, facts connected with the rise of the iron trade will have as much interest as notes on the scene of a battle or the birthplace of a second-rate poet, besides, as we omit to say what we do not know, it is necessary we should say what we do.

Besides mining and smelting iron ore, a considerable population in and around Dudley is engaged in the manufacture of glass and of nails; the latter being a domestic manufacture, at which men, women, and children all work at home.

The castle dates from a Saxon prince, Dodo, A.D. 700; but, like the bird of the same name, the original building is extinct. But very interesting ruins of a Norman gateway, tower, and keep, are in existence; and form, with the caves, a show-place leased by the South Staffordshire as an attraction to their excursion trains. The caves are lighted up on special occasions, and were honoured by a visit from the geologists of the British Association when last they met at Birmingham. A fossil, called the Dudley locust, is found in great quantities and varieties in the limestone quarries, which form part of the mineral wealth of the neighbourhood.

The broad gauge line through Birmingham and Oxford will shortly afford Dudley a direct and rapid communication with London. To passengers this will be a great convenience, but a mode of conveyance so unwieldy, clumsy, and costly, is singularly ill fitted for a mineral district, as experience among the narrow tram-ways of the north has amply proved.

Dudley returns one member to Parliament; whose politics must, it is supposed, be those of the holder of the Ward estate.

Returning from Dudley through Walsall to Bescot Bridge, the rail pursues its course through a mining country to Bilston and Wolverhampton. On the road we pass in sight of the Birmingham canal, one of the finest works of the kind in the kingdom. An enormous sum was spent in improving the navigation, in order to prove that any railway was unnecessary. The proprietors, under the influence of their officials, a snug family party, shut their eyes and spent their money in opposing the inevitable progress of locomotive power to the last possible moment. Even when the first London and Birmingham railway was nearly open, a scheme for a new canal was industriously hawked round the county; and, although there were not enough subscribers found to execute the work, a small percentage was sufficient to furnish a surveyor’s new house very handsomely. Still, there is no probability of the canal ever ceasing to be an important aid to the coal trade in heavy freights.

* * * * *

WEDNESBURY, {130} pronounced Wedgebury, and spelt Wednesberie in Domesday Book, stands in the very heart of the coal and iron district, and is as like Tipton, Darlaston, Bilston, and other towns where the inhabitants are similarly employed, as one sweep is like another. Birmingham factors depend largely on Wedgebury for various kinds of ironwork and “heavy steel toys.” The coal pits in the neighbourhood are of great value, and there is no better place in the kingdom to buy a thoroughbred bull dog that will “kill or die on it,” but never turn tail. The name is supposed to incorporate that of the Saxon god Woden, whose worship consisted in getting drunk and fighting, and, to this day, that is the only kind of relaxation in which many of the inhabitants ever indulge. The church stands upon a hill, where Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia, built a castle to resist the Danes, A.D. 914, about the time that she erected similar bulwarks at Tamworth and other towns in the Midland counties, but there are no antiquities worth the trouble of visiting.

Parties who take an interest in the progress of education in this kingdom among those classes where it is most needed, that is to say, masses of miners and mechanics residing in districts from which all the higher and most of the middle classes have removed; where the clergy are few, hard worked, and ill paid; where the virtues of a thinly peopled agricultural district have been exchanged for the vices, without the refinements, of a crowded town population, should traverse this part of Staffordshire on foot. They will own that, in spite of the praiseworthy labours of both Church and Dissent,–in spite of the progress of Temperance Societies and Savings’ Banks,–a crowd of children are daily growing up in a state of ignorance, dirt, and degradation fearful to contemplate. To active philanthropists, not to seekers of the picturesque, archaeologists, and antiquarians, do we address ourselves. Still we ought to add that, in the iron works and rolling mills, there are studies of half naked men in active motion at night, with effect of red firelight and dark shade, in which the power of painting flesh and muscular development might be more effectively displayed than in the perpetual repetition of model Eves and sprawling nymphs.

* * * * *

WOLVERHAMPTON formerly lay away from railroads, at a convenient omnibus distance; but competition has doubly pierced it through and through. One line connects it with Shrewsbury; another, on the point of completion, will connect it with Dudley, Birmingham, and Oxford, and another with Worcester,–add to these means of communication the canals existing before railroads commenced, extending to Hull, Liverpool, Chester, and London, and it will be seen that Wolverhampton is most fortunately placed.

The great railway battle of the gauges commenced at Wolverhampton, and has been carried on ever since at the cost of more than a million sterling in legal and parliamentary expenses, beside the waste of capital in constructing three railways where one would have been sufficient, and the extra cost of land traversed where a price was paid, 1st, for the land; 2nd, for the revenue; 3rd, for compulsion; 4th, for influence, and 5th, for vote, if the landowner were a member of either House of Parliament.

At the end of the battle, a competing line to London has been established, which will end shortly in a compromise; and, if one district has two railways, others, much needing, have none. The shareholders on both sides have lost their money, the engineers have reaped a harvest, and the lawyers have realized a fortune.

The experience of water companies, gas companies, canal companies, and railway companies, has distinctly been, that, between great monied corporations with large capitals sunk in plant, competition is impossible and must end in a compromise.

But these contests are profitable to lawyers, who must always win, whether their clients do or not. It is no exaggeration to say that, as surely as Spain and Portugal are priest-ridden, so surely is Great Britain lawyer- ridden. No sooner does the science, the industry, and the enterprise of the country carve out some new road to commercial prosperity, than the attorney sets up a turnpike upon it and takes toll; and, if dispute arises as to the right of road, however the contest be decided, it ends in two attornies taking toll. In chancery, in the laws affecting patents of inventions, in the law affecting canals, in railways, a standing army of lawyers are constantly engaged in fighting battles, which end in our bearing the wounds and their sharing the spoil. So it was in these battles of the gauges.

But to return to Wolverhampton, the name of which recalled battles wherein so much useful money has been wasted, the town, although of rising importance in a commercial point, offers no other attraction to the curious traveller than its numerous manufactories of hardware, and machinery of various kinds, including firearms, tinned ware, locks and keys, of extraordinary cheapness, gun locks, files, screws, and japanned ware.

The tea trays, and other japanned ware of Wolverhampton, are equal in taste and execution to anything produced in Birmingham; indeed, it was at the manufactory of the Messrs. Walton that the plan of skilfully copying the landscapes of our best artists on japan were originated. The first tea-tray of the kind was copied from one of Turner’s Rivers of France, by a gentleman who has since taken up a very important position in applying the true principles of art to British manufactures.

Wolverhampton, and all the towns and villages in the coal and iron district, are only so many branch-Birminghams; in that hardware metropolis the greater part of the goods made are ordered and sold.

The town is of great antiquity, although with as few remains as most flourishing towns built of brick, where manufactures have chased away mansions. The name is derived from Walfrana, a sister of King Edgar, who founded a monastery there in A.D. 996, and collected a village round it named Walfrana Hampton, which was eventually corrupted into Wolverhampton. In the oldest Church, St. Peter’s, there is a pulpit formed of a single stone, elaborately sculptured, and a font, with curious bas-relief figures of saints. The Church is collegiate, and the College consists of a dean, who holds the prebend of Wolverhampton, which was annexed by Edward IV. to his free chapel of St. George, within the Castle of Windsor.

A Free Grammar School, supported by endowments, affords a head master 400 pounds a-year; the second master 200 pounds; and a third master 120 pounds. Some years ago these gentlemen had only seventy scholars to teach, but we trust this is, or will be, amended.

Wolverhampton was made a Parliamentary borough by the Reform Act, returning two members from boundaries which include the townships of Bilston, Willenhall, Wednesfield, and the parish of Sedgeley. The population has increased more than five fold in the last forty years.

Bird, the artist, Congreve, inventor of the rockets which bear his name, and Abernethy, the eminent surgeon, were natives of Wolverhampton; Huskisson, who began the commercial reforms which Peel finished, was born at Oxley Hall, in the immediate neighbourhood.

Close to the town is a good racecourse, well frequented once a year, formerly one of the most fashionable meetings in the country. The ladies’ division of the Grand Stand used to be a complete parterre of the gayest flowers; but railroads, which have added to the quantity, have very much deteriorated the quality of the frequenters of races, and unless a change takes place, a Grand Stand will soon be as dark, as busy, and as dull as the Stock Exchange.

From Wolverhampton a line nineteen miles in length, through Albrighton (where Staffordshire ends and Shropshire begins) and Shifnal to Wellington, shortens the route to Shrewsbury by cutting off an angle; but as there is nothing to be said about this route except that at Albrighton are the kennels of the hunt of that name, (a hunt in which the greater or less luxury in horseflesh of the young ironmasters affords a thermometer of the state of the iron trade,) we shall on this occasion take the Stafford line.

Within an easy distance of Wolverhampton are a very large number of the noblemen’s and gentlemen’s seats, in which Staffordshire is so rich; more than one ancient and dilapidated family has been restored by the progress of smoke-creating manufactures, which have added to the wealth even more than they destroyed the picturesqueness of the country.

If we were conducting a foreigner over England with the view of showing him the wealth, the power, and the beauties of our country, we should follow exactly the course we have hitherto pursued, and after an exhausting inspection of the manufactories of the coal country, should turn off the rail, after leaving Wolverhampton on our road to Stafford, and visit some of the beautiful mansions surrounded by that rich combination of nature and art which so eminently distinguishes the “stately homes of England.”

For instance, before reaching Penkridge we pass–on the right hand, Moseley Court, where the ancestors of the proprietors, the Whitgreaves, concealed Charles II. after the Battle of Worcester,–on the left, Wrottesley Hall, the seat of the scientific nobleman of that name, and Chellington Park, the residence of the ancient Roman Catholic family of the Giffords, where an avenue of oaks, the growth of centuries, with a magnificent domain stocked with deer and game, afford the admirers of English scenery delicious vistas of wood, water, and rich undulating pasture.

The contrast between the murky atmosphere and continued roar of the ironmaking country, and the silence of the deer-haunted green glades is most striking, and most grateful to eye and ear.

As we rush along the valley of the Penk, too rapidly to drink in its full beauties; on the right, Teddesley Hall, the mansion of Lord Hatherton, rising above the tops of the trees, reminds us that the noble lord’s farms are well worth a visit from any one taking an interest in agriculture. Poor land has been rendered comparatively fertile, and by a complete system of drainage, mere marshy rush-growing meadows have been made capable of carrying capital root and wheat crops, while the waste water has been carried to a head, and then by a large overshot water wheel, working below the surface of the ground, made useful for thrashing, chaff and root cutting, and other operations of the farm.

At Penkridge, a rural village of considerable antiquity, ten miles from Wolverhampton, adorned by a Gothic Church, and several picturesque houses of the Elizabethan style of domestic architecture, it will be convenient to descend, if an expedition is intended, over Cannock Chase to Beaudesert, the seat of the Marquis of Anglesey.


This Cannock Chase completes the singular variations of soil and occupation to be found in Staffordshire. From the densely-populated iron districts, and the model agriculture of disciples of the same school as Lord Hatherton, we can turn our faces to a vast moorland, forty miles square, stretching from where it is first seen on the banks of the railway to the banks of the Trent, as wild as any part of Wales or Scotland, intersected by steep hills, by deep valleys, covered with gorse and broom, dotted with peat marshes, tenanted by wild deer and feathered game, and fed over by the famous “Kenk” sheep, nearly as wild as deer, and in flavour rivalling the best mountain mutton. This great waste was once covered with dense forests, in which the wolf, the bear, the wild boar, and the wild bull were hunted by our Saxon Kings. It is not among the least wonders effected by the locomotive that a short hour can transport us from the midst of the busiest centres of manufactures to a solitude as complete as is to be found in the prairies of America or Australia, unless we by chance stumble upon a prying gamekeeper or an idle rustic seeking whortle-berries or snaring hares.

On this chase, begged by his ancestors from an easy king as a kitchen garden, the hero of the Light Cavalry at Waterloo annually takes his sport, mounted on a perfect shooting cob, and with eighty years upon his shoulders, can still manage to bring down his birds right and left.

Long may such blanks of solitude and wild nature remain amid the busy hum of commerce to remind us of what all England once was, to afford, at a few holidays in the year, a free breathing place to the hardworking multitude, and to the poet and student that calm delight which the golden fragrance of a gorse-covered moor can bestow.

Before we reach Stafford we leave on the right, although not in sight, Shugborough, the deserted mansion of the Earl of Lichfield, a descendant of the Lord Anson who “sailed round the world but was never in it.”


STAFFORD CASTLE, on the summit of a high hill, whose slopes are clothed with forest trees, gives in the romantic associations it awakens a very false idea of the town to be found below. The towers of the Castle built by the son of Robert de Tonei, the Standard Bearer of William the Conqueror, have survived the Wars of the Roses and the contests of the Great Rebellion, while the remainder has been restored in an appropriate style by the family of the present possessors, representatives of the ancient barony of Stafford–no relation of the Staffords who in another part of the county enjoy the Dukedom of Sutherland. But the town, prosperous in spite of many changes of fashion, has completely lost any antique air it may ever have enjoyed, and now, in all the smugness of brick, quite realises the idea of a borough which at every election is for sale to the highest bidder.

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The principal manufacture is that of shoes for exportation. Many remarkable men have represented Stafford, some as remarkable for their talent as for their folly. Sheridan’s most brilliant speeches, and Urquhart’s most undeniable failures in the House of Commons, were both due to the borough of Stafford. It is, in fact, a stepping-stone to the House of Commons, always ready for the highest bidder and promiser, but whoever would sit for Stafford for a series of Parliaments, would need the use of the Philosopher’s Stone. The independent electors would exhaust California if they had the chance.

As the Stafford shoemakers, to the deep disappointment of its agricultural neighbours, have not yet been ruined by the influx of foreign boots and shoes, its chief interest at present is derived from its being the point from which several important railways radiate.

* * * * *

STAFFORD TO MANCHESTER.–Beside the old Grand Junction line to Crewe, the Trent Valley line, about which we intend to say a few words on our return journey, ends, strictly speaking, at Stafford, after passing by Atherston, Tamworth, and Lichfield; but, since the construction of the North Staffordshire, which joins the Trent Valley at Colewich, the most direct way to Manchester is through the pottery district and Macclesfield, instead of by Stafford and Crewe. Direct lines have generally proved a great mistake, except so far as they have accommodated the local traffic through which they passed. To the shareholders they have been most unprofitable wherever the original shareholders were not lucky enough to bully the main lines into a lease, and, to the average of travellers very inconvenient, by dividing accommodation. But shareholders should look at the local traffic of a proposed direct line, on which alone good dividends can be earned.

These direct projects were partly the result of the imperfect manner in which, in consequence of opposition and from want of experience, the original main branch lines were executed, and partly in that plethora of money, which, in this thriving country, must be relieved from time to time by the bleeding of ingenious schemers. We are enjoying, in this year of 1851, the advantages derived from money spent, and lost to the spenders, in our own country instead of being sunk in Greek or Spanish bonds, South American mines, or the banks and public works of the United States.

At one period, in the height of the ten per cent. mania, a school of railway economists sprang up which advocated placing the construction and the profits of railways in the hands of government, and they supported their theories by ex post facto criticism on the blunders of railway companies,–on the astonishing dividends of Mr. George Hudson’s lines,–and on the hard terms on which capitalists had agreed to execute French railways for the French government.

These ingenious reasons did not prevail. People were reminded that the steam boats, the public works, the “Woods and Forests” under government charge, were not managed with remarkable success or economy. The tempting dividends melted away, and projects for French railways, on the principle of the State taking profits and the speculators the risk, which had excited the admiration of Cato Morrisson, first hung fire and then exploded, so that rich districts of France which, on the system of “profits to private enterprise,” would have enjoyed railway conveyance ten years ago, are still left to the mercy of the slow diligences and slower waggons to this hour.

To a commercial country like England, the waste of a few millions on railways badly planned, are of little importance compared with the national saving effected by the cheap conveyance of produce. The great importance of the direct line between Rugby, Macclesfield, and Manchester, is not that it saves an hour in the transit of an impatient traveller, but that it places in easy communication purely agricultural and thoroughly manufacturing communities, so as to render an interchange of produce easy. Shareholders sometimes suffer, but the public always gains. On the other hand, Parliament should take care that railway extension to blank districts is not prevented by conceding parallel lines to directors hunting for a dividend, by dividing instead of increasing the existing traffic.

When an alteration of the law settlement has released from parish bondage and vegetation those adscripti glebae agricultural labourers, the advantage of our network of railways will be still more felt.

* * * * *

STAFFORD TO SHREWSBURY.–The third line diverging from Stafford, counting the continuation of the London as a fourth, is the railway to Shrewsbury, passing through NEWPORT and WELLINGTON, where it joins the direct line from Wolverhampton, and affording, by a continuation which passes near Oswestry, Chirk, and Llangollen, {138} to Wrexham, Chester, and Birkenhead, another route to Liverpool, and, through Chester, the nearest way to Holyhead and Ireland.

* * * * *

NEWPORT.–The first station after leaving Stafford for Shrewsbury, and immediately after crossing into Shropshire, is a small market town and borough, with a corporation, which can be traced back to Henry III. The church, of the fifteenth century, with an interior of great beauty, has been frightfully disfigured by aisles built of bricks in a common builders’ style of architecture.

This corporation offers an example which might be with advantage followed by greater men holding the same office; they have but a small income, and they apply it to keeping in order cisterns and conduits which supply the town with water.

There is a free grammar school founded by one William Adams in 1756, which has a library attached to the school and five scholarships. The best, of 80 pounds a year, to Christchurch, Oxford.

* * * * *

WELLINGTON stands at the base of the Wrekin, is the centre of the Shropshireman’s toast and the chief town of the coal and iron district, and is the point where the line from Wolverhampton makes a junction, affording the nearest road from Birmingham to Shrewsbury. It was here that Charles I., on his march from Wellington to Shrewsbury, assembled his troops, and, in order to allay the growing disaffection among them, declared that he would “support the reformed religion, govern by law, uphold the privileges of parliament, and preserve the liberty of the subject.”

From Wellington you may proceed by omnibus to Coalbrookdale, where the first iron bridge was built over the Severn, where the Darbys and Dickensons have carried on iron works for more than a century, where coal was first applied profitably to smelting iron, and where the fine iron castings of Berlin have been rivalled, and successful attempts have been made to introduce the principles of the fine arts into domestic manufactures. The firm are members of the Society of Friends. Fortunately their tenets do not prevent them from selling us coal-scuttles of beautiful design, although their wives and daughters are bound, according to the conservative principles of their sect, to wear bonnets of an unvarying and hideous coal-scuttle shape.

* * * * *

SHREWSBURY, 10 miles from Wellington, is, in more respects than one, an interesting town, situated partly on a precipitous peninsula formed by the swift clear waters of the Severn, united to the opposite side by bridges, in one of which the huge undershot waterwheels of a corn mill are for ever turning. A stranger without letters of introduction, condemned to spend a few hours here with nothing to do, may easily pass the time pleasantly in hunting out picturesque bits of river scenery, or even in chucking pebbles into the stream, instead of drinking sherry negus he does not want, or poking about the dull streets of a modern town, while all the respectable inhabitants are lost in wonder “who that strange man in the white hat is.” The manufactures of Shrewsbury are not very important; thread, linen, and canvas, and iron-works in the neighbouring suburb of Coleham; a considerable and ancient trade is carried on in Welsh flannel and cloths from the neighbouring counties of Denbigh, Montgomery, and Merioneth, and markets and fairs are held for the benefit of the rich agricultural district around, in which, besides fine butter, cheese, poultry, and live stock, a large assemblage of the blooming, rosy, broad-built Shropshire lasses show the advantage of a mixture of Welsh and English blood.

But Shrewsbury is most famous for its school, its cakes, its ale, and the clock mentioned by Falstaff, for which on our last visit we found an ingenuous Frenchman industriously searching.

The royal free grammar school, endowed by Edward VI., was raised, by the educational talents of the late Dr. Butler, afterwards Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, to a very high position among our public schools; a position which has been fully maintained by the present master, Dr. Kennedy.

As for the cakes and ale, they must be tasted to be appreciated, but not at the same time.

In the history of England and Wales, Shrewsbury plays an important part.

It is supposed that the town was founded by the Britons of the kingdom of Powis, while they were yet struggling with the Saxons, or rather the Angles, for the midland counties, and, it is probable, was founded by them when they found Uttoxeter (the Uriconiam of the Romans), no longer tenable. On the conquest of the town by the Anglo-Saxons it received the name of Scrobbes- byrig; that is to say Scrub-burgh, or a town in a scrubby or bushy district, and, in the Saxon Chronicle, Scrobbesbyrig-scire is mentioned, now corrupted or polished into Shropshire. Ethelfleda, whose name we have so often had occasion to mention as the builder of castles and churches, founded the collegiate church of St. Alkmund; and Athelstan established a mint here. It is evident that the “Athelstan the Unready,” mentioned in Ivanhoe, must have very much degenerated from the ancestor who established a mint for ready money.

According to Domesday-Book, Shrewsbury had, in Edward the Confessor’s time, two hundred and fifty-two houses, with a resident burgess in each house, and five churches. It was included in the Earldom of Shrewsbury, granted by William the Conqueror to his kinsman, Roger de Montgomery, who erected a castle on the entrance of the peninsula on which the town now stands, pulling down fifty houses for that purpose. In the wars between Stephen and the Empress Maude, the Castle was taken and retaken; and in the reign of John the town was taken by the Welsh under Llewellyn the Great, who had joined the insurgent Barons in 1215; and again attacked and the suburbs burned by the Welsh in 1234. Shrewsbury was again taken by Simon de Montfort and his ally, Llewellyn, grandson of Llewellyn the Great, in 1266, the year before de Montfort fell on the field of Evesham. And here, in 1283, David, the last Prince of Wales, was tried, condemned, and executed as a traitor. Here, too, in 1397, in the reign of Richard II., a Parliament was held, at which the Earl of Hereford (afterwards Henry IV.) charged the Duke of Norfolk with treason. The charge was to have been decided by a trial of battle at Coventry. On the appointed morning, “Hereford came forth armed at all points, mounted on a white courser, barded with blue and green velvet, gorgeously embroidered with swans and antelopes of goldsmiths’ work. The Duke of Norfolk rode a horse barded with crimson velvet, embroidered with lines of silver and mulberries.”

At that time it took more days to travel from Shrewsbury to Coventry than it now does hours. The cloth of gold was as splendidly, perhaps more splendidly, embroidered than anything we can do now; but in the matter of shirts, shoes, stockings, and the clothing necessary for health and comfort, and of windows and chimneys, and matters necessary for air and shelter, mechanics and day labourers are better provided than the squires and pages of those great noblemen. Five years after, the Harry of Hereford having become Henry IV. of England, assembled an army at Shrewsbury to march against Owen Glendower, and the following year he fought the battle of Shrewsbury against Hotspur, and his ally the Douglas, which forms the subject of a scene in Shakspeare’s play of Henry IV. At that battle Percy Hotspur marched from Stafford toward Shrewsbury, hoping to reach it before the King, and by being able to command the passage of the Severn to communicate with his ally Glendower; but Henry, who came from Lichfield, arrived there first, on the 19th July, 1403. The battle was fought the next day at Hateley Field, about three miles from the town.

In the Wars of the Roses Shrewsbury was Yorkist. In the great Civil War Charles I. came to Shrewsbury, there received liberal contributions, in money and plate, from the neighbouring gentry, and largely recruited his forces; and in the course of the war the town was taken and retaken more than once. Thus it will be seen that Shrewsbury is connected with many important events in English history.

The first Charter of incorporation extant is of Richard I.

Two members are returned to Parliament of opposite politics at present; but a few years ago it was the boast of the Salopians, that the twelve members returned by the different constituencies of the county were all of that class of politics which, for want of a better name, may be called “Sibthorpian.”

Shrewsbury is a good starting point for an expedition into Wales, and we can strongly recommend the walk from Chirk, one of the stations on the line to Chester, over the hills by footpaths to Llangollen: from one point a view may be caught of the three great civilizers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A splendid viaduct, carrying the Shropshire Canal over a deep valley, in its day considered a triumph of engineering art–the Holyhead mail road, perhaps the best piece of work of the kind in the world, and the railway, which has partly superseded both. There is more than one pleasant spot on the bye-path we have suggested where a thoughtful pedestrian may sit down, and, smoking a cigar in the presence of a sweetly calm landscape of grassy valleys and round-topped hills, ponder over these things, not without advantage, to the sound of bells borne by lively Welsh sheep, whose mutton has been raised 2d. a pound in value by Stephenson’s steam-engines.

But our road lies by the English rail this time, therefore we must return to Stafford.

* * * * *

STAFFORD TO CREWE.–On leaving Stafford for Crewe we pass on the right Ingestrie Park, the seat of the Earl of Talbot; the ruins of Chartley Castle, the property of Earl Ferrers, the defendant in the action brought by Miss Smith for breach of promise of marriage; and Sandon Park, the seat of the Earl of Harrowby, who for many years, before succeeding his father, represented Liverpool in the House of Commons as Lord Sandon.

Soon after passing Norton Bridge Station, about seven miles from Stafford, we come in sight of Swinnerton Hall, the seat of the ancient family of Fitz- Herbert. The first lord of the manor of Swinnerton received this name at the hands of the Norman Conqueror. One of the farms of the present proprietor of Swinnerton Hall is held by a Liverpool merchant, who has carried out modern agricultural improvements, especially in stock feeding, with great success; having availed himself of the facilities of the railroad and his commercial knowledge, to import from Liverpool various kinds of nutritive pulse and grain.

Near the Whitmore Station the railway winds for two miles through an excavation in solid stone, enclosed by intermediate slopes of turf, ending, as it were in an arch, which, spanning the road, forms a sort of frame to a wild region that stretches on beyond.


Without anything very important to induce a halt by the way, the train runs into Crewe.

Crewe is a wonderful place; sixteen years ago, the quietest of country- villages, now intersected in every direction with iron roads pointing from it to almost every point of the compass.

A story is extant, with what foundation of truth we know not, of a gentleman who purchased a small farm here, as a safe investment and occasional retreat from the bustle of Manchester, and eventually realized from it, when a railway station was erected, more hundreds than he had paid pounds. At any rate, if it is not true, it might have been.

At present, besides the line formerly called the Grand Junction, until its amalgamation with the London and Birmingham, there is a line from Crewe to Chester and Birkenhead; another to Manchester direct, by Macclesfield, formerly known as the Manchester and Birmingham–both are now merged in the London and North Western; and lastly, a short cross branch of fifteen miles, forming a union with Burslem on the North Staffordshire.

In addition to the bustle created by the arrival and departure of innumerable trains at Crewe, the London and North Western Company have a large establishment for building and repairing the locomotives and other machinery in use on their lines north of Birmingham. This establishment is under the charge of Mr. Trevethick, C.E., a son of the Trevethick who, in 1802, in conjunction with Vivian, took out the first patent for a locomotive engine, which they executed the following year. {144}

The railway village of Crewe is on the same plan as that of Wolverton, but situated in much prettier scenery; and includes a church, infant, boys’ and girls’ schools, a Library and Literary Institution, held in the Town-hall, where a fine room is occasionally well filled by popular lectures, and balls in the winter.

On one occasion, about three years ago, the name of a gentleman looking over the works in company with a foreman was recognized as that of a writer on a popular subject, and he was requested by a deputation of the men to deliver a lecture the same evening in the Town-hall. He consented; and a written notice, stuck up in the workshops at one o’clock, assembled at six o’clock upwards of six hundred of the mechanics and their wives and families, forming a most attentive and intelligent audience.

This establishment was considerably reduced during the depression in railway property, and several of the mechanics emigrated to the United States. One of these, a Chartist politician, a Methodist preacher, and a coach-spring maker, with a little taste for sporting, expressed himself, in a letter which found its way into the “Emigrant’s Journal,” well pleased with the people, the laws, and the institutions amongst which he had transplanted himself; but when he came to speak of the railroads, he considered them “not fit to carry hogs to market.” So much for a man criticising his own trade.

We must not pause to describe as we could wish, in detail, the arrangements of this interesting village; for we have heavy work before us, and must press on.

Parties passing, who have leisure to stay a day, will find very fair accommodation at the inn overlooking the station, and often, about one o’clock, a fine hot joint of grass-fed beef of magnificent dimensions. In winter, this hotel is one of the quarters of gentlemen going to meet the Cheshire hounds, a first-rate pack, with a country which, if not first-rate, is far from second-rate, including certain parts of grass country which may be fairly compared to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

Crewe Hall, one of the “Meets,” is the seat of Lord Crewe, the grandson of the beautiful Mrs. Crewe, so celebrated for her wit and Buff and Blue politics, in the time of Charles James Fox, the Duchess of Devonshire, the Westminster Election, and “All The Talents of the last century.”

The Hall is picturesquely situated on a rising ground, well wooded, near a small lake, and contains, among other pictures, portraits of Fox, “Coke of Norfolk,” and several other political friends with whom the first Lord Crewe was closely associated. The hounds meet there occasionally, when a “find” is sure, and a gallop through the park a thing to be remembered.

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NANTWICH, about five miles from Crewe, is one of the towns which supplies Cheshire’s salt exports, Middlewich and Northwich being the other two. In all, rich brine springs are found, but the celebrated mines of rock-salt are found at Northwich only. It is vulgarly imagined that the word wich has something to do with salt, these three towns being often described as the “Wiches.” This is an error; and wich is merely an Anglo-Saxon corruption of the Roman word vicus, as in Harwich. The salt-works of Nantwich are mentioned in “Domesday Book.” The town was more than once besieged during the great civil wars, lastly by Lord Byron, unsuccessfully, with an army chiefly Irish, which was compelled to raise the siege and defeated by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Sir William Brereton.

Among the antiquities remaining is a cross Church, in a mixture of styles, partly early English and partly decorated English, and a several curious old houses of black timber and plaster.

The trade of this place has derived much advantage from the junction of the Chester, Ellesmere, and Liverpool and Birmingham canals, close by.

At the Nantwich yearly fairs, samples of the famous Cheshire cheese made in the neighbourhood, of the best brands, may be found. Major-General Harrison, one of the Regicides who was put to death on the Restoration of Charles II., was a native of Nantwich, and Milton’s widow, who was born in the neighbourhood, died there in 1726.

Just before reaching the Hartford Bridge Station, on the way to Chester, we pass Vale Royal Abbey, the seat of the Cholmondeley family, pronounced Chumleigh, whose head was created in 1821 Lord Delamere.


The Abbey lies in a valley sheltered by old trees, the remains of a great forest; wood-covered hills rise behind it, closing in the vale; below runs the Weaver, “that famous flood,” whose praises were sung by Michael Drayton in his Polyolbion. In this instance, as in many others, the “monks of old” showed their taste in choosing one of the most beautiful and fertile sites in the county for their residence. The Cheshire prophet, Nixon, lived as ploughboy with the Cholmondeley family, according to tradition, for which we no more answer than for his prophecies, doubts having recently been thrown on both. A breed of white cattle with red ears are preserved at Vale Royal, in memory of the preservation of part of the family by a white cow when in hiding during the Civil Wars.

But we have not space to enter into the details of this, or the historical reminiscences connected with the ruins of Beeston Castle, which also falls in our way to Chester; for we must get on to Liverpool and leave for the present Cheshire, with its cheesemaking pastures, ancient mansions, and more ancient families, as well as its coal mines and cotton mills, to visit the twin capitals of Liverpool and Manchester, which are at once the objects of the contempt and sources of the rent of the Cheshire territorial aristocracy.

The antiquarian and historical student may linger long in Cheshire, which abounds in interesting architectural remains of several centuries, particularly of the black and white timbered mansions, and is studded with the sites of famous stories.


We shall pass Hartford Station without notice, and shall not pause to visit Northwich and the celebrated Marston Salt Pits, although well worth visiting, for which purpose a cricketer’s suit of flannel will be found the best costume, and a few good Bengal lights an assistance in viewing the wonders of the salt caves. On across the long Dutton viaduct, spanning the Weaver navigation, we drive until, crossing the Mersey and Irwell canal and the river Mersey, we quit Cheshire and enter Lancashire, to run into the Warrington Station.


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WARRINGTON may be dismissed in a very few words. It is situated in the ugliest part of Lancashire, in a flat district, among coal mines, on the banks of a very unpicturesque river, surrounded by a population in character much resembling that described in the “Black Country” of Staffordshire, and Worcestershire, and Shropshire. It was one of the earliest seats of manufacture in Lancashire, and has the advantage of coal close at hand, with canal and river navigation and railways to Chester through Runcorn (nineteen miles), to Crewe, to Liverpool, to Manchester, and thereby to all quarters in the north of England.


Coarse linens and checks, then sailcloth, were its first manufactures; at present, cotton spinning, power-loom weaving, the manufacture of glass, machinery, and millwork, pins, nails, tools, spades, soap, hats, and gunpowder, and many other trades, are carried on here. The markets for live stock of the district and from Ireland are important, and market gardening is carried on to a considerable amount in the neighbourhood of the town. The Mersey is navigable up to Warrington at spring tides for vessels, “flats,” of from seventy to one hundred tons. A salmon and smelt fishery, which formerly existed, has disappeared from the waters by so many manufactories.

Warrington, under the Reform Act, returns one member to Parliament. Its ale is celebrated: it formerly returned an M.P. The inhabitants enjoy the benefit of three endowed schools, one of them richly endowed. Howard’s work on Prisons was first printed at Warrington.

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On leaving Warrington, a few minutes bring us to Newton junction, upon the old Manchester and Liverpool Railway, where George Stephenson established the economy of steam locomotive conveyance twenty-one years ago.

In half an hour we are rolling down the Edgehill Tunnel into Liverpool.


When you land on the platform, if you can afford it, go to the Adelphi Hotel, where the accommodation is first-rate, but the charges about the same as in Bond Street or St. James’s Street, London.

There are others to suit all purses, and plenty of dining-houses on the London system, so that it is not absolutely necessary to submit to the dear and often indifferent dinners which are the rule in the coffee-rooms of most English hotels.

Liverpool has no antiquities of any mark; the public buildings and works worth seeing are few but important, although a page might be filled with the names of Institutions of various kinds.

By far the most interesting, original, and important, are those connected with the commerce of the town. That is to say, the docks and the gigantic arrangements at the railways for goods’ traffic. St. George’s Hall, a splendid building in the Corinthian style, containing the Law Courts and a hall for public meetings, as a sort of supplement to the Town-hall, meets the view immediately on leaving the railway station. The Mechanics’ Institution in Mount Street, one of the finest establishments of the kind in the kingdom, provides an excellent education for the young, and for adults, at a very cheap rate.

A Collegiate Institution, opened in 1843, for affording a first-class education on the plan of the Durham and Marlborough Colleges, at a less expense than at Oxford or Cambridge, is to be found at Everton in a handsome Elizabethan building.

The Town-hall, with its auxiliary buildings, encloses the Exchange on three sides. The vestibule contains a statue of George Canning by Chantrey: in the centre of the Exchange stands a monument to Nelson, which we cannot admire. On the occasion of an invitation to dinner from the Mayor, or of a grand ball, it is worth while to penetrate beyond the vestibule, otherwise the walk through tolerably handsome rooms is scarcely worth the trouble, although it costs nothing.

The immense News-rooms of the Exchange, under one of the Arcades, are open to every respectable stranger introduced,–we may almost say without introduction. There are several other News-rooms with libraries attached. The Lyceum in Bold Street, and the Athenaeum in Church Street, which was founded by purchases from the library of William Roscoe, contain a number of valuable works of reference.

The Royal Institution of Science and Literature, founded by William Roscoe in 1814, by the subscription of shareholders, contains a museum of natural history of considerable value, some curious pictures, a set of casts from the AEgina and Phigaleian marbles, and a collection of philosophical instruments, with a laboratory and a theatre in which lectures are occasionally delivered. This Institution is not flourishing. It was lately offered to the Corporation as a free gift by the proprietors, on condition that the museum, etc., were to be open free to the town. The offer was declined by a small majority.

There are several cemeteries, one of which has been ingeniously arranged in an exhausted stone quarry, and contains a marble statue of Huskisson, by Gibson, commemorating the facts of his having represented Liverpool in several Parliaments, and been killed on the 15th Sept., 1830, by a locomotive, at the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway. On the last occasion of his election for Liverpool, in conjunction with the late General Gascoigne, without opposition, the windows of Huskisson’s friends were smashed by the High Tory mob which accompanied Gascoigne’s chairing procession. Such are the changes of time. Where could a High Tory mob be found now, or who now differs with the mild liberalism of Huskisson?