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Archive for the ‘Engineering’ Category

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Seamen often curse and swear when they are aloft furling or reefing sails in a gale of wind; but I have never heard a sailor blaspheme on these occasions. Their language aloft is merely a mode of speaking. Although in the old days I have heard men blaspheme on deck, blasphemy was never heard aloft in a gale. To be aloft in a whole gale or in a hurricane impresses the mind with a sense of the almighty power of the Deity, and the insignificance of man, that puny atom, compared with the vast forces of the elements. In later life, I once said to a young man whom I heard using blasphemous language in a club: “If you were up with me on the weather yard-arm of a topsail yard reefing topsails in a whole gale, you would be afraid to say what you are saying now. You would see what a little puny devil a man is, and although you might swear, you would be too great a coward to blaspheme.”

And I went on to ram the lesson home with some forcible expressions, a method of reproof which amused the audience, but which effectually silenced the blasphemer.

The fact is, there is a deep sense of religion in those who go down to the sea in ships and do their business in the great waters. Every minister of God, irrespective of the denomination to which he belongs, is treated with respect. And a good chaplain, exercising tact and knowing how to give advice, does invaluable service in a ship, and is a great help in maintaining sound discipline, inasmuch as by virtue of his position he can discover and remove little misunderstandings which cause discontent and irritation. The discomforts of the Old Navy are unknown to the new. The sanitary appliances, for instance, were placed right forward in the bows, in the open air. If the sea were rough they could not be used. On these occasions, the state of the lower deck may with more discretion be imagined than described. As the ship rolled, the water leaked in through the rebated joints of the gun-ports, and as long as a gale lasted the mess-decks were no better than cesspools. It is a curious fact that in spite of all these things, the spirits of both officers and men rose whenever it came on to blow; and the harder it blew, the more cheery everyone became. The men sang most under stress of weather; just as they will to-day under the same conditions or while coaling ship. After a gale of wind, the whole ship’s company turned-to to clean the ship.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

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James Watt – 1736

 

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Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote. 

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Below is an excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858 – featuring James Watt.

James Watt – 1736

James WattJames Watt was born at Greenock on the Clyde, on the 19th of January, 1736. His parents were of the middle class honest, ‘God-fearing’ people, with a character for probity which had descended to them from their ‘forbears,’ and was the proudest inheritance of the family. James Watt was thus emphatically well-born. His grandfather was a teacher of navigation and mathematics in the village of Cartsdyke, now part of Greenock, and dignified himself with the name of ‘Professor.’ But as Cartsdyke was as yet only a humble collection of thatched hovels, and the shipping of the Clyde was confined principally to fishing-boats, the probability is, that his lessons in navigation were of a very humble order.

He was, however, a dignitary of the place, being Bailie of the Barony as well as one of the parish elders. His son, James Watt, the father of the engineer, settled at Greenock as a carpenter and builder. Greenock was then little better than a fishing village, consisting of a single row of thatched cottages lying parallel with the sandy beach of the Frith of Clyde. The beautiful shore, broken by the long narrow sea lochs running far away among the Argyleshire hills, and now fringed with villages, villas, and mansions, was then as lonely as Glencoe; and the waters of the Frith, now daily plashed by the paddles of almost innumerable Clyde steamers, were as yet undisturbed save by the passing of an occasional Highland coble.

The prosperity of Greenock was greatly promoted by Sir John Shaw, the feudal superior, who succeeded in obtaining from the British Parliament, what the Scottish Parliament previous to the Union had refused, the privilege of constructing a harbour. Ships began after 1740 to frequent the pier, and then Mr. Watt added ship carpentering and dealing in ships’ stores to his other pursuits. He himself held shares in ships, and engaged in several foreign mercantile ventures, some of which turned out ill, and involved him in embarrassments. A great deal of miscellaneous work was executed on his premises – household furniture and ship’s carpentry – chairs and tables, figureheads and capstans, blocks, pumps, gun-carriages, and dead-eyes. The first crane erected on the Greenock pier, for the convenience of the Virginia tobacco ships, was supplied from his stores. He even undertook to repair ships’ compasses, as well as the commoner sort of nautical instruments then in use. These multifarious occupations were the result of the smallness of the place, while the business of a single calling was yet too limited to yield a competence. That Mr. Watt was a man of repute in his locality is shown by his having been elected one of the trustees to manage the funds of the borough in 1741, when Sir John Shaw divested himself of his feudal rights, and made them over to the inhabitants. Mr. Watt subsequently held office as town-treasurer, and as bailie or magistrate.

Agnes Muirhead, the bailie’s wife, and the mother of James Watt, was long remembered in the place as an intelligent woman, bountifully gifted with graces of person as well as of mind and heart. She was of a somewhat dignified appearance; and it was said that she affected a superior style of living to her neighbours.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858.


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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

James Watt – Steam-Engine – Hercules of Modern Mythology

 

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Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote. 

Below is an excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858 – featuring James Watt.

James Watt – Steam-Engine – Hercules of Modern Mythology

James WattNO country in the world presents such a combination of facilities for manufacture and commerce as England – coal and iron, ships and steam-engines, hardy seamen and ingenious mechanics. With these combined advantages the progress during the present century has been beyond example. In [1784] an American vessel arrived in Liverpool having on board as part of her cargo eight bales of cotton, which were seized by the customhouse officers under the conviction that they could not be the growth of America!

Last year there were imported at Liverpool not less than a million and a half bales of cotton from the United States alone! The first steam-engine used in Manchester was not erected till [1790]; it is now computed that in that city and the district within a radius of ten miles, there are more than fifty thousand boilers, giving a total power of upwards of a million of horses! The engine of Watt has proved the very Hercules of modern mythology, the united steam power of Great Britain being equal, it is estimated, to the manual labour of upwards of four hundred millions of men, or more than double the number of males supposed to inhabit the globe.

Mechanicians and engineers, unlike literary men, are never their own biographers. As an eminent living engineer lately observed, ‘We are so much occupied with doing the thing itself, that we have not the disposition, even if we had the leisure, to write about how it is done. The majority of the persons of this class have moreover risen from obscurity, and the companions among whom they passed their early days were, for the most part, like themselves, self-educated; neither caring to put on record what was worthy to be preserved, nor competent to record it. Hence these heroes of mechanical science passed away, leaving only their work behind them. Hence little is known of Savery, the inventor of the first working atmospheric engine; and it is matter of doubt whether he was the captain of a ship or of a Cornish tin-mine. Nothing of the history of his rival and subsequent partner, Newcomen, is preserved, beyond the fact that he was a blacksmith and a Baptist. Even the distinguished inventors who have lived nearer to our own time have been scarcely more fortunate; for we do not yet possess a single respectable memoir of Arkwright, Crompton, Brindley, or Rennie. Happily, however, the greatest name in the roll of English inventors left behind him a large store of valuable materials, which have been published by his zealous relative Mr. Muirhead, and who has now crowned his long labours by an elaborate ‘Life of Watt,’ the expansion of a former Memoir, which comprises all that we are likely to learn of a man to whom we mainly owe the greatest commercial and social revolution in the entire history of the world.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review Volume 104 published in 1858.


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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

 

Englands Oldest Handicrafts

 

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ENGLANDS OLDEST HANDICRAFTS

 Below is an article from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox and George Latimer Apperson – published in 1899.  It covers the early English Handicraft trade and the beginning of working in precious metals.

WORKING IN PRECIOUS METALS.  by ISABEL SUART ROBSON.

Alfred’s Jewel – BackWorking in precious metals and in bronze was one of the earliest and most important industries practised by our forefathers in this country. Many antiquaries have questioned whether the production of decorative objects actually preceded the Roman invasion. According to Holinshed’s Chronicle “collars of gold and silver wrought for women’s necks” were a part of the tribute which the Emperor Augustus laid upon this island, and it is scarcely probable that ores would have been sought here by other nations if ornaments of metal made in this country had not been carried abroad.

The earliest settlements of Saxons undoubtedly included goldsmiths and bronzeworkers, for as a race they were accustomed to wearing ornaments of precious metal, made with a skill and artistic taste which do credit to their handicraft. The monasteries, in Saxon times no less than in later ages, were the schools and cradles of arts and industries. Alcuin, who was living at the close of the eighth century, and founded several monasteries, is especially mentioned in medieval chronicles as the patron of handicrafts. He was the friend of Charlemagne, and went on one occasion to Parma to confer with that monarch on matters connected with the goldsmith’s craft, and to discuss means for improving the making of crosses, shrines, and vessels for the churches. The results of this conference Alcuin confided to the monks in England, and richly chased, hammered and enamelled gold, silver, and bronze vessels made by his instructions long enriched the great abbeys of St. Albans, and Gloucester. St. Dunstan more than any other exerted himself to encourage handicrafts, and at the school founded by him at Glastonbury pupils were taught, among other things, working in precious metals and bronze. Later he was taken as the patron saint of goldsmiths, and the records of city companies abound in notices of the ceremonies which took place in his honour on special occasions. Many of the abbots were themselves noted artists. Bishop Bernward, who lived at the close of the tenth century, executed some beautiful Sticks (which are now in Kensington Museum) for the abbey where he learnt his art. Another Bishop-artist was Brithnodus of Ely, whose four images, covered with silver-gilt and precious stones, the glory of the abbey, had to go, with many other ornaments, to appease the resentment of William the Conqueror against this last stronghold of saxons.

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Further Reading and External Links

Bishop Bernward on Wikipedia

Matthew Boulton – Working in Precious Metals – 1773

 

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Matthew Boulton and James Watt formed a partnership in 1773 after Boulton took a share in Watts engine as settlement of a debt.  Today they are honoured for their work in superior coinage with them both featuring on the new £50 banknote.  Below is an article from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson and published in 1899 – featuring Matthew Boulton.

Matthew Boulton – Working in Precious Metals – 1773

Portrait Medal of Matthew BoultonThe “Industrial Revolution,” as the struggle between handicraft and machinery has been called, largely changed the aspect of the gold and silversmiths’ work, though methods remained little different for many years. The picturesque in the old life became stern reality; the mediaeval workshop became the factory.

A representative worker in metal under these new conditions was Matthew Boulton, a native of that “ancient town of smiths,” Birmingham. He came to the craft as the potter’s son comes to the wheel, his father being the owner of a prosperous manufactory for stamping and piercing silver. To this business Matthew Boulton succeeded in [1759], resolved to still further extend it, and openly announcing his determination to adopt every invention which promised as good work at a quicker rate and diminishing labour.

When extended premises became a necessity, he purchased a tract of barren heath, near Birmingham, named Soho, where he started a factory for the production of “honest and artistic articles,” in gold and silver, steel, tortoiseshell and various compositions. One of his first inventions was a new way of inlaying steel, followed by many novel methods of decorating buttons, trinkets, buckles and ornaments. It is, however, for what he accomplished in the improvement of our coinage that Boulton’s name will be longest remembered. After assiduous experiments at his own factory at Soho he produced an improved coinage machinery, and also a perfected coinage which was introduced by him to the Mint of London, and also to the Russian, Spanish, Danish, and Indian Mints. It was only in [1882] that a Boulton Press, at the Mint, Tower Hill, was finally discarded.

Though co-operation enters largely into all work done by gold and silversmiths to-day, all really good productions are handwork, and the labour in many instances is as costly as the material used. The work differs from mediaeval handicraft in possessing less originality and individual flavour, whilst the workman is more a mechanical agent fulfilling another’s design than in olden days. In some cases the worker and designer are one, and a harmony of form and decoration is then gained, often missing in work which passes through several hands. The mediaeval smithing naturally forms the model with which modern workers compare their work, and it is their pride to acknowledge that, given time, they could produce plate equal in every point. To quote the words of a well-known metalworker of to-day, “the desire of the public to buy cheaply too frequently compels workers to send out articles much below the degree of excellence they could easily achieve.”

Much elaborate and beautiful work is done in Birmingham and Sheffield by means of the lathe or wheel upon which the metal is “spun,” and with the die with which metal is stamped in order to shape the article required. A vessel made by the latter process would have two completed halves, fashioned first, and the soldering of these together would form a second process. In point of durability and intrinsic value, such a piece of plate would fall far short of the handmade vessel beaten out of one piece of metal until the requisite shape was gained.

English artificers have always been quick to adopt new styles of work and the method of foreign workers.

Excerpt from The Antiquary Volume 35 by  Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson and published in 1899

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Further Reading and External Links

BBC News – New £50 banknote – featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt

 

Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John

 

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Below is a piece on the Italian town of Amafi well known for its connections to The Hospitalliers of St John, The Mariners Compass and the Pandects of Justinian.

Excerpt from The Catholic World Volume 72 – December 1901

 Amalfi and the Hospitallers of St John 

 Amalfi Panoramic ViewAmalfi was the Athens of the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been founded by emigrants from Melfi, the Greek city lying some seventy or eighty miles inland. We find mention of Amalfi in the sixth century; in the seventh it was governed by doges, and in the ninth Sicardo, Prince of Salerno, came there for the pious purpose of collecting the relics of various saints, and, being opposed in his intent by the no less religious inhabitants of the city, plundered and pillaged the town and carried off a vast number of prisoners. These prisoners afterwards got free, burned Salerno, the rival of their native city, and inaugurated thenceforward a wonderful period of prosperity for Amalfi.

The city now assumed a species of independence. The Emperor of Constantinople fixed there a tribunal for the settlement of all disputes regarding naval matters, and the Tabula Amalfitana, or Code of Amalfi, soon became recognized as the guiding laws for all Europe, and Amalfi was regarded as the foremost naval power in the world.

Amalfi in the time of Robert Guiscard had fifty thousand inhibitants. Its merchants traded all over the known world, and established colonies at Byzantium, in Asia Minor, and in Africa. They also instituted the order of the Hospitallers of St. John, who became afterwards known as the Knights of Malta, and these merchants were the foremost traders in the world, for only after their decline did Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa rise to greatness. It was consequently inevitable that at the time of the Crusades the city swarmed with armed men, and that from its port multitudes of knights, with the cross as a device, set out in the interests of the good cause and to satisfy personal love of gain and adventure.

Amalfi at this period was a proud and haughty city, and took every occasion of defying the Norman sovereigns of Naples. King Roger finally made war upon the city and, after two years of more or less constant attack and circumvallation, obliged it to capitulate in 1131, after which he placed it under a species of suzerainty while still allowing it perfect freedom as to its internal government.

A few years later Amalfi had a quarrel with Pisa. The Pisans took the offensive and, in spite of the efforts of King Roger to protect Amalfi, the enemy raided the city and carried off its greatest treasure, the celebrated manuscripts of the Pandects of Justinian, now one of the principal treasures of the Laurentian Library in Florence, the Florentines having taken it from the Pisans in the fifteenth century. The Pisans returned again in 1137, two years after their first attack, and obliged Amalfi to sue for peace. The little republic had thence forward lost its power and its primacy, and became subject to the Dukes of Anjou.

In 1343 the lower part of the town, which had been gradually undermined by the sea for at least a couple of centuries, collapsed and almost the whole of its buildings, with arsenals and harbor, were thenceforward covered with water. Amalfi from this on was merely an antiquarian relic of its former greatness. It retained, however, the glorious boast of having been the first of the dominating naval powers of Christian Europe, and of having given birth to Flavio Gioja, the man who in 1302, by the discovery for the Caucasian race of the mariner’s compass, led the way to the discovery of America and helped powerfully to spread civilization and practically to revolutionize the world.

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Further Reading and External Links

The Hospitalliers of St John

St John Ambulance on Wikipedia

St John Ambulance Association Website

The Mariners Compass

The Pandects of Justinian

Thomas Cook – 1841 – The First Rail Excursion

 

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Here is an excerpt from Glimpses of Ancient Leicester by Agnes Johnson – 1906, it covers the dawn of the first rail excusion as a means of leisure travel in 1841.

Thomas Cook – 1841 – The First Rail Excursion

The project of running excursion trains at cheap fares was even in these early days dawning in the mind of our celebrated fellow-townsman Mr. Thomas Cook; for he arranged and personally conducted his first excursion (to Loughborough) on the 5th July [1841]. 

It was not until many years later that his system was developed to any great extent; but he gradually became known to all the world as the successful organiser of popular home and foreign travel; an undertaking which has conferred health and pleasure upon multitudes of his countrymen and women, and which has probably made his name and that of his son the late Mr. John M. Cook more familiar both on the Continent and in remote corners of the earth than that of any other Englishmen below the rank of royalty. 

Mr. Thomas Cook died in [1892], deservedly respected both for his enterprise in travel and for his untiring labours in the cause of Temperance.  

Excerpt from Glimpses of Ancient Leicester by Agnes Johnson – 1906

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Further Reading and External Links

Thomas Cook and the First Rail Excursion

Thomas Cook on Wikipedia

Thomas Cook Timeline