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The Life of Thomas Telford by Smiles

by Samuel Smiles

June, 1997  [Etext #939]

A Project Gutenberg Etext of The Life of Thomas Telford by Smiles
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This etext produced by Eric Hutton, email:
additional proof reading by David G Haren and Simon Allen

The Life of Thomas Telford civil engineer with an
introductory history of roads and travelling in Great Britian

by Samuel Smiles

   "Let us travel, and wherever we find no facility for
    travelling from a city to a town, from a village to a
    hamlet, we may pronounce the people to be barbarous"
    --Abbe Raynal

   "The opening up of the internal communications of a
    country is undoubtedly the first and most important
    element of its growth in commerce and civilization"
    --Richard Cobden




CHAPTER I.  Old Roads

Roads as agents of civilization
Their important uses
Ancient British trackways or ridgeways
The Romans and their roads in Britain
Decay of the Roman roads
Early legislation relating to highways
Roads near London
The Weald of Kent
Great Western roads
Hollow ways or lanes
Roads on Dartmoor
in Sussex
at Kensington

CHAPTER II.  Early Modes of Conveyance

Riding on horseback the ancient mode of traveling
Shakespear's description of travelling in 'Henry IV.'
Queen Elizabeth and her coach
Introduction of coaches or waggons
Painful journeys by coach
Carriers in reign of James I
Great north Road in reign of Charles I
Mace's description of roads and travellers stage-coaches introduced
Sobriere's account of the Dover stage-coach
Thoresby's account of stage-coaches and travelling
Roads and travelling in North Wales
Proposal to suppres stage-coaches
Tediousness and discomforts of travelling by coach
Pennant's account of the Chester and London stage
Travelling on horseback preferred
The night coach
Highway robbers and foot-pads
Methods of transport of the merchandize pack-horse convoys
Traffic between lancashire and Yorkshire
Signs of the pack-horse

CHAPTER III.  Influence of Roads on Society

Restricted intercourse between districts
Local dialects and customs thereby preserved
Camden's fear of travelling into the barbarous regions of the North
Rev. Mr Brome's travels in England
Old Leisure
Imperfect postal communication
Hawkers and pedlars
Laying in stores for winter
Household occupations
Great fairs of ancient times
Local fairs
Fair on Dartmoor
Primitive manners of Dartmoor District

CHAPTER IV.  Roads in Scotland last centuary

Poverty of Scotland
Backwardness of agriculture
Idleness of the people
Andrew Flecher's description of Scotland
Slavery of colliers and salters
Improvements in agriculture opposed
Low wages of the labouring population
State of the Lothians and Ayrshire
Wretched states of the roads
Difficulty of communication between districts
Coach started between Edinburgh and Glasgow
Carrier's perils between Edinburgh and Selkirk
Dangers of travelling in Galloway
Lawlessness of the Highlands
Picking and lifting of cattle
Ferocity of population on the Highland Border
Ancient civilization of Scotland

CHAPTER V.  Travelling in England last century

Progress made in travelling by coach
Fast coaches established
Bad state of the roads
Foreigners' accounts of travelling in England
Herr Moritz's journey by the basket coach
Arthur Young's description of English roads
Palmer's mail coaches introduced
The first 'Turnpike' roads
Turnpike riots
The  rebellion of 1745
Passing of numerous highway Acts
Road-making thought beneath the dignity of the engineer

CHAPTER VI.  John Metcalf, road-maker.

Metcalf's boyhood
His blindness
His boldness
Becomes a Musician
His travels
Journey on foot from London to Harrogate
Joins the army as musician in the rebellion of 1745
Adventures in Scotland
Becomes travelling merchant and horse dealer
Begins road-making
Builds a bridge
His extensive road contracts in Yorkshire and Lancashire
Manner of aking his surveys
His skill in road-making
His last road--his death
Roads in the south of England
Want of roads on Lincoln Heath
Land lighthouses
Dunstan pillar
Rapid improvement in the roads
Application of steam
Sydney Smith on improved facilities of communication


CHAPTER I.  Eskdale.

Former lawlessness of the Border population
Jonnie armstrong
Border energy
Telford's birthplace
Valley of the Meggat
The 'unblameable shepherd'
Telford's mother
Early years
Laughing Tam
Put to school
His school-fellows

CHAPTER II.  Langholm--Telford a Stonemason

Telford apprenticed to a stonemason
Runs away
Re-apprenticed to a mason at Langholm
Building operations in the district
Miss Pasley lends books to young Telford
Attempt to write poetry
Becomes village letter-writer
Works as a journeyman mason
Employed on Langholm Bridge
Manse of Westerkirk
Poem of 'Eskdale'
Hews headstones and doorheads
Works as a mason at Edinburgh
Study of architecture
Revisits Eskdale
His ride to London

CHAPTER III.  Arrives in London

Telford a working man in London
Obtains employment as a mason at
Somerset House
Correspondence with Eskdale friends
Observations on his fellow-workman
Propses to begin business, but wants money
Mr. Pulteney
Becomes foreman of builders at Portsmouth Dockyard
Continues to write poetry
Employment of his time
Prints letters to his mother

CHAPTER IV.  Becomes Surveyor for the County of Salop

Superintends repairs of Shrewsbury Castle
Appointed Surveyor for County of Salop
Superintends erection of new gaol
Interview with John Howard
His studies in science and literature
Poetical exercises
Fall of St. Chad's Church, Shrewsburg
Discovery of the Roman city of Uriconium
Overseer of felons
Mrs. Jordan at Shrewsbury
Telford's indifference to music
Politics, Paine's 'Rights of Man'
Reprints his poem of 'Eskdale'

CHAPTER V.  Telford's First Employment as an Engineer

Advantages of mechanical training to an engineer
Erects Montford Bridge
Erects St. Mary Magdalen Church, Bridgenorth
Telford's design
Architectural tour
Studies in British Museum
Study of architecture
Appointed Engineer to the Ellesmere Canal

CHAPTER VI.  The Ellesmere Canal

Course of the Ellesmire Canal
Success of the early canals
The Act obtained and working survey made
Chirk Aqueduct
Pont-Cysylltau Aqueduct,
Telford's hollow walls
His cast iron trough at Pont-Cysylltau
The canal works completed
Revists Eskdale
Early impressions corrected
Tours in Wales
Conduct of Ellesmere Canal navigation
His literary studies and compositions

CHAPTER VII.  Iron and other Bridges

Use of iron in bridge-building
Design of a Lyons architect
First iron bridge erected at Coalbrookdale
Tom paine's iron bridge
Wear iron bridge, Sunderland
Telford's iron bridge at Buildwas
His iron lock-gates and turn-bridges
Projects a one-arched bridge of iron over the Thames
Bewdley stone bridge
Tougueland Bridge
Extension of Telford's engineering buisness
Literary friendships
Thomas Campbell
Miscellaneous reading

CHAPTER VIII.  Higland Roads and Bridges

Progress of Scotch agriculture
Romilly's account
State of the Highlands
Want of roads
Use of the Cas-chrom
Telford's survey of Scotland
Lord Cockburn's account of the difficulties of travelling
the North Circuit
Parliamentary Commission of Highland Roads and Bridges appointed
Dunkeld Bridge built
920 miles of new roads constucted
Craigellachie Bridge
Travelling facilitated
Agriculture improved
Moral results of Telford's Highland contracts
Rapid progress of the Lowlands
Results of parish schools

CHAPTER IX.  Telford's Scotch Harbours

Highland harbours
Wick and Pulteney Town
Columnar pier work
Peterhead Harbour
Frazerburgh Harbour
Bannf Harbour
Old history of Aberdeen, its witch-burning and slave-trading
Improvements of its harbour
Telford's design carried out
Dundee Harbour

CHAPTER X.  Caledonian and other Canals

Canal projected through the Great Glen of the Highlands
Survey by James Watt
Survey by Telford
Tide-basin at Corpach
Neptune's Staircase
Dock at Clachnaharry
The chain of lochs
Construction of the works
Commercial failure of the canal
Telford's disappointment
Glasgow and Ardrossan Canal
Weaver Navigation
Gotha Canal, Sweden
Gloucester and Berkeley, and other canals
Harecastle Tunnel
Birmingham Canal
Macclesfield Canal
Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal
Telford's pride in his canals

CHAPTER XI.  Telford as a road-maker

Increase of road-traffic
Improvement of the main routes between the principal towns
Carlisle and Glasgow road
Telford's principles of road-construction
Cartland Crags Bridge
Improvement of the London and Edinburgh post road
Communications with Ireland
Wretched state of the Welsh roads
Telford's survey of the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road
Its construction
Roads and railways
London and Shrewsbury post road
Roads near London
Coast road, North Wales

CHAPTER XII.  The Menai and Conway Bridges

Bridges projected over the Menai Straits
Telford's designs
Ingenious plan of suspended centering
Design of a suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn
Design of suspension bridge at Menai
The works begun
The main piers
The suspension chains
Hoisting of the first main chain
Progress of the works to completion
The bridge formally opened
Conway Suspension Bridge

CHAPTER XIII.  Docks, Drainage, and Bridges

Resume of English engineering
General increase in trade and poulation
The Thames
St. Katherine's Docks
Tewkesburg Bridge
Gloucester Bridge
Dean Bridge, Edinburgh
Glasgow Bridge
Telford's works of drainage in the Fens
The North Level
The Nene Outfall
Effects of Fen drainage

CHAPTER XIV.  Southey's tour in the highlands

Southey sets out to visit the Highlands in Telford's company
Works at Dundee Harbour
Bervie Harbour
Mitchell and Gibbs
Aberdeen Harbour
Approach to Banff
Cullen Harbour
The Forres road
Beauly Bridge
Bonar Bridge
Fleet Mound
Southey's description of the Caledonian Canal and works
John Mitchell
Takes leave of Telford
Results of Highland road-making

CHAPTER XV.  Mr Telford's later years--His death and character

Telford's residence in London
Leaves the Salopian
First President of Institute of Civil Engineers
Consulted by foreign Governments as to roads and bridges
His views on railways
Failure of health
Consulted as to Dover Harbour
Illness and death
His character
His friends
Views on money-making
His Will
Libraries in Eskdale supported by his bequests


The present is a revised and in some respects enlarged edition of
the 'Life of Telford,' originally published in the 'Lives of the
Engineers,' to which is prefixed an account of the early roads and
modes of travelling in Britain.

From this volume, read in connection with the Lives of George and
Robert Stephenson, in which the origin and extension of Railways is
described, an idea may be formed of the extraordinary progress
which has been made in opening up the internal communications of
this  country during the last century.

Among the principal works executed by Telford in the course of his
life, were the great highways constructed by him in North Wales and
the Scotch Highlands, through districts formerly almost inaccessible,
but which are now as easily traversed as any English county.

By means of these roads, and the facilities afforded by railways,
the many are now enabled to visit with ease and comfort magnificent
mountain scenery, which before was only the costly privilege of the
few; at the same time that their construction has exercised a most
beneficial influence on the population of the districts themselves.

The Highland roads, which were constructed with the active
assistance of the Government, and were maintained partly at the
public expense until within the last few years, had the effect of
stimulating industry, improving agriculture, and converting a
turbulent because unemployed population into one of the most loyal
and well-conditioned in the empire;-- the policy thus adopted with
reference to the Highlands, and the beneficial results which have
flowed from it, affording the strongest encouragement to Government
in dealing in like manner with the internal communications of

While the construction of the Highland roads was in progress,
the late Robert Southey, poet laureate, visited the Highlands in
company with his friend the engineer, and left on record an
interesting account of his visit, in a, manuscript now in the
possession of Robert Rawlinson, C.E., to whom we are indebted for
the extracts which are made from it in the present volume.

London, October, 1867.



Roads have in all times been among the most influential agencies of
society; and the makers of them, by enabling men readily to
communicate with each other, have properly been regarded as among
the most effective pioneers of civilization.

Roads are literally the pathways not only of industry, but of
social and national intercourse.  Wherever a line of communication
between men is formed, it renders commerce practicable; and,
wherever commerce penetrates, it creates a civilization and leaves
a history.

Roads place the city and the town in connection with the village
and the farm, open up markets for field produce, and provide
outlets for manufactures.  They enable the natural resources of a
country to be developed, facilitate travelling and intercourse,
break down local jealousies, and in all ways tend to bind together
society and bring out fully that healthy spirit of industry which
is the life and soul of every nation.

The road is so necessary an instrument of social wellbeing,
that in every new colony it is one of the first things thought of.
First roads, then commerce, institutions, schools, churches,
and newspapers.  The new country, as well as the old, can only be
effectually "opened up," as the common phrase is, by roads
and until these are made, it is virtually closed.

Freedom itself cannot exist without free communication,--every
limitation of movement on the part of the members of society
amounting to a positive abridgment of their personal liberty.
Hence roads, canals, and railways, by providing the greatest
possible facilities for locomotion and information, are essential
for the freedom of all classes, of the poorest as well as the

By bringing the ends of a kingdom together, they reduce the
inequalities of fortune and station, and, by equalizing the price
of commodities, to that extent they render them accessible to all.
Without their assistance, the concentrated populations of our large
towns could neither be clothed nor fed; but by their instrumentality
an immense range of country is brought as it were to their very doors,
and the sustenance and employment of large masses of people become
comparatively easy.

In the raw materials required for food, for manufactures, and for
domestic purposes, the cost of transport necessarily forms a
considerable item; and it is clear that the more this cost can be
reduced by facilities of communication, the cheaper these articles
become, and the more they are multiplied and enter into the
consumption of the community at large.

Let any one imagine what would be the effect of closing the roads,
railways, and canals of England.  The country would be brought to a
dead lock, employment would be restricted in all directions, and a
large proportion of the inhabitants concentrated in the large towns
must at certain seasons inevitably perish of cold and hunger.

In the earlier periods of English history, roads were of comparatively
less consequence.  While the population was thin and scattered,
and men lived by hunting and pastoral pursuits, the track across
the down, the heath, and the moor, sufficiently answered their purpose.
Yet even in those districts unencumbered with wood, where the first
settlements were made--as on the downs of Wiltshire, the moors of
Devonshire, and the wolds of Yorkshire--stone tracks were laid down
by the tribes between one village and another.  We have given here,
a representation of one of those ancient trackways still existing
in the neighbourhood of Whitby, in Yorkshire;

[Image] Ancient Causeway, near Whitby.

and there are many of the same description to be met with in other
parts of England.  In some districts they are called trackways or
ridgeways, being narrow causeways usually following the natural
ridge of the country, and probably serving in early times as local
boundaries.  On Dartmoor they are constructed of stone blocks,
irregularly laid down on the surface of the ground, forming a rude
causeway of about five or six feet wide.

The Romans, with many other arts, first brought into England the
art of road-making.  They thoroughly understood the value of good
roads, regarding them as the essential means for the maintenance
of their empire in the first instance, and of social prosperity in
the next. It was their roads, as well as their legions, that made
them masters of the world; and the pickaxe, not less than the sword,
was the ensign of their dominion.  Wherever they went, they opened
up the communications of the countries they subdued, and the roads
which they made were among the best of their kind.  They were
skilfully laid out and solidly constructed.  For centuries after
the Romans left England, their roads continued to be the main
highways of internal communication, and their remains are to this
day to be traced in many parts of the country.   Settlements were
made and towns sprang up along the old "streets;" and the numerous
Stretfords, Stratfords, and towns ending' in "le-street"
--as Ardwick-le-street, in Yorkshire, and Chester-le-street,
in Durham--mostly mark the direction of these ancient lines of road.
There are also numerous Stanfords, which were so called because they
bordered the raised military roadways of the Romans, which ran
direct between their stations.

The last-mentioned peculiarity of the roads constructed by the
Romans, must have struck many observers.  Level does not seem to
have been of consequence, compared with directness.  This
peculiarity is supposed to have originated in an imperfect
knowledge of mechanics; for the Romans do not appear to have been
acquainted with the moveable joint in wheeled carriages.
The carriage-body rested solid upon the axles, which in four-wheeled
vehicles were rigidly parallel with each other.  Being unable
readily to turn a bend in the road, it has been concluded that for
this reason all the great Roman highways were constructed in as
straight lines as possible.

On the departure of the Romans from Britain, most of the roads
constructed by them were allowed to fall into decay, on which the
forest and the waste gradually resumed their dominion over them,
and the highways of England became about the worst in Europe.
We find, however, that numerous attempts were made in early times
to preserve the ancient ways and enable a communication to be
maintained between the metropolis and the rest of the country,
as well as between one  market town and another.

The state of the highways may be inferred from the character of
the legislation applying to them.  One of the first laws on the
subject was passed in 1285, directing that all bushes and trees
along the roads leading from one market to another should be cut
down for two hundred feet on either side, to prevent robbers
lurking therein;*[1] but nothing was proposed for amending the
condition of the ways themselves.  In 1346, Edward III.
authorised the first toll to be levied for the repair of the
roads leading from St. Giles's-in-the-Fields to the village of
Charing (now Charing Cross), and from the same quarter to near
Temple Bar (down Drury Lane), as well as the highway then called
Perpoole (now Gray's Inn Lane). The footway at the entrance of
Temple Bar was interrupted by thickets and bushes, and in wet
weather was almost impassable.  The roads further west were so
bad that when the sovereign went to Parliament faggots were
thrown into the ruts in King-street, Westminster, to enable the
royal cavalcade to pass along.

In Henry VIII.'s reign, several remarkable statutes were passed
relating to certain worn-out and impracticable roads in Sussex and
the Weald of Kent.  From the earliest of these, it would appear
that when the old roads were found too deep and miry to be passed,
they were merely abandoned and new tracks struck out.  After
describing "many of the wayes in the wealds as so depe and noyous
by wearyng and course of water and other occasions that people
cannot have their carriages or passages by horses uppon or by the
same but to their great paynes, perill and jeopardie," the Act
provided that owners of land might, with the consent of two
justices and twelve discreet men of the hundred, lay out new roads
and close up the old ones.  Another Act passed in the same reign,
related to the repairs of bridges and of the highways at the ends
of bridges.

But as these measures were for the most part merely permissive,
they could have had but little practical effect in improving the
communications of the kingdom.  In the reign of Philip and Mary
(in 1555), an Act was passed providing that each parish should elect
two surveyors of highways to see to the maintenance of their
repairs by  compulsory labour, the preamble reciting that
"highwaies are now both verie noisome and tedious to travell in,
and dangerous to all  passengers and cariages;" and to this day
parish and cross roads are maintained on the principle of Mary's
Act, though the compulsory labour has since been commuted into a
compulsory tax.

In the reigns of Elizabeth and James, other road Acts were passed;
but, from the statements of contemporary writers, it would appear
that they were followed by very little substantial progress, and
travelling continued to be attended with many difficulties.  Even in
the neighbourhood of the metropolis, the highways were in certain
seasons scarcely passable.  The great Western road into London was
especially bad, and about Knightsbridge, in winter, the traveller
had to wade through deep mud.  Wyatt's men entered the city by this
approach in the rebellion of 1554, and were called the "draggle-tails"
because of their wretched plight.  The ways were equally bad as far
as Windsor, which, in the reign of Elizabeth, is described by Pote,
in his history of that town, as being "not much past half a day's
journeye removed from the flourishing citie of London."

At a greater distance from the metropolis, the roads were still
worse.  They were in many cases but rude tracks across heaths and
commons, as furrowed with deep ruts as ploughed fields; and in
winter to pass along one of them was like travelling in a ditch.
The attempts made by the adjoining occupiers to mend them, were for
the most part confined to throwing large stones into the bigger
holes to fill them up.  It was easier to allow new tracks to be
made than to mend the old ones.  The land of the country was still
mostly unenclosed, and it was possible, in fine weather, to get
from place to place, in one way or another, with the help of a
guide. In the absence of bridges, guides were necessary to point
out the safest fords as well as to pick out the least miry tracks.
The most frequented lines of road were struck out from time to time
by the drivers of pack-horses, who, to avoid the bogs and sloughs,
were usually careful to keep along the higher grounds; but, to
prevent those horsemen who departed from the beaten track being
swallowed up in quagmires, beacons were erected to warn them
against the more dangerous places.*[2]

In some of the older-settled districts of England, the old roads
are still to be traced in the hollow Ways or Lanes, which are to
be met with, in some places, eight and ten feet deep.  They were
horse-tracks in summer, and rivulets in winter.  By dint of
weather and travel, the earth was gradually worn into these deep
furrows, many of which, in Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, represent
the tracks of roads as old as, if not older than, the Conquest.
When the ridgeways of the earliest settlers on Dartmoor, above
alluded to, were abandoned, the tracks were formed through the
valleys, but the new roads were no better than the old ones.
They were narrow and deep, fitted only for a horse passing along
laden with its crooks, as so graphically described in the ballad
of "The Devonshire Lane."*[3]

Similar roads existed until recently in the immediate neighbourhood
of Birmingham, now the centre of an immense traffic.  The sandy
soil was sawn through, as it were, by generation after generation
of human feet, and by packhorses, helped by the rains, until in
some places the tracks were as much as from twelve to fourteen
yards deep; one of these, partly filled up, retaining to this day
the name of Holloway Head.  In the neighbourhood of London there
was also a Hollow way, which now gives its name to a populous
metropolitan parish.  Hagbush Lane was another of such roads.
Before the formation of the Great North Road, it was one of the
principal bridle-paths leading from London to the northern parts of
England; but it was so narrow as barely to afford passage for more
than a single horseman, and so deep that the rider's head was
beneath the level of the ground on either side.

The roads of Sussex long preserved an infamous notoriety.
Chancellor Cowper, when a barrister on circuit, wrote to his wife
in 1690, that "the Sussex ways are bad and ruinous beyond
imagination. I vow 'tis melancholy consideration that mankind will
in habit such a heap of dirt for a poor livelihood.  The country is
a sink of about fourteen miles broad, which receives all the water
that falls from two long ranges of hills on both sides of it,
and not being furnished with convenient draining, is kept moist
and soft by the water till the middle of a dry summer, which is only
able to make it tolerable to ride for a short time."

It was almost as difficult for old persons to get to church in
Sussex during winter as it was in the Lincoln Fens, where they were
rowed thither in boats.  Fuller saw an old lady being drawn to
church in her own coach by the aid of six oxen.  The Sussex roads
were indeed so bad as to pass into a by-word.  A contemporary
writer says, that in travelling a slough of extraordinary miryness,
it used to be called "the Sussex bit of the road;" and he
satirically alleged that the reason why the Sussex girls were so
long-limbed was because of the tenacity of the mud in that county;
the practice of pulling the foot out of it "by the strength of the
ancle" tending to stretch the muscle and lengthen the bone!*[4]
But the roads in the immediate neighbourhood of London long
continued almost as bad as those in Sussex.  Thus, when the poet
Cowley retired to Chertsey, in 1665, he wrote to his friend Sprat
to visit him, and, by way of encouragement, told him that he
might sleep the first night at Hampton town; thus occupying; two
days in the performance of a journey of twenty-two miles in the
immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis.  As late as 1736 we
find Lord Hervey, writing from Kensington, complaining that
"the road between this place and London is grown so infamously bad
that we live here in the same solitude as we would do if cast on
a rock in the middle of the ocean; and all the Londoners tell us
that there is between them and us an impassable gulf of mud."

Nor was the mud any respecter of persons; for we are informed that
the carriage of Queen Caroline could not, in bad weather,
be dragged from St. James's Palace to Kensington in less than two
hours, and occasionally the royal coach stuck fast in a rut,
or was even capsized in the mud.  About the same time, the streets
of London themselves were little better, the kennel being still
permitted to flow in the middle of the road, which was paved with
round stones,--flag-stones for the convenience of pedestrians
being as yet unknown.  In short, the streets in the towns and the
roads in the country were alike rude and wretched,--indicating a
degree of social stagnation and discomfort which it is now
difficult to estimate, and almost impossible to describe.

Footnotes for chapter I

*[1] Brunetto Latini, the tutor of Dante, describes a journey made
by him from London to Oxford about the end of the thirteenth
century, resting by the way at Shirburn Castle.  He says,
"Our journey from London to Oxford was, with some difficulty and
danger, made in two days; for the roads are bad, and we had to
climb hills of hazardous ascent, and which to descend are equally
perilous.  We passed through many woods, considered here as
dangerous places, as they are infested with robbers, which indeed
is the case with most of the roads in England.  This is a
circumstance connived at by the neighbouring barons, on
consideration of sharing in the booty, and of these robbers serving
as their protectors on all occasions, personally, and with the
whole strength of their band.  However, as our company was
numerous, we had less to fear.  Accordingly, we arrived the first
night at Shirburn Castle, in the neighbourhood of Watlington, under
the chain of hills over which we passed at Stokenchurch."  This
passage is given in Mr. Edward's work on  'Libraries' (p. 328),
as supplied to him by Lady Macclesfield.

*[2] See Ogilby's 'Britannia Depicta,' the traveller's ordinary
guidebook between 1675 and 1717, as Bradshaw's Railway Time-book is
now.  The Grand Duke Cosmo, in his 'Travels in England in 1669,'
speaks of the country between Northampton and Oxford as for the
most part unenclosed and uncultivated, abounding in weeds.  From
Ogilby's fourth edition, published in 1749, it appears that the
roads in the midland and northern districts of England were still,
for the most part, entirely unenclosed.

*[3] This ballad is so descriptive of the old roads of the
south-west of England that we are tempted to quote it at length.
It was written by the Rev. John Marriott, sometime vicar of
Broadclist, Devon; and Mr. Rowe, vicar of Crediton, says, in his
'Perambulation of Dartmoor,' that he can readily imagine the
identical lane near Broadclist, leading towards Poltemore, which
might have sat for the portrait.

    In a Devonshire lane, as I trotted along
    T'other day, much in want of a subject for song,
    Thinks I to myself, half-inspired by the rain,
    Sure marriage is much like a Devonshire lane.

    In the first place 'tis long, and when once you are in it,
    It holds you as fast as a cage does a linnet;
    For howe'er rough and dirty the road may be found,
    Drive forward you must, there is no turning round.

    But tho' 'tis so long, it is not very wide,
    For two are the most that together can ride;
    And e'en then, 'tis a chance but they get in a pother,
    And jostle and cross and run foul of each other.

    Oft poverty meets them with mendicant looks,
    And care pushes by them with dirt-laden crooks;
    And strife's grazing wheels try between them to pass,
    And stubbornness blocks up the way on her ass,

    Then the banks are so high, to the left hand and right,
    That they shut up the beauties around them from sight;
    And hence, you'll allow, 'tis an inference plain,
    That marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.

    But thinks I, too, these banks, within which we are pent,
    With bud, blossom, and berry, are richly besprent;
    And the conjugal fence, which forbids us to roam,
    Looks lovely, when deck'd with the comforts of home.

    In the rock's gloomy crevice the bright holly grows;
    The ivy waves fresh o'er the withering rose,
    And the ever-green love of a virtuous wife
    Soothes the roughness of care, cheers the winter of life.

    Then long be the journey, and narrow the way,
    I'll rejoice that I've seldom a turnpike to pay;
    And whate'er others say, be the last to complain,
    Though marriage is just like a Devonshire lane.

*[4] Iter Sussexiense.' By Dr. John Burton.



Such being the ancient state of the roads, the only practicable
modes of travelling were on foot and on horseback.  The poor walked
and the rich rode.  Kings rode and Queens rode.  Judges rode circuit
in jack-boots.  Gentlemen rode and robbers rode.  The Bar sometimes
walked and sometimes rode.  Chaucer's ride to Canterbury will be
remembered as long as the English language lasts.  Hooker rode to
London on a hard-paced nag, that he might be in time to preach his
first sermon at St. Paul's.  Ladies rode on pillions, holding on by
the gentleman or the serving-man mounted before.

Shakespeare incidentally describes the ancient style of travelling
among the humbler classes in his 'Henry IV.'*[1]

The Party, afterwards set upon by Falstaff and his companions,
bound from Rochester to London, were up by two in the morning,
expecting to perform the journey of thirty miles by close of day,
and to get to town "in time to go to bed with a candle."  Two are
carriers, one of whom has "a gammon of bacon and two razes of
ginger, to be delivered as far as Charing Cross;" the other has his
panniers full of turkeys.  There is also a franklin of Kent,
and another, "a kind of auditor," probably a tax-collector,
with several more, forming in all a company of eight or ten, who
travel together for mutual protection.  Their robbery on Gad's Hill,
as painted by Shakespeare, is but a picture, by no means exaggerated,
of the adventures and dangers of the road at the time of which he

Distinguished personages sometimes rode in horse-litters; but
riding on horseback was generally preferred.  Queen Elizabeth made
most of her journeys in this way,*[2] and when she went into the
City she rode on a pillion behind her Lord Chancellor.  The Queen,
however, was at length provided with a coach, which must have been
a very remarkable machine.  This royal vehicle is said to have been
one of the first coaches used in England, and it was introduced by
the Queen's own coachman, one Boomen, a Dutchman.  It was little
better than a cart without springs, the body resting solid upon the
axles.  Taking the bad roads and ill-paved streets into account,
it must have been an excessively painful means of conveyance.
At one of the first audiences which the Queen gave to the French
ambassador in 1568, she feelingly described to him "the aching
pains she was suffering in consequence of having been knocked about
in a coach which had been driven a little too fast, only a few days

Such coaches were at first only used on state occasions.
The roads, even in the immediate neighbourhood of London, were so
bad and so narrow that the vehicles could not be taken into the
country. But, as the roads became improved, the fashion of using
them spread.  When the aristocracy removed from the City to the
western parts of the metropolis, they could be better accommodated,
and in course of time they became gradually adopted.  They were
still, however, neither more nor less than waggons, and, indeed,
were called by that name; but wherever they went they excited great
wonder.  It is related of "that valyant knyght Sir Harry Sidney,"
that on a certain day in the year 1583 he entered Shrewsbury in his
waggon, "with his Trompeter blowynge, verey joyfull to behold and

From this time the use of coaches gradually spread, more
particularly amongst the nobility, superseding the horse-litters
which had till then been used for the conveyance of ladies and
others unable to bear the fatigue of riding on horseback.
The first carriages were heavy and lumbering: and upon the execrable
roads of the time they went pitching over the stones and into the
ruts, with the pole dipping and rising like a ship in a rolling sea.
That they had no springs, is clear enough from the statement of
Taylor, the water-poet--who deplored the introduction of carriages
as a national calamity--that in the paved streets of London men and
women were "tossed, tumbled, rumbled, and jumbled about in them."
Although the road from London to Dover, along the old Roman
Watling-street, was then one of the best in England, the French
household of Queen Henrietta, when they were sent forth from
the palace of Charles I., occupied four tedious days before they
reached Dover.

But it was only a few of the main roads leading from the metropolis
that were practicable for coaches; and on the occasion of a royal
progress, or the visit of a lord-lieutenant, there was a general
turn out of labourers and masons to mend the ways and render the
bridges at least temporarily secure.  Of one of Queen Elizabeth's
journeys it is said:-- "It was marvellous for ease and expedition,
for such is the perfect evenness of the new highway that Her
Majesty left the coach only once, while the hinds and the folk of a
base sort lifted it on with their poles."

Sussex long continued impracticable for coach travelling at certain
seasons.  As late as 1708, Prince George of Denmark had the
greatest difficulty in making his way to Petworth to meet Charles VI.
of Spain. "The last nine miles of the way," says the reporter,
"cost us six hours to conquer them."  One of the couriers in
attendance complained that during fourteen hours he never once
alighted, except when the coach overturned, or stuck in the mud.

When the judges, usually old men and bad riders, took to going the
circuit in their coaches, juries were often kept waiting until
their lordships could be dug out of a bog or hauled out of a slough
by the aid of plough-horses.  In the seventeenth century, scarcely
a Quarter Session passed without presentments from the grand jury
against certain districts on account of the bad state of the roads,
and many were the fines which the judges imposed upon them as a
set-off against their bruises and other damages while on circuit.

For a long time the roads continued barely practicable for wheeled
vehicles of the rudest sort, though Fynes Morison (writing in the
time of James I.) gives an account of "carryers, who have long
covered waggons, in which they carry passengers from place to
place; but this kind of journeying," he says, "is so tedious, by
reason they must take waggon very early and come very late to their
innes, that none but women and people of inferior condition travel
in this sort."

[Image] The Old Stage Waggon.

The waggons of which Morison wrote, made only from ten to fifteen
miles in a long summer's day; that is, supposing them not to have
broken down by pitching over the boulders laid along the road, or
stuck fast in a quagmire, when they had to wait for the arrival of
the next team of horses to help to drag them out.  The waggon,
however, continued to be adopted as a popular mode of travelling
until late in the eighteenth century; and Hogarth's picture
illustrating the practice will be remembered, of the cassocked
parson on his lean horse, attending his daughter newly alighted
from the York waggon.

A curious description of the state of the Great North Road, in the
time of Charles II., is to be found in a tract published in 1675 by
Thomas Mace, one of the clerks of Trinity College, Cambridge. The
writer there addressed himself to the King, partly in prose and
partly in verse; complaining greatly of the "wayes, which are so
grossly foul and bad;" and suggesting various remedies.  He pointed
out that much ground "is now spoiled and trampled down in all wide
roads, where coaches and carts take liberty to pick and chuse for
their best advantages; besides, such sprawling and straggling of
coaches and carts utterly confound the road in all wide places, so
that it is not only unpleasurable, but extreme perplexin and
cumbersome both to themselves and all horse travellers."  It would
thus appear that the country on either side of the road was as yet
entirely unenclosed.

But Mace's principal complaint was of the "innumerable
controversies, quarrellings, and disturbances" caused by the
packhorse-men, in their struggles as to which convoy should pass
along the cleaner parts of the road.  From what he states, it would
seem that these "disturbances, daily committed by uncivil,
refractory, and rude Russian-like rake-shames, in contesting for
the way, too often proved mortal, and certainly were of very bad
consequences to many."  He recommended a quick and prompt punishment
in all such cases.  "No man," said he, "should be pestered by
giving the way (sometimes) to hundreds of pack-horses, panniers,
whifflers (i.e. paltry fellows), coaches, waggons, wains, carts,
or whatsoever others, which continually are very grievous to weary
and loaden travellers; but more especially near the city and upon a
market day, when, a man having travelled a long and tedious
journey, his horse well nigh spent, shall sometimes be compelled to
cross out of his way twenty times in one mile's riding, by the
irregularity and peevish crossness of such-like whifflers and
market women; yea, although their panniers be clearly empty, they
will stoutly contend for the way with weary travellers, be they
never so many, or almost of what quality soever."  "Nay," said he
further, "I have often known many travellers, and myself very
often, to have been necessitated to stand stock still behind a
standing cart or waggon, on most beastly and unsufferable deep wet
wayes, to the great endangering of our horses, and neglect of
important business: nor durst we adventure to stirr (for most
imminent danger of those deep rutts, and unreasonable ridges) till
it has pleased Mister Garter to jog on, which we have taken very

Mr. Mace's plan of road reform was not extravagant.  He mainly
urged that only two good tracks should be maintained, and the road
be not allowed to spread out into as many as half-a-dozen very bad
ones, presenting high ridges and deep ruts, full of big stones,
and many quagmires.  Breaking out into verse, he said --

   "First let the wayes be regularly brought
    To artificial form, and truly wrought;
    So that we can suppose them firmly mended,
    And in all parts the work well ended,
    That not a stone's amiss; but all compleat,
    All lying smooth, round, firm, and wondrous neat."

After a good deal more in the same strain, he concluded--

   "There's only one thing yet worth thinking on
    which is, to put this work in execution."*[5]

But we shall find that more than a hundred years passed before the
roads throughout England were placed in a more satisfactory state
than they were in the time of Mr. Mace.

The introduction of stage-coaches about the middle of the
seventeenth century formed a new era in the history of travelling
by road.  At first they were only a better sort of waggon, and
confined to the more practicable highways near London.  Their pace
did not exceed four miles an hour, and the jolting of the
unfortunate passengers conveyed in them must have been very hard to
bear. It used to be said of their drivers that they were "seldom
sober, never Civil, and always late."

The first mention of coaches for public accommodation is made by
Sir William Dugdale in his Diary, from which it appears that a
Coventry coach was on the road in 1659.  But probably the first
coaches, or rather waggons, were run between London and Dover, as
one of the most practicable routes for the purpose.  M. Sobriere,
a French man of letters, who landed at Dover on his way to London
in the time of Charles II., alludes to the existence of a
stagecoach, but it seems to have had no charms for him, as the
following passage will show: "That I might not," he says,
"take post or be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went from Dover
to London in a waggon.  I was drawn by six horses, one before another,
and driven by a waggoner, who walked by the side of it.  He was
clothed in black, and appointed in all things like another St. George.
He had a brave montrero on his head and was a merry fellow, fancied
he made a figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself."

Shortly after, coaches seem to have been running as far north as
Preston in Lancashire, as appears by a letter from one Edward
Parker to his father, dated November, 1663, in which he says,
"I got to London on Saturday last; but my journey was noe ways
pleasant, being forced to ride in the boote all the waye.
Ye company yt came up with mee were persons of greate quality,
as knights and ladyes. My journey's expense was 30s.  This traval
hath soe indisposed mee, yt I am resolved never to ride up againe
in ye coatch."*[6]
These vehicles must, however, have considerably increased, as we
find a popular agitation was got up against them.  The Londoners
nicknamed them "hell-carts;" pamphlets were written recommending
their abolition; and attempts were even made to have them
suppressed by Act of Parliament.

Thoresby occasionally alludes to stage-coaches in his Diary,
speaking of one that ran between Hull and York in 1679, from which
latter place he had to proceed by Leeds in the usual way on
horseback.  This Hull vehicle did not run in winter, because of the
state of the roads; stagecoaches being usually laid up in that
season like ships during Arctic frosts.*[7]

Afterwards, when a coach was put on between York and Leeds, it
performed the journey of twenty-four miles in eight hours;*[8]
but the road was so bad and dangerous that the travellers were
accustomed to get out and walk the greater part of the way.

Thoresby often waxes eloquent upon the subject of his manifold
deliverances from the dangers of travelling by coach.  He was
especially thankful when he had passed the ferry over the Trent in
journeying between Leeds and London, having on several occasions
narrowly escaped drowning there.  Once, on his journey to London,
some showers fell, which "raised the washes upon the road near Ware
to that height that passengers from London that were upon that road
swam, and a poor higgler was drowned, which prevented me travelling
for many hours; yet towards evening we adventured with some country
people, who conducted us over the meadows, whereby we missed the
deepest of the Wash at Cheshunt, though we rode to the
saddle-skirts for a considerable way, but got safe to Waltham
Cross, where we lodged."*[9]  On another occasion Thoresby was
detained four days at Stamford by the state of the roads, and was
only extricated from his position by a company of fourteen members
of the House of Commons travelling towards London, who took him
into their convoy, and set out on their way southward attended by
competent guides.  When the "waters were out," as the saying went,
the country became closed, the roads being simply impassable.
During the Civil Wars eight hundred horse were taken prisoners
while sticking in the mud.*[10]  When rain fell, pedestrians,
horsemen, and coaches alike came to a standstill until the roads
dried again and enabled the wayfarers to proceed.  Thus we read of
two travellers stopped by the rains within a few miles of Oxford,
who found it impossible to accomplish their journey in consequence
of the waters that covered the country thereabout.

A curious account has been preserved of the journey of an Irish
Viceroy across North Wales towards Dublin in 1685.  The roads were
so horrible that instead of the Viceroy being borne along in his
coach, the coach itself had to be borne after him the greater part
of the way.  He was five hours in travelling between St. Asaph and
Conway, a distance of only fourteen miles.  Between Conway and
Beaumaris he was forced to walk, while his wife was borne along in
a litter. The carriages were usually taken to pieces at Conway and
carried on the shoulders of stout Welsh peasants to be embarked at
the Straits of Menai.

The introduction of stage-coaches, like every other public
improvement, was at first regarded with prejudice, and had
considerable obloquy to encounter.  In a curious book published in
1673, entitled 'The Grand Concern of England Explained in several
Proposals to Parliament,'*[11] stagecoaches and caravans were
denounced as among the greatest evils that had happened to the
kingdom, Being alike mischievous to the public, destructive to
trade, and prejudicial to the landed interest.  It was alleged that
travelling by coach was calculated to destroy the breed of horses,
and make men careless of good horsemanship,--that it hindered the
training of watermen and seamen, and interfered with the public
resources.  The reasons given are curious.  It was said that those
who were accustomed to travel in coaches became weary and listless
when they rode a few miles, and were unwilling to get on horseback
--"not being able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in
the fields;" that to save their clothes and keep themselves clean
and dry, people rode in coaches, and thus contracted an idle habit
of body; that this was ruinous to trade, for that "most gentlemen,
before they travelled in coaches, used to ride with swords, belts,
pistols, holsters, portmanteaus, and hat-cases, which, in these
coaches, they have little or no occasion for: for, when they rode
on horseback, they rode in one suit and carried another to wear
when they camp to their journey's end, or lay by the way; but in
coaches a silk suit and an Indian gown, with a sash, silk
stockings, and beaver-hats, men ride in, and carry no other with
them, because they escape the wet and dirt, which on horseback they
cannot avoid; whereas, in two or three journeys on horseback, these
clothes and hats were wont to be spoiled; which done, they were
forced to have new very often, and that increased the consumption
of the manufactures and the employment of the manufacturers; which
travelling in coaches doth in no way do."*[12]  The writer of the
same protest against coaches gives some idea of the extent of
travelling by them in those days; for to show the gigantic nature
of the evil he was contending against, he averred that between
London and the three principal towns of York, Chester, and Exeter,
not fewer than eighteen persons, making the journey in five days,
travelled by them weekly the coaches running thrice in the week),
and a like number back; "which come, in the whole, to eighteen
hundred and seventy-two in the year."  Another great nuisance,
the writer alleged, which flowed from the establishment of the
stage-coaches, was, that not only did the gentlemen from the
country come to London in them oftener than they need, but their
ladies either came with them or quickly followed them.  "And when
they are there they must be in the mode, have all the new fashions,
buy all their clothes there, and go to plays, balls, and treats,
where they get such a habit of jollity and a love to gaiety and
pleasure, that nothing afterwards in the country will serve them ,
if ever they should fix their minds to live there again; but they
must have all from London, whatever it costs."

Then there were the grievous discomforts of stage-coach travelling,
to be set against the more noble method of travelling by horseback,
as of yore.  "What advantage is it to men's health," says the
writer, waxing wroth, "to be called out of their beds into these
coaches, an hour before day in the morning; to be hurried in them
from place to place, till one hour, two, or three within night;
insomuch that, after sitting all day in the summer-time stifled
with heat and choked with dust, or in the winter-time starving and
freezing with cold or choked with filthy fogs, they are often
brought into their inns by torchlight, when it is too late to sit
up to get a supper; and next morning they are forced into the coach
so early that they can get no breakfast?  What addition is this to
men's health or business to ride all day with strangers, oftentimes
sick, antient, diseased persons, or young children crying; to whose
humours they are obliged to be subject, forced to bear with, and
many times are poisoned with their nasty scents and crippled by the
crowd of boxes and bundles? Is it for a man's health to travel with
tired jades, to be laid fast in the foul ways and forced to wade up
to the knees in mire; afterwards sit in the cold till teams of
horses can be sent to pull the coach out? Is it for their health to
travel in rotten coaches and to have their tackle, perch, or
axle-tree broken, and then to wait three or four hours (sometimes
half a day) to have them mended, and then to travel all night to
make good their stage?  Is it for a man's pleasure, or advantageous
to his health and business, to travel with a mixed company that he
knows not how to converse with; to be affronted by the rudeness of
a surly, dogged, cursing, ill-natured coachman; necessitated to
lodge or bait at the worst inn on the road, where there is no
accommodation fit for gentlemen; and this merely because the owners
of the inns and the coachmen are agreed together to cheat the
guests?"  Hence the writer loudly called for the immediate
suppression of stagecoaches as a great nuisance and crying evil.

Travelling by coach was in early times a very deliberate affair.
Time was of less consequence than safety, and coaches were
advertised to start "God willing," and "about" such and such an
hour "as shall seem good" to the majority of the passengers.
The difference of a day in the journey from London to York was a
small matter, and Thoresby was even accustomed to leave the coach
and go in search of fossil shells in the fields on either side the
road while making the journey between the two places.  The long coach
"put up" at sun-down, and "slept on the road."  Whether the coach
was to proceed or to stop at some favourite inn, was determined by
the vote of the passengers, who usually appointed a chairman at the
beginning of the journey.

In 1700, York was a week distant from London, and Tunbridge Wells,
now reached in an hour, was two days.  Salisbury and Oxford were
also each a two days journey, Dover was three days, and Exeter
five. The Fly coach from London to Exeter slept at the latter place
the fifth night from town; the coach proceeding next morning to
Axminster, where it breakfasted, and there a woman Barber "shaved
the coach."*[13]

Between London and Edinburgh, as late as 1763, a fortnight was
consumed, the coach only starting once a month.*[14]  The risk of
breaks-down in driving over the execrable roads may be inferred
from the circumstance that every coach carried with it a box of
carpenter's tools, and the hatchets were occasionally used in
lopping off the branches of trees overhanging the road and
obstructing the travellers' progress.

Some fastidious persons, disliking the slow travelling, as well as
the promiscuous company which they ran the risk of encountering in
the stage, were accustomed to advertise for partners in a postchaise,
to share the charges and lessen the dangers of the road; and,
indeed, to a sensitive person anything must have been preferable to
the misery of travelling by the Canterbury stage, as thus described
by a contemporary writer:--

   "On both sides squeez'd, how highly was I blest,
    Between two plump old women to be presst!
    A corp'ral fierce, a nurse, a child that cry'd,
    And a fat landlord, filled the other side.
    Scarce dawns the morning ere the cumbrous load
    Boils roughly rumbling o'er the rugged road:
    One old wife coughs and wheezes in my ears,
    Loud scolds the other, and the soldier swears;
    Sour unconcocted breath escapes 'mine host,'
    The sick'ning child returns his milk and toast!"

When Samuel Johnson was taken by his mother to London in 1712, to
have him touched by Queen Anne for "the evil," he relates,--
"We went in the stage-coach and returned in the waggon, as my mother
said, because my cough was violent; but the hope of saving a few
shillings was no slight motive....  She sewed two guineas in her
petticoat lest she should be robbed....  We were troublesome to the
passengers; but to suffer such inconveniences in the stage-coach
was common in those days to parsons in much higher rank."

Mr. Pennant has left us the following account of his journey in
the Chester stage to London in 1789-40: "The first day," says he,
"with much labour, we got from Chester to Whitchurch, twenty
miles; the second day to the 'Welsh Harp;' the third, to Coventry;
the fourth, to Northampton; the fifth, to Dunstable; and, as a
wondrous effort, on the last, to London, before the commencement of
night.  The strain and labour of six good horses, sometimes eight,
drew us through the sloughs of Mireden and many other places.
We were constantly out two hours before day, and as late at night,
and in the depth of winter proportionally later.  The single
gentlemen, then a hardy race, equipped in jackboots and trowsers,
up to their middle, rode post through thick and thin, and, guarded
against the mire, defied the frequent stumble and fall, arose and
pursued their journey with alacrity; while, in these days, their
enervated posterity sleep away their rapid journeys in easy
chaises, fitted for the conveyance of the soft inhabitants of

No wonder, therefore, that a great deal of the travelling of the
country continued to be performed on horseback, this being by far
the pleasantest as well as most expeditious mode of journeying.
On his marriage-day, Dr. Johnson rode from Birmingham to Derby with
his Tetty, taking the opportunity of the journey to give his bride
her first lesson in marital discipline.  At a later period James
Watt rode from Glasgow to London, when proceeding thither to learn
the art of mathematical instrument making.

And it was a cheap and pleasant method of travelling when the
weather was fine.  The usual practice was, to buy a horse at the
beginning of such a journey, and to sell the animal at the end of
it.  Dr. Skene, of Aberdeen, travelled from London to Edinburgh in
1753, being nineteen days on the road, the whole expenses of the
journey amounting to only four guineas.  The mare on which he rode,
cost him eight guineas in London, and he sold her for the same
price on his arrival in Edinburgh.

Nearly all the commercial gentlemen rode their own horses, carrying
their samples and luggage in two bags at the saddle-bow; and hence
their appellation of Riders or Bagmen.  For safety's sake, they
usually journeyed in company; for the dangers of travelling were
not confined merely to the ruggedness of the roads.  The highways
were infested by troops of robbers and vagabonds who lived by
plunder. Turpin and Bradshaw beset the Great North Road; Duval,
Macheath, Maclean, and hundreds of notorious highwaymen infested
Hounslow Heath, Finchley Common, Shooter's Hill, and all the
approaches to the metropolis.  A very common sight then, was a
gibbet erected by the roadside, with the skeleton of some
malefactor hanging from it in chains; and " Hangman's-lanes" were
especially numerous in the neighbourhood of London.*[15]  It was
considered most unsafe to travel after dark, and when the first
"night coach" was started, the risk was thought too great, and it
was not patronised.

[Image] The Night Coach

Travellers armed themselves on setting out upon a journey as if
they were going to battle, and a blunderbuss was considered as
indispensable for a coachman as a whip.  Dorsetshire and Hampshire,
like most other counties, were beset with gangs of highwaymen; and
when the Grand Duke Cosmo set out from Dorchester to travel to
London in 1669, he was "convoyed by a great many horse-soldiers
belonging to the militia of the county, to secure him from

Thoresby, in his Diary, alludes with awe to his having passed
safely "the great common where Sir Ralph Wharton slew the
highwayman," and he also makes special mention of Stonegate Hole,
"a notorious robbing place" near Grantham.  Like every other
traveller, that good man carried loaded pistols in his bags, and on
one occasion he was thrown into great consternation near Topcliffe,
in Yorkshire, on missing them, believing that they had been
abstracted by some designing rogues at the inn where he had last
slept.*[17]  No wonder that, before setting out on a journey in
those days, men were accustomed to make their wills.

When Mrs. Calderwood, of Coltness, travelled from Edinburgh to
London in 1756, she relates in her Diary that she travelled in her
own postchaise, attended by John Rattray, her stout serving man, on
horseback, with pistols at his holsters, and a good broad sword by
his side.  The lady had also with her in the carriage a case of
pistols, for use upon an emergency.  Robberies were then of
frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood of Bawtry, in Yorkshire;
and one day a suspicious-looking character, whom they took to be a
highwayman, made his appearance; but "John Rattray talking about
powder and ball to the postboy, and showing his whanger, the fellow
made off" Mrs. Calderwood started from Edinburgh on the 3rd of
June, when the roads were dry and the weather was fine, and she
reached London on the evening of the 10th, which was considered a
rapid journey in those days.

The danger, however, from footpads and highwaymen was not greatest
in remote country places, but in and about the metropolis itself.
The proprietors of Bellsize House and gardens, in the
Hampstead-road, then one of the principal places of amusement, had
the way to London patrolled during the season by twelve "lusty
fellows;" and Sadler's Wells, Vauxhall, and Ranelagh advertised
similar advantages.  Foot passengers proceeding towards Kensington
and Paddington in the evening, would wait until a sufficiently
numerous band had collected to set footpads at defiance, and then
they started in company at known intervals, of which a bell gave
due warning.  Carriages were stopped in broad daylight in Hyde
Park, and even in Piccadilly itself, and pistols presented at the
breasts of fashionable people, who were called upon to deliver up
their purses. Horace Walpole relates a number of curious instances
of this sort, he himself having been robbed in broad day, with Lord
Eglinton, Sir Thomas Robinson, Lady Albemarle, and many more.
A curious robbery of the Portsmouth mail, in 1757, illustrates the
imperfect postal communication of the period.  The boy who carried
the post had dismounted at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde
Park Corner, and called for beer, when some thieves took the
opportunity of cutting the mail-bag from off the horse's crupper
and got away undiscovered!

The means adopted for the transport of merchandise were as tedious
and difficult as those ordinarily employed for the conveyance of
passengers.  Corn and wool were sent to market on horses'
backs,*[18] manure was carried to the fields in panniers, and fuel
was conveyed from the moss or the forest in the same way.  During
the winter months, the markets were inaccessible; and while in some
localities the supplies of food were distressingly deficient, in
others the superabundance actually rotted from the impossibility
of consuming it or of transporting it to places where it was
needed.  The little coal used in the southern counties was
principally sea-borne, though pack-horses occasionally carried coal
inland for the supply of the blacksmiths' forges.  When Wollaton
Hall was built by John of Padua for Sir Francis Willoughby in 1580,
the stone was all brought on horses' backs from Ancaster, in
Lincolnshire, thirty-five miles distant, and they loaded back with
coal, which was taken in exchange for the stone.

[Image] The Pack-horse Convoy

The little trade which existed between one part of the kingdom and
another was carried on by means of packhorses, along roads little
better than bridle-paths.  These horses travelled in lines, with
the bales or panniers strapped across their backs.  The foremost
horse bore a bell or a collar of bells, and was hence called the
"bell-horse."  He was selected because of his sagacity; and by the
tinkling of the bells he carried, the movements of his followers
were regulated.  The bells also gave notice of the approach of the
convoy to those who might be advancing from the opposite direction.
This was a matter of some importance, as in many parts of the path
there was not room for two loaded horses to pass each other, and
quarrels and fights between the drivers of the pack-horse trains
were frequent as to which of the meeting convoys was to pass down
into the dirt and allow the other to pass along the bridleway. The
pack-horses not only carried merchandise but passengers, and at
certain times scholars proceeding to and from Oxford and Cambridge.
When Smollett went from Glasgow to London, he travelled partly on
pack-horse, partly by waggon, and partly on foot; and the
adventures which he described as having befallen Roderick Random
are supposed to have been drawn in a great measure from his own
experiences during; the journey.

A cross-country merchandise traffic gradually sprang up between the
northern counties, since become pre-eminently the manufacturing
districts of England; and long lines of pack-horses laden with
bales of wool and cotton traversed the hill ranges which divide
Yorkshire from Lancashire.  Whitaker says that as late as 1753 the
roads near Leeds consisted of a narrow hollow way little wider than
a ditch, barely allowing of the passage of a vehicle drawn in a
single line; this deep narrow road being flanked by an elevated
causeway covered with flags or boulder stones.  When travellers
encountered each other on this narrow track, they often tried to
wear out each other's patience rather than descend into the dirt
alongside.  The raw wool and bale goods of the district were nearly
all carried along these flagged ways on the backs of single horses;
and it is difficult to imagine the delay, the toil, and the perils
by which the conduct of the traffic was attended.  On horseback
before daybreak and long after nightfall, these hardy sons of trade
pursued their object with the spirit and intrepidity of foxhunters;
and the boldest of their country neighbours had no reason to
despise either their horsemanship or their courage.*[19]
The Manchester trade was carried on in the same way.  The chapmen
used to keep gangs of pack-horses, which accompanied them to all the
principal towns, bearing their goods in packs, which they sold to
their customers, bringing back sheep's wool and other raw materials
of manufacture.

The only records of this long-superseded mode of communication are
now to be traced on the signboards of wayside public-houses.
Many of the old roads still exist in Yorkshire and Lancashire; but
all that remains of the former traffic is the pack-horse still
painted on village sign-boards -- things as retentive of odd bygone
facts as the picture-writing of the ancient Mexicans.*[20]

Footnotes for Chapter II.

*[1] King Henry the Fourth (Part I.), Act II. Scene 1.

*[2] Part of the riding road along which the Queen was accustomed
to pass on horseback between her palaces at Greenwich and Eltham is
still in existence, a little to the south of Morden College,
Blackheath.  It winds irregularly through the fields, broad in some
places, and narrow in others.  Probably it is very little different
from what it was when used as a royal road.  It is now very
appropriately termed "Muddy Lane."

*[3] 'Depeches de La Mothe Fenelon,' 8vo., 1858.  Vol. i. p. 27.

*[4] Nichols's ' Progresses,' vol. ii., 309.

*[5] The title of Mace's tract (British Museum) is "The Profit,
Conveniency, and Pleasure for the whole nation: being a short
rational Discourse lately presented to his Majesty concerning the
Highways of England: their badness, the causes thereof, the reasons
of these causes, the impossibility of ever having them well mended
according to the old way of mending: but may most certainly be
done, and for ever so maintained (according to this NEW WAY)
substantially and with very much ease, &c., &c.  Printed for the
public good in the year 1675."

*[6] See Archaelogia, xx., pp. 443-76.

*[7] "4th May, 1714.  Morning: we dined at Grantham, had the annual
solemnity (this being the first time the coach passed the road in
May), and the coachman and horses being decked with ribbons and
flowers, the town music and young people in couples before us; we
lodged at Stamford, a scurvy, dear town.  5th May: had other
passengers, which, though females, were more chargeable with wine
and brandy than the former part of the journey, wherein we had
neither; but the next day we gave them leave to treat themselves."
--Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 207.

*[8] "May 22, 1708.  At York.  Rose between three and four, the
coach being hasted by Captain Crome (whose company we had) upon the
Queen's business, that we got to Leeds by noon; blessed be God for
mercies to me and my poor family."--Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. ii., 7.

*[9] Thoresby's 'Diary,' vol. i.,295.

*[10] Waylen's 'Marlborough.'

*[11] Reprinted in the 'Harleian Miscellany,' vol. viii., p. 547.
supposed to have been written by one John Gressot, of the

*[12] There were other publications of the time as absurd (viewed
by the light of the present day) as Gressot's.  Thus, "A Country
Tradesman," addressing the public in 1678, in a pamphlet entitled
'The Ancient Trades decayed, repaired again,--wherein are
declared the several abuses that have utterly impaired all the
ancient trades in the Kingdom,' urges that the chief cause of the
evil had been the setting up of Stage-coaches some twenty years
before.  Besides the reasons for suppressing; them set forth in the
treatise referred to in the text, he says, "Were it not' for them
(the Stage-coaches), there would be more Wine, Beer, and Ale, drunk
in the Inns than is now, which would be a means to augment the
King's Custom and Excise. Furthermore they hinder the breed of
horses in this kingdom [the same argument was used against Railways],
because many would be necessitated to keep a good horse that keeps
none now.  Seeing, then, that there are few that are gainers by them,
and that they are against the common and general good of the
Nation, and are only a conveniency to some that have occasion to go
to London, who might still have the same wages as before these
coaches were in use, therefore there is good reason they should be
suppressed.  Not but that it may be lawful to hire a coach upon
occasion, but that it should be unlawful only to keep a coach that
should go long journeys constantly, from one stage or place to
another, upon certain days of the week as they do now"-- p. 27.

*[13] Roberts's 'Social History of the Southern Counties,' p. 494.
Little more than a century ago, we find the following advertisement
of a Newcastle flying coach:-- "May 9, 1734.--A coach will set out
towards the end of next week for London, or any place on the road.
To be performed in nine days,--being three days sooner than any
other coach that travels the road; for which purpose eight stout
horses are stationed at proper distances."

*[14] In 1710 a Manchester manufacturer taking his family up to
London, hired a coach for the whole way, which, in the then state
of the roads, must have made it a journey of probably eight or ten
days.  And, in 1742, the system of travelling had so little
improved, that a lady, wanting to come with her niece from
Worcester to Manchester, wrote to a friend in the latter place to
send her a hired coach, because the man knew the road, having
brought from thence a family some time before."--Aikin's 'Manchester.'

*[15] Lord Campbell mentions the remarkable circumstance that
Popham, afterwards Lord Chief Justice in the reign of Elizabeth,
took to the road in early life, and robbed travellers on Gad's
Hill. Highway robbery could not, however, have been considered a
very ignominious pursuit at that time, as during Popham's youth a
statute was made by which, on a first conviction for robbery, a
peer of the realm or lord of parliament was entitled to have
benefit of clergy, "though he cannot read!" What is still more
extraordinary is, that Popham is supposed to have continued in his
course as 'a highwayman even after he was called to the Bar.
This seems to have been quite notorious, for when he was made Serjeant
the wags reported that he served up some wine destined for an
Alderman of London, which he had intercepted on its way from
Southampton.--Aubrey, iii., 492.--Campbell's 'Chief Justices,' i.,

*[16] Travels of Cosmo the Third, Grand Duke of Tuscany,' p. 147.

*[17] "It is as common a custom, as a cunning policie in thieves,
to place chamberlains in such great inns where cloathiers and
graziers do lye; and by their large bribes to infect others, who
were not of their own preferring; who noting your purses when you
draw them, they'l gripe your cloak-bags, and feel the weight, and
so inform the master thieves of what they think, and not those
alone, but the Host himself is oft as base as they, if it be left
in charge with them all night; he to his roaring guests either
gives item, or shews the purse itself, who spend liberally, in hope
of a speedie recruit."  See 'A Brief yet Notable Discovery of
Housebreakers,' &c., 1659. See also 'Street Robberies Considered;
a Warning for Housekeepers,' 1676; 'Hanging not Punishment Enough,'
1701; &c.

*[18] The food of London was then principally brought to town in
panniers.  The population being comparatively small, the feeding of
London was still practicable in this way; besides, the city always
possessed the great advantage of the Thames, which secured a supply
of food by sea.  In 'The Grand Concern of England Explained,' it is
stated that the hay, straw, beans, peas, and oats, used in London,
were principally raised within a circuit of twenty miles of the
metropolis; but large quantities were also brought from
Henley-on-thames and other western parts, as well as from below
Gravesend, by water; and many ships laden with beans came from
Hull, and with oats from Lynn and Boston.

*[19] 'Loides and Elmete, by T.D. Whitaker, LL.D., 1816, p. 81.
Notwithstanding its dangers, Dr. Whitaker seems to have been of
opinion that the old mode of travelling was even safer than that
which immediately followed it; "Under the old state of roads and
manners," he says, "it was impossible that more than one death
could happen at once; what, by any possibility, could take place
analogous to a race betwixt two stage-coaches, in which the lives
of thirty or forty distressed and helpless individuals are at the
mercy of two intoxicated brutes?"

*[20] In the curious collection of old coins at the Guildhall there
are several halfpenny tokens issued by the proprietors of inns
bearing the sign of the pack-horse, Some of these would indicate
that packhorses were kept for hire.  We append a couple of
illustrations of these curious old coins.




While the road communications of the country remained thus imperfect,
the people of one part of England knew next to nothing of the other.
When a shower of rain had the effect of rendering the highways
impassable, even horsemen were cautious in venturing far from home.
But only a very limited number of persons could then afford to
travel on horseback. The labouring people journeyed on foot,
while the middle class used the waggon or the coach.  But the amount
of intercourse between the people of different districts
--then exceedingly limited at all times--was, in a country so wet
as England, necessarily suspended for all classes during the greater
part of the year.

The imperfect communication existing between districts had the
effect of perpetuating numerous local dialects, local prejudices,
and local customs, which survive to a certain extent to this day;
though they are rapidly disappearing, to the regret of many, under
the influence of improved facilities for travelling.  Every village
had its witches, sometimes of different sorts, and there was
scarcely an old house but had its white lady or moaning old man
with a long beard.  There were ghosts in the fens which walked on
stilts, while the sprites of the hill country rode on flashes of
fire. But the village witches and local ghosts have long since
disappeared, excepting perhaps in a few of the less penetrable
districts, where they may still survive.  It is curious to find
that down even to the beginning of the seventeenth century, the
inhabitants of the southern districts of the island regarded those
of the north as a kind of ogres.  Lancashire was supposed to be
almost impenetrable-- as indeed it was to a considerable
extent,--and inhabited by a half-savage race.  Camden vaguely
described it, previous to his visit in 1607, as that part of the
country " lying beyond the mountains towards the Western Ocean."
He acknowledged that he approached the Lancashire people "with a
kind of dread," but determined at length "to run the hazard of the
attempt," trusting in the Divine assistance. Camden was exposed to
still greater risks in his survey of Cumberland. When he went into
that county for the purpose of exploring the remains of antiquity
it contained for the purposes of his great work, he travelled along
the line of the Roman Wall as far as Thirlwall castle, near
Haltwhistle; but there the limits of civilization and security
ended; for such was the wildness of the country and of its lawless
inhabitants beyond, that he was obliged to desist from his
pilgrimage, and leave the most important and interesting objects of
his journey unexplored.

About a century later, in 1700, the Rev.  Mr. Brome, rector of
Cheriton in Kent, entered upon a series of travels in England as if
it had been a newly-discovered country.  He set out in spring so
soon as the roads had become passable.  His friends convoyed him on
the first stage of his journey, and left him, commending him to the
Divine protection.  He was, however, careful to employ guides to
conduct him from one place to another, and in the course of his
three years' travels he saw many new and wonderful things.  He was
under the necessity of suspending his travels when the winter or
wet weather set in, and to lay up, like an arctic voyager, for
several months, until the spring came round again.  Mr. Brome
passed through Northumberland into Scotland, then down the western
side of the island towards Devonshire, where he found the farmers
gathering in their corn on horse-back, the roads being so narrow
that it was impossible for them to use waggons.  He desired to
travel into Cornwall, the boundaries of which he reached, but was
prevented proceeding farther by the rains, and accordingly he made
the best of his way home.*[1]  The vicar of Cheriton was considered
a wonderful man in his day,-- almost as as venturous as we should
now regard a traveller in Arabia.  Twenty miles of slough, or an
unbridged river between two parishes, were greater impediments to
intercourse than the Atlantic Ocean now is between England and
America.  Considerable towns situated in the same county, were then
more widely separated, for practical purposes, than London and
Glasgow are at the present day. There were many districts which
travellers never visited, and where the appearance of a stranger
produced as great an excitement as the arrival of a white man in an
African village.*[2]

The author of 'Adam Bede' has given us a poet's picture of the
leisure of last century, which has "gone where the spinning-wheels
are gone, and the pack-horses, and the slow waggons, and the
pedlars who brought bargains to the door on sunny afternoons.  "Old
Leisure" lived chiefly in the country, among pleasant seats and
homesteads, and was fond of sauntering by the fruit-tree walls, and
scenting the apricots when they were warmed by the morning
sunshine, or sheltering himself under the orchard boughs at noon,
when the summer pears were falling."  But this picture has also its
obverse side. Whole generations then lived a monotonous, ignorant,
prejudiced, and humdrum life.  They had no enterprize, no energy,
little industry, and were content to die where they were born.  The
seclusion in which they were compelled to live, produced a
picturesqueness of manners which is pleasant to look back upon, now
that it is a thing of the past; but it was also accompanied with a
degree of grossness and brutality much less pleasant to regard, and
of which the occasional popular amusements of bull-running,
cock-fighting, cock-throwing, the saturnalia of Plough-Monday, and
such like, were the fitting exponents.

People then knew little except of their own narrow district.  The
world beyond was as good as closed against them.  Almost the only
intelligence of general affairs which reached them was communicated
by pedlars and packmen, who were accustomed to retail to their
customers the news of the day with their wares; or, at most, a
newsletter from London, after it had been read nearly to pieces at
the great house of the district, would find its way to the village,
and its driblets of information would thus become diffused among
the little community.  Matters of public interest were long in
becoming known in the remoter districts of the country.  Macaulay
relates that the death of Queen Elizabeth was not heard of in some
parts of Devon until the courtiers of her successor had ceased to
wear mourning for her.  The news of Cromwell's being made Protector
only reached Bridgewater nineteen days after the event, when the
bells were set a-ringing; and the churches in the Orkneys continued
to put up the usual prayers for James II.  three months after he
had taken up his abode at St. Germains.  There were then no shops
in the smaller towns or villages, and comparatively few in the
larger; and these were badly furnished with articles for general
use.  The country people were irregularly supplied by hawkers, who
sometimes bore their whole stook upon their back, or occasionally
on that of their pack-horses. Pots, pans, and household utensils
were sold from door to door. Until a comparatively recent period,
the whole of the pottery-ware manufactured in Staffordshire was
hawked about and disposed of in this way.  The pedlars carried
frames resembling camp-stools, on which they were accustomed to
display their wares when the opportunity occurred for showing them
to advantage.  The articles which they sold were chiefly of a
fanciful kind--ribbons, laces, and female finery; the housewives'
great reliance for the supply of general clothing in those days
being on domestic industry.

Every autumn, the mistress of the household was accustomed to lay
in a store of articles sufficient to serve for the entire winter.
It was like laying in a stock of provisions and clothing for a
siege during the time that the roads were closed.  The greater part
of the meat required for winter's use was killed and salted down at
Martinmas, while stockfish and baconed herrings were provided for
Lent. Scatcherd says that in his district the clothiers united in
groups of three or four, and at the Leeds winter fair they would
purchase an ox, which, having divided, they salted and hung the
pieces for their winter's food.*[3]  There was also the winter's
stock of firewood to be provided, and the rushes with which to
strew the floors--carpets being a comparatively modern invention;
besides, there was the store of wheat and barley for bread, the
malt for ale, the honey for sweetening (then used for sugar), the
salt, the spiceries, and the savoury herbs so much employed in the
ancient cookery.  When the stores were laid in, the housewife was
in a position to bid defiance to bad roads for six months to come.
This was the case of the well-to-do; but the poorer classes, who
could not lay in a store for winter, were often very badly off both
for food and firing, and in many hard seasons they literally
starved.  But charity was active in those days, and many a poor
man's store was eked out by his wealthier neighbour.

When the household supply was thus laid in, the mistress, with her
daughters and servants, sat down to their distaffs and spinning-wheels;
for the manufacture of the family clothing was usually the work of
the winter months.  The fabrics then worn were almost entirely of
wool, silk and cotton being scarcely known.  The wool, when not
grown on the farm, was purchased in a raw state, and was carded,
spun, dyed, and in many cases woven at home: so also with the linen
clothing, which, until quite a recent date, was entirely the
produce of female fingers and household spinning-wheels.  This kind
of work occupied the winter months, occasionally alternated with
knitting, embroidery, and tapestry  work.  Many of our country
houses continue to bear witness to the steady industry of the
ladies of even the highest ranks in those times, in the fine
tapestry hangings with which the walls of many of the older rooms
in such mansions are covered.

Among the humbler classes, the same winter's work went on.
The women sat round log fires knitting, plaiting, and spinning by
fire-light, even in the daytime.  Glass had not yet come into
general use, and the openings in the wall which in summer-time
served for windows, had necessarily to be shut close with boards to
keep out the cold, though at the same time they shut out the light.
The chimney, usually of lath and plaster, ending overhead in a cone
and funnel for the smoke, was so roomy in old cottages as to
accommodate almost the whole family sitting around the fire of logs
piled in the reredosse in the middle, and there they carried on
their winter's work.

Such was the domestic occupation of women in the rural districts in
olden times; and it may perhaps be questioned whether the
revolution in our social system, which has taken out of their hands
so many branches of household manufacture and useful domestic
employment, be an altogether unmixed blessing.

Winter at an end, and the roads once more available for travelling,
the Fair of the locality was looked forward to with interest.  Fairs
were among the most important institutions of past times, and were
rendered necessary by the imperfect road communications. The right
of holding them was regarded as a valuable privilege, conceded by
the sovereign to the lords of the manors, who adopted all manner of
devices to draw crowds to their markets.  They were usually held at
the entrances to valleys closed against locomotion during winter,
or in the middle of rich grazing districts, or, more frequently, in
the neighbourhood of famous cathedrals or churches frequented by
flocks of pilgrims.  The devotion of the people being turned to
account, many of the fairs were held on Sundays in the churchyards;
and almost in every parish a market was instituted on the day on
which the parishioners were called together to do honour to their
patron saint.

The local fair, which was usually held at the beginning or end of
winter, often at both times, became the great festival as well as
market of the district; and the business as well as the gaiety of
the neighbourhood usually centred on such occasions.  High courts
were held by the Bishop or Lord of the Manor, to accommodate which
special buildings were erected, used only at fair time.  Among the
fairs of the first class in England were Winchester, St. Botolph's
Town (Boston), and St. Ives.  We find the great London merchants
travelling thither in caravans, bearing with them all manner of
goods, and bringing back the wool purchased by them in exchange.

Winchester Great Fair attracted merchants from all parts of Europe.
It was held on the hill of St. Giles, and was divided into streets
of booths, named after the merchants of the different countries who
exposed their wares in them.  "The passes through the great woody
districts, which English merchants coming from London and the West
would be compelled to traverse, were on this occasion carefully
guarded by mounted 'serjeants-at-arms,' since the wealth which was
being conveyed to St. Giles's-hill attracted bands of outlaws from
all parts of the country."*[4]  Weyhill Fair, near Andover, was
another of the great fairs in the same district, which was to the
West country agriculturists and clothiers what Winchester St.
Giles's Fair was to the general merchants.

The principal fair in the northern districts was that of
St. Botolph's Town (Boston), which was resorted to by people from
great distances to buy and sell commodities of various kinds.
Thus we find, from the 'Compotus' of Bolton Priory,*[5] that the
monks of that house sent their wool to St. Botolph's Fair to be sold,
though it was a good hundred miles distant; buying in return their
winter supply of groceries, spiceries, and other necessary
articles. That fair, too, was often beset by robbers, and on one
occasion a strong party of them, under the disguise of monks,
attacked and robbed certain booths, setting fire to the rest; and
such was the amount of destroyed wealth, that it is said the veins
of molten gold and silver ran along the streets.

The concourse of persons attending these fairs was immense.
The nobility and gentry, the heads of the religions houses, the
yeomanry and the commons, resorted to them to buy and sell all
manner of agricultural produce.  The farmers there sold their wool
and cattle, and hired their servants; while their wives disposed of
the surplus produce of their winter's industry, and bought their
cutlery, bijouterie, and more tasteful articles of apparel.
There were caterers there for all customers; and stuffs and wares
were offered for sale from all countries.  And in the wake of this
business part of the fair there invariably followed a crowd of
ministers to the popular tastes-- quack doctors and merry andrews,
jugglers and minstrels, singlestick players, grinners through
horse-collars, and sportmakers of every kind.

Smaller fairs were held in most districts for similar purposes of
exchange.  At these the staples of the locality were sold and
servants usually hired.  Many were for special purposes--cattle
fairs, leather fairs, cloth fairs, bonnet fairs, fruit fairs.
Scatcherd says that less than a century ago a large fair was held
between Huddersfield and Leeds, in a field still called Fairstead,
near Birstal, which used to be a great mart for fruit, onions, and
such like; and that the clothiers resorted thither from all the
country round to purchase the articles, which were stowed away in
barns, and sold at booths by lamplight in the morning.*[6]  Even
Dartmoor had its fair, on the site of an ancient British village or
temple near Merivale Bridge, testifying to its great antiquity; for
it is surprising how an ancient fair lingers about the place on
which it has been accustomed to be held, long after the necessity
for it has ceased.  The site of this old fair at Merivale Bridge is
the more curious, as in its immediate neighbourhood, on the road
between Two Bridges and Tavistock, is found the singular-looking
granite rock, bearing so remarkable a resemblance to the Egyptian
sphynx, in a mutilated state.  It is of similarly colossal
proportions, and stands in a district almost as lonely as that in
which the Egyptian sphynx looks forth over the sands of the
Memphean Desert.*[7]

[Image] Site of an ancient British village and fair on Dartmoor.

The last occasion on which the fair was held in this secluded spot
was in the year 1625, when the plague raged at Tavistock; and there
is a part of the ground, situated amidst a line of pillars marking
a stone avenue--a characteristic feature of the ancient aboriginal
worship--which is to this day pointed out and called by the name of
the "Potatoe market."

But the glory of the great fairs has long since departed.  They
declined with the extension of turnpikes, and railroads gave them
their death-blow.  Shops now exist in every little town and
village, drawing their supplies regularly by road and canal from
the most distant parts.  St. Bartholomew, the great fair of
London,*[8] and Donnybrook, the great fair of Dublin, have been
suppressed as nuisances; and nearly all that remains of the dead
but long potent institution of the Fair, is the occasional
exhibition at periodic times in country places, of pig-faced
ladies, dwarfs, giants, double-bodied calves, and such-like
wonders, amidst a blatant clangour of drums, gongs, and cymbals.
Like the sign of the Pack-Horse over the village inn door, the
modern village fair, of which the principal article of merchandise
is gingerbread-nuts, is but the vestige of a state of things that
has long since passed away.

There were, however, remote and almost impenetrable districts which
long resisted modern inroads.  Of such was Dartmoor, which we have
already more than once referred to.  The difficulties of
road-engineering in that quarter, as well as the sterility of a
large proportion of the moor, had the effect of preventing its
becoming opened up to modern traffic; and it is accordingly curious
to find how much of its old manners, customs, traditions, and
language has been preserved.  It looks like a piece of England of
the Middle Ages, left behind on the march.  Witches still hold
their sway on Dartmoor, where there exist no less than three
distinct kinds-- white, black, and grey,*[9]--and there are still
professors of witchcraft, male as well as female, in most of the

As might be expected, the pack-horses held their ground in Dartmoor
the longest, and in some parts of North Devon they are not yet
extinct.  When our artist was in the neighbourhood, sketching the
ancient bridge on the moor and the site of the old fair, a farmer
said to him, "I well remember the train of pack-horses and the
effect of their jingling bells on the silence of Dartmoor.
My grandfather, a respectable farmer in the north of Devon, was the
first to use a 'butt' (a square box without wheels, dragged by a
horse) to carry manure to field; he was also the first man in the
district to use an umbrella, which on Sundays he hung in the
church-porch, an object of curiosity to the villagers."  We are also
informed by a gentleman who resided for some time at South Brent',
on the borders of the Moor, that the introduction of the first cart
in that district is remembered by many now living, the bridges
having been shortly afterwards widened to accommodate the wheeled

The primitive features of this secluded district are perhaps best
represented by the interesting little town of Chagford, situated in
the valley of the North Teign, an ancient stannary and market town
backed by a wide stretch of moor.  The houses of the place are
built of moor stone--grey, venerable-looking, and substantial--some
with projecting porch and parvise room over, and granite-mullioned
windows; the ancient church, built of granite, with a stout old
steeple of the same material, its embattled porch and granite-groined
vault springing from low columns with Norman-looking capitals,
forming the sturdy centre of this ancient town clump.

A post-chaise is still a phenomenon in Chagford, the roads and
lanes leading to it being so steep and rugged as to be ill adapted
for springed vehicles of any sort.  The upland road or track to
Tavistock scales an almost precipitous hill, and though well enough
adapted for the pack-horse of the last century, it is quite
unfitted for the cart and waggon traffic of this.  Hence the horse
with panniers maintains its ground in the Chagford district; and
the double-horse, furnished with a pillion for the lady riding
behind, is still to be met with in the country roads.

Among the patriarchs of the hills, the straight-breasted blue coat
may yet be seen, with the shoe fastened with buckle and strap as in
the days when George III. was king; and old women are still found
retaining the cloak and hood of their youth.  Old agricultural
implements continue in use.  The slide or sledge is seen in the
fields; the flail, with its monotonous strokes, resounds from the
barn-floors; the corn is sifted by the windstow--the wind merely
blowing away the chaff from the grain when shaken out of sieves by
the motion of the hand on some elevated spot; the old wooden plough
is still at work, and the goad is still used to urge the yoke of
oxen in dragging it along.

[Image] The Devonshire Crooks

"In such a place as Chagford," says Mr. Rowe, "the cooper or rough
carpenter will still find a demand for the pack-saddle, with its
accompanying furniture of crooks, crubs, or dung-pots.  Before the
general introduction of carts, these rough and ready contrivances
were found of great utility in the various operations of husbandry,
and still prove exceedingly convenient in situations almost, or
altogether, inaccessible to wheel-carriages.  The long crooks are
used for the carriage of corn in sheaf from the harvest-field to
the mowstead or barn, for the removal of furze, browse,
faggot-wood, and other light materials.  The writer of one of the
happiest effusions of the local muse,*[10] with fidelity to nature
equal to Cowper or Crabbe, has introduced the figure of a
Devonshire pack-horse bending under the 'swagging load' of the
high-piled crooks as an emblem of care toiling along the narrow and
rugged path of life.  The force and point of the imagery must be
lost to those who have never seen (and, as in an instance which
came under my own knowledge, never heard of) this unique specimen
of provincial agricultural machinery. The crooks are formed of two
poles,*[11] about ten feet long, bent, when green, into the
required curve, and when dried in that shape are connected by
horizontal bars.  A pair of crooks, thus completed, is slung over
the pack-saddle--one 'swinging on each side to make the balance
true.' The short crooks, or crubs, are slung in a similar manner.
These are of stouter fabric, and angular shape, and are used for
carrying logs of wood and other heavy materials. The dung-pots, as
the name implies, were also much in use in past times, for the
removal of dung and other manure from the farmyard to the fallow or
plough lands.  The slide, or sledge, may also still occasionally
be seen in the hay or corn fields, sometimes without, and in other
cases mounted on low wheels, rudely but substantially formed of
thick plank, such as might have brought the ancient Roman's harvest
load to the barn some twenty centuries ago."

Mrs. Bray says the crooks are called by the country people
"Devil's tooth-picks."  A correspondent informs us that the queer
old crook-packs represented in our illustration are still in use in
North Devon.  He adds: "The pack-horses were so accustomed to their
position when travelling in line (going in double file) and so
jealous of their respective places, that if one got wrong and took
another's place, the animal interfered with would strike at the
offender with his crooks."

Footnotes for Chapter III.

*[1] 'Three Years' Travels in England, Scotland, and Wales.'
By James Brome, M.A., Rector of Cheriton, Kent.  London, 1726.

*[2] The treatment the stranger received was often very rude.
When William Hutton, of Birmingham, accompanied by another gentleman,
went to view the field of Bosworth, in 1770, "the inhabitants,"
he says, "set their dogs at us in the street, merely because we were
strangers.  Human figures not their own are seldom seen in these
inhospitable regions.  Surrounded with impassable roads, no
intercourse with man to humanise the mind.  nor commerce to smooth
their rugged manners, they continue the boors of Nature."
In certain villages in Lancashire and Yorkshire, not very remote from
large towns, the appearance of a stranger, down to a comparatively
recent period, excited a similar commotion amongst the villagers,
and the word would pass from door to door, "Dost knaw'im?" "Naya."
"Is 'e straunger?" "Ey, for sewer."  "Then paus' 'im-- 'Eave a duck
[stone] at 'im-- Fettle 'im!"  And the "straunger" would straightway
find the "ducks" flying about his head, and be glad to make his
escape from the village with his life.

*[3] Scatcherd, 'History of Morley.'

*[4] Murray's ' Handbook of Surrey, Hants, and Isle of Wight,' 168.

*[5] Whitaker's 'History of Craven.'

*[6] Scatcherd's 'History of Morley,' 226.

*[7] Vixen Tor is the name of this singular-looking rock.  But it
is proper to add, that its appearance is probably accidental, the
head of the Sphynx being produced by the three angular blocks of
rock seen in profile.  Mr. Borlase, however, in his ' Antiquities
of Cornwall,' expresses the opinion that the rock-basins on the
summit of the rock were used by the Druids for purposes connected
with their religious ceremonies.

*[8] The provisioning of London, now grown so populous, would be
almost impossible but for the perfect system of roads now
converging on it from all parts.  In early times, London, like
country places, had to lay in its stock of salt-provisions against
winter, drawing its supplies of vegetables from the country within
easy reach of the capital.  Hence the London market-gardeners
petitioned against the extension of tumpike-roads about a century
ago, as they afterwards petitioned against the extension of
railways, fearing lest their trade should be destroyed by the
competition of country-grown cabbages.  But the extension of the
roads had become a matter of absolute necessity, in order to feed
the huge and ever-increasing mouth of the Great Metropolis, the
population of which has grown in about two centuries from four
hundred thousand to three millions. This enormous population has,
perhaps, never at any time more than a fortnight's supply of food
in stock, and most families not more than a few days; yet no one
ever entertains the slightest apprehension of a failure in the
supply, or even of a variation in the price from day to day in
consequence of any possible shortcoming.  That this should be so,
would be one of the most surprising things in the history of modern
London, but that it is sufficiently accounted for by the
magnificent system of roads, canals, and railways, which connect it
with the remotest corners of the kingdom.  Modern London is mainly
fed by steam.  The Express Meat-Train, which runs nightly from
Aberdeen to London, drawn by two engines and makes the journey in
twenty-four hours, is but a single illustration of the rapid and
certain method by which modem London is fed.  The north Highlands
of Scotland have thus, by means of railways, become grazing-grounds
for the metropolis.  Express fish trains from Dunbar and Eyemouth
(Smeaton's harbours), augmented by fish-trucks from Cullercoats and
Tynemouth on the Northumberland coast, and from Redcar, Whitby, and
Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast, also arrive in London every
morning.  And what with steam-vessels bearing cattle, and meat and
fish arriving by sea, and canal-boats laden with potatoes from
inland, and railway-vans laden with butter and milk drawn from a
wide circuit of country, and road-vans piled high with vegetables
within easy drive of Covent Garden, the Great Mouth is thus from
day to day regularly, satisfactorily, and expeditiously filled.

*[9] The white witches are kindly disposed, the black cast the
"evil eye," and the grey are consulted for the discovery of theft,

*[10] See 'The Devonshire Lane', above quoted

*[11] Willow saplings, crooked and dried in the required form.



The internal communications of Scotland, which Telford did so much
in the course of his life to improve, were, if possible, even worse
than those of England about the middle of last century.  The land
was more sterile, and the people were much poorer.  Indeed, nothing
could be more dreary than the aspect which Scotland then presented.
Her fields lay untilled, her mines unexplored, and her fisheries
uncultivated.  The Scotch towns were for the most part collections
of thatched mud cottages, giving scant shelter to a miserable
population. The whole country was desponding, gaunt, and haggard,
like Ireland in its worst times.  The common people were badly fed
and wretchedly clothed, those in the country for the most part
living in huts with their cattle.  Lord Kaimes said of the Scotch
tenantry of the early part of last century, that they were so
benumbed by oppression and poverty that the most able instructors
in husbandry could have made nothing of them.  A writer in the
'Farmer's Magazine' sums up his account of Scotland at that time in
these words:--"Except in a few instances, it was little better than
a barren waste."*[1]

The modern traveller through the Lothians--which now exhibit
perhaps the finest agriculture in the world--will scarcely believe
that less than a century ago these counties were mostly in the
state in which Nature had left them.  In the interior there was
little to be seen but bleak moors and quaking bogs.  The chief part
of each farm consisted of "out-field," or unenclosed land, no
better than moorland, from which the hardy black cattle could
scarcely gather herbage enough in winter to keep them from
starving.  The "in-field" was an enclosed patch of illcultivated
ground, on which oats and "bear," or barley, were grown; but the
principal crop was weeds.

Of the small quantity of corn raised in the country, nine-tenths
were grown within five miles of the coast; and of wheat very little
was raised--not a blade north of the Lothians.  When the first crop
of that grain was tried on a field near Edinburgh, about the middle
of last century, people flocked to it as a wonder.  Clover,
turnips, and potatoes had not yet been introduced, and no cattle
were fattened: it was with difficulty they could be kept alive.

All loads were as yet carried on horseback; but when the farm was
too small, or the crofter too poor to keep a horse, his own or his
wife's back bore the load.  The horse brought peats from the bog,
carried the oats or barley to market, and bore the manure a-field.
But the uses of manure were as yet so little understood that, if a
stream were near, it was usually thrown in and floated away, and in
summer it was burnt.

What will scarcely be credited, now that the industry of Scotland
has become educated by a century's discipline of work, was the
inconceivable listlessness and idleness of the people.  They left
the bog unreclaimed, and the swamp undrained.  They would not be at
the trouble to enclose lands easily capable of cultivation.
There was, perhaps, but little inducement on the part of the
agricultural class to be industrious; for they were too liable to
be robbed by those who preferred to be idle.  Andrew Fletcher,
of Saltoun--commonly known as "The Patriot," because he was so
strongly opposed to the union of Scotland with England*[2]--
published a pamphlet, in 1698, strikingly illustrative of the
lawless and uncivilized state of the country at that time.
After giving a dreadful picture of the then state of Scotland:
two hundred thousand vagabonds begging from door to door and robbing
and plundering the poor people,-- "in years of plenty many
thousands of them meeting together in the mountains, where they
feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets,
burials, and other like public occasions, they are to be seen, both
men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and
fighting together,"--he proceeded to urge that every man of a
certain estate should be obliged to take a proportionate number of
these vagabonds and compel them to work for him; and further,
that such serfs, with their wives and children, should be incapable
of alienating their service from their master or owner until he had
been reimbursed for the money he had expended on them: in other
words, their owner was to have the power of selling them.
"The Patriot" was, however, aware that "great address, diligence,
and severity" were required to carry out his scheme; "for," said he,
"that sort of people are so desperately wicked, such enemies of all
work and labour, and, which is yet more amazing, so proud in
esteeming their own condition above that which they will be sure to
call Slavery, that unless prevented by the utmost industry and
diligence, upon the first publication of any orders necessary for
putting in execution such a design, they will rather die with
hunger in caves and dens, and murder their young children, than
appear abroad to have them and themselves taken into such

Although the recommendations of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun were
embodied in no Act of Parliament, the magistrates of some of the
larger towns did not hesitate to kidnap and sell into slavery lads
and men found lurking in the streets, which they continued to do
down to a comparatively recent period.  This, however, was not so
surprising as that at the time of which we are speaking, and,
indeed, until the end of last century, there was a veritable slave
class in Scotland--the class of colliers and salters--who were
bought and sold with the estates to which they belonged, as forming
part of the stook.  When they ran away, they were advertised for
as negroes were in the American States until within the last few
years. It is curious, in turning over an old volume of the 'Scots
Magazine,' to find a General Assembly's petition to Parliament for
the abolition of slavery in America almost alongside the report of
a trial of some colliers who had absconded from a mine near
Stirling to which they belonged. But the degraded condition of the
home slaves then excited comparatively little interest.  Indeed, it
was not until the very last year of the last century that praedial
slavery was abolished in Scotland--only three short reigns ago,
almost within the memory of men still living.*[4]  The greatest
resistance was offered to the introduction of improvements in
agriculture, though it was only at rare intervals that these were
attempted.  There was no class possessed of enterprise or wealth.
An idea of the general poverty of the country may be inferred from
the fact that about the middle of last century the whole circulating
medium of the two Edinburgh banks--the only institutions of the
kind then in Scotland--amounted to only 200,000L., which was
sufficient for the purposes of trade, commerce, and industry.
Money was then so scarce that Adam Smith says it was not uncommon
for workmen, in certain parts of Scotland, to carry nails instead
of pence to the baker's or the alehouse.  A middle class could
scarcely as yet be said to exist, or any condition between the
starving cottiers and the impoverished proprietors, whose available
means were principally expended in hard drinking.*[5]

The latter were, for the most part, too proud and too ignorant to
interest themselves in the improvement of their estates; and the few
who did so had very little encouragement to persevere.  Miss Craig,
in describing the efforts made by her father, William Craig,
laird of Arbigland, in Kirkcudbright, says, "The indolent obstinacy
of the lower class of the people was found to be almost
unconquerable. Amongst other instances of their laziness, I have
heard him say that, upon the introduction of the mode of dressing
the grain at night which had been thrashed during the day, all the
servants in the neighbourhood refused to adopt the measure, and
even threatened to destroy the houses of their employers by fire if
they continued to insist upon the business.  My father speedily
perceived that a forcible remedy was required for the evil.
He gave his servants the choice of removing the thrashed grain in
the evening, or becoming inhabitants of Kirkcudbright gaol: they
preferred the former alternative, and open murmurings were no
longer heard."*[6]

The wages paid to the labouring classes were then very low.  Even
in East Lothian, which was probably in advance of the other Scotch
counties, the ordinary day's wage of a labouring man was only five
pence in winter and six pence in summer.  Their food was wholly
vegetable, and was insufficient in quantity as well as bad in
quality.  The little butcher's meat consumed by the better class
was salted beef and mutton, stored up in Ladner time (between
Michaelmas and Martinmas) for the year's consumption.  Mr. Buchan
Hepburn says the Sheriff of East Lothian informed him that he
remembered when not a bullock was slaughtered in Haddington market
for a whole year, except at that time; and, when Sir David Kinloch,
of Gilmerton sold ten wedders to an Edinburgh butcher, he
stipulated for three several terms to take them away, to prevent
the Edinburgh market from being overstocked with fresh butcher's

The rest of Scotland was in no better state: in some parts it was
even worse.  The rich and fertile county of Ayr, which now glories
in the name of "the garden of Scotland," was for the most part a
wild and dreary waste, with here and there a poor, miserable,
comfortless hut, where the farmer and his family lodged.  There
were no enclosures of land, except one or two about a proprietor's
residence; and black cattle roamed at large over the face of the
country.  When an attempt was made to enclose the lands for the
purposes of agriculture, the fences were levelled by the
dispossessed squatters.  Famines were frequent among the poorer
classes; the western counties not producing food enough for the
sustenance of the inhabitants, few though they were in number.
This was also the case in Dumfries, where the chief part of the grain
required for the population was brought in "tumbling-cars" from the
sandbeds of Esk; "and when the waters were high by reason of spates
[or floods], and there being no bridges, so that the cars could not
come with the meal, the tradesmen's wives might be seen in the
streets of Dumfries, crying; because there was no food to be

The misery of the country was enormously aggravated by the wretched
state of the roads.  There were, indeed, scarcely any made roads
throughout the country.  Hence the communication between one town
and another was always difficult, especially in winter.  There were
only rough tracks across moors, and when one track became too
deep, another alongside of it was chosen, and was in its turn
abandoned, until the whole became equally impassable.  In wet
weather these tracks became "mere sloughs, in which the carts or
carriages had to slumper through in a half-swimming state, whilst,
in times of drought it was a continual jolting out of one hole into

Such being the state of the highways, it will be obvious that very
little communication could exist between one part of the country
and another.  Single-horse traffickers, called cadgers, plied
between the country towns and the villages, supplying the
inhabitants with salt, fish, earthenware, and articles of clothing,
which they carried in sacks or creels hung across their horses'
backs.  Even the trade between Edinburgh and Glasgow was carried on
in the same primitive way, the principal route being along the high
grounds west of Boroughstoness, near which the remains of the old
pack-horse road are still to be seen.

It was long before vehicles of any sort could be used on the Scotch
roads.  Rude sledges and tumbling-cars were employed near towns,
and afterwards carts, the wheels of which were first made of
boards. It was long before travelling by coach could be introduced
in Scotland. When Smollett travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh on
his way to London, in 1739, there was neither coach, cart, nor
waggon on the road.  He accordingly accompanied the pack-horse
carriers as far as Newcastle, "sitting upon a pack-saddle between
two baskets, one of which," he says, "contained my goods in a

In 1743 an attempt was made by the Town Council of Glasgow to set
up a stage-coach or "lando."  It was to be drawn by six horses,
carry six passengers, and run between Glasgow and Edinburgh, a
distance of forty-four miles, once a week in winter, and twice a
week in summer. The project, however, seems to have been thought
too bold for the time, for the "lando" was never started.  It was
not until the year 1749 that the first public conveyance, called
"The Glasgow and Edinburgh Caravan," was started between the two
cities, and it made the journey between the one place and the other
in two days. Ten years later another vehicle was started, named
"The Fly" because of its unusual speed, and it contrived to make
the journey in rather less than a day and a half.

About the same time, a coach with four horses was started between
Haddington and Edinburgh, and it took a full winter's day to
perform the journey of sixteen miles: the effort being to reach
Musselburgh in time for dinner, and go into town in the evening.
As late as 1763 there was as only one stage-coach in all Scotland
in communication with London, and that set out from Edinburgh only
once a month. The journey to London occupied from ten to fifteen
days, according to the state of the weather; and those who
undertook so dangerous a journey usually took the precaution of
making their wills before starting.

When carriers' carts were established, the time occupied by them on
the road will now appear almost incredible.  Thus the common
carrier between Selkirk and Edinburgh, a distance of only
thirty-eight miles, took about a fortnight to perform the double
journey. Part of the road lay along Gala Water, and in summer time,
when the river-bed was dry, the carrier used it as a road.  The
townsmen of this adventurous individual, on the morning of his
way-going, were accustomed to turn out and take leave of him,
wishing him a safe return from his perilous journey.  In winter the
route was simply impracticable, and the communication was suspended
until the return of dry weather.

While such was the state of the communications in the immediate
neighbourhood of the metropolis of Scotland, matters were, if
possible, still worse in the remoter parts of the country.  Down to
the middle of last century, there were no made roads of any kind in
the south-western counties.  The only inland trade was in black
cattle; the tracks were impracticable for vehicles, of which there
were only a few--carts and tumbling-cars--employed in the immediate
neighbourhood of the towns.  When the Marquis of Downshire
attempted to make a journey through Galloway in his coach, about
the year 1760, a party of labourers with tools attended him, to
lift the vehicle out of the ruts and put on the wheels when it got
dismounted. Even with this assistance, however, his Lordship
occasionally stuck fast, and when within about three miles of the
village of Creetown, near Wigton, he was obliged to send away the
attendants, and pass the night in his coach on the Corse of Slakes
with his family.

Matters were, of course, still worse in the Highlands, where the
rugged character of the country offered formidable difficulties to
the formation of practicable roads, and where none existed save
those made through the rebel districts by General Wade shortly
after the rebellion of 1715.  The people were also more lawless
and, if possible, more idle, than those of the Lowland districts
about the same period.  The latter regarded their northern
neighbours as the settlers in America did the Red Indians round
their borders--like so many savages always ready to burst in upon
them, fire their buildings, and carry off their cattle.*[10]

Very little corn was grown in the neighbourhood of the Highlands,
on account of its being liable to be reaped and carried off by the
caterans, and that before it was ripe.  The only method by which
security of a certain sort could be obtained was by the payment of
blackmail to some of the principal chiefs, though this was not
sufficient to protect them against the lesser marauders.  Regular
contracts were drawn up between proprietors in the counties of
Perth, Stirling, and Dumbarton, and the Macgregors, in which it was
stipulated that if less than seven cattle were stolen--which
peccadillo was known as picking--no redress should be required; but
if the number stolen exceeded seven--such amount of theft being
raised to the dignity of lifting--then the Macgregors were bound to
recover.  This blackmail was regularly levied as far south as
Campsie--then within six miles of Glasgow, but now almost forming
part of it--down to within a few months of the outbreak of the
Rebellion of 1745.*[11]

Under such circumstances, agricultural improvement was altogether
impossible.  The most fertile tracts were allowed to lie waste, for
men would not plough or sow where they had not the certain prospect
of gathering in the crop.  Another serious evil was, that the
lawless habits of their neighbours tended to make the Lowland
borderers almost as ferocious as the Higlanders themselves.  Feuds
were of constant occurrence between neighbouring baronies, and even
contiguous parishes; and the country fairs, which were tacitly
recognised as the occasions for settling quarrels, were the scenes
of as bloody faction fights as were ever known in Ireland even in
its worst days.  When such was the state of Scotland only a century
ago, what may we not hope for from Ireland when the civilizing
influences of roads, schools, and industry have made more general
progress amongst her people?

Yet Scotland had not always been in this miserable condition.  There
is good reason to believe that as early as the thirteenth century,
agriculture was in a much more advanced state than we find it to
have been the eighteenth.  It would appear from the extant
chartularies of monastic establishments, which then existed all
over the Lowlands, that a considerable portion of their revenue was
derived from wheat, which also formed no inconsiderable part of
their living. The remarkable fact is mentioned by Walter de
Hemingford, the English historian, that when the castle of
Dirleton, in East Lothian, was besieged by the army of Edward I.,
in the beginning of July, 1298, the men, being reduced to great
extremities for provisions, were fain to subsist on the pease and
beans which they gathered in the fields.*[12]  This statement is all
the more remarkable on two accounts: first, that pease and beans
should then have been so plentiful as to afford anything like
sustenance for an army; and second, that they should have been fit
for use so early in the season, even allowing for the difference
between the old and new styles in the reckoning of time.
The magnificent old abbeys and churches of Scotland in early times
also indicate that at some remote period a degree of civilization
and prosperity prevailed, from which the country had gradually
fallen.  The ruins of the ancient edifices of Melrose, Kilwinning,
Aberborthwick, Elgin, and other religious establishments, show that
architecture must then have made great progress in the North,
and lead us to the conclusion that the other arts had reached a like
stage of advancement.  This is borne out by the fact of the number
of well-designed and well-built bridges of olden times which still
exist in different parts of Scotland.  "And when we consider," says
Professor Innes, "the long and united efforts required in the early
state of the arts for throwing a bridge over any considerable
river, the early occurrence of bridges may well be admitted as one
of the best tests of civilization and national prosperity."*[13]
As in England, so in Scotland, the reclamation of lands, the
improvement of agriculture, and the building of bridges were mainly
due to the skill and industry of the old churchmen.  When their
ecclesiastical organization was destroyed, the country speedily
relapsed into the state from which they had raised it; and Scotland
continued to lie in ruins almost till our own day, when it has
again been rescued from barrenness, more effectually even than
before, by the combined influences of roads, education, and industry.

Footnotes for Chapter IV.

*[1] 'Farmer's Magazine,' 1803.  No. xiii. p. 101.

*[2] Bad although the condition of Scotland was at the beginning of
last century, there were many who believed that it would be made
worse by the carrying of the Act of Union.  The Earl of Wigton was
one of these.  Possessing large estates in the county of Stirling,
and desirous of taking every precaution against what he supposed to
be impending ruin, he made over to his tenants, on condition that
they continued to pay him their then low rents, his extensive
estates in the parishes of Denny, Kirkintulloch, and Cumbernauld,
retaining only a few fields round the family mansion ['Farmer's
Magazine,' 1808, No. xxxiv. p. 193].  Fletcher of Saltoun also
feared the ruinous results of the Union, though he was less
precipitate in his conduct than the Earl of Wigton.  We need
scarcely say how entirely such apprehensions were falsified by the
actual results.

*[3] 'Fletcher's Political Works,' London, 1737, p. 149.  As the
population of Scotland was then only about 1,200,000, the beggars
of the country, according to the above account, must have
constituted about one-sixth of the whole community.

*[4] Act 39th George III. c. 56.  See 'Lord Cockburn's
Memorials,' pp. 76-9.  As not many persons may be aware how recent
has been the abolition of slavery in Britain, the author of this
book may mention the fact that he personally knew a man who had
been "born a slave in Scotland," to use his own words, and lived to
tell it.  He had resisted being transferred to another owner on the
sale of the estate to which he was "bound," and refused to "go below,"
on which he was imprisoned in Edinburgh gaol, where he lay for a
considerable time.  The case excited much interest, and probably
had some effect in leading to the alteration in the law relating
to colliers and salters which shortly after followed.

*[5] See 'Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle,' passim.

*[6] 'Farmer's Magazine.' June. 1811. No. xlvi. p. 155.

*[7] See Buchan Hepburn's 'General View of the Agriculture and
Economy of East Lothian,' 1794, p. 55.

*[8]Letter of John Maxwell, in Appendix to Macdiarmid's 'Picture of
Dumfries,' 1823

*[9] Robertson's 'Rural Recollections,' p. 38.

*[10] Very little was known of the geography of the Highlands down
to the beginning of the seventeenth century The principal
information on the subject being derived from Danish materials.
It appears, however, that in 1608, one Timothy Pont, a young man
without fortune or patronage, formed the singular resolution of
travelling over the whole of Scotland, with the sole view of
informing himself as to the geography of the country, and he
persevered to the end of his task through every kind of difficulty;
exploring 'all the islands with the zeal of a missionary, though
often pillaged and stript of everything; by the then barbarous
inhabitant's.  The enterprising youth received no recognition nor
reward for his exertions, and he died in obscurity, leaving his
maps and papers to his heirs.  Fortunately, James I.  heard of the
existence of Pont's papers, and purchased them for public use. They
lay, however, unused for a long time in the offices of the Scotch
Court of Chancery, until they were at length brought to light by
Mr. Robert Gordon, of Straloch, who made them the basis of the
first map of Scotland having any pretensions to accuracy that was
ever published.

*[11] Mr. Grant, of Corrymorry, used to relate that his father,
when speaking of the Rebellion of 1745, always insisted that a
rising in the Highlands was absolutely necessary to give employment
to the numerous bands of lawless and idle young men who infested
every property.--Anderson's 'Highlands and Islands of Scotland,'
p. 432.

*[12] 'Lord Hailes Annals,' i., 379.

*[13] Professor Innes's 'Sketches of Early Scottish History.' The
principal ancient bridges in Scotland were those over the Tay at
Perth (erected in the thirteenth century) over the Esk at Brechin
and Marykirk; over the Bee at Kincardine, O'Neil, and Aberdeen;
over the Don, near the same city; over the Spey at Orkhill; over
the Clyde at Glasgow; over the Forth at Stirling; and over the Tyne
at Haddington.



The progress made in the improvement of the roads throughout
England was exceedingly slow.  Though some of the main throughfares
were mended so as to admit of stage-coach travelling at the rate of
from four to six miles an hour, the less frequented roads continued
to be all but impassable.  Travelling was still difficult, tedious,
and dangerous.  Only those who could not well avoid it ever thought
of undertaking a journey, and travelling for pleasure was out of
the question.  A writer in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' in 1752 says
that a Londoner at that time would no more think of travelling into
the west of England for pleasure than of going to Nubia.

But signs of progress were not awanting.  In 1749 Birmingham
started a stage-coach, which made the journey to London in three
days.*[1]  In 1754 some enterprising Manchester men advertised a
"flying coach" for the conveyance of passengers between that town
and the metropolis; and, lest they should be classed with
projectors of the Munchausen kind, they heralded their enterprise
with this statement: "However incredible it may appear, this coach
will actually (barring accidents) arrive in London in four days and
a half after leaving Manchester!"

Fast coaches were also established on several of the northern
roads, though not with very extraordinary results as to speed.
When John Scott, afterwards Lord Chancellor Eldon, travelled from
Newcastle to Oxford in 1766, he mentions that he journeyed in what
was denominated "a fly," because of its rapid travelling; yet he
was three or four days and nights on the road.  There was no such
velocity, however, as to endanger overturning or other mischief.
On the panels of the coach were painted the appropriate motto of
Sat cito si sat bene--quick enough if well enough--a motto which
the future Lord Chancellor made his own.*[2]

The journey by coach between London and Edinburgh still occupied
six days or more, according to the state of the weather.  Between
Bath or Birmingham and London occupied between two and three days
as late as 1763.  The road across Hounslow Heath was so bad, that
it was stated  before a Parliamentary Committee that it was
frequently known to be two feet deep in mud.  The rate of
travelling was about six and a half miles an hour; but the work was
so heavy that it "tore the horses' hearts out," as the common
saying went, so that they only lasted two or three years.

When the Bath road became improved, Burke was enabled, in the
summer of 1774, to travel from London to Bristol, to meet the
electors there, in little more than four and twenty hours; but his
biographer takes care to relate that he "travelled with incredible
speed."  Glasgow was still ten days' distance from the metropolis,
and the arrival of the mail there was so important an event that a
gun was fired to announce its coming in.  Sheffield set up a
"flying machine on steel springs" to London in 1760: it "slept" the
first night at the Black Man's Head Inn, Nottingham; the second at
the Angel, Northampton; and arrived at the Swan with Two Necks,
Lad-lane, on the evening of the third day.  The fare was 1L. l7s.,
and 14 lbs. of luggage was allowed.  But the principal part of the
expense of travelling was for living and lodging on the road, not
to mention the fees to guards and drivers.

Though the Dover road was still one of the best in the kingdom, the
Dover flying-machine, carrying only four passengers, took a long
summer's day to perform the journey.  It set out from Dover at four
o'clock in the morning, breakfasted at the Red Lion, Canterbury,
and the passengers ate their way up to town at various inns on the
road, arriving in London in time for supper.  Smollett complained
of the  innkeepers along that route as the greatest set of
extortioners in  England.  The deliberate style in which journeys
were performed may be inferred from the circumstance that on one
occasion, when a quarrel took place between the guard and a
passenger, the coach stopped to see them fight it out on the road.

Foreigners who visited England were peculiarly observant of the
defective modes of conveyance then in use.  Thus, one Don Manoel
Gonzales, a Portuguese merchant, who travelled through Great
Britain, in 1740, speaking of Yarmouth, says, "They have a comical
way of carrying people all over the town and from the seaside, for
six pence. They call it their coach, but it is only a wheel-barrow,
drawn by one horse, without any covering."  Another foreigner, Herr
Alberti, a Hanoverian professor of theology, when on a visit to
Oxford in 1750, desiring to proceed to Cambridge, found there was
no means of doing so without returning to London and there taking
coach for Cambridge.  There was not even the convenience of a
carrier's waggon between the two universities.  But the most
amusing account of an actual journey by stage-coach that we know
of, is that given by a Prussian clergyman, Charles H. Moritz, who
thus describes his adventures on the road between Leicester and
London in 1782:--

    "Being obliged," he says, "to bestir myself to get
    back to London, as the time drew near when the
    Hamburgh captain with whom I intended to return had
    fixed his departure, I determined to take a place as
    far as Northampton on the outside.  But this ride from
    Leicester to Northampton I shall remember as long as I live.

    "The coach drove from the yard through a part of the
    house.  The inside passengers got in from the yard,
    but we on the outside were obliged to clamber up in
    the street, because we should have had no room for
    our heads to pass under the gateway.  My companions on
    the top of the coach were a farmer, a young man very
    decently dressed, and a black-a-moor.  The getting up
    alone was at the risk of one's life, and when I was
    up I was obliged to sit just at the corner of the
    coach, with nothing to hold by but a sort of little
    handle fastened on the side.  I sat nearest the wheel,
    and the moment that we set off I fancied that I saw
    certain death before me.  All I could do was to take
    still tighter hold of the handle, and to be strictly
    careful to preserve my balance.  The machine rolled
    along with prodigious rapidity over the stones
    through the town, and every moment we seemed to fly
    into the air, so much so that it appeared to me a
    complete miracle that we stuck to the coach at all.
    But we were completely on the wing as often as we
    passed through a village or went down a hill.

    "This continual fear of death at last became
    insupportable to me, and, therefore, no sooner were
    we crawling up a rather steep hill, and consequently
    proceeding slower than usual, then I carefully crept
    from the top of the coach, and was lucky enough to
    get myself snugly ensconced in the basket behind.
    "'O,Sir, you will be shaken to death!' said the
    black-a-moor; but I heeded him not, trusting that he
    was exaggerating the unpleasantness of my new
    situation.  And truly, as long as we went on slowly up
    the hill it was easy and pleasant enough; and I was
    just on the point of falling asleep among the
    surrounding trunks and packages, having had no rest
    the night before, when on a sudden the coach
    proceeded at a rapid rate down the hill.  Then all the
    boxes, iron-nailed and copper-fastened, began, as it
    were, to dance around me; everything in the basket
    appeared to be alive, and every moment I received
    such violent blows that I thought my last hour had
    come.  The black-a-moor had been right, I now saw
    clearly; but repentance was useless, and I was
    obliged to suffer horrible torture for nearly an
    hour, which seemed to me an eternity.  At last we came
    to another hill, when, quite shaken to pieces,
    bleeding, and sore, I ruefully crept back to the top
    of the coach to my former seat.  'Ah, did I not tell
    you that you would be shaken to death?' inquired the
    black man, when I was creeping along on my stomach.
    But I gave him no reply.  Indeed, I was ashamed; and I
    now write this as a warning to all strangers who are
    inclined to ride in English stage-coaches, and take
    an outside at, or, worse still, horror of horrors, a
    seat in the basket.

    "From Harborough to Northampton I had a most dreadful
    journey.  It rained incessantly, and as before we had
    been covered with dust, so now we were soaked with
    rain.  My neighbour, the young man who sat next me in
    the middle, every now and then fell asleep; and when
    in this state he perpetually bolted and rolled
    against me, with the whole weight of his body, more
    than once nearly pushing me from my seat, to which I
    clung with the last strength of despair.  My forces
    were nearly giving way, when at last, happily, we
    reached Northampton, on the evening of the 14th July,
    1782, an ever-memorable day to me.

    "On the next morning, I took an inside place for
    London.  We started early in the morning.  The journey
    from Northampton to the metropolis, however, I can
    scarcely call a ride, for it was a perpetual motion,
    or endless jolt from one place to another, in a close
    wooden box, over what appeared to be a heap of unhewn
    stones and trunks of trees scattered by a hurricane.
    To make my happiness complete, I had three travelling
    companions, all farmers, who slept so soundly that
    even the hearty knocks with which they hammered their
    heads against each other and against mine did not
    awake them.  Their faces, bloated and discoloured by
    ale and brandy and the knocks aforesaid, looked, as
    they lay before me, like so many lumps of dead flesh.

    "I looked, and certainly felt, like a crazy fool when
    we arrived at London in the afternoon."*[3]

[Image] The Basket Coach, 1780.

Arthur Young, in his books, inveighs strongly against the execrable
state of the roads in all parts of England towards the end of last
century.  In Essex he found the ruts "of an incredible depth,"
and he almost swore at one near Tilbury.  "Of all the cursed roads,
"he says, "that ever disgraced this kingdom in the very ages of
barbarism, none ever equalled that from Billericay to the King's
Head at Tilbury.  It is for near twelve miles so narrow that a
mouse cannot pass by any carriage.  I saw a fellow creep under his
waggon to assist me to lift, if possible, my chaise over a hedge.
To add to all the infamous circumstances which concur to plague a
traveller, I must not forget the eternally meeting with chalk
waggons, themselves frequently stuck fast, till a collection of
them are in the same situation, and twenty or thirty horses may be
tacked to each to draw them out one by one!"*[4]  Yet will it be
believed, the proposal to form a turnpike-road from Chelmsford to
Tilbury was resisted "by the Bruins of the country,  whose horses
were worried to death with bringing chalk through those vile

Arthur Young did not find the turnpike any better between Bury and
Sudbury, in Suffolk: "I was forced to move as slow in it," he says,
"as in any unmended lane in Wales.  For, ponds of liquid dirt, and
a  scattering of loose flints just sufficient to lame every horse
that  moves near them, with the addition of cutting vile grips
across the  road under the pretence of letting the water off, but
without effect, altogether render at least twelve out of these
sixteen miles as infamous a turnpike as ever was beheld."  Between
Tetsworth and Oxford he found the so-called turnpike abounding in
loose stones as large as one's head, full of holes, deep ruts, and
withal so narrow that with great difficulty he got his chaise out
of the way of the Witney waggons.  "Barbarous" and "execrable" are
the words which he constantly employs in speaking of the roads;
parish and turnpike, all seemed to be alike bad.  From Gloucester
to Newnham, a distance of twelve miles, he found a "cursed road,"
"infamously stony," with "ruts all the way."  From Newnham to
Chepstow he noted another bad feature in the roads, and that was
the perpetual hills; "for," he says, "you will form a clear idea of
them if you suppose the country to represent the roofs of houses
joined, and the road to run across them."  It was at one time even
matter of grave dispute whether it would not cost as little money
to make that between Leominster and  Kington navigable as to make
it hard.  Passing still further west, the unfortunate traveller,
who seems scarcely able to find words to express his sufferings,

    "But, my dear Sir, what am I to say of the roads in
    this country! the turnpikes! as they have the
    assurance to call them and the hardiness to make one
    pay for? From Chepstow to the half-way house between
    Newport and Cardiff they continue mere rocky lanes,
    full of hugeous stones as big as one's horse, and
    abominable holes.  The first six miles from Newport
    they were so detestable, and without either
    direction-posts or milestones, that I could not well
    persuade myself I was on the turnpike, but had
    mistook the road, and therefore asked every one I
    met, who answered me, to my astonishment, 'Ya-as!'
    Whatever business carries you into this country,
    avoid it, at least till they have good roads: if they
    were good, travelling would be very pleasant."*[5]

At a subsequent period Arthur Young visited the northern counties;
but his account of the roads in that quarter is not more
satisfactory. Between Richmond and Darlington he found them like to
"dislocate his bones," being broken in many places into deep holes,
and almost impassable; "yet," says he, "the people will drink tea!"
--a decoction against the use of which the traveller is found
constantly declaiming.  The roads in Lancashire made him almost
frantic, and he gasped for words to express his rage.  Of the road
between Proud Preston and Wigan he says: "I know not in the whole
range of language terms sufficiently expressive to describe this
infernal road.  Let me most seriously caution all travellers who
may accidentally propose to travel this terrible country, to avoid
it as they would the devil; for a thousand to one they break their
necks or their limbs by overthrows or breakings-down.

They will here meet with ruts, which I actually measured, four feet
deep, and floating with mud only from a wet summer.  What,
therefore, must it be after a winter?  The only mending it receives
is tumbling in some loose stones, which serve no other purpose than
jolting a carriage in the most intolerable manner.  These are not
merely opinions, but facts; for I actually passed three carts
broken down in those eighteen miles of execrable memory."*[6]

It would even appear that the bad state of the roads in the Midland
counties, about the same time, had nearly caused the death of the
heir to the throne.  On the 2nd of September, 1789, the Prince of
Wales left Wentworth Hall, where he had been on a visit to Earl
Fitzwilliam, and took the road for London in his carriage.  When
about two miles from Newark the Prince's coach was overturned by a
cart in a narrow part of the road; it rolled down a slope, turning
over three times, and landed at the bottom, shivered to pieces.
Fortunately the Prince escaped with only a few bruises and a
sprain; but the incident had no effect in stirring up the local
authorities to make any improvement in the road, which remained in
the same wretched state until a comparatively recent period.

When Palmer's new mail-coaches were introduced, an attempt was made
to diminish the jolting of the passengers by having the carriages
hung upon new patent springs, but with very indifferent results.
Mathew Boulton, the engineer, thus described their effect upon
himself in a journey he made in one of them from London into
Devonshire, in 1787:--

    "I had the most disagreeable journey I ever
    experienced the night after I left you, owing to the
    new improved patent coach, a vehicle loaded with iron
    trappings and the greatest complication of
    unmechanical contrivances jumbled together, that I
    have ever witnessed.  The coach swings sideways, with
    a sickly sway without any vertical spring; the point
    of suspense bearing upon an arch called a spring,
    though it is nothing of the sort, The severity of the
    jolting occasioned me such disorder, that I was
    obliged to stop at Axminster and go to bed very ill.
    However, I was able next day to proceed in a
    post-chaise.  The landlady in the London Inn, at
    Exeter, assured me that the passengers who arrived
    every night were in general so ill that they were
    obliged to go supperless to bed; and, unless they go
    back to the old-fashioned coach, hung a little lower,
    the mail-coaches will lose all their custom."*[7]

We may briefly refer to the several stages of improvement --if
improvement it could be called--in the most frequented highways of
the kingdom, and to the action of the legislature with reference to
the extension of turnpikes.  The trade and industry of the country
had been steadily improving; but the greatest obstacle to their
further progress was always felt to be the disgraceful state of the
roads.  As long ago as the year 1663 an Act was passed*[8]
authorising the first toll-gates or turnpikes to be erected, at
which collectors were stationed to levy small sums from those using
the road, for the purpose of defraying the needful expenses of
their maintenance.  This Act, however, only applied to a portion of
the Great North Road between London and York, and it authorised the
new  toll-bars to be erected at Wade's Mill in Hertfordshire, at
Caxton in Cambridgeshire, and at Stilton in Huntingdonshire.*[9]
The Act was not followed by any others for a quarter of a century,
and even after that lapse of time such Acts as were passed of a
similar character were very few and far between.

For nearly a century more, travellers from Edinburgh to London met
with no turnpikes until within about 110 miles of the metropolis.
North of that point there was only a narrow causeway fit for
pack-horses, flanked with clay sloughs on either side.  It is,
however, stated that the Duke of Cumberland and the Earl of
Albemarle, when on their way to Scotland in pursuit of the rebels
in 1746, did contrive to reach Durham in a coach and six; but there
the roads were found so wretched, that they were under the
necessity of taking to horse, and Mr. George Bowes, the county
member, made His Royal Highness a present of his nag to enable him
to proceed on his journey. The roads west of Newcastle were so bad,
that in the previous year the royal forces under General Wade,
which left Newcastle for Carlisle to intercept the Pretender and
his army, halted the first night at Ovingham, and the second at
Hexham, being able to travel only twenty miles in two days.*[10]

The rebellion of 1745 gave a great impulse to the construction of
roads for military as well as civil purposes.  The nimble
Highlanders, without baggage or waggons, had been able to cross the
border and penetrate almost to the centre of England before any
definite knowledge of their proceedings had reached the rest of the
kingdom.  In the metropolis itself little information could be
obtained of the movements of the rebel army for several days after
they had left Edinburgh.  Light of foot, they outstripped the
cavalry and artillery of the royal army, which were delayed at all
points by impassable roads.  No sooner, however, was the rebellion
put down, than Government directed its attention to the best means
of securing the permanent subordination of the Highlands, and with
this object the construction of good highways was declared to be
indispensable. The expediency of opening up the communication
between the capital and the principal towns of Scotland was also
generally admitted; and from that time, though slowly, the
construction of the main high routes between north and south made
steady progress.

The extension of the turnpike system, however, encountered violent
opposition from the people, being regarded as a grievous tax upon
their freedom of movement from place to place.  Armed bodies of men
assembled to destroy the turnpikes; and they burnt down the
toll-houses and blew up the posts with gunpowder.  The resistance
was the greatest in Yorkshire, along the line of the Great North
Road towards Scotland, though riots also took place in
Somersetshire and Gloucestershire, and even in the immediate
neighbourhood of London. One fine May morning, at Selby, in
Yorkshire, the public bellman summoned the inhabitants to assemble
with their hatchets and axes that night at midnight, and cut down
the turnpikes erected by Act of Parliament; nor were they slow to
act upon his summons.  Soldiers were then sent into the district to
protect the toll-bars and the toll-takers; but this was a difficult
matter, for the toll-gates were numerous, and wherever a "pike" was
left unprotected at night, it was found destroyed in the morning.
The Yeadon and Otley mobs, near Leeds, were especially violent. On
the 18th of June, 1753, they made quite a raid upon the turnpikes,
burning or destroying about a dozen in one week.  A score of the
rioters were apprehended, and while on their way to York Castle a
rescue was attempted, when the soldiers were under the necessity of
firing, and many persons were killed and wounded.  The prejudices
entertained against the turnpikes were so strong, that in some
places the country people would not even use the improved roads
after they were made.*[11]  For instance, the driver of the
Marlborough coach obstinately refused to use the New Bath road, but
stuck to the old waggon-track, called "Ramsbury."  He was an old
man, he said: his grandfather and father had driven the aforesaid
way before him, and he would continue in the old track till
death.*[12]  Petitions were also presented to Parliament against
the extension of turnpikes; but the opposition represented by the
petitioners was of a much less honest character than that of the
misguided and prejudiced country folks, who burnt down the
toll-houses. It was principally got up by the agriculturists in the
neighbourhood of the metropolis, who, having secured the advantages
which the turnpike-roads first constructed had conferred upon them,
desired to retain a monopoly of the improved means of
communication. They alleged that if turnpike-roads were extended
into the remoter counties, the greater cheapness of labour there
would enable the distant farmers to sell their grass and corn
cheaper in the London market than themselves, and that thus they
would be ruined.*[13]

This opposition, however, did not prevent the progress of turnpike
and highway legislation; and we find that, from l760 to l774, no
fewer than four hundred and fifty-two Acts were passed for making
and repairing highways.  Nevertheless the roads of the kingdom long
continued in a very unsatisfactory state, chiefly arising from the
extremely imperfect manner in which they were made.

Road-making as a profession was as yet unknown.  Deviations were
made in the old roads to make them more easy and straight; but the
deep ruts were merely filled up with any materials that lay nearest
at hand, and stones taken from the quarry, instead of being broken
and laid on carefully to a proper depth, were tumbled down and
roughly spread, the country road-maker trusting to the operation of
cart-wheels and waggons to crush them into a proper shape.  Men of
eminence as engineers--and there were very few such at the time--
considered road-making beneath their consideration; and it was even
thought singular that, in 1768, the distinguished Smeaton should
have condescended to make a road across the valley of the Trent,
between Markham and Newark.

The making of the new roads was thus left to such persons as might
choose to take up the trade, special skill not being thought at all
necessary on the part of a road-maker.  It is only in this way that
we can account for the remarkable fact, that the first extensive
maker of roads who pursued it as a business, was not an engineer,
nor even a mechanic, but a Blind Man, bred to no trade, and
possessing no experience whatever in the arts of surveying or
bridge-building, yet a man possessed of extraordinary natural
gifts, and unquestionably most successful as a road-maker.
We allude to John Metcalf, commonly known as "Blind Jack of
Knaresborough," to whose biography, as the constructor of nearly
two hundred miles of capital roads--as, indeed, the first great
English road-maker--we propose to devote the next chapter.

Footnotes for Chapter V.

*[1] Lady Luxborough, in a letter to Shenstone the poet, in 1749,
says,--"A Birmingham coach is newly established to our great
emolument. Would it not be a good scheme (this dirty weather, when
riding is no more a pleasure) for you to come some Monday in the
said stage-coach from Birmingham to breakfast at Barrells,
(for they always breakfast at Henley); and on the Saturday following
it would convey you back to Birmingham, unless you would stay longer,
which would be better still, and equally easy; for the stage goes
every week the same road. It breakfasts at Henley, and lies at
Chipping Horton; goes early next day to Oxford, stays there all day
and night, and gets on the third day to London; which from
Birmingham at this season is pretty well, considering how long they
are at Oxford; and it is much more agreeable as to the country than
the Warwick way was."

*[2] We may incidentally mention three other journeys south by
future Lords Chancellors.  Mansfield rode up from Scotland to
London when a boy, taking two months to make the journey on his pony.
Wedderburn's journey by coach from Edinburgh to London, in 1757,
occupied him six days.  "When I first reached London," said
the late Lord Campbell, "I performed the same journey in three
nights and two days, Mr. Palmer's mail-coaches being then
established; but this swift travelling was considered dangerous as
well as wonderful, and I was gravely advised to stay a day at York,
as several passengers who had gone through without stopping had
died of apoplexy from the rapidity of the motion!"

*[3] C. H. Moritz: 'Reise eines Deutschen in England im Jahre 1782.'
Berlin, 1783.

*[4] Arthur Young's 'Six Weeks' Tour in the Southern Counties of
England and Wales,' 2nd ed., 1769, pp. 88-9.

*[5] 'Six Weeks Tour' in the Southern Counties of England and
Wales,' pp. 153-5.  The roads all over South Wales were equally
bad down to the beginning of the present century.  At Halfway, near
Trecastle, in Breconshire, South Wales, a small obelisk is still to
be seen, which was erected to commemorate the turn over and
destruction of the mail coach over a steep of l30 feet; the driver
and passengers escaping unhurt.

*[6] 'A Six Months' Tour through the North of England,' vol. iv.,
p. 431.

*[7] Letter to Wyatt, October 5th, 1787, MS.

*[8] Act 15 Car. II., c. 1.

*[9] The preamble of the Act recites that "The ancient highway and
post-road leading from London to York, and so into Scotland, and
likewise from London into Lincolnshire, lieth for many miles in the
counties of Hertford, Cambridge, and Huntingdon, in many of which
places the road, by reason of the great and many loads which are
weekly drawn in waggons through the said places, as well as by
reason of the great trade of barley and malt that cometh to Ware,
and so is conveyed by water to the city of London, as well as other
carriages, both from the north parts as also from the city of
Norwich, St. Edmondsbury, and the town of Cambridge, to London, is
very ruinous, and become almost impassable, insomuch that it is
become very dangerous to all his Majesty's liege people that pass
that way," &c.

*[10] Down to the year 1756, Newcastle and Carlisle were only
connected by a bridle way.  In that year, Marshal Wade employed his
army to construct a road by way of Harlaw and Cholterford,
following for thirty miles the line of the old Roman Wall, the
materials of which he used to construct his "agger" and culverts.
This was long after known as "the military road."

*[11] The Blandford waggoner said, "Roads had but one object--for
waggon-driving.  He required but four-foot width in a lane, and all
the rest might go to the devil."  He added, "The gentry ought to
stay at home, and be d----d, and not run gossiping up and down the
country."--Roberts's 'Social History of the Southern Counties.'

*[12] 'Gentleman's Magazine' for December, 1752.

*[13] Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations,' book i., chap. xi., part i.



[Image] Metcalf's birthplace Knaresborough

John Metcalf was born at Knaresborough in 1717, the son of poor
working people.  When only six years old he was seized with
virulent small-pox, which totally destroyed his sight.  The blind
boy, when sufficiently recovered to go abroad, first learnt to
grope from door to door along the walls on either side of his
parents' dwelling.  In about six months he was able to feel his way
to the end of the street and back without a guide, and in three
years he could go on a message to any part of the town.  He grew
strong and healthy, and longed to join in the sports of boys of his
age.  He went bird-nesting with them, and climbed the trees while
the boys below directed him to the nests, receiving his share of
eggs and young birds.  Thus he shortly became an expert climber,
and could mount with ease any tree that he was able to grasp.
He rambled into the lanes and fields alone, and soon knew every foot
of the ground for miles round Knaresborough.  He next learnt to
ride, delighting above  all things in a gallop.  He contrived to
keep a dog and coursed hares: indeed, the boy was the marvel of the
neighbourhood.  His unrestrainable activity, his acuteness of sense,
his shrewdness, and his cleverness, astonished everybody.

The boy's confidence in himself was such, that though blind, he was
ready to undertake almost any adventure.  Among his other arts he
learned to swim in the Nidd, and became so expert that on one
occasion he saved the lives of three of his companions.  Once, when
two men were drowned in a deep part of the river, Metcalf was sent
for to dive for them, which he did, and brought up one of the
bodies at the fourth diving: the other had been carried down the
stream.  He thus also saved a manufacturer's yarn, a large quantity
of which had been carried by a sudden flood into a deep hole under
the High Bridge.  At home, in the evenings, he learnt to play the
fiddle, and became so skilled on the instrument, that he was shortly
able to earn money by playing dance music at country parties.
At Christmas time he played waits, and during the Harrogate season
he played to the assemblies at the Queen's Head and the Green Dragon.

On one occasion, towards dusk, he acted as guide to a belated
gentleman along the difficult road from York to Harrogate.
The road was then full of windings and turnings, and in many places
it was no better than a track across unenclosed moors.  Metcalf
brought the gentleman safe to his inn, "The Granby," late at night,
and was invited to join in a tankard of negus.  On Metcalf leaving
the room, the gentleman observed to the landlord--"I think,
landlord, my guide must have drunk a great deal of spirits since we
came here."  "Why so, Sir?"  "Well, I judge so, from the appearance
of his eyes."  "Eyes! bless you, Sir," rejoined the landlord, "don't
yon know that he is blind?"  "Blind!  What do you mean by that?"
"I mean, Sir, that he cannot see--he is as blind as a stone.
"Well, landlord," said the gentleman, "this is really too much:
call him in."  Enter Metcalf.  "My friend, are you really blind?"
"Yes, Sir," said he, "I lost my sight when six years old."  "Had I
known that, I would not have ventured with you on that road from
York for a hundred pounds."  "And I, Sir," said Metcalf, "would not
have lost my way for a thousand."

Metcalf having thriven and saved money, bought and rode a horse of
his own.  He had a great affection for the animal, and when he
called, it would immediately answer him by neighing.  The most
surprising thing is that he was a good huntsman; and to follow the
hounds was one of his greatest pleasures.  He was as bold as a
rider as ever took the field.  He trusted much, no doubt, to the
sagacity of his horse; but he himself was apparently regardless of
danger.  The hunting adventures which are related of him,
considering his blindness, seem altogether marvellous.  He would
also run his horse for the petty prizes or plates given at the
"feasts" in the neighbourhood, and he attended the races at York
and other places, where he made bets with considerable skill,
keeping well in his memory the winning and losing horses.
After the races, he would  return to Knaresborough late at night,
guiding others who but for him could never have made out the way.

On one occasion he rode his horse in a match in Knaresborough
Forest.  The ground was marked out by posts, including a circle of
a mile, and the race was three times round.  Great odds were laid
against the blind man, because of his supposed inability to keep
the course.  But his ingenuity was never at fault.  He procured a
number of dinner-bells from the Harrogate inns and set men to ring
them at the several posts.  Their sound was enough to direct him
during the race, and the blind man came in the winner! After the
race was over, a gentleman who owned a notorious runaway horse came
up and offered to lay a bet with Metcalf that he could not gallop
the horse fifty yards and stop it within two hundred.  Metcalf
accepted the bet, with the condition that he might choose his
ground.  This was agreed to, but there was to be neither hedge nor
wall in the distance.  Metcalf forthwith proceeded to the
neighbourhood of the large bog near the Harrogate Old Spa, and
having placed a person on the line in which he proposed to ride,
who was to sing a song to guide him by its sound, he mounted and
rode straight into the bog, where he had the horse effectually
stopped within the stipulated two hundred yards, stuck up to his
saddle-girths in the mire.  Metcalf scrambled out and claimed his
wager; but it was with the greatest difficulty that the horse could
be extricated.

The blind man also played at bowls very successfully, receiving the
odds of a bowl extra for the deficiency of each eye.  He had thus
three bowls for the other's one; and he took care to place one
friend at the jack and another midway, who, keeping up a constant
discourse with him, enabled him readily to judge of the distance.
In athletic sports, such as wrestling and boxing, he was also a
great adept; and being now a full-grown man, of great strength and
robustness, about six feet two in height, few durst try upon him
the practical jokes which cowardly persons are sometimes disposed
to play upon the blind.

Notwithstanding his mischievous tricks and youthful wildness, there
must have been something exceedingly winning about the man,
possessed, as he was, of a strong, manly, and affectionate nature;
and we are not, therefore, surprised to learn that the land lord's
daughter of "The Granby" fairly fell in love with Blind Jack and
married him, much to the disgust of her relatives.  When asked how
it was that she could marry such a man, her woman-like reply was,
"Because I could not be happy without him: his actions are so
singular, and his spirit so manly and enterprising, that I could
not help loving him."  But, after all, Dolly was not so far wrong in
the choice as her parents thought her.  As the result proved,
Metcalf had in him elements of success in life, which, even according
to the world's estimate, made him eventually a very "good match,"
and the woman's clear sight in this case stood her in good stead.

But before this marriage was consummated, Metcalf had wandered far
and "seen" a good deal of the world, as he termed it.  He travelled
on horseback to Whitby, and from thence he sailed for London,
taking with him his fiddle, by the aid of which he continued to
earn enough to maintain himself for several weeks in the
metropolis.  Returning to Whitby, He sailed from thence to
Newcastle to "see" some friends there, whom he had known at
Harrogate while visiting that watering-place.  He was welcomed by
many families and spent an agreeable month, afterwards visiting
Sunderland, still supporting himself by his violin playing.
Then he returned to Whitby for his horse, and rode homeward alone to
Knaresborough by Pickering, Malton, and York, over very bad roads,
the greater part of which he had never travelled before, yet
without once missing his way.  When he arrived at York, it was the
dead of night, and he found the city gates at Middlethorp shut.
They were of strong planks, with iron spikes fixed on the top; but
throwing his horse's bridle-rein over one of the spikes, he climbed
up, and by the help of a corner of the wall that joined the gates,
he got safely over: then opening; them from the inside, he led his
horse through.

After another season at Harrogate, he made a second visit to
London, in the company of a North countryman who played the small
pipes.  He was kindly entertained by Colonel Liddell, of Ravensworth
Castle, who gave him a general invitation to his house.  During
this visit which was in 1730-1, Metcalf ranged freely over the
metropolis, visiting Maidenhead and Reading, and returning by
Windsor and Hampton Court.  The Harrogate season being at hand,
he prepared to proceed thither,--Colonel Liddell, who was also about
setting out for Harrogate, offering him a seat behind his coach.
Metcalf thanked him, but declined the offer, observing that he
could, with great ease, walk as, far in a day as he, the Colonel,
was likely to travel in his carriage; besides, he preferred the
walking.  That a blind man should undertake to walk a distance of
two hundred miles over an unknown road, in the same time that it
took a gentleman to perform the same distance in his coach, dragged
by post-horses, seems almost incredible; yet Metcalf actually
arrived at Harrogate before the Colonel, and that without hurrying
by the way.  The circumstance is easily accounted for by the
deplorable state of the roads, which made travelling by foot on the
whole considerably more expeditious than travelling by coach.
The story is even extant of a man with a wooden leg being once offered
a lift upon a stage-coach; but he declined, with "Thank'ee, I can't
wait; I'm in a hurry."  And he stumped on, ahead of the coach.

The account of Metcalf's journey on foot from London to Harrogate
is not without a special bearing on our subject, as illustrative of
the state of the roads at the time.  He started on a Monday
morning, about an hour before the Colonel in his carriage, with his
suite, which consisted of sixteen servants on horseback.  It was
arranged that they should sleep that night at Welwyn, in
Hertfordshire.  Metcalf made his way to Barnet; but a little north
of that town, where the road branches off to St. Albans, he took
the wrong way, and thus made a considerable detour.  Nevertheless
he arrived at Welwyn first, to the surprise of the Colonel.  Next
morning he set off as before, and reached Biggleswade; but there he
found the river swollen and no bridge provided to enable travellers
to cross to the further side.  He made a considerable circuit, in
the hope of finding some method of crossing the stream, and was so
fortunate as to fall in with a fellow wayfarer, who led the way
across some planks, Metcalf following the sound of his feet.
Arrived at the other side, Metcalf, taking some pence from his
pocket, said, "Here, my good fellow, take that and get a pint of beer."
The stranger declined, saying he was welcome to his services.
Metcalf, however, pressed upon his guide the small reward, when the
other asked, "Pray, can you see very well?"  "Not remarkably well,"
said Metcalf.  "My friend," said the stranger, "I do not mean to
tithe you: I am the  rector of this parish; so God bless you,
and I wish you a good journey.  " Metcalf set forward again with
the blessing, and reached his journey's end safely, again before the
Colonel.  On the Saturday after their setting out from London,
the travellers reached Wetherby, where Colonel Liddell desired to
rest until the Monday; but Metcalf proceeded on to Harrogate, thus
completing the journey in six days,--the Colonel arriving two days

He now renewed his musical performances at Harrogate, and was also
in considerable request at the Ripon assemblies, which were
attended by most of the families of distinction in that
neighbourhood.  When the season at Harrogate was over, he retired
to Knaresborough with his young wife, and having purchased an old
house, he had it pulled down and another built on its site,--he
himself getting the requisite stones for the masonry out of the bed
of the adjoining river.  The uncertainty of the income derived from
musical performances led him to think of following some more
settled pursuit, now that he had a wife to maintain as well as
himself.  He accordingly set up a four-wheeled and a one-horse
chaise for the public accommodation,--Harrogate up to that time
being without any vehicle for hire.  The innkeepers of the town
having followed his example, and abstracted most of his business,
Metcalf next took to fish-dealing.  He bought fish at the coast,
which he conveyed on horseback to Leeds and other towns for sale.
He continued indefatigable at this trade for some time, being on
the road often for nights together; but he was at length forced to
abandon it in  consequence of the inadequacy of the returns.  He was
therefore under the necessity of again taking up his violin; and he
was employed as a musician in the Long Room at Harrogate, at the
time of the outbreak of the Rebellion of 1745.

The news of the rout of the Royal army at Prestonpans, and the
intended march of the Highlanders southwards, put a stop to
business as well as pleasure, and caused a general consternation
throughout the northern counties.  The great bulk of the people
were, however, comparatively indifferent to the measures of defence
which were adopted; and but for the energy displayed by the country
gentlemen in raising forces in support of the established
government, the Stuarts might again have been seated on the throne
of Britain.  Among the county gentlemen of York who distinguished
themselves on the occasion was William Thornton, Esq., of
Thornville Royal.  The county having voted ninety thousand pounds
for raising, clothing, and maintaining a body of four thousand men,
Mr. Thornton proposed, at a public meeting held at York, that they
should be embodied with the regulars and march with the King's
forces to meet the Pretender in the field.  This proposal was,
however, overruled, the majority of the meeting resolving that the
men should be retained at home for purposes merely of local
defence.  On this decision being come to, Mr. Thornton determined
to raise a company of volunteers at his own expense, and to join
the Royal army with such force as he could muster.  He then went
abroad among his tenantry and servants, and  endeavoured to induce
them to follow him, but without success.

Still determined on raising his company, Mr. Thornton next cast
about him for other means; and who should he think of in his
emergency but Blind Jack! Metcalf had often played to his family at
Christmas time, and the Squire knew him to be one of the most
popular men in the neighbourhood.  He accordingly proceeded to
Knaresborough to confer with Metcalf on the subject.  It was then
about the beginning of October, only a fortnight after the battle
of Prestonpans.  Sending for Jack to his inn, Mr. Thornton told
him of the state of affairs--that the French were coming to join
the rebels--and that if the country were allowed to fall into their
hands, no man's wife, daughter, nor sister would be safe.  Jack's
loyalty was at once kindled.  If no one else would join the Squire,
he would!  Thus enlisted--perhaps carried away by his love of
adventure not less than by his feeling of patriotism Metcalf
proceeded to enlist others, and in two days a hundred and forty men
were obtained, from whom Mr. Thornton drafted sixty-four, the
intended number of his company.  The men were immediately drilled
and brought into a state of as much efficiency as was practicable
in the time; and when they marched off to join General Wade's army
at Boroughbridge, the Captain said to them on setting out,
"My lads! you are going to form part of a ring-fence to the finest
estate in the world!" Blind Jack played a march at the head of the
company, dressed in blue and buff, and in a gold-laced hat.
The Captain said he would willingly give a hundred guineas for only
one eye to put in Jack's head: he was such a useful, spirited, handy

On arriving at Newcastle, Captain Thornton's company was united to
Pulteney's regiment, one of the weakest.  The army lay for a week
in  tents on the Moor.  Winter had set in, and the snow lay thick
on the  ground; but intelligence arriving that Prince Charles, with
his  Highlanders, was proceeding southwards by way of Carlisle,
General Wade gave orders for the immediate advance of the army on
Hexham, in the hope of intercepting them by that route.  They set
out on their march amidst hail and snow; and in addition to the
obstruction caused by the weather, they had to overcome the
difficulties occasioned by the badness of the roads.  The men were
often three or four-hours in marching a mile, the pioneers having
to fill up ditches and clear away many obstructions in making a
practicable passage for the artillery and baggage.  The army was
only able to reach Ovingham, a distance of little more than ten
miles, after fifteen hours' marching.  The night was bitter cold;
the ground was frozen so hard that but few of the tent-pins could
be driven; and the men lay down upon the earth amongst their straw.
Metcalf, to keep up the spirits of his company for sleep was next
to impossible --took out his fiddle and played lively tunes whilst
the men danced round the straw, which they set on fire.

Next day the army marched for Hexham; But the rebels having already
passed southward, General Wade retraced.  his steps to Newcastle to
gain the high road leading to Yorkshire, whither he marched in all
haste; and for a time his army lay before Leeds on fields now
covered with streets, some of which still bear the names of
Wade-lane, Camp-road, and Camp-field, in consequence of the event.

On the retreat of Prince Charles from Derby, General Wade again
proceeded to Newcastle, while the Duke of Cumberland hung upon the
rear of the rebels along their line of retreat by Penrith and
Carlisle.  Wade's army proceeded by forced marches into Scotland,
and at length came up with the Highlanders at Falkirk.  Metcalf
continued with Captain Thornton and his company throughout all
these marchings and countermarchings, determined to be of service
to his master if he could, and at all events to see the end of the
campaign.  At the battle of Falkirk he played his company to the
field; but it was a  grossly-mismanaged battle on the part of the
Royalist General, and the result was a total defeat.  Twenty of
Thornton's men were made  prisoners, with the lieutenant and
ensign.  The Captain himself only  escaped by taking refuge in a
poor woman's house in the town of  Falkirk, where he lay hidden for
many days; Metcalf returning to  Edinburgh with the rest of the
defeated army.

Some of the Dragoon officers, hearing of Jack's escape, sent for
him to head-quarters at Holyrood, to question him about his
Captain.  One of them took occasion to speak ironically of
Thornton's men, and asked Metcalf how he had contrived to escape.
"Oh!" said Jack, "I found it easy to follow the sound of the
Dragoons' horses-- they made such a clatter over the stones when
flying from the Highlandmen.  Another asked him how he, a blind
man, durst venture upon such a service; to which Metcalf replied,
that had he possessed a pair of good eyes, perhaps he would not
have come there to risk the loss of them by gunpowder.  No more
questions were asked, and Jack withdrew; but he was not satisfied
about the disappearance of Captain Thornton, and determined on
going back to Falkirk, within the enemy's lines, to get news of
him, and perhaps to rescue him, if that were still possible.

The rest of the company were very much disheartened at the loss of
their officers and so many of their comrades, and wished Metcalf to
furnish them with the means of returning home.  But he would not
hear of such a thing, and strongly encouraged them to remain until,
at all events, he had got news of the Captain.  He then set out for
Prince Charles's camp.  On reaching the outposts of the English
army, he was urged by the officer in command to lay aside his
project, which would certainly cost him his life.  But Metcalf was
not to be dissuaded, and he was permitted to proceed, which he did
in the company of one of the rebel spies, pretending that he wished
to be engaged as a musician in the Prince's army.  A woman whom
they met returning to Edinburgh from the field of Falkirk, laden
with plunder, gave Metcalf a token to her husband, who was Lord
George Murray's cook, and this secured him an access to the
Prince's quarters; but, notwithstanding a most diligent search,
he could hear nothing of his master.  Unfortunately for him, a person
who had seen him at Harrogate, pointed him out as a suspicions
character, and he was seized and put in confinement for three days,
after which he was tried by court martial; but as nothing could be
alleged against him, he was acquitted, and shortly after made his
escape from the rebel camp.  On reaching Edinburgh, very much to his
delight he found Captain Thornton had arrived there before him.

On the 30th of January, 1746, the Duke of Cumberland reached
Edinburgh, and put himself at the head of the Royal army, which
proceeded northward in pursuit of the Highlanders.  At Aberdeen,
where the Duke gave a ball, Metcalf was found to be the only
musician in camp who could play country dances, and he played to
the company, standing on a chair, for eight hours,--the Duke
several times, as he passed him, shouting out "Thornton, play up!"
Next morning the Duke sent him a present of two guineas; but as the
Captain would not allow him to receive such gifts while in his pay,
Metcalf spent the money, with his permission, in giving a treat to
the Duke's two body servants.  The battle of Culloden, so
disastrous to the poor Highlanders; shortly followed; after which
Captain Thornton, Metcalf, and the Yorkshire Volunteer Company,
proceeded homewards.  Metcalf's young wife had been in great fears
for the safety of her blind, fearless, and almost reckless partner;
but she received him with open arms, and his spirit of adventure
being now considerably allayed, he determined to settle quietly
down to the steady pursuit of business.

During his stay in Aberdeen, Metcalf had made himself familiar with
the articles of clothing manufactured at that place, and he came to
the conclusion that a profitable trade might be carried on by
buying them on the spot, and selling them by retail to customers in
Yorkshire.  He accordingly proceeded to Aberdeen in the following
spring; and bought a considerable stock of cotton and worsted
stockings, which he found he could readily dispose of on his return
home.  His knowledge of horseflesh--in which he was, of course,
mainly guided by his acute sense of feeling--also proved highly
serviceable to him, and he bought considerable numbers of horses in
Yorkshire for sale in Scotland, bringing back galloways in return.
It is supposed that at the same time he carried on a profitable
contraband trade in tea and such like articles.

After this, Metcalf began a new line of business, that of common
carrier between York and Knaresborough, plying the first
stage-waggon on that road.  He made the journey twice a week in
summer and once a week in winter.  He also undertook the conveyance
of army baggage, most other owners of carts at that time being
afraid of soldiers, regarding them as a wild rough set, with whom
it was dangerous to have any dealings.  But the blind man knew them
better, and while he drove a profitable trade in carrying their
baggage from town to town, they never did him any harm.  By these
means, he very shortly succeeded in realising a considerable store
of savings, besides being able to maintain his family in
respectability and comfort.

Metcalf, however, had not yet entered upon the main business of his
life.  The reader will already have observed how strong of heart
and  resolute of purpose he was.  During his adventurous career he
had  acquired a more than ordinary share of experience of the
world.  Stone blind as he was from his childhood, he had not been
able to study books, but he had carefully studied men.  He could
read characters with wonderful quickness, rapidly taking stock, as
he called it, of those with whom he came in contact.  In his youth,
as we have seen, he could follow the hounds on horse or on foot,
and managed to be in at the death with the most expert riders.
His travels about the country as a guide to those who could see,
as a musician, soldier, chapman, fish-dealer, horse-dealer,
and waggoner, had given him a perfectly familiar acquaintance with
the northern roads.  He could measure timber or hay in the stack,
and rapidly reduce their contents to feet and inches after a mental
process of his own.  Withal he was endowed with an extraordinary
activity and spirit of enterprise, which, had his sight been spared
him, would probably have rendered him one of the most extraordinary
men of his age.  As it was, Metcalf now became one of the greatest
of its road-makers and bridge-builders.

[Image] John Metcalf, the blind road-maker.

About the year 1765 an Act was passed empowering a turnpike-road to
be constructed between Harrogate and Boroughbridge.  The business
of  contractor had not yet come into existence, nor was the art of
road-making much understood; and in a remote country place such as
Knaresborough the surveyor had some difficulty in finding persons
capable of executing the necessary work.  The shrewd Metcalf
discerned in the proposed enterprise the first of a series of
public roads of a similar kind throughout the northern counties,
for none knew better than he did how great was the need of them.
He determined, therefore, to enter upon this new line of business,
and offered to Mr. Ostler, the master surveyor, to construct three
miles of the proposed road between Minskip and Fearnsby.  Ostler
knew the man well, and having the greatest confidence in his
abilities, he let him the contract.  Metcalf sold his stage-waggons
and his interest in the carrying business between York and
Knaresborough, and at once proceeded with his new undertaking.
The materials for metaling the road were to be obtained from one
gravel-pit for the whole length, and he made his arrangements on a
large scale  accordingly, hauling out the ballast with unusual
expedition and  economy, at the same time proceeding with the
formation of the road at all points; by which means he was enabled
the first to complete his contract, to the entire satisfaction of
the surveyor and trustees.

This was only the first of a vast number of similar projects on
which Metcalf was afterwards engaged, extending over a period of
more than thirty years.  By the time that he had finished the road,
the building of a bridge at Boroughbridge was advertised, and
Metcalf sent in his tender with many others.  At the same time he
frankly stated that, though he wished to undertake the work, he had
not before executed anything of the kind.  His tender being on the
whole the most favourable, the trustees sent for Metcalf, and on
his appearing before them, they asked him what he knew of a bridge.
He replied that he could readily describe his plan of the one they
proposed to build, if they would be good enough to write down his
figures.  The span of the arch, 18 feet," said he, "being a
semicircle, makes 27: the arch-stones must be a foot deep, which,
if multiplied by 27, will be 486; and the basis will be 72 feet
more.  This for the arch; but it will require good backing, for
which purpose there are proper stones in the old Roman wall at
Aldborough, which may be used for the purpose, if you please to
give directions to that effect."  It is doubtful whether the
trustees were able to follow his rapid calculations; but they were
so much struck by his readiness and apparently complete knowledge
of the work he proposed to execute, that they gave him the contract
to build the bridge; and he completed it within the stipulated time
in a satisfactory and workmanlike manner.

He next agreed to make the mile and a half of turnpike-road between
his native town of Knaresborough and Harrogate--ground with which
he was more than ordinarily familiar.  Walking one day over a
portion of the ground on which the road was to be made, while still
covered with grass, he told the workmen that he thought it differed
from the ground adjoining it, and he directed them to try for stone
or gravel underneath; and, strange to say, not many feet down, the
men came upon the stones of an old Roman causeway, from which he
obtained much valuable material for the making of his new road.
At another part of the contract there was a bog to be crossed, and
the surveyor thought it impossible to make a road over it.  Metcalf
assured him that he could readily accomplish it; on which the other
offered, if he succeeded, to pay him for the straight road the
price which he would have to pay if the road were constructed round
the bog.  Metcalf set to work accordingly, and had a large quantity
of furze and ling laid upon the bog, over which he spread layers of
gravel.  The plan answered effectually, and when the materials had
become consolidated, it proved one of the best parts of the road.

It would be tedious to describe in detail the construction of the
various roads and bridges which Metcalf subsequently executed, but
a brief summary of the more important will suffice.  In Yorkshire,
he made the roads between Harrogate and Harewood Bridge; between
Chapeltown and Leeds; between Broughton and Addingham; between Mill
Bridge and Halifax; between Wakefield and Dewsbury; between
Wakefield and Doncaster; between Wakefield, Huddersfield, and
Saddleworth (the Manchester road); between Standish and Thurston
Clough; between Huddersfield and Highmoor; between Huddersfield and
Halifax, and between Knaresborough and Wetherby.

In Lancashire also, Metcalf made a large extent of roads, which
were of the greatest importance in opening up the resources of that
county.  Previous to their construction, almost the only means of
communication between districts was by horse-tracks and mill-roads,
of sufficient width to enable a laden horse to pass along them with
a pack of goods or a sack of corn slung across its back.  Metcalf's
principal roads in Lancashire were those constructed by him between
Bury and Blackburn, with a branch to Accrington; between Bury and
Haslingden; and between Haslingden and Accrington, with a branch to
Blackburn.  He also made some highly important main roads
connecting Yorkshire and Lancashire with each other at many parts:
as, for instance, those between Skipton, Colne, and Burnley; and
between Docklane Head and Ashton-under-Lyne.  The roads from Ashton
to Stockport and from Stockport to Mottram Langdale were also his

Our road-maker was also extensively employed in the same way in the
counties of Cheshire and Derby; constructing the roads between
Macclesfield and Chapel-le-Frith, between Whaley and Buxton,
between Congleton and the Red Bull (entering Staffordshire), and in
various  other directions.  The total mileage of the turnpike-roads
thus  constructed was about one hundred and eighty miles, for which
Metcalf received in all about sixty-five thousand pounds.
The making of these roads also involved the building of many bridges,
retaining-walls, and culverts.  We believe it was generally
admitted of the works constructed by Metcalf that they well stood
the test of time and use; and, with a degree of justifiable pride,
he was afterwards accustomed to point to his bridges, when others
were tumbling during floods, and boast that none of his had fallen.

This extraordinary man not only made the highways which were
designed for him by other surveyors, but himself personally
surveyed and laid out many of the most important roads which he
constructed, in difficult and mountainous parts of Yorkshire and
Lancashire.  One who personally knew Metcalf thus wrote of him
during his life-time:.  "With the assistance only of a long staff,
I have several times met this man traversing the roads, ascending
steep and rugged heights, exploring valleys and investigating their
several extents, forms, and situations, so as to answer his designs
in the best manner.  The plans which he makes, and the estimates he
prepares, are done in a method peculiar to himself, and of which he
cannot well convey the meaning to others.  His abilities in this
respect are, nevertheless, so great that he finds constant
employment.  Most of the roads over the Peak in Derbyshire have
been altered by his directions, particularly those in the vicinity
of Buxton; and he is at this time constructing a new one betwixt
Wilmslow and Congleton, to open a communication with the great
London road, without being obliged to pass over the mountains.
I have met this blind projector while engaged in making his survey.
He was alone as usual, and, amongst other conversation, I made some
inquiries respecting this new road.  It was really astonishing to
hear with what accuracy he described its course and the nature of
the different soils through which it was conducted.  Having
mentioned to him a boggy piece of ground it passed through, he
observed that 'that was the only place he had  doubts concerning,
and that he was apprehensive they had, contrary to his directions,
been too sparing of their materials.'"*[1]

Metcalf's skill in constructing his roads over boggy ground was
very great; and the following may be cited as an instance.  When
the  high-road from Huddersfield to Manchester was determined on,
he agreed to make it at so much a rood, though at that time the
line had not been marked out.  When this was done, Metcalf, to his
dismay, found that the surveyor had laid it out across some deep
marshy ground on Pule and Standish Commons.  On this he
expostulated with the trustees, alleging the much greater expense
that he must necessarily incur in carrying out the work after their
surveyor's plan.  They told him, however, that if he succeeded in
making a complete road to their satisfaction, he should not be a
loser; but they pointed out that, according to their surveyor's
views, it would be requisite for him to dig out the bog until he
came to a solid bottom.  Metcalf, on making his calculations, found
that in that case he would have to dig a trench some nine feet deep
and fourteen yards broad on the average, making about two hundred
and ninety-four solid yards of bog in every rood, to be excavated
and carried away.  This, he naturally conceived, would have proved
both tedious as well as costly, and, after all, the road would in
wet weather have been no better than a broad ditch, and in winter
liable to be blocked up with snow.  He strongly represented this
view to the trustees as well as the surveyor, but they were
immovable.  It was, therefore, necessary for him to surmount the
difficulty in some other way, though he remained firm in his
resolution not to adopt the plan  proposed by the surveyor.
After much cogitation he appeared again  before the trustees,
and made this proposal to them: that he should  make the road
across the marshes after his own plan, and then, if it should be
found not to answer, he would be at the expense of making it over
again after the surveyor's proposed method.  This was agreed to;
and as he had undertaken to make nine miles of the road within ten
months, he immediately set to work with all despatch.

Nearly four hundred men were employed upon the work at six
different points, and their first operation was to cut a deep ditch
along either side of the intended road, and throw the excavated
stuff inwards so as to raise it to a circular form.  His greatest
difficulty was in getting the stones laid to make the drains, there
being no firm footing for a horse in the more boggy places.
The Yorkshire clothiers, who passed that way to Huddersfield market
--by no means a soft-spoken race--ridiculed Metcalf's proceedings,
and declared that he and his men would some day have to be dragged
out of the bog by the hair of their heads! Undeterred, however,
by sarcasm, he persistently pursued his plan of making the road
practicable for laden vehicles; but he strictly enjoined his men
for the present to keep his manner of proceeding; a secret.

His plan was this.  He ordered heather and ling to be pulled from
the adjacent ground, and after binding it together in little round
bundles, which could be grasped with the hand, these bundles were
placed close together in rows in the direction of the line of road,
after which other similar bundles were placed transversely over
them; and when all had been pressed well down, stone and gravel
were led on in broad-wheeled waggons, and spread over the bundles,
so as to make a firm and level way.  When the first load was
brought and laid on, and the horses reached the firm ground again
in safety, loud cheers were set up by the persons who had assembled
in the expectation of seeing both horses and waggons disappear in
the bog.  The whole length was finished in like manner, and it
proved one of the best, and even the driest, parts of the road,
standing in very little need of repair for nearly twelve years
after its construction.  The plan adopted by Metcalf, we need
scarcely point out, was precisely similar to that afterwards
adopted by George Stephenson, under like circumstances, when
constructing the railway across Chat Moss.  It consisted simply in a
large extension of the bearing surface, by which, in fact, the road
was made to float upon the surface of the bog; and the ingenuity of
the expedient proved the practical shrewdness and mother-wit of the
blind Metcalf, as it afterwards illustrated the promptitude as well
as skill of the clear-sighted George Stephenson.

Metcalf was upwards of seventy years old before he left off
road-making.  He was still hale and hearty, wonderfully active for
so old a man, and always full of enterprise.  Occupation was
absolutely  necessary for his comfort, and even to the last day of
his life he  could not bear to be idle.  While engaged on road-making
in Cheshire, he brought his wife to Stockport for a time,
and there she died, after thirty-nine years of happy married life.
One of Metcalf's daughters became married to a person engaged in
the cotton business at Stockport, and, as that trade was then very
brisk, Metcalf himself commenced it in a small way. He began with
six spinning-jennies and a carding-engine, to which he afterwards
added looms for weaving calicoes, jeans, and velveteens.  But trade
was fickle, and finding that he could not sell his yarns except at
a loss, he made over his jennies to his son-in-law, and again went
on with his road-making.  The last line which he constructed was
one of the most difficult he had everundertaken,-- that between
Haslingden and Accrington, with a branch road to Bury.  Numerous
canals being under construction at the same time, employment was
abundant and wages rose, so that though he honourably fulfilled his
contract, and was paid for it the sum of 3500L., he found himself a
loser of exactly 40L. after two years' labour and anxiety.
He completed the road in 1792, when he was seventy-five years of age,
after which he retired to his farm at Spofforth, near Wetherby,
where for some years longer he continued to do a little business in
his old line, buying and selling hay and standing wood, and
superintending the operations of his little farm, During the later
years of his career he occupied himself in dictating to an
amanuensis an account of the incidents in his remarkable life,
and finally, in the year 1810, this strong-hearted and resolute man
--his life's work over--laid down his staff and peacefully departed
in the ninety-third year of his age; leaving behind him four
children, twenty grand-children, and ninety great grand-children.

[Image] Metcalf's house at Spofforth.

The roads constructed by Metcalf and others had the effect of
greatly improving the communications of Yorkshire and Lancashire,
and opening up those counties to the trade then flowing into them
from all directions.  But the administration of the highways and
turnpikes being entirely local, their good or bad management
depending upon the public spirit and enterprise of the gentlemen of
the locality, it frequently happened that while the roads of one
county were exceedingly good, those of the adjoining county were
altogether execrable.

Even in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis the Surrey roads
remained comparatively unimproved.  Those through the interior of
Kent were wretched.  When Mr. Rennie, the engineer, was engaged in
surveying the Weald with a view to the cutting of a canal through
it in 1802, he found the country almost destitute of practicable
roads, though so near to the metropolis on the one hand and to the
sea-coast on the other.  The interior of the county was then
comparatively untraversed, except by bands of smugglers, who kept
the inhabitants in a state of constant terror.  In an agricultural
report on the county of Northampton as late as the year 1813, it
was stated that the only way of getting along some of the main
lines of road in rainy weather, was by swimming!

In the neighbourhood of the city of Lincoln the communications were
little better, and there still stands upon what is called Lincoln
Heath--though a heath no longer--a curious memorial of the past in
the shape of Dunstan Pillar, a column seventy feet high, erected
about the middle of last century in the midst of the then dreary,
barren waste, for the purpose of serving as a mark to wayfarers by
day and a beacon to them by night.*[2]

[Image] Land Lighthouse on Lincoln Heath.

At that time the Heath was not only uncultivated, but it was also
unprovided with a road across it.  When the late Lady Robert
Manners  visited Lincoln from her residence at Bloxholm, she was
accustomed to send forward a groom to examine some track, that on
his return he might be able to report one that was practicable.
Travellers frequently lost themselves upon this heath.  Thus a
family, returning from a ball at Lincoln, strayed from the track
twice in one night, and they were obliged to remain there until
morning.  All this is now changed, and Lincoln Heath has become
covered with excellent roads and thriving farmsteads.
"This Dunstan Pillar," says Mr. Pusey, in his review of the
agriculture of Lincolnshire, in 1843, "lighted up no longer time
ago for so singular a purpose, did appear to me a striking witness
of the spirit of industry which, in our own days, has reared the
thriving homesteads around it, and spread a mantle of teeming
vegetation to its very base.  And it was certainly surprising to
discover at once the finest farming I had ever seen and the only
land lighthouse ever raised.*[3]  Now that the pillar has ceased to
cheer the wayfarer, it may serve as a beacon to encourage other
landowners in converting their dreary moors into similar scenes of
thriving industry."*[4]  When the improvement of the high roads of
the country fairly set in, the progress made was very rapid.
This was greatly stimulated by the important inventions of tools,
machines, and engines, made towards the close of last century,
the products of which--more especially of the steam-engine and
spinning-machine--so largely increased the wealth of the nation.
Manufactures, commerce, and shipping, made unprecedented strides;
life became more active; persons and commodities circulated more
rapidly; every improvement in the internal communications being
followed by an increase of ease, rapidity, and economy in
locomotion.  Turnpike and post roads were speedily extended all
over the country, and even the rugged mountain districts of North
Wales and the Scotch  Highlands became as accessible as any English
county.  The riding postman was superseded by the smartly appointed
mail-coach, performing its journeys with remarkable regularity at
the average speed of ten miles an hour.  Slow stagecoaches gave
place to fast ones, splendidly horsed and "tooled," until
travelling by road in England was pronounced almost perfect.

But all this was not enough.  The roads and canals, numerous and
perfect though they might be, were found altogether inadequate to
the accommodation of the traffic of the country, which had
increased, at a constantly accelerating ratio, with the increased
application of steam power to the purposes of productive industry.
At length steam itself was applied to remedy the inconveniences
which it had caused; the locomotive engine was invented, and
travelling by railway became generally adopted.  The effect of
these several improvements in the means of locomotion, has been to
greatly increase the public activity, and to promote the general
comfort and well-being.  They have tended to bring the country and
the town much closer together; and, by annihilating distance as
measured by time, to make the whole kingdom as  one great city.
What the personal blessings of improved communication have been, no
one has described so well as the witty and sensible Sydney Smith:--

   "It is of some importance," he wrote, "at what period
    a man is born.  A young man alive at this period
    hardly knows to what improvement of human life he has
    been introduced; and I would bring before his notice
    the changes which have taken place in England since I
    began to breathe the breath of life, a period
    amounting to over eighty years.  Gas was unknown;
    I groped about the streets of London in the all but
    utter darkness of a twinkling oil lamp, under the
    protection of watchmen in their grand climacteric,
    and exposed to every species of degradation and
    insult.  I have been nine hours in sailing from Dover
    to Calais, before the invention of steam.  It took me
    nine hours to go from Taunton to Bath, before the
    invention of railroads; and I now go in six hours
    from Taunton to London! In going from Taunton to
    Bath, I suffered between l0,000 and 12,000 severe
    contusions, before stone-breaking Macadam was
    born....  As the basket of stage-coaches in which
    luggage was then carried had no springs, your clothes
    were rubbed all to pieces; and, even in the best
    society, one-third of the gentlemen at least were
    always drunk.....  I paid 15L. in a single year for
    repairs of carriage-springs on the pavement of
    London; and I now glide without noise or fracture on
    wooden pavement.  I can walk, by the assistance of the
    police, from one end of London to the other without
    molestation; or, if tired, get into a cheap and
    active cab, instead of those cottages on wheels which
    the hackney coaches were at the beginning of my
    life.....  Whatever miseries I suffered, there was no
    post to whisk my complaints for a single penny to the
    remotest comer of the empire; and yet, in spite of
    all these privations, I lived on quietly, and am now
    ashamed that I was not more discontented, and utterly
    surprised that all these changes and inventions did
    not occur two centuries ago.

With the history of these great improvements is also mixed up the
story of human labour and genius, and of the patience and
perseverance displayed in carrying them out.  Probably one of the
best illustrations of character in connection with the development
of the inventions of the last century, is to be found in the life
of Thomas Telford, the greatest and most scientific road-maker of
his day, to which we proceed to direct the attention of the reader.

Footnotes for Chapter VI.

*[1] 'Observations on Blindness and on the Employment of the other
Senses to supply the Loss of Sight.' By Mr. Bew.--'Memoirs of the
Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester,'
vol.i., pp. 172-174.  Paper read 17th April, 1782.

*[2] The pillar was erected by Squire Dashwood in 1751; the lantern
on its summit was regularly lighted till 1788, and occasionally till
1808,, when it was thrown down and never replaced.  The Earl of
Buckingham afterwards mounted a statue of George III. on the top.

*[3] Since the appearance of the first edition of this book, a
correspondent has informed us that there is another lighthouse
within 24 miles of London, not unlike that on Lincoln Heath.  It is
situated a little to the south-east of the Woking station of the
South-western Railway, and is popularly known as "Woking Monument."
It stands on the verge of Woking Heath, which is a continuation of
the vast tract of heath land which extends in one direction as far
as Bagshot.  The tradition among the inhabitants is, that one of the
kings of England was wont to hunt in the neighbourhood, when a fire
was lighted up in the beacon to guide him in case he should be
belated; but the probability is, that it was erected like that on
Lincoln Heath, for the guidance of ordinary wayfarers at night.

*[4] 'Journal of the Agricultural Society of England, 1843.'



[Image] Valley of "the Unblameable Shepherd", Eskdale

Thomas Telford was born in one of the most Solitary nooks of the
narrow valley of the Esk, in the eastern part of the county of
Dumfries, in Scotland.  Eskdale runs north and south, its lower end
having been in former times the western march of the Scottish
border.  Near the entrance to the dale is a tall column erected on
Langholm Hill, some twelve miles to the north of the Gretna Green
station of the Caledonian Railway,--which many travellers to and
from Scotland may have observed,--a monument to the late Sir John
Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, one of the distinguished natives of
the district.  It looks far over the English border-lands, which
stretch away towards the south, and marks the entrance to the
mountainous parts of the dale, which lie to the north.  From that
point upwards the valley gradually contracts, the road winding
along the river's banks, in some places high above the stream,
which rushes swiftly over the rocky bed below.

A few miles upward from the lower end of Eskdale lies the little
capital of the district, the town of Langholm; and there, in the
market-place, stands another monument to the virtues of the Malcolm
family in the statue erected to the memory of Admiral Sir Pulteney
Malcolm, a distinguished naval officer.  Above Langholm, the country
becomes more hilly and moorland.  In many places only a narrow strip
of land by the river's side is left available for cultivation;
until at length the dale contracts so much that the hills descend
to the very road, and there are only to be seen their steep
heathery sides sloping up towards the sky on either hand, and a
narrow stream plashing and winding along the bottom of the valley
among the rocks at their feet.

[Image] Telford's Native District

From this brief description of the character of Eskdale scenery,
it may readily be supposed that the district is very thinly peopled,
and that it never could have been capable of supporting a large
number of inhabitants.  Indeed, previous to the union of the crowns
of England and Scotland, the principal branch of industry that
existed in the Dale was of a lawless kind.  The people living on the
two sides of the border looked upon each other's cattle as their
own, provided only they had the strength to "lift" them.  They were,
in truth, even during the time of peace, a kind of outcasts,
against whom the united powers of England and Scotland were often
employed.  On the Scotch side of the Esk were the Johnstones and
Armstrongs, and on the English the Graemes of Netherby; both clans
being alike wild and lawless.  It was a popular border saying that
"Elliots and Armstrongs ride thieves a';" and an old historian says
of the Graemes that "they were all stark moss-troopers and arrant
thieves; to England as well as Scotland outlawed."  The neighbouring
chiefs were no better: Scott of Buccleugh, from whom the modern
Duke is descended, and Scott of Harden, the ancestor of the
novelist, being both renowned freebooters.

There stands at this day on the banks of the Esk, only a few miles
from the English border, the ruin of an old fortalice, called
Gilnockie Tower, in a situation which in point of natural beauty is
scarcely equalled even in Scotland.  It was the stronghold of a
chief popularly known in his day as Johnnie Armstrong.*[1]  He was a
mighty freebooter in the time of James V., and the terror of his
name is said to have extended as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
between which town and his castle on the Esk he was accustomed to
levy black-mail, or "protection and forbearance money," as it was
called.  The King, however, determining to put down by the strong
hand the depredations of the march men, made a sudden expedition
along the borders; and Johnnie Armstrong having been so ill-advised
as to make his appearance with his followers at a place called
Carlenrig, in Etterick Forest, between Hawick and Langholm, James
ordered him to instant execution.  Had Johnnie Armstrong, like the
Scotts and Kers and Johnstones of like calling, been imprisoned
beforehand, he might possibly have lived to found a British
peerage; but as it was, the genius of the Armstrong dynasty was for
a time extinguished, only, however, to reappear, after the lapse
of a few centuries, in the person of the eminent engineer of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the inventor of the Armstrong gun.

The two centuries and a half which have elapsed since then have
indeed seen extraordinary changes.*[2]  The energy which the old
borderers threw into their feuds has not become extinct, but
survives under more benignant aspects, exhibiting itself in efforts
to enlighten, fertilize, and enrich the country which their
wasteful ardour before did so much to disturb and impoverish.
The heads of the Buccleugh and Elliot family now sit in the British
House of Lords.  The descendant of Scott of Harden has achieved a
world-wide reputation as a poet and novelist; and the late Sir
James Graham, the representative of the Graemes of Netherby, on the
English side of the border, was one of the most venerable and
respected of British statesmen.  The border men, who used to make
such furious raids and forays, have now come to regard each other,
across the imaginary line which divides them, as friends and
neighbours; and they meet as competitors for victory only at
agricultural meetings, where they strive to win prizes for the
biggest turnips or the most effective reaping-machines; while the
men who followed their Johnstone or Armstrong chiefs as prickers or
hobilers to the fray have, like Telford, crossed the border with
powers of road-making and bridge-building which have proved a
source of increased civilization and well-being to the population
of the entire United Kingdom.

The hamlet of Westerkirk, with its parish church and school,
lies in a narrow part of the valley, a few miles above Langholm.
Westerkirk parish is long and narrow, its boundaries being the
hill-tops on either side of the dale.  It is about seven miles long
and two broad, with a population of about 600 persons of all ages.
Yet this number is quite as much as the district is able to
support, as is proved by its remaining as nearly as possible
stationary from one generation to another.*[3]  But what becomes of
the natural increase of families?  "They swarm  off!" was the
explanation given to us by a native of the valley.  "If they
remained at home," said he, "we should all be sunk in poverty,
scrambling with each other amongst these hills for a bare living.
But our peasantry have a spirit above that: they will not consent
to sink; they look up; and our parish schools give them a power of
making their way in the world, each man for himself.  So they swarm
off--some to America, some to Australia, some to India, and some,
like Telford, work their way across the border and up to London."

One would scarcely have expected to find the birthplace of the
builder of the Menai Bridge and other great national works in so
obscure a corner of the kingdom.  Possibly it may already have
struck the reader with surprise, that not only were all the early
engineers self-taught in their profession, but they were brought up
mostly in remote country places, far from the active life of great
towns and cities.  But genius is of no locality, and springs alike
from the farmhouse, the peasant's hut, or the herd's shieling.
Strange, indeed, it is that the men who have built our bridges,
docks, lighthouses, canals, and railways, should nearly all have
been country-bred boys: Edwards and Brindley, the sons of small
farmers; Smeaton, brought up in his father's country house at
Austhorpe; Rennie, the son of a farmer and freeholder; and
Stephenson, reared in a colliery village, an engine-tenter's son.
But Telford, even more than any of these, was a purely country-bred
boy, and was born and brought up in a valley so secluded that it
could not even boast of a cluster of houses of the dimensions of a

Telford's father was a herd on the sheep-farm of Glendinning.
The farm consists of green hills, lying along the valley of the Meggat,
a little burn, which descends from the moorlands on the east, and
falls into the Esk near the hamlet of Westerkirk.  John Telford's
cottage was little better than a shieling, consisting of four mud
walls, spanned by a thatched roof.  It stood upon a knoll near the
lower end of a gully worn in the hillside by the torrents of many

The ground stretches away from it in a long sweeping slope up to
the sky, and is green to the top, except where the bare grey rocks
in some places crop out to the day.  From the knoll may be seen
miles on miles of hills up and down the valley, winding in and out,
sometimes branching off into smaller glens, each with its gurgling
rivulet of peaty-brown water flowing down from the mosses above.
Only a narrow strip of arable land is here and there visible along
the bottom of the dale, all above being sheep-pasture, moors, and
rocks.  At Glendinning you seem to have got almost to the world's end.
There the road ceases, and above it stretch trackless moors,
the solitude of which is broken only by the whimpling sound of the
burns on their way to the valley below, the hum of bees gathering
honey among the heather, the whirr of a blackcock on the wing, the
plaintive cry of the ewes at lambing-time, or the sharp bark of the
shepherd's dog gathering the flock together for the fauld.

[Image] Telford's Birthplace

In this cottage on the knoll Thomas Telford was born on the 9th of
August, 1757, and before the year was out he was already an orphan.
The shepherd, his father, died in the month of November, and was
buried in Westerkirk churchyard, leaving behind him his widow and
her only child altogether unprovided for.  We may here mention that
one of the first things which that child did, when he had grown up
to manhood and could "cut a headstone," was to erect one with the
following inscription, hewn and lettered by himself, over his
father's grave:             "IN MEMORY OF
                              JOHN TELFORD,
                       WHO AFTER LIVING 33 YEARS
                        AN UNBLAMEABLE SHEPHERD,
                          DIED AT GLENDINNING,
                            NOVEMBER, 1757,"

a simple but poetical epitaph, which Wordsworth himself might have

The widow had a long and hard struggle with the world before her;
but she encountered it bravely.  She had her boy to work for, and,
destitute though she was, she had him to educate.  She was helped,
as the poor so often are, by those of her own condition, and there
is no sense of degradation in receiving such help.  One of the
risks of benevolence is its tendency to lower the recipient to the
condition of an alms-taker.  Doles from poor's-boxes have this
enfeebling effect; but a poor neighbour giving a destitute widow a
help in her time of need is felt to be a friendly act, and is alike
elevating to the character of both.  Though misery such as is
witnessed in large towns was quite unknown in the valley, there was
poverty; but it was honest as well as hopeful, and none felt
ashamed of it.  The farmers of the dale were very primitive*[4]
in their manners and habits, and being a warm-hearted, though by no
means a demonstrative race, they were kind to the widow and her
fatherless boy.  They took him by turns to live with them at their
houses, and gave his mother occasional employment.  In summer she
milked the ewes and made hay, and in harvest she went a-shearing;
contriving not only to live, but to be cheerful.

The house to which the widow and her son removed at the Whitsuntide
following the death of her husband was at a place called The Crooks,
about midway between Glendinning and Westerkirk.  It was a thatched
cot-house, with two ends; in one of which lived Janet Telford
(more commonly known by her own name of Janet Jackson) and her son
Tom, and in the other her neighbour Elliot; one door being common to

[Image] Cottage at the Crooks.

Young Telford grew up a healthy boy, and he was so full of fun and
humour that he became known in the valley by the name of "Laughing
Tam."  When he was old enough to herd sheep he went to live with a
relative, a shepherd like his father, and he spent most of his time
with him in summer on the hill-side amidst the silence of nature.
In winter he lived with one or other of the neighbouring farmers.
He herded their cows or ran errands, receiving for recompense his
meat, a pair of stockings, and five shillings a year for clogs.
These were his first wages, and as he grew older they were
gradually increased.

But Tom must now be put to school, and, happily, small though the
parish of Westerkirk was, it possessed the advantage of that
admirable institution, the parish school.  The legal provision made
at an early period for the education of the people in Scotland,
proved one of their greatest boons.  By imparting the rudiments of
knowledge to all, the parish schools of the country placed the
children of the peasantry on a more equal footing with the children
of the rich; and to that extent redressed the inequalities of
fortune.  To start a poor boy on the road of life without
instruction, is like starting one on a race with his eyes bandaged
or his leg tied up.  Compared with the educated son of the rich man,
the former has but little chance of sighting the winning post.

To our orphan boy the merely elementary teaching provided at the
parish school of Westerkirk was an immense boon.  To master this was
the first step of the ladder he was afterwards to mount: his own
industry, energy, and ability must do the rest.  To school
accordingly he went, still working a-field or herding cattle during
the summer months.  Perhaps his own "penny fee" helped to pay the
teacher's hire; but it is supposed that his cousin Jackson defrayed
the principal part of the expense of his instruction.  It was not
much that he learnt; but in acquiring the arts of reading, writing,
and figures, he learnt the beginnings of a great deal.  Apart from
the question of learning, there was another manifest advantage to
the poor boy in mixing freely at the parish school with the sons of
the neighbouring farmers and proprietors.  Such intercourse has an
influence upon a youth's temper, manners, and tastes, which is
quite as important in the education of character as the lessons of
the master himself; and Telford often, in after life, referred with
pleasure to the benefits which he had derived from his early school
friendships.  Among those to whom he was accustomed to look back
with most pride, were the two elder brothers of the Malcolm family,
both of whom rose to high rank in the service of their country;
William Telford, a youth of great promise, a naval surgeon,
who died young; and the brothers William and Andrew Little, the former
of whom settled down as a farmer in Eskdale, and the latter,
a surgeon, lost his eyesight when on service off the coast of Africa.
Andrew Little afterwards established himself as a teacher at
Langholm, where he educated, amongst others, General Sir Charles
Pasley, Dr. Irving, the Custodier of the Advocate's Library at
Edinburgh; and others known to fame beyond the bounds of their
native valley.  Well might Telford say, when an old man, full of
years and honours, on sitting down to write his autobiography,
"I still recollect with pride and pleasure my native parish of
Westerkirk, on the banks of the Esk, where I was born."

[Image] Westerkirk Church and School.

Footnotes for Chapter I.

*[1] Sir Waiter Scott, in his notes to the 'Minstrelsy of the
Scottish Border,' says that the common people of the high parts of
Liddlesdale and the country adjacent to this day hold the memory of
Johnnie Armstrong in very high respect.

*[2] It was long before the Reformation flowed into the secluded
valley of the Esk; but when it did, the energy of the Borderers
displayed itself in the extreme form of their opposition to the old
religion.  The Eskdale people became as resolute in their
covenanting as they had before been in their free-booting; the
moorland fastnesses of the moss-troopers becoming the haunts of the
persecuted ministers in the reign of the second James.  A little
above Langholm is a hill known as "Peden's View," and the well in
the green hollow at its foot is still called "Peden's Well"--that
place having been the haunt of Alexander Peden, the "prophet."  His
hiding-place was among the alder-bushes in the hollow, while from
the hill-top he could look up the valley, and see whether the
Johnstones of Wester Hall were coming.  Quite at the head of the
same valley, at a place called Craighaugh, on Eskdale Muir, one
Hislop, a young covenanter, was shot by Johnstone's men, and buried
where he fell; a gray slabstone still marking the place of his rest.
Since that time, however, quiet has reigned in Eskdale, and its
small population have gone about their daily industry from one
generation to another in peace.  Yet though secluded and apparently
shut out by the surrounding hills from the outer world, there is
not a throb of the nation's heart but pulsates along the valley;
and when the author visited it some years since, he found that a
wave of the great Volunteer movement had flowed into Eskdale;
and the "lads of Langholm" were drilling and marching under their
chief, young Mr. Malcolm of the Burnfoot, with even more zeal than
in the populous towns and cities of the south.

*[3] The names of the families in the valley remain very nearly the
same as they were three hundred years ago--the Johnstones, Littles,
Scotts, and Beatties prevailing above Langholm; and the Armstrongs,
Bells, Irwins, and Graemes lower down towards Canobie and Netherby.
It is interesting to find that Sir David Lindesay, in his curious
drama published in 'Pinkerton's Scottish Poems' vol. ii., p. 156,
gives these as among the names of the borderers some three hundred
years since.  One Common Thift, when sentenced to condign
punishment, thus remembers his Border friends in his dying speech:

   "Adew! my bruther Annan thieves,
    That holpit me in my mischeivis;
    Adew! Grosaws, Niksonis, and Bells,
    Oft have we fairne owrthreuch the fells:

    Adew! Robsons, Howis, and Pylis,
    That in our craft hes mony wilis:
    Littlis, Trumbells, and Armestranges;
    Baileowes, Erewynis, and Elwandis,
    Speedy of flicht, and slicht of handis;
    The Scotts of Eisdale, and the Gramis,
    I haf na time to tell your nameis."

Telford, or Telfer, is an old name in the same neighbourhood,
commemorated in the well known border ballad of 'Jamie Telfer of
the fair Dodhead.' Sir W. Scott says, in the 'Minstrelsy,' that
"there is still a family of Telfers.  residing near Langholm , who
pretend to derive their descent from the Telfers of the Dodhead."
A member of the family of "Pylis" above mentioned, is said to have
migrated from Ecclefechan southward to Blackburn, and there founded
the celebrated Peel family.

*[4] We were informed in the valley that about the time of Telford's
birth there were only two tea-kettles in the whole parish of
Westerkirk, one of which was in the house of Sir James Johnstone
of Wester Hall, and the other at "The Burn," the residence of
Mr. Pasley, grandfather of General Sir Charles Pasley.



The time arrived when young Telford must be put to some regular
calling.  Was he to be a shepherd like his father and his uncle,
or was he to be a farm-labourer, or put apprentice to a trade?
There was not much choice; but at length it was determined to bind
him to a stonemason.  In Eskdale that trade was for the most part
confined to the building of drystone walls, and there was very
little more art employed in it than an ordinarily neat-handed
labourer could manage.  It was eventually decided to send the
youth--and he was now a strong lad of about fifteen--to a mason at
Lochmaben, a small town across the hills to the westward, where a
little more building and of a better sort--such as of farm-houses,
barns, and road-bridges--was carried on than in his own immediate
neighbourhood.  There he remained only a few months; for his master
using him badly, the high-spirited youth would not brook it, and
ran away, taking refuge with his mother at The Crooks, very much to
her dismay.

What was now to be done with Tom?  He was willing to do anything or
go anywhere rather than back to his Lochmaben master.  In this
emergency his cousin Thomas Jackson, the factor or land-steward at
Wester Hall, offered to do what he could to induce Andrew Thomson,
a small mason at Langholm, to take Telford for the remainder of his
apprenticeship; and to him he went accordingly.  The business
carried on by his new master was of a very humble sort.  Telford,
in his autobiography, states that most of the farmers' houses in the
district then consisted of "one storey of mud walls, or rubble
stones bedded in clay, and thatched with straw, rushes, or heather;
the floors being of earth, and the fire in the middle, having a
plastered creel chimney for the escape of the smoke; while, instead
of windows, small openings in the thick mud walls admitted a scanty
light."  The farm-buildings were of a similarly wretched

The principal owner of the landed property in the neighbourhood was
the Duke of Buccleugh.  Shortly after the young Duke Henry succeeded
to the title and estates, in 1767, he introduced considerable
improvements in the farmers' houses and farm-steadings, and the
peasants' dwellings, as well as in the roads throughout Eskdale.
Thus a demand sprang up for masons' labour, and Telford's master
had no want of regular employment for his hands.  Telford profited
by the experience which this increase in the building operations of
the neighbourhood gave him; being employed in raising rough walls
and farm enclosures, as well as in erecting bridges across rivers
wherever regular roads for wheel carriages were substituted for the
horse-tracks formerly in use.

During the greater part of his apprenticeship Telford lived in the
little town of Langholm, taking frequent opportunities of visiting
his mother at The Crooks on Saturday evenings, and accompanying her
to the parish church of Westerkirk on Sundays.  Langholm was then a
very poor place, being no better in that respect than the district
that surrounded it.  It consisted chiefly of mud hovels, covered
with thatch--the principal building in it being the Tolbooth,
a stone and lime structure, the upper part of which was used as a
justice-hall and the lower part as a gaol.  There were, however,
a few good houses in the little town, occupied by people of the
better class, and in one of these lived an elderly lady, Miss Pasley,
one of the family of the Pasleys of Craig.  As the town was so
small that everybody in it knew everybody else, the ruddyy-cheeked,
laughing mason's apprentice soon became generally known to all the
townspeople, and amongst others to Miss Pasley. When she heard that
he was the poor orphan boy from up the valley, the son of the
hard-working widow woman, Janet Jackson, so "eident" and so
industrious, her heart warmed to the mason's apprentice, and she
sent for him to her house.  That was a proud day for Tom; and when
he called upon her, he was not more pleased with Miss Pasley's
kindness than delighted at the sight of her little library of
books, which contained more volumes than he had ever seen before.

Having by this time acquired a strong taste for reading, and
exhausted all the little book stores of his friends, the joy of the
young mason may be imagined when Miss Pasley volunteered to lend
him some books from her own library.  Of course, he eagerly and
thankfully availed himself of the privilege; and thus, while
working as an apprentice and afterwards as a journeyman, Telford
gathered his first knowledge of British literature, in which he was
accustomed to the close of his life to take such pleasure.
He almost always had some book with him, which he would snatch a
few minutes to read in the intervals of his work; and on winter
evenings he occupied his spare time in poring over such volumes as
came in his way, usually with no better light than the cottage
fire.  On one occasion Miss Pasley lent him 'Paradise Lost,' and he
took the book with him to the hill-side to read.  His delight was
such that it fairly taxed his powers of expression to describe it.
He could only say; "I read, and read, and glowred; then read, and
read again."  He was also a great admirer of Burns, whose writings
so inflamed his mind that at the age of twenty-two, when barely out
of his apprenticeship, we find the young mason actually breaking
out in verse.*[1]  By diligently reading all the books that he could
borrow from friends and neighbours, Telford made considerable
progress in his learning; and, what with his scribbling of "poetry"
and various attempts at composition, he had become so good and
legible a writer that he was often called upon by his less-educated
acquaintances to pen letters for them to their distant friends.
He was always willing to help them in this way; and, the other working
people of the town making use of his services in the same manner,
all the little domestic and family histories of the place soon
became familiar to him.  One evening a Langholm man asked Tom to
write a letter for him to his son in England; and when the young
scribe read over what had been written to the old man's dictation,
the latter, at the end of almost every sentence, exclaimed,
"Capital! capital!" and at the close he said, "Well! I declare,
Tom! Werricht himsel' couldna ha' written a better!"--Wright being
a well-known lawyer or "writer" in Langholm.

His apprenticeship over, Telford went on working as a journeyman at
Langholm, his wages at the time being only eighteen pence a day.
What was called the New Town was then in course of erection,
and there are houses still pointed out in it, the walls of which
Telford helped to put together.  In the town are three arched
door-heads of a more ornamental character than the rest, of Telford's
hewing; for he was already beginning to set up his pretensions as a
craftsman, and took pride in pointing to the superior handiwork
which proceeded from his chisel.

About the same time, the bridge connecting the Old with the New
Town was built across the Esk at Langholm, and upon that structure
he was also employed.  Many of the stones in it were hewn by his
hand, and on several of the blocks forming the land-breast his
tool-mark is still to be seen.

Not long after the bridge was finished, an unusually high flood or
spate swept down the valley.  The Esk was "roaring red frae bank to
brae," and it was generally feared that the new brig would be
carried away.  Robin Hotson, the master mason, was from home at the
time, and his wife, Tibby, knowing that he was bound by his
contract to maintain the fabric for a period of seven years, was in
a state of great alarm.  She ran from one person to another,
wringing her hands and sobbing, "Oh! we'll be ruined--we'll a' be
ruined!" In her distress she thought of Telford, in whom she had
great confidence, and called out, "Oh! where's Tammy Telfer--
where's Tammy?"  He was immediately sent for.  It was evening, and
he was soon found at the house of Miss Pasley.  When he came
running up, Tibby exclaimed, "Oh, Tammy! they've been on the brig,
and they say its shakin'! It 'll be doon!" "Never you heed them,
Tibby," said Telford, clapping her on the shoulder, "there's nae
fear o' the brig.  I like it a' the better that it shakes--
it proves its weel put thegither."  Tibby's fears, however, were not
so easily allayed; and insisting that she heard the brig "rumlin,"
she ran up--so the neighbours afterwards used to say of her--and set
her back against the parapet to hold it together.  At this, it is
said, "Tam bodged and leuch;" and Tibby, observing how easily he
took it, at length grew more calm.  It soon became clear enough
that the bridge was sufficiently strong; for the flood subsided
without doing it any harm, and it has stood the furious spates of
nearly a century uninjured.

Telford acquired considerable general experience about the same
time as a house-builder, though the structures on which he was
engaged were of a humble order, being chiefly small farm-houses on
the Duke of Buccleugh's estate, with the usual out-buildings.
Perhaps the most important of the jobs on which he was employed was
the manse of Westerkirk, where he was comparatively at home.
The hamlet stands on a green hill-side, a little below the entrance
to the valley of the Meggat.  It consists of the kirk, the minister's
manse, the parish-school, and a few cottages, every occupant of
which was known to Telford.  It is backed by the purple moors,
up which he loved to wander in his leisure hours and read the poems
of Fergusson and Burns.  The river Esk gurgles along its rocky bed
in the bottom of the dale, separated from the kirkyard by a steep
bank, covered with natural wood; while near at hand, behind the
manse, stretch the fine woods of Wester Hall, where Telford was
often wont to roam.

[Image] Valley of Eskdale, Westerkirk in the distance.

We can scarcely therefore wonder that, amidst such pastoral
scenery, and reading such books as he did, the poetic faculty of
the country mason should have become so decidedly developed.
It was while working at Westerkirk manse that he sketched the first
draft of his descriptive poem entitled 'Eskdale,' which was published
in the 'Poetical Museum' in 1784.*[2]  These early poetical efforts
were at least useful in stimulating his self-education.  For the
practice of poetical composition, while it  cultivates the
sentiment of beauty in thought and feeling, is probably the best of
all exercises in the art of writing correctly,  grammatically,
and expressively.  By drawing a man out of his ordinary calling, too,
it often furnishes him with a power of happy thinking which may in
after life become a source of the purest pleasure; and this, we
believe, proved to be the case with Telford, even though he ceased
in later years to pursue the special cultivation of the art.

Shortly after, when work became slack in the district, Telford
undertook to do small jobs on his own account such as the hewing of
grave-stones and ornamental doorheads.  He prided himself especially
upon his hewing, and from the specimens of his workmanship which
are still to be seen in the churchyards of Langholm and Westerkirk,
he had evidently attained considerable skill.  On some of these
pieces of masonry the year is carved--1779, or 1780.  One of the
most ornamental is that set into the wall of Westerkirk church,
being a monumental slab, with an inscription and moulding,
surmounted by a coat of arms, to the memory of James Pasley of Craig.
He had now learnt all that his native valley could teach him of the
art of masonry; and, bent upon self-improvement and gaining a
larger experience of life, as well as knowledge of his trade, he
determined to seek employment elsewhere.  He accordingly left
Eskdale for the first time, in 1780, and sought work in Edinburgh,
where the New Town was then in course of erection on the elevated
land, formerly green fields, extending along the north bank of the
"Nor' Loch."  A bridge had been thrown across the Loch in 1769,
the stagnant pond or marsh in the hollow had been filled up,
and Princes Street was rising as if by magic.  Skilled masons were
in great demand for the purpose of carrying out these and the numerous
other architectural improvements which were in progress, and
Telford had no difficulty in obtaining employment.

Our stone-mason remained at Edinburgh for about two years, during
which he had the advantage of taking part in first-rate work and
maintaining himself comfortably, while he devoted much of his spare
time to drawing, in its application to architecture.  He took the
opportunity of visiting and carefully studying the fine specimens
of ancient work at Holyrood House and Chapel, the Castle, Heriot's
Hospital, and the numerous curious illustrations of middle age
domestic architecture with which the Old Town abounds.  He also made
several journeys to the beautiful old chapel of Rosslyn, situated
some miles to the south of Edinburgh, making careful drawings of
the more important parts of that building.

When he had thus improved himself, "and studied all that was to be
seen in Edinburgh, in returning to the western border," he says,
"I visited the justly celebrated Abbey of Melrose."  There he was
charmed by the delicate and perfect workmanship still visible even
in the ruins of that fine old Abbey; and with his folio filled with
sketches and drawings, he made his way back to Eskdale and the
humble cottage at The Crooks.  But not to remain there long.
He merely wished to pay a parting visit to his mother and other
relatives before starting upon a longer journey.  "Having acquired,"
he says in his Autobiography, "the rudiments of my profession,
I considered that my native country afforded few opportunities of
exercising it to any extent, and therefore judged it advisable
(like many of my countrymen) to proceed southward, where industry
might find more employment and be better remunerated."

Before setting out, he called upon all his old friends and
acquaintances in the dale--the neighbouring farmers, who had
befriended him and his mother when struggling with poverty--his
schoolfellows, many of whom were preparing to migrate, like
himself, from their native valley--and the many friends and
acquaintances he had made while working as a mason in Langholm.
Everybody knew that Tom was going south, and all wished him God
speed.  At length the leave-taking was over, and he set out for
London in the year 1782, when twenty-five years old.  He had, like
the little river Meggat, on the banks of which he was born, floated
gradually on towards the outer world: first from the nook in the
valley, to Westerkirk school; then to Langholm and its little
circle; and now, like the Meggat, which flows with the Esk into the
ocean, he was about to be borne away into the wide world.  Telford,
however, had confidence in himself, and no one had fears for him.
As the neighbours said, wisely wagging their heads, "Ah, he's an
auld-farran chap is Tam; he'll either mak a spoon or spoil a horn;
any how, he's gatten a good trade at his fingers' ends."

Telford had made all his previous journeys on foot; but this one he
made on horseback.  It happened that Sir James Johnstone, the laird
of Wester Hall, had occasion to send a horse from Eskdale to a
member of his family in London, and he had some difficulty in
finding a person to take charge of it.  It occurred to Mr. Jackson,
the laird's factor, that this was a capital opportunity for his
cousin Tom, the mason; and it was accordingly arranged that he
should ride the horse to town.  When a boy, he had learnt rough
riding sufficiently well for the purpose; and the better to fit him
for the hardships of the road, Mr. Jackson lent him his buckskin
breeches.  Thus Tom set out from his native valley well mounted,
with his little bundle of "traps" buckled behind him, and, after a
prosperous journey, duly reached London, and delivered up the horse
as he had been directed.  Long after, Mr. Jackson used to tell the
story of his cousin's first ride to London with great glee, and he
always took care to wind up with--"but Tam forgot to send me back
my breeks!"

[Image] Lower Valley of the Meggat, the Crooks in the distance.

Footnotes for Chapter II.

*[1] In his 'Epistle to Mr. Walter Ruddiman,' first published in
'Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine,' in 1779, occur the following lines
addressed to Burns, in which Telford incidentally sketches himself
at the time, and hints at his own subsequent meritorious career;

   "Nor pass the tentie curious lad,
    Who o'er the ingle hangs his head,
    And begs of neighbours books to read;
    For hence arise
    Thy country's sons, who far are spread,
    Baith bold and wise."

*[2] The 'Poetical Museum,' Hawick, p.267.  ' Eskdale' was
afterwards reprinted by Telford when living at Shrewsbury, when he
added a few lines by way of conclusion.  The poem describes very
pleasantly the fine pastoral scenery of the district:--

   "Deep 'mid the green sequester'd glens below,
    Where murmuring streams among the alders flow,
    Where flowery meadows down their margins spread,
    And the brown hamlet lifts its humble head--
    There, round his little fields, the peasant strays,
    And sees his flock along the mountain graze;
    And, while the gale breathes o'er his ripening grain,
    And soft repeats his upland shepherd's strain,
    And western suns with mellow radiance play.
    And gild his straw-roof'd cottage with their ray,
    Feels Nature's love his throbbing heart employ,
    Nor envies towns their artificial joy."

The features of the valley are very fairly described.  Its early
history is then rapidly sketched; next its period of border strife,
at length happily allayed by the union of the kingdoms, under which
the Johnstones, Pasleys, and others, men of Eskdale, achieve honour
and fame.  Nor did he forget to mention Armstrong, the author of the
'Art of Preserving Health,' son of the minister of Castleton, a few
miles east of Westerkirk; and Mickle, the translator of the 'Lusiad,'
whose father was minister of the parish of Langholm; both of whom
Telford took a natural pride in as native poets of Eskdale.



A common working man, whose sole property consisted in his mallet
and chisels, his leathern apron and his industry, might not seem to
amount to much in "the great world of London."  But, as Telford
afterwards used to say, very much depends on whether the man has
got a head with brains in it of the right sort upon his shoulders.
In London, the weak man is simply a unit added to the vast floating
crowd, and may be driven hither and thither, if he do not sink
altogether; while the strong man will strike out, keep his head
above water, and make a course for himself, as Telford did.
There is indeed a wonderful impartiality about London.  There the
capable person usually finds his place.  When work of importance is
required, nobody cares to ask where the man who can do it best
comes from, or what he has been, but what he is, and what he can
do.  Nor did it ever stand in Telford's way that his father had been
a poor shepherd in Eskdale, and that he himself had begun his
London career by working for weekly wages with a mallet and chisel.

After duly delivering up the horse, Telford proceeded to present a
letter with which he had been charged by his friend Miss Pasley on
leaving Langholm.  It was addressed to her brother, Mr. John Pasley,
an eminent London merchant, brother also of Sir Thomas Pasley, and
uncle of the Malcolms.  Miss Pasley requested his influence on
behalf of the young mason from Eskdale, the bearer of the letter.
Mr. Pasley received his countryman kindly, and furnished him with
letters of introduction to Sir William Chambers, the architect of
Somerset House, then in course of erection.  It was the finest
architectural work in progress in the metropolis, and Telford,
desirous of improving himself by experience of the best kind,
wished to be employed upon it.  He did not, indeed, need any
influence to obtain work there, for good hewers were in demand; but
our mason thought it well to make sure, and accordingly provided
himself beforehand with the letter of introduction to the architect.
He was employed immediately, and set to work among the hewers,
receiving the usual wages for his labour.

Mr. Pasley also furnished him with a letter to Mr. Robert Adam,*[1]
another distinguished architect of the time; and Telford seems to
have been much gratified by the civility which he receives from
him.  Sir William Chambers he found haughty and reserved, probably
being too much occupied to bestow attention on the Somerset House
hewer, while he found Adam to be affable and communicative.
"Although I derived no direct advantage from either," Telford says,
"yet so powerful is manner, that the latter left the most
favourable impression; while the interviews with both convinced me
that my safest plan was to endeavour to advance, if by slower steps,
yet by independent conduct."

There was a good deal of fine hewer's work about Somerset House,
and from the first Telford aimed at taking the highest place as an
artist and tradesman in that line.*[2]  Diligence, carefulness,
and observation will always carry a man onward and upward; and before
long we find that Telford had succeeded in advancing himself to the
rank of a first-class mason.  Judging from his letters written about
this time to his friends in Eskdale, he seems to have been very
cheerful and happy; and his greatest pleasure was in calling up
recollections of his native valley.  He was full of kind remembrances
for everybody.  "How is Andrew, and Sandy, and Aleck, and Davie?"
he would say; and "remember me to all the folk of the nook."
He seems to have made a round of the persons from Eskdale in or about
London before he wrote, as his letters were full of messages from
them to their friends at home; for in those days postage was dear,
and as much as possible was necessarily packed within the compass
of a working man's letter.  In one, written after more than a
year's absence, he said he envied the visit which a young surgeon
of his acquaintance was about to pay to the valley; "for the
meeting of long absent friends," he added, "is a pleasure to be
equalled by few other enjoyments here below."

He had now been more than a year in London, during which he had
acquired much practical information both in the useful and
ornamental branches of architecture.  Was he to go on as a working
mason? or what was to be his next move? He had been quietly making
his observations upon his companions, and had come to the
conclusion that they very much wanted spirit, and, more than all,
forethought.  He found very clever workmen about him with no idea
whatever beyond their week's wages.  For these they would make every
effort: they would work hard, exert themselves to keep their
earnings up to the highest point, and very readily "strike" to
secure an advance; but as for making a provision for the next week,
or the next year, he thought them exceedingly thoughtless.  On the
Monday mornings they began "clean;" and on Saturdays their week's
earnings were spent.  Thus they lived from one week to another--
their limited notion of "the week" seeming to bound their existence.

Telford, on the other hand, looked upon the week as only one of the
storeys of a building; and upon the succession of weeks, running on
through years, he thought that the complete life structure should
be built up.  He thus describes one of the best of his fellow-workmen
at that time--the only individual he had formed an intimacy with:
"He has been six years at Somerset House, and is esteemed the
finest workman in London, and consequently in England.  He works
equally in stone and marble.  He has excelled the professed carvers
in cutting Corinthian capitals and other ornaments about this
edifice, many of which will stand as a monument to his honour.
He understands drawing thoroughly, and the master he works under
looks on him as the principal support of his business.  This man,
whose name is Mr. Hatton, may be half a dozen years older than
myself at most.  He is honesty and good nature itself, and is
adored by both his master and fellow-workmen. Notwithstanding his
extraordinary skill and abilities, he has been working all this
time as a common journeyman, contented with a few shillings a week
more than the rest; but I believe your uneasy friend has kindled a
spark in his breast that he never felt before." *[3]

In fact, Telford had formed the intention of inducing this
admirable fellow to join him in commencing business as builders on
their own account.  "There is nothing done in stone or marble," he
says, "that we cannot do in the completest manner."  Mr. Robert Adam,
to whom the scheme was mentioned, promised his support, and said he
would do all in his power to recommend them.  But the great
difficulty was money, which neither of them possessed; and Telford,
with grief, admitting that this was an "insuperable bar," went no
further with the scheme.

About this time Telford was consulted by Mr. Pulteney*[4]
respecting the alterations making in the mansion at Wester Hall,
and was often with him on this business.  We find him also writing
down to Langholm for the prices of roofing, masonry, and timber-work,
with a view to preparing estimates for a friend who was building a
house in that neighbourhood.  Although determined to reach the
highest excellence as a manual worker, it is clear that he was
already aspiring to be something more.  Indeed, his steadiness,
perseverance, and general ability, pointed him out as one well
worthy of promotion.

How he achieved his next step we are not informed; but we find him,
in July, 1784, engaged in superintending the erection of a house,
after a design by Mr. Samuel Wyatt, intended for the residence of
the Commissioner (now occupied by the Port Admiral) at Portsmouth
Dockyard, together with a new chapel, and several buildings
connected with the Yard.  Telford took care to keep his eyes open to
all the other works going forward in the neighbourhood, and he
states that he had frequent opportunities of observing the various
operations necessary in the foundation and construction of
graving-docks, wharf-walls, and such like, which were among the
principal occupations of his after-life.

The letters written by him from Portsmouth to his Eskdale
correspondents about this time were cheerful and hopeful, like
those he had sent from London.  His principal grievance was that he
received so few from home, but he supposed that opportunities for
forwarding them by hand had not occurred, postage being so dear as
scarcely then to be thought of.  To tempt them to correspondence he
sent copies of the poems which he still continued to compose in the
leisure of his evenings: one of these was a 'Poem on Portsdown Hill.'
As for himself, he was doing very well.  The buildings were
advancing satisfactorily; but, "above all," said he, "my proceedings
are entirely approved by the Commissioners and officers here--
so much so that they would sooner go by my advice than my master's,
which is a dangerous point, being difficult to keep their good
graces as well as his.  However, I will contrive to manage it"*[5]

The following is his own account of the manner in which he was
usually occupied during the winter months while at Portsmouth Dock:--
"I rise in the morning at 7 (February 1st), and will get up
earlier as the days lengthen until it come to 5 o'clock.
I immediately set to work to make out accounts, write on matters of
business, or draw, until breakfast, which is at 9.  Then I go into
the Yard about 10, see that all are at their posts, and am ready to
advise about any matters that may require attention.  This, and
going round the several works, occupies until about dinner-time,
which is at 2; and after that I again go round and attend to what
may be wanted.  I draw till 5; then tea; and after that I write,
draw, or read until half after 9; then comes supper and bed.  This
my ordinary round, unless when I dine or spend an evening with a
friend; but I do not make many friends, being very particular, nay,
nice to a degree.  My business requires a great deal of writing and
drawing, and this work I always take care to keep under by
reserving my time for it, and being in advance of my work rather
than behind it.  Then, as knowledge is my most ardent pursuit, a
thousand things occur which call for investigation which would
pass unnoticed by those who are content to trudge only in the
beaten path.  I am not contented unless I can give a reason for
every particular method or practice which is pursued.  Hence I am
now very deep in chemistry.  The mode of making mortar in the best
way led me to inquire into the nature of lime.  Having, in pursuit
of this inquiry, looked into some books on chemistry, I perceived
the field was boundless; but that to assign satisfactory reasons
for many mechanical processes required a general knowledge of that
science.  I have therefore borrowed a MS. copy of Dr. Black's
Lectures.  I have bought his 'Experiments on Magnesia and
Quicklime,' and also Fourcroy's Lectures, translated from the
French by one Mr. Elliot, of Edinburgh.  And I am determined to
study the subject with unwearied attention until I attain some
accurate knowledge of chemistry, which is of no less use in the
practice of the arts than it is in that of medicine."  He adds, that
he continues to receive the cordial approval of the Commissioners
for the manner in which he performs his duties, and says, "I take
care to be so far master of the business committed to me as that
none shall be able to eclipse me in that respect."*[6]  At the same
time he states he is taking great delight in Freemasonry, and is
about to have a lodge-room at the George Inn fitted up after his
plans and under his direction.  Nor does he forget to add that he
has his hair powdered every day, and puts on a clean shirt three
times a week.

The Eskdale mason was evidently getting on, as he deserved to do.
But he was not puffed up.  To his Langholm friend he averred that
"he would rather have it said of him that he possessed one grain of
good nature or good sense than shine the finest puppet in
Christendom."  "Let my mother know that I am well," he wrote to
Andrew Little, "and that I will print her a letter soon."*[7]
For it was a practice of this good son, down to the period of his
mother's death, no matter how much burdened he was with business,
to set apart occasional times for the careful penning of a letter
in printed characters, that she might the more easily be able to
decipher it with her old and dimmed eyes by her cottage fireside at
The Crooks.  As a man's real disposition usually displays itself
most strikingly in small matters--like light, which gleams the
most brightly when seen through narrow chinks--it will probably
be admitted that this trait, trifling though it may appear, was
truly characteristic of the simple and affectionate nature of the
hero of our story.

The buildings at Portsmouth were finished by the end of 1786, when
Telford's duties there being at an end, and having no engagement
beyond the termination of the contract, he prepared to leave, and
began to look about him for other employment.

Footnotes for Chapter III.

*[1] Robert and John Adam were architects of considerable repute in
their day.  Among their London erections were the Adelphi Buildings,
in the Strand; Lansdowne House, in Berkeley Square; Caen Wood
House, near Hampstead (Lord Mansfield's); Portland Place, Regent's
Park; and numerous West End streets and mansions.  The screen of the
Admiralty and the ornaments of Draper's Hall were also designed by

*[2] Long after Telford had become famous, he was passing over
Waterloo Bridge one day with a friend, when, pointing to some
finely-cut stones in the corner nearest the bridge, he said:
"You see those stones there; forty years since I hewed and laid them,
when working on that building as a common mason."

*[3]Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated London, July, 1783.

*[4] Mr., afterwards Sir William, Pulteney, was the second son of
Sir James Johnstone, of Wester Hall, and assumed the name of
Pulteney, on his marriage to Miss Pulteney, niece of the Earl of
Bath and of General Pulteney, by whom he succeeded to a large
fortune.  He afterwards succeeded to the baronetcy of his elder
brother James, who died without issue in 1797.  Sir William Pulteney
represented Cromarty, and afterwards Shrewsbury, where he usually
resided, in seven successive Parliaments.  He was a great patron of
Telford's, as we shall afterwards find.

*[5] Letter to Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Portsmouth, July 23rd,

*[6] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Portsmouth
Dockyard, Feb. 1, 1786.

*[7] Ibid



Mr. Pulteney, member for Shrewsbury, was the owner of extensive
estates in that neighbourhood by virtue of his marriage with the
niece of the last Earl of Bath.  Having resolved to fit up the
Castle there as a residence, he bethought him of the young Eskdale
mason, who had, some years before, advised him as to the repairs of
the Johnstone mansion at Wester Hall.  Telford was soon found, and
engaged to go down to Shrewsbury to superintend the necessary
alterations.  Their execution occupied his attention for some time,
and during their progress he was so fortunate as to obtain the
appointment of Surveyor of Public Works for the county of Salop,
most probably through the influence of his patron.  Indeed, Telford
was known to be so great a favourite with Mr. Pulteney that at
Shrewsbury he usually went by the name of "Young Pulteney."

Much of his attention was from this time occupied with the surveys
and repairs of roads, bridges, and gaols, and the supervision of
all public buildings under the control of the magistrates of the
county.  He was also frequently called upon by the corporation of
the borough of Shrewsbury to furnish plans for the improvement of
the streets and buildings of that fine old town; and many
alterations were carried out under his direction during the period
of his residence there.

While the Castle repairs were in course of execution, Telford was
called upon by the justices to superintend the erection of a new
gaol, the plans for which had already been prepared and settled.
The benevolent Howard, who devoted himself with such zeal to gaol
improvement, on hearing of the intentions of the magistrates, made
a visit to Shrewsbury for the purpose of examining the plans; and
the circumstance is thus adverted to by Telford in one of his
letters to his Eskdale correspondent:--"About ten days ago I had a
visit from the celebrated John Howard, Esq.  I say I, for he was on
his tour of gaols and infirmaries; and those of Shrewsbury being
both under my direction, this was, of course, the cause of my being
thus distinguished.  I accompanied him through the infirmary and the
gaol.  I showed him the plans of the proposed new buildings, and had
much conversation with him on both subjects.  In consequence of his
suggestions as to the former, I have revised and amended the plans,
so as to carry out a thorough reformation; and my alterations
having been approved by a general board, they have been referred to
a committee to carry out.  Mr. Howard also took objection to the
plan of the proposed gaol, and requested me to inform the
magistrates that, in his opinion, the interior courts were too
small, and not sufficiently ventilated; and the magistrates, having
approved his suggestions, ordered the plans to be amended
accordingly.  You may easily conceive how I enjoyed the conversation
of this truly good man, and how much I would strive to possess his
good opinion.  I regard him as the guardian angel of the miserable.
He travels into all parts of Europe with the sole object of doing
good, merely for its own sake, and not for the sake of men's praise.
To give an instance of his delicacy, and his desire to avoid public
notice, I may mention that, being a Presbyterian, he attended the
meeting-house of that denomination in Shrewsbury on Sunday morning,
on which occasion I accompanied him; but in the afternoon he
expressed a wish to attend another place of worship, his presence
in the town having excited considerable curiosity, though his wish
was to avoid public recognition.  Nay, more, he assures me that he
hates travelling, and was born to be a domestic man.  He never sees
his country-house but he says within himself, 'Oh! might I but rest
here, and never more travel three miles from home; then should I be
happy indeed!' But he has become so committed, and so pledged
himself to his own conscience to carry out his great work, that he
says he is doubtful whether he will ever be able to attain the
desire of his heart--life at home.  He never dines out, and scarcely
takes time to dine at all: he says he is growing old, and has no
time to lose.  His manner is simplicity itself.  Indeed, I have
never yet met so noble a being.  He is going abroad again shortly
on one of his long tours of mercy."*[1]  The journey to which
Telford here refers was Howard's last.  In the  following year he
left England to return no more; and the great and  good man died at
Cherson, on the shores of the Black Sea, less than two years after
his interview with the young engineer at Shrewsbury.

Telford writes to his Langholm friend at the same time that he is
working very hard, and studying to improve himself in branches of
knowledge in which he feels himself deficient.  He is practising
very temperate habits: for half a year past he has taken to
drinking water only, avoiding all sweets, and eating no
"nick-nacks."  He has "sowens and milk,' (oatmeal flummery) every
night for his supper.  His friend having asked his opinion of
politics, he says he really knows nothing about them; he had been
so completely engrossed by his own business that he has not had
time to read even a newspaper.  But, though an ignoramus in
politics, he has been studying lime, which is more to his purpose.
If his friend can give him any information about that, he will
promise to read a newspaper now and then in the ensuing session of
Parliament, for the purpose of forming some opinion of politics:
he adds, however, "not if it interfere with my business--mind that!',
His friend told him that he proposed translating a system of
chemistry.  "Now you know," wrote Telford, "that I am chemistry mad;
and if I were near you, I would make you promise to communicate any
information on the subject that you thought would be of service to
your friend, especially about calcareous matters and the mode of
forming the best composition for building with, as well above as
below water.  But not to be confined to that alone, for you must
know I have a book for the pocket,*[2] which I always carry with me,
into which I have extracted the essence of Fourcroy's Lectures,
Black on Quicklime, Scheele's Essays, Watson's Essays, and various
points from the letters of my respected friend Dr. Irving.*[3]
So much for chemistry.  But I have also crammed into it facts
relating to mechanics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, and all manner of
stuff, to which I keep continually adding, and it will be a charity
to me if you will kindly contribute your mite."*[4]  He says it
has been, and will continue to be, his aim to endeavour to unite
those "two frequently jarring pursuits, literature and business;"
and he does not see why a man should be less efficient in the
latter capacity because he has well informed, stored, and humanized
his mind by the cultivation of letters.  There was both good sense
and sound practical wisdom in this view of Telford.

While the gaol was in course of erection, after the improved plans
suggested by Howard, a variety of important matters occupied the
county surveyor's attention.  During the summer of 1788 he says he
is very much occupied, having about ten different jobs on hand:
roads, bridges, streets, drainage-works, gaol, and infirmary.
Yet he had time to write verses, copies of which he forwarded to his
Eskdale correspondent, inviting his criticism.  Several of these
were elegiac lines, somewhat exaggerated in their praises of the
deceased, though doubtless sincere.  One poem was in memory of
George Johnstone, Esq., a member of the Wester Hall family, and
another on the death of William Telford, an Eskdale farmer's son,
an intimate friend and schoolfellow of our engineer.*[5]  These,
however, were but the votive offerings of private friendship,
persons more immediately about him knowing nothing of his stolen
pleasures in versemaking. He continued to be shy of strangers,
and was very "nice," as he calls it, as to those whom he admitted
to his bosom.

Two circumstances of considerable interest occurred in the course
of the same year (1788), which are worthy of passing notice.
The one was the fall of the church of St. Chad's, at Shrewsbury;
the other was the discovery of the ruins of the Roman city of
Uriconium, in the immediate neighbourhood.  The church of St. Chad's
was about four centuries old, and stood greatly in need of repairs.
The roof let in the rain upon the congregation, and the parish
vestry met to settle the plans for mending it; but they could not
agree about the mode of procedure.  In this emergency Telford was
sent for, and requested to advise what was best to he done.  After a
rapid glance at the interior, which was in an exceedingly dangerous
state, he said to the churchwardens, "Gentlemen, we'll consult
together on the outside, if you please."  He found that not only the
roof but the walls of the church were in a most decayed state.
It appeared that, in consequence of graves having been dug in the
loose soil close to the shallow foundation of the north-west pillar
of the tower, it had sunk so as to endanger the whole structure.
"I discovered," says he, "that there were large fractures in the
walls, on tracing which I found that the old building was in a most
shattered and decrepit condition, though until then it had been
scarcely noticed.  Upon this I declined giving any recommendation as
to the repairs of the roof unless they would come to the resolution
to secure the more essential parts, as the fabric appeared to me
to be in a very alarming condition.  I sent in a written report to
the same effect." *[6]

The parish vestry again met, and the report was read; but the
meeting exclaimed against so extensive a proposal, imputing mere
motives of self-interest to the surveyor.  "Popular clamour," says
Telford, "overcame my report.  'These fractures,' exclaimed the
vestrymen, 'have been there from time immemorial;' and there were
some otherwise sensible persons, who remarked that professional men
always wanted to carve out employment for themselves, and that the
whole of the necessary repairs could be done at a comparatively
small expense."*[7]  The vestry then called in another person,
a mason of the town, and directed him to cut away the injured part
of a particular pillar, in order to underbuild it.  On the second
evening after the commencement of the operations, the sexton was
alarmed by a fail of lime-dust and mortar when he attempted to toll
the great bell, on which he immediately desisted and left the
church.  Early next morning (on the 9th of July), while the workmen
were waiting at the church door for the key, the bell struck four,
and the vibration at once brought down the tower, which overwhelmed
the nave, demolishing all the pillars along the north side, and
shattering the rest.  "The very parts I had pointed out," says
Telford, "were those which gave way, and down tumbled the tower,
forming a very remarkable ruin, which astonished and surprised the
vestry, and roused them from their infatuation, though they have
not yet recovered from the shock."*[8]

The other circumstance to which we have above referred was the
discovery of the Roman city of Uriconium, near Wroxeter, about five
miles from Shrewsbury, in the year 1788.  The situation of the place
is extremely beautiful, the river Severn flowing along its western
margin, and forming a barrier against what were once the hostile
districts of West Britain.  For many centuries the dead city had
slept under the irregular mounds of earth which covered it, like
those of Mossul and Nineveh.  Farmers raised heavy crops of turnips
and grain from the surface and they scarcely ever ploughed or
harrowed the ground without turning up Roman coins or pieces of
pottery.  They also observed that in certain places the corn was
more apt to be scorched in dry weather than in others--a sure sign
to them that there were ruins underneath; and their practice, when
they wished to find stones for building, was to set a mark upon the
scorched places when the corn was on the ground, and after harvest
to dig down, sure of finding the store of stones which they wanted
for walls, cottages, or farm-houses.  In fact, the place came to be
regarded in the light of a quarry, rich in ready-worked materials
for building purposes.  A quantity of stone being wanted for the
purpose of erecting a blacksmith's shop, on digging down upon one
of the marked places, the labourers came upon some ancient works of
a more perfect appearance than usual.  Curiosity was excited
--antiquarians made their way to the spot--and lo! they pronounced
the ruins to be neither more nor less than a Roman bath, in a
remarkably perfect state of preservation.  Mr. Telford was requested
to apply to Mr. Pulteney, the lord of the manor, to prevent the
destruction of these interesting remains, and also to permit the
excavations to proceed, with a view to the buildings being
completely explored.  This was readily granted, and Mr. Pulteney
authorised Telford himself to conduct the necessary excavations at
his expense.  This he promptly proceeded to do, and the result was,
that an extensive hypocaust apartment was brought to light, with
baths, sudatorium, dressing-room, and a number of tile pillars
--all forming parts of a Roman floor--sufficiently perfect to show
the manner in which the building had been constructed and used.*[9]
Among Telford's less agreeable duties about the same time was that
of keeping the felons at work.  He had to devise the ways and means
of employing them without risk of their escaping, which gave him
much trouble and anxiety.  "Really," he said, "my felons are a very
troublesome family.  I have had a great deal of plague from them,
and I have not yet got things quite in the train that I could wish.
I have had a dress made for them of white and brown cloth, in such
a way that they are pye-bald.  They have each a light chain about
one leg.  Their allowance in food is a penny loaf and a halfpenny
worth of cheese for breakfast; a penny loaf, a quart of soup, and
half a pound of meat for dinner; and a penny loaf and a halfpenny
worth of cheese for supper; so that they have meat and clothes at
all events.  I employ them in removing earth, serving masons or
bricklayers, or in any common labouring work on which they can be
employed; during which time, of course, I have them strictly

Much more pleasant was his first sight of Mrs. Jordan at the
Shrewsbury theatre, where he seems to have been worked up to a
pitch of rapturous enjoyment.  She played for six nights there at
the race time, during which there were various other'
entertainments.  On the second day there was what was called an
Infirmary Meeting, or an assemblage of the principal county
gentlemen in the infirmary, at which, as county surveyor, Telford
was present.  They proceeded thence to church to hear a sermon
preached for the occasion; after which there was a dinner, followed
by a concert.  He attended all.  The sermon was preached in the new
pulpit, which had just been finished after his design, in the
Gothic style; and he confidentially informed his Langholm
correspondent that he believed the pulpit secured greater
admiration than the sermon, With the concert he was completely
disappointed, and he then became convinced that he had no ear for
music.  Other people seemed very much pleased; but for the life of
him he could make nothing of it.  The only difference that he
recognised between one tune and another was that there was a
difference in the noise.  "It was all very fine," he said, "I have
no doubt; but I would not give a song of Jock Stewart *[10] for the
whole of them.  The melody of sound is thrown away upon me.  One
look, one word of Mrs. Jordan, has more effect upon me than all the
fiddlers in England.  Yet I sat down and tried to be as attentive as
any mortal could be.  I endeavoured, if possible, to get up an
interest in what was going on; but it was all of no use.  I felt no
emotion whatever, excepting only a strong inclination to go to
sleep.  It must be a defect; but it is a fact, and I cannot help it.
I suppose my ignorance of the subject, and the want of musical
experience in my youth, may be the cause of it."*[11]  Telford's
mother was still living in her old cottage at The Crooks.  Since he
had parted from her, he had written many printed letters to keep
her informed of his progress; and he never wrote to any of his
friends in the dale without including some message or other to his
mother.  Like a good and dutiful son, he had taken care out of his
means to provide for her comfort in her declining years.  "She has
been a good mother to me," he said, "and I will try and be a good
son to her."  In a letter written from Shrewsbury about this time,
enclosing a ten pound note, seven pounds of which were to be given
to his mother, he said, "I have from time to time written William
Jackson [his cousin] and told him to furnish her with whatever she
wants to make her comfortable; but there may be many little things
she may wish to have, and yet not like to ask him for.  You will
therefore agree with me that it is right she should have a little
cash to dispose of in her own way....  I am not rich yet; but it
will ease my mind to set my mother above the fear of want.  That has
always been my first object; and next to that, to be the somebody
which you have always encouraged me to believe I might aspire to
become.  Perhaps after all there may be something in it!" *[12]
He now seems to have occupied much of his leisure hours in
miscellaneous reading.  Among the numerous books which he read, he
expressed the highest admiration for Sheridan's 'Life of Swift.'
But his Langholm friend, who was a great politician, having invited
his attention to politics, Telford's reading gradually extended in
that direction.  Indeed the exciting events of the French
Revolution then tended to make all men more or less politicians.
The capture of the Bastille by the people of Paris in 1789 passed
like an electric thrill through Europe.  Then followed the
Declaration of Rights; after which, in the course of six months,
all the institutions which had before existed in France were swept
away, and the reign of justice was fairly inaugurated upon earth!

In the spring of 1791 the first part of Paine's 'Rights of Man'
appeared, and Telford, like many others, read it, and was at once
carried away by it.  Only a short time before, he had admitted with
truth that he knew nothing of politics; but no sooner had he read
Paine than he felt completely enlightened.  He now suddenly
discovered how much reason he and everybody else in England had for
being miserable.  While residing at Portsmouth, he had quoted to his
Langholm friend the lines from Cowper's 'Task,' then just
published, beginning "Slaves cannot breathe in England;" but lo!
Mr. Paine had filled his imagination with the idea that England was
nothing but a nation of bondmen and aristocrats.  To his natural
mind, the kingdom had appeared to be one in which a man had pretty
fair play, could think and speak, and do the thing he would,--
tolerably happy, tolerably prosperous, and enjoying many blessings.
He himself had felt free to labour, to prosper, and to rise from
manual to head work.  No one had hindered him; his personal liberty
had never been interfered with; and he had freely employed his
earnings as he thought proper.  But now the whole thing appeared a
delusion.  Those rosy-cheeked old country gentlemen who came riding
into Shrewsbury to quarter sessions, and were so fond of their
young Scotch surveyor occupying themselves in building bridges,
maintaining infirmaries, making roads, and regulating gaols--
those county magistrates and members of parliament, aristocrats all,
were the very men who, according to Paine, were carrying the
country headlong to ruin!

If Telford could not offer an opinion on politics before, because
he "knew nothing about them," he had now no such difficulty.  Had
his advice been asked about the foundations of a bridge, or the
security of an arch, he would have read and studied much before
giving it; he would have carefully inquired into the chemical
qualities of different kinds of lime--into the mechanical
principles of weight and resistance, and such like; but he had no
such hesitation in giving an opinion about the foundations of a
constitution of more than a thousand years' growth.  Here, like
other young politicians, with Paine's book before him, he felt
competent to pronounce a decisive judgment at once.  "I am
convinced," said he, writing to his Langholm friend, "that the
situation of Great Britain is such, that nothing short of some
signal revolution can prevent her from sinking into bankruptcy,
slavery, and insignificancy."  He held that the national expenditure
was so enormous,*[13] arising from the corrupt administration of
the country, that it was impossible the "bloated mass" could hold
together any longer; and as he could not expect that "a hundred
Pulteneys," such as his employer, could be found to restore it to
health, the conclusion he arrived at was that ruin was
"inevitable."*[14]  Notwithstanding the theoretical ruin of England
which pressed so heavy on his mind at this time, we find Telford
strongly recommending his correspondent to send any good wrights he
could find in his neighbourhood to Bath, where they would be
enabled to earn twenty shillings or a guinea a week at piece-work--
the wages paid at Langholm for similar work being only about half
those amounts.

In the same letter in which these observations occur, Telford
alluded to the disgraceful riots at Birmingham, in the course of
which Dr. Priestley's house and library were destroyed.  As the
outrages were the work of the mob, Telford could not charge the
aristocracy with them; but with equal injustice he laid the blame
at the door of "the clergy," who had still less to do with them,
winding up with the prayer, "May the Lord mend their hearts and
lessen their incomes!"

Fortunately for Telford, his intercourse with the townspeople of
Shrewsbury was so small that his views on these subjects were never
known; and we very shortly find him employed by the clergy
themselves in building for them a new church in the town of
Bridgenorth.  His patron and employer, Mr. Pulteney, however, knew
of his extreme views, and the knowledge came to him quite
accidentally.  He found that Telford had made use of his frank to
send through the post a copy of Paine's 'Rights of Man' to his
Langholm correspondent,*[15] where the pamphlet excited as much
fury in the minds of some of the people of that town as it had done
in that of Telford himself.  The "Langholm patriots "broke out into
drinking revolutionary toasts at the Cross, and so disturbed the
peace of the little town that some of them were confined for six
weeks in the county gaol.

Mr. Pulteney was very indignant at the liberty Telford had taken
with his frank, and a rupture between them seemed likely to ensue;
but the former was forgiving, and the matter went no further.  It is
only right to add, that as Telford grew older and wiser, he became
more careful in jumping at conclusions on political topics.
The events which shortly occurred in France tended in a great measure
to heal his mental distresses as to the future of England.  When the
"liberty" won by the Parisians ran into riot, and the "Friends of Man"
occupied themselves in taking off the heads of those who differed
from them, he became wonderfully reconciled to the enjoyment of the
substantial freedom which, after all, was secured to him by the
English Constitution.  At the same time, he was so much occupied in
carrying out his important works, that he found but little time to
devote either to political speculation or to versemaking.

While living at Shrewsbury, he had his poem of 'Eskdale' reprinted
for private circulation.  We have also seen several MS. verses by
him, written about the same period, which do not appear ever to
have been printed.  One of these--the best--is entitled 'Verses to
the Memory of James Thomson, author of "Liberty, a poem;"' another
is a translation from Buchanan, 'On the Spheres;' and a third,
written in April, 1792, is entitled 'To Robin Burns, being a
postscript to some verses addressed to him on the establishment of
an Agricultural Chair in Edinburgh.' It would unnecessarily occupy
our space to print these effusions; and, to tell the truth, they
exhibit few if any indications of poetic power.  No amount of
perseverance will make a poet of a man in whom the divine gift is
not born.  The true line of Telford's genius lay in building and
engineering, in which direction we now propose to follow him.

[Image] Shrewsbury Castle

Footnotes for Chapter IV.

*[1] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury Castle,
21st Feb., 1788.

*[2] This practice of noting down information, the result of
reading and observation, was continued by Mr. Telford until the
close of his life; his last pocket memorandum book, containing a
large amount of valuable information on mechanical subjects--a sort
of engineer's vade mecum--being printed in the appendix to the 4to.
'Life of Telford' published by his executors in 1838, pp. 663-90.

*[3] A medical man, a native of Eskdale, of great promise, who died
comparatively young.

*[4] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm.

*[5] It would occupy unnecessary space to cite these poems.
The following, from the verses in memory of William Telford, relates
to schoolboy days, After alluding to the lofty Fell Hills, which
formed part of the sheep farm of his deceased friend's father, the
poet goes on to say:

   "There 'mongst those rocks I'll form a rural seat,
    And plant some ivy with its moss compleat;
    I'll benches form of fragments from the stone,
    Which, nicely pois'd, was by our hands o'erthrown,--
    A simple frolic, but now dear to me,
    Because, my Telford, 'twas performed with thee.
    There, in the centre, sacred to his name,
    I'll place an altar, where the lambent flame
    Shall yearly rise, and every youth shall join
    The willing voice, and sing the enraptured line.
    But we, my friend, will often steal away
    To this lone seat, and quiet pass the day;
    Here oft recall the pleasing scenes we knew
    In early youth, when every scene was new,
    When rural happiness our moments blest,
    And joys untainted rose in every breast."

*[6] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated 16th July, 1788.

*[7] Ibid.

*[8] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated 16th July, 1788.

*[9] The discovery formed the subject of a paper read before the
Society of Antiquaries in London on the 7th of May, 1789, published
in the 'Archaeologia,' together with a drawing of the remains
supplied by Mr. Telford.

*[10] An Eskdale crony.  His son, Colonel Josias Stewart, rose to
eminence in the East India Company's service, having been for many
years Resident at Gwalior and Indore.

*[11] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated 3rd Sept. 1788.

*[12] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
8th October, 1789.

*[13] It was then under seventeen millions sterling, or about a
fourth of what it is now.

*[14] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated 28th July, 1791.

*[15] The writer of a memoir of Telford, in the 'Encyclopedia
Britannica,' says:--"Andrew Little kept a private and very small
school at Langholm.  Telford did not neglect to send him a copy of
Paine's 'Rights of Man;' and as he was totally blind, he employed
one of his scholars to read it in the evenings.  Mr. Little had
received an academical education before he lost his sight; and,
aided by a memory of uncommon powers, he taught the classics, and
particularly Greek, with much higher reputation than any other
schoolmaster within a pretty extensive circuit.  Two of his pupils
read all the Iliad, and all or the greater part of Sophocles.
After hearing a long sentence of Greek or Latin distinctly recited,
he could generally construe and translate it with little or no
hesitation.  He was always much gratified by Telford's visits,
which were not infrequent, to his native district."



As surveyor for the county, Telford was frequently called upon by
the magistrates to advise them as to the improvement of roads and
the building or repair of bridges.  His early experience of
bridge-building in his native district now proved of much service
to him, and he used often to congratulate himself, even when he had
reached the highest rank in his profession, upon the circumstances
which had compelled him to begin his career by working with his own
hands.  To be a thorough judge of work, he held that a man must
himself have been practically engaged in it.

"Not only," he said, "are the natural senses of seeing and feeling
requisite in the examination of materials, but also the practised
eye, and the hand which has had experience of the kind and
qualities of stone, of lime, of iron, of timber, and even of earth,
and of the effects of human ingenuity in applying and combining all
these substances, are necessary for arriving at mastery in the
profession; for, how can a man give judicious directions unless he
possesses personal knowledge of the details requisite to effect
his ultimate purpose in the best and cheapest manner? It has
happened to me more than once, when taking opportunities of being
useful to a young man of merit, that I have experienced opposition
in taking him from his books and drawings, and placing a mallet,
chisel, or trowel in his hand, till, rendered confident by the
solid knowledge which experience only can bestow, he was qualified
to insist on the due performance of workmanship, and to judge of
merit in the lower as well as the higher departments of a
profession in which no kind or degree of practical knowledge is

The first bridge designed and built under Telford's superintendence
was one of no great magnitude, across the river Severn at Montford,
about four miles west of Shrewsbury.  It was a stone bridge of three
elliptical arches, one of 58 feet and two of 55 feet span each.
The Severn at that point is deep and narrow, and its bed and banks
are of alluvial earth.  It was necessary to make the foundations
very secure, as the river is subject to high floods; and this was
effectuality accomplished by means of coffer-dams.  The building
was substantially executed in red sandstone, and proved a very
serviceable bridge, forming part of the great high road from
Shrewsbury into Wales.  It was finished in the year 1792.

In the same year, we find Telford engaged as an architect in
preparing the designs and superintending the construction of the
new parish church of St. Mary Magdalen at Bridgenorth.  It stands at
the end of Castle Street, near to the old ruined fortress perched
upon the bold red sandstone bluff on which the upper part of the
town is built.  The situation of the church is very fine, and an
extensive view of the beautiful vale of the Severn is obtained from it.
Telford's design is by no means striking; "being," as he said,
"a regular Tuscan elevation; the inside is as regularly Ionic: its
only merit is simplicity and uniformity; it is surmounted by a
Doric tower, which contains the bells and a clock."  A graceful
Gothic church would have been more appropriate to the situation,
and a much finer object in the landscape; but Gothic was not then
in fashion--only a mongrel mixture of many styles, without regard
to either purity or gracefulness.  The church, however, proved
comfortable and commodious, and these were doubtless the points to
which the architect paid most attention.

[Image] St. Mary Magdalen, Bridgenorth.

His completion of the church at Bridgenorth to the satisfaction of
the inhabitants, brought Telford a commission, in the following
year, to erect a similar edifice at Coalbrookdale.  But in the mean
time, to enlarge his knowledge and increase his acquaintance with
the best forms of architecture, he determined to make a journey to
London and through some of the principal towns of the south of
England.  He accordingly visited Gloucester, Worcester, and Bath,
remaining several days in the last-mentioned city.  He was charmed
beyond expression by his journey through the manufacturing
districts of Gloucestershire, more particularly by the fine scenery
of the Vale of Stroud.  The whole seemed to him a smiling scene of
prosperous industry and middle-class comfort.

But passing out of this "Paradise," as he styled it, another stage
brought him into a region the very opposite.  "We stopped," says he,
"at a little alehouse on the side of a rough hill to water the
horses, and lo! the place was full of drunken blackguards,
bellowing out 'Church and King!' A poor ragged German Jew happened
to come up, whom those furious loyalists had set upon and accused
of being a Frenchman in disguise.  He protested that he was only a
poor German who 'cut de corns,' and that all he wanted was to buy a
little bread and cheese.  Nothing would serve them but they must
carry him before the Justice.  The great brawny fellow of a landlord
swore he should have nothing in his house, and, being a, constable,
told him that he would carry him to gaol.  I interfered, and
endeavoured to pacify the assailants of the poor man; when suddenly
the landlord, snatching up a long knife, sliced off about a pound
of raw bacon from a ham which hung overhead, and, presenting it to
the Jew, swore that if he did not swallow it down at once he should
not be allowed to go.  The man was in a worse plight than ever.
He said he was a 'poor Shoe,' and durst not eat that.  In the midst
of the uproar, Church and King were forgotten, and eventually I
prevailed upon the landlord to accept from me as much as enabled
poor little Moses to get his meal of bread and cheese; and by the
time the coach started they all seemed perfectly reconciled." *[1]
Telford was much gratified by his visit to Bath, and inspected its
fine buildings with admiration.  But he thought that Mr. Wood,
who, he says, "created modern Bath," had left no worthy
successor.  In the buildings then in progress he saw clumsy
designers at work, "blundering round about a meaning"--if, indeed,
there was any meaning at all in their  designs, which he confessed
he failed to see.  From Bath he went to London by coach, making the
journey in safety, "although," he says, the collectors had been
doing duty on Hounslow Heath."  During his stay in London he
carefully examined the principal public buildings by the light of
the experience which he had gained since he last saw them.  He also
spent a good deal of his time in studying rare and expensive works
on architecture--the use of which he could not elsewhere procure--
at the libraries of the Antiquarian Society and the British Museum.
There he perused the various editions of Vitruvius and Palladio,
as well as Wren's 'Parentalia.' He found a rich store of ancient
architectural remains in the British Museum, which he studied with
great care: antiquities from Athens, Baalbec, Palmyra, and
Herculaneum; "so that," he says, "what with the information I was
before possessed of, and that which I have now accumulated, I think
I have obtained a tolerably good general notion of architecture."

From London he proceeded to Oxford, where he carefully inspected
its colleges and churches, afterwards expressing the great delight
and profit which he had derived from his visit.  He was entertained
while there by Mr. Robertson, an eminent mathematician, then
superintending the publication of an edition of the works of
Archimedes.  The architectural designs of buildings that most
pleased him were those of Dr. Aldrich, Dean of Christchurch about
the time of Sir Christopher Wren.  He tore himself from Oxford with
great regret, proceeding by Birmingham on his way home to
Shrewsbury: "Birmingham," he says, "famous for its buttons and
locks, its ignorance and barbarism--its prosperity increases with
the corruption of taste and morals.  Its nicknacks, hardware, and
gilt gimcracks are proofs of the former; and its locks and bars,
and the recent barbarous conduct of its populace,*[2] are evidences
of the latter."  His principal object in visiting the place was to
call upon a stained glass-maker respecting a window for the new
church at Bridgenorth.

On his return to Shrewsbury, Telford proposed to proceed with his
favourite study of architecture; but this, said he, "will probably
be very slowly, as I must attend to my every day employment,"
namely, the superintendence of the county road and bridge repairs,
and the direction of the convicts' labour.  "If I keep my health,
however," he added, "and have no unforeseen hindrance, it shall not
be forgotten, but will be creeping on by degrees."  An unforeseen
circumstance, though not a hindrance, did very shortly occur, which
launched Telford upon a new career, for which his unremitting
study, as well as his carefully improved experience, eminently
fitted him: we refer to his appointment as engineer to the
Ellesmere Canal Company.

The conscientious carefulness with which Telford performed the
duties entrusted to him, and the skill with which he directed the
works placed under his charge, had secured the general approbation
of the gentlemen of the county.  His straightforward and outspoken
manner had further obtained for him the friendship of many of them.
At the meetings of quarter-sessions his plans had often to encounter
considerable opposition, and, when called upon to defend them, he
did so with such firmness, persuasiveness, and good temper, that he
usually carried his point.  "Some of the magistrates are ignorant,"
he wrote in 1789, "and some are obstinate: though I must say that
on the whole there is a very respectable bench, and with the
sensible part I believe I am on good terms."  This was amply proved
some four years later, when it became necessary to appoint an
engineer to the Ellesmere Canal, on which occasion the magistrates,
who were mainly the promoters of the undertaking, almost
unanimously solicited their Surveyor to accept the office.

Indeed, Telford had become a general favourite in the county.
He was cheerful and cordial in his manner, though somewhat brusque.
Though now thirty-five years old, he had not lost the humorousness
which had procured for him the sobriquet of "Laughing Tam."
He laughed at his own jokes as well as at others.  He was spoken of
as jolly--a word then much more rarely as well as more choicely used
than it is now.  Yet he had a manly spirit, and was very jealous of
his independence.  All this made him none the less liked by
free-minded men.  Speaking of the friendly support which he had
throughout received from Mr. Pulteney, he said, "His good opinion
has always been a great satisfaction to me; and the more so, as it
has neither been obtained nor preserved by deceit, cringing, nor
flattery.  On the contrary, I believe I am almost the only man that
speaks out fairly to him, and who contradicts him the most.
In fact, between us, we sometimes quarrel like tinkers; but I hold
my ground, and when he sees I am right he quietly gives in."

Although Mr. Pulteney's influence had no doubt assisted Telford in
obtaining the appointment of surveyor, it had nothing to do with
the unsolicited invitation which now emanated from the county
gentlemen.  Telford was not even a candidate for the engineership,
and had not dreamt of offering himself, so that the proposal came
upon him entirely by surprise.  Though he admitted he had
self-confidence, he frankly confessed that he had not a sufficient
amount of it to justify him in aspiring to the office of engineer
to one of the most important undertakings of the day.  The following
is his own account of the circumstance:--

"My literary project*[3] is at present at a stand, and may be
retarded for some time to come, as I was last Monday appointed sole
agent, architect, and engineer to the canal which is projected to
join the Mersey, the Dee, and the Severn.  It is the greatest work,
I believe, now in hand in this kingdom, and will not be completed
for many years to come.  You will be surprised that I have not
mentioned this to you before; but the fact is that I had no idea of
any such appointment until an application was made to me by some of
the leading gentlemen, and I was appointed, though many others had
made much interest for the place.  This will be a great and
laborious undertaking, but the line which it opens is vast and
noble; and coming as the appointment does in this honourable way,
I thought it too great a opportunity to be neglected, especially as I
have stipulated for, and been allowed, the privilege of carrying on
my architectural profession.  The work will require great labour
and exertions, but it is worthy of them all."*[4]  Telford's
appointment was duly confirmed by the next general meeting of the
shareholders of the Ellesmere Canal.  An attempt was made to get up
a party against him, but it failed.  "I am fortunate," he said, "in
being on good terms with most of the leading men, both of property
and abilities; and on this occasion I had the decided support of
the great John Wilkinson, king of the ironmasters, himself a host.
I travelled in his carriage to the meeting, and found him much
disposed to be friendly."*[5]  The salary at which Telford was
engaged was 500L. a year, out of which he had to pay one clerk and
one confidential foreman, besides defraying his own travelling
expenses.  It would not appear that after making these
disbursements much would remain for Telford's own labour; but in
those days engineers were satisfied with comparatively small pay,
and did not dream of making large fortunes.

Though Telford intended to continue his architectural business,
he decided to give up his county surveyorship and other minor matters,
which, he said, "give a great deal of very unpleasant labour for
very little profit; in short they are like the calls of a country
surgeon."  One part of his former business which he did not give up
was what related to the affairs of Mr. Pulteney and Lady Bath, with
whom he continued on intimate and friendly terms.  He incidentally
mentions in one of his letters a graceful and charming act of her
Ladyship.  On going into his room one day he found that, before
setting out for Buxton, she had left upon his table a copy of
Ferguson's 'Roman Republic,' in three quarto volumes, superbly
bound and gilt.

He now looked forward with anxiety to the commencement of the
canal, the execution of which would necessarily call for great
exertion on his part, as well as unremitting attention and
industry; "for," said he, "besides the actual labour which
necessarily attends so extensive a public work, there are
contentions, jealousies, and prejudices, stationed like gloomy
sentinels from one extremity of the line to the other.  But, as I
have heard my mother say that an honest man might look the Devil in
the face without being afraid, so we must just trudge along in the
old way."*[6]

Footnotes for Chapter V.

*[1] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
10th March, 1793

*[2] Referring to the burning of Dr. Priestley's library.

*[3] The preparation of some translations from Buchanan which he
had contemplated.

*[4] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
29th September, 1793.

*[5] John Wilkinson and his brother William were the first of the
great class of ironmasters.  They possessed iron forges at Bersham
near Chester, at Bradley, Brimbo, Merthyr Tydvil, and other places;
and became by far the largest iron manufacturers of their day.
For notice of them see 'Lives of Boulton and Watt,' p. 212.

*[6] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
3rd November, 1793.



The ellesmere canal consists of a series of navigations proceeding
from the river Dee in the vale of Llangollen.  One branch passes
northward, near the towns of Ellesmere, Whitchurch, Nantwich, and
the city of Chester, to Ellesmere Port on the Mersey; another,
in a south-easterly direction, through the middle of Shropshire
towards Shrewsbury on the Severn; and a third, in a south-westerly
direction, by the town of Oswestry, to the Montgomeryshire Canal
near Llanymynech; its whole extent, including the Chester Canal,
incorporated with it, being about 112 miles.

[Image] Map of Ellesmere Canal

The success of the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal had awakened the
attention of the landowners throughout England, but more especially
in the districts immediately adjacent to the scene of the Duke's
operations, as they saw with their own eyes the extraordinary
benefits which had followed the opening up of the navigations.
The resistance of the landed gentry, which many of these schemes had
originally to encounter, had now completely given way, and, instead
of opposing canals, they were everywhere found anxious for their
construction.  The navigations brought lime, coal, manure, and
merchandise, almost to the farmers' doors, and provided them at the
same time with ready means of conveyance for their produce to good
markets.  Farms in remote situations were thus placed more on an
equality with those in the neighbourhood of large towns; rents rose
in consequence, and the owners of land everywhere became the
advocates and projectors of canals.

The dividends paid by the first companies were very high, and it
was well known that the Duke's property was bringing him in immense
wealth.  There was, therefore, no difficulty in getting the shares
in new projects readily subscribed for: indeed Mr. Telford relates
that at the first meeting of the Ellesmere projectors, so eager
were the public, that four times the estimated expense was
subscribed without hesitation.  Yet this navigation passed through
a difficult country, necessarily involving very costly works; and
as the district was but thinly inhabited, it did not present a very
inviting prospect of dividends.*[1]  But the mania had fairly set
in, and it was determined that the canal should be made.  And
whether the investment repaid the immediate proprietors or not, it
unquestionably proved of immense advantage to the population of the
districts through which it passed, and contributed to enhance the
value of most of the adjoining property.

The Act authorising the construction of the canal was obtained in
1793, and Telford commenced operations very shortly after his
appointment in October of the same year.  His first business was to
go carefully over the whole of the proposed line, and make a careful
working survey, settling the levels of the different lengths,
and the position of the locks, embankments, cuttings, and aqueducts.
In all matters of masonry work he felt himself master of the
necessary details; but having had comparatively small experience of
earthwork, and none of canal-making, he determined to take the
advice of Mr. William Jessop on that part of the subject; and he
cordially acknowledges the obligations he was under to that eminent
engineer for the kind assistance which he received from him on many

The heaviest and most important part of the undertaking was in
carrying the canal through the rugged country between the rivers
Dee and Ceriog, in the vale of Llangollen.  From Nantwich to
Whitchurch the distance is 16 miles, and the rise 132 feet,
involving nineteen locks; and from thence to Ellesmere, Chirk,
Pont-Cysylltau, and the river Dee, 1 3/4 mile above Llangollen, the
distance is 38 1/4 miles, and the rise 13 feet, involving only two
locks.  The latter part of the undertaking presented the greatest
difficulties; as, in order to avoid the expense of constructing
numerous locks, which would also involve serious delay and heavy
expense in working the navigation, it became necessary to contrive
means for carrying the canal on the same level from one side of the
respective valleys of the Dee and the Ceriog to the other; and
hence the magnificent aqueducts of Chirk and Pont-Cysylltau,
characterised by Phillips as "among the boldest efforts of human
invention in modem times."*[2]  The Chirk Aqueduct carries the canal
across the valley of the Ceriog, between Chirk Castle and the
village of that name.  At this point the valley is above 700 feet
wide; the banks are steep, with a flat alluvial meadow between
them, through which the river flows. The country is finely
wooded.  Chirk Castle stands on an eminence on its western side,
with the Welsh mountains and Glen Ceriog as a background; the whole
composing a landscape of great beauty, in the centre of which
Telford's aqueduct forms a highly picturesque object.

[Image] Chirk Aqueduct

The aqueduct consists of ten arches of 40 feet span each.
The level of the water in the canal is 65 feet above the meadow,
and 70 feet above the level of the river Ceriog.  The proportions
of this work far exceeded everything of the kind that had up to
that time been attempted in England.  It was a very costly structure;
but Telford, like Brindley, thought it better to incur a considerable
capital outlay in maintaining the uniform level of the canal, than
to raise and lower it up and down the sides of the valley by locks
at a heavy expense in works, and a still greater cost in time and
water. The aqueduct is a splendid specimen of the finest class of
masonry, and Telford showed himself a master of his profession by
the manner in which he carried out the whole details of the
undertaking.  The piers were carried up solid to a certain height,
above which they were built hollow, with cross walls.  The spandrels
also, above the springing of the arches, were constructed with
longitudinal walls, and left hollow.*[3]  The first stone was laid
on the 17th of June, 1796, and the work was completed in the year
1801; the whole remaining in a perfect state to this day.

The other great aqueduct on the Ellesmere Canal, named Pont-Cysylltau,
is of even greater dimensions, and a far more striking object in
the landscape.  Sir Walter Scott spoke of it to Southey as "the
most impressive work of art he had ever seen."  It is situated about
four miles to the north of Chirk, at the crossing of the Dee, in
the romantic vale of Llangollen.  The north bank of the river is
very abrupt; but on the south side the acclivity is more gradual.
The lowest part of the valley in which the river runs is 127 feet
beneath the water-level of the canal; and it became a question with
the engineer whether the valley was to be crossed, as originally
intended, by locking down one side and up the other--which would
have involved seven or eight locks on each side--or by carrying it
directly across by means of an aqueduct.

The execution of the proposed locks would have been very costly,
and the working of them in carrying on the navigation would
necessarily have involved a great waste of water, which was a
serious objection, inasmuch as the supply was estimated to be no
more than sufficient to provide for the unavoidable lockage and
leakage of the summit level.  Hence Telford was strongly in favour
of an aqueduct; but, as we have already seen in the case of that at
Chirk, the height of the work was such as to render it impracticable
to construct it in the usual manner, upon masonry piers and arches
of sufficient breadth and strength to afford room for a puddled
water-way, which would have been extremely hazardous as well as
expensive.  He was therefore under the necessity of contriving some
more safe and economical method of procedure; and he again resorted
to the practice which he had adopted in the construction of the
Chirk Aqueduct, but on a much larger scale.

[Image] Pont-Cyslltau--Side view of Cast Iron Trough

It will be understood that many years elapsed between the period at
which Telford was appointed engineer to the Ellesmere Canal and the
designing of these gigantic works.  He had in the meantime been
carefully gathering experience from a variety of similar
undertakings on which he was employed, and bringing his
observations of the strength of materials and the different forms
of construction to bear upon the plans under his consideration for
the great aqueducts of Chirk and Pont-Cysylltau.  In 1795 he was
appointed engineer to the Shrewsbury Canal, which extends from that
town to the collieries and ironworks in the neighbourhood of
Wrekin, crossing the rivers Roden and Tern, and Ketley Brook, after
which it joins the Dorrington and Shropshire Canals.  Writing to his
Eskdale friend, Telford said : "Although this canal is only
eighteen miles long, yet there are many important works in its
course--several locks, a tunnel about half a mile long, and two
aqueducts.  For the most considerable of these last, I have just
recommended an aqueduct of iron.  It has been approved, and will be
executed under my direction, upon a principle entirely new, and
which I am endeavouring to establish with regard to the application
of iron."*[4]

It was the same principle which he applied to the great aqueducts
of the Ellesmere Canal now under consideration.  He had a model made
of part of the proposed aqueduct for Pont-Cysylltau, showing the
piers, ribs, towing-path, and side railing, with a cast iron trough
for the canal.  The model being approved, the design was completed;
the ironwork was ordered for the summit, and the masonry of the
piers then proceeded.  The foundation-stone was laid on the 25th
July, 1795, by Richard Myddelton, Esq., of Chirk Castle, M.P., and
the work was not finished until the year 1803,--thus occupying a
period of nearly eight years in construction.

The aqueduct is approached on the south side by an embankment 1500
feet in length, extending from the level of the water-way in the
canal until its perpendicular height at the "tip" is 97 feet;
thence it is carried to the opposite side of the valley, over the
river Dee, upon piers supporting nineteen arches, extending to the
length of 1007 feet.  The height of the piers above low water in the
river is 121 feet.  The lower part of each was built solid for 70
feet, all above being hollow, for the purpose of saving masonry as
well as ensuring good workmanship.  The outer walls of the hollow
portion are only two feet thick, with cross inner walls.  As each
stone was exposed to inspection, and as both Telford and his
confidential foreman, Matthew Davidson,*[5] kept a vigilant eye
upon the work, scamping was rendered impossible, and a first-rate
piece of masonry was the result.

[Image] Pont-Cyslltau Aqueduct

Upon the top of the masonry was set the cast iron trough for the
canal, with its towing-path and side-rails, all accurately fitted
and bolted together, forming a completely water-tight canal, with a
water-way of 11 feet 10 inches, of which the towing-path, standing
upon iron pillars rising from the bed of the canal, occupied 4 feet
8 inches, leaving a space of 7 feet 2 inches for the boat.*[6]
The whole cost of this part of the canal was 47,018L., which was
considered by Telford a moderate sum compared with what it must
have cost if executed after the ordinary manner.  The aqueduct was
formally opened for traffic in 1805.  "And thus," said Telford, "has
been added a striking feature to the beautiful vale of Llangollen,
where formerly was the fastness of Owen Glendower, but which, now
cleared of its entangled woods, contains a useful line of
intercourse between England and Ireland; and the water drawn from
the once sacred Devon furnishes the means of distributing
prosperity over the adjacent land of the Saxons."

[Image] Section of Top of Pont-Cyslltau Aqueduct.

It is scarcely necessary to refer to the other works upon this
canal, some of which were of considerable magnitude, though they
may now seem dwarfed by comparison with the works of recent
engineers, Thus, there were two difficult tunnels cut through hard
rock, under the rugged ground which separates the valleys of the
Dee and the Ceriog.  One of these is 500 and the other 200 yards in
length.  To ensure a supply of water for the summit of the canal,
the lake called Bala Pool was dammed up by a regulating weir, and
by its means the water was drawn off at Llandisilio when required
for the purposes of the navigation; the navigable feeder being six
miles long, carried along the bank of the Llangollen valley.
All these works were skilfully executed; and when the undertaking
was finished, Mr. Telford may be said to have fairly established
his reputation as an engineer of first rate ability.

We now return to Telford's personal history during this important
period of his career.  He had long promised himself a visit to his
dear Eskdale, and the many friends he had left there; but more
especially to see his infirm mother, who had descended far into the
vale of years, and longed to see her son once more before she died.
He had taken constant care that she should want for nothing.
She formed the burden of many of his letters to Andrew Little.
"Your kindness in visiting and paying so much attention to her,"
said he, "is doing me the greatest favour which you could possibly
confer upon me."  He sent his friend frequent sums of money, which
he requested him to lay out in providing sundry little comforts for
his mother, who seems to have carried her spirit of independence so
far as to have expressed reluctance to accept money even from her
own son.  "I must request," said he, "that you will purchase and
send up what things may be likely to be wanted, either for her or
the person who may be with her, as her habits of economy will
prevent her from getting plenty of everything, especially as she
thinks that I have to pay for it, which really hurts me more than
anything else."*[7]  Though anxious to pay his intended visit, he
was so occupied with one urgent matter of business and another that
he feared it would be November before he could set out.  He had to
prepare a general statement as to the navigation affairs for a
meeting of the committee; he must attend the approaching Salop
quarter sessions, and after that a general meeting of the Canal
Company; so that his visit must be postponed for yet another month.
"Indeed," said he, "I am rather distressed at the thoughts of
running down to see a kind parent in the last stage of decay, on
whom I can only bestow an affectionate look, and then leave her:
her mind will not be much consoled by this parting, and the
impression left upon mine will be more lasting; than pleasant."*[8]

He did, however, contrive to run down to Eskdale in the following
November.  His mother was alive, but that was all.  After doing what
he could for her comfort, and providing that all her little wants
were properly attended to, he hastened back to his responsible
duties in connection with the Ellesmere Canal.  When at Langholm,
he called upon his former friends to recount with them the incidents
of their youth.  He was declared to be the same "canty" fellow as
ever, and, though he had risen greatly in the world, he was "not a
bit set up."  He found one of his old fellow workmen, Frank Beattie,
become the principal innkeeper of the place.  "What have you made of
your mell and chisels?" asked Telford.  "Oh!" replied Beattie,
"they are all dispersed--perhaps lost."  "I have taken better care
of mine," said Telford; "I have them all locked up in a room at
Shrewsbury, as well as my old working clothes and leather apron:
you know one can never tell what may happen."

He was surprised, as most people are who visit the scenes of their
youth after a long absence, to see into what small dimensions
Langholm had shrunk.  That High Street, which before had seemed so
big, and that frowning gaol and court-house in the Market Place,
were now comparatively paltry to eyes that had been familiar with
Shrewsbury, Portsmouth, and London.  But he was charmed, as ever,
with the sight of the heather hills and the narrow winding valley--

   "Where deep and low the hamlets lie
    Beneath their little patch of sky,
    And little lot of stars."

On his return southward, he was again delighted by the sight of old
Gilnockie Castle and the surrounding scenery.  As he afterwards
wrote to his friend Little, "Broomholm was in all his glory."
Probably one of the results of this visit was the revision of the
poem of 'Eskdale,' which he undertook in the course of the
following spring, putting in some fresh touches and adding many new
lines, whereby the effect of the whole was considerably improved.
He had the poem printed privately, merely for distribution amongst
friends; being careful," as he said, that "no copies should be
smuggled and sold."

Later in the year we find him, on his way to London on business,
sparing a day or two for the purpose of visiting the Duke of
Buckingham's palace and treasures of art at Stowe; afterwards
writing out an eight-page description of it for the perusal of his
friends at Langholm.  At another time, when engaged upon the viaduct
at Pont-Cysylltau, he snatched a few day's leisure to run through
North Wales, of which he afterwards gave a glowing account to his
correspondent.  He passed by Cader Idris, Snowdon, and Penmaen Mawr.
"Parts of the country we passed through," he says, "very much
resemble the lofty green hills and woody vales of Eskdale.  In other
parts the magnificent boldness of the mountains, the torrents,
lakes, and waterfalls, give a special character to the scenery,
unlike everything of the kind I had before seen.  The vale of
Llanrwst is peculiarly beautiful and fertile.  In this vale is the
celebrated bridge of Inigo Jones; but what is a much more
delightful circumstance, the inhabitants of the vale are the most
beautiful race of people I have ever beheld; and I am much
astonished that this never seems to have struck the Welsh tourists.
The vale of Llangollen is very fine, and not the least interesting
object in it, I can assure you, is Davidson's famous aqueduct
[Pont-Cysylltau], which is already reckoned among the wonders of
Wales.  Your old acquaintance thinks nothing of having three or
four carriages at his door at a time."*[9]  It seems that, besides
attending to the construction of the works, Telford had to
organise the conduct of the navigation at those points at which the
canal was open for traffic.  By the middle of 1797 he states that
twenty miles were in working condition, along which coal and lime
were conveyed in considerable quantifies, to the profit of the
Company and the benefit of the public; the price of these articles
having already in some places been reduced twenty-five, and in
others as much as fifty, per cent.  "The canal affairs," he says in
one of his letters, "have required a good deal of exertion, though
we are on the whole doing well.  But, besides carrying on the
works, it is now necessary to bestow considerable attention on the
creating and guiding of a trade upon those portions which are
executed.  This involves various considerations, and many
contending and sometimes clashing interests.  In short, it is the
working of a great machine: in the first place, to draw money out
of the pockets of a numerous proprietary to make an expensive
canal, and then to make the money return into their pockets by the
creation of a business upon that canal."  But, as if all this
business were not enough, he was occupied at the same time in
writing a book upon the subject of Mills.  In the year 1796 he had
undertaken to draw up a paper on this topic for the Board of
Agriculture, and by degrees it had grown into a large quarto
volume, illustrated by upwards of thirty plates.  He was also
reading extensively in his few leisure moments; and among the solid
works which he perused we find him mentioning Robertson's
'Disquisitions on Ancient India,' Stewart's 'Philosophy of the
Human Mind,' and Alison's 'Principles of Taste.'  As a relief from
these graver studies, he seems, above all things, to have taken
peculiar pleasure" In occasionally throwing off a bit of
poetry.  Thus, when laid up at an hotel in Chester by a blow on his
leg, which disabled him for some weeks, he employed part of his
time in writing his 'Verses on hearing of the Death of Robert
Burns.' On another occasion, when on his way to London, and
detained for a night at Stratford-on-Avon, he occupied the evening
at his inn in composing some stanzas, entitled 'An Address to the
River Avon.' And when on his way back to Shrewsbury, while resting
for the night at Bridgenorth, he amused himself with revising and
copying out the verses for the perusal of Andrew Little.
"There are worse employments," he said,"when one has an hour to
spare from business;" and he asked his friend's opinion of the
composition.  It seems to have been no more favourable than the
verses deserved; for, in his next letter, Telford says, "I think
your observation respecting the verses to the Avon are correct.
It is but seldom I have time to versify; but it is to me something
like what a fiddle is to others, I apply to it in order to relieve
my mind, after being much fatigued with close attention to

It is very pleasant to see the engineer relaxing himself in this
way, and submitting cheerfully to unfavourable criticism, which is
so trying to even the best of tempers.  The time, however, thus
taken from his regular work was not loss, but gain.  Taking the
character of his occupation into account, it was probably the best
kind of relaxation he could have indulged in.  With his head full of
bridges and viaducts, he thus kept his heart open to the influences
of beauty in life and nature; and, at all events, the writing of
verses, indifferent though they might have been, proved of this
value to him--that it cultivated in him the art of writing better

Footnotes for Chapter VI.

*[1] The Ellesmere Canal now pays about 4 per cent. dividend.

*[2] 'A General History of Inland Navigation, Foreign and
Domestic,' &c. By J. Phillips.  Fourth edition.  London, 1803.

*[3] [Image] Section of Pier

Telford himself thus modestly describes the merit of this original
contrivance: "Previously to this time such canal aqueducts had been
uniformly made to retain the water necessary for navigation by
means of puddled earth retained by masonry; and in order to obtain
sufficient breadth for this superstructure, the masonry of the
piers, abutments, and arches was of massive strength; and after all
this expense, and every imaginable precaution, the frosts, by
swelling the moist puddle, frequently created fissures, which burst
the masonry, and suffered the water to escape--nay, sometimes
actually threw down the aqueducts; instances of this kind having
occurred even in the works of the justly celebrated Brindley.
It was evident that the increased pressure of the puddled earth was
the chief cause of such failures: I therefore had recourse to the
following scheme in order to a void using it.  The spandrels of the
stone arches were constructed with longitudinal walls, instead of
being filled in with earth (as at Kirkcudbright Bridge), and across
these the canal bottom was formed by cast iron plates at each side,
infixed in square stone masonry.  These bottom plates had flanches
on their edges, and were secured by nuts and screws at every
juncture.   The sides of the canal were made water-proof by ashlar
masonry, backed with hard burnt bricks laid in Parker's cement, on
the outside of which was rubble stone work, like the rest of the
aqueduct.  The towing path had a thin bed of clay under the gravel,
and its outer edge was protected by an iron railing.  The width of
the water-way is 11 feet; of the masonry on each side, 5 feet 6
inches; and the depth of the water in the canal, 5 feet.  By this
mode of construction the quantity of masonry is much diminished,
and the iron bottom plate forms a continuous tie, preventing the
side-walls from separation by lateral pressure of the contained
water."--'Life of Telford,' p. 40.

*[4] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
13th March, 1795.

*[5] Matthew Davidson had been Telford's fellow workman at Langholm,
and was reckoned an excellent mason.  He died at Inverness,
where he had a situation on the Caledonian Canal.

*[6] Mr. Hughes, C.E., in his 'Memoir of William Jessop,' published
in 'Weale's Quarterly Papers on Engineering,' points out the bold
and original idea here adopted, of constructing a water-tight
trough of cast iron, in which the water of the canal was to be
carried over the valleys, instead of an immense puddled trough,
in accordance with the practice until that time in use; and he adds,
"the immense importance of this improvement on the old practice is
apt to be lost sight of at the present day by those who overlook
the enormous size and strength of masonry which would have been
required to support a puddled channel at the height of 120 feet."
Mr. Hughes, however, claims for Mr. Jessop the merit of having
suggested the employment of iron, though, in our opinion, without
sufficient reason.

Mr. Jessop was, no doubt, consulted by Mr. Telford on the subject;
but the whole details of the design, as well as the suggestion of
the use of iron (as admitted by Mr. Hughes himself), and the
execution of the entire works, rested with the acting engineer.
This is borne out by the report published by the Company
immediately after the formal opening of the Canal in 1805, in which
they state: "Having now detailed the particulars relative to the
Canal, and the circumstances of the concern, the committee, in
concluding their report, think it but justice due to Mr. Telford to
state that the works have been planned with great skill and
science, and executed with much economy and stability, doing him,
as well as those employed by him, infinite credit.  (Signed)

*[7] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
16th Sept., 1794.

*[8] lbid.

*[9] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Salop, 20th Aug.,



Shrewsbury being situated in the immediate neighbourhood of the
Black Country, of which coal and iron are the principal products,
Telford's attention was naturally directed, at a very early period,
to the employment of cast iron in bridge-building.  The strength as
well as lightness of a bridge of this material, compared with one
of stone and lime, is of great moment where headway is ofimportance,
or the difficulties of defective foundations have to be encountered.
The metal can be moulded in such precise forms and so accurately
fitted together as to give to the arching the greatest possible
rigidity; while it defies the destructive influences of time and
atmospheric corrosion with nearly as much certainty as stone itself.

The Italians and French, who took the lead in engineering down almost
to the end of last century, early detected the value of this material,
and made several attempts to introduce it in bridge-building;
but their efforts proved unsuccessful, chiefly because of the
inability of the early founders to cast large masses of iron,
and also because the metal was then more expensive than either stone
or timber.  The first actual attempt to build a cast iron bridge was
made at Lyons in 1755, and it proceeded so far that one of the
arches was put together in the builder's yard; but the project was
abandoned as too costly, and timber was eventually used.

It was reserved for English manufacturers to triumph over the
difficulties which had baffled the foreign iron-founders.  Shortly
after the above ineffectual attempt had been made, the construction
of a bridge over the Severn near Broseley formed the subject of
discussion among the adjoining owners.  There had been a great
increase in the coal, iron, brick, and pottery trades of the
neighbourhood; and the old ferry between the opposite banks of the
river was found altogether inadequate for the accommodation of the
traffic.  The necessity for a bridge had long been felt, and the
project of constructing one was actively taken up in 1776 by
Mr. Abraham Darby, the principal owner of the extensive iron works
at Coalbrookdale.  Mr. Pritchard, a Shrewsbury architect, prepared
the design of a stone bridge of one arch, in which he proposed to
introduce a key-stone of cast iron, occupying only a few feet at
the crown of the arch.  This plan was, however, given up as
unsuitable; and another, with the entire arch of cast iron, was
designed under the superintendence of Mr. Darby.  The castings were
made in the works at Coalbrookdale, and the bridge was erected at a
point where the banks were of considerable height on both sides of
the river.  It was opened for traffic in 1779, and continues a most
serviceable structure to this day, giving the name to the town of
Ironbridge, which has sprung up in its immediate vicinity.  The
bridge consists of one semicircular arch, of 100 feet span, each of
the great ribs consisting of two pieces only.  Mr. Robert Stephenson
has said of the structure--"If we consider that the manipulation of
cast iron was then completely in its infancy, a bridge of such
dimensions was doubtless a bold as well as an original undertaking,
and the efficiency of the details is worthy of the boldness of the

[Image] The first Iron Bridge, Coalbrookdale.

It is a curious circumstance that the next projector of an iron
bridge--and that of a very bold design--was the celebrated, or
rather the notorious, Tom Paine, whose political writings Telford
had so much admired.  The son of a decent Quaker of Thetford, who
trained him to his own trade of a staymaker, Paine seems early to
have contracted a dislike for the sect to which his father
belonged.  Arrived at manhood, he gave up staymaking to embrace the
wild life of a privateersman, and served in two successive
adventures.  Leaving the sea, he became an exciseman, but retained
his commission for only a year.  Then he became an usher in a
school, during which he studied mechanics and mathematics.  Again
appointed an exciseman, he was stationed at Lewes in Sussex, where
he wrote poetry and acquired some local celebrity as a writer.
He was accordingly selected by his brother excisemen to prepare their
petition to Government for an increase of pay, *[2] -- the document
which he drew up procuring him introductions to Goldsmith and
Franklin, and dismissal from his post.  Franklin persuaded him to go
to America; and there the quondam staymaker, privateersman, usher,
poet, an a exciseman, took an active part in the revolutionary
discussions of the time, besides holding the important office of
Secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs.  Paine afterwards
settled for a time at Philadelphia, where he occupied himself with
the study of mechanical philosophy, electricity, mineralogy, and
the use of iron in bridge-building.  In 1787, when a bridge over
the Schnylkill was proposed, without any river piers, as the stream
was apt to be choked with ice in the spring freshets, Paine boldly
offered to build an iron bridge with a single arch of 400 feet
span.  In the course of the same year, he submitted his design of
the proposed bridge to the Academy of Sciences at Paris; he also
sent a copy of his plan to Sir Joseph Banks for submission to the
Royal Society; and, encouraged by the favourable opinions of
scientific men, he proceeded to Rotherham, in Yorkshire, to have
his bridge cast.*[3]  An American gentleman, named Whiteside, having
advanced money to Paine on security of his property in the States,
to enable the bridge to be completed, the castings were duly made,
and shipped off to London, where they were put together and
exhibited to the public on a bowling-green at Paddington.
The bridge was there visited by a large number of persons, and was
considered to be a highly creditable work. Suddenly Paine's attention
was withdrawn from its further prosecution by the publication of
Mr. Burke's celebrated 'Thoughts on the French Revolution,' which
he undertook to answer.  Whiteside having in the meantime become
bankrupt, Paine was arrested by his assignees, but was liberated by
the assistance of two other Americans, who became bound for him.
Paine, however, was by this time carried away by the fervour of the
French Revolution, having become a member of the National
Convention, as representative for Calais.  The "Friends of Man,"
whose cause he had espoused, treated him scurvily, imprisoning him
in the Luxembourg, where he lay for eleven months.  Escaped to
America, we find him in 1803 presenting to the American Congress a
memoir on the construction of Iron Bridges, accompanied by several
models.  It does not appear, however, that Paine ever succeeded in
erecting an iron bridge.  He was a restless, speculative, unhappy
being; and it would have been well for his memory if, instead of
penning shallow infidelity, he had devoted himself to his original
idea of improving the communications of his adopted country.
In the meantime, however, the bridge exhibited at Paddington had
produced important results. The manufacturers agreed to take it
back as part of their debt, and the materials were afterwards used
in the construction of the noble bridge over the Wear at Sunderland,
which was erected in 1796.

The project of constructing a bridge at this place, where the rocky
banks of the Wear rise to a great height oh both sides of the
river, is due to Rowland Burdon, Esq., of Castle Eden, under whom
Mr. T. Wilson served as engineer in carrying out his design.
The details differed in several important respects from the proposed
bridge of Paine, Mr. Burdon introducing several new and original
features, more particularly as regarded the framed iron panels
radiating towards the centre in the form of voussoirs, for the
purpose of resisting compression.  Mr. Phipps, C.E., in a report
prepared by him at the instance of the late Robert Stephenson,
under whose superintendence the bridge was recently repaired,
observes, with respect to the original design,--"We should probably
make a fair division of the honour connected with this unique
bridge, by conceding to Burdon all that belongs to a careful
elaboration and improvement upon the designs of another, to the
boldness of taking upon himself the great responsibility of
applying.  this idea at once on so magnificent a scale, and to his
liberality and public spirit in furnishing the requisite funds
[to the amount of 22,000L.]; but we must not deny to Paine the credit
of conceiving the construction of iron bridges of far larger span
than had been made before his time, or of the important examples
both as models and large constructions which he caused to be made
and publicly exhibited.  In whatever shares the merit of this great
work may be apportioned, it must be admitted to be one of the
earliest and greatest triumphs of the art of bridge construction."
Its span exceeded that of any arch then known, being 236 feet, with
a rise of 34 feet, the springing commencing at 95 feet above the
bed of the river; and its height was such as to allow vessels of
300 tons burden to sail underneath without striking their masts.
Mr. Stephenson characterised the bridge as "a structure which, as
regards its proportions and the small quantity of material employed
in its construction, will probably remain unrivalled."

[Image] Wear Bridge, at Sunderland.

The same year in which Burdon's Bridge was erected at Sunderland,
Telford was building his first iron bridge over the Severn at
Buildwas, at a point about midway between Shrewsbury and Bridgenorth.
An unusually high flood having swept away the old bridge in the
Year 1795, he was called upon, as surveyor for the county, to
supply the plan of a new one.  Having carefully examined the bridge
at Coalbrookdale, and appreciated its remarkable merits, he
determined to build the proposed bridge at Buildwas of iron; and as
the waters came down with great suddenness from the Welsh mountains,
he further resolved to construct it of only one arch, so as to
afford the largest possible water-way.

He had some difficulty in inducing the Coalbrookdale iron-masters,
who undertook the casting of the girders, to depart from the plan
of the earlier structure; but he persisted in his design, which was
eventually carried out.  It consisted of a single arch of 130 feet
span, the segment of a very large circle, calculated to resist the
tendency of the abutments to slide inwards, which had been a defect
of the Coalbrookdale bridge; the flat arch being itself sustained
and strengthened by an outer ribbed one on each side, springing
lower than the former and also rising higher, somewhat after the
manner of timber-trussing.  Although the span of the new bridge was
30 feet wider than the Coalbrookdale bridge, it contained less than
half the quantity of iron; Buildwas bridge containing 173, whereas
the other contained 378 tons.  The new structure was, besides,
extremely elegant in form; and when the centres were struck, the
arch and abutments stood perfectly firm, and have remained so to
this day.  But the ingenious design of this bridge will be better
explained by the following representation than by any description
in words.*[4]  The bridge at Buildwas, however, was not Telford's
first employment of iron in bridge-building; for, the year before
its erection, we find him writing to his friend at Langholm that he
had recommended an iron aqueduct for the Shrewsbury Canal,
"on a principle entirely new," and which he was "endeavouring to
establish with regard to the application of iron."*[5]  This iron
aqueduct had been cast and fixed; and it was found to effect so
great a saving in masonry and earthwork, that he was afterwards
induced to apply the same principle, as we have already seen,
in different forms, in the magnificent aqueducts of Chirk and

The uses of cast iron in canal construction became more obvious
with every year's successive experience; and Telford was accustomed
to introduce it in many cases where formerly only timber or stone
had been used.  On the Ellesmere, and afterwards on the Caledonial
Canal, he adopted cast iron lock-gates, which were found to answer
well, being more durable than timber, and not liable like it to
shrink and expand with alternate dryness and wet.  The turnbridges
which he applied to his canals, in place of the old drawbridges,
were also of cast iron; and in some cases even the locks were of
the same material.  Thus, on a part of the Ellesmere Canal opposite
Beeston Castle, in Cheshire, where a couple of locks, together
rising 17 feet, having been built on a stratum of quicksand, were
repeatedly undermined, the idea of constructing the entire locks of
cast iron was suggested; and this unusual application of the new
material was accomplished with entirely satisfactory results.

But Telford's principal employment of cast iron was in the
construction of road bridges, in which he proved himself a master.
His experience in these structures had become very extensive.
During the time that he held the office of surveyor to the county
of Salop, he erected no fewer than forty-two, five of which were of
iron.  Indeed, his success in iron bridge-building so much
emboldened him, that in 1801, when Old London Bridge had become so
rickety and inconvenient that it was found necessary to take steps
to rebuild or remove it, he proposed the daring plan of a cast iron
bridge of a single arch of not less than 600 feet span, the segment
of a circle l450 feet in diameter.  In preparing this design we
find that he was associated with a Mr. Douglas, to whom many
allusions are made in his private letters.*[6]  The design of this
bridge seems to have arisen out of a larger  project for the
improvement of the port of London.  In a private letter of Telford's,
dated the 13th May, 1800, he says:

"I have twice attended the Select Committee on the Fort of London,
Lord Hawkesbury, Chairman.  The subject has now been agitated for
four years, and might have been so for many more, if Mr. Pitt had
not taken the business out of the hands of the General Committee,
and got it referred to a Select Committee.  Last year they
recommended that a system of docks should be formed in a large bend
of the river opposite Greenwich, called the Isle of Dogs, with a
canal across the neck of the bend.  This part of the contemplated
improvements is already commenced, and is proceeding as rapidly as
the nature of the work will admit.  It will contain ship docks for
large vessels, such as East and West Indiamen, whose draught of
water is considerable.

"There are now two other propositions under consideration.  One is
to form another system of docks at Wapping, and the other to take
down London Bridge, rebuild it of such dimensions as to admit of
ships of 200 tons passing under it, and form a new pool for ships
of such burden between London and Blackfriars Bridges, with a set
of regular wharves on each side of the river.  This is with the view
of saving lighterage and plunderage, and bringing the great mass of
commerce so much nearer to the heart of the City.  This last part of
the plan has been taken up in a great measure from some statements
I made while in London last year, and I have been called before the
Committee to explain.  I had previously prepared a set of plans and
estimates for the purpose of showing how the idea might be carried
out; and thus a considerable degree of interest has been excited on
the subject.  It is as yet, however, very uncertain how far the
plans will be carried out.  It is certainly a matter of great
national importance to render the Port of London as perfect as

Later in the same year he writes that his plans and propositions
have been approved and recommended to be carried out, and he
expects to have the execution of them.  "If they will provide the
ways and means," says he, "and give me elbow-room, I see my way as
plainly as mending the brig at the auld burn."  In November, 1801,
he states that his view of London Bridge, as proposed by him, has
been published, and much admired.  On the l4th of April, 1802, he
writes, "I have got into mighty favour with the Royal folks.  I have
received notes written by order of the King, the Prince of Wales,
Duke of York, and Duke of Kent, about the bridge print, and in
future it is to be dedicated to the King."

The bridge in question was one of the boldest of Telford's designs.
He proposed by his one arch to provide a clear headway of 65 feet
above high water.  The arch was to consist of seven cast iron ribs,
in segments as large as possible, and they were to be connected by
diagonal cross-bracing, disposed in such a manner that any part of
the ribs and braces could be taken out and replaced without injury
to the stability of the bridge or interruption to the traffic over it.
The roadway was to be 90 feet wide at the abutments and 45 feet
in the centre; the width of the arch being gradually contracted
towards the crown in order to lighten the weight of the structure.
The bridge was to contain 6500 tons of iron, and the cost of the
whole was to be 262,289L.

[Image] Telford's proposed One-arched Bridge over the Thames.

The originality of the design was greatly admired, though there
were many who received with incredulity the proposal to bridge the
Thames by a single arch, and it was sarcastically said of Telford
that he might as well think of "setting the Thames on fire."
Before any outlay was incurred in building the bridge, the design
was submitted to the consideration of the most eminent scientific
and practical men of the day; after which evidence was taken at
great length before a Select Committee which sat on the subject.
Among those examined on the occasion were the venerable James Watt
of Birmingham, Mr. John Rennie, Professor Button of Woolwich,
Professors Playfair and Robison of Edinburgh, Mr. Jessop,
Mr.Southern, and Dr. Maskelyne.  Their evidence will still be found
interesting as indicating the state at which constructive science
had at that time arrived in England.*[8]  There was a considerable
diversity of opinion among the witnesses, as might have been
expected; for experience was as yet very limited as to the
resistance of cast iron to extension and compression.  Some of them
anticipated immense difficulty in casting pieces of metal of the
necessary size and exactness, so as to secure that the radiated
joints should be all straight and bearing.  Others laid down certain
ingenious theories of the arch, which did not quite square with the
plan proposed by the engineer.  But, as was candidly observed by
Professor Playfair in concluding his report--"It is not from
theoretical men that the most valuable information in such a case
as the present is to be expected.  When a mechanical arrangement
becomes in a certain degree complicated, it baffles the efforts of
the geometer, and refuses to submit to even the most approved
methods of investigation.  This holds good particularly of bridges,
where the principles of mechanics, aided by all the resources of
the higher geometry, have not yet gone further than to determine
the equilibrium of a set of smooth wedges acting on one another by
pressure only, and in such circumstances as, except in a
philosophical experiment, can hardly ever be realised.  It is,
therefore, from men educated in the school of daily practice and
experience, and who to a knowledge of general principles have
added, from the habits of their profession, a certain feeling of
the justness or insufficiency of any mechanical contrivance, that
the soundest opinions on a matter of this kind can be obtained."

It would appear that the Committee came to the general conclusion
that the construction of the proposed bridge was practicable and
safe; for the river was contracted to the requisite width, and the
preliminary works were actually begun.  Mr. Stephenson says the
design was eventually abandoned, owing more immediately to the
difficulty of constructing the approaches with such a head way,
which would have involved the formation of extensive inclined
planes from the adjoining streets, and thereby led to serious
inconvenience, and the depreciation of much valuable property on
both sides of the river.*[9]  Telford's noble design of his great
iron bridge over the Thames, together with his proposed embankment
of the river, being thus definitely abandoned, he fell back upon
his ordinary business as an architect and engineer, in the course
of which he designed and erected several stone bridges of
considerable magnitude and importance.

In the spring of 1795, after a long continued fall of snow, a
sudden thaw raised a heavy flood in the Severn, which carried away
many bridges--amongst others one at Bewdley, in Worcestershire,--
when Telford was called upon to supply a design for a new structure.
At the same time, he was required to furnish a plan for a new
bridge near the town of Bridgenorth; "in short," he wrote to his
friend, "I have been at it night and day."  So uniform a success had
heretofore attended the execution of his designs, that his
reputation as a bridge-builder was universally acknowledged.
"Last week," he says, "Davidson and I struck the centre of an arch
of 76 feet span, and this is the third which has been thrown this
summer, none of which have shrunk a quarter of an inch."

Bewdley Bridge is a handsome and substantial piece of masonry.
The streets on either side of it being on low ground, land arches
were  provided at both ends for the passage of the flood waters;
and as the Severn was navigable at the point crossed, it was
considered necessary to allow considerably greater width in the
river arches than had been the case in the former structure.
The arches were three in number--one of 60 feet span and two of 52
feet, the land arches being of 9 feet span.  The works were
proceeded with and the bridge was completed during the summer of
1798, Telford writing to his friend in December of that year--
"We have had a remarkably dry summer and autumn; after that an early
fall of snow and some frost, followed by rain.  The drought of the
summer was unfavourable to our canal working; but it has enabled us
to raise Bewdley Bridge as if by enchantment.  We have thus built a
magnificent bridge over the Severn in one season, which is no
contemptible work for John Simpson*[10] and your humble servant,
amidst so many other great undertakings.  John Simpson is a
treasure--a man of great talents and integrity.  I met with him
here by chance, employed and recommended him, and he has now under
his charge all the works of any magnitude in this great and rich

[Image] Bewdley Bridge.

Another of our engineer's early stone bridges, which may be
mentioned in this place, was erected by him in 1805, over the river
Dee at Tongueland in the county of Kirkcudbright.  It is a bold and
picturesque bridge, situated in a lovely locality.  The river is
very deep at high water there, the tide rising 20 feet.  As the
banks were steep and rocky, the engineer determined to bridge the
stream by a single arch of 112 feet span.  The rise being
considerable, high wingwalls and deep spandrels were requisite; but
the weight of the structure was much lightened by the expedient
which he adopted of perforating the wings, and building a number of
longitudinal walls in the spandrels, instead of filling them with
earth or inferior masonry, as had until then been the ordinary
practice.  The ends of these walls, connected and steadied by the
insertion of tee-stones, were built so as to abut against the back
of the arch-stones and the cross walls of each abutment.  Thus great
strength as well as lightness was secured, and a very graceful and
at the same time substantial bridge was provided for the
accommodation of the district.*[11]

[Image] Tongueland Bridge.

In his letters written about this time, Telford seems to have been
very full of employment, which required him to travel about a great
deal.  "I have become," said he, "a very wandering being, and am
scarcely ever two days in one place, unless detained by business,
which, however, occupies my time very completely."  At another time
he says, "I am tossed about like a tennis ball: the other day I was
in London, since that I have been in Liverpool, and in a few days I
expect to be at Bristol.  Such is my life; and to tell you the
truth, I think it suits my disposition."

Another work on which Telford was engaged at this time was a
project for supplying the town of Liverpool with water conveyed
through pipes in the same manner as had long before been adopted in
London.  He was much struck by the activity and enterprise apparent
in Liverpool compared with Bristol.  "Liverpool," he said,
"has taken firm root in the country by means of the canals"
it is young, vigorous, and well situated.  Bristol is sinking in
commercial importance: its merchants are rich and indolent, and in
their projects they are always too late.  Besides, the place is
badly situated.  There will probably arise another port there
somewhat nearer the Severn; but Liverpool will nevertheless
continue of the first commercial importance, and their water will
be turned into wine.  We are making rapid progress in this country--
I mean from Liverpool to Bristol, and from Wales to Birmingham.
This is an extensive and rich district, abounding in coal, lime,
iron, and  lead.  Agriculture too is improving, and manufactures
are advancing at rapid strides towards perfection.  Think of such a
mass of population, industrious, intelligent, and energetic, in
continual exertion! In short, I do not believe that any part of the
world, of like dimensions, ever exceeded Great Britain, as it now
is, in regard to the production of wealth and the practice of the
useful arts."*[12]  Amidst all this progress, which so strikingly
characterized the western districts of England, Telford also
thought that there was a prospect of coming improvement for Ireland.
"There is a board of five members appointed by Parliament, to act
as a board of control over all the inland navigations, &c., of
Ireland.  One of the members is a particular friend of mine, and at
this moment a pupil, as it were, anxious for information.  This is
a noble object: the field is wide, the ground new and capable of
vast improvement.  To take up and manage the water of a fine island
is like a fairy tale, and, if properly conducted, it would render
Ireland truly a jewel among the nations."*[13]  It does not,
however, appear that Telford was ever employed by the board to
carry out the grand scheme which thus fired his engineering

Mixing freely with men of all classes, our engineer seems to have
made many new friends and acquaintances about this time.  While on
his journeys north and south, he frequently took the opportunity of
looking in upon the venerable James Watt--"a great and good man,"
he terms him--at his house at Heathfield, near Birmingham.
At London he says he is "often with old Brodie and Black, each the
first in his profession, though they walked up together to the
great city on foot,*[14] more than half a century ago--Gloria!"
About the same time we find him taking interest in the projects of
a deserving person, named Holwell, a coal-master in Staffordshire,
and assisting him to take out a patent for boring wooden pipes;
"he being a person," says Telford, "little known, and not having
capital, interest, or connections, to bring the matter forward."

Telford also kept up his literary friendships and preserved his
love for poetical reading.  At Shrewsbury, one of his most intimate
friends was Dr. Darwin, son of the author of the 'Botanic Garden.'
At Liverpool, he made the acquaintance of Dr. Currie, and was
favoured with a sight of his manuscript of the ' Life of Burns,'
then in course of publication.  Curiously enough, Dr. Currie had
found among Burns's papers a copy of some verses, addressed to the
poet, which Telford recognised as his own, written many years
before while working as a mason at Langholm.  Their purport was to
urge Burns to devote himself to the composition of poems of a
serious character, such as the 'Cotter's Saturday Night.' With
Telford's permission, several extracts from his Address to Burns
were published in 1800 in Currie's Life of the poet.  Another of
his literary friendships, formed about the same time, was that with
Thomas Campbell, then a very young man, whose 'Pleasures of Hope'
had just made its appearance.  Telford, in one of his letters, says,
"I will not leave a stone unturned to try to serve the author of
that charming poem.  In a subsequent communication*[15] he says,
"The author of the 'Pleasures of Hope' has been here for some time.
I am quite delighted with him.  He is the very spirit of poetry.
On Monday I introduced him to the King's librarian, and I imagine
some good may result to him from the introduction."

In the midst of his plans of docks, canals, and bridges, he wrote
letters to his friends about the peculiarities of Goethe's poems
and Kotzebue's plays, Roman antiquities, Buonaparte's campaign in
Egypt, and the merits of the last new book.  He confessed, however,
that his leisure for reading was rapidly diminishing in consequence
of the increasing professional demands upon his time; but he bought
the 'Encyclopedia Britannica,' which he described as "a perfect
treasure, containing everything, and always at hand."  He thus
rapidly described the manner in which his time was engrossed.
"A few days since, I attended a general assembly of the canal
proprietors in Shropshire.  I have to be at Chester again in a
week, upon an arbitration business respecting the rebuilding of the
county hall and gaol; but previous to that I must visit Liverpool,
and afterwards proceed into Worcestershire.  So you see what sort
of a life I have of it.  It is something like Buonaparte, when in
Italy, fighting battles at fifty or a hundred miles distance every
other day.  However, plenty of employment is what every
professional man is seeking after, and my various occupations now
require of me great exertions, which they certainly shall have so
long as life and health are spared to me."*[16]  Amidst all his
engagements, Telford found time to make particular inquiry about
many poor families formerly known to him in Eskdale, for some of
whom he paid house-rent, while he transmitted the means of
supplying others with coals, meal, and necessaries, during the
severe winter months,--a practice which he continued to the close
of his life.

Footnotes for Chapter VII.

*[1] 'Encyclopedia Britannica,' 8th ed.  Art.  "Iron Bridges."

*[2] According to the statement made in the petition drawn by Paine,
excise officers were then (1772) paid only 1s. 9 1/4d. a day.

*[3] In England, Paine took out a patent for his Iron Bridge in
1788.  Specification of Patents (old law) No. 1667.

*[4] [Image] Buildwas Bridge.

The following are further details: "Each of the main ribs of the
flat arch consists of three pieces, and at each junction they are
secured by a grated plate, which connects all the parallel ribs
together into one frame.  The back of each abutment is in a
wedge-shape, so as to throw off laterally much of the pressure of
the earth.  Under the bridge is a towing path on each side of the
river.  The bridge was cast in an admirable manner by the
Coalbrookdale iron-masters in the year 1796, under contract with
the county magistrates.  The total cost was 6034L. l3s. 3d."

*[5] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Shrewsbury,
l8th March, 1795.

*[6] Douglas was first mentioned to Telford, in a letter from
Mr. Pasley, as a young man, a native of Bigholmes, Eskdale, who had,
after serving his time there as a mechanic, emigrated to America,
where he showed such proofs of mechanical genius that he attracted
the notice of Mr. Liston, the British Minister, who paid his
expenses home to England, that his services might not be lost to
his country, and at the same time gave him a letter of introduction
to the Society of Arts in London.  Telford, in a letter to Andrew
Little, dated 4th December, 1797, expressed a desire "to know more
of this Eskdale Archimedes."  Shortly after, we find Douglas
mentioned as having invented a brick machine, a shearing-machine,
and a ball for destroying the rigging of ships; for the two former
of which he secured patents.  He afterwards settled in France, where
he introduced machinery for the improved manufacture of woollen
cloth; and being patronised by the Government, he succeeded in
realising considerable wealth, which, how ever, he did not live to

*[7] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated London, l3th May,

*[8] The evidence is fairly set forth in 'Cresy's Encyclopedia of
Civil Engineering,' p. 475.

*[9] Article on Iron Bridges, in the 'Encyclopedia Britannica,'
Edinburgh, 1857.

*[10] His foreman of masons at Bewdley Bridge, and afterwards his
assistant in numerous important works.

*[11] The work is thus described in Robert Chambers's ' Picture of
Scotland':--"Opposite Compston there is a magnificent new bridge
over the Dee.  It consists of a single web, the span of which is 112
feet; and it is built of vast blocks of freestone brought from the
isle of Arran.  The cost of this work was somewhere about 7000L.
sterling; and it may be mentioned, to the honour of the Stewartry,
that this sum was raised by the private contributions of the
gentlemen of the district.  From Tongueland Hill, in the immediate
vicinity of the bridge, there is a view well worthy of a painter's
eye, and which is not inferior in beauty and magnificence to any in

*[12] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Salop,
13th July, 1799.

*[13] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Liverpool,
9th September, 1800.

*[14] Brodie was originally a blacksmith.  He was a man of much
ingenuity and industry, and introduced many improvements in iron
work; he invented stoves for chimneys, ships' hearths, &c.  He had
above a hundred men working in his London shop, besides carrying on
an iron work at Coalbrookdale.  He afterwards established a woollen
manufactory near Peebles.

*[15] Dated London, l4th April, 1802.

*[16] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Salop,
30th November, 1799.



In an early chapter of this volume we have given a rapid survey of
the state of Scotland about the middle of last century.  We found a
country without roads, fields lying uncultivated, mines unexplored,
and all branches of industry languishing, in the midst of an idle,
miserable, and haggard population.  Fifty years passed, and the
state of the Lowlands had become completely changed.  Roads had been
made, canals dug, coal-mines opened up, ironworks established;
manufactures were extending in all directions; and Scotch
agriculture, instead of being the worst, was admitted to be the
best in the island.

"I have been perfectly astonished," wrote Romilly from Stirling,
in 1793, "at the richness and high cultivation of all the tract of
this calumniated country through which I have passed, and which
extends quite from Edinburgh to the mountains where I now am.
It is true, however; that almost everything which one sees to admire
in the way of cultivation is due to modem improvements; and now and
then one observes a few acres of brown moss, contrasting admirably
with the corn-fieids to which they are contiguous, and affording a
specimen of the dreariness and desolation which, only half a century
ago, overspread a country now highly cultivated, and become a most
copious source of human happiness."*[1]  It must, however, be
admitted that the industrial progress thus described was confined
almost entirely to the Lowlands, and had scarcely penetrated the
mountainous regions lying towards the north-west.  The rugged
nature of that part of the country interposed a formidable barrier
to improvement, and the district still remained very imperfectly
opened up.  The only practicable roads were those which had been
made by the soldiery after the rebellions of 1715 and '45, through
counties which before had been inaccessible except by dangerous
footpaths across high and rugged mountains.  An old epigram in
vogue at the end of last century ran thus:

   "Had you seen these roads before they were made,
    You'd lift up your hands and bless General Wade!"

Being constructed by soldiers for military purposes, they were
first known as "military roads."  One was formed along the Great
Glen of Scotland, in the line of the present Caledonian Canal,
connected with the Lowlands by the road through Glencoe by Tyndrum
down the western banks of Loch Lomond; another, more northerly,
connected Fort Augustus with Dunkeld by Blair Athol; while a third,
still further to the north and east, connected Fort George with
Cupar-in-Angus by Badenoch and Braemar.

The military roads were about eight hundred miles in extent,
and maintained at the public expense.  But they were laid out for
purposes of military occupation rather than for the convenience of
the districts which they traversed.  Hence they were comparatively
little used, and the Highlanders, in passing from one place to
another, for the most part continued to travel by the old cattle
tracks along the mountains.  But the population were as yet so poor
and so spiritless, and industry was in so backward a state all over
the Highlands, that the want of more convenient communications was
scarcely felt.

Though there was plenty of good timber in certain districts, the
bark was the only part that could be sent to market, on the backs
of ponies, while the timber itself was left to rot upon the ground.
Agriculture was in a surprisingly backward state.  In the remoter
districts only a little oats or barley was grown, the chief part of
which was required for the sustenance of the cattle during winter.
The Rev. Mr. Macdougall, minister of the parishes of Lochgoilhead
and Kilmorich, in Argyleshire, described the people of that part of
the country, about the year 1760, as miserable beyond description.
He says, "Indolence was almost the only comfort they enjoyed.
There was scarcely any variety of wretchedness with which they were
not obliged to struggle, or rather to which they were not obliged to
submit.  They often felt what it was to want food....  To such an
extremity were they frequently reduced, that they were obliged to
bleed their cattle, in order to subsist some time on the blood
(boiled); and even the inhabitants of the glens and valleys
repaired in crowds to the shore, at the distance of three or four
miles, to pick up the scanty provision which the shell-fish
afforded them."*[2]

The plough had not yet penetrated into the Highlands; an instrument
called the cas-chrom*[3]

[Image] The Cas-Chrom.

--literally the "crooked foot"--the use of which had been forgotten
for hundreds of years in every other country in Europe, was almost
the only tool employed in tillage in those parts of the Highlands
which were separated by almost impassable mountains from the rest
of the United Kingdom.

The native population were by necessity peaceful.  Old feuds were
restrained by the strong arm of the law, if indeed the spirit of
the clans had not been completely broken by the severe repressive
measures which followed the rebellion of Forty-five.  But the people
had hot yet learnt to bend their backs, like the Sassenach, to the
stubborn soil, and they sat gloomily by their turf-fires at home,
or wandered away to settle in other lands beyond the seas.  It even
began to be feared that the country would so on be entirely
depopulated; and it became a matter of national concern to devise
methods of opening up the district so as to develope its industry
and afford improved means of sustenance for its population.
The poverty of the inhabitants rendered the attempt to construct
roads--even had they desired them--beyond their scanty means; but
the ministry of the day entertained the opinion that, by contributing
a certain proportion of the necessary expense, the proprietors of
Highland estates might be induced to advance the remainder; and on
this principle the construction of the new roads in those districts
was undertaken.

The country lying to the west of the Great Glen was absolutely
without a road of any kind.  The only district through which
travellers passed was that penetrated by the great Highland road by
Badenoch, between Perth and Inverness; and for a considerable time
after the suppression of the rebellion of 1745, it was infested by
gangs of desperate robbers.  So unsafe was the route across the
Grampians, that persons who had occasion to travel it usually made
their wills before setting out.  Garrons, or little Highland ponies,
were then used by the gentry as well as the peasantry.  Inns were
few and bad; and even when postchaises were introduced at Inverness,
the expense of hiring one was thought of for weeks, perhaps months,
and arrangements were usually made for sharing it among as many
individuals as it would contain.  If the harness and springs of the
vehicle held together, travellers thought themselves fortunate in
reaching Edinburgh, jaded and weary, but safe in purse and limb,
on the eighth day after leaving Inverness.*[4]  Very few persons
then travelled into the Highlands on foot, though Bewick, the father
of wood-engraving, made such a journey round Loch Lomond in 1775.
He relates that his appearance excited the greatest interest at the
Highland huts in which he lodged, the women  curiously examining
him from head to foot, having never seen an  Englishman before.
The strange part of his story is, that he set out upon his journey
from Cherryburn, near Newcastle, with only three  guineas sewed in
his waistband, and when he reached home he had still a few
shillings left in his pocket!

In 1802, Mr. Telford was called upon by the Government to make a
survey of Scotland, and report as to the measures which were
necessary for the improvement of the roads and bridges of that part
of the kingdom, and also on the means of promoting the fisheries on
the east and west coasts, with the object of better opening up the
country and preventing further extensive emigration.  Previous to
this time he had been employed by the British Fisheries Society--
of which his friend Sir William Pulteney was Governor--to inspect
the harbours at their several stations, and to devise a plan for
the establishment of a fishery on the coast of Caithness.
He accordingly made an extensive tour of Scotland, examining, among
other harbours, that of Annan; from which he proceeded northward by
Aberdeen to Wick and Thurso, returning to Shrewsbury by Edinburgh
and Dumfries.*[5]  He accumulated a large mass of data for his
report, which was sent in to the Fishery Society, with charts and
plans, in the course of  the following year.

In July, 1802, he was requested by the Lords of the Treasury, most
probably in consequence of the preceding report, to make a further
survey of the interior of the Highlands, the result of which he
communicated in his report presented to Parliament in the following
year.  Although full of important local business, "kept running,"
as he says, "from town to country, and from country to town, never
when awake, and perhaps not always when asleep, have my Scotch
surveys been absent from my mind."  He had worked very hard at his
report, and hoped that it might be productive of some good.

The report was duly presented, printed,*[6] and approved; and it
formed the starting-point of a system of legislation with reference
to the Highlands which extended over many years, and had the effect
of completely opening up that romantic but rugged district of country,
and extending to its inhabitants the advantages of improved
intercourse with the other parts of the kingdom. Mr. Telford
pointed out that the military roads were altogether inadequate to
the requirements of the population, and that the use of them was in
many places very much circumscribed by the want of bridges over
some of the principal rivers.  For instance, the route from
Edinburgh to Inverness, through the Central Highlands, was
seriously interrupted at Dunkeld, where the Tay is broad and deep,
and not always easy to be crossed by means of a boat.  The route to
the same place by the east coast was in like manner broken at
Fochabers, where the rapid Spey could only be crossed by a
dangerous ferry.

The difficulties encountered by gentlemen of the Bar, in travelling
the north circuit about this time, are well described by Lord
Cockburn in his 'Memorials.' "Those who are born to modem
travelling," he says, "can scarcely be made to understand how the
previous age got on.  The state of the roads may be judged of from
two or three facts.  There was no bridge over the Tay at Dunkeld,
or over the Spey at Fochabers, or over the Findhorn at Forres.
Nothing but wretched pierless ferries, let to poor cottars, who
rowed, or hauled, or pushed a crazy boat across, or more commonly
got their wives to do it.  There was no mail-coach north of
Aberdeen till, I think, after the battle of Waterloo.  What it must
have been a few years before my time may be judged of from Bozzy's
'Letter to Lord Braxfield,' published in 1780.  He thinks that,
besides a carriage and his own carriage-horses, every judge ought
to have his sumpter-horse, and ought not to travel faster than the
waggon which carried the baggage of the circuit.  I understood from
Hope that, after 1784, when he came to the Bar, he and Braxfield
rode a whole north circuit; and that, from the Findhorn being in a
flood, they were obliged to go up its banks for about twenty-eight
miles to the bridge of Dulsie before they could cross.  I myself
rode circuits when I was Advocate-Depute between 1807 and 1810.
The fashion of every Depute carrying his own shell on his back, in
the form of his own carriage, is a piece of very modern
antiquity."*[7]  North of Inverness, matters were, if possible,
still worse.  There was no bridge over the Beauly or the Conan.
The drovers coming south swam the rivers with their cattle.  There
being no roads, there was little use for carts.  In the whole
county of Caithness, there was  scarcely a farmer who owned a
wheel-cart.  Burdens were conveyed usually on the backs of ponies,
but quite as often on the backs of women.*[8]  The interior of the
county of Sutherland being almost inaccessible, the only track lay
along the shore, among rocks and sand, and was covered by the sea
at every tide.  "The people lay scattered in inaccessible straths
and spots among the mountains, where they lived in family with
their pigs and kyloes (cattle), in turf cabins of the most
miserable description; they spoke only Gaelic, and spent the whole
of their time in indolence and sloth.  Thus they had gone on from
father to son, with little change, except what the introduction of
illicit distillation had wrought, and making little or no export
from the country beyond the few lean kyloes, which paid the rent
and produced wherewithal to pay for the oatmeal imported."*[9]
Telford's first recommendation was, that a bridge should be thrown
across the Tay at Dunkeld, to connect the improved lines of road
proposed to be made on each side of the river.  He regarded this
measure as of the first importance to the Central Highlands; and as
the Duke of Athol was willing to pay one-half of the cost of the
erection, if the Government would defray the other--the bridge to
be free of toll after a certain period--it appeared to the engineer
that this was a reasonable and just mode of providing for the
contingency.  In the next place, he recommended a bridge over the
Spey, which drained a great extent of mountainous country, and,
being liable to sudden inundations, was very dangerous to cross.
Yet this ferry formed the only link of communication between the
whole of the northern counties.  The site pointed out for the
proposed bridge was adjacent to the town of Fochabers, and here
also the Duke of Gordon and other county gentlemen were willing to
provide one-half of the means for its erection.

Mr. Telford further described in detail the roads necessary to be
constructed in the north and west Highlands, with the object of
opening up the western parts of the counties of Inverness and Ross,
and affording a ready communication from the Clyde to the fishing
lochs in the neighbourhood of the Isle of Skye.  As to the means of
executing these improvements, he suggested that Government would be
justified in dealing with the Highland roads and bridges as
exceptional and extraordinary works, and extending the public aid
towards carrying them into effect, as, but for such assistance, the
country must remain, perhaps for ages to come, imperfectly opened up.
His report further embraced certain improvements in the harbours of
Aberdeen and Wick, and a description of the country through which
the proposed line of the Caledonian Canal would necessarily pass--
a canal which had long been the subject of inquiry, but had not as
yet emerged from a state of mere speculation.

The new roads, bridges, and other improvements suggested by the
engineer, excited much interest in the north.  The Highland Society
voted him their thanks by acclamation; the counties of Inverness
and Ross followed; and he had letters of thanks and congratulation
from many of the Highland chiefs.  "If they will persevere," says he,
"with anything like their present zeal, they will have the
satisfaction of greatly improving a country that has been too long
neglected.  Things are greatly changed now in the Highlands.  Even
were the chiefs to quarrel, de'il a Highlandman would stir for them.
The lairds have transferred their affections from their people to
flocks of sheep, and the people have lost their veneration for the
lairds.  It seems to be the natural progress of society; but it is
not an altogether satisfactory change.  There were some fine
features in the former patriarchal state of society; but now
clanship is gone, and chiefs and people are hastening into the
opposite extreme.  This seems to me to be quite wrong."*[10]
In the same year, Telford was elected a member of the Royal Society
of Edinburgh, on which occasion he was proposed and supported by
three professors; so that the former Edinburgh mason was rising in
the world and receiving due honour in his own country.  The effect
of his report was such, that in the session of 1803 a Parliamentary
Commission was appointed, under whose direction a series of
practical improvements was commenced, which issued in the
construction of not less than 920 additional miles of roads and
bridges throughout the Highlands, one-half of the cost of which was
defrayed by the Government and the other half by local assessment.
But in addition to these main lines of communication, numberless
county roads were formed by statute labour, under local road Acts
and by other means; the land-owners of Sutherland alone
constructing nearly 300 miles of district roads at their own cost.

[Image] Map of Telford's Roads.

By the end of the session of 1803, Telford received his
instructions from Mr. Vansittart as to the working survey he was
forthwith required to enter upon, with a view to commencing
practical operations; and he again proceeded to the Highlands to
lay out the roads and plan the bridges which were most urgently
needed.  The district of the Solway was, at his representation,
included, with the object of improving the road from Carlisle to
Portpatrick--the nearest point at which Great Britain meets the
Irish coast, and where the sea passage forms only a sort of wide

It would occupy too much space, and indeed it is altogether
unnecessary, to describe in detail the operations of the Commission
and of their engineer in opening up the communications of the
Highlands.  Suffice it to say, that one of the first things taken in
hand was the connection of the existing lines of road by means of
bridges at the more important points; such as at Dunkeld over the
Tay, and near Dingwall over the Conan and Orrin.  That of Dunkeld
was the most important, as being situated at the entrance to the
Central Highlands; and at the second meeting of the Commissioners
Mr. Telford submitted his plan and estimates of the proposed
bridge.  In consequence of some difference with the Duke of Athol as
to his share of the expense--which proved to be greater than he had
estimated--some delay occurred in beginning the work; but at length
it was fairly started, and, after being about three years in hand,
the structure was finished and opened for traffic in 1809.

[Image] Dunkeld Bridge.

The bridge is a handsome one of five river and two land arches.
The span of the centre arch is 90 feet, of the two adjoining it 84
feet, and of the two side arches 74 feet; affording a clear
waterway of 446 feet.  The total breadth of the roadway and foot
paths is 28 feet 6 inches.  The cost of the structure was about
14,000L., one-half of which was defrayed by the Duke of Athol.
Dunkeld bridge now forms a fine feature in a landscape not often
surpassed, and which presents within a comparatively small compass
a great variety of character and beauty.

The communication by road north of Inverness was also perfected by
the construction of a bridge of five arches over the Beauly, and
another of the same number over the Conan, the central arch being
65 feet span; and the formerly wretched bit of road between these
points having been put in good repair, the town of Dingwall was
thenceforward rendered easily approachable from the south.  At the
same time, a beginning was made with the construction of new roads
through the districts most in need of them.  The first contracted
for, was the Loch-na-Gaul road, from Fort William to Arasaig,
on the western coast, nearly opposite the island of Egg.

Another was begun from Loch Oich, on the line of the Caledonian
Canal, across the middle of the Highlands, through Glengarry,
to Loch Hourn on the western sea.  Other roads were opened north
and south; through Morvern to Loch Moidart; through Glen Morrison
and Glen Sheil, and through the entire Isle of Skye; from Dingwall,
eastward, to Lochcarron and Loch Torridon, quite through the county
of Ross; and from Dingwall, northward, through the county of
Sutherland as far as Tongue on the Pentland Frith; while another
line, striking off at the head of the Dornoch Frith, proceeded
along the coast in a north-easterly direction to Wick and Thurso,
in the immediate neighbourhood of John o' Groats.

There were numerous other subordinate lines of road which it is
unnecessary to specify in detail; but some idea may be formed of
their extent, as well as of the rugged character of the country
through which they were carried, when we state that they involved
the construction of no fewer than twelve hundred bridges.  Several
important bridges were also erected at other points to connect
existing roads, such as those at Ballater and Potarch over the Dee;
at Alford over the Don: and at Craig-Ellachie over the Spey.

The last-named bridge is a remarkably elegant structure, thrown
over the Spey at a point where the river, rushing obliquely against
the lofty rock of Craig-Ellachie,*[11] has formed for itself a deep
channel not exceeding fifty yards in breadth.  Only a few years
before, there had not been any provision for crossing this river at
its lower parts except the very dangerous ferry at Fochabers.
The Duke of Gordon had, however, erected a suspension bridge at that
town, and the inconvenience was in a great measure removed.
Its utility was so generally felt, that the demand arose for a second
bridge across the river; for there was not another by which it
could be crossed for a distance of nearly fifty miles up Strath Spey.

It was a difficult stream to span by a bridge at any place, in
consequence of the violence with which the floods descended at
particular seasons.  Sometimes, even in summer, when not a drop of
rain had fallen, the flood would come down the Strath in great
fury, sweeping everything before it; this remarkable phenomenon
being accounted for by the prevalence of a strong south-westerly
wind, which blew the loch waters from their beds into the Strath,
and thus suddenly filled the valley of the Spey.*[12]  The same
phenomenon, similarly caused, is also frequently observed in the
neighbouring river, the Findhorn, cooped up in its deep rocky bed,
where the water sometimes comes down in a wave six feet high, like
a liquid wall, sweeping everything before it.

To meet such a contingency, it was deemed necessary to provide
abundant waterway, and to build a bridge offering as little
resistance as possible to the passage of the Highland floods.
Telford accordingly designed for the passage of the river at
Craig-Ellachie a light cast-iron arch of 150 feet span, with a rise
of 20 feet, the arch being composed of four ribs, each consisting
of two concentric arcs forming panels, which are filled in with
diagonal bars.

The roadway is 15 feet wide, and is formed of another arc of
greater radius, attached to which is the iron railing; the
spandrels being filled by diagonal ties, forming trelliswork.
Mr. Robert Stephenson took objection to the two dissimilar arches,
as liable to subject the structure, from variations of temperature,
to very unequal strains.  Nevertheless this bridge, as well as many
others constructed by Mr. Telford after a similar plan, has stood
perfectly well, and to this day remains a very serviceable

[Image] Craig-Ellachie Bridge.

Its appearance is highly picturesque.  The scattered pines and beech
trees on the side of the impending mountain, the meadows along the
valley of the Spey, and the western approach road to the bridge cut
deeply into the face of the rock, combine, with the slender
appearance of the iron arch, in rendering this spot one of the most
remarkable in Scotland.*[13]  An iron bridge of a similar span to that
at Craig-Ellachie had previously been constructed across the head
of the Dornoch Frith at Bonar, near the point where the waters of
the Shin join the sea.  The very severe trial which this structure
sustained from the tremendous blow of an irregular mass of fir-tree
logs, consolidated by ice, as well as, shortly after, from the blow
of a schooner which drifted against it on the opposite side, and
had her two masts knocked off by the collision, gave him every
confidence in the strength of this form of construction, and he
accordingly repeated it in several of his subsequent bridges,
though none of them are comparable in beauty with that of

Thus, in the course of eighteen years, 920 miles of capital roads,
connected together by no fewer than 1200 bridges, were added to the
road communications of the Highlands, at an expense defrayed partly
by the localities immediately benefited, and partly by the nation.
The effects of these twenty years' operations were such as follow
the making of roads everywhere--development of industry and
increase of civilization.  In no districts were the benefits
derived from them more marked than in the remote northern counties
of Sutherland and Caithness.  The first stage-coaches that ran
northward from Perth to Inverness were tried in 1806, and became
regularly established in 1811; and by the year 1820 no fewer than
forty arrived at the latter town in the course of every week, and
the same number departed from it.  Others were established in
various directions through the highlands, which were rendered as
accessible as any English county.

Agriculture made rapid progress.  The use of carts became
practicable, and manure was no longer carried to the field on
women's backs.  Sloth and idleness gradually disappeared before the
energy, activity, and industry which were called into life by the
improved communications.  Better built cottages took the place of
the old mud biggins with holes in their roofs to let out the smoke.
The pigs and cattle were treated to a separate table.  The dunghill
was turned to the outside of the house.  Tartan tatters gave place
to the produce of Manchester and Glasgow looms; and very soon few
young persons were to be found who could not both read and write

But not less remarkable were the effects of the road-making upon
the industrial habits of the people.  Before Telford went into the
Highlands, they did not know how to work, having never been
accustomed to labour continuously and systematically.  Let our
engineer himself describe the moral influences of his Highland
contracts:--"In these works," says he, "and in the Caledonian
Canal, about three thousand two hundred men have been annually
employed.  At first, they could scarcely work at all: they were
totally unacquainted with labour; they could not use the tools.
They have since become excellent labourers, and of the above number
we consider about one-fourth left us annually, taught to work.
These undertakings may, indeed, be regarded in the light of a
working academy; from which eight hundred men have annually gone
forth improved workmen.  They have either returned to their native
districts with the advantage of having used the most perfect sort
of tools and utensils (which alone cannot be estimated at less than
ten per cent.  on any sort of labour), or they have been usefully
distributed through the other parts of the country.  Since these
roads were made accessible, wheelwrights and cartwrights have been
established, the plough has been introduced, and improved tools and
utensils are generally used.  The plough was not previously
employed; in the interior and mountainous parts they used crooked
sticks, with iron on them, drawn or pushed along.  The moral habits
of the great masses of the working classes are changed; they see
that they may depend on their own exertions for support: this goes
on silently, and is scarcely perceived until apparent by the
results.  I consider these improvements among the greatest
blessings ever conferred on any country.  About two hundred thousand
pounds has been granted in fifteen years.  It has been the means of
advancing the country at least a century."

The progress made in the Lowland districts of Scotland since the
same period has been no less remarkable.  If the state of the
country, as we have above described it from authentic documents,
be compared with what it is now, it will be found that there are few
countries which have accomplished so much within so short a period.
It is usual to cite the United States as furnishing the most
extraordinary instance of social progress in modem times.  But
America has had the advantage of importing its civilization for the
most part ready made, whereas that of Scotland has been entirely
her own creation.  By nature America is rich, and of boundless
extent; whereas Scotland is by nature poor, the greater part of her
limited area consisting of sterile heath and mountain.  Little more
than a century ago Scotland was considerably in the rear of Ireland.
It was a country almost without agriculture, without mines, without
fisheries, without shipping, without money, without roads.
The people were ill-fed, half barbarous, and habitually indolent.
The colliers and salters were veritable slaves, and were subject to
be sold together with the estates to which they belonged.

What do we find now?  Praedial slavery completely abolished;
heritable jurisdictions at an end; the face of the country entirely
changed; its agriculture acknowledged to be the first in the world;
its mines and fisheries productive in the highest degree; its
banking a model of efficiency and public usefulness; its roads
equal to the best roads in England or in Europe.  The people are
active and energetic, alike in education, in trade, in manufactures,
in construction, in invention.  Watt's invention of the steam
engine, and Symington's invention of the steam-boat, proved a
source of wealth and power, not only to their own country, but to
the world at large; while Telford, by his roads, bound England and
Scotland, before separated, firmly into one, and rendered the union
a source of wealth and strength to both.

At the same time, active and powerful minds were occupied in
extending the domain of knowledge,--Adam Smith in Political
Economy, Reid and Dugald Stewart in Moral Philosophy, and Black and
Robison in Physical Science.  And thus Scotland, instead of being
one of the idlest and most backward countries in Europe, has,
within the compass of little more than a lifetime, issued in one of
the most active, contented, and prosperous,--exercising an amount
of influence upon the literature, science, political economy, and
industry of modern times, out of all proportion to the natural
resources of its soil or the amount of its population.

If we look for the causes of this extraordinary social progress,
we shall probably find the principal to consist in the fact that
Scotland, though originally poor as a country, was rich in Parish
schools, founded under the provisions of an Act passed by the
Scottish Parliament in the year 1696.  It was there ordained
"that there be a school settled and established, and a schoolmaster
appointed, in every parish not already provided, by advice of the
heritors and minister of the parish."  Common day-schools were
accordingly provided and maintained throughout the country for the
education of children of all ranks and conditions.  The consequence
was, that in the course of a few generations, these schools,
working steadily upon the minds of the young, all of whom passed
under the hands of the teachers, educated the population into a
state of intelligence and aptitude greatly in advance of their
material well-being; and it is in this circumstance, we apprehend,
that the explanation is to be found of the rapid start forward
which the whole country took, dating more particularly from the
year 1745.  Agriculture was naturally the first branch of industry
to exhibit signs of decided improvement; to be speedily followed by
like advances in trade, commerce, and manufactures.  Indeed, from
that time the country never looked back, but her progress went on
at a constantly accelerated rate, issuing in results as marvellous
as they have probably been unprecedented.

Footnotes for Chapter VIII.

*[1] Romilly's Autobiography,' ii. 22.

*[2] Statistical Account of Scotland,' iii. 185.

*[3] The cas-chrom was a rude combination of a lever for the
removal of rocks, a spade to cut the earth, and a foot-plough to
turn it.  We annex an illustration of this curious and now obsolete
instrument.  It weighed about eighteen pounds.  In working it, the"
upper part of the handle, to which the left hand was applied,
reached the workman's shoulder, and being slightly elevated, the
point, shod with iron, was pushed into the ground horizontally; the
soil being turned over by inclining the handle to the furrow side,
at the same time making the heel act as a fulcrum to raise the
point of the instrument.  In turning up unbroken ground, it was
first employed with the heel uppermost, with pushing strokes to cut
the breadth of the sward to be turned over; after which, it was
used horizontally as above described.  We are indebted to a
Parliamentary Blue Book for the following representation of this
interesting relic of ancient agriculture.  It is given in the
appendix to the 'Ninth Report of the Commissioners for Highland
Roads and Bridges,' ordered by the House of Commons to be printed,
19th April, 1821.

*[4] Anderson's 'Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland,'
3rd ed. p.48.

*[5] He was accompanied on this tour by Colonel Dirom, with whom he
returned to his house at Mount Annan, in Dumfries.  Telford says of
him: "The Colonel seems to have roused the county of Dumfries from
the lethargy in which it has slumbered for centuries.  The map of
the county, the mineralogical survey, the new roads, the opening of
lime works, the competition of ploughing, the improving harbours,
the building of bridges, are works which bespeak the exertions of
no common man."--Letter to Mr. Andrew.  Little, dated Shrewsbury,
30th November, 1801.

*[6] Ordered to be printed 5th of April, 1803.

*[7] 'Memorials of his Time," by Henry Cockburn, pp. 341-3.

*[8] 'Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir John Sinclair, Barb,'
vol. i., p. 339.

*[9] Extract of a letter from a gentleman residing in Sunderland,
quoted in 'Life of Telford,' p. 465.

*[10] Letter to Mr. Andrew Little, Langholm, dated Salop, 18th
February, 1803.

*[11] The names of Celtic places are highly descriptive.
Thus Craig-Ellachie literally means, the rock of separation; Badenoch,
bushy or woody; Cairngorm, the blue cairn; Lochinet, the lake of nests;
Balknockan, the town of knolls; Dalnasealg, the hunting dale;
Alt'n dater, the burn of the horn-blower; and so on.

*[12] Sir Thomas Dick Lauder has vividly described the destructive
character of the Spey-side inundations in his capital book on the
'Morayshire Floods.'

*[13] 'Report of the Commissioners on Highland Roads and Bridges.'
Appendix to 'Life of Telford,' p. 400.



No sooner were the Highland roads and bridges in full progress,
than attention was directed to the improvement of the harbours
round the coast.  Very little had as yet been done for them beyond
what nature had effected.  Happily, there was a public fund at
disposal--the accumulation of rents and profits derived from the
estates forfeited at the rebellion of 1745--which was available for
the purpose.   The suppression of the rebellion did good in many ways.
It broke the feudal spirit, which lingered in the Highlands long
after it had ceased in every other part of Britain; it led to the
effectual opening up of the country by a system of good roads;
and now the accumulated rents of the defeated Jacobite chiefs were
about to be applied to the improvement of the Highland harbours for
the benefit of the general population.

The harbour of Wick was one of the first to which Mr. Telford's
attention was directed.  Mr. Rennie had reported on the subject of
its improvement as early as the year 1793, but his plans were not
adopted because their execution was beyond the means of the
locality at that time.  The place had now, however, become of
considerable importance.  It was largely frequented by Dutch
fishermen during the herring season; and it was hoped that, if they
could be induced to form a settlement at the place, their example
might exercise a beneficial influence upon the population.

Mr. Telford reported that, by the expenditure of about 5890L., a
capacious and well-protected tidal basin might be formed, capable
of containing about two hundred herring-busses.  The Commission
adopted his plan, and voted the requisite funds for carrying out
the works, which were begun in 1808.  The new station was named
Pulteney Town, in compliment to Sir William Pulteney, the Governor
of the Fishery Society; and the harbour was built at a cost of
about 12,000L., of which 8500L. was granted from the Forfeited
Estates Fund.  A handsome stone bridge, erected over the River Wick
in 1805, after the design of our engineer, connect's these
improvements with the older town: it is formed of three arches,
having a clear waterway of 156 feet.

The money was well expended, as the result proved; and Wick is now,
we believe, the greatest fishing station in the world.  The place
has increased from a little poverty-stricken village to a large and
thriving town, which swarms during the fishing season with lowland
Scotchmen, fair Northmen, broad-built Dutchmen, and kilted
Highlanders. The bay is at that time frequented by upwards of a
thousand fishing-boats and the take of herrings in some years
amounts to more than a hundred thousand barrels.  The harbour has
of late years been considerably improved to meet the growing
requirements of the herring trade, the principal additions having
been carried out, in 1823, by Mr. Bremner,*[1] a native engineer
of great ability.

[Image] Folkestone Harbour.

Improvements of a similar kind were carried out by the Fishery
Board at other parts of the coast, and many snug and convenient
harbours were provided at the principal fishing stations in the
Highlands and Western Islands.  Where the local proprietors were
themselves found expending money in carrying out piers and harbours,
the Board assisted them with grants to enable the works to be
constructed in the most substantial manner and after the most
approved plans. Thus, along that part of the bold northern coast of
the mainland of Scotland which projects into the German Ocean, many
old harbours were improved or new ones constructed--as at Peterhead,
Frazerburgh, Banff, Cullen, Burgh Head, and Nairn.  At Fortrose,
in the Murray Frith; at Dingwall, in the Cromarty Frith;
at Portmaholmac, within Tarbet Ness, the remarkable headland of the
Frith of Dornoch; at Kirkwall, the principal town and place of
resort in the Orkney Islands, so well known from Sir Walter Scott's
description of it in the 'Pirate;' at Tobermory, in the island of
Mull; and at other points of the coast, piers were erected and
other improvements carried out to suit the convenience of the
growing traffic and trade of the country.

The principal works were those connected with the harbours situated
upon the line of coast extending from the harbour of Peterhead,
in the county of Aberdeen, round to the head of the Murray Frith.
The shores there are exposed to the full force of the seas rolling in
from the Northern Ocean; and safe harbours were especially needed
for the protection of the shipping passing from north to south.
Wrecks had become increasingly frequent, and harbours of refuge
were loudly called for.  At one part of the coast, as many as
thirty wrecks had occurred within a very short time, chiefly for
want of shelter.

The situation of Peterhead peculiarly well adapted it for a haven
of refuge, and the improvement of the port was early regarded as a
matter of national importance.  Not far from it, on the south, are
the famous Bullars or Boilers of Buchan--bold rugged rocks, some
200 feet high, against which the sea beats with great fury, boiling
and churning in the deep caves and recesses with which they are
perforated.  Peterhead stands on the most easterly part of the
mainland of Scotland, occupying the north-east side of the bay,
and being connected with the country on the northwest by an isthmus
only 800 yards broad.  In Cromwell's time, the port possessed only
twenty tons of boat tonnage, and its only harbour was a small basin
dug out of the rock.  Even down to the close of the sixteenth
century the place was but an insignificant fishing village.  It is
now a town bustling with trade, having long been the principal seat
of the whale fishery, 1500 men of the port being engaged in that
pursuit alone; and it sends out ships of its own building to all
parts of the world, its handsome and commodious harbours being
accessible at all winds to vessels of almost the largest burden.

[Image] Peterhead

It may be mentioned that about sixty years since, the port was
formed by the island called Keith Island, situated a small distance
eastward from the shore, between which and the mainland an arm of
the sea formerly passed.  A causeway had, however, been formed
across this channel, thus dividing it into two small bays; after
which the southern one had been converted in to a harbour by means
of two rude piers erected along either side of it.  The north inlet
remained without any pier, and being very inconvenient and exposed
to the north-easterly winds, it was little used.

[Image] Peterhead Harbour.

The first works carried out at Peterhead were of a comparatively
limited character, the old piers of the south harbour having been
built by Smeaton; but improvements proceeded apace with the
enterprise and wealth of the inhabitants.  Mr. Rennie, and after
him Mr. Telford, fully reported as to the capabilities of the port
and the best means of improving it.  Mr. Rennie recommended the
deepening of the south harbour and the extension of the jetty of
the west pier, at the same time cutting off all projections of rock
from Keith Island on the eastward, so as to render the access more
easy. The harbour, when thus finished, would, he estimated, give
about 17 feet depth at high water of spring tides.  He also
proposed to open a communication across the causeway between the
north and south harbours, and form a wet dock between them, 580
feet long and 225 feet wide, the water being kept in by gates at
each end.  He further proposed to provide an entirely new harbour,
by constructing two extensive piers for the effectual protection of
the northern part of the channel, running out one from a rock north
of the Green Island, about 680 feet long, and another from the Roan
Head, 450 feet long, leaving an opening between them of 70 yards.
This comprehensive plan unhappily could not be carried out at the
time for want of funds; but it may be said to have formed the
groundwork of all that has been subsequently done for the
improvement of the port of Peterhead.

It was resolved, in the first place, to commence operations by
improving the south harbour, and protecting it more effectually
from south-easterly winds.  The bottom of the harbour was
accordingly deepened by cutting out 30,000 cubic yards of rocky
ground; and part of Mr. Rennie's design was carried out by
extending the jetty of the west pier, though only for a distance of
twenty yards.  These works were executed under Mr. Telford's
directions; they were completed by the end of the year 1811, and
proved to be of great public convenience.

The trade of the town, however, so much increased, and the port was
found of such importance as a place of refuge for vessels
frequenting the north seas, that in 1816 it was determined to
proceed with the formation of a harbour on the northern part of the
old channel; and the inhabitants having agreed among themselves to
contribute to the extent of 10,000L. towards carrying out the
necessary works, they applied for the grant of a like sum from the
Forfeited Estates Fund, which was eventually voted for the purpose.
The plan adopted was on a more limited scale than that Proposed by
Mr. Rennie; but in the same direction and contrived with the same
object,--so that, when completed, vessels of the largest burden
employed in the Greenland fishery might be able to enter one or
other of the two harbours and find safe shelter, from whatever
quarter the wind might blow.

The works were vigorously proceeded with, and had made considerable
progress, when, in October, 1819, a violent hurricane from the
north-east, which raged along the coast for several days, and
inflicted heavy damage on many of the northern harbours, destroyed
a large part of the unfinished masonry and hurled the heaviest
blocks into the sea, tossing them about as if they had been
pebbles.  The finished work had, however, stood well, and the
foundations of the piers under low water were ascertained to have
remained comparatively uninjured.  There was no help for it but to
repair the damaged work, though it involved a heavy additional
cost, one-half of which was borne by the Forfeited Estates Fund and
the remainder by the inhabitants.  Increased strength was also
given to the more exposed parts of the pierwork, and the slope at
the sea side of the breakwater was considerably extended.*[2]
Those alterations in the design were carried out, together with a
spacious graving-dock, as shown in the preceding plan, and they
proved completely successful, enabling Peterhead to offer an amount
of accommodation for shipping of a more effectual kind than was at
that time to be met with along the whole eastern coast of Scotland.

The old harbour of Frazerburgh, situated on a projecting point of
the coast at the foot of Mount Kennaird, about twenty miles north
of Peterhead, had become so ruinous that vessels lying within it
received almost as little shelter as if they had been exposed in
the open sea.  Mr. Rennie had prepared a plan for its improvement
by running out a substantial north-eastern pier; and this was
eventually carried out by Mr. Telford in a modified form, proving
of substantial service to the trade of the port.  Since then a
large and commodious new harbour has been formed at the place,
partly at the public expense and partly at that of the inhabitants,
rendering Frazerburgh a safe retreat for vessels of war as well as

[Image] Banff.

Among the other important harbour works on the northeast coast
carried out by Mr. Telford under the Commissioners appointed to
administer the funds of the Forfeited Estates, were those at Banff,
the execution of which extended over many years; but, though
costly, they did not prove of anything like the same convenience as
those executed at Peterhead.  The old harbour at the end of the
ridge running north and south, on which what is called the
"sea town" of Banff is situated, was completed in 1775, when the
place was already considered of some importance as a fishing station.

[Image] Banff Harbour.

This harbour occupies the triangular space at the north-eastern
extremity of the projecting point of land, at the opposite side of
which, fronting the north-west, is the little town and harbour of
Macduff.  In 1816, Mr. Telford furnished the plan of a new pier
and breakwater, covering the old entrance, which presented an
opening to the N.N.E., with a basin occupying the intermediate
space. The inhabitants agreed to defray one half of the necessary
cost, and the Commissioners the other; and the plans having been
approved, the works were commenced in 1818.  They were in full
progress when, unhappily, the same hurricane which in 1819 did so
much injury to the works at Peterhead, also fell upon those at
Banff, and carried away a large part of the unfinished pier.
This accident had the effect of interrupting the work, as well as
increasing its cost; but the whole was successfully completed by
the year 1822.  Although the new harbour did not prove very safe,
and exhibited a tendency to become silted up with sand, it proved
of use in many respects, more particularly in preventing all swell
and agitation in the old harbour, which was thereby rendered the
safest artificial haven in the Murray Firth.

It is unnecessary to specify the alterations and improvements of a
similar character, adapted to the respective localities, which were
carried out by our engineer at Burgh Head, Nairn, Kirkwall, Tarbet,
Tobermory, Portmaholmac, Dingwall (with its canal two thousand
yards long, connecting the town in a complete manner with the Frith
of Cromarty), Cullen, Fortrose, Ballintraed, Portree, Jura,
Gourdon, Invergordon, and other places.  Down to the year 1823,
the Commissioners had expended 108,530L. on the improvements of
these several ports, in aid of the local contributions of the
inhabitants and adjoining proprietors to a considerably greater
extent; the result of which was a great increase in the shipping
accommodation of the coast towns, to the benefit of the local
population, and of ship-owners and navigators generally.

Mr. Telford's principal harbour works in Scotland, however, were
those of Aberdeen and Dundee, which, next to Leith (the port of
Edinburgh), formed the principal havens along the east coast.
The neighbourhood of Aberdeen was originally so wild and barren that
Telford expressed his surprise that any class of men should ever
have settled there.  An immense shoulder of the Grampian mountains
extends down to the sea-coast, where it terminates in a bold, rude
promontory.  The country on either side of the Dee, which flows
past the town, was originally covered with innumerable granite
blocks; one, called Craig Metellan, lying right in the river's
mouth, and forming, with the sand, an almost effectual bar to its
navigation. Although, in ancient times, a little cultivable land
lay immediately outside the town, the region beyond was as sterile
as it is possible for land to be in such a latitude.  "Any wher,"
says an ancient writer, "after yow pass a myll without the tonne,
the countrey is barren lyke, the hills craigy, the plaines full of
marishes and mosses, the feilds are covered with heather or peeble
stons, the come feilds mixt with thes bot few.  The air is temperat
and healthful about it, and it may be that the citizens owe the
acuteness of their wits thereunto and their civill inclinations;
the lyke not easie to be found under northerlie climats, damped for
the most pairt with air of a grosse consistence."*[3]  But the old
inhabitants of Aberdeen and its neighbourhood were really as rough
as their soil.  Judged by their records, they must have been
dreadfully haunted by witches and sorcerers down to a comparatively
recent period; witch-burning having been common in the town until
the end of the sixteenth century.  We find that, in one year, no
fewer than twenty-three women and one man were burnt; the Dean of
Guild Records containing the detailed accounts of the "loads of
peattis, tar barrellis," and other combustibles used in burning
them.  The lairds of the Garioch, a district in the immediate
neighbourhood, seem to have been still more terrible than the
witches, being accustomed to enter the place and make an onslaught
upon the citizens, according as local rage and thirst for spoil
might incline them.  On one of such occasions, eighty of the
inhabitants were killed and wounded.*[4]  Down even to the middle of
last century the Aberdonian notions of personal liberty seem to
have been very restricted; for between 1740 and 1746 we find that
persons of both sexes were kidnapped, put on board ships, and
despatched to the American plantations, where they were sold for
slaves.  Strangest of all, the men who carried on this slave trade
were local dignitaries, one of them being a town's baillie, another
the town-clerk depute.  Those kidnapped were openly "driven in
flocks through the town, like herds of sheep, under the care of a
keeper armed with a whip."*[5]  So open was the traffic that the
public workhouse was used for their reception until the ships
sailed, and when that was filled, the tolbooth or common prison was
made use of.  The vessels which sailed from the harbour for America
in 1743 contained no fewer than sixty-nine persons; and it is
supposed that, in the six years during which the Aberdeen slave
trade was at its height, about six hundred were transported for
sale, very few of whom ever returned.*[6]  This slave traffic
was doubtless stimulated by the foreign ships beginning to
frequent the port; for the inhabitants were industrious, and their
plaiding, linen, and worsted stockings were in much request as
articles of merchandise.  Cured salmon were also exported in large
quantities.  As early as 1659, a quay was formed along the Dee
towards the village of Foot Dee.  "Beyond Futty," says an old
writer, "lyes the fisher-boat heavne; and after that, towards the
promontorie called Sandenesse, ther is to be seen a grosse bulk of
a building, vaulted and flatted above (the Blockhous they call it),
begun to be builded anno 1513, for guarding the entree of the
harboree from pirats and algarads; and cannon wer planted ther for
that purpose, or, at least, that from thence the motions of pirats
might be tymouslie foreseen. This rough piece of work was finished
anno 1542, in which yer lykewayes the mouth of the river Dee was
locked with cheans of iron and masts of ships crossing the river,
not to be opened bot at the citizens' pleasure."*[7]  After the
Union, but more especially after the rebellion of 1745, the trade
of Aberdeen made considerable progress.  Although Burns, in 1787,
briefly described the place as a "lazy toun," the inhabitants were
displaying much energy in carrying out improvements in their
port.*[8]  In 1775 the foundation-stone of the new pier designed by
Mr. Smeaton was laid with great ceremony, and, the works proceeding
to completion, a new pier, twelve hundred feet long, terminating in
a round head, was finished in less than six years.  The trade of
the place was, however, as yet too small to justify anything beyond
a tidal harbour, and the engineer's views were limited to that
object. He found the river meandering over an irregular space about
five hundred yards in breadth; and he applied the only practicable
remedy, by confining the channel as much as the limited means
placed at his disposal enabled him to do, and directing the land
floods so as to act upon and diminish the bar.  Opposite the north
pier, on the south side of the river, Smeaton constructed a
breast-wall about half the length of the Pier.  Owing, however,
to a departure from that engineer's plans, by which the pier was
placed too far to the north, it was found that a heavy swell
entered the harbour, and, to obviate this formidable inconvenience,
a bulwark was projected from it, so as to occupy about one third of
the channel entrance.

The trade of the place continuing to increase, Mr. Rennie was
called upon, in 1797, to examine and report upon the best means of
improving the harbour, when he recommended the construction of
floating docks upon the sandy flats called Foot Dee.  Nothing was
done at the time, as the scheme was very costly and considered
beyond the available means of the locality.  But the magistrates
kept the subject in mind; and when Mr. Telford made his report on
the best means of improving the harbour in 1801, he intimated that
the inhabitants were ready to cooperate with the Government in
rendering it capable of accommodating ships of war, as far as their
circumstances would permit.

In 1807, the south pier-head, built by Smeaton, was destroyed by a
storm, and the time had arrived when something must be done, not
only to improve but even to preserve the port.  The magistrates
accordingly proceeded, in 1809, to rebuild the pier-head of cut
granite, and at the same time they applied to Parliament for
authority to carry out further improvements after the plan
recommended by Mr. Telford; and the necessary powers were
conferred in the following year.  The new works comprehended a
large extension of the wharfage accommodation, the construction of
floating and graving docks, increased means of scouring the harbour
and ensuring greater depth of water on the bar across the river's
mouth, and the provision of a navigable communication between the
Aberdeenshire Canal and the new harbour.

[Image] Plan of Aberdeen Harbour

The extension of the north pier was first proceeded with, under the
superintendence of John Gibb, the resident engineer; and by the
year 1811 the whole length of 300 additional feet had been
completed. The beneficial effects of this extension were so
apparent, that a general wish was expressed that it should be
carried further; and it was eventually determined to extend the
pier 780 feet beyond Smeaton's head, by which not only was much
deeper water secured, but vessels were better enabled to clear the
Girdleness Point. This extension was successfully carried out by
the end of the year 1812. A strong breakwater, about 800 feet long,
was also run out from the south shore, leaving a space of about 250
feet as an entrance, thereby giving greater protection to the
shipping in the harbour, while the contraction of the channel, by
increasing the "scour," tended to give a much greater depth of
water on the bar.

[Image] Aberdeen Harbour.

The outer head of the pier was seriously injured by the heavy
storms of the two succeeding winters, which rendered it necessary
to alter its formation to a very flat slope of about five to one
all round the head.*[9]

[Image] Section of pier-head work.

New wharves were at the same time constructed inside the harbour;
a new channel for the river was excavated, which further enlarged
the floating space and wharf accommodation; wet and dry docks were
added; until at length the quay berthage amounted to not less than
6290 feet, or nearly a mile and a quarter in length.  By these
combined improvements an additional extent of quay room was
obtained of about 4000 feet; an excellent tidal harbour was formed,
in which, at spring tides, the depth of water is about 15 feet;
while on the bar it was increased to about 19 feet.  The prosperity
of Aberdeen had meanwhile been advancing apace.  The city had been
greatly beautified and enlarged: shipbuilding had made rapid
progress; Aberdeen clippers became famous, and Aberdeen merchants
carried on a trade with all parts of the world; manufactures of
wool, cotton, flax, and iron were carried on with great success;
its population rapidly increased; and, as a maritime city, Aberdeen
took rank as the third in Scotland, the tonnage entering the port
having increased from 50,000 tons in 1800 to about 300,000 in

Improvements of an equally important character were carried out by
Mr. Telford in the port of Dundee, also situated on the east coast
of Scotland, at the entrance to the Frith of Tay.  There are those
still living at the place who remember its former haven, consisting
of a crooked wall, affording shelter to only a few fishing-boats or
smuggling vessels--its trade being then altogether paltry, scarcely
deserving the name, and its population not one fifth of what it now
is.  Helped by its commodious and capacious harbour, it has become
one of the most populous and thriving towns on the east coast.

[Image] Plan of Dundee Harbour.

The trade of the place took a great start forward at the close of
the war, and Mr. Telford was called upon to supply the plans of a
new harbour.  His first design, which he submitted in 1814, was of
a comparatively limited character; but it was greatly enlarged
during the progress of the works.  Floating docks were added, as
well as graving docks for large vessels.  The necessary powers were
obtained in 1815; the works proceeded vigorously under the Harbour
Commissioners, who superseded the old obstructive corporation; and
in 1825 the splendid new floating dock--750 feet long by 450 broad,
having an entrance-lock 170 feet long and 40 feet wide--was opened
to the shipping of all countries.

[Image] Dundee Harbour.

Footnotes for Chapter IX.

*[1] Hugh Millar, in his 'Cruise of the Betsy,' attributes the
invention of columnar pier-work to Mr. Bremner, whom he terms "the
Brindley of Scotland."  He has acquired great fame for his skill in
raising sunken ships, having warped the Great Britain steamer off
the shores of Dundrum Bay.  But we believe Mr. Telford had adopted
the practice of columnar pier-work before Mr. Bremner, in forming
the little harbour of Folkestone in 1808, where the work is still
to be seen quite perfect.  The most solid mode of laying stone on
land is in flat courses; but in open pier work the reverse process
is adopted.  The blocks are laid on end in columns, like upright
beams jammed together.  Thus laid, the wave which dashes against
them is broken, and spends itself on the interstices; where as,
if it struck the broad solid blocks, the tendency would be to lift
them from their beds and set the work afloat; and in a furious
storm such blocks would be driven about almost like pebbles.
The rebound from flat surfaces is also very heavy, and produces
violent commotion; where as these broken, upright, columnar-looking
piers seem to absorb the fury of the sea, and render its wildest
waves comparatively innocuous.

*[2] 'Memorials from Peterhead and Banff, concerning Damage
occasioned by a Storm.' Ordered by the House of Commons to be
printed, 5th July, 1820. [242.]

*[3] 'A Description of Bothe Touns of Aberdeene.' By James Gordon,
Parson of Rothiemay.  Reprinted in Gavin Turreff's 'Antiquarian
Gleanings from Aberdeenshire Records.' Aberdeen, 1889.

*[4] Robertson's 'Book of Bon-Accord.'

*[5] Ibid., quoted in Turreff's 'Antiquarian Gleanings,' p. 222.

*[6] One of them, however, did return--Peter Williamson, a native
of the town, sold for a slave in Pennsylvania, "a rough, ragged,
humle-headed, long, stowie, clever boy," who, reaching York,
published an account of the infamous traffic, in a pamphlet which
excited extraordinary interest at the time, and met with a rapid
and extensive circulation.  But his exposure of kidnapping gave
very great offence to the magistrates, who dragged him before their
tribunal as having "published a scurrilous and infamous libel on
the corporation," and he was sentenced to be imprisoned until he
should sign a denial of the truth of his statements.  He brought an
action against the corporation for their proceedings, and obtained
a verdict and damages; and he further proceeded against Baillie
Fordyce (one of his kidnappers, and others, from whom he obtained
200L. damages, with costs.  The system was thus effectually put a
stop to.

*[8] 'A Description of Bothe Touns of Aberdeene.' By James Gordon,
Parson of Rothiemay.  Quoted by Turreff, p. 109.

*[8] Communication with London was as yet by no means frequent,
and far from expeditious, as the following advertisement of 1778
will show:--"For London: To sail positively on Saturday next, the
7th November, wind and weather permitting, the Aberdeen smack.
Will lie a short time at London, and, if no convoy is appointed,
will sail under care of a fleet of colliers the best convoy of any.
For particulars apply," &c., &c.

*[9] "The bottom under the foundations," says Mr. Gibb, in his
description of the work, "is nothing better than loose sand and
gravel, constantly thrown up by the sea on that stormy coast,
so that it was necessary to consolidate the work under low water by
dropping large stones from lighters, and filling the interstices
with smaller ones, until it was brought within about a foot of the
level of low water, when the ashlar work was commenced; but in
place of laying the stones horizontally in their beds, each course
was laid at an angle of 45 degrees, to within about 18 inches of
the top, when a level coping was added.  This mode of building
enabled the work to be carried on expeditiously, and rendered it
while in progress less liable to temporary damage, likewise
affording three points of bearing; for while the ashlar walling was
carrying up on both sides, the middle or body of the pier was
carried up at the same time by a careful backing throughout of
large rubble-stone, to within 18 inches of the top, when the whole
was covered with granite coping and paving 18 inches deep, with a
cut granite parapet wall on the north side of the whole length of
the pier, thus protected for the convenience of those who might
have occasion to frequent it."--Mr. Gibb's 'Narrative of Aberdeen
Harbour Works.'



The formation of a navigable highway through the chain of locks
lying in the Great Glen of the Highlands, and extending diagonally
across Scotland from the Atlantic to the North Sea, had long been
regarded as a work of national importance.  As early as 1773,
James Watt, then following the business of a land-surveyor at Glasgow,
made a survey of the country at the instance of the Commissioners
of Forfeited Estates.  He pronounced the canal practicable, and
pointed out how it could best be constructed.  There was certainly
no want of water, for Watt was repeatedly drenched with rain while
he was making his survey, and he had difficulty in preserving even
his journal book.  "On my way home," he says, "I passed through the
wildest country I ever saw, and over the worst conducted roads."

Twenty years later, in 1793, Mr. Rennie was consulted as to the
canal, and he also prepared a scheme: but nothing was done. The
project was, however, revived in 1801 during the war with Napoleon,
when various inland ship canals--such as those from London to
Portsmouth, and from Bristol to the English Channel--were under
consideration with the view of enabling British shipping to pass
from one part of the kingdom to another without being exposed to
the attacks of French privateers.  But there was another reason for
urging the formation of the canal through the Great Glen of Scotland,
which was regarded as of considerable importance before the
introduction of steam enabled vessels to set the winds and tides at
comparative defiance.  It was this: vessels sailing from the
eastern ports to America had to beat up the Pentland Frith, often
against adverse winds and stormy seas, which rendered the navigation
both tedious and dangerous.  Thus it was cited by Sir Edward Parry,
in his evidence before Parliament in favour of completing the
Caledonian Canal, that of two vessels despatched from Newcastle on
the same day--one bound for Liverpool by the north of Scotland, and
the other for Bombay by the English Channel and the Cape of Good Hope
--the latter reached its destination first!  Another case may be
mentioned, that of an Inverness vessel, which sailed for Liverpool
on a Christmas Day, reached Stromness Harbour, in Orkney, on the
1st of January, and lay there windbound, with a fleet of other
traders, until the middle of April following!  In fact, the Pentland
Frith, which is the throat connecting the Atlantic and German Oceans,
through which the former rolls its, long majestic waves with
tremendous force, was long the dread of mariners, and it was
considered an object of national importance to mitigate the dangers
of the passage towards the western Seas.

As the lochs occupying the chief part of the bottom of the Great
Glen were of sufficient depth to be navigable by large vessels,
it was thought that if they could be connected by a ship canal,
so as to render the line of navigation continuous, it would be used
by shipping to a large extent, and prove of great public service.
Five hundred miles of dangerous navigation by the Orkneys and
Cape Wrath would thereby be saved, while ships of war, were this
track open to them, might reach the north of Ireland in two days
from Fort George near Inverness.

When the scheme of the proposed canal was revived in 1801,
Mr. Telford was requested to make a survey and send in his report on
the subject. He immediately wrote to his friend James Watt, saying,
"I have so long accustomed myself to look with a degree of reverence
at your work, that I am particularly anxious to learn what occurred
to you in this business while the whole was fresh in your mind.  The
object appears to me so great and so desirable, that I am convinced
you will feel a pleasure in bringing it again under investigation,
and I am very desirous that the thing should be fully and fairly
explained, so that the public may be made aware of its extensive
utility.  If I can accomplish this, I shall have done my duty; and
if the project is not executed now, some future period will see it
done, and I shall have the satisfaction of having followed you and
promoted its success."  We may here state that Telford's survey
agreed with Watt's in the most important particulars, and that he
largely cited Watt's descriptions of the proposed scheme in his own

Mr. Telford's first inspection of the district was made in 1801,
and his report was sent in to the Treasury in the course of the
following year.  Lord Bexley, then Secretary to the Treasury, took
a warm personal interest in the project, and lost no opportunity of
actively promoting it.  A board of commissioners was eventually
appointed to carry out the formation of the canal.  Mr. Telford,
on being appointed principal engineer of the undertaking, was
requested at once to proceed to Scotland and prepare the necessary
working survey.  He was accompanied on the occasion by Mr. Jessop
as consulting engineer.  Twenty thousand pounds were granted under
the provisions of the 43 Geo. III. (chap. cii.), and the works
were commenced, in the beginning of 1804, by the formation of a
dock or basin adjoining the intended tide-lock at Corpach, near

[Image] Map of Caledonian Canal

The basin at Corpach formed the southernmost point of the intended
canal.  It is situated at the head of Loch Eil, amidst some of the
grandest scenery of the Highlands.  Across the Loch is the little
town of Fort William, one of the forts established at the end of
the seventeenth century to keep the wild Highlanders in subjection.
Above it rise hills over hills, of all forms and sizes, and of all
hues, from grass-green below to heather-brown and purple above,
capped with heights of weather-beaten grey; while towering over all
stands the rugged mass of Ben Nevis--a mountain almost unsurpassed
for picturesque grandeur.  Along the western foot of the range,
which extends for some six or eight miles, lies a long extent of
brown bog, on the verge of which, by the river Lochy, stand the
ruins of Inverlochy Castle.

The works at Corpach involved great labour, and extended over a
long series of years.  The difference between the level of Loch Eil
and Loch Lochy is ninety feet, while the distance between them was
less than eight miles.  It was therefore necessary to climb up the
side of the hill by a flight of eight gigantic locks, clustered
together, and which Telford named Neptune's Staircase.  The ground
passed over was in some places very difficult, requiring large
masses of embankment, the slips of which in the course of the work
frequently occasioned serious embarrassment.  The basin on Loch Eil,
on the other hand, was constructed amidst rock, and considerable
difficulty was experienced in getting in the necessary coffer-dam
for the construction of the opening into the sea-lock, the
entrance-sill of which was laid upon the rock itself, so that there
was a depth of 21 feet of water upon it at high water of neap tides.

At the same time that the works at Corpach were begun, the dock or
basin at the north-eastern extremity of the canal, situated at
Clachnaharry, on the shore of Loch Beauly, was also laid out, and
the excavations and embankments were carried on with considerable
activity.  This dock was constructed about 967 yards long, and
upwards of 162 yards in breadth, giving an area of about 32 acres,
--forming, in fact, a harbour for the vessels using the canal. The
dimensions of the artificial waterway were of unusual size, as the
intention was to adapt it throughout for the passage of a 32-gun
frigate of that day, fully equipped and laden with stores.  The
canal, as originally resolved upon, was designed to be 110 feet
wide at the surface, and 50 feet at the bottom, with a depth in the
middle of 20 feet; though these dimensions were somewhat modified
in the execution of the work.  The locks were of corresponding
large dimensions, each being from 170 to 180 feet long, 40 broad,
and 20 deep.

[Image] Lock, Caledonian Canal

Between these two extremities of the canal--Corpach on the
south-west and Clachnaharry on the north-east--extends the chain of
fresh-water lochs: Loch Lochy on the south; next Loch Oich; then
Loch Ness; and lastly, furthest north, the small Loch of Dochfour.
The whole length of the navigation is 60 miles 40 chains, of which
the navigable lochs constitute about 40 miles, leaving only about
20 miles of canal to be constructed, but of unusually large
dimensions and through a very difficult country.

The summit loch of the whole is Loch Oich, the surface of which is
exactly a hundred feet above high water-mark, both at Inverness and
Fort William; and to this sheet of water the navigation climbs up
by a series of locks from both the eastern and western seas.
The whole number of these is twenty-eight: the entrance-lock at
Clachnaharry, constructed on piles, at the end of huge embankments,
forced out into deep water, at Loch Beady; another at the entrance
to the capacious artificial harbour above mentioned, at Muirtown;
four connected locks at the southern end of this basin;
a regulating lock a little to the north of Loch Dochfour;
five contiguous locks at Fort Augustus, at the south end of Loch Ness;
another, called the Kytra Lock, about midway between Fort Angustus
and Loch Oich; a regulating lock at the north-east end of Loch Oich;
two contiguous locks between Lochs Oich and Lochy; a regulating
lock at the south-west end of Loch Lochy; next, the grand series of
locks, eight in number, called "Neptune's Staircase," at Bannavie,
within a mile and a quarter of the sea; two locks, descending to
Corpach basin; and lastly, the great entrance or sea-lock at Corpach.

The northern entrance-lock from the sea at Loch Beauly is at
Clachnaharry, near Inverness.  The works here were not accomplished
without much difficulty as well as labour, partly from the very
gradual declivity of the shore, and partly from the necessity of
placing the sea-lock on absolute mud, which afforded no foundation
other than what was created by compression and pile-driving.
The mud was forced down by throwing upon it an immense load of earth
and stones, which was left during twelve months to settle; after
which a shaft was sunk to a solid foundation, and the masonry of
the sea-lock was then founded and built therein.

In the 'Sixteenth Report of the Commissioners of the Caledonian
Canal,' the following reference is made to this important work,
which was finished in 1812:-- "The depth of the mud on which it may
be said to be artificially seated is not less than 60 feet; so that
it cannot be deemed superfluous, at the end of seven years, to
state that no subsidence is discoverable; and we presume that the
entire lock, as well as every part of it, may now be deemed as
immovable, and as little liable to destruction, as any other large
mass of masonry.  This was the most remarkable work performed under
the immediate care of Mr. Matthew Davidson, our superintendent at
Clachnaharry, from 1804 till the time of his decease.  He was a man
perfectly qualified for the employment by inflexible integrity,
unwearied industry, and zeal to a degree of anxiety, in all the
operations committed to his care."*[1]

As may naturally be supposed, the execution of these great works
involved vast labour and anxiety.  They were designed with much
skill, and executed with equal ability.  There were lock-gates to
be constructed, principally of cast iron, sheathed with pine
planking.   Eight public road bridges crossed the line of the
canal, which were made of cast iron, and swung horizontally.
There were many mountain streams, swollen to torrents in winter,
crossing under the canal, for which abundant water-way had to be
provided, involving the construction of numerous culverts, tunnels,
and under-bridges of large dimensions.  There were also powerful
sluices to let off the excess of water sent down from the adjacent
mountains into the canal during winter.  Three of these, of great
size, high above the river Lochy, are constructed at a point where
the canal is cut through the solid rock; and the sight of the mass
of waters rushing down into the valley beneath, gives an impression
of power which, once seen, is never forgotten.

These great works were only brought to a completion after the
labours of many years, during which the difficulties encountered in
their construction had swelled the cost of the canal far beyond the
original estimate.  The rapid advances which had taken place in the
interval in the prices of labour and materials also tended greatly
to increase the expenses, and, after all, the canal, when completed
and opened, was comparatively little used.  This was doubtless
owing, in a great measure, to the rapid changes which occurred in
the system of navigation shortly after the projection of the
undertaking.  For these Telford was not responsible.  He was called
upon to make the canal, and he did so in the best manner.
Engineers are not required to speculate as to the commercial value
of the works they are required to construct; and there were
circumstances connected with the scheme of the Caledonian Canal
which removed it from the category of mere commercial adventures.
It was a Government project, and it proved a failure as a paying
concern.  Hence it formed a prominent topic for discussion in the
journals of the day; but the attacks made upon the Government
because of their expenditure on the hapless undertaking were
perhaps more felt by Telford, who was its engineer, than by all the
ministers of state conjoined.

"The unfortunate issue of this great work," writes the present
engineer of the canal, to whom we are indebted for many of the
preceding facts, "was a grievous disappointment to Mr. Telford,
and was in fact the one great bitter in his otherwise unalloyed cup
of happiness and prosperity.  The undertaking was maligned by
thousands who knew nothing of its character.  It became 'a dog with
a bad name,' and all the proverbial consequences followed.
The most absurd errors and misconceptions were propagated respecting
it from year to year, and it was impossible during Telford's lifetime
to stem the torrent of popular prejudice and objurgation.  It must,
however, be admitted, after a long experience, that Telford was
greatly over-sanguine in his expectations as to the national uses
of the canal, and he was doomed to suffer acutely in his personal
feelings, little though he may have been personally to blame, the
consequences of what in this commercial country is regarded as so
much worse than a crime, namely, a financial mistake."*[2]

Mr. Telford's great sensitiveness made him feel the ill success of
this enterprise far more than most other men would have done.
He was accustomed to throw himself into the projects on which he
was employed with an enthusiasm almost poetic.  He regarded them
not merely as so much engineering, but as works which were to be
instrumental in opening up the communications of the country and
extending its civilization.  Viewed in this light, his canals,
roads, bridges, and harbours were unquestionably of great national
importance, though their commercial results might not in all cases
justify the estimates of their projectors.  To refer to like
instances--no one can doubt the immense value and public uses of
Mr. Rennie's Waterloo Bridge or Mr. Robert Stephenson's Britannia
and Victoria Bridges, though every one knows that, commercially,
they have been failures.  But it is probable that neither of these
eminent engineers gave himself anything like the anxious concern
that Telford did about the financial issue of his undertaking.
Were railway engineers to fret and vex themselves about the commercial
value of the schemes in which they have been engaged, there are few
of them but would be so haunted by the ghosts of wrecked speculations
that they could scarcely lay their heads upon their pillows for a
single night in peace.

While the Caledonian Canal was in progress, Mr. Telford was
occupied in various works of a similar kind in England and Scotland,
and also upon one in Sweden.  In 1804, while on one of his journeys
to the north, he was requested by the Earl of Eglinton and others
to examine a project for making a canal from Glasgow to Saltcoats
and Ardrossan, on the north-western coast of the county of Ayr,
passing near the important manufacturing town of Paisley.  A new
survey of the line was made, and the works were carried on during
several successive years until a very fine capacious canal was
completed, on the same level, as far as Paisley and Johnstown.
But the funds of the company falling short, the works were stopped,
and the canal was carried no further.  Besides, the measures adopted
by the Clyde Trustees to deepen the bed of that river and enable
ships of large burden to pass up as high as Glasgow, had proved so
successful that the ultimate extension of the canal to Ardrossan
was no longer deemed necessary, and the prosecution of the work was
accordingly abandoned.  But as Mr. Telford has observed, no person
suspected, when the canal was laid out in 1805, "that steamboats
would not only monopolise the trade of the Clyde, but penetrate
into every creek where there is water to float them, in the British
Isles and the continent of Europe, and be seen in every quarter of
the world."

Another of the navigations on which Mr. Telford was long employed
was that of the river Weaver in Cheshire.  It was only twenty-four
miles in extent, but of considerable importance to the country
through which it passed, accommodating the salt-manufacturing
districts, of which the towns of Nantwich, Northwich, and Frodsham
are the centres.  The channel of the river was extremely crooked
and much obstructed by shoals, when Telford took the navigation in
hand in the year 1807, and a number of essential improvements were
made in it, by means of new locks, weirs, and side cuts, which had
the effect of greatly improving the communications of these
important districts.

In the following year we find our engineer consulted, at the
instance of the King of Sweden, on the best mode of constructing
the Gotha Canal, between Lake Wenern and the Baltic, to complete
the communication with the North Sea.  In 1808, at the invitation
of Count Platen, Mr. Telford visited Sweden and made a careful
survey of the district.  The service occupied him and his
assistants two months, after which he prepared and sent in a series
of detailed plans and sections, together with an elaborate report
on the subject.  His plans having been adopted, he again visited
Sweden in 1810, to inspect the excavations which had already been
begun, when he supplied the drawings for the locks and bridges.
With the sanction of the British Government, he at the same time
furnished the Swedish contractors with patterns of the most
improved tools used in canal making, and took with him a number of
experienced lock-makers and navvies for the purpose of instructing
the native workmen.

The construction of the Gotha Canal was an undertaking of great
magnitude and difficulty, similar in many respects to the
Caledonian Canal, though much more extensive.  The length of
artificial canal was 55 miles, and of the whole navigation,
including the lakes, 120 miles.  The locks are 120 feet long and
24 feet broad; the width of the canal at bottom being 42 feet,
and the depth of water 10 feet. The results, so far as the engineer
was concerned, were much more satisfactory than in the case of the
Caledonian Canal.  While in the one case he had much obloquy to
suffer for the services he had given, in the other he was honoured
and feted as a public benefactor, the King conferring upon him the
Swedish order of knighthood, and presenting him with his portrait
set in diamonds.

Among the various canals throughout England which Mr. Telford was
employed to construct or improve, down to the commencement of the
railway era, were the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, in 1818; the
Grand Trunk Canal, in 1822; the Harecastle Tunnel, which he
constructed anew, in 1824-7; the Birmingham Canal, in 1824; and the
Macclesfield, and Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canals, in 1825.
The Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Company had been unable to
finish their works, begun some thirty years before; but with the
assistance of a loan of 160,000L. from the Exchequer Bill Loan
Commissioners, they were enabled to proceed with the completion of
their undertaking. A capacious canal was cut from Gloucester to
Sharpness Point, about eight miles down the Severn, which had the
effect of greatly improving the convenience of the port of
Gloucester; and by means of this navigation, ships of large burden
can now avoid the circuitous and difficult passage of the higher
part of the river, very much to the advantage of the trade of the

The formation of a new tunnel through Harecastle Hill, for the
better accommodation of the boats passing along the Grand Trunk
Canal, was a formidable work.  The original tunnel, it will be
remembered,*[3] was laid out by Brindley, about fifty years
before, and occupied eleven years in construction.  But the
engineering appliances of those early days were very limited; the
pumping powers of the steam-engine had not been fairly developed,
and workmen were as yet only half-educated in the expert use of
tools.  The tunnel, no doubt, answered the purpose for which it was
originally intended, but it was very soon found too limited for the
traffic passing along the navigation.  It was little larger than a
sewer, and admitted the passage of only one narrow boat, seven feet
wide, at a time, involving very heavy labour on the part of the men
who worked it through.  This was performed by what was called
legging.  The Leggers lay upon the deck of the vessel, or upon a
board slightly projecting from either side of it, and, by thrusting
their feet against the slimy roof or sides of the tunnel-walking
horizontally as it were -- they contrived to push it through.
But it was no better than horsework; and after "legging" Harecastle
Tunnel, which is more than a mile and a half long, the men were
usually completely exhausted, and as wet from perspiration as if
they had been dragged through the canal itself.  The process
occupied about two hours, and by the time the passage of the tunnel
was made, there was usually a collection of boats at the other end
waiting their turn to pass.  Thus much contention and confusion
took place amongst the boatmen--a very rough class of labourers--
and many furious battles were fought by the claimants for the first
turn "through."  Regulations were found of no avail to settle these
disputes, still less to accommodate the large traffic which
continued to keep flowing along the line of the Grand Trunk,
and steadily increased with the advancing trade and manufactures of
the country.  Loud complaints were made by the public, but they were
disregarded for many years; and it was not until the proprietors
were threatened with rival canals and railroads that they
determined on--what they could no longer avoid if they desired to
retain the carrying trade of the district the enlargement of the
Harecastle Tunnel.

Mr. Telford was requested to advise the Company what course was
most proper to be adopted in the matter, and after examining the
place, he recommended that an entirely new tunnel should be
constructed, nearly parallel with the old one, but of much larger
dimensions. The work was begun in 1824, and completed in 1827,
in less than three years.  There were at that time throughout the
country plenty of skilled labourers and contractors, many of them
trained by their experience upon Telford's own works, where as
Brindley had in a great measure to make his workmen out of the
rawest material. Telford also had the advantage of greatly improved
machinery and an abundant supply of money--the Grand Trunk Canal
Company having become prosperous and rich, paying large dividends.
It is therefore meet, while eulogising the despatch with which he
was enabled to carry out the work, to point out that the much
greater period occupied in the earlier undertaking is not to be set
down to the disparagement of Brindley, who had difficulties to
encounter which the later engineer knew nothing of.

The length of the new tunnel is 2926 yards; it is 16 feet high and
14 feet broad, 4 feet 9 inches of the breadth being occupied by the
towing-path--for "legging" was now dispensed with, and horses
hauled along the boats instead of their being thrust through by
men. The tunnel is in so perfectly straight a line that its whole
length can be seen through at one view; and though it was
constructed by means of fifteen different pitshafts sunk to the
same line along the length of the tunnel, the workmanship is so
perfect that the joinings of the various lengths of brickwork are
scarcely discernible.  The convenience afforded by the new tunnel
was very great, and Telford mentions that, on surveying it in 1829,
he asked a boatman coming; out of it how he liked it?  "I only
wish," he replied, "that it reached all the way to Manchester!"

[Image] Cross Section of Harecastle Tunnel.

At the time that Mr. Telford was engaged upon the tunnel at
Harecastle, he was employed to improve and widen the Birmingham
Canal, another of Brindley's works.  Though the accommodation
provided by it had been sufficient for the traffic when originally
constructed, the expansion of the trade of Birmingham and the
neighbourhood, accelerated by the formation of the canal itself,
had been such as completely to outgrow its limited convenience and
capacity, and its enlargement and improvement now became absolutely
necessary.  Brindley's Canal, for the sake of cheapness of
construction--money being much scarcer and more difficult to be
raised in the early days of canals--was also winding and crooked;
and it was considered desirable to shorten and straighten it by
cutting off the bends at different places.   At the point at which
the canal entered Birmingham, it had become "little better than a
crooked ditch, with scarcely the appearance of a towing-path, the
horses frequently sliding and staggering in the water, the
hauling-lines sweeping the gravel into the canal, and the
entanglement at the meeting of boats being incessant; whilst at the
locks at each end of the short summit at Smethwick crowds of
boatmen were always quarrelling, or offering premiums for a
preference of passage; and the mine-owners, injured by the delay,
were loud in their just complaints."*[4]

Mr. Telford proposed an effective measure of improvement, which
was taken in hand without loss of time, and carried out, greatly
to the advantage of the trade of the district.  The numerous bends
in the canal were cut off, the water-way was greatly widened, the
summit at Smethwick was cut down to the level on either side, and a
straight canal, forty feet wide, without a lock, was thus formed
as far as Bilston and Wolverhampton; while the length of the main
line between Birmingham and Autherley, along the whole extent of
the "Black country," was reduced from twenty-two to fourteen miles.
At the same time the obsolete curvatures in Brindley's old canal
were converted into separate branches or basins, for the
accommodation of the numerous mines and manufactories on either
side of the main line. In consequence of the alterations which had
been made in the canal, it was found necessary to construct
numerous large bridges.  One of these--a cast iron bridge,
at Galton, of 150 feet span--has been much admired for its elegance,
lightness, and economy of material. Several others of cast iron
were constructed at different points, and at one place the canal
itself is carried along on an aqueduct of the same material as at
Pont-Cysylltau.  The whole of these extensive improvements were
carried out in the short space of two years; and the result was
highly satisfactory, "proving," as Mr. Telford himself observes,
"that where business is extensive, liberal expenditure of this kind
is true economy."

[Image] Galton Bridge, Birmingham Canal.

In 1825 Mr. Telford was called upon to lay out a canal to connect
the Grand Trunk, at the north end of Harecastle Tunnel, with the
rapidly improving towns of Congleton and Macclesfield.  The line
was twenty-nine miles in length, ten miles on one level from
Harecastle to beyond Congleton; then, ascending 114 feet by eleven
locks, it proceeded for five miles on a level past Macclesfield,
and onward to join the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.  The navigation
was thus conducted upon two levels, each of considerable length;
and it so happened that the trade of each was in a measure
distinct, and required separate accommodation.  The traffic of the
whole of the Congleton district had ready access to the Grand Trunk
system, without the labour, expense, and delay involved by passing
the boats through locks; while the coals brought to Macclesfield to
supply the mills there were carried throughout upon the upper
level, also without lockage.  The engineer's arrangement proved
highly judicious, and furnishes an illustration of the tact and
judgment which he usually displayed in laying out his works for
practical uses. Mr Telford largely employed cast iron in the
construction of this canal, using it in the locks and gates, as
well as in an extensive aqueduct which it was necessary to
construct over a deep ravine, after the plan pursued by him at,
Pont-Cysylltau and other places.

The last canal constructed by.  Mr. Telford was the Birmingham and
Liverpool Junction, extending from the Birmingham Canal, near
Wolverhampton, in nearly a direct line, by Market Drayton,
Nantwich, and through the city of Chester, by the Ellesmere Canal,
to Ellesmere Port on the Mersey.  The proprietors of canals were
becoming alarmed at the numerous railways projected through the
districts heretofore served by their water-ways; and among other
projects one was set on foot, as early as 1825, for constructing a
line of railway from London to Liverpool.  Mr. Telford was
consulted as to the best means of protecting existing investments,
and his advice was to render the canal system as complete as it
could be made; for he entertained the conviction, which has been
justified by experience, that such navigations possessed peculiar
advantages for the conveyance of heavy goods, and that, if the
interruptions presented by locks could be done away with, or
materially reduced, a large portion of the trade of the country
must continue to be carried by the water roads.  The new line
recommended by him was approved and adopted, and the works were
commenced in 1826.  A second complete route was thus opened up
between Birmingham and Liverpool, and Manchester, by which the
distance was shortened twelve miles, and the delay occasioned by
320 feet of upward and downward lockage was done away with.

Telford was justly proud of his canals, which were the finest works
of their kind that had yet been executed in England.  Capacious,
convenient, and substantial, they embodied his most ingenious
contrivances, and his highest engineering skill.  Hence we find him
writing to a friend at Langholm, that, so soon as he could find
"sufficient leisure from his various avocations in his own
unrivalled and beloved island," it was his intention to visit
France and Italy, for the purpose of ascertaining what foreigners
had been able to accomplish, compared with ourselves, in the
construction of canals, bridges, and harbours.  "I have no doubt,"
said he, "as to their inferiority.  During the war just brought to
a close, England has not only been able to guard her own head and
to carry on a gigantic struggle, but at the same time to construct
canals, roads, harbours, bridges--magnificent works of peace--the
like of which are probably not to be found in the world.  Are not
these things worthy of a nation's pride?"

Footnotes for Chapter X.

*[1] Mr. Matthew Davidson, above referred to, was an excellent
officer, but a strange cynical humourist in his way.  He was a
Lowlander, and had lived for some time in England, at the Pont
Cysylltau works, where he had acquired a taste for English comforts,
and returned to the North with a considerable contempt for the
Highland people amongst whom he was stationed.  He is said to
have very much resembled Dr. Johnson in person and was so fond
of books, and so well read in them, that he was called
'the Walking Library.' He used to say that if justice were done to
the inhabitants of Inverness, there would be nobody left there in
twenty years but the Provost and the hangman.  Seeing an artist one
day making a sketch in the mountains, he said it was the first time
he had known what the hills were good for.  And when some one was
complaining of the weather in the Highlands, he looked sarcastically
round, and observed that the rain certainly would not hurt the
heather crop.

*[2] The misfortunes of the Caledonian Canal did not end with the
life of Telford.  The first vessel passed through it from sea to
sea in October, 1822, by which time it had cost about a million
sterling, or double the original estimate.  Notwithstanding this
large outlay, it appears that the canal was opened before the works
had been properly completed; and the consequence was that they very
shortly fell into decay.  It even began to be considered whether
the canal ought not to be abandoned.  In 1838, Mr. James Walker,
C.E., an engineer of the highest eminence, examined it, and
reported fully on its then state, strongly recommending its
completion as well as its improvement.  His advice was eventually
adopted, and the canal was finished accordingly, at an additional
cost of about 200,000L., and the whole line was re-opened in 1847,
since which time it has continued in useful operation.  The passage
from sea to sea at all times can now be depended on, and it can
usually be made in forty-eight hours.  As the trade of the North
increases, the uses of the canal will probably become much more
decided than they have heretofore, proved.

*[3] 'Brindley and the Early Engineers,' p. 267.

*[4] 'Life of Telford,' p. 82, 83.



Mr. Telford's extensive practice as a bridge-builder led his friend
Southey to designate him "Pontifex Maximus."  Besides the numerous
bridges erected by him in the West of England, we have found him
furnishing designs for about twelve hundred in the Highlands, of
various dimensions, some of stone and others of iron.  His practice
in bridge-building had, therefore, been of an unusually extensive
character, and Southey's sobriquet was not ill applied.  But besides
being a great bridge-builder, Telford was also a great road-maker.
With the progress of industry and trade, the easy and rapid transit
of persons and goods had come to be regarded as an increasing
object of public interest.  Fast coaches now ran regularly between
all the principal towns of England; every effort being made,
by straightening and shortening the roads, cutting down hills,
and carrying embankments across valleys and viaducts over rivers,
to render travelling by the main routes as easy and expeditious as

Attention was especially turned to the improvement of the longer
routes, and to perfecting the connection of London with the chief
town's of Scotland and Ireland.  Telford was early called upon to
advise as to the repairs of the road between Carlisle and Glasgow,
which had been allowed to fall into a wretched state; as well as
the formation of a new line from Carlisle, across the counties of
Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, and Wigton, to Port Patrick, for the
purpose of ensuring a more rapid communication with Belfast and the
northern parts of Ireland.  Although Glasgow had become a place of
considerable wealth and importance, the roads to it, north of
Carlisle, continued in a very unsatisfactory state.  It was only in
July, 1788, that the first mail-coach from London had driven into
Glasgow by that route, when it was welcomed by a procession of the
citizens on horseback, who went out several miles to meet it.
But the road had been shockingly made, and before long had become
almost impassable.  Robert Owen states that, in 1795, it took him
two days and three nights' incessant travelling to get from
Manchester to Glasgow, and he mentions that the coach had to cross
a well-known dangerous mountain at midnight, called Erickstane
Brae, which was then always passed with fear and trembling.*[1]
As late as the year 1814 we find a Parliamentary Committee
declaring the road between Carlisle and Glasgow to be in so ruinous
a state as often seriously to delay the mail and endanger the lives
of travellers. The bridge over Evan Water was so much decayed, that
one day the coach and horses fell through it into the river, when
"one passenger was killed, the coachman survived only a few days,
and several other persons were dreadfully maimed; two of the horses
being also killed."*[2]  The remaining part of the bridge continued
for some time unrepaired, just space enough being left for a single
carriage to pass.  The road trustees seemed to be helpless, and did
nothing; a local subscription was tried and failed, the district
passed through being very poor; but as the road was absolutely
required for more than merely local purposes, it was eventually
determined to undertake its reconstruction as a work of national
importance, and 50,000L. was granted by Parliament with this
object, under the provisions of the Act passed in 1816.  The works
were placed under Mr. Telford's charge; and an admirable road was
very shortly under construction between Carlisle and Glasgow.
That part of it between Hamilton and Glasgow, eleven miles in length,
was however left in the hands of local trustees, as was the
diversion of thirteen miles at the boundary of the counties of
Lanark and Dumfries, for which a previous Act had been obtained.
The length of new line constructed by Mr. Telford was sixty-nine
miles, and it was probably the finest piece of road which up to
that time had been made.

His ordinary method of road-making in the Highlands was, first to
level and drain; then, like the Romans, to lay a solid pavement of
large stones, the round or broad end downwards, as close as they
could be set.  The points of the latter were then broken off, and a
layer of stones broken to about the size of walnuts, was laid upon
them, and over all a little gravel if at hand.  A road thus formed
soon became bound together, and for ordinary purposes was very

But where the traffic, as in the case of the Carlisle and Glasgow
road, was expected to be very heavy, Telford took much greater
pains.  Here he paid especial attention to two points: first, to lay
it out as nearly as possible upon a level, so as to reduce the
draught to horses dragging heavy vehicles,--one in thirty being
about the severest gradient at any part of the road.  The next point
was to make the working, or middle portion of the road, as firm and
substantial as possible, so as to bear, without shrinking, the
heaviest weight likely to be brought over it.  With this object he
specified that the metal bed was to be formed in two layers, rising
about four inches towards the centre the bottom course being of
stones (whinstone, limestone, or hard freestone), seven inches in
depth.  These were to be carefully set by hand, with the broadest
ends downwards, all crossbonded or jointed, no stone being more
than three inches wide on the top.  The spaces between them were
then to be filled up with smaller stones, packed by hand, so as to
bring the whole to an even and firm surface.  Over this a top course
was to be laid, seven inches in depth, consisting of properly
broken hard whinstones, none exceeding six ounces in weight, and
each to be able to pass through a circular ring, two inches and a
half in diameter; a binding of gravel, about an inch in thickness,
being placed over all.  A drain crossed under the bed of the bottom
layer to the outside ditch in every hundred yards.  The result was
an admirably easy, firm, and dry road, capable of being travelled
upon in all weathers, and standing in comparatively small need of

A similar practice was introduced in England about the same time by
Mr. Macadam; and, though his method was not so thorough as that of
Telford, it was usefully employed on most of the high roads
throughout the kingdom.  Mr. Macadam's notice was first called to
the subject while acting as one of the trustees of a road in
Ayrshire.  Afterwards, while employed as Government agent for
victualling the navy in the western parts of England, he continued
the study of road-making, keeping in view the essential conditions
of a compact and durable substance and a smooth surface.  At that
time the attention of the Legislature was not so much directed to
the proper making and mending of the roads, as to suiting the
vehicles to them such as they were; and they legislated backwards
and forwards for nearly half a century as to the breadth of wheels.
Macadam was, on the other hand, of opinion that the main point was
to attend to the nature of the roads on which the vehicles were to
travel.  Most roads were then made with gravel, or flints tumbled
upon them in their natural state, and so rounded that they had no
points of contact, and rarely became consolidated.  When a heavy
vehicle of any sort passed over them, their loose structure
presented no resistance; the material was thus completely
disturbed, and they often became almost impassable.  Macadam's
practice was this: to break the stones into angular fragments, so
that a bed several inches in depth should be formed, the material
best adapted for the purpose being fragments of granite,
greenstone, or basalt; to watch the repairs of the road carefully
during the process of consolidation, filling up the inequalities
caused by the traffic passing over it, until a hard and level
surface had been obtained.  Thus made, the road would last for
years without further attention.  in 1815 Mr. Macadam devoted
himself with great enthusiasm to road-making as a profession, and
being appointed surveyor-general of the Bristol roads, he had full
opportunities of exemplifying his system.  It proved so successful
that the example set by him was quickly followed over the entire
kingdom.  Even the streets of many large towns were Macadamised.
In carrying out his improvements, however, Mr. Macadam spent several
thousand pounds of his own money, and in 1825, having proved this
expenditure before a Committee of the House of Commons, the amount
was reimbursed to him, together with an honorary tribute of two
thousand pounds.  Mr. Macadam died poor, but, as he himself said,
"a least an honest man."  By his indefatigable exertions and his
success as a road-maker, by greatly saving animal labour,
facilitating commercial intercourse, and rendering travelling easy
and expeditious, he entitled himself to the reputation of a public

[Image] J. L. Macadam.

Owing to the mountainous nature of the country through which
Telford's Carlisle and Glasgow road passes, the bridges are
unusually numerous and of large dimensions.  Thus, the Fiddler's
Burn Bridge is of three arches, one of 150 and two of 105 feet span
each.  There are fourteen other bridges, presenting from one to
three arches, of from 20 to 90 feet span.  But the most picturesque
and remarkable bridge constructed by Telford in that district was
upon another line of road subsequently carried out by him, in the
upper part of the county of Lanark, and crossing the main line of
the Carlisle and Glasgow road almost at right angles.  Its northern
and eastern part formed a direct line of communication between the
great cattle markets of Falkirk, Crief, and Doune, and Carlisle and
the West of England.  It was carried over deep ravines by several
lofty bridges, the most formidable of which was that across the
Mouse Water at Cartland Crags, about a mile to the west of Lanark.
The stream here flows through a deep rocky chasm, the sides of
which are in some places about four hundred feet high.  At a point
where the height of the rocks is considerably less, but still most
formidable, Telford spanned the ravine with the beautiful bridge
represented in the engraving facing this page, its parapet being
129 feet above the surface of the water beneath.

[Image] Cartland Crags Bridge.

The reconstruction of the western road from Carlisle to Glasgow,
which Telford had thus satisfactorily carried out, shortly led to
similar demands from the population on the eastern side of the
kingdom.  The spirit of road reform was now fairly on foot.
Fast coaches and wheel-carriages of all kinds had become greatly
improved, so that the usual rate of travelling had advanced from
five or six to nine or ten miles an hour.  The desire for the rapid
communication of political and commercial intelligence was found to
increase with the facilities for supplying it; and, urged by the
public wants, the Post-Office authorities were stimulated to
unusual efforts in this direction.  Numerous surveys were made and
roads laid out, so as to improve the main line of communication
between London and Edinburgh and the intermediate towns.  The first
part of this road taken in hand was the worst--that lying to the
north of Catterick Bridge, in Yorkshire.  A new line was surveyed by
West Auckland to Hexham, passing over Garter Fell to Jedburgh, and
thence to Edinburgh; but was rejected as too crooked and uneven.
Another was tried by Aldstone Moor and Bewcastle, and rejected for
the same reason.  The third line proposed was eventually adopted as
the best, passing from Morpeth, by Wooler and Coldstream,
to Edinburgh; saving rather more than fourteen miles between the
two points, and securing a line of road of much more favourable

The principal bridge on this new highway was at Pathhead, over the
Tyne, about eleven miles south of Edinburgh.  To maintain the
level, so as to avoid the winding of the road down a steep descent
on one side of the valley and up an equally steep ascent on the
other, Telford ran out a lofty embankment from both sides,
connecting their ends by means of a spacious bridge.  The structure
at Pathhead is of five arches, each 50 feet span, with 25 feet rise
from their springing, 49 feet above the bed of the river.  Bridges
of a similar character were also thrown over the deep ravines of
Cranston Dean and Cotty Burn, in the same neighbourhood.  At the
same time a useful bridge was built on the same line of road at
Morpeth, in Northumberland, over the river Wansbeck.  It consisted
of three arches, of which the centre one was 50 feet span, and two
side-arches 40 feet each; the breadth between the parapets being 30

The advantages derived from the construction of these new roads
were found to be so great, that it was proposed to do the like for
the remainder of the line between London and Edinburgh; and at the
instance of the Post-Office authorities, with the sanction of the
Treasury, Mr. Telford proceeded to make detailed surveys of an
entire new post-road between London and Morpeth.  In laying it out,
the main points which he endeavoured to secure were directness and
flatness; and 100 miles of the proposed new Great North Road, south
of York, were laid out in a perfectly straight line.  This survey,
which was begun in 1824, extended over several years; and all the
requisite arrangements had been made for beginning the works, when
the result of the locomotive competition at Rainhill, in 1829, had
the effect of directing attention to that new method of travelling,
fortunately in time to prevent what would have proved, for the most
part, an unnecessary expenditure, on works soon to be superseded by
a totally different order of things.

The most important road-improvements actually carried out under
Mr. Telford's immediate superintendence were those on the western
side of the island, with the object of shortening the distance and
facilitating the communication between London and Dublin by way of
Holyhead, as well as between London and Liverpool.  At the time of
the Union, the mode of transit between the capital of Ireland and
the metropolis of the United Kingdom was tedious, difficult, and
full of peril.  In crossing the Irish Sea to Liverpool, the packets
were frequently tossed about for days together.  On the Irish side,
there was scarcely the pretence of a port, the landing-place being
within the bar of the river Liffey, inconvenient at all times, and
in rough weather extremely dangerous.  To avoid the long voyage to
Liverpool, the passage began to be made from Dublin to Holyhead,
the nearest point of the Welsh coast.  Arrived there, the
passengers were landed upon rugged, unprotected rocks, without a
pier or landing convenience of any kind.*[3]  But the traveller's
perils were not at an end,--comparatively speaking they had only
begun.  From Holyhead, across the island of Anglesea, there was no
made road, but only a miserable track, circuitous and craggy,
full of terrible jolts, round bogs and over rocks, for a distance of
twenty-four miles.  Having reached the Menai Strait, the passengers
had again to take to an open ferry-boat before they could gain the
mainland.  The tide ran with great rapidity through the Strait,
and, when the wind blew strong, the boat was liable to be driven
far up or down the channel, and was sometimes swamped altogether.
The perils of the Welsh roads had next to be encountered, and these
were in as bad a condition at the beginning of the present century
as those of the Highlands above described.  Through North Wales
they were rough, narrow, steep, and unprotected, mostly unfenced,
and in winter almost impassable.  The whole traffic on the road
between Shrewsbury and Bangor was conveyed by a small cart, which
passed between the two places once a week in summer.  As an
illustration of the state of the roads in South Wales, which were
quite as bad as those in the North, we may state that, in 1803,
when the late Lord Sudeley took home his bride from the
neighbourhood of Welshpool to his residence only thirteen miles
distant, the carriage in which the newly married pair rode stuck in
a quagmire, and the occupants, having extricated themselves from
their perilous situation, performed the rest of their journey on

The first step taken was to improve the landing-places on both the
Irish and Welsh sides of St. George's Channel, and for this purpose
Mr. Rennie was employed in 1801.  The result was, that Howth on the
one coast, and Holyhead on the other, were fixed upon as the most
eligible sites for packet stations.  Improvements, however,
proceeded slowly, and it was not until 1810 that a sum of 10,000L.
was granted by Parliament to enable the necessary works to be
begun.  Attention was then turned to the state of the roads,
and here Mr. Telford's services were called into requisition.
As early as 1808 it had been determined by the Post-Office authorities
to put on a mail-coach between Shrewsbury and Holyhead; but it was
pointed out that the roads in North Wales were so rough and
dangerous that it was doubtful whether the service could be
conducted with safety.  Attempts were made to enforce the law with
reference to their repair, and no less than twenty-one townships
were indicted by the Postmaster-General.  The route was found too
perilous even for a riding post, the legs of three horses having
been broken in one week.*[4]  The road across Anglesea was quite as
bad.  Sir Henry Parnell mentioned, in 1819, that the coach had been
overturned beyond Gwynder, going down one of the hills, when a
friend of his was thrown a considerable distance from the roof into
a pool of water.  Near the post-office of Gwynder, the coachman had
been thrown from his seat by a violent jolt, and broken his leg.
The post-coach, and also the mail, had been overturned at the
bottom of Penmyndd Hill; and the route was so dangerous that the
London coachmen, who had been brought down to "work" the country,
refused to continue the duty because of its excessive dangers.
Of course, anything like a regular mail-service through such a
district was altogether impracticable.

The indictments of the townships proved of no use; the localities
were too poor to provide the means required to construct a line of
road sufficient for the conveyance of mails and passengers between
England and Ireland.  The work was really a national one, to be
carried out at the national cost.  How was this best to be done?
Telford recommended that the old road between Shrewsbury and
Holyhead (109 miles long) should be shortened by about four miles,
and made as nearly as possible on a level; the new line proceeding
from Shrewsbury by Llangollen, Corwen, Bettws-y-Coed, Capel-Curig,
and Bangor, to Holyhead.  Mr. Telford also proposed to cross the
Menai Strait by means of a cast iron bridge, hereafter to be

Although a complete survey was made in 1811, nothing was done for
several years.  The mail-coaches continued to be overturned, and
stage-coaches, in the tourist season, to break down as before.*[5]
The Irish mail-coach took forty one hours to reach Holyhead from
the time of its setting out from St. Martin's-le-Grand; the journey
was performed at the rate of only 6 3/4 miles an hour, the mail
arriving in Dublin on the third day.  The Irish members made many
complaints of the delay and dangers to which they were exposed in
travelling up to town.  But, although there was much discussion, no
money was voted until the year 1815, when Sir Henry Parnell
vigorously took the question in hand and successfully carried it
through.  A Board of Parliamentary Commissioners was appointed, of
which he was chairman, and, under their direction, the new
Shrewsbury and Holyhead road was at length commenced and carried to
completion, the works extending over a period of about fifteen years.
The same Commissioners excrcised an authority over the roads
between London and Shrewsbury; and numerous improvements were also
made in the main line at various points, with the object of
facilitating communication between London and Liverpool as well as
between London and Dublin.

The rugged nature of the country through which the new road passed,
along the slopes of rocky precipices and across inlets of the sea,
rendered it necessary to build many bridges, to form many
embankments, and cut away long stretches of rock, in order to
secure an easy and commodious route.  The line of the valley of the
Dee, to the west of Llangollen, was selected, the road proceeding
along the scarped sides of the mountains, crossing from point to
point by lofty embankments where necessary; and, taking into
account the character of the country, it must be acknowledged that
a wonderfully level road was secured.  While the gradients on the
old road had in some cases been as steep as 1 in 6 1/2, passing
along the edge of unprotected precipices, the new one was so laid
out as to be no more than 1 in 20 at any part, while it was wide
and well protected along its whole extent.  Mr. Telford pursued the
same system that he had adopted in the formation of the Carlisle
and Glasgow road, as regards metalling, cross-draining, and
fence-walling; for the latter purpose using schistus, or slate
rubble-work, instead of sandstone.  The largest bridges were of
iron; that at Bettws-y-Coed, over the Conway--called the Waterloo
Bridge, constructed in 1815--being a very fine specimen of
Telford's iron bridge-work.

Those parts of the road which had been the most dangerous were
taken in hand first, and, by the year 1819, the route had been
rendered comparatively commodious and safe.  Angles were cut off,
the sides of hills were blasted away, and several heavy embankments
run out across formidable arms of the sea.  Thus, at Stanley Sands,
near Holyhead, an embankment was formed 1300 yards long and 16 feet
high, with a width of 34 feet at the top, along which the road was
laid.  Its breadth at the base was 114 feet, and both sides were
coated with rubble stones, as a protection against storms.  By the
adoption of this expedient, a mile and a half was saved in a
distance of six miles.  Heavy embankments were also run out, where
bridges were thrown across chasms and ravines, to maintain the
general level.  From Ty-Gwynn to Lake Ogwen, the road along the face
of the rugged hill and across the river Ogwen was entirely new
made, of a uniform width of 28 feet between the parapets, with an
inclination of only 1 in 22 in the steepest place.  A bridge was
thrown over the deep chasm forming the channel of the Ogwen, the
embankment being carried forward from the rook cutting, protected
by high breastworks.  From Capel-Curig to near the great waterfall
over the river Lugwy, about a mile of new road was cut; and a still
greater length from Bettws across the river Conway and along the
face of Dinas Hill to Rhyddlanfair, a distance of 3 miles; its
steepest descent being 1 in 22, diminishing to 1 in 45.  By this
improvement, the most difficult and dangerous pass along the route
through North Wales was rendered safe and commodious.

[Image] Road Descent near Betws-y-Coed.

Another point of almost equal difficulty occurred near Ty-Nant,
through the rocky pass of Glynn Duffrws, where the road was
confined between steep rocks and rugged precipices: there the way
was widened and flattened by blasting, and thus reduced to the
general level; and so on eastward to Llangollen and Chirk, where
the main Shrewsbury road to London was joined.*[6]

[Image] Road above Nant Frrancon, North Wales.

By means of these admirable roads the traffic of North Wales
continues to be mainly carried on to this day.  Although railways
have superseded coach-roads in the more level districts, the hilly
nature of Wales precludes their formation in that quarter to any
considerable extent; and even in the event of railways being
constructed, a large part of the traffic of every country must
necessarily continue to pass over the old high roads.  Without them
even railways would be of comparatively little value; for a railway
station is of use chiefly because of its easy accessibility, and
thus, both for passengers and merchandise, the common roads of the
country are as useful as ever they were, though the main post-roads
have in a great measure ceased to be employed for the purposes for
which they were originally designed.

The excellence of the roads constructed by Mr. Telford through the
formerly inaccessible counties of North Wales was the theme of
general praise; and their superiority, compared with those of the
richer and more level districts in the midland and western English
counties, becoming the subject of public comment, he was called
upon to execute like improvements upon that part of the post-road
which extended between Shrewsbury and the metropolis.  A careful
survey was made of the several routes from London northward by
Shrewsbury as far as Liverpool; and the short line by Coventry,
being 153 miles from London to Shrewsbury, was selected as the one
to be improved to the utmost.

Down to 1819, the road between London and Coventry was in a very
bad state, being so laid as to become a heavy slough in wet
weather.  There were many steep hills which required to be cut down,
in some parts of deep clay, in others of deep sand.  A mail-coach
had been tried to Banbury; but the road below Aylesbury was so bad,
that the Post-office authorities were obliged to give it up.  The
twelve miles from Towcester to Daventry were still worse.  The line
of way was covered with banks of dirt; in winter it was a puddle of
from four to six inches deep--quite as bad as it had been in Arthur
Young's time; and when horses passed along the road, they came out
of it a mass of mud and mire.*[7]  There were also several steep and
dangerous hills to be crossed; and the loss of horses by fatigue in
travelling by that route at the time was very great.

Even the roads in the immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis
were little better, those under the Highgate and Hampstead trust
being pronounced in a wretched state.  They were badly formed,
on a clay bottom, and being undrained, were almost always wet and
sloppy.  The gravel was usually tumbled on and spread unbroken,
so that the materials, instead of becoming consolidated, were only
rolled about by the wheels of the carriages passing over them.

Mr. Telford applied the same methods in the reconstruction of these
roads that he had already adopted in Scotland and Wales, and the
same improvement was shortly felt in the more easy passage over
them of vehicles of all sorts, and in the great acceleration of the
mail service.  At the same time, the line along the coast from
Bangor, by Conway, Abergele, St. Asaph, and Holywell, to Chester,
was greatly improved.  As forming the mail road from Dublin to
Liverpool, it was considered of importance to render it as safe
and level as possible.  The principal new cuts on this line were
those along the rugged skirts of the huge Penmaen-Mawr; around the
base of Penmaen-Bach to the town of Conway; and between St. Asaph
and Holywell, to ease the ascent of Rhyall Hill.

But more important than all, as a means of completing the main line
of communication between England and Ireland, there were the great
bridges over the Conway and the Menai Straits to be constructed.
The dangerous ferries at those places had still to be crossed in
open boats, sometimes in the night, when the luggage and mails were
exposed to great risks.  Sometimes, indeed, they were wholly lost
and passengers were lost with them.  It was therefore determined,
after long consideration, to erect bridges over these formidable
straits, and Mr. Telford was employed to execute the works,--in
what manner, we propose to describe in the next chapter.

Footnotes for Chapter XI.

*[1] 'Life of Robert Owen,' by himself.

*[2] 'Report from the Select Committee on the Carlisle and Glasgow
Road,' 28th June, 1815.

*[3 A diary is preserved of a journey to Dublin from Grosvenor
Square London, l2th June, 1787, in a coach and four, accompanied by
a post-chaise and pair, and five outriders.  The party reached
Holyhead in four days, at a cost of 75L. 11s. 3d. The state of
intercourse between this country and the sister island at this part
of the account is strikingly set forth in the following entries:--
"Ferry at Bangor, 1L. 10s.; expenses of the yacht hired to carry
the party across the channel, 28L. 7s. 9d.; duty on the coach, 7L.
13s. 4d.; boats on shore, 1L. 1s.; total, 114L. 3s. 4d."
--Roberts's 'Social History of the Southern Counties,' p. 504.

*[4] 'Second Report from Committee on Holyhead Roads and Harbours,'
1810.  (Parliamentary paper.)

*[5] "Many parts of the road are extremely dangerous for a coach to
travel upon.  At several places between Bangor and Capel-Curig there
are a number of dangerous precipices without fences, exclusive of
various hills that want taking down.  At Ogwen Pool there is a very
dangerous place where the water runs over the road, extremely
difficult to pass at flooded times.  Then there is Dinas Hill, that
needs a side fence against a deep precipice.  The width of the road
is not above twelve feet in the steepest part of the hill, and two
carriages cannot pass without the greatest danger.  Between this
hill and Rhyddlanfair there are a number of dangerous precipices,
steep hills, and difficult narrow turnings.  From Corwen to
Llangollen the road is very narrow, long, and steep; has no side
fence, except about a foot and a half of mould or dirt, which is
thrown up to prevent carriages falling down three or four hundred
feet into the river Dee.  Stage-coaches have been frequently
overturned and broken down from the badness of the road, and the
mails have been overturned; but I wonder that more and worse
accidents have not happened, the roads are so bad."--Evidence of
Mr. William Akers, of the Post-office, before Committee of the
House of Commons, 1st June, 1815.

*[6] The Select Committee of the House of Commons, in reporting as
to the manner in which these works were carried out, stated as
follows:-- "The professional execution of the new works upon this
road greatly surpasses anything of the same kind in these
countries.  The science which has been displayed in giving the
general line of the road a proper inclination through a country
whose whole surface consists of a succession of rocks, bogs,
ravines, rivers, and precipices, reflects the greatest credit upon
the engineer who has planned them; but perhaps a still greater
degree of professional skill has been shown in the construction, or
rather the building, of the road itself.  The great attention which
Mr. Telford has devoted, to give to the surface of the road one
uniform and moderately convex shape, free from the smallest
inequality throughout its whole breadth; the numerous land drains,
and, when necessary, shores and tunnels of substantial masonry,
with which all the water arising from springs or falling in rain is
instantly carried off; the great care with which a sufficient
foundation is established for the road, and the quality, solidity,
and disposition of the materials that are put upon it, are matters
quite new in the system of road-making in these countries."--
'Report from the Select Committee on the Road from London to
Holyhead in the year 1819.'

*[7] Evidence of William Waterhouse before the Select Committee,
10th March, 1819.



[Image] Map of Menai Strait [Ordnance Survey]

So long as the dangerous Straits of Menai had to be crossed in an
open ferry-boat, the communication between London and Holyhead was
necessarily considered incomplete.  While the roads through North
Wales were so dangerous as to deter travellers between England and
Ireland from using that route, the completion of the remaining link
of communication across the Straits was of comparatively little
importance.  But when those roads had, by the application of much
capital, skill, and labour, been rendered so safe and convenient
that the mail and stage coaches could run over them at the rate of
from eight to ten miles an hour, the bridging of the Straits became
a measure of urgent public necessity.  The increased traffic by this
route so much increased the quantity of passengers and luggage,
that the open boats were often dangerously overloaded; and serious
accidents, attended with loss of life and property, came to be of
frequent occurrence.

The erection of a bridge over the Straits had long been matter of
speculation amongst engineers.  As early as 1776, Mr. Golborne
proposed his plan of an embankment with a bridge in the middle of it;
and a few years later, in 1785, Mr. Nichols proposed a wooden
viaduct, furnished with drawbridges at Cadnant Island.  Later still,
Mr. Rennie proposed his design of a cast iron bridge.  But none of
these plans were carried out, and the whole subject remained in
abeyance until the year 1810, when a commission was appointed to
inquire and report as to the state of the roads between Shrewsbury,
Chester, and Holyhead.  The result was, that Mr. Telford was called
upon to report as to the most effectual method of bridging the
Menai Strait, and thus completing the communication with the port
of embarkation for Ireland.

[Image] Telford's proposed Cast Iron Bridge

Mr. Telford submitted alternative plans for a bridge over the
Strait: one at the Swilly Rock, consisting of three cast iron
arches of 260 feet span, with a stone arch of 100 feet span between
each two iron ones, to resist their lateral thrust; and another at
Ynys-y-moch, to which he himself attached the preference,
consisting of a single cast iron arch of 500 feet span, the crown
of the arch to be 100 feet above high water of spring tides, and
the breadth of the roadway to be 40 feet.

The principal objection taken to this plan by engineers generally,
was the supposed difficulty of erecting a proper centering to
support the arch during construction; and the mode by which
Mr. Telford proposed to overcome this may be cited in illustration
of his ready ingenuity in overcoming difficulties.  He proposed to
suspend the centering from above instead of supporting it from
below in the usual manner--a contrivance afterwards revived by
another very skilful engineer, the late Mr. Brunel.  Frames, 50 feet
high, were to be erected on the top of the abutments, and on these,
strong blocks, or rollers and chains, were to be fixed, by means of
which, and by the aid of windlasses and other mechanical powers,
each separate piece of centering was to be raised into, and
suspended in, its proper place.  Mr. Telford regarded this method of
constructing centres as applicable to stone as well as to iron
arches; and indeed it is applicable, as Mr. Brunel held, to the
building of the arch itself.*[1]

[Image] Proposed Plan of Suspended Centering

Mr. Telford anticipated that, if the method recommended by him were
successfully adopted on the large scale proposed at Menai, all
difficulties with regard to carrying bridges over deep ravines
would be done away with, and a new era in bridge-building begun.
For this and other reasons--but chiefly because of the much greater
durability of a cast iron bridge compared with the suspension
bridge afterwards adopted--it is matter of regret that he was not
permitted to carry out this novel and grand design.  It was,
however, again objected by mariners that the bridge would seriously
affect, if not destroy, the navigation of the Strait; and this
plan, like Mr. Rennie's, was eventually rejected.

Several years passed, and during the interval Mr. Telford was
consulted as to the construction of a bridge over Runcorn Gap on
the Mersey, above Liverpool.  As the river was there about 1200 feet
wide, and much used for purposes of navigation, a bridge of the
ordinary construction was found inapplicable.  But as he was
required to furnish a plan of the most suitable structure, he
proceeded to consider how the difficulties of the case were to be met.
The only practicable plan, he thought, was a bridge constructed on
the principle of suspension.  Expedients of this kind had long been
employed in India and America, where wide rivers were crossed by
means of bridges formed of ropes and chains; and even in this
country a suspension bridge, though of a very rude kind, had long
been in use near Middleton on the Tees, where, by means of two
common chains stretched across the river, upon which a footway of
boards was laid, the colliers were enabled to pass from their
cottages to the colliery on the opposite bank.

Captain (afterwards Sir Samuel) Brown took out a patent for forming
suspension bridges in 1817; but it appears that Telford's attention
had been directed to the subject before this time, as he was first
consulted respecting the Runcorn Bridge in the year 1814, when he
proceeded to make an elaborate series of experiments on the
tenacity of wrought iron bars, with the object of employing this
material in his proposed structure.  After he had made upwards of
two hundred tests of malleable iron of various qualities, he
proceeded to prepare his design of a bridge, which consisted of a
central opening of 1000 feet span, and two side openings of 500
feet each, supported by pyramids of masonry placed near the
low-water lines.  The roadway was to be 30 feet wide, divided into
one central footway and two distinct carriageways of 12 feet each.
At the same time he prepared and submitted a model of the central
opening, which satisfactorily stood the various strains which were
applied to it.  This Runcorn design of 1814 was of a very
magnificent character, perhaps superior even to that of the Menai
Suspension Bridge, afterwards erected; but unhappily the means were
not forthcoming to carry it into effect.  The publication of his
plan and report had, however, the effect of directing public
attention to the construction of bridges on the suspension
principle; and many were shortly after designed and erected by
Telford and other engineers in different parts of the kingdom.

Mr. Telford continued to be consulted by the Commissioners of the
Holyhead Roads as to the completion of the last and most important
link in the line of communication between London and Holyhead,
by bridging the Straits of Menai; and at one of their meetings in
1815, shortly after the publication of his Runcorn design, the
inquiry was made whether a bridge upon the same principle was not
applicable in this particular case.  The engineer was instructed
again to examine the Straits and submit a suitable plan and
estimate, which he proceeded to do in the early part of 1818.
The site selected by him as the most favourable was that which had
been previously fixed upon for the projected cast iron bridge,
namely at Ynys-y-moch--the shores there being bold and rocky,
affording easy access and excellent foundations, while by spanning
the entire channel between the low-water lines, and the roadway
being kept uniformly 100 feet above the highest water at spring tide,
the whole of the navigable waterway would be left entirely
uninterrupted.  The distance between the centres of the supporting
pyramids was proposed to be of the then unprecedented width of 550
feet, and the height of the pyramids 53 feet above the level of the
roadway.  The main chains were to be sixteen in number, with a
deflection of 37 feet, each composed of thirty-six bars of
half-inch-square iron, so placed as to give a square of six on each
side, making the whole chain about four inches in diameter, welded
together for their whole length, secured by bucklings, and braced
round with iron wire; while the ends of these great chains were to
be secured by a mass of masonry built over stone arches between
each end of the supporting piers and the adjoining shore.  Four of
the arches were to be on the Anglesea, and three on the
Caernarvonshire side, each of them of 52 feet 6 inches span.
The roadway was to be divided, as in the Runcorn design with a
carriage way 12 feet wide on each side, and a footpath of 4 feet in
the middle.  Mr. Telford's plan was supported by Mr. Rennie and other
engineers of eminence; and the Select Committee of the House of Commons,
being satisfied as to its practicability, recommended Parliament to
pass a Bill and to make a grant of money to enable the work to be
carried into effect.

[Image] Outline of Menai Bridge

The necessary Act passed in the session of 1819, and Mr. Telford
immediately proceeded to Bangor to make preparations for beginning
the works.  The first proceeding was to blast off the inequalities
of the surface of the rock called Ynys-y-moch, situated on the
western or Holyhead side of the Strait, at that time accessible
only at low water.  The object was to form an even surface upon it
for the foundation of the west main pier.  It used to be at this
point, where the Strait was narrowest, that horned cattle were
driven down, preparatory to swimming them across the channel to the
Caernarvon side, when the tide was weak and at its lowest ebb.  The
cattle were, nevertheless, often carried away, the current being
too strong for the animals to contend against it.

At the same time, a landing-quay was erected on Ynys-y-moch, which
was connected with the shore by an embankment carrying lines of
railway.  Along these, horses drew the sledges laden with stone
required for the work; the material being brought in barges from
the quarries opened at Penmon Point, on the north-eastern extremity
of the Isle of Anglesea, a little to the westward of the northern
opening of the Strait.  When the surface of the rock had been
levelled and the causeway completed, the first stone of the main
pier was laid by Mr. W.A. Provis, the resident engineer, on the
10th of August, 1819; but not the slightest ceremony was observed
on the occasion.

Later in the autumn, preparations were made for proceeding with the
foundations of the eastern main pier on the Bangor side of the
Strait.  After excavating the beach to a depth of 7 feet, a solid
mass of rock was reached, which served the purpose of an immoveable
foundation for the pier.  At the same, time workshops were erected;
builders, artisans, and labourers were brought together from
distant quarters; vessels and barges were purchased or built for
the special purpose of the work; a quay was constructed at Penmon
Point for loading the stones for the piers; and all the requisite
preliminary arrangements were made for proceeding with the building
operations in the ensuing spring.

A careful specification of the masonry work was drawn up, and the
contract was let to Messrs.  Stapleton and Hall; but as they did not
proceed satisfactorily, and desired to be released from the contract,
it was relet on the same terms to Mr. John Wilson, one of Mr. Telford's
principal contractors for mason work on the Caledonian Canal.
The building operations were begun with great vigour early in 1820.
The three arches on the Caernarvonshire side and the four on the
Anglesea side were first proceeded with.  They are of immense
magnitude, and occupied four years in construction, having been
finished late in the autumn of 1824.  These piers are 65 feet in
height from high-water line to the springing of the arches, the
span of each being 52 feet 6 inches.  The work of the main piers
also made satisfactory progress, and the masonry proceeded so
rapidly that stones could scarcely be got from the quarries in
sufficient quantity to keep the builders at work.  By the end of
June about three hundred men were employed.

The two principal piers, each 153 feet in height, upon which the
main chains of the bridge were to be suspended, were built with
great care and under rigorous inspection.  In these, as indeed in
most of the masonry of the bridge, Mr. Telford adopted the same
practice which he had employed in his previous bridge structures,
that of leaving large void spaces, commencing above high water mark
and continuing them up perpendicularly nearly to the level of the
roadway.  "I have elsewhere expressed my conviction," he says, when
referring to the mode of constructing these piers, "that one of the
most important improvements which I have been able to introduce
into masonry consists in the preference of cross-walls to rubble,
in the structure of a pier, or any other edifice requiring strength.
Every stone and joint in such walls is open to inspection in the
progress of the work, and even afterwards, if necessary; but a
solid filling of rubble conceals itself, and may be little better
than a heap of rubbish confined by side walls."  The walls of these
main piers were built from within as well as from without all the
way up, and the inside was as carefully and closely cemented with
mortar as the external face.  Thus the whole pier was bound firmly
together, and the utmost strength given, while the weight of the
superstructure upon the lower parts of the work was reduced to its

[Image] Section of Main Pier

Over the main piers, the small arches intended for the roadways
were constructed, each being 15 feet to the springing of the arch,
and 9 feet wide.  Upon these arches the masonry was carried
upwards, in a tapering form, to a height of 53 feet above the
level of the road.  As these piers were to carry the immense weight
of the suspension chains, great pains were taken with their
construction, and all the stones, from top to bottom, were firmly
bound together with iron dowels to prevent the possibility of their
being separated or bulged by the immense pressure they had to

The most important point in the execution of the details of the
bridge, where the engineer had no past experience to guide him, was
in the designing and fixing of the wrought iron work.  Mr. Telford
had continued his experiments as to the tenacity of bar iron, until
he had obtained several hundred distinct tests; and at length,
after the most mature delilberation, the patterns and dimensions
were finally arranged by him, and the contract for the manufacture
of the whole was let to Mr. Hazeldean, of Shrewsbury, in the year
1820.  The iron was to be of the best Shropshire, drawn at Upton
forge, and finished and proved at the works, under the inspection
of a person appointed by the engineer.

[Image] Cut showing fixing of the chains in the rock

The mode by which the land ends of these enormous suspension chains
were rooted to the solid ground on either side of the Strait, was
remarkably ingenious and effective.  Three oblique tunnels were made
by blasting the rock on the Anglesea side; they were each about six
feet in diameter, the excavations being carried down an inclined
plane to the depth of about twenty yards.  A considerable width of
rock lay between each tunnel, but at the bottom they were all
united by a connecting horizontal avenue or cavern, sufficiently
capacious to enable the workmen to fix the strong iron frames,
composed principally of thick flat cast iron plates, which were
engrafted deeply into the rock, and strongly bound together by the
iron work passing along the horizontal avenue; so that, if the iron
held, the chains could only yield by tearing up the whole mass of
solid rock under which they were thus firmly bound.

A similar method of anchoring the main chains was adopted on the
Caernarvonshire side.  A thick bank of earth had there to be cut
through, and a solid mass of masonry built in its place, the rock
being situated at a greater distance from the main pier; involving
a greater length of suspending chain, and a disproportion in the
catenary or chord line on that side of the bridge.  The excavation
and masonry thereby rendered necessary proved a work of vast
labour, and its execution occupied a considerable time; but by the
beginning of the year 1825 the suspension pyramids, the land piers
and arches, and the rock tunnels, had all been completed, and the
main chains were firmly secured in them; the work being
sufficiently advanced to enable the suspending of the chains to be
proceeded with.  This was by far the most difficult and anxious part
of the undertaking.

With the same careful forethought and provision for every
contingency which had distinguished the engineer's procedure in the
course of the work, he had made frequent experiments to ascertain
the actual power which would be required to raise the main chains
to their proper curvature.  A valley lay convenient for the purpose,
a little to the west of the bridge on the Anglesea side.
Fifty-seven of the intended vertical suspending rods, each nearly
ten feet long and an inch square, having been fastened together, a
piece of chain was attached to one end to make the chord line 570
feet in length; and experiments having been made and comparisons
drawn, Mr. Telford ascertained that the absolute weight of one of
the main chains of the bridge between the points of suspension was
23 1/2 tons, requiring a strain of 39 1/2 tons to raise it to its
proper curvature.  On this calculation the necessary apparatus
required for the hoisting was prepared.  The mode of action finally
determined on for lifting the main chains, and fixing them into
their places, was to build the central portion of each upon a raft
450 feet long and 6 feet wide, then to float it to the site of the
bridge, and lift it into its place by capstans and proper tackle.

At length all was ready for hoisting the first great chain, and
about the middle of April, 1825, Mr. Telford left London for Bangor
to superintend the operations.  An immense assemblage collected to
witness the sight; greater in number than any that had been
collected in the same place since the men of Anglesea, in their
war-paint, rushing down to the beach, had shrieked defiance across
the Straits at their Roman invaders on the Caernarvon shore.
Numerous boats arrayed in gay colours glided along the waters; the
day--the 26th of April--being bright, calm, and in every way

At half-past two, about an hour before high water, the raft bearing
the main chain was cast off from near Treborth Mill, on the
Caernarvon side.  Towed by four boats, it began gradually to move
from the shore, and with the assistance of the tide, which caught
it at its further end, it swung slowly and majestically round to
its position between the main piers, where it was moored.  One end
of the chain was then bolted to that which hung down the face of
the Caernarvon pier; whilst the other was attached to ropes
connected with strong capstans fixed on the Anglesea side, the
ropes passing by means of blocks over the top of the pyramid of the
Anglesea pier.  The capstans for hauling in the ropes bearing the
main chain, were two in number, manned by about 150 labourers.  When
all was ready, the signal was given to "Go along!"  A Band of fifers
struck up a lively tune; the capstans were instantly in motion, and
the men stepped round in a steady trot.  All went well.  The ropes
gradually coiled in.  As the strain increased, the pace slackened a
little; but "Heave away, now she comes!" was sung out.  Round went
the men, and steadily and safely rose the ponderous chain.

[Image] Cut of Bridge, showing state of Suspension Chain

The tide had by this time turned, and bearing upon the side of the
raft, now getting freer of its load, the current floated it away
from under the middle of the chain still resting on it, and it
swung easily off into the water.  Until this moment a breath less
silence pervaded the watching multitude; and nothing was heard
among the working party on the Anglesea side but the steady tramp
of the men at the capstans, the shrill music of the fife, and the
occasional order to "Hold on!" or "Go along!"  But no sooner was the
raft seen floating away, and the great chain safely swinging in the
air, than a tremendous cheer burst forth along both sides of the

The rest of the work was only a matter of time.  The most anxious
moment had passed.  In an hour and thirty-five minutes after the
commencement of the hoisting, the chain was raised to its proper
curvature, and fastened to the land portion of it which had been
previously placed over the top of the Anglesea pyramid.  Mr. Telford
ascended to the point of fastening, and satisfied himself that a
continuous and safe connection had been formed from the Caernarvon
fastening on the rock to that on Anglesea.  The announcement of the
fact was followed by loud and prolonged cheering from the workmen,
echoed by the spectators, and extending along the Straits on both
sides, until it seemed to die away along the shores in the distance.
Three foolhardy workmen, excited by the day's proceedings, had the
temerity to scramble along the upper surface of the chain--which
was only nine inches wide and formed a curvature of 590 feet--from
one side of the Strait to the other!*[2]  Far different were the
feelings of the engineer who had planned this magnificent work.
Its failure had been predicted; and, like Brindley's Barton Viaduct,
it had been freely spoken of as a "castle in the air."  Telford had,
it is true, most carefully tested every part by repeated experiment,
and so conclusively proved the sufficiency of the iron chains to
bear the immense weight they would have to support, that he was
thoroughly convinced as to the soundness of his principles of
construction, and satisfied that, if rightly manufactured and
properly put together, the chains would hold, and that the piers
would sustain them.  Still there was necessarily an element of
uncertainty in the undertaking.  It was the largest structure of
the kind that had ever been attempted.  There was the contingency
of a flaw in the iron; some possible scamping in the manufacture;
some little point which, in the multiplicity of details to be
attended to, he might have overlooked, or which his subordinates
might have neglected.  It was, indeed, impossible but that he
should feel intensely anxious as to the result of the day's
operations.  Mr. Telford afterwards stated to a friend, only a few
months before his death, that for some time previous to the opening
of the bridge, his anxiety was so great that he could scarcely
sleep; and that a continuance of that condition must have very soon
completely undermined his health.  We are not, therefore, surprised
to learn that when his friends rushed to congratulate him on the
result of the first day's experiment, which decisively proved the
strength and solidity of the bridge, they should have found the
engineer on his knees engaged in prayer.  A vast load had been
taken off his mind; the perilous enterprise of the day had been
accomplished without loss of life; and his spontaneous act was
thankfulness and gratitude.

[Image] Menai Bridge

The suspension of the remaining fifteen chains was accomplished
without difficulty.  The last was raised and fixed on the 9th of
July, 1825, when the entire line was completed.  On fixing the final
bolt, a band of music descended from the top of the suspension pier
on the Anglesea side to a scaffolding erected over the centre of
the curved part of the chains, and played the National Anthem
amidst the cheering of many thousand persons assembled along the
shores of the Strait: while the workmen marched in procession along
the bridge, on which a temporary platform had been laid, and the
St. David steam-packet of Chester passed under the chains towards
the Smithy Rocks and back again, thus re-opening the navigation of
the Strait.

In August the road platform was commenced, and in September the
trussed bearing bars were all suspended.  The road was constructed
of timber in a substantial manner, the planking being spiked
together, with layers of patent felt between the planks, and the
carriage way being protected by oak guards placed seven feet and a
half apart.  Side railings were added; the toll-houses and
approach-roads were completed by the end of the year; and the
bridge was opened for public traffic on Monday, the 30th of January,
1826, when the London and Holyhead mailcoach passed over it for the
first time, followed by the Commissioners of the Holyhead roads,
the engineer, several stage-coaches, and a multitude of private
persons too numerous to mention.

We may briefly add a few facts as to the quantities of materials
used, and the dimensions of this remarkable structure.  The total
weight of iron was 2187 tons, in 33,265 pieces.  The total length of
the bridge is 1710 feet, or nearly a third of a mile; the distance
between the points of suspension of the main bridge being 579 feet.
The total sum expended by Government in its erection, including the
embankment and about half a mile of new line of road on the
Caernarvon side, together with the toll-houses, was 120,000L.

Notwithstanding the wonders of the Britannia Bridge subsequently
erected by Robert Stephenson for the passage across the same strait
of the Chester and Holyhead Railway, the Menai Bridge of Telford is
by far the most picturesque object.  "Seen as I approached it," says
Mr. Roscoe, "in the clear light of an autumnal sunset, which threw
an autumnal splendour on the wide range of hills beyond, and the
sweep of richly variegated groves and plantations which covered
their base--the bright sun, the rocky picturesque foreground,
villas, spires, and towers here and there enlivening the prospect--
the Menai Bridge appeared more like the work of some great magician
than the mere result of man's skill and industry."

[Image] Conway Suspension Bridge

Shortly after the Menai Bridge was begun, it was determined by the
Commissioners of the Holyhead road that a bridge of similar design
should be built over the estuary of the Conway, immediately
opposite the old castle at that place, and which had formerly been
crossed by an open ferry boat.  The first stone was laid on the
3rd of April, 1822, and the works having proceeded satisfactorily,
the bridge and embankment approaching it were completed by the summer
of 1826.  But the operations being of the same kind as those
connected with the larger structure above described, though of a
much less difficult character, it is unnecessary to enter into any
details as to the several stages of its construction.  In this
bridge the width between the centres of the supporting towers is
327 feet, and the height of the under side of the roadway above
high water of spring tides only 15 feet.  The heaviest work was an
embankment as its eastern approach, 2015 feet in length and about
300 feet in width at its highest part.

It will be seen, from the view of the bridge given on the opposite
page, that it is a highly picturesque structure, and combines,
with the estuary which it crosses, and the ancient castle of Conway,
in forming a landscape that is rarely equalled.

Footnotes for Chapter XII.

*[1] In an article in the 'Edinburgh Review,' No. exli., from the
pen of Sir David Brewster, the writer observes:--"Mr. Telford's
principle of suspending and laying down from above the centering of
stone and iron bridges is, we think, a much more fertile one than
even he himself supposed.  With modifications, by no means
considerable, and certainly practicable, it appears to us that the
voussoirs or archstones might themselves be laid down from above,
and suspended by an appropriate mechanism till the keystone was
inserted.  If we suppose the centering in Mr. Telford's plan to be
of iron, this centering itself becomes an iron bridge, each rib of
which is composed of ten pieces of fifty feet each; and by
increasing the number of suspending chains, these separate pieces
or voussoirs having been previously joined together, either
temporarily or permanently, by cement or by clamps, might be laid
into their place, and kept there by a single chain till the road
was completed.  The voussoirs, when united, might be suspended from
a general chain across the archway, and a platform could be added
to facilitate the operations."  This is as nearly as possible the
plan afterwards revived by Mr. Brunel, and for the originality of
which, we believe, he has generally the credit, though it clearly
belongs to Telford.

*[2] A correspondent informs us of a still more foolhardy exploit
performed on the occasion.  He says, "Having been present, as a boy
from Bangor grammar school, on the 26th of April, when the first
chain was carried across, an incident occurred which made no small
impression on my mind at the time.  After the chain had reached its
position, a cobbler of the neighbourhood crawled to the centre of
the curve, and there finished a pair of shoes; when, having
completed his task, he returned in safety to the Caernarvon side!
I need not say that we schoolboys appreciated his feat of
foolhardiness far more than Telford's master work."



It will have been observed, from the preceding narrative, how much
had already been accomplished by skill and industry towards opening
up the material resources of the kingdom.  The stages of improvement
which we have recorded indeed exhibit a measure of the vital energy
which has from time to time existed in the nation.  In the earlier
periods of engineering history, the war of man was with nature.
The sea was held back by embankments.  The Thames, instead of being
allowed to overspread the wide marshes on either bank, was confined
within limited bounds, by which the navigable depth of its channel
was increased, at the same time that a wide extent of land was
rendered available for agriculture.

In those early days, the great object was to render the land more
habitable, comfortable, and productive.  Marshes were reclaimed, and
wastes subdued.  But so long as the country remained comparatively
closed against communication, and intercourse was restricted by the
want of bridges and roads, improvement was extremely slow.
For, while roads are the consequence of civilisation, they are also
among its most influential causes.  We have seen even the blind
Metcalf acting as an effective instrument of progress in the
northern counties by the formation of long lines of road.  Brindley
and the Duke of Bridgewater carried on the work in the same
districts, and conferred upon the north and north-west of England
the blessings of cheap and effective water communication.  Smeaton
followed and carried out similar undertakings in still remoter
places, joining the east and west coasts of Scotland by the Forth
and Clyde Canal, and building bridges in the far north.  Rennie made
harbours, built bridges, and hewed out docks for shipping, the
increase in which had kept pace with the growth of our home and
foreign trade.  He was followed by Telford, whose long and busy
life, as we have seen, was occupied in building bridges and making
roads in all directions, in districts of the country formerly
inaccessible, and therefore comparatively barbarous.  At length the
wildest districts of the Highlands and the most rugged mountain
valleys of North Wales were rendered as easy of access as the
comparatively level counties in the immediate neighbourhood of the

During all this while, the wealth and industry of the country had
been advancing with rapid strides.  London had grown in population
and importance.  Many improvements had been effected in the river,
But the dock accommodation was still found insufficient; and, as
the recognised head of his profession, Mr. Telford, though now
grown old and fast becoming infirm, was called upon to supply the
requisite plans.  He had been engaged upon great works for upwards
of thirty years, previous to which he had led the life of a working
mason.  But he had been a steady, temperate man all his life; and
though nearly seventy, when consulted as to the proposed new docks,
his mind was as able to deal with the subject in all its bearings
as it had ever been; and he undertook the work.

In 1824 a new Company was formed to provide a dock nearer to the
heart of the City than any of the existing ones.  The site selected
was the space between the Tower and the London Docks, which
included the property of St. Katherine's Hospital.  The whole extent
of land available was only twenty-seven acres of a very irregular
figure, so that when the quays and warehouses were laid out, it was
found that only about ten acres remained for the docks; but these,
from the nature of the ground, presented an unusual amount of quay
room.  The necessary Act was obtained in 1825; the works were begun
in the following year; and on the 25th of October, 1828, the new
docks were completed and opened for business.

The St. Katherine Docks communicate with the river by means of an
entrance tide-lock, 180 feet long and 45 feet wide, with three
pairs of gates, admitting either one very large or two small
vessels at a time.  The lock-entrance and the sills under the two
middle lock-gates were fixed at the depth of ten feet under the
level of low water of ordinary spring tides.  The formation of these
dock-entrances was a work of much difficulty, demanding great skill
on the part of the engineer.  It was necessary to excavate the
ground to a great depth below low water for the purpose of getting
in the foundations, and the cofferdams were therefore of great
strength, to enable them, when pumped out by the steam-engine, to
resist the lateral pressure of forty feet of water at high tide.
The difficulty was, however, effectually overcome, and the wharf
walls, locks, sills and bridges of the St. Katherine Docks are
generally regarded as a master-piece of harbour construction.
Alluding to the rapidity with which the works were completed,
Mr. Telford says: "Seldom, indeed never within my knowledge, has there
been an instance of an undertaking; of this magnitude, in a very
confined situation, having been perfected in so short a time;....
but, as a practical engineer, responsible for the success of
difficult operations, I must be allowed to protest against such
haste, pregnant as it was, and ever will be, with risks, which, in
more instances than one, severely taxed all my experience and
skill, and dangerously involved the reputation of the directors as
well as of their engineer."

Among the remaining bridges executed by Mr. Telford, towards the
close of his professional career, may be mentioned those of
Tewkesbury and Gloucester.  The former town is situated on the
Severn at its confluence with the river Avon, about eleven miles
above Gloucester.  The surrounding district was rich and populous;
but being intersected by a large river, without a bridge, the
inhabitants applied to Parliament for powers to provide so
necessary a convenience.  The design first proposed by a local
architect was a bridge of three arches; but Mr. Telford, when
called upon to advise the trustees, recommended that, in order to
interrupt the navigation as little as possible, the river should be
spanned by a single arch; and he submitted a design of such a
character, which was approved and subsequently erected.  It was
finished and opened in April, 1826.

This is one of the largest as well as most graceful of Mr. Telford's
numerous cast iron bridges.  It has a single span of 170 feet, with
a rise of only 17 feet, consisting of six ribs of about three feet
three inches deep, the spandrels being filled in with light
diagonal work.  The narrow Gothic arches in the masonry of the
abutments give the bridge a very light and graceful appearance,
at the same time that they afford an enlarged passage for the high
river floods.

The bridge at Gloucester consists of one large stone arch of 150
feet span.  It replaced a structure of great antiquity, of eight
arches, which had stood for about 600 years.  The roadway over it
was very narrow, and the number of piers in the river and the small
dimensions of the arches offered considerable obstruction to the
navigation.  To give the largest amount of waterway, and at the same
time reduce the gradient of the road over the bridge to the
greatest extent, Mr. Telford adopted the following expedient.
He made the general body of the arch an ellipse, 150 feet on the
chord-line and 35 feet rise, while the voussoirs, or external
archstones, being in the form of a segment, have the same chord,
with only 13 feet rise.  "This complex form," says Mr. Telford,
"converts each side of the vault of the arch into the shape of the
entrance of a pipe, to suit the contracted passage of a fluid, thus
lessening the flat surface opposed to the current of the river
whenever the tide or upland flood rises above the springing of the
middle of the ellipse, that being at four feet above low water;
whereas the flood of 1770 rose twenty feet above low water of an
ordinary spring-tide, which, when there is no upland flood, rises
only eight or nine feet."*[1]  The bridge was finished and opened in

[Image] Dean Bridge, Edinburgh.

The last structures erected after our engineer's designs were at
Edinburgh and Glasgow: his Dean Bridge at the former place, and his
Jamaica Street Bridge at the latter, being regarded as among his
most successful works.  Since his employment as a journeyman mason
at the building of the houses in Princes Street, Edinburgh, the New
Town had spread in all directions.  At each visit to it on his way
to or from the Caledonian Canal or the northern harbours, he had
been no less surprised than delighted at the architectural
improvements which he found going forward.  A new quarter had risen
up during his lifetime, and had extended northward and westward in
long lines of magnificent buildings of freestone, until in 1829 its
further progress was checked by the deep ravine running along the
back of the New Town, in the bottom of which runs the little Water
of Leith.  It was determined to throw a stone bridge across this
stream, and Telford was called upon to supply the design.  The point
of crossing the valley was immediately behind Moray Place, which
stands almost upon its verge, the sides being bold, rocky, and
finely wooded.  The situation was well adapted for a picturesque
structure, such as Telford was well able to supply.  The depth of
the ravine to be spanned involved great height in the piers, the
roadway being 106 feet above the level of the stream.  The bridge
was of four arches of 90 feet span each, and its total length 447
feet; the breadth between the parapets for the purposes of the
roadway and footpaths being 39 feet.*[2]  It was completed and
opened in December, 1831.

But the most important, as it was the last, of Mr. Telford's stone
bridges was that erected across the Clyde at the Broomielaw,
Glasgow.  Little more than fifty years since, the banks of the river
at that place were literally covered with broom--and hence its
name--while the stream was scarcely deep enough to float a
herring-buss.  Now, the Broomielaw is a quay frequented by ships of
the largest burden, and bustling with trade and commerce.  Skill and
enterprise have deepened the Clyde, dredged away its shoals, built
quays and wharves along its banks, and rendered it one of the
busiest streams in the world,

It has become a great river thoroughfare, worked by steam.  On its
waters the first steamboat ever constructed for purposes of traffic
in Europe was launched by Henry Bell in 1812; and the Clyde boats
to this day enjoy the highest prestige.

The deepening of the river at the Broomielaw had led to a gradual
undermining of the foundations of the old bridge, which was
situated close to the principal landing-place.  A little above it,
was an ancient overfall weir, which had also contributed to scour
away the foundations of the piers.  Besides, the bridge was felt to
be narrow, inconvenient, and ill-adapted for accommodating the
immense traffic passing across the Clyde at that point.  It was,
therefore, determined to take down the old structure, and Build a
new one; and Mr. Telford was called upon to supply the design.
The foundation was laid with great ceremony on the 18th of March, 1833,
and the new bridge was completed and opened on the 1st of January,
1836, rather more than a year after the engineer's death.  It is a
very fine work, consisting of seven arches, segments of circles,
the central arch being 58 feet 6 inches; the span of the adjoining
arches diminishing to 57 feet 9 inches, 55 feet 6 inches, and 52
feet respectively.  It is 560 feet in length, with an open waterway
of 389 feet, and its total width of carriageway and footpath is 60
feet, or wider, at the time it was built, than any river bridge in
the kingdom.

[Image] Glasgow Bridge

Like most previous engineers of eminence--like Perry, Brindley,
Smeaton, and Rennie--Mr. Telford was in the course of his life
extensively employed in the drainage of the Fen districts.  He had
been jointly concerned with Mr. Rennie in carrying out the
important works of the Eau Brink Cut, and at Mr. Rennie's death he
succeeded to much of his practice as consulting engineer.

It was principally in designing and carrying out the drainage of
the North Level that Mr. Telford distinguished himself in Fen
drainage.  The North Level includes all that part of the Great
Bedford Level situated between Morton's Leam and the river Welland,
comprising about 48,000 acres of land.  The river Nene, which brings
down from the interior the rainfall of almost the entire county of
Northampton, flows through nearly the centre of the district.
In some places the stream is confined by embankments, in others it
flows along artificial outs, until it enters the great estuary of
the Wash, about five miles below Wisbeach.  This town is situated on
another river which flows through the Level, called the Old Nene.
Below the point of junction of these rivers with the Wash, and
still more to seaward, was South Holland Sluice, through which the
waters of the South Holland Drain entered the estuary.  At that
point a great mass of silt had accumulated, which tended to choke
up the mouths of the rivers further inland, rendering their
navigation difficult and precarious, and seriously interrupting the
drainage of the whole lowland district traversed by both the Old
and New Nene.  Indeed the sands were accumulating at such a rate,
that the outfall of the Wisbeach River threatened to become
completely destroyed.

Such being the state of things, it was determined to take the
opinion of some eminent engineer, and Mr. Rennie was employed to
survey the district and recommend a measure for the remedy of these
great evils.  He performed this service in his usually careful and
masterly manner; but as the method which he proposed, complete
though it was, would have seriously interfered with the trade of
Wisbeach, by leaving it out of the line of navigation and drainage
which he proposed to open up, the corporation of that town
determined to employ another engineer; and Mr Telford was selected
to examine and report upon the whole subject, keeping in view the
improvement of the river immediately adjacent to the town of

Mr. Telford confirmed Mr. Rennie's views to a large extent, more
especially with reference to the construction of an entirely new
outfall, by making an artificial channel from Kindersleys Cut to
Crab-Hole Eye anchorage, by which a level lower by nearly twelve
feet would be secured for the outfall waters; but he preferred
leaving the river open to the tide as high as Wisbeach, rather than
place a lock with draw-doors at Lutton Leam Sluice, as had been
proposed by Mr. Rennie.  He also suggested that the acute angle at
the Horseshoe be cut off and the river deepened up to the bridge at
Wisbeach, making a new cut along the bank on the south side of the
town, which should join the river again immediately above it,
thereby converting the intermediate space, by draw-doors and the
usual contrivances, into a floating dock.  Though this plan was
approved by the parties interested in the drainage, to Telford's
great mortification it was opposed by the corporation of Wisbeach,
and like so many other excellent schemes for the improvement of the
Fen districts, it eventually fell to the ground.

The cutting of a new outfall for the river Nene, however, could not
much longer be delayed without great danger to the reclaimed lands
of the North Level, which, but for some relief of the kind, must
shortly have become submerged and reduced to their original waste
condition.  The subject was revived in 1822, and Mr. Telford was
again called upon, in conjunction with Sir John Rennie, whose
father had died in the preceding year, to submit a plan of a new
Nene Outfall; but it was not until the year 1827 that the necessary
Act was obtained, and then only with great difficulty and cost, in
consequence of the opposition of the town of Wisbeach.  The works
consisted principally of a deep cut or canal, about six miles in
length, penetrating far through the sand banks into the deep waters
of the Wash.  They were begun in 1828, and brought to completion in
1830, with the most satisfactory results.  A greatly improved
outfall was secured by thus carrying.  the mouths of the rivers out
to sea, and the drainage of the important agricultural districts
through which the Nene flows was greatly benefited; while at the
same time nearly 6000 acres of valuable corn-growing land were
added to the county of Lincoln.

But the opening of the Nene Outfall was only the first of a series
of improvements which eventually included the whole of the valuable
lands of the North Level, in the district situated between the Nene
and the Welland.  The opening at Gunthorpe Sluice, which was the
outfall for the waters of the Holland Drain, was not less than
eleven feet three inches above low water at Crab-Hole; and it was
therefore obvious that by lowering this opening a vastly improved
drainage of the whole of the level district, extending from twenty
to thirty miles inland, for which that sluice was the artificial
outlet, would immediately be secured.  Urged by Mr. Telford, an Act
for the purpose of carrying out the requisite improvement was
obtained in 1830, and the excavations having been begun shortly
after, were completed in 1834.

A new cut was made from Clow's Cross to Gunthorpe Sluice, in place
of the winding course of the old Shire Drain; besides which, a
bridge was erected at Cross Keys, or Sutton Wash, and an embankment
was made across the Salt Marshes, forming a high road, which, with
the bridges previously erected at Fossdyke and Lynn, effectually
connected the counties of Norfolk and Lincoln.  The result of the
improved outfall was what the engineer had predicted.  A thorough
natural drainage was secured for an extensive district, embracing
nearly a hundred thousand acres of fertile land, which had before
been very ineffectually though expensively cleared of the surplus
water by means of windmills and steam-engines.  The productiveness
of the soil was greatly increased, and the health and comfort of
the inhabitants promoted to an extent that surpassed all previous

The whole of the new cuts were easily navigable, being from 140 to
200 feet wide at bottom, whereas the old outlets had been variable
and were often choked with shifting sand.  The district was thus
effectually opened up for navigation, and a convenient transit
afforded for coals and other articles of consumption.  Wisbeach
became accessible to vessels of much larger burden, and in the
course of a few years after the construction of the Nene Outfall,
the trade of the port had more than doubled.  Mr. Telford himself,
towards the close of his life, spoke with natural pride of the
improvements which he had thus been in so great a measure
instrumental in carrying out, and which had so materially promoted
the comfort, prosperity, and welfare of a very extensive

We may mention, as a remarkable effect of the opening of the new
outfall, that in a few hours the lowering of the waters was felt
throughout the whole of the Fen level.  The sluggish and stagnant
drains, cuts, and leams in far distant places, began actually to
flow; and the sensation created was such, that at Thorney, near
Peterborough, some fifteen miles from the sea, the intelligence
penetrated even to the congregation then sitting in church--for it
was Sunday morning--that "the waters were running!" when
immediately the whole flocked out, parson and all, to see the great
sight, and acknowledge the blessings of science.  A humble Fen poet
of the last century thus quaintly predicted the moral results
likely to arise from the improved drainage of his native district:-

   "With a change of elements suddenly
    There shall a change of men and manners be;
    Hearts thick and tough as hides shall feel remorse,
    And souls of sedge shall understand discourse;
    New hands shall learn to work, forget to steal,
    New legs shall go to church, new knees to kneel."

The prophecy has indeed been fulfilled.  The barbarous race of
Fen-men has disappeared before the skill of the engineer.  As the
land has been drained, the half-starved fowlers and fen-roamers
have subsided into the ranks of steady industry--become farmers,
traders, and labourers.  The plough has passed over the bed of
Holland Fen, and the agriculturist reaps his increase more than a
hundred fold..  Wide watery wastes, formerly abounding in fish,
are now covered with waving crops of corn every summer.  Sheep graze
on the dry bottom of Whittlesea Mere, and kine low where not many
years since the silence of the waste was only disturbed by the
croaking of frogs and the screaming of wild fowl.  All this has been
the result of the science of the engineer, the enterprise of the
landowner, and the industry of our peaceful army of skilled

Footnotes for Chapter XIII.

*[1] Telford's Life, p261

*[2] The piers are built internally with hollow compartments, as at
the Menai Bridge, the side walls being 3 feet thick and the cross
walls 2 feet.  Projecting from the piers and abutments are pilasters
of solid masonry.  The main arches have their springing 70 feet from
the foundations and rise 30 feet; and at 20 feet higher, other
arches, of 96 feet span and 10 feet rise, are constructed; the face
of these, projecting before the main arches and spandrels,
producing a distinct external soffit of 5 feet in breadth.
This, with the peculiar piers, constitutes the principal distinctive
feature in the, bridge.

*[3] "The Nene Outfall channel," says Mr. Tycho Wing,
"was projected by the late Mr. Rennie in 1814, and executed jointly
by Mr. Telford and the present Sir John Rennie.  But the scheme of
the North Level Drainage was eminently the work of Mr. Telford,
and was undertaken upon his advice and responsibility, when only a
few persons engaged in the Nene Outfall believed that the latter
could be made, or if made, that it could be maintained.  Mr. Telford
distinguished himself by his foresight and judicious counsels at
the most critical periods of that great measure, by his unfailing
confidence in its success, and by the boldness and sagacity which
prompted him to advise the making of the North Level drainage, in
full expectation of the results for the sake of which the Nene
Outfall was undertaken, and which are now realised to the extent of
the most sanguine hopes."

*[4] Now that the land actually won has been made so richly
productive, the engineer is at work with magnificent schemes of
reclamation of lands at present submerged by the sea.  The Norfolk
Estuary Company have a scheme for reclaiming 50,000 acres; the
Lincolnshire Estuary Company, 30,000 acres; and the Victoria Level
Company, 150,000 acres--all from the estuary of the Wash.  By the
process called warping, the land is steadily advancing upon the
ocean, and before many years have passed, thousands of acres of the
Victoria Level will have been reclaimed for purposes of



While Telford's Highland works were in full progress, he persuaded
his friend Southey, the Poet Laureate, to accompany him on one of
his visits of inspection, as far north as the county of Sutherland,
in the autumn of 1819.  Mr. Southey, as was his custom, made careful
notes of the tour, which have been preserved,*[1] and consist in a
great measure of an interesting resume of the engineer's operations
in harbour-making, road-making, and canal-making north of the Tweed.

Southey reached Edinburgh by the Carlisle mail about the middle of
August, and was there joined by Mr. Telford, and Mr. and Mrs.
Rickman,*[2] who were to accompany him on the journey.  They first
proceeded to Linlithgow, Bannockburn,*[3] Stirling, Callendar, the
Trosachs, and round by the head of Loch Earn to Killin, Kenmore,
and by Aberfeldy to Dunkeld.  At the latter place, the poet admired
Telford's beautiful bridge, which forms a fine feature in the
foreground of the incomparable picture which the scenery of Dunkeld
always presents in whatever aspect it is viewed.

From Dunkeld the party proceeded to Dundee, along the left bank of
the Firth of Tay.  The works connected with the new harbour were in
active progress, and the engineer lost no time in taking his friend
to see them.  Southey's account is as follows:--

"Before breakfast I went with Mr. Telford to the harbour, to look
at his works, which are of great magnitude and importance: a huge
floating dock, and the finest graving dock I ever saw.  The town
expends 70,000L. on these improvements, which will be completed in
another year.  What they take from the excavations serves to raise
ground which was formerly covered by the tide, but will now be of
the greatest value for wharfs, yards, &c. The local authorities
originally proposed to build fifteen piers, but Telford assured
them that three would be sufficient; and, in telling me this, he
said the creation of fifteen new Scotch peers was too strong a

"Telford's is a happy life; everywhere making roads, building
bridges, forming canals, and creating harbours--works of sure,
solid, permanent utility; everywhere employing a great number of
persons, selecting the most meritorious, and putting them forward
in the world in his own way."

After the inspection at Dundee was over, the party proceeded on
their journey northward, along the east coast:--

"Near Gourdon or Bervie harbour, which is about a mile and a half
on this side the town, we met Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Gibbs, two of
Mr. Telford's aides-de-camp, who had come thus far to meet him.  The
former he calls his 'Tartar,' from his cast of countenance, which
is very much like a Tartar's, as well as from his Tartar-like mode
of life; for, in his office of overseer of the roads, which are
under the management of the Commissioners, he travels on horseback
not less than 6000 miles a year.  Mr. Telford found him in the
situation of a working mason, who could scarcely read or write; but
noticing him for his good conduct, his activity, and his firm
steady character, he, has brought him forward; and Mitchell now
holds a post of respectability and importance, and performs his
business with excellent ability."

After inspecting the little harbour of Bervie, one of the first
works of the kind executed by Telford for the Commissioners, the
party proceeded by Stonehaven, and from thence along the coast to
Aberdeen.  Here the harbour works were visited and admired:--

"The quay," says Southey, "is very fine; and Telford has carried
out his pier 900 feet beyond the point where Smeaton's terminated.
This great work, which has cost 100,000L., protects the entrance
of the harbour from the whole force of the North Sea.  A ship was
entering it at the time of our visit, the Prince of Waterloo.
She had been to America; had discharged her cargo at London; and we
now saw her reach her own port in safety--a joyous and delightful

The next point reached was Banff, along the Don and the line of the
Inverury Canal:--

"The approach to Banff is very fine,"*[4] says Southey, "by the
Earl of Fife's grounds, where the trees are surprisingly grown,
considering how near they are to the North Sea; Duff House--
a square, odd, and not unhandsome pile, built by Adams (one of the
Adelphi brothers), some forty years ago; a good bridge of seven
arches by Smeaton; the open sea, not as we had hitherto seen it,
grey under a leaden sky, but bright and blue in the sunshine; Banff
on the left of the bay; the River Doveran almost lost amid banks of
shingle, where it enters the sea; a white and tolerably high shore
extending eastwards; a kirk, with a high spire which serves as a
sea-mark; and, on the point, about a mile to the east, the town of
Macduff.  At Banff, we at once went to the pier, about half finished,
on which 15,000L. will be expended, to the great benefit of this
clean, cheerful, and active little town.  The pier was a busy
scene; hand-carts going to and fro over the railroads, cranes at
work charging and discharging, plenty of workmen, and fine masses
of red granite from the Peterhead quarries.  The quay was almost
covered with barrels of herrings, which women were busily employed
in salting and packing."

The next visit was paid to the harbour works at Cullen, which were
sufficiently advanced to afford improved shelter for the fishing
vessels of the little port:--

"When I stood upon the pier at low water," says Southey, "seeing
the tremendous rocks with which the whole shore is bristled, and
the open sea to which the place is exposed, it was with a proud
feeling that I saw the first talents in the world employed by the
British Government in works of such unostentatious, but great,
immediate, palpable, and permanent utility.  Already their excellent
effects are felt.  The fishing vessels were just coming in, having
caught about 300 barrels of herrings during the night....

"However the Forfeited Estates Fund may have been misapplied in
past times, the remainder could not be better invested than in
these great improvements.  Wherever a pier is needed, if the people
or the proprietors of the place will raise one-half the necessary
funds, Government supplies the other half.  On these terms,
20,000L. are expending at Peterhead, and 14,000L. at Frazerburgh;
and the works which we visited at Bervie and Banff, and many other
such along this coast, would never have been undertaken without
such aid; public liberality thus inducing private persons to tax
themselves heavily, and expend with a good will much larger sums
than could have been drawn from them by taxation."

From Cullen, the travellers proceeded in gigs to Fochabers, thence
by Craigellachie Bridge, which Southey greatly admired, along
Speyside, to Ballindalloch and Inverallen, where Telford's new road
was in course of construction across the moors towards Forres.
The country for the greater part of the way was a wild waste, nothing
but mountains and heather to be seen; yet the road was as perfectly
made and maintained as if it had lain through a very Goschen.
The next stages were to Nairn and Inverness, from whence then
proceeded to view the important works constructed at the crossing
of the River Beauly:--

"At Lovat Bridge," says Southey, "we turned aside and went four
miles up the river, along the Strathglass road--one of the new
works, and one of the most remarkable, because of the difficulty of
constructing it, and also because of the fine scenery which it

"Lovat Bridge, by which we returned, is a plain, handsome structure
of five arches, two of 40 feet span, two of 50, and the centre one
of 60.  The curve is as little as possible.  I learnt in Spain to
admire straight bridges; But Mr. Telford thinks there always ought
to be some curve to enable the rain water to run off, and because
he would have the outline look like the segment of a large circle,
resting on the abutments.  A double line over the arches gives a
finish to the bridge, and perhaps looks as well, or almost as well,
as balustrades, for not a sixpence has been allowed for ornament on
these works.  The sides are protected by water-wings, which are
embankments of stone, to prevent the floods from extending on
either side, and attacking the flanks of the bridge."

Nine miles further north, they arrived at Dingwall, near which a
bridge similar to that at Beauly, though wider, had been constructed
over the Conan.  From thence they proceeded to Invergordon, to
Ballintraed (where another pier for fishing boats was in progress),
to Tain, and thence to Bonar Bridge, over the Sheir, twenty-four
miles above the entrance to the Dornoch Frith, where an iron
bridge, after the same model as that of Craigellachie, had been
erected.  This bridge is of great importance, connecting as it does
the whole of the road traffic of the northern counties with the
south.  Southey speaks of it as

"A work of such paramount utility that it is not possible to look
at it without delight.  A remarkable anecdote," he continues,
"was told me concerning it.  An inhabitant of Sutherland, whose
father was drowned at the Mickle Ferry (some miles below the bridge)
in 1809, could never bear to set foot in a ferry-boat after the
catastrophe, and was consequently cut off from communication with
the south until this bridge was built.  He then set out on a journey.
'As I went along the road by the side of the water,' said he,
'I could see no bridge.  At last I came in sight of something
like a spider's web in the air.  If this be it, thought I, it will
never do! But, presently, I came upon it; and oh! it is the finest
thing that ever was made by God or man!'"

Sixteen miles north-east of Bonar Bridge, Southey crossed Fleet
Mound, another ingenious work of his friend Telford, but of an
altogether different character.  It was thrown across the River
Fleet, at the point at which it ran into the estuary or little
land-locked bay outside, known as Loch Fleet.  At this point there
had formerly been a ford; but as the tide ran far inland, it could
only be crossed at low water, and travellers had often to wait for
hours before they could proceed on their journey.  The embouchure
being too wide for a bridge, Telford formed an embankment across
it, 990 yards in length, providing four flood-gates, each 12 feet
wide, at its north end, for the egress of the inland waters.
These gates opened outwards, and they were so hung as to shut with
the rising of the tide.  The holding back of the sea from the land
inside the mound by this means, had the effect of reclaiming a
considerable extent of fertile carse land, which, at the time of
Southey's visit,--though the work had only been completed the year
before,--was already under profitable cultivation.  The principal
use of the mound, however, was in giving support to the fine broad
road which ran along its summit, and thus completed the
communication with the country to the north.  Southey speaks in
terms of high admiration of "the simplicity, the beauty, and
utility of this great work."

This was the furthest limit of their journey, and the travellers
retraced their steps southward, halting at Clashmore Inn:
"At breakfast," says Southey, "was a handsome set of Worcester china.
Upon noticing it to Mr. Telford, he told me that before these roads
were made, he fell in with some people from Worcestershire near the
Ord of Caithness, on their way northward with a cart load of
crockery, which they got over the mountains as best they could;
and, when they had sold all their ware, they laid out the money in
black cattle, which they then drove to the south."

The rest of Southey's journal is mainly occupied with a description
of the scenery of the Caledonian Canal, and the principal
difficulties encountered in the execution of the works, which were
still in active progress.  He was greatly struck with the flight of
locks at the south end of the Canal, where it enters Loch Eil near

"There being no pier yet formed," he says, "we were carried to and
from the boats on men's shoulders.  We landed close to the sea shore.
A sloop was lying in the fine basin above, and the canal was full
as far as the Staircase, a name given to the eight successive
locks.  Six of these were full and overflowing; and then we drew
near enough to see persons walking over the lock-gates.  It had
more the effect of a scene in a pantomime than of anything in real
life. The rise from lock to lock is eight feet,--sixty-four,
therefore, in all.  The length of the locks, including the gates
and abutments at both ends, is 500 yards;-- the greatest piece of
such masonry in the world, and the greatest work of the kind beyond
all comparison.

"A panorama painted from this place would include the highest
mountain in Great Britain, and its greatest work of art.  That work
is one of which the magnitude and importance become apparent, when
considered in relation to natural objects.  The Pyramids would
appear insignificant in such a situation, for in them we should
perceive only a vain attempt to vie with greater things.  But here
we see the powers of nature brought to act upon a great scale,
in subservience to the purposes of men; one river created, another
(and that a huge mountain-stream) shouldered out of its place, and
art and order assuming a character of sublimity.  Sometimes a beck
is conducted under the canal, and passages called culverts serve as
a roadway for men and beasts.  We walked through one of these, just
lofty enough for a man of my stature to pass through with his hat
on.  It had a very singular effect to see persons emerging from this
dark, long, narrow vault.  Sometimes a brook is taken in; a cesspool
is then made to receive what gravel it may bring down after it has
passed this pool, the water flowing through three or four little
arches, and then over a paved bed and wall of masonry into the canal.
These are called in-takes, and opposite them an outlet is sometimes
made for the waters of; the canal, if they should be above their
proper level; or when the cross-stream may bring down a rush.
These outlets consist of two inclined planes of masonry, one rising
from the canal with a pavement or waste weir between them; and when
the cross-stream comes down like a torrent, instead of mingling
with the canal, it passes straight across.  But these channels
would be insufficient for carrying off the whole surplus waters in
time of floods.  At one place, therefore, there are three sluices
by which the whole canal from the Staircase to the Regulating Lock
(about six miles) can be lowered a foot in an hour. The sluices
were opened that we might see their effect.  We went down the Bank,
and made our way round some wet ground till we got in front of the
strong arch into which they open.  The arch is about 25 feet high,
of great strength, and built upon the rock.  What would the
Bourbons have given for such a cascade at Versailles? The rush and
the spray, and the force of the water, reminded me more of the
Reichenbach than of any other fall.  That three small sluices, each
only 4 feet by 3 feet, should produce an effect which brought the
mightiest of the swiss waterfalls to my recollection, may appear
incredible, or at least like an enormous exaggeration.  But the
prodigious velocity with which the water is forced out, by the
pressure above, explains the apparent wonder.  And yet I beheld it
only in half its strength; the depth above being at this time ten
feet, which will be twenty when the canal is completed.  In a few
minutes a river was formed of no inconsiderable breadth, which ran
like a torrent into the Lochy.

"On this part of the canal everything is completed, except that the
iron bridges for it, which are now on their way, are supplied by
temporary ones.  When the middle part shall be finished, the Lochy,
which at present flows in its own channel above the Regulating Lock,
will be dammed there, and made to join the Speyne by a new cut from
the lake.  The cut is made, and a fine bridge built over it.
We went into the cut and under the bridge, which is very near the
intended point of junction.  The string-courses were encrusted with
stalactites in a manner singularly beautiful.  Under the arches a
strong mound of solid masonry is built to keep the water in dry
seasons at a certain height; But in that mound a gap is left for
the salmon, and a way made through the rocks from the Speyne to
this gap, which they will soon find out."

Arrived at Dumbarton, Southey took leave of John Mitchell, who had
accompanied him throughout the tour, and for whom he seems to have
entertained the highest admiration:--

"He is indeed," says Southey, "a remarkable man, and well deserving
to be remembered.  Mr. Telford found him a working mason, who could
scarcely read or write.  But his good sense, his excellent conduct,
his steadiness and perseverance have been such, that he has been
gradually raised to be Inspector of all these Highland roads which
we have visited, and all of which are under the Commissioners' care
--an office requiring a rare union of qualities, among others
inflexible integrity, a fearless temper, and an indefatigable
frame.  Perhaps no man ever possessed these requisites in greater
perfection than John Mitchell.  Were but his figure less Tartarish
and more gaunt, he would be the very 'Talus' of Spenser.  Neither
frown nor favour, in the course of fifteen years, have ever made
him swerve from the fair performance of his duty, though the lairds
with whom he has to deal have omitted no means of making him enter
into their views, and to do things or leave them undone, as might
suit their humour or interest.  They have attempted to cajole and to
intimidate him alike in vain.  They have repeatedly preferred
complaints against him in the hope of getting him removed from his
office, and a more flexible person appointed in his stead; and they
have not unfrequently threatened him with personal violence.
Even his life has been menaced.  But Mitchell holds right on.
In the midst of his most laborious life, he has laboured to improve
himself with such success, that he has become a good accountant,
makes his estimates with facility, and carries on his official
correspondence in an able and highly intelligent manner.  In the
execution of his office he travelled last year not less than 8800
miles, and every year he travels nearly as much.  Nor has this life,
and the exposure to all winds and weathers, and the temptations
either of company or of solicitude at the houses at which he puts
up, led him into any irregularities.  Neither has his elevation in
the slightest degree inflated him.  He is still the same temperate,
industrious, modest, unassuming man, as when his good qualities
first attracted Mr. Telford's notice."

Southey concludes his journal at Longtown, a little town just
across the Scotch Border, in the following words:--

"Here we left Mr. Telford, who takes the mail for Edinburgh.

This parting company, after the thorough intimacy which a long
journey produces between fellow-travellers who like each other, is
a melancholy thing.  A man more heartily to be liked, more worthy to
be esteemed and admired, I have never fallen in with; and therefore
it is painful to think how little likely it is that I shall ever
see much of him again,--how certain that I shall never see so much.
Yet I trust that he will not forget his promise of one day making
Keswick in his way to and from Scotland."

Before leaving the subject of Telford's public works in the
Highlands, it may be mentioned that 875 miles of new roads were
planned by him, and executed under his superintendence, at an
expense of 454,189L., of which about one-half was granted by
Parliament, and the remainder was raised by the localities
benefited.  Besides the new roads, 255 miles of the old military
roads were taken in charge by him, and in many cases reconstructed
and greatly improved.  The bridges erected in connexion with these
roads were no fewer than twelve hundred.  Telford also between the
year 1823 and the close of his life, built forty-two Highland
churches in districts formerly unprovided with them, and capable of
accommodating some 22,000 persons.

Down to the year 1854, the Parliamentary grant of 5000L. a year
charged upon the Consolidated Fund to meet assessments and tolls of
the Highland roads, amounting to about 7500L. a year, was
transferred to the annual Estimates, when it became the subject of
annual revision; and a few years since the grant was suddenly
extinguished by an adverse vote of the House of Commons.  The Board
of Commissioners had, therefore, nothing left but to deliver over
the roads to the several local authorities, and the harbours to the
proprietors of the adjacent lands, and to present to Parliament a
final account of their work and its results.  Reviewing the whole,
they say that the operations of the Commission have been most
beneficial to the country concerned.  They "found it barren and
uncultivated, inhabited by heritors without capital or enterprise,
and by a poor and ill-employed peasantry, and destitute of trade,
shipping, and manufactures.  They leave it with wealthy proprietors,
a profitable agriculture, a thriving population, and active
industry; furnishing now its fair proportion of taxes to the
national exchequer, and helping by its improved agriculture to meet
the ever-increasing wants of the populous south."

Footnotes for Chapter XIV.

*[1] We have been indebted to Mr. Robert Rawlinson, C.E., in whose
possession the MS. now is, for the privilege of inspecting it, and
making the above abstract, which we have the less hesitation in
giving as it has not before appeared in print.

*[2] Mr. Rickman was the secretary to the Highland Roads

*[3] Referring to the famous battle of Bannockburn, Southey writes
--"This is the only great battle that ever was lost by the English.
At Hastings there was no disgrace.  Here it was an army of lions
commanded by a stag."

*[4] See View of Banff facing p. 216.



When Mr. Telford had occasion to visit London on business during
the early period of his career, his quarters were at the Salopian
Coffee House, now the Ship Hotel, at Charing Cross.  It is probable
that his Shropshire connections led him in the first instance to
the 'Salopian;' but the situation being near to the Houses of
Parliament, and in many respects convenient for the purposes of his
business, he continued to live there for no less a period than
twenty-one years.  During that time the Salopian became a favourite
resort of engineers; and not only Telford's provincial associates,
but numerous visitors from abroad (where his works attracted even
more attention than they did in England) took up their quarters
there.  Several apartments were specially reserved for Telford's
exclusive use, and he could always readily command any additional
accommodation for purposes of business or hospitality.

The successive landlords of the Salopian came to regard the
engineer as a fixture, and even bought and sold him from time to
time with the goodwill of the business.  When he at length resolved,
on the persuasion of his friends, to take a house of his own, and
gave notice of his intention of leaving, the landlord, who had but
recently entered into possession, almost stood aghast.  "What! leave
the house!" said he; "Why, Sir, I have just paid 750L. for you!"
On explanation it appeared that this price had actually been paid by
him to the outgoing landlord, on the assumption that Mr. Telford
was a fixture of the hotel; the previous tenant having paid 450L.
for him; the increase in the price marking very significantly the
growing importance of the engineer's position.  There was, however,
no help for the disconsolate landlord, and Telford left the Salopian
to take possession of his new house at 24, Abingdon Street.  Labelye,
the engineer of Westminster Bridge, had formerly occupied the
dwelling; and, at a subsequent period, Sir William Chambers, the
architect of Somerset House, Telford used to take much pleasure in
pointing out to his visitors the painting of Westminster Bridge,
impanelled in the wall over the parlour mantelpiece, made for
Labelye by an Italian artist whilst the bridge works were in
progress.  In that house Telford continued to live until the close
of his life.

One of the subjects in which he took much interest during his later
years was the establishment of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
In 1818 a Society had been formed, consisting principally of young
men educated to civil and mechanical engineering, who occasionally
met to discuss matters of interest relating to their profession.
As early as the time of Smeaton, a social meeting of engineers was
occasionally held at an inn in Holborn, which was discontinued in
1792, in consequence of some personal differences amongst the
members.  It was revived in the following year, under the auspices
of Mr. Jessop, Mr. Naylor, Mr. Rennie, and Mr. Whitworth, and
joined by other gentlemen of scientific distinction.  They were
accustomed to dine together every fortnight at the Crown and Anchor
in the Strand, spending the evening in conversation on engineering
subjects.  But as the numbers and importance of the profession
increased, the desire began to be felt, especially among the junior
members of the profession, for an institution of a more enlarged
character.  Hence the movement above alluded to, which led to an
invitation being given to Mr. Telford to accept the office of
President of the proposed Engineers' Institute.  To this he consented,
and entered upon the duties of the office on the 21st of March,
1820.*[1]  During the remainder of his life, Mr. Telford continued
to watch over the progress of the Society, which gradually grew in
importance and usefulness.  He supplied it with the nucleus of a
reference library, now become of great value to its members.
He established the practice of recording the proceedings,*[2] minutes
of discussions, and substance of the papers read, which has led to
the accumulation, in the printed records of the Institute, of a
vast body of information as to engineering practice.  In 1828 he
exerted himself strenuously and successfully in obtaining a Charter
of  Incorporation for the Society; and finally, at his death, he
left the Institute their first bequest of 2000L., together with
many valuable books, and a large collection of documents which had
been subservient to his own professional labours.

In the distinguished position which he occupied, it was natural
that Mr. Telford should be called upon, as he often was, towards
the close of his life, to give his opinion and advice as to
projects of public importance.  Where strongly conflicting opinions
were entertained on any subject, his help was occasionally found
most valuable; for he possessed great tact and suavity of manner,
which often enabled him to reconcile opposing interests when they
stood in the way of important enterprises.

In 1828 he was appointed one of the commissioners to investigate
the subject of the supply of water to the metropolis, in conjunction
with Dr. Roget and Professor Brande, and the result was the very
able report published in that year.  Only a few months before his
death, in 1834, he prepared and sent in an elaborate separate
report, containing many excellent practical suggestions, which had
the effect of stimulating the efforts of the water companies, and
eventually leading, to great improvements.

On the subject of roads, Telford continued to be the very highest
authority, his friend Southey jocularly styling him the "Colossus
of Roads."  The Russian Government frequently consulted him with
reference to the new roads with which that great empire was being
opened up.  The Polish road from Warsaw to Briesc, on the Russian
frontier, 120 miles in length, was constructed after his plans, and
it remains, we believe, the finest road in the Russian dominions to
this day.

[Image] Section of Polish Road

He was consulted by the Austrian Government on the subject of
bridges as well as roads.  Count Szechenyi recounts the very
agreeable and instructive interview which he had with Telford when
he called to consult him as to the bridge proposed to be erected
across the Danube, between the towns of Buda and Pesth.  On a
suspension bridge being suggested by the English engineer, the
Count, with surprise, asked if such an erection was possible under
the circumstances he had described? "We do not consider anything to
be impossible," replied Telford; "impossibilities exist chiefly in
the prejudices of mankind, to which some are slaves, and from which
few are able to emancipate themselves and enter on the path of
truth."  But supposing a suspension bridge were not deemed advisable
under the circumstances, and it were considered necessary
altogether to avoid motion, "then," said he, "I should recommend
you to erect a cast iron bridge of three spans, each 400 feet; such
a bridge will have no motion, and though half the world lay a
wreck, it would still stand."*[3]  A suspension bridge was
eventually resolved upon.  It was constructed by one of Mr. Telford's
ablest pupils, Mr. Tierney Clark, between the years 1839 and 1850,
and is justly regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of English
engineering, the Buda-Pesth people proudly declaring it to be "the
eighth wonder of the world."

At a time when speculation was very rife--in the year 1825--
Mr. Telford was consulted respecting a grand scheme for cutting a
canal across the Isthmus of Darien; and about the same time he was
employed to resurvey the line for a ship canal--which had before
occupied the attention of Whitworth and Rennie--between Bristol and
the English Channel.  But although he gave great attention to this
latter project, and prepared numerous plans and reports upon it,
and although an Act was actually passed enabling it to be carried
out, the scheme was eventually abandoned, like the preceding ones
with the same object, for want of the requisite funds.

Our engineer had a perfect detestation of speculative jobbing in
all its forms, though on one occasion he could not help being used
as an instrument by schemers.  A public company was got up at
Liverpool, in 1827, to form a broad and deep ship canal, of about
seven miles in length, from opposite Liverpool to near Helbre
Isle, in the estuary of the Dee; its object being to enable the
shipping of the port to avoid the variable shoals and sand-banks
which obstruct the entrance to the Mersey.  Mr. Telford entered on
the project with great zeal, and his name was widely quoted in its
support.  It appeared, however, that one of its principal promoters,
who had secured the right of pre-emption of the land on which the
only possible entrance to the canal could be formed on the northern
side, suddenly closed with the corporation of Liverpool, who were
opposed to the plan, and "sold", his partners as well as the
engineer for a large sum of money.  Telford, disgusted at being made
the instrument of an apparent fraud upon the public, destroyed all
the documents relating to the scheme, and never afterwards spoke of
it except in terms of extreme indignation.

About the same time, the formation of locomotive railways was
extensively discussed, and schemes were set on foot to construct
them between several of the larger towns.  But Mr. Telford was now
about seventy years old; and, desirous of limiting the range of his
business rather than extending it, he declined to enter upon this
new branch of engineering.  Yet, in his younger days, he had
surveyed numerous lines of railway--amongst others, one as early as
the year 1805, from Glasgow to Berwick, down the vale of the Tweed.
A line from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Carlisle was also surveyed and
reported on by him some years later; and the Stratford and Moreton
Railway was actually constructed under his direction.  He made use
of railways in all his large works of masonry, for the purpose of
facilitating the haulage of materials to the points at which they
were required to be deposited or used.  There is a paper of his on
the Inland Navigation of the County of Salop, contained in
'The Agricultural Survey of Shropshire,' in which he speaks of the
judicious use of railways, and recommends that in all future
surveys "it be an instruction to the engineers that they do examine
the county with a view of introducing iron railways wherever
difficulties may occur with regard to the making of navigable canals."
When the project of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was started,
we are informed that he was offered the appointment of engineer;
but he declined, partly because of his advanced age, but also out
of a feeling of duty to his employers, the Canal Companies, stating
that he could not lend his name to a scheme which, if carried out,
must so materially affect their interests.

Towards the close of his life, he was afflicted by deafness, which
made him feel exceedingly uncomfortable in mixed society.  Thanks to
a healthy constitution, unimpaired by excess and invigorated by
active occupation, his working powers had lasted longer than those
of most men.  He was still cheerful, clear-headed, and skilful in
the arts of his profession, and felt the same pleasure in useful
work that he had ever done.  It was, therefore, with difficulty that
he could reconcile himself to the idea of retiring from the field
of honourable labour, which he had so long occupied, into a state
of comparative inactivity.  But he was not a man who could be idle,
and he determined, like his great predecessor Smeaton, to occupy
the remaining years of his life in arranging his engineering papers
for publication.  Vigorous though he had been, he felt that the time
was shortly approaching when the wheels of life must stand still
altogether.  Writing to a friend at Langholm, he said, "Having now
being occupied for about seventy-five years in incessant exertion,
I have for some time past arranged to decline the contest; but the
numerous works in which I am engaged have hitherto prevented my
succeeding.  In the mean time I occasionally amuse myself with
setting down in what manner a long life has been laboriously, and I
hope usefully, employed."  And again, a little later, he writes:
"During the last twelve months I have had several rubs; at
seventy-seven they tell more seriously than formerly, and call for
less exertion and require greater precautions.  I fancy that few of
my age belonging to the valley of the Esk remain in the land of the

One of the last works on which Mr. Telford was professionally
consulted was at the instance of the Duke of Wellington--not many
years younger than himself, but of equally vigorous intellectual
powers--as to the improvement of Dover Harbour, then falling
rapidly to decay.  The long-continued south-westerly gales of 1833-4
had the effect of rolling an immense quantity of shingle up Channel
towards that port, at the entrance to which it became deposited in
unusual quantities, so as to render it at times altogether
inaccessible.  The Duke, as a military man, took a more than
ordinary interest in the improvement of Dover, as the military and
naval station nearest to the French coast; and it fell to him as
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports to watch over the preservation of
the harbour, situated at a point in the English Channel which he
regarded as of great strategic importance in the event of a
continental war.  He therefore desired Mr. Telford to visit the
place and give his opinion as to the most advisable mode of
procedure with a view to improving the harbour.  The result was a
report, in which the engineer recommended a plan of sluicing,
similar to that adopted by Mr. Smeaton at Ramsgate, which was
afterwards carried out with considerable success by Mr. James
Walker, C.E.

This was his last piece of professional work.  A few months later he
was laid up by bilious derangement of a serious character, which
recurred with increased violence towards the close of the year; and
on the 2nd of September, 1834, Thomas Telford closed his useful and
honoured career, at the advanced age of seventy-seven.  With that
absence of ostentation which characterised him through life, he
directed that his remains should be laid, without ceremony, in the
burial ground of the parish church of St. Margaret's, Westminster.
But the members of the Institute of Civil Engineers, who justly
deemed him their benefactor and chief ornament, urged upon his
executors the propriety of interring him in Westminster Abbey.

[Image] Telford's Burial Place in Westminster Abbey

He was buried there accordingly, near the middle of the nave;
where the letters, "Thomas Telford, 1834, mark the place beneath
which he lies.*[5]  The adjoining stone bears the inscription,
"Robert Stephenson, 1859," that engineer having during his life
expressed the wish that his body should be laid near that of
Telford; and the son of the Killingworth engineman thus sleeps by
the side of the son of the Eskdale shepherd.

It was a long, a successful, and a useful life which thus ended.
Every step in his upward career, from the poor peasant's hut in
Eskdale to Westminster Abbey, was nobly and valorously won.  The man
was diligent and conscientious; whether as a working mason hewing
stone blocks at Somerset House, as a foreman of builders at
Portsmouth, as a road surveyor at Shrewsbury, or as an engineer of
bridges, canals, docks, and harbours.  The success which followed
his efforts was thoroughly well-deserved.  He was laborious,
pains-taking, and skilful; but, what was better, he was honest and
upright.  He was a most reliable man; and hence he came to be
extensively trusted.  Whatever he undertook, he endeavoured to excel
in.  He would be a first-rate hewer, and he became one.  He was
himself accustomed to attribute much of his success to the thorough
way in which he had mastered the humble beginnings of this trade.
He was even of opinion that the course of manual training he had
undergone, and the drudgery, as some would call it, of daily labour
--first as an apprentice, and afterwards as a journeyman mason--
had been of greater service to him than if he had passed through
the curriculum of a University.

Writing to his friend, Miss Malcolm, respecting a young man who
desired to enter the engineering profession, he in the first place
endeavoured to dissuade the lady from encouraging the ambition of
her protege, the profession being overstocked, and offering very
few prizes in proportion to the large number of blanks.  "But,"
he added, "if civil engineering, notwithstanding these
discouragements, is still preferred, I may point out that the way
in which both Mr. Rennie and myself proceeded, was to serve a
regular apprenticeship to some practical employment--he to a
millwright, and I to a general house-builder.  In this way we
secured the means, by hard labour, of earning a subsistence; and,
in time, we obtained by good conduct the confidence of our
employers and the public; eventually rising into the rank of what
is called Civil Engineering.  This is the true way of acquiring
practical skill, a thorough knowledge of the materials employed in
construction, and last, but not least, a perfect knowledge of the
habits and dispositions of the workmen who carry out our designs.
This course, although forbidding to many a young person, who
believes it possible to find a short and rapid path to distinction,
is proved to be otherwise by the two examples I have cited.  For my
own part, I may truly aver that 'steep is the ascent, and slippery
is the way.'"*[6]  That Mr. Telford was enabled to continue to so
advanced an age employed on laborious and anxious work, was no
doubt attributable in a great measure to the cheerfulness of his
nature.  He was, indeed, a most happy-minded man.  It will be
remembered that, when a boy, he had been known in his valley as
"Laughing Tam."  The same disposition continued to characterise him
in his old age.  He was playful and jocular, and rejoiced in the
society of children and young people, especially when well-informed
and modest.  But when they pretended to acquirements they did not
possess, he was quick to detect and see through them.  One day a
youth expatiated to him in very large terms about a friend of his,
who had done this and that, and made so and so, and could do all
manner of wonderful things.  Telford listened with great attention,
and when the youth had done - he quietly asked, with a twinkle in
his eye, "Pray, can your friend lay eggs?"

When in society he gave himself up to it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
He did not sit apart, a moody and abstracted "lion;" nor desire to
be regarded as "the great engineer," pondering new Menai Bridges;
But he appeared in his natural character of a simple, intelligent,
cheerful companion; as ready to laugh at his own jokes as at other
people's; and he was as communicative to a child as to any
philosopher of the party.

Robert Southey, than whom there was no better judge of a loveable
man, said of him, "I would go a long way for the sake of seeing
Telford and spending a few days in his company."  Southey, as we
have seen, had the best opportunities of knowing him well; for a
long journey together extending over many weeks, is, probably,
better than anything else, calculated to bring out the weak as well
as the strong points of a friend: indeed, many friendships have
completely broken down under the severe test of a single week's
tour.  But Southey on that occasion firmly cemented a friendship
which lasted until Telford's death.  On one occasion the latter
called at the poet's house, in company with Sir Henry Parnell, when
engaged upon the survey of one of his northern roads.  Unhappily
Southey was absent at the time; and, writing about the circumstance
to a correspondent, he said, "This was a mortification to me, in as
much as I owe Telford every kind of friendly attention, and like
him heartily."

Campbell, the poet, was another early friend of our engineer; and
the attachment seems to have been mutual.  Writing to Dr. Currie,
of Liverpool, in 1802, Campbell says: "I have become acquainted with
Telford the engineer, 'a fellow of infinite humour,' and of strong
enterprising mind.  He has almost made me a bridge-builder already;
at least he has inspired me with new sensations of interest in the
improvement and ornament of our country.  Have you seen his plan of
London Bridge? or his scheme for a new canal in the North Highlands,
which will unite, if put in effect, our Eastern and Atlantic
commerce, and render Scotland the very emporium of navigation?
Telford is a most useful cicerone in London.  He is so universally
acquainted, and so popular in his manners, that he can introduce
one to all kinds of novelty, and all descriptions of interesting
society."  Shortly after, Campbell named his first son after
Telford, who stood godfather for the boy.  Indeed, for many years,
Telford played the part of Mentor to the young and impulsive poet,
advising him about his course in life, trying to keep him steady,
and holding him aloof as much as possible from the seductive
allurements of the capital.  But it was a difficult task, and
Telford's numerous engagements necessarily left the poet at many
seasons very much to himself.  It appears that they were living
together at the Salopian when Campbell composed the first draft of
his poem of Hohenlinden; and several important emendations made in
it by Telford were adopted by Campbell.  Although the two friends
pursued different roads in life, and for many years saw little of
each other, they often met again, especially after Telford took up
his abode at his house in Abingdon Street, where Campbell was a
frequent and always a welcome guest.

When engaged upon his surveys, our engineer was the same simple,
cheerful, laborious man.  While at work, he gave his whole mind to
the subject in hand, thinking of nothing else for the time;
dismissing it at the close of each day's work, but ready to take it
up afresh with the next day's duties.  This was a great advantage to
him as respected the prolongation of his working faculty.  He did
not take his anxieties to bed with him, as many do, and rise up
with them in the morning; but he laid down the load at the end of
each day, and resumed it all the more cheerfully when refreshed and
invigorated by natural rest, It was only while the engrossing
anxieties connected with the suspension of the chains of Menai
Bridge were weighing heavily upon his mind, that he could not
sleep; and then, age having stolen upon him, he felt the strain
almost more than he could bear.  But that great anxiety once fairly
over, his spirits speedily resumed their wonted elasticity.

When engaged upon the construction of the Carlisle and Glasgow
road, he was very fond of getting a few of the "navvy men," as he
called them, to join him at an ordinary at the Hamilton Arms Hotel,
Lanarkshire, each paying his own expenses.  On such occasions
Telford would say that, though he could not drink, yet he would
carve and draw corks for them.  One of the rules he laid down was
that no business was to be introduced from the moment they sat down
to dinner.  All at once, from being the plodding, hard-working
engineer, with responsibility and thought in every feature, Telford
unbended and relaxed, and became the merriest and drollest of the
party.  He possessed a great fund of anecdote available for such
occasions, had an extraordinary memory for facts relating to
persons and families, and the wonder to many of his auditors was,
how in all the world a man living in London should know so much
better about their locality and many of its oddities than they did

In his leisure hours at home, which were but few, he occupied
himself a good deal in the perusal of miscellaneous literature,
never losing his taste for poetry.  He continued to indulge in the
occasional composition of verses until a comparatively late period
of his life; one of his most successful efforts being a translation
of the 'Ode to May,' from Buchanan's Latin poems, executed in a
very tender and graceful manner.  That he might be enabled to peruse
engineering works in French and German, he prosecuted the study of
those languages, and with such success that he was shortly able to
read them with comparative ease.  He occasionally occupied himself
in literary composition on subjects connected with his profession.
Thus he wrote for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, conducted by his
friend Sir David (then Dr.) Brewster, the elaborate and able
articles on Architecture, Bridge-building, and Canal-making.
Besides his contributions to that work, he advanced a considerable
sum of money to aid in its publication, which remained a debt due
to his estate at the period of his death.

Notwithstanding the pains that Telford took in the course of his
life to acquire a knowledge of the elements of natural science,
it is somewhat remarkable to find him holding; acquirements in
mathematics so cheap.  But probably this is to be accounted for by
the circumstance of his education being entirely practical, and
mainly self-acquired.  When a young man was on one occasion
recommended to him as a pupil because of his proficiency in
mathematics, the engineer expressed the opinion that such
acquirements were no recommendation.  Like Smeaton, he held that
deductions drawn from theory were never to be trusted; and he
placed his reliance mainly on observation, experience, and
carefully-conducted experiments.  He was also, like most men of
strong practical sagacity, quick in mother wit, and arrived rapidly
at conclusions, guided by a sort of intellectual instinct which can
neither be defined nor described.*[7]  Although occupied as a
leading engineer for nearly forty years-- having certified
contractors' bills during that time amounting to several millions
sterling--he died in comparatively moderate circumstances.  Eminent
constructive ability was not very highly remunerated in Telford's
time, and he was satisfied with a rate of pay which even the
smallest "M. I. C. E." would now refuse to accept.  Telford's
charges were, however, perhaps too low; and a deputation of members
of the profession on one occasion formally expostulated with him on
the subject.

Although he could not be said to have an indifference for money, he
yet estimated it as a thing worth infinitely less than character;
and every penny that he earned was honestly come by.  He had no
wife, *[8] nor family, nor near relations to provide for,--only
himself in his old age.  Not being thought rich, he was saved the
annoyance of being haunted by toadies or pestered by parasites.  His
wants were few, and his household expenses small; and though he
entertained many visitors and friends, it was in a quiet way and on
a moderate scale.  The small regard he had for personal dignity may
be inferred from the fact, that to the last he continued the
practice, which he had learnt when a working mason, of darning his
own stockings.*[9]

Telford nevertheless had the highest idea of the dignity of his
profession; not because of the money it would produce, but of the
great things it was calculated to accomplish.  In his most
confidential letters we find him often expatiating on the noble
works he was engaged in designing or constructing, and the national
good they were calculated to produce, but never on the pecuniary
advantages he himself was to derive from them.  He doubtless prized,
and prized highly, the reputation they would bring him; and, above
all, there seemed to be uppermost in his mind, especially in the
earlier part of his career, while many of his schoolfellows were
still alive, the thought of "What will they say of this in
Eskdale?" but as for the money results to himself, Telford seemed,
to the close of his life, to regard them as of comparatively small

During the twenty-one years that he acted as principal engineer for
the Caledonian Canal, we find from the Parliamentary returns that
the amount paid to him for his reports, detailed plans, and
superintendence, was exactly 237L. a year.  Where he conceived any
works to be of great public importance, and he found them to be
promoted by public-spirited persons at their own expense, he
refused to receive any payment for his labour, or even repayment of
the expenses incurred by him.  Thus, while employed by the
Government in the improvement of the Highland roads, he persuaded
himself that he ought at the same time to promote the similar
patriotic objects of the British Fisheries Society, which were
carried out by voluntary subscription; and for many years he acted
as their engineer, refusing to accept any remuneration whatever for
his trouble.*[10]

Telford held the sordid money-grubber in perfect detestation.
He was of opinion that the adulation paid to mere money was one of
the greatest dangers with which modern society was threatened.
"I admire commercial enterprise," he would say; "it is the vigorous
outgrowth of our industrial life: I admire everything that gives it
free scope:, as, wherever it goes, activity, energy, intelligence--
all that we call civilization--accompany it; but I hold that the
aim and end of all ought not to be a mere bag, of money, but
something far higher and far better."

Writing once to his Langholm correspondent about an old schoolfellow,
who had grown rich by scraping, Telford said: "Poor Bob L---- His
industry and sagacity were more than counterbalanced by his
childish vanity and silly avarice, which rendered his friendship
dangerous, and his conversation tiresome.  He was like a man in
London, whose lips, while walking by himself along the streets,
were constantly ejaculating 'Money! Money!'  But peace to Bob's
memory: I need scarcely add, confusion to his thousands!" Telford
was himself most careful in resisting the temptations to which men
in his position are frequently exposed; but he was preserved by his
honest pride, not less than by the purity of his character.
He invariably refused to receive anything in the shape of presents
or testimonials from persons employed under him.  He would not have
even the shadow of an obligation stand in the way of his duty to
those who employed him to watch over and protect their  interests.
During the many years that he was employed on public works, no one
could ever charge him in the remotest degree with entering into a
collusion with contractors.  He looked upon such arrangements as
degrading and infamous, and considered that they meant nothing less
than an inducement to "scamping," which he would never tolerate.

His inspection of work was most rigid.  The security of his
structures was not a question of money, but of character.  As human
life depended upon their stability, not a point was neglected that
could ensure it.  Hence, in his selection of resident engineers and
inspectors of works, he exercised the greatest possible precautions;
and here his observation of character proved of essential value.
Mr. Hughes says he never allowed any but his most experienced and
confidential assistants to have anything to do with exploring the
foundations of buildings he was about to erect.  His scrutiny into
the qualifications of those employed about such structures extended
to the subordinate overseers, and even to the workmen, insomuch
that men whose general habits had before passed unnoticed, and
whose characters had never been inquired into, did not escape his
observation when set to work in operations connected with
foundations.*[11]  If he detected a man who gave evidences of
unsteadiness, inaccuracy, or carelessness, he would reprimand the
overseer for employing such a person, and order him to be removed
to some other part of the undertaking where his negligence could do
no harm.  And thus it was that Telford put his own character,
through those whom he employed, into the various buildings which he
was employed to construct.

But though Telford was comparatively indifferent about money, he
was not without a proper regard for it, as a means of conferring
benefits on others, and especially as a means of being independent.
At the close of his life he had accumulated as much as, invested at
interest, brought him in about 800L. a year, and enabled him to
occupy the house in Abingdon Street in which he died.  This was
amply sufficient for his wants, and more than enough for his
independence.  It enabled him also to continue those secret acts of
benevolence which constituted perhaps the most genuine pleasure of
his life.  It is one of the most delightful traits in this excellent
man's career to find him so constantly occupied in works of
spontaneous charity, in quarters so remote and unknown that it is
impossible the slightest feeling of ostentation could have sullied
the purity of the acts.  Among the large mass of Telford's private
letters which have been submitted to us, we find frequent reference
to sums of money transmitted for the support of poor people in his
native valley.  At new year's time he regularly sent remittances of
from 30L. to 50L., to be distributed by the kind Miss Malcolm of
Burnfoot, and, after her death, by Mr. Little, the postmaster at
Langholm; and the contributions thus so kindly made, did much to
fend off the winter's cold, and surround with many small comforts
those who most needed help, but were perhaps too modest to ask

Many of those in the valley of the Esk had known of Telford in his
younger years as a poor barefooted boy; though now become a man of
distinction, he had too much good sense to be ashamed of his humble
origin; perhaps he even felt proud that, by dint of his own
valorous and persevering efforts, he had been able to rise so much
above it.   Throughout his long life, his heart always warmed at the
thought of Eskdale.  He rejoiced at the honourable rise of Eskdale
men as reflecting credit upon his "beloved valley."  Thus, writing
to his Langholm correspondent with reference to the honours
conferred on the different members of the family of Malcolm, he
said: "The distinctions so deservedly bestowed upon the Burnfoot
family, establish a splendid era in Eskdale; and almost tempt your
correspondent to sport his Swedish honours, which that grateful
country has repeatedly, in spite of refusal, transmitted."

It might be said that there was narrowness and provincialism in
this; But when young men are thrown into the world, with all its
temptations and snares, it is well that the recollections of home
and kindred should survive to hold them in the path of rectitude,
and cheer them in their onward and upward course in life.  And there
is no doubt that Telford was borne up on many occasions by the
thought of what the folks in the valley would say about him and his
progress in life, when they met together at market, or at the
Westerkirk porch on Sabbath mornings.  In this light, provincialism
or local patriotism is a prolific source of good, and may be
regarded as among the most valuable and beautiful emanations of the
parish life of our country.  Although Telford was honoured with the
titles and orders of merit conferred upon him by foreign monarchs,
what he esteemed beyond them all was the respect and gratitude of
his own countrymen; and, not least, the honour which his really
noble and beneficent career was calculated to reflect upon "the
folks of the nook," the remote inhabitants of his native Eskdale.

When the engineer proceeded to dispose of his savings by will,
which he did a few months before his death, the distribution was a
comparatively easy matter.  The total amount of his bequeathments
was 16,600L.*[13]  About one-fourth of the whole he set apart for
educational purposes, --2000L. to the Civil Engineers' Institute,
and 1000L. each to the ministers of Langholm and Westerkirk, in
trust for the parish libraries.  The rest was bequeathed, in sums
of from 200L. to 500L., to different persons who had acted as
clerks, assistants, and surveyors, in his various public works; and
to his intimate personal friends.  Amongst these latter were Colonel
Pasley, the nephew of his early benefactor; Mr. Rickman, Mr. Milne,
and Mr. Hope, his three executors; and Robert Southey and Thomas
Campbell, the poets.  To both of these last the gift was most
welcome.  Southey said of his: "Mr. Telford has most kindly and
unexpectedly left me 500L., with a share of his residuary property,
which I am told will make it amount in all to 850L. This is truly a
godsend, and I am most grateful for it.  It gives me the comfortable
knowledge that, if it should please God soon to take me from this
world, my family would have resources fully sufficient for their
support till such time as their affairs could be put in order, and
the proceeds of my books, remains, &c., be rendered available.
I have never been anxious overmuch, nor ever taken more thought for
the morrow than it is the duty of every one to take who has to earn
his livelihood; but to be thus provided for at this time I feel to
be an especial blessing.'"*[14]  Among the most valuable results of
Telford's bequests in his own district, was the establishment of
the popular libraries at Langholm and Westerkirk, each of which now
contains about 4000 volumes.  That at Westerkirk had been
originally instituted in the year 1792, by the miners employed to
work an antimony mine (since abandoned) on the farm of Glendinning,
within sight of the place where Telford was born.  On the
dissolution of the mining company, in 1800, the little collection
of books was removed to Kirkton Hill; but on receipt of Telford's
bequest, a special building was erected for their reception at Old
Bentpath near the village of Westerkirk.  The annual income derived
from the Telford fund enabled additions of new volumes to be made
to it from time to time; and its uses as a public institution were
thus greatly increased.  The books are exchanged once a month, on
the day of the full moon; on which occasion readers of all ages and
conditions,--farmers, shepherds, ploughmen, labourers, and their
children,--resort to it from far and near, taking away with them as
many volumes as they desire for the month's readings.

Thus there is scarcely a cottage in the valley in which good books
are not to be found under perusal; and we are told that it is a
common thing for the Eskdale shepherd to take a book in his plaid
to the hill-side--a volume of Shakespeare, Prescott, or Macaulay--
and read it there, under the blue sky, with his sheep and the green
hills before him.  And thus, so long as the bequest lasts, the good,
great engineer will not cease to be remembered with gratitude in
his beloved Eskdale.

Footnotes for Chapter XV.

*[1] In his inaugural address to the members on taking the chair,
the President pointed out that the principles of the Institution
rested on the practical efforts and unceasing perseverance of the
members themselves.  "In foreign countries," he said, "similar
establishments are instituted by government, and their members and
proceedings are under their control; but here, a different course
being adopted, it becomes incumbent on each individual member to
feel that the very existence and prosperity of the Institution
depend, in no small degree, on his personal conduct and exertions;
and my merely mentioning the circumstance will, I am convinced, be
sufficient to command the best efforts of the present and future

*[2] We are informed by Joseph Mitchell, Esq., C.E., of the origin
of this practice.  Mr. Mitchell was a pupil of Mr. Telford's, living
with him in his house at 24, Abingdon Street.  It was the engineer's
custom to have a dinner party every Tuesday, after which his
engineering friends were invited to accompany him to the Institution,
the meetings of which were then held on Tuesday evenings in a house
in Buckingham Street, Strand.  The meetings did not usually consist
of more than from twenty to thirty persons.  Mr. Mitchell took
notes of the conversations which followed the reading of the papers.
Mr. Telford afterwards found his pupil extending the notes,
on which he asked permission to read them, and was so much pleased
that he took them to the next meeting and read them to the members.
Mr. Mitchell was then formally appointed reporter of conversations
to the Institute; and the custom having been  continued, a large
mass of valuable practical information has thus been placed on

*[3] Supplement to Weale's 'Bridges,' Count Szechenyi's Report, p. 18.

*[4] Letter to Mrs. Little, Langholm, 28th August, 1833.

*[5] A statue of him, by Bailey, has since been placed in the east
aisle of the north transept, known as the Islip Chapel.  It is
considered a fine work, but its effect is quite lost in consequence
of the crowded state of the aisle, which has very much the look of
a sculptor's workshop.  The subscription raised for the purpose of
erecting the statue was 1000L., of which 200L. was paid to the Dean
for permission to place it within the Abbey.

*[6] Letter to Miss Malcolm, Burnfoot, Langholm, dated 7th October,

*[7] Sir David Brewster,  observes on this point: "It is difficult
to analyse that peculiar faculty of mind which directs a successful
engineer who is not guided by the deductions of the exact sciences;
but it must consist mainly in the power of observing the effects of
natural causes acting in a variety of circumstances; and in the
judicious application of this knowledge to cases when the same
causes come into operation.  But while this sagacity is a prominent
feature in the designs of Mr. Telford, it appears no less
distinctly in the choice of the men by whom they were to be
practically executed.  His quick perception of character, his
honesty of purpose, and his contempt for all otheracquirements,--
save that practical knowledge and experience which was best fitted
to accomplish, in the best manner, the object he had in view,--have
enables him to leave behind him works of inestimable value, and
monuments of professional celebrity which have not been surpassed
either in Britain or in Europe."--'Edinburgh Review,' vol. lxx. p. 46.

*[8] It seems singular that with Telford's great natural powers of
pleasing, his warm social temperament, and his capability of
forming ardent attachments for friends, many of them women, he
should never have formed an attachment of the heart.  Even in his
youthful and poetical days, the subject of love, so frequently the
theme of boyish song, is never alluded to; while his school
friendships are often recalled to mind and, indeed, made the
special subject of his verse.  It seems odd to find him, when at
Shrewsbury--a handsome fellow, with a good position, and many
beautiful women about him--addressing his friend, the blind
schoolmaster at Langholm, as his "Stella"!

*[9] Mr. Mitchell says: "He lived at the rate of about 1200L. a
year.  He kept a carriage, but no horses, and used his carriage
principally for making his journeys through the country on business.
I once accompanied him to Bath and Cornwall, when he made me keep
an accurate journal of all I saw.  He used to lecture us on being
independent, even in little matters, and not ask servants to do for
us what we might easily do for ourselves.  He carried in his pocket
a small book containing needles, thread, and buttons, and on an
emergency was always ready to put in a stitch.  A curious habit he
had of mending his stockings, which I suppose he acquired when a
working mason.  He would not permit his housekeeper to touch them,
but after his work at night, about nine or half past, he would go
up stairs, and take down a lot, and sit mending them with great
apparent delight in his own room till bed-time.  I have frequently
gone in to him with some message, and found him occupied with this

*[10] "The British Fisheries Society," adds Mr. Rickman, "did not
suffer themselves to be entirely outdone in liberality, and shortly
before his death they pressed upon Mr. Telford a very handsome gift
of plate, which, being inscribed with expressions of their
thankfulness and gratitude towards him, he could not possibly
refuse to accept."--'Life of Telford,' p. 283.

*[11] Weale's 'Theory.  Practice, and Architecture of Bridges,'
vol.i.: 'Essay on Foundations of Bridges,' by T. Hughes, C.E., p. 33.

*[12] Letter to Mr. William Little, Langholm, 24th January, 1815.

*[13] Telford thought so little about money, that he did not even
know the amount he died possessed of.  It turned out that instead of
16,600L. it was about 30,000L.; so that his legatees had their
bequests nearly doubled.  For many years he had abstained from
drawing the dividends on the shares which he held in the canals and
other public companies in which he was concerned.  At the money
panic of 1825, it was found that he had a considerable sum lying in
the hands of his London bankers at little or no interest, and it
was only on the urgent recommendation of his friend, Sir P. Malcolm,
that he invested it in government securities, then very low.

*[14] 'Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey,' vol. iv.,
p. 391.  We may here mention that the last article which Southey
wrote for the 'Quarterly' was his review of the ' Life of Telford.'

End of this Project Gutenberg Etext of The Life of Thomas Telford by Smiles

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