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Title: Personal Recollections of Birmingham and Birmingham Men
Author: Edwards, Eliezer, 1815-1891
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[_All Rights Reserved_]

These sketches, with the signature "_S.D.R._," were originally
published in the _Birmingham Daily Mail_ newspaper. The earliest were
written, as their title indicated, entirely from memory. Afterwards,
when the title was no longer strictly accurate, it was retained
for the purpose of showing the connection of the series. It must be
understood, however, that for many of the facts and dates in the later
sketches the writer is indebted to others.

The whole series has been very carefully revised, and some errors have
been rectified. The writer would have preferred to remain _incognito_,
but he is advised that, as the authorship is now generally known, it
would be mere affectation to withhold his name. He hopes shortly to
commence the publication of another series.

_December_, 1877.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BIRMINGHAM                            1

THE BULL RING RIOTS, 1839                                 19

GOSSIP ABOUT ROYALTY                                      37

BIRMINGHAM BANKS, OLD AND NEW                             45

JOHN WALSH WALSH AND THE ASTON FÊTES                      69

G.F. MUNTZ, M.P.                                          79

JOSEPH GILLOTT                                            89

HENRY VAN WART, J.P.                                     101

CHARLES SHAW, J.P.                                       108

ROBERT WALTER WINFIELD, J.P.                             116

CHARLES GEACH, M.P.                                      125

WILLIAM SANDS COX, F.R.S.                                132

GEORGE EDMONDS                                           140

CHARLES VINCE                                            155

JOHN SMITH, SOLICITOR                                    164


It is a fine autumnal morning in the year 1837. I am sitting on the box
seat of a stage coach, in the yard of the Bull-and-Mouth, St.
Martin's-le-Grand, in the City of London. The splendid gray horses seem
anxious to be off, but their heads are held by careful grooms. The metal
fittings of the harness glitter in the early sunlight. Jew pedlar-boys
offer me razors and penknives at prices unheard of in the shops. Porters
bring carpet-bags and strange-looking packages of all sizes, and, to my
great inconvenience, keep lifting up the foot-board, to deposit them in
the "front boot." A solemn-looking man, whose nose is preternaturally
red, holds carefully a silver-mounted whip. Passengers arrive, and climb
to the roof of the coach, before and behind, until we are "full
outside." Then the guard comes with a list, carefully checks off all our
names, and retires to the booking office, from which a minute later he
returns. He is this time accompanied by the coachman, who is a handsome,
roguish-looking man. He wears a white hat, his boots are brilliantly
polished, his drab great-coat is faultlessly clean, and the dark blue
neckerchief is daintily tied. His whiskers are carefully brushed forward
and curled, the flower in the button-hole is as fresh as if that
instant plucked, and he has a look as if he were well fed, and in all
other respects well cared for.

Looking admiringly over the horses, and taking the whip from his
satellite, who touches his hat as he gives it up, Jehu takes the reins
in hand; mounts rapidly to his seat; adjusts the "apron;" glances
backward; gets the signal from the guard, who has just jumped up--bugle
in hand--behind; arranges the "ribbons" in his well-gloved hand;
produces a sound, somehow, with his tongue, that would puzzle the most
skilful printer in the world to print phonetically, but which a Pole or
a Russian would possibly understand if printed "tzchk;" gently shakes
the reins, and we are off.

As we pass toward the gateway, the guard strikes up with the bugle, and
makes the place resound with the well-known air, "Off, off, said the
stranger." Emerging upon the street, we see, issuing from an opposite
gateway, a dozen omnibuses, driven by scarlet-coated coachmen, and laden
entirely with scarlet-coated passengers. Each of these men is a "general
postman," and he is on his way to his "beat." As the vehicle arrives at
the most convenient point, he will alight and commence the "morning"
delivery. The process will be repeated in the evening; and these two
deliveries suffice, then, for all the "country" correspondence sent to

Leaving them, our coach passes on through busy Aldersgate Street, where
we are interrupted frequently by droves of sheep and numerous oxen on
their way from Smithfield to the slaughter-houses of their purchasers.
On through Goswell Street, alive with cries of "milk" and "water
creeses." On through Goswell Road; past Sadler's Wells; over the New
River, then an open stream; and in a few minutes we pull up at "The
Angel." Here we take in some internal cargo. A lady of middle age, and
of far beyond middle size, has "booked inside," and is very desirous
that a ban-box (without the "d") should go inside, too. This the guard
declines to allow, and this matter being otherwise arranged, on we go
again. Through "Merrie Islington" to Highgate, where we pass under the
great archway, then newly built; on to Barnet, where we stop to change
horses, and where I stand up to have a look at my fellow outside
passengers. There is not a lady amongst us. Coachman, guard, and
passengers, we are fourteen. We all wear "top" hats, of which five are
white; each hat, white or black, has its band of black crape. King
William IV. was lately dead, and every decently dressed man in the
country then wore some badge of mourning.

During the whole of that long day we rattled on. Through sleepy towns
and pleasant villages; past the barracks at Weedon, near which we cross
a newly-built bridge, on the summit of which the coachman pulls up, and
we see a deep cutting through the fields on our right, and a long and
high embankment on the left. Scores of men, and horses drawing
strange-looking vehicles, are hard at work, and we are told that this is
to be the "London and Birmingham Railway," which the coachman adds "is
going to drive _us_ off the road." On we go again, through the noble
avenue of trees near Dunchurch; through quaint and picturesque Coventry;
past Meriden, where we see the words, "Meriden School," built curiously,
with vari-coloured bricks, into a boundary wall. On still; until at
length the coachman, as the sun declines to the west, points out, amid a
gloomy cloud in front of us, the dim outlines of the steeples and
factory chimneys of Birmingham. On still; down the wide open roadway of
Deritend; past the many-gabled "Old Crown House;" through the only
really picturesque street in Birmingham--Digbeth; up the Bull Ring, the
guard merrily trolling out upon his bugle, "See the Conquering Hero
Comes;" round the corner into New Street where we pull up--the horses
covered with foam--at the doors of "The Swan." Our journey has taken us
just twelve hours.

And this is Birmingham! The place which I, in pleasant Kent and Surrey,
had so often heard of, but had never seen. This is the town which, five
years before, had vanquished the Conqueror of the Great Napoleon! This
is the place which, for the first time in his life, had compelled the
great Duke of Wellington to capitulate! This is the home of those who,
headed by Attwood, had compelled the Duke and his army--the House of
Lords--to submit, and to pass the memorable Reform Bill of 1832!

My destination was at the top of Bull Street, where my apartments were
ready, and a walk to that spot completed an eventful day for me. I had
come down on a special business matter, but I remained six months, and a
few years later came again and settled down in Birmingham. My
impressions of the place during those six months are fresh upon my
memory now; and, if I write them down, may be interesting to some of the
three hundred thousand people now in Birmingham, who know nothing of its
aspect then.

Bull Street was then the principal street in Birmingham for retail
business, and it contained some very excellent shops. Most of the then
existing names have disappeared, but a few remain. Mr. Suffield, to
whose courtesy I am indebted for the loan of the rare print from which
the frontispiece to this little book is copied, then occupied the
premises near the bottom of the street, which he still retains. Mr.
Adkins, the druggist, carried on the business established almost a
century ago. He is now the oldest inhabitant of Bull Street, having been
born in the house he still occupies before the commencement of the
present century. Mr. Gargory--still hale, vigorous, and hearty, although
rapidly approaching his eightieth year--then tenanted the shop next
below Mr. Keirle, the fishmonger. His present shop and that of Mr.
Harris, the dyer, occupy the site of the then Quakers' Meeting House,
which was a long, barn-like building, standing lengthwise to the street,
and not having a window on that side to break the dreary expanse of
brickwork. Mr. Benson was in those days as celebrated for beef and
civility as he is now. Mr. Page had just opened the shawl shop still
carried on by his widow. Near the Coach Yard was the shop of Mr. Hudson,
the bookseller, whose son still carries on the business established by
his father in 1821. In 1837, Mr. Hudson, Sen., was the publisher of a
very well conducted liberal paper called _The Philanthropist_. The paper
only existed some four or five years. It deserved a better fate. Next
door to Mr. Hudson's was the shop of the father of the present Messrs.
Southall. All these places have been materially altered, but the wine
and spirit stores of Mrs. Peters, at the corner of Temple Row, are
to-day, I think, exactly what they were forty years ago. The Brothers
Cadbury--a name now celebrated all over the world--were then, as will be
seen by reference to the frontispiece, shopkeepers in Bull Street, the
one as a silk mercer, the other as a tea dealer. The latter commenced in
Crooked Lane the manufacture of cocoa, in which business the name is
still eminent. The Borough Bank at that time occupied the premises
nearly opposite Union Passage, which are now used by Messrs. Smith as a
carpet shop. In all other respects--except where the houses near the
bottom are set back, and the widening of Temple Row--the street is
little altered, except that nearly every shop has been newly fronted.

High Street, from Bull Street to Carrs Lane, is a good deal altered. The
Tamworth Banking Company occupied a lofty building nearly opposite the
bottom of Bull Street, where for a very few years they carried on
business, and the premises afterwards were occupied by Mrs. Syson, as a
hosier's shop. The other buildings on both sides were small and
insignificant, and they were mostly pulled down when the Great Western
Railway Company tunneled under the street to make their line to Snow
Hill. "Taylor and Lloyd's" Bank was then in Dale End. The passage
running by the side of their premises is still called "Bank Alley."
Carrs Lane had a very narrow opening, and the Corn Exchange was not
built. Most of the courts and passages in High Street were then filled
with small dwelling houses, and the workshops of working bookbinders.
Messrs. Westley Richards and Co. had their gun factory in one of them.
The large pile of buildings built by Mr. Richards for Laing and Co., and
now occupied by Messrs. Manton, the Bodega Company, and others, is the
most important variation from the High Street of forty years ago. The
narrow footpaths and contracted roadway were as inconveniently crowded
as they are to-day. The house now occupied by Innes, Smith, and Co. was
then a grocer's shop, and the inscription over the door was "Dakin and
Ridgway," two names which now, in London, are known to everybody as
those of the most important retail tea dealers in the metropolis. Mr.
Ridgway established the large concern in King William Street, and Mr.
Dakin was the founder of "No. 1, St. Paul's Churchyard."

New Street is greatly altered. At that time it was not much more lively
than Newhall Street is now. The Grammar School is just as it was; the
Theatre, externally, is not much altered; "The Hen and Chickens" remains
the same; the Town Hall, though not then finished, looked the same from
New Street; and the portico of the Society of Artists' rooms stood over
the pavement then. With these exceptions I only know one more building
that has not been pulled down, or so altered as to be unrecognisable.
The exemption is the excrescence called Christ Church, which still
disfigures the very finest site in the whole town.

Hyam and Co. had removed from the opposite side of the street, and had
just opened as a tailor's shop the queer old building known as the
"Pantechnetheca," and the ever-youthful Mr. Holliday was at "Warwick
House." The recollections of what the "House" was then makes me smile as
I write. It had originally been two private houses. The one abutted upon
the footway, and the other stood some thirty feet back, a pretty garden
being in the front. The latter had been occupied by Mr. James Busby,
who carried on the business of a wire-worker at the rear. The ground
floor frontages of both had been taken out. A roof had been placed over
the garden, two hideous small-framed bay windows fronted New Street, and
a third faced what is now "Warwick House Passage." The whole place had a
curious "pig-with-one-ear" kind of aspect, the portion which had been
the garden having no upper floors, while the other was three storeys
high. The premises had been "converted" by a now long-forgotten
association, called the "Drapery Company," and as this had not been
successful, Mr. Holliday and his then partner, Mr. Merrett, had become
its successors. It was in 1839 that the first portion of the present
palatial building was erected.

A few doors from this was the office of _The Birmingham Journal_, a very
different paper then from what it afterwards became. It had been
originally started as a Tory paper by a few old "fogies" who used to
meet at "Joe Lindon's," "The Minerva," in Peck Lane; and this was how it
came about: _The Times_ had, early in 1825, in a leader, held up to
well-deserved ridicule some action on the part of the Birmingham Tory
party. This gave awful and unpardonable offence, and retaliation was
decided upon. Notes were sent to several frequenters of the room that,
on a certain afternoon, important business would be "on" at Lindon's,
and punctual attendance was requested. The room at the appointed time
was full, and the table had been removed from the centre. The ordinarily
clean-scrubbed floor was covered with sheet iron. A chairman was
appointed; and one gentleman was requested to read the obnoxious
article. This over, a well-fed, prosperous-looking, fox-hunting iron
merchant from Great Charles Street rose, and in very shaky grammar
moved, that _The Times_ had disgraced itself and insulted Birmingham,
and that it was the duty of every Birmingham man to stop its circulation
in the town. This having been seconded, and duly carried, another rose
and proposed that in order to mark the indignation of those present, the
copy of the paper containing the offensive leader should be
ignominiously burnt. This, too, was carried; whereupon the iron-dealer
took up the doomed newspaper with a pair of tongs, placed it on the
sheets of iron, and, taking a "spill" between the claws of the tongs,
lighted it at the fire of the room, and ignited the ill-fated paper,
which, amid the groans and hisses of the assembled patriots, burned to
ashes. This ceremony being solemnly concluded, the "business" began. It
was deplored that the "loyal" party was imperfectly represented in the
town. It was considered desirable that the party should have an "organ"
in the town; and it was decided to open a subscription there and then,
to start one. The necessary capital was subscribed, and a committee was
formed to arrange with Mr. William Hodgetts, a printer in Spiceal
Street, for the production of the new paper. Mr. Hodgetts subscribed to
the fund to the extent of £50, and the singularly inappropriate name for
a _weekly_ paper, _The Birmingham Journal_, was selected. The first
number appeared June 4th, 1825. The editor was Professor Bakewell. It
continued in the same hands until June, 1827, when Mr. Hodgetts paid out
the other partners, and became sole proprietor. He enlarged it in 1830,
at which time it was edited by the well-remembered Jonathan Crowther. In
1832 it was sold to the Liberal party. _The Argus_, in its issue for
June, 1832, thus chronicles the fact:

    "THE JOURNAL.--This newspaper is now the property of Parkes,
    Scholefield, and Redfern. It was purchased by Parkes in February
    last for the sum of two thousand pounds, and was delivered up to him
    on the 25th of March last. Poor Jonathan was unceremoniously turned
    out of the editorial snuggery into the miserable berth of the
    Editor's devil. 'Oh, what a falling off is here, my countrymen!' And
    who, think ye, gentle readers, is now Editor of _The Journal_? An
    ex-pedagogue, one of the New Hall Hill martyrs, a 'talented' writer
    that has been within the walls," &c., &c.

This seems to point to George Edmonds; but I cannot find any other
evidence that he was ever editor. Be that as it may, Crowther
remained, and the paper was published at the old office in Spiceal
Street as late as May, 1833, when it seems to have been removed to New
Street, and placed under the care of Mr. Douglas. In May of that
year, Mr. Hodgetts published the first number of _The Birmingham
Advertiser_. Meanwhile, Mr. Douglas sat in _The Journal_ office,
in New Street. It was a little room, about 10 ft. by 6 ft., and
the approach was up three or four steps. Here he reigned supreme,
concocted Radical leaders in bad taste and questionable English, and
received advertisements and money. The whole thing was in wretched
plight until about the year 1844, when--Mr. Michael Maher being
editor--Mr. Feeney, who was connected with another paper in the town,
went to London, saw Mr. Joseph Parkes, and arranged to purchase _The
Journal_. Mr. Jaffray soon after came from Shrewsbury to assist in the
management, and with care, industry, and perseverance, it soon grew to
be one of the very best provincial papers in the country.

The Post Office occupied the site now covered by Lilly and Addinsell's
shop. The New Street frontage was the dwelling house of Mr. Gottwaltz,
the post-master. A little way up Bennetts Hill was a semicircular
cove, or recess, in which two people might stand. Here was a slit,
into which letters were dropped, and an "inquiry" window; and this was
all. There were seven other receiving houses in the town, which were
as follows: Mr. Hewitt, Hagley Row; Mr. E. Gunn, 1, Kenion Street; Mr.
W. Drury, 30, Lancaster Street; Mr. Ash, Prospect Row; Mr. White,
235, Bristol Street; Miss Davis, Sand Pits; and Mrs. Wood, 172, High
Street, Deritend. Two deliveries took place daily--one at 8 a.m., the
other at 5 p.m. The postage of a "single" letter to London then was
ninepence; but a second piece of paper, however small, even the half
of a bank note, made it a "double" letter, the postage of which was

Between Needless Alley and the house now occupied by Messrs. Reece and
Harris, as offices, were three old-fashioned and rather dingy looking
shops, of which I can tell a curious story. Rather more than twenty
years ago, the late Mr. Samuel Haines acquired the lease of these
three houses, which had a few years to run. The freehold belonged
to the Grammar School. Mr. Haines proposed to Messrs. Whateley, the
solicitors for the school, that the old lease should be cancelled;
that they should grant him a fresh one at a greatly increased rental;
and that he should pull down the old places and erect good and
substantial houses on the site. This was agreed to; but when the
details came to be settled, some dispute arose, and the negotiations
were near going off. Mr. Haines, however, one day happened to go
over the original lease--nearly a hundred years old--to see what the
covenants were, and he found that he was bound to deliver up the plot
of land in question to the school, somewhere, I think, about 1860
to 1865, "well cropped with potatoes." This discovery removed the
difficulty, the lease was granted, and the potato-garden is the site
of the fine pile known as Brunswick Buildings, upon each house of
which Mr. Haines's monogram, "S.H.," appears in an ornamental scroll.

The Town Hall had been opened three years. The Paradise Street front
was finished, and the two sides were complete for about three-fourths
of their length; but that portion where the double rows of columns
stand, and the pediment fronting Ratcliff Place, had not been built.
The whole of that end was then red brick. Prom the corner of Edmund
Street a row of beggarly houses, standing on a bank some eight feet
above the level of the road, reached to within a few yards of the hall
itself, the space between them and the hall being enclosed by a high
wall. On the other side, the houses in Paradise Street came to within
about the same distance, and the intervening space was carefully
enclosed. The interior of the hall was lighted by some elaborate
bronzed brackets, projecting from the side, between the windows.
They were modelled in imitation of vegetable forms; and at the ends,
curving upwards, small branches stood in a group, like the fingers of
a half-opened human hand. Each of these branchlets was a gas burner,
which was covered by a semi-opaque glass globe, the intent being,
evidently, to suggest a cluster of growing fruits. Some of the same
pattern were placed in the Church of the Saviour when it was first
opened, but they, as well as those at the Town Hall, were in a
few years removed, greatly to the relief of many who thought them
inexpressibly ugly.

Nearly opposite the Town Hall was a lame attempt to convert an ugly
chapel into a Grecian temple. It was a wretched architectural failure.
It was "The School of Medicine," and, as I know from a personal visit
at the time, contained, even then, a very various and most extensive
collection of anatomical preparations, and other matters connected
with the noble profession to whose use it was dedicated. From the Town
Hall to Easy Row the pathway was three or four feet higher than the
road, and an ugly iron fence was there, to prevent passengers from
tumbling over. On this elevated walk stood the offices of a celebrated
character, "Old"--for I never heard him called by any other name--"Old
Spurrier," the hard, unbending, crafty lawyer, who, being permanently
retained by the Mint to prosecute all coiners in the district, had a
busy time of it, and gained for himself a large fortune and an evil

Bennetts Hill was considered _the_ street of the town, architecturally.
The Norwich Union Office then held aloft the same lady, who, long
neglected, looks now as if her eyes were bandaged to hide the tears
which she is shedding over her broken scales. The Bank of England has
not been altered, though at that time it was occupied by a private
company. Where the Inland Revenue Offices now stand, was a stone barn,
which was called a news-room. It was a desolate-looking place, inside
and out, and it was a mercy when it was pulled down. At the right-hand
corner, at the top, where Harrison's music shop now stands, there was,
in a large open court-yard, a square old brick mansion, having a brick
portico. A walled garden belonging to this house, ran down Bennetts
Hill, nearly to Waterloo Street, and an old brick summer-house, which
stood in the angle, was then occupied by Messrs. Whateley as offices,
and afterwards by Mr. Nathaniel Lea, the sharebroker. At the corner of
Temple Row West was a draper's shop, carried on by two brothers--William
and John Boulton. The brothers fell out, and dissolved partnership.
William took Mr. R.W. Gem's house and offices in New Street, and
converted them into the shop now occupied by Messrs. Dew; stocked it;
married a lady at Harborne; started off to Leamington on his wedding
tour; was taken ill in the carriage on the way; was carried to bed at
the hotel at Leamington, and died the same evening. His brother took to
the New Street shop; closed the one in Temple Row; made his fortune; and
died a few years ago--a bachelor--at Solihull.

The present iron railings of St. Philip's Churchyard had not then been
erected. There was a low fence, and pleasant avenues of trees skirted
the fence on the sides next Colmore Row and Temple Row. I used to like
to walk here in the quiet of evening, and I loved to listen to the
bells in St. Philip's Church as they chimed out every three hours the
merry air, "Life let us Cherish."

A few weeks before my arrival, a general election, consequent upon the
dissolution of Parliament by the death of the King, took place. The
Tory party in Birmingham had been indiscreet enough to contest the
borough. They selected a very unlikely man to succeed--Mr. A.G.
Stapleton--and they failed utterly, the Liberals polling more than two
to one. The Conservatives had their head-quarters at the Royal Hotel
in Temple Row. Crowds of excited people surrounded the hotel day
by day and evening after evening. One night something unusual had
exasperated them, and they attacked the hotel. There were no police
in Birmingham then, and the mob had things pretty much their own way.
Showers of heavy stones soon smashed the windows to atoms, and so
damaged the building as to make it necessary to erect a scaffold
covering the whole frontage before the necessary repairs could be
completed. When I first saw it, it was in a wretched plight, and it
took many weeks to repair the damage done by the rioters. The portico
now standing in front of the building--which is now used as the Eye
Hospital--was built at this time, the doorway up to then not having
that protection.

From this point, going towards Bull Street, the roadway suddenly
narrowed to the same width as The Minories. Where the extensive
warehouses of Messrs. Wilkinson and Riddell now stand, but projecting
some twelve or fifteen feet beyond the present line of frontage, were
the stables and yard of the hotel. On the spot where their busy clerks
now pore over huge ledgers and journals, ostlers were then to be seen
grooming horses, and accompanying their work with the peculiar hissing
sound without which it appears that operation cannot be carried
on. Mr. Small wood occupied the shop at the corner, and his parlour
windows, on the ground floor, looked upon Bull Street, the window
sills being gay with flowers. It was a very different shop to the
splendid ones which has succeeded it, which Wilkinson and Riddell have
just secured to add to their retail premises.

The Old Square had, shortly before, been denuded of a pleasant garden
in the centre, the roads up to that time having passed round, in front
of the houses. The Workhouse stood on the left, about half way down
Lichfield Street. It was a quaint pile of building, probably then
about 150 years old. There was a large quadrangle, three sides of
which were occupied by low two-storey buildings, and the fourth by a
high brick wall next the street. This wall was pierced in the centre
by an arch, within which hung a strong door, having an iron grating,
through which the porter inside could inspect coming visitors. From
this door a flagged footway crossed the quadrangle to the principal
front, which was surmounted by an old-fashioned clock-turret. Although
I was never an inmate of the establishment, I have reason to believe
that other quadrangles and other buildings were in the rear. The
portion vouchsafed to public inspection was mean in architectural
style, and apparently very inadequate in size. From this point I do
not remember anything worthy of note until Aston Park was reached, in
the Aston Road. The park was then entire, and was completely enclosed
by a high wall, similar in character to the portion remaining in the
Witton Road which forms the boundary of the "Lower Grounds." The Hall
was occupied by the second James Watt, son of the great engineer.
He had not much engineering skill, but was a man of considerable
attainments, literary and philosophical. His huge frame might be
seen two or three times a week in the shop of Mr. Wrightson, the
bookseller, in New Street. He was on very intimate terms of friendship
with Lord Brougham, who frequently visited him at Aston. The favourite
seat of the two friends was in the temple-like summer-house, near the
large pool in Mr. Quilter's pleasant grounds. The village of Aston was
as country-like as if located twenty miles from a large town. Perry
Barr was a _terra incognita_ to most Birmingham people. Erdington,
then universally called "Yarnton," was little known, and Sutton
Coldfield was a far-off pleasant spot for pic-nics; but, to the bulk
of Birmingham people, as much unknown as if it had been in the New
Forest of Hampshire.

Broad Street was skirted on both sides by private houses, each with
its garden in front. Bingley House, where the Prince of Wales Theatre
now stands, was occupied by Mr. Lloyd, the banker, and the fine trees
of his park overhung the wall. None of the churches now standing in
Broad Street were at that time built. The first shop opened at the
Islington end of the street, was a draper's, just beyond Ryland
Street. This was started by a man who travelled for Mr. Dakin, the
grocer, and I remember he was thought to be mad for opening such a
shop in so outlandish a place. The business is still carried on by
Mr. D. Chapman. Rice Harris then lived in the house which is now the
centre of the Children's Hospital, and the big ugly "cones" of his
glass factory at the back belched forth continuous clouds of black
smoke. Beyond the Five Ways there were no street lamps. The Hagley
Road had a few houses dotted here and there, and had, at no distant
time, been altered in direction, the line of road from near the
present Francis Road to the Highfield Road having at one time curved
very considerably to the left, as anyone may see by noticing the
position of the frontage of the old houses on that side. All along
the straightened part there was on the left a wide open ditch, filled,
generally, with dirty water, across which brick arches carried roads
to the private dwellings. "The Plough and Harrow" was an old-fashioned
roadside public-house. Chad House, the present residence, I believe,
of Mr. Hawkins, had been a public-house too, and a portion of the
original building was preserved and incorporated with the new portion
when the present house was built. Beyond this spot, with the exception
of Hazelwood House, where the father of Rowland Hill, the postal
reformer, kept his school, and some half-dozen red brick houses on the
right, all was open country. Calthorpe Street was pretty well filled
with buildings. St. George's Church was about half built. Frederick
Street and George Street--for they were not "Roads" then--were being
gradually filled up. There were some houses in the Church Road and at
Wheeleys Hill, but the greater portion of Edgbaston was agricultural

The south side of Ladywood Lane, being in Edgbaston parish, was pretty
well built upon, owing to its being the nearest land to the centre
of the town not burdened with town rating. There was a very large and
lumbering old mansion on the left, near where Lench's Alms-houses now
stand. Mr. R.W. Winfield lived at the red brick house between what are
now the Francis and the Beaufort Roads. Nearly opposite his house was
a carriage gateway opening upon an avenue of noble elms, at the end of
which was Ladywood House, standing in a park. This, and the adjoining
cottage, were the only houses upon the populous district now known
as Ladywood. At the right-hand corner of the Reservoir "Lane" was
the park and residence of Mr. William Chance. Further to the east, in
Icknield Street, near the canal bridge--which at that time was an iron
one, narrow and very dangerous--was another mansion and park, occupied
by Mr. John Unett, Jun. This house is now occupied as a bedstead
manufactory. Still further was another very large house, where Mr.
Barker, the solicitor, lived. Further on again, the "General" Cemetery
looked much the same as now, except that the trees were smaller, and
there were not so many monuments.

Soho Park, from Hockley Bridge, for about a mile on the road to West
Bromwich, was entirely walled in. The old factory built by Boulton and
Watt was still in operation. I saw there at work the original engine
which was put up by James Watt. It had a massive oak beam, and it
seemed strange to me that it did not communicate its power direct, but
was employed in pumping water from the brook that flowed hard by, to
a reservoir on higher ground. From this reservoir the water, as it
descended, turned a water-wheel, which moved all the machinery in the
place. It is not, perhaps, generally known that the same machine
which was employed here in 1797 in making the old broad-rimmed copper
pennies of George the Third is still at work at Messrs. Heaton's,
coining the bronze money which has superseded the clumsy "coppers" of
our forefathers.

Coming towards the town, from Hockley Bridge to the corner of Livery
Street, many of the houses had a pretty bit of garden in front, and
the houses were mostly inhabited by jewellers. It was in this street
that I first noticed a peculiarity in tradesmen's signboards, which
then was general through the town, and had a very curious appearance
to a stranger. Few of the occupiers' names were painted on the
_faciæ_ of the shop windows, but in almost every case a bordered
wooden frame, following the outline of the window, was fixed above
it. Each of these frames stood upon three or four wooden spheres,
generally about the size of a cricket ball, and they were surmounted
by wooden acorns or ornaments. The boards were all black, and the
lettering invariably gilt, as were also the balls and the acorns.
This, however strange, was not inconsistent; but there were hundreds
of frames in the town stretched across the fronts of houses, and fixed
to the walls by iron spikes. Every one of these signboards, although
altogether unnecessary for its support, had three gilt balls
underneath. There was another peculiarity: the capital letter C was
invariably made with two "serifs"--thus, C--and for a long time I
invariably read them as G's.

Coming up Livery Street, which then was filled on both sides of
its entire length by buildings, it was pointed out to me that the
warehouse now occupied by Messrs. T. Barnes and Co. was built for a
show-room and warehouse by Boulton and Watt, and here their smaller
wares had been on view. Where Messrs. Billing's extensive buildings
now stand, was an old chapel, built, I believe, by a congregation
which ultimately removed to the large chapel in Steelhouse Lane. It
was used as a place of worship until about 1848, when Mr. Billing
bought it, pulled it down, and utilised its site for his business. The
whole area of the Great Western Railway Station was then covered with
buildings, and one, if not more, small streets ran through to Snow
Hill. Monmouth Street was very narrow. Where the Arcade now is,
was the Quakers' burial ground. Opposite was the warehouse of Mr.
Thornley, the druggist, who had a small and mean-looking shop at the
corner, fronting Snow Hill. At the opposite corner was a shaky-looking
stuccoed house, used as a draper's shop, the entrance being up three
or four steps from Steelhouse Lane.

Mr. George Richmond Collis had recently succeeded to the business, at
the top of Church Street, of Sir Edward Thomason, who was dead. It was
then _the_ show manufactory of Birmingham. The buildings--pulled down
seven or eight years ago--were at that time a smart-looking affair;
the parapet was adorned with a number of large statues. Atlas was
there, bending under the weight of two or three hundred pounds of
Portland cement. Hercules brandished a heavy club, on which pigeons
often settled. A copy of the celebrated group of the "Horses of St.
Mark" was over the entrance. Several branches of Birmingham work
were exhibited to visitors, and it was here I first saw stamping,
cutting-out, press-work, and coining.

There were then I think only ten churches in Birmingham. Bishop
Ryder's was being built. The Rev. I.C. Barrett had just come from
Hull to assume the incumbency of St. Mary's; the announcement of his
presentation to the living appeared in _Aris's Gazette_, October
8th, 1837. I was one of his first hearers. The church had been
comparatively deserted until he came, but it was soon filled to
overflowing with an attentive congregation. There was an earnest tone
and a poetical grace in his sermons which were fresh to Birmingham in
those days. His voice was good, and his pale, thoughtful, intelligent
face was very striking. He was a fascinating preacher, and he became
the most popular minister in the town. The church was soon found to
be too small for the crowds who wished to hear, and alterations of an
extensive nature were made to give greater accommodation. Mr. Barrett
had then the peculiarity in his manner of sounding certain vowels,
which he still retains--always pronouncing the word "turn," for
instance, as if it were written "tarn." I remember hearing him once
preach from the text, 1 _Cor._, iii., 23, which he announced as
follows: "The farst book of _Corinthians_, the thard chaptar, and the
twenty-thard varse." Although still hale, active, and comparatively
young-looking, he is by far the oldest incumbent in Birmingham, having
held the living nearly forty years.

St. George's Church then looked comparatively clean and new. A curious
incident occurred here in May, 1833, an account of which I had from
the lips of a son of the then churchwarden. Birmingham was visited
by a very severe epidemic of influenza, which was so general that few
households escaped. Nor was the epidemic confined to mankind; horses
were attacked, and the proprietor of "The Hen and Chickens" lost by
death sixteen horses in one day. So many of the clergy and ministers
were ill, that some of the places of worship had to be closed for a
time. St. George's, which had a rector and two curates, was kept open,
although all its clergy were on the sick list. It was feared, however,
that on one particular Sunday it would have to be closed. Application
had been made to clergymen at a distance, but all, dreading infection,
were afraid to come to the town, so that aid from outside could not
be had. A consultation was held, and one of the curates, although weak
and ill, undertook to conduct the devotional part of the service, but
felt unable to preach. An announcement to be read by the "clerk" was
written out by the rector, and was, no doubt, properly punctuated. At
the close of the prayers, the next morning, the clerk arose, paper
in hand, and proceeded to read as follows, without break, pause, or
change of tone: "I am desired to give notice that in consequence of
the illness of the whole of the clergymen attached to this church
there will be no sermon here this morning 'Praise God from whom all
blessings flow.'"

John Angell James was then at the head of the Nonconformists of the
town, and was in the prime of his intellectual powers. He was very
popular as a preacher, and the chapel in Carrs Lane was always well
filled. Mr. Wm. Beaumont, the bank manager, acted as precentor,
reading aloud the words of the hymns to be sung and the notices
of coming religious events. Mr. James had a powerful voice and an
impressive manner, and occasionally was very eloquent. I remember a
passage, which struck me at the time as being very forcible. He
was deprecating the influence which the works of Byron had upon the
youthful mind, and, speaking of the poet, said: "He wrote as with
the pen of an archangel, dipped in the lava which issues from the
bottomless pit." Mr. James was not a classical scholar; indeed, he had
only received a very moderate amount of instruction. He was intended
by his parents for a tradesman, and in fact was apprenticed to
a draper at Poole. I believe, however, that the indentures were
cancelled, for he became a preacher before he was twenty years of
age. For myself, I always thought him an over-rated man. There was
a narrowness of mind; there was a want of sympathy with the works of
great poets and artists; and there was an intense hatred of the drama.
There was, too, a dogmatic, egotistic manner, which led him always
to enunciate his own thoughts as if they were absolutely true and
incontrovertible. He was not a man to doubt or hesitate; he did not
say "It may be," or "It is probable," but always "It is." He was a
good pastor, however. During his long and useful ministerial career of
more than half a century, he had but one fold and one flock. He was
a firm disciplinarian; was somewhat of a clerical martinet; but his
people liked him, and were cheerfully obedient; and he descended to
the grave full of abundant honour.

Timothy East, of Steelhouse Lane Chapel, was a man of far greater
mental capacity and culture. His sermons were clear, logical,
conclusive, and earnest. It is not generally known that he was a
voluminous writer. He was a frequent contributor to some of the best
periodicals of his time. He wrote and published, under the titles,
first of "The Evangelical Rambler," and afterwards of "The Evangelical
Spectator," a series of exceedingly well-written essays, the style of
which will compare favourably with that of the great standard works
of a century before, whose titles he had appropriated. His son,
the present Mr. Alfred Baldwin East, inherits a large share of his
father's literary ability. Those who had the pleasure, a few years
ago, to hear him read his manuscript of "The Life and Times of Oliver
Cromwell," had a rare intellectual treat. Some of its passages are
worthy of Macaulay. I wish he would publish it.

Of the newspapers of that time, only two survive, at least in
name--_Aris's Gazette_ and _The Midland Counties Herald_. The latter
had just been started. For a short time it was called _The Birmingham
Herald_, but this was soon altered to its present title. It was
published on the premises now occupied as Nock's refreshment bar,
in Union Passage. It had four pages then, as now, but the paper
altogether was not much larger than the coloured cover of _The
Graphic. The Journal_, although its name is lost, still lives and
thrives as _The Weekly Post_. The two others are defunct long ago.
One, _The Philanthropist_, was published in Bull Street by Mr. Hudson;
the other was _The Birmingham Advertiser_, which, on the purchase
of _The Journal_ by the Liberals, had been started in 1833 by Mr.
Hodgetts, in the Tory interest. It was edited by Mr. Thomas Ragg. It
ceased to be published in 1846.

The Grand Junction Railway, from Birmingham to Liverpool and
Manchester, was opened July 4th, in the year I am writing of (1837),
and on this line, in October of that year, I had my first railway
trip. The "Birmingham terminus" of those days is now the goods station
at Vauxhall, and it was here that I went to "book my place" for
Wolverhampton. I entered a moderate-sized room, shabbily fitted with a
few shelves and a deal counter, like a shop. Upon this counter, spread
out, were a number of large open books, the pages of each being
of different colour to the others. Each page contained a number
of printed forms, with blank spaces to be filled up in writing.
On applying to the clerk in attendance, I had to give my name and
address, which he wrote in two places on the blue page of one of the
books; he then took the money, tore out a ticket, some four inches by
three, and left a counterpart in the book. I was then shown to my
seat in the train, and on inspecting at my leisure the document I was
favoured with, I found that in consideration of a sum of money
therein mentioned, and in consideration further of my having impliedly
undertaken to comply with certain rules and regulations, the company
granted me a pass in a first-class carriage to Wolverhampton. I
returned to Birmingham by omnibus after dark the same evening,
and passing through the heart of the Black Country, made my first
acquaintance with that dingy region--its lurid light, its flashing
tongues of intercessant flame, and its clouds of stifling, sulphurous

Such, rapidly sketched, were my impressions of the place which was
destined to become my future home. It is very different now. From
the large and populous, but ugly town of those days, it is rapidly
becoming as handsome as any town in England. Situated as it is,
locally, almost in the centre of the country, it is also a great
centre commercially, artistically, politically, and intellectually.
From the primitive town of that time, governed by constables and
bailiffs, it has become a vast metropolis, and may fairly boast of
having the most energetic, far-seeing, and intelligent Municipal
Council in the kingdom. Its voice is listened to respectfully in the
Senate. Its merchants are known and honoured in every country in
the world. Its manufactured products are necessities to nearly every
member of the vast human race; and it seems destined, at its present
rate of progress, to become, before many years, the second city of the


On Sunday, the 14th of July, in the year 1839, I left Euston Square
by the night mail train. I had taken a ticket for Coventry, where I
intended to commence a business journey of a month's duration. It
was a hot and sultry night, and I was very glad when we arrived at
Wolverton, where we had to wait ten minutes while the engine was
changed. An enterprising person who owned a small plot of land
adjoining the station, had erected thereon a small wooden hut, where,
in winter time, he dispensed to shivering passengers hot elderberry
wine and slips of toast, and in summer, tea, coffee, and genuine
old-fashioned fermented ginger-beer. It was the only "refreshment
room" upon the line, and people used to crowd his little shanty,
clamouring loudly for supplies. He soon became the most popular man
between London and Birmingham.

Railway travelling then was in a very primitive condition. Except at
the _termini_ there were no platforms. Passengers had to clamber from
the level of the rails by means of iron steps, to their seats. The
roof of each of the coaches, as they were then called, was surrounded
by an iron fence or parapet, to prevent luggage from slipping off.
Each passenger's personal effects travelled on the roof of the coach
in which he sat, and the guard occupied an outside seat at one end.
First-class carriages were built upon the model of the "inside" of the
old stage coaches. They were so low that even a short man could not
stand upright. The seats were divided by arms, as now, and the floor
was covered afresh for each journey with clean straw. The second-class
coaches were simply execrable. They were roofed over, certainly;
but, except a half-door and a low fencing, to prevent passengers from
falling out, the sides were utterly unprotected from the weather. As
the trains swept rapidly through the country--particularly in cuttings
or on high embankments--the wind, even in the finest weather, drove
through, "enough to cut your ear off." When the weather was wet, or it
was snowing, it was truly horrible, and, according to the testimony
of medical men, was the primary cause of many deaths. There were no
"buffers" to break the force of the concussion of two carriages in
contact. When the train was about to start, the guard used to cry out
along the train, "Hold hard! we're going to start," and 'twas well he
did, for sometimes, if unprepared, you might find your nose brought
into collision with that of your opposite neighbour, accompanied by
some painful sensations in that important part of your profile.

I arrived at Coventry station at midnight. A solitary porter with
a lantern was in attendance. There was no lamp about the place. The
guard clambered to the roof of the carriage in which I had travelled,
and the porter brought a long board, having raised edges, down which
my luggage came sliding to the ground. The train passed on, and I made
inquiry for some vehicle to convey me to "The Craven Arms," half a
mile away. None were in attendance, nor was there any one who would
carry my "traps." I had about a hundred-weight of patterns, besides my
portmanteau. I "might leave my patterns in his room," the porter said,
and I "had better carry my 'things' myself." There was no help for it,
so, shouldering the portmanteau, I carried it up a narrow brick stair
to the roadway. The "station" then consisted of the small house by the
side of the bridge which crosses the railway, and the only means of
entrance or exit to the line was by this steep stair, which was about
three feet wide. The "booking office" was on the level of the road, by
the side of the bridge, where Tennyson

    "Hung with grooms and porters,"

while he

    "Waited for the train at Coventry."

Carrying a heavy portmanteau half a mile on a hot night, when you are
tired, is not a pleasant job. When I arrived, hot and thirsty, at the
inn, I looked upon the night porter as my best friend, when, after
a little parley, he was able to get me a little something, "out of
a bottle o' my own, you know, sir," with which I endeavoured,
successfully, to repair the waste of tissue.

The next day, having finished my work in Coventry, I started in a
hired conveyance for Coleshill, and a pleasant drive of an hour and
a half brought me to the door of "The Swan" in that quaint and quiet
little town. The people of the house were very busy preparing for a
public dinner that was to come off on the following day, and as the
house was noisy, from the preparations, I took a quiet walk in the
churchyard, little recking then, as I strolled in the solemn silence
of the golden-tinted twilight, that, only ten miles from where
I stood, at that moment, a crowd of furious men, with passions
unbridled, and blood hot with diabolic hate, held at their mercy,
undisturbed, the lives and property of the citizens of an important
town; that several houses, fired by incendiary hands, were roaring
like furnaces, and lighting with a lurid glare the overhanging sky;
that women by hundreds were shrieking with terror, and brave men were
standing aghast and appalled; that two of my own brothers and some
valued friends were in deadly peril, and that one at that very instant
was fighting for very life. It was the night of the great Bull Ring
riots of 1839.

When I arose the next morning I saw a man on horseback come rapidly to
the house, his features wild with excitement, and his face pale with
terror. His horse was covered with foam, and trembled violently. From
the man's quivering lips I learned, by degrees, an incoherent story,
which accounted for His strange demeanour. He was a servant at the
inn, and had been to Birmingham that morning, early, to fetch from
Mr. Keirle's shop, in Bull Street, a salmon for the coming dinner.
On arriving at the town, he had been stopped at a barrier by some
dragoons, who told him that he could go no further. Upon the poor
fellow telling how urgent was his errand, and what a heavy blow it
would be to society if the dinner at "The Swan" should be short of
fish, he was allowed to pass, but was escorted by a dragoon, with
drawn sword, to the shop. Here having obtained what he sought, he was
duly marched back to the barrier and set at liberty, upon which he
started off in mortal terror, and galloped all the way home, to tell
us with tremulous tongue that Birmingham was all on fire, and that
hundreds of people had been killed by the soldiers.

A small group had gathered round him in the yard to listen to his
incoherent, and, happily, exaggerated story. In a minute or two the
landlady, who had in some remote part of the premises heard a word or
two of the news the man had brought, came rushing out in a state of
frantic terror, prepared evidently for the worst; but when she heard
that James _had_ brought the salmon, her face assumed an air of
satisfaction, and with a pious "Thank God! that's all right," she
turned away; her mind tranquil, contented, and at perfect ease.

After the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, there was a political
lull in England for a few years. The middle classes, being satisfied
with the success they had achieved for themselves, did not trouble
themselves very much for the extension of the franchise to the working
classes. So long as trade remained good, and wages were easily earned,
the masses remained quiet; but the disastrous panic of 1837 altered
the aspect of affairs. Trade was very much depressed. A series of bad
harvests having occurred, and the Corn Laws not having been repealed,
bread became dear, and so aggravated the sufferings of the people.
Wages fell; manufactories in many places were entirely closed, and
work became scarce. Naturally enough, the working men attributed their
sufferings to their want of direct political influence, and began
to clamour for the franchise. Feargus O'Connor, a violent demagogue,
fanned the flame, and the excitement became general. In the year 1838
some half-dozen Members of Parliament united with an equal number of
working men in conference, and drew up a document, known afterwards
as "The People's Charter," which embodied what they considered the
rightful demands of the working class. It had six distinct claims,
which were called the "points" of the charter, and were as follows: 1.
Universal suffrage. 2. Vote by ballot. 3. Equal electoral districts.
4. Annual Parliaments. 5. Abolition of property qualification for
Members of Parliament. 6. Payment of Members. This programme, when
promulgated, was enthusiastically received throughout the country,
immense meetings being held in various places in its support. In
Birmingham, meetings were held every Monday evening on Holloway Head,
then an open space. On the 13th of August, 1838, there was a "monster
demonstration" here, and it was computed that 100,000 persons were
present. A petition in favour of the charter was adopted, and in a
few days received nearly 95,000 signatures. The former political
leaders--G.F. Muntz, George Edmonds, and Clutton Salt--became all at
once exceedingly unpopular, as they declined to join in the agitation.
Torchlight meetings were held almost nightly in various parts of the
country, and a Government proclamation was issued prohibiting them.
Some of the leaders of the movement were arrested. There was evidently
some central organisation at work, for a curious system of annoyance
was simultaneously adopted. In all parts of the country the Chartists,
in large and well-organised bodies, went, Sunday after Sunday, as soon
as the doors were opened, and took possession of all the seats in the
churches, thus shutting out the regular congregations. I was present
at a proceeding of this kind at Cheltenham. I was staying at "The
Fleece," and on a Saturday evening was told by the landlord that if I
wished to go to church the following morning, I had better be early,
as the Chartists were expected there, and the hotel pew might be full.
Dr. Close, the present Dean of Carlisle, was then the rector, and
was a very popular preacher. I had long wished to hear him, and
accordingly went to the church, with some other hotel guests. Soon
after the bells had begun to chime, several hundreds of men filed in
and took possession of every vacant seat and space. The aisles were so
occupied that no one could pass, and there were probably not thirty of
the regular worshippers there. There was not a female in the church.
The men were very quiet, orderly, and well-behaved, and joined in the
responses in a proper manner. The prayers over, Mr. Close ascended
the pulpit, and took for a text, 1 _Sam._ xii., 23: "God forbid that
I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will
teach you the good and the right way." The eloquent rector was quite
equal to the occasion; he gave them a thoroughly good dressing, and
his extempore sermon lasted for two hours and a half! I watched,
during the sermon, the impatient glances of some of the men; but
they stayed the sermon out, and went away, hungrier certainly, if not
wiser, than when they came.

All through the winter of 1838 there was much excitement in the
country. Many meetings were held, at which Feargus O'Connor distinctly
advised his hearers that they had a legitimate right to resort to
force to obtain their demands. Birmingham, however, remained tolerably
quiet until the beginning of April, 1839. On the 1st of that month,
and again on the 3rd, large meetings were held, at which Feargus
O'Connor, a Dr. John Taylor, "delegates" named Bassey, Donaldson, and
Brown, made violent and inflammatory speeches. Meetings more or less
numerously attended were held almost nightly. Upon the representation
of the shopkeepers that their business was greatly hindered, the Mayor
and magistrates, on the 10th of May, issued a notice forbidding the
holding of the meetings. Of the twelve gentlemen whose signatures were
attached to this notice, only two survive--Dr. Birt Davies and Mr.
P.H. Muntz.

On the 13th of May, a number of delegates from various parts of the
country, calling themselves "The National Convention," assembled
in Birmingham. Their avowed object was to frighten Parliament into
submission to their demands. They recommended a run for gold upon
the savings banks, an entire abstinence from excisable articles, and
universal cessation from work. Their proceedings at this conference
added fuel to the fire, and the people became more audacious. Threats
were now openly uttered nightly, and people began to be alarmed,
particularly as it was rumoured that a general rising in the Black
Country had been arranged for a certain day. Hundreds of pikes, it
was said, were already forged, and specimens were freely exhibited of
formidable weapons known to military men by the name of "Caltrop" or
"Calthorp," intended to impede the passage of cavalry. They consisted
of four spikes of pointed iron, about four inches long, radiating from
a common centre in such a manner that, however thrown, one spike would
be uppermost. Like the three-legged symbol of the Isle of Man, their
motto might be "_Quoqunque jeceris stabit_." There was a perfect reign
of terror, and people were afraid to venture out after nightfall. On
Friday, the 29th of June, the Mayor, Mr. William Scholefield, met
the mob, and in a short and friendly speech tried to induce them to
disperse, promising them, if they would refrain from meeting in the
streets, they should have the use of the Town Hall once a week for
their meetings. This proposal was received with shouts of derision,
and the mob, by this time greatly increased in numbers, marched
noisily through New Street, Colmore Bow, Bull Street, and High Street,
to the Bull Ring. On the following Monday, July 1st, there was a large
crowd in the Bull Ring, where Mr. Feargus O'Connor addressed them,
and advised an adjournment to Gosta Green, to which place they
accordingly marched, and O'Connor made a violent speech. In the
meantime the troops were ordered out, and a large body of pensioners,
fully armed, were marched into the Bull Ring. Finding no one there,
the Mayor ordered the troops back to the barracks, and the pensioners
were dismissed. After the meeting at Gosta Green was over, the people
marched with tremendous cheering back to the Bull Ring. They met
again on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, but no mischief, beyond a few
broken windows, was done. On Thursday evening, about eight o'clock,
the mob was in great force in the accustomed spot, with flags,
banners, and other insignia freely displayed. Suddenly, without a word
of notice, a large body of London police, which had just arrived by
train, came out of Moor Street and rushed directly at the mob.
They were met by groans and threats, and a terrible fight at once
commenced. The police with their staves fought their way to the
standard bearers and demolished the flags; others laid on, right
and left, with great fury. In a short time the Bull Ring was nearly
cleared, but the people rallied, and, arming themselves with
various improvised weapons, returned to the attack. The police were
outnumbered, surrounded, and rendered powerless. Some were stoned,
others knocked down and frightfully kicked; some were beaten badly
about the head, and some were stabbed. No doubt many of them would
have been killed, but just at this time Dr. Booth, a magistrate,
arrived on the spot, accompanied by a troop of the 4th Dragoons, and a
company of the Rifle Brigade. The Riot Act was read, and the military
occupied the Bull Ring. The wounded police were rescued and carried
to the Public Office, where Mr. Richards and some other surgeons were
soon in attendance, and dressed their wounds. Seven had to be taken to
the hospital. One was found to have been stabbed in the abdomen, and
another in the groin, in a most dangerous manner. The troops, and such
of the police as were able, continued to patrol the Bull Ring, and
they succeeded in arresting about a dozen of the rioters, who were
found to be armed with deadly weapons, and their pockets filled
with large stones. The mob continued to increase until about eleven
o'clock, when they suddenly started off for Holloway Head, where they
pulled down about twenty yards of the railing of St. Thomas's Church,
arming themselves with the iron bars. They then proceeded to "The
Golden Lion," in Aston Street, where the "convention" held its
meetings. Dr. Taylor addressed them, and upon his advice they
separated and went home. Taylor was arrested at his lodgings the same
night, and was brought before the magistrates about one o'clock in the
morning, when he was ordered to find bail, himself in £500, and two
sureties of £250 each.

On the following morning, by nine o'clock, the rioters again met at
Holloway Head. Mr. Alston, with a body of Dragoons, immediately went
there, and the Riot Act was again read. The mob did not disperse; the
soldiers charged them, and one fellow was felled to the ground by a
sabre cut on the head from one of the soldiers. During the whole of
this day the shops in High Street and the Bull Ring remained entirely
closed. The magistrates and military patrolled the town, and were
pelted with stones, but nothing very serious occurred, and for a few
days afterwards the town was comparatively quiet.

On Friday, the 12th of July, the House of Commons was asked by Mr.
Thomas Attwood to take into consideration the prayer of a monster
petition, which, on behalf of the Chartists, he had presented on June
14th. This petition asked the House, in not very respectful terms, to
pass an Act, whereby the six points of the Charter might become law.
It was signed by 1,280,000 persons. A long debate ensued, and Mr.
Attwood's proposition was negatived.

When the news arrived, on Saturday, the Chartists were furious, and a
large and noisy meeting was held at Holloway Head in the evening, but
no active disturbance took place either on that or the following day.

On Monday, the 15th, some of the leaders who had been arrested were
brought before the magistrates at the Public Office. A Carlisle man,
named Harvey, and two others named Lovett and Collins, were committed
for trial by a very full Bench, there having been present the Mayor,
Messrs. Thomas Clark, W. Chance, C. Shaw, P.H. Muntz, S. Beale, and
J. Walker. The crowd, which had assembled in Moor Street and the Bull
Ring, upon hearing the result, quietly dispersed, and for a few
hours the town appeared to be in a perfectly tranquil condition. The
soldiers retired to the barracks; the police remained at the Public
Office, with instructions from the magistrates not to act without
direct magisterial orders. The Mayor went to dinner, and the
magistrates, without exception, left the Public Office, and went home.

Unfortunately, this was only the lull before the coming storm, for
that night was such as few can remember now without a shudder.

About two hours after the magistrates had left the Public Office, the
Bull Ring was very full, but nearly all who were there seemed present
from motives of curiosity only. They were so orderly that no attempt
was made to disperse them. The crowd became so dense that the shops
were closed in apprehension that the windows might be accidentally
broken by the pressure. About eight o'clock, however, a cry was
raised, and an organised gang, many hundreds in number, armed with
bludgeons, bars of iron, and other formidable weapons, came marching
up Digbeth. They turned down Moor Street, and without any parley, made
an attack upon the Public Office, demolishing in a few seconds every
window in the front of the building. There was a strong body of police
inside, but they were powerless, for they had received definite orders
not to interfere without fresh magisterial directions, and all the
magistrates had left. The mob soon started back towards the Bull Ring,
where they fell upon a respectable solicitor named Bond, who happened
to be passing, and him they nearly killed. He was removed in
an insensible and very dangerous condition to the George Hotel.
Meanwhile, an attack was made with iron bars, used battering-ram
fashion, upon the doors of many of the shops, the rioters "prodding"
them with all their might. Messrs. Bourne's shop, at the corner of
Moor Street, was the first to give way, and the men quickly gained
admittance. A large number of loaves of sugar were piled near the
windows, and these were passed rapidly into the street. There, being
dashed violently to the ground, and broken to pieces, they formed
dangerous missiles, with which the crowd soon demolished all the
windows within reach. As the crowd of rioters increased, their weapons
became too few, and the iron railings of St. Martin's Church were
pulled down. With these very dangerous instruments they wrenched from
Nelson's monument the massive bars of iron which surrounded it. These
being long, and of great strength, proved to be formidable levers,
with which to force doors and shutters. In a short time the entire
area of the Bull Ring was filled with a mob of yelling demons, whose
shouts and cries, mixed with the sounds of crashing timber, and the
sharp rattle of breaking glass, made a hideous din. It was getting
dark, and a cry was raised for a bonfire to give light. In a few
moments the shop of Mr. Leggatt, an upholsterer, was broken open, and
his stock of bedding, chairs, tables, and other valuable furniture was
brought into the roadway, broken up, and fired, amid the cheers of the
excited people. One man, more adventurous than the rest, deliberately
carried a flaming brand into the shop and set the premises on fire.
The sight of the flames seemed to rouse the mob to ungovernable fury.
Snatching burning wood from the fire, they hurled it through the
broken, windows in all directions. Rushing in to Bourne's shop,
they rolled out tea canisters by dozens, which they emptied into the
gutters, and then smashed to pieces. They then deliberately collected
the shop paper around a pile of tea chests, and fired it, the shop
soon filling with flames. The mob, now vastly increased in numbers,
broke up into separate parties, one of which, with great violence,
attacked the premises of Mr. Arnold, a pork butcher. He, however, with
prudent forethought, had collected his workmen in the shop and armed
them with heavy cleavers and other formidable implements of his trade,
and so defended he kept the mob at bay, and eventually repulsed them.
The shop of Mr. Martin, a jeweller, whose window was filled with
watches, rings, and other costly articles, had its front completely
battered in, and the valuable stock literally scattered in the road
and scrambled for. Mr. Morris Banks, the druggist, had his stock of
bottles of drugs smashed to atoms. A curious circumstance saved these
premises from being set on fire. The mob had collected combustibles
for the purpose, but in breaking indiscriminately the bottles in the
shop, they had inadvertently smashed some containing a quantity of
very powerful acids. These, escaping and mixing with other drugs,
caused such a suffocating vapour that the miscreants were driven from
the shop half choked. Other tradesmen whose places were badly damaged
were Mr. Arthur Dakin, grocer; Mr. Savage, cheesemonger; Mrs.
Brinton, pork butcher; Mr. Allen, baker; Mr. Heath, cheesemonger; Mr.
Scudamore, druggist; and Mr. Horton, silversmith. Mr. Gooden, of
the Nelson Hotel, which then stood upon the site of the present Fish
Market, was a great sufferer, the whole of the windows of the hotel
being smashed in, and some costly mirrors and other valuable furniture
completely destroyed. The large premises of William Dakin and Co.--now
occupied by Innes, Smith, and Co., but then a grocer's shop--were
hotly besieged for nearly half an hour, but were, as will be fully
described a little further on, most bravely and successfully
defended. At nine o'clock many of the shops were on fire, and heaps
of combustibles from others were thrown upon the blazing pile in the
streets. The shops were freely entered and robbed. Women and children
were seen running away laden with costly goods of all kinds, and men
urged each other on, shouting with fury until they were hoarse.

The work of destruction went on undisturbed until nearly ten o'clock,
when suddenly, from the direction of High Street, a troop of Dragoons,
with swords drawn, came at full gallop, and rushed into the crowd,
slashing right and left with their sabres. They had been ordered to
strike with the flats only, but some stones were thrown at them, after
which some of the rioters got some very ugly cuts. Simultaneously
the mob was taken in flank by a body of a hundred police, which came,
headed by Mr. Joseph Walker and Mr. George Whateley, from Moor Street.
Such of the mob as could get away fled in terror, but so many arrests
were made that the prison in Moor Street was soon filled. In less than
a quarter of an hour not one of the rioters was to be seen, and the
peaceful inhabitants came trembling into the streets, to look upon the
wreck, and to convey their women and children to some safer locality.
Some ladies had to be brought from upper storeys by ladders. Tradesmen
took their account books away, for fear of further troubles. The fire
engines were brought, and vigorous help was soon obtained to work
them. By one o'clock in the morning the fires were all extinct, but at
that time all that remained of the premises of Messrs. Bourne and Mr.
Leggatt were the black and crumbling walls.

I have mentioned the attack upon the premises of W. Dakin and Co. My
own brother was manager there, and was in the very thick of the fray.
From him at the time, I had a very graphic account of the affair, and
in order that this little sketch might be as accurate as possible, I
made a special visit to his house, nearly 150 miles from Birmingham,
to refresh my memory; and the following account of the attack upon
Dakin's, and the robbery at Horton's, is in his own language:

"Remember it? Yes, I was confidential manager to Messrs. W. Dakin
and Co., tea merchants, at No. 28, High Street, where they had large
premises facing the street, and carried on a very extensive business,
having about twenty assistants living on the premises.

"It was the custom every Monday evening to remove all the goods from
the windows, so that the porters might clean the glass the following
morning, and this had been done on the night of the riots, so that
the windows were empty. There was a great crowd in the street that
evening, and I ordered the place to be closed earlier than usual,
and kept everybody on the alert. About eight o'clock, amid increasing
uproar in the street, there came a cry of 'Fire,' and on proceeding to
an upper floor I saw the glare of fire reflected in the windows of the
opposite houses. I at once collected all the assistants and porters,
and proceeding to the shop, we lighted the gas and mustered all
the 'arms' in the house. They consisted of an old sword and a horse
pistol, the latter of which we loaded with ball. The front door was
a very wide one, and here I planted one of the porters with a large
kitchen poker. In one of the windows I placed a strong man with a
crowbar, and in the other an active fellow with the sword. Presently
we heard our upper windows smashing, and simultaneously, an attack was
made upon our front door and windows by men armed with railings they
had taken from Nelson's monument. These heavy bars were evidently
wielded by men of great strength, for one of the earliest thrusts
broke through a strong shutter, smashing a thick plate of glass
inside. By holes through the bottom of the shutters, the men, using
the bars as levers, wrenched the shutters out. There was a strong and
very massive iron shutter-guarding bar about half-way up. They pulled
at the shutters, jerking them against this bar until they broke them
in two across the middle. They then pulled them away and smashed the
whole front in, leaving us bare and completely open to the street.
This did not take place, however, without a struggle, for as often as
a hand or an arm came within reach, my doughty henchman with the sword
chopped at them with great energy and considerable success. Others
collected the metal weights of the shop and hurled them in the faces
of our assailants. I, myself, knocked one fellow senseless by a blow
from a four-pound weight, which I dashed full in his face. In return
we were assailed by a perfect shower of miscellaneous missiles,
including a great many large lumps of sugar, stolen from other
grocers' shops. Finding themselves baffled, a cry was raised of 'Fire
the ---- place'. One of the men then deliberately climbed lamp-post
opposite, and with one blow from a bar of iron knocked away the lamp
and its connections, upon which the gas from the broken pipe flared up
two or three feet high. From this flame they lighted a large number
of combustibles, which they hurled amongst us and through the upper
windows. I thought our time was come, but my men were very active, and
we kept our ground. The young man with the pistol came to me and asked
if he should fire. 'Certainly,' said I, 'and mind you take good aim.'
He tried two or three times, but the thing wouldn't go off; we found
afterwards that in his terror he had omitted to 'cock' it. Spite of
this disaster, we fought for about twenty minutes, when there came a
sudden lull, and we were left alone. Looking cautiously through the
broken window, I saw that the mob had complete possession of the shop
of Mr. Horton, a silversmith, next door, and were appropriating the
valuable contents. Men and women, laden with the spoil, were running
off as fast as possible. The women were the worst, and they folded up
their dresses like aprons, and carried off silver goods by laps-full.

"All at once there was a cry, a roar, and a sound of horses' hoofs. A
moment afterwards we saw a troop of Dragoons come tearing along, with
swords drawn, slashing away on all sides. Some of the rioters were
very badly cut, and the affrighted ruffians fled in all directions,
amid groans, cries, curses, and a horrid turmoil. Several houses were
on fire, and the whole place was lighted up with a lurid glow.

"Our premises inside presented a curious sight. Each floor was strewn
with missiles thrown by the mob. Large lumps of sugar, stones, bits of
iron, portions of bricks, pieces of coal, and embers of burning wood
were mixed up with silver teapots, toast racks, glass cruets, and
plated goods of every kind. Aloft in the gasalier we found a silver
cruet stand and a bunch of three pounds of tallow candles. The whole
place was in a frightful state of ruin and confusion. Our list of
killed and wounded was, fortunately, a light one. I was the only one
seriously hit. I had a heavy blow in the face which spoiled it as
a picture, both in 'drawing' and 'colour,' for some time, but it
eventually got well. One of our fellows, we found, had retired to his
bed-room during the fight; he said he was 'demoralised.' Another,
a porter, had hidden himself in a place of great sweetness and
safety--the dung-pit of the stable yard. Our premises, however, though
damaged, were not destroyed, and our stock had not been stolen. We
were warmly congratulated on the success of our defence, and 'Dakin's
young men' were looked upon as heroes for a time."

The magistrates, having been all summoned, remained in consultation at
the Public Office during the whole night, and most energetic measures
were determined upon. Barriers, guarded by soldiers, were placed at
the entrances to all the streets leading to the centre of the town.
It was resolved that no more than three persons should be allowed to
collect at any point. To enforce these orders the whole of the special
constables--2,000 in number--who were already sworn in, were called
into active service. Arrangements were made to increase the number to
5,000. Messengers were sent to the authorities of the three adjoining
counties, requesting the immediate assistance of the Yeomanry Cavalry.
An "eighteen-pounder" piece of field artillery was placed on the
summit of the hill in High Street, and another on Holloway Head. The
suburbs of the town were to be patrolled continuously by the
Dragoons, and the centre was to be under the protection of the special
constables. A guard of the Rifle Brigade was to be stationed at
the Public Office, and the remainder was to be kept in reserve for
emergencies. The sittings of the magistrates were to be continuous day
and night, and other precautionary measures were resolved upon.

The town, the next morning, presented a most dismal appearance. The
shops in all the principal streets were closed, and remained so during
the day. Prom Moor Street to about a hundred yards beyond New Street
there was scarcely a pane of glass left entire. Most of the doors and
shutters were literally in splinters; valuable goods, in some of the
shops from which the owners had fled in terror the night before, were
lying in the smashed windows, entirely unprotected, and of the still
smoking and steaming ruins of the premises of Messrs. Bourne and Mr.
Leggatt nothing was left standing but the walls. The west side of the
Bull Ring, from "The Spread Eagle" to New Street, was in a similar
condition, but there had been no fires there. The whole area of the
Bull Ring was strewn with a strange medley of miscellaneous items.
Some one of the specials or police who had been on guard there during
the night, in a spirit of grim humour, had stuck up a half-burnt
arm-chair, in which they had placed, in imitation of a sitting figure,
one of the large circular tea-canisters from Messrs. Bourne's, which,
in its battered condition, bore some rough resemblance to a human
form. They had clothed it with some half-burned bed ticking; had
placed a shattered hat upon its summit; and, having made a small hole
in that part which had been the neck, had stuck therein a long clay
pipe. It had a very droll appearance. Feathers were flying about,
and fragments of half-consumed furniture were jumbled up with smashed
tea-chests and broken scales. The ground was black with tea, soaked by
the water from the fire-engines. The railings of St. Martin's Church
were in ruins, and Nelson's Statue was denuded of a great portion
of its handsome iron fence. The whole place looked as though it had
undergone a lengthened siege, and had been sacked by an infuriated

There is good reason for thinking that the riots were premeditated,
and had been arranged by some mysterious, secret conclave in London
or elsewhere. On this morning--the day _after_ the riots, be it
remembered--a letter was received by Messrs. Bourne, _bearing the
London post-mark of the day before_, of which the following is a copy,
in matter and in arrangement:

                               FAMINE, &c.
    The people shall rise like lions and shall not lie down till they
             eat the prey, and drink the blood of the slain,
                              JESUS CHRIST!!
                  Taking vengeance upon all who disobey
                               THE GOSPEL!
            ECCE, GLORIA DEI.                       REX MUNDI.
                              EXEUNT OMNES.
            BLOOD.                                  FIRE, &c.

During the day preventive arrangements were actively put in practice.
Captain Moorson, R.N., who was in command of the special constables,
organised a system by which the several detachments into which he had
divided them could be concentrated, at short notice, upon any given
spot. Guardrooms were engaged at the principal inns, which were open
day and night, and the specials were on duty for specified portions
of each day. Each of the detachments had an officer to control their
movements. Provisions of a simple nature were amply provided, and
every arrangement was made for the comfort of the specials while
on duty. In a day or two troops of Yeomanry marched in, and were
quartered in the houses of the residents in the suburbs. Meanwhile,
great indignation was openly expressed at what was thought the
neglect of proper precaution on the part of the magistracy; and on
Tuesday--the day after the fires--a meeting was held, at which the
complaints were loudly and angrily discussed. A memorial was drawn up,
numerously signed, and forwarded by the same night's post to Lord
John Russell, who was then Home Secretary. It brought heavy charges
of neglect against the local rulers, and finished as follows: "Feeling
that the Mayor and Magistrates have been guilty of gross dereliction
of duty, we request your Lordship to institute proceedings to bring
them to trial for their misconduct, and, in the meantime, to suspend
them from any further control or interference."

On the Wednesday morning, the London papers had long and special
reports of Monday night's proceedings, and _The Times_ gave publicity
to two statements which I cannot find corroborated in any way.
It stated that on Monday morning the town was placarded with an
announcement that Mr. Thomas Attwood was expected in the town during
the day, and would address the people; and it mentioned that about the
middle of the day a man with a bell was sent round to announce that
a meeting would be held upon Holloway Head at half-past six that
evening, and that Mr. Attwood would be there. So far as I can discover
by diligent search, neither of these statements was correct. They
were, however, made the text of violent attacks, in the Press and
in both Houses of Parliament, upon the magistrates, and upon Lord
Melbourne's Ministry, which had appointed them. The virulence of these
attacks was very remarkable even in those days, and was almost beyond
what the present generation will believe possible. One of the speakers
in the House of Lords did not hesitate to say that he held the "Palace
favourites" liable to the country for having knowingly appointed
violent demagogues and known disloyal persons to the magisterial
bench. Lord Melbourne, in a long and eloquent speech, rebutted the
charge, and read to the House a long and very able letter from Mr.
William Scholefield, the Mayor, giving a full and fair history of
the whole matter. Government, however, consented to institute a full
inquiry; and Mr. Maule, the Solicitor to the Treasury, was sent
down, and held sittings at the Hen and Chickens Hotel. His
inquiries, however, were only preliminary to the full and exhaustive
investigation made afterwards by Mr. Dundas, who, in his report to
Parliament (presented October 26, 1840), fully absolved the Mayor and
magistrates from blame.

Upwards of sixty of the rioters having been apprehended, the
magistrates had a busy week of it, and large numbers of prisoners were
committed for trial. A Special Assize was opened at Warwick, on August
2nd, before Mr. Justice Littledale. Three men, named respectively,
Howell, Roberts, and Jones, and a boy named Aston, were found guilty
of arson, and condemned to death. The jury recommended them to mercy,
but the judge told them, that as to the men, he could not support
their appeal. The Town Council, however, petitioned for remission, and
a separate petition of the inhabitants, the first signature to which
was that of Messrs. Bourne, asked for mercy to the misguided convicts.
They were ultimately transported for life. Of the many others who were
found guilty, the majority were released upon their own recognisances,
and others, to the number of about a dozen, were sentenced to various
terms of imprisonment with hard labour.

There remained the bill to be paid. Claims to the amount of £16,283
were sent in; and after a long and searching investigation of each
claim separately, the sum of £15,027 was awarded to the sufferers.
Rates to the amount of £20,000, for compensation, and to cover
expenses, were, made in the Hundred of Hemlingford, and with the
payment of these sums the Birmingham Riots of 1839 became matter of
history only.

It is a very extraordinary circumstance that to this time no one, so
far as I am aware, has observed a remarkable coincidence. On the 15th
of July, 1791, the houses of Mr. John Ryland, at Easy Hill, Mr. John
Taylor, Bordesley Hall, and William Hutton, the historian, in High
Street, were destroyed by the "Church and King" rioters. On the 15th
of July, in the year 1839, forty-eight years afterwards--to a day--the
Chartist rioters were rampant in the Bull Ring.

After 1839, the Birmingham Chartists gave very little trouble. There
were occasional meetings sympathising with the movement, in other
places, as at Newport in the following November, and in the Potteries
in 1842. These meetings, however, were not largely attended, and there
was none of the former excitement. On the 11th of April, 1848, the
date of Feargus O'Connor's wretched _fiasco_ in London, they played
their last feeble game. They held a meeting in the People's Hall, and
I there heard some violent revolutionary speeches. There was, however,
no response to their excited appeals, and from that day Chartism was
practically extinct.

It is not, perhaps, generally known that the principles embodied in
the famous "Charter" were not new. In 1780 Charles James Fox, the
great Whig leader, declared himself in favour of the identical six
points which were, so long after, embodied in the programme of the
Chartists. The Duke of Richmond of that time brought into the House of
Lords, in the same year, a Bill to give universal suffrage and annual
parliaments; and afterwards, Mr. Erskine, Sir James Macintosh, and
Earl Grey advocated similar views.

Several great causes were at work which tended to throw Chartism into
obscurity. The repeal of the Corn Laws had given the people cheap
bread, and the advent of free trade gave abundant work and good wages.
With increased bodily comfort came contentment of mind. The greater
freedom of intercourse, caused by railway travelling, showed the lower
classes that the governing bodies were not so badly disposed towards
them as they had been taught to believe. On the other hand, the upper
classes acquired a higher sense of duty to their humbler neighbours.
All grades came to understand each other better, and with increased
knowledge came better feelings and a more friendly spirit.

But another cause has perhaps had a deeper and more lasting effect.
The abolition of the stamp duty upon newspapers, and the consequent
advent of a cheap press, enabling every working man to see his
daily paper, and to know what is going on, has carried into effect,
silently, a revolution, complete and thorough, in English thought and
manners, in relation to political matters. Every man now sees that,
differing as Englishmen do, and always will, upon some matters, they
all agree as to one object. That object is, "the greatest good to
the greatest number" of their fellow countrymen. The pride of all
Englishmen now, is in the glory that their great country has achieved
in peaceful directions. Their ardent desire and prayer is, that the
benefits they have secured for themselves in the last few and fruitful
years of judicious legislation, may descend with ever-widening
beneficent influences to succeeding generations.


As I sit down to write, on the stormy evening of this twenty-ninth
day of January, 1877, I bethink me that it is fifty-seven years to-day
since death terminated a life and a reign alike unexampled for their
length in the history of English monarchs. King George the Third died
on the 29th of January, 1820.

I remember the day perfectly. I, a child not quite five years old, was
sitting with my parents in a room, the windows of which looked upon
the street of a pleasant town in Kent. Snow was falling fast, and lay
thick upon the ground outside. The weather was intensely cold, and we
crowded round the fire for warmth and comfort. Suddenly there was a
crash: a snowball fell in our midst, and the fragments of a windowpane
were scattered in the room. My father rose in anger to go to catch the
culprit who had thrown. He was unsuccessful; but in his short visit to
the street he had learned some news, for when he returned he told us
that the King was dead.

The King dead? I had heard of "the King" of course, but what _it_ was
I had never thought of. To me it represented strength and omnipotent
protection, but it was an abstraction only; an undefined something of
awful portent; and that _it_ could die was very mysterious, and set me
wondering what we should do now.

My father explained at once, that the King was only a man; that his
sons and daughters, even, were old people now; that one of the sons
died only a week ago, and wasn't buried yet; and that this son had
left, fatherless, a little baby girl, not much over six months old,
who, if she should live, might one day become the Queen of England.
Such is my earliest recollection in connection with the illustrious
lady who still, happily, sits upon the English throne.

I am an old man now, but I remember that being without a King made
me feel very uncomfortable then, particularly at night. A few days
afterwards, however, there was a sound of trumpets in the street, and
a number of elderly gentlemen, in very queer dresses and curious hats,
stopped opposite our window, where one of them, standing upon a
stool, read something from a paper. When he had finished, the trumpets
sounded again, and I knew there was a new King, for all the people
shouted, "God save the King." Then, for the first time since the fatal
day, I felt re-assured; and I went to bed that night free from the
dread which had been instilled into my mind by a very judicious nurse,
that Bonaparte might come in the dark; steal me and my little brother;
and cook us for his Sunday dinner.

Soon after this I had frequent opportunities of seeing a veritable
Queen. The unfortunate Caroline, wife of George the Fourth, lived at
Blackheath, and drove occasionally in an open carriage through
the streets of Greenwich, and there I saw her. I have a perfect
recollection of her face and figure. A very common-looking red face
it was, and a very "dowdy" figure. She wore always an enormous
flat-brimmed "Leghorn" hat, trimmed with ostrich feathers. The
remainder of her dress was gaudy, and, if one may say so of a
Queen's attire, rather vulgar. She was, however, very popular in the
neighbourhood; and when, at her great trial, she was acquitted, the
town of Greenwich was brilliantly illuminated. I remember, too, how
she, having been snubbed at the coronation of her husband, died of
grief only three weeks afterwards, and how in that very month of
August, 1821, which saw her death, her illustrious spouse set forth,
amid much pomp and gaiety, on a festive journey to Ireland.

In October, 1822, I saw the King himself, on his way to embark at
Greenwich, for Scotland. I remember a double line of soldiers along
the road, several very fussy horsemen riding to and fro, a troop of
Cavalry, and a carriage, in which sat a very fat elderly man, with a
pale flabby face, without beard or whisker, but fringed with the curls
of a large brown wig. That is all I remember, or care to remember, of
George the Fourth.

A little more than ten years after that cold January day of which I
wrote, this King lay, dying, at Windsor. It was early summer, and I,
a boy of fifteen, was one of a group of people who stood in front of a
bookseller's shop at Guildford, reading a copy of a bulletin which had
just arrived: "_His Majesty has passed a restless night; the symptoms
have not abated_." As I turned away, I overheard a woman say, "The
King'll be sure to die; he's got the symptoms, and I never knew
anybody get over _that_." All at once the bells struck up a merry
peal, and the Union Jack floated from the "Upper Church" tower. A
crowd assembled round the "White Hart," and a dozen post-horses, ready
harnessed, stood waiting in the street. Presently there was a sound of
hoofs and wheels, and three carriages dashed rapidly up the hill, to
the front of the hotel. The people waved their hats and shouted. The
glass window of one of the carriages was let down, and a child's
face and uncovered head appeared in the opening: it was the Princess
Victoria, then eleven years old. A mass of golden curls; a fair round
face, with the full apple-shaped cheeks peculiar to the Guelphs; a
pair of bright blue eyes; an upper lip too short to cover the front
teeth; a pleasant smile; and a graceful bending of the tiny figure as
the carriage passed away, left favourable impressions of the future
Queen. She had been summoned from the Isle of Wight to be near her
uncle; at whose death, a few days after--amid a storm of thunder and
lightning, such as had not been known since the night when Cromwell
died--his brother, the Duke of Clarence, was proclaimed King, and she
became the Heiress Presumptive to the Crown of England.

William the Fourth, with his good Queen, Adelaide, I saw once, as
they rode in the great State carriage to the Handel commemoration,
at Westminster Abbey, in June, 1834. The King had a good-tempered,
simple-looking face, without much sign of intellectual power;
the Queen's face was of Grecian shape, and had a thoughtful and
intelligent expression. The face and features were good in form, but
the complexion was highly coloured, and looked as though affected
by some kind of inflammation. They were a quiet, unpretending,
well-meaning, and moral couple. They purified the tainted precincts of
the Court, and thus rendered it fit for the abode of the youthful and
gracious lady who succeeded them.

The next time I saw the Princess Victoria was in 1836. It was on a day
which, but for the firmness of Sir John Conroy, who acted as Equerry,
might have been her last. At any rate, but for him, she would have
been in great peril. I was standing in the High Street of Rochester; a
fearful hurricane was blowing from the west; chimney pots, tiles, and
slates were flying in all directions, and the roaring of the wind,
as it hurtled through the elms in the Deanery Garden, was loud as
thunder. A strip of lead, two feet wide, the covering of a projecting
shop window, rolled up like a ribbon, and fell into the street. At
that moment three carriages, containing the Duchess of Kent, the
Princess, and their suite, came by. They were on their way from
Ramsgate to London, and a change of horses stood ready at the Bull
Inn. Arriving there, a gentleman of the city approached Sir John, and
advised him not to proceed further, telling him that if they attempted
to cross Rochester bridge, the carriages might be upset by the force
of the wind. The Royal travellers alighted, and Sir John proceeded to
inspect the bridge. On his return, he advised the Duchess to stay,
as the storm was raging fearfully, and the danger was imminent. The
Princess, with characteristic courage, wanted to go on, but Sir John
was firm, and he prevailed, for the journey onwards was postponed. In
an hour from that time, nearly the whole of one parapet was lying in
rains upon the footway of the bridge, and the other had been blown
bodily into the river underneath. The Royal party had to stay all
night, and the inn at which they slept, henceforth took the additional
title of "Victoria Hotel," which it still retains. The journey was
resumed next day, the horses being carefully led by grooms over the
roadway of the wall-less bridge.

A few months after this, the Princess, at Kensington Palace, was
called from her bed, in the twilight of a summer morning, and was
greeted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister, Lord
Melbourne, as Queen of England. Her first act, as Queen, was to write,
and despatch by a special messenger to Windsor, an affectionate letter
to her widowed aunt, the Queen Dowager. From that time forward her
daily doings have been duly chronicled, and need not be dwelt upon
here; but a few sketches, incidental to her own and the Prince
Consort's visits to Birmingham, will perhaps be interesting.

When the Princess Victoria was a mere child, her excellent mother, in
the course of a somewhat lengthy tour, brought her to Birmingham, to
see some of the principal manufactories. Arrangements were made for
their stay at Willday's Hotel, now the Eye Hospital, in Temple Row. On
the day they were expected, a guard of honour, consisting of a company
of Infantry, was in attendance, and, pending the Royal arrival, waited
near the Rectory, in St. Philip's Churchyard. By a very singular
chance, the officer then in command became, years after, the Rector
of St. Philip's, and the occupier of the house before which he waited
that day. He is now the Dean of Worcester, the Hon. and Rev. Grantham
M. Yorke.

As the hour of the arrival of the Royal visitors approached, the
troops drew up in front of the hotel, and they presented arms as the
carriage arrived. A great crowd had assembled. There were no police
then, and order was badly kept. As the Princess alighted, a lady,
standing near the door of the hotel (Mrs. Fairfax, who recently lived
in Great Charles Street), moved by a sudden impulse, rushed forward,
caught the Princess in her arms, and kissed her. The Duchess was
annoyed, and the attendants, too, were very angry; but the crowd,
recognising in the act only the "one touch of nature" that "makes
the whole world kin," gave the adventurous lady a round of hearty

It was many years after her accession that the Queen revisited the
town, but the Prince Consort came frequently. His first visit was in
1843. Her Majesty and himself were the guests of Sir Robert Peel
at Drayton Manor, and the Prince took the opportunity to come to
Birmingham, to inspect some of the manufactories. There is reason to
believe that the impressions he received that day were lasting, and
that he ever afterwards took a very warm interest in the town and its
various industries. Mr. Thomas Weston was Mayor at the time. He was
a prosperous and very worthy man, possessing a large fund of common
sense, but knowing little of courtly manners. Of course, as Chief
Magistrate, he accompanied the Prince through the town, and joined him
at the luncheon provided at the Grammar School, by the Rev. J.P. Lee,
the Head Master. After luncheon, the Prince, his Equerry, and the
Lord-Lieutenant, took their seats in the carriage, but the Mayor was
missing. Anxious looks were exchanged, and as minute after minute
went by, the attendants became impatient. The Prince stood up in the
carriage, and put on an overcoat. Still the Mayor didn't come. At
length it oozed out that he had lost his hat. A dozen hats were
offered at once on loan; but the Mayor's head was a large one, and it
was long before a hat sufficiently capacious could be found. It came
at last, however, and the Mayor, in a borrowed hat, came rushing
out, much disconcerted, and full, evidently, of apologies, which the
Prince, with much good nature, laughingly accepted.

The next time he came to Birmingham was in 1849. At this time the area
from Broad Street to Cambridge Street in one direction, and in the
other from King Edward's to King Alfred's Place, now covered with
buildings, was enclosed on all sides by a brick wall some ten feet
high. Inside this wall there was a belt of trees all round, and a
few "ancestral elms" were dotted here and there within the enclosure.
About a hundred yards from the Broad Street wall stood a square house
of red brick, built in the style of architecture current in the days
of Queen Anne. It was known as Bingley House. Not far from the spot
where the house now occupied by Mr. Mann, the surgeon, stands, was a
carriage gate, leading to the dwelling. The grounds were laid out in
park-like fashion, and so late as 1847 were abundantly tenanted by
wild rabbits. The house had been occupied for a generation or two
by the Lloyd family, but about 1846 or 1847 they removed, and it
was understood that the ground was shortly to be devoted to building

In 1848, an exhibition of Birmingham manufactures was projected: the
idea, I believe, originating with the late Mr. Aitken. It was received
with considerable favour, and a strong committee being formed, a plan
was soon matured for carrying it into effect. Negotiations resulted in
the tenancy, for the purpose, of Bingley House and grounds. Very soon
a substantial timber building was seen rising within the wall, near
the corner of King Alfred's Place. In a few weeks it was covered in; a
broad corridor connected it with the old mansion; and early in 1849
an exhibition, most interesting in its details, and artistic in its
arrangement, was opened. The larger articles were displayed in the
temporary building; flat exhibits covered the walls of the corridor;
and smaller matters were arranged, with great judgment, in the
old-fashioned rooms of the house itself.

The exhibition opened with great _éclat_. The buildings were thronged
from morning till night with gratified crowds. Special reporters from
the daily newspapers came down from London, and sent long and special
reports for publication. The veteran magazine, now called _The
Art Journal_, but then known as _The Art Union_, gave interesting
accounts, with engravings of many of the articles on view, and the
whole matter was a great and signal success.

One morning the secretary received an intimation that Prince Albert
was coming on the following day. Preparations on a suitable scale were
at once commenced for his reception, and the principal exhibitors were
invited to be in attendance. At the time appointed, the Prince, who
had made a special journey from London for the purpose, was met by the
officials at the entrance, and conducted systematically through the
place. He made a most minute and careful examination of the whole
of the contents, took copious memoranda, and chatted familiarly with
everybody. One remark I heard him make struck me as significant of the
practical, observant character of his mind. Cocoa-fibre matting was
then comparatively unknown; the stone steps of the old hall had been
carpeted with this new material; observing this, as he walked up the
steps, the Prince turned to Mr. Aitken and said, "Capital invention
this; the only material I know of that wears better in a damp place
than when dry."

As he left the place on his return to London, he expressed, in cordial
terms, his thanks for the attention shown him, and said he had "been
very much pleased; quite delighted, in fact," and so ended a visit
which eventually led to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Royal
Commission for the establishment of which was gazetted January 3,

The Prince came again, to lay the foundation stone of the Midland
Institute buildings. On that occasion he accepted an invitation to a
public luncheon in the Town Hall, and it was here that he delivered
the celebrated speech which placed him at once in the foremost rank of
philosophic thinkers. He was much pleased at his cordial reception on
this occasion, and it is known that it had much to do in overcoming
the avowed reluctance of the Queen to visit Birmingham, and was mainly
instrumental in inducing her to consent to open Aston Hall and Park.

The 15th of June, 1858, was eagerly looked forward to, for on that day
the Queen was coming. Taking a lesson from continental practice, it
was wisely resolved that individual attempts at decoration should be
discouraged, and that the inhabitants of each street should combine
for effective artistic arrangements. For the first time, I believe,
in England, Venetian masts were a principal feature, where possible.
Poles by hundreds, and flags by thousands, were sought in all
directions. The Town Hall was placed in the hands of skilful
decorators. The interior was, as yet, a mystery; but the pediment
fronting Paradise street was fitted with an enormous canvas-covered
frame, upon which was emblazoned, in gorgeous, but proper heraldic
style, the Royal Arms of England. All along the line of route through
the town, and on the road to Aston, rose hundreds of galleries for
spectators. Every one was busy in preparation, and nothing was omitted
to make the scene as gay as possible.

The morning of the day was fine and intensely hot. Each street had its
own style of ornamentation, but the number of separate short lengths
of the route, gave sufficient variety to avoid monotony. Bull Street,
as seen from the bottom, seemed like a fairy scene from a theatre; all
looked gay and pleasant to the artistic eye. The Town Hall had been
transformed into a gorgeous Throne Room, and was crowded with the
_élite_ of the neighbourhood. The Queen, as usual, was punctual, and
took her seat under a regal canopy. A short reception was held. The
Mayor knelt, and rose up a Knight. The mover and seconder of the
address from the Corporation kissed hands. Poor Alderman Horatio
Cutler, in his confusion at finding himself in so august a presence,
forgot the customary bending of the knee. In vain Lords in Waiting
touched the back of his leg with their wands to remind him. He had
lost his presence of mind, and retired in utter confusion, amid a
general but suppressed titter.

Then came the journey to the Park, through the long line of decorated
streets; the short ceremony at the Hall, and the luncheon. Then the
appearance in the gallery upon the roof of the glass pavilion, where
the Queen and Prince received, and acknowledged gracefully, the
plaudits of the spectators; and finally came the announcement by Sir
Francis Scott, that he had received "Her Majesty's gracious commands
to declare, in her name, that the Park was now open."

At the door of departure, her Majesty, in thanking the Mayor for the
arrangements made for her comfort and convenience, was pleased to say
that she had never before been greeted with such enthusiastic loyalty,
and that the decorations had exceeded in beauty anything of the kind
she had ever seen.

I have never seen the Queen since. Her photographs, however, show me
that, although she has twenty-seven grand-children, and has been Queen
of England for more than forty years, she is still a comely matron,
with every appearance of health and vigour. Long may she remain so!
Long may she continue to be, as now, the kindly, sympathetic, motherly
head of a contented, loyal, and united people.


At the close of the French war in 1814, the Bank of England commenced
preparations for the return to specie payments. Immediate "tightness"
in the money market was the result. Prices fell. Trade became dull.
Credit was injured. The return of peace seemed, to the unthinking,
a curse rather than a blessing. Alarming riots were frequent, and
general distress and discontent existed. The Government, in some
alarm, resolved to postpone the resumption of cash payments until

In the meantime, the subject of the proper regulation of the currency
underwent a good deal of discussion, and in the year 1819 the Act
known as "Peel's Bill" was passed. It provided that after 1821 the
bank should be compelled to pay its notes in bullion at the rate of
£3 17s. 10-1/2d. per ounce, and that after 1823 holders of notes might
demand at the bank current coin of the realm in Exchange. The same
Act abolished the legal tender of silver for any sum beyond forty

This made matters worse. Banks became more stringent. Prices of all
commodities fell. Numbers of people were thrown out of work. Poor's
rates increased in amount and frequency, and general discontent
prevailed. Corn and agricultural produce no longer fetched war prices.
Landlords insisted upon retaining war rents, which farmers were unable
to pay. To meet this difficulty, Parliament passed the Corn Laws,
hoping thereby to keep up prices. These new laws produced the contrary
effect. Wheat fell from 12s. to 5s. the bushel. Rents could not be
collected. Mortgages upon land could not be redeemed, and land became
practically unsaleable.

Things at length attained such a condition, that Government became
seriously alarmed, and brought into Parliament five distinct money
bills in one night. These bills were hurried through both Houses as
fast as the forms of Parliament would allow. All of them had for their
object the relaxation of the stringency of the money laws; and one Act
permitted the issue of one pound notes for ten years longer, _i.e._,
to 1833.

Trade immediately revived. Labour became abundant, and everyone,
high or low, in the country, felt immediate relief and benefit.
Unfortunately, with the return to prosperity came the usual unwise
rebound in public feeling. Everything became _couleur de rose_. The
wildest joint stock enterprises were projected. Capital, obtained on
easy terms of credit, was forced into every branch of commerce. Trade
was pushed beyond legitimate requirements. Imports of cotton, wine,
and silk increased so far beyond their usual amount, that the rates
of exchange turned against this country. The Bank of England, in
self-defence, "put on the screw." Money invested in distant countries,
in speculative operations, was now badly wanted at home. Suspicion
arose, and confidence was shaken. Merchants, in default of their
usual help from bankers, suspended payment. Bankers themselves, having
depended upon the return of their former advances, were in great
peril. Alarm having become general, there was a simultaneous run for
gold throughout the country, with the result that in a very short time
seventy-nine banks stopped payment, of which no fewer than fifty-nine
became bankrupt. The whole kingdom was in a frightful state of
consternation. Failure followed failure in rapid succession. The
whole circulation of the country was deranged, and at the beginning of
December, 1825, the Bank of England stock of cash amounted only to a
very few thousand pounds.

Ministers were called together in haste, and Cabinet Councils were
daily held. It was decided to issue two millions sterling of Exchequer
bills, upon which the bank was authorised to issue an equal amount of
notes. The bank was also "recommended" to make advances of a further
sum of three millions, upon the security of produce and general

At this moment a fortunate discovery was made which did more to allay
the excitement than the measures just mentioned. The bank had ceased
to issue one pound notes six years before, and it was thought that
they had all been destroyed. Accidentally, and most opportunely,
when things were at the worst, one of the _employés_ of the Bank, in
searching a store-room, found a case of the £1 unissued notes, which
had escaped observation at the time of the destruction. They were at
once issued to the public, by whom they were hailed with delight, as
the first "bit of blue" in the monetary sky. Under these re-assuring
circumstances the panic soon subsided, but it left its blighting
legacy of misery, ruin, diminished credit, and general embarrassment.

The banking laws were soon after altered. The Bank of England was
induced to forego its exclusive monopoly of having more than six
proprietors, and the formation of joint stock banks consequently
became possible. A new era in banking commenced, which, modified from
time to time, has existed down to the present time.

It will be seen that the close of the war, in 1814, was the
commencement of the great and violent monetary changes I have
attempted to describe. There were then six banks in Birmingham. Two of
these are altogether extinct; the other four have merged into existing
banks. For convenience sake, I will sketch the extinct banks first,
and afterwards show the processes by which the others have been
incorporated with existing institutions.

At the period mentioned, the firm of Smith, Gray, Cooper, and Co.
had the largest banking business in the town. They carried on their
operations in the premises in Union Street now occupied by the
Corporation as offices for their gas department. This bank did a large
business with merchants and wholesale traders, and it "was a very
useful bank." After several changes, the firm became Gibbins, Smith,
and Goode. In the great panic of 1825, one of their customers, a
merchant named Wallace, failed, owing them £70,000. This, with other
severe losses, brought them down. They failed for a very large amount.
Such, however, had been their actual stability, that, after all
their losses, and after payment of the costs of their bankruptcy, the
creditors received a dividend of nineteen shillings and eightpence in
the pound. Mr. Smith, of this firm, was a man of great shrewdness and
probity, and was greatly esteemed by his friends. The late Mr. Thomas
Upfill had, in his dining-room, an excellent life-size portrait of Mr.
Smith, taken, probably, about the year 1820. This portrait is now
in the possession of a lady at Harborne. The face is a shrewd and
observant one, and it always struck me as having a remarkable likeness
to the great James Watt, the engineer. Of Mr. Gibbins and Mr. Goode we
shall hear more as we go on, but "Smith's Bank" became extinct.

The firm of Galton, Galton, and James had their offices in the tall
building in Steelhouse Lane, opposite the Children's Hospital. They
weathered the storm of 1825, but, some years later on, Mr. James
accepted the post of manager of the Birmingham Banking Company,
whereupon the remaining partners retired into private life, and the
bank was closed.

Messrs. Freer, Rotton, Lloyds, and Co. had offices in New Street, now
pulled down. They had a large number of customers, principally among
the retail traders and the smaller manufacturers. The firm underwent
several changes, being altered to Rotton, Onion, and Co., then Rotton
and Scholefield, and finally to Rotton and Son. The banking office,
in the meantime, had been removed to the corner of Steelhouse Lane, in
Bull Street. Upon the death of the elder Mr. Rotton, the business
was transferred to the National Provincial Bank of England, Mr. Henry
Rotton becoming manager. This gentleman, whose death only recently
occurred, held this position for many years, and was universally
respected. His mental organisation was, however, too refined and
feminine to battle with the rough energy of modern trading. The bank,
under his management, was tolerably successful, but it remained a
small and somewhat insignificant concern in comparison with others.
An arrangement, satisfactory on all sides, was at length entered into,
under which he resigned his appointment. His successor is Mr. J.L.
Porter, a man of different stamp. Under his sturdy and vigorous
management the business has rapidly increased. The premises were soon
found too small. They were, shortly after he came, pulled down, and
the present magnificent banking house in Bennetts Hill was built upon
the site of its somewhat ugly and badly-contrived predecessor.

The firm of Coates, Woolley, and Gordon occupied, in 1815, the
premises in Cherry Street now held by the Worcester City and County
Bank. The business was, at a date I cannot learn, transferred to
Moilliet, Smith, and Pearson, and this was subsequently changed to
J.L. Moilliet and Sons, who carried the business on for many years,
finally transferring it to Lloyds and Company Limited. This company
removed it to their splendid branch establishment in Ann Street. Mr.
Moilliet, the senior partner in the Cherry Street Bank, was a Swiss by
birth, and lived in Newhall Street. In a warehouse at the back of his
residence, he carried on the business of a continental merchant. The
mercantile firm became afterwards Moilliet and Gem, who removed it to
extensive premises in Charlotte Street. Here, under the firm of E. Gem
and Co., it is still carried on.

Taylor and Lloyd's Bank was established in 1765, at the corner of
Bank Passage in Dale End. Mr. Taylor had been a very successful
manufacturer of japanned goods, and made a very large number of
snuff-boxes, then in universal use. He produced, among others, a style
which was very popular, and the demand for which became enormous.
They were of various colours and shapes, their peculiarity consisting
entirely in the ornamentation of the surface. Each had a bright
coloured ground, upon which was a very extraordinary wavy style of
ornament of a different shade of colour, showing streaks and curves of
the two colours alternately, in such an infinity of patterns, that it
was said that no two were ever found alike. Other makers tried in vain
to imitate them; "how it was done" became an important question. The
mystery increased, when it became known that Mr. Taylor ornamented
them all with his own hands, in a room to which no one else was
admitted. The fortunate discoverer of the secret soon accumulated a
large fortune, and he used to chuckle, years after, as he told that
the process consisted in smearing the second coat of colour, while
still wet, with the fleshy part of his thumb, which happened to have
a peculiarly open or coarse "grain." It will be seen at once that in
this way he could produce an infinite variety. Mr. Lloyd, the other
partner, belonged to a very old Welsh family, which, as landed
proprietors, had been settled for generations near Llansantfraid, in
Merionethshire. There are some very ancient monuments of the ancestors
of this family in the parish church there.

Somewhere about twenty-five years ago, the business was removed to
the present premises in High Street, and a few years later on, the
death--at Brighton--by his own hand, of Mr. Taylor, left the business
entirely vested in the Lloyd family. About ten or twelve years ago it
was decided to convert it into a limited liability company, and a very
searching examination was made by public accountants, as a preliminary
step. Just as the thing was ripe, the stoppage of the Birmingham
Banking Company was announced. This deferred the project for a time,
but the Messrs. Lloyd, with great judgment, published the accountants'
report. As soon as the excitement had abated, the prospectus was
issued. The shares were eagerly subscribed for, and the company was
formed. Moilliet's bank was included in the operation, and the
bank, under the able presidency of Mr. Sampson Lloyd, commenced the
energetic course of action which has resulted in its becoming the
largest banking concern in the Midland Counties.

I cannot at the moment ascertain the date of the formation of the firm
of Attwood, Spooner, and Co., but in 1815 the partners appear to have
been the three brothers--Thomas, Matthias, and George Attwood, and
Mr. Richard Spooner. Matthias Attwood seceded, and went to London. Of
Thomas, it is unnecessary to say one word to Birmingham people; his
statue in our principal street shows that he was considered to be no
common man. He was one of the first Members for Birmingham upon its
incorporation, and was re-elected in 1837. Although he had been so
great and successful as a popular political leader, he made no "way"
in Parliament; and soon after the riots of 1839 he retired, being
succeeded by Mr. George Frederick Muntz. The last time I saw Mr.
Attwood was in 1849, at the exhibition in Bingley House. He was then
a thin, wasted, and decrepit old man. It was about this time that he
retired from the bank.

George Attwood--his brother--was a man of different type. He was not
a politician. He was, in his best days, energetic, prompt, and
far-seeing. As he advanced in years he became fond of the pleasures
of the table, and the quality of his port wine became proverbial. His
intellect became dimmed, but his spirit of enterprise was active
as ever. He speculated in mines and other property to a very large
extent, and had not, as of old, the clear head to manage them
properly. There is little reason to doubt that here lies the secret of
the failure of the bank some years later.

Richard Spooner was a remarkable man in many respects. Like many
others who in their later years have become "rank Tories," he began
his political life as a Liberal, contesting the town of Stafford
unsuccessfully in that interest. After the change in his views, he,
upon the death of Mr. Joshua Scholefield, in July, 1844, was elected
to be one of the Members for Birmingham, in opposition to the
candidature of Mr. William Scholefield. At the general election in
August, 1847, this decision was reversed; and Mr. Spooner, to this
day, is remembered as having been the only Conservative Member
Birmingham ever sent to Parliament.

Mr. Spooner was afterwards chosen to represent North Warwickshire, a
position he held until his death, at the great age of 85, in November,
1864. He was quite blind for some years before his death. He had a great
horror of photographers, and refused all requests to sit for his
portrait. One was at length obtained surreptitiously. On a fine summer
day, he was persuaded, for the sake of the fresh air, to take a seat in
the yard, which then existed at the back of the bank. Mr. Whitlock was
in attendance, and succeeded, greatly to the delight of Mr. Spooner's
friends, in obtaining a very good portrait of the blind old man, as he
sat there, perfectly unconscious of what was going on. I believe this
was the only portrait ever taken.

At the death of Mr. George Attwood--which preceded that of Mr. Spooner
by some years--the firm had been re-constituted, and became Attwood,
Spooner, Marshalls, and Co. The partners in the new firm were Mr. Thomas
Aurelius Attwood, Mr. R. Spooner, and Messrs. William and Henry
Marshall, who had been clerks in the bank all their lives. The deaths,
in a comparatively short period, of Mr. T.A. Attwood and Mr. W.
Marshall, followed soon after by that of Mr. Spooner, left Mr. Henry
Marshall the only surviving member of this firm.

Soon after Mr. Spooner's death, it was announced that an amalgamation of
this bank with the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank in Temple Row had been
agreed upon, and satisfaction with this arrangement was universally
expressed. On Saturday March 10, 1865--only four months after Mr.
Spooner's decease--the town, and in fact the whole country, was
electrified by the announcement that the bank had stopped payment.
People were incredulous, as it had been thought to be one of the safest
banks in the kingdom. An excited crowd surrounded the bank premises
during the whole day, and a strong force of police was in attendance to
preserve order. In the course of the day a circular was issued, of which
the following is a copy:

    "It is with feelings of the deepest concern and distress that we
    announce that we are compelled to suspend payment, and this at the
    moment when, after several months of anxious negotiation, we had
    confidently trusted we should obtain such assistance as would enable
    us to carry into effect, on our part, the preliminary agreement for
    the amalgamation of the bank with the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank.
    In this hope we have been disappointed. Sums of money to a large
    amount were drawn out of the bank some years since by the family
    of the Attwoods. To this circumstance it can be clearly shown, at
    the proper time, our failure is to be attributed. For the last ten
    years every effort has been made to redeem the loss thus occasioned,
    but this has only been partially accomplished. The assets of the
    bank are, however, still very considerable, and there are real
    estates of great value belonging to the bank, and but slightly
    encumbered. We hope that in now suspending payment we shall be
    considered as taking the best and only step to ensure a just and
    equal distribution of our assets among our creditors."

Upon a full investigation of the state of affairs, it was found that the
total amount of liabilities amounted to the large sum of £1,007,000, and
that the assets consisted chiefly of landed and mining properties of a
very speculative nature. There was also a very large amount of overdrawn
balances due from customers. After many projects had been launched, it
was announced that the committee of investigation had, subject to the
approval of the general body of creditors, disposed of the entire assets
to the directors of the Joint Stock Bank, they undertaking to pay the
creditors of Attwood and Co., in immediate cash, a dividend of 11s. 3d.
in the pound. This arrangement was carried into effect, and "Attwood's
Bank" became a memory only. Mr. Henry Marshall is, however, still living
in retirement at Weston-Super-Mare, and is, notwithstanding his great
age, in vigorous health, both of mind and body.

The old familiar premises have now, too, passed away. The inconvenient
old office, with its rows of leather buckets, and its harmless array of
antiquated blunderbuses; its old-fashioned desks, dark with age, and
begrimed with ink spattered by successive generations of bygone clerks;
the low ceiling and quaint elliptic arches; the little fire-place near
the counter, where Aurelius Attwood, with his good-humoured face, used
to stand warming his coat-tails, and greeting the customers as they came
in, were all so much in harmony with the staid, gray-headed clerks, and
the quiet, methodical ways of the place, that when there, one might
fancy he had stepped back for fifty years, or was looking upon a
picture by Hogarth.

It was stated a few pages back that the Bank of England, after the
great panic of 1825, consented to forego their exclusive privilege
of joint-stock banking. This, however, was not done without an
equivalent, for the Act of 1826, ratifying this consent, gave them the
power of establishing branch banks in the large towns of England. In
pursuance of the powers thus granted, the first branch was opened
at Gloucester on July 19th of that year. Others were started at
Manchester, September 21st, and Swansea, October 23rd. On New
Year's Day, 1827, the Branch Bank of England commenced business in
Birmingham, occupying the premises of the defunct firm of Gibbins,
Smith, and Goode, in Union Street, now the Gas Offices of the
Corporation. The first manager was Captain Nichols, who brought with
him, from the parent bank, a staff of clerks. One of these, a mere
youth at the time, was destined to fill an important position in the
town and in the country. This was Charles Geach; a very remarkable
man, of whom I shall have more to say by and by.

Captain Nichols was succeeded by Captain Tindal, brother of the
illustrious jurist, Lord Chief Justice Tindal. During this gentleman's
tenure of office the business was removed to the premises in Bennetts
Hill, vacated by the unfortunate "Bank of Birmingham," of which more
hereafter. Here the business has ever since been conducted.

Captain Tindal was a good man of business, and under his management
the bank was very prosperous. He was a man of highly-cultivated mind.
He took a very active interest in all local matters connected with
literature and art, and he was a very liberal patron of the drama.
Those who had the pleasure of being present at the pleasant _soirées_
at his house, to which he was accustomed to invite the literary and
artistic notabilities of the neighbourhood, will not easily forget how
pleasantly the evenings passed; how everyone enjoyed the charades
and theatricals which were so excellently managed by the gifted
Miss Keating, then a governess in the family; how, too, everyone was
charmed with the original and convenient arrangement for supplying
visitors with refreshments. Instead of the conventional "sit-down
suppers" of those days, Captain Tindal had refreshment counters and
occasional tables dotted here and there, so that his friends took what
they pleased, at the time most convenient to themselves. One room was
very popular. Within its hospitable portals, hungry bipeds of the male
persuasion were supplied, to their intense satisfaction, with abundant
oysters, and unlimited foaming Dublin stout. Oysters were then five
shillings the barrel of ten dozens! _Tempora mutantur; spero meliora!_

It was a great loss to social and artistic Birmingham when Captain
Tindal was removed to London, twenty-one years ago. The Bank of
England opened a "West End" branch in Burlington Gardens, London,
and the Captain was appointed its first manager. This new branch was
opened October 1st, 1856. The resolution of the Board of Directors to
appoint Mr. Tindal to this position seems to have been taken suddenly,
for Mr. Chippindale, who had been sub-manager for some years, and was
now placed at the head of the Birmingham branch, did not know of it
until he was informed of his appointment by a customer of the bank.
This gentleman, who was a merchant in the town, tells me that he "was
the first to tell him of it. He said it was not true, and he must go
out and contradict it. I told him I _knew_ it _was_ true, but even
then he was incredulous." Mr. Chippindale has recently retired, and
has been succeeded by Mr. F.F. Barham.

Soon after Mr. Chippindale's appointment, a friend of mine received
from New York a large sum in four months' bills upon Glasgow, which
he wished to discount. He was well known in Birmingham, but had no
regular banking account. The bank rate in London was four per cent. He
took the bills first to the National Provincial Bank, where Mr. Henry
Rotton offered to "do" them at four-and-a-half. This he thought too
high, and he next took them to the Bank of England. Mr. Chippindale
told him that the rule of the bank was not to discount anything having
more than ninety days to run; but, if he left the bills as security,
he could draw against them for the cash he wanted, and, as soon as the
bills came within the ninety days' limit, they could be discounted at
the London rate of the day. This arrangement was entered into, but,
unfortunately for my friend, a sudden turn in the market sent the rate
up three per cent. within the month, so that, when the transaction was
completed, he had to pay seven per cent. It made a difference to him
of between £200 and £300.

From the time of Mr. Chippindale's appointment, the branch bank has
gone quietly on in its useful course. It does not compete much with
the other banks in general business; indeed, its office seems to be
rather that of a bank for bankers. Now that none of the local banks
issue their own notes, it is a great convenience to them to have on
the spot a store of Bank of England paper, available at a moment's
notice, to any required amount.

The ten years from 1826 were very fruitful of joint stock banks in
Birmingham. Some have survived, but many are almost forgotten. I will
mention the defunct ones first. The "Bank of Birmingham" was promoted
by a Quaker gentleman, named Pearson. He had been, I believe, a
merchant in the town, but was afterwards a partner in the firm of
Moilliet Smith, and Pearson, from which he seems to have retired at,
the same time as his partner, the well-known Mr. Timothy Smith. The
Bank of Birmingham started with high aims and lofty expectations. The
directors built for their offices the substantial edifice on Bennetts
Hill, now occupied as the Branch Bank of England, and they prepared
for a very large business. They, however, much as they may have been
respected, and successful as most of them undoubtedly were in their
private affairs, were not men of large capacity, and they had not the
quick and sound judgment of character and circumstances necessary in
banking. Nor were they very fortunate in their manager. Mr. Pearson,
although he might have been taken as a model of honesty, truthfulness,
and straightforwardness, was a phlegmatic, heavy man, and his manners
were, to say the least, unprepossessing. The bank was not a success.
Negotiations were, a few years after, entered into, and arrangements
resulted, by which the Birmingham Banking Company took over the
business, on the basis of giving every shareholder in the Bank of
Birmingham a certain reduced amount of stock in their own bank, in

Some time before the transfer took place, a member of one of the most
respected and influential mercantile families in the neighbourhood
suspended payment, owing a large sum to the Bank of Birmingham,
upon which he paid a composition. He afterwards prospered, and some
twenty-five years afterwards, all those shareholders in the defunct
bank who still held, in the Birmingham Banking Company, the shares
they had been allotted in exchange at the time of the transfer,
received cheques for the deficiency, with interest thereon for the
whole period it had been unpaid. A relative of my own received,
in this way, several hundred pounds. I am not aware that this
circumstance has ever been made public, but it is due to the memory of
the late Mr. Robert Lucas Chance that so praise-worthy an act should
be on record.

Mr. Pearson, after the closing of the bank, commenced business as a
sharebroker, which he continued until his death. He was one of the
last to retain, in all its rigour, the peculiar dress of the Society
of Friends. His stout, broad-set figure, with the wide-brimmed hat,
collarless coat, drab "thoses" and gaiters, will be remembered by many

The Commercial Bank had offices at the corner of Ann Street and
Bennetts Hill. Mr. John Stubbs was an active promoter of this bank,
and Mr. James Graham was manager. It had a short life. Mr. Graham went
to America, and died somewhere on the banks of the Mississippi.

The Tamworth Banking Company opened a branch in High Street, opposite
the bottom of Bull Street. It was open as late as 1838, but was
eventually given up, and the premises were occupied by Mrs. Syson as a
hosier's shop, until pulled down for the Great Western Railway tunnel.

The Borough Bank was promoted by Mr. Goode, of the defunct firm of
Gibbins, Smith, and Goode. It was connected with the Northern and
Central Bank of England. The office was in Bull Street, in the
premises now held by Messrs. J. and B. Smith, Carpet Factors.
This bank was unsuccessful, and when it closed, Mr. Goode opened a
discounting office in the Upper Priory, which proved to be successful.
After a few years, Mr. Goode took as partner his son-in-law, Mr. Marr,
a Scotchman, who had been engaged in an Indian bank for many years.
The firm then became Goode, Marr, and Co., under which designation it
is still carried on. The present proprietor is the son of the Mr. Marr
just named, and is the gentleman upon whom a violent murderous attack
was made in his office a few years ago. Mr. Goode, the courteous
manager of the Birmingham and Midland Bank, is the son of the founder
of this firm.

It will be remembered that in 1825 the firm of Gibbins, Smith, and Co.
collapsed. As soon as their affairs were arranged, Mr. Gibbins and a
nephew of his, named Lovell, opened a bank in New Street, on the spot
where Mr. Whitehead now has his shop, at the corner of Bennetts Hill.
Here for some two or three years they appear to have done very well;
in fact the business became too large for their capabilities. Some of
the leading men of the town, with the return of prosperity, began to
see that there was ample room for greater banking facilities than
the then existing private banks could provide. Negotiations were
accordingly entered into for the purchase of this business, and
for its conversion into a joint stock bank. Terms were very soon
provisionally settled, and the prospectus of the Birmingham Banking
Company was issued. The capital was fixed at £500,000, in 10,000
shares of £50 each, of which £5 per share was to be immediately
called up. The list of directors contained, among others, the names
of Charles Shaw, William Chance, Frederic Ledsam, Joseph Gibbins,
and John Mabson. The shares were readily taken by the public, and on
September 1st, 1829, the company commenced operations on the premises
of Gibbins and Lovell. It was decided, however, to build a suitable
banking house, and in a very short time the building standing at the
corner of Waterloo Street was erected. Before removing to the new
bank, the directors made overtures to Mr. Paul Moon James, of the firm
of Galton and Co., which resulted in that bank being closed, and Mr.
James becoming manager of the Banking Company. With such directors,
and with so able and so popular a man for the manager, the progress of
the bank was very rapid, and it soon had the largest banking business
in the town. In a few years the reputation which Mr. James had
obtained as a successful banker induced the directors of a new bank at
Manchester to make him a very lucrative offer. Much to the regret of
his Birmingham directors, and indeed to the whole public of the town,
he accepted the offer, and shortly afterwards removed to Manchester.
He retained the position of manager there until his death. Mr. James
was something more than a mere man of business. He had a cultured
mind, and took a very active part in educational questions. This very
day, on looking over an old book, I found his name as the Birmingham
representative of a leading literary association of my younger days,
the "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge"--a society which,
with Lord Brougham for chairman and Charles Knight for its most active
member, did much to create good, wholesome, cheap literature, and
published, among many other works, the "Penny Magazine" and the "Penny

After Mr. James left Birmingham, the directors of the Banking Company
appointed Mr. William Beaumont to be his successor. A Yorkshireman
by birth, he had resided for some time in Wolverhampton, filling a
responsible position in one of the banks there. Mr. Beaumont remained
manager of the Birmingham Banking Company until his death in 1863,
having filled the office for more than a quarter of a century. During
his life the bank had a very high reputation, and paid excellent
dividends. It had squally weather occasionally, of coarse, but it
weathered all storms. It was in great jeopardy in the great panic
of 1837. It held at that time, drawn by one of its customers upon a
Liverpool house, four bills for £20,000 each, and one for £10,000. It
held besides heavy draughts upon the same firm by other houses,
and the acceptors--failing remittances from America--were in great
straits. Mr. Charles Shaw, the chairman of this bank, saw the
Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England,
and averted the impending calamity. But for timely aid, the Liverpool
firm must have stopped, to the ruin of half the country. The bank had
another sharp turn of it from 1842 to 1844, when bar iron fell from
£12 per ton to £6; but it overcame all its difficulties until the
retirement of Mr. Shaw and the death of Mr. Beaumont.

From this time forward there seems to have been great want of a strong
head and a steady eye amongst the directors. The plausibilities of Mr.
W.H. Beaumont--who had succeeded his father as manager--seem to have
put them off their guard, and they followed where he led until it
ended in ruin. It is useless now to say all one knows, or a quarter of
what has been said; but it has always been my opinion, and always will
be, that if Charles Shaw, or a man with half his courage and ability,
had been at the helm, the Bank would not have closed its doors. Had
they only sought counsel of their larger shareholders, there was
amongst them one man, still living, who not only could, but would,
have saved the bank from shipwreck.

Few men in Birmingham are likely to forget "Black Saturday," the 14th
of July, 1866. Had a French army suddenly opened a bombardment of
the town from Highgate, it would possibly not have caused greater
astonishment and dismay. That very week shares had been sold on the
Stock Exchange at a high premium; and now, by the culpable weakness
of a few unquestionably honest and well-intentioned gentlemen, the
hard-earned life's savings of aged and infirm men, the sole dependence
of scores of widows and hundreds of orphans, was utterly gone. No
wonder that pious, God-fearing men ground their teeth and muttered
curses, or that women, pale and trembling, tore their hair in wild
terror, while some poor sorrowing creatures sought refuge in suicide.
No wonder that even now, more than eleven years after, the memory of
that day still rises, like a hideous dream, in the minds of thousands.

I have been shown a copy of a lithographed daily newspaper, printed on
board the "Great Eastern" steamship, then engaged in laying the first
successful Atlantic cable. In the number for July 14th, is an account
of the stoppage of this bank, which had been telegraphed to the ship
in mid-ocean by means of the cable then being submerged.

Upon full investigation it was ascertained that the total liabilities
amounted to £1,805,469 10s. 5d. All the capital was lost. A call of
£10 per share was made upon the unfortunate shareholders, and the
debts were paid. Some time afterwards the new "limited" company which
had been formed upon the ruins of the defunct bank took over some
unrealised assets, and this resulted in a return of £1 per share,
leaving a clear total loss, taking the shares at the market price, of
£43 per share.

On Thursday, July 19th, a meeting of the shareholders was held in the
large room at the Exchange, nearly 500 being present. Mr. Edwin Yates,
the Mayor, presided, and in his opening remarks pointed out that the
resuscitation of the bank was impossible, for various reasons which
he mentioned. The discussion which followed was marked by great
moderation. There was little excitement, and not much expression of
angry feeling. Mr. William Holliday, in a very masterly speech of
great length, showed the difficulties in the way of reviving the
bank, and suggested that the only way of saving the property of the
shareholders, was by the establishment of a new bank on the ruins
of the old, the shareholders in which were to have priority in the
allotment of shares. This, having, been discussed by several speakers,
was eventually decided upon, and a committee was appointed to carry
the resolutions into effect.

The new bank, under the name of the "Birmingham Banking Company
Limited," was formed with all speed. Josiah Mason--then plain
Mister--was the first chairman, and Mr. T.F. Shaw manager. The shares
"came out" at a small premium, from which they gradually rose. From
that time it has gone on steadily and surely. It has secured a good
_clientèle_, and is doing a large and profitable, business. It pays
good dividends, and its shares stand well in the market. Mr. Shaw
retired, from "continued ill health," in May, 1876. Mr. P.W. Walker
was appointed manager _pro tem._, and at the end of the year, Mr.
James Leigh, who had been manager of the Birmingham branch of the
Worcester Bank, took the helm. May the bank under his guidance have,
_fortitudine et prudentia_, a long career of prosperity and usefulness
before it!

I shall now have to go back again to the year 1836. At this time trade
was good and everything looked prosperous. Mr. Geach, who was still a
clerk in the Bank of England, conceived the idea of starting a fresh
bank, and having secured the adhesion of a few influential men, the
prospectus was issued of the Town and District Bank, capital £500,000,
in 25,000 shares of £20 each. The shares were taken up readily, and
the branch commenced business in Colmore Row, on the 1st of July,
1836. The directors were Messrs. George Bacchus (chairman), Edward
Armfield, George J. Green, George C. Lingham, John G. Reeves, Josiah
Richards, and Philip Williams.

Although the bank had been started entirely through the exertions of
Mr. Geach, who naturally expected to be appointed the manager, he was
left out in the cold, and the appointment fell upon Mr. Bassett Smith.
This gentleman had been a clerk to the firm of Gibbins, Smith, and
Co., until their stoppage, and he afterwards was manager of a bank at
Walsall, which appointment he threw up when he came to the District
Bank. He held his position as manager here for many years, but was
eventually induced to retire; He certainly was not a great banking
genius. He was led more by impulse and feeling than by sound business
judgment and coolness, and he often made mistakes in his estimate
of the customers. Some--whom he liked--would "get on" easily enough,
while others, equally worthy of attention, might ask in vain for
slight accommodation. Nor was his manner judicious. I was in the
bank one day, when a highly respectable man brought some bills to the
counter to be placed to his account. The clerk took them to Mr. Smith,
who was near the counter; he turned them over in his hand, and giving
them back to the clerk, with a contemptuous gesture, said, loud enough
to be heard by everyone there, "No!--a thousand times no!" Had the
customer been a swindler he could not have been treated with greater
insult and contumely. It was a fortunate thing for the bank when Mr.
Barney became manager. From that time the bank has assumed its proper
position. Under its new designation of the "Birmingham and Dudley
District Banking Company" it has taken rapid strides. There is every
reason now for thinking it is highly prosperous, and is likely to have
a future of great use and profit. The new premises are an ornament to
an ornamental part of the town, and are very conveniently arranged;
but to people with weak eyes, the light from the windows, glaring in
the face as one stands at the counter, is most unpleasant, and some
steps to modify its effect might be judiciously taken.

Immediately after Mr. Bassett Smith had been appointed manager of the
District Bank, some gentlemen, amongst whom Mr. Gammon, of Belmont
Row, was very prominent, thinking that in all fairness Mr. Geach
should have been elected, seeing that he was the originator of
the scheme, and had done the greater part of the preliminary work,
determined to form another bank. There was to be no mistake this time,
for Mr. Geach's name was inserted in the prospectus as the future
manager. He was at this time only 28 years of age. He had been
resident but a very few years in the town, but had already the
reputation of being one of the most able young men in the place. His
manners, too, were singularly agreeable. On the faith of his name, the
public readily took up the necessary number of shares. So great was
the energy employed, that in seven weeks from the opening of the
District Bank, its competitor, the Birmingham and Midland Bank, had
commenced business.

Having been so long in the office of the Bank of England, in Union
Street, the young manager naturally thought it the best locality for
the new bank; and as there was a large shop vacant in that street, a
few doors below Union Passage, on the right-hand side going down, it
was taken, and in these temporary premises the bank commenced, on the
23rd of August, 1836, its prosperous and most useful career.

Mr. Robert Webb was the first Chairman of the Board of Directors; Mr.
Thomas Bolton, merchant, of New Street, was one of the most active
members. Mr. Samuel Beale, after a time, joined the board, and was
very energetic. He soon formed a friendship for the manager which only
terminated with life. Mr. Henry Edmunds, who so recently retired
from the post of managing director, but who still holds a seat at the
board, was sub-manager from the opening; and Mr. Goode, who now fills
the manager's seat, went there as a clerk at the same time.

The tact and energy of the manager, and the shrewd business capacity
of the directors, soon secured a very large business. In a very short
time the building now held by the Conservative Club, which the bank
had erected a little higher up the street, was occupied, and here the
business was conducted for more than twenty-five years. The building
included a very commodious residence for the manager, and here Mr.
Geach took up his abode with his family.

During the preliminary disturbances in 1839, which culminated in the
Bull Ring riots, Mr. Geach received private information one afternoon,
which induced him to take extra precautions for the safety of the
books, securities, and cash. While this was being done, the clerks had
collected a number of men and some arms. They also obtained, and took
to the roof, a great quantity of stones, bricks, and other missiles,
which they stored behind the parapets. The men were so placed, that
by mounting an inner stair they could ascend to the roof, from which
spot, it was proposed, in case of attack, to hurl the missiles upon
the mob below. News was soon brought that the mob was congregating
in Dale End and that neighbourhood. At the request of some of the
magistrates who were present, Mr. Geach started off for the barracks,
galloping through the mob, who threw showers of stones, brick-ends,
and other disagreeable missiles at him, and shouted, "Stop him," "Pull
him off," "He's going for the soldiers," and so on. His horse was a
spirited one, and took him safely through. He reached the barracks and
secured assistance. He then came back by another route to the bank,
and the expected attack was averted. There is no doubt that
his energetic conduct that day saved the town from violence and

It is not my intention in this paper to sketch the character of Mr.
Geach. I have now only to deal with him in reference to the bank,
which he so ably managed, and in which down to his death he felt the
warmest interest. About 1839 or 1840 he began to engage in commercial
transactions on his own account, and these growing upon him and
requiring much of his personal attention, he, about 1846 or 1847,
resigned his position as manager, and was succeeded by his old friend
and colleague, Mr. Henry Edmunds. Mr. Geach, however, though no longer
engaged in the active management, was appointed managing director,
and in this capacity was generally consulted on all the more important

Mr. Edmunds is a man of altogether different type to his predecessor.
Mr. Geach had been bold in his management, to a degree which in less
skilful hands might have been perilous to his employers. Mr. Edmunds's
principal characteristic, as a manager, was excessive caution. But,
although so utterly varying in character, both men were peculiarly
fitted for their post at the time they were in power. Boldness and
vigour gave the bank a large connection, and established an extensive
business. Caution and carefulness were quite as essential in the times
during which Mr. Edmunds guided the destinies of the bank. In that
speculative period of twenty-five years, his prudence and cool
judgment were valuable qualities, and they served good ends, for the
"Midland," under Mr. Edmunds, was pre-eminently a "lucky" bank. He had
no occasion for the more brilliant qualities of his predecessor; the
bank was offered more business than it cared for; and his caution
and hesitation saved his directors much trouble, and his shareholders
considerable loss.

As in process of years the business increased, the old premises were
found to be too small, and the directors contemplated enlargement.
Some energetic spirits on the board advocated the erection of a new
building. It was debated for some time, but it finally resulted in
the erection of the present palatial banking house at the corner of
Stephenson Place. It is no secret that Mr. Edmunds disapproved of the
step, and, indeed, at the dinner given to celebrate the opening of the
new premises, he expressed, in plain terms, his opinion that they
had made a mistake, and that they had better have remained where they

Be that as it may, the business was removed to New Street in 1869, at
which time, I believe, Mr. Samuel Buckley was Chairman of the Board of
Directors. One can imagine the satisfactory feelings of his mind as
he reflected that within a very few yards of the magnificent bank,
of which he was then the head, he, comparatively unknown, took years
before a situation in the warehouse of a merchant, Mr. Thomas Bolton,
which then stood on the site of the Midland Hotel. In this business
Mr. Buckley rapidly rose in the estimation of his employer, becoming,
first his partner, and subsequently his successor. The business, when
the old premises were required for other purposes, was removed first
to Newhall Hill, and finally to Great Charles Street, where it is
still carried on as Samuel Buckley and Co.

Shortly before the removal to New Street, Mr. Edmunds began to wish
for a less laborious position. Following the precedent in Mr.
Geach's case, he was made managing director, and Mr. Goode took the
well-earned position of manager. This arrangement existed until about
twelve months ago, when Mr. Edmunds retired altogether from the active
administration of the business. He retained, however, a seat at the
board as one of the ordinary directors. On this occasion, the board,
with the sanction of the shareholders, to mark their sense, of his
admirable judgment and unceasing industry, voted him a retiring
pension of £1,000 a year. His portrait now hangs in the board-room at
the bank, near that of his friend, Mr. Geach. May the walls of this
room, in the future, be adorned by the "counterfeit presentment" of
successive managers as good and true as these two, the pioneers, have
proved themselves!

Mr. Goode's qualifications for the post he occupies are not only
hereditary, but are supplemented by the experience of more than forty
years in this bank, under the able guidance of the two colleagues who
have preceded him. His acute perceptions and great financial skill
qualify him admirably for the post, whilst his undeviating courtesy
has made him very popular, and has gained for him "troops of friends."

Notwithstanding the enormous increase in the business of the town and
neighbourhood, there was no other bank established in Birmingham for
more than twenty-five years. One reason, probably, was that, by a
clause in an Act of Parliament, it was made incumbent upon all banks
established after it became law, to publish periodical statements of
their affairs. This seemed to many shrewd men to be an obstacle to
the success of any new bank, although it was felt that there was ample
room for one. The passing of the Limited Liability Act opened the way.
It was seen that by fixing the nominal capital very high, and calling
up only a small portion of its amount, there would always be so large
a margin of uncalled capital, that the periodical publication of
assets and liabilities could alarm no one. Taking this view, and
seeing the probability of a successful career for a new banking
institution, a few far-seeing men--notably the late Messrs. John
Graham and Henry Clive--soon attached to themselves a number of
influential colleagues, and at the latter end of 1861 the prospectus
of the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank was issued. Mr. G.F. Muntz was
chairman, Mr. Thomas Short, vice-chairman, and Messrs. John Graham,
H. Clive, R. Fletcher, J.S. Keep, W. Middlemore, C.H. Wagner, and W.A.
Adams were directors. The capital, to the required extent, was eagerly
subscribed. Mr. Joseph Beattie, of London, was appointed manager,
and the bank opened its doors, in Temple Row West, on New Tear's Day,

The directors, at their preliminary meetings, had come to some very
wise resolutions, having for their tendency the creation of public
confidence in the good management and complete stability of the new
venture. One of these was that no one of the directors could at any
time, or under any circumstances, overdraw his account at the bank.
Recollections of what had been done aforetime showed the public
the wisdom of this step, and the shares became consequently in good
demand, and soon reached a fair premium. The directors, with great
judgment, had made a large reserve of unallotted shares, and now
that they had become a popular investment, they offered them to large
traders at par, on condition of their opening accounts at the new
bank. Other inducements were held out to attract business, and in a
very short time the bank was doing at least as large a business as
some of its competitors.

The appointment of Mr. Beattie was a most judicious one. He is,
unquestionably, a very able man of business; and his untiring energy
and perseverance are very remarkable, even in these days of hard work.
Under such management, and with so good a board of directors at his
back, it is no wonder that the bank now occupies a foremost place
amongst its fellows.

The Worcester City and County Bank is the last, but it bids fairly
to become by no means the least, amongst the banks of the town. The
parent bank was established in Worcester in 1840. It was a prosperous
and successful local bank of no great celebrity until the failure of
Messrs. Farley and Co., of Kidderminster, in 1856. The directors
then opened a branch establishment in that town, which was successful
beyond expectation. Encouraged by this, they afterwards opened
branches at Atherstone, Bridgnorth, Bromsgrove, Cheltenham, Droitwich,
Evesham, Ludlow, Leominster, Presteign, Malvern, and Tenbury, and in
1872 they resolved to establish a bank at Birmingham. Lloyds and Co.
had just removed from Moilliet's old premises in Cherry Street, to
their new bank, in Ann Street, and, rather unwisely, left the old
place in Cherry Street to be let to the first comer. The Worcester
company became the tenants, and opened their bank in 1872, under the
management of Mr. J.H. Slaney. This gentleman retired in about twelve
months, and was succeeded by Mr. James Leigh, the present manager of
the Birmingham Banking Company. When he accepted his present post, Mr.
F.W. Nash took the helm. The bank seems, in the short time it has been
established, to have been very successful, for the premises, after
having been twice enlarged, are, it is said, now too small; and it
is understood that a plot of land in Ann Street, near the corner of
Newhall Street, has been secured, and that Mr. F.B. Osborne is engaged
upon plans for the erection, on this site, of a new banking house,
which will be no mean rival to those already in existence, adding
another fine architectural structure to the splendid line of edifices
which will soon be complete from the Town Hall to Snow Hill.

There only remains one more bank to mention, and I cannot remember its
name. It was opened some ten or twelve years ago in the tall building
at the west corner of Warwick House Passage, now occupied by Mr.
Hollingsworth. It was under the management of Mr. Edwin Wignall, who
had been sub-manager at the District. It had but a short life. The
careful manner in which the stone pavement of the vestibule and the
steps leading from the street were cleaned and whitened every morning,
and the few footmarks made by customers going in and coming out,
gained for it the name of the "Clean Bank," by which title it will
be remembered by many. The business that had been collected was
transferred to the Midland, and the New Street bank was closed.

My sketch of the Birmingham Banks is now complete. It is very
satisfactory to reflect that in the long space of sixty-three years
over which it ranges, there have been only two cases in which the
creditors of Birmingham banks have suffered loss; and really it is
greatly to the credit of the good old town that these losses have
been, comparatively, so insignificant. In the bankruptcy of Gibbins
and Co., in 1825, the creditors received 19s. 8d. in the pound. In the
more recent case--that of Attwood and Co.--they received a dividend
of 11s. 3d. Both these cases compare favourably with others at a
distance, where dividends of one or two shillings have not been
infrequent. The banking business of the town is now in safe and
prudent hands, and there is strong reason for hoping that the several
institutions may go on, with increasing usefulness and prosperity, to
a time long after the present generation of traders has ceased to draw
cheques, or existing shareholders to calculate upon coming dividends.

As I stood, not long ago, within the splendid hall in which the
Birmingham and Midland Bank carries on its business, my mind reverted
to a visit I once paid, to the premises, in the City of Gloucester,
of the first county bank established in England. Perhaps in all the
differences between bygone and modern times, there could not be found
a greater contrast. The old Gloucester Bank was established in the
year 1716, by the grandfather of the celebrated "Jemmy Wood," who died
in 1836, leaving personal property sworn under £900,000. Soon after
his death, I saw the house and "Bank," where he had carried on his
business of a "banker and merchant." The house was an old one, the
gables fronting the street. The upper windows were long and low, and
were glazed with the old lead-framed diamond-shaped panes of dark
green glass. The ground-floor was lighted by two ancient shop windows,
having heavy wooden sashes glazed with panes about nine inches high by
six wide. To the sill of each window, hung upon hinges, were long deal
shutters, which were lifted up at night, and fastened with "cotters."
There were two or three well-worn steps to the entrance. The door
was divided half-way up: the upper portion stood open during business
hours, and the lower was fastened by a common thumb latch. To the
ledge of the door inside, a bell was attached by a strip of iron
hooping, which vibrated when the door was opened, and set the bell
ringing to attract attention. The interior fittings were of the most
simple fashion; common deal counters with thin oaken tops; shabby
drawers and shelves all round; one or two antiquated brass sconces for
candles; a railed-off desk, near the window; and that was all. In this
place, almost alone and unassisted, the old man made his money. I
copy the following from "Maunder's Biographical Dictionary:" "In
conjunction with the bank, he kept a shop to the day of his death, and
dealt in almost every article that could be asked for. Nothing was too
trifling for 'Jemmy Wood' by which a penny could be turned. He spent
the whole week in his banking-shop or shop-bank, and the whole of the
business of the Old Gloucester Bank was carried on at one end of his
chandlery store."

Now-a-days we go to a palace to cash a cheque. We pass through a
vestibule between polished granite monoliths, or adorned with choice
marble sculpture in _alto-relievo_. We enter vast halls fit for the
audience chambers of a monarch, and embellished with everything that
the skill of the architect can devise. We stand at counters of the
choicest polished mahogany, behind which we see scores of busy clerks,
the whole thing having an appearance of absolute splendour. Prom Jemmy
Wood's shop to the noble hall of the Midland, or the Joint Stock, is
indeed a long step in advance.

It has often occurred to me that it would be a wise plan for bankers
to divide their counters into distinct compartments, so that one
customer could see nothing of his next neighbour, and hear nothing of
his business. The transactions at a bank are often of as delicate a
nature as the matters discussed in a solicitor's office; yet the one
is secret and safe, and the other is open to the gaze and the ear of
any one who happens to be at the bank at the same time.

In closing this subject, I wish to express my thanks to Mr. S.A.
Goddard for his assistance. His great age, his acute powers of
perception, and his marvellously retentive and accurate memory,
combine to make him, probably, the only living competent witness of
some of the circumstances I have been able to detail; while the ready
manner in which he responded to my request for information merits my
warmest and most grateful acknowledgments.


No one possessing ordinary habits of observation can have lived in
Birmingham for anything like forty years without being conscious of
the extraordinary difference between the personal and social habits of
the generation which is passing away, and of that which has arisen
to succeed it. Now-a-days, as soon as business is over, Birmingham
people--professional men, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and, indeed, all
the well-to-do classes--hurry off by rail, by tramway, or by omnibus,
to snug country homesteads, where their evenings are spent by their
own firesides in quiet domestic intercourse. A generation ago, things
in Birmingham were very different. Then, shopkeepers lived "on the
premises," and manufacturers, as a rule, had their dwelling houses
in close proximity to their factories. Business, compared with its
present condition, was in a very primitive state. Manufacturers worked
at their business with their men, beginning with them in the morning
and leaving off at the same hour at night. The warehouse closed, and
the work of the day being over, the "master" would doff his apron,
roll down his turned-up shirt sleeves, put on his second-best coat,
and sally forth to his usual smoking-room. Here, in company with a
few old cronies, he solaced himself with a modest jug of ale, and,
lighting his clay pipe, proceeded with great solemnity to enjoy
himself. But, one by one, the _habitués_ of the old smoking rooms have
gone to "live in the country," and the drowsy, dreary rooms, becoming
deserted, have, for the most part, been applied to other purposes;
whilst in many of those that are left, the smoke-stained portrait
of some bygone landlord looks down upon the serried ranks of empty
chairs, as if bewailing the utter degeneracy of modern mankind.

The room at the "Woodman," in Easy Row, is an exception, for it still
maintains its ground. It is a large, well-lighted, and well-ventilated
apartment. Its walls are adorned with a number of good pictures, among
which are well-executed life-size portraits of two eminent men--James
Watt, the engineer, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, the father of the
English school of painting. In this room, years ago, when the sunny,
courteous, and humorous "Jem Onions" was the host, a number of notable
men used to assemble. Here you might meet men who at that time, or
since, have been known as mayors, alder-men, and councillors. Here,
"Blue-brick Walker" first propounded his scheme for superseding the
"petrified kidney" pavement. Here "Wedding-ring Edwards," in his
quaint, sententious manner, growled out brief epigrammatic sentences,
full of shrewdness and wisdom, most strangely seasoned with
semi-contemptuous sarcasm. Here Isherwood Sutcliff, with his
well-dressed, dapper figure, and his handsome Roman face, was wont to
air his oratory; and here occasionally he, placing his right foot
upon a spittoon, would deliver himself of set orations; most carefully
prepared; most elegantly phrased; copiously garnished with Byronic
quotations; and delivered with considerable grace and fervour. These
orations, however, having no basis of thought or force of argument,
and, indeed, having nothing but their sensuous beauty of expression to
recommend them, fell flat upon the ears of an unsympathetic audience,
composed mainly of men whose brains were larger and of tougher fibre.
Here, too, came occasionally the mighty and the omniscient Joe Allday,
and when he did, the discussion sometimes became a little more than
animated, the self-assertive Joe making the room ring again, as he
denounced the practices of those who ruled the destinies of the town.
Here one night, lifting his right hand on high, as if to appeal to
Heaven, he assured his audience that they "need not be afraid." He
would "_never_ betray the people of Birmingham!" Here, too, last,
but certainly not least in any way, might almost nightly be seen
the towering figure of John Walsh Walsh: his commanding stature;
his massive head, with its surrounding abundant fringe of wavy hair,
looking like a mane; his mobile face, his bright--almost fierce--eye;
his curt, incisive, and confident style of speech, showing him to be,
beyond all question, the most masterful and prominent member of the

He was born at Mansfield, in Nottinghamshire. His peculiar double
patronymic was the result of a curious mistake made by one of the
sponsors at his baptism. Being asked in the usual way to "name this
child," the poor man, in his nervousness, gave, not only the intended
name of John, but inadvertently, the surname also; and so the infant
became John Walsh Walsh, a name which its owner used to say was worth
hundreds a year to him in business. "Anybody could be 'John Walsh,'
but 'John Walsh Walsh' was unique, and once heard would never be

Coming to Birmingham in pre-railway times, he found his first
employment in the office of Pickford and Co., the great carrying firm.
Here his marvellous energy, his quickness of apprehension, his
mastery of detail, his accuracy of calculation, and his rapidity as
a correspondent, soon raised him to a good position. He had, however,
higher aims, and having the sagacity to foresee that the use of
aërated beverages, which had just been introduced, must soon become
general, he left the office and commenced the manufacture of soda
water, a business which he successfully carried on as long as he
lived, and which is still continued in his name by his successors.
This business fairly afloat, his energies sought further outlet, and
he soon, in conjunction with his partner, Mr. Nelson, commenced
at Leamington the manufacture, by a patent process, of artificial
isinglass and gelatine. This business, too, was successful and is
still in operation, Nelson's gelatine being known all over the world.
Besides these, he had a mustard mill, was an extensive dealer in
cigars, and for many years was associated with the late Mr. Jefferies
in the manufacture of marine glue. About 1851 he took over an
unsuccessful co-operative glass manufactory in Hill Street, which his
vigorous management soon converted into a great success. The business
growing beyond the capabilities of the premises, he removed it to the
extensive works at Lodge Road, where he continued to conduct it until
his death, and where it is still carried on by his executors for the
benefit of his family.

He was for some years a member of the Birmingham Town Council, and was
one of its hardest workers. Much might be said of the energetic manner
in which he opposed all weakness in action, and of the manly vigour
of his advocacy of all schemes for the benefit of the town of his
adoption. It will be especially remembered how hard he worked to
induce the Council to buy Aston Park for the town, when its price was
low, and how he used to chafe at the thought that double the present
area of the park might have been purchased, for less money than
was ultimately paid for the portion now held. In the Council, as
everywhere else, the strange influence he could bring to bear upon
other men, and the power he possessed of infusing a portion of his
own superabundant energy into the minds of others, was continually
manifested; and he will long be remembered in the Council Chamber as
one of the most original thinkers, and one of the shrewdest observers,
that ever sat upon its benches.

But his name will, probably, be longer held in remembrance in
connection with the colossal fêtes at Aston Park, in 1856, of which
he was the originator, and to the success of which he devoted himself
with untiring energy and unwearied industry. The idea of the fêtes
originated at the "Woodman" on an evening in the spring of 1856. The
room, on this occasion, was nearly full; Walsh occupied the principal
seat. Not far from him was the versatile, erudite, somewhat dogmatic,
but always courteous and polite, John Cornforth. There too, was
Ambrose Biggs, who since, as Mayor, so fully justified the choice
the Corporation made when they elected him to be their head. Nearly
opposite was seen the gentlemanlike figure of poor Joseph Collins,
whose untimely death, a few years later, created an intense feeling of
sorrow in the minds of all who knew him. The worthy host, Jem Onions,
occupied his usual seat. At a short distance was seen the upright
figure and full round face of genial, but somewhat fussy, George Tye,
his countenance beaming with good nature, and his eye bright with the
light of poetic and artistic intelligence; and there also were many
others, whose names I cannot at this moment recall.

The conversation that night was more than usually animated, and
was carried on with much propriety and intelligence. Walsh led a
discussion on the folly of the Corporation in refusing to buy a
portion of Aston Park, including the Hall, which had been offered to
them, as he said, "dirt cheap." Biggs, a little way off, took up
a subject with which he was more intimately connected--the Queen's
Hospital, whose financial affairs, just then, were in a lamentable
state of collapse. One set of talkers in the room were intent upon the
one topic; at the other end, the other subject was uppermost. Thus the
two matters became somewhat "mixed up" in the ear of a listener, and
thus they suddenly jostled together in the mind of Walsh. All in a
moment the thought arose--"Why not borrow the park and give a
pic-nic for the hospital?" With him, such a matter required little
consideration; with him, to conceive was to act. In a few minutes he
was on his legs, and at some length, with considerable eloquence and
characteristic energy, he, amid the rapt attention of the company,
propounded the scheme which had suggested itself. He was followed by
other speakers; the scheme was rapturously received by the audience;
it was unanimously resolved that if the use of the park could be
obtained, the fête should be held; a deputation was appointed to wait
upon the proprietors of the park; and a provisional committee, with
Mr. Walsh as chairman, was elected to carry out the preliminaries.

No time was lost. In a few days the desired permission to hold a fête
in the park was obtained. Other gentlemen joined in the movement, and
a large and influential permanent committee was formed. Walsh took up
the matter with his usual energy and with most sanguine views.
This was to be no _mere pic-nic_ now! It was to be such a fête as
Birmingham had never witnessed, and would not readily forget. The
attractions were to be such as would draw people, from all quarters.
The preparations were to be on the most gigantic scale, and the
result was estimated by Walsh at a clear gain of £250 or £300 to the
hospital. Some of the more cautious thought the scheme a little wild,
and on far too extensive a scale for success; but the indomitable
chairman, who had fully considered the _pros_ and _cons_, threw into
the movement the whole force of his almost superhuman energy, and
carried conviction to the minds of the most timid of his colleagues.
The scheme was enthusiastically resolved upon, although, as Walsh
said, after the fêtes were over, "Some of us were actually frightened
at what we had undertaken."

The fête was to be held on the 28th of July. It fell on a Monday. By
common consent business was to be suspended. As the day approached,
it became obvious, from the enormous demand for the tickets, that the
attendance would far exceed the expectations of the most sanguine.
Another 25,000 tickets were ordered from the printer, by telegraph.
The refreshment contractors were advised of the vastly increased
number of hungry customers they might expect. Bakers were set to work
to provide hundreds of additional loaves. Orders were given for an
extra ton or two of sandwiches. Scores more barrels of ale and porter
came slowly into the park, where, within fenced enclosures, they
were piled, two or three high, in double lines. Crates upon crates of
tumblers, earthenware mugs, and plates arrived. Soda water, lemonade,
and ginger beer were provided in countless grosses, and in fact
everything for the comfort and convenience of visitors that the most
careful forethought could suggest, was provided in the most lavish

At length the day arrived. The weather was delightfully fine. The
village of Aston was gaily decorated; the Royal Standard floated from
the steeple, and the bells chimed out in joyous melody. The quaint
Elizabethan gateway to the park was gay with unaccustomed bunting.
The sober old Hall had a sudden eruption of colour, such as it had
probably never known before. Flags of all colours, and with strange
devices, met the eye at every turn. Waggon after waggon, laden with
comestibles, filed slowly into the park. The rushing to and fro of
waiters and other attendants showed that they expected a busy day
of it. As noon approached, train after train deposited at the Aston
station hundreds and thousands of gaily-attired Black Country people.
Special trains ran from New Street as fast as they could be got
in order; all the approaches to the park were crammed with serried
lines--three or four abreast--of omnibuses, waggons, cabs, carts, and
every other imaginable vehicle; whilst thousands upon thousands of
dusty pedestrians jostled each other in the crowded roads. Fast as
the ticket and money collectors could pass them through the gates,
continuous streams poured on for hours, until at length the number
of persons within the grounds exceeded the enormous total of fifty

The old Hall was thrown open, and hundreds of people strolled through
its quaint rooms and noble galleries. The formal gardens were
noisy with unaccustomed merriment. From the terrace one looked
upon preparations for amusements, and old English games of all
descriptions. Platforms for dancing, and pavilions for musicians,
stood here and there. Beyond, in the valley, a long range of poles and
skeleton forms showed where the fireworks were in preparation. Down in
a corner stood a large stack of firewood through which, when lighted,
the "Fire-King" was to pass uninjured. Swings, merry-go-rounds, and
Punch and Judy shows were rare attractions for the young; and soon
the whole of that enormous assemblage of people, in the sunlight of a
glorious July day, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Suddenly, in one corner, there arose a deep-toned murmur, like the
sound of the roaring of the waves upon a broken shore. It deepened
in tone and increased in volume, until the whole area of the park
was filled with this strange sound. It was the noise of laughter
proceeding simultaneously from fifty thousand throats! From a
mysterious-looking shed in the valley opposite the terrace, Mr. John
Inshaw and some of his friends had just launched a balloon, shaped
like an enormous pig! Piggy rose majestically over that vast sea of
upturned faces, which he seemed to regard with much attention. But at
length, apparently disgusted at being so much laughed at, he started
off in the direction of Coleshill, and, to the intense amusement of
everybody, persisted in travelling tail foremost.

All classes were represented at the fête. Here you might see a group
of well-dressed folks from Edgbaston, next some pale-faced miners from
the Black Country, and then the nut-brown faces of some agricultural
people. All seemed intent upon fun and pleasure, and so, throughout
that long summer day, the crowd increased, and every one seemed to be
in a state of absolute enjoyment.

As evening wore on, other sources of interest arose. The famous
Sycamore Avenue--now, alas, going fast to decay--was lighted up
by innumerable coloured lamps. I am old enough to remember the
illuminations of the famous Vauxhall Gardens in London, but I never
saw there so fairylike a scene as that glorious old avenue at Aston
presented that evening.

Then came the fireworks! No such display had ever before been seen in
the Midland Counties. The nights of rockets, the marvellously-ingenious
set pieces, and the wonderful blue lights, gave intense delight; and the
grand chorus of "Oh! Oh! Oh!" when any specially brilliant effect was
produced, was something not to be easily forgotten; but the climax was
reached when, as a finale, the words

                            SAVE ASTON HALL

came out in glowing fire. Then the people shouted and applauded as
if they were frantic. And so, amid the gratulations of everybody, the
first of the Aston Fêtes came to an end.

No sooner was the fête over, than a clamour arose as to the disposal
of the profit. It was argued that as the money raised had so far
exceeded expectation, it ought, in fairness, to be divided between
the two hospitals. Correspondence in the newspapers became warm, and
almost angry. Walsh was pestered with all sorts of suggestions, and
a deputation waited upon him, urging the "claims" of the General
Hospital. Walsh received them with politeness, but with reticence, and
they left dissatisfied. It was a difficulty, but Walsh was equal to
it. Summoning his committee, he urged that the fête having been given
for a specific purpose, that purpose must be fulfilled, and the whole
sum must go to the Queen's. "But," said he, "I'll tell you what we can
do: we can give a good round sum on account to the Queen's, and we can
get up another fête for the General." A bomb-shell could hardly have
created greater astonishment, and the project, at first, was met with
disfavour. It was thought that it would not "do" a second time; that
the novelty of the affair was over; that people would not go twice;
and that the result would be a failure. Walsh urged that what had been
done had only "whetted the appetite" of the public; that thousands
regretted not having been present; and that the result would be
certain success. His energetic advocacy carried the point, and before
the committee separated, a second fête, to be held on September 15th,
was resolved upon.

Meanwhile, it was resolved to hand over a cheque for £1,500, on
account, to the Queen's Hospital, which was accordingly done; and on
the 22nd of August, at a meeting of the Council of the Hospital, at
which Alderman Ratcliff presided, it was resolved (_inter alia_)
that Walsh should be elected a Life Governor; that a marble tablet
recording the event should be erected in the vestibule of the
hospital; and that a dinner should be given to the chairman, officers,
and committee of the fête, such dinner to take place at the "Woodman,"
where the fête originated. The dinner subsequently took place,
under the presidency of the late Mr. Thomas Upfill. It was stated
incidentally that the total receipts amounted to £2,222 12s. 5d.; that
donations had been received by the Fête Committee amounting to £93
13s.; and that they had secured annual subscriptions amounting to £26
14s. 6d.

Pending these matters, Walsh and his friends had not been idle.
Preparations for the second fête were commenced, and energetically
urged forward. Guided by experience, the work was somewhat less
laborious, but the dread of failure made the committee doubly anxious.
Just before, there had been great rejoicing in London to celebrate
the peace with Russia, and there had been a magnificent display of
fireworks in Hyde Park. It was known that a considerable quantity,
unused on that occasion, still lay in store at Woolwich Arsenal. Walsh
opened a correspondence with the authorities; went to London; and
finally induced the Government, not only to make a free grant of
the fireworks, but to send down a staff of skilled pyrotechnists to
superintend the display at the fête. Additional attractions in great
abundance were provided. The Festival Choral Society promised its
assistance, and everything augured well, if only the weather should be

Monday, September 15th, came at last. Fortunately, it was a very
beautiful autumnal day. Nearly all the shops in the town were closed,
and everybody talked of the fête. As the day wore on, the excitement
became intense. The town literally emptied itself into Aston Park. A
newspaper of the time, says, "from the corner of Dale End to the park,
the road was one continued procession of cabs, carts, and omnibuses,
four abreast." Trains disgorged their thousands, and from far and
near the people came pouring in, until, to the utter amazement of
everybody, the park was considerably fuller than on the previous
occasion, and the total number of visitors was estimated to be at
least 90,000.

Walsh was in his glory. With triumphant glee he mounted a chair on
the terrace, and began a short speech, with the words, "We're a great
people, gentlemen; we're a great people." He then went on to say that
he was "going to turn auctioneer," and a huge clothes basket full of
grapes--the entire contents of one of his own forcing houses--being
brought to him, he proceeded in the most facetious manner to offer
them, bunch by bunch, for sale, and he realised in this way a very
large addition to the funds of the fête.

But space fails, and the account of this, the second fête, must only
record that in every respect it was a success; that, over and above
the prodigious number of tickets that had been sold, the enormous
sum of £1,200 was taken _at the gates_ for admission; and that,
financially as well as numerically, it far exceeded its predecessor.

It only remains to add, that four days afterwards, Messrs. Walsh,
Cornforth, Biggs, and Collins attended the Board Meeting of the
General Hospital, and handed over a cheque for £1,700 on account;
that at the next committee meeting it was resolved that the aggregate
results of both fêtes should be ascertained, and that the amount of
the entire profits of both should be divided in equal moieties between
the two hospitals.

So ended the great Aston Fêtes, the memory of which, and their
financial results, will be perpetuated by the marble slab at the
Queen's Hospital, which bears the following inscription--

                           This Tablet records
             that a Committee of Manufacturers and Tradesmen
                             of Birmingham
         projected and carried out, on their own responsibility,
    the two Fêtes Champêtre, which took place at Aston Hall and Park,
       on the 28th day of July and the 15th day of September, 1856,
            in aid, and towards the support and improvement,
            of the Queen's and General Hospitals of the town,
     by which they realised (after the payment of £1,663 3s. 2d. for
                  expenses) the sum of £5,054 12s. 4d.,
          which was equally divided between the two institutions.

           JOHN WALSH WALSH, Chairman       }
           JOHN CORNFORTH, Vice-Chairman    } of the
           AMBROSE BIGGS, Secretary         } Fêtes Committee.
           JOSH. THOMAS COLLINS, Treasurer  }

The late Prince Consort, who was President of the Queen's Hospital,
caused copies of the tablet to be prepared for presentation to each of
the four gentlemen named, and to Mr. Onions, at whose house the fêtes
originated. Each copy bears the autograph signature of the Prince. I
saw one the other day, occupying a place of honour in the house of its
possessor, who showed it to me with manly pride, as a memento of his
share in the work of the great Aston Fêtes.


The second Parliament of Queen Victoria was dissolved July 23rd, 1847.
Mr. Muntz had represented Birmingham in both, having been elected on
the retirement of Mr. Attwood, in January, 1840, and re-elected at the
general election in July, 1841. It was customary in Birmingham, before
the passing of the last Reform Bill, to hold, on the eve of elections,
a meeting of non-electors, in order that the working men, then outside
the franchise, should have a "voice," although they had no vote, in
the choice of the Members for Birmingham. From 1844 Mr. Spooner had
represented the town, but on this occasion the Liberal electors were
determined, if possible, to eject him. Mr. William Scholefield opposed
his re-election. There was another candidate, Mr. Sergeant Allen, but
as he only polled 89 votes he may, for the present purpose, be left
out of the question. The contest lay between Mr. Spooner and Mr.
Scholefield. The leaders of the Liberal party naturally supposed
that the candidature of Mr. Scholefield would have the support of
Mr. Muntz, and that the two Liberal candidates would be able to work
together, having a joint committee. To the astonishment of the whole
town, Mr. Muntz resolutely declined to have anything to do with Mr.
Scholefield or his friends. Upon this becoming known, there was great
dismay in the Liberal camp, and Mr. Muntz became very unpopular. All
kinds of proposals were made to induce him to change his mind, but he
remained obstinate, and, in addition, stubbornly refused to canvass
for himself, or to allow his friends to canvass in his name.

Matters stood thus when the meeting of non-electors was held in the
Town Hall. It was a very hot afternoon, and the hall was crammed.
The leaders of the Liberal party took, as usual, the right of the
chairman, and filled the principal seats in front. Mr. Muntz was
"conspicuous by his absence." The proceedings had gone on for some
time, and on the name of Mr. William Scholefield being proposed as a
candidate, the whole audience rose enthusiastically, and the Town Hall
rung with cheers, such as the Liberals of Birmingham know so well how
to bestow on a Liberal favourite or a Liberal sentiment. In the midst
of this demonstration, when the meeting was in a state of fervid
excitement, George F. Muntz quietly came up the orchestra stairs, and
took unobserved a seat upon a back bench, near the organ. I was within
two yards of him. He wore a brown holland blouse, and had with him a
paper bag, and as he placed his hat on the seat beside him, he emptied
the contents of the bag into it. As he did so I saw that he had
provided himself with half-a-dozen oranges.

In the course of the speeches that were made, much regret was
expressed at the determination of Mr. Muntz to stand aloof from the
party in this election, and it was hinted that if the Conservatives
should retain the seat, Mr. Muntz personally would be to blame.
Muntz heard it all pretty quietly, and at length, greatly to the
astonishment of most who were there, who were not even aware of his
being present, his stalwart figure rose, like an apparition, at the
back of the gallery. Standing on a seat so as to make himself seen,
he shouted out, "Mr. Chairman!" The applause which greeted him was
met with sober silence by Mr. Scholefield's friends. He went on--I
remember his very words--"I was going into the Reform Club the other
day, and on the steps I met Joe Parkes: you all know Joe Parkes. Well,
he said to me, 'I say, Muntz, you must coalesce with Scholefield.' I
said, 'I shan't do anything of the sort; it is no part of my duty to
dictate to my constituents who shall be my colleague, and I shan't do
it.' 'Well,' he said, 'if you don't, I shall recommend the electors
to plump against you.' Well, I gave him a very short and a very plain
answer: I told him they might plump and be damned!" The uproar, the
laughter, the shouts that ensued cannot be adequately described. In
the midst of the din, Muntz coolly stooped, took a large orange from
his hat, bit a piece out of it, which he threw away, and then
facing that mighty and excited crowd, proceeded to suck away in as
unconcerned a manner as if no one were present but himself. When the
noise had somewhat subsided, he commenced an elaborate defence of his
conduct, and said he had been taunted with being too proud to ask for
the votes of the electors. "That's not the reason," he said; "I knew
I had done my duty as your representative, and that I deserved your
votes; and I knew that I should get them without asking; but if it is
any satisfaction to anybody, I take this opportunity to ask you
now, collectively, to vote for me. As for your second vote, that has
nothing to do with me. Choose whom you may, I shall work cheerfully
with him as a colleague, and I have no fear of the result."

This little speech was altogether characteristic of the man. It
showed his stubborn wilfulness, his intense egotism, his coarseness of
manner, and his affectation of eccentricity. But it exhibited also the
fact that he thoroughly understood that he was liked by the bulk of
Birmingham people, and that he knew the majority of unthinking men
would take his bluntness for manliness, and his defiance of the
feelings and opinions of his political associates, for sturdy and
commendable independence. He alienated many friends by his conduct on
this occasion, but he won his election, coming in at the head of
the poll. By dint of strenuous exertions--made necessary by his
obstinacy--Mr. Scholefield came in second. The poll stood at the
close--Muntz, 2,830; Scholefield, 2,824; Spooner, 2,302; Allen, 89.
From this time till his death, ten years later, he and Mr. Scholefield
held their seats without further opposition.

In the House of Commons he succeeded, mainly by force of lungs, in
gaining attention; but he was looked upon as a political oddity, whose
utterings were amusing, if nothing more. The only good I remember him
to have done as a Member of Parliament was inducing the Government of
the day to adopt the perforating machine in the manufacture of postage

His personal appearance was remarkable and handsome. He was tall and
exceedingly muscular, and must have possessed enormous physical
power. At a time when shaving was universal, he wore his beard. It is
generally believed that he never shaved. This is a mistake. He shaved
until he was nearly 40 years old. His youngest brother, Mr. P.H.
Muntz, the present M.P., as a young man had been sent for some years
to North Germany, and when he came home in 1833, he had a fine beard.
Mr. G.F. Muntz thereupon resolved to allow his to grow, and when he
went to Parliament this peculiarity attracted much notice. H.B., the
celebrated caricaturist, was not slow to make it the subject of one
of his inimitable sketches. In the collected edition there are 917 of
these famous pictures, all admirably drawn, and excellent likenesses.
Mr. Muntz is depicted in No. 643, under the title of "A Brummagem
M.P." The historical stick, the baggy trousers, and the flowing and
Homeric beard, are graphically represented. The reason given for his
carrying the stick was quite amusing. It was stated that the then
Marquis of Waterford had made a wager that he would shave Muntz, and
that Muntz carried the stick to prevent that larkish young nobleman
from carrying the intention into practice.

The family from which Mr. Muntz descended was originally Polish,
but for a few generations had been domiciled in France, where they
occupied a handsome chateau, and belonged to the aristocracy of the
country. Here the father of Mr. Muntz was born. At the time of the
Revolutionary deluge that swept over France, the Muntz family, in
common with so many hundreds of their countrymen, emigrated; and after
a time, a younger son, Mr. Muntz's father, who seems to have been a
man of great enterprise and force of character, became a merchant
at Amsterdam. This step was very displeasing to his aristocratic
relatives, but he followed his own course independently. In a few
months he left Amsterdam for England, and established himself in
Birmingham. At the age of 41 he married an English lady, Miss Purden,
she being 17 years of age, and they resided in the house in Newhall
Street now occupied by Messrs. Benson and Co., merchants, as offices,
where, in the month of November, 1794, Mr. George Frederic Muntz was
born. It is believed that his baptismal names were given him in honour
of Handel, the composer. At the time of his birth the house stood amid
fields and gardens, and the old mansion known as "New Hall," was in
close proximity, standing on the ground now occupied by the roadway
of Newhall Street, just where the hill begins to descend towards
Charlotte Street.

The mother of Mr. Muntz was a lady of great acquirements and
considerable mental power. She undertook the early education of her
son, and was singularly qualified for the work. At the age of 12 he
was sent to a school at Small Heath, kept by a Dr. Currie, where
he remained for one year, and from that time he never received any
professional instruction. He had, however, a hunger for knowledge that
was insatiable, and, with the assistance of his excellent mother, he
pursued his studies privately. He became very well up in ancient and
modern history. At a very early age he was associated with his father
in business, and soon became a very apt assistant. His father's
somewhat premature death in 1811 brought him, at the early age of 18,
face to face with the stern realities of life, for he became, so to
speak, the head of the family, and the mainstay of the two businesses
with which his father had been connected--the rolling mills in Water
Street and the mercantile establishment in Great Charles Street. There
he continued a hard-working, plodding; life for many years; but on the
fortunate discovery of the fact that a peculiar alloy of sixteen
parts of copper with ten and two-thirds of spelter made a metal as
efficacious for the sheathing of ships' bottoms as copper itself, at
about two-thirds the cost, he left the management of the old concerns
pretty much to his brother, the present Member, and devoted his own
energies to the development of the business of making "Muntz's Metal."
This business secured him a colossal fortune, and his name as the
fortunate discoverer is still familiar in every commercial market in
the world.

Mr. Muntz married early in life the daughter of a clergyman, by whom
he had a large family. He resided first at a pretty rustic place
overgrown with ivy, near Soho Pool, called Hockley Abbey. From thence
he removed to Ley Hall, near Perry Barr; and finally he went to
Umberslade Hall, near Knowle, where he resided for the remainder of
his life.

After the great commercial panic of 1825, the question of the proper
adjustment of the English currency became a prominent topic of
discussion, and various sections of society held contradictory
theories. A distinct school of thought upon this subject arose in
Birmingham, and comprised amongst its members some very able men of
all shades of general political opinion. It became famous, and its
theories being urged with great skill and ability, forced themselves
upon public attention. Mr. Muntz, as a very young man, embraced their
opinions, and advocated them by tongue and pen. In 1829 he wrote a
series of letters to the Duke of Wellington upon this subject, which
were marked by great ability. It was not, however, until the agitation
for the Reform Bill commenced that Mr. Muntz became much known as a
politician. He took up this cause with great ardour, and, being gifted
with considerable fluency of speech, a powerful voice, a confident
manner, and a handsome presence, he soon became immensely popular.
Thomas Attwood, Joshua Scholefield, and George Frederic Muntz were
the founders of the Political Union. The two former, as president and
vice-president respectively, were of course in the foremost rank, but
their young and ardent lieutenant, Muntz, was as powerful and popular
as they. His strong and manly voice, and bold outspoken words, had a
strange and powerful influence with his audiences. He was a popular
favourite, and when the Political Union held their first monster
meeting at Beardsworth's Repository, on January 25th, 1830, Muntz
was the chairman. As has been written of him, "His burly form,
his rough-and-ready oratory, his thorough contempt for all
conventionalities, the heartiness of his objurgations, and his
earnestness, made him a favourite of the people, and an acceptable
speaker at all their gatherings." When Earl Grey, who, as Premier, had
endeavoured unsuccessfully to pass a Reform Bill, resigned, and "the
Duke" took his place, bells throughout the country were tolled, and
black flags floated from many a tower and steeple. The country was in
a frenzy of anger and disappointment. A monster meeting was held on
Newhall Hill, and there, in half a dozen words, Muntz sounded the
knell of the new Tory Ministry. In tones such as few lungs but
his could produce, he thundered in the ears of attentive and eager
listeners the words, "To stop the Duke, run for gold." There were no
telegraphs in those days, but these words were soon known through the
country. A run commenced, such as had seldom been known before, and if
it had continued would have produced disastrous effects. The Duke
was furious. Warrants were prepared for the apprehension of Attwood,
Scholefield, and Muntz, for sedition; but the Ministry had not courage
to put them in action. The excitement became more and more intense,
and the great Duke, for the first time in his life, was compelled
to yield. He resigned, and the unsigned warrants were found in the
pigeon-holes at the Home Office by his successors.

The Tory party--Conservatives had not then been invented--seeing how
hopeless the struggle was in which they tried to defeat the nation,
gave way eventually, and the Reform Bill of 1832 became law. The
president and vice-president of the Political Union--Attwood and
Scholefield--became the first Members for Birmingham, and political
feeling was quiet for a time. It was soon seen, however, that,
although the people had taken the outworks, the citadel of corruption
had not yet been completely conquered. The church-rate question rose
to the front, and became a burning matter of dispute. In Birmingham,
on this question, public opinion ran very high. For many years the
church-rate had been sixpence and ninepence in the pound per annum.
This was felt to be a most intolerable burden by Churchmen themselves,
and the Dissenters thought it a most unjust and unrighteous
imposition. For some years there had been very angry discussions on
the subject, and most unseemly altercations at the vestry meetings.
On Easter Tuesday, the 28th March, 1837, a meeting was called for the
election of the churchwardens of St. Martin's, and for the making of
a rate. It was held in the Church. The Rev. Mr. Moseley, rector; Mr.
Joseph Baker, who at that time was clerk to Mr. Arnold, the Vestry
Clerk; Mr. Gutteridge, surgeon; Mr. Freer, and others, took their
places in a pew on the north side of the organ. Mr. Muntz, Mr. George
Edmonds, Mr. Pare, Mr. Trow, and others in great numbers, sat on
the south. The Rector took the chair, and proposed Mr. Reeves as
his warden for the coming year. To this, of course, there was no
opposition, but on the rector saying he should now proceed to elect a
people's warden, a row began. Mr. Pare contended that the rector--_ex
officio_--had no right to act as chairman while the parishioners
elected _their_ warden. Muntz proposed another chairman; the parish
books were demanded to be shown; but Mr. Baker put them under his feet
and stood upon them. Muntz mounted to the top of the pew and demanded
the books, and a scene of great disorder and riot ended in nothing
being done. The whole scene appears to have been one of indescribable
confusion. The rector was a timid, nervous man, who seemed during the
whole proceedings to have almost lost his wits. When Baker refused to
give up the books, a rush was made upon the rector's pew, amid cries
of "Pitch him over," "Get the books," &c. The panelling of the pew was
smashed to atoms. In the midst of the scene, Muntz's burly form was
seen, brandishing his well-known stick. Gutteridge is described as
"making incessant grimaces and gesticulations, in a manner which
induced the crowd to call him 'Punch,' and to ask him why he had
not brought 'Judy' with him." In fact, the whole proceeding was a
disgraceful brawl.

For his complicity in this business a criminal information was laid
against Muntz, and he was brought, with two or three others, to trial
at Warwick, before Chief Justice Park and a special jury. The charge
was "tumult, riot, and assault upon Gutteridge and Rawlins." The trial
commenced on Friday, March 30, 1838, and lasted three entire days. The
result was a virtual acquittal, Mr. Muntz having been found guilty
of "an affray," and not guilty on the other twelve counts of the
indictment. Campbell was counsel for the prosecution, and Wilde for
the defence, and some sparring took place between them. Campbell in a
very rude and insulting manner, _chaffed_ Muntz about his beard, and
Wilde retorted with considerable scorn. The cost of the defence was
over £2,000.

In January, 1840, upon the retirement of Mr. Attwood from Parliament,
Mr. Muntz became a candidate for the vacant seat, and was opposed by
the notoriously bigoted Tory, Sir Charles Wetherell. The association
of his name with the riots at Bristol a few years before did not add
to his prospects of success in Birmingham. It was thought, however,
that his relationship to Mr. Spooner would give him a chance, but the
poll showed 1,454 votes for Mr. Muntz, and only 915 for Sir Charles.

From the time of his entering the House of Commons, Mr. Muntz's
political and public character seems to have become deteriorated.
Whether increasing riches brought increasing conservatism of thought
can be hardly ascertained now; but there is no doubt that from this
time the hereditary aristocratic tendencies of his mind began to
gather force. The head of the paternal tree had long returned from
exile to the family chateau, and resumed the position of a landed
seigneur; and his son, George Louis Muntz, cousin of George Frederic,
had just been elected a Member of the French Chamber of Deputies. Why
should not the Muntzes become a family of equal position in England?
No doubt this feeling became a ruling passion, and influenced his
every thought.

Still, he was a very vain man, and had always told his friends,
publicly and privately, that at least _he_ was politically honest
and consistent; and he was desirous--spite of his change of views--to
retain this self-given character. Hence all sorts of eccentricities,
inconsistencies, and absurdities. Hence his constant habit of speaking
one way and voting another, and hence his morbid sensitiveness to
anything like adverse criticism. In fact, from this time he became
utterly incomprehensible, and but for the grateful recollection of the
many services of his younger days, would probably have found himself
deserted by his political friends.

At this time, too, the egotism, which in his later years became
more manifest, began to show itself. He evidently thought himself
_somebody_, and did not hesitate to say so on all occasions; until, at
length, it was painful to listen to a speech of his. I remember, about
the time of the Crimean war, when the organisation of the English
army was found to be so lamentably deficient, there was a society
established in Birmingham called by some such name as "The
Administrative Reform Association." A large meeting was held in
Bingley Hall, at which all the leading Liberals of the town were
present. George Dawson made a capital speech, and Muntz had "a long
innings." As we came out, poor Dawson said to me, "They won't be able
to print Muntz's speech verbatim." "Why not?" said I. "Why, my
dear fellow, no printing office in the world would have capital I's

I have spoken of his dislike to adverse criticism. No one, now, can
imagine how he would rage and fume if any newspaper dared to doubt the
wisdom of any remark of his. Why, he nearly killed poor Chidlow, the
bookseller; shaking him almost to pieces for merely selling a paper
in which he was severely criticised. While as for _The Birmingham
Journal_, no red rag ever fluttered in the eyes of a furious bull
ever caused more rage than the sight of that paper did to Muntz. That
_they_ should dare to doubt _his_ infallibility was a deadly crime and
an unpardonable sin.

In opposition to this paper, Muntz started a paper of his own, _The
Birmingham Mercury_, by which he lost a good deal of money, and did
little good. The debts in connection with this newspaper were not paid
until after his death.

He certainly was a psychical curiosity, and his ways were "past
finding out." He was bold and fearless physically, but there his
courage ended. He avowed himself to be a Republican, yet he was an
innate aristocrat. He was always declaiming against despotism and
tyranny in the abstract, yet he was domineering and arbitrary in his
household, in his family, and in his business. He affected primitive
simplicity, yet was one of the vainest of men. In fact, his whole
nature was a living contradiction.

About the year 1852 he lost, by death, his youngest daughter, to whom
he had been devotedly attached. This was a severe blow to him, and
from this time the robust physical frame began to exhibit tokens of
decay. His hair became gray, and streaks of silver were seen in his
magnificent beard. At the election in March, 1857, it was observed
that he had greatly changed. He continued to attend the House of
Commons until the end of May, when he was somewhat suddenly taken
severely ill. It was discovered by the medical attendants that
internal tumours, of an alarming nature, had formed, and from this
moment his recovery seemed hopeless. He bore his illness with great
firmness, although his weakness became pitiable, and the fine frame
diminished to a mere skeleton. He became at length unconscious, and on
the 30th of July, 1857, he quietly passed away in the presence of his

The disposition of his vast wealth was marked by great eccentricity.
His will, when published, caused much adverse criticism, and
uncomplimentary epithets were freely used. Suffice it to say here,
that his property was most unequally, if not unfairly, divided amongst
his family, and that he did not leave a farthing to the Charities of
the town of his birth--the town which had done so much for him, and
for which he had always professed so much attachment.


About a hundred and fifty years ago, a gentleman, whose name I have
not been able to ascertain, owned the premises in Icknield Street
West, now known as Monument House, and in his garden, near the
house, he built the tall octagonal tower, now known as the Monument,
respecting the origin of which so many various legendary stories are
current. It was, no doubt, erected to enable its owner, who was an
astronomer, to obtain from its upper chamber a more extensive field of
view for his instruments, and thus to enable him to make observations
of the heavenly bodies when they were very low down in the horizon.
I am informed, however, by an old inhabitant of Edgbaston, that his
father told him, when a little boy, that it, was built by a gentleman
named Parrott, who formerly lived in the top house in Bull Street, at
the corner of Steelhouse Lane. This gentleman had removed to the house
now called Monument House, and built the "Monument" in his garden to
enable him--when from age he became too much enfeebled to enjoy it
himself--to watch from its upper storeys the sport of coursing, which
was extensively practised in the pleasant fields and meadows which
then surrounded the house. Be that as it may, it is certain that the
tower was, a century ago, known by the name of "Parrott's Folly."[A]

[Footnote A: In a Directory for the year 1800, Monument House is named
as the residence of Mr. Parrott Noel.]

From the top storey of this lofty building there was a very extensive
range of vision, but when first built there was little to be seen but
green fields and open country. Of the few buildings visible, Ladywood
House, still standing, occupied the foreground, and was surrounded by
a pleasant park. Apparently just beyond was the fine old mansion known
as New Hall, which stood where now Great Charles Street intersects
Newhall Street, the present roadway being the very site which the
house then occupied. St. Philip's Church was being built, and the
scaffold of its unfinished tower and dome looked like a huge net of
wickerwork. A little to the left, Aston Hall, in the clear atmosphere,
seemed only about a mile away. Beyond, on a gentle eminence, Coleshill
was distinctly visible, and in the far distance the tower of
St. Mary's Church at Coventry reared to the dim and hazy sky its
exquisitely tapered and most graceful spire.

I stood within this upper room, a few years ago, on a pleasant evening
in the summer-time. From its windows there is still a very extensive
view, but how changed! On all sides but one there is nothing to be
seen, under the dingy cloud of smoke, but a weary, bewildering mass of
dismal brick and mortar; and even on the north-west, where there are
still a few green fields and pleasant gardens in the neighbourhood
of the two reservoirs, the eye, reaching beyond there, comes upon the
dark and forbidding regions to the west of Dudley. As on that glorious
evening I turned my telescope to this point, I was startled by a very
curious sight. I had placed the instrument in such a manner that its
"field" was completely filled by the ruby-coloured disc of the setting
sun. As I looked, I saw the singular apparition of a moving "whimsey"
at the top of Brierley Hill, dark and black against the shining
surface. It was an extraordinary illusion, for it looked exactly as if
the rising and falling beam of the engine were attached to the surface
of the sun itself.

On the same side, I saw, almost at the foot of the tower on which I
stood, a little enclosed garden. It contained at one end a long, low,
pavilion-like building, and, here and there, some pleasant alcoves
and garden seats. I heard the sound of merry voices, and, I saw two or
three sets of gentlemen playing the game known by the unpoetical name
of "quoits." Upon inquiry I was told that this was the private ground
of the Edgbaston Quoit Club, a select body, consisting mainly of
well-to-do inhabitants of that pleasant suburb. By the courtesy of
one of the members, I was a few days afterwards conducted over these
premises. It was not a club day, so we were alone. The low pavilion,
was, I found, the dining-room of the club--for on club days the
members met to dine, as a preliminary to the play. It was plainly and
very comfortably furnished, and every arrangement seemed to have been
made that could conduce to the convenience of the members. At one end
was a long row of hat-pegs, and upon these, at various angles, hung a
singular assortment of garden hats and caps, of every imaginable shape
and colour. They were the _négligé_ head-coverings of the members,
and though altogether dissimilar in most respects, they were alike in
one--they were all of very large size.

Phrenologists tell us that the size of a man's head is indicative of
his mental power, and these hats certainly bore out the theory, for
their owners were mostly self-made men, and were, without exception,
men of mark. I will not mention the name of any of those now living,
but two of the largest hats there belonged respectively to Walter
Lyndon and Joseph Gillott.

Mr. Gillott, we are told, in a newspaper published soon after his
death, was "born of poor but honest parents." I should like very much
to inquire here, how it is that novel writers, magazine contributors,
and newspaper reporters always write "poor _but_ honest." Is there
really anything antithetic or antagonistic in poverty and honesty? To
my mind the phrase always seems offensive, and it will be well if
it is discontinued in the future. It is one of those little bits of
clap-trap so common among reporters, who use phrases of this kind
continually, without a thought as to their appropriateness.

However, Joseph Gillott was born in Sheffield about three months
before the present century commenced. His parents _were_ poor, but
they managed to give him a good plain education, and they taught him
self-reliance. They taught him, too, to train and cultivate the fine
faculty of observation with which he was naturally endowed. In very
early life, we are told, he, by forging and grinding the blades
of pen-knives, contributed greatly to the income of the parental
household. It is said that even at a very early age, his quick
perception and his acute nervous organisation enabled him to produce
much finer work than others of far greater experience in the same
trade, whose obtuseness had kept them in a state of comparative
drudgery all their lives.

When he became of age, and was "out of his time," the cutlery trade in
Sheffield was very much depressed, and he came to Birmingham, hoping
to obtain employment in a trade which, owing to a caprice of fashion,
was just then in an inflated condition. This was the business of
making steel buckles, and other articles of polished steel for
personal adornment. In this he was very successful, and soon after his
arrival in the town, he took a small house in Bread Street, a little
way down on the right from Newhall Street, and here he started
business for himself. He had no capital, but he had great skill. Mr.
S.A. Goddard, who used to buy from him, tells me that he made very
excellent goods, and "came for his money every week." He was a very
excellent workman, and possessing as he did the native perception of
fitness which we call "taste," he soon obtained abundance of orders,
and became prosperous.

At this time the steel pen trade, which has since grown to such
enormous dimensions, was only in a tentative condition. Josiah Mason,
in conjunction with Perry, of _The Morning Chronicle_ newspaper, was
experimenting, and two brothers, named respectively John and William
Mitchell, were actually making, by a tedious method, a fairly good
article. They were assisted in their work by a sister. By some
fortunate accident, Gillott and Miss Mitchell met, and after a brief
courtship they entered into an engagement to marry. She spoke to her
intended husband of the nature of her occupation, and Gillott at once
conceived the idea that the _press_, the useful implement then used
principally in the button trade, might, if proper tools could be made
to suit, produce pens in large numbers very rapidly. With his own
hands, in a garret of his house, he secretly worked until he had
succeeded in making pens of a far better quality than had yet been
seen. His process was one in which, unassisted, he could produce as
many pens as twenty pairs of hands, working under the old system,
could turn out. There was an enormous demand for his goods, and as he
wanted help, and secrecy seemed needful, the young people married, and
Mr. Gillott used to tell how, on the very morning of his marriage, he,
before going to the church, made with his own hands a gross of pens,
and sold them at 1s. each, realising thereby a sum of £7 4s.

Continuing to live in the little house in Bread Street, the young
couple worked in the garret, no one else assisting. As an illustration
of the primitive condition of the steel pen trade then, it may be
mentioned that at this period the pens were "blued" and varnished in
a common frying-pan, over a kitchen fire. Orders flowed in so rapidly,
and the goods were produced in such quantities, that the young couple
made money faster than they knew what to do with it. They were afraid
to invest it, as they did not wish it to ooze out that the business
was so profitable. It has been stated that Mr. Gillott had several
banking accounts open at this time, being afraid that, if he paid all
his profits into one bank, it might excite cupidity, and so engender
competition. It is also said that he actually buried money in the
cellar of his house, lest his marvellously rapid accumulation of
wealth should become known.

At length the demand for his pens became so great that it was
impossible to resist the urgent necessity for larger premises and
increased labour. Mr. Gillott, accordingly, removed to Church Street,
and subsequently took other premises, up the yard by Mr. Mappin's shop
in Newhall Street. About the same time, he removed his family to the
house at the corner of Great Charles Street, where the Institution
of Mechanical Engineers had its offices until its recent removal
to London. After a few years, he commenced to build the premises in
Graham Street, where the business has, ever since, been carried on.
At the time the building was erected, there were few "factories,"
properly so called, in the town, and most of the work of the place
was conducted in the low, narrow ranges of latticed-windowed buildings
known as "shopping." Mr. Gillott's was, I think, the first Birmingham
building in the modern factory style. It was admirably planned, and
expensively built. Even, now, when hundreds of factories have arisen,
its solid and substantial appearance externally, and the arrangements
inside, for order, and for the organisation of labour, are not
surpassed by any of its rivals.

As soon as Mr. Gillott's appliances were of sufficient extent to
supply very large quantities, he commenced to advertise extensively,
a practice which he continued during the remainder of his life, and
which his son and successor still follows up in a modified form. I
perfectly remember, more than forty years ago, his advertisements
in tine magazines, and on the cover of the "Penny Cyclopædia." Like
everything that Mr. Gillott did, they bore the impress of original
thought. After giving his name and address, and a few other
particulars as to his wares, the advertisements went on to say
something like this:

"The number of pens produced in this factory in the year ending
December 31st, 1836, was

  250,000 grosses,
  or 3,000,000 dozens,
  or 36,000,000 pens."

The advertisements invariably had the fac-simile of Mr. Gillott's
signature, as now; a signature better known, perhaps, than any other
in the world, and one with which almost every human being who can
write is perfectly familiar. Of course it will be understood that the
quantities given above are altogether imaginary. It is impossible to
remember the exact figures after so many years, but they are inserted
to show the form the advertisements then took.

Faster than the improved facilities at his command enabled him to
produce, came the demand for his pens. To meet this, he brought from
time to time into use many mechanical appliances, the product of his
fertile and ingenious brain, until at length every one of the old
processes was superseded, and labour-saving machinery substituted. The
price of the pens fell from a shilling each to less than that sum per
gross, and the steel pen came into universal use. The enormous number
of yens produced in Mr. Gillott's works can scarcely be set down in
figures, but may be estimated roughly, from the statement made at
the time of his death that the average weight of the weekly make of
finished pens exceeded five tons. I have tried, by experiment, to
arrive at an approximate estimate of the _number_ of pens this weight
represents. I have taken a "scratch" dozen of pens, of all sorts and
sizes, and ascertaining their weight, have calculated therefrom, and I
find that the result is something like sixty thousand grosses, or the
enormous number of nearly nine millions of separate pens, sent out
from this manufactory every week.

In the course of the forty or fifty years during which Mr. Gillott was
in business, many other manufactories of steel pens were established,
at some of which, probably, greater _numbers_ of pens were produced
than at his own, but the _amount of business_ transacted was in no
case, probably, so great. Mr. Gillott did not compete in the direction
others took--lowness of price. Like his brother-in-law, Mr. William
Mitchell, he preferred to continue to improve the quality. It is
somewhat remarkable that, after long years of active and severe
competition, these two houses--the oldest in the trade, I
believe--have still the highest reputation for excellence.

It has often occurred to me that the invention of steel pens came most
opportunely. Had they not been invented, Rowland Hill's penny postage
scheme would probably have failed. There would not have been, in the
whole world, geese enough to supply quills to make the required number
of pens. Had Byron lived a little later on, his celebrated couplet
would not have apostrophised the "gray goose quill," but would
probably have run something like this:

    "My Gillott pen! thou noblest work of skill,
    Slave of my thought, obedient to my will."

My purpose, however, in this sketch is not to write a history of the
trade by which Mr. Gillott raised himself to fame and fortune,
but rather to describe the man himself, as he moved quietly and
unobtrusively among his fellow men. One of his chief characteristics,
it has always struck me, was his intense love of _excellence_ in
everything with which he had to do. It was a frequent jocular remark
of his that "the best of everything was good enough for him." In
this--perhaps unknowingly--he followed Lord Bacon's advice, "Jest in
earnest," for he, certainly, earnestly carried out in life the desire
to do, and to possess, the "best" that could be attained. Of this
peculiarity, some very pleasant stories can be told.

Soon after he had purchased the beautiful estate at Stanmore, near
Harrow-on-the-Hill, which he loved so much, and where, in company
with his old friend, Pettitt, the artist, he spent so much time in
his latter years, he resolved to adorn the grounds with the rarest
and most beautiful shrubs and trees obtainable. The trustees of the
Jephson Gardens, at Leamington, about the same time, advertised for
sale some surplus plants of rare kinds, and Mr. Gillott paid the
gardens a visit. He had selected a number of costly specimens, when
his eye fell on a tree of surpassing beauty. He inquired its price,
and was told that it was not for sale. He was not a man to be easily
baffled, and he still tried to make a bargain. He was at length told
that an offer of £50 had already been made for the tree, and refused.
His reply was characteristic: "Well, I've made up my mind to have that
tree, and I'll give £100 for it. This offer, with the amount of those
I have selected, will make my morning's purchases come to three or
four hundred pounds. If I don't have this tree, I won't have any." He
had it, and it still adorns the magnificent lawn at Stanmore.

Few people know that he had a fancy for collecting precious stones,
simply as rarities. Poor George Lawson (whose tall, erect, and
soldier-like figure was well known in the streets of Birmingham and
at picture sales, and whose thoroughly good-natured, genial, hearty
manner, and singular wealth of humour, made him the favourite "of
all circles, and the idol of his own") told me a capital story
illustrative of this. One of Mr. Lawson's daughters complained to
him of tooth-ache, and he advised her to have it extracted. The young
lady, who had inherited a large share of her father's rare humour,
went immediately to the dentist and had the objectionable tooth
removed. There had been a calf's head on the dinner-table that day,
and the young lady, on her return, obtained from the cook one of the
large molars from the jaw of the calf, which, having been carefully
wrapped in paper, was presented to her father as her own. He saw
through the trick in an instant, and affecting great astonishment at
its enormous size, he put it in his waistcoat pocket, as a curiosity,
forming in his own mind a little plot for the following day, when he
had an engagement to dine out. The dinner party was at Walter Lyndon's
house at Moseley, and here he met Gillott. Lawson, at table, was
seated next to a gentleman from London, who wore on his forefinger a
ring containing a very magnificent diamond; so large, indeed, as to
excite Lawson's attention so much that at length he spoke, "You must
really excuse me, but I cannot help admiring the splendid diamond in
your ring." "Yes, it's a pretty good one," said the gentleman, handing
it to Lawson for inspection. It was passed round the table until it
reached Gillott, who carefully inspected it and said, "It's a very
good one; but I think I have one that'll 'lick' it." Putting his
hand into the breast pocket of his coat, he brought out two or three
shabby-looking screwed-up bits of paper. Selecting one of these, he
opened it, and produced therefrom an unmounted diamond, far surpassing
in size and purity the one in the ring. Precious stones generally
became at once the topic of conversation, and it was wondered whether
an emerald of equal size would be of equal or, as one contended, even
greater value. One gentleman present said that an emerald so large had
never yet been seen. Gillott's eye twinkled with a merry humour, as,
from another bit of paper, he produced an emerald larger than the
diamond, and a minute afterwards trumped both these with a splendid
ruby. It was now Lawson's turn. Assuming a serious look, he said that
Mr. Gillott's specimens were certainly very remarkable, but he could
"beat them hollow." Then, with an air of great mystery and care,
he produced from his pocket the carefully-enveloped tooth, which he
exhibited to his astonished friends as the identical tooth taken from
his daughter's jaw the day before.

It is well known that Mr. Gillott had accumulated a very large and
fine collection of violins and other stringed musical instruments.
These, when sold by auction after his death, fetched, under the
hammer, upwards of £4,000. About twenty years ago an old friend of
mine in Leicestershire, who had met with some heavy losses, desired
to sell a fine Stradivarius violin, which had been in his family more
than a century, and he sent it to me that I might offer it to Mr.
Gillott. I called upon him to ask permission to bring it to him for
inspection. I can recall now the frank, honest, homely Yorkshire tone
with which he said, "Nay, lad! I shan't buy any more fiddles; I've got
a boat-load already." He wouldn't look at it, and I sent it back to
its owner, who is long since dead.

World-wide as was his reputation as a manufacturer, he was almost
equally renowned as one of the most munificent and discriminating
patrons of Art. Possessing, naturally, a most refined taste, and
having very acute perceptive powers, he instinctively recognised the
_true_ in the work of young artists; and when he saw tokens of more
than common ability, he fostered the budding talent in a very generous
spirit. So much was thought of his judgment, that the fact of his
having bought a picture by an unknown man was quite sufficient to give
the artist a position. I heard a story from a Liverpool artist the
other day, very characteristic of Mr. Gillott's firm and determined,
yet kind and generous, nature. It is well known that he very early
recognised the genius of the gifted Mueller, and became his warm
supporter. One result of his patronage was that others sought the
artist, and by offers of large prices and extensive commissions,
induced him to let them have some of his pictures, which Gillott was
to have bought. Mueller appears to have become inflated by his great
success, and he, in this or some other way, managed to annoy his early
friend and patron in a very serious manner. His punishment was swift,
severe, and sure. Gillott immediately packed off every Mueller picture
he possessed to an auction room in London, with directions that they
should be extensively advertised as his property, and sold without
the slightest reserve. This step so frightened the Art-world that
"Müllers" became a drug in the market, and poor Müller found himself
neglected by his quondam friends. He soon came in penitence to
Gillott, who again took him by the hand, and befriended him until his
untimely death in 1845, at the age of 33. At the sale of Mr. Gillott's
pictures after his decease, Müller's celebrated picture, "The Chess
Players," fetched the enormous sum of £3,950.

The story of Mr. Gillott's introduction to the great landscape
painter, Turner, has been variously told, but the basis of all the
stories is pretty much the same. It seems that Gillott, long before
Ruskin had dubbed Turner "the modern Claude," had detected the rare
excellence of his works, and longed to possess some. He went to the
dingy house in Queen Anne Street, and Turner himself opened the door.
In reply to Gillott's questions, he said he had "nothing to sell that
_he_ could afford to buy." Gillott, by great perseverance, obtained
admission, and tried at first to bargain for a single picture. Turner
looked disdainfully at his visitor, and refused to quote a price.
Still Gillott persevered, and at length startled the artist by asking,
"What'll you take for the lot in this room?" Turner, half-jokingly,
named a very large sum--many thousands--thinking to frighten him off,
but Gillott opened his pocket book, and, to Turner's utter amazement,
paid down the money in crisp Bank of England notes. From this moment
the two men, so utterly unlike in their general character, but so
strangely kindred in their love of Art, became on intimate terms of
friendship, which lasted until Turner's death in 1851. Mr. Gillott's
collection of Turner's works was the largest and finest in private
hands in England, and, when they were sold, realised more than five
times the money he had paid for them.

Mr. Gillott was not, in any sense, a public man, and he took no active
part in politics. He had a great dislike to public companies, and I
believe never held a share in one. He had a very few old friends with
whom he loved to associate. He was very hospitable, but he had a strong
aversion to formal parties, and to every kind of ostentation. His chief
delight was to act as cicerone to an appreciative visitant to his
magnificent gallery. He was a frequent visitor to the snug smoking-room
at the "Hen and Chickens," where poor "Walter" always brought him,
without waiting for an order, what Tony Weller called the "inwariable"
and a choice cigar. He did not talk much, but, when he spoke, he had
always "something to say." He left early, and went from there, almost
nightly, to the Theatre Royal, where he occupied, invariably, a back
seat of a certain box, and here, if the performances were a little dull,
he would often enjoy a comfortable nap.

In private life he was cheerful, easily pleased, and unaffected. He was
greatly beloved by children and young people. I wrote the other day to a
lady, at whose father's house he was a frequent visitor, asking for her
recollections of him; and the reply is so pleasant and graphic, that,
without her permission, I shall quote it verbatim:

    "When he dined with papa it was always a 'gentlemen's' party, and
    only mamma dined with them. We used to see the visitors at dessert
    only. I remember Mr. Gillott as always being very cheery in manner,
    with a kind smile; and few words. As children, when we went to
    dancing parties at his house, he would come during the evening, with
    a few old friends (the fathers of the children assembled), and,
    standing in the door of the drawing-room, pat the children on the
    head and have a little joke with them as they passed him. He would
    stay for about half-an-hour or so, and then return with his friends
    down-stairs to smoke. I have heard papa, who, as you know, was no
    mean judge, say what a remarkably quick ear Mr. Gillott had for
    music. When they had been together to hear a new opera, he, on his
    return home, would whistle correctly the greater portion of the
    music, having only heard it once."

Personally, Mr. Gillott was rather short, and was of broad and sturdy
build. He had a remarkably firm step, and there was a rhythmic
regularity in his footfall. He was fond of light attire, and generally
wore a white hat. There was an air of freshness in his appearance that
was very pleasant, and he had such a remarkably clean look that I have
often thought that _his_ cleanliness was something _positive_, something
more than the mere absence of dirt. He had a curious way, as he walked,
of looking dreamily upon the ground a few yards in front of him, and
when anyone met him his eye would rise with a kind of jerk; then with a
piercing glance he would intently, for a moment only, "take stock" of
the passer by, and drop his eyes again.

For the last two or three years of his life he was haunted by a fear of
impending blindness. The thought of being shut out from the sight of his
pictures caused him much gloomy apprehension. Happily, his fears were
not realised. He retained his sight and other faculties unimpaired until
his death. On the 26th of December, 1872, he, in accordance with his
annual Christmas custom, assembled all his family to dinner, at his
house in Westbourne Road, and in his kindly, affectionate manner spoke
hopefully of meeting them there on the same day of the following year.
It was not to be. On the next day he felt somewhat unwell; in two or
three days bronchitis and pleurisy supervened; and in the afternoon of
Friday, the 5th of January, 1873, his long, honourable, and useful life



Many years ago I was one of a small dinner party of gentlemen at a
house in the Hagley Road. I was a comparative stranger, for I only
knew the host and two others who were there. I was a young man,
and all the other guests were men of middle age. The party had been
invited for the purpose of introducing me to "a few old friends," and
I was to be married the next day to a relative of the host. Sitting
opposite to me at table was a gentleman of some fifty or sixty years
of age, whose fine oval face and ample brow struck me as having the
most benevolent and "fatherly" expression I had ever seen. The custom
had not then quite died out of toasting the guests at dinner parties,
and upon a hint from the host this gentleman rose, and in simple and
apparently sincere phrase, proposed to the company to drink my health.
I mention it now, because I remember in what a kindly, genial way
he pointed out to me the course of conduct best calculated to secure
happiness in the state into which I was so soon to enter. I recollect,
too, how his voice faltered as he spoke of his own long and happy
experience as a husband and a father, and mentioned that in one great
trouble of his life it was the loving support of his wife that enabled
him to bear, and eventually to overcome it. The speaker was Henry Van

I suppose the impressionable state of my own mind at the time, made
me peculiarly susceptible to external influences, and fixed minute
circumstances more intensely on my memory; so that I now vividly
recall the thought which then occurred to me--that I had never before
seen so much gentleness and calm quiet benignity in a _man_. The
impression then rapidly formed has lasted ever since, for in all the
long years from that day until his death I never had cause to abate
one jot of the reverential feeling with which he then inspired me. I
have had hundreds of business transactions with his house; I have seen
him often in the magistrate's chair; and I have met him publicly and
privately, and he had always the same bland, suave, courteous, and
kindly bearing. Strength of character and gentleness of conduct and
manner were so combined in him that he frequently seemed to me to be
a living proof of the truth of a saying of poor George Dawson: "The
tenderness of a strong man is more gentle than the gentleness of the
most tender woman."

Mr. Van Wart was an American by birth, and a Dutchman by descent. His
ancestors emigrated from Holland about the year 1630 to the colony of
New Netherland, established in North America by the Dutch in the year
1621. The capital of this settlement was named New Amsterdam, and
was built upon the island of Manhattan, the entire area of which, now
completely covered with buildings, and comprising the whole site
of the city of New York, had been bought from an Iroquois chief, in
fee-simple, for twenty-four dollars, being at about the rate of a
penny for twelve acres! In 1652, New Amsterdam, then having about a
thousand inhabitants, was incorporated as a city. Twelve years after,
the entire province was seized by the British, under Colonel Nichols,
and was re-named by him "New York." The Dutch made some unsuccessful
attempts to recover possession, and they held the city for a short
time, but in 1674 the whole colony was ceded by treaty to the English,
who held it until the War of Independence. When they quitted it, on
November 25th, 1783, Henry Van Wart was exactly two months old.

The struggle for the independence of the American states had been
going on with varying success for many years, but the tide at length
turned so decidedly against the British, that an armistice was sought
and agreed upon. Hostilities were suspended, and a conference met in
Paris. Here a treaty, acknowledging the independence of America, was
agreed to by England, and signed on the 3rd of September, 1783. On the
25th of the same month, Henry Van Wart was born at a pretty village on
the banks of the Hudson, called Tarrytown, a place since celebrated
as the "Sleepy Hollow" of Washington Irving's delightful book, but
at that time remarkable as the scene of one of the most distressing
incidents in all the wretched struggle then just over--the capture of
the unfortunate Major André.

Mr. Van Wart, feeling little inclination for his father's business of
a farmer, was apprenticed to the mercantile firm of Irving and Smith,
of New York. In accordance with the usage of the times, he became an
inmate of the household of Mr. William Irving, the head of the
firm. Mr. Irving, like his gifted brother, Washington, was a man of
extensive reading and considerable taste, culture, and refinement.
Mr. Van Wart's intercourse with the Irving family, had, no doubt, a
considerable influence in forming his character. He probably learned
from them the courtesy and kindness of manner which distinguished him
through life.

On the termination of his apprenticeship in the year 1804, Mr. Van
Wart married the youngest sister of his employer, and was despatched
by the firm, who had unbounded confidence in his integrity and
judgment, to organise a branch of the house at Liverpool. Here his
eldest son, Henry, was born in 1806, soon after which the Liverpool
concern was abandoned, and Mr. Van Wart returned to America, where he
remained for some considerable period.

Soon after the birth of his second son, Irving, in 1808, Mr. Van
Wart returned to England with his family, and commenced business in
Birmingham. He first occupied a house on the left-hand side of the
West Bromwich road, at Handsworth. The house, which is occupied by Mr.
T.R.T. Hodgson, is a stuccoed one, with its gable towards the road; it
stands near the "New Inn." After a short time he removed to the house
at the corner of Newhall Street and Great Charles Street, which was,
until recently, occupied by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

He afterwards bought a stone-built house in Icknield Street West. This
house stood on the right-hand side near the present Wesleyan Chapel.
It is now pulled down. In connection with this purchase, a curious
circumstance occurred. As already stated, Mr. Van Wart was born a few
days after England had acknowledged the independence of America. Those
few days made all the difference to him. Had his birth occurred a
month earlier, he would have been born a British subject. As it
was, he was an alien, and incapable of holding freehold property in
England. To get over this difficulty, he had to apply for, and obtain,
a special Act of Parliament to naturalise him. This having passed, he
was enabled to complete the purchase of the house, to which he soon
removed. Here his celebrated brother-in-law, Washington Irving, came
on a visit, and in this house the greater part of the "Sketch-book"
was written.

In 1814, the second American War was closed by treaty, and all the
world was at peace. Business on both sides of the Atlantic became
suddenly inflated, and there being at that time no restriction upon
the issue of bank notes, mercantile transactions, to enormous amounts,
were comparatively easy. Urged by American buyers, Mr. Van Wart
purchased very large quantities of Birmingham and other goods, which
he shipped to New York. In a very short time, however, a revulsion
came. Prices fell rapidly, in some cases to the extent of 50 per cent;
American houses by scores tottered and fell; the Irvings could not
weather the storm, and their fall brought down Mr. Van Wart.

As soon as he was honourably released from his difficulties, he
commenced another kind of business. He no longer sent his own goods
for sale abroad, but bought exclusively on commission for other
merchants. This business rapidly grew into one of the most extensive
and important in Birmingham; was continued by him until the day of his
death, and is still in active operation.

Having sold his house at Springfield to Mr. Barker, the Solicitor,
he removed to a house at the top of Newhall Hill, then quite in the
country: This house is still standing, but is incorporated with Mr.
Wiley's manufactory, and is entirely hidden from view by the lofty
buildings which have enclosed it. From here, about 1820, he removed
to Calthorpe Road, then newly formed, where he occupied a house--the
seventh, I think--on the left-hand from the Five Ways. From the back
windows of this house he could look across fields and meadows to
Moseley, there not being, with the exception of a few in the Bristol
Road, a house or other building visible. Here Washington Irving was
almost a constant visitor. Here "Bracebridge Hall"--the original of
which was Aston Hall--was written, and in this house some of the most
delightful letters published in Irving's biography were penned. After
a few years, Mr. Van Wart finally removed to "The Shrubbery" in Hagley
Road, where he continued to reside until his death.

After the death of his excellent wife, which occurred in 1848, he went
on a long visit to America, and while there narrowly escaped death. He
was proceeding from Boston to New York, up Long Island Sound, when a
storm arose, and the vessel was wrecked upon the Connecticut shore.
She lay some fifty yards from the land; some of the passengers got
on shore something as St. Paul did upon the island of Melita. Mr. Van
Wart, deeming it safer to hold to the wreck, remained until he was
getting benumbed, and feared losing the use of his limbs. Letting
himself down into the water, he paddled and swam amongst the broken
stuff from the ship until he reached the shore. He was, however, too
much exhausted to get upon the land, but some one, who had observed
his struggles, dragged him, quite insensible, from the water. He was
carried on men's backs some half a mile, to a farm house, where he was
hospitably treated, and nursed until he recovered.

The character of a man who had so little of the "light and shade"
of average humanity, and the placid current of whose life seemed
so unrippled, offers none of those strong contrasts, and subtle
peculiarities, which render the analysis of more stormy and unequal
minds comparatively easy. His frank and open speech; the kindly grasp
of his hand; his ever-ready ear for tales of trouble or difficulty;
the wise counsel, which was never withheld; the general bland and
suave manner; the pleasant smile, and his remarkably genial, hearty
greeting, will be long remembered, and they make it difficult to say
anything of him, except in panegyric.

There is one point, however, on which a word or two may be said, as I
think he has been somewhat misunderstood. It has been said of him that
he was "incapable of strong friendly attachments." I am of opinion
that this impression may have been caused by his very genial manner
and hearty bearing. These may have led some to think that he felt
towards them as a friend in the highest sense, while _he_ looked
upon _them_ merely as acquaintances. His friendliness was general and
diffusive, and certainly was not concentrated upon one or two objects,
as is the case sometimes with intenser natures. That he _was_ capable
of lasting friendship, however, one little circumstance will show. Mr.
S.D. Williams, of the Reservoir Road, one of the most intellectual men
of whom Birmingham could boast, was an invalid for a very long time
before his death, and, I believe, had not been outside his own gates
for nearly thirty years. During the whole of that long time, up to
within a few weeks of his death, Mr. Van Wart never missed paying him
a visit every Saturday evening. On these occasions they invariably
played whist, a game of which Mr. Van Wart, being a particularly
skilful player, was remarkably fond. His punctuality in this matter
was something remarkable; at eight o'clock to the minute he arrived,
and at five minutes to twelve exactly his coachman brought the
carriage to take his master home.

As a merchant, he was intelligent, sagacious, straight-forward,
methodical, and strictly honourable; and his cordial manner made him
a universal favourite both among manufacturers and customers. He was
much beloved by his clerks and assistants, many of whom grew gray
in his service. He was American Vice-Consul for a time, but from his
first coming to England does not seem to have taken any great interest
in American politics. During the Civil War in the States, although his
sympathies were altogether with the North, he took no public part in
the dispute, standing in strong contrast to his countryman and fellow
townsman, Mr. Goddard, who wrote voluminously, and whose writings had
a very marked effect upon the public opinion of England on that great
question. As an English politician, Mr. Van Wart was neither very
active nor very ardent. He was a Liberal, but inclined to Whig views.
He opposed Mr. Bright in his first contested election for Birmingham,
but there is reason for thinking he regretted it afterwards.

When the town was incorporated, in 1838, he was chosen to be one of
the Councillors for Edgbaston Ward, and on the first meeting of the
Council, was elected Alderman, an office he held for twenty years.
He might have been Mayor at any time, but he invariably declined that
honour. He was one of the first creation of Borough Magistrates, and
he conscientiously fulfilled the duties of that office until near his
end, when increasing deafness rendered him incapable.

In private life he was greatly beloved. Those who had the pleasure of
the acquaintance of Mrs. Van Wart say that he always treated her with
remarkable deference and consideration, "as if she were a superior
being." His intercourse with his gifted brother-in-law, Washington
Irving, seems to have been of the most close and affectionate
character. His presence at an evening party was always greeted with
a hearty welcome, up to the latest period of his life; and it was
pleasant to see, when he was verging upon his 90th year, how
young ladies seemed as desirous to meet his kindly glance as their
great-grandmothers may have been sixty years before.

Up to a year or two before his death, his robust constitution;
his quiet, regular habits; his equanimity of disposition, and his
temperate method of life, preserved his strength and vigour almost
unimpaired. Few can forget his hale and hearty presence, as he strode
along the streets of Birmingham; his peculiar walk--the strange jerky
spring of the hinder foot, and the heavy planting of the front, as
if he were striking the earth with a powerful blow--marking his
individuality, whilst the pleasant kindly smile of greeting, and the
full firm tones of his manly voice, gave evidence of vigour very rare
in a man of his age. Even to the last his strength seemed unimpaired,
and he succumbed to a chance attack of bronchitis, but for which his
constitution seemed to possess sufficient stamina to have made him a
centenarian. He died at his residence on the 15th of February, 1873,
being then in his 90th year.

He was a well-informed man, and had a most retentive memory. He had
a great fund of quiet humour, and could tell a good story better than
most men. He was a good judge of character, and, as a magistrate,
could distinguish between what was radically bad in a prisoner, and
the crime which was the outcome of want and wretchedness. During
his long Birmingham life of nearly seventy years, he was universally
respected, and when he descended into the grave it may be said that
there was no one who could say of him an unkindly word.

He was mainly instrumental in the establishment of the Birmingham
Exchange, the idea of which originated with Mr. Edwin Lander. He
exerted himself greatly in the establishment of the company which
erected the buildings, and he was its chairman until his death.
The members of this institution, to mark their sense of his worth,
commissioned Mr. Munns to paint his portrait; and if any reader is
desirous to see the "counterfeit presentment" of what Henry Van Wart
was, he has only to enter the principal hall of the Exchange, where
he will find a full-length portrait, at 87 years of age, of a man who,
more than any other I have known, was entitled to--

    "The grand old name of _Gentleman_."


Just before the Great Western Railway Company began the construction
of their line from Oxford to Birmingham, I was passing down Great
Charles Street one afternoon, when my attention was attracted by some
unusual bustle. Near the spot where the hideous railway bridge now
disfigures the street, there was a row of carts and vans backed up to
the curbstone of the pavement on the left. From a passage by the side
of a large square brick-built house some brokers' men were bringing a
variety of dingy stools, desks, shelves, counters, and other odds and
ends of office furniture. Near the front door of the house, stood,
looking on, a well-dressed, stout-built, florid-complexioned man, of
middle height, and, apparently, of middle age. As I slackened my pace
to observe more intently the operations of the brokers' men, this
gentleman approached me, and in courteous tones, and as if appealing
to me for sympathy, said, "You can't imagine the pain these
proceedings are giving me; I was born in this house more than fifty
years ago; I have never been away from it long together; I've been
familiar, all my life, with the 'things' they are carting away, and
to see the old place stripped in this way, hurts me as much as if I
were having one of my limbs cut off." As he spoke, his voice became
tremulous, and tears--actual tears--rolled down his cheeks. I was
amazed; I was completely thunder-struck. The man who thus spoke, and
who then shed tears, was, of all men in the world, the very last I
should have thought capable of a tender emotion, or of a sentimental
feeling about a lot of worn-out stools and tables. He was generally
considered to be the _hardest_ man in Birmingham, and that this man
should be capable of sentimentalism, even to tears, was a mystery to
me then, and will be a surprise to most of those who only knew the man
superficially. He was no other than Charles--or, as he was universally
called, "Charley"--Shaw. The railway company, requiring the site of
his business premises for the construction of their line, had bought
the place, and an auction sale that day had disposed of the well-worn
effects that were being carted away.

Probably no Birmingham man occupying a prominent position, was ever
so unpopular as Charles Shaw. He was generally disliked and
somewhat dreaded. He was unscrupulous and regardless of truth,
where truthfulness and his interests were antagonistic. His manners,
frequently, went far beyond the limit of decent behaviour. I hope,
however, spite of his many failings, to show, in the course of this
sketch, that he had many redeeming qualities; that he was a most
useful citizen; and that he was not altogether so black as he was

He certainly was a strange mixture of good and bad qualities. He
seemed to be made up altogether of opposites. He was very bitter
against any one who had offended him, yet he was not permanently
vindictive. He was grasping in business, yet he was not ungenerous.
He was a most implacable enemy, yes he was capable of warm and most
disinterested friendship. He could descend to trickery in dealing,
yet as a magistrate he had a high and most inflexible ideal of
honour, honesty, and rectitude. He could be coarse in his conduct and
demeanour, and yet he could occasionally be as courteous and dignified
as the most polished gentleman. He was overbearing where he felt he
was safe, yet where he was met by courage and firmness he yielded
quietly and quickly.

My own introduction, and subsequent acquaintance, were strangely
characteristic of the peculiarly antithetic nature of the man. They
began in ill-temper, and resulted in commercial relations of a most
friendly nature, extending over many years, without a second unkindly
word. The first time I saw him occurred one day when I was making a
round of calls upon the merchants of the town, to exhibit a case of
samples of goods of my own manufacture, and I called upon Mr. Shaw.
Going up the passage I have mentioned above, and climbing a rickety
stair, I found myself in a room containing a couple of clerks. Upon
my inquiring for Mr. Shaw, one of them went into another room to
fetch him, and I took the opportunity to note the peculiarities of the
place. It was a long room with a sloping ceiling; there were two or
three very old, ink-stained, worm-eaten desks; a dingy map hung here
and there, and a few shelves and wooden presses were arranged upon the
walls. The place had been whitewashed once, no doubt, but the colour
was now about the same as that of a macadamised road, and the whole
place seemed dirty and neglected.

Presently Mr. Shaw appeared. I had heard his character pretty freely
discussed, and I was prepared for a rough reception. He looked at my
samples, and inquired very minutely into the prices of each. As to one
article, which I quoted to him at fifteen shillings the gross, I said
that in that particular item I believed my price was lower than that
of any other maker. He said nothing, but left me, went back to his
private office, returned with a file of papers, and selecting one,
addressed me in angry tones, saying, "Now, just to show you what a
_blessed_ fool you are, you shall see an invoice of those very goods,
which I have just bought at fourteen shillings." I was mistaken, that
was very clear; but I said, "It appears that I am wrong as to those,
but here are other goods which no one but myself is making; can we do
business in these?" This put him in a violent rage, for he stormed as
he said, "No! You've made a _consummate_ fool of yourself by making
such a stupid remark. I've no confidence in you; and where I've no
confidence I'll never do business." By this time I was getting a
little warm myself, and as I fastened up my case of patterns, I said,
"I hope, Mr. Shaw, that the want of your confidence won't be the death
of me. I always heard you were a queer fellow; but if you generally
treat people who call upon you on business in the way you have treated
me, I'm not at all surprised at the name you have in the town." He
looked at me furiously; came two or three strides towards me, as if he
would strike me; but, stopping suddenly, said, "I think you'd better
be off." "I quite agree with you, sir," I replied; "it's no use my
stopping here to be insulted." Upon this he returned to his private
office; the two clerks, who, during the "shindy," had been intently
searching inside their desks for something they had lost, now put down
the lids, and, looking at each other, grinned and tittered openly,
while I, to their intense relief, took up my hat and departed.

Two or three weeks subsequently, I had completed an article in my
business which was strikingly novel, and I went out to show a sample
of it to my customers. Passing Mr. Shaw's warehouse, the thought
occurred to me that it would be good fun to call upon him again, and
I accordingly soon found myself on the scene of the former interview.
Mr. Shaw was there, and to my bold greeting, "Good morning, Mr. Shaw,"
made a sulky-sounding acknowledgment. I went on--"I was here the other
day, and you told me you had no confidence in me; but I've plenty of
confidence in myself, and so I've come again." This seemed to amuse
him, and he asked, "Well, what is it?" I then showed him the sample
article, and told him the price was thirty-six shillings the gross. He
looked at it attentively, and said, "H'm! Costs you about eighteen." I
was in a bantering humour, and I replied, "No, I don't think it costs
me more than twelve; but I don't mean to sell any under thirty-six."
"Well," said he, "it's a very good thing. Send me ten gross." From
that moment we were excellent friends; I did business with him for
many years, and our intercourse was always warm and friendly.

Mr. Shaw's father was originally a working maker of currycombs, an
article, before his day, entirely made by hand. In conjunction with
his brother, he invented and took out a patent for cutting out and
shaping the various parts by machinery, and so producing the entire
article much more cheaply than before. It was a great success; they
readily sold as many as they could produce, and their profit was
enormous; it has been estimated by a competent judge to have been as
high as two hundred per cent. They soon became rich, and established
themselves as home and foreign merchants, and when they died, left,
for that period, very large fortunes. They were both men of ability,
but of no education, and they retained to the last the coarse, habits
of their early life. Mr. Charles Shaw, the subject of this sketch,
was brought up in the factory, his daily associates being the working
people of the place. Having himself no _innate_ refinement, the want
of good examples, and the prevalence of bad ones, at this period of
his life, had a permanent effect upon his habits and manners, which
in all his after prosperity he could never shake off. Had he been
liberally educated, and in early life had associated with gentlemen,
he might have risen to be one of the leading men of the nation. He had
enormous energy and great powers of steady, plodding perseverance. He
had great influence over others, and his disposition, and capability
to lead and to command, were sufficient, had they been properly
trained and directed, to have carried him to a front rank in life. His
early disadvantages prevented him from becoming other than a "local"
celebrity; but, even circumscribed as he was, he was a very remarkable
instance of the combined effects of energy and method. He amassed a
very large fortune, and left in full and active operation several very
important trading concerns. Besides his various branches of foreign
commerce, he was a manufacturer of currycombs, iron and brass
candlesticks, frying pans, fenders, cast and cut nails, and various
other goods; and, upon the whole, he may be said to have been the most
active and efficient merchant and manufacturer, of his generation, in
the Midland Counties.

In politics he was one of the very last of the old school of Tories,
and he occasionally acted as a leader of his party in the town. His
extreme opinions, and his blunt speech in relation to these matters,
frequently got him into "hot water." He was not a "newspaper
politician," for, singularly enough, he was rarely seen to look at
a newspaper, even at the news-room (then standing on the site now
occupied by the Inland Revenue Offices, on Bennetts Hill), which he
regularly frequented. Upon political topics, I am not aware that he
ever wrote a single line for publication in his whole life.

Mr. Shaw was very generous to people for whom he had a liking. He
has assisted many scores of struggling men with heavy sums, on loan,
merely out of friendship. I happen to know of one case where he, for
fifteen or twenty years, continuously assisted a brother merchant, to
the tune of £10,000 to £15,000, on merely nominal security, for which
assistance he, for the most part, charged nothing whatever.

In the great panic of 1837, Mr. Shaw, singly, saved the country from
ruin and disaster. At the time when the panic was at its height, and
the tension was as great as the country could bear, it became known
to a few that one of the great financial houses in Liverpool was
in extremities. They had accepted on American account to enormous
amounts, and no remittances were forthcoming. One Birmingham bank
alone held £90,000 worth of their paper, and acceptances to enormous
amounts were held in London, and in every manufacturing centre in
England, Ireland, and Scotland. Application had been made to the Bank
of England for assistance, to the amount of a million and a quarter,
and had been refused. Ruin seemed imminent, not only to the house
itself, but to the whole country. The calamities of 1825 seemed about
to be repeated, and alarm was universal. Mr. Shaw took up the matter
with his usual skill and wonderful energy. He went to London, and
had three interviews with the Governor of the Bank of England and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer--Mr. Francis Baring--in one day. He told
them that they had no choice; that they _must_ grant the required
relief; that to refuse would be equivalent to a revolution, and would
involve national loss to probably fifty times the amount now required.
He undertook to obtain security to a large amount in Birmingham alone.
Only the other day I had in my hand a bill for £8,000, given by one
Birmingham merchant, as a portion of this security. He succeeded. The
relief was granted. The house recovered its position, and still holds
on its prosperous way; but, except the consciousness of well-doing,
Mr. Shaw had no reward. The pecuniary value of his services to his
country in this extremity it is impossible to estimate; it is enough
to say here that they out-weighed, and cast into the shade, his many
personal faults and weaknesses. I have always thought, and still
think, that the Government ought at least to have knighted him, as
only a very slight acknowledgment of the invaluable and peculiar
service he had rendered to the nation.

Almost everybody knows that Mr. Shaw was, for many years, chairman of
the _old_ Birmingham Banking Company. In this capacity he was no
doubt the means of introducing a large amount of profitable business.
Unfortunately for the company, the manager of the branch establishment
at Dudley made enormous advances to an ironmaster in that locality.
The amount at length became so large that the directorate became
alarmed, and deputed their chairman, Mr. Shaw, to see what could best
be done for the interests of the bank. Mr. Shaw took the matter in
hand. There was a good deal of secrecy about his manner of treating
the matter, and eventually some of his colleagues on the direction
were suspicious that he was making use of his position in the bank for
his own advantage. He was called upon to show his private account with
the concern in question, to which he gave an unqualified refusal. His
colleagues intimated to him that he must either do so or resign. The
next post brought his resignation. Offering no opinion either way,
but looking at the transaction as an outsider, I think it was an
unfortunate business "all round." The bank lost money, and eventually
collapsed, but I fully believed then, and I always shall believe, that
if Charles Shaw had been at the helm, the bank never would have closed
its doors. I believe he had energy enough, and influence sufficient,
to have averted that great calamity; and I am firmly of opinion that
the company had sufficient vitality to have overcome the drain upon
its resources, and that it might at this moment have been in vigorous

Many amusing stories are current as to Mr. Shaw's shrewd and keen
transactions, and of cases where he himself was overreached. One of
the best of these he used to tell with much humour.

When the Great Western Company cut through Birmingham, for their line
to the North, a cemetery, pretty well filled, was on the route they
selected. It was the Quakers' burial place, adjoining Monmouth Street,
exactly where the Arcade commences. Mr. Shaw, being a director,
negotiated the purchase of many Birmingham properties. This burial
ground was one, and the Quaker community had for their agent a very
shrewd spokesman. Shaw and he had a very tough fight, for the Quaker
drove a hard bargain. At length terms were settled, and a memorandum
signed. The negotiations had then lasted so long, that the contractors
were waiting for this plot of land to go on with the work. Mr. Shaw
therefore asked for immediate possession. "Oh, no, friend Shaw," said
the Quaker, "not until the money's paid." This caused further delay,
and annoyed Shaw. Preliminary matters being settled, the money was
eventually handed over, and Shaw obtained the keys. The next day the
Quaker appeared and said, "Now, friend Shaw, as everything is settled,
I am come to arrange for the removal of the remains of our friends who
are buried there." "Don't you wish you may get it?" said Shaw; "we've
bought the freehold; all it contains is our property, and we shall
give up nothing." This was a surprise, indeed, for the Quaker. He had
nothing to say as to the position Shaw had taken up, and he had to
submit to the modification of many stringent conditions in the deed of
sale, before Shaw would give way.

Such, sketched in a hasty manner, is an attempt to portray the
apparently contradictory character of Charles Shaw. It may be a
failure; but it, at least, is an honest endeavour. Such men are rare,
and the ability to translate into words their peculiar mental
workings is rarer still. I, however, shall be bold to say that if few
Birmingham men have had so many failings, none probably have possessed
so much commercial courage and ability.

Soon after his retirement from the Board of the Birmingham Bank,
he had a slight attack of paralysis, from which he never properly
recovered. Others followed at intervals, with the result that his
fine physique was completely broken up. In the first week of December,
1864, I spoke to him on the platform of the Great Western Railway at
Snow Hill. He was being half carried to the train, on his way to
the sea-side. He never returned to Birmingham, but died at Brighton,
January 4th, 1865, being 73 years of age. He was buried in the
Churchyard of St. George's, Great Hampton Row.


Mr. Joshua Scholefield, who had represented Birmingham from its
incorporation in 1832, having been elected five times, died somewhat
unexpectedly in July, 1844. The Liberal party in the town was then
in a somewhat disorganised condition, and there was considerable
difference of opinion as to the choice of his successor. A large
majority was disposed favourably towards his son, Mr. William
Scholefield. The more advanced section of the party was of opinion
that the many services of Mr. Joseph Sturge to the Liberal cause were
such as to entitle him to a place in Parliament. Neither section
of the party would give way. The Conservatives, who had previously
contested four elections unsuccessfully, in two of which Mr. Richard
Spooner had been the candidate, saw that the divided ranks of
their opponents gave them a better chance of success than they had
previously had, and they brought forward Mr. Spooner again. This
time he was successful, the result of the poll being that Mr. Spooner
received 2,095 votes; Mr. W. Scholefield, 1,735; and Mr. Sturge, 346.

I was living in London at the time, but had arranged to spend a few
days in August with a friend at Edgbaston. He was a Conservative, and
I a Liberal; but before I came down he had taken a ticket in my name,
which entitled me to be present at the only purely Conservative dinner
at which I was ever present. It was given at the Racket Court Inn, in
Sheepcote Street, by the Conservative electors of Ladywood Ward, to
celebrate Mr. Spooner's return.


By virtue of my introduction, and in deference to me as a stranger,
I was placed near the chairman at table. He was a man of singularly
bland and kindly manners, and there was a frank and manly modesty in
his style that attracted my notice at once. In simple but appropriate,
in unaffected yet dignified, phraseology, he went through the usual
"loyal and patriotic" toasts. When it came to the toast of the day,
he rose and congratulated the company upon the triumph of those
principles which they all conscientiously believed to be right and
true. There was no exultation over a discomfited foe. There ran all
through the speech a benevolent and friendly feeling for both of the
defeated candidates. Still, there was the outspoken feeling of intense
gratification that the cause which he supported had been victorious. I
have seldom listened to a speech where joy for a victory was so
little mixed with exultation over the vanquished. In fact, although
I differed altogether from the speaker in politics, I felt that the
speech was that of a man devoid of all bitterness, whose kindness of
spirit led him to rejoice, not over the defeat of his opponents, but
at the success of his own cause. Tie speech was in excellent taste
from beginning to end.

The chairman was Robert Walter Winfield, and this was the first time
I had met him. His singular courtesy to myself, as a stranger, I shall
never forget. His perfect self-possession, when some of the company
became a little too demonstrative, kept the table in perfect order.
When he retired, my friend took his seat, and slily poured me a glass
from Mr. Winfield's decanter. I found then, that during that long
afternoon he had taken nothing but toast and water, which had been
prepared to resemble sherry, and which he had taken from a wine-glass
as if it were wine.

I cannot say that I ever became very intimate with Mr. Winfield,
although we knew each other pretty well; but limited as my means of
acquaintanceship were, I watched his life with interest, because he
struck me always as being one of the very few men I have known, who
have been able to bear great success without becoming giddy with the
elevation; who have gone through life modestly and without assumption;
and who have won thereby the esteem of all those whose esteem has been
worth caring for.

Robert Walter Winfield was descended from an ancient family, which
had been settled in Leicestershire for several generations. His
grandfather, Edward Winfield, came to Birmingham about the middle of
the last century, and resided in a large house, on the site of the
Great Western Railway Station in Snow Hill. Here Mr. Winfield's father
was born. He was a man of independent means, but appears for some
short time to have been engaged as a merchant. He married a lady from
Loughborough, named Randon, and built for his own occupation the house
in the Hagley Road, Edgbaston, now occupied by Mr. Alfred Hill, the
son of the late eminent Recorder of Birmingham, Matthew Davenport
Hill. The house is now called "Davenport House." It was, I believe,
the first house erected on the Calthorpe estate. In this house, in
April, 1799, Robert Walter Winfield, the third son, was born. His
father died in his childhood. After his education was complete,
his mother placed him with Mr. Benjamin Cooke, whose name as a
manufacturer is still remembered in Birmingham. Mr. Winfield's mind,
being a peculiarly receptive one, readily grasped all the details of
the business, and he soon wished to enter life on his own account. His
trustees having great faith in his prudence and industry, advanced
him the necessary capital, and he commenced business before he was
twenty-one years of age. Just at the bend which Cambridge Street takes
to arrive at the Crescent, there is a stuccoed building, almost hidden
by the lofty piles around it. In this building he started on his
commercial career, and in these works he continued to carry on his
business until his death, some fifty years afterwards.

Beginning in a comparatively small way, he started with a strict
determination to conduct his business upon thoroughly honest and
truthful principles. He had the sagacity to see that the surest way
to success was to gain the confidence of his customers, and he firmly
held through life to the system of rigid adherence to truth; to the
plan of always making _honest_ goods; and to the avoidance of every
kind of misrepresentation as to the quality of his wares. He used to
say that all through his long and successful business career he never
lost a customer through misrepresentation on his part, and that
he generally found that one transaction with a fresh man secured a
permanent customer.

Another leading principle in his business programme was to employ
the best workmen he could find, and the highest talent for superior
offices he could secure. He probably paid higher wages and salaries
than any manufacturer in the district. This proved to be wise economy
in the long-run, for his goods became famous for excellence in design
and workmanship, and were sought and prized in every market of the

As his business fame increased, the development of his trade became
enormous. Pile after pile of extensive blocks of buildings rose, one
after another, on ground adjoining the original manufactory, until at
length the entire establishment covered many acres of ground. Many of
these buildings were five or six storeys high. The machinery and tools
were all of the very best quality that could be obtained, and use
was invariably made of every suitable scientific appliance as soon as
discovered. For many years Mr. Aitken, whose name in Birmingham will
always be remembered in connection with Art, was at the head of the
designing department of the works. His correct knowledge and wonderful
skill in the application of correct principles of form and colour
to articles of manufacture for daily use, raised the fame of Mr.
Winfield's house as high, artistically, as it was for excellence of
material and workmanship.

Mr. Winfield was one of the first, if not the very earliest, to apply
the stamping process to the production of cornices, cornice-pole ends,
curtain bands, and other similar goods. The singular purity of colour
which, by skilful "dipping" and lacquering, he was able to produce,
at a period when such matters were little attended to, secured for his
goods a good deal of admiration and a ready sale. At the time of the
great Exhibition of 1851, the goods he exhibited obtained for him the
highest mark of approval--the Council Gold Medal. The Jury of Experts
reported, in reference to his brasswork, that, "for brilliancy of
polish, and flatness and equality of the 'dead' or 'frosted' portions,
he stood very high; and that in addition to very perfect workmanship,
there frequently appeared considerable evidence of a feeling for
harmony and for a just proportion and arrangement of parts." It is
also mentioned that "in the manufacture of metallic bedsteads he has
earned a deservedly high reputation."

In addition to his brassfoundry trade, he gradually added the
manufacture of brass, copper, and tin tubing, gas-fittings and
chandeliers, iron and brass bedsteads, ship's fittings, brass fittings
for shop fronts, and general architectural ornamental metal work of
all kinds. He afterwards purchased the large establishment near his
own works, called the Union Rolling Mill, where he carried on a very
extensive wholesale trade in rolled metals of every kind, and brass
and copper wire of all descriptions; and he was, for forty years,
largely engaged in the coal business.

For a very long period Mr. Winfield was the sole proprietor of the
extensive business he had created. He was assisted by his only son,
Mr. John Fawkener Winfield, whose promising career was cut short by
untimely death. This was a blow from which Mr. Winfield never entirely
recovered. He soon afterwards took into partnership his relative, Mr.
C. Weston, and his old confidential clerk, Mr. J. Atkins. His health
began to fail about this time, and he retired from the active control
of the concern, retaining, however, his position as head of the firm
until his death.

His marvellous success did not arise altogether from brilliant mental
qualities. I am disposed to attribute it to higher reasons. It seems
to me that his high moral sense of integrity and right, and the
benevolence of his character, had more to do with it. These led him
constantly through life to give his customers excellence of quality in
the goods he made, combined with moderation in price. In the execution
of a contract he always gave better rather than inferior goods than
he had agreed to supply. He would never permit any deterioration
of quality either in material or workmanship. Where his competitors
sought to reduce the cost of production, so as to enable them to
sell their goods cheaper, his ambition led him to raise and improve
quality. The fact of his goods being always honestly made, of good
materials well put together, gave him the preference whenever articles
of sterling excellence were required. He was one to whom the stigma
implied in the term "Brummagem" would not apply, for he consistently
carried out principles of integrity in business, and so earned for
himself the right to be held up as a type of a high-minded, upright,
conscientious English merchant.

But he had a higher and a nobler mission than that of mere
money-getting. He was a practical philanthropist. Quietly, modestly,
unostentatiously, "he went about doing good." Placed in a position of
command over many young people, he, early in life, recognised the fact
that his duty to them was not fully done when he had paid them
their wages. He resolved to do his best to raise them, mentally and
socially. In this he was so successful, that at this moment there are
many men occupying positions in life unattainable by them but for his
assistance. There are clergymen, merchants, musical professors, and
others, who began life as boys at Winfield's; and there are probably
some scores of large manufactories now in active operation in the
town, the principals of which, but for Mr. Winfield's large-hearted
and practical provision, would have remained in the ignorance in which
he found them.

Some thirty or forty years ago there was, nearly opposite the
manufactory in Cambridge Street, a long, low, upper room, which was
used as a place of worship by a small body of Dissenters, and was
called Zoar Chapel. Mr. Winfield became the tenant of this place for
week-day evenings, and opened it as a night-school for the boys in his
employ. In order to secure punctuality of attendance, he made the rule
compulsory that every boy in the factory under eighteen years of age
should attend this school at least three times a week. There was ample
provision made for teaching, and no charge was made. The proceedings
each night opened with singing, and closed with a short prayer. Once a
week regularly, Mr. Winfield, Jun., held a Bible Class. Occasionally,
too, the father would do so, and he frequently attended and delivered
a short and simple address. Many parents eagerly sought employment for
their children at the works, that their sons might secure the benefit
of the school, and Mr. Winfield soon had the "pick" of the youths of
the town. The school attendance grew rapidly, and the little chapel
was soon found too narrow. Larger premises were taken, and a class for
young men was established. This class Mr. J.F. Winfield--then rapidly
rising to manhood--took under his own charge, while the juniors were
under the care of voluntary teachers.

So beneficial in every way was the little institution found to
be, that it was resolved to develop it further. Mr. John
Winfield--inheriting his father's practically benevolent
spirit--matured a plan, and requested his father to celebrate his
coming majority by carrying it into effect. This was done, and the
handsome school-room which now occupies a central position in the
works was erected. Upon this building, including the cost of an organ
and of the necessary fittings, Mr. Winfield spent no less than £2,000.
The instruction was no longer left to voluntary effort. A properly
qualified schoolmaster was engaged, and the Government Inspector was
requested to pay periodical visits. Drawing was made a special feature
of the instruction, and the successful pupils in this class received
Government rewards. Music also was taught. In fact, the school became
a model of what an educational establishment should be. Once every
year--on Whit Thursday--there was a _fête_ at The Hawthorns, to which
the scholars were invited. These gatherings were looked forward to
with much pleasure, and few were absent. Music was provided, and
appropriate addresses were delivered. Sumptuous hospitality was shown,
and every effort was made to make these occasions socially enjoyable
and morally beneficial. The prizes and certificates of proficiency
were distributed in the school-room, at Christmas, in the presence of
the whole of the _employés_ of the establishment.

The school soon obtained more than local fame, and was visited
from time to time by distinguished persons. At the time of the
establishment of the Institution of Social Science, when the great
Lord Brougham delivered his magnificent inaugural oration in the Town
Hall, he was the guest of Mr. J.F. Winfield, and visited the works.
The pupils and workpeople were collected in the school, and there had
the gratification of listening to some of the wise words of that "old
man eloquent." At this time the average nightly attendance at the
school was something like 250 pupils. No one can calculate the good
that has resulted from the establishment of this institution. No one
can tell the feeling of gratitude that still rises in the minds of
hundreds of well-to-do people for the benefits they there received.
It has been very gratifying to me on many occasions to see in pleasant
villas and cozy cottages the engraved portrait of Mr. Winfield,
occupying a place of honour on the wall, and to hear gray-headed men
say of him that he was the best friend they ever had, and that but for
him they might have remained in the degradation from which he assisted
them to rise.

Mr. Winfield could scarcely be called a public man. Early in life he
served the office of High Bailiff, and was placed upon the Commission
of the Peace. He did not, upon the incorporation of the town, seek
municipal honours, and he rarely took part in political action. He was
a very warmly-attached member of the Church of England, and in this
connection was ardently Conservative; but, although nominally a
Conservative, he was truly Liberal in all secular affairs. He was an
earnest helper in the movement for the better education of the people,
and their elevation in other respects. He certainly always took the
Conservative side at election times, but he never attempted unduly to
influence his _employés_. Indeed, on polling days it was his habit to
throw open the gates of his manufactory, so that his men might have
full liberty to go and record their votes as they pleased. Whenever he
did appear on a public platform, it was to aid by his presence or his
advocacy the cause of the Church to which he was so much devoted, or
to assist in some charitable or scholastic effort.

As a magistrate, he was one of the most regular attendants at the
Public Office. I have seen him there many times, and have frequently
been struck with the thought that when he passed sentence, it never
sounded like an expression of the revenge of society for a wrong that
had been done, but seemed rather to resemble the sorrowing reproof of
a father, hoping by stern discipline to restrain erring conduct in a
disobedient child.

Very early in life he married Lucy, the only surviving child of Mr.
John Fawkener, of Shrewsbury, and took up his residence in a large red
brick house in New Street, which has only lately been pulled down. It
stood nearly opposite the rooms of the Society of Artists. Its last
occupant was Mr. Sharman, professor of music. About the year 1828,
Mr. Winfield built a house in the Ladywood Road, which he named "The
Hawthorns," and here he resided all his life. The neighbourhood
was then entirely open, and from his house to his manufactory was a
pleasant walk amid fields, through the noble avenue of elms that led
to Ladywood House and Vincent Street bridge, and from thence by the
bank of the canal to the Crescent. I often walked to town in his
company, and admired with him the gorgeous apple blossoms of the trees
in the valley now filled up by the railway. We stood together one day
in 1846 or 1847, and saw the first barrowful of soil removed from the
canal bank, near the Crescent bridge, to form the opening which is now
the railway tunnel.

In private life few men have been more generally beloved. He was the
embodiment of kindliness and consideration for everybody. His domestic
servants and workpeople were warmly devoted to him, and many of them
remained nearly all their lives in his service. Only very recently
one of his domestic servants, who had continued after his death in the
service of a member of his family, died at an advanced age,
fifty-five years after entering his household. He was essentially a
"domesticated" man, and his conduct as a husband and father was marked
by unvarying benevolent regard and affectionate consideration. The
death, in 1861, of his only son was the great trial of his life. His
hopes and his ambitions had culminated in this son; and when he was
removed, the father staggered under the blow, and never properly
overcame the shock it gave him. From that time he gradually failed in
health, and retired from active life. Change of scene and release from
labour were of no avail. He eventually became a confirmed invalid, and
on the 16th of December, 1869, he passed away, to the great grief
of his family. His loss was greatly deplored by his domestics
and workpeople, and the whole population of Birmingham joined in
expressions of regret at the loss of one who was so universally
beloved and respected.

He was followed to his grave in the beautiful churchyard at Perry Barr
by the few surviving members of his family, by many friends, and by
the whole of the people employed at the works. The day was a bitter
wintry one, and the rain came down heavily. It was a touching sight;
thousands stood bare-headed beneath the inclement sky, as the body of
their friend was laid to its rest, and, amid sobs and tears, joined
with tremulous voices in singing--

    "Earthly cavern, to thy keeping
      We commit our brother's dust;
    Keep it safely, softly sleeping,
      Till our Lord demand thy trust."


I mentioned, in the sketch of Mr. Gillott, that all the members of the
Edgbaston Quoit Club had very large heads, and that this fact seemed
to bear out the phrenological theory, that size of head was indicative
of mental power. As a further proof I may mention here, that the late
Mr. Charles Geach had the largest head in Birmingham. I was told by
the tradesman who used to supply him with hats, that such was the
extraordinary size of his head, that his hats had always to be
specially made for him. The theory in his case certainly was fully
justified, for if ever a man lived who had powerful mental qualities,
it was the gentleman whose name stands at the head of this sketch.

Mr. Geach was born in the county of Cornwall, in the year 1808; and at
a suitable age took a situation as junior clerk in the head office of
the Bank of England, in London. There, his quickness, accuracy, and
ready grasp of complicated matters, soon proved to his superiors that
he was no ordinary youth, and he was rapidly promoted. In 1826, when
the branch was established in Birmingham, Captain Nichols, the first
manager, who had noticed Geach at work, sought and obtained permission
from the directors to include him in the staff of clerks which he
brought down. Geach, accordingly, at the age of 18, came to the town
with which his whole future life was destined to be connected.

For ten years he worked assiduously as a clerk, rapidly rising in
position at the bank, quickly attaching to himself a large circle of
friends, and gradually securing amongst business men a character for
industry, perseverance, sagacity, and courtesy. In 1836 he was engaged
in the establishment of two of the local banks, and in August of that
year he became manager of the Birmingham and Midland Bank.

Mr. Geach, in the days of his great prosperity, often referred with
manly pride and becoming modesty to these early days. I remember some
twenty years ago his coming down specially from the House of Commons
one night to take the chair, at the Temperance Hall, at a meeting of
the Provident Clerks' Association. In the course of his remarks that
evening, he spoke of the mercantile clerks as a body for whom he
should always feel sympathy; a class to which he felt it to be an
honour to have once belonged, and from which he himself had only
so recently emerged. He mentioned then, that "when he first came to
Birmingham some twenty-five years before, he did not know a soul in
the place which had since elected him to be its Mayor, and in which he
had, by industry and prudence, gained the esteem of so many friends,
and achieved a position very far beyond his expectations and his
merits." Only a very few weeks before his death, he made some
observations of a similar character, at the annual dinner given by the
Midland Bank Directors. Indeed, it was his frequent habit to point out
to young men that, by the practice of habits of industry, prudence,
diligence, and observation, success such as his--in kind, if not in
degree--was open to them.

Soon after Mr. Geach came to live in Birmingham, he took apartments at
Handsworth. An attachment soon sprung up between him and the daughter
of a Mr. Skally, who kept a school at Villa Cross. After a short
courtship, the young couple were married, Mr. Geach then being about
24 years of age. The house in which he wooed and won his wife is
now an inn. It stands at the angle formed by the junction of the
Heathfield Road and the Lozells Lane; and is known by the sign of the
Villa Cross Tavern.

When the Midland Bank was opened, Mr. Geach went to reside on the
premises, and here he lived for about ten years. He removed, about
1846, to Wheeleys Hill, and from thence, a few years later, he went
to reside at a large mansion at Chad Hill. For the last two or three
years of his life he lived principally in London, occupying the house,
No. 9, Park Street, Westminster.

About the year 1840, the Park Gate Iron Manufacturing Company was in
active operation at Rotherham, near Sheffield. Most of the shares
were held in Birmingham, and the directors, with one exception, were
Birmingham men. They were Joshua Scholefield, Joseph Gibbins, Henry
Van Wart, Thomas Pemberton, Samuel A. Goddard, and Samuel Evans, of
Cradley. For a time the company was prosperous, but about 1842 came a
revulsion, and iron rapidly fell in price from £10 to £5 per ton. The
company became greatly embarrassed. Most of the directors became
sick of the concern, and lost all interest in it. The business was
neglected by all the directors except the two last named. At one
period the company was in such straits that their bills would have
been dishonoured had not Mr. Goddard given his private cheque on the
Bank of England for £3,000. At this period Mr. Geach was consulted,
and after some negotiations he bought the whole concern for an old
song. The nominal purchaser was Mr. Joshua Scholefield, but, somehow,
Mr. Geach had secured for himself the largest share. The business was
now carefully looked after, and began to recover itself. All at once
came the "railway mania" of 1844 and 1845, when all England went mad
for a time. George Hudson, the linen draper of York, from whom I once
took an order in his little shop near the Cathedral, was then the
most notable man in the country. He soon became known as the "Railway
King," and, as he was presumed to have the faculty of transforming
everything into gold, he was _fêted_ and almost worshipped by all
classes of society. Under the excitement created by visions of untold
wealth derived from making railways, iron rapidly rose in price to
double its recent value. Mr. Geach at this time, I am able to state
upon competent living authority, "took three orders for 30,000 tons of
railroad iron, at £12, which did not cost over £6 per ton." This laid
the foundation of Mr. Geach's marvellous success, and from this period
he commenced to identify himself with large enterprises, until at
length he was associated with some of the most important mercantile
transactions of the period.

About this time there was living at Wednesbury an eccentric
Independent Minister named Hardy. He is still remembered there for
his extraordinary fancy for preaching about the "seven golden
candlesticks." When he took this topic for a sermon, his hearers knew
that for six or seven Sundays at least he would speak of nothing else.
And, lest his hearers should not be duly impressed with the subject,
his practice was never to go more than a year or two without going
over the whole ground anew. This worthy minister was somewhat of a
mechanic, and in connection with a coach-axle maker named Rollason,
the plan was conceived of "faggoting" bars of iron radially round
a centre-bar, so that the laminæ of the iron should range like the
concentric rings in a tree. The chief difficulty was the necessity
of rolling the axles before they could be hammered. Mr. Dodd, of the
Horseley Works, showed how this could be done by a reversing action,
and Mr. Hardy patented both processes. Mr. H. Wright, who was
afterwards a partner in the works, tells me that he assisted to draw
up the specifications. Money being wanted to work the concern, a small
private company was formed with a capital of £2,000. Mr. Hardy was
manager, and Mr. T. Walker was clerk. This company was carried on for
about two years, when, becoming involved, and none of the partners
caring to invest more money in it, application was made to Mr. Geach.
This was in 1838.

Mr. Geach, perceiving the superiority of Hardy's method over any
other, induced some twelve or more gentlemen to join in the purchase
of the works and patents, Mr. Wright and Mr. Hardy being of the
number. The new company assumed the name of the "Patent Shaft and
Axletree Company." Mr. Wright was appointed general manager; Mr. Hardy
superintended the forge; and Mr. Walker assisted generally. Mr. Hardy
withdrew about 1840, when Mr. Walker took the management of the forge.
In 1841, Mr. Wright removed to Rotherham, to manage the Park Gate
Works, and Mr. Walker became sole manager of the Shaft and Axletree
business. In 1844, Mr. Geach bought out all the partners--Mr. Wright
being the last--and so became the sole proprietor. Up to this time
there had been no financial success, and no dividends had been paid.
About this time the sudden rise in prices, consequent upon the railway
enterprise of the period and the enormous demand for the manufactures
of the works, turned the fortunes of the concern, which then commenced
its career of marvellous success. It soon became one of the most
important concerns in Staffordshire. It was carried on by Mr. Geach,
as sole proprietor, until his death, when Mr. Walker purchased it. It
was soon afterwards converted into a limited liability company, and
it is now, under the chairmanship of Mr. Walker, who has been so
long connected with it, one of the best conducted and most prosperous
concerns in the district. The present number of people employed in the
establishment is about six thousands.

In addition to these two important concerns, Mr. Geach was a partner
in a large manufactory near Dudley. He was extensively engaged as a
contractor for several railway companies. He was an active promoter
and director of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, and
of the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railways. He was also one of the
_concessionnaires_ of the Western Railway of France; and to his
wonderful administrative ability and power of organisation the success
of that company is mainly due.

Although so closely connected with the railway interest, and although,
as a proprietor in most of the leading railway companies, he was
constantly called upon to attend meetings, his great energies found
other spheres of action. He was a promoter, and one of the most active
directors, of the Crystal Palace Company, at Sydenham; and he was a
director of the Great Eastern Steam-ship Company.

Busy as his commercial life was, he found time to devote to duties
of a more public character. In 1843 or 1844 he was elected one of the
Aldermen of Birmingham. Here he was very active and useful. Up to his
time, the finances of the Borough had been managed with little skill
or system. His great financial knowledge, and his clear vision of the
right and the wrong, in public book-keeping, enabled him to suggest,
and to carry into operation, great improvements in the management of
the Corporation accounts. In 1847 he was Mayor, and in that office
won the goodwill of everyone by his suavity of manner and his untiring
industry. Two or three years afterwards, the pressure of other duties
compelled him to retire from municipal office.

It is needless to tell Birmingham men that in politics Mr. Geach was
a Liberal. His public political life commenced at the time of the
agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws. During that exciting period
he was the guiding spirit of the local Association, and transacted
the whole of the business with the central body at Manchester. He was
active in promoting the elections of his friends, Joshua and William
Scholefield, with both of whom he was on terms of intimate friendship.
His political creed was very wide and eminently practical. He had
no abstract theories to which everything must bend. His eye saw at a
glance the right thing to do, and he set to work energetically to do
it, or to get it done.

In the year 1851 there was a vacancy in the representation of the city
of Coventry, and Mr. Geach was solicited to stand as a candidate. I
saw him on the platform of the old railway station, in Duddeston Row,
on his way to the nomination. He was very reliant, and spoke of the
certainty he felt that he should be successful. There was, however,
no excitement, and no undue elevation at the prospect of the crowning
honour of his life being so near his grasp. He was opposed by Mr.
Hubbard, the eminent London financier, and by Mr. Strutt, who was
afterwards created Lord Belper; but he was returned by a considerable
majority, and at a subsequent election he was unopposed. He held the
seat until his death.

In a very short time after his election, he began to take part in the
debates. He was not a fluent speaker; indeed he was hesitating, and
sometimes his sentences were much involved; but, as he never spoke
except upon topics with which he was perfectly familiar, he was
listened to with the respect and attention which are always, in the
House of Commons, accorded to those who have "something to say." Upon
financial topics he soon was looked upon as an authority, and there
were many who looked upon him as a possible future Chancellor of the

Soon after his return to Parliament he became the host of the
illustrious Hungarian patriot, Louis Kossuth. It was in Mr. Geach's
carriage that the great exile rode triumphantly through the crowded
streets of Birmingham, amid the plaudits of the entire population. Few
who saw it can forget how Geach's face was lighted up with smiles of
delight, as he sat beside Kossuth in his progress, with George Dawson
on the box. Kossuth, albeit not unused to the applause and ovations
of his grateful countrymen, said that he had never before received
himself, or seen in the case of others, so magnificent and
enthusiastic a reception.

In person, Mr. Geach was tall, and stoutly built. His height was,
probably, two or three inches beyond six feet. He had a bright,
clear, fair complexion, and an ample brow. His face would have been
strikingly handsome but for an undue preponderance of the under jaw,
which gave the lower part of the face too massive an appearance. He
had singularly agreeable manners. His grasp of the hand was firm and
cordial. He was entirely free from the "airs" which some self-made men
put on. In his appearance there was evidence of power and influence
that rendered any assumption superfluous. He was always ready to
listen, and to give his friends the benefit of his large knowledge and
experience. He was very generous, even to those who had in early
life crossed his path. Only the other day I was told that one of his
greatest opponents having died in straitened circumstances, Geach took
charge of his sons, and placed them in positions to raise themselves
to opulence. In private life he was greatly beloved. A lady, who had
ample opportunities of forming a correct judgment, tells me that "as
a husband and father his excellence could not be exceeded; and
altogether he was the _very best_ man I have ever known."

Soon after his retirement from the management of the Midland Bank, the
shareholders and directors, to mark their sense of his services, and
their esteem for him as a man, voted him a magnificent service of
plate. A fine full-length portrait was about the same time placed in
the board room of the bank. The painting is by Partridge, and is a
very excellent characteristic likeness of Mr. Geach in the prime of
his life.

In the autumn of 1854 he was somewhat enfeebled by the pressure of
Parliamentary and commercial duties, and took a trip to Scotland to
recruit his strength. Soon after his return to London, he was seized
with an internal disorder, which reduced his strength very much. He
was recovering from this attack, when a return of an old affection
of one of his legs took place. From this time his ultimate recovery
seemed doubtful. It was at one time contemplated to amputate the left
foot, but in his prostrate condition this was considered unsafe and
hopeless. He gradually became weaker, and on Wednesday, November 1st,
1854, he died, in his 46th year. He left a widow and four children
to mourn his loss, and a larger circle than most men possess, of
warmly-attached friends to honour and respect his memory.


Rather more than thirty years ago, I was very desirous to obtain an
influential introduction to Dr. Jephson. I mentioned my wish to an old
friend in Birmingham, who undertook to obtain one for me, and in a
few days told me that if I called upon Mr. Sands Cox, at his house in
Temple Row, some morning early, that gentleman would give me a letter
introducing me to the great Leamington physician. I accordingly
presented myself as directed, and was shown, by a somewhat
seedy-looking old woman--who evidently looked upon me with
considerable suspicion--into a small room in the front of the house,
where, seated at a writing-table, I found the subject of this sketch.

I had expected to see a man of commanding appearance, with some
outward indication of mental power, and with the intelligent
brightness of eye and face which generally distinguishes men of
the consummate skill and extensive knowledge which I was told
he possessed. I was, however, greatly surprised to see only a
heavy-looking, middle-aged, rather bulky man, with a miser-like
expression of face. There was no fire in the room, and, for a cold
morning, he seemed to be rather thinly clad, his only attire being a
pair of trousers, without braces, and a night-shirt. The wearer
had evidently hurried from his bed-room to his study, without the
customary ablutions, and his tangled hair and scrubby beard were
innocent of comb and razor. On being invited to be seated, I with some
difficulty found a chair, for almost every square foot of surface in
the place--floor, chairs, tables, shelves, and every other "coign
of vantage"--was piled up with books, reports, law papers, printers'
proofs, and other literary matter, begrimed with dust, and apparently
in the most hopeless condition of muddle. On the table itself was
the opened correspondence of the day, and although it was very
early morning, a separated portion, consisting of fifteen or twenty
documents, and an equal number of letters already written, folded,
and neatly addressed, showed that he had been early at work; whilst
a large quantity of manuscript, thrown, sheet upon sheet, upon the
floor, and the stump of a candle, that had burnt very low in a very
dirty candlestick, proved conclusively that he had been hard at work
until late on the previous night.

He received me with courteous politeness, read my note, and said how
happy he should be to comply with the request it contained; "but,"
said he, "you must excuse me now. I have to finish my correspondence,
get my breakfast, and make myself a little more presentable. Will you
call again in an hour?"

Of course I was punctual. I found him completely metamorphosed, and
he now--in a soberly-cut coat of black, a brilliant black satin
waistcoat, and white necktie--looked, as he always did in this dress,
like a well-to-do English country clergyman. He was quite ready for
me; handed me a very cordial recommendation to Dr. Jephson; and asked
if he might trouble me with a small parcel for the doctor. I found
afterwards that, in order to secure attention from a man whose time
was so fully occupied, he had entrusted me with a presentation copy of
a work he had just published, on "The Amputation of a Leg at the Hip
Joint," an operation which, he had recently, I believe for the first
time in English surgery, successfully performed.

Such was my introduction to William Sands Cox, and such the
commencement of an acquaintance which resulted in intimacy of many
years' duration, in the course of which I had frequent opportunities
of studying his character, and becoming acquainted with his many

The family to which he belonged was one of the oldest in Warwickshire.
His ancestors for many generations resided in the neighbourhood of
Stratford-on-Avon. His father, the late Edward Townsend Cox, came
to Birmingham in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He was
articled to Mr. Kennedy of Steelhouse Lane--father of Rann Kennedy. He
afterwards practised, with great success, as a surgeon, for more than
half a century, dying at a very advanced age, only a very few years
ago. His quaint figure, as he drove about the town in an antiquated
phaeton, drawn by a patriarchal pony, must be familiar to the memory
of all but the most juvenile readers.

William Sands Cox was born in 1802, in the house now occupied as
offices by Mr. Barrows, No. 38, Cannon Street. Being intended by his
father for the medical profession, he had a most liberal education;
and, after passing a few years as assistant to his father, he was sent
(a most unusual course at that time) to complete his studies at the
very best medical schools in London and on the continent.

Upon his return to Birmingham, his foreign experiences enabled him to
see that the greater number of country practitioners of that time were
sadly deficient in medical and surgical knowledge; were lamentably
ignorant of anatomy, pathology, and general science; and were greatly
wanting in general culture. With rare self-denial he, instead of
acquiring, as he easily might, a lucrative private practice, resolved
to devote his life to the elevation of the character, and to the
more regular and scientific education and instruction, of the future
members of the profession to which he belonged.

With this view, he started a modest medical and surgical class-room
in Snow Hill. He soon collected a number of pupils, and, in order to
secure greater accommodation, he, about the year 1830, removed to an
old chapel in Paradise Street. This, having been properly fitted up,
was named the "School of Medicine," and it soon became a recognised
institution. Being enriched from time to time by collections of
medical and surgical preparations and appliances, it gradually grew in
size and importance, and, being generously and very largely endowed by
many benevolent persons, was eventually incorporated by Royal Charter
as the "Queen's College." From this time the indefatigable founder
determined that it should be worthy of the illustrious name it bore.
From his own resources; by his father's assistance; by the aid of many
influential inhabitants of the town; and by persistent appeals to the
rich and benevolent of all ranks, money was rapidly accumulated. At
length, with the princely and munificent assistance of Dr. Warneford,
he had the satisfaction of seeing the noble buildings that adorn
Paradise Street completed, and the kindred institution, the Queen's
Hospital, in full and successful operation.

There was something marvellous in the power he possessed of
influencing others. He was by no means fluent of speech; his manners
were shy, awkward, and retiring. He had little grace of person or ease
in conversation, yet he somehow was more successful than most men of
his time in winning friends, and obtaining aid for the great work he
had set himself to accomplish. Probably his indomitable perseverance
lay at the root of the secret. How he influenced the good Dr.
Warneford has long been matter of record. From first to last, I
believe I am within the mark when I mention £25,000 as the sum which
he induced Dr. Warneford to bestow upon the two institutions. As I
write, I have before me a letter written from the Doctor's house to a
member of the College Council, of which the following is a transcript:

    "Bourton-on-the Hill, January 9th, 1852.

    "My dear Sir,--I had the pleasure of submitting our supplemental
    charter this morning to Dr. Warneford. I have the gratification to
    announce a donation of £10,000.

    "I remain, my dear Sir, yours faithfully,


The amount of labour Mr. Cox expended for the benefit of the Queen's
Hospital was something beyond belief. Early and late he was busy for its
advantage; thousands of autograph letters appealing for help fell from
his pen. No chance of help was too remote for him to see; no one too
high in rank for him to appeal to; no one so poor but could be asked to
do something. It was he who brought Jenny Lind to sing gratuitously for
its benefit. It was he who induced managers of theatres, music halls,
and other places of amusement, to set apart certain nights as "Queen's
Hospital Nights." It was he who obtained Her Majesty's patronage and
support; and "last, but not least," it was he who organised the annual
ball at the Town Hall, which for fifteen or twenty years was the most
fashionable and delightful re-union in Birmingham, and which brought in
a very large annual profit to the funds of the hospital. His appeals to
noblemen and gentlemen to become stewards at these balls were literally
strewed broadcast through the land. Amongst others, he was bold enough
once to ask the great Duke of Wellington; and he used to show, with some
pride, the letter he received in reply, which was written in the Duke's
most characteristic manner. The original, I believe, still hangs,
framed, in the Secretary's room at the hospital; and as I think it
likely to be interesting, as a specimen of the Duke's epistolary powers
and peculiarities, I append a copy:

    "Strathfield Saye, Dec. 11, 1842.

    "F.M. the Duke of Wellington presents his Compliments to Mr. Cox and
    regrets much that his time is so much occupied that it is impossible
    for him to be able to find leisure to attend to the duties of the
    office of a Steward of a Ball. He hopes, therefore that he will be
    excused for declining to be nominated to fill an office the duties
    of which he cannot undertake to perform.

    "W. Sands Cox, Eqre."

The last time I saw Mr. Cox, in connection with these institutions,
was in 1862, at the time of the great bazaar on behalf of the
hospital. It was a hard week's work for many, and it resulted in a
profit of about £3,500. Mr. Cox's homely figure during that week, was
"here, there, and everywhere," encouraging everybody, and assisting in
every way, even to helping the college porter to carry large and heavy
hampers of goods across the street from the college to the Town Hall.
I have a perfect remembrance of his sitting, on the last day of the
bazaar, with another gentleman, in the ticket office, to receive the
sixpenny fees for admission. I recollect then to have seen again
the strange, miserly expression which had struck me at my first
introduction; and I noticed, too, the eager "clutch," with which he
grasped the money as it came in, and how he chuckled with delight as
he made up into brown paper parcels each pound's worth of silver as
it accumulated. How, too, his eyes twinkled; how he rubbed his hands
backwards and forwards over his mouth, as he jerked out "Another
pound, Mr. ----; I believe we shall get £50"; and how, when the doors
were closed, he triumphantly handed over to the treasurer more than
sixty packets, of £1 each, as the result of the sixpences paid for
admission on that one day.

Unfortunately, his mind was _creative_ only. Like many parents, who
never can be brought to understand that there comes a time when their
children are _mentally_ capable of "running alone," he, in his later
years, failed to see that these two institutions, the children of his
brain, no longer required leading strings, or his _unaided_ nursing.
Hence, as the establishments grew beyond his personal power of
supervision, he became jealous of everyone connected with their
management, and sought still to be sole director. As the founder, his
will was to be absolute law; everybody must consult his wishes, and
bow to his decision; and although he had, with advancing years, become
less capable, and had always been wanting in the _sustaining_
power which successfully _carries on_ great work, he insisted upon
regulating every matter of detail and discipline connected with the
two institutions.

The result was inevitable. Difficulty after difficulty arose. A
painful disease at this time attacked him, making him more irritable
and exacting. Professors and other officers of the college retired one
after the other. Friends fell off. Subscriptions were dropped. Pupils
were withdrawn, and complete anarchy prevailed. At length Chancery
was appealed to, and Mr. Cox, having been defeated, retired, somewhat
sulkily and disdainfully, from the town--disappointed, dejected,
dispirited, and with a feeling which embittered the remaining years of
his life--a feeling that he had been very greatly misunderstood, and
most ungratefully treated.

Sands Cox, in private life, was gentleness and simplicity itself. At
a dinner party, while ladies were present, he was very quiet; but the
merry twinkle of his eye when the conversation became animated, showed
that he was keenly alive to all that was going on. After the ladies
had retired, he generally joined in the conversation, and had, almost
always, some quaintly curious story, which, told, as it always was, in
a shy way, as a schoolboy might tell it, was irresistibly droll.

He had few amusements. He was fond of a quiet rubber; kept a tame
monkey, whose grotesque antics were to him a perpetual source of
gratification; and he was very fond of fishing. With the fly rod he
was very skilful, and he would occasionally steal a few days' holiday
to indulge in trout or salmon fishing. He did not disdain, however,
the far humbler sport that lay within an easy reach of Birmingham, and
I occasionally went with him to a favourite spot for perch fishing. On
one occasion, by an accident, he lost his bagful of baits, and had to
use some of mine. Finding it inconvenient to come to me every time he
wanted to bait his hook afresh, he took half the worms from my bag,
which he crammed--all slimy and crawling as they were--into the pocket
of a nearly new satin waistcoat. At another time, just as he was about
to put on a fresh bait, his line became entangled in a bush, so as to
require both hands to disengage it. Without the slightest hesitation
he put the worm into his mouth to hold it while his hands were engaged
with the line, and he seemed greatly to enjoy the laughter which his
queer proceeding forced from those who were present.

In the course of his professional career, many honours were bestowed
upon him. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society; was elected a
member of the French Institute; and was honorary member of nearly
every important surgical school in Europe. He was also created
magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for the County of Warwick. He had,
though few knew it, considerable influence in quarters where his name
might hardly be expected to be known. He was generally consulted as to
the fitness of local gentlemen proposed for magisterial honours;
and as none of the parties are now alive, I may state that some days
before the Queen's visit to Birmingham, in 1858, it was to Mr. Cox
that application was made for information respecting the then Mayor,
upon whom there was some hesitation as to whether the honour of
knighthood should be conferred. Mr. Cox suggested, in reply, that the
honour, although of course nominally given to the Mayor, would really
be granted as a compliment to the town, which had chosen him as the
chief magistrate. Acting on this suggestion, the Government of the
day, as is well known, decided on the honour being bestowed.

I have alluded to some indications of a miserly disposition in Mr.
Cox. These were, at the time, a psychological puzzle to my mind; but
I have learned since that a man may have strong acquisitive instincts,
and yet be without selfishness; that he may be even greedy to acquire,
and yet deny himself in almost every possible way, in order to benefit
others; and that the faculties of benevolence and conscientiousness
will, in many cases, direct into unselfish channels the riches
which have been accumulated by the mere animal instinct of selfish

Such is a faithful and honest attempt to exhibit something of the
character, habits, and manners of one of Birmingham's most worthy
sons; a man who, whatever his faults and failings, did much to elevate
the noble profession to which he belonged, and thereby to alleviate
the sufferings of thousands of his fellow creatures, not only of his
own time, but for generations to come. To him, unquestionably, we owe
the existence of two of our noblest institutions--the Queen's College
and Hospital; and yet, strange to say, the town possesses no memorial
of him. Others, who have done comparatively little for the place,
have their portraits in the Corporation Gallery; yet Sands Cox
is unrepresented. Surely the time has arrived when this should be
remedied; surely, now that the grave has closed over his remains, the
irritation and ill-feeling created by his somewhat imperious will
and dogmatic manner, should be forgiven and forgotten, and only
his self-denying devotion to the good of his native town should
be remembered. Surely it is not too late to see that some fitting
memorial of the man, and his work, should show to posterity that his
contemporaries, and their immediate successors, were not unmindful
of, nor ungrateful for, the great and noble work he was privileged to


In the early part of the present century, a house, which is still
standing, in Kenion Street, was occupied by a Dissenting Minister, who
had two sons. One of these sons, fifty years afterwards, told the
following story:

    "When I was a boy, I was going one evening up Constitution Hill. On
    the left-hand side, at that time, there was a raised footpath,
    protected by railings, similar to the one which now exists at
    Hockley Hill. I was on the elevated part, and heard some one running
    behind me. Upon turning, I found a soldier, out of breath, and so
    exhausted that he sank to the ground at my feet. He implored me not
    to give information, and asked me for protection, telling me that he
    had been sentenced, for some neglect of duty, to receive a large
    number of lashes, at certain intervals, of which he had already been
    indulged with one instalment. Having been thought incapable of
    moving, he had not been very closely watched, and he had just
    escaped from the barracks, having run all the way to the spot on
    which he had fallen. I took him home, and told my father, who was
    greatly alarmed; but he fed him, and sent him to bed. The next
    morning I dressed myself in the soldier's clothes, and danced before
    my father, as he lay in bed. He was angry and alarmed, particularly
    as, on looking out of the window, we saw a non-commissioned officer
    of the same regiment standing opposite, apparently watching the
    house. Nothing came of that; but the difficulty was, what to do with
    the man. At night, however, we dressed him in some of my clothes,
    and sent him off to Liverpool. He promised to write, but we never
    heard any more of him. His clothes were tied up in two bundles; my
    brother James took one, and I the other, and we walked with my
    father to Hockley Pool, where we loaded the bundles with bricks, and
    threw them into a deep part of the water."

[Illustration: G. Edmonds]

The narrator of this story, and the chief actor in the simple drama was
George Edmonds. I mention this little event because it shows that the
spirit of hostility to tyranny, and the scorn of oppression, cruelty,
and persecution, which he manifested in his after life, were inborn, and
a part of his nature. The same noble spirit which induced him, like the
good Samaritan, to bind up the wounds, and to succour and defend the
friendless soldier, gave his tongue the eloquence, and his soul the
fire, to denounce, in the presence of assembled thousands, the
malpractices of those then in power, and the injustice of the laws
under which the people groaned.

George Edmonds was born in the year 1788, at the house in Kenion Street
of which I have spoken. His father was the Minister of the Baptist
Chapel in Bond Street. He was very popular as a preacher, and he appears
to have been a man of much culture. An engraved portrait of him may be
seen in the window of Mr. Massey's shop at the top of Mount Street. He
was possessed of considerable humour, and was almost as celebrated as
the great Rowland Hill for making droll remarks in the pulpit. It is
told of him that, reading the fourth chapter of _Philippians_, and
coming to the thirteenth verse, he read, "I can do all things;" here he
paused, and said, "What, Paul?--do all things? I'll bet you half-a-crown
of it;" then, suiting the action to the word, he placed the coin on the
leaf of the book; but on reading the concluding portion of the verse, he
said, "Oh, that alters it! I withdraw the bet," and then went on with
his reading.

Under his father's care, George Edmonds received a really good
education, and became an excellent classical scholar. His knowledge of
Greek was extensive and profound. He was not apprenticed or articled
to any business or profession, and he appears to have devoted his
early manhood entirely to study. His favourite pursuit was the science
of language, and in this branch of learning he became probably one of
the best-informed men of his day. He was in constant correspondence
with the most eminent and learned philologians of his time. I shall
have occasion, further on, to mention this topic again.

In the year 1823, I find that he was keeping a school in Bond Street,
near the chapel; his pupils, no doubt, being mainly the sons of the
members of the congregation. This life appears to have been, to him,
somewhat of a drudgery; and he longed for more active duties, and a
larger sphere of work. At that time the strict etiquette which now
governs all legal matters did not exist. The young schoolmaster having
volunteered on one occasion to assist a friend to conduct a case in
the old "Court of Bequests," found the self-imposed task very much to
his taste. He took up the profession of an Advocate, and in that court
and the magistrates' room at the Public Office he soon became a busy
man. His clear insight gave him the power of instantly possessing
himself of the merits of a case, while his fluency of speech,
his persuasive manner, and his scholastic acquirements were great
advantages. He soon obtained considerable influence among the
respectable old gentlemen who at that time sat as judges in the one
court and magistrates in the other. His intense love of fun, and his
powerful irony, made these courts, instead of dull and dreary places,
lively and cheerful. Many droll stories are told of him, one of the
best of which relates to his cross-examination of a pompous witness.
Edmonds began by asking, "What are you, Mr. Jones?" "Hi har a
skulemaster," was the reply. In an instant came the crushing retort
from Edmonds, "Ho, you ham, his you?" He continued to practise in the
Court of Bequests until it was abolished, but he was ineligible in
the newly-established County Court, not being an attorney. He then
articled himself to Mr. Edwin Wright, and in the year 1847 was
admitted as a solicitor, which profession he followed actively, up to
the time of the illness which removed him from public life.

He was a powerful and successful advocate. His fault, however, in this
capacity was that he identified himself too much with his case. He
seemed always determined to win. True justice and fairness were not
considered, so long as he could gain the day. Hence, when another
advocate was opposed to him, the matter assumed, generally, the aspect
of a professional tournament, in which victory was to be gained,
rather than that of a calm and impartial investigation, in which the
truth was to be ascertained and a just award made.

At the time of the incorporation of the town in 1838, and the
establishment of Quarter Sessions, Mr. Edmonds was appointed Clerk of
the Peace. He was then seriously ill, and was supposed to be dying. It
was understood at the time, that the appointment was made as a solace
to him in his then condition, and as a recognition, which would be
pleasant to him, of the services he had rendered to his native town.
It was not expected that he would survive to undertake the duties of
the office. He, however, lived to perform them for more than thirty
years. He himself had so little expectation of recovery that, from
what he supposed to be his dying bed, he wrote to Mr. William Morgan,
urging him to announce himself as a candidate for the office, so soon,
in all probability, to become vacant. Mr. Morgan refrained from so
doing, and Mr. Edmonds nominated him his deputy. In that capacity Mr.
Morgan acted at the first Sessions held in the town.

As years rolled on, Mr. Edmonds became at times very absent in
mind, causing occasionally great merriment in court by the ludicrous
mistakes he made. When the Sessions-room was altered a few years ago,
the jury box was placed on the opposite side of the court to that
it had formerly occupied, but Mr. Edmonds's mind never realised
the change. While juries were considering their verdict, it was
Mr. Edmonds's practice to engage in conversation with some of the
barristers; and he sometimes became so lost in these discussions as
to take no heed of his duties. Mr. Hill, the Recorder, enjoyed these
little scenes intensely. On one occasion, when the jury was waiting
to deliver a verdict, the Recorder had to call him from one of these
little chats, to receive it. Edmonds turned to the old spot, and
seeing no one there, said, "There is no jury, sir." Upon which, Mr.
Hill, smiling, said, "If you'll turn round, Mr. Edmonds, you'll see
the jury laughing at you." In some confusion, Edmonds turned round,
and, his mind being somewhat uncollected, he asked, "What say you, Mr.
Foreman, are you guilty or not guilty?" On another occasion he took
up, by mistake, from his desk, an indictment against a man who had
been tried and sentenced, and charging the prisoner, who was a female,
read, "John Smith, you stand indicted," &c. The Recorder, jocularly
rebuking him, said he had never known a woman named John Smith before.
The woman was sent down, and Edmonds insisted in having the real John
Smith up, and he again began the charge. The prisoner laughed in his
face, and told him he had been tried once, and got ten years, but he
wouldn't mind being tried again if the judge would make it five.

But George Edmonds had a higher claim to grateful recollection than
could be based upon mere forensic skill or professional duty. His
it was to help to apply the first impulse to the movement which
eventually broke down the strong bulwarks of territorial oligarchy.
His it was to wear the political martyr's crown; his to beard a
profligate Court, and a despotic, tyrannical, and corrupt Government;
his to win, or to help to win, far nobler victories than were ever
gained by Marlborough or Wellington: victories of which we reap the
benefits now, in liberty of thought and speech, in an unfettered
Press, in an incorrupt Parliament, in wiser laws, and in unshackled
commerce. His manly voice never counselled aught but obedience; but
it was never silent until it had assisted to ensure for his
fellow-countrymen, that the laws he taught them to obey were just and
impartial, and were equitably administered.

When Mr. Edmonds was a mere child, the great Revolution in France gave
the English advocates of freedom hopes that the "appointed time" would
soon arrive. The obstinacy of the King, which had already caused the
loss of America, once more made itself manifest, and crushed these
hopes. War was declared against France in 1793, and (with the
exception of a period of thirteen months, from March, 1802, to April,
1803, and a few months in 1814-15) raged until the Battle of Waterloo,
in June, 1815. Daring the whole of this long period the hopes of
English freedom lay dormant. With the return of external peace came
fresh visions of internal reformation. Major Cartwright, Sir Francis
Burdett, and other advanced politicians formed themselves into a
society, which, in memory of one of England's most worthy sons, they
named the Hampden Club. They advocated annual Parliaments, universal
suffrage, and vote by ballot. Provincial reformers adopted their
creed. George Edmonds, then some 27 years old, took up the cause with
great zeal, and advocated it with much eloquence and fervour. Cobbett,
by his writings, and Hunt, by his speeches, aided the movement.
The Tory party was alarmed, and Lord Liverpool's Government was so
exasperated, that a crusade against the popular cause was resolved on.

Meanwhile, the Hampden Club counselled their Birmingham friends to bring
matters to an issue, by electing a "Legislatorial Attorney," who was to
proceed to the House of Commons, and formally demand to be admitted as
the representative of Birmingham. The advice was taken, and on the 12th
of July, 1819, a great meeting was held on Newhall Hill, for the purpose
indicated. George Edmonds was the chairman and principal speaker, and
was admittedly the local leader.

The Government was not slow to take action. On the 30th of the same
month, the Prince Regent issued a proclamation, warning all His
Majesty's subjects against treasonable and seditious meetings, and
malpractices generally, and saying, _inter alia_--

     "And whereas, it hath been represented unto us, that at one of such
    meetings the persons there assembled, in gross violation of the law,
    did attempt to constitute and appoint, and did, as much as in them
    lay, constitute and appoint, a person then nominated, to sit in
    their name, and in their behalf, in the Commons House of Parliament;
    and there is reason to believe that other meetings are about to be
    held for the like unlawful purpose.

    "And whereas, many wicked and seditious writings have been printed,
    published, and industriously circulated, &c.

    "And whereas, we have been given to understand ... that in some
    parts of the kingdom, men, clandestinely and unlawfully assembled,
    have practised military training and exercise.

    "And whereas, &c., we have resolved to repress the wicked,
    seditious, and treasonable practices, &c. We do charge and command
    all sheriffs, magistrates, &c., to discover and bring to justice,
    all persons who _have been_ or may be guilty of uttering seditious
    speeches or harangues, and all persons concerned in any riots or
    _unlawful assemblies_, which, _on whatever pretext they may be
    grounded_, are not only _contrary to law_, but dangerous to the most
    important interests of the kingdom," &c.

At the time this Proclamation appeared, Edmonds was editing and
publishing in Birmingham a weekly political paper, under the title of
_Edmonds's Weekly Recorder_. Number 8 of this paper, dated August 7,
1819, lies before me. The Proclamation is printed at full length on the
front page, and the next column contains the opening sentences of a
letter from Edmonds to the Prince Regent. This letter is of great
length, and is written in a well-supported strain of splendid irony all
through. To copy it at length would occupy too much space. I may,
however, be allowed to quote a short extract or two. Speaking of the
meeting on the 12th July, of which he acknowledges himself to have been
the chairman, he says: "I, and may it please you, sir, being a very
loyal man, was very careful, although it was quite unnecessary, to
admonish the people to obey the laws; and I can assure you, sir, that I
have not heard of a single instance of disloyalty, or violation of the
laws, which occurred during the said meeting. And while we are upon the
subject, permit me, sir, to lament that your Royal Highness did not in
your Royal Proclamation lay down the _law_ which had been violated by
the people of Birmingham." "Finding, however, contrary to our
expectations, that your Royal Highness considers that we have acted
unlawfully, we must humbly petition that the _precise law we have
violated_ may be pointed out, that we may not, through ignorance, be led
to do wrong again. Some persons have supposed the _Proclamation_ to be
_law_, but I have said to them, 'A Proclamation is a _Proclamation_, and
_not the law of Parliament_.' In the same manner as your Highness
profoundly speaks, in your Royal Proclamation, of those 'unlawful
assemblies' which are 'contrary to law.' Truisms, an please your Royal
Highness, are much better than falsehoods."

The number of the _Weekly Recorder_ for August 14th, 1819, contains a
long address to his "Fellow-townsmen," signed by George Edmonds. It
commences by stating that "the last week has been a very important one
in the annals of Warwickshire, and indeed of England.... Five of us,
Major Cartwright, Mr. Wooler, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Maddocks, and myself, have
had true bills found against us for a conspiracy to elect a Member of
Parliament, and at the next Assizes the indictment will be tried."

The grand jury brought in the "true bill" on Monday, August 9th. The
trial did not take place at the Assizes then being held, and the
indictment was afterwards removed by _certiorari_ into the Court of
King's Bench. It came on for trial at Warwick, on August 7th, 1820,
before the Lord Chief Baron Richards. When the special jury was called,
only four answered to their names. Mr. Barber was the foreman, and on
taking the book into his hands, one of the defendants asked him whether
he had "ever expressed any opinion as to the merits or demerits of this
case." The Judge interfered, and said that "as a _special_ juryman he
was not bound to answer the question." Eight names were then added from
the common jury list, and the trial proceeded. Denman was counsel for
Edmonds, and Matthew Davenport Hill for Major Cartwright. The others
defended themselves in person. The Judge summed up unfavourably, and
after twenty minutes' deliberation the jury gave a verdict of guilty
against all the defendants. Judgment, however, was deferred.

On May 28, 1821, the Attorney-General moved the judgment of the court.
The Lord Chief Justice Abbott, afterwards Lord Tenterden, recapitulated
the arguments as to the legality of the jury, and held that no legal
challenge could have been made until a full jury appeared; and as in
this case the challenges had been made before the full jury had
assembled, there were no grounds for a new trial. Several motions in
arrest of judgment were subsequently made, but eventually Mr. Edmonds
was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment in the common gaol of the
county, and he was thereupon removed to Warwick, where, within the walls
of the gaol, he spent every minute of the period for which he had been

Upon his restoration to liberty, he published the following
characteristic advertisement in the Birmingham newspapers:

    "George Edmonds begs to inform his _friends_, his _enemies_, and the
    _public_, that on leaving Warwick Jail he recommenced his profession
    of a schoolmaster; that by the zeal of his patrons he has succeeded
    beyond his most sanguine expectations; that he has taken for a
    period of seven years those extensive premises opposite Bond Street
    Chapel, and that the school re-opened on Monday last.

    "The public are respectfully referred by G.E. to his _enemies_ as
    the judges of his capacity to _instruct_ and _correct_.... To his
    _enemies_--if it be possible that he can have any--G.E. offers the
    most entire absolution for their sins against the _best of men_,
    on the following most reasonable terms: That they henceforth
    zealously trumpet forth his merits; and on his part he agrees to
    receive their children at his academy, as hostages for the
    performance of these conditions. _Quid rides?_

    "Bond Street, July 2, 1823."

Mr. Edmonds's trial, so far from impeding the popular cause, gave it a
forward impetus. It was contended that the jury had been improperly
impanelled; and Mr. Peel, afterwards Sir Robert, was compelled to admit
in the House of Commons that such was the case, as the panel did not
contain the proper number of names. The great Jeremy Bentham took up the
case, and published a pamphlet impugning the legality of the whole
proceedings, and exposing the utter sham of the special jury system.
Peel, much to his honour, brought into the House, and carried, a bill to
amend the whole jury system, and thus Edmonds's trial led to the
abolition of a great public scandal and a national grievance.

Henceforward, Edmonds was the recognised leader of the Birmingham
Radicals, and the agitation for Parliamentary Reform commenced anew. The
Whigs, though favourable, held aloof, looking upon it as a hopeless
case. In the year 1827, Mr. Charles Tennyson, afterwards known as Mr.
Tennyson D'Eyncourt, proposed to the House of Commons that the two seats
forfeited by the disfranchised borough of East Retford should be
transferred to Birmingham. The proposition was supported by Sir James
Mackintosh and others, but was eventually negatived. The mere
proposition, however, revived the dying embers of Birmingham political
life. All classes, and all sections of politicians, hailed the proposal
with delight. Tories, Whigs, and Radicals united in a requisition to Mr.
George Attwood, who was then High Bailiff, to hold a town's meeting,
which was held accordingly on June 25th, 1827, at Beardsworth's
Repository. At this meeting, resolutions in favour of Mr. Tennyson's
proposition were proposed and seconded by gentlemen belonging to the
three parties, Tories, Whigs, and Radicals. A committee, thirty-two in
number, composed of men of all shades of opinion, was appointed to work
in support of the enfranchisement of the town. Edmonds's name was left
out for strategic reasons: a convicted conspirator, it was thought,
would do the cause no good. He, however, endorsed the scheme heartily,
worked energetically, and spoke frequently and eloquently in its favour.

The proposition, as I have said, was negatived by the House of
Commons, but it had borne good fruit in Birmingham. Henceforth the
timid Whigs came once more into the sunlight of political life; and
the Tories, being divided in opinion on the measure, split into
two sections, with the result that the _ultra_ party, which had
monopolised all municipal power, was broken up. Prom this time united
action became possible, and more reasonable relations were established
between the active and the passive Liberals. The extreme Radical
section, seeing that the men of moderate views had joined in the
movement for the Reform of Parliament, became less extravagant in
their demands. On the 14th of December, 1829, sixteen gentlemen,
called together by circular, met at the Royal Hotel, and founded the
great Political Union. Rules having been prepared, it was proposed to
hold a Town's Meeting, under the presidency of the High Bailiff--Mr.
William Chance--to ratify them. That gentleman, on the proposal being
made to him, stated that he could not view it as "any part of his
duty to call a meeting of the inhabitants of the town for any such
purpose." The meeting was, notwithstanding, held at Beardsworth's
Repository, on the 25th January, 1830, Mr. G.F. Muntz being chairman.
About 15,000 persons were present, and a number of resolutions,
embodying the principles and objects of the new organisation, were
proposed and carried; some "unanimously," some with "one dissentient,"
and some "by a majority of at least one thousand and one;" and the
"General Political Union between the Lower and Middle Classes of the
People," became an accomplished fact.

From this time, for more than three years, nearly the whole of Mr.
Edmonds's time was devoted to the cause he had so much at heart. Night
after night, and month after month, he fanned the flame of popular
feeling, until it culminated in the unparalleled meetings on Newhall
Hill. At the one held on May 14th, 1832, there were nearly 200,000
persons present. Mr. Attwood occupied the chair, and the proceedings
commenced by the vast assembly singing a hymn composed for the
occasion by the Rev. Hugh Hutton, the two final verses of which were
as follow:

    "God is our guide! From field, from wave,
      The plough, the anvil, and the loom,
    We come, our country's rights to save,
      And speak a tyrant faction's doom.
    And hark! we raise, from sea to sea,
    Our sacred watchword, Liberty!

    "God is our guide! No sword we draw,
      We kindle not war's fatal fires;
    By union, justice, reason, law,
      We claim the birthright of our sires!
    And thus we raise from sea to sea,
    Our sacred watchword, Liberty!"

At this meeting, what has been described as "one of the most solemn
spectacles ever seen in the world" took place. After it had been
determined to petition the House of Lords "not to drive to despair a
high-minded, generous, and fearless people," Mr. Clutton Salt took
off his hat, and, calling upon the people to follow his example, the
entire assembly stood uncovered as they repeated after him the Union
vow: "In unbroken faith, through every peril and privation, we devote
ourselves and our children to our country's cause." The sound of the
thousands of voices in unison, as they uttered these words, has been
described as resembling the sound of the waves of the sea on a rocky

Earl Grey, on the adverse vote of the House of Lords, had resigned on
the 9th of May. The Duke of Wellington and Sir R. Peel endeavoured to
form a Government, but failed utterly; so that on the 18th, Earl
Grey returned to power. "At the personal request of the King, a large
number of the Tory peers consented to absent themselves from the House
of Lords during the further discussion of the Reform Bill." "By the
first week of August the bills had received the Royal assent, and the
political excitement which had kept the country agitated for nearly
two years was suddenly changed into complete listlessness and apathy."

Meanwhile, the personal sacrifices which Mr. Edmonds had made, and the
sufferings he had endured, were not unheeded by his friends. On April
25th, 1831, a meeting was held, under the presidency of Mr. John
Betts, at which it was resolved to raise a subscription in his behalf,
in recognition of "his superior talents, his tried integrity, and the
persevering industry with which he has, for a long series of years,
devoted himself to the great cause of public liberty, and
more especially to the rights, privileges, and welfare of his
fellow-townsmen." Mr. Thomas Attwood was appointed the treasurer, and
a committee of twenty of the leading Liberals of the town took charge
of the movement, which resulted in a handsome sum being presented to
Mr. Edmonds.

Mr. Edmonds was not one to become politically listless and apathetic.
He considered the passing of the Reform Bill to be only the
stepping-stone to other beneficial measures. At his instigation it was
resolved that the Political Union should not be dissolved, but should
be "kept firmly united." On May 20th, 1833, another monster meeting
was held on Newhall Hill, at which the Government was censured for
passing the Irish Coercion Bill; for refusing the right to vote
by ballot; for persevering in unjust and cruel Corn Laws; and for
continuing the House and Window Taxes.

George Edmonds was one of the most active agitators for the grant of a
Charter of Incorporation to the town. He was generally selected to
be either proposer or seconder of the Reform candidates, at the
elections. Few political meetings of any kind, were held at which he
was not only present, but took an active part; and even when old age
had bent his frame and weakened the tones of his once trumpet-like
voice, he would occasionally make the walls of the Town Hall ring, as
he denounced oppression, or called upon his fellow-townsmen to rise
to vindicate a right. His spoken addresses were singularly clear and
forcible in their construction. His language was very simple, and was
nearly pure Saxon, and his enunciation of every syllable of each
word distinct and perfect. He was a born politician, and a bold and
fearless leader. He had a very genial disposition, and a charitable
heart; but was impulsive, and was very strong in his resentments.
He was what Dr. Johnson might call "a good hater." He combined the
fierceness of the lion with the gentleness and docility of the lamb.

Hitherto, I have spoken of Mr. Edmonds chiefly in reference to his
professional career and his political activity. I now turn to a phase
of his character which is little known, but which is not in any way
less remarkable. As a scholar and a philologian he had rare abilities,
and a rarer industry. Having, somewhat early in life, possessed
himself of a copy of the works of Dr. Wilkins, who was a bishop in
the reign of Charles II., he became impressed with the thought that a
universal language was within the bounds of human possibility, and he
set himself diligently to work out the problem. During the whole of
his busy political life; all through his active professional career;
amid the strife and the worry, the turmoil, and the rancour, of the
controversy in which he was so prominent; it was his habit to rise
from his bed at three or four o'clock in the morning to endeavour to
master this intricate task. In the failures of others who had essayed
this gigantic work, he saw only incentives to fresh exertions. Nothing
daunted him. Failing to find in ordinary type, as used by printers,
the necessary symbols to embody his thoughts, he, at enormous expense,
had an entirely new fount, from his own designs, made expressly for
the book which was to be the crowning monument of his life. Finding
no printing-office willing to undertake a work of so unaccustomed a
nature, he fitted up a room in his house in Whittall Street, and here,
by his own hands, the whole of the type was set. Mr. Massey, of Friday
Bridge, informs me that he _printed_ the book, and he has obligingly
placed at my disposal a few specimens of the peculiar types used. The
result was, a thick quarto volume, every page of which bristles with
evidences of acute erudition, and the most accurate reasoning and
discernment. It bears the title of "A Universal Alphabet, Grammar,
and Language," and it has for a motto a text from the book of
_Zephaniah_--"For then will I turn to the people a _pure language_,
that they may call upon the name of the Lord."

He seems to have aimed at the production of an "Alphabet of
Characters," which should indicate the various sounds of the voice,
and he succeeded. "I thought," he says, in the preface to his book,
"and still think it, theoretically, a near approach to perfection.
Into this character I translated the whole of St. Matthew's Gospel,
and various extracts from the _Psalms_ and other books." "With great
reluctance, and not without much pain," he came to the conclusion
that this system was impracticable, and he "therefore gave up the idea
altogether of that character, and looked about for some other." It
then occurred to him that the Roman alphabet "might be supplemented by
certain marks, so as to represent all the elementary sounds;" and this
resulted in his compiling an alphabet containing forty symbols, of
which five--_ai_, _au_, _oi_, _ou_, and _oo_ are compounds; the
remaining thirty-five are the ordinary letters, some of which have
marks under them, like the dash we make under a word in writing to
indicate greater force or emphasis, thus--U D Z o d z.

Having arrived at this point, he intimates his belief that his
next discovery was the result of direct inspiration. "I am far from
superstitious, yet I must confess, with regard to this discovery, I
have long felt as though I had been no more than a mere instrument,
accomplishing the will of Another; and that the direction of my
thoughts, and my ultimate convictions, were only a part of the
development of my own mind, enforced and controlled by some internal
law, which ensured its own effects without any original exercise of
my own reason. One thing is certain: I cannot tell how it was brought
into my own i mind, and I have no recollection of the process which
ultimately revealed to me a knowledge of the power and essential
importance of the discovery."

The discovery of which he speaks is that the "success of the
Philosophic [language] turned upon the proper use of two short vowels
and three nasal consonants. These are the short _u_, as in faithful,
and the _i_ in pin, and the consonants, _m_, _n_, and _n _ [_i.e._,
_ng_]. One of these three consonants is to be found in the centre of
every root of the [philosophic] language. They resemble the reed in
the hautboy--they give B metallic ring in the words where they occur.
They may be compared to the sound of the trumpet in a concert; the
other consonants are the sound of the drum--rub-a-dub-dub."

It is of course impossible, in a short notice like this, to give a
thousandth part of the methods and arguments by which Mr. Edmonds
works out his theory; but I shall attempt to make his process clear by
one or two short examples.

He starts by assuming that, as all words are reducible to nouns as
a first principle, so the whole of the nouns can be classified into
forty "genera." These genera are each divisible into "differences,"
and the differences are sub-divisible into "species." He gives a
list of the "genera," each of which is composed of two vowels and
two consonants; and then, in a series of very elaborate tables, he
proceeds to show how words of every possible signification can
be built up from the materials thus provided and classified. For
instance, amongst the genera, _onji_ is the root-word for insects,
_anji_ for fish, _enji_ for birds, and _inji_ for beasts. Taking
_anji_--or fish--for my example, because it is the shortest, I
may mention that he divides fish into nine "differences," two of
viviparous, five of oviparous, one of crustacea, and one of scaly
river fish. I will give one example of each class, merely pointing
out that the letters _anj_ occur in the middle of each name. The
final letters give the _species_, and the initials the _specific fish_
indicated, thus: _Panjoo_ is whale, _Banjoi_ is skate, _Danjo_ is
herring, _Kanja_ is gurnet, _Danji_ is sea-perch, _Danjai_ is eel,
_Banjino_ is plaice, _Vanjoinoi_ is star-fish, and _Fanjino_ is

The same process of building up words from simple roots is carried on
all through the whole range of thought and action; and the result as
a whole is that, as a theoretical system, the entire subject is
successfully worked out.

Whether it will ever be carried out in practice is extremely doubtful.
Some Spanish enthusiasts were so enraptured with Mr. Edmonds's book
that they sought and obtained an interview with the late Emperor
Napoleon, with a view to secure his patronage of the new scheme. The
expression of his opinion was short, but shrewd. He said the only
way to establish universal language was to first establish universal
empire; and that, he thought, would not be possible just yet.

In July, 1867, Mr. Edmonds, when 79 years of age, married, at the Old
Church, Leamington, as his second wife, Miss Mary Fairfax, of Barford,
near Warwick, the descendant of a truly noble family. She was 75 years
of age at the time. Their natures and dispositions, however, being so
very dissimilar, this proved to be an unhappy union, and after living
together three weeks only, they separated by mutual consent. His mind
at this time--and, indeed, for some previous time--must have been
giving way. Eventually, he was placed in the asylum at Winson Green.
From thence he was removed to a private asylum at Northampton, where
he died in the year 1868, being 80 years of age.

His funeral at the General Cemetery was attended by most of the
leading Liberals of the town, and by great crowds of admirers. Charles
Vince, who was so soon to follow him, delivered a very eloquent
address over the open grave, in which he said, "For the firmness with
which he maintained his convictions, and for the zeal and ability with
which he advocated them, he will always have a name and a place in the
history of his native town, if not in the history of his country. To
the honour of his memory it will be said that he held his opinions
honestly; laboured for them diligently; devoted great gifts and rare
energy to their promotion; and amply proved his sincerity, and won the
crown of the conscientious, by the things that he suffered."

It is, in my opinion, not very creditable to the Liberal party in
the town that George Edmonds has no public memorial. The generation
passing away may remember his face and figure; but before it goes, it
has a duty to its successors to perform. That duty is to leave some
lasting memorial, in the shape of a statue, bust, or portrait, of the
man, who, sacrificing his own freedom, helped thereby to gain for his
countrymen liberty of thought, liberty of speech, and liberty to carry
on in the future the beneficent policy which he advocated with, so
much eloquence and perseverance.


With reverent pen and loving spirit, I sit down to write of one whose
sunny smile brightened every circle upon which it shone; whose massive
intellect and clear mental vision discovered subtle truths and
deep symbolic meanings in common things; whose winning and graphic
eloquence made these truths and meanings clear to others, showing
them that not a blade of grass springs by the roadside, nor an insect
flutters for a day in the gladdening light of the spring-time, but
has its lesson, if men will but search for it, of tender mercy and
fatherly care. His broad and catholic spirit was wide enough to
embrace within his friendship men of widely divergent thought and
belief. His life was one long and eloquent lesson to us all. If ever
man deserved the blessing following the words, "Inasmuch as ye did it
unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me," that
man was Charles Vince, for of him, more emphatically than can be said
of most of us, it may be recorded that "he went about doing good."

It is not necessary to sketch the mature character of one so recently
taken from amongst us. The shadow of his homely figure has scarcely
faded from our streets, and the sound of his eloquent voice still
seems to vibrate in our ears. It seems but yesterday that, on that
cold and cheerless day, his lifeless but honoured remains were borne
to the grave through the crowds of sympathising people who thronged
the busy streets to see the last of him they knew so well and loved so
heartily. Little could be added to the warm tributes that were paid
so recently to the memory of the gifted, truthful, fearless, earnest,
hard-working Christian teacher, who, in the prime of his life and the
zenith of his powers, was removed from the sphere which he adorned by
the purity of his character, and benefited by the power and graces of
his intellect.

But these tributes referred mainly to what he was, and what he did,
in the later part of his career, and in the maturity of his powers.
In some of them the references to his parentage, his birth, and
his boyhood, were singularly inaccurate. In one periodical of
large circulation and great influence, statements full of error and
misrepresentation went forth to the world unchallenged. It is my
purpose, therefore, in this paper, to correct the mistakes of those
who wrote, being imperfectly informed; and to give, as I had it from
the lips of his friends, his schoolfellows, and his relatives, a
simple, but at all events a strictly accurate, record of the few and
unromantic events of the early days of one who became so fruitful in
goodness and in charity.

With the view that this little sketch should at least be free from
serious error, I made, the other day, a special pilgrimage to Vince's
birthplace--the pleasant town of Farnham in Surrey. I stood before the
lowly cottage in which he first drew breath; I sat in the little
room where his father and his mother taught him practical lessons
of truthfulness and sympathy; I looked into the little plain deal
cupboard his father made for him, in which he stored the books he
loved so well and studied so intently. I talked with his schoolfellows
and the companions of his boyish days, and listened to those who were
the chosen friends of his youth-hood, and I noted the brightening of
the eye, and the more fervid tones of the voice, as one after another
told me of the budding intellect, and of the germination of the warm
and tender spirit, of him they were all so proud of.

After a long continuance of cold and cheerless weather, the morning of
Saturday, the 26th of May, 1877, was bright and genial. An unclouded
sun, and a warm south-western wind, awoke the birds to melody, and
gave the flowers new fragrance. As the train bore me through pleasant
Surrey, the fields not only smiled--they absolutely seemed to laugh
with joy at the advent of the first day of summer, and when we stopped
at the pretty station of plutocratic Surbiton, the air was laden with
the perfume of lilacs and of hawthorn blossom. From a dense thicket,
nearly overhead, came cheerfully the melodious notes of "the careful
thrush," who, as Browning says--

            "Sings his song thrice over,
    Lest I should think he never could recapture
    That first, fine, careless rapture."

As the train passes on, I see, beyond the silvery Thames, the stately
front of Hampton Court Palace. A little further on we pass Esher,
where, on a tree-girt hill, the lofty pediment of Claremont peeps
through the trees, and reminds me that here, sixty years ago, the
hopes of England were quenched by the death of the youthful Princess
Charlotte. Strange, that this house should have been the death-place
of the unthroned heiress of England, and, forty years afterwards, of
the dethroned crafty old French king, Louis Philippe.

When we stop at Woking Common, I feel at home. Here, half-a-century
ago, when there was not even a hut on the spot which is now a busy
town, I used to play as a boy. Yonder is the Basingstoke canal, where,
with willow wand and line of string from village shop, I used to
beguile the credulous gudgeon and the greedy perch. Just up that lane
to the right, on the road to Knap Hill--famed the world over for its
hundreds of acres of rhododendrons--is the nurseryman's shed to which,
in the summer, cart-loads of the small, wild, black cherries came
from Normandy, for seed. Here the boys of the neighbourhood had the
privilege of gorging themselves gratis with the luscious fruit, on the
simple condition that they placed the cherry-stones in bowls provided
for the purpose. As the train moves on, we dash through a deep cutting
of yellow-coloured sand, and emerge upon a wild and dreary region.
On the hills to the right are a gaol, a reformatory, and a lunatic
asylum; and on the left is the "Necropolis," where London, in the
black and sandy soil, deposits the myriads of its dead. All around,
the ground is olive-coloured with unblossomed heath, bright and golden
here and there with the flowerets of the prickly gorse. Dense and
dismal plantations of black-looking Scotch firs are enlivened at
intervals by the delicate and tender green spikelets of a sprouting
larch. On we rush for miles through this sombre region, through dank
morasses, and past dark and gloomy pools, from one of which a heron
rises majestically. On, until, in a broad and airy region, the red
coats of soldiers are seen dotted here and there amongst the heather.
In the distance are the serried lines of the tents of Aldershot. Just
beyond this point the train suddenly enters the chalk formation,
and comes simultaneously into a cultivated district. A mile or two
further, and the train stops at Farnham; birthplace of Toplady,
who wrote the beautiful hymn, "Rock of Ages;" of William Cobbett,
sturdiest of English yeomen; and of Charles Vince, who, coming to
Birmingham an utter stranger, so endeared himself to its people, that
he was universally beloved; and when he died, was followed to his
grave by thousands of the principal inhabitants, amid the tearful
regrets of the entire population.

As I leave the station, and approach the town, I see on my left,
nestling under a cliff, an old timbered house, bearing on its front
the inscription, "Cobbett's birthplace." It is an inn, and I enter in
search of refreshment. A somewhat surly man appears, and tells me that
he "ain't got no cold meat." I persevere, and am told that I _can_
have some bread and cheese, which are accordingly served. I ask the
landlord--for such the man is--if there are any relics of Cobbett
remaining in the house? The reply is, "not as I knows on." I am told,
however, that he is buried in the churchyard hard by, and that his
grave is "right agen the front door," and this is all the man knew, or
cared to tell, about the matter.

The most striking peculiarity of Farnham, as seen from the cliff
behind the "Jolly Farmer," is the abundance of hop gardens. As far
as the eye can reach, in all directions, little else appears to
be cultivated. At the time I visited it, the appearance was very
singular. From the tops of distant hills; creeping down into the
valleys; even to the back doors of the houses in the principal street,
the whole surface of the earth seemed clothed with stiff bristles.
About two thousand acres of land in this parish alone are planted with
hop bines, and as each acre takes three thousand hop-poles to support
the climbing crop, it follows that there were five or six millions of
these poles standing bare and upright before the astonished eye. No
wonder that a conical hill at a little distance looked like a gigantic

At the extreme westerly end of the main street of the town there is a
small house on the left, standing some twenty feet back from the line
of the other buildings. The space between the house and the street is
now covered by a conservatory. A greenhouse adjoins the house on the
west side, and a large piece of ground fronting the street for some
distance is occupied as a nursery, and, when I saw it, was gay with
flowers and verdure. In the year 1823 this house, together with a
large plot of adjoining land (now built upon), was the property of
Charles Vince's father, and in this little house Charles Vince was
born. The father was by trade a builder and carpenter, and was very
skilful. If he had any intricate work on hand, it was his habit to
go to bed, even in the day-time, in order that he might, undisturbed,
work out in his mind the proper means of accomplishing the end in
view. He held a sort of duplex position. He was foreman to, and
"the life and soul of the business" of, Messrs. Mason and Jackson,
builders; but he had a private connection of his own, which he worked
independently. He was greatly liked, and the late Sir George Barlow, a
landed proprietor of the neighbourhood, made him a kind of factotum on
his estate. He seems to have been a very original character; to have
had superior abilities as an artificer; and to have had most of the
qualities which go to form what is called a "successful" man. He was,
however, a bad financier; he did not understand "business;" and so he
went on through life, contented to remain where he was; his abilities
securing to him competence and comfort; enabling him to give
his children a good education; and to maintain his position as a
respectable and worthy member of society. He had something of the old
Puritan about him, and was "brimful of fun and humour." He was
very original in speech and thought, and he was very earnest in his
religious life and practice. A good story was told me of his quaint
manner. At the chapel of which he was a member, one of the ministers
having died, a successor was appointed, who in some way caused a
division amongst his people, some of whom seceded. Mr. Vince, senior,
remained. Some weeks afterwards it was decided by those who still held
to the old chapel that it would be better for the minister to leave,
but this decision was not made public. A few days after, one of the
seceders, meeting Vince, said, "I understand you're going to buy your
minister a new pulpit gown." "No," was the reply, "you've missed it;
we're going to buy him a _new travelling cloak_."

Mrs. Vince, senior, was a member of a very good family in Sussex,
and was a woman of superior mental powers. She is described as a very
industrious, careful, motherly woman; one to whom all the neighbours
applied for advice and assistance in any trouble or emergency, and
never in vain, for her heart was full of sympathy and her brain of
fertility of resource. She was a pious, humble, God-fearing woman, who
did her duty; trained her children carefully; set them the example
of a truthful, practical, and loving Christian life; and had the
satisfaction of seeing the results of her excellent example and
precepts carried into full life and activity in the career of her only

Such were the parents of Charles Vince, and such the influences which
surrounded his childhood. He was a bright, intelligent boy; he
never had any trouble with his lessons, and was remarkably quick in
arithmetic. His father was very proud of him, and he was sent to the
best school in the place. It was kept by a nephew of the celebrated
William Cobbett. "Tommy" Cobbett, as he was always called, seems to
have been a favourable specimen of a country schoolmaster in those
days. On his leaving the town, about 1837 or 1838, a Mr. Harrington
took his place, and Charles Vince remained as a pupil for a time, but
Harrington went to old Mr. Vince to say that he felt he was dishonest
in taking his money, for "Charles ought to take my place and teach

Upon leaving school, Charles was duly bound apprentice to Messrs.
Mason and Jackson, where he was taught by his father. Without
indentures of apprenticeship in those days, an artificer had no status
in his trade; yet it would seem, in this case, that the "binding" was
regarded by each party as little more than a necessary formality, for
the youth did not spend the whole of his time in the service of his
nominal employers. He was always with his father, and Sir George
Barlow took a great fancy to him. He worked on at his trade, however,
for some years, and only left the workman's bench to assume the
vocation of a teacher.

His parents were members of the Congregational Chapel in the place,
and their son was a constant attendant at the Sunday school, first
as a scholar and afterwards as a teacher. When he was about 17 or 18
years of age, one of his relatives, and the then master of the British
School in the place, conceived the idea of establishing a Mechanics'
Institute. Vince joined the movement with ardour, and the little
institution was soon an accomplished fact. A grammar class, to which
Vince attached himself, was very popular among the young men of the
town, and they soon after established a debating club. Here the latent
talents in Vince developed themselves. He became a fluent speaker,
and was soon asked to deliver a lecture. Being half a poet himself, he
chose Poetry as his topic, and seems to have given himself up to the
preparation of his subject with a determination to succeed. One of his
old I companions (whose towering head, by the way, would be a splendid
artist's "study" for an apostle) told me that at this time they read
together "Paradise Lost," a great part of which he said he could
still repeat from memory. Vince used to declaim aloud the "bits" that
pleased him, and "he was never tired" of the passage in the tenth
book, where the poet, describing the change which followed the Fall,

    "Some say He bid His angels turn askance
    The poles of Earth some ten degrees or more
    From the sun's axle; they with labour pushed
    Oblique the centric globe,...
    ...to bring in change
    Of seasons to each clime; else had the spring
    Perpetual smiled on Earth with verdant flowers,
    Equal in days and nights."

The condition of his mind at this time was so eloquently described to
me by this friend, that I shall quote his words as I took them down
from his own lips: "To ordinary appearance his mind was like a common
flower; with beauty, perhaps, that would not catch the unobservant
eye; but intimate as I was, I could discover in his homely talk,
beauties that those who only knew him slightly could not observe,
because he kept his petals closed. He did not open to many, but I saw,
or thought I saw, the germs of what he afterwards became."

The lecture was a great success, and the conductors of the Sunday
school had no difficulty afterwards in persuading him to give short
addresses to the children. He appears about this time to have
decided to become a preacher, and his character became deepened and
intensified by the determination. This is so well described in a
letter from Farnham that I shall again quote: "When he first fully
made up his mind to give his attention to preaching and teaching, he
and I were deputed to visit a village about an hour's walk from
this town to canvass the houses, and see if a Sunday school could be
established. I remember it was about this time of the year, and with
what delight my friend seemed to drink in all the beauties of Nature
on that quiet Sunday morning. _He seemed, to look on these things with
new eyes_; and he often, in years long after, referred in sermons and
in speeches to that Sunday morning's walk."

The Sunday school was established, and here, "in one of Surrey's
prettiest villages," Vince preached his first sermon in a cottage.

At this time, too, he became a politician, taking his lessons and
forming his political creed from a most unlikely source, apparently.
This was the _Weekly Dispatch_, a paper that in those days was
scarcely thought to be proper reading for young people. He read it,
however, with avidity, and there is no doubt that it had much to do
with forming his political character, and in laying the foundation
of the sturdy inflexibility with which he held to his political
principles. One of his early friends says, "He liked the _Weekly
Dispatch_. The politics, being racy, had a great attraction for him,
and he used to drink them in ravenously."

From this time he was the "pet speaker" of the place. His lectures
at the Mechanics' Institute were delivered frequently, and became
immensely popular. The lecture-room was far too small for the eager
listeners who crowded to hear him. "A large market room" was taken,
and here, when he lectured, there was no space for many who wished to
hear him. He preached on Sundays in the villages around, and at length
was asked to occupy a pulpit in Farnham itself. "I remember," says one
of his friends, "his first sermon in the old Congregational Chapel.
The place was crammed to excess, by people too who were not in the
habit of attending such places."

All this time, this "carpenter, and son of a carpenter," worked
diligently at his trade; but a sudden vacancy occurring in the
management of the Farnham British Schools, he was asked to become the
master. He did so. He left the carpenter's bench on a Saturday, and
became schoolmaster on the following Monday. This, however, was but
a temporary arrangement, for he was at the time negotiating with
the managers of Stepney College to become a pupil there; and, an
opportunity shortly afterwards occurring, which he had very promptly
to accept or refuse, he somewhat abruptly vacated his seat as a
schoolmaster, and became once more a scholar.

This was in 1848. He remained in the college four years, and he
soon learned to laugh heartily at his Farnham Latin and his Farnham
lectures. He was in the habit, while at the college, of going on
Sundays to hear the best preachers in the Metropolis, and he has told
me that he often walked from Stepney to Camberwell to hear Melvill,
who was then the most popular preacher in London.

At the end of his academic career he was invited to become the
minister at Mount Zion Chapel, in Birmingham. How he laboured here
every one in the town can testify, and I need not say one word; but
there is one fact that should be more generally known, as it shows one
result of his work. In the year before he came to Birmingham (1851),
the sum collected in this chapel for the Baptist Missions was £28
4s. 11d. The report for 1874--the last under his care--gives the
amount collected in the year as £332 5s. 5d.

I am obliged to omit much that is interesting, but I have at least
shown that his childhood's home was comfortable and respectable, and
that he did not spend his boyhood among companions unworthy of him.
In his native town his memory is as warmly cherished as it is in
Birmingham. His last public act there was to preach the first sermon
in a new and remarkably handsome Congregational Church, and it is said
that on that occasion, the number of people who sought to hear him was
so great, that the Church, although a spacious one, would not contain
the half of them. "There was no room to receive them; no, not so much
as about the door."

A handsome gothic cross has recently been erected over Vince's grave.
It bears the following inscription:

                              TO THE MEMORY OF

                               CHARLES VINCE,

                BORN, JULY 6, 1824; DIED, OCTOBER 22, 1874:
                           CHAPEL, IN THIS TOWN.

                               As a Preacher
         of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, his teaching was
      especially characterised by perfect faith in the infinite love
     and mercy of God, and by deep and tender sympathy with the hopes,
                   the sorrows, and the struggles of men.
                               As a Citizen,
     his generous zeal for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed,
            made him the strenuous advocate of all efforts for
                       social and political reform.
              The sweetness of his nature, the purity of his
    life, and the manliness and simplicity of his character, compelled
    the respect and attracted the friendship of those who differed from
            him. His courage, integrity, courtesy, and charity,
      won the affection, and his eloquence commanded the admiration,
                  of all classes of his fellow-townsmen,
            by whom this memorial is erected as a tribute to his
                    personal worth and public services.


Everybody in Birmingham knew "Jack Smith, the lawyer." It was
something worth remembering to see him drive up New Street in the
morning on his way to his office. Everything about his equipage was
in keeping. The really beautiful pair of ponies; the elaborate
silver-trimmed brown harness; the delicate ivory-handled whip; the
elegant little carriage; the smart boy-groom behind; and the radiant
owner in front. Most carefully, too, was the owner "got up." His white
hat; his well-fitting coat, with its gay flowers in the button-hole;
his scrupulously clean linen; the bright buff waistcoat; the blue
necktie, and the diamond pin, all seemed to harmonise with his broad,
merry, brown face as he passed along, with a sort of triumphant air,
glancing from side to side, and greeting with a roguish, happy-looking
smile such of the foot passengers as he happened to know. Everybody
turned to look at him; and most people looked as if they felt it to be
a compliment to be recognised by him in the street.


John Smith was the son of Mr. Dyer Berry Smith, a printer, engraver,
and wholesale stationer in a very extensive way of business in
Prospect Row. Forty or fifty years ago his firm was known all over the
country, for they printed the bill-heads for nearly every grocer in
the kingdom, the imprint, "Smith and Greaves, sc.," being prominent
on every one. John was born in Prospect Row, in the year 1819. He
was intended by his father for the medical profession, and spent some
years in preliminary studies. He was exceedingly fond of chemistry, in
which he became very proficient, and the study of which continued to
be a favourite pursuit all his life. He had also considerable skill as
an anatomist, and it is known that, within a few years of his death,
having caught a mole in his garden, he dissected it most skilfully,
with a view to discover the peculiarities of the eyes and optic nerves
of that singular animal. His knowledge of chemical and medical
science was, in after life, of great service to him. No doubt it was a
considerable _factor_ in the marvellous defence he made of Palmer,
the Rugeley poisoner, which, though unsuccessful, was universally
considered amongst lawyers to have been a masterpiece of professional

Having abandoned the idea of becoming a medical practitioner, as not
affording scope for his energetic spirit, he was articled to the
late Mr. Alexander Harrison, the solicitor. Immediately after
the expiration of his articles, Smith made his appearance in the
Bankruptcy Court as an Advocate. In this capacity he showed very great
tact, and an intimate knowledge of every minute point of practice. His
pleasant voice and manner soon made him a favourite; and he applied
himself to this branch of his profession with such success, that it
may be said that down to his death there was scarcely a bankruptcy
case of any importance in the Birmingham Court in which he was not
professionally engaged on one side or the other.

He possessed consummate ability, an imperturbable temper, and
great confidence in himself. His marvellous coolness under the most
embarrassing circumstances, his quickness of apprehension, his ready
wit, and his boundless fertility of resource, have won him many
a legal victory. It is but justice, however, to add that his easy
notions as to truthfulness occasionally carried him over difficulties
which would have been insurmountable by a man of more acute moral

His memory was very tenacious. I had once a very remarkable instance
of this. I was dining at the "Acorn" one Monday, and Smith was there.
He came to me after the cloth was cleared, and said, "Didn't I see you
at Vince's Chapel last night?" On my replying in the affirmative, he
began to eulogise the sermon, which he said he had repeated the night
before, word for word, to some friends at his house, after he got
home. Knowing his failing, I smiled incredulously, but he began
immediately to recite the sermon _verbatim_, and I verily believe that
he could have gone through the whole without a mistake of a single

It is well known that he was often short of money. On one occasion he
wrote to George Edmonds, asking for a loan of seven pounds, adding,
"on Wednesday I will faithfully promise to repay you." Edmonds sent
the money, and on Wednesday called at Smith's office, expecting to be
repaid. After the usual civilities, Edmonds asked for the cash. Smith
affected to be ignorant, but on Edmonds saying, "Well, I've got your
note promising to repay me to-day," said, "Let's look at it, old
fellow; there must be some mistake." The note was produced, and after
reading it, Smith said, "I thought you must be wrong, and I find it
is so; this note says that 'on Wednesday I will'--what? Pay? No.
'Faithfully promise.' Well, I do now faithfully promise to repay you,
but Heaven knows when you'll get the money."

Some years ago one of the Banks brought an action against some one
who owed them money, and Smith was retained for the defence. He first
attempted to compromise the action, but he found that his client had
in some way so annoyed the directors and the manager, that they would
not entertain any proposition; the case therefore stood for trial
at Warwick Assizes. Smith hit upon a very novel expedient. He caused
subpoenas to be served upon every clerk in the bank and upon the
manager. The latter had what is technically called a _subpoena duces
tecum_, in virtue of which he was under an obligation to produce at
Warwick the whole of the books of the establishment. This caused great
dismay, it being seen that if the trial were to go on, the business of
the bank must be entirely suspended. The result was that Smith's terms
were accepted, and the action was settled.

During the "railway mania" of 1845 a company was formed in Birmingham
for making a railway from Wolverhampton to Birkenhead, and Smith was
its solicitor. The company, like many others, "came to grief." The
directors were great losers, and much litigation followed. In those
days there were no "winding up" arrangements, and the creditors of
defunct companies had to sue individual directors to recover the
amount of their claims. One action in connection with this company
came on for trial at Warwick, in 1847 or 1848, before the late Mr.
Justice Patteson. Mr. M. (the present Justice M.) was counsel for
the defence, and Smith was a witness for the plaintiff. The Judge was
deaf, and Smith's loud voice and clear replies evidently pleased him.
He complimented Smith, who was soon in one of his best humours,
his broad, merry face beaming with smiling good-nature. His
examination-in-chief being over, Mr. M. got up, prospectus in hand,
and majestically waving a pair of gold eye-glasses, said, "Well, Mr.
Smith, I see by this prospectus that the solicitor of this company
is John Smith, _Esquire_, Upper Temple Street, Birmingham; are _you_
'John Smith, _Esquire_?'"

Smith (with great energy): "I AM!"

Mr. M. (evidently disconcerted): "Oh! very good, Mr. Smith; very good!
H'm! I see by your prospectus that you had a large number of persons
connected with you in this matter. You had, I see, Parliamentary
agents, solicitors, London solicitors, local solicitors, consulting
engineers, acting engineers, surveyors, auditors, secretary, and a
variety of other officers. Had you standing counsel, Mr. Smith?"

Smith (folding his arms, and with the greatest possible coolness):
"No, we hadn't, Mr. M.; but I remember the subject being discussed
at one of our board meetings, and I mentioned your name as that of
a rising young man at the Bar, and there was some idea of retaining

The effect was electrical. Everybody in court was convulsed with
laughter. The judge put down his pen, threw himself back in his chair,
and laughed until he shook like a piece of _blancmange_. As soon as
he could recover himself, he asked, in tones tremulous with suppressed
mirth, "Are you satisfied, Mr. M.?" Mr. M. was completely nonplussed;
could make no defence; tried to "rub it off" by delivering himself of
a homily upon the degradation it was to the Bar of England that
some of its members should be capable of lending themselves to the
promotion of "Bubble Companies;" but it would not do. He lost his
temper; he lost his case; and it was many years before he heard the
last of it.

Some friends of mine had been directors of this company, and I had a
good deal to do with winding it up. Smith's bill was a curiosity.
Two items in it are probably unsurpassed in the whole records of the
taxing masters' offices. They were as follows:

                                                              £  s. d.
  "Attending, making inquiries, at the houses of eight
  hundred applicants for shares, and twelve hundred
  referees, including calls made at the residences of
  various tradesmen, tax collectors, and others in
  their respective neighbourhoods--say, two thousand
  attendances, at six and eightpence each                   666  13  4

  "Twelve hundred letters to referees, at five
  shillings each                                            300   0  0

It is needless to say that the greater part of these charges was

I met him one morning on the platform of the old Duddeston Row
Station. We were both going to London. He proposed that we should ride
together, but as I had taken a second-class ticket and he a first, I
pointed out the difficulty. "Oh, never mind," said he; "come in here,
they never charge extra for any friends of mine;" so I was persuaded
to go in his carriage. We were alone, and he kept me laughing the
whole of the way. On arriving at Camden Town, where the tickets were
then collected, I took from my purse the amount of the excess fare, so
as to be in readiness for the collector. As soon as he appeared at the
window, Smith set up an unearthly scream; put on a most extraordinary
expression of face; and feigned madness. This behaviour so frightened
the poor collector, that, keeping his eye fixed upon Smith, he
mechanically held out his hand; took my ticket without looking at it;
and hurried from the carriage, evidently congratulating himself upon a
lucky escape.

Smith occasionally got into trouble with the "powers that be;" and in
one case, where he was obstinate, an "attachment" was issued, under
which he was confined for a few days in Coventry Gaol. He became, in
a day or two, the life and soul of the place. I was shown a letter
written by him from prison to the opposing solicitor, asking him to go
over to arrange terms of settlement. "You can come at any time," wrote
Smith; "you'll be sure to find me at home."

He certainly was no common man, and but for one or two unfortunate
deficiencies in his character, he might have risen to great heights
in his profession. He had abilities of no common order, and he had
a "taking" way that was very fascinating. Even those who knew his
failings, and could hardly accord him their _respect_, could not help
_liking_ the man. His somewhat untimely and sudden death caused much
regret. On the morning of September 23rd, 1867, in accordance with
his usual practice, he went for a ride on horseback, returning to his
house in Sir Harry's Road about half-past ten. Feeling somewhat faint,
he retired to his room; a fit of apoplexy supervened. Mr. Samuel
Berry, and Mr. Oliver Pemberton, were hastily summoned. On their
arrival, Smith was found to be insensible, and by twelve o'clock at
noon he had ceased to breathe. He was in his 49th year.


       *       *       *       *       *




"Cocoa treated thus, will, we expect, prove to be one of the most
nutritious, digestible, and restorative of drinks."--_British Medical

"The Essence of Cocoa is just what it is declared to be by Messrs.
Cadbury Brothers."--_The Lancet._

"We strongly recommend Cadbury's Cocoa Essence as a diet for

"Those who wish for pure Cocoa in a convenient form should obtain the
Cocoa Essence.--_Nature._

"The Cocoa Essence is an agreeable and economical preparation; a little
of it goes a great way."--_The Medical Times and Gazette._

One tea-spoonful makes a breakfast cup of stronger and better Cocoa than
two tea-spoonfuls of any "prepared" Cocoa that thickens in the cup.


       *       *       *       *       *



An invaluable Lozenge for Coughs, Colds, Hoarseness, Sore Throats,
Bronchitis, &c.

Boxes. 1s., 2s.6d., and 4s.6d. each.

         *       *       *       *       *


Recommended to persons predisposed to Liver Affections, Weak
Digestion, Flatulence, &c., as an article of diet.

Packets, 6d., 1s., 2s., and 5s. each.

       *       *       *       *       *

Christian's Oriental and Odoriferous Perfumes,

These Perfumes, prepared for the use of The Prince & Princess of
Wales, on their visit to Birmingham, contain, in a concentrated
form, the aroma of the most delicate flowers, and are unrivalled
for their freshness and durability.

       *       *       *       *       *


Prepared with Artesian Well Water, on the
most approved modern methods, and guaranteed
equal to any made.

_Extract from Analyst's Report._--"_The water used is, of many
hundreds analysed by me from the neighbourhood of Birmingham,


Stimulates the stomach and is a grateful antacid and


Are much recommended in Gouty and Rheumatic affections.


Of fine flavour and particularly refreshing.


A fine tonic, possessing the full flavour of Jamaica Ginger.

Prices in Syphons, 3s. to 4s.

Bottles, 1s.3d. to 2s.6d. per dozen.


       *       *       *       *       *

Prepared only by ARBLASTER (late Christian),


_New Street, and 7, Hagley Road, BIRMINGHAM._

       *       *       *       *       *


Feather Beds, Palliasses, Wool, Hair, and Spring Mattresses

Made of the Best and Purest Materials.


Feather Merchant and Purifier.

Show Room for Bedsteads and Bedding.





       *       *       *       *       *


Opposite Temple Row West and St. Philip's Church, BIRMINGHAM,





COLMORE ROW, BIRMINGHAM: Manufactory--High St., Camden Town, London.


       *       *       *       *       *








Catalogues issued on the 15th of each month, gratis and post-free.


       *       *       *       *       *




       *       *       *       *       *


Soda, Potash, and Lithia Waters; Pure Lemonade
and Ginger Beer; also



       *       *       *       *       *



This Food has received the approbation of, and is
recommended by, several most eminent Physicians and
Surgeons, as a real ~Strengthening Food~ for Invalids
and Young Children, containing abundance of Phosphates
and Albumenoids, which are the muscular and bone-forming
substances, and ~NOT STARCH~, which is well known to be
unfit for children as a food.

_Sold in Packets at 6d. and 1s. each; and in Tins at 2s. 6d, and 5s.
each, by most Chemists._

M. BANKS & CO., Chemists,

       *       *       *       *       *









       *       *       *       *       *





The best selected and most extensive Stock of high-class Jewellery
in the Midland Counties.


Including many thoroughly rated and adjusted, with Patent
Resillient Bankings, suitable for every clime.



       *       *       *       *       *









       *       *       *       *       *





For Large and Small Users of Gas.



By means of this Apparatus any person can have, in any building, Gas of
great brilliance and absolute purity, without trouble or danger. No coal
or lime, no retorts, purifiers, or gas-holders are employed. In the
manufacture there is no dirt, no smell, no unsightly and expensive
buildings. It requires no skilled labour in fixing or use, and there are
no extras.

Prices--12 Lights, £16 16s.; 26 Lights, £30; 40 Lights, £42 10s.: 60
Lights, £55; 100 Lights, £90; 150 Lights, £146; 200 Lights, £185; 300
Lights, £265; 400 Lights,£350; 500 Lights, £430.

For further particulars, apply to the Proprietor of the Patent,



_Where the Machines can be seen in operation daily._

       *       *       *       *       *








       *       *       *       *       *

The Midland Educational Company,

School and Commercial Stationers,

Manufacturers of every kind of School and Office Furniture.


The STOCK OF BOOKS, comprising all the Standard and
Newest Books, Bound Books, &c., is the largest
and most varied in the Midland Counties.

Libraries, Public Institutions, Literary Associations, &c., supplied
with Books, Periodicals, and other Publications on the most
liberal terms.

[Illustration: Company Seal]










Catalogues, Terms, and any other information on application to the

91 & 92, NEW STREET, & 40, HIGH STREET,

       *       *       *       *       *






_Patent Duplicate-Marking Whist Table, price £10._




       *       *       *       *       *



The above Spirit, of the best Dublin makes, and 7 years
old, may be obtained at

21s. per Gallon,



Wine and Spirit Merchants,

44 & 45, BULL STREET.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: THOMAS PRICE,
Hatter, Hosier, Glober


SHIRTS ... SIX FOR 30s., 42s., 45s., and 48s.

       *       *       *       *       *

Influenza or Cold in the Head, Hay-Fever,

Sore Throats, &c.,


No medicine required. Sold by Chemists in every Town.




       *       *       *       *       *


Great Britain Mutual Life Assurance Society,





       *       *       *       *       *

Great Britain Fire Insurance Co.,





       *       *       *       *       *

Mantle, Shawl, and Fur Warehouse.



       *       *       *       *       *

Family Grocers

145 & 146, BROAD STREET,

       *       *       *       *       *

Wine and Spirit Merchant,


       *       *       *       *       *


Homeopathic Chemist,
(_Established_ 1846,)
(_Chemist to the Birmingham Homoeopathic Hospital and Dispensary_,)
Prepares all the Medicines used under Homoeopathic Treatment.
Homoeopathic Medicines in Tinctures, Globules, Pilules, and
Triturations, supplied in the greatest Purity.

_1s.6d. and 1s.4d. per lb._

_A preparation containing the essential property of Cocoa,
1s. and 2s. boxes._


       *       *       *       *       *


In special MATERIALS
and SHAPES, for

Coachmen's Coats,
Hats, Hat Covers, &c.


_Surgical Elastic_

For Hot or Cold Water;
Airproof Beds,

SHEETS, &c._
Enemas, Urinals, and
And every description off
in the Trade.

124, New Street, Birmingham.

       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *



Have always a very large stock to select from of all the Newest Designs
and leading Styles in FRENCH and GERMAN SHAWLS, MANTLES, and JACKETS;
also, a large stock of REAL WATERPROOF MANTLES, &c., to which they
invite an inspection.


CRUMP AND PALMER are noted for having the largest stock of REAL SEALSKIN
JACKETS, and Furs of every description, in MUFFS, BOAS, COLLARS, CUFFS,
and FUR TRIMMINGS, and all warranted free from Moth, and the cheapest in
the trade.



       *       *       *       *       *




41, Bull Street, BIRMINGHAM.


The largest and best assortment of handsome Gold SPECTACLES and
EYE-GLASSES, set with best Pebbles, at 41, BULL STREET.


JAMES GARGORY wishes to call the attention of the Public to his
extensive assortment of cheap Jet Ornaments, direct from Whitby.



James Gargory, 41, Bull Street.

       *       *       *       *       *


Wholesale Wine & Spirit Merchant,

       *       *       *       *       *


Grocery and Wax Candle Warehouse,

Selected with care from the finest imported.

A Tea recommended for strength with fine flavour,

Per 2/6 and 3/- lb


Plantation, East India, and Mocha.

A mixture of fine Plantation and East India,

Per 1/6 lb.


       *       *       *       *       *




Register Stoves.
Tile Grates.
Tile Hearths.



Sole Makers of the "Birmingham" Range; also, the "Lichfield" and
"Staffordshire" Ranges, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *






Miniature Painters and Photographers Royal,

(_From the Royal Polytechnic, Regent Street, London_,)

Respectfully announces that they have completed their NEW ROYAL SOLAR

Mr. F. SCOTT has had the honour of Photographing the undermentioned
Eminent Personages, which he trusts will be a sufficient guarantee for
the excellence of his Productions--H.M. The Queen, H.R.H. The Late
Prince Consort, H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, H.R.H. The Crown Princess
of Prussia, H.R.H. The Crown Prince of Prussia, H.R.H. Prince Leopold,
H.S.H. Princess Sophia of Prussia, H.S.H. Prince Henry of Prussia,
H.S.H. Prince George of Prussia and all the Prussian Family, H.I.M.
Maria Amelia, H.I.H. The Comte de Paris, H.I.H. The Comte de Chartres,
H.I.H. Prince Nickamschado of Japan, His Grace The Duke of Marlborough,
Her Grace The Duchess of Marlborough, and the principal Nobility and
Clergy of Europe.

The NEW BERLIN CARTES, as executed of the Family of His Royal Highness
the CROWN PRINCE OF PRUSSIA, and for which Mr. F. Scott received His
Highness's highest approval, 6s. per dozen.

The New Patent Permanent SILICATED CARTES, 10s. per dozen.

in frame, complete.


       *       *       *       *       *




Adopted and recommended by 3,000 Physicians and Surgeons.

       *       *       *       *       *





For Gentlemen, 3/6, 2/6, and 2/- each; and for Ladies (Public), on
Tuesdays and Fridays, 2/6; other days (Private), 3/6 each.



Mercurial Vapour Bath. . 4/- each. | Douche Bath. . . . . 1/- each.
Sulphur Bath . . . . . . 4/-  "    | Sanatorium Bath. . . 1/-  "
Private Vapour Bath. . . 1/6  "    | Sitz Bath. . . . . . 1/-  "
Public Vapour Bath . . . 1/-  "    | Shower Bath. . . . . 1/-  "

N.B.--The only Establishment in the Midland Counties where you can have
such a variety of Baths for the purposes of luxury and health.

JAMES MELLING, Proprietor.
M. MELLING, Superintendent of Ladies.

       *       *       *       *       *






       *       *       *       *       *




The oldest Linen, Woollen, Hosiery, and General
Drapery Establishment in Broad Street.

Families and Hotel Proprietors will meet with a well-assorted
and carefully-bought

at moderate prices.

_The celebrated "Dacca Twist" Calicoes, in Gray and White, always
in stock._


       *       *       *       *       *




To all parts of the World, on an Improved System,



_Open and Closed Vans for Road or Rail. China, Glass, and Wines
carefully removed._


       *       *       *       *       *

Chemical, Mineral, & Aerated Waters Manufacturer,






       *       *       *       *       *




_Of every description, for Home and Exportation_.

Children's Bedsteads, Cots, Swing Cots, Chair Bedsteads, Sofas,
Couches, Chairs, &c.; Camp, Folding, and Portable Bedsteads of all
kinds; Washstands, Towel Bails, Hat Rails, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *

Fruit and Italian Warehouse,



       *       *       *       *       *



_Established in 1821 by the late Benjamin Hudson._


THREEPENCE in the Shilling, for _Cash_.

TWOPENCE in the Shilling, when Entered, and Paid for
within a Month.



       *       *       *       *       *





       *       *       *       *       *


"Heartily do I wish that shop debts were pronounced after a certain date
irrecoverable at law. The effect would be that no one would be able to
ask credit at a shop except where he was well known, and for trifling
sums. All prices would sink to the scale of cash prices. The
dishonourable system of fashionable debtors--who always pay too late, if
at all, and cast their deficiencies on other customers in the form of
increased charges--would be at once annihilated. Shop-keepers would be
rid of a great deal of care, which ruins the happiness of
thousands."--_Professor Newman's Lectures on Political Economy._




For Gentlemen who require no Credit, and who, whilst wishing to wear
high-class Clothing, object to be taxed with other people's credit, bad
debts, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *


Brewers and Wine Merchants,




       *       *       *       *       *






       *       *       *       *       *









       *       *       *       *       *


Cooks, Fruiterers and Confectioners,


(_Three Doors from New Street_)


_Routs, Balls, Suppers, and Wedding Breakfasts supplied._

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Vienna, 1873.]


Patentees and Manufacturers of
Carbonized and other Steel Pens,





       *       *       *       *       *


Coal Merchants,




       *       *       *       *       *




Wholesale Ale and Porter Merchants.


       *       *       *       *       *







_Plans and Estimates furnished for every description of Horticultural
Buildings (both in wood and iron), Verandahs, Skylights, Wrought-iron
Windows, Casements, &c._;


Hot-water Apparatus for Horticultural Buildings, Private Houses,
Churches, Schools, Warehouses, Drying Rooms, &c.


       *       *       *       *       *


57 & 58, BULL STREET.


If you want the luxury of a TRUE-FITTING Shirt, try Merryweather's

6 for 26/-. 6 for 32/-. 6 for 38/-. 6 for 44/-. 6 for 50/-.

       *       *       *       *       *






       *       *       *       *       *


opposite the Town Hall, BIRMINGHAM.

R. MANN & CO.,

_A large stock of the newest and best patterns in British and foreign
Paper Hangings, Borders, Centres, Gilt Mouldings, &c., always on hand._

R. MANN, having had 35 years' experience in carrying out Interior
Decoration (for 8 years in Partnership with the late J.R. LEE,) is
enabled to undertake the Decoration of Mansions, Churches, and Public
Buildings, and will be happy to give references to Gentlemen for whom
work has been executed and Architects whose designs have been carried





       *       *       *       *       *


Silk Mercers and General Drapers,

196 and 197, BRISTOL STREET,


       *       *       *       *       *



Chronometer, Watch, and Clock Manufacturer,



       *       *       *       *       *





       *       *       *       *       *


This Candy is composed of Ginger, Rhubarb, and other Medicines known to
be useful in relieving Flatulency, Heartburn, and the various forms of
Indigestion. It has a very pleasant taste, and if taken for several
weeks permanently strengthens the stomach. Sold in 6d. and 1s. Packets,
and 2s. 6d. Boxes, by


Chemist, 19, New Street, Birmingham; and by all the principal Chemists
in the Midland Counties.


       *       *       *       *       *



84 & 85, BROAD STREET,

Has always on hand a large Stock of the NEWEST AND MOST FASHIONABLE
GOODS, which combine style and quality with very moderate prices.

       *       *       *       *       *



This Couch is applicable to a variety of
uses; it is employed in the drawing-room,
boudoir, bed-room, nursery, garden, hospital,
infirmary, at the sea-side, on shipboard,
in the camp, and by emigrants and travellers
at home and abroad.--84/-

_Invalid Furniture and Reading Easels
of every description._



For 1878, with all the latest improvements, 6 in., 21/-; 8 in., 34/-; 10
in., 48,/-; 12 in., 80/-; 14 in., £5; made up to 40 in.

Prize Medal Hose Reels, 15/- to 90/-; Improved Garden Rollers, 16 in.,
30/-, 18 in., 40/-, 20 in., 50/-, 22 in., 60/-, 24 in., 80/-, 26 in.,
90/-, 30 in., 100/-; Garden Chairs, 7/6; Garden Seats, 6 It., 22/-;
Knife Cleaners, 21/-; Carpet Sweepers, 10/6; Sausage Machines from 10/6
to £24; Mangling and Wringing Machines, 30/-, 40/-, 50/-, 60/-; Chaff
Cutters, 45/-to £24; Bean and Oat Crushers, 70/- to £10. All kinds of
Machines repaired.

G.H. HARRIS, Bristol Street, BIRMINGHAM.

       *       *       *       *       *

ESTABLISHED [Illustration] A.D. 1818.

_The Extensive Ranges of Metallic Hot-Houses in_


_Were executed at this Establishment_.



Horticultural Builder, Hot-Water Apparatus Engineer.



_Book of Designs post free for 60 stamps._

       *       *       *       *       *




And sold at their Retail Establishments,



Guaranteed Pure and Wholesome, as certified by the Borough Analyst.

       *       *       *       *       *



51, NEW STREET, nearly opposite the Theatre Royal, BIRMINGHAM.

from £2 5 0._




from £2 0 0._


from £1 5 0._




from £1 0 0._





       *       *       *       *       *








       *       *       *       *       *


26s. per Gallon.

This fine Brandy has been kept in bond in this country till it
is fully matured, and we respectfully ask comparison with Case
Brandy at 60s. to 72s. per dozen.

We advise the public to place no confidence whatever in the
mere putting up of the article in bottle in France, but to buy value
and not names.


LIVERPOOL.                      28, High Street, BIRMINGHAM.


We beg to call attention to our large and well-matured stock of
this excellent and moderate-priced Wine. The price at which we offer
it is so reasonable, and the quality so fine, that we consider it the
_best_ and most _economical_ wine for _dinner_ and _household use_.

Price, 18s. per Dozen; 8s.6d. per Gallon.

INNES, SMITH, &. CO., 28, High Street, BIRMINGHAM.

       *       *       *       *       *








187, 188, & 189, BROAD STREET,

       *       *       *       *       *












       *       *       *       *       *






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