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Title: A History of Inland Transport and Communication in England
Author: Pratt, Edwin A.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A History of Inland Transport and Communication in England" ***

Transcriber's note: Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).
      Page numbers enclosed by curly braces (example: {25}) have been
      incorporated to facilitate the use of the Index.

       *       *       *       *       *













National Industries

  Edited by

  _Large 8vo._      _Cloth gilt._      _Each 6s. net_

The first volumes in this series will be:--




  SHIPPING. By C. J. Hamilton.

  THE COAL TRADE. By H. Stanley Jevons.


Designed as the introductory volume of a series of books--by various
writers--dealing with our "National Industries," the present work aims at
telling the story of inland transport and communication from the earliest
times to the present date, showing, more especially, the effect which the
gradual development thereof, in successive stages, and under ever-varying
circumstances, has had alike on the growth and expansion of trade and
industry and on the general economic and social conditions of the country.

The various phases of inland transport described in the course of the work
include roads, rivers, canals, turnpikes, railways, tramways, and rail-less
electric traction; and the facilities for communication of which accounts
are given comprise packhorses, waggons, stage-coaches, "flying" and
mail-coaches, private carriages, posting, hackney coaches, cabs, omnibuses,
cycles, motors, motor-buses, commercial motors, and aeroplanes. Reference
is (_inter alia_) made to most of the English rivers and to many inland
towns; the origin, achievements, and shortcomings of canals are traced; a
complete outline of the turnpike system is given; a short history of
tramways comprises the leading points therein; the story of the rise,
development and prospects of the motor industry is related; while the
evolution and development of the railways and their position to-day both as
a means of transport and communication and as constituting in themselves a
"National Industry" are treated in such a way as to afford, it is hoped, a
comprehensive idea of the railway system from its very earliest origin down
to the strikes and the {vi}controversy following the close of the Royal
Commission of Inquiry in the autumn of 1911.

Incidentally, also, allusion is made to the rise of Bristol, Lynn,
Liverpool, and various other ports; the early history of the textile
industries, the cutlery trades, the iron trade, the salt trade, and the
coal trade is briefly sketched, while the facts narrated in relation
thereto should enable the reader to realise the bearing, throughout the
ages, of State policy towards the general question of transport. Finally,
the present situation and the future outlook are brought under review.

Even as these pages are passing through the press new developments are
occurring which confirm the suggestion I have made, on page 470, that "in
the dictionary of transport there is no such word as 'finality.'"

While it is still true that the electrification of the London suburban
railways has not been generally adopted by the trunk companies, yet the
scheme in this connection announced, on November 18, 1911, by the London
and North-Western Railway Company (see page 507) supplementing the action
already taken by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company in
regard to some of their suburban lines, is significant of a growing
determination on the part of the great railway companies to defend their
own interests by competing, in turn, with the electric tramways, which have
absorbed so much of the suburban traffic of late years.

Following closely on this one announcement comes another, to the effect
that a new company is about to set up, in the Midlands, works covering
thirty-four acres for the construction of a type of petrol-electric omnibus
for which great advantages over the earlier motor-omnibuses are claimed.
(This, presumably, is the vehicle which the Tramways Committee of the
Edinburgh Corporation, as mentioned on page 470, propose to watch in
preference to deciding at once on a system of rail-less electric traction.)

{vii}In commenting on the former of the announcements here in question,
"The Times Engineering Supplement" of November 22, 1911, observes:--

  It is of importance to realise what this decision portends. The history
  of the matter is that the steam railways were inadequate to fulfil the
  requirements of the suburbs, and that an opening was thus afforded to
  municipalities to provide tramways of their own. It was a crude method of
  dealing with the problem; it robbed the main roads of every vestige of
  rural character, and it added new dangers and checks to street traffic.
  Nevertheless it was a necessity, and it served its purpose, first, by
  providing facilities that were always cheap to the travellers, even if
  they were occasionally dear to the taxpayers; and, secondly, by
  stimulating the railway companies to adopt means to get back their lost
  traffic. Now that the railway companies are fully alive to the
  opportunities offered to them by electrification, the general aspect of
  the problem is changed, and additional support is given to the belief
  that electric railways and motor-omnibuses will carry an increasing
  proportion of London traffic, and that from some roads at least tramways
  may even disappear altogether.

In other directions there are reports of individual agriculturists who are
constructing light railways of their own to secure direct communication
between their farms and the nearest main line railway, sympathetic local
authorities having offered them practical encouragement by making only a
nominal charge for the privilege of crossing the public roads where this is
necessary. A new era in agricultural transport and cultivation is further
foreshadowed in the announcement that it is quite reasonable to believe
that resort to rail-less electric traction will serve as a means of
introducing electrical supply into rural areas for agricultural purposes;
while in the House of Lords on November 22, 1911, Lord Lucas, replying for
the Government to some comments made by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu on the
first report of the Road Board (dealt with on page 481), said that body
considered the most important thing at present was to improve the surface
of the roads; but {viii}"they had borne in mind the fact that it would be
necessary for them before long to undertake larger operations, involving
heavier expenditure."

Still further developments occurring, maturing, or under consideration when
the text of the present work was already in type include--

(1) A projected alliance between the tube railways and the London General
Omnibus Company, following on the conspicuous success obtained by the
latter in substituting motor for horsed vehicles for the 300,000,000
passengers it carries annually.

(2) The issuing of "Minutes of Evidence taken before the Departmental
Committee of the Board of Trade on Railway Agreements and Amalgamations"
[Cd. 5927], containing some notable expressions of opinion by railway
managers concerning the future of the railway system, together with much
important information on the general subject.

(3) The publication, on December 1, of the Fourth Annual Report of the
London Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade [Cd. 5972], which deals with
various matters already touched upon in my last three chapters, including
the effects of improved transport facilities on the migration of population
from the inner to the outer suburban ring; the further widening of the
motor-transport delivery radius, to the advantage of urban, but to the
disadvantage of suburban traders; the steady substitution of mechanical
traction for horse-drawn vehicles of every type--the Report predicting, on
this point, that "if two-wheeled horse cabs continue to diminish at the
rate of the last two years, they will disappear before the end of 1912";
the improbability of further material extensions of the tramway system, and
the assumption that "the competition of promoters for the privilege of
constructing tube railways has come to an end"; while the Report also
discusses the merits of a scheme for the provision, at an estimated cost of
between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 of about 120 miles of great
{ix}arterial roads across London for the accommodation of the increasing
traffic, and of still another scheme, put forward by a Departmental
Committee of the General Post Office, for relieving the streets of London
of a good deal of mail-van traffic by the construction of an underground
electric railway, 6½ miles in length, and costing £513,000, across the
centre of London from east to west, for the conveyance of Post Office
matter, the Report further suggesting that this particular system might be
found equally applicable to other forms of enterprise which require the use
of carts for the frequent conveyance of goods in small consignments between
fixed points.

(4) The passing by the House of Commons, on November 22, of a resolution
expressing the opinion that a meeting should take place between the parties
on whose behalf the Railway Agreement of August 19, 1911, was signed (see
p. 448), "to discuss the best mode of giving effect to the Report of the
Royal Commission"; the acceptance by such parties of Board of Trade
invitations to a conference, in accordance with the terms of this
resolution, and the holding of a conference which began, at the offices of
the Board of Trade, on December 7, under the presidency of Sir George
Askwith, Chief Industrial Commissioner, and resulted, on December 11, in a
settlement being effected.

(5) The prospective increase, from January 1, 1912, of certain season,
excursion, week-end or other special-occasion fares (many of which now work
out at a rate of a halfpenny or a farthing, or even less than a farthing,
per mile) as a means of assisting the railway companies to meet advances in
wages, such increases in passenger fares (distinct from any increases in
merchandise rates, for a like reason, as foreshadowed by the Government
undertaking of August 19, 1911, alluded to on pp. 448 and 511) being
already in the option of the companies, provided the latter do not exceed
the powers conferred on them by their Acts, and subject to the condition
that on fares of over a penny the mile Government duty must be paid.

{x}(6) The reading, by Mr. Philip Dawson, at the Royal Automobile Club, on
December 8, of a valuable paper on "The Future of Railway Electrification,"
in which--after detailing what had already been done in the United States,
in Germany, and, in this country, on the suburban systems of the Lancashire
and Yorkshire, the North Eastern and the London, Brighton, and South Coast
railways--he showed the practicability and the advantages of applying
electric traction (single phase system) to main-line long-distance traffic;
announced that the surveys and calculations in connection with a scheme for
electrifying the whole of the L.B. and S.C. Railway Company's services
between London and Brighton were already far advanced; mentioned that such
a transformation would allow of a 10 to 15-minute service to Brighton and
of the 52-mile journey being done by non-stop trains in about 45 minutes,
or by stopping trains in about 60 minutes; and declared that "the equipment
of this line if, as he hoped would be the case, it were carried out, would
be epoch-making in the history of British railways."

Thus the whole subject of inland transport is now so much "in the air" that
the story of its gradual and varied development, as here told--and this,
too, for the first time on the lines adopted in the present work--should
form a useful contribution to the available literature on one of the most
important of present-day problems.


  _December 12, 1911._


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE

       I. INTRODUCTORY                                             1
      II. BRITAIN'S EARLIEST ROADS                                 4
     III. ROADS AND THE CHURCH                                    11
      IV. EARLY TRADING CONDITIONS                                15
       V. EARLY ROAD LEGISLATION                                  28
      VI. EARLY CARRIAGES                                         35
     VII. LOADS, WHEELS AND ROADS                                 43
    VIII. THE COACHING ERA                                        51
      IX. THE AGE OF BAD ROADS                                    64
       X. THE TURNPIKE SYSTEM                                     77
     XII. SCIENTIFIC ROAD-MAKING                                  98
    XIII. RIVERS AND RIVER TRANSPORT                             108
      XV. DISADVANTAGES OF RIVER NAVIGATION                      150
     XVI. THE CANAL ERA                                          165
    XVII. THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION                              186
   XVIII. EVOLUTION OF THE RAILWAY                               195
     XIX. THE RAILWAY ERA                                        222
      XX. RAILWAY EXPANSION                                      242
     XXI. RAILWAYS AND THE STATE                                 258{xii}
    XXII. DECLINE OF CANALS                                      294
   XXIII. DECLINE OF TURNPIKES                                   312
    XXIV. END OF THE COACHING ERA                                325
     XXV. RAILWAY RATES AND CHARGES                              335
    XXVI. THE RAILWAY SYSTEM TO-DAY                              359
   XXVII. WHAT THE RAILWAYS HAVE DONE                            385
  XXVIII. RAILWAYS A NATIONAL INDUSTRY                           405
     XXX. CYCLES, MOTOR-VEHICLES AND TUBES                       472
    XXXI. THE OUTLOOK                                            494
          AUTHORITIES                                            514
          INDEX                                                  522







The gradual improvement, throughout the centuries, of those facilities for
internal communication which reached their climax in the creation of the
present system of railways has constituted a dominating factor alike in our
industrial and in our social advancement as a people.

Until transport had provided a ready means alike of collecting raw
materials and of distributing food supplies and manufactured articles,
industries of the type familiar to us to-day were practically impossible;
and until convenient and economical means of travel were afforded, England
had to be considered less as a nation than as a collection of more or less
isolated communities, with all the disadvantages, social and moral as well
as economic, necessarily resulting; while the social and moral progress
facilitated by improved means of communication reacted, in turn, on the
industries by creating new wants for manufacturers and workers to supply.

To the right understanding of the position occupied by our National
Industries, it is thus necessary that the special significance of internal
communication and its development should, at the outset, be clearly
realised from the point of view, not alone of present-day circumstances,
but, also, of conditions that either preceded the industries themselves--so
far checking their growth that industrial development in Great Britain came
at a much later date than in many {2}countries on the Continent of
Europe--or else aided materially in the expansion of industries as the
disadvantages and drawbacks began to disappear.

That industries existed when internal communication was still in a
primitive stage in this country is true enough; but they were "domestic"
rather than "national," and it was not until the advent of better means of
transport that it became possible for them to begin to pass from the one
stage to the other, and, at the same time, to exercise so important an
influence on our advancement as a nation. It is no less true that British
commerce, conducted by ships obtaining ready access to foreign ports by
traversing ocean highways, had made much greater progress at an early
period in our history than industries dependent on inland highways that
were then either non-existent or scarcely passable; yet, though navigation
might advance still further, and though navigators might discover still
more new countries, commerce could not hope to attain to the expansion it
subsequently underwent until the industries whose operations were to be
facilitated by improvement in land communication supplied the merchants
with the home commodities which they required for sale or exchange in the
markets of the world. Whatever, again, the natural resources of a
country--and such resources have certainly been great in our own--they may
be of little material value until they can be readily moved from the place
where they exist to the place where they can be used; and even then it is
necessary that the cost of transport shall not be unduly high.

Transport and communication by land and water have thus become what Prof.
J. Shield Nicholson rightly calls, in his "Principles of Political
Economy," "the bases of industrial organisation"; and it is to industrial
organisation that a country such as ours has been indebted in a pre-eminent
degree both for its material prosperity and for the position it occupies
to-day among the nations of the world. But just as British engineers long
regarded the subject of road construction and road repairs as beneath their
notice, and left such work to be done by any parish "surveyor," subsidised
pauper or "Blind Jack of Knaresboro'," who thought fit to engage in it, so
have most writers of history, while zealously recording the actions of
kings, of diplomatists, of politicians, and of warriors who may have made a
great stir in their day but who took only a very {3}small share in the real
and permanent progress of the British people, bestowed only a passing
reference--and sometimes not even that--on questions of trade and transport
which have played a far more important part in our social and national

The history of railways has already been told by various writers. But the
history of railways is only the last chapter in the history of inland
transport and communication; and, though that last chapter is of paramount
importance, and will here receive full recognition, it is essential that
those who would form a clear idea of the position as a whole should begin
the story at the beginning, and trace the course of events leading up to
the conditions as they exist to-day.



It has been assumed in some quarters that, because the main routes of
travel in this country did not have to pass over lofty mountains, as in
Austria and Switzerland, therefore the construction of roads here was, or
should have been, a comparatively easy matter. But this is far from having
been the case, the earliest opening of regular lines of communication by
road having been materially influenced by certain physical conditions of
the land itself.

The original site of London was a vast marsh, extending from where Fulham
stands to-day to Greenwich, a distance of nine or ten miles, with a breadth
in places of two or two and a half miles. The uplands beyond the Thames
marshes were covered with dense forests in which the bear, the wild boar,
and the wild ox roamed at will. Essex was almost entirely forest down to
the date of the conquest. Nearly the whole expanse of what to-day is
Sussex, and, also, considerable portions of Kent and Hampshire, were
covered by a wood--the Andred-Weald, or Andreswald--which in King Alfred's
time is said by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been 120 miles long and
30 miles broad. Here it was that, until even these great supplies were
approaching exhaustion, the iron industry established in Sussex in the
thirteenth century obtained the wood and the charcoal which were
exclusively used as fuel in iron-making until the second half of the
eighteenth century, when coal and coke began to be generally substituted.
Wilts, Dorset and other southern counties had extensive woodlands which
were more or less depleted under like conditions. Warwickshire,
Northamptonshire and Leicestershire all had extensive woods. Sherwood
Forest extended over almost the whole of Nottinghamshire. In Derbyshire, as
shown by the Domesday Survey, five hundreds {5}out of six were heavily
wooded, and nineteen manors out of twenty-three had wood on them. "In
Lancashire," says Charles Pearson, in the notes to his "Historical Maps of
England During the First Thirteen Centuries," "if we distinguish forest
from wood, and assume that the former was only wilderness, we still have
official evidence for believing that a quarter of a million acres of the
land between Mersey and Ribble was covered with a network of separate dense

Altogether, it is calculated by various authorities that in the earliest
days of our history about one third of the surface of the soil in the
British Isles was covered with wood, thicket, or scrub. Of the remainder a
very large proportion was fen-land, marsh-land or heath-land. "From the
sea-board of Suffolk and Norfolk," says the Rev. W. Denton, in "England in
the Fifteenth Century," "and on the north coast almost to the limits of the
great level, stretched a series of swamps, quagmires, small lakes and
'broads.'" A great fen, 60 miles in length and 40 miles in breadth, covered
a large proportion of the counties of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire,
Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. A great part of
Lancashire, Mr Denton further states, was a region of marshes and quaking
mosses, while "from Norwich to Liverpool, and from the mouth of the Ouse at
Lynn to the Mersey, where it falls into the Irish sea, a line of fen,
uncultivated moors and morasses stretched across England and separated the
northern counties from the midland districts, the old territory of Mercia."

Much of the surface, again, was occupied by hills or mountains separated by
valleys or plains through which some 200 rivers--many of them far more
powerful streams than they are to-day--flowed towards the sea. As for the
nature of much of the soil of England, the early conditions are further
recalled by Daniel Defoe who, in describing the "Tour through the Whole
Isle of Great Britain" which he made in the first quarter of the eighteenth
century, speaks of "the soil of all the midland part of England, from sea
to sea," as "a stiff clay or marly earth" for a breadth of 50 miles, at
least, so that it was not possible to go north from London to any part of
Britain without having to pass through "these terrible clays," which were,
he says, "perfectly frightful to travellers."

{6}It was under conditions such as these that Britain obtained her first
roads; and it was, also, conditions such as these that were to affect more
or less the future history of inland communication in England, adding
largely to the practical difficulties experienced in making provision for
adequate transport facilities.

Inasmuch as a great number of chariots were used by the Britons in their
attempt to resist the invasion of Cæsar, it may be assumed that there were
even then in this country roads sufficiently broad and solid on which such
chariots could run; and though evidence both of the use of wattles in the
making of roads over clayey soil and of a knowledge on the part of the
early Britons of the art of paving has been found, the British
chariot-roads were so inefficiently constructed that few traces of them
have remained.

The earliest British roads were, however, probably of the nature of tracks
rather than of durable highways; and they may have been designed less for
the purposes of defence against invasion than in the interests of that
British trade which, even then, was an established institution in the land.

Writing in "Archæologia," vol. xlviii (1885), Mr Alfred Tylor expresses the
view that the civilisation of the Britons was of a much higher character in
some respects than has till recently been supposed. From the fact that
Pytheas of Marseilles, a Greek traveller who lived B.C. 330, and visited
Britain, described the British-made chariots, he thinks we may assume that
the Britons had discovered the art of smelting and working tin, lead and
iron, and that they used these materials in the making both of chariots and
of weapons. But they produced for export, as well as for domestic use. Tin,
more especially, was an absolute necessity in Europe in the bronze age for
use in the making of weapons both for the chase and for war, and the
metallurgical wealth of Britain afforded great opportunities for trading,
just as it subsequently gave the country the special importance it
possessed in the eyes of the Roman conquerors.

To the pursuit of such trading the Britons, according to Mr Tylor, were the
more inspired by a desire to obtain, in return for their metals the amber
which, as the favourite ornament of prehistoric times, then constituted a
most important article of commerce, but was obtainable only in the north of
Europe. {7}The early importance of amber in Europe is proved, Mr Tylor
says, by its presence in many parts of Europe throughout the long neolithic
age, and, therefore, long prior to the bronze age; and it was mainly to
facilitate the exchange of metals for this much-desired amber that the
Britons made roads or tracks from the high grounds which they generally
chose for their habitations (thus avoiding alike the forests, the fens and
the marshes), down to the ports from which the metals were to be shipped to
their destination. Mr Tylor says on this point:--

"The first British tin-commerce with the Continent in prehistoric times
moved, either on packhorses or by chariots, in hilly districts, towards
Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, that is, in the direction from west to east;
then by sea from the eastern British shipping ports, of which Camulodunum
on the Stour, close to the Thames (Colchester) is a type, to the Baltic.
Thus at first the 'tin' used to find its way partly by land and partly by
sea from Cornwall to the mouths of the Elbe and Vistula, there to meet the
land caravans of the Baltic amber commerce from the north of Europe to the
south.... When the land route throughout Gaul was established the tin had
to go across the English Channel, not to Brittany, across the rougher and
wider part, but to Normandy. The Isle of Wight was nearer Normandy, and a
suitable entrepôt for the coasters meeting the fleets of ocean trading

"Iron and lead were, also, valuable British productions, and could easily
reach the Isle of Wight by coasting steamers or by the British or Roman
roads via Salisbury or Winchester....

"All ancient roads to British shipping ports were, of course, British....
Without roads it would be impossible to get over the low, often clay,
grounds, or to reach the seaports in chariots, as the seaports were
constantly in the clay.... It was impossible to reach the shipping-ports,
which are all at low levels, without roads, as the clay and sand would be
impassable for chariots. Of course packhorses could travel where chariots
could not, but if the main roads were made for chariots they would be
equally good for packhorses."

Mr Tylor thinks there is the greater reason for assuming that a
considerable trade had thus been developed between {8}Britain and the
Continent because Tacitus alludes to a British prince who had amassed great
wealth by transporting metals from the Mendips to the Channel coast; but
our main consideration is the evidence we get of the fact that Britain's
earliest roads appear to have owed their origin to the development of
Britain's earliest trade.

Two, at least, of the four great roads to which the designation "Roman" has
been applied followed, in Mr Tylor's opinion, the line of route already
established by the Britons under the conditions here indicated. Certain it
is that, although the Romans always aimed at building their roads in
straight lines, and troubled little about ascents and descents, they
followed the British plan of keeping the routes to high and dry ground,
whenever practicable, in order to have a better chance of avoiding alike
the woods, the bogs, the clays, the water-courses and the rivers.

Skilled road-builders though they were, the Romans shrank, in several
instances, Pearson tells us, from "the tremendous labour of clearing a road
through a forest where the trees must be felled seventy yards on either
side to secure them from the arrows of a lurking foe." Thus the great
military roads marked in the Itinerary of Antonine always, if possible,
avoided passing through a forest. The roads to Chichester went by
Southampton in order to avoid the Andred-Weald of Sussex, and the road from
London to Bath did not take the direct route to Wallingford because, in
that case, it would have required to pass through twenty miles of forest in
Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Later on, however, as the Roman rule
became more firmly established, the making of roads through forests became
unavoidable, and much destruction of timber followed, while the fact that
the trees thus felled were left to rot on the ground alongside the roads
helped to create the quagmires and "mosses" which were to be so great a
source of trouble to road-makers in future generations.

As regards the routes taken by the Roman roads, Mr. Tylor says:--

"The Romans made a complete system of permanent inland roads to connect the
Continent with the military posts, London, York, Colchester, Chester,
Uriconium, Gloucester, Winchester, Silchester, Porchester and Brading, and
chief {9}trading towns with each other. At commanding points along or near
these roads the Romans constructed camps, and so placed their legions as to
protect the centres of metallurgical industry and the roads leading to
them.... The Romans did not originate the sites of many new seaport towns
or towns on large, navigable rivers, and, when they did so, as in the case
of London, Richborough, Uriconium, Rochester, Canterbury, it was for
strategical reasons, or indirectly connected with the traffic in minerals,
the great industry of Britain during the Roman occupation as it was before
it.... Silchester ... was forty-five miles from London, and was on high
ground away from river or forests, and not far from the junction of a
number of land-routes. It was on dry ground on which waggons could travel.
It was convenient for roads giving access to Cornwall for tin; to the
Mendips for lead, copper or brass; Gloucester and South Wales for iron; and
from these termini there were routes passable to the east and south coasts
of England."

From all this it would seem that the mineral wealth and the trading
interests which had inspired the line of route of the earliest British
roads were, side by side with military considerations, leading factors in
the particular direction given to the Roman roads that followed them.

As for the Roman roads themselves, so admirably were they built that some
of those laid down in ancient Rome and in France have been in use for from
1500 to 2000 years, while remains of Roman roads found in Britain, buried
deeply under the debris of centuries, have still borne striking evidence of
the solid manner in which they were first constructed.

But the point that here arises for consideration is, not only the high
quality of the great roads the Romans built in Britain, but the
broad-minded policy by which the builders themselves were influenced. The
provision of a system of scientifically constructed roads wherever they
went was, primarily, part of the Roman plan of campaign in the wars of
aggrandisement they carried on; but it was further designed to aid in
developing the resources of the country concerned, while it was, also,
carried out in Britain by the Roman State itself, on lines embracing the
transport conditions of the country as a whole, and in accordance with a
unified and well-planned system of internal communication on "national"
{10}lines such as no succeeding administration attempted either to follow
or to direct.

Thus the great Roman roads, connecting the rising city on the Thames and
the commercial centre of Britain with every part of the island, were
remarkable, not only because they represented an art which was to disappear
with the conquerors themselves, but, also, because they had been directly
created, and were directly controlled, by a central authority as the
outcome of a State road policy itself fated in turn to disappear no less
effectually. The almost invariable practice in this country since the
departure of the Romans has been for the State, instead of following the
Roman example, and regarding as an obligation devolving upon itself the
provision of adequate means of intercommunication between different parts
of the country, to leave the burden and responsibility of making such
provision to individual citizens, to philanthropic effort, to private
enterprise, or to local authorities. The result has been that not only, for
successive generations, were both the material progress and the social
advancement of the English people greatly impeded, but the actual
development of such intercommunication was to show, far too often (1) a
lamentable want of intelligence and skill in meeting requirements; and (2)
a deficiency of system, direction and co-ordination as regards the many
different agencies or authorities concerned in the results actually



Following the departure of the Romans, not only road-making but even
road-repairing was for several centuries wholly neglected in this country.
The Roman roads continued to be used, but successive rulers in troublesome
times were too busily engaged in maintaining their own position or in
waging wars at home or abroad to attend to such prosaic details as the
repairing of roads, and they had, apparently, still less time or
opportunity for converting into roads hill-side tracks which the Romans had
not touched at all.

In proportion, too, as the roads were neglected, the bridges of the earlier
period got out of repair, fell in altogether, or were destroyed in the
social disorders of the time. So the mediæval ages found the means of
internal communication by land probably worse in Britain than in any other
country in western Europe.

The State having failed to acquit itself of its obligations, the Church
took up the work as a religious duty. The keeping of roads in repair came
to be considered, as Jusserand says in "English Wayfaring Life in the
Middle Ages," "a pious and meritorious work before God, of the same sort as
visiting the sick and caring for the poor." Travellers were regarded as
unfortunate people whose progress on their toilsome journeys it was
Christian charity to assist. In these circumstances the religious houses of
the period took over the task of making or repairing both roads and
bridges, the faithful being encouraged to assist in the good work, either
through gifts or with personal labour, by the concession to them of special
indulgencies. Jusserand tells, for instance, how Richard de Kellawe, Bishop
of Durham, 1311-1316, remitted part of the penalties on the sins of those
who did good work in helping to make smooth the way of the wanderer, his
episcopal register {12}containing frequent entries of 40-day indulgencies
granted to contributors to the road-repair funds. There were benefactors,
also, who left to the monasteries lands and houses the proceeds of which
were to be applied to the same public purpose; while in proportion as the
monasteries thus increased the extent of their own landed possessions they
became still more interested in the making and repairing of roads in the
neighbourhoods in which the lands they had acquired were situated.

In those days, in fact, people bequeathed not only land, or money, but even
live stock for the repair of roads just as they left gifts for
ecclesiastical purposes, or as people to-day make bequests to charitable
institutions. The practice continued until, at least, the middle of the
sixteenth century, since in the Sixth Report of the Historical Manuscripts
Commission there will be found (page 422) the last will and testament,
dated May 16, 1558, of John Davye, in which the testator says:--

"I leve and bequeithe a cowpell of oxson that I boughte the laste yere to
the building of Moulde Church where I dwell; And I bequieth a bullocke that
I boughte of the Royde unto the mendynge of the hye waie betwixte my howse
and the Molld."

Bequests of money or lands were also made for the construction or the
maintenance of bridges, or for the freeing of bridges from toll so that the
poor could cross without payment; and one of the duties of the bishops,
when making their visitations, was to enquire whether or not the funds thus
left were being applied to the purposes the donors intended.

On the Continent of Europe a religious order was founded, in the twelfth
century, for the building of bridges. It spread over several countries and
built some notable bridges--such, for instance, as that over the Rhone at
Avignon; though there is no trace, Jusserand tells us, of these Bridge
Friars having extended their operations to this country. It was, however,
from them that laymen learned the art of bridge-building, and in Britain,
as in Continental countries, bridges came to be considered as pious works,
to be put under the special charge of a patron saint. To this end it was
customary to build a chapel alongside an important bridge--as in the case
of the old London Bridge that replaced the original wooden structure by
Peter Colechurch, "priest and chaplain," itself {13}having had a chapel
dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Sovereigns or great landowners
gave generous gifts for the endowment of such bridges. Although, too, there
was no special order of bridge-building friars in England, guilds and lay
brotherhoods, animated by the religious spirit, were formed in the reign of
Richard II. (1377-1399) for the repair of roads and bridges, just as, in
turn, the ordinary trading guilds which were the forerunners of the
corporate bodies set up in towns undertook to "maintain and keep in good
reparacion" bridges which had become "ruinous," and, also, to attend to the
"foul and dangerous highways, the charge whereof the town was not able to

It became customary, also, for hermits to take up their habitation in cells
along the main thoroughfares, and to occupy themselves with looking after
the roads, trusting to the alms of passers-by for a little worldly
recompense. In one instance, at least, a hermit was allowed to put up a
toll-bar--the first on record in this country--and collect compulsory
payments from persons using the roads he mended. This was in 1364, when
Edward III. made a decree authorising "our well-beloved William Phelippe
the hermit" to set up a toll-bar on the lower slope of Highgate Hill, on
the north side of London, and levy tolls for the repair of the "Hollow Way"
from "our people passing between Heghgate and Smethfelde."

Jusserand sums up the situation at this period by saying that "The roads in
England would have been entirely impassable ... if the nobility and the
clergy, that is to say, the whole of the landed proprietors, had not had an
immediate and daily interest in possessing passable roads."

There came, however, a period of decline in religious fervour. The laity
grew less disposed to give or to bequeath money, {14}land or cattle for
road-repair purposes, however much the offer of indulgences in return
therefor might be increased from days to months or even to years; and the
clergy, in turn, became more remiss in acquitting themselves of the
obligations they had assumed as road-repairers. They accepted the
benefactions, and they granted the indulgences; but they showed increasing
laxity in carrying out their responsibilities. The roadside hermits, also,
gathered in so much in the way of contributions, voluntary or compulsory,
from passers-by that they ate and drank more than hermits ought to do, grew
fat and lazy, and too often left the roads to look after themselves.

What, therefore, with neglected roads and dilapidated bridges, the general
conditions of travel went from bad to worse. Church Councils, says Denton,
were summoned and adjourned because bishops feared to encounter the danger
of travelling along such roads. Oratories were licensed in private houses,
and chapels of ease were built, because roads were so bad, especially in
winter, that the people could not get to their parish churches. The
charter, 47 Edward III., 1373, by which the city of Bristol was constituted
a county, states that this was done in order to save the burgesses from
travelling to Gloucester and Ilchester, "distant thirty miles of road,
deep, especially in winter time, and dangerous to passengers." On many
different occasions, too, the members of the House of Commons, assembled
for a new session, could transact no business because the Peers had been
detained by the state of the roads and the difficulty of travelling, and
Parliament was, therefore, adjourned.

The general conditions grew still worse with the impoverishment of the
monasteries by which the main part of the work had--however
negligently--been done since the end of the Roman régime. As will be shown
later on, various statutes had gradually imposed more and more the care of
the roads on the laity, and it was upon them that the full responsibility
fell with the eventual dissolution, first of the lesser, and next of the
greater, monasteries by Henry VIII.



Rivers constituted, in the Middle Ages, the most important means of inland
transport. Most of our oldest towns or cities that were not on the route of
one of the Roman roads were set up alongside or within easy reach of some
tidal or navigable stream in order, among other reasons, that full
advantage could be taken of the transport facilities the waterways offered.
So were monasteries, castles, and baronial halls, while the locating of the
universities of Oxford and Cambridge on the Thames and the Cam respectively
rendered them accessible by sea and river to Scottish and other students
from the north who could hardly have made their way thither by land.[3]

It was, however, only a limited number of inland places that could be
reached by water, and other towns or settlements were wanted. The trading
opportunities of the latter were at first restricted to the packhorse, few
of the roads being then adapted for even the most primitive of agricultural
waggons. Long lines of packhorses, with bales or panniers slung across
their backs, made their way along roads or bridle paths often inadequate to
allow of two strings of loaded horses to pass one another, so that many a
quarrel arose, when two teams met, as to which should go into the mud to
allow the other to pass along the path proper.

Traders sending wool or other commodities by the same route were in the
habit of making up companies in order to secure mutual protection against
robbers, and they armed themselves and their servants as if going to
battle. Like precautions were taken by merchants from the north when they
started on their annual business journeys to {16}London--journeys so full
of peril that they were not begun until the merchant had made his will and
earnestly commended himself to the protection both of St. Botolph and of
his own patron saint. The "commercial travellers" of that day carried their
samples or their wares in a bag lying across their horse's back, thus
qualifying for the designation of "bagmen" by which they were to become

In the Middle Ages everyone rode except the very poor, and they had to be
content to trudge along on foot. Kings and nobles, princes and princesses,
gentlemen and ladies, merchants and bagmen all travelled on horseback.
Women either rode astride until the introduction of side-saddles, in the
fourteenth century, or else rode in pillion fashion.

The main exception to riding on horseback, in the case of ladies or of the
sick or infirm, was the use of litters attached to shafts to which two
horses, one in front and one behind the litter, were harnessed. Sometimes,
also, "passengers" were carried in the panniers of the packhorses, instead
of goods.

Certain main routes, and especially those favoured by pilgrims--such as
that between London and Canterbury--must have been full of animation in
those days; but, speaking generally, no one then travelled except on
business or under the pressure of some strong obligation.

Down to the end of the fourteenth century England was purely an
agricultural country, and her agricultural products were exclusively for
home, if not for local or even domestic consumption, with the one exception
of wool, which was exported in considerable quantities to Flanders and
other lands then dependent mainly on England for the raw materials of their
cloth manufactures. In our own country manufactures had made but little
advance, and they mainly supplied the requirements, in each instance, of a
very limited area.

England was, indeed, in those days, little more than a collection of
isolated communities in which the various householders, more especially in
villages at a distance from any main road or navigable river, had to
provide for their own requirements to a great extent. Of retail shops, such
as are now found in the most remote villages, there were none at all at a
period when the replenishing of stocks would have been impossible by reason
of difficulties in transport; so that while the country as a whole was
mainly agricultural, {17}there were more craftsmen in the villages, and
there was greater skill possessed by individuals in the production of
domestic requirements than would to-day be found among agricultural
populations accustomed to depend on the urban manufacturer or the village
stores for the commodities their forefathers had to make, to raise or to
supply for themselves.

Each family baked its own bread, with flour ground at the village mill from
the wheat or the rye grown on the family's own land or allotment; each
brewed its own ale--then the common beverage at all meals, since tea and
coffee had still to come into vogue; and each grew its own wool or flax,
made its own cloth and clothing, and tanned its own leather. What the
household could not do for itself might still be done by the village
blacksmith or the village carpenter. Alike for ribbons, for foreign spices,
for luxuries in general, and for news of the outer world the household was
mainly dependent on the pedlar, with his stock on his back, or the chapman,
bringing his collection of wares with him on horseback; though even these
welcome visitors might find it impossible to travel along roads and
footpaths reduced by autumn rains or winter snows to the condition of

In these conditions many a village or hamlet became isolated until the
roads were again available for traffic, and rural households prepared for
the winter as they would have taken precautions against an impending siege.
Most of the meat likely to be required would be killed off in the late
autumn and salted down--salt being one of the few absolute necessities for
which the mediæval household was dependent on the outside world; while
families which could not afford to kill for themselves would purchase an
animal in common and share the meat. Stores of wheat, barley and malt were
laid in; honey was put on the shelves to take the place of the sugar then
almost unknown outside the large towns; logs were collected for fuel and
rushes for the floors; and wool and flax were brought in to provide
occupation for the women of the household. In the way of necessaries the
provision made by each self-dependent family, or, at least, by each
self-contained community, was thus practically complete--save in the one
important item of fresh vegetables, the lack of which, coupled with the
consumption of so much salt meat, was a frequent source of scurvy.
Millstones for {18}the village mill might, like the salt, have to be
brought in from elsewhere; but otherwise the villagers had small concern
with what went on in the great world.

Such trading relations as the average village had with English markets or
with foreign traders were almost exclusively in the hands of the lord of
the manor, one of whose rights--and one not without significance, from our
present point of view--it was to call upon those who held land under him,
whether as free men or as serfs, to do all his carting for him. This was a
condition on which both villeins and cottars had their holdings; and
though, in course of time, the lord of the manor might relieve his people
of most of the obligations devolving upon them, this particular
responsibility still generally remained. "Instances of the commutation of
the whole of the services," says W. J. Ashley, in the account of the
manorial system which he gives in his "Introduction to English Economic
History and Theory," "occur occasionally as early as 1240 in manors where
the demesne was wholly left to tenants. The service with which the lord
could least easily dispense seems to have been that of carting; and so in
one case we find the entry as to the villeins, 'Whether they pay rent or no
they shall cart.'"

To the lord of the manor, at least, the difficulties of road transport,
whether in getting his surplus commodities to market or otherwise, must
have appeared much less serious when he was thus able to call on his
tenants to do his cartage.

In the towns the isolation may not have been so great as in the villages;
but the urban trading and industrial conditions nevertheless assumed a
character which could only have been possible when, owing to defective
communications, there was comparatively little movement and competition in
regard either to manufactures (such as they were) or to workers.

The period of internal peace and order which followed the Norman Conquest
led, as Ashley has shown, to the rise in town after town of the merchant
guild--an institution the purpose of which was to unite into a society all
those who carried on a certain trade, in order, not only to assure for them
the maintenance of their rights and privileges, but also to obtain for them
an actual monopoly of the particular business in which they were
interested. Such monopoly they claimed against other traders in the same
town who had not entered {19}into the combination, and still more so
against traders in other towns. The latter they regarded as "foreigners"
equally with the traders from Flanders and elsewhere.

The merchant guilds were found in all considerable towns in the eleventh
century, and they were followed, a century later, by craft guilds which
aimed, in turn, at securing a monopoly of employment for their own
particular members.

Coupled with the guilds there was much local regulation of the prices and
qualities of commodities through the setting-up of such institutions as the
"assize" of ale, of bread and of cloth; while the justices had, in
addition, considerable powers in regard to fixing the rates of wages and
the general conditions of labour.

All this system of highly-organised Protection, not so much for the country
as a whole as for each and every individual town in the country, might
serve in comparatively isolated communities; but it could not prevail
against increased intercourse, the growing competition of developing
industries, a broader area of distribution for commodities made in greater
volume, and a wider demand for foreign supplies. It was thus doomed to
extinction as these new conditions developed; but it nevertheless exercised
an important influence on our national advancement, since it was the
impulse of corporate unity, fostered by the merchant guilds, and
strengthened by the system of manorial courts for the enforcement of the
local laws and customs in vogue in each separate manor before the common
law of the land was established, that led to so many English towns
securing, from King or overlord--and notably in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, when the influence of the merchant guilds was especially
great--those charters which so powerfully stimulated the growth of the
great towns, of English citizenship, of individual freedom, and of national
prosperity. Ashley well says, in this connection:--

"Wide as were the differences between a civic republic of Italy, or an
imperial city of Germany with its subject territory, and a little English
market town, there was an underlying similarity of ideas and purposes. Each
was a body of burghers who identified the right to carry on an independent
trading or industrial occupation with the right of burgess-ship; who
imposed restrictions on the acquisition of citizenship, with the object of
protecting the interests of those already enjoying {20}it; who acted
together by market regulation and intermunicipal negotiation to secure
every advantage they could over rival boroughs; who deemed it meet that
every occupation should have its own organisation and its own
representation in the governing authority, and who allowed and expected
their magistrates to carry out a searching system of industrial
supervision. Municipal magistracy was not yet an affair of routine, bound
hand and foot by the laws of the State."

The general trade of the country in the Middle Ages was conducted mainly
through markets and fairs.

Every town had its market and fixed market day, and such market served the
purpose of bringing in the surplus produce of the surrounding agricultural
district, the area of supply depending, no doubt, on the distance for which
the state of the roads and the facilities for transport on them would allow
of commodities being brought.

Held, as a rule, annually or half-yearly, fairs assumed much more important
proportions than the (generally) weekly local markets. It was to the fairs
that traders both from distant counties and from foreign countries brought
wares and products not otherwise obtainable; and it was at the fairs that
the foreign merchants, more especially, bought up the large quantities of
wool which were to form their return cargoes. Whereas the business done at
the local markets was mainly retail, that done at the fairs was, to a great
extent, wholesale, and the latter represented the bulk of such transactions
as would now be done on the public exchanges or in the private warehouses
of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and other leading commercial

Fairs were essentially the outcome of defective means of communication.
Going back in their origin to the days of ancient Greece, they have been
found in most countries in the earlier stages of society, or under
conditions which have not allowed of (1) a ready distribution of
commodities, (2) sufficiently advanced manufactures, or (3) the subdivision
of trade over an adequately wide area. Fairs in England began to decay in
exact proportion as communications and manufactures improved and retail
trade expanded; so that to-day the survivals are either exclusively cattle
fairs, sheep fairs, horse fairs, cheese fairs, and so on, or else are
little more than {21}pleasure fairs, with gingerbread stalls, shows and
roundabouts for their chief attractions--mere reminiscences of old
institutions which, in bygone days, were of supreme commercial importance.

They were, also, greatly influenced by religious festivals, whether in
ancient Greece or in Europe. In Britain itself the commemoration of saints'
days by the monasteries, the dedication festivals of churches or
cathedrals, and the visitation of shrines by pilgrims brought together
crowds of people whose assembling offered good opportunities for the
opening up with them of a trade in commodities which they, in turn, might
otherwise have some difficulty in procuring. It was, indeed, to the
advantage of the Church to offer or to encourage the offering of such
facilities, not only because there would thus be a greater inducement to
people to come to the festivals or to visit the shrines, but also because
when the fair was held on land belonging to the Church or connected with
religious buildings there might be a substantial revenue gained from the
tolls and charges paid by the traders. At one time the fairs were even held
in churchyards; but this practice was prohibited in the 13th year of Edward
I., and thenceforward they were held on open spaces, where stalls and tents
could be erected for the accommodation of the goods on sale and of the
persons who had brought them, various amusements being added, or
encouraged, by way of affording further attractions. The land occupied
might be that of the lord of the manor, but the fairs still continued to be
held chiefly on Saints' days or on the occasion of Church festivals, the
actual dates being generally so fixed as to allow of the foreign or other
traders attending them to arrange a circuit. The time of year preferred for
the holding of fairs was either the autumn, when people whose wants were
not wholly met by pedlar or chapman would be providing against the stoppage
of all traffic along the roads during the winter; or the spring, when they
would want to replenish their depleted stocks. The localities mostly
favoured were towns either on navigable rivers, giving access to a good
stretch of country, or at the entrance to valleys whose inhabitants would
be especially isolated during the winter months by their impassable roads
and mountain tracks.

In course of time the fairs became, as shown by Giles Jacob, in his "Law
Dictionary" (4th edition, 1809), "a matter of {22}universal concern to the
commonwealth," as well as a valuable monetary consideration to those who
had the right to collect the tolls; and they were, in consequence,
subjected to close regulation. No person could hold a fair "unless by grant
from the King, or by prescription which supposes such grant"; the time
during which it could be kept open was announced by proclamation, and
rigidly adhered to; "just weight and measure" was enforced, and a "clerk of
the fair" was appointed to mark the weights.

On the other hand every encouragement was offered to traders to attend the
fairs. "Any citizen of London," says Jacob, "may carry his goods or
merchandise to any fair or market at his pleasure." Mounted guards were, in
some instances, provided on the main routes leading to the fair, in order
to protect the traders from attack by robbers. Tolls were to be paid to the
lord of the manor or other owner of the land on which a fair was held under
a special grant; but if the tolls charged were "outrageous and excessive"
(to quote again from Jacob), the grant of the right to levy toll became
void, and the fair was thenceforth a "free" one. It was further laid down
that persons going to a fair should be "privileged from being molested or
arrested in it for any other debt or contract than what was contracted in
the same, or at least, was promised to be paid there."

An especially curious feature of these old fairs was the so-called "Court
of Pie Powder"--this being the accepted English rendering, in those days,
of "pied poudré"--or "The Court of Dusty Feet." The court was one of
summary jurisdiction, at which questions affecting pedlars or other
(presumably) dusty-footed traders and their patrons, or matters relating to
"the redress of disorders," could be decided by a properly constituted
authority during the period of the holding of the fair in which such
questions or matters arose.

Jacob says of this old institution:--

"It is a _court of record_ incident to every _Fair_; and to be held only
_during the time_ that the _Fair_ is kept. As to the jurisdiction, the
cause of action for contract, slander, &c., must arise _in_ the fair or
market, and not before at any former fair, nor after the fair; it is to be
for some _matter concerning_ the same _fair_ or _market_; and must be done,
complained of, heard and determined the same day. Also the plaintiff must
{23}make oath that the contract, &c., was _within the jurisdiction_ and
_time_ of the _fair_.... The steward before whom the court is held, is the
judge, and the trial is by merchants and traders in the fair."

Such courts were as ancient as the fairs themselves, and they ensured a
speedy administration of justice in accordance with what was recognised as
merchants' law long before any common law was established. Supposed to have
been introduced by the Romans, the "court of pie powder" was, according to
Jacob, known by them under the name of "curia pedis pulverisati," while the
Saxons called it the "ceapunggemot," or "the court of merchandise or
handling matters of buying and selling." It was, of course, the Normans who
introduced the later term of "pied poudré," which the English converted
into "pie powder."

One of the most ancient, and certainly the most important, of all the
English fairs was the Sturbridge fair, at Cambridge, so called from a
little river known as the Stere, or the Sture, which flowed into the

Early records of this particular fair, according to Cornelius Walford, in
"Fairs Past and Present," are to be found in a grant by King John in or
about the year 1211. The fair is believed to have been originally founded
by the Romans; but it may have acquired greater importance at the date of
this particular charter by reason of what Cunningham, in his "Growth of
English Industry and Commerce in the Early and Middle Ages," describes as
the "extraordinary increase" of commerce in every part of the Mediterranean
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, coupled with the "improvements in
navigation and in mercantile practice" which "went hand in hand with this
development. Englishmen," he further tells us, "had but little direct part
in all this maritime activity. Their time was not come; but the Italian
merchants who bought English wool, or visited English fairs, brought them
within range of the rapid progress that was taking place in South Europe."

From the middle of the twelfth to the middle of the {24}thirteenth century
the export of wool, leather, lead, tin and other English commodities was in
the hands almost exclusively of foreign merchants, who came here both to
purchase these raw materials and to dispose of the products of their own or
other countries; and Sturbridge Fair, as it happened, formed a convenient
trading centre alike for foreign and for English traders, the question of
inland communication being, in fact, once more the dominating factor in the

Foreign goods destined for the fair were mostly brought, first, to the port
of Lynn, and there transferred to barges in which they were taken along the
Ouse to the Cam, and so on to the fair ground which, on one side, was
bordered by the latter stream. Heavy goods sent by water from London and
the southern counties, or coming by sea from the northern ports, reached
the fair by the same route. Great quantities of hops brought to the fair
from the south-eastern or midland counties by land or water were, in turn,
despatched via the Cam, the Ouse and the port of Lynn to Hull, Newcastle,
and elsewhere for consignment to places to be reached by the Humber, the
Tyne, etc. Where water transport was not available the services of
packhorses were brought into requisition until the time came when the roads
had been sufficiently improved to allow of the use of waggons.

In his "Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain" Defoe gives a
graphic account of Sturbridge Fair as he saw it in 1723. By that date it
had become, in his opinion, "not only the greatest in the whole Nation, but
in the World." It covered an area of about half a square mile, had shops
placed in rows like streets, with an open square known as the Duddery, and
comprised "all Trades that can be named in London, with Coffee-houses,
Taverns, and Eating-houses innumerable, and all in Tents and Booths." He
speaks of £100,000 worth of woollen manufactures being sold in less than a
week, and of--

"The prodigious trade carry'd on here by Wholesale-men from London, and all
parts of England, who transact their Business wholly in their Pocket-Books,
and meeting their Chapmen from all Parts, make up their Accounts, receive
Money chiefly in Bills, and take Orders: These, they say, exceed by far the
sales of Goods actually brought to the Fair, and deliver'd in kind; it
being frequent for the London {25}Wholesale Men to carry back orders from
their Dealers for ten Thousand Pounds-worth of Goods a man, and some much
more. This especially respects those People, who deal in heavy Goods, as
Wholesale Grocers, Salters, Brasiers, Iron-Merchants, Wine-Merchants and
the like; but does not exclude the Dealers in Woollen Manufactures, and
especially in Mercery Goods of all sorts, the Dealers in which generally
manage their Business in this Manner:

"Here are Clothiers from Halifax, Leeds, Wakefield and Huddersfield in
Yorkshire, and from Rochdale, Bury, &c. in Lancashire, with vast Quantities
of Yorkshire Cloths, Kerseys, Pennistons, Cottons, &c., with all sorts of
Manchester Ware, Fustians and Things made of Cotton Wooll; of which the
Quantity is so great, that they told me there were near a Thousand
Horse-packs of such Goods from that Side of the Country....

"In the Duddery I saw one Ware-house or Booth, with six Apartments in it,
all belonging to a Dealer in Norwich Stuffs alone, and who, they said, had
there above Twenty Thousand Pounds value in those Goods alone.

"Western Goods had their Share here, also, and several Booths were fill'd
as full with Serges, Du-Roys, Druggets, Shalloons, Cataloons, Devonshire
Kersies, &c., from Exeter, Taunton, Bristol, and other Parts West, and some
from London also.

"But all this is still outdone, at least in Show, by two Articles, which
are the Peculiars of this Fair, and do not begin till the other Part of the
Fair, that is to say, for the Woollen Manufacture, begins to draw to a
Close: These are the Wooll and the Hops: As for the Hops there is scarce
any price fix'd for Hops in England till they know how they fell at
Sturbridge Fair: the Quantity that appears in the Fair is indeed
prodigious.... They are brought directly from Chelmsford in Essex, from
Canterbury and Maidstone in Kent and from Farnham in Surrey; besides what
are brought from London, the Growth of those and other places."

In the North of England, Defoe continues, few hops had formerly been used,
the favourite beverage there being a "pale smooth ale" which required no
hops. But for some years hops had been used more than before in the brewing
of the great quantity of beer then being produced in the {26}North, and
traders from beyond the Trent came south to buy their hops at Cambridge,
taking them back to Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and
even to Scotland. Of wool, according to the same authority, the quantity
disposed of at a single fair would be of the value of £50,000 or £60,000.

In writing on this same Sturbridge fair, Thorold Rogers says, in his
"History of Agriculture and Prices":--

"The concourse must have been a singular medley. Besides the people who
poured forth from the great towns ... there were, beyond doubt, the
representatives of many nations collected together to this great mart of
medieval commerce. The Jew, expelled from England, had given place to the
Lombard exchanger. The Venetian and Genoese merchant came with his precious
stock of Eastern produce, his Italian silks and velvets, his store of
delicate glass. The Flemish weaver was present with his linens of Liége and
Ghent. The Spaniard came with his stock of iron, the Norwegian with his tar
and pitch. The Gascon vine-grower was ready to trade in the produce of his
vine-yard; and, more rarely, the richer growths of Spain, and, still more
rarely, the vintages of Greece were also supplied. The Hanse towns sent
furs and amber, and probably were the channels by which the precious stones
of the East were supplied through the markets of Moscow and Novgorod. And
perhaps by some of those unknown courses, the history of which is lost,
save by the relics which have occasionally been discovered, the porcelain
of the farthest East might have been seen in many of the booths. Blakeney,
and Colchester, and Lynn, and perhaps Norwich, were filled with foreign
vessels, and busy with the transit of various produce; and Eastern England
grew rich under the influence of trade. How keen must have been the
interest with which the franklin and bailiff, the one trading on his own
account, the other entrusted with his master's produce, witnessed the
scene, talked of the wonderful world about them, and discussed the politics
of Europe!

"To this great fair came, on the other hand, the woolpacks which then
formed the riches of England and were the envy of outer nations. The
Cornish tin-mine sent its produce.... Thither came also salt from the
springs of Worcestershire ... lead from the mines of Derbyshire and iron,
either raw or {27}manufactured, from the Sussex forges. And besides these,
there were great stores of those kinds of agricultural produce which, even
under the imperfect cultivation of the time, were gathered in greater
security, and therefore in greater plenty, than in any other part of the
world, except Flanders."

Other leading fairs, besides that of Sturbridge, included Bartholomew Fair,
in London, and those of Boston, Chester and Winchester; while Holinshed
says of the conditions in the second half of the sixteenth century, "There
is almost no town in England but hath one or two such marts holden yearlie
in the same." In the case of Bartholomew Fair, its decay was directly due
to the fact that there came a time when English manufacturers could produce
cloth equal in quality to that from Bruges, Ghent and Ypres which had been
the chief commodity sold at this particular fair, thenceforward no longer
needed. But the eventual decline alike of Sturbridge and of most of the
other fairs carrying on a general trade was mainly due to the revolutionary
changes in commerce, industry and transport to which improved facilities
for distribution inevitably led.



It was in the year A.D. 411 that the Roman legions were withdrawn from
Britain, and it was not until 1555, or 1144 years after their departure,
that the first general Act was passed, not for the construction, but for
the repair of roads in this country. In the meantime such further
construction or repairing as was actually done had been left to the Church,
to private benevolence, to landowners acting either voluntarily or in
accordance with the conditions on which they held their estate, or to the
inefficient operation of the common law obligation that the inhabitants of
a parish must repair the highways within the same.

A writer in 1823, William Knight Dehany, of the Middle Temple, in a book on
"The General Turnpike Acts," comes to the conclusion, after careful
research into the records of this early period, that "With the exception of
the principal roads communicating with the important sea ports and
fortresses of the Kingdom (probably the four great roads formed either by
the Romans or Saxons), the other highways were but tracks over unenclosed
grounds, where the passenger selected his path over the space which
presented the firmest footing and fewest impediments, as is the case in the
present day in forests and wastes in remote situations." He considers that
when packhorses only were used for the transport of burdens, the state of
the roads was not a subject of much interest and importance; but certain it
is that the subject became more acute when the greater traffic that
resulted from expanding trade and commerce led to the roads getting into an
even worse condition than they had been in previously.

The earliest road legislation that can be traced was an Act passed in 1285,
in the reign of Edward I., directing that on highways leading from one
market town to another "there be {29}neither dyke, tree nor bush whereby a
man may lurk to do hurt within two hundred feet on either side of the way";
but this measure was designed for the protection of travellers against
robbers, and had no concern with the repair of the roads. In 1346 tolls
were imposed, by authority of Edward III., for the repair of three roads in
London, namely, "the King's highway between the hospital of St. Giles and
the bar of the old temple (in Holborn)"; what is now Gray's Inn Road
("being very much broken up and dangerous"), and another road, supposed to
be St. Martin's Lane. These tolls, according to Macpherson's "Annals of
Commerce" (1805) were to be imposed for a period of two years upon all
cattle, merchandise and other goods passing along the roads in question;
they were fixed at the rate of one penny in the pound on the value of the
animals or goods taxed, and they were to be paid by all persons, except,
curiously enough, "lords, ladies, and persons belonging to religious
establishments or to the Church." Then, in 1353, "the highway between
Temple-bar and Westminster being already rendered so deep and miry by the
carts and horses carrying merchandise and provision at the staple that it
was dangerous to pass upon it," the King required the owners of houses
alongside to repair the road in consideration of the increased value of
their property owing to the establishment of the staple.[5]

Reference has already been made (page 13) to the concession by Edward III.
to "Phelippe the hermit" of the right to impose tolls for the repair of the
road on Highgate Hill. Macpherson further says, under date 1363:--

"The equitable mode of repairing the roads by funds collected from those
who used them was now so far established that we find, besides the renewals
of the tolls for the Westminster road almost annually, tolls granted this
year for the road between Highgate and Smithfield, for that from Wooxbridge
(Uxbridge) to London, and for the venel called Faytor (Fetter) lane in

In the reign of Henry VIII. the first Statutes relating to {30}particular
highways were passed, a lord of the manor in Kent, and another in Sussex,
being empowered to construct certain new roads, at their own expense, and
then enclose the old ones for which the new would be substituted; but the
Act of 2 and 3 Philip and Mary c. 8, passed in 1555, was the first Highway
Act in this country which applied to roads in general.

"Commerce," says Macpherson, "beginning to increase considerably in the
reign of Queen Mary, and the old roads being much more frequented by heavy
carriages" (a term applied at this time to wheeled vehicles of any
description), the Act was passed with a view to securing a much-needed
improvement. After declaring, in a preamble, that the roads had become
"both very noisome and tedious to travel in and dangerous to all passengers
and carriages," the Act directed that constables and churchwardens in every
parish should, during Easter week in each year, "call together a number of
the parochians" and choose two honest persons to serve for twelve months as
surveyors and orderers of works for amending parish highways leading to any
market town. These surveyors were authorised to require occupiers of land
to attend each Midsummer with wains, or carts, in proportion to their
holdings, such carts being furnished, after the custom of the country, with
oxen, horses or other cattle and necessaries, and to be in charge of two
able men. All other householders, cottagers and labourers, able to work and
not being servants hired by the year, were to furnish work in their own
persons, or by deputy, bringing with them "such shovels, spades, pikes,
mattocks and other tools and instruments as they do make their own fences
and ditches withall." Work was to be carried on for four days, of eight
hours each, unless otherwise directed by the supervisors; and constables
and churchwardens were "openly in the Church to give knowledge" of
appointed days. Fines for default were to be imposed at leets or

This Act was to remain in operation for seven years. In 1562 it was
continued by 5 Eliz. c. 13, which, in addition to giving compulsory powers
to obtain materials for road repairs, increased the "statute" labour, as it
came to be called, from four to six days each year.

This principle of compulsory labour on the roads was--subject to various
modifications in regard to alternative {31}assessments--to remain in
operation until the passing of the General Highway Act of 1835, when it was
wholly superseded by highway rates. The labour itself, though it brought
about an improvement on the previous road conditions, was from the first
far from satisfactory, judging from the references made to it by Holinshed.
The roads, he says, were very deep and troublesome in winter; the
obligation in regard to six days' labour on them was of little avail, since
the rich evaded their duty, and the poor loitered so much that scarcely two
days' work was done out of the six; while the surveyors, instead of
applying the labour to the amendment of roads from market town to market
town, bestowed it on particular spots the repair of which conduced to their
own convenience. Nor, it seems, was the power conferred on the justices to
punish surveyors and parishioners if they failed in their duty of much
practical avail.

No further general legislation concerning roads was passed until the
Restoration, when, says Macpherson, "The vast increase of commerce and
manufactures and of the capital city of London, with the concomitant
increase of luxury, brought in such numbers of heavy-wheel carriages as
rendered it by degrees impracticable, in most cases, for parishes entirely
to keep their own part of the roads in a tolerable condition, more
especially in the counties lying near London and in the manufacturing

Petitions had been received from the inhabitants of various districts
throughout the country praying that steps should be taken for the
betterment of their roads, with the view of facilitating
intercommunication, and it became evident that some more effective system
for the construction and repairing of roads must be adopted.

In 1662 Parliament passed an Act (14 Car. II., c. 6) which stated that,
inasmuch as former laws and statutes for mending and repairing public
highways had been found ineffectual, by reason whereof, and the
extraordinary burdens carried on waggons and other carriages, divers
highways had become dangerous and almost impassable, churchwardens and
constables or tithing men in every parish were directed to choose surveyors
yearly on the Monday or Tuesday in Easter week, giving public notice
thereof in church immediately after the end of the morning prayer. These
surveyors {32}were to view the highways, estimate the cost of the necessary
repairs, and, with the help of two or more substantial householders,
apportion the cost among persons assessed to the poor rate and owners of
all classes of property exclusive of "household stuff," the stock of goods
in a shop being assessed as well as the shop itself, and the personal
belongings of a householder equally with the dwelling he occupied.

There was further brought about, in 1663, the definite establishment, by
law, of that system of toll-taking, by means of turnpikes, the principle of
which had, as we have seen, already been adopted in a few isolated
instances. Macpherson speaks of the system as "the more equitable and
effectual method of tolls, paying at the toll-gates (called turnpikes) by
those who use and wear the roads"; and this was the view that generally
prevailed at the time. He records as follows, under date 1663, the passing
of this first English Turnpike Act:--

"The antient fund for keeping the roads of England repaired was a rate
levied on the land holders in proportion to their rents, together with the
actual service of the men, the carts, and horses of the neighbourhood for a
limited number of days. But now, by the increase of inland trade, heavy
carriages and packhorses were so exceedingly multiplied that those means of
repairing the roads were found totally inadequate; neither was it just that
a neighbourhood should be burdened with the support of roads for the
service of a distant quarter of the Kingdom. It was therefore necessary to
devise more effective and, at the same time, more equitable means of
supporting the public roads, and the present method of making and repairing
the roads at the expense of those who actually wear them and reap the
benefit of them was now first established by an Act of Parliament (15 Car.
II., c. 1.) for repairing the highways in the shires of Hartford, Cambridge
and Huntingdon, by which three toll-gates (or turn-pikes) were set up at
Wadesmill, Caxton and Stilton."

The highways here in question formed part of the Great North Road to York
and Scotland, and the preamble of the Act stated that this "ancient highway
and post-road" was, in many places, "by reason of the great and many loads
which are weekly drawn in the waggons through the said places, as well as
by reason of the great trade of barley and {33}malt that cometh to Ware,
and so is conveyed by water to the city of London ... very ruinous, and
become almost impassable, insomuch that it is become very dangerous to all
his Majesty's liege people that pass that way." The Act required the
justices in each of the three counties to appoint surveyors who were to
provide road materials and require of persons chargeable under the general
law that they should send waggons and supply labour in accordance with
their obligations, any extra work done by them being paid for at the usual
rates in force in the district. The surveyors were, also, to appoint
collectors of tolls who were empowered to levy, at the toll-gates (one of
these being in each of the three counties) "for every horse, one penny; for
every coach, sixpence; for every waggon, one shilling; for every cart,
eightpence; for every score of sheep or lambs, one half-penny, and so on in
proportion for greater numbers; for every score of oxen or neat cattle,
five pence; for every score of hogs, twopence"; but no person, having once
paid toll, and returning the same day with the same horse or vehicle, or
with cattle, was to pay a second time. The Act was to remain in operation
for eleven years; though it was, of course, then renewed.

How the turnpike system, thus introduced, was subsequently developed
throughout the land will be shown later.

Charles II., whether he personally influenced the Act of 1663 or not,
showed in a very practical way his interest in the opening up of the
country to improved communications. In 1675 a remarkable work was published
by John Ogilby, Cosmographer Royal, under the title of "Britannia; A
Geographical and Historical Description of the Roads of England and Wales."
The book consisted of 100 double-page sheets of road maps, giving, in
scroll fashion, every mile of route for eighty-five roads or itineraries,
and showing distances in each case, together with a description of each
route, written in considerable detail. The maps, without the letterpress,
were published in the same year in a separate volume, under the title of
"Itinerarium Angliæ"; and in 1699 the descriptive matter, without the maps,
was reprinted in the form of a handbook, under the title of "The
Traveller's Guide."

In his dedication of "Britannia" to King Charles II. the author says:
"Influenced by Your Majesty's Approbation {34}and Munificence, I have
attempted to Improve our Commerce and Correspondency at Home by Registering
and Illustrating Your Majesty's High-Ways, Directly and Transversly, as
from Shore to Shore, so to the Prescribed Limits of the Circumambient
Ocean, from this Great Emporium and Prime Center of the Kingdom, Your Royal

"The Traveller's Guide" is described as "A most exact Description of the
Roads of England, being Mr Ogilby's Actual Survey and Mensuration by the
Wheel of the Great Roads from London to all the considerable Cities and
Towns in England and Wales, together with the Cross Roads from one City or
Eminent Town to another"; while in the preface the author throws more light
on the previous reference to his Majesty's munificence, saying:--

"This Description of England was undertaken by the Express Command of King
Charles II., and it was at his Expence that Mr Ogilby with great exactness
performed an Actual Survey and Mensuration by the Wheel of all the
Principal Roads of England."



The carts that succeeded the early British and Roman war chariots, and
enabled the villeins and cottars to do the obligatory "cartage" for the
lord of the manor, were heavy, lumbering vehicles, with wheels hewn out of
solid pieces of wood, and were used for private transport rather than
transport for hire. The latter came in with the "wains" or "long waggons"
of England's pioneer road carriers. These long waggons, according to Stow,
were brought into use about the year 1564, up to which time--save for the
horse litters and the agricultural carts--the saddle-horse and the
packhorse had been the only means of travelling and conveying goods. The
long waggon developed into a roomy covered vehicle, capable of
accommodating about 20 passengers in addition to merchandise; it had broad
wheels adapted to the roads; and it was drawn, at a walking pace, by six,
eight, or more horses which (except on such long journeys as that from
London to Wigan) accompanied it for the entire journey. As the forerunner
of the stage-coach it was, at first, generally used not only for the
heavier classes of goods (lighter qualities, and especially so when greater
speed was required, still going by packhorse), but, also, by such
travellers as either could not, or preferred not to, travel on horseback.

The waggons made regular journeys between London, Canterbury, Norwich,
Ipswich, Gloucester, and other towns. It was in the long waggon that many a
traveller in the seventeenth century made the journey between London and
Dover, either going to or returning from the Continent[6]; and, though,
because of this Continental traffic, the Dover road was probably kept in as
good a condition as any in the country, the long {36}waggon went at so slow
a pace that in 1640 the journey to Dover often took either three or four

To Bristol, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, long waggons were
despatched three times a week, as follows:--

  Wednesday      Tuesday
  Saturday       Friday
  Friday         Thursday

It should, however, be remembered that both the long waggon and the
stage-coach which succeeded it travelled only by day, remaining for the
night at some wayside inn where, in coaching language, it "slept."

When Charles Leigh wrote "The Natural History of Lancashire, Cheshire and
the Peak of Derbyshire," published in 1700, the London waggons went as far
north as Wigan and Standish, where they took in cargoes of coals for sale
on the return journey. North of Wigan nearly all the trade was carried on
by strings of packhorses or by carts. Kendal was the principal packhorse
station on this line of road, sending large trains of packhorses as far
south as Wigan, and over the hills, northward, to Carlisle and the borders
of Scotland.

In 1753, according to "Williamson's Liverpool Memorandum Book" for that
year, the Lancashire and Cheshire stage waggons left London every Monday
and Thursday, and were ten days on the journey in summer and eleven in the
winter. At that time no waggon or coach from the south could get nearer to
Liverpool than Warrington, owing to the state of the roads. The general
mode of travelling was on horseback. Four owners of post-horses in London
advertised in 1753 that they started from the "Swan-with-Two-Necks," Lad
Lane, every Friday morning with a "gang of horses" for passengers and light
goods, and arrived in Liverpool on the following Monday evening, this being
considered very good time.

The conditions of transport between London and Edinburgh in 1776, when Adam
Smith published his "Wealth of Nations," may be judged from the following
references thereto which he makes in a comparison between the cost of land
transport and the cost of sea transport:--

"A broad-wheeled waggon, attended by two men, and {37}drawn by eight
horses, in about six weeks' time carries and brings back between London and
Edinburgh near four ton weight of goods. In about the same time a ship
navigated by six or eight men, and sailing between the ports of London and
Leith, frequently carries and brings back two hundred ton weight of goods.
Six or eight men, therefore, by the help of water carriage, can carry and
bring back in the same time the same quantity of goods between London and
Edinburgh as fifty broad-wheeled waggons, attended by a hundred men, and
drawn by four hundred horses."

The long waggon, supplementing alike the packhorse and the coach, which
carried the lighter and more urgent commodities, continued, right down to
the railway age, the means by which the great bulk of the general
merchandise of the country was transported where carriage by water was not
available. It remained, also, in favour with the poorer classes of
travellers until late in the eighteenth century, when the stage coaches
reduced their fares to such proportions that there was no longer any saving
in going by the slower conveyance.

Private carriages, as an alternative alike to the horse litter and to
riding on horseback, seem to have been introduced into this country, from
the Continent, about the middle of the sixteenth century. In his "History
of the Origin and Progress of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the
River Thames" Henry Humpherus says that at her coronation, in 1553, Queen
Mary rode in a chariot drawn by six horses, followed by another in which
were "Lady Elizabeth, her sister, and Lady Ann of Cleves." He further
states that in 1565 a Dutchman, Guylliam Boonen, presented to Queen
Elizabeth a "coach" which was considered a great improvement on the
"chariot or waggon" used at the coronation of Queen Mary. But the pioneer
carriages of this date were little better than gorgeously decorated
springless carts, to be ridden in along the worst of roads, and so
uncomfortable that in an audience she had with the French Ambassador in
1568, Queen Elizabeth told him of "the aching pains" she was suffering in
consequence of having been "knocked about" a few days before in a coach
which had been driven too fast along the streets. All the same, these
private "coaches" must have come into more general use by the end of the
{38}sixteenth century, since we find Stow saying in his "Survey of London"

"Of old times coaches were not known in this island.... But now of late
years the use of coaches, brought out of Germany, is taken up and made so
common that there is neither distinction of time nor difference of people
observed; for the world runs on wheels with many whose parents were glad to
go on foot."

Fynes Moryson, Gent., in the "Itinerary" he published (1617) in the reign
of James I., recording various journeys he had made, also alludes to this
greater use of private "coaches," and he gives some interesting details as
to the general conditions of travel at that period. He says:--

"Sixtie or seventy yeeres agoe, Coaches were very rare in England, but at
this day pride is so far increased, as there be few Gentlemen of any
account (I mean elder Brothers) who have not their Coaches, so as the
streetes of London are almost stopped up with them.... For the most part
Englishmen, especially in long journies, used to ride upon their owne
horses. But if any will hire a horse, at London they used to pay two
shillings the first day, and twelve, or perhaps eighteene pence a day, for
as many dayes as they keepe him, till the horse be brought back home to the
owner, and the passenger must either bring him backe, or pay for the
sending of him, and find him meate both going and comming. In other parts
of England a man may hire a horse for twelve pence the day.... Likewise
Carriers let horses from Citie to Citie.... Lastly, these Carryers have
long covered Waggons, in which they carry passengers from City to City: but
this kind of journeying is so tedious, by reason they must take waggon very
earely, and come very late to their Innes, as none but women and people of
inferiour condition, or strangers (as Flemmings with their wives and
servants) use to travell in this sort."

These long covered waggons began to be supplemented, in 1640 or
thereabouts, by stage coaches, the advent of which is thus recorded by a
contemporary writer, Dr Chamberlayne:--

"There is of late such an admirable commodiousness, both for men and women,
to travel from London to the principal towns of the country that the like
hath not been known in the world, and that is by stage coaches, wherein any
one may be transported to any place sheltered from foul weather and foul
{39}ways, free from endamaging one's health and one's body by hard jogging
or over-violent motion on horse back, and this not only at the low price of
about a shilling for every five miles but with such velocity and speed in
one hour as the foreign post can but make in one day."

The "admirable commodiousness" which thus beat the world's record of that
date was a vehicle without either springs or windows, which carried four,
six or eight passengers inside. Over the axle there was a great basket for
luggage and a few outside passengers, who made themselves as comfortable as
they could among the bags and boxes, a few handfuls of straw being, in
their case, the only concession to luxury. The earliest coaches carried
neither passengers nor luggage on the roof, this arrangement coming into
vogue later. In order that people should not be deterred from travelling in
these conveyances by fear of highwaymen, it was announced, in the case of
some of them, that the guards were armed and that the coaches themselves
were "bullet proof."

As against the eulogy of Dr Chamberlayne it might be mentioned that the
introduction of stage-coaches was regarded with great disfavour by another
writer, John Cressett, who published, in 1672, a pamphlet entitled "The
Grand Concern of England Explained in Several Proposals to Parliament"
(reprinted in Harleian Miscellany, vol. viii.). Cressett evidently belonged
to those adherents to "good old times" conditions who are opposed to all
innovations; but his pamphlet affords much information as to the general
conditions of travel at the time he wrote.

Cressett asked, among other things, "that a stop be put to further
buildings in and about London"; "that brandy, coffee, mum, tea and
chocolate may be prohibited"; and "that the multitude of Stage-coaches and
caravans may be suppressed." It is with the last-mentioned demand, only,
that we have here any "grand concern." In amplifying it he recommends "That
the Multitude of Stage-coaches and Caravans now travelling upon the Roads
may all, or most of them, be suppressed, especially those within forty,
fifty, or sixty Miles of London, where they are no Way necessary."

The indictment he prefers against the coaches is in the following terms:--

"These Coaches and Caravans are one of the greatest {40}Mischiefs that hath
happened of late Years to the Kingdom, mischievous to the Publick,
destructive to Trade, and prejudicial to Lands:

"First, By destroying the Breed of good Horses, the Strength of the Nation,
and making Men careless of attaining a good Horsemanship, a Thing so useful
and commendable in a Gentleman.

"Secondly, By hindering the Breed of Watermen, who are the Nursery for
Seamen, and they the Bulwark of the Kingdom.

"Thirdly, By lessening his Majesty's Revenues."

Alluding to the effect of coach-riding on the individual, he says:--

"Stage-coaches ... effeminate his Majesty's Subjects who, having used
themselves to travel in them, have neither attained Skill themselves nor
bred up their Children to good Horsemanship, whereby they are rendered
incapable of serving their Country on Horseback, if Occasion should require
and call for the same; for hereby they become weary and listless when they
ride a few Miles, and unwilling to get on Horseback; not able to endure
Frost, Snow, or Rain, or to lodge in the Fields."

These last-mentioned words, "or to lodge in the fields," are especially
suggestive of what might happen in those days to travellers on horseback.
The writer goes on to say:--

"There is such a lazy Habit of Body upon Men, that they, to indulge
themselves, save their fine clothes, and keep themselves clean and dry,
will ride lolling in one of them, and endure all the Inconveniences of that
Manner of Travelling rather than ride on Horseback."

He grieves over the fact that there were not "near so many coach-horses
either bred or kept in England" as there were saddle-horses formerly, and
he mentions the interesting fact that the York, Chester and Exeter
stage-coaches, with 40 horses a-piece, carried eighteen passengers a week
to each of those three places from London, and brought the same number
back--a total of 1872 for the year. His plea that, but for the coaches,
this number of travellers would have required, with their servants, "at
least 500 horses," instead of the 120 which sufficed for the coaches, no
longer concerns us; but his figures as to the extent of the travel in 1673
between London and cities of such importance--even in those {41}days--as
York, Chester and Exeter, are certainly interesting. One learns from the
pamphlet that there were, in addition, stage coaches then going to "almost
every town within 20 or 25 miles of London."

The writer also sought to discredit coaches on the ground that they
were--bad for trade! "These Coaches and Caravans," he said, "are
destructive to the Trade and Manufactures of the Kingdom, and have
impoverished many Thousands of Families, whose subsistence depended upon
the manufacturing of Wool and Leather, two of the Staple Commodities of the
Kingdom." It was not only that saddlers and others were being cast on the
parish, but tailors and drapers were also suffering because in two or three
journeys on horseback travellers spoiled their clothes and hats--"Which
done, they were forced to have new very often, and that increased the
consumption of the manufactures, and the employment of the Manufacturers,
which travelling in Coaches doth no way do."

All this must have seemed grave enough to the good alarmist; but there was
still worse to come, for he goes on to say that--

"Passage to London being so easy, Gentlemen come to London oftener than
they need, and their Ladies either with them, or, having the Conveniences
of these Coaches, quickly follow them. And when they are there, they must
be in the Mode, buy all their Cloaths there, and go to Plays, Balls, and
Treats, where they get such a Habit of Jollity and a Love to Gayety and
Pleasure, that nothing afterwards in the Country will serve them, if ever
they should fix their minds to live there again; but they must have all
from London, whatever it costs."

Fearing, perhaps, that these various arguments might not suffice to
discredit the coaches, the pamphleteer has much to say about the
discomforts of those conveyances:--

"Travelling in these Coaches can neither prove advantageous to Men's Health
or Business; For what Advantage is it to Men's Health to be called out of
their beds into these Coaches, an Hour before Day in the Morning, to be
hurried in them from Place to Place till one Hour, two or three within
Night; insomuch that, after sitting all Day in the Summertime stifled with
Heat and choaked with Dust; or in the {42}Winter-time starving and freezing
with cold, or choaked with filthy Fogs, they are often brought into their
Inns by Torchlight, when it is too late to sit up to get a Supper; and next
Morning they are forced into the Coach so early, that they can get no

"Is it for a Man's Health to travel with tired Jades, and to be laid fast
in the foul ways and forced to wade up to the knees in Mire; afterwards sit
in the Cold, till Teams of Horses can be sent to pull the Coach out? Is it
for their Health to travel in rotten Coaches, and to have their Tackle, or
Pearch or Axle-tree broken, and then to wait three or four hours, sometimes
half a day, to have them mended, and then to travel all Night to make good
their Stage?"

And so on, and so on, until we come to the moral of the story, which is
that people should refuse to patronise such innovations as stage-coaches,
keep to the ways of their forefathers, and do their travelling on
horseback. If they could not do that, and needs must ride in a vehicle, let
them be content with the long coaches (i.e. long waggons) which were "More
convenient than running coaches ... for they travel not such long journeys,
go not out so early in the Morning, neither come they in so late at night;
but stay by the Way, and travel easily, without jolting Men's Bodies or
hurrying them along, as the running Coaches do."

But the denunciations, arguments and vigorous pleadings of this "Lover of
his Country," as the author of "The Grand Concern" called himself, were all
of no avail. The march of progress had taken another step forward, and
England found it had now entered definitely on the Coaching Era.



Before dealing more fully with the development of coaches and coaching and
of vehicular traffic in general, it will be desirable to revert to the new
perplexities which such development brought to those who were concerned
with the care of the roads, and see in what way it was endeavoured to meet

In Macpherson's "Annals of Commerce" the following is given under date

"The great increase of the commerce of England of late years very much
increased the inland carriage of goods, whereby the roads were more broken
than heretofore. King Charles issued his proclamation, confirming one of
his father's in the 20th year of his reign, for the preservation of the
public roads of England, commanding that no carrier or other person
whatsoever shall travel with any waine, cart or carriage with more than two
wheels nor with above the weight of twenty hundred; nor shall draw any
waine, cart or other carriage with above five horses at once."

The King Charles here spoken of was, of course, Charles I., and the 20th
year of the reign of his father, James I., takes us back to 1623. That
year, therefore, gives us the date for the starting of a policy, not of
adapting the roads to the steadily increasing traffic, but of adapting the
traffic to the roads; and this policy, as far as successive rulers and
governments were concerned (efforts in the way of actual road betterment
being left almost exclusively to individual initiative or private
enterprise), was persevered in more or less consistently for a period of
close on two centuries.

The State policy here in question was applied mainly in two directions: (1)
the restriction to a certain weight of the loads carried; and (2) the
enforcing of regulations as to the breadth of wheels. The former alone is
mentioned in the references {44}just made to the proclamations of Charles
I. and James I.; and it may be explained that the stipulation as to not
more than five horses being attached to any cart or waggon was itself a
precaution against the drawing of what were regarded as excessive loads.
Such precautions were renewed after the Restoration, when, as we have seen,
there began to be a considerable expansion of trade. By 13 & 14 Chas. II.,
c. 6, it was laid down that no waggon, wain, cart or carriage carrying
goods "for hire" should be drawn by more than seven horses or eight oxen,
or carry more than 20 cwt. between October 1 and May 1, or more than 30
cwt. between May 1 and October 1, thus modifying the earlier regulations,
while it further enacted that no wheels should have rims exceeding four
inches in breadth; but by 22 Chas. II., c. 12, the maximum number of horses
allowed to any vehicles was again reduced to five; and by 30 Chas. II., c.
5, the words "for hire" were deleted, the restrictions being applied to all
vehicles carrying goods.

From the time of the accession of William and Mary, every few years saw
fresh Acts of Parliament becoming law, changing, deleting or adding to
regulations previously laid down as to weight of loads, number of horses,
the order in which they should be harnessed, the breadth of the tires, the
position of the wheels, the kind of nails to be used for fastening the
tires, and so on, until it becomes practically impossible to follow the
complicated changes from time to time, if not actually from year to year.
These changes more especially applied to the number of horses or oxen by
which carts and waggons could be drawn, and efforts were made to enforce
the ever-varying regulations by exceptionally severe penalties. The Act 5
Geo. I., c. 11, for example, authorises any person to seize and keep
possession of such number of horses as might be attached to a carter's
waggon in excess of six, or to a cart, for hire, in excess of three; though
16 Geo. II, c. 29, states that, as the restriction of three horses to a
cart, under the Act of Geo. I., had been found inconvenient for farmers,
and highly detrimental to the markets of the Kingdom, the number could be
increased to four.

In reference to these legislative restrictions on the number of horses a
farmer might attach to a single cart, it is said in "A General View of the
Agriculture of Shropshire," by Joseph Plymley, Archdeacon of Salop (1803):
"Were farmers {45}permitted to draw any number of horses, it would be of
great public utility in lowering the price of these animals, which is now
enormously high. The law, as it now stands, acts as a prohibition to
farmers breeding horses; for a breeding mare, or a colt under five years
old, is not fit to draw one of four in a waggon, with no more than 60
bushels of barley or wheat, which is the common load of the Shropshire or
Staffordshire farmers, neither being more than two tons.... Another evil
occasioned by the law is that such farmers are obliged to keep horses of
the largest size, which consume the produce of much land by eating a large
quantity of corn." Whereas good waggon-horses could formerly be bought at
from £10 to £15 each, they were then, "by their scarcity," costing from £25
to £35 each. Coach-horses cost "from £40 to £60."

The various provisions in respect to number of horses or oxen per cart or
waggon failed to keep down the loads to a weight suited to the deficiencies
of the roads--which deficiencies had continued, notwithstanding the
turnpikes--and a further step was taken under 14 Geo. II., c. 42, which
authorised turnpike trustees not only to erect weighing machines but to
impose an additional toll of twenty shillings per cwt. on any waggon which,
together with its contents, had a total weight exceeding 60 cwt. By Geo.
II., c. 43, the trustees were authorised to levy the same additional toll
on any vehicle drawn by six horses.

In addition to adopting these various restrictions on the weights carried,
Parliament had devoted much attention to the construction of the vehicles
employed. One of the provisions of an Act passed in 1719 was a regulation
in respect to the breadth of the wheel-rims, or "fellies," and the use
thereon of rose-headed nails, these being regarded as injurious to the
roads; though in the following year came another Act which recited that as
the extending of these regulations to waggons that did not travel for hire
had been found detrimental to farmers and others, and, also, to the markets
of the Kingdom, they were repealed--only, however, to be revived, by 18
Geo. II., c. 33, in 1745.

Parliament was now to devote much more attention to the subject of broad
wheels; and how this came about is explained by Daniel Bourn in a pamphlet
entitled, "A Treatise upon Wheel Carriages" (1763), the main purpose of
which was {46}to expound to the world the excellences of what the writer
described as "that noble and valuable machine, the broad-wheeled waggon."
He gives the following account of the origin of the said machine:--

"The first set of broad wheels made use of on roads in this Kingdom were
erected by Mr James Morris, of Brock-Forge, near Wiggan in Lancashire; who
having a deep bad road to pass with his team advised with me upon the
subject; I mentioned the making of the fellies of his wheels of an uncommon
width: He accordingly made his first set thirteen inches, and the next year
another of nine inches in the sole; and his travelling with these to
Liverpool, Warrington and other places, was took notice of by some persons
of distinction, particularly Lord Strange, and Mr Hardman, Member for
Liverpool, &c., who after making strict enquiries of Mr Morris, concerning
their nature and properties, reported their utilities to the House, which
occasioned an Act of Parliament being made in their favour....

"Therefore let us congratulate ourselves on making thus far so happy a
progress; and as the publick roads continue to mend and improve, as they
polish and smooth, and arrive nearer perfection, so let us try if the
carriage that travels this road may not continue to improve too, and
receive a similar degree of perfection."

The Act of Parliament referred to by Bourn was, presumably, that of 26 Geo.
II., c. 30, which laid down that--with certain exceptions--no cart or
waggon should be allowed on any turnpike road at all unless the "fellies"
of each and every wheel had a breadth of at least nine inches, the penalty
for a breach of this enactment being a fine of £5, with one month's
imprisonment in default of payment, and forfeiture of one of the horses,
together with its harness, to the sole use and benefit of the person making
the seizure. As a further encouragement of such wheels, the trustees of
turnpike roads were required to accept reduced tolls for all vehicles
having wheels of a breadth of nine inches. Two years later a further Act
(28 Geo. II., c. 17), set forth that, the former statutes relating to
cart-wheels not having answered the good purposes intended, it was now
provided that for a period of three years from June 24, 1753, waggons
having 9-inch wheels were to be allowed to pass free through every turnpike
in the Kingdom, {47}the trustees being authorised to protect themselves
against loss from such free passage by imposing higher tolls on all carts
and waggons the wheels of which were not nine inches in width.

The idea in having these broad wheels was that they would not only be less
injurious to the roads than the narrow wheels, but would even tend to keep
the roads in good order by helping to smooth and consolidate them in the
same way as would be done by garden rollers. Mr Bourn, who was an
enthusiast on the subject, even proposed to have cart and waggon wheels
made of cast iron with a breadth of sixteen inches! He says in his

"I would recommend having the wheels made in the following manner:--

"Let there be run out of cast iron at the founders hollow rims or
cylinders, about two feet high, sixteen inches broad or wide, and from one
to near two inches in thickness, according to the design or necessity of
the proprietor, and the burden he intends them to bear. Let the space, or
cavity between these cylinders be filled up solid with a block of wood,
through the center of which insert your arbor or gudgeon, and leave it two
inches and six eighths at each end longer than the cylinder; which parts
must be round, and about two inches thick, being the pivots, and when the
whole is well wedged the wheel is compleat.

"Here then is a solid wheel, which answers all the intentions of the garden
roller; now can anything be conceived that would have so happy a tendency
upon the roads? to render them smooth and even to harden and encrust the
surface, and make it resemble a terrass walk? I say, can anything be equal
to these kind of cast iron rollers to produce the foregoing effects?"

Without adopting Mr Bourn's 16-inch cast-iron garden rollers, the carriers
of the period did, apparently, adopt the 9-inch wheels favoured by
Parliament; but as they found that, with 9-inch wheels, they could carry
much heavier weights, there had to be a further resort to legislation
directed to a limitation of loads. This was done by 5 Geo. III., c. 38,[7]
{48}while under 6 Geo. III., c. 43, turnpike trustees were directed to
issue orders to their collectors not to allow any waggon or other
four-wheeled carriage having wheels of less than 9 inches in breadth to
pass through a toll-gate when drawn by more than four horses without
seizing one of the horses. By 13 Geo. III., c. 84, the reduced tolls
already conceded to 9-inch wheels were extended to 6-inch wheels, and it
was further provided that waggons with 16-inch wheels should pass toll free
for a year, and then pay only one-half of the tolls to be paid by 6-inch
wheeled waggons.

In order to give still further encouragement to the use of 16-inch wheels,
an Act passed in the following year provided that any waggon having wheels
of those dimensions should pass toll-free for five years instead of one,
and pay only half toll afterwards.

Among the many other Acts that followed, mention may be made of 55 Geo.
III., c. 119, which gives an especially good idea of the infinite pains
taken by the Legislature to adapt the construction of vehicles to the
apparently hopeless deficiencies of the roads. The Act authorised road
trustees to exempt certain vehicles from tolls for overweight "provided
such Waggon, Cart or other such Carriage shall have the Soles or Bottoms of
the Fellies of all the Wheels thereof of the Breadth of Six inches, or of
Nine Inches, or of Sixteen Inches or upwards, and be cylindrical, that is
to say, of the same Diameter on the Inside next the Carriage as on the
outside, so that when such Wheels shall be rolling on a flat or level
Surface, the whole Breadth thereof shall bear equally on such flat or level
Surface; and provided that the opposite Ends of the Axletrees of such
Waggon, Cart or other Carriage, so far as the same shall be inserted in the
respective Naves of the Wheels thereof, shall be horizontal and in the
continuance of one straight Line, without forming any Angle with each
other; and so that in each pair of Wheels belonging to such Carriage, the
lower Parts, when resting on the Ground, shall be at the same distance from
each other as the upper Parts of such Pair of Wheels: Provided always,"

Under 3 Geo. IV., c. 126 (1822) no waggon or cart with wheels of less
breadth than 3 in. was to be used on any turnpike road from the 1st of
January, 1826, under a penalty of not exceeding £5 for the owner and not
exceeding forty shillings {49}for the driver; but this provision was
repealed by 4 Geo. IV., c. 95 (1823), "in compliance," says Dehany, "with a
cry raised on the part of the farmers and agriculturists, who, in petitions
and complaints against the Act, put forward this clause as a principal

The broad-wheel policy of successive Governments evoked a good deal of
criticism from others besides farmers and agriculturists, who themselves
seem to have been reduced from time to time by the ever-changing
regulations and restrictions to a condition almost of despair. In speaking
of the roads in the parish of Eccles, Dr Aikin, writing in 1795, says in
his "Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles round
Manchester" that although "much labour and a very great expense of money"
had been expended on them, they still remained in a very indifferent state
owing to the immoderate weights drawn in waggons and carts, and he adds:
"To prevent this, vain and useless are all the regulations of weighing
machines; and the encouragement of broad and rolling wheels still increases
the evil, which must soon destroy all the best roads of Great Britain."

The general effect of the legislation in question was, also, thus commented
on by William Jessop in an article on "Inland Navigation and Public Roads,"
published in vol. vi. of the "Georgical Essays" (1804):--

"I do not know anything in this country ... that has been more neglected
than the proper construction of wheel carriages and the formation of roads.
It has been generally acknowledged that for carriages of burden broad
wheels, which will roll the roads, are the most eligible; and by the
exemptions which have been granted to those who use broad wheels, the
legislature has certainly looked forward to the benefits to be expected
from the use of them; but never was a proposition more misunderstood, or an
indulgence more abused. Of all the barbarous and abominable machines that
have been contrived by ignorance, and maintained by vulgar prejudice, none
have equalled the broad-wheeled carriages that are now in use; instead of
rolling the roads, they grind them into mud and dust."

Not alone cart-wheels, but even cart-wheel nails, engaged the serious
attention of Parliament, and formed the subject of special legislation. The
Act 18 Geo. II., c. 33, provided, among {50}other things, that the streaks
or tires of wheels were to be fastened with flat, and not rose-headed,
nails; and an Act passed in 1822, in the reign of George IV., directed that
when the nails of the tire projected more than a quarter of an inch from
the surface of the tire the owner of the waggon should pay a penalty of £5
and the driver one of forty shillings for every time such vehicle was drawn
on a turnpike road; though an amending Act, passed the following year,
reduced the penalties to "any sum not exceeding" forty shillings for the
owner and twenty shillings for the driver.

Towards the end of the long period here in question it began to be realised
that what was wanted, after all, was an adaptation of the roads to the
traffic rather than an adaptation of the traffic to the roads; but the
change in policy was not definitely effected until two practical-minded
men, John Loudon McAdam and Thomas Telford, had introduced, at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, the first attempt at really scientific
road-making which had been made in this country since the departure of the
Roman legions in the early part of the fifth century.



Whilst the Legislature had been actively engaged in endeavouring to adapt
wheeled vehicles to roads, the number of vehicles of various types using
the roads had greatly increased as the result of expanding trade and
travel, combined with the further stimulus offered by that system of
turnpike roads the story of which will be told in later chapters.

The vehicle that first performed in this country the functions of a public
coach in transporting a number of passengers from one place to another was,
of course, the long waggon, of which an account has already been given.
Stage-coaches began to come into use about the year 1659, when, as shown by
the "Diary" of Sir William Dugdale, there was a Coventry coach on the road.
The three coaches a week between London and York, Chester and Exeter,
spoken of by John Cressett as running in 1673, carrying their six
passengers apiece on each journey, went, at that time, only in summer, on
account of the roads; and even in the summer it was no unusual thing for
the passengers to have to walk miles at a time because the horses could not
do more than drag the coach itself through the mire. The usual speed was
from four to four and a half miles an hour.

The first stage-coach between London and Edinburgh ran in 1658. It went
once a fortnight, and the fare was £4. In 1734 a weekly coach from
Edinburgh to London was announced. It was to do the journey in nine days,
"or three days sooner than any coach that travels that road"; but either
such rapid travelling as this was a piece of bluff on the part of the
advertiser or the conditions of travel went from bad to worse since in 1760
the Edinburgh coach for London left only once a month, and was from
fourteen to sixteen days on the way. The fact that one coach a month
sufficed to carry all the {52}passengers is sufficiently suggestive of the
very small amount of travel by land between London and Scotland that went
on even in the middle of the eighteenth century. Fourteen days for the
journey between London and Edinburgh was then considered a very reasonable
time-allowance. In 1671 Sir Henry Herbert had said in the House of Commons,
"If a man were to propose to convey us regularly to Edinburgh in coaches in
seven days, and bring us back in seven more, should we not vote him to

In 1712 a fortnightly coach from Edinburgh to London was advertised to
"perform the whole journey in thirteen days without any stoppages (if God
permits), having eighty able horses to perform the whole journey." The fare
was £4 10s. with a free allowance of 20 lbs. of luggage. In 1754 the
Edinburgh coach left on Monday in winter and on Tuesday in summer, arrived
at Boroughbridge (Yorkshire) on Saturday night, started again on Monday
morning, and was due to reach London on the following Friday.

In 1774 Glasgow had been brought within ten days of London. The arrival of
the coach was then regarded as so important an event that a gun was fired
off when it came in sight, to let the citizens know it was really there. A
10-day coach to London was also running from Edinburgh to London in 1779,
an advertisement in the _Edinburgh Courant_ of that year stating that such
a coach left every Tuesday, that it rested all Sunday at Boroughbridge, and
that "for the better accommodation of passengers" it would be "altered to a
new genteel two-end coach machine, hung upon steel springs, exceedingly
light and easy."

York was a week distant from London in 1700; but on April 12, 1706, there
was put on the road, to run three times a week, a coach which, said the
announcement made respecting it, "performs the whole journey in four days
(if God permits)." The time of starting on the first day was five o'clock
in the morning.

The proprietors of a coach that ran between London and Exeter in 1755
promised their patrons "a safe and expeditious journey in a fortnight";
though this record was improved on before the end of the century, the time
being reduced to {53}ten days. Exeter is a little over 170 miles from
London, and the journey can be done to-day, by rail, in three hours.

From London to Portsmouth took, in 1703, fourteen hours, "if the roads were

The Oxford coach in 1742 left London at 7 a.m., arrived at High Wycombe at
5 p.m., remained there for the night, and reached Oxford the following day.

By 1751 travelling between London and Dover had so far improved that it was
accomplished in two days by stage-coach, instead of three or four days by
long waggon. The coach left London every Wednesday and Friday at four in
the morning; the passengers dined at Rochester, stayed for the night at
Canterbury, and were due at Dover "the next morning, early." The
announcements made in respect to this coach state that "there will be a
conveniency"--that is, a basket--"behind, for baggage and outside

The advancement made by the stage-coach over the long waggon was, however,
satisfactory for a time only. By about 1734 the stage-coach itself began to
find a rival in what was called "the flying coach," otherwise a stage-coach
which travelled at accelerated speed. Thus the advent of a "Newcastle
Flying Coach" was announced in the following terms:--

"May 9, 1734.--A coach will set out towards the end of next week for London
or any place on the road. To be performed in nine days, being three days
sooner than any coach that travels the road, for which purpose eight stout
horses are stationed at proper distances."

In 1754 a "flying coach" between Manchester and London was started by a
group of Manchester merchants who, with the developing trade of those
times, doubtless felt the need for improved facilities of travel. It was
announced that "incredible as it may appear, this coach will actually
arrive in London four days and a half after leaving Manchester."

If the person who wrote this advertisement could only come to life again,
what would he be likely to say to the fact that London and Manchester are
to-day only four hours apart, and that a London merchant, after doing a
morning's work in the City, can leave Euston at noon, lunch in the train,
be in Manchester by four o'clock, have two hours there, leave again at six,
dine in the train, and be back in London by ten? On the other hand, what
does the London merchant who can {54}do these things (besides having the
further advantages of the telegraph and the long-distance telephone) think
of the business conditions in 1754, when the quickest communications
between London and Manchester were by a coach doing the journey in the then
"incredible" time of four days and a half?

The enterprise of Manchester naturally stimulated that of Liverpool, and
three years later it was announced that from June 9, 1757, "a flying
machine on steel springs" would make the journey between Warrington and
London in three days. The roads between Liverpool and Warrington being
still impassable for coaches, the Liverpool passengers had to go on
horseback to Warrington the day previous to the departure of the coach from
that town. Manchester got a three-day coach to London in 1760. Seven years
later communication by stage-coach was opened between Liverpool and
Manchester, six or even eight horses being required to drag through the
ruts and sloughs a heavy, lumbering vehicle which, going three days a week,
then took the whole day to make the journey. In 1782 the time between
Liverpool and London was 48 hours.

Down to the middle of the eighteenth century there was no direct
communication by coach between Birmingham and London. The Birmingham
merchant or resident who wanted to travel to London by coach, instead of on
horseback, had to go four miles by road to Castle Bromwich, and there await
the coach from Chester to London. In 1747, however, Birmingham got a coach
of its own, and this vehicle, it was announced, would run to London in two
days "if the roads permit,"[9] but the roads around Birmingham were still
in a deplorable condition when William Hutton published his "History" of
the town. He says that from Birmingham, as from a grand centre, there
radiated twelve roads to as many towns; but on most of them one could not
travel with safety in times of floods, the water, owing to the absence of
causeways and bridges, flowing over the road higher than the stirrup of
one's horse. At Saltley in the year 1779 he had had to pass through what
was really a dangerous river. A mile from Birmingham, on the Lichfield
road, a river remained {55}without a bridge until 1792. The road to Walsall
had been "lately made good," and that to Wolverhampton was much improved;
but he speaks of the road to Dudley, twelve miles in length, as "despicable
beyond description," and says the "unwilling traveller" was obliged to go
two miles about, through a bad road, to avoid a worse. The roads to
Stratford and Warwick were "much used and much neglected," and the one to
Coventry could "only be equalled by the Dudley Road."

"A flying machine on steel springs" from Sheffield to London was started in
1760. It "slept" at Nottingham the first night, at Northampton the second,
and arrived in London on the third day. Leeds showed equal enterprise.

The Bath coach, "hung on steel springs," was in 1765 doing the journey in
29 hours, the night being spent at Andover. The improvement of the Bath
road allowed of Burke reaching Bristol from London in 24 hours in the
summer of 1774; but his biographer mentions, by way of explaining how he
accomplished this feat, that he "travelled with incredible speed." By 1795,
however, Bath had been brought within a single day's journey of London, the
traveller who started from the Angel, at the back of St. Clements Danes, at
four o'clock in the morning, being due at Bath at eleven o'clock at night.
The journey between Dover and London was also reduced to one day, a "flying
machine" leaving at four a.m. and reaching its destination in the evening.

By 1784, in fact, flying coaches had become quite common, and their once
incredible speeds even came to be regarded as far from satisfactory for
travellers to whom time was of importance.

The immediate reason, however, for the next development arose through the
defective postal arrangements. Hitherto the mails had been carried either
by post-boys, whose contract time was five miles an hour, or, in the case
of short journeys, by veterans on foot whose rate of progress was much
less, though it was then a common practice to make up urgent letters as
parcels, and send them by the coaches. John Palmer, manager of a theatre at
Bath, finding the mail was taking three days over a journey to London which
he himself often did in one, submitted to Pitt, in 1783, a scheme {56}for
the running of mail coaches at the then equivalent to "express" speed. The
permanent officials of the Post Office naturally regarded such a scheme,
proposed by a rank outsider, as impracticable, if not absolutely absurd,
and Palmer had a sturdy fight before he got his way. The experimental
service started in 1784 was an immediate success, and when it became known
that letters were being carried between Bristol and London in sixteen
hours, every other important town or city in the country (Liverpool being
one of the first to petition) wanted to have its own postal arrangements
improved in the same way. Thus there was inaugurated a "mail-coach era,"
which was to continue unchecked until the first despatch of mails by
railway in 1830.

The earliest of the mail-coaches travelled at a rate of about six miles an
hour; but, as the roads were improved, the speed was increased to eight,
nine, ten or even twelve miles an hour. The time for the Liverpool-London
journey, for example, was eventually reduced to 30 hours in good weather
and 36 hours in bad.

The running of these mail-coaches had a powerful influence on the whole
question of road improvement, since the attainment of the best possible
speed and the avoidance of delays in the arrival of the mails came to be
regarded as matters of supreme importance; while more and more of the
ordinary stage-coaches were put on for travellers to whom the lower
fares[10] were of greater concern than high rates of speed.

Mail coaches had the further good effect of stimulating great improvements
in coach construction. The use of springs, in particular, allowed of a more
compact vehicle, carrying luggage and outside passengers on the roof
instead of relegating them to a basket "conveniency" behind. The
competition, or, at least, the example of the mail-coaches had the further
result of increasing the speed of the "flying" coaches, {57}which now
generally aimed at doing their eight or nine miles an hour; but here,
again, much depended on the state of the roads.

Supplementary to the coaching there was the system of "posting," favoured
by those who did not care to patronise public vehicles, and could afford
the luxury of independent travel. In the earliest form of the posting
system, that is, in the days when wheeled vehicles had not yet come into
general use, and people did their journeys on horseback, travellers hired
horses only at the recognised posting places; and Fynes Moryson, in his
"Itinerary," narrating the conditions in 1617, says a "passenger" having a
"commission" from the chief postmaster "shall pay 2½d. each mile for his
horse and the same for his guide's horse; but one guide will serve the
whole company, tho' many ride together." Travellers without a "commission"
had to pay 3d. a mile. The guide, presumably, brought back the horses, and,
also, really guided the traveller--a matter of no slight importance when
the roads were often simply tracks over unenclosed spaces with no
finger-posts to point the way.

Another form of posting was the hire from place to place of horses for use
in private carriages; but the more general form was the hiring of both
horse and post-chaise--a four-wheeled vehicle, accommodating, generally,
three persons, and having a roof on which luggage could be strapped.
Posting was a costly mode of travelling, only possible for people of wealth
and distinction. Harper calculates that to "post" from London to Edinburgh
must have cost at least £30; but it was no unusual thing, about the middle
of the eighteenth century, for the Scotch newspapers to publish
advertisements by gentlemen who proposed to "post" to London, inviting
others to join them with a view to sharing the expense.

The condition of the streets in the towns being often no improvement on
that of the roads in the country, the development of vehicular traffic,
even there, was but slow. It was the example of Queen Elizabeth in riding
in a "coach" through the streets of London that led to private carriages
becoming fashionable, since, following thereon, "divers great ladies" had
coaches made, and went about in them--much to the admiration of the
populace, but much, also, to the concern of the Thames watermen, who
regarded the {58}innovation as one that foreshadowed for them a competition
which did, indeed, become formidable, and even fatal, to their own

In those days and for long afterwards the Thames was the highway by means
of which people of all classes went, whenever practicable, from one part of
London to another, the main incentive to this general use of the river
being the deplorable condition of the streets and roads. In his book on
"England in the Fifteenth Century" the Rev. W. Denton tells how the King's
serjeants-at-law, who dwelt in Fleet Street, and who pleaded at Westminster
Hall, gave up an attempt to ride along the Strand because the Bishop of
Norwich and others would not repair the road which ran at the back of their
town houses. It was safer and more pleasant for lawyers to take a boat from
the Temple stairs and reach Westminster by water. The Lord Mayor, on his
election, not only went by water from the City to Westminster, to be
received by the judges, but down to 1711, when a "Lord Mayor's Coach" was
provided for him, rode on horseback from the Guildhall to London Bridge,
where he embarked on the City barge, accompanied by representatives of the
Livery Companies in their barges.

Transport on the Thames constituted a vested interest of great concern to
the watermen, who had hitherto regarded as their special prerogative the
conveyance of Londoners along what was then London's central thoroughfare;
and the story of the way in which they met the competition of vehicular
traffic in the streets is worth the telling because it illustrates the fact
that each successive improvement in locomotion and transport has had to
face opposition from the representatives of established but threatened

The great champion of the watermen was John Taylor (1580-1654), the "Water
Poet," as he called himself. When the private carriages began to increase
in number he expressed his opinion of them thus:--

"The first coach was a strange monster, it amazed both horse and man. Some
said it was a great crab-shell brought out of China; some thought it was
one of the pagan temples, in which cannibals adored the devil....

"Since Phaeton broke his neck, never land hath endured more trouble than
ours, by the continued rumbling of these {59}upstart four-wheeled
tortoises.... A coach or carouch is a mere engine of pride, which no one
can deny to be one of the seven deadly sins."

In 1601 sympathisers with the watermen succeeded in getting a Bill passed
in the House of Commons "to restrain the excessive and superfluous use of
coaches." It was thrown out by the House of Lords, though in 1614 the
Commons, in turn, refused to pass a "Bill against outrageous coaches." In
1622 the Water Poet published a work, "An Errant Thief," etc., in which he
dealt at length with the great injury that was being done to the watermen
by the coaches, saying, among other things:--

 "Carroches, coaches, jades and Flanders mares,
  Do rob us of our shares, our wares, our fares;
  Against the ground we stand and knock our heeles,
  Whilst all our profit runs away on wheeles.
  And whosoever but observes and notes
  The great increase of coaches and of boates,
  Shall find their number more than e'er they were
  By halfe and more, within these thirty yeare;
  Then watermen at sea had service still,
  And those that stay'd at home had worke at will;
  Then upstart hel-cart coaches were to seek,
  A man could scarce see twenty in a weeke;
  But now I think a man may dayly see
  More than the wherrys on the Thames can be."

In the following year he published another work, "The World Runnes on
Wheeles," in which he dealt further with the woes of the watermen. But the
coaches continued to increase alike in number and in public favour, and the
position of the watermen became still worse in 1625, when the already
numerous private carriages were supplemented in London by hackney carriages
let out for hire, though these did not, at first, exceed twenty in number,
while they had to be hired direct from the stables of their owners.

In 1633 it was found that the river traffic was being prejudiced more and
more by the greater use of vehicles in the streets. Whether or not in
sympathy with the watermen, the Star Chamber issued an Order which said:--

"As to a complaint of the stoppage of the streets by the carriages of
persons frequenting the play-house of the {60}Blackfriars, their lordships,
remembering that there is an easy passage by water unto that play-house,
without troubling the streets, and that it is much more fit and reasonable
that those which go thither should go by water, or else on foot, do order
all coaches to leave as soon as they have set down, and not return till the
play is over, nor return further than the west end of Saint Paul's Church
Yard, or Fleet conduit; coachmen disobeying these orders to be committed to
Newgate or Ludgate."

Opposition to the innovation of the coaches was, however, wholly
unavailing, even when supported by Star Chamber intimations that people
ought to be content to "go by water or else on foot"; and in 1634
permission was obtained for hackney coaches to ply in the streets for hire,
instead of their having to remain, as heretofore, in the stables. The first
public stand, for four carriages, with drivers in livery, was set up in the
Strand, near Somerset House. A month or two later the watermen presented to
Charles I. a petition in which they said:--

"The hackney coaches are so many in number that they pester and incumber
the streets of London and Westminster, and, which is worst of all, they
stand and ply in the terme tyme at the Temple gate, and at other places in
the streets, and doe carry sometymes three men for fourpence the man, or
four men for twelvepence, to Westminster or back again, which doing of this
doth undoe the Company of Watermen."

The same year (1634) saw still another innovation, that of the sedan chair,
which was to play so important a rôle in social life until towards the end
of the eighteenth century, and was, in fact, not to disappear until even
later, since there was a stand for sedan chairs still to be seen in St.
James's Square in 1821. How the sedan chair came to be introduced is shown
by a Royal Order issued as follows:--

"That whereas the streets of our cities of London and Westminster and their
suburbs, are of late so much incumbered with the unnecessary multitude of
coaches that many of our subjects are thereby exposed to great danger, and
the necessary use of carts and carriages for provisions thereby much
hindered; and Sir Sanders Duncombe's petition representing that in many
parts beyond sea people are much carried in chairs that are covered,
whereby few {61}coaches are used among them; wherefore we have granted to
him the sole privilege to use, let and hire a number of the said covered
chairs, for fourteen years."[11]

On January 19, 1635, there was issued a Royal Proclamation which said

"The great number of Hackney Coaches of late seen and kept in London,
Westminster, and their suburbs, and the general and promiscuous use of
coaches there, are not only a great disturbance to his Majesty, his dearest
consort the Queen, the nobility, and others of place and degree, in their
passage through the streets, but the streets themselves are so pestered and
the pavements so broken up that the common passage is thereby hindered and
made dangerous, and the price of hay and provender, &c., thereby made
exceeding dear, wherefore we expressly command and forbid that no Hackney
or hired coach be used or suffered in London, Westminster, or the suburbs
thereof, except they be to travel at least three miles out of the same; and
also that no person shall go in a coach in the said streets except the
owner of the coach shall constantly keep up four able horses for our
service when required."

Vigorous efforts were made to enforce this proclamation, and the Water Poet
was especially active in the matter, in the interests of his protégés, but
all to no purpose. Two years later the King, "finding it very requisite for
our nobility and gentry, as well as for foreign ambassadors, strangers and
others" that the said restrictions should be withdrawn, was graciously
pleased to sanction the licensing in London of fifty hackney coaches. Such
attempts at limitation must, however, have been equally of no avail, since
in 1652 there was another order, which set forth that not more than 200
should ply in the streets. In the following year the watermen sent a
further petition to the House of Commons, and in 1654 the Protector issued
an order limiting to 300 the number of hackney coaches to ply in London and
Westminster and six miles round, while the number of hackney coach horses
was not to exceed 600. Two years or so after this the watermen sent still
another {62}petition to the House of Commons. This petition of "the
Overseers and Rulers of the Company of Watermen, together with their whole
society," declared that their "trade or art of rowing on the water hath
been long reputed very useful to the Commonwealth"; that the Company had,
"ever since their incorporation, been a nursery to breed up seamen"; that,
after serving "the Commonwealth's special service at sea," they found that
"the art affordeth but a small livelihood to them, and that with hard
labour"; and--

"That of late your petitioners' art is rendered more contemptible than
formerly, and their employment much lessened and impoverished, by reason of
the strange increase of hackney coaches, which have multiplied from about
three hundred to a thousand, in eleven years last past, whereby people are
discouraged from binding their sons apprentice to the trade of a waterman,
and if remedy be not speedily had, there will not be a sufficient number of
watermen to supply the service of the Commonwealth at sea,[12] and also
your petitioners and families utterly ruined.

"That of late some rich men about the city, keep very many hackney coaches
to the great prejudice, as your petitioners humbly conceive, of the
Commonwealth, in that they make leather dear, and their horses devour so
much hay and corn; and also they do so fester the streets as that by sad
experience divers persons are in danger of their lives, by reason of the
unskilfulness of some of them that drive them, besides many other
inconveniences which are too large to be here inserted."

Therefore the petitioners humbly prayed that Parliament would limit the
number of such coaches.

No immediate action seems to have been taken; but, continuous complaints
being made as to the obstructions caused by the hackney coaches, a
proclamation was issued on November 7, 1660, by Charles II., to the effect
that hackney coaches should no longer come into the streets to be hired.
The proclamation had so little effect that on July 20, 1662, the watermen
sent a petition to the House of Lords, once more recounting their
grievances. The House named certain Lords who were to consider the matter
and report; but Henry {63}Humpherus, author of the "History of the Origin
and Progress of the River Thames," has been unable to find that any report
was made thereon. Soon after this the number of hackney coaches was
increased (14 Chas. II., c. 2) to 400. In 1666, more complaints coming from
the watermen, the House of Commons appointed a committee of inquiry.

In the winter of 1683-4 the disconsolate watermen had to suffer the
indignity of seeing the Thames itself--their own special province--invaded
by the drivers of hackney coaches! So severe was the frost that, as told by
John Evelyn in his "Diary," the Thames was frozen over "so thick as to
bear, not only streets of booths in which they roasted meat, and had divers
shops of wares, quite across as in a town, but coaches, carts and horses,"
so that "coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several
other stairs to and fro, as in the streets."

By 1685 the hackney coaches seem to have established their position as
successful competitors of the watermen, an Act of Parliament which placed
them on a recognised and regulated footing being passed in that year, while
the number to be licensed was increased in 1694 to 700, in 1711 to 800, and
in 1771 to 1000.

A still further blow was given to the interests of the watermen by the
introduction from Paris, in 1820, of the "cabriolet," or "cab" as it came
to be called; and yet another was dealt to them when, on July 4, 1829, Mr
Shillibeer, the coach proprietor, ran the first omnibus from the Yorkshire
Stingo, Paddington, to the City, and thus began a further new era in urban
locomotion, supplanting, thereby, a good many of the hackney coachmen, just
as they themselves had to so considerable an extent already supplanted the
Thames watermen.



In the present chapter I propose to bring together the testimony of various
contemporary writers with a view to enabling the reader thoroughly to
realise those bad-road conditions from which, it was hoped, the country
would at last be saved by the introduction of the system of turnpike roads
inaugurated by the Act of 1663.

Evidence of the general character of English roads at the time the Act was
passed, and, also, probably, for a considerable period afterwards, is
afforded by the maps and descriptions of routes given by Ogilby in his
"Britannia" (see page 33). The maps indicate by means of lines and dots
where the roads had been enclosed, by hedges or otherwise, on one side or
both, and where they were still open. Taking the series of maps for the
route from London to Berwick, and so on to Scotland, one finds that for a
distance of about twenty-five or thirty miles from London, the road was
then mostly enclosed; and from that point, through a large part of
Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland,
Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, only occasional stretches, mostly in the
neighbourhood of towns, and often for lengths of no more than half a mile
each, were enclosed either on one side of the road or both. The enclosures
began again about six miles south of York, and continued for a short
distance on the north of that city; but beyond York they became still more
rare, and from Morpeth (Northumberland) to Berwick, a distance of about
fifty miles, the total extent of enclosed road did not exceed six miles.
Taking roads in the west, it is shown that in forty miles or so between
Abingdon and Gloucester there was not a single enclosure.

What all this meant was that, where there had been no enclosure, the road
was simply a track across commons, fens, {65}marshes, heaths, etc., or
through woods, where drivers of carts, waggons or coaches picked and chose
to the best advantage, discarding an old path when it became a deep rut or
was otherwise impassable, in favour of a new one alongside, or some
distance away, and leaving the new one, in turn, when it got into the same
state as the old.[13]

The crossing of heaths and other open spaces was rendered the more
difficult by the general absence of finger-posts.[14] In some instances
land-beacons were constructed as a guide to travellers. One which had a
height of seventy feet, served as a landmark by day and was provided with a
lantern at night, was raised in 1751 by Squire Dashwood on a dreary, barren
and wholly trackless waste in the neighbourhood of Lincoln known as Lincoln
Heath. The lantern was regularly lighted until 1788. The beacon itself
stood until 1808, when it fell and was not rebuilt.

One especially important factor in the situation was the nature of the

I have already mentioned, on page 5, Defoe's references in his "Tour" to
this particular matter; but the description he gives of some of the roads
which crossed the 50-mile belt of "deep stiff clay or marly" soil throws a
good deal of light on the conditions of travel in his day. Thus, in dealing
with the roads from London to the north, he says:--

"Suppose we take the great Northern Post Road from London to York, and so
into Scotland; you have tolerably good Ways and hard Ground, 'till you
reach Royston about 32, and to Kneesworth, a Mile farther: But from thence
you enter upon the clays which, beginning at the famous Arrington Lanes,
and going on Caxton, Huntington, Stilton, Stamford, Grantham, Newark,
Tuxford (called for its Deepness Tuxford in the Clays), holds on 'till we
come almost to Bautree, which {66}is the first town in Yorkshire, and there
the Country is hard and sound, being Part of Sherwood Forest.

"Suppose you take the other Northern Road, by St. Albans.... After you are
pass'd Dunstable, which, as in the other Way is about 30 Miles, you enter
the deep Clays, which are so surprisingly soft, that it is perfectly
frightful to Travellers, and it has been the Wonder of Foreigners, how,
considering the great Numbers of Carriages which are continually passing
with heavy Loads, those Ways have been made practicable; indeed the great
Number of Horses every Year kill'd by the Excess of Labour in those heavy
Ways, has been such a Charge to the Country, that new Building of
Causeways, as the Romans did of old, seems to me to be a much easier
Expence. From Hockley to Northampton, thence to Harborough, and Leicester,
and thence to the very Bank of Trent these terrible Clays continue; at
Nottingham you are pass'd them, and the Forest of Sherwood yields a hard
and pleasant Road for 30 miles together."

On the road to Coventry, Birmingham and West Chester he had found the clays
"for near 80 miles"; on the road to Worcester "the Clays reach, with some
intermissions, even to the Bank of the Severn," and so on with other roads

Bourn, to whose "Treatise upon Wheel Carriages," published in 1763, earlier
reference has also been made, said, among other things, in support of his
scheme of broad-wheeled waggons:--

"So late as thirty or forty years ago the roads of England were in a most
deplorable condition; those that were narrow were narrow indeed, often to
that degree that the stocks of the wheels bore hard against the banks on
each side, and in many places they were worn below the level of the
neighbouring surface many feet, nay, yards perpendicular, and a
wide-spreading, bushy hedge, intermixed with old half-decayed trees and
stubbs, hanging over the traveller's head, intercepted the benign influence
of the heavens from his path, and the beauties of the circumjacent country
from his view, made it look more like the retreat of wild beasts and
reptiles than the footsteps of men.

"In other parts, where the road was wide, it might be and often was too
much so, and exhibited a scene of a different aspect. Here the wheel
carriage had worn a diversity of tracks {67}which were either deep, or
rough and stony, or high or low, as mother nature had placed the materials
upon the face of the ground; the spaces between these were frequently furzy
hillocks or thorny brakes, through or among which the equestrian traveller
picked out his entangled and uncouth steps. To these horrible, hilly,
stony, deep, miry, uncomfortable, dreary roads the narrow wheel'd waggon
seems to be best adapted, and these were frequently drawn by seven, eight,
or even ten horses, that with great difficulty and hazard dragged after
them twenty-five or thirty hundred, seldom more."

A writer in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for November, 1752, declares that
the roads from London to Land's End, and even those as far as Exeter,
Plymouth or Falmouth, were then still "what God left them after the flood";
while in comparing England with some of the Continental countries, he

"Nothing piques me more than that a trumpery despotic government like
France should have enchanting roads from the capital to each remote part of
use. Some roads in Holland are very fine.... The republic of Berne hath
made lately three or four magnificent roads, some of which are near 100
miles in length, and that, too, in a country to which Cornwall, Derbyshire,
Cumberland and Westmoreland are perfect carpet ground."

Sydney Smith professed to know--approximately--the number of "severe
contusions" he received in going from Taunton to Bath "before
stone-breaking McAdam was born." He put the figure at "between 10,000 and

In Sussex the roads were especially bad. In 1702, the year of Queen Anne's
accession to the throne, Charles III. of Spain paid a visit to London,
travelling by way of Portsmouth. Prince George of Denmark went from Windsor
to Petworth to meet him, and an account of this 40-mile journey by road

"We set out at six in the morning ... and did not get out of the carriages
(save only when we were overturned or stuck fast in the mire) till we
arrived at our journey's end. 'Twas a hard service for the Prince to sit
fourteen hours in the coach that day without eating anything, and passing
through the worst ways I ever saw in my life.... The last nine miles of the
way cost us six hours to conquer them."

{68}Defoe tells how the transport of timber from the neighbourhood of Lewes
to Chatham by road sometimes took two or three years to effect. He saw
there twenty-two oxen engaged in dragging "a carriage known as a 'tug'" on
which the trunk of a tree had been loaded; but the oxen would take it only
a short distance, and it would then be thrown down again and left for other
teams to take it still further short distances in succession. He also
speaks of having seen, at Lewes, "an ancient lady, and a lady of very good
quality," going to church in a "coach" drawn by six oxen, "the way being
stiff and deep that no horses could go in it."

There would seem to have been difficulties not only in going to church in
Sussex but even in getting buried there, for in the "Sussex Archæological
Collections" mention is made of the fact that in 1728 Judith, widow of Sir
Richard Shirley, of Preston, Sussex, directed in her will that her body
should be brought for burial to Preston, "if she should die at such time of
the year as the roads thereto were passable."

An authority quoted in the article on "Roads" in Postlethwayt's
"Dictionary" (1745), in referring to "that impassable county of Sussex,"
bears the following testimony thereto: "I have seen, in that horrible
country, the road 60 to 100 yards broad, lie from side to side all poached
with cattle, the land of no manner of benefit, and yet no going with a
horse but at every step up to the shoulders, full of sloughs and holes, and
covered with standing water."

On the other hand the bad roads were regarded by many of the inhabitants of
Sussex as a distinct advantage. They afforded increased facilities for the
smuggling operations practised there down to the beginning of the
nineteenth century, by rendering pursuit more difficult.

Arthur Young is an especially eloquent witness as to the conditions of
travel in England about the year 1770. In making his tours through the
country, with a view to investigating and reporting on the state of
agriculture, he passed over all sorts of roads, and, though some of them
were "good," "pretty good," and even "very good"--these compliments being
more especially paid to roads constructed by the country gentry at their
own cost--he experiences a difficulty in finding words sufficiently strong
in which to express himself when he attempts to describe the roads that
were really bad; and this {69}was the case in regard to many of the
turnpike roads on which alleged improvements had been carried out.

The following examples of his experiences are taken from his "Six Months'
Tour through the North of England":--

"From Newport Pagnel I took the road to Bedford, if I may venture to call
such a cursed string of hills and holes by the name of road; a causeway is
here and there thrown up, but so high, and at the same time so very narrow
that it was at the peril of our necks we passed a waggon with a civil and
careful driver."

"From Grinsthorpe to Coltsworth are eight miles, called by the courtesy of
the neighbourhood a turnpike; but in which we were every moment either
buried in quagmires of mud or racked to dislocation over pieces of rock
which they call mending."

"From Rotherham to Sheffield the road is execrably bad, very stony and
excessively full of holes."

"Those who go to Methley by Pontefract must be extremely fond of seeing
houses, or they will not recompense the fatigue of passing such detestable
roads. They are full of ruts, whose gaping jaws threaten to swallow up any
carriage less than a waggon. It would be no bad precaution to yoke half a
score of oxen to your coach to be ready to encounter such quagmires as you
will here meet with."

"To Coltsworth. Turnpike. Most execrably vile; a narrow causeway, cut into
rutts that threaten to swallow one up."

"To Castle Howard. Infamous. I was near to being swallowed up by a slough."

"From Newton to Stokesby, in Cleveland. Cross,[15] and extremely bad. You
are obliged to cross the moors they call Black Hambledon, over which the
road runs in narrow hollows that admit a south country chaise with such
difficulty that I reckon this part of the journey made at the hazard of my
neck. The going down into Cleveland is beyond all description terrible, for
you go through such steep, rough narrow, rocky precipices that I would
sincerely advise any friend to go an hundred miles about to escape it."

"From Richmond to Darlington, by Croft Bridge. To Croft Bridge, cross, and
very indifferent. From thence to Darlington is the great north road and
execrably broke into {70}holes, like an old pavement; sufficient to
dislocate ones bones."

"To Lancaster. Turnpike. Very bad, rough and cut up."

"To Preston. Turnpike. Very bad."

"To Wigan. Ditto. I know not in the whole range of language terms
sufficiently expressive to describe this infernal road. To look over a map,
and perceive that it is a principal one, not only to some towns, but even
whole counties, one would naturally conclude it to be at least decent; but
let me most seriously caution all travellers who may accidentally propose
to travel this terrible country to avoid it as they would the devil; for a
thousand to one but they break their necks or their limbs by overthrows or
breakings down. They will here meet with rutts which I actually measured
four feet deep, and floating with mud only from a wet-summer; what
therefore must it be after a winter? The only mending it receives is the
tumbling in some loose stones, which serve no other purpose but jolting a
carriage in the most intolerable manner. These are not merely opinions but
facts, for I actually passed three carts broken down in these eighteen
miles of execrable memory."

"To Warrington. Turnpike. This is a paved road, and most infamously bad....
Tolls had better be doubled and even quadrupled than allow such a nuisance
to remain."

"From Dunholm to Knotsford. Turnpike. It is impossible to describe these
infernal roads in terms adequate to their defects. Part of these six miles
I think are worse than any of the preceding."

"To Newcastle. Turnpike. This, in general, is a paved causeway, as narrow
as can be conceived, and cut into perpetual holes, some of them two feet
deep, measured on the level; a more dreadful road cannot be imagined; and
wherever the country is in the least sandy the pavement is discontinued,
and the rutts and holes most execrable. I was forced to hire two men at one
place to support my chaise from overthrowing, in turning out from a cart of
goods overthrown and almost buried. Let me persuade all travellers to avoid
this terrible country, which must either dislocate their bones with broken
pavements or bury them in muddy sand."

"I must in general advise all who travel on any business but absolute
necessity to avoid any journey further north {71}than Newcastle. All
between that place and Preston is a country, one would suppose, devoid of
all those improvements and embellishments which the riches and spirit of
modern times have occasioned in other parts. It is a track of country which
lays a most heavy tax upon all travellers and upon itself. Such roads are a
much heavier tax than half a crown a horse for a toll would be.
Agriculture, manufactures and commerce must suffer in such a track as well
as the traveller.... Until better management is produced I would advise all
travellers to consider this country as sea, and as soon think of driving
into the ocean as venturing into such detestable roads."

That the roads in the south of England were no improvement on those in the
north is shown by the same writer's "Six Weeks Tour through the Southern
Counties of England and Wales," wherein he says:--

"Of all the cursed roads that ever disgraced this kingdom in the very ages
of barbarism, none ever equalled that from Billericay to the King's Head at
Tilbury. It is for near 12 miles so narrow that a mouse cannot pass by any
carriage; I saw a fellow creep under his waggon to assist me to lift, if
possible, my chaise over a hedge.... I must not forget the eternally
meeting with chalk waggons, themselves frequently stuck fast till a
collection of them are in the same situation that twenty or thirty horses
may be tacked to each to draw them out one by one."

Of the "execrably muddy road" from Bury to Sudbury, in Norfolk, he says:
"For ponds of liquid dirt and a scattering of loose flints, just sufficient
to lame every horse that moves near them, with the addition of cutting vile
grips across the road under pretence of letting water off, but without the
effect, altogether render at least 12 out of these 16 miles as infamous a
turnpike as ever was travelled." As for Norfolk in general, he declares
that he "does not know one mile of excellent road in the whole country."

Conditions in and around London were not much better than in the country.
In 1727 George II. and his Queen were the whole night in making their way
from Kew Palace to St. James's. At one particularly bad place their coach
was overturned. In 1737 the time usually occupied, in wet weather, in
driving from Kensington to St. James's Palace was two {72}hours--assuming
that the vehicle did not stick in the mud. Writing from Kensington in this
same year, Lord Hervey said: "The road between this place and London is
grown so infamously bad that we live here in the same solitude as we would
do if cast on a rock in the middle of the ocean; and all the Londoners tell
us there is between them and us an impassable gulf of mud."

Middleton, again, speaking in his "Survey of Middlesex" of the Oxford Road
at Uxbridge, in 1797, says that during the whole of the winter there was
but one passable track on it, and that was less than six feet wide, and was
eight inches deep in fluid sludge.

In 1816 the Dublin Society made a grant of £100 to defray the cost of a
series of experiments to be carried out by Richard Lovell Edgeworth at the
Society's premises in Kildare Street, Dublin, with a view to ascertaining
"the best breadth of wheels, the proper weight of carriages and of burthen,
and the best form of materials for roads." Edgeworth's report, published
under the title of "An Essay on the Construction of Roads and Carriages"
(second edition, 1817), includes, in its introductory matter, a short
account of the history and development of roads. After pointing out that
before vehicles for the conveyance of goods were in use little more was
required than a path on hard ground which would bear horses; that all
marshy grounds were shunned; that inequalities and circuitous roads were of
much less consequence than was the case when carriages, instead of
packhorses, began to be employed, he proceeds:--

"When heavier carriages and greater traffic made wider and stronger roads
necessary, the ancient track was pursued; ignorance and want of concert in
the proprietors of the ground, and, above all, the want of some general
effective superintending power, continued this wretched practice until
turnpikes were established....

"The system of following the ancient line of road has been so
pertinaciously adhered to that roads have been sunk many feet, and in some
parts many yards, below the surface of the adjacent ground; _so that the
stag, the hounds and horsemen have been known to leap over a loaded waggon,
in a hollow way, without any obstruction from the vehicle_."

After this the reader will better appreciate the fact that in {73}the
course of a report on agriculture in the county of Northampton, in 1813, it
was stated that the only way of getting along some of the main roads there
in rainy weather was by swimming!

Nor is there any lack of testimony as to the prejudicial effect on trade
and agriculture of the deplorable condition into which so many of the roads
had fallen.

Whitaker, in his "Loidis and Elmete" (1846), speaking of the impediments to
commerce and manufactures in the Leeds district prior to the rendering of
the Aire and Calder navigable, impediments which, he declares, "it will be
difficult for a mind accustomed only to modern ideas and appearances to
conceive," says:--

"The roads were sloughs almost impassable by single carts, surmounted at
the height of several feet by narrow horse-tracks, where travellers who
encountered each other sometimes tried to wear out each other's patience
rather than either should risk a deviation. Carriage of raw wool and
manufactured goods was performed on the backs of single horses, at a
disadvantage of nearly 200 to 1 compared to carriage by water. At the same
time, and long after, the situation of a merchant was toilsome and
perilous. In winter, during which season the employment of the working
manufacturer was intermitted, the distant markets never ceased to be
frequented. On horse-back before day-break, and long after night-fall,
these hardy sons of trade pursued their object with the spirit and
intrepidity of a fox chase, and the boldest of their country neighbours had
no reason to despise their horsemanship or their courage."

There is the evidence, also, of Henry Homer, author of "An Enquiry into the
Means of Preserving Publick Roads," published in 1767. He regarded the
state of the roads and the difficulties of internal communication as among
the chief reasons for the backward state of the country in the reign of
Queen Anne (1702-1714), saying on this subject:--

"The Trade of the Kingdom languished under these Impediments. Few People
cared to encounter the difficulties, which attended the Conveyance of Goods
from the Places where they were manufactured, to the Markets, where they
were to be disposed of. And those, who undertook this Business, were only
enabled to carry it on in the {74}Wintry-Season on Horseback, or, if in
Carriages, by winding Deviations from the regular tracks, which the open
country afforded them an Opportunity of making.... The natural Produce of
the Country was with Difficulty circulated to supply the Necessities of
those Counties and trading Towns, which wanted, and to dispose of the
superfluity of others which abounded. Except in a few Summer-Months, it was
an almost impracticable Attempt to carry very considerable quantities of it
to remote Places. Hence the Consumption of the Growth of Grain as well as
of the inexhaustible stores of fuel, which Nature has lavished upon
particular Parts of our Island, was limited to the Neighbourhood of those
Places which produced them; and made them, comparatively speaking, of
little value to what they would have been, had the Participation of them
been enlarged.

"To the Operation of the same Cause must also be attributed, in great
Measure, the slow Progress which was formerly made in the Improvement of
Agriculture. Discouraged by the Expence of procuring Manure, and the
uncertain Returns, which arose from such confined Markets, the Farmer
wanted both Spirit and Ability to exert himself in the Cultivation of his
Lands. On this Account Undertakings in Husbandry were then generally small,
calculated rather to be a Means of Subsistence to particular Families than
a Source of Wealth to the Publick."

Postlethwayt's authority on the roads of Sussex declared that their
condition at that time (1745) "hardly admits the country people to travel
to markets in winter, and makes corn dear at the market because it cannot
be bought, and cheap at the farmer's house because he cannot sometimes
carry it to market." This fact is confirmed by G. R. Porter, who, in his
"Progress of the Nation" (1846), gives the authority of an inhabitant of
Horsham, Sussex, then lately living, for the tradition that at one time
sheep or cattle could not be driven to the London market at all from
Horsham, owing to the state of the roads, and had to be disposed of in the
immediate neighbourhood, so that "under these circumstances a quarter of a
fat ox was commonly sold for about fifteen shillings, and the price of
mutton throughout the year was only five farthings the pound."

In Devonshire the Rev. James Brome, who published in {75}1726 a narrative
of "Three Years Travels in England, Scotland, and Wales," found the farmers
carrying their corn on horseback, the roads being too narrow to allow of
the use of waggons.

Altogether the need for improved facilities for inland communication in the
interests alike of travellers and of traders was great beyond all question,
and there was unlimited scope for the operation of such improvement as was
represented by the turnpike system, now coming into vogue.

It was, however, not so much the general needs of the country as the
rebellion in Scotland in 1745, accompanied by such disasters for the
Royalist troops as their defeat at Preston Pans, which had led the
Government to pay special attention to the subject of road-making and
road-improvement. Between 1726 and 1737 General Wade, employing in summer
about 500 soldiers on the work, had constructed in Scotland itself some 250
miles of what were, in point of fact, military roads, being designed as a
means of reducing disorder in that country. The communications between
Scotland and England still remained, however, very defective, and, though
English cavalry and artillery had gone forward bravely enough when the
rebellion broke out, they found roads that, apart altogether from any
question of fighting on them, were not fit for them even to move upon; so
that while the troops from the south were hampered and delayed by the
narrow tracks, the ruts and the bogs which impeded their advance, the
enemy, more at home in these conditions, had all the advantage.

No sooner, therefore, had the rebellion been overcome than the Government,
recognising that, even if turnpikes were set up along the roads on the
border between Scotland and England, the tolls likely to be raised there
would be wholly inadequate for the purpose, themselves took in hand the
work of road construction and improvement; and this action gave impetus to
a movement for improving roads in England and Wales generally.

Down to this time the turnpike system had undergone very little
development. For a quarter of a century after it had been applied, by the
Act of 1663, to the Great North Road, no Turnpike Acts at all were sought.
A few were then obtained, but until the middle of the eighteenth century,
at least, even if not still later, travellers from Edinburgh to London met
{76}with no turnpikes until they came within about 110 miles of their
destination. Newcastle and Carlisle were still connected by a bridle path
only, while a writer in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for November, 1752, in
alluding to the journey from London to Falmouth, says that "after the first
47 miles from London you never set eyes on a turnpike for 220 miles."

The policy adopted by the Government so far stimulated the action of
private enterprise that between 1760 and 1774 no fewer than 453 Turnpike
Acts were passed for the making and repairing of roads, and many more were
to follow.



The fundamental principle of the turnpike system was that of transferring
the cost of repairing main roads from the parish to the users.

The mediæval practice, under which the roads were maintained by religious
houses, private benevolence and individual landowners, had, of course,
still left the common law obligation that each and every parish should keep
in repair the roads within its own particular limits, the Act of Philip and
Mary, with its imposition of statute duty, being, in effect, only a means
for the regulation and carrying out of such requirement. The parishioners
were even indictable if they failed to keep the roads in repair.

But in proportion as trade and travel increased, the greater became alike
the need for good roads and, also, the apparent injustice of requiring the
residents in a particular parish to do statute labour on roads, or to pay
for labour thereon, less in the interest of themselves and their neighbours
than in that of strangers, or traffic, passing through on the main road
from one town to another. In effect, also, whether such requirement were
reasonable or not, the work itself was either not done at all or was done
in a way that still left the roads in a condition commonly described as

The principle that the users should pay for the main roads by means of
tolls was thus definitely adopted; but the obligation in regard to other
than main roads still rested in full with the parish. It was not, however,
until the passing of 24 Geo. II., c. 43, that turnpike roads were mentioned
as distinct from "highways," this being the accepted designation for roads
for which the parish was responsible. When the adoption of the turnpike
system became more general, that is to say, about the year 1767, the
turnpike roads were maintained--or were supposed to be maintained--by
tolls, and the {78}statute labour and contributions in lieu thereof were
mainly appropriated to the cross roads constituting the parish highways, on
which no turnpikes were placed; though certain proportions of the statute
labour or statute labour contributions also became available for turnpike
roads which could not otherwise be properly maintained.

At first there was a pronounced disinclination on the part of the public in
various parts of the country to tolerate toll-bars. It might be supposed
that, the state of the roads having generally been so deplorable, everyone
would have welcomed their amendment under almost any possible conditions.
Defoe, at least, was enthusiastic over the prospect of better roads that
turnpikes foreshadowed. Alluding to them in his "Tour," he says: "And 'tis
well worth recording, for the Honour of the present Age, that this Work has
been begun, and is in an extraordinary Manner carry'd on, and perhaps may,
in a great Measure be compleat within our Memory, as to the worst and most
dangerous Roads in the Kingdom. And this is a Work of so much general Good
that certainly no publick Edifice, Alms-house, Hospital or Nobleman's
Palace, can be of equal Value to the Country with this, nor at the same
time more an Honour and Ornament to it."

But there was another point of view which is thus expressed by Whitaker in
"Loidis and Elmete": "To intercept an ancient highway, to distrain upon a
man for the purchase of a convenience which he does not desire, and to
debar him from the use of his ancient accommodation, bad as it was, because
he will not pay for a better, has certainly an arbitrary aspect, at which
the rude and undisciplined rabble of the north would naturally revolt."

Objections to turnpikes had been further fomented by demagogues who went
about the country proclaiming that the gates which were being put up were
part of a design planned by the Government to enslave the people and
deprive them of their liberty.

Not only did many individuals in various parts of the country refuse to use
the turnpike roads, or to pay toll if they did use them, but in some
instances the gates were destroyed, by way of making the protests more
emphatic. In 1728 it was thought necessary to pass a general Act against
"ill-designing and disorderly persons" who had "in various parts of this
{79}Kingdom associated themselves together, both by day and by night, and
cut down, pulled down, burnt and otherwise destroyed several turnpike gates
and houses which have been erected by authority of Parliament for repairing
divers roads by tolls, thereby preventing such tolls from being taken, and
lessening the security of divers of her Majesty's good subjects for
considerable sums of money which they have advanced upon credit of the said
Acts, and deterring others from making like advances." Persons convicted of
such offences were--without any discretion being given to the justices--to
be committed for three months' imprisonment, and were, also, to be whipped
at the market cross. These penalties appear to have been unavailing, since
we find that four years later the punishment, even for a first offence, was
increased to seven years' transportation.

But the hostility increased rather than diminished. In the "Gentleman's
Magazine" for 1749 there is an account of some turnpike riots in Somerset
and Gloucestershire which began on the night of the 24th of July and were
not suppressed until the 5th of the following month. A start was made with
the destruction of the gates near Bedminster by "great numbers of people."
On the following night a crowd bored holes in the gates at Don John's
Cross, a mile from Bristol, blew up the gates with gunpowder, and destroyed
the toll-house. Cross-bars and posts were erected next day, in place of the
gates, and the turnpike commissioners took it in turns to enforce payment
of the tolls. At night "a prodigious body of Somersetshire people," armed
with various instruments of destruction, and some of them disguised in
women's clothes, went along the roads to an accompaniment of drum-beating
and much shouting, demolished the turnpikes, and pulled down the
toll-houses. Re-erected, the gates were guarded by a "body of seamen, well
armed with musquets, pistols and cutlasses"; but two nights afterwards the
rioters were out again, this time with rusty swords, pitch-forks, axes,
guns, pistols and clubs. They demolished and burned some turnpikes which
had been put up a third time, and destroyed others besides. By August 3
"almost all the turnpikes and turnpike-houses" in the neighbourhood of
Bristol had been demolished; but a report dated Bristol, August 12, says:
"By the arrival of six troops of dragoon guards on the 5th, {80}we are
secured from all insults of the country people who immediately dispersed
and posts and chains are again erected, and the tolls levied, but the
turnpikes are fixed nearer the city."

The revolt in Yorkshire referred to by Whitaker occurred in 1753, four
years later than the disturbances in the west. At Selby the inhabitants
were summoned by the bellman to assemble at midnight, with hatchets and
axes, and destroy the turnpikes. They obeyed the summons, and any gate left
unprotected was soon level with the ground. In the neighbourhood of Leeds
the rioting was especially serious. Whitaker says concerning it:--

"The public roads about Leeds were at that time narrow, generally
consisting of a hollow way that only allowed a passage for carriages drawn
by a horse in a single row, and an elevated causeway covered with flags or
boulder stones.

"The attempt to improve this state of the public roads excited great
discontent among the lower classes of the people, who formed the design of
pulling down all the turnpike bars in the neighbourhood."

They pulled down, or burned down, as many as a dozen in one week; and when
some of the rioters had been arrested, and were on their way to York
Castle, their friends attempted a rescue, following this up by assaulting
the magistrates and breaking some windows. Troops were called out, and,
warnings and the firing of blank cartridge being of no avail, ball
cartridges were used, with the result that two or three persons were shot
dead, and twenty-two were wounded, some fatally.

Whatever the justification for the turnpikes that gave rise to this popular
discontent, the way in which the system itself was developed was certainly
open to criticism.

The precedent set by the Act of Charles II. in the grouping together of
several counties, and in conferring on the justices the powers of chief
control, was wholly disregarded. Instead of even an improvement on this
procedure being effected by the creation of a national system of turnpike
roads, directed by some central authority, and responding in regard to
internal communication to the wants of the country as a whole, there was
called into being an almost endless number of purely local trusts, each
taking charge of, as a rule, from ten to {81}twenty miles of road, each
concerned only in its own local, or even its own personal, interests, and
each operating under conditions that involved an excessive expenditure
with, too often, the most unsatisfactory of results for the general public.

The defects of the system thus brought about were well recognised by
various authorities at a time when they were still being experienced to the

The Select Committee appointed by the House of Commons in 1819 to consider
the subject of public highways said in the course of their report:--

"The importance of land-carriage to the prosperity of a country need not be
dwelt upon. Next to the general influence of the seasons ... there is,
perhaps, no circumstance more interesting to men in a civilised state than
the perfection of the means of interior communication. It is a matter,
therefore, to be wondered at, that so great a source of national
improvement has hitherto been so much neglected. Instead of the roads of
the Kingdom being made a great national concern, a number of local trusts
are created, under the authority of which large sums of money are collected
from the public, and expended without adequate responsibility or control.
Hence arises a number of abuses, for which no remedy is provided, and the
resources of the country, instead of being devoted to useful purposes, are
too often improvidently wasted."

Writing in 1823, Dehany said in reference to the Act of 1663, "It is to be
regretted that this plan of passing one Act applicable to a considerable
district, and carrying it into execution under the superintendence of the
magistracy, was not pursued, instead of parcelling out the roads into
smaller divisions, with independent bodies of trustees"; while the
"Westminster Review," in its issue for October, 1825, argued that the whole
system of roads should be one, and continued:--

"Such a work might have been thought the duty of the Government most
interested in it; but that Government seems generally to be otherwise
occupied. Leaving all to individual exertion, it perhaps often leaves too
much; since there are matters in which individual exertion has an
insufficient interest, while there are others which it is unable to
accomplish without unjustifiable sacrifices. We do not desire the
perpetual, nor even the frequent interference of Government, that is most
{82}certain; but there is an useful medium between the intermeddling of
some of the continental states and that neglect, or, rather,
discountenance, which our own throws on numerous matters where its aid
would be of use, and which, without that aid, cannot be accomplished....
The freedom of universal communication is the object, and it is to little
purpose that one portion of a road be good if the other is impassable. It
is a national and not a private concern."

Under the conditions actually brought about it was left for any group of
landowners and others in any particular district where better roads were
needed to apply to Parliament for an Act authorising them to raise a loan
in order to meet the initial cost of making or repairing a road, and to set
up gates or bars where they could enforce payment of tolls out of which to
recoup themselves for their expenditure and meet the costs of maintenance.
Theoretically, these were simply temporary expedients, and the turnpike
trustees, having once provided a good road, and got their money back, would
take down the toll-gates again, and leave the road for the free use of the
public. Hence every Turnpike Act was granted only for a limited period,
generally about twenty years, and had to be renewed at the end of that term
if, as invariably happened, the debt on the road had not been cleared off,
and the need for toll-collection still remained. The cost of procuring the
periodical continuance of all these Acts was, in itself, a not
inconsiderable burden on the finances of the trusts. In, for example, the
twenty-four years from 1785 to 1809, the number of Turnpike Acts, whether
new Acts or renewals of old ones, passed by the Legislature was no fewer
than 1062.

One result of the excessive localisation of the turnpike system was that
trusts of absurdly large proportions were created to look after absurdly
small stretches of road. "The fundamental principle," says a writer in the
"Edinburgh Review" for October, 1819, "is always to vest the whole
management in the hands of the country gentlemen; and, as they act
gratuitously, it has been the policy of the law to appoint in each act a
prodigious number of commissioners--frequently from one hundred to two
hundred, for the care of ten or fifteen miles of road; and thus a business
of art and science is committed to a promiscuous mob of peers, squires,
farmers and shopkeepers, who are chosen, not for their {83}fitness to
discharge the duties of commissioners, but from the sole qualification of
residence within a short distance from the road to be made or repaired."

That the best interests of the community could be served under these
conditions was an impossibility. The "Edinburgh Review" declares, in fact,
that the whole time of the meetings of turnpike trusts was "occupied in
tumultuous and unprofitable discussions, and in resolving on things at one
meeting which run a good chance of being reversed at the next; that the
well informed and civilized commissioners become very soon disgusted with
the disorderly uproar, or the want of sense, temper or honesty of some of
their companions; and that the management finally falls into the hands of a
few busy, bustling, interested persons of low condition, who attend the
meetings with no idea of performing a public duty, but for the purpose of
turning their powers, by some device or other, to the profit of themselves
or of their friends or relations."

The writer of the article on "Roads" in  "Rees' Cyclopædia" is no less
condemnatory of the whole system, speaking of the "violent disputations and
bickerings" at the meetings of the trustees, where, he says, "a proposed
new line of road or, perhaps, the repair of an old one, will sometimes be
contested with as great keenness and vehemence as if the parties were
contending whether Great Britain shall be a monarchy or a republic."

Each trust, again, had its own organisation, with attorney, treasurer,
clerk and surveyor; and one may assume that each of these individuals, in
turn, was inspired by no greater sense of public duty than were many of the
trustees themselves, and was much more concerned in what he could make out
of the business for himself than in helping to provide through routes of
communication in the interests of the community. The surveyors were,
generally speaking, hopelessly incompetent. The short length of road in
charge of a trust and the consequent limitation of the amount received for
tolls did not, as a rule, warrant the payment of an adequate salary to a
really qualified man, and the individual upon whom the courtesy title of
"surveyor" was conferred was often either the pensioned servant of a local
landowner or some other person equally unfit to be entrusted with those
functions of {84}road-management which the trustees, whether as the result
of their mutual differences or otherwise, generally left in his hands. The
"Edinburgh Review," in the article already quoted, declares that "the state
of the roads displays no symptoms of well qualified commissioners. They
leave the art and science of the business to their surveyor--who is
commonly just as much in the clouds as themselves as to his own proper
calling. With a laudable veneration for his forefathers, he proceeds
according to the antient system of things, without plan or method; and
fearing no rivalry, and subject to no intelligent control, he proceeds,
like his predecessors, to waste the road money on team work and paupers,
and leave nothing for the public like a road but the name and cost of it."

Nevertheless, the turnpike system, defective in itself, badly administered,
and burdensome to the toll-payers, did bring about an improvement in roads
which previously had too often received little or no attention; and this
improvement, as will be shown in the chapter that follows, had a material
influence on trade, travel and social conditions; though it was not to
attain its maximum results until the turnpike roads had been supplemented
by a further system of scientific road-making and road-repairing.



In strong contrast to the vigorous denunciations of Arthur Young of so
many, though not all, of the roads over which his extensive journeyings
through England had led him, are the statements of other authorities,
writing about the same time, as to the commercial and social advantages
resulting from such improvements as had been brought about. The conflict of
testimony appears inconsistent until one remembers that, bad as were the
particular conditions which Arthur Young describes, the general conditions
were, nevertheless, better than before. Just as the first bone-shaking
stage-coach, without springs, seemed to Chamberlayne an "admirable
commodiousness," such as the world had never before seen, so, in the view
of the writers who had not the same experience of travel as Arthur Young,
turnpike roads of any kind may have appeared a vast improvement on the
boggy roads or the narrow bridle paths they had succeeded.

Whatever, again, the dangers and discomforts of so many even of the new
turnpike roads, there is no doubt that a distinct stimulus was given to
trade and travel as the result not only of the better roads but of the
better vehicles that could be, and were being, used on them. Agriculture,
industries, commerce and social progress all, in fact, took another step
forward as these opportunities for transport and communication relatively

Under the influence, possibly, of such considerations as these Henry Homer,
writing in 1767, regards with great satisfaction the general outlook at
that time. He says:--

"Our very Carriages travel with almost winged Expedition between every Town
of Consequence in the Kingdom and the Metropolis. By this, as well as the
yet more valuable Project of increasing inland Navigation, a Facility of
Communication is soon likely to be established from every Part of the
Island {86}to the sea, and from the several places in it to each other.
Trade is no longer fettered by the Embarrasments, which attended our former
Situation. Dispatch, which is the very life and Soul of Business, becomes
daily more attainable by the free Circulation opening in every Channel,
which is adapted to it. Merchandise and Manufactures find a ready
Conveyance to the Markets. The natural Blessings of the Island are shared
by the Inhabitants with a more equal Hand. The Constitution itself acquires
Firmness by the Stability and Increase both of Trade and Wealth which are
the Nerves and Sinews of it.

"In Consequence of all this, the Demand for the Produce of the Lands is
increased; the Lands themselves advance proportionably both in their annual
Value and in the Number of Years-purchase for which they are sold,
according to such Value....

"There never was a more astonishing Revolution accomplished in the internal
System of any Country than has been within the Compass of a few years in
that of England.

"The carriage of Grain, Coals, Merchandize, etc., is in general conducted
with little more than half the Number of Horses with which it formerly was.
Journies of Business are performed with much more than double Expedition.
Improvements in Agriculture keep pace with those of Trade. Everything wears
the Face of Dispatch; every Article of our Produce becomes more valuable;
and the Hinge, upon which all these Movements turn, is the Reformation
which has been made in our Publick Roads."

In the article on "Roads" in Postlethwayt's "Dictionary" (1745) it is
declared that the country had derived great advantage from the improvements
of the roads, and from the application of tolls collected at the turnpikes.
Travelling had been rendered safer, easier and pleasanter. "That this end
is greatly answered," we are assured, "everyone's experience will tell him
who can remember the condition of the roads thirty or forty years ago."
There had been, also, a benefit to trade and commerce by the reduced cost
of carriage for all sorts of goods and merchandise. On this especially
interesting point the writer of the article says: "Those who have made it
their business to be rightly informed of this matter have, upon inquiry,
found that carriage is now 30 per cent {87}cheaper than before the roads
were amended by turnpikes." He proceeds to give a number of examples of
such reductions in freight, among them being the following:--

"From Birmingham to London it is said there is not less than 25 or 30
waggons sent weekly; 7s. per hundred was formerly paid, the price now paid
is from 3 to 4s. per hundred.

"From Portsmouth to London the common price was 7s. per hundred, the
Government paid so in Queen Anne's war, and now only 4 to 5s. per hundred
is paid; and in the late war arms and warlike stores for his Majesty's
service were carried at the rate of 4 or 5s. per hundred.

"From Exeter to London, and from other towns in the west of like distance
the carriage of wool and other goods is very great, especially in times of
war.--12s. per hundred was formerly paid, now only 8s. per hundred. The
same can be affirmed with respect to Bristol, Gloucester and the adjacent

While the traders and the consumers were, presumably, both benefitting from
these reduced charges, the carriers also gained, by reason of the greater
loads they were able to take with the same number of horses. On this point
the writer says: "The roads in general were formerly so bad and deep, so
full of holes and sloughs that a team of horses could scarce draw from any
place of 60 miles distant, or upwards, above 30 hundred weight of goods;
whereas the same team can now draw with more ease 50 or 60 hundred." On the
other hand he did not overlook the fact that the keeping up of the turnpike
roads was "a prodigious expense to the nation," so that, in his opinion,
the reduction in transport charges was only "a seeming alleviation" of the
general burden.

At the time Defoe made his tour of England the turnpike system was still in
its infancy; but he is very eulogistic over the improvements then already

Having, as already mentioned on p. 65, described the roads from London to
the North across the clay-belt of the Midlands, Defoe tells how "turnpikes
or toll-bars" had been set up on "several great roads of England, beginning
at London, and proceeding through almost all those dirty deep roads" in the
midland counties especially, "At which Turn-pikes all Carriages, Droves of
Cattle and Travellers on Horse-back are obliged to pay an easy Toll; that
is to say, a Horse a Penny, {88}a Coach three Pence, a Cart four Pence, at
some six Pence to eight Pence, a Waggon six Pence, in some a Shilling, and
the like; Cattle pay by the Score, or by the Head, in some Places more, in
some less." Several of these turnpikes had been set up of late years and
"great Progress had been made in mending the most difficult Ways."

On these roads toll was, of course, being taken by authority of Act of
Parliament; but there was one road, at least, on which tolls were being
enforced without Parliamentary sanction; for Defoe goes on to say:--

"There is another Road, which is a Branch of the Northern Road, and is
properly called the Coach Road ... and this indeed is a most frightful Way,
if we take it from Hatfield, or rather the Park Corners of Hatfield House,
and from thence to Stevenage, to Baldock, to Biggleswade and Bugden. Here
is that famous Lane call'd Baldock Lane, famous for being so impassable
that the Coaches and Travellers were oblig'd to break out of the Way even
by Force, which the People of the Country not able to prevent, at length
placed Gates and laid their lands open, setting men at the Gates to take a
voluntary Toll, which Travellers always chose to pay, rather than plunge
into Sloughs and Holes, which no Horse could wade through.

"This terrible Road is now under Cure by the same Methods, and probably may
in Time be brought to be firm and solid."

In regard to the turnpike system in general he says:--

"The Benefit of these Turnpikes appears now to be so great, and the People
in all Places begin to be so sensible of it, that it is incredible what
Effect it has already had upon Trade in the Counties where the Roads are
completely finished; even the Carriage of Goods is abated, in some Places,
6d. per hundred Weight, in others 12d. per hundred, which is abundantly
more Advantageous to Commerce than the Charge paid amounts to....

"Besides the benefits accruing from this laudable Method we may add, The
Conveniency to those who bring fat Cattle, especially Sheep, to London in
the Winter from the remoter counties of Leicester and Lincoln, where they
are bred: For before, the Country Graziers were obliged to sell their
Stocks off in September and October when the Roads began to be bad, and
when they generally sell cheap; and the Butchers {89}and Farmers near
London used to engross them, and keep them till December and January, and
then sell them, though not an Ounce fatter than before, for an advanced
price to the Citizens of London; whereas now the Roads are in a Way to be
made everywhere passable the City will be serv'd with Mutton almost as
cheap in the Winter as in the summer, and the profit of the advance will be
to the Country Graziers, who are the original Breeders and take all the

"This is evidenc'd to a Demonstration in the Counties where the Roads are
already repair'd, from whence they bring their fat Cattle, and particularly
their Mutton, in Droves, from Sixty, Seventy or Eighty Miles without
fatiguing, harrassing or sinking the Flesh of the Creatures, even in the
Depth of the Winter."

Whether or not the fat cattle and the sheep were really able to do their
long walk to London without fatigue and loss of flesh, it is certain that
the naturally bad condition of the roads leading to London was made worse
by the "infinite droves of black cattle, hogs and sheep" which passed along
them from Essex, Lincolnshire and elsewhere. When the roads were being
continually trodden by the feet of large heavy bullocks, "of which," says
Defoe, "the numbers that come this way"--that is, out of Lincolnshire and
the fens--"are scarce to be reckon'd up," the work done by the turnpike
commissioners in the summer was often completely spoiled in the winter.
Among, therefore, the many advantages of the rail transport of to-day we
may reckon the fact that the roads and highways are no longer worn to the
same extent as before by cattle and sheep on their way to the London

Defoe alludes, also, to the influence of improved communications on the
development of the fish industry, with the subsidiary advantage of
improving the food supplies of the people, saying, in this connection--

"I might give Examples where the Herrings which are not the best Fish to
keep, used, even before these Reparations were set on foot, to be carried
to those Towns, and up to Warwick, Birmingham, Tamworth and Stafford, and
though they frequently stunk before they got thither, yet the people were
so eager for them, that they bought them up at a dear Rate; whereas when
the Roads are every where good they will come in less Time, by at least two
Days in Six of what they {90}used to do, and an hundred times the quantity
will be consumed."

Until, again, the advent of better roads, food supplies and
provender--peas, beans, oats, hay, straw, etc.--for London were brought in
on the backs of horses. In proportion as the roads improved and were made
available for carts and waggons the area of supply widened, and the
counties immediately adjoining London even petitioned Parliament against
the extension of turnpikes into the remoter counties. These other counties,
they alleged, would, from the cheapness of their labour, be able to sell
their grass and corn cheaper in the London market than the nearer counties,
and would reduce the rents and ruin the cultivation in the latter. Here, of
course, the producer wanted protection against competition, and wished to
retain the benefit of his geographical advantage. The broader view as to
the effect of improved communications on national progress in general was
expressed by Adam Smith. In Book I., chapter xi., Part I., of his "Wealth
of Nations," he says:--

"Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of
carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with
those in the neighbourhood of the town. They are upon that account the
greatest of all improvements. They encourage the cultivation of the remote,
which must always be the most extensive circle of the country. They are
advantageous to the town, by breaking down the monopoly of the country in
its neighbourhood. They are advantageous even to that part of the country.
Though they introduce some rival commodities into the old market, they open
many new markets to its produce. Monopoly, besides, is a great enemy to
good management, which can never be universally established but in
consequence of that free and universal competition which forces everybody
to have resource to it for the sake of self-defence."

The conditions under which the traders of the country in general conducted
their business was, naturally, influenced, if not altogether controlled, by
the conditions of locomotion.

Hutton tells us in his "History of Birmingham" that the practice of the
Birmingham manufacturer for, perhaps, a hundred generations was to keep
within the warmth of his own forge. The foreign customer, therefore,
applied to {91}him for the execution of orders, and regularly made his
appearance twice a year.

Concerning the Manchester trade, Dr Aikin, in his "Description of the
Country from Thirty to Forty Miles round Manchester" (1795), says:--

"For the first thirty years of the present century, the old established
houses confined their trade to the wholesale dealers in London, Bristol,
Norwich, Newcastle, and those who frequented Chester fair.... When the
Manchester trade began to extend the chapmen used to keep gangs of
pack-horses, and accompany them to the principal towns with goods in packs,
which they opened and sold to shopkeepers, lodging what was unsold in small
stores at the inns. The pack-horses brought back sheep's wool, which was
bought on the journey, and sold to the makers of worsted yarn at
Manchester, or to the clothiers of Rochdale, Saddleworth and the West
Riding of Yorkshire. On the improvement of the turnpike roads waggons were
set up, and the pack-horses discontinued; and the chapmen only rode out for
orders, carrying with them patterns in their bags. It was during the forty
years from 1730 to 1770 that trade was greatly pushed by the practice of
sending these riders all over the kingdom, to those towns which before had
been supplied from the wholesale places in the capital places before

Thus one effect of the improvement in communications was to allow of the
Manchester manufacturers establishing direct relations with retailers in
the smaller towns who had hitherto been supplied by the wholesale dealers
in the large towns, one set of profits being saved. Dr Aikin adds:--

"Within the last twenty or thirty years the vast increase of foreign trade
has caused many of the Manchester manufacturers to travel abroad, and
agents or partners to be fixed for a considerable time on the Continent, as
well as foreigners to reside at Manchester. And the town has now in every
respect assumed the style and manners of one of the commercial capitals of

In an article headed "Change in Commerce," published in No. XI. of "The
Original," (1836), Thomas Walker gives ("by tradition," as he says) some
particulars as to the methods of business followed by a leading Manchester
merchant who was born there early in the eighteenth century {92}and
realised a sufficient fortune to be able to have a carriage of his own when
not half a dozen were kept in the town by persons connected with business.

"He sent the manufactures of the place into Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire,
Cambridgeshire, and the intervening counties, and principally took in
exchange feathers from Lincolnshire and malt from Cambridgeshire and
Nottinghamshire. All his commodities were conveyed on pack-horses, and he
was from home the greater part of every year, performing his journeys
entirely on horseback. His balances were received in guineas, and were
carried with him in his saddle-bags. He was exposed to the vicissitudes of
the weather, to great labour and fatigue, and to constant danger....
Business carried on in this manner required a combination of personal
attention, courage, and physical strength not to be hoped for in a
deputy.... The improvements in the way of carrying on commerce, and its
increase, may be attributed in a great degree to the increased facility of
communication, and the difference between the times I have alluded to and
the present is nearly as great as between a pack-horse and a

Walker also mentions that in the early days of the trader here referred to
Manchester was provided with wine by a wine merchant who lived at Preston
and carried his supplies to Manchester on horseback. The quantity then
consumed, however, was but small, as "men in business confined themselves
generally to punch and ale, using wine only as a medicine or on very
extraordinary occasions."

A no less interesting phase of the improvements being brought about, and
one to which I shall revert in the chapter on "The Canal Era," was found in
the influence of better communications on the social conditions of the

That these conditions had been greatly prejudiced by the bad roads is
beyond all question. Villages which could be reached only with difficulty
in summer, and were isolated from the rest of the world for four or five
months in the autumn, winter and early spring, were steeped in ignorance
and superstition. True it is that in such communities as these the games,
sports, customs and traditions which represented the poetry of old English
life survived the longest, and have not even yet disappeared before the
march of Modern Progress. But no less {93}true is it that such communities
were the longest to foster that once popular belief in witchcraft which
meant, not merely the looking askance at any decrepit old creature who was
believed to have turned the milk sour in the pails, or to have stopped the
cows and ewes from breeding, but the putting to death of many thousands of
supposed "witches" in England and Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. The total number of victims in the first eighty years of the
seventeenth century alone is estimated by Dr Charles Mackay, in "Memoirs of
Extraordinary Popular Delusions," at forty thousand! This particular mania
was certainly shared by Kings, Parliaments and ecclesiastics no less than
by ignorant villagers; but it decreased in proportion as general
intelligence increased, and the increase in general intelligence was
materially influenced by those improvements in locomotion and communication
which led to wider knowledge and a greater intermingling of the classes.

The same isolation fostered the belief in ghosts, goblins, wraiths, kelpies
and other inhabitants of the world of spirits, whose visitations or doings
probably formed a leading topic of conversation as the isolated family sat
round the fire in the long winter months, wives and daughters busy, no
doubt, with their distaffs, their spinning-wheel or their needlework, but
none the less able to tell or to listen to the favourite stories.

The whole conditions of existence were of the most circumscribed kind. Many
a village got no news at all of what was happening in the world except such
as the pedlar might bring, or, alternatively, might circulate through his
London-printed "broadsides," telling of some great victory, giving the last
dying speech of a noted highwayman, or recording the death of one ruler and
the succession of another, of which events the villagers might not hear for
two or even three months after they had occurred. "Whole generations," in
the words of Samuel Smiles ("Early Roads and Modes of Travelling"), "lived
a monotonous, ignorant, prejudiced and humdrum life. They had no
enterprise, no energy, little industry, and were content to die where they
were born."

In the Elizabethan era, and even later, inhabitants of the northern
counties were regarded by dwellers in the south as people among whom it
would be dangerous for them to go. {94}English navigators were entering on
voyages of discovery and conquest in distant seas, where they would
fearlessly encounter the enemies of England or the Indians of the New
World, at a time when their fellow-countrymen at home would have shrunk
from the perils of a journey across the wilds of Northumberland or of an
encounter with the supposed savages of Lancashire.

Even when it was a matter of visiting friends, journeys to distant parts of
the country were but rarely undertaken. In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for
December, 1752, it was remarked that English people were readily going to
France, where they spent in 1751 nearly £100,000; but though a rich citizen
in London who had relatives or friends in the west of England might hear of
their welfare half a dozen times in his life, by post, "he thinks no more
of visiting them than of traversing the deserts of Nubia."

On the other hand, one result of this limitation in the facilities for home
travel was to give to many a county town a far greater degree of social
distinction that it can claim to-day.

Just as in mediæval times England had consisted of so many separate
self-governing and self-dependent communities, each with the house of the
lord of the manor as the "hub" of its own little universe, so--in the days
when communications had certainly, though still only relatively,
improved--did the county town become the recognised centre of social life
and movement for each and every county where there was any pretence to
social life at all. The country gentry, with their wives and daughters,
came to regard a visit to the county town, and indulgence there in a round
of balls, feasts, visits and functions, in the same light as a season in
London is regarded at the present date.

London in the seventeenth century, if not even down to the middle of the
eighteenth, was, for all practical purposes, as far away from the western
counties of England as London to-day is from Vienna or St. Petersburg.
Visits to the Metropolis were then, indeed, of extremely rare occurrence.
In Macaulay's sketch of "The State of England in 1685," forming chapter
iii. of his "History of England," there is a diverting account of what must
have happened to the lord of a Lincolnshire or Shropshire manor when he
appeared in Fleet Street, to be "as easily distinguished from the resident
population {95}as a Turk or a Lascar," and to be subjected to numerous
"vexations and humiliations" until, enraged and mortified, he returned to
his mansion where "he was once more a great man, and saw nothing above
himself except when at the assizes he took his seat on the bench near the
judge, or when at the muster of the militia he saluted the Lord

Adding to such "vexations and humiliations" the cost, the inconveniences
and the perils of a journey to London--perils, too, that arose from
highwaymen as well as from the roads themselves--the country gentleman was
generally content to seek his social distractions nearer home than London.
To quote again from Macaulay:--

"The county town was his metropolis. He sometimes made it his residence
during part of the year. At all events he was often attracted thither by
business and pleasure, by assizes, quarter sessions, elections, musters of
militia, festivals and races. There were the halls in which the judges,
robed in scarlet and escorted by javelins and trumpets, opened the King's
commission twice a year. There were the markets at which the corn, the
cattle, the wool and the hops of the surrounding country were exposed for
sale. There were the great fairs to which merchants came from London, and
where the rural dealer laid in his annual stores of sugar, stationery,
cutlery and muslin. There were the shops at which the best families of the
neighbourhood bought grocery and millinery."

Defoe, in his "Tour," affords us some interesting glimpses of the social
life of various country towns in the first quarter of the eighteenth
century. Dorchester he describes as "indeed a pleasant town to live in....
There is," he says, "good company and a good deal of it," and he thinks "a
man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time,
and as well, in Dorchester" as in any town he knew in England. Exeter was
"full of gentry and good company." He has much to say in praise of social
life in Dorsetshire. In Plymouth "a gentleman might find very agreeable
society." Salisbury had "a good deal of good manners and good company." The
"neighbourhood" of "Persons of Figure and Quality" caused Maidstone to be
"a very agreeable place to live in," and one where a "Man of Letters and
Manners" would always "find suitable Society both to Divert and Improve
himself," the town being, in fact, one of "very great {96}Business and
Trade, and yet full of Gentry, of Mirth, and of Good Company." King's Lynn,
the head-quarters of so important a shipping business in those days, he
found "abounding in very good company," while of York he writes: "There is
abundance of good Company here, and abundance of good Families live here,
for the sake of the good Company and cheap living; a Man converses here
with all the World as effectually as at London; the Keeping up of
Assemblies among the younger Gentry was first set up here, a thing other
Writers recommend mightily as the Character of a good Country and of a
Pleasant Place."

The general effect, from a social standpoint, of the combination of better
roads and better coaches is well told in an essay "On the Country Manners
of the Present Age," published in the "Annual Register" for 1761. The
writer has much to say that is of interest from the point of view of the
present work, but the following extracts must suffice:--

"It is scarce half a century since the inhabitants of distant counties were
regarded as a species almost as different from those of the Metropolis as
the natives of the Cape of Good Hope.... Formerly a journey into the
country was considered almost as great an undertaking as a voyage to the
Indies. The old family coach was sure to be stowed with all sorts of
luggage and provisions; and perhaps in the course of the journey a whole
village together with their teams, were called in to dig the heavy vehicle
out of the clay, and to drag it to the next place of wretched accommodation
which the road afforded. Thus they travelled like the caravan over the
deserts of Arabia, with every disagreeable circumstance of tediousness and
inconvenience. But now the amendments of the roads with the many other
improvements of travelling have in a manner opened a new communication
between the several parts of our island.... Stage-coaches, machines, flys
and post chaises are ready to transport passengers to and fro, between the
metropolis and the most distant parts of the Kingdom. The lover now can
almost literally annihilate time and space, and be with his mistress before
she dreams of his arrival. In short the manners, fashions, amusements,
vices and follies of the metropolis now make their way to the remotest
corners of the land as readily and speedily, along the turnpike road, as,
of old, Milton's Sin and Death, by means {97}of their marvellous bridges
over the Chaos from the infernal regions to our world.

"The effects of this easy communication have almost daily grown more and
more visible. The several great cities, and we might add, many poor country
towns, seem to be universally inspired with the ambition of becoming the
little Londons of the part of the country in which they are situated."

But if the easy communication rendered possible by turnpike roads and
flying coaches conferred on the country towns a hope of becoming so many
little Londons, the day was to come when a still easier communication by
means of railway lines and express trains was to take provincial residents
just as readily to the great and real London, and so deprive not a few
provincial centres of much of that social life and distinction which the
improved transport facilities had brought them.

In London itself, as may also be learned from Defoe, the betterment of the
roads around the metropolis led to the citizens flocking out in greater
numbers than ever to take lodgings and country houses in "towns near
London," which many people having business in the City had not been able to
do before because of the trouble involved in riding to and fro on the bad
roads. We are told, further, of the consequent increase in the rent of
houses, and of the greater number of dwellings being built, in places the
roads to which had thus been improved, as compared with other suburban
districts to which the turnpike system had not yet been extended.

We have here the beginnings of that creation of a Greater London which has
since undergone such enormous developments, and has led to the almost
complete disappearance of the custom, once in vogue in the City of London,
of a merchant or tradesman living on the same premises as those in which he
carried on his business.

Of the various circumstances that led to the eventual decline and fall of
the turnpike system, which, with all its faults and short-comings, had at
least helped to bring about the improvements in trade, transport and social
conditions here described, I shall speak in Chapter xxiii.



One question which naturally arises in connection with the turnpike roads
is, "Why was it, when there was so widespread an organisation of turnpike
trusts, and when so much money was being spent on the repair of the roads,
that the roads themselves were still so defective, and only relatively
better than they had been before?"--this being the real position,
notwithstanding the praises bestowed on the turnpike system by those who
were gratified with the stimulus given to trade, travel and commerce by the
improvements actually made.

The answer is that although a vast amount of road-making or road-repairing
was going on, at the very considerable expense of the road users, and to
the advantage of a small army of attorneys, officials and labourers, it was
not road-making of a scientific kind, but merely amateur work, done at
excessive cost, either with unintelligent zeal or in slovenly style, and
yielding results which mostly failed to give the country the type of road
it required for the ever-increasing traffic to which expanding trade,
greater travel, and heavier and more numerous waggons and coaches were

Before the adoption of scientific road-making, the usual way of forming a
new road was, first to lay along it a collection of large stones, and then
to heap up thereon small stones and road dirt in such a way that the road
assumed the shape of the upper half of an orange, the convexity often being
so pronounced that vehicles kept along the summit of the eminence because
it was dangerous for them, especially in rainy weather, to go along the
slope on either side.

This form of road was adopted in order to ensure good drainage for
rain-water; and in this connection the writer on "Roads" in Postlethwayt's
"Dictionary" (1745) says:--

"The chief and almost the only cause of the deepness and {99}foulness of
the roads is occasioned by the standing water which, for want of due care
to draw it off by scouring and opening ditches and drains and other water
courses, and clearing of passages, soaks into the earth, and softens it to
such a degree that it cannot bear the weight of horses and carriages."

But the result of making roads in the shape of a semicircle was that the
central ridge was speedily crushed down, and ruts were formed along the
line of traffic passing over the loose materials used. These ruts, again,
defeated the purpose of the original high convexity by becoming troughs for
the retention of rain and mud, the latter being rendered worse with each
fresh churning up it received from the wheels of waggon or stage-coach.

The road-maker thus required to be speedily followed by the road-repairer;
and _his_ method of procedure has been already indicated in Arthur Young's
description of the road to Wigan, where he says, "The only mending it
receives is the tumbling in some loose stones, which serve no other purpose
but jolting a carriage in the most intolerable manner."

The mending of hundreds of miles even of turnpike roads had never gone any
further than this. There was no cohesion in collections of loose stones,
mainly in their natural and more or less rounded form, and the expectation
that they would be crushed and consolidated into a solid mass by
extra-broad waggon wheels, in accordance with Acts of Parliament in that
case made and provided, remained unfulfilled. The stones were simply
displaced and thrown aside by the traffic, the inevitable ruts reappearing
in due course; while, as the rainwater passed readily through them, the
roads became elongated reservoirs of water in rainy weather, and were most
effectively broken up by frost in winter.

It was from conditions such as these that Thomas Telford and John Loudon
McAdam came to rescue the country.

There had been one road-reformer before them, in John Metcalf, a native of
Knaresboro', where he was born in 1717. Though totally blind from the age
of six, he developed abundant resources, and became successively fiddler,
soldier, chapman, fish-dealer, horse-dealer and waggoner. Taking at last to
road-making, he constructed about 180 miles of road in Yorkshire,
Lancashire, Cheshire and Derby, rendering an {100}important service to the
two first-mentioned counties, more especially by improving their means of
communication at a time when they were greatly in need of better roads on
account of their then rapidly increasing trade and industry. But though
Metcalf did good work in these directions, and achieved some noteworthy
successes in carrying solid roads across difficult bogs, he introduced no
really new system, and the chief progress made did not come until after his
death, in 1810.

Son of a shepherd at Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, where he was born in 1757,
Telford started life as a stonemason's apprentice, but became an engineer,
and undertook many important works, including canals, bridges, harbours and
docks. Here, however, we are concerned with him only as a builder of
roads--a department in which he showed great skill and activity.

On the appointment, in 1803, of a body of Commissioners who were to improve
the system of communications in Scotland (one half of the expense being
defrayed by Parliamentary grants, and one half by local contributions),
Telford was selected to carry out the work, and he constructed 920 miles of
road and 1,117 bridges in the Highlands, and 150 miles of road between
Glasgow, Cumbernauld (Dumbarton) and Carlisle. Then, in 1815, money having
been voted by Parliament for the improvement of the Holyhead road, with a
view to the betterment of communications with Ireland, Telford was
entrusted with the task, which involved the making or improvement of,
altogether, 123 miles of road.

Telford's own opinion of the roads of England and Scotland was thus
expressed in the evidence he gave before the Select Committee of the House
of Commons in 1819:--

"They are in general very defective both as to their direction and
inclination; they are frequently carried over hills, which might be avoided
by passing along the adjacent valleys ... there has been no attention paid
to constructing good and solid foundations; the materials, whether
consisting of gravel or stones, have seldom been sufficiently selected and
arranged; and they lie so promiscuously upon the roads as to render it
inconvenient to travel upon them.... The shape of the roads, or cross
section of the surface, is frequently hollow in the middle; the sides
incumbered with great banks of road dirt, which have accumulated in some
places to the height {101}of six, seven, or eight feet; these prevent the
water from falling into the side drains; they also throw a considerable
shade upon the road, and are gross and unpardonable nuisances. The
materials, instead of being cleaned of the mud and soil with which they are
mixed in their native state, are laid promiscuously upon the road."

In planning new roads Telford cut right through the hills, wherever
possible, in order to avoid unduly steep gradients. In making the roads he
first arranged a solid foundation of pieces of durable stone, from 4 in. to
7 in. in size, these being carefully put into position by hand, with the
broadest side downward, and packed with small stones in between. On the
rough pavement thus formed he laid an upper course of small broken stones,
with a binding of one inch of gravel. Between the two courses a drain was
set across the road every hundred yards, Telford attaching great importance
to the carrying off of all water that might percolate through the upper
course on to the lower. He gave a uniform and only moderately convex shape
to the surface of the road, abandoning, in this respect, the ideas of his
more amateur predecessors. But his system was one that called for much
labour and care, as well as for an abundant supply of the needful
materials, and the cost of carrying it out was proportionately high, if
not, in some situations, prohibitive.

McAdam preferred to be considered a road-repairer rather than a
road-builder, and his methods differed materially from those of Telford. He
became, also, much more of a propagandist in the work of road-improvement,
enforcing his theories with such success that he brought a new word into
the English language, roads made or mended according to the main principles
he laid down having been known ever since his day as "macadamised."

Born in Ayrshire in 1756--one year before Telford--McAdam went to America
at the age of 14 to start life in the counting-house of his uncle in New
York. Subsequently he became a successful merchant, and returned in 1783 to
Scotland, where he bought the estate of Sauchrie, and then, in 1785, began
to devote his attention to road-making, which was to occupy his thoughts
and absorb his energies for the rest of his days. Roads he came to regard
as, in his own words, "perhaps the most important branch of our domestic
{102}economy." Many new roads were then being constructed in Scotland, and
he himself became a commissioner of roads in that country. He also began a
systematic course of travel over the roads of England and Scotland,
covering, by 1814, no fewer than 30,000 miles.

In 1810 McAdam commenced a series of experiments in the construction of
roads, and he published the following year some "Observations on the
Highways of the Kingdom," recording the opinions he had formed as the
result of his twenty-seven years' inquiries.

By this time the question had, indeed, become acute. The prosperity of the
country had undergone much expansion, but the improvement of the roads,
notwithstanding the extension of the turnpike system, had in no way kept
pace with the general progress and the growing needs of the nation.
Parliamentary Committees were still devoting close attention to that good
old stock subject, the width of cart-wheels. In 1806 there was a Select
Committee appointed "to take into consideration the Acts now in force
regarding the use of Broad Wheels, and to examine what shape is best
calculated for ease of draught and the Preservation of the roads." This
Committee presented two reports, and like Committees were appointed in the
Sessions of 1808 and 1809, each of these Committees making three reports.
What Parliament itself was doing at this period in the way of cart-wheel
legislation has already been told.

So there was abundant scope for the activities of someone who could offer
new ideas, and when, in 1811, a Select Committee was appointed "to take
into consideration the Acts in force regarding the Highways and Turnpike
Roads in England and Wales, and the expediency of additional regulations as
to the better repair and preservation thereof,"[16] McAdam came forward
with his proposals, as contained in the aforesaid "Observations" presented
by him to the Committee in question.

{103}McAdam began by saying that "In all three reports of Committees of the
House of Commons on the subject of roads, they seem to have principally in
view the construction of wheeled carriages, the weights they were to draw,
and the breadth and form of their wheels; the nature of the roads on which
these carriages were to travel had not been so well attended to."
Proceeding to give the results of his own investigations, he expressed the
view that the bad condition of the roads of the kingdom was owing to the
injudicious application of the materials with which they were repaired, and
to the defective form of the roads; and he assured the Committee that the
introduction of a better system of making the _surface_ of the roads, and
the application of scientific principles which had hitherto never been
thought of, would remedy the evil.

The basis of his system, as defined on this and subsequent occasions, was
the covering of the surface of roads with an impermeable crust, cover or
coating, so that the water would not penetrate to the soil beneath, which
soil, whatever its nature, and provided it was kept dry, would, he argued,
then bear any weight likely to be put upon it.

His method of securing the said impermeable crust was by the use of an 8
in. or 10 in. covering of _broken_ stones, these being not more than about
1½ inches each in size, or more than about six ounces each in weight. Such
broken stones, if properly prepared and properly laid on a road, would, he
showed, consolidate by reason of their angles, and, under the pressure of
the traffic, be transformed into a "firm, compact, impenetrable body,"
which "could not be affected by vicissitudes of weather or displaced by the
action of wheels." The broken stones, with their angular edges, would, in
effect, dovetail together into a solid crust under a pressure which,
applied to pebbles or flints, would merely cause them to roll aside, in the
same way as shingle on the seashore when passed over by a cart or a bathing

The difference between his broken stones and the more or less rounded
stones with which the roads were then being repaired was, McAdam declared,
the difference between the stones that were thrown down in a stream to form
a ford and the shaped stones used to construct the bridge that went over
the stream; while inasmuch as the road-arch, or crust, he {104}formed would
rest on the ground, and be impermeable to rain-water, there would be no
need to have underneath it either a stone foundation or a system of
drainage; though he held it as essential that the subsoil should be
perfectly dry when the "metal," or covering of broken stone, was laid in
position. Keeping the water out of the road by this means, he would prevent
the road itself from being broken up by the action of frost, and he would
have a more elastic surface than if there were a solid stone foundation
under the metal. The thickness of his consolidated cover of broken stones
would, he further argued, be immaterial to its weight-carrying capacity.

In 1816 McAdam became surveyor of roads in the Bristol district, and the
object lessons in road-mending which he provided there were so convincing
that his system began to be generally approved in 1818. In 1827 he was
appointed Surveyor-General of Roads, and in the same year he issued a ninth
edition of his "Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making."

In this publication he states, among other things, that very considerable
sums were being raised annually in the kingdom, principally from tolls, on
account of turnpike roads, and these funds were expended, nominally under
the protection of Commissioners, but practically under the surveyors. Every
Session there were numerous applications to Parliament by turnpike trusts
for powers to increase their tolls in order to pay off their debts and to
keep the roads in repair. In the Session of 1815 there were 34 such
petitions; in 1816 there were 32, and "all passed as a matter of course."
The condition of the turnpike roads was, nevertheless, most defective, and
that of the parish roads was "more deplorable than that of the turnpike
roads." Legislative enactments for the maintenance and repair of the parish
roads were so inadequate that these roads "might be considered as being
placed almost out of the protection of the law." In the result "The
defective state of the roads, independent of the unnecessary expense, is
oppressive on agriculture, commerce and manufactures by the increase of the
price of transport, by waste of the labour of cattle, and wear of
carriages, as well as by causing much delay of time."

As for Scotland, he declared that "The roads in Scotland are worse than
those in England, although materials are more {105}abundant, of better
quality, and labour at least as cheap, and the toll duties are nearly
double; this is because road-making, that is the surface, is even worse
understood in Scotland than in England." He mentions that the
Postmaster-General had been obliged to give up the mail-coach from Glasgow
to Ayr on account partly of the bad roads and partly of the expense, there
being ten turnpike gates in 34 miles of road.

The roads were, in fact, McAdam continued, "universally in want of repair."
Ample funds were already provided; but the surveyors employed by the
turnpike trusts were "mostly persons ignorant of the nature of the duties
they are called on to discharge,"[17] and the money brought in by a
continual and apparently unlimited increase of the tolls was "misapplied in
almost every part of the Kingdom." In some new roads made in Scotland the
thickness of the materials used exceeded three feet;[18] but, said McAdam,
"the road is as open as a sieve to receive water"; and what this meant he
was able to show by pointing to the results of weather conditions on bad
roads in the month of January, 1820. A severe frost was succeeded by a
sudden thaw, accompanied by the melting of much snow, and the roads of the
kingdom broke up in an alarming manner, causing great loss, much delay of
the mails, and endless inconvenience. The cause of the trouble was
explained by McAdam thus:--

"Previous to the severe frost the roads were filled with water which had
penetrated through the ill-prepared and unskilfully-laid material; this
caused immediate expansion of the whole mass during the frost, and, upon a
sudden thaw, the roads became quite loose, and the wheels of the carriages
penetrated to the original soil, which was also saturated with water, from
the open state of the road. By this means many roads became altogether

On the 1000 miles of road to which his own system had {106}been applied
there had, he further said, been no breaking up at all by reason of frost.

The figure here given suggests the extensive adoption of McAdam's system
which was then proceeding. It was not only that old roads were being
repaired according to his plan, but there was much construction of
"macadamised" roads, the deficiencies of the existing roads having
discouraged and checked the provision of new ones. Between 1818 and 1829,
as told by Porter, in his "Progress of the Nation," the length of turnpike
roads in England and Wales was increased by more than 1000 miles. In
proportion, also, as the turnpike roads increased alike in number and in
quality, through the wider adoption of McAdam's system, there was a
corresponding impetus given to coaching in respect both to number of
vehicles and to increase of speed, leading up to those "palmy days" of
coaching which were only to close with the spread of the railway.

It is true that McAdam's plans were not adhered to exactly as he first laid
them down. Greater experience led later authorities to attach more
importance to a foundation than McAdam had been disposed to do; though they
did not necessarily have foundations laid by hand, after the manner of
Telford's buried pavements. Later, the introduction, also, of the
steam-roller was to revolutionise the art of making macadamised roads.

Nor can it be disputed that McAdam and Telford had both, to a certain
extent, been anticipated. In an article on roads published in the
"Quarterly Review," in 1820, the observation is made in respect to them
that "Many of the practices of each of these gentlemen had been previously
adopted in a variety of instances; but it required zeal and perseverance
like theirs to recommend the entire system to the attention of the public."

Other persons might have recommended the use of broken stones, and these
are said to have been already employed in Switzerland before McAdam came on
the scene; but it was his lucid explanation of the scientific bearing of
angular as opposed to round stones; his untiring zeal in travelling
thousands of miles over English and Scottish roads in order to see and
study everything for himself; and his advocacy of scientific road-making
with such indefatigable energy, though {107}to his own impoverishment
(until Parliament voted him recompense), that led to the conspicuous and
world-wide success his system eventually attained.

Writing in 1826, "Nimrod" said: "Roads may be called the veins and arteries
of a country, through which channels every improvement circulates. I really
consider Mr McAdam as being, next to Dr Jenner, the greatest contributor to
the welfare of mankind that this country has ever produced."

This may seem, to-day, to be exaggerated praise; but if the reader looks at
the matter from the point of view from which "Nimrod" himself must have
regarded it, and tries to realise how greatly the deplorable state of the
roads--before McAdam began to repair them--was hampering social life,
travel, trade, commerce and national industries, he will probably conclude
that such praise, at such a period, and in such circumstances, was far from
being undeserved.

The turnpike system lasted well into the railway period, and the story of
its gradual decline and the causes that led thereto has still to be told.
Before, however, dealing further with these aspects of the general question
I propose to revert to the subject of rivers and river navigation; to show,
next, how canals and canal transport were developed; and then to give an
account of the rise of that railway system which was so materially to
affect alike rivers, canals and turnpike roads as well.



In the earliest days of our history, and for many generations later,
navigable rivers exercised a most important, if not a paramount, influence
on the settlement of tribes, the location of towns, the development of
trade and the social life of the people. They were natural highways, open
to all who possessed the means of using them, at a time when men had
otherwise still to make roads for themselves; and in a land covered to so
great an extent with forest and fen such natural highways were of
exceptional value. They offered a ready means of reaching points in the
interior of the country which would otherwise have been more or less
inaccessible. They allowed of the transport, in craft however primitive, of
commodities too heavy or too bulky for conveyance by packhorse along the
narrow paths trodden out on the hill-sides, winding through woods, or
picked out across bog, plain, or morass.

Rivers further helped to develop that civilisation which is directly
encouraged by facility of communication between groups of people who would
otherwise assuredly remain backward in social progress. It will even be
found that down to the turnpike, if not, indeed, to the railway, era in
this country, communities dwelling on the banks of navigable rivers, and
thus possessing a ready means of communication at all times with others
having a like advantage, attained to a higher degree of culture, refinement
and social standing than people in localities where, remote from any river
or passable highway, they were shut off by bad roads from all intercourse
with their fellow-men for, at least, the whole of the winter months.

In C. H. Pearson's "Historical Maps of England During the first Thirteen
Centuries" there is abundant evidence of the way in which towns and trading
centres in Britain grew up {109}along the course of navigable rivers, while
the country at any distance therefrom remained unoccupied, however
important the places that may be found there to-day. On the map of Saxon
England, for instance, mention is made of Gleaweceaster (Gloucester;
spelling from "Saxon Chronicle"), Teodekesberie (Tewkesbury; "Domesday"),
Brycgnorth (Bridgnorth; "Saxon Chronicle"), and Scrobbesbyrig (Shrewsbury;
"Saxon Chronicle"), but no one can doubt that these places attained to
their early importance mainly because of their situation on the river
Severn. Other typical inland cities or towns include London and Oxford on
the Thames; Ware on the Lea; Rochester on the Medway; Peterborough on the
Nen; Lincoln on the Witham; York on the Ouse; Doncaster on the Don;
Cambridge on the Cam; Norwich on the Yare; Colchester on the Colne; Ludlow
on the Terne; Exeter on the Exe; Winchester on the Ouse (Sussex); Hereford
on the Wye; Chester on the Dee; Caerleon (Isca) on the Usk; and so on with
many other places, the location of which alongside a river must doubtless
have been due, in part, it may be, to the convenience of water supply, and
in part, also, to the greater fertility of the river valley, but more
especially to the facility offered by the water highway for transport when
other highways were either lacking or far less convenient.

Adam Smith, in his "Wealth of Nations" (Book I., chapter xi., pages 20-1),
compares the cost of sending goods by road from London to Edinburgh with
that of forwarding them by sea, and adds:--

"Since such are the advantages of water carriage it is natural that the
first improvements of art and industry should be made where that
conveniency opens the whole world for a market to the produce of every sort
of labour, and that they should always be much later in extending
themselves into the inland parts of the country. The inland parts of the
country can for a long time have no other market for the greater part of
their goods but the country which lies round about them, and separates them
from the sea coast and the great navigable rivers. The extent of their
market, therefore, must for a long time be in proportion to the riches and
populousness of that country, and consequently their improvement must
always be posterior to the improvement of that country. In our {110}North
American colonies the plantations have constantly followed either the sea
coast or the banks of the navigable rivers, and have scarce anywhere
extended themselves to any considerable distance from both."

On the Continent of Europe the location of the chief inland centres of
trade, commerce, and industry was no less decided by the convenience of
transport afforded by the great navigable rivers, as shown (to give two
examples only) by Augsburg on the Danube and Cologne on the Rhine.

In Britain there were found to be advantages in having a port, not at the
mouth of a river, but as far inland as the vessels employed could go. One
of these advantages lay in the fact that, the further inland the
river-port, the greater was the protection against the Danish or Norwegian
pirates who, at one time, infested the seas around our shores; but the main
reasons for the preference are somewhat quaintly expressed by "R. S.," in a
pamphlet, published in 1675, entitled "Avona; or a Transient View of the
Benefit of making Rivers of this Kingdom Available. Occasioned by observing
the Scituation of the City of Salisbury, upon the Avon, and the Consequence
of opening that River to that City." The writer says:--

"There is more advantage to those places, which, being seated far within
the Land (as this[19] is), do enjoy the benefit of Commerce by Sea, by some
Navigable River, than to those Port-Towns which are seated in some Creeke
or Bay only, and are (as I may call it) Land-lock'd, having no passage up
into the Land but by Carriages, as we see in Poole and Lynn, in Dorset, and
in a number of other Port-Towns of like Scituation in other places quite
round the Island: For such places, though the Sea brings in commodities to
them, yet they can neither without great charge convey those commodities
higher up into the Land, nor, without the like charge, receive the Innland
commodities to export again: Whereas, Cities seated upon navigable Rivers
far within the Land look like some Noble Exchange of Nature's own
designing; where the Native and the Forreigner may immediately meet, and
put off to each other the particular commodities of the growth of their own
Countreys; the Native (as a Merchant) receiving the Forreign Goods at first
hand, and exchanging his own for them at the {111}very place where they are
made, or grow; or, at most, going no further to it, than to his ordinary

Thus the ideal river-ports were those that were situated, not only a good
distance inland, but in close connection with a Roman or other road along
which commerce could be readily brought or distributed, the land journey
being reduced to the smallest and most convenient proportions. The
advantage was still greater where the small sea-going vessels could be
carried by a tidal stream right up to the town to which their cargo was

As against these advantages, however, there was the disadvantage that, the
further inland the river-port, the greater was the risk that access to it
might become impracticable either through the formation of shallows in the
river-bed or because the larger build of vessels in later years could not
pass where the smaller and more primitive type of ship of earlier days had
gone without difficulty.

From one or other of these causes many English rivers on which considerable
traffic formerly passed have dwindled in importance, even if they have not
ceased to be navigable at all; and many inland places that once flourished
as river, or even as "sea"-ports, would to-day hardly be regarded in that
light at all, as shown, for example, by the fate of Lewes on the Sussex
Ouse, Deeping on the Welland, Cambridge on the Cam, Ely on the Ouse, West
Dean on the Cuckmere, and Bawtry on the Idle. York and Doncaster, though
situated so far inland, once considered themselves seaports because of
their river connection with the coast, so that, as told by the Rev. W.
Denton, in "England in the Fifteenth Century," they claimed and exercised
the right of sharing in "wrecks at sea" as though they stood on the
seaboard instead of high up the course of the Ouse or the Don.

The Romans not only supplemented their road transport by river transport
but they sought to improve the latter by the construction of river
embankments. In the case of the Trent and the Witham they even cut a
canal--the Fossdyke--in order to establish direct communication between
them. Just, however, as road-making became a lost art here on their
departure from Britain, so did an interval of a thousand years elapse
before there was any material attempt to follow their example in effecting
improvements in river navigation. The {112}initial advantage, therefore,
lay with towns located on rivers which were naturally navigable and
remained navigable both for a considerable extent and for a considerable
period, without need of amendment; though river navigation, as a whole, did
not attain to its highest development until, as will be shown in the
chapter that follows, much had been done, especially in connection with
streams not naturally navigable, to overcome the various impediments or
difficulties to effective transport.

All the same, the part that English navigable rivers, great or small, have
played in the social and economic progress of the country has been one of
undeniable magnitude and importance, and offers many points of general

These considerations more especially apply to the river Severn, which, in
conjunction with such of its tributaries as the Wye and the Warwickshire
Avon, was once the great highway for the trade and traffic, not only of the
western counties, but of, also, a considerable area in Wales and the
midland and northern counties, enabling the districts it more directly
served to attain an early development long before others which were then
still struggling with the disadvantages of bad roads, however much they may
since have outstripped them in the race for industrial advancement.

The Severn itself was naturally navigable from Welshpool, Montgomeryshire,
a distance of 155 miles by a very winding stream to where the river empties
itself into the Bristol Channel. This was the greatest length of
navigation, unaided by artificial means, of any river in the kingdom. The
early Britons passed along it in their coracles, and, as these were
supplemented by vessels of an improved type, trade was developed, towns and
cities--each a storehouse or an entrepôt for a more or less considerable
area--began to arise on the banks, while Bristol attained to the dignity of
a great national port when Liverpool was still only an insignificant
fishing village.

It was in connection with the Severn that the question arose as to the
right of the community to regard a navigable river as a public highway, the
same as if it were a road dedicated to general use.

The writer of the article on "Rivers" in the "Penny Cyclopædia" (1841)
observes that: "In rivers which are {113}navigable, and in which the public
have a common right to passage, the King is said to have 'an interest in
jurisdiction,' whether the rivers were the King's property or private
property. These rivers were called 'fluvii regales,' 'haut streames le
roy,' or 'royal streams,' because of their being dedicated to public use,
all things of public safety and convenience being under his care and
protection." Navigable rivers being thus, the writer continues, the King's
highway by water, many of the incidents belonging to a highway on land
attached to such rivers, and any nuisances or obstruction upon them, even
though occurring on the private land of any person, might be made the
subject of indictment.

In regard to the Severn and the right of access thereto, it was found
necessary, in 1430-1, following on complaints which had been made to
Parliament, to pass an Act (9 Hen. VI., c. 5) for the protection of boatmen
in the Severn estuary against "many Welshmen and ill-disposed persons" who
"were used to assemble in manner of war and stop trows, boats and floats or
drags on their way with Merchandise to Bristol, Gloucester, Worcester, and
other places, hewing these craft in pieces, and beating the sailors with
intent to force them to hire boats from the said Welshmen, for great sums
of money, an evil example and great impoverishment of a King's liege
people, if remedy were not hastily provided."

Under this Act the Severn was declared a free river for all the King's
subjects to carry on within the stream of the river. The Act made no
mention, however, of any right on the part of the boatmen to use the land
alongside the river for the purpose of towing their vessels; and in regard
to this point the writer in the "Penny Cyclopædia" says: "Though a river is
a public navigable river, there is not, therefore, any right at common law
for parties to use the banks of it as a towing path."

By an Act passed in 1504 riparian owners along the Severn were authorised,
notwithstanding the earlier enactment of the freedom of the river itself,
to take "reasonable recompense and satisfaction" from every person going
upon their land to draw a boat. There is no evidence that the landowners
availed themselves of this authority; but in a later Act, passed in 1532,
it was stated that although, "time out of mind," people had used, without
any imposition or toll, a path {114}one foot and a half broad on each side
of the river for drawing their boats, "of late certain covetous persons"
had "interrupted" those so using the said paths, "taking of them fines and
bottles of wine," and the Act imposed a penalty of forty shillings on
anyone attempting to enforce such tolls, except as regards the reasonable
recompense which the riparian owners could claim. This enactment seems to
have been due to the action of local officials in Worcester, Gloucester and
other places on the river in seeking, as told in Nash's "History and
Antiquities of Worcestershire" (1781), to raise revenue for their cities or
towns by taxing traders who used the Severn for the transport of their

The importance of the Severn, from the point of view of trade and commerce,
in the middle of the sixteenth century, is suggested by what William
Harrison wrote of it in his "Description of the Sauerne" (1577): "As the
said stream, in length of course, bountie of water, and depth of chanell
commeth farre behind the Thames, so for other commodities, as trade of
merchandize, plentie of cariage ... it is nothing at all inferiour to or
second to the same."

One reason for the early commercial prosperity of the Severn towns was the
important trade in flannels which they carried on with Wales; though the
industry was, also, considerably developed in the Severn counties
themselves. Made mostly in the farm-houses and cottages of Montgomeryshire,
Merionethshire and Denbighshire, before the days of factories, the flannels
and webs were taken by the makers to the fortnightly market at Welshpool.
This was a convenient centre for the drapers from Shrewsbury, who,
journeying thither along the Severn, would, at one time, buy up the entire
stock; though later on they had competitors in the traders from Wrexham and
other places. Although carried on only as a domestic industry, the making
of these Welsh flannels underwent considerable expansion, Archdeacon Joseph
Plymley saying, in his "General View of the Agriculture of Salop,"
published in 1803, "The manufacture in Wales by means of jennies introduced
into farm-houses and other private houses is four times as great, I am
told, as it was twenty years ago."

At Shrewsbury the wares thus brought down the Severn from Wales were
purchased mostly by merchants from London who either sent them to
Continental markets or else consigned {115}them to South America or the
West Indies, for conversion there into clothing for the slaves.

As the demand increased, flannels and webs were more and more produced in
and around Shrewsbury itself and other parts of Shropshire. Shrewsbury also
developed a large manufacture of coarse linens, linen threads, and other
textiles, and eventually attained to such prosperity that Defoe says of it,
in his "Tour":--

"This is indeed a beautiful, large, pleasant, populous and rich Town; full
of Gentry, and yet full of Trade too; for here, too, is a great
Manufacture, as well of Flannel, as also of white Broadcloth, which
enriches all the Country round it.... This is really a Town of Mirth and
Gallantry, something like Bury in Suffolk, or Durham in the North, but much
bigger than either of them, or indeed than both together.... Here is the
greatest Market, the greatest Plenty of good Provisions, and the cheapest
that is to be met with in all the Western Part of England; the Severn
supplies them here with excellent Salmon, but 'tis also brought in great
Plenty from the River Dee, which is not far off, and which abounds with a
very good Kind.... There is no doubt but the Cheapness of Provisions,
joined with the Pleasantness and Healthiness of the Place, draws a great
many Families thither, who love to live within the Compass of their

Archdeacon Plymley speaks of Shrewsbury as having been, "chiefly from the
advantage of the river, for several centuries past, a sort of metropolis
for North Wales."

Bewdley, which had obtained its charter from Edward IV., was another Severn
town which developed an extensive trade in the exportation not only of
Welsh flannels but of timber, wool, leather, combs and sailors' caps. All
these were sent down the river to Bristol, whence the Bewdley dealers
received, in return, imported groceries and other commodities for
distribution throughout Wales and Lancashire. Bridgnorth also attained to
considerable importance as a convenient point for the transport to Bristol,
via the Severn, of goods brought by road from a Hinterland extending to
Lancashire and Cheshire.

There was, again, much traffic to and from towns situate on the
Warwickshire Avon, which enters the Severn at Tewkesbury after passing
through Stratford, Evesham, {116}Pershore and other towns. Defoe says of
this affluent of the Severn: "The Navigation of this River Avon is an
exceeding advantage to all this part of the Country and also to the
Commerce of the City of Bristol. For by this River they derive a very great
trade for sugar, oil, wine, tobacco, iron, lead, and in a word all heavy
goods which are carried by water almost as far as Warwick; and return the
corn, and especially the cheese is brought back from Gloucestershire and
Warwickshire to Bristol."

The Wye, which enters the estuary of the Severn below Chepstow, after
passing through or along the borders of the counties of Montgomery, Radnor,
Brecknock, Hereford, Monmouth and Gloucester, was, with its own tributary,
the Lug, not made navigable until 1661, when an Act (14 Car. II.) was
passed, the preamble of which set forth that--

"Whereas the making Navigable, or otherwise passable for Barges, Boats,
Leighters, and other Vessels the Rivers Wye and Lugg and other Rivulets and
Brooks falling into the said Rivers in the County of Hereford and other
adjacent Counties, and so navigable into the River of Seaverne, may (with
God's blessing) be of great advantage, and very convenient and necessary
not onely to the said Counties, But also to the Publick, By import and
export of Corn and encrease of Commerce and Trade, and improving the yearly
value of lands in the parts near adjoyning thereunto, besides the great and
extraordinary preservation of the High-ways, and most profitable and
necessary to and for the City of Hereford for conveyance thereby of Coles,
fuel and other necessaries to the said City, whereof there is now great
scarcity and want, and far greater hereafter like to grow, if some Help
therefore be not made and provided. Be it therefore," etc.

That the merchants of Bristol derived great advantage from river as well as
from sea transport is well shown by Defoe. Not only, he tells us, did they
carry on a great trade, but they did so with less dependence on London than
the merchants of any other town in Britain. He says:--

"The shopkeepers in Bristol who, in general, are all Wholesale Men, have so
great an Inland trade among all the Western Counties that they maintain
Carriers just as the London Tradesmen do, to all the principal Countries
and Towns, from Southampton in the south to the Banks of the Trent,
{117}north, and though they have no navigable river that way yet they drive
a very great trade through all those counties."

The "two great rivers," the Severn and the Wye, enabled them, also, to
"have the whole trade of South Wales, as it were, to themselves," together
with the greater part of that of North Wales,[20] while the sea gave them
access to Ireland, where they were carrying on a trade which, says Defoe,
was not only great in itself but had "prodigiously increased" in the last
thirty years, notwithstanding the greater competition of the Liverpool

The transport facilities offered by the Severn were a further material
factor both in the local development of great coal, iron and other
industries, at a time when like industries were still in their infancy in
the north, and in the increase of the general wealth of the western
counties. In regard to Shropshire, Archdeacon Plymley writes that the
inhabitants of the county, having such ready communication both with the
interior of the country and with the sea, had opened mines of iron, stone,
lead, lime, etc., and had, also, established very extensive iron
manufactures. As the result of all this enterprise, much capital had been
drawn into the district; a great market had been opened for the
agricultural produce of the country; the ready conveyance of fuel and
manure had enabled the cultivation of the soil to be carried on even beyond
the demands of the increasing consumption; and all had so operated together
as to increase the wealth and well-being of Shropshire in general.

Some interesting facts as to the conditions under which the navigation of
the Severn was conducted in 1758 are given in a communication published in
the "Gentleman's Magazine" for that year (pages 277-8) from G. Perry, of
Coalbrookdale, under the heading, "A Description of the Severn." The
following passages may be quoted:--

"This river, being justly esteemed the second in Britain, is of great
importance on account of its trade, being navigated by vessels of large
burden more than 160 miles from the sea, without the assistance of any
lock. Upwards of 100,000 tons of coals are annually shipped from the
collieries about Madeley {118}and Broseley to the towns and cities on its
banks, and from thence into the adjacent countries; also great quantities
of grain, pig and bar iron, iron manufactures and earthen wares, as well as
wool, hops, cyder, and provisions are constantly exported to Bristol and
other places, from whence merchants' goods, &c., are brought in return. The
freight from Shrewsbury to Bristol is about 10s. per ton, and from Bristol
to Shrewsbury 15s., the rates to the intermediate towns being in

"This traffic is carried on with vessels of two sorts; the lesser kind are
called barges and frigates, being from 40 to 60 feet in length, have a
single mast, square sail, and carry from 20 to 40 tons; the trows, or
larger vessels, are from 40 to 80 tons burthen; these have a main and top
mast, about 80 feet high, with square sails, and some have mizen masts;
they are generally from 16 to 20 feet wide and 60 in length, being, when
new, and completely rigged worth about 300l."

Their number having greatly increased, he had "an exact list" taken of all
the barges and trows on the Severn in May, 1756, and this list he gives.
The total number of owners was then 210, and the total number of vessels
was 376. Among the places mentioned are the following:--

    TOWN.              OWNERS.   VESSELS.
  Shrewsbury             10         19
  Madeley Wood           21         39
  Broseley               55         87
  Bridgnorth             47         75
  Bewdley                18         47
  Worcester               6         21
  Tewkesbury              8         18
  Evesham-upon-Avon       1          2
  Gloucester              4          7

Of the disadvantages that attended navigation on the Severn I shall speak
in chapter xv, in connection with the decline of river transport in

What the Severn group of rivers, with Bristol as the headquarters of their
navigation, were on the west coast, the Wash group and the port of Lynn
were on the east coast.

The Wash group comprised: (1) the Bedford Ouse and its tributaries, with a
main outlet at Lynn; (2) the Welland, {119}with Spalding for its inland
port; and (3) the Witham, which passes through the Fens and into the Wash
by way of Boston. There is abundant testimony available as to the former
great importance of these rivers.

Defoe says of Lynn: "There is the greatest extent of Inland Navigation
here, of any Port in England, London excepted. The Reason whereof is this,
that there are more Navigable Rivers empty themselves here into the Sea,
including the Washes, which are branches of the same Port, than at any one
Mouth of Waters in England, except the Thames and the Humber."

Nathaniel Kinderley, in his work on "The Ancient and Present State of the
Navigation of the Towns of Lynn, Wisbeach, Spalding and Boston" (2nd
edition, 1751), speaks of the Bedford Ouse as having five rivers emptying
themselves into it from eight several counties; and he says that it "does
therefore afford a great Advantage to Trade and Commerce, since hereby two
Cities and several great Towns are therein served, as Peterborough, Ely,
Stamford, Bedford, St. Ives, Huntington, St. Neots, Northampton, Cambridge,
Bury St. Edmunds, Thetford, &c., with all Sorts of heavy commodities from
Lyn; as Coals and Salt (from Newcastle), Deals, Fir-Timber, Iron, Pitch and
Tar (from Sweden and Norway), and Wine (from Lisbon and Oporto) thither
imported, and from these Parts great Quantities of Wheat, Rye, Cole-Seed,
Oats, Barley, &c., are brought down these Rivers, whereby a great foreign
and inland Trade is carried on and the Breed of Seamen is increased. The
Port of Lyn supplies Six Counties wholly, and three in Part."

Another writer of the same period, Thomas Badeslade, who published in 1766
a "History of the Ancient and Present State of the Navigation of the Port
of King's Lyn and of Cambridge and the rest of the trading Towns in those
Parts," took up the argument that the number of inhabitants, the value of
land, the trade, the riches and the strength of every free State were great
in proportion to their possession of navigable rivers; and he went on to
declare that "Of all the Navigable Rivers in England the River of the Great
Ouse is one of the chief, and Lyn sits at the door of this river, as it
were the turnkey of it."

The various large and populous towns (as already mentioned) {120}which
stood either upon the Ouse itself or upon one of the other rivers
connecting with it were, he proceeded, all dependent on its navigation, and
all of them were supplied by the merchants of Lynn with what he described
as "maritime commodities." "Their Exports and Imports," he declared,
"enrich and Furnish the Country; and raise a great Revenue to the
Government, and in all National advantages the Port of Lyn is equalled by
few Ports of this Kingdom." But, owing to neglect of the Ouse, there was
the risk that the river would "in a very short time" be "lost to
navigation," and all, he continued, agreed that "If something be not done
this Country will be rendered uninhabitable, and the Navigation of the Port
of Lynn will be lost, and the University of Cambridge, and all the great
Towns situate on the Rivers for the benefit of Navigation must with it
decay and become impoverished; and the Customs and Duties of the State be
in Consequence thereof greatly lessened."

Happily our national well-being has not depended on navigable rivers, as
Badeslade thought it did, and, though the condition of the Bedford Ouse has
got far worse than it was when he wrote, the University of Cambridge and
the various towns in question still, happily, survive. But even in
Badeslade's time the Ouse was beginning to get, as he says, "choaked up,"
and he recalls the year 1649 when "keels could sail with Forty Tun freight
36 miles from Lynn towards Cambridge at ordinary Neip-Tides, and as far as
Huntingdon with Fifteen Tun Freight. And Barges with Ten Chaldron of coals
could sail up Brandon River to Thetford; and as far in proportion up the
Rivers Mildenhall, &c., &c. By all which Rivers the Port of Lynn was
capable of the most extensive Inland navigation of any Port of England."

How Lynn served as the port for the great quantities of foreign produce
and, also, for the hops and other commodities sent from London and the
south-western counties for the Sturbridge fair at Cambridge has already
been told (see page 24). It was, also, through Lynn and Boston that a large
proportion of our commerce with Normandy, Flanders and the Rhine country
was conducted; and Lynn, especially, grew in wealth and importance, and
further developed, as Defoe found, into a town having considerable social

Concerning the Witham, Joseph Priestley says, in his {121}"Historical
Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals and Railways of Great Britain"
(1831), it has been thought that previous to the Norman Conquest the river
was a tideway navigation for ships to Lincoln. That it was navigable at a
very early period he thinks may be inferred from the fact that the Fossdike
Canal, "an ancient 'Roman Work,'" was scoured out by Henry I. in the year
1121 for the purpose of opening a navigable communication between the Trent
and the Witham at the city of Lincoln in order that that place, which was
then in a very flourishing condition and enjoying an extensive foreign
trade, might reap all the advantages of a more ready communication with the

Another most important group of rivers, from the point of view of inland
navigation, was the series which have their outlet in the Humber. This
group includes the Yorkshire Ouse and the Trent, both naturally navigable.

The Ouse (York) is formed by the confluence of the Ure and the Swale sixty
miles above the Trent Falls, where, after passing through York, Selby, and
Goole, it joins the Trent and forms the Humber estuary. Under a charter
granted by Edward IV., in the year 1462, the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of
York were to "oversee and be conservators" of this river, as well as of the
Aire, the Wharfe, the Derwent, the Don, and the Humber, all of which are
connected with it. Of the city of York, as he found it in or about the year
1723, Defoe says:--

"No City in England is better furnished with Provision of every Kind, nor
any so cheap, in proportion to the goodness of Things; the River being so
navigable and so near the Sea, the Merchants here trade directly to what
port of the world they will; for Ships of any Burthen come up within thirty
Mile of the City, and small Craft from sixty or eighty Ton, and under, come
up to the very City."

The navigable Trent was for many centuries the chief means of communication
between south and north, and Nottingham, as the capital of the Trent
district, became a place of great importance. It was along the Trent that
the King's messengers passed on their way to York, in preference to braving
the dangers of the road through Sherwood Forest. The burgesses of
Nottingham were required to take charge of them as soon as they came to the
river and conduct them safely to {122}Torksey, whose burgesses, in turn,
had to take them to the Humber, and so on up the tidal Ouse to York.

To the town of Burton-on-Trent by packhorse or waggon, down the Trent by
barge to Hull, and thence by sailing vessel along the east coast and up the
Thames, was once a favoured route for the consignment of cheese from
Cheshire to the London market. In Defoe's time the quantity of Cheshire
cheese thus passing along the Trent, either for London or for east coast
towns, was 4000 tons a year. Owing to the state of the roads the Trent
route was the only practicable alternative the Cheshire cheese makers had
to what they called the "Long sea" route to London, "a terribly long, and
sometimes dangerous Voyage" (says Defoe) by way of the Mersey, Land's End,
the English Channel and the Thames. In describing the conditions of
navigation on the Trent he tells us that, "The Trent is Navigable by Ships
of good Burthen as high as Gainsbrough, which is near forty Miles from the
Humber by the River. The Barges without the Help of Locks or Stops go as
high as Nottingham, and further by the Help of Art to Burton-upon-Trent in
Staffordshire. The Stream is full, the Channel deep and safe, and the Tide
flows up a great Way between Gainsborough and Newark. This, and the
Navigation lately, reaching up to Burton and up the Derwent to Derby, is a
great Support to and Encrease of the Trade of those counties which border
upon it."

In speaking more fully of Nottingham Defoe says: "The Trent is Navigable
here for Vessels or Barges of great Burthen, by which all their heavy and
bulky Goods are brought from the Humber and even from Hull; such as Iron,
Block-tin, Salt, Hops, Grocery, Dyers Wares, Wine, Oyl, Tar, Hemp, Flax,
&c., and the same vessels carry down Coal, Wood, Corn; as also Cheese in
great Quantities from Warwickshire and Staffordshire."

From an article "On Inland Navigations and Public Roads," by William
Jessop, published in the Georgical Essays, Vol. IV. (1804), I gather that
merchandise was carried on the Trent at a cost of eight shillings a ton for
a distance of seventy miles, and that "in point of expedition" vessels
frequently made the journey of seventy miles and back in a week, including
the time for loading and unloading--a degree of despatch which Jessop
evidently regarded as very creditable, since he adds, {123}"This has been
done by the same vessel for ten weeks successively, and would often be done
if they were not obliged to wait for their lading."

One of the affluents of the Trent, the little river known as the Idle,
joins it at Stockwith, 21 miles from the junction of the Trent with the
Humber; and seven miles up the Idle is the once-famous "port" of Bawtry.

This particular place fulfilled all the conditions of what I have already
described as the ideal port of olden days. Not only was it far inland,
bringing a considerable district into communication with the sea, but it
was situated--eight miles south-east of Doncaster--on the Great North Road,
at the point where this road enters the county of York. Until the
navigation of the Don was improved, under an Act passed in 1727, the Hull,
Trent, Idle and Bawtry route was preferred to the Hull, Ouse, Aire, Don,
and Doncaster route alike for foreign imports into Yorkshire and for
Yorkshire products consigned to London or to places abroad; and Bawtry,
known to-day, to those who know it at all, as only a small market town in
Yorkshire, was at one time of considerable importance.

In the reigns of Edward III. and Edward IV., as told by the Rev. Joseph
Hunter, in "The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster" (1828),
the lords of the manor of Bawtry were "of the prime of English nobility,"
while the market established there dated from the beginning of the
thirteenth century. When the sovereign or any members of the Royal Family
travelled in state to the north, they were usually met at Bawtry by the
sheriff of the county and a train of attendants.

More to our present purpose, however, is the fact that, down to the opening
of the second quarter of the eighteenth century this inland port of Bawtry
was the route by which most of the products of Sheffield, of Hallamshire,
and of the country round about, destined for London, for the eastern
counties, or for the Continent, passed to their destination. From Sheffield
to Bawtry was a land journey of twenty miles, and thus far, at least,
packhorses or waggons had to be utilised over such roads as there then
were. The Idle is described by Defoe as "a full and quick, though not rapid
and unsafe Stream, with a deep Channel, which carries Hoys, {124}Lighters,
Barges or flat-bottomed Vessels out of its Channel into the Trent." In fair
weather these vessels, taking on their cargo at Bawtry, could continue the
journey from Stockwith, where the Trent was entered, to Hull; but otherwise
the cargo was transhipped at Stockwith into vessels of up to 200-ton
burthen, which were able to pass from the Humber along the Trent as far as
Stockwith whether laden or empty. By means of this navigation, to quote
again from Defoe:--

"The Town of Bautry becomes the Center of all the Exportation of this Part
of the Country, especially for heavy Goods, which they bring down hither
from all the adjacent Countries, such as Lead, from the Lead Mines and
Smelting-Houses in Derbyshire, wrought Iron and Edge-Tools, of all Sorts,
from the Forges at Sheffield, and from the Country call'd Hallamshire,
being adjacent to the Towns of Sheffield and Rotheram, where an innumerable
Number of People are employed. Also Millstones and Grindstones, in very
great Quantities, are brought down and shipped off here, and so carry'd by
Sea to Hull, and to London, and even to Holland also. This makes Bautry
Wharf be famous all over the South Part of the West Riding of Yorkshire,
for it is the Place whither all their heavy Goods are carried, to be
embarked and shipped off."

One can thus well credit Hunter's statement that there appear to have been
several persons residing at Bawtry in the Middle Ages who had been enriched
by the commerce of "the port," as the place was, in fact, described in the
Hundred Rolls; but when one thinks of the great extent of the industries of
the Sheffield district as carried on at the present day, it is certainly
interesting to learn of the conditions under which they were developed, and
the circuitous route by which their products once reached London and the
markets of the world.

The industries grew, however, in spite of all the difficulties in
transport. The iron trade had existed in Hallamshire since the reign of
Henry II. (1154-1189). Sheffield cutlery was well known in the Middle Ages.
It was in high repute in Queen Elizabeth's time. In the early part of the
eighteenth century the industries of the district were increasing at a
greater rate than ever. In 1721 the weight of Hallamshire manufactures sent
in the direction of the Humber was 13,000 tons; and the greater proportion
of this quantity must have {125}passed through the port of Bawtry and
thence along the river Trent.

The Thames, England's greatest river, does not, so far as it serves the
port of London and facilitates the immense trade there carried on, enter so
much into consideration from the point of view of strictly "internal
communication" as some of the lesser rivers already mentioned, the position
alike of London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton, etc., relating to
ports, docks, harbours and commerce in general rather than to the
particular forms of inland transport here under review. One must not
forget, however, that, above the port of London itself the navigation of
the Thames was, from very early times, of the greatest advantage to a
considerable extent of country, and that the value of these services was
further increased by various tributaries of the Thames.

The fact that settlement originally followed the course of rivers is
abundantly shown by the number of cities, towns, monasteries, abbeys and
conventual establishments set up of old in the Thames valley. The
convenience, also, of water transport must have had much to do with the
locating of a University at Oxford, on the Thames, just as it did with the
establishment of a University at Cambridge, on the Cam, each being thus
rendered accessible to scholars from Scotland and elsewhere who would have
found it impracticable to make so long a journey under the early conditions
of road travel. The Thames became, further, the main highway for the
various counties through which it flowed, included therein being some of
the most fertile districts in the land; and, though London may owe its
pre-eminence mainly to foreign trade, passing between the port of London
and the sea, the facilities for communication offered above the port of
London by the Thames for the full extent of its navigable length were, in
the pre-railway days more especially, of incalculable advantage both to the
districts served thereby and to the Metropolis itself.

This advantage becomes still more striking when we take into account the
rivers that form important tributaries of the Thames.

The Lea was described in a statute of 1424 as "one of the great rivers,
which extendeth from the town of Ware till the water of the Thames, in the
counties of Hertford, Essex and {126}Middlesex"; and along this river there
was carried at one time a very considerable quantity of produce and
merchandise. The history of Ware goes back to, at least, the ninth century,
when the Danes took their ships up to the town but were outmanoeuvred by
King Alfred, who diverted the stream, and left the vessels stranded. Not
only was the founding of Ware on the spot where it stands due to the
convenience of water communication, but Ware itself was one of the ideal
ports of the time, inasmuch as it was so far inland, and was in convenient
reach of several counties.

The navigation, as far as Godalming, of the Wey, which falls into the
Thames at Weybridge, opened up a great part of Surrey and the adjoining
counties to water communication with London. In recording his visit to
Guildford, Defoe says of the Wey that a very great quantity of timber was
carried along it, such timber being not only brought from the neighbourhood
of that town, but conveyed by road from "the woody parts of Sussex and
Hampshire above 30 miles from it"; though he significantly adds that this
was done "in the Summer," the Sussex roads being, as I have already shown,
probably unequalled for badness, and especially in the winter, by those of
any other county in England. Defoe further says in regard to the Wey that
it was "a mighty support" to the "great corn-market" at Farnham. Meal-men
(as he calls them) and other dealers obtained corn at Farnham, and brought
much of it by road to the mills on the Wey, a distance of about seven
miles. In these mills it was ground and dressed, and it was then sent in
barges to London, "as is practiced," Defoe adds, "on the other side of the
Thames for above fifty miles distance from London."

The Medway was another means of communication between a considerable extent
of country and the Thames. It was utilised, not alone for sending timber
from the woods of Sussex and Kent to the port of London or elsewhere, but,
also, for the distribution of general produce. Defoe says of Maidstone, the
chief town on the Medway, that "from this Town and the Neighbouring Parts
London is supplied with more particulars than from any single market Town
in England."

In addition to these great groups of rivers, many single and minor rivers
led to the opening up of inland ports which served in their day a most
useful purpose.

{127}The Exe allowed of Exeter carrying on a considerable foreign trade.
Defoe tells of the "vast quantities" of woollen manufactures sent from
Exeter direct to Holland, as well as to Portugal, Spain and Italy. The
Dutch, especially, gave large commissions for the buying of Devonshire
serges, which were made not only in Exeter but at Crediton, Honiton,
Tiverton and in all the north part of the county, giving abundant
employment to the people. Defoe speaks of the serge-market at Exeter as,
next to that at Leeds, "the greatest in England." He had been assured, he
says, that in this market from £60,000 to £100,000 worth of serges had been
sold in a week.

In the neighbouring county of Somerset, Taunton was the inland port to
which coal conveyed in sea-going vessels from Swansea to Bridgwater was
taken in barges along the navigable Parrett. Heavy goods and merchandise
from Bristol--such as iron, lead, flax, pitch, tar, dye-stuffs, oil, wine,
and groceries of all kinds--were received there in the same way. From
Taunton these commodities were distributed, by packhorse or waggon,
throughout the county.

Whatever the original capacity of rivers naturally navigable, there came a
time when, by reason either of their inherent defects or of the use of
larger vessels, they required a certain amount of regulation; and there
came a time, also, when it was deemed expedient to render navigable by art
many rivers that were not already adapted thereto by nature. In this way
the necessity arose for much river legislation, together with much
enterprise in respect to river improvement, in the days when the only
alternatives to river transport were the deplorably defective roads.



The earliest legislation applying to navigable rivers referred only to the
taking of salmon or to restrictions on weirs and other hindrances to
navigation. Regulations in regard to these matters began to be enforced in
1285, and numerous statutes relating more especially to the removal alike
of weirs, jetties, mills, mill-dams, etc., causing obstruction to boats,
were passed; though in 1370 and subsequently there were complaints that the
said statutes were not observed.

The first Act for the improvement of an English river was, according to
Clifford, as told in his "History of Private Bill Legislation," a statute
of 1424 (2 Hen. VI.), which appointed a commission "to survey, redress and
amend all the defaults" of the river Lea. Six years later there was a
further Act which set forth that, owing to the number of shoals in the
river, ships and boats could not pass as they ought; and the Chancellor was
authorised to appoint Commissioners to remove the shoals. The Commissioners
were further empowered to take tolls from passing vessels, though the Act
was to be in force for only three years, and was, in effect, not renewed.

We have here the introduction, not alone of the improvement of river
navigation by Act of Parliament, but of the principle of toll-collection on
rivers as a means of raising funds for defraying the cost, on the principle
that those who benefitted should pay. It will, also, be seen that this
first legislative attempt at river improvement related only to dredging and
deepening the channel of the stream to which it applied.

Next, as we are further told by Clifford, came the straightening of rivers,
or their partial deviation by new cuts; and here, again, the Lea stands
first in the Statutes. The preamble of an Act (13 Eliz., c. 18), passed in
1571, "for bringing the river Lea to the north side of the city of London,"

{129}"It is perceived by many grave and wise men, as well of the city of
London as of the country, that it were very commodious and profitable both
for the city and the country that the river of Lea, otherwise called the
Ware river, might be brought within the land to the north part of the city
... through such a convenient and meet cut as may serve for the navigation
of barges and other vessels, for the carrying and conveying as well of all
merchandizes, corn and victuals, as other necessaries from the town of Ware
and other places to the city ... and also for tilt-boats and wherries for
conveying of the Queen's subjects to and fro, to their great ease and

The Corporation of the City of London were authorised to construct and act
as conservators of the new channel, and Commissioners in Middlesex, Essex
and Hertfordshire were again entrusted with the duty of freeing the river
from shoals and shallows.

A number of other Acts relating to the Lea followed, but mention need only
be made here of one passed in 1779 which stated that, inasmuch as the
trustees appointed under earlier enactments could not, without further
advance in the rates they were already empowered to enforce, liquidate the
charges falling upon them in respect to the outlay for works done on the
river, they were authorised to increase those rates.

In the seventeenth century, especially in the period following the
accession of Charles II. to the throne (1660), much attention was paid to
river improvement. A rapid expansion of commerce, of industries and of
wealth had followed alike the planting of colonies in the West Indies and
on the continent of North America, the development of home manufactures,
the reclamation of many waste spaces through the operation of enclosure
Acts, and the improvements brought about in cultivation. The need for
better means of communication in order to open up districts then more or
less isolated, to provide better transport for raw materials and
manufactured goods, and to facilitate the carriage of domestic and other
supplies needed by the increasing population, thus became more and more

In many instances the condition of the roads and the prejudicial results
upon them of heavy traffic were adduced as the main reason for a resort to
improvements of river {130}navigation. An Act (21 Jas. I., c. 32), passed
in 1624, for deepening the navigation of the Thames from Bercott to Oxford,
stated that it was designed "for the conveyance of Oxford freestone by
water to London, and for coal and other necessaries from London to Oxford,
now coming at a dear rate only by land carriage, whereby the roads are
becoming exceedingly bad." It was further stated, in the preamble, that
"the said passage will be very behoveful for preserving the highways
leading to and from the said university and city and other parts
thereabouts" which, owing to "the continual carriages by carts," had become
dangerous for travellers in winter, "and hardly to be amended or continued
passable without exceeding charge." In 1739 there was passed an Act (14
Geo. II., c. 26), "for the betterment and more easy and speedy portage" on
the Medway of timber from the woods of Sussex and Kent, which timber could
not be "conveyed to a market but at a very large expense by reason of the
badness of the roads in these parts."

Various far-seeing, patriotic and enterprising individuals took a leading
part in pioneering the movement in favour of improved river navigation
which, for a period of about 100 years--until, that is, the advent of the
canal era--was to be developed with much zeal and energy, though not always
with conspicuous success. Especially prominent among these pioneers were
William Sandys, Francis Mathew and Andrew Yarranton; and it is only fitting
that some mention should here be made of these three worthies, each of whom
shared the fate of so many other pioneers, in so far as he was a man in
advance of his time.

Sir William Sandys, of Ombersley Court, in the county of Worcester,
obtained, in 1636, an Act of Parliament which granted powers for making
navigable the Warwickshire Avon from the Severn, at Tewkesbury, to the city
of Coventry, and, also, the Teme, on the west side of the Severn, towards
Ludlow. Some of the works thus carried out are still rendering good
service. In 1661 he secured further Acts for making navigable the rivers
Wye and Lugg and the brooks running into them in the counties of Hereford,
Gloucester and Monmouth. Here he anticipated much of what was to be done a
century later by Brindley, in connection with canal construction, inasmuch
as he obtained powers not simply to deepen the beds of the {131}rivers and
to straighten their courses, but to construct new channels, to set up
locks, weirs, etc., to provide towing-paths, and to dig new channels where
required. This last-mentioned proposal constituted, as will be seen later
on, the idea that led up to the eventual transition from navigable rivers
to artificial canals, the new "cuts" on the former being the connecting
link between the two.

The Wye was found to be an exceptionally difficult stream to tame and
control, and Sandys' attempt to make it navigable by locks and weirs on the
pound-lock system was a failure. The scheme was, however, afterwards
carried through on different lines; and in summing up the results John
Lloyd, Junr., says in "Papers Relating to the History and Navigation of the
Rivers Wye and Lugg" (1873):--

"Although, through the uncertainty of its stream, the Wye was never brought
to answer the purpose of a regular conveyance, its navigation has proved of
great service throughout the county of Hereford. Throughout the last[21]
century most of the coal consumed in Hereford and its neighbourhood was
brought up in barges after a flood. Various other heavy articles, such as
grocery, wines and spirits, having been first conveyed from Bristol to
Brockweir in larger vessels, were carried up thence in barges at a much
easier rate than by land carriage. In return the boats were freighted with
the valuable oak timber, bark, cider, wheat, flour and other produce of the
county. The opening of the towing-path for horses by the Act of 1809 gave a
further impetus to navigation, and especially to the trade in coal from
Lidbrook, and while every river-side village could boast of its quay and
its barge, the quay walls at Hereford were thronged with loading and
unloading barges....

"Since the opening of the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway, in 1855,
and the consequent dissolution of the Towing-path Company, nearly all
navigation on the Wye above Monmouth has ceased."

Francis Mathew addressed, in 1655, to Oliver Cromwell, "Lord Protector of
the Commonwealth," a powerful argument in favour of "The Opening of Rivers
for Navigation," the benefit thereof which he sought to show being, as his
title-page said, "exemplified by the Two Avons of Salisbury and Bristol,
{132}with a Mediterranean Passage by Water for Billanders of Thirty Tun
between Bristol and London." The writer described his little book as a plea
that "England's fair valleys and rich Inlets through which so many noble
Rivers insinuate themselves might with the imitation of the industrious
Netherlanders be made in many places docible of Navigation, to the
inestimable comfort, satisfaction, ease and profit of the publick."
"Rivers," he further observed, "may be compared to States-men, sent abroad;
they are never out of their way so they pass by great Cities, Marts, Courts
of Princes, Armies, Leaguers, Diets and the like Theatres of Action, which
still contribute to the increase of their Observation; So Navigable Rivers,
the more places of Note they pass by, the more they take up, or bring,
still gleaning one Commodity or other from the Soyl they pass through, and
are supplied by every Town they touch at with imployment."

Into the details of his scheme for establishing direct water communication
between Bristol and London there is now no need to enter. Suffice it to say
that the two cities had to wait many years before the idea he foreshadowed
was carried into effect. But I must not omit to mention one of the
arguments advanced by Mathew in support of his general proposals, since it
has a direct bearing on the conditions of road transport at this period,
and the reasons based thereon in favour of improvements in river
navigation. Thus he urged, among other things, "the facility of Commerce
from one place to another, and the cheapness of transportation of
Commodities without so much grinding and plowing up our high-wayes, which
maketh them now in so many places impassable. You shall see," he continued,
"Western Waggons, which they call Plows, carry forty hundred weight;
insomuch as between Bristol and Marlborough they have been enforced at a
Hill they call Bagdown-hill, to put twenty beasts, Horse and Oxen, to draw
it up: This great abuse by this means would be taken away, by keeping our
high-wayes pleasant; and withal, by this transportation of Commodities by
River, the price of Commodities would fall."

Oliver Cromwell had other matters than roads and rivers to engage his
attention, and Francis Mathew got from him no favourable response to his
proposals. But in 1670 he dedicated to Charles II. and "the Honorable
Houses of {133}Parliament" a new edition of his scheme under the title of
"A Mediterranean Passage by Water from London to Bristol, and from Lynne to
Yarmouth, and so consequently to the City of York for the great Advancement
of Trade and Traffique." In the course of his Dedication he said:--

"Observing by traversing this island, that divers Rivers within the same
may be moulded into such Form as will admit of Vessels of thirty Tun
burden, or upwards, to sail in, unto the great Relief of divers Countryes
in this Island, by means of the same, at less than half the Rates now paid
for Land carriage ... and considering at how easy a Charge ... the same may
be brought to pass ... I humbly presume ... to become Importunate to your
most Excellent and Royal Majesty for the enterprize of and ready effecting
this Work, being an Undertaking so Heroick, that 'tis beyond the Level of
any others to attempt."

Among the reasons he now advanced in favour of removing the obstructions
and difficulties to be met with in the making of rivers navigable were the
"Wonderful Improvement to much Trade," and especially the trade in coal;
"the great Ease of the Subject"; increased public revenue--

"And what is well and worthy of Observing, the Highwayes hereby will be
much preserved, and become a very acceptable work to the Country, which now
notwithstanding their great cost, is a grievous Toil as well to Man as
beast, being now so unnecessarily plowed up by Waggons of Prodigious
Burthens, which in this Island are dayly travelling."

Andrew Yarranton, who brought out in 1677 a remarkable book, entitled
"England's Improvement by Land and Sea," might be described as a Pioneer of
Protection as well as an early champion of improved inland communication.
He considered that the best way of fighting the Dutch, who were then a
source of trouble to the country, would be, not to go to war with them, but
to capture their trade and commerce. To this end he elaborated a scheme
under which, instead of importing every year "vast quantities" of "linen
cloth of all sorts," of iron, and of woollen goods, England would "settle"
these industries here, fostering them by means of import duties to be
imposed on foreign manufactures for a period of seven years, and
supplementing those duties by the setting-up of a general system of
banking, itself, in turn, {134}made secure by a general land register. The
linen industry, he advised, should be established in the counties of
Warwick, Leicester, Northampton, and Oxford, where, among other
considerations, navigable rivers would be available for the purposes of
transport; and he goes on to say, in words which, though written more than
two and a quarter centuries ago, seem only to have anticipated much that we
hear from the tariff reformers of to-day, that by this means, "we should
prevent at least two millions of money a year from being sent out of the
Land for Linen Cloth, and keep our people at home who now go beyond the
Seas for want of imployment here."

In his references to the iron trade, Yarranton speaks of the "infinite
quantities of raw iron" then being made in Monmouthshire and the Forest of
Dean, and he says that the greatest part of what he calls the "Slow Iron"
made in the Forest of Dean "is sent up the Severne to the Forges, into
Worcester-shire, Shropshire, Stafford-shire, Warwick-shire and Cheshire,
and there it's made into Bar-iron: And because of its kind and gentle
nature to work, it is now at Sturbridge, Dudly, Wolverhampton, Sedgley,
Wasall, and Burmingham and thereabouts wrought into all small Commodities
and diffused all England over, and thereby a great Trade made of it; and
when manufactured sent into most parts of the World"; though in
Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Derbyshire
there were already great and numerous ironworks in which, he adds, "Much
Iron is made of Metal or Iron Stone of another nature quite different from
that of the Forest of Deane."

Having sketched his ideas of such reorganisation of industry as would, in
his opinion, help the country both to beat the Dutch without fighting and,
also, to provide work for all the poor people in England, he proceeded:
"That nothing may be wanting that may conduce to the benefit and
incouragement of things manufactured, as in cheap carriage to and fro over
England, and to the Sea at easie rates, I will in the next place shew you
how the great Rivers in England may be made navigable, and thereby make the
Commodities and Goods carried, especially in Winter time, for half the rate
they now pay."

The schemes he especially recommended in this connection were for the
establishing of communication between the {135}Thames and the Severn, and
between the Dee and the Severn; and he argued that there would be a further
advantage from the point of view of the national food supply, as an
improvement in river navigation would allow both of corn being more easily
brought to London and of the setting up of great granaries, at Oxford for
the advantage of London, and at Stratford-on-Avon for the benefit of towns
on the Severn. He further says:--

"I hear some say, You projected the making Navigable the River Stoure in
Worcestershire; what is the reason it was not finished? I say it was my
projection, and I will tell you the reason it was not finished. The River
Stoure and some other Rivers were granted by an Act of Parliament to
certain Persons of Honour, and some progress was made in the work; but
within a small while after the Act passed it was let fall again. But it
being a brat of my own I was not willing it should be Abortive; therefore I
made offers to perfect it, leaving a third part of the Inheritance to me
and my heirs for ever, and we came to an agreement. Upon which I fell on,
and made it compleatly navigable from Sturbridge to Kederminster; and
carried down many hundred Tuns of Coales, and laid out near one thousand
pounds, and then it was obstructed for Want of Money, which by Contract was
to be paid."

To describe, in detail, all the various schemes for the improvement of
river navigation which were carried out, more especially in the second half
of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth
(irrespective of the many others that succumbed to the complaint spoken of
by Yarranton--want of money), would take up far too much space; but a few
typical examples, which have a direct bearing on the development of British
trade, commerce and industry, may be of interest.

Until the year 1694, when the improvement of the Mersey was taken in hand,
Liverpool had no chance of emerging from a situation of almost complete
isolation, and of competing with ports some of which, though now ports no
longer, or far outstripped by the Liverpool of to-day, were then of vastly
greater importance than Liverpool from the point of view of national

Nature, unaided by man, had not been so considerate to {136}Liverpool as
she had been to Bristol, to Lynn, to Hull or to Boston. These, and other
ports besides, stood on streams which were naturally navigable for more or
less considerable distances into the interior of the country, whereas the
Mersey was not naturally navigable for more than about fifteen or twenty
miles above Liverpool. The navigation even of the estuary as far as
Liverpool presented difficulties and dangers in stormy weather, owing to
sand-banks, violent currents and rapid tides; but beyond Runcorn the Mersey
was not then navigable at all. Nor were the tributaries of the Mersey--the
Irwell and the Weaver--navigable.

Liverpool was thus shut off from communication with the interior by river,
and for a long time the town was not in a much better position as regards
roads. No Roman road came nearer to Liverpool than Warrington, and, down to
1750 (as I have already shown), the road between Warrington and Liverpool
was not passable for coaches or carriages. On the east Liverpool was
practically isolated from the rest of the country by the high range of
hills dividing Lancashire from Yorkshire, and there were the still more
formidable hills of the Lake District on the north. The early route for a
journey to the south from Liverpool was to cross the Mersey at Monk's
Ferry, Birkenhead, and then pass through the forest of Wirral to Chester.
Here there was found a Roman road, along which a coach to London was
running in the reign of James II. (1685-1688), whereas the first coach from
Warrington to London did not start until 1757.

So long as our commercial relations were mainly with Continental or other
ports which could be more conveniently reached from the east or the south
coast, or from Bristol, and so long as the industries of Lancashire and
Yorkshire were but little developed, or found an outlet abroad in these
other directions, the comparative isolation of Liverpool was a matter of no
great national concern; though how, in effect, Liverpool compared with
other seaports or river-ports in the thirteenth century is shown by the
fact (as told by Thomas Baines, in his "History of the Commerce and Town of
Liverpool") that whereas the aggregate value of trading property in
Liverpool, Lancaster, Preston and Wigan--the only four towns in Lancashire
which then acknowledged possessing such property at all--was given in an
official return for the {137}year 1343 as £233, equal to £3495 of our
present money; the equivalent value to-day of the trading property of
Bristol at the same period would be £30,000, and that of Nottingham, then
the great inland port of the Trent, £50,000.

That was a time when, as the same authority says, "Liverpool stood nearly
at the extremity of the known world." But when the known world was enlarged
by the addition thereto of the New World of America, and when commerce with
the lands across the Atlantic began to develop, and the industries of
Lancashire and Yorkshire to grow apace, the need for improved
communications with the port of Liverpool became more and more acute.

Such need was the greater, too, because of the fate that was overtaking the
much earlier and hitherto far more prosperous port of Chester. Established
as a fortress of the first order by the Romans, at the western end of one
of their famous roads, and favoured alike by Saxons and Normans, Chester
had developed into a flourishing commercial port from which, more
especially, intercourse with Ireland was conducted, and it was still the
port through which travellers passed to or from Ireland for a long time
after Liverpool began to compete actively for the Irish goods traffic.
Richard Blome, who visited Chester in 1673, describes it in his "Britannia"
as "the usual place for taking shipping for Ireland, with which it has a
very great intercourse, and a place of very considerable trade."

But, as against the advantage it offered as an inland port, situate
twenty-two miles from its estuary, and dealing with the products of an
especially productive county, Chester had the disadvantage due to the
enormous masses of sand which were driven into the Dee by Atlantic storms,
to the full fury and effects of which the open estuary was exposed. This
evil began to grow serious soon after the Conquest, and the port of Chester
steadily declined as the port of Liverpool steadily rose, the trade lost by
the one helping to build up the prosperity of the other.

The benefits resulting from the improvements carried out on the Mersey
when, under the Act of 1694, navigation was extended from Runcorn to
Warrington, began to be immediately felt; but they also brought out more
clearly the great necessity for still further amendment. How merchandise
{138}went across country in those days is shown in a letter written in 1701
by Thomas Patten, a Liverpool citizen who had taken a leading part in the
movement that led to the Mersey being made navigable as far inland as
Warrington. Referring to a certain consignment of tobacco which was to be
despatched from Liverpool to Hull, on behalf of a trader at Stockport,
Patten says that, as the tobacco could not be carried in the hogshead all
the way by road from Warrington to Hull, and as the sea route from
Liverpool to Hull would have taken too long, the tobacco was first
forwarded by cart, in twenty or thirty hogsheads, from the quay at
Warrington to Stockport. There it was made up into canvas-covered parcels,
and then sent on by packhorse--three parcels to a horse--a distance of
thirty-six miles by road to Doncaster, and from Doncaster it was conveyed
by river for the remainder of the distance to Hull. Baines, who gives the
letter in his "History of Lancashire and Cheshire," remarks: "Such was the
mode of conveying goods up to that time, and for upwards of thirty years
after. It is evident that there could be no great development of trade and
commerce so long as the modes of communication were so tedious and costly."

The improvement on the Mersey itself led to a further scheme for making the
Mersey and Irwell navigable from Warrington to Manchester, thus
establishing direct water communication between Liverpool and Manchester,
as an alternative to transport by road. A survey of the two rivers was
carried out in 1712, and a prospectus was issued in which it was said:--

"The inland parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire being favoured with a great
variety of valuable manufactures in woollen, linen, cotton, &c., and that
in very great quantities, has made that neighbourhood as populous, if not
more so, than (London and Middlesex excepted) the same extent of any part
of Great Britain. The trades of these counties extend considerably through
the whole island, as well as abroad, and the consumption of groceries,
Irish wool, dyeing stuffs, and other important goods consequently is very
great; but as yet not favoured with the conveniency of water carriage,
though Providence, from the port of Liverpool up to the most considerable
inland town of Lancashire, Manchester, has afforded the best, not yet
employed, rivers of Mersey and Irwell for that purpose."

{139}It was not until the passing of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Act,
in 1720, that the work of rendering these rivers navigable between
Warrington and Manchester was begun, and another twenty years elapsed
before it was completed. The result of this "conveniency of water carriage"
when it was, at last, obtained, was to reduce the cost of transport of
goods and merchandise from forty shillings a ton by road to ten shillings a
ton by river. The goods traffic between Liverpool and Manchester at this
time amounted to about 4000 tons a year; but it had, prior to the provision
of water transport, naturally been restricted to the quantity that could be
carried by the packhorses, carts and waggons of those days. Hence the river
navigation gave the advantage of a transport not only cheaper in price but
greater in capacity. It will be seen later on, however, that the Mersey and
Irwell navigation subsequently developed disadvantages for which a remedy
was sought in the construction of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal.

An Act, passed in 1720, for making the river Weaver navigable from Winsford
Bridge, beyond Northwich, to Frodsham Bridge, near the junction of the
Weaver with the Mersey (a distance of about twenty miles), was not only of
further material advantage to the port of Liverpool but a first step in an
important development of the salt mines of Cheshire. These mines have been
described as "incomparably the richest of the salt mines and brine pits of
England"; but at the date in question their working was greatly hampered by
transport costs and difficulties in the matter both of fuel and of the
distribution of the salt, when made.

Fuel was required for heating the furnaces and the pans in which the brine
was evaporated into salt; and in the earliest days of the industry the
salt-makers used for this purpose faggots of wood brought from the forests
on the borders of Cheshire and Staffordshire. As long as these supplies
were available, the principal seat of the salt trade was at Nantwich, in
the higher part of the Weaver, and near to the forests where the wood was
obtained. But the forests got depleted in course of time, and the industry
then moved to other works lower down the river which could be operated with
coal brought from the Lancashire coal-field. This coal, however, had to be
carried, by cart or packhorse, a distance of twelve {140}or fourteen miles;
and inasmuch as two tons of coal were required for every three tons of fine
salt made, the cost of transport of raw materials was a serious item.

As for the manufactured salt, that was distributed in the same way, even
such small consignments as could then alone be sent to Liverpool having to
be taken thither by road. In the circumstances the salt trade remained
comparatively undeveloped in Cheshire while it was making great advance at
Newcastle-on-Tyne, where the coal readily obtained, by water, from the
neighbouring coal-fields was used in the production of salt from sea-water.
In the time of the Stuarts the manufacture of salt was one of the most
important of Newcastle's industries and articles of export.

When, under the Act of 1720, the Weaver was made navigable as far as the
Northwich and Winsford Bridge salt works, the land journey for Lancashire
coal was reduced from twelve or fourteen miles to five or six miles, and
the salt could be sent direct to Liverpool by water. The greatest impetus
to the Cheshire salt industry (to the consequent detriment, and eventual
extinction, of that at Newcastle-on-Tyne, though with a further advantage
to the trade of Liverpool) was, however, not given until the makers were
enabled to get their coal all the way by water through the supplementing of
the now navigable Weaver by the Sankey Canal--of which more hereafter.

In the same year that the Act for improving the navigation of the Weaver
was passed, Parliament sanctioned a no less important work on the river
Douglas, which passes through Wigan, and has its outlet in the Ribble
estuary, at a point about nine miles west of Preston. Wigan is situated on
a part of the Lancashire coal-fields which contains some of the richest and
most valuable seams of coal to be found in Lancashire; but down to 1720 the
only means of distributing this coal was by cart or packhorse. The opening
of the Douglas to navigation allowed of the coal being sent by water to the
estuary of the Ribble, and thence forwarded up the Ribble to Preston, or,
alternatively, along the coast either to Lancaster in the one direction or
to Liverpool and Chester in the other. These were tedious routes, and the
voyage from the Ribble estuary along the coast was often very dangerous on
account both of storms and of sand-banks. The lines of water
{141}communication were, nevertheless, so much cheaper than land carriage
that they were followed for about fifty years--until a safer and more
expeditious waterway was provided through the opening of the Leeds and
Liverpool Canal.[22] Thomas Baines, from whose "History of the Town and
Commerce of Liverpool" I glean these details, adds:--

"With all its defects, the Douglas navigation may be regarded as the
primary cause of the manufacturing prosperity of the town of Preston, which
it was the first means of supplying with cheap fuel for its workshops and
factories. It may, also, be considered as one of the early causes of the
commercial prosperity of Liverpool, which has always been much promoted by
the possession of cheap and abundant supplies of coal and salt."

The rendering of the Aire and Calder navigable, under an Act of Parliament
passed in 1699, was an important event for the then rising manufacturing
towns of Leeds, Wakefield, Halifax, Bradford and Huddersfield, situate on
or within a convenient distance of one or other of these two rivers which,
joining at Castleford, ten miles below Leeds, thence flow in a combined
stream to their junction with the Yorkshire Ouse, and so on to the Humber
and the ports of Hull and Grimsby. The event in question was no less
interesting because it marked a further development in an industrial
transition which constitutes a leading factor in the economic history of

The textile industries originally established in the eastern counties by
refugees from the Netherlands and France afterwards spread through the
southern and western counties, attaining in each district to a very
considerable growth long before they were of any importance in those
northern counties with which they were afterwards mainly to be associated.
The migration to the north occurred at a time when the woollen industries
were paramount and the cotton industries had still to attain their
subsequent stupendous growth. It occurred, also, long before the Aire and
the Calder were made navigable, so that, in this case, we cannot say the
industrial centres already mentioned as being situated on or near to those
two Yorkshire rivers were set up there, as the towns on the river
{142}Severn had mainly been, in order to secure the convenience of river

The chief reason why the bleak and barren moorlands of the north were
preferred to the fair and fertile plains of the south for the further
expansion of these great national industries was that, in the days when the
steam-engine of James Watt was as yet far off, the heavier rainfall in the
English Highlands of the north and north-west, together with the more
numerous streams pouring down mountain sides both of greater height and of
greater extent than in the south, gave to the cloth-makers, not only the
abundant water supply they wanted, but, also, the particular kind of motive
power, through the use of water-wheels, on which they then mainly relied
for the working of their machinery.

It was in the interests of this power derived from falling water that the
textile industries first migrated from the eastern counties--where the
streams flow but slowly, and from comparatively slight elevations--to the
western counties, where there are streams coming from hills of from 800 to
1000 feet in height. These, for a time, answered better the desired
purpose, though only to be more or less discarded, in turn, for northern or
north-western streams which, with a greater rainfall, had their rise on
heights of from 1500 to 2000 feet, and were so numerous that almost every
one of the "small" manufacturers who set up business for himself on the
otherwise cheerless slope of a Yorkshire hill-side could have a brook, a
rivulet, or a mountain torrent of his own, or, at least, make abundant use
of one before it passed on to serve the purposes of his neighbour.

In alluding to the woollen trade as affected by these conditions, Dr Aikin
remarks in his "Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles round
Manchester" (1795), "It would seem as if a hilly country was particularly
adapted to it, since it almost ceases where Yorkshire descends into the
plain"; though the position has, of course, been entirely changed by the
general resort to steam in preference to water power.

Other industries, besides those relating to textiles, whether woollen or,
at a later period, cotton, took advantage of the same favourable
conditions, as shown in the case of Sheffield, where the earliest of the
cutlers who were to make Hallamshire {143}goods famous throughout the world
settled down at the confluence of the Sheaf and the Don because those
streams afforded them the best available means of operating their

In the early stage of this transition period the streams were desired and
utilised solely as an aid to manufacturing purposes. As the towns or the
industrial centres developed, however, there grew up increasing need for
improved means of transport--supplementary to the roads of that day--in
order, more especially, to facilitate the better distribution of the
commodities then being produced in ever-increasing quantities. It was this
need that led to the Act of 1699, giving powers for rendering the Aire and
the Calder navigable. Petitions in favour thereof were presented by the
"clothiers" (as cloth-makers were then called) of various towns likely to
derive advantage from the scheme, and some of these petitions afford an
interesting insight into the conditions under which the cloth industry was
carried on in Yorkshire and Lancashire in the closing years of the
seventeenth century.

A petition from the "clothiers" of Leeds said, "That Leeds and Wakefield
are the principal towns in the north for cloth; that they are situated on
the rivers Ayre and Calder, which have been viewed, and are found capable
to be made highways which, if effected, will very much redound to the
preservation of the highways and a great improvement of trade; the
petitioners having no conveniency of water carriage within sixteen miles of
them, which not only occasions a great expense, but many times great damage
to their goods, and sometimes the roads are not passable."

The clothiers of "Ratchdale" (Rochdale) stated that they were "forty miles
from any water carriage"; those of Halifax said they "have no water
carriage within thirty miles, and much damage happens through the badness
of the roads by the overturning of carriages"; and those of Wakefield said
of the scheme:--

"It will be a great improvement of trade to all the trading towns of the
north by reason of the conveniency of water {144}carriage, for want of
which the petitioners send their goods twenty-two miles by land carriage
(to Rawcliffe) the expense whereof is not only very chargeable but they are
forced to stay two months sometimes while the roads are impassable to
market, and many times the goods receive considerable damage, through the
badness of the roads by overturning."

The general conditions of life in Yorkshire towns in Defoe's day, when the
Aire and Calder had been made navigable, but when bad roads still dominated
the situation from a social and domestic standpoint, are shown in the
account he gives of his visit to Halifax. After explaining how the people
devoted themselves mainly to cloth production and imported most of their
household requirements, he says:--

"Their Corn comes up in great quantities out of Lincoln, Nottingham and the
East Riding; their Black Cattle and the Horses from the North Riding, their
Sheep and Mutton from the adjacent Counties every way, their Butter from
the East and North Riding, their Cheese out of Cheshire and Warwickshire,
more Black Cattle also from Lancashire. And here the Breeders and Feeders,
the Farmers and Country People find Money flowing in plenty from the
Manufactures and Commerce; so that at Halifax, Leeds and the other great
manufacturing Towns, and adjacent to these, for the two months of September
and October a prodigious Quantity of Black Cattle is sold.

"This Demand for Beef is occasioned thus: the usage of the People is to buy
in at that Season Beef sufficient for the whole Year which they kill and
salt, and hang up in the Smoke to dry. This way of curing their Beef keeps
it all the Winter, and they eat this smoak'd Beef as a very great Rarity.

"Upon this foot 'tis ordinary for a Clothier that has a large Family, to
come to Halifax on a Market Day, and buy two or three large Bullocks from
eight to ten Pounds a-piece. These he carries home and kills for his Store.
And this is the reason that the markets at all those times of the Year are
thronged with Black Cattle, as Smithfield is on a Friday, whereas all the
rest of the year there is little extraordinary sold there."

We have here full confirmation of what I have already said as to the way in
which people in former days provisioned {145}their houses in the autumn for
the winter months, during which the roads would be impassable and food
supplies from outside unobtainable.

The trading conditions of the period are shown by the accounts of the
once-famous cloth market of Leeds given, in his "Ducatus Leodiensis; or the
Topography of Leedes," by Ralph Thoresby (1715), and, also, in his "Tour,"
by the ever-picturesque Defoe.

Thoresby, who speaks of "the cloathing trade" as being "now the very life
of these parts," tells us that the Leeds cloth-market was held on the
bridge over the Aire every Tuesday and Saturday down to June 14, 1684,
when, for greater convenience, it was removed to Briggate, the "spacious
street" leading from the bridge into the town. Already, in Thoresby's day,
Leeds was the manufacturing capital of the district, and he speaks of its
cloth-market as "the life not of the town only but of these parts of

Defoe, in his account of the market, describes it as "indeed a Prodigy of
its kind, and not to be equalled in the world." He tells how, making their
way to Leeds at an early hour in the morning from the surrounding district,
the "clothiers," each bringing, as a rule, only a single piece of cloth,
assembled at the various inns, and there remained until the ringing of a
bell, at seven o'clock in the summer, or a little later in the winter,
announced that trestles, with boards across them for the display of the
cloth, had been duly fixed in the roadway, and that the market had opened.
Thereupon the clothiers, without rush or haste, and in the most solemn
fashion, would leave their inns, and step across the footpath to the
"stalls" in the roadway. Standing quite close to one another, they then put
down their cloth on the boards, which would soon be completely covered with
rolls of cloth arranged side by side. While the clothiers were so engaged,
the merchants would have left their houses, entered the market, and begun
their inspection of the goods displayed for sale, so that within fifteen
minutes of the ringing of the bell the market would be in full operation.
When a merchant saw a piece of cloth which suited his requirements he would
lean across the boards, and whisper in the ear of the clothier the price he
was prepared to give, this practice of whispering being adopted in order
that the {146}other clothiers standing immediately alongside should not
hear what was said. The clothier agreed or disagreed, without any attempt
at "bargaining." If satisfied with the offer, he would instantly pick up
the cloth, and go off with it to the merchant's house, where the
transaction would be completed. Within less than half an hour the clothiers
would be seen thus leaving the market; in an hour the business would be
over, and at half-past eight the bell would be rung again, to announce that
the market had closed and that there must be no more sales. Any clothier
who had not sold his cloth would then take it back with him to his inn.

"Thus," says Defoe, "you see Ten or Twenty thousand Pounds value in cloth,
and sometimes much more, bought and sold in little more than an hour....
And that which is most admirable is 'tis all managed with the most profound
Silence, and you cannot hear a word spoken in the whole Market, I mean by
the Persons buying and selling; 'tis all done in whisper.... By nine a
Clock the Boards are taken down, and the street cleared, so that you see no
market or Goods any more than if there had been nothing to do; and this is
done twice a week. By this quick Return the Clothiers are constantly
supplied with Money, their Workmen are duly paid, and a prodigious Sum
circulates thro' the Country every week."

It is no less interesting--and, also, no less material to the present
inquiry as to the influence of transport conditions on trade--to learn how
the cloth purchased in these particular circumstances was disposed of in
days when travel through the country was still attended by so many

The supplies intended for home use were distributed in this manner: Leeds
was the head-quarters of a body of merchants who were in the habit of going
all over England with droves of packhorses loaded up with the cloth which
had been bought in the open-air market, as already described. These
travelling merchants did not sell to householders, since that would have
constituted them pedlars. They kept to the wholesale business, dealing only
with shopkeepers in the towns or with traders at the fairs; but they
operated on such a scale that, Defoe says, "'tis ordinary for one of these
men to carry a thousand pounds value of Cloth with them at a time, and
having sold it at the Fairs or Towns {147}where they go, they send their
Horses back for as much more, and this very often in the Summer, for they
chuse to travel in the summer, and perhaps towards the Winter time, tho' as
little in Winter as they can, because of the badness of the Roads."

Other of the buyers on the Leeds market sent their purchases to London,
either carrying out commissions from London traders or forwarding on
consignment to factors and warehousemen who themselves supplied wholesale
and retail dealers in London, besides despatching great quantities of
coarse goods abroad, especially to New England, New York, Virginia, etc.
The Russian merchants in London also sent "an exceeding quantity" to St
Petersburg, Riga, Sweden, Dantzic and Pomerania.

Still another group of buyers was represented by those who had commissions
direct from traders in Holland, Germany and Austria, the business done by
the members of this group being "not less considerable" than that done by
the others.

It was mainly on account of this London and foreign trade that the Act for
making the rivers Aire and Calder navigable was obtained, there being
secured a waterway communication by means of which the cloth could be sent
direct from Leeds, Wakefield and other industrial centres to Hull, there to
be shipped to London or to Continental ports, as desired.

The facilities for navigation thus afforded subsequently had a still
greater influence on the development of the Yorkshire coal trade, coal
being taken from Wakefield or Leeds to the Humber, and thence conveyed up
the Ouse to York, or to the numerous towns situate on the Trent or other
rivers. By the same navigation the Yorkshire towns received most of their
supplies, either as imported into Hull from abroad, or as received there
from London or the eastern counties, these supplies including butter,
cheese, salt, sugar, tobacco, fruit, spices, oil, wine, brandy, hops, lead,
and all kinds of heavy or bulky goods. For the merchants of Hull this meant
a business to be compared only with that of the merchants of Lynn and

Some of the many river improvement Acts passed in the period here under
review were not secured without a certain amount of opposition, and the
case of the Don, more especially, {148}offers a striking example of that
conflict of rival interests, even in the case of rivers, which later on was
to give rise to many a Parliamentary battle in the days, first of canals,
and then of railways.

How the cutlers of Sheffield and the steel manufacturers and others of
Hallamshire in general had been accustomed to forward their goods by road
to the inland port of Bawtry, thence to be sent down the Idle and on by the
Trent and the Humber to Hull, has already been told. (See pp. 123-4.) There
came a time, however, when this preliminary land journey of twenty miles
from Sheffield to Bawtry was found of great disadvantage to the trade of
the district; and in 1697 leave was given to bring in a Bill to allow of
the Don, already navigable to Doncaster, being rendered navigable to
Sheffield, in order that merchandise might be sent by that stream direct
from Sheffield to the Ouse, and so on to the Humber and the port of Hull.
But the opposition offered by representatives of the Bawtry, Trent and
other interests--who rightly foresaw in the scheme impending ruin for most
of the traffic on the Idle--was so powerful that the Bill was thrown out. A
further Bill, with a like object, was introduced, and strongly supported,
in the following Session. It was still more vigorously opposed, there being
what Hunter describes as "a war of petitions," and it was not proceeded

For a time nothing further was done; but in the meanwhile Sheffield was
rapidly advancing to the position of one of the leading industrial centres
in the country, and the compulsory twenty-mile journey by road to the chief
port of consignment for Sheffield goods sent to London or abroad when there
was a river flowing through Sheffield itself, was felt to be an intolerable
infliction, as well as a serious prejudice to the local industries.

In 1722, therefore--twenty-four years after the last of the earlier
attempts--the Master Cutler of Sheffield and the Cutlers' Company
petitioned Parliament to allow the improvement of the Don navigation to
proceed. The corporation of Doncaster sent a like petition, and so did the
corporations of Manchester, Stockport and several other places. But the
established interests still controlled the situation, and the design once
more failed.

Four years later (1726) the Sheffield cutlers made still {149}another
effort, and this time, although the opposition was again very powerful, it
was agreed in Committee of the House of Commons that power should be given
to the Cutlers' Company to make the Don navigable from Doncaster, not to
Sheffield itself, but to Tinsley, three miles from Sheffield; and, also, to
maintain a turnpike road from Sheffield to Tinsley. A Bill to this effect
was passed, and in 1727 the corporation of Doncaster obtained powers to
remove certain obstructions from the Don; but, under an Act of 1732, the
carrying out of the whole scheme was transferred to an independent body,
the Company of Proprietors of the River Don Navigation. It proved, says
Hunter, writing in 1828, "eminently beneficial to the country"; but the
reader will see that the Sheffield cutler or manufacturer still had to
forward his goods three miles by road before they could be sent, first
along the Don, then along the Ouse, then down the Humber to Hull, and then
(if they were consigned to London) by sea along the east coast, and finally
up the Thames to the Metropolis. These were the conditions until the year
1821, when the three-mile journey by road was saved by the opening of a
canal between Sheffield and the Don at Tinsley, affording, as was said,
"easy accommodation with the coast and London."



It will have been assumed, from the two preceding chapters, that rivers,
whether naturally navigable or rendered navigable by art, were of material
service in supplementing defective roads, in opening up to communication
parts of the country that would then otherwise have remained isolated, and
in aiding the development of some of the greatest of our national

While this assumption is well founded, yet, as time went on, the
unsatisfactory nature of much of the inland river navigation in this
country became more apparent.

Some of the greatest troubles arose from, on the one hand, excess of water
in the rivers owing to floods, and, on the other, from inadequate supplies
of water due either to droughts or to shallows.

The liability to floods will be at once apparent if the reader considers
the extent of the areas from which rain water and the yield of countless
springs, brooks, and rivulets may flow into the principal rivers. In the
Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Conservancy Boards,
1877, there was published a list which showed that the 210 rivers in
England and Wales had catchment basins as follows:--

  1000 miles and upwards      11
   500   " to 1000 miles      14
   100   "  "  500   "        59
    50   "  "  100   "        24
    10   "  "   50   "       102
                      Total  210

The rivers having catchment basins of 1000 miles or upwards are given

                                       AREA OF      TRIBUTARIES.      {151}
  NAME.     COUNTY.          LENGTH.    Basin.     United length.
                              Miles.  sq. miles.    No.   miles.
  Humber    York              37        1229         2      55
  Mersey    Lancaster         68        1707         6     188
  Nen       Northampton       99        1055         1      11
  Ouse      York              59½       4207        11     629
  Ouse      Cambridge        156¼       2894         8     212
  Severn    Gloucester       178        4437        17     450
  Thames         --          201¼       5162        15     463
  Trent     Lincoln          167½       3543        10     293
  Tyne      Northumberland    35        1053         6     154
  Witham    Lincoln           89        1052         4      75
  Wye       Hereford         148        1655         9     223

In times of heavy storms or of continuous rainy weather, rivers which drain
up to 5000 square miles of country may well experience floods involving a
serious impediment to navigation.

The Severn, which brings down to the Bristol Channel so much of the water
that falls on Plinlimmon and other Welsh hills, and is joined by various
streams, draining, altogether, as shown above, an area of 4437 square
miles, is especially liable to floods. In a paper read before the
Institution of Civil Engineers in 1860, Mr. E. L. Williams stated that
floods had been known to raise the height of the Severn 18 ft. in five
hours, and they had not infrequently caused it to attain a height of 25 ft.
above the level of low water. The Thames and the Trent, also, are
particularly liable to floods, and so, down to recent years, when
considerable sums were spent on its improvement, was the Weaver.

It has been asserted in various quarters that less water runs in English
rivers now than was probably the case centuries ago, when the abundant
forests caused a greater rainfall. This may be so, but, on the other hand,
a number of witnesses examined before the Select Committee of 1877
expressed the belief that the water flowing into the rivers had increased
of recent years, owing to the improved land drainage, which drained off
rapidly and sent down to the sea much rain water that previously would have
passed into the air again by evaporation.

In the matter of high tides, "Rees' Cyclopædia" (1819) says that the tide
"often" rises at the mouth of the Wye {152}to a height of 40 ft.; while
"Chambers' Encyclopædia" gives 47 ft. above low-water mark as the height to
which the tide has been known to rise in the same river at Chepstow.

Of the floods in the Yorkshire Ouse Rodolph De Salis says in "Bradshaw's
Canals and Navigable Rivers of England" (1904): "The non-tidal portion of
the river above Naburn Locks is liable to floods, which at York often reach
a height of 12 ft., and have been known to attain a height of 16 ft. 6 in.
above summer level."

The liability of English rivers to a shortage of water would seem to be as
great as their liability to excess of it. In Archdeacon Plymley's "General
View of the Agriculture of Shropshire" (1803) there is published a table,
compiled by Telford, giving the heights reached by the Severn between 1789
and 1800. It shows that, as against some very serious floods and
inundations, the river often, during the dates mentioned, ran for
considerable periods with a stream of no more than sixteen inches of water;
that it frequently had less than a foot of water; and that in times of
extreme drought the depth of water had been reduced to nine inches. In
1796, the period during which barges could be navigated even down-stream
with a paying load did not exceed two months, and "this interruption," it
is stated, "was severely felt by the coal-masters, the manufacturers of
iron, and the county in general."

The navigation of the Trent is declared in "Rees' Cyclopædia" to be "of
vast importance to the country"; yet the authority of John Smeaton, who had
examined the river in 1761, is given for the statement that in several
places the ordinary depth of water did not exceed eight inches. In the
upper part of the river there were, in 1765, more than twenty shallows over
which boats could not pass in dry weather without flushes of water.

The inadequate depth of water may be due, not alone to drought, but to the
formation of shoals or shallows owing to the rapid fall of the river, its
excessive width, or the amount of sediment brought down from the hill-sides
or washed from the bed over which it flows. Alternatively, much silting-up
may be caused by the sand brought into the river by incoming tides, and not
always washed out again by out-going tides.

{153}In an undated pamphlet, entitled "Reflections on the General Utility
of Inland Navigation to the Commercial and Landed Interests of England,
with Observations on the Intended Canal from Birmingham to Worcester," by
the proprietors of the Staffordshire Canal, stress is laid on the trouble
caused by the shoals in the Severn, and some facts are given as to the way
in which traders had to meet the uncertainties offered by river transport.
The pamphlet says:--

"A principal defect of the present conveyance arises from the shoals in the
river Severn above Worcester, an evil incurable. The fall from Stourport to
Diglis, near Worcester, is nineteen feet; and the river is, what this fact
alone would prove, full of shoals. These shoals impede the current of the
stream, and retain the water longer in the bed of the river. Let these
shoals be removed, the water will pass off, and the whole of the river
become too shallow for navigation. Locks on the river could alone correct
this defect; but these would overflow the meadows, impede the drainage of
the land, and do an injury to the landowners, which parliament can never

"This defect gives rise to others--to _uncertainty as to the time of the
conveyance_--for it is only at particular periods that there is water
sufficient for the navigation--to delays from a want of men[24] and expence
from the increased number which the strong current requires. It gives rise,
also, to a double transhipping of commodities sent from Birmingham down the
Severn, first from the canal at Stourport, and secondly at or near
Worcester, as the barges which this shoal water will admit are too small to
navigate much below.

"The delays and damage incidental to such a navigation have induced the
manufacturers of Birmingham to employ land carriage at a great
expence--many waggons are constantly employed at the heavy charge of 4l.
per ton from Birmingham to Bristol alone to convey goods or manufactures
which cannot await the delay or damage to which in the present navigation
they are necessarily exposed;--large {154}quantities of manufactures and
the materials of manufactures are likewise sent to Diglis to be conveyed by
the Severn in vessels that cannot navigate higher up the river."

In the Trent frequent shallowness of water was due, partly to the excessive
breadth of the stream, in places, and partly to the large quantity of
"warp," or silt, brought into the river from the Humber estuary by the
tides, and left there until scoured out again when the river was in flood.

The Wash group of rivers was specially liable to the silting-up process.
Nathaniel Kinderly, writing of the position at Lynn in 1751, said: "The
Haven is at present so choaked up with sand that at Low-water it is become
almost a Wash, so as to have been frequently fordable." Of the Nen he says
it "cannot possibly be preserved long, but is in danger of being absolutely
lost," owing to the silting-up of its bed. As for the Witham, the welfare
of the port of Boston was threatened so far back as the year 1671, judging
from an Act (22 & 23 Chas. II. c. 25) passed in that year, the preamble of
which stated:--

"Whereas there hath been for some hundreds of yeares a good navigacion
betwixt the burrough of Boston and the river of Trent by and through the
citty of Lincolne, and thereby a great trade managed to the benefit of
those parts of Lincolnshire, and some parts of Nottinghamshire, and
Yorkshire, which afforded an honest employment and livelyhood to great
numbers of people. But at present the said navigacion is much obstructed
and in great decay by reason that the rivers or auntient channells of
Witham and Fossdyke, which runn betwixt Boston and Trent are much silted
and landed up and thereby not passable with boats and lyters as formerly,
to the great decay of the trade and intercourse of the said citty and all
market and other towns neare any of the said rivers, which hath producet in
them much poverty and depopulation. For remedy thereof and for improvement
of the said navigacion, may it please your most excellent Majestie that it
may be enacted," etc.

Among various other conditions of river navigation may be mentioned--the
extremely serpentine courses of some of the rivers, two miles often having
to be made for each mile of real advance; the ever-varying channels in some
of the streams; the arduous labour of towing against strong {155}currents,
especially when, in the absence of towing-paths for horses, this work had
to be done by men; and the destruction, by floods, of the river banks or of
works constructed on them.

I have here sought to catalogue, with passing illustrations, the principal
troubles attendant on inland river navigation. That the physical
disadvantages in question have continued, in spite of all River Improvement
Acts, and notwithstanding a considerable outlay, may be seen from the
report issued, in 1909, by the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways.

In regard to the Thames the report says that the commercial traffic above
Staines has become a very insignificant quantity, and "if the Thames is to
be converted into an artery of commercial navigation, there is need for
much improvement above Windsor, but still more so above Reading."

On the Severn there is now practically no navigation above Stourport. Much
money has been spent on the river since the Severn Navigation Act of 1842;
the channel has been deepened and dredged, and, "up to Worcester, at any
rate, the river is now one of the best of English waterways." But, in spite
of the considerable sums expended on improvements, the traffic fell from
323,329 tons in 1888 to 288,198 tons in 1905, a decline in seventeen years
of over 35,000 tons. High water in the river renders it impossible for the
larger estuary-going vessels to pass under certain of the bridges, so that,
as one witness said, "A vessel may go up when the water is low, and a
freshet may come, and the vessel may not be able to get back again for
perhaps many days."

The Warwickshire Avon, once navigable from Stratford to the Severn, is now
navigable only from Evesham, and even from that point "there is hardly any
commercial traffic."

The Trent is navigable to-day to the junction with the Trent and Mersey
Canal, at Derwent mouth, "when there is plenty of water." The report

"The great difficulty on the Trent, in its present condition, is the want
of sufficient depth of water in dry seasons; in wet seasons traffic is
impeded by floods. The river Trent is a fine river and a most important
part of the main route connecting the Midland waterway system and the town
and colliery district of Nottingham with each other and with the estuary of
the Humber. It appears, for want of necessary {156}works of improvement, to
be in an inefficient state for these purposes. There is, at present, no
certainty that a barge carrying seventy or eighty tons of cargo from the
port of Hull to Newark or Nottingham will arrive at its destination without
being lightened on its way. A witness said, 'Very often the traffic in dry
seasons is left waiting for two or three weeks on the road between Hull and
Newark, which, of course, is a very poor way of getting on with business.'"

On the Ouse (York), below Naburn Lock, the conservators find it difficult
to keep the channel at its proper depth by reason of the great deposits of
floating sand, or "warp," distributed by the tides, the scour of the river
being insufficient to carry the warp out to sea. Vessels are at times
unable to navigate for several days, obstructive shoals are formed, and the
line of the channel is frequently altered.

On the Bedford Ouse the traffic on the upper parts of the river has come to
an end, and, though there is still a small amount between Lynn and St.
Ives, "the river is in many places very shallow and choked with weeds and
mud, so that barges are often stopped for days, and the use of steam
traction, up to St. Ives, is impossible."

The Nen from Northampton to Wisbech is "navigable with difficulty"--where
the water is sufficient at all--by barges of the smallest size; but
sometimes navigation even by these barges is impracticable for weeks
together in certain parts of the river. Between Northampton and
Peterborough the course of the Nen is extremely tortuous. "It would," says
the report, "take a barge nearly three days to travel the sixty-one miles
by water, while the railway can carry goods from Northampton to
Peterborough in two hours."

It is thus evident that rivers, whether navigable naturally or rendered so
by art, must be regarded as water highways possessed of considerable
disadvantages and drawbacks in respect to inland traffic when they are on
the scale and of the type found in England. Dependent on the forces of
Nature--ever active and ever changing--rivers must needs be the exact
opposite of the fixed and constant railway line unless those forces can be
effectually controlled under conditions physically practicable and not too
costly. "Rivers," says L. F. Vernon-Harcourt, in his book on "Rivers and
Canals," "are not always suitable for navigation, in their {157}natural
condition, even in the lower portions of their course; and, owing to the
continual changes taking place in their channels and at their outlets, they
are liable to deteriorate if left to themselves." Left to themselves the
English rivers, like the Roman and the British roads, were for a thousand
years after the departure of the Romans, and the liability to deteriorate
may well have shown itself during this period, before even the earliest of
the River Improvement Acts was passed; though the deterioration due to the
ceaseless operations of Nature may obviously continue in spite of all Acts
of Parliament, and notwithstanding a great expenditure of money.

The fate that has overtaken so many English rivers which once counted as
highways of commerce may be compared with the fate that, also through the
operation mainly of natural causes, has overtaken many of our once
flourishing sea ports.

When, in the thirteenth century, Liverpool was raised to the rank of a free
borough, there were between thirty and forty places which, whether situated
on the coast or some distance inland (as in the case of York), were counted
as seaports. Their order of importance at that time is shown by the
following table (taken from Baines's "History of Liverpool"), which gives
the taxation then levied on each; though the amounts stated should be
multiplied by fifteen to ascertain their equivalent in the money of

                 £     s.   d.
  London        836   12   10
  Boston        788   15    3
  Southampton   712    3    7
  Lincoln       656   12    2
  Lynn          651   11   11
  Hull          344   14    7
  York          175    8   10
  Dunwich       104    9    0
  Grimsby        91   15    1
  Yarmouth       54   16    6
  Ipswich        60    8    4
  Colchester     16    8    0
  Sandwich       16    0    0
  Dover          32    6    1
  Rye            10   13    5
  Winchelsea     62    2    4
  Seaford        12   12    2
  Shoreham       20    4    9
  Chichester     23    6    0
  Exmouth        14    6    6
  Dartmouth       3    0    6
  Esse            7    4    8
  Fowey          48   15   11
  Pevensey       16   17   10
  Coton               11   11
  Whitby               4    0
  Scarborough    22   14    0
  Selby          17   11    8
  Barton         33   11    2
  Hedon          18   15    9
  Norwich         6   19   10
  Orford         11    7    0

{158}Of these ports the majority have ceased to be available for the
purposes of foreign commerce. Dunwich, once a considerable town, the seat
of a bishopric, and the metropolis of East Anglia, had its harbour and its
royal and episcopal palaces swept away by encroachments of the sea. Hedon,
in the East Riding of Yorkshire, returned two members of Parliament in the
reign of Edward I., and was a more important centre of trade and commerce
than Hull; but its harbour, getting choked up by sand, was converted into a
luxuriant meadow, and the ports of Hull and Grimsby now reign in its stead.
Sandwich, Romney, Hythe, all the Cinque ports except Dover, and various
other ports, got choked up with sand, while others that have been able to
retain a certain amount of traffic are to-day only the ghosts of their
former selves.

It is certain that in the case of English navigable rivers of any type,
much might require to be done, and spent, in order to keep navigation open.
With most of them it was a matter of carrying on an unceasing warfare with
elemental conditions. Patriotic men like Sandys, Mathew and Yarranton might
bring forward their schemes, companies might raise and spend much money on
river navigation, and municipal corporations might do what they could,
within the range of their means and powers; but the inherent defects and
limitations of the navigation itself were not always to be overcome by any
practical combination of patriotism, enterprise and generous expenditure
even when--and this was far from being always the case--the requisite funds
were actually available.

Vernon-Harcourt is of opinion that "the regulation, improvement and control
of rivers constitute one of the most important, and, at the same time, one
of the most difficult, branches of civil engineering"; and this difficulty
must have been found still greater in the last half of the seventeenth and
the first half of the eighteenth centuries, when river improvement was
engaging so much attention, but when civil engineering was far less
advanced than is the case to-day.

Whatever, too, the degree of success attained in the efforts made to
overcome the results of floods and droughts, of shoals and shallows, of
river mouths choked by sand washed in from the estuaries, of streams unduly
broad from lack of {159}adequate embankments, and of ever-varying channels,
whatever the energy and the outlay in meeting or trying to meet conditions
such as these, there still remained the consideration that, even assuming
all the difficulties in regulating, improving and controlling could be
surmounted, river transport itself was an inadequate alternative to bad
roads, (1) because of the length of the land journey that might have to be
made before the river was reached; and (2) because even the best of the
rivers only served certain parts of the country, and left undeveloped other
districts which were unable to derive due benefit from their great natural
resources by reason of defective communications.

Each of these points calls for some consideration, in order that the
position of the traders at the period in question may be clearly

In regard to the distance at which manufacturers might be situated from a
navigable river, I would point to the position of the pottery trade in
North Staffordshire.

The pottery industry had been introduced into Burslem in 1690, though it
made comparatively little progress until the time of Josiah Wedgwood, who
began to manufacture there in 1759. One of the reasons for the slow growth,
down to his day, was the trouble and expense the pottery-makers experienced
in getting their raw materials and in sending away their manufactured

Following on the improvement of the Weaver, under the Act of 1720, there
were three rivers of which the pottery-makers in North Staffordshire made
more or less use--the Weaver itself, the Trent and the Severn. On the
Weaver the nearest available point to the Potteries was Winsford Bridge, a
distance of twenty miles by road. On the Trent the principal river-port for
the Potteries was Willington, about four miles east of Burton-on-Trent, and
over thirty miles by road from the Potteries. To the Severn inland ports
the distances by road from the Potteries, via Eccleshall and Newport,

       From                To         Miles.
  Newcastle (Staff.)    Bridgnorth     39
  Burslem                   "          42½
  Newcastle (Staff.)    Bewdley        54
  Burslem                   "          57½

{160}From Winsford the pottery-makers received, by pack-horse or waggon,
supplies of clay which had been sent from Devonshire or other western
counties by sea to Liverpool, and there transhipped in barges, in which it
was sent twenty miles down the Weaver, thence to be carried twenty miles by
road. From Willington they received flints which had been brought by sea,
first to Hull, then forwarded by barge along the Humber to the Trent, and
so on to Willington, to be carried thirty miles by road.

Manufactured pottery for London or for the Continent was sent by road to
Willington, and then along the Trent and the Humber to Hull, where it was
re-shipped to destination. Exports were, also, despatched either to the
Severn, along which they were taken in barges to Bristol, or via the Weaver
to Liverpool. Concerning the Severn route it is stated in "The Advantages
of Inland Navigation" (1766), by Richard Whitworth, afterwards M.P. for
Stafford: "There are three pot-waggons go from Newcastle and Burslem
weekly, through Eccleshall and Newport to Bridgnorth, and carry about eight
tons of pot-ware every week, at 3l. per ton. The same waggons load back
with ten tons of close goods, consisting of white clay, grocery and iron,
at the same price, delivered on their road to Newcastle. Large quantities
of pot-ware are conveyed on horses' backs from Burslem and Newcastle to
Bridgnorth and Bewdley for exportation--about one hundred tons yearly, at
2l. 10s. per ton."

The cost of land transport, along roads of the worst possible description,
was considerable in itself. In a pamphlet published in 1765, under the
title of "A View of the Advantages of Inland Navigations, with a Plan of a
Navigable Canal intended for a Communication between the Ports of Liverpool
and Hull" (said to have been written by Josiah Wedgwood and his partner,
Bentley), it is stated that between Birmingham and London the cost of road
transport amounted to about eight shillings per ton for every ten miles,
but along the route of the proposed canal, and in many other places, the
cost was nine shillings per ton for every ten miles. The pamphlet adds, on
this particular point:--

"The burthen of so expensive a land carriage to Winsford and Willington,
and the uncertainty of the navigations from those places to Frodsham, in
Cheshire, and Wilden, in {161}Derbyshire, occasioned by the floods in
winter and the numerous shallows in summer, are more than these low-priced
manufactures can bear; and without some such relief as this under
consideration, must concur, with their new established competitors in
France, and our American colonies, to bring these potteries to a speedy
decay and ruin."

It was, again, as we further learn from Whitworth's little work, by the
navigable Severn and Bristol that even Manchester manufacturers sent their
goods to foreign countries in the days when Liverpool had still to attain
pre-eminence over the south-western port. Every week, we are told, 150
packhorses went from Manchester through Stafford to Bewdley and Bridgnorth,
these being in addition to two broad-wheel waggons which carried about 312
tons of cloth and Manchester wares in the year by the same route, at a cost
of £3 10s. per ton. The distance, via Stafford, from Manchester to
Bridgnorth is 84 miles; that from Manchester to Bewdley is 99 miles, and
what the roads at this time were like we have already seen.

The quantity of salt sent from Cheshire to Willington, to proceed thence
along the Trent to Hull for re-shipment to London and elsewhere, is put in
Josiah Wedgwood's pamphlet at "many hundred tons" a year. The navigable
Trent was thus taken advantage of for the purposes of distribution; but to
get to Willington from the Northwich or other salt works in Cheshire
involved a road journey of about forty miles.

Whitworth also gives much information as to what he calls the "amazing"
development the iron industry had undergone along the Severn valley at the
time he wrote (1766); and he more especially mentions that the total annual
output of twenty-two furnaces and forges situate within a distance of four
miles of the route of a canal he proposed should be constructed between
Bristol, Liverpool, and Hull was £624,000--a figure which in those days
appears to have been regarded as something prodigious. But the iron-works
in question, though having the advantage of the navigable Severn in one
direction, suffered from transport disadvantages in another, since their
Cumberland ore (of which, says Whitworth, a very small furnace used at
least 1100 tons a year) was brought down the Weaver to Winsford, in
Cheshire, whence it had to be transported by road to the works on the
Severn "at six {162}shillings per ton for a very small distance." On the
basis of 52,780 tons only (though, we are told, "they frequently send iron
to ... Chester and many other places at a great distance"), Whitworth
calculates that the 32 forges in question were then paying a net sum of
£32,500 a year for land transport, only, of the ore and pig-iron they
received, and of the manufactured iron they sent away. "I have dwelt thus
long," he says, in concluding his somewhat copious details, "upon the iron
trade to show that no branch of manufacture can reap more immediate benefit
from the making of these canals for navigation, or more sensibly feel the
want of them when other ports of the Kingdom have them."

Of coal, he further shows, some 12,000 tons a year were going from the
Shropshire collieries to Nantwich, on the Weaver, at a cost of ten
shillings per ton for land carriage only, apart from the supplementary cost
of river transport. In the opposite direction the farmers of Cheshire and
Staffordshire brought about 1000 tons of cheese annually, by road, to
Bridgnorth fair--presumably for redistribution thence via the Severn among
the various centres of population in the western counties, and also in
Wales. The cheese was carried in waggons, and, on the basis of the journey
taking, altogether, three or four days, Whitworth calculates that the cost
to the farmers in getting the cheese to Bridgnorth must have been about
thirty shillings for every two tons.

One of the subsidiary disadvantages attendant on river transport of which
mention should be made was the pilfering of goods that went on, more
especially when the barges were stopped in the open country, perhaps for
days together, by reason of shallow water. In "A View of the Advantages of
Inland Navigations" it is said, on this point:--

"It is, also, another circumstance not unworthy of notice in favour of
canals, when compared with river navigation, that as the conveyance upon
the former is more speedy and without interruptions and delays, to which
the latter are very liable, opportunities of pilfering earthen wares, and
other small goods, and stealing and adulterating wine and spirituous
liquors, are thereby in a great measure prevented. The losses,
disappointments and discredit of the manufacturers, arising from this cause
are so great that they frequently choose to send their goods by land at
three times {163}the expense of water carriage, and sometimes even refuse
to supply their orders at all, rather than run the risque of forfeiting
their credit and submitting to the deductions that are made on this

"We may also add, with respect to the potteries in Staffordshire, that this
evil discourages merchants abroad from dealing with those manufacturers,
and creates innumerable misunderstandings between them and the

These complaints seem to have been made not without good cause. In 1751 it
had been found expedient to pass an Act "for the more effectual prevention
of robberies and thefts upon any navigable river, ports of entry or
discharge, wharves or quays adjacent." Any person stealing goods of the
value of forty shillings from any ship, barge, boat, or any vessel on any
navigable river or quay adjacent thereto, was, on conviction, to _suffer
death_! The penalty seems to have been modified into one of transportation;
and in 1752 thirteen persons were convicted under the new Act, and sent
across the seas.

Many traders could not derive any advantage from river transport. This was
the case with the cheese-makers of Warwickshire when they sought to compete
with those of Cheshire, or, alternatively, with those of Gloucester, who
could take their cheese by road to Lechdale or Crickdale, on the Thames,
and send it down that river to London. "The Warwickshire Men," says Defoe,
"have no Water Carriage at all, or at least not 'till they have carry'd it
a long way by Land to Oxford, but as their Quantity is exceedingly great,
and they supply not only the City of London but also the Counties of Essex,
Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Hertford, Bedford, and
Northampton, the Gross of their Carriage is by mere dead Draught, and they
carry it either to London by Land, which is full an hundred miles, and so
the London cheese-mongers supply the said counties of Essex, Suffolk and
Norfolk, besides Kent and Sussex and Surrey by Sea and River Navigation; or
the Warwickshire Men carry it by Land once a Year to Sturbridge Fair,
whence the Shopkeepers of all the Inland Country above named come to buy
it; in all which Cases Land-carriage being long, when the Ways were
generally bad it made it very dear to the Poor, who are the chief

{164}While, also, Bedfordshire was producing "great quantities of the best
wheat in England," the wheat itself had to be taken, from some parts of the
county, a distance of twenty miles by road to the markets of Hertford or
Hitchin, whence, after being bought and ground into flour, it was taken on,
still by road, a further distance of twenty-five or thirty miles to London.
The farmers and millers of Bedfordshire were thus unable to enjoy the same
advantages of river transport as were open to those on the Wey or the Upper

In addition to all this, representations came from many different quarters
of the neglect of natural advantages and other opportunities where means of
transport apart from bad roads were wholly lacking. Numerous pamphlets
issued in favour of one canal scheme or another pointed to the
opportunities that were being lost or allowed to remain dormant. In, for
example, "A Cursory View of the Advantages of an Intended Canal from
Chesterfield to Gainsborough," published in 1769, it was said: "The country
contiguous to Chesterfield abounds chiefly with bulky and ponderous
Products, such as Lead, Corn, Timber, Coals, Iron-stones and a considerable
Manufacture of earthen Ware, all of which have been for Ages past conveyed
by Land, at a prodigious Expense." An advocate of a navigable canal between
Liverpool and Hull had much to say about the undeveloped resources of that
district. Whitworth declared that there were "many large mines of valuable
contents," such as stone, iron ore, and marble, together with "quarries of
various sorts," that would be "opened and set to work," if only inland
navigation were better developed, while the cheapening of the cost of raw
materials would, he declared, lead manufacturers to embark on new
enterprises. Archdeacon Plymley told how, even at the date he wrote (1803),
there was, in many of the midland and southern parishes of Shropshire, "no
tolerable horse-road whatever," adding, "and in some that have coal and
lime these articles are nearly useless from the difficulty of bringing any
carriage to them."

However substantial, therefore, the results to which the navigable rivers
had led, it was found by the middle of the eighteenth century that there
was real need for entirely new efforts, and these were now to be made in
the direction of supplementing alike rivers and roads by artificial



The initiation, in the middle of the eighteenth century, of the British
Canal Era was primarily due, not to any examples in canal construction
already offered by the ancients, by the Chinese and other Eastern nations,
or by Continental countries, but to a natural transition from certain forms
of river improvement already carried out in England.

I have shown, on page 131, that when, in 1661, Sir William Sandys obtained
his Act for making the Wye and the Lugg navigable, he secured powers, not
only for the usual deepening and embanking of the river itself, but for
cutting new channels where these might be of advantage, in order to avoid
windings of the stream or lengths thereof which offered exceptional
difficulties to navigation. In proportion as river improvement increased,
the adoption of these "side cuts," as they were called, with pound-locks to
guarantee their water supply, was more and more resorted to, and they
became one of the most important of the measures by which it was sought to
overcome the difficulties that river navigation so often presented.

In 1755 the Corporation of Liverpool and a number of merchants of that port
obtained Parliamentary powers to deepen three streams flowing from the St.
Helens coal fields and combining to form the Sankey Brook, which drains
into the Mersey at a point two miles below Warrington. The promoters
sought, by making the Sankey Brook navigable, to bring Liverpool into
direct communication with the twelve or fourteen rich beds of coal existing
in the St. Helens district of Lancashire, and thus to gain a great
advantage for their town.

For many generations the fuel consumed at Liverpool consisted mainly of
peat, or turf, of which there were great quantities in Lancashire. At one
time, says Baines, in his {166}"History of the Commerce and Town of
Liverpool," the turbaries around the town were considered of great value.
The Act passed in 1720 for the navigation of the Douglas had allowed of
coal from the pits at Wigan being taken down that river to the Ribble
estuary, and then along the coast to the Mersey estuary, and so on to
Liverpool; but the advantage which would be offered by a shorter and safer
route was obvious, and the Sankey Brook scheme was taken up with much

The original idea, that of making the brook itself capable of being
navigated, was found to be impracticable. Not only did the stream wind a
great deal, but after heavy rains on the surrounding hills the whole valley
through which the brook ran was liable to floods, and these would have
effectively stopped navigation so long as they continued. Happily the
powers obtained by the promoters included one which allowed of "a side
cut"; and the first plan was abandoned in favour of a canal separate from
the brook, though cut parallel with it somewhat higher on the hillsides,
where the floods would be less felt. The canal was to be provided with
locks, overcoming the fall of 90 feet in twelve miles to the Mersey,
together with a pound, fed by the brook, on the highest level, to ensure an
adequate water supply.

The immediate result of the construction of this pioneer canal was, not
only to provide a convenient coal supply for Liverpool, but, also, in
conjunction with the earlier rendering of the Weaver navigable, to put the
salt industry of Cheshire in direct water communication with the Lancashire
coal-fields. These advantages led (1) to a great expansion of the Cheshire
salt industry; (2) to a substantial increase in the export of salt from
Liverpool; and (3) to the ruin of the salt trade of Newcastle-on-Tyne,
since, when the makers on the Weaver could readily get an abundance of
coal, they, with their great natural stores of brine noted for its
superlative quality and strength had a great advantage over the makers on
the Tyne, who obtained their salt from the waters of the sea.

It is thus incontestable that the Sankey Brook Canal both started the Canal
Era and formed the connecting link between the river improvement schemes of
the preceding 100 {167}years and the canal schemes which, themselves a
great advance thereon, were to be substituted for them, only to be
supplanted in turn by the still further development in inland communication
brought about by the locomotive.

All the same, it was the canals of Francis, Duke of Bridgewater, as
constructed by James Brindley, a remarkable genius and a great engineer,
which gave the main incentive to the canal movement.

The chief purpose of the Bridgewater canals was to meet the deficiencies of
the Mersey and Irwell navigation by providing new waterways, cut through
the dry land, and carried across valleys and even over rivers without any
connection with streams already navigable or capable of being rendered
navigable,--an advance on the precedent established by the Sankey Canal.

The Duke's first artificial waterway was from his collieries at Worsley to
the suburbs of Manchester. His coal beds at Worsley were especially rich
and valuable; but, although they were only about seven miles from
Manchester, and although Manchester was greatly in need of a better coal
supply for industrial and domestic purposes, it was practically impossible
to get the coal carried thither from Worsley at reasonable cost. The
seven-mile journey by bad roads was not to be thought of. The alternative
was transport by the Mersey and Irwell navigation, which was, in fact,
within convenient reach of the collieries. But the company of proprietors
would not abate their full charge of 3s. 6d. per ton for every ton of coal
taken along the navigation even in the Duke's own boats, and in 1759 the
Duke obtained powers to construct an independent canal. Possessing no
technical skill himself (though he is said to have been greatly impressed
by what he had seen, in his travels, of the grand canal of Languedoc, in
the south of France), he called in James Brindley to undertake the carrying
out of his plans.

Born in 1716, in the High Peak of Derbyshire, and apprenticed to a
wheelwright whose calling he adopted, Brindley had been brought up entirely
without school learning. Though in his apprenticeship days he taught
himself to write, his spelling was so primitive that even in his advanced
years he wrote--in a scarcely decipherable hand--"novicion" for navigation,
"draing" for drawing, "scrwos" for screws, {168}"ochilor servey" for ocular
survey, and so on. But he made up for his lack of education by being a
perfect genius in all matters calling for mechanical skill, combining
therewith a quickness of observation, a fertility of resource, and a power
of adaptability which led to no problem being too great for him to solve,
and no difficulty too great for him to overcome. Arthur Young, who had
opportunities of judging of his work and character, speaks of his "bold and
decisive strokes of genius," and tells of his "penetration, which sees into
futurity, and prevents obstructions unthought of by the vulgar mind merely
by foreseeing them."

Under Brindley's direction the canal from Worsley to Manchester was duly
constructed, and, though a professional engineer had derided, as "a castle
in the air," Brindley's design of carrying the canal on a viaduct over the
Irwell at Barton (in order to maintain the waterway at the same level, and
so avoid the use of locks down one side of the river valley and up the
other), the result showed that the new plan (sanctioned by a further Act
obtained in 1760) was perfectly feasible, and had been carried out with
complete success. To coal consumers in Manchester the new waterway meant
that they could obtain their fuel at half the price they had previously
paid, while to the Duke it meant that he now had a market for all the coal
his collieries could produce.

The canal from Worsley to Manchester was opened for traffic in July, 1761;
but before the financial results of the one scheme had been established the
Duke had projected another and still more ambitious scheme--that of a canal
between Manchester and Liverpool, on the surveys for which Brindley started
in September of the same year.

The need for a further improvement in the transport conditions between
Manchester and Liverpool was undeniable. The opening of the Mersey and
Irwell navigation, under the Act of 1720, had been of advantage when bad
roads were the only means of communication; but there were disadvantages in
river transport which were now felt all the more because in forty years
both Manchester and Liverpool had made much progress, and the necessity for
efficient and economical transport between the two places was greater than

The Mersey and Irwell navigation followed, in the first place, a very
winding course, the bends and turns being such {169}that the rivers took
from thirty to forty miles to pass a distance of, as the crow flies, not
more than twenty or twenty-five. Then the boats could not pass from
Liverpool up to the first lock, above Warrington Bridge, without the
assistance of a high tide, and they could only pass the numerous fords and
shallows higher up the stream in great freshes or, in dry seasons, by the
drawing of great quantities of water from the locks above. Alternatively,
there might be an excess of water due to winter floods, and then navigation
would be stopped altogether. Aikin, in referring to the navigation in the
book he published in 1795, says: "The want of water in droughts, and its
too great abundance in floods, are circumstances under which this, as well
as most other river navigations, has laboured." He adds: "It has been an
expensive concern, and has, at times, been more burthensome to its
proprietors than useful to the public." Even in the most favourable
conditions of tide or water supply, the boats had to be dragged up and down
the stream by men, who did the work of beasts of burden until the
construction of the rival waterway led to the navigation proprietors
employing horses or mules instead.

That there were great delays in the river transport, occasioning much loss
and inconvenience to Manchester traders, will be easily imagined. As it
happened, too, whether the navigation were burthensome to the proprietors
or not, they took the fullest advantage they could out of their monopoly,
at the expense of the traders. They maintained the highest rates in their
power, and when goods were damaged in transit, or when serious losses were
sustained through delays, they refused all redress.

It is no wonder that, in all these circumstances, the Manchester merchants
were often obliged to return even to the bad roads for their transport, and
this although road carriage between Manchester and Liverpool cost forty
shillings a ton, as against twelve shillings a ton by river. The traders of
each town welcomed the Duke of Bridgewater's proposal to construct a
competitive waterway which would be navigable at all times, independently
of tides, of droughts and of floods, would be nine miles shorter than the
rivers, and the tariff on which for the goods carried was not to exceed six
shillings per ton.

{170}Manchester residents were no less in need of improved communication
than were the Manchester and Liverpool traders. Smiles, in his "Life of
James Brindley," speaks of the difficulty experienced in supplying the
increasing population with food, and says: "In winter, when the roads were
closed, the place was in the condition of a beleaguered town, and even in
summer, the land about Manchester itself being comparatively sterile, the
place was badly supplied with fruit, vegetables and potatoes, which, being
brought from considerable distances, slung across horses' backs, were so
dear as to be beyond the reach of the mass of the population. The distress
caused by this frequent dearth of provisions was not effectually remedied
until the canal navigation became completely opened up."

Nevertheless, the opposition offered to the Duke of Bridgewater's new
scheme was vigorous in the extreme. His first project for taking the
Worsley coals to Manchester by canal had gone through unopposed; but the
second one, which seemed to threaten the very existence of the Mersey and
Irwell navigation, put the proprietors thereof on their most active
defence. Just as those having vested interests in the Idle and the Trent
had opposed the improvement of the Don, so now did the river interests rise
in arms against the canal interests, foreshadowing the time when these, in
turn, would fight against the railways. "Not even," says Clifford, in his
"History of Private Bill Legislation," "the battles of the gauges, or any
of the great territorial struggles between our most powerful railway
companies, were more hotly contested than the Duke of Bridgewater's attack
in 1761-2 upon the monopoly of the Mersey and Irwell navigation."

When the Duke applied for powers to construct his canal from Manchester to
Runcorn, where it would connect with the Mersey, the proprietors of the
Mersey and Irwell navigation petitioned against it on the ground that there
was no necessity for the canal as the Mersey and Irwell navigation, with
which it would run parallel, could convey more goods than the existing
conditions of trade required; that the canal could confer no real advantage
on the public; that the proprietors of the river navigation had spent over
£18,000 thereon; that "great part of their respective fortunes" was at
stake; that they had expended their money on the {171}navigation on the
faith of their being protected by Parliament; and that for Parliament now
to allow a canal to be established to compete with them would be a gross
interference with their vested rights. Active opposition was also offered
by landowners whose property was to be either taken for the canal or, as
they argued, would be deteriorated by it in value; and still more
opposition came from traders interested in the river navigation. The
controversy of the pro-canal and anti-canal parties even got mixed up with
politics, Brindley writing in his notebook that "the Toores mad had agane
ye Duk" ("the Tories made head against the Duke").

But, in the result, the Duke got his Bill, and Brindley proceeded to make
the canal. It proved to be a far more costly work than had been
anticipated. In a total length of about twenty-four miles from Longford
Bridge, Manchester (where it connected with the Worsley Canal), to Runcorn,
it passed through a bog with a quicksand bottom; it crossed two rivers; it
required numerous aqueducts, and it necessitated the provision of many road
bridges and culverts, together with a flight of locks at Runcorn to
overcome the difference between the canal level and the Mersey level, this
being the first occasion on which locks of this kind had been constructed
in England.

Even the Duke of Bridgewater's ample fortune did not suffice to meet the
expense of the costly work he had thus taken upon himself. There came a
time when his means were exhausted, and he found the greatest difficulty in
replenishing them. No one either in Liverpool or in Manchester would honour
for him a bill for £500 on a then doubtful enterprise. There were Saturday
nights when the Duke had not sufficient money to pay the men's wages, and
when he had to raise loans of £5 or £10 from among his tenants. He reduced
his personal expenditure to £400 a year, while the recompense that Brindley
received from him for carrying out schemes which were to be the wonder of
England and introduce a new era in locomotion never exceeded
three-and-sixpence a day, and was more often only half a crown a day.

The Duke eventually surmounted his financial difficulties by borrowing,
altogether, £25,000 from Messrs. Child, the {172}London bankers, and the
new canal was partly opened for traffic in 1767, although the Runcorn locks
were not completed till 1773. The total amount spent by the Duke on his two
canals was £220,000.

In 1772 the Duke added to the usefulness of his Manchester-to-Runcorn canal
by establishing passenger boats which could accommodate sixty passengers,
and on which they were carried twenty miles for a shilling. He afterwards
had larger boats, holding from 80 to 120 passengers, the fares on these
being 1s., 1s. 6d. and 2s. 6d. per twenty miles, according to class. Each
of these boats, says Macpherson, in his "Annals of Commerce," was "provided
with a coffee house kept by the master; wherein his wife serves the company
with wine and other refreshments."

The effect of the new canal on the trade and commerce of Manchester and
Liverpool was considerable. It diverted to Liverpool the stream of export
traffic which had previously gone from Manchester via Bridgnorth and the
Severn to Bristol; it enabled Manchester manufacturers to obtain raw
materials more readily from Liverpool, to supplement the cheaper supplies
of coal they were already obtaining from Worsley; and it opened up the port
of Liverpool to a wider stretch of country than could otherwise benefit
from the facilities thereof, to the advantage both of Liverpool itself and
of industrial Lancashire, though other canal schemes, leading to like
results, were to follow.

Even before the Manchester and Runcorn Canal was opened for traffic,
Brindley had started on a much bolder project. The new scheme was one for a
canal connecting the Mersey with the Trent, and, also, with the Severn,
thus opening up direct inland water communication between Liverpool, Hull
and Bristol, and affording an alternative to road transport not only for
the Potteries, but, by means of branch canals, for the industrial centres
of Staffordshire and Worcestershire, then, as it were, more or less

In the same year (1755) in which the Bill for the construction of the
Sankey Canal was obtained, the Corporation of Liverpool already had under
consideration a scheme for a canal from the Mersey to the Trent; but no
definite action was then taken, and it was left for private enterprise to
carry {173}out the idea. The chief promoters were Earl Gower (ancestor of
the Duke of Sutherland), the Duke of Bridgewater, the Earl of Stamford,
Josiah Wedgwood, and various other landowners and manufacturers.
Parliamentary powers were obtained in 1766, and the work of construction,
as planned by Brindley, was begun at once. The name of "Grand Trunk" was
given to the undertaking, the idea being that the waterway would form the
main line of a system of canals radiating from it in various directions,
and linking up the greater part of the country south of the Trent with the
three ports mentioned.

We have here the first suggestion of any approach to a real system of
inland communication, as applying to the country in general, which had been
attempted since the Romans made the last of their great roads in Britain.
Apart from the natural limitations of navigable rivers, the turnpike roads
so far constructed had been chiefly designed to serve local interests, and
successive rulers or Governments had either failed to realise the
importance of carrying out a well-planned scheme of inland communication,
embracing a great part even if not the whole of the country, or had been
lacking in the energy, or the means, to supply what had become one of the
greatest of national wants.

There was thus all the more credit due to the little group of far-sighted,
enterprising and patriotic individuals whose names I have mentioned that
they should themselves have undertaken work which was to have an important
influence on the industrial and social conditions of the country. Yet the
nature of the conditions under which the Trent and the Mersey section of
the Grand Trunk system was made afforded an early example of the physical
difficulties attendant on canal construction in England which were to be a
leading cause of the decline of canals as soon as the greater advantages of
the railway and the locomotive had been established.

Canals were superior to rivers in so far as they could be taken where
rivers did not go, and could be kept under control in regard to water
supply without the drawbacks of floods or droughts, of high tides, or of
being silted up by sand or mud. It is, indeed, reported that when, after he
had made a strong pronouncement in favour of canals, James Brindley was
asked by a Parliamentary Committee, {174}"Then what do you think rivers are
for?" he replied, "To supply canals with water."

On the other hand, water would not flow up-hill in canals any more than in
rivers, and in the making and operation of canals there was, literally as
well as figuratively, a great deal of up-hill work to do.

Between the Mersey and the Trent there were considerable elevations which
formed very difficult country for water transport. These elevations had to
be overcome by the gradual rising of the canal, by means of locks, to a
certain height, by the construction, at that point, of a tunnel through the
hills, and by a fresh series of locks on the other side, to allow of a
lower level being reached again. The rise of the Trent and Mersey Canal
from the Mersey to the summit at Harecastle, near the Staffordshire
Potteries, was 395 ft., a final climb of 316 ft. being made by means of a
flight of thirty-five locks. Through Harecastle Hill there was driven a
tunnel a mile and two-thirds in length, with a height of 12 ft. and a
breadth of 9 ft. 4 in.[25] South of this tunnel the canal descended to the
level of the Trent, a fall of 288 ft., by means of forty locks. In addition
to this the canal, in its course of 90 miles, had to pass through four
other tunnels and be carried across the river Dove by an aqueduct of
twenty-three arches and at four points over windings of the Trent, which it
followed to its junction therewith at Wilden Ferry.

These engineering difficulties were successfully overcome by Brindley, and
the canal was opened for traffic in 1777. The benefits it conferred on
industry and commerce, having in view the unsatisfactory alternative means
of transport, were beyond all question. English traders saw established
across the island, from the Mersey to the Humber, a line of inland
navigation which, apart from the long and tedious voyage round the coast,
and, also, from the scarcely passable roads, was the first connecting link
in our national history between the ports of Liverpool and Hull. But of
even greater importance were the facilities for making use of either or
both of these ports--the one on the west coast, and the other on the east
coast--which were opened up to {175}manufacturers and traders in the
midland districts, and especially when the Trent and Mersey Canal was
supplemented by the Wolverhampton (now the Staffordshire and
Worcestershire) Canal, connecting the Trent with the Severn; the Birmingham
Canal; the Coventry Canal (which gave through navigation from the Trent via
Lichfield and Oxford, to the Thames); and others.

Of the many districts benefitted it was, perhaps, the Potteries that
received the maximum of advantage. Fourteen years before the Trent and
Mersey Canal was opened for traffic--that is to say, in 1763--Josiah
Wedgwood perfected a series of improvements in the pottery industry which
foreshadowed the probability of the manufacture of coarse pottery--already
carried on in North Staffordshire for many years--developing into the
production of wares of the highest excellence, for which a great market
would assuredly be found not only throughout England but throughout the
world. The one drawback to an otherwise very promising outlook lay in the
defective communications. The roads were hopelessly bad and the navigable
rivers were far distant. It was almost impossible to get sufficient clay
for the purposes of raw material, and the cost and the risk of damage
involved in long land journeys before the goods could be put on the water,
for carriage to London or the Continent, almost closed those markets for
the Staffordshire manufacturer.

In 1760--three years before Josiah Wedgwood started his new era in pottery
manufacture--the number of workers engaged in the industry did not exceed
7000 persons; and not only were they badly paid and irregularly employed
but in their position of almost complete isolation from the rest of
humanity they were, as Smiles puts it in his "Life of James Brindley,"
"almost as rough as their roads." They were ill-clad, ill-fed and wholly
uneducated; they lived in dwellings that were little better than mud huts;
they had to dispense with coal for fuel, since the state of the roads made
its transport too costly for their scanty means; they had no shops, and for
such drapery and household wares as they could afford to buy they were
dependent on the packmen or the hucksters from Newcastle-under-Lyme. Their
favourite amusements were bull-baiting and cock-fighting. {176}Any stranger
who ventured to appear among such a people, devoid as they were of most of
the attributes of civilisation, might consider himself fortunate if he
escaped rough usage simply because he was a stranger.

Of conditions such as those to be found in the Potteries at the period in
question one gets some glimpses in William Hutton's "History of Birmingham"
(1781). He tells of a place called Lie Waste, otherwise Mud City, situate
between Halesowen and Stourbridge. The houses consisted of mud, dried in
the sun, though often destroyed by frost. Their occupants, judging from the
account he gives of them, could have been little better than scarcely-clad
barbarians. Of a visit he paid to Bosworth Field in 1770 the same writer

"I accompanied a gentleman with no other intent than to view the field
celebrated for the fall of Richard the Third. The inhabitants enjoyed the
cruel satisfaction of setting their dogs at us in the street, merely
because we were strangers. Human figures, not their own, are seldom seen in
those inhospitable regions. Surrounded with impassable roads, having no
intercourse with man to humanize the mind, no commerce to smooth their
rugged manners, they continue the boors of nature."

How industry and improved communications may tend to civilise a people, as
well as ensure economic advancement, was now to be shown in the case of the
Potteries. Wedgwood's enterprise led to the employment of far more people;
the better means of communication allowed both of the industry being
greatly developed and of the introduction of refining influences into a
district no longer isolated; and the combination of these causes had a
striking effect on the material and the moral conditions of the workers.

In giving evidence before a House of Commons Committee in 1785, eight years
after the Mersey and Trent Canal was opened, Wedgwood was able to say that
there were being employed in the Potteries at that time from 15,000 to
20,000 persons on earthenware manufacture alone--an increase of from 8000
to 13,000 in twenty-five years, independently of the opening of new
branches of industry. Work was abundant, and the general conditions were
those of a greatly enhanced comfort and prosperity.

{177}Then, also, when John Wesley visited Burslem in 1760 he wrote that the
potters assembled to laugh and jeer at him. "One of them," he says, "threw
a clod of earth which struck me on the side of the head; but it neither
disturbed me nor the congregation." In 1781 he went to Burslem again. On
this occasion he wrote: "I returned to Burslem; how is the whole face of
the country changed in about 20 years! Since which, inhabitants have
continually flowed in from every side. Hence the wilderness is literally
become a fruitful field. Houses, villages, towns, have sprung up, and the
country is not more improved than the people."

This actual experience of John Wesley's would seem to confirm the view
expressed by Sir Richard Whitworth in the observations he offered to the
public in 1766 on "The Advantages of Inland Navigation." It was, he argued,
trade and commerce, and not the military force of the Kingdom, which could
alone enrich us and enable us to maintain our independence; but there were
millions of people "buried alive" in parts of the country where there were
no facilities for transport, and where they had hitherto been "bred up for
no other use than to feed themselves." What advantage would not accrue to
the nation when these millions were brought into the world of active and
productive workers! "Hitherto," he continued, "the world has been unequally
dealt, and, though all the inhabitants of this island should have an equal
right to the gifts of nature in the advantages of commerce, yet it has only
happened to those who live upon the coasts to enrich themselves by it,
while as many millions lie starving for want of opportunity to forward
themselves into the world. Though the city, village, or country in which
they live is at the lowest ebb of poverty it will, in a short time, by
trade passing through it, alter its very nature and the inhabitants become,
from nothing, as it were, to a very rich and substantial people; their very
natural idea of mankind, and their rude and unpolished behaviour, will be
altered and soothed into the most social civility and good breeding by the
alluring temptations of the beneficial advantage of trade and commerce."

The opening of the Grand Trunk and other canals connecting with it led to
such reductions in the cost of carriage as are shown in the following
figures, from Baines's "History {178}of Liverpool," where they are quoted
as from "Williamson's Liverpool Advertiser" of August 8, 1777:--

         BETWEEN                 BY ROAD.   BY WATER.
                                 £   s.  d.      £   s.  d.
  Liverpool and Etruria          2  10   0       0  13   4
      "      "  Wolverhampton    5   0   0       1   5   0
      "      "  Birmingham       5   0   0       1   5   0
  Manchester and Wolverhampton   4  13   4       1   5   0
      "       "  Birmingham      4   0   0       1  10   0
      "       "  Lichfield       4   0   0       1   0   0
      "       "  Derby           3   0   0       1  10   0
      "       "  Nottingham      4   0   0       2   0   0
      "       "  Leicester       6   0   0       1  10   0
      "       "  Gainsborough    3  10   0       1  10   0
      "       "  Newark          5   6   8       2   0   0

Thus the cost of transport by canal was in some instances reduced to about
one-fourth of the previous cost by packhorse or road waggon.

Under the new conditions the numerous manufactures in the Birmingham and
Black Country districts obtained their raw materials much cheaper than they
had done before, and secured much better facilities for distribution, the
difference in cost in sending guns, nails, hardware, and other heavy
manufactures from Birmingham to Hull by water instead of by road being in
itself a considerable saving, and one likely to give a great stimulus to
the industries concerned. Ores from the north were brought at less expense
to mix with those of Staffordshire, and the iron-masters there were enabled
to compete better with foreign producers. The manufacturers of Nottingham,
Leicester and Derby were afforded a cheap conveyance to Liverpool for their
wares. The fine ale for which Burton was famous had been sent to London by
way of the Trent, the Humber and the Thames since, at least, the early part
of the seventeenth century, and, exported from Hull, it had won fame for
the Burton breweries in all the leading Baltic ports and elsewhere. It was
now to be conveyed by water to the port of Liverpool, and find fresh or
expanded markets opened out for it from the west coast, as well as the
east. Cheshire salt obtained a better {179}distribution; the merchants both
of Hull and of Liverpool could now send groceries and other domestic
supplies throughout the midland counties with greater ease, and with much
benefit to the people; while among still other advantages was one mentioned
by Baines: "Wheat which formerly could not be conveyed a hundred miles,
from corn-growing districts to the large towns and manufacturing districts,
for less than 20s. a quarter, could be conveyed for about 5s. a quarter."

The towns which had least cause for satisfaction were Bridgnorth, Bewdley
and Bristol, the traffic that had previously gone by the long land route
from the Potteries to the Severn, and so on to Bristol, being now diverted
to Liverpool by the Grand Trunk Canal, just as the salt of Cheshire had
been taken there on the opening of the Weaver navigation, and the textiles
of Manchester on the completion of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal.

These developments had, consequently, a further influence on the growth of
the once backward port of Liverpool, and such growth was to be stimulated
by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Sanctioned by Parliament in 1769, six years before the Grand Trunk Canal
was opened, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was mainly designed to overcome
the natural barrier, in the form of a chain of lofty hills, which separated
Lancashire from Yorkshire, serving to isolate Liverpool and to keep back
from her the flow of trade and commerce from industrial centres on the
other side of the hills which should otherwise have regarded Liverpool as
their natural port. The canal was further intended to open up more fully
than had been done before the great coal-fields of Lancashire, ensuring a
better distribution of their mineral wealth both to Liverpool and to the
manufacturing towns of Lancashire; while, by connecting with the Aire at
Leeds, the capital of the Yorkshire woollen industry, the canal was to
provide another cross-country connection, by inland navigation, between
Liverpool and Hull.

The work of constructing the Leeds and Liverpool Canal included (1) the
piercing of the Foulridge Hills by a tunnel, 1640 yards long, which alone
took five years of constant labour; (2) an aqueduct bridge of seven arches
over the {180}Aire; and (3) an aqueduct carrying the canal over the Shipley
valley. The total length of navigation was 127 miles, with a fall from the
central level of 525 ft. on the Lancashire side, and of 446 ft. on the
Yorkshire side. The entire work of construction extended over 41 years, and
the total cost was £1,200,000.

The effect of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal on the industrial districts of
Lancashire and Yorkshire was no less remarkable than the effect of the
Grand Trunk Canal on the industries west or south of the Trent. When the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal was formed there was, as Baines observes in his
"Lancashire and Cheshire," not one town containing 10,000 inhabitants along
the whole of its course from Liverpool to Leeds. With the improved
facilities afforded for the conveyance of raw materials and manufactured
goods from or to the port of Liverpool came a new era for the textile
trades all along the route of the canal--and the now busy and
well-populated towns of Wigan, Blackburn, Nelson, Keighley, Bradford and
Leeds are indebted in no small degree for their industrial expansion to the
better means of communication which the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, in the
days when railways were still far off, opened up to them.

Still another canal that was made in order to establish a line of
communication west and east, and to serve important intermediate districts,
was the Rochdale Canal, which starts from Manchester, rises by a succession
of locks to a height 438 ft. above the Manchester level, and, fed on the
hill summit by some great reservoirs, descends to the river Calder at
Sowerby Bridge, the point from which that river is navigable to the Humber.

Connection with the Calder, and thus with the cross-country navigation of
which it formed a part, was also obtained by means of the Huddersfield
Canal, a waterway twenty miles in length which, starting from Ashton, rises
334 ft., to the Saddleworth manufacturing district (situate in the wildest
part of the Yorkshire hills), passes through a tunnel three miles long, and
descends 436 ft. on the Huddersfield side in reaching the level of the

The reader will have concluded from these references to other canals that,
although the Duke of Bridgewater had {181}found a difficulty in raising the
means with which to complete his canal to Runcorn, public confidence in
canals must have been reassured, and ample money must have been
forthcoming, to allow of these further costly and important schemes being
undertaken. This conclusion is abundantly warranted. The position following
the construction of the Bridgewater canals was thus described, in 1796, in
"A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation," by R. Fulton:--

"So unacquainted were the people with the use of canals, and so prejudiced
in favour of the old custom of river navigations, that the undertaking was
deemed chimerical, and ruin was predicted as the inevitable result of his
Grace's labour.... Yet it was not long finished when the eyes of the people
began to open; the Duke could work on his canal when floods, or dry
seasons, interrupted the navigation of the Mersey; this gave a certainty
and punctuality, in the carriage of merchandize, and ensured a preference
to the canal; the emoluments arising to the Duke were too evident to be
mistaken; and perseverance having vanquished prejudice, the fire of
speculation was lighted, and canals became the subject of general

The farming community, more especially, had looked with suspicion upon this
new-fangled idea of sending boats across fields and up and down the
hill-sides. The author of "A Cursory View of the Advantages of an Intended
Canal from Chesterfield to Gainsborough" (1769) finds, however, a
sufficient excuse for them in the conditions of locomotion and transport
with which alone they had hitherto been familiar. He says:--

"Though this useful set of Men, the Farmers, will undoubtedly reap a
Proportion of Advantages from the Execution of this beneficial Scheme, they
are far from being satisfied, and seem to reflect upon it with many Doubts
and Fears. Custom, indeed, and Occupation in Life, cast a wonderful
Influence on the Opinions of all Mankind; it is therefore by no means
surprizing that men, whose Forefathers, for Ages, have been inured to
rugged and deep Roads, to wade after their Beasts of Burden up to the Knees
in Mire, to see their loaded Waggons stick fast in Dirt; Men, who from
their interior, inland Situation, are almost totally unacquainted with all
Objects of Navigation; it is by no means strange, {182}that People, so
unaccustomed, should consider an Attempt, to introduce a navigable Canal up
to the Town of Chesterfield, and within the Air of the Peak-Mountains, with
alarming Ideas, with Suspicion and Amazement."

Another set of scruples was thus dealt with by Richard Whitworth--himself a
canal enthusiast--in his "Advantages of Inland Navigation" (1766):--

"It has been a common objection against navigable canals in this Kingdom
that numbers of people are supported by land carriage, and that navigable
canals will be their ruin.... I must advance an alternative which would
free the carrier from any fear of losing his employment on selling off his
stock of horses, viz.:--That no main trunk of a navigable canal ought
reasonably to be carried nearer than within four miles of any great
manufacturing town, ... which distance from the canal is sufficient to
maintain the same number of carriers, and employ almost the same number of
horses, as usual, to convey the goods down to the canal in order to go to
the seaports for exportation.... If a manufacturer can have a certain
conveniency of sending his goods by water carriage within four miles of his
own home, surely that is sufficient, and profit enough, considering that
other people must thrive as well as himself, and a proportion of profit to
each trade should be the biassing and leading policy of this nation."

In some instances certain towns did succeed in maintaining a distance of
several miles between themselves and the canals they regarded with
prejudice and disfavour. They anticipated, in this respect, the action that
other towns were to take up later on in regard to railways; and in the one
case as in the other there was abundant cause for regret when the places
concerned found they had been left aside, much to their detriment, by a
main route of trade and transport.

Other alarmists predicted the ruin of the innkeepers; protested against the
drivers of packhorses being deprived of their sustenance; prophesied a
diminution in the breed of draught horses; declaimed against covering with
waterways land that might be better used for raising corn; and foreshadowed
a detriment to the coasting trade that, in turn, would weaken the Navy,
"the natural and constitutional bulwark of Great Britain"--this being a
phrase which, {183}no doubt, was rolled out with great effect in the
discussions that took place.

The discovery, however, that canals were likely to be not only exceedingly
useful but a profitable form of investment was quite sufficient to overcome
all scruples, and even to give rise, in 1791-4, to a "canal mania" which
was a prelude to the still greater "railway mania" of 1845-6. In the four
years in question no fewer than eighty-one canal and navigation Acts were

So great had the eagerness of the public to invest in canal shares become
that when, in 1790, the promoters of the Ellesmere Canal held their first
meeting, the shares for which application was made were four times greater
than the number to be issued. In 1792, when a meeting was held at Rochdale
to consider the proposed construction of the Rochdale Canal, £60,000 was
subscribed in an hour. In August, 1792, Leicester Canal shares were selling
at £155, Coventry Canal shares at £350, Grand Trunks at the same figure,
and Birmingham and Fazley shares at £1170. At a sale of canal shares in
October, 1792, the prices realised included--Trent navigation, 175 guineas
per share; Soar Canal (Leicestershire) 765 gs.; Erewash Canal, 642 gs.;
Oxford Canal, 156 gs.; Cromford Canal, 130 gs.; Leicester Canal, 175 gs.,
and ten shares in the Grand Junction Canal (of which not a single sod had
then been cut) at 355 gs. premium for the ten.

The spirit of speculation thus developed led to the making of a number of
canals which had no real prospect of remunerative business, were commercial
failures from the start, and involved the ruin of many investors. Canals of
this type are still to be found in the country to-day--picturesque
derelicts which some persons think the State should acquire and put in
order again because it is "such a pity" they are not made use of.

Dealing with the general position as it was in 1803, Phillips wrote in his
"General History of Inland Navigation" (4th edition):--"Since the year 1758
no less than 165 Acts of Parliament have received the royal assent for
cutting, altering, amending, etc., canals in Great Britain, at the expense
of £13,008,199, the whole subscribed by private individuals; the length of
ground which they employ is 2896½ miles.... Of these Acts 90 are on account
of collieries opened in their {184}vicinity, and 47 on account of mines of
lead, ore, and copper which have been discovered, and for the convenience
of the furnaces and forges working thereon."

Among the more typical of the canals, in addition to those already
mentioned, were--the Grand Junction Canal, connecting the Thames with the
Trent, and thus with both the Mersey and the Humber; the Thames and Severn
Canal; the Ellesmere, connecting the Severn with the Dee and the Mersey;
the Barnsley Canal (of which Phillips says: "The beneficial effects of this
canal, in a rich mineral country, hitherto landlocked, cannot fail to be
immediately felt by miners, farmers, manufacturers and the country at
large"); the Kennet and Avon (opening, according to the same authority, "a
line of navigation, sixteen miles in length, over a country before very
remote from any navigable river"); the Glamorganshire Canal ("has opened a
ready conveyance to the vast manufactory of iron established in the
mountains of that country"); the extensive network of the Birmingham Canal
system; the Shropshire Union, which connects the Birmingham Canal with
Ellesmere port, on the Mersey, and has branches to Shrewsbury, Llangollen,
Welshpool and Newtown; and the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal. To the
last-mentioned, constructed under an Act of Parliament passed in 1791,
Baines alludes as follows in his "Lancashire and Cheshire":--

"The River Irwell flows directly down from Bury to Manchester, and the
river Croal, which flows through Bolton, joins the Irwell between Bury and
Manchester; but neither of these streams was considered available, by any
amount of improvement that could be given to it, for the purposes of
navigation. They are both of them very impetuous streams, occasionally
sending down immense torrents of water, but at other times so shallow as
not to furnish sufficient depth of water for the smallest vessels. Instead,
therefore, of wasting time and money upon them, a canal was cut at a
considerably higher level, but following the general direction of the river

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal was thus a further example of the
resort to artificial canals, with water channels capable of regulation, in
preference to further schemes for rendering rivers navigable.

{185}How the situation brought about by the creation of the network of
navigable waterways thus spread, or being spread, throughout the country
was regarded by an impartial observer in the "Canal Mania" period is shown
by the following comments thereon by Dr Aikin:--

"The prodigious additions made within a few years to the system of inland
navigation, now extended to almost every corner of the Kingdom, cannot but
impress the mind with magnificent ideas of the opulence, the spirit and the
enlarged views which characterise the commercial interest of this country.
Nothing seems too bold for it to undertake, too difficult for it to
achieve; and should no external changes produce a durable check to the
national prosperity, its future progress is beyond the reach of
calculation. Yet experience may teach us, that the spirit of project and
speculation is not always the source of solid advantage, and possibly the
unbounded extension of canal navigation may in part have its source in the
passion for bold and precarious adventure, which scorns to be limited by
reasonable calculations of profit. Nothing but highly flourishing
manufactures can repay the vast expense of these designs. The town of
Manchester, when the plans now under execution are finished, will probably
enjoy more various water-communication than the most commercial town of the
Low Countries has ever done. At the beginning of this century it was
thought a most arduous task to make a _high road_ practicable for carriages
over the hills and moors which separate Yorkshire from Lancashire; and now
they are pierced through by _three navigable canals_! Long may it remain
the centre of a trade capable of maintaining these mighty works!"

The day was to come, however, when it would be a question, not of the
additions made to inland navigation justifying the expense incurred, but of
the inherent defects of the said "mighty works," the increasing
manufactures, and the introduction of still better methods of transport and
communication giving to canals a set-back akin to that which they
themselves had already given to navigable rivers.



Contemporaneously with the canal period in England came an industrial
revolution which was to place this country--hitherto distinctly backward in
the development of its industries--at the head of manufacturing nations,
but was, also, to show that, however great the advantages conferred by
canals, as compared both with rivers and with roads, even canals were
inadequate to meet the full and ever-expanding requirements of trade and

The main causes of this industrial revolution were--the application of a
number of inventions and improved processes to leading industries; the
incalculable advantages derived from steam power; the immense increase in
the supplies of cotton, coal, minerals and other raw materials; the greater
wealth of the nation, allowing of much more capital being available for
industrial enterprises; and the improvement, not alone in inland
communication, but in ship-building and the art of navigation, foreign
markets being thus reached more readily at a time when the general
political and economic conditions were especially favourable to the
commercial expansion abroad which followed on our industrial expansion at

Woollen manufactures, originally established here with the help of workers
introduced from Flanders in the time of Edward III., had had a long
pre-eminence, obtaining a vested interest which led to the advent of a new
rival, in the form of cotton manufacturers, receiving, at first, very
scanty encouragement. Woollens had made such progress that, even before the
Restoration, a market was (as Dowell tells us) opened for our goods, not
only in Spain, France, Italy and Germany, but also in Russia and Baltic and
other ports, while they were carried by way of Archangel into Persia, and
also made a market for themselves in Turkey. {187}A great part of England
was turned into sheep farms for the production of wool, and by 1700 the
value of woollen goods exported had risen to £3,000,000.

At this time the import of raw cotton was only about 1¼ million lbs.[26] To
such an extent had the woollen, and, also, the linen, industries been
placed under the "protection" of the governing powers that until 1721 it
was a penal offence in England to weave or sell calico--that is, a fabric
consisting entirely of cotton; and down to 1774 anyone who made or sold a
fabric having more than half its threads of cotton was liable to
prosecution. Not until 1783 was the prohibition of British-made calicoes
removed and the production in this country of all-cotton goods allowed by
legislators who had been unduly solicitous of the welfare of British
industry. When, in 1776, Adam Smith published his great work on "The Wealth
of Nations," he certainly did state that Christopher Columbus had brought
back from the New World some bales of cotton, and had shown them at the
court of Spain; but he did not think it necessary to mention that a cotton
industry had been started here, and was likely to contribute to the wealth
of the United Kingdom.

The imports of raw cotton slowly increased to 2,000,000 in 1720, and to
3,000,000 lbs. in 1751. In 1764, the year in which Hargreaves introduced
the spinning jenny, they were still not higher than 4,000,000 lbs. But the
successive inventions, during the course of about three decades, alike of
Hargreaves, Arkwright, Crompton, Cartwright and others gave such an impetus
to the industry that by 1800 the importation of raw cotton (greatly
facilitated by the further invention, in 1793, of Eli Whitney's appliance
for separating cotton from the cotton seed) had risen to 52,000,000 lbs.,
while the value of all kinds of cotton products exported increased between
1765 and 1800 from £800,000 to £5,800,000.

This rapid progress would not, however, have been possible but for the
facilities for obtaining cheap power afforded by the condensing
steam-engine of James Watt, who had taken out a patent for his invention in
1769, though it was not till 1776 that he built and sold his first engine,
on which he further improved in 1781. Steam-power, of far greater force
{188}and utility, and capable of being produced anywhere, thus took the
place of the water-power, only available alongside streams, on which, as we
have seen, the earlier success of the woollen industry, especially as
carried on among the hills of Yorkshire, had been established. It was by
water-power that the spinning machine so recently introduced by Sir Richard
Arkwright was operated until James Watt had shown that steam could be used
to better advantage. Then the setting up at Papplewick, Nottinghamshire, in
1785, of a steam-engine for the operation of cotton machinery marked, also,
the decline of domestic manufactures and the advent of that factory system
which was to bring about a complete transformation in the industrial
conditions of the United Kingdom.

Yet just as the improvements in cotton production would have been
incomplete without the steam-engine, so, also, would the invention even of
the steam-engine have been of little service but for an abundant supply of
coal, and but, also, for the possession of a ready and economical means of
moving the coal from the localities where it was to be found to those where
it was wanted for the purposes of the "steam age" that was about to open.

The greater demand for fuel and the increased facilities for supplying it
led to the greater development of various inland coal-fields, in addition
to those already long in operation in the Newcastle district, and having
there the advantages of river and sea as an aid to distribution. The need,
also, of coal for the operation of the steam-engine in the countless number
of new industries or new works that followed on James Watt's improvements
had an important influence on fixing the location of fresh industrial

Coal-mining, again, was powerfully accelerated in the same period by the
iron industry, which itself was undergoing developments no less remarkable
than those attending the expansion of the cotton industries, and having no
less a bearing on the problem of efficient inland transport.

Down to the year 1740 the smelting of iron-ores--an industry carried on
here from very early days in our history--was done entirely with wood
charcoal. For this reason the early seat of the iron industry was in the
forests that, as already told, once covered so large an area in Sussex,
Kent {189}and Surrey, and afforded what may, at one time, have appeared to
be a practically limitless supply of fuel.

The three counties in question thus attained to a high degree of industrial
importance and prosperity at a time when Lancashire and Yorkshire were
still regarded by dwellers in the south as inhabited by a scarcely
civilised people. Lord Seymour, who was made by Henry VIII. Lord High
Admiral of England, and ended his life on the scaffold in 1549, was the
owner of iron-works in Sussex. The cannon and shot which Drake, Hawkins and
Frobisher took with them on their ships were supplied by these southern
foundries. Of the position of the industry in 1653, when there were 42
forges and 27 furnaces in the Weald of Sussex, the author of "Glimpses of
our Ancestors in Sussex" says: "Sussex was then the Wales and the
Warwickshire of England. Foreign countries sought eagerly for its cannon,
its culverines and falconets.... Its richly decorated fire-backs and
fantastic andirons were the pride of lordly mansions. London sent here for
the railings that went round its great cathedral; Sussex ploughshares,
speeds and other agricultural implements and hardware were sent all over
the kingdom."

Fears, however, had already been excited in Henry VIII.'s day that the
continued destruction of forests, in order to supply the iron-works with
fuel, would lead to a timber famine; and in Queen Elizabeth's reign such a
prospect, foreshadowing a shortage of timber for shipbuilding purposes at
the very time when a conflict with Spain was regarded as inevitable, was
looked upon as involving a possible national disaster. A subsidiary
complaint against the industry was that the traffic to and from the
iron-works injured the roads. Legislation was therefore passed prohibiting,
under severe penalties, any increase in the number of iron-works in the
three counties mentioned, except on land already occupied or able to
furnish of itself a sufficient supply of timber. Exportation of iron was
also prohibited, and it was even considered good policy to import iron,
rather than to make it, and so preserve the still available timber for
other purposes.

By the early part of the eighteenth century the iron industry, after
exhausting the timber supplies of Sussex, had disappeared from that county;
but it flourished in Shropshire, where it found both fuel and iron-stone in
the Forest {190}of Dean, while the Severn provided water-power and inland
navigation. The industry was also carried on in Staffordshire; and here, in
the reign of James I., some important experiments were made in the
direction of using coal instead of wood in the manufacture of iron; but
this idea was not fully developed until Abraham Darby had shown, in 1735,
how coke, in combination with a powerful blast, could be substituted for
wood. What is regarded as the real turning-point in the iron industry
followed in 1760, when Dr Roebuck built, at the Carron works, his new type
of blast furnace, in which coke was to be used.

An impetus was thus given to the industry, and an impetus it certainly
needed, inasmuch as the production of iron in the United Kingdom had sunk
in 1740 to 17,350 tons. Then, in 1783, Henry Cort, of Gosport, patented his
process for converting pig-iron into malleable iron through the operation
of "puddling" in a common air-furnace consuming coal, and in 1784 he
patented a further process for turning malleable iron into bars by means of
rollers instead of forge hammers.

These further inventions were of much service; but the greatest advance of
all followed on the application of steam to iron-making, as one of the many
results of James Watt's achievements. Steam enabled the manufacturers to
get a far more powerful blast in the new furnaces, at a consumption of
about one-third less of coal, than had been possible in the process of
smelting carried on with the help of water-power. The use, also, of coal
instead of timber for fuel, and of steam-power in place of water-power,
made the iron-masters independent both of the forests and of the rivers of
southern England, and led to the further expansion of the iron industry
being transferred to such districts as Staffordshire, the north-east coast,
Scotland and South Wales, where the now all-important coal could be
obtained no less readily than the iron-ore.

So the migration of some of the greatest of our national industries from
south to north, begun by the streams on Yorkshire hills, was completed by
the steam-engine of James Watt.

The effect on the iron industry itself of the improvements in manufacture
was prodigious. The 17,350 tons of iron which were alone produced in 1740
came from 59 furnaces, {191}using charcoal only. In 1788 the number of
furnaces had increased to 85, and the output to 68,300 tons, of which
55,200 tons had been produced by coke, and only 13,100 tons by charcoal. In
1796, when the charcoal process had been almost entirely given up, the
number of furnaces was 121 (in England and Wales 104; in Scotland 17), and
the production was 124,879 tons. In this same year Pitt proposed to put a
tax on coal, and the following year he sought to impose one on pig-iron;
but a taxing of raw material was not to be tolerated, and he had to abandon
each project.

Adding to these details corresponding figures for other years in the Canal
Era, we get the following table:--

  Iron Furnaces and Production in England,
  Wales and Scotland.

  Year. Number of furnaces. Production (tons).
  1740              59              17,350
  1788              85              68,300
  1796             121             124,879
  1802             168             170,000
  1806             227             250,000
  1820             260             400,000
  1825             374             581,367

This great increase in the output of iron meant, also, a considerable
expansion in the engineering trades of the country in general, in the
hardware trades of Birmingham, in the cutlery trade of Sheffield, and in
many other trades besides. It led to the opening up of new centres of
activity and industry in addition to a greater aggregation of workers in
centres already established; while the combined effect on the coal industry
itself of all these developments is well shown by the following figures,
giving the output of coal in the United Kingdom, for the years mentioned,
as estimated by the Commissioners of 1871:--

  YEAR.             TONS.
  1700           2,612,000
  1750           4,773,828
  1770           6,205,400
  1790           7,618,728
  1795          10,080,300

{192}The rapid expansion in the last half of the eighteenth century of the
various industries here mentioned, and of many others besides, led to a
corresponding growth in the industrial towns; and this, in turn, meant an
increase in the wants of the community, and the opening up of new and even
huge markets for agricultural produce. Such produce, also, was now
obtainable in greater quantity owing to the fact that more land was being
brought under cultivation. In 1685 it had been estimated that there were in
England about 18,000,000 acres of fen, forest and moorland. Of this total
3,000,000 acres had been brought under cultivation before 1727. But from
that time many enclosure Acts were passed, no fewer than 138 becoming law
between 1789 and 1792; and, though it by no means follows that all the land
so enclosed was actually cultivated, the greater opportunities opening out
to agriculture when more and more workers were being collected into
factories and manufacturing districts, and becoming more and more dependent
on others for food supplies which, under the old conditions of life and
industry, people grew for themselves, were beyond all question, while
agricultural production was itself advanced by the supply of those better
and cheaper aids to husbandry which followed on the improvements in iron

To meet the enormously increased demands for the transport alike of raw
materials, of manufactured articles and of domestic supplies in the period
of industrial revolution which thus began to develop about the middle of
the eighteenth century, something more was wanted than rivers, offering
uncertain navigation, and only available in particular districts, and
highways deplorably bad in spite of Turnpike Acts and much wasteful
expenditure, another half-century having still to elapse before Telford
showed the country how roads should be made, and McAdam told how they
should be mended.

In these circumstances, and during the period here in question, it was
canals that were mainly looked to as a means of supplying the transport
requirements then growing at so prodigious a rate. Invention and production
had already far surpassed the means of efficient distribution. England was
on the eve of the greatest industrial expansion of any country in Europe;
but she was starting thereon with probably the worst means of inland
transport of any country in {193}Europe. Canals appeared to be the one
thing needed; and every fresh canal constructed was heralded with joy
because it foreshadowed, among other things, better trade, more employment,
higher wages, cheaper fuel and provisions, and less of the isolation from
which many a land-locked community was suffering.

Some of the accounts given by Phillips, in his "General History of Inland
Navigation," of the opening of various canals afford interesting evidence
of the satisfaction with which the populace greeted the new waterways. I
give a few examples:--

"1798.--The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire canal from Gloucester to
Ledbury is completed; the opening of this navigation took place on the 30th
of March, when several of the proprietors and gentlemen of the committee
embarked ... in the first vessel freighted with merchandise consigned to
Ledbury, which was followed by three others laden with coal. They passed
through the tunnel at Oxenhall, which is 2192 yards in length, in the space
of 52 minutes.... Both ends of the tunnel, as well as the banks of the
canal, were lined with spectators, who hailed the boats with reiterated
acclamations. It is supposed that upwards of 2000 persons were present on
their arrival at Ledbury.... The advantages which must result from this
inland navigation to Ledbury and the adjoining country are incalculable. In
the article of coal the inhabitants of this district will reap an important
benefit by the immediate reduction in price of at least 10s. per ton. Coals
of the first quality are now delivered at the wharf, close to Ledbury, at
13s. 6d., whereas the former price was 24s. per ton."

"1799.--The new canal from Sowerby-bridge to Rochdale was lately opened for
business. The Travis yacht first crossed the head level, decorated with the
Union flag, emblematical of the junction of the ports of Hull and
Liverpool, with colours flying, music playing, attended by the Saville
yacht, and thousands of spectators; a display of flags on the warehouses,
and sound of cannon, announced to the rejoicing neighbourhood the joyful
tidings, which in the evening were realised by the arrival of several
vessels, laden with corn and timber."

"1800.--The Peak Forest canal ... was opened on the {194}1st of May. The
completion of this bold and difficult undertaking, through numerous hills
and valleys, precipices and declivities, is an object of general

Yet in these same records--published in 1803--and among his accounts of the
crowds, the flags, the music and the cannon that had then so recently
welcomed the opening of still more canals, Phillips tells of an innovation
destined eventually to supplant the canal system by reason of advantages
which he himself seems to have recognised, though he naturally did not then
anticipate all that was to follow. The said innovation is thus recorded by
him under date "1802":--

"The locks, canal and basin, from which the Surrey iron rail-way now in
agitation, is to commence at Wandsworth, have been lately opened and the
water admitted from the Thames. The first barge entered the lock amidst a
vast number of spectators, who rejoiced at the completion of this part of
the important and useful work. The ground is laid out for the rail-way,
with some few intervals, all the way to Croydon; and the undertakers are
ready to lay down the iron; it is expected to be ready by midsummer.

"N.B. The iron rail-ways are of great advantage to the country in general,
and are made at an expense of about 300l. per mile. The advantage they give
for the conveyance of goods by carts and waggons, seems even to surpass, in
some instances, those of boat carriage by canals."

So we come to the story of the railway, which had, however, been undergoing
development, from very primitive conditions, for a considerable period even
prior to this notable event on the banks of the Thames in 1802.



The early history of the railway is the early history of the English coal

Down to the sixteenth century the fuel supply of the country alike for
manufacturing and for domestic purposes was derived almost exclusively from
those forests and peat-beds that once covered so large a portion of the
area of the British Isles. Coal was not unknown, though it was then called
"sea-coal," a name distinguishing coal from charcoal, and given to it
because the fact of the earliest known specimens being found on the shores
of Northumberland and of the Firth of Forth--where there are outcrops of
the coal measures--led to the belief that the black stone which burned like
charcoal was a product of the sea. The name was retained, as an appropriate
one, when coal was brought to London by sea from the north.

Coal is known to have been received at various dates during the thirteenth
century in London (which then already had a Sacoles, or Sea-coal, Lane), in
Colchester, in Dover and in Suffolk; but it was used mainly by smiths and
lime-burners; and it was used by them still more when the construction of
feudal castles and ecclesiastical buildings in and following the Norman
period called for work not to be done efficiently with fires of wood or
charcoal. The use of coal as fuel for domestic purposes remained, however,
extremely limited. Unlike wood and charcoal, coal was not suitable for
burning in the centre of rooms then unprovided with chimneys, while coal
smoke was regarded as an intolerable nuisance, and as seriously detrimental
to health. It was on these grounds that when, in the fourteenth century,
brewers, dyers and others in London were found to be using coal, a Royal
Proclamation was issued interdicting its use by any person not a smith or a
lime-burner, and appointing a {196}commission of Oyer and Terminer to see
to the punishment of all offenders.

For a further considerable period the use of coal continued very partial;
but in the sixteenth century great uneasiness began to be felt at the
prospective exhaustion of the timber supplies of the country, and various
enactments were passed with a view to checking the destruction of the
forests. Great attention began to be paid to the use of sea-coal as a
substitute for wood, and an improvement in domestic architecture led to a
more general provision of fire-places with chimneys, thus allowing of a
resort to coal fires for domestic purposes. Chimneys began to appear, in
fact, in numbers never seen before. Harrison, writing in 1577, grieves over
the innovation of coal fires, and recalls the good old times of wood and
peat when, as he touchingly says, "our heads did never ake."

Queen Elizabeth retained the prejudice against sea-coal, and would have
none of it. Ladies of fashion, sharing, as loyal subjects, her Majesty's
objections, would, in turn neither enter a room where coal was burning nor
eat of food cooked at a coal fire. But James I., whose ancestors had long
favoured coal fires in Scotland--and, it may be, thus made themselves
responsible for the name of "Auld Reekie" conferred on Edinburgh--had coal
brought for fires in his own rooms in Westminster Palace. When this fact
became known Society changed its views, and decided that the hitherto
obnoxious sea-coal might be tolerated, after all. Howes, writing in 1612,
was then able to speak of coal as "the generall fuell of this Britaine

In the result, and especially following on the development in trade and
industry which came with the Restoration, there was a great increase in the
demand for coal. In 1615 the coal fleet engaged in the transport of
sea-coal to London, and other ports on the east and south-east
coasts--where fuel was scarcest--comprised (as stated in "A History of Coal
Mining in Great Britain," by Robert L. Galloway) 400 vessels. In 1635, or
only twenty years later, the number had increased to between 600 and 700,
and by 1650, or thereabouts, the total had further risen to 900 vessels,
these figures being exclusive of the foreign fleets carrying coal to
France, Holland and Germany.

{197}The collieries that were more especially required to meet this
increased demand were those in the immediate neighbourhood of the Tyne,
since they offered the advantages of thick seams of coal of excellent
quality and close alike to the surface and to a navigable river. The
proportions to which the industry had already attained in the year 1649 are
shown by Grey, in his "Chorographia, or a Survey of Newcastle-upon-Tine,"
where he says: "Many thousand people are imployed in this trade of coales:
many live by working of them in pits: many live by conveying them in
waggons and waines to the river Tine.... One coal merchant imployeth five
hundred or a thousand in his works of coal."

The one great difficulty in the way of development lay in the trouble
experienced in getting the coal from the pit-banks to the river for loading
into the keels, or barges, by which it would be conveyed to the sea-going
colliers lying below the bridge at Newcastle.

The established custom was to send the coal to the river by carts, or
wains, or even in panniers slung across the backs of horses; and in Robert
Edington's "Treatise on the Coal Trade" (1813) mention is made of various
collieries which had up to 600 or 700 carts engaged in this service.
Inasmuch, however, as the art of road-making in general was then still in
its elementary stage, one can well imagine that, with all this traffic
along them, the roads between the collieries and the Tyne must have been in
a condition that added greatly both to the difficulties and to the cost of
transport. Nicholas Wood, in his "Practical Treatise on Rail-roads" (1825),
gives an extract, dated 1602, from the book of a Newcastle coal company,
showing that "from tyme out of mynd" the coal carts had brought eight
bolls--equal to about 17 cwt.--of coal to the river; but added that "of
late several hath brought only, or scarce, seven," a fact sufficiently
suggestive of the deplorable state to which the colliery roads had been
reduced even at the opening of a century that was to bring about so great
an increase in the demand for coal.

Bad as the position was for the collieries located near to the Tyne, it was
worse for those situate at any distance from the river, since, under the
road conditions then prevailing, it was practically impossible for the
owners of the latter collieries to get their coal to the river at all, or
to secure {198}any share in a trade offering such great opportunities and
undergoing such rapid expansion. The coal had but a nominal value so long
as it could not be got away from the pit-banks.

The first attempt to overcome the difficulties of the situation was in the
direction of laying parallel courses of stone or wood for the waggon wheels
to run upon; but here we have the equivalent of a partially-paved roadway
rather than of actual rails. The latter came when the parallel
wheel-courses of wood were reduced to what William Hutchinson, in his "View
of Northumberland" (1778), calls "strings of wood," for the accommodation
of "large unwieldy carriages or waggons."

Nicholas Wood says that these wooden rails had a length of about six feet,
and were five or six inches in thickness, with a breadth of about the same
proportions. They were pegged down to sleepers placed across the track at a
distance of about two feet apart, so that one rail reached across three
sleepers. The spaces between the sleepers were filled in with ashes or
small stones, to protect the feet of the horses. The waggons were in the
form of a hopper, being much broader and longer at the top than at the
bottom. At first all four wheels of the waggon were made either of one
entire piece of wood or of two or three pieces of wood fastened together,
the rim, in either case, being so shaped as to have on one side a
projection, or flange, which would keep the wheel on the rails.

This, then, was the earliest example of a _railway_--the fundamental
principle of which is, of course, the use of _rails_ to facilitate the
drawing or the propulsion of a moving body, and not the particular form of
motive power (however great the importance, in actual practice, of this
matter of detail) by which the traction is secured.

The date of the first "rail-way" (so called) in the form described, and in
accordance with the principle mentioned, is uncertain; but Galloway, in his
"History of Coal Mining," mentions a document dated 1660 which refers to a
sale of timber used in the construction of waggon-ways; while Roger North,
writing in 1676, describes the then existing railways in terms which
suggest that they were, at that date, a well-established institution.
Speaking generally, therefore, one may assume that the pioneer rail-ways
were brought {199}into operation somewhere about the middle of the
seventeenth century--if not still earlier. Taking 1650 as an approximate
date, this would mean that the first rail-way must have been made about one
hundred and eighty years before the opening of that Liverpool and
Manchester line with which the history of railways is often assumed to have

Hutchinson speaks of the collieries on the Tyne as being, at the time he
wrote (1778), "about twenty-four in number," and he further says of them
that they "lie at considerable distances from the river." On account of
these considerable distances the colliery managers had to secure way-leaves
for their rail-ways from the owners of intervening land, so as to obtain
access to the Tyne. Thus Roger North, in the account he gives of the
railways in the Newcastle district, says: "When men have pieces of land
between the collieries and the rivers, they sell leave to lead coals over
their ground, and so dear that the owner of a rood of ground will expect
20l. per annum for this leave." In some instances the total payment for a
way-leave seems to have amounted to £500 a year. Statutory powers were not
required for the rail-ways so long as they were used only for private
purposes, though when they crossed a public road the assent of the local
authorities was necessary.

The rails, sleepers and wheels, all of wood, came mostly from Sussex or
Hampshire, and the writer of an article on the Tyne railways, published in
the "Commercial and Agricultural Magazine" for October, 1800, speaks of the
use on them of so much timber as "the more extraordinary" because the
necessities of the coal mines had previously "used up every stick of timber
in the neighbourhood," so that "the import from returning colliers
(coal-ships) was the sole resource." Such import, also, would appear to
have been considerable, the making of wooden rail-ways on the north-east
coast being the means of developing an important industry in rails and
wheels in the southern counties.

One of the importers on the Tyne was William Scott, father of Lords Stowell
and Eldon, and his "Letters," included in M. A. Richardson's "Reprints of
Rare Tracts" (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1849), give some interesting details on
the subject. Scott, in addition to being himself engaged in mining, acted
as agent for southern producers of wooden rails and {200}wheels for
colliery rail-ways; and his letters show that in and about the year 1745
the consignments were coming to hand in "immense quantities." Scott seems
to have had great trouble in restraining the zeal of the southerners. He
tells one correspondent that "Wheels are at present a great drug from so
many yt. came last year. Rails will be wanted, but the people pays so badly
for them that wo^d weary eny body to serve them." To another he says: "I
find the best oak rails will scarcely give 6d. p yd this year." To
correspondents at Lyndhurst, New Forest, he writes: "I fancy the dealers in
wn. wheels will expect to have wheels soon 'em given, if such great numbers
continue coming." Mr West, of Slyndon, near Arundel, Sussex, is told that
not more than five shillings can be got for the best wooden wheels, and
that "dealers are so full that they have not room for any wheels." On March
27, 1747, Scott writes concerning wheels: "No less than about 2000 com'd
within these 14 days from Lyndhurst consign'd to different people"; and two
months later he announces that he has resolved to receive "no more such
goods as wooden wheels, rails and such like from anybody."

Most of the Tyne collieries were at a higher level than the river, and in
the construction of the rail-ways it was sought to obtain a regular and
easy descent, regardless of route or distance, to the "staith," or
shipping-stage, from which the coal would be loaded either into the keels
(barges) employed to take it along the river to the colliers, or, in the
case of longer distance rail-ways, direct into the collier itself, the
bottom of the waggons being made after the fashion of a trap-door to
facilitate discharge. Gradual descent was further aimed at because it
allowed of the loaded waggons moving along the rail-way by reason of their
own weight.

How this prototype both of the railway and of express trains as known to us
to-day was operated is well shown in a "Description of a Coal-Waggon," with
an accompanying illustration, contributed to the "General Magazine of Arts
and Sciences" for June, 1764, by John Buddie, of Chester-le-street, Durham,
who subsequently became manager of the Wallsend Colliery. In the
illustration a horse is depicted drawing, by means of two ropes fastened to
its collar, a loaded four-wheeled coal waggon along a rail-way preceded by
a man who, having a bundle of hay underneath one arm, {201}holds some of
the hay a few inches in front of the horse so that the animal, stretching
forward to get the hay, draws along the waggon more readily. Buddle
explains that the waggon is "conducted or drove by a single man, called the
Waggon-man, whose most common action on the road is, inticing the horse
forward with a bit of hay in his hand, which he supplies from under his
arm, a quantity of hay sufficient for a day being kept in the Hay-poke,"
that is, in a receptacle at the back of the waggon. Suspended over one of
the hind wheels is a "convoy," or brake, formed of a curved and
strong-looking piece of wood (described in the text as alder-wood), which
is attached at one end to the waggon, and held in a loop at the other. "Its
use," says Buddle, "is to regulate the motion of the waggon down the sides
of the hills (called by the waggon men runs) making it uniform.... The
waggon-man, taking the end out of the loop, lets it down upon the wheel,
and, placing himself astride upon the end, with one foot on the waggon-soal
he presses more or less, according to the declivity of the run; the Convoy
acting at that time as a leaver."

Buddle further says: "Waggon men, in going down very steep Runs, commonly
take their horses from before, and fasten them behind their waggons,[27] as
they would inevitably be killed was the convoy to break (which frequently
happens) or any other accident occasion these waggons to run _amain_. Nor
is this fatal consequence attendant only on the horses, but the drivers
often receive broken bones, bruises, and frequently the most excruciating
deaths. Indeed, in some places, a most humane custom is established, which
is, when any waggon-man loses his horse, the other Waggon-men go a Gait for
the poor sufferer, which is little out of their profits, and purchase him
another horse."

About 1750, according to Nicholas Wood, cast-iron wheels were introduced;
but in 1765 wooden wheels were still mostly used at the back of the waggon,
to allow of the convoy getting a better grip when the waggon was going, by
its own {202}weight, down an incline; though even then the danger of
accident was, as Buddle's observations suggest, sufficiently grave. On this
same point it is said by T. S. Polyhistor, in a "Description of a Coal
Waggon," given in the "London Magazine" for March, 1764:--

"They commonly unloose the horse when they come to the runs, and then put
him too again when down; the reason of their taking him off at such places
is because, were the convoy to break, it would be impossible to save the
horse from being killed, or if the waggon-way rails be wet sometimes a man
cannot stop the waggon with the convoy and where the convoy presses upon
the wheel it will fire and flame surprisingly; many are the accidents that
have happened as aforesaid; many hundred poor people and horses have lost
their lives; for was there ever so many waggons before the waggon that
breaks its convoy and has not got quite clear of the run, they are all in
great danger, both men and horses, of being killed."

Polyhistor also states that the quantity of coal one of these waggons would
draw on the rails was 19 "bolls," or "bowls," as he calls them. This gave a
load of about 42 cwt. of coal, as compared with the load of 17 cwt., or
less, to which the waggons on the ordinary roads at the collieries had been
reduced. The advantage from the point of view of transport was obvious; but
no less certain, also, was the risk to life and limb when a waggon with
over two tons of coal was allowed to run down an incline checked only by a
primitive wooden brake, with a man seated on one end of it to press it
against a wheel. In wet weather boys or old men were employed to sprinkle
ashes on the rails; but there were times when the rail-ways having a steep
descent could not be used at all.

Introduced on the Tyne, the rail-way was adopted in 1693 by collieries on
the Wear, and it also came into vogue in Shropshire and other districts. In
1698 a rail-way was set up on Sir Humphry Mackworth's colliery at Neath,
Glamorganshire; but after it had been in use about eight years it was
condemned by a grand jury at Cardiff as a "nuisance," and the portion
crossing the highway between Cardiff and Neath was torn up. In a statement
presented, rebutting the allegation of the grand jury, it was said: "These
waggon ways are {203}very common and frequently made use of about Newcastle
and also at Broseley, Benthal and other places in Shropshire, and are so
far from being nuisances that they have ever been esteemed very useful to
preserve the roads, which would be otherwise made very bad and deep by the
carriage of coal in common waggons and carts."

The Tyneside colliery rail-way was, in fact, widely adopted; though it
underwent many improvements long before there was any suggestion of
operating the new form of traction by means of locomotives.

The first improvement on the original wooden rail pegged on to the sleepers
was the fastening on it of another rail, in order that this could be
removed, when worn down, without interfering with the sleepers. This
arrangement was known as the "double way"; and Nicholas Wood says of it:
"The double rail, by increasing the height of the surface whereon the
carriage travelled, allowed the inside of the road to be filled up with
ashes or stone to the under side of the upper rail, and consequently above
the level of the sleepers, which thus secured them from the action of the
feet of the horses." He adds that on the first introduction of the double
way the under rail was of oak, and afterwards of fir, mostly six feet long,
and reaching across three sleepers, and was about five inches broad on the
surface by four or five inches in depth. The upper rail was of the same
dimensions and almost always made of beech or plane tree.

The next improvement was the nailing of thin strips, or "plates," of
wrought iron on to the double rail wherever there was a steep descent or a
considerable curve, thus diminishing the friction. These "plates" were
about two inches wide and half an inch thick, and they were fastened on to
the wooden rails with ordinary nails. They constituted the first step
towards the conversion of wooden rail-ways into an iron road, and Nicholas
Wood thinks it very likely that the diminution of friction resulting from
their use may have suggested the substitution of iron rails for wooden

Cast-iron rails began to come into use about 1767. Their brittleness was,
at first, found to be a great disadvantage; but this defect was
subsequently overcome, to a certain extent, by the use of smaller waggons,
which allowed of a better distribution of weight over the rail. Then in or
about {204}1776 "plates" or "rails" (the two expressions seem to have been
used somewhat indiscriminately) were cast with an inner flange, from two to
three inches high, so that waggons with ordinary wheels could be taken upon
them and be kept on the plate, or rail, by means of this flange.

John Curr, manager of the Duke of Norfolk's collieries, near Sheffield, who
claimed to have invented these flanged "plates," describes them in his
"Coal Viewer and Engine Builder's Practical Companion" (1797), as being six
feet long, three inches broad, half an inch thick, from 47 lbs. to 50 lbs.
in weight, and provided with nail holes for fastening them direct on to oak
sleepers. Lines so constructed became known as "plate-ways," "tram-ways,"
or, alternatively, "dram-ways."

The derivation of the words tram and tramway has given rise to a certain
amount of discussion from time to time, and the fallacy that they come from
the name of Benjamin Outram, of the Ripley iron-works, Derbyshire, who, in
the last quarter of the eighteenth century, advocated the flanged-plate
system of rail-way, has been especially favoured. It was, however, merely a
coincidence that "tram" formed part of his name, and this popular theory
here in question is quite unfounded.

The real origin of "tram" is indicated, rather, by the following list of
possible derivations, which I take from Skeat's "Etymological

  Swedish: Tromm, trumm, a log, or the stock of a tree; also a summer

  Middle Swedish: Tråm, trum, a piece of a large tree cut up into logs.

  Norwegian: Tram, a door-step (of wood). Traam, a frame.

  Low German: Traam, a balk or beam; especially one of the handles of a

  Old High German: Dr[=a]m, tr[=a]m, a beam.

Thus in its original signification the word tram, or its equivalent, was
applied either to a log of wood or to certain specified objects made of

The word itself was in use in this country as far back as the middle of the
sixteenth century, since on August 4, 1555, a certain Ambrose Middleton, of
Skirwith, Cumberland (as recorded in the Surtees Society "Publications,"
vol. xxxviii., {205}page 37, note), made a will in which he left "to the
amendinge of the highwaye _or tram_, from the weste ende of Bridgegait, in
Barnard Castle, 20s." There is no reason to doubt that the "highwaye or
tram" here referred to was a road across which logs of wood had been laid,
the name "tram" being applied thereto by reason of its aforesaid original
signification. It is, further, easy to understand how, when the pioneer
rail-ways were made entirely of wood, the word tram-way should, for that
reason, still be applied to them. Just, also, as "tram" had already passed
from a log of wood to a wooden sledge or to a wheelbarrow handle, so it was
given by pitmen in the north of England to the small waggon in which coal
was pushed or drawn along in the workings.

When "plates" were nailed on to the wooden rails of the early rail-ways the
use of the word tram-way may still have been regarded as appropriate; it
was retained for the plates or rails provided with a flange, and lines
constructed with flanged plates or rails were, in turn, called plate-ways,
tram-ways, or dram-ways to distinguish them from other ways or roads made
with rails having no flange.

In course of time the wooden rails which had been the original
justification for the use of the word or prefix "tram" disappeared, and
even the flanged rails were to be met with only on canal or colliery lines;
but "tramway"--now a complete misnomer--is the name still given in this
country to what in the United States are more accurately known as street

Of the vast number of people in the United Kingdom who daily use the word
tramway, or speak of "going by tram," few, probably, realise how they are
thus recalling the days alike of log-roads and of those rail-ways of wood
which were the pioneers of the iron roads of to-day.

The designation, also, of "platelayer" was originally applied to the men
employed to lay the "plates" of which I have spoken; but although workers
on the permanent way are now, surely, _rail_-layers rather than
_plate_-layers, they are still known by the original name.

The system of flanged plates, or rails, was widely adopted; but when, in
1785, it was proposed to build a 3-mile plate-way, or tram-way, of this
type between Loughborough and the Nanpantan collieries, the commissioners
of a turnpike {206}road it was necessary to cross objected, on the ground
that the raised flange would be dangerous to traffic passing along the
road. Following on these objections, William Jessop, the engineer of the
proposed line, decided, in 1788, to abandon flanged plates and flat wheels,
and to substitute for them flat rails and flanged wheels.[28] He proceeded
to cast some "edge-rails" which overcame the scruples of the road
commissioners, and the Loughborough and Nanpantan rail-way was opened in
1789, being the first having iron rails with a flat surface, on the "edge"
of which wheels with a flange on their inner side were run. The plate, or
tram, system of flanged rails still had many advocates, and for a time
there was much controversy as to the respective merits of the two systems;
but the principle introduced by Jessop was eventually adopted for railways
in general, and became one of the most important of the developments that
rendered possible the attainment of high speeds in rail transport. "The
substitution of the flanged wheel for the flanged plate was," said Mr.
James Brunlees, C.E., in his presidential address in the Mechanical Science
Section at the 1883 meeting of the British Association, "an organic change
which has been the forerunner of the great results accomplished in modern
travelling by railway."

For some thirty years after Jessop's improvement, the rails, of whichever
kind, were still made of cast-iron, wrought-iron rails, tried at
Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1805, not coming into general use until about 1820,
when John Birkenshaw, of the Bedlington iron-works, invented an efficient
and economical method of rolling iron bars suitable for use as railway
lines.[29] By 1785 iron rails, even though only cast-iron rails, had widely
taken the place of the wooden rails which had then been in use for over a
hundred years.

{207}The substitution, from about 1767, of iron rails--even though they
were only cast-iron rails--for wooden ones became the great event in the
development of railways at this period, and gave the newer lines their
distinguishing feature as compared with their predecessors. Each fresh line
made took the credit of being an "_iron_ rail-way"; and not only did that
designation remain in vogue in this country for several decades but it
fixed, also, the names of the railway systems in various Continental
countries, as shown by the term "Chemin de Fer" in France and Belgium,
"Eisenbahn" in Germany, Austria and Switzerland; "Strada ferrata" in Italy,
and "Ferrocarril" in Spain (the English equivalent in each instance being
"Iron Road"), and by the name of Holland Iron Railway Company ("Hollandsche
Yzeren Spoorvegs-maatschappy") by which one of the oldest of the railway
companies in Holland--where it was founded in 1837--is still known.[30]

One factor in the preference shown for iron rails over wooden ones was the
consideration of cost. Alluding to the wooden railways of Durham, in his
"General View" of the agriculture of that county, drawn up for the Board of
Agriculture in 1810, John Bailey, of Chillingham, says: "Of late years, on
account of the high price of wood, iron railways have been substituted."
With an increase in the price of timber, owing to the greater scarcity
thereof, as the available supplies in the southern counties became more
depleted, the time may well have come when, apart from other
considerations, it was found cheaper in the north to make cast-iron rails
than to import wooden ones. The need for importing so much timber was
further diminished, from about 1739, by the substitution, in many
instances, of blocks of stone for {208}the wooden sleepers previously used,
the iron being either spiked to wooden plugs inserted in holes made in the
stones or else fastened by wooden pins into cast-iron "pedestals," as John
Bailey calls them, fixed in the stones.

Wooden rails did not, however, entirely and immediately give way to iron
rails. On the contrary, the old system was so far maintained that,
according to "The Industrial Resources of the Tyne," wooden railways could
still be found on the collieries in that district as late as 1860.

Among the advantages derived from the substitution of iron rails for wooden
rails was the fact that a horse could draw, on the level, heavier loads
than before. On the other hand, the heavier the load the greater was the
danger in taking the waggons down hill-sides with only a wooden brake to
check their speed; and this danger was increased to an even greater degree
when the use of iron rails involved the abandonment of the wooden wheels
which had hitherto been retained at the back of the waggons in order that
the brake should act more effectively. Still further improvements thus
became necessary, and these first took the form of inclined planes on which
the law of gravity was employed, loaded waggons raising empty ones, or
having their own descent regulated, by means of a rope passing round a
wheel at the top of the incline. Later on stationary engines and chains
were substituted for the wheel and the rope, horses then being employed on
the level only.

Bailey says on this point: "Waggon ways have generally been so contrived
that the ascents were not greater than a single horse could draw a waggon
up them; but some cases have happened lately where it required more than
one horse, and steam engines have been substituted for horses for drawing
waggons up these ascents. At Urpeth waggon way five or six waggons are
drawn up at one ascent, by a steam engine placed at the top."

Here, then, we have another stage in the process of evolution that was
going on. The stationary engine at the top of an incline drawing up, or
regulating the descent of, heavier loads, on iron rails, was the first
employment on railways of that steam power which was afterwards to develop
into the locomotive capable to-day of taking heavy trains at a speed of a
mile a minute. In those early days, however, speed was {209}not regarded as
a matter of any importance. Colliery managers were quite satisfied with a
steady three miles an hour.

Although the general conditions of the pioneer railways were, apparently,
so primitive, some of the lines were more ambitious and more costly than
might, at first, be supposed. Among them were lines from five to ten miles
in extent which served the double purpose of (1) enabling collieries in,
for example, the Hinterland of the Tyne to benefit from the ever-expanding
trade in coal; and (2) providing them with the means of discharging direct
into the colliers below Newcastle bridge, thus saving the preliminary
transport in, and transshipment from, the coal barges on the river. In
these five- or ten-mile distances there were often considerable declivities
to overcome, in order that the ideal of a gradual descent should be
secured, and the cuttings, embankments, bridges and other works thus
carried out were often closely akin to much of the railway construction
with which we are familiar to-day. Thus Dr. Stukeley, in his "Itinerarium
Curiosum," says in describing the visit he paid to the Tanfield Collieries,
Durham, in 1725:--

"We saw Col. Lyddal's coal-works at Tanfield, where he carries the road
over valleys filled with earth, 100 foot high, 300 foot broad at bottom:
other valleys as large have a stone bridge laid across:[31] in other places
hills are cut through for half a mile together; and in this manner a road
is made, and frames of timber laid, for five miles to the river-side."

Arthur Young, also, who visited the Newcastle-on-Tyne district in 1768,
says in his "Six Months Tour through the North of England": "The coal
waggon roads from the pits to the water are great works carried over all
sorts of inequalities of ground so far as the distance of nine or ten

The staiths at the river end of the Tyne railways are described in the
"Commercial and Agricultural Magazine" as "solid buildings, two stories
high; into the upper story the {210}waggon-way enters, and a spout
projecting over the river shoots the coals into the keels, or a trap-door
drops the coals into the lower story, whence they must be shovelled into
the keels afterwards."

John Francis expresses the opinion, in his "History of the English Railway"
(1851), that probably by 1750 there was scarcely an important colliery that
had not its own railway. Such lines as these, however, were of a private
character, serving the interests only of the companies or the individuals
making them, without offering transport facilities to other traders in
return for tolls, and requiring no Act of Parliament so long as they
retained this character, did not require to cross public roads, and could
be constructed by agreement among the landowners concerned. The more
important development came when the canal companies themselves desired to
supplement their canals by railways which anyone paying the stipulated
tolls could use in connection with canal transport. Under these conditions
the companies had to seek for further powers from Parliament, and this they
began to do about the middle of the eighteenth century.

The Trent and Mersey Canal Act of 1776, for example, authorised the
construction of a "rail-way" from the canal to the Froghall quarries, a
distance of three and a half miles.[32] In 1802 the same company obtained
authority to construct three "railways" extending from their canal in
various directions. The preamble of the Act (42 Geo. III. c. 25) recited
that the lines would be of "great advantage to the extensive manufactories
of earthenware ... and of public utility," and the Act accordingly
sanctioned the lines "for the passage of waggons and carriages of forms and
constructions, and with burthens suitable to such railways, to be approved
by the company," at rates duly specified. These various railways, together
with the Trent and Mersey Canal itself, were, in 1846, taken over by the
North Staffordshire Railway Company, whose general manager, Mr W. D.
Phillipps, informs me that portions of two of them are still in daily use.
They are laid with cast-iron tram plates, with flanges to keep the wheels
in place, and ordinary waggons {211}and carts use them to get from the
canal basin to the high road, a few hundred yards away, the same rate of
toll being charged as on the canal. Mr Phillipps further says: "Our
Froghall tramway rises 400 feet from the level of the canal to the quarry,
passing by means of a tunnel through an intermediate hill, and it is worked
entirely by gravitation, there being four inclined planes of various
lengths and inclinations. The gauge is 3 feet 6 inches. It is practically
the same as when laid down over 100 years ago. We convey over it nearly
500,000 tons of limestone annually, and I find it a cheap and expeditious
mode of conveyance."

I would call special attention to these details because it was, no doubt,
the fact that ordinary road carts, with flat-edged wheels, could be taken
along the flanged plates of the early railways, and were so taken under
authority of the Acts of Parliament here in question, that originally
established the idea both of a common user of the railways by traders
employing their own vehicles upon them and of competition being thus
ensured between different carriers. The pioneer public railways, provided
as accessories to canal transport, were, indeed, looked upon as simply a
variation, in principle, of the ordinary turnpike road. They were roads
furnished with rails, and available for use, on payment of the authorised
tolls, by anyone whose cart-wheels were the right distance apart.

The position in this respect was entirely changed when the system of
railway operation came to be definitely fixed on the principle of
edge-rails and flanged wheels, with locomotives in place of horses; yet the
legislation immediately following the spread of railways on this vastly
different basis was still determined, as regarded their use by the public,
by the precedent originally established under the conditions here narrated.

While thus operated on the toll principle of a turnpike road--the pioneer
"railway stations" being themselves simply the equivalent of
toll-houses--the early railways were all associated with canal or river
transport. Robert Fulton says in his "Treatise on the Improvement of Canal
Navigation" (1796) that "Rail-roads have hitherto been considered as a
medium between lock-canals and cartage, in consequence of the expence of
extending the canal to the {212}particular works in its neighbourhood";
and, in the course of a detailed argument in favour of small boats, of from
two to five tons burden, in preference to the unduly large ones--as he
considered them--then in vogue, he adds: "Rail-ways of one mile or
thereabouts will, no doubt, be frequently necessary, where it may be
difficult to find water at the extremity, or when the trade from the works
is not sufficient to pay the expence of machinery,[33] and, its extent
being one mile, can be of little importance to the country."

That Parliament itself, at this time, looked upon railways only as
accessories to canals is shown by a reference to the "House of Commons
Journals," where, under date June 19, 1799, it is reported that a Committee
appointed, on the 10th of the same month, "to consider the expediency of
requiring notices to be given of an intended application to Parliament for
leave to bring in a Bill for the making of Ways or Roads usually called
Railways or Dram Roads, or for the renewal or alteration of an Act passed
for that purpose," had adopted the following resolution: "That it is the
opinion of this Committee, That the Standing Orders of the House of the 7th
of May, 1794, relating to Bills for making Navigable Canals, Aqueducts and
the Navigation of Rivers, or for altering any Act of Parliament for any or
either of those purposes, be extended to Bills for making any Ways or
Roads, commonly called Railways or Dram Roads, except so much of the said
Standing Orders as requires," etc. The resolution was agreed to by the
House on the 25th of the same month.

Towards the close of the century it became customary for canal companies
applying to Parliament for powers, or extensions of existing powers, to
seek for authority to make railways, waggon ways or stone roads in
connection with their canals; and these they were generally authorised to
lay down to any existing or future mines, quarries, furnaces, forges or
other works within a distance of, at first four, subsequently eight, miles
of such canal. They were, also, authorised to construct any bridges
necessary for giving access to the canal. If, after being asked to make a
railway, waggon road or bridge, under these conditions, the canal company
refused so to do, the person or persons concerned {213}could carry out the
work at his or their own cost and charges, without the consent of the owner
of the lands, rivers, brooks or water-courses it might be necessary to
cross, though subject to the payment to them of compensation under
conditions analogous to those in force in regard to the construction of
canals. One Act of this type, the Aberdare Canal Act, 1793, goes on to say:
"Every such rail way or waggon road and bridge ... shall ... be publick and
open to all persons for the conveyance of any minerals, goods, wares,
merchandizes and things, in waggons and other carriages," of a specified
construction, "and for the passage of horses, cows and other meat cattle,
on payment to the person or persons at whose charge and expense such rail
way or waggon road shall have been made or erected" of the same rates as
would be payable to the canal company under like conditions.

It was in South Wales, even more than on the Tyne, that the early railways
eventually underwent their greatest development. In "Illustrations of the
Origin and Progress of Rail and Tram Roads and Steam Carriages or
Loco-motive Engines" (1824), by T. G. Cumming, Surveyor, Denbigh, we

"As late as the year 1790 there was scarcely a single rail-way in all South
Wales, whilst in the year 1812 the rail-ways, in a finished state,
connected with canals, collieries, iron and copper works, &c., in the
counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan and Carmarthen alone extended to upwards of
one hundred and fifty miles in length, exclusive of a very considerable
extent within the mines themselves, of which one company at Merthyr Tydvil
possessed upwards of thirty miles underground connected with the stupendous
iron works at that place; and so rapid has been the increase of rail-ways
in South Wales of late years that at the present period they exceed four
hundred miles, exclusive of about one hundred miles underground."

The whole of these lines were on the tram-plate, or flanged-rail,
principle, while solid blocks of stone were, in Wales, generally
substituted for wooden sleepers. Cumming further says:--

"In the extensive mining districts south of the Severn, including South
Wales, the rail and tram roads are very numerous, and here, perhaps, more
than in any part of the {214}United Kingdom, owing to the steepness, great
irregularity and impracticable nature of the ground, they have been of the
most essential utility in supplying the place of canals....

"There are numerous tram roads connected with the canal between Cardiff and
Merthyr Tydvil, in Glamorganshire. The extent of rail road about Merthyr
Tydvil alone is very considerable; besides which, in the same neighbourhood
are the Hirwaen, Aberdare, and Abernant tram roads, and a great variety of
others communicating with the vast works on the hills in the vicinity."

One of the South Wales tramroad schemes--though not specifically mentioned
by Cumming--is of exceptional interest inasmuch as it represented,
probably, the first attempt ever made to introduce a railway as a direct
rival of and competitor with a canal, instead of being simply a feeder
thereof. The attempt was a failure, but it nevertheless constitutes a
landmark in early railway history.

The story begins with the granting, in 1790, of an Act for the cutting of a
canal between Merthyr and Cardiff by the Company of Proprietors of the
Glamorganshire Canal Navigation, improved means of transport being then
much needed in the interests of the iron-works and other industrial
undertakings in the district. The Act of 1790 authorised the company to
spend £90,000 on the canal; but this amount was found to be inadequate, and
in 1796 a second Act sanctioned the raising of a further £10,000, and,
also, the cutting of a short extension at the Cardiff end.

The opening of the canal for traffic is thus recorded by J. Phillips in the
fourth edition (1803) of his "General History of Inland Navigation":--

"Feb. 1794. The canal from Cardiff to Merthir-Tidvil is completed, and a
fleet of canal boats have arrived at Cardiff laden with the produce of the
iron works there, to the great joy of the whole town. The rude tracks,
through which the canal passes in some places are constantly improving,
from the happy and healthful toil of the husbandman, and in a few years
will be forgotten in a garden of verdure and fertility. This canal is 25
miles long; it passes along the sides of stupendous mountains. Nothing
appears more extraordinary than, from a boat navigating this canal, to look
down on the river Taaf, dashing among the rocks 100 yards {215}below. The
fall from Merthir-Tidvil to Cardiff is nearly 600 feet."

In a later reference, dated 1802, Phillips says that the completion of the
Glamorganshire Canal "has opened a ready conveyance to the vast manufacture
of iron established in the mountains of that country, and many thousands of
tons are now annually shipped from thence."

The canal, however, failed to meet all requirements, a scheme for a
railway, or dram-road, between Cardiff and Merthyr being projected in the
same year that the waterway was first opened.

In "Rees' Cyclopædia" (1819) it is stated: "The rail-ways hitherto
constructed were private property, or for the accommodation of particular
mines or works, and it was not, we believe, until about the year 1794 that
Mr Samuel Homfray and others obtained an act of Parliament for constructing
an iron dram-road, tram-road or rail-way between Cardiff and Merthyr
Tidvill in South Wales, that should be free for any persons to use, with
drams or trams of the specified construction on paying certain tonnage or
rates per mile to the proprietors." Tredgold, in his "Practical Treatise on
Rail-roads" (1825), makes a similar statement as regards the granting of an
Act in 1794, saying that "in consequence of the upper part of the Cardiff
or Glamorganshire canal being frequently in want of water, the Cardiff and
Merthyr rail-way or tram-road was formed parallel to it, for a distance of
about nine miles, chiefly for the iron works of Plymouth, Pendarran and
Dowlais," with a continuation, however, making a total distance of about
26¾ miles. The tramway, he further says, "appears to have been constructed
under the first Act ever obtained for this species of road."

These statements have been accepted and repeated by various writers; but a
search of the "House of Commons Journals" for 1794 fails to show that any
such Act was passed. The scheme in question seems to have been projected,
in 1794, by certain ironmasters, who found that their own traffic on the
canal was being prejudiced by a preference given to the traffic of their
rivals; but the project for a tramway or railway from Merthyr to Cardiff
was abandoned--for a time--in favour of one from Merthyr to a place then
called Navigation, and now known as Abercynon, {216}where the canal would
be joined, and traffic could be transhipped.

The tramway in question is thus referred to in "The Scenery, Antiquities
and Biography of South Wales, from Material Collected during two Excursions
in the year 1803," by B. H. Malkin (second edition, 1807):--

"At the Aqueduct, where the Canal is carried over the River, an iron
rail-road for the present ends; and from the Wharf at this place
[Navigation] the Canal is the only conveyance for heavy goods to Cardiff;
the length of it--as far as it has already been completed--is 10 miles, but
it was designed to have extended from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff, and it is
said that one horse would have been able to draw 40 tons of iron the whole
distance of 26 miles in one day; I understand, however, that it is not
likely to be finished, and, indeed, it is much more necessary where it is
now made from the occasional want of water lower down where the confluence
of many and copious streams affords a more certain supply to the Canal."

The line had evidently been constructed, not under any special Act, but by
the authority of powers already granted by clause 57 of the Glamorganshire
Canal Company's own Act, which, framed on the general lines already
mentioned, conferred upon all persons owning, renting, leasing, or
occupying property containing any mines of coal, iron-stone, limestone or
other minerals, or the proprietors of any furnaces or other works lying
within the distance of four miles from some part of the canal the right to
make any railways or roads over the lands or grounds of any person or
persons, or to make any bridges over any river, brook or watercourse, for
the purpose of conveying the coal, iron, etc., to the said canal.

It will be noticed that this clause appears to limit to four miles the
length of any tramway constructed in virtue of its provisions, whereas the
length of the line actually made was, in effect, nine miles from Merthyr
and ten from Dowlais. It is understood, however, that the constructors of
the tramway successfully contended that, so long as their mines or works
were within four miles of the canal, they were at liberty to lay down the
tramway to such point on the canal as they thought proper to select, and
they chose Navigation because it suited them best.

{217}There is reason to believe, although actual proof is lacking, that the
original design of continuing this tramway to Cardiff was not carried out
because of the opposition of the canal company. Certain it is that the
project for such a tramway was revived in 1799. Under date February 18, in
that year, the "House of Commons Journals" record that William Lewis
(Alderley), William Taitt, Thomas Guest, Joseph Cowles, and John Guest,
being a firm of ironmasters in the parish of Merthyr Tydvil, known as the
Dowlais Iron Company; Jeremiah Homfray, Samuel Homfray, Thomas Homfray and
William Forman, ironmasters, of Merthyr Tydvil, known by the name of
Jeremiah Homfray and Co.; Richard Hill and William Lewis (Pentyrch Works)
petitioned the House for leave to bring in a Bill for the construction of a
"dram road" from or near Carno Mill, in the parish of Bedwelty and the
county of Monmouth to Cardiff, with branches to Merthyr and Aberdare.[34]

The petitioners declared that such dram-road would "open an easy
Communication with several considerable Ironworks, Collieries, Limestone
Quarries and extensive Tracks of Land, abounding with Coal, Limestone and
other Minerals, whereby the Carriage and Conveyance of Iron, Coal, Lime,
Timber and all kinds of Merchandize to or from the different Places
bordering on the said intended Road will be greatly facilitated and
rendered less expensive than at present, and will tend greatly to improve
the Lands and Estates near the said Road, and the said Undertaking will, in
other Respects, be of great Public Utility."

The petition was referred to a Committee, who reported favourably on March
8, and the Bill was presented and read a {218}first time on March 15. Then,
however, came the opposition from the canal company. On April 8, as the
"Journals" further record, the Commons received a petition from the Company
of Proprietors of the Glamorganshire Canal Navigation setting forth that
they had been authorised under two Acts to make and maintain a navigable
canal from Merthyr to Cardiff; that they had expended on this undertaking a
sum of £100,000; that they had seen the Bill above-mentioned, and, they

"That the Dram Road or Way, proposed to be made by the said Bill, will pass
from one End thereof to the other, nearly parallel, and in almost every
Part near to the said Canal; and in some places will cross the same; and
that the Petitioners were induced to undertake the making of the said
Canal, in hopes of being repaid the Expence thereof, with proper
remuneration for the Risk of the said Undertaking, by the Carriage of Coal,
Lime, Iron, Timber, and other goods and Merchandizes thereon, but if the
said Dram Road or Way should be made as proposed they would be deprived of
a great Part of those Advantages which they apprehend they have had granted
and secured to them, and are therefore now fully entitled to, by the said
Two Acts, without the Country adjacent or the Public in General, receiving
any particular Benefit or Advantage."

The company further pleaded that under their Acts they were "restrained
from ever receiving more than a moderate Dividend on their Shares, and
whenever the Profits of the Canal shall be more than sufficient to pay the
same, their Rates of Tonnage are to be lowered;[35] and for that reason, as
well as many others, of equal Justice, they conceive they should be secured
in the possession of all the advantages proposed to be granted to them by
the said Acts."

The House ordered that the petition do lie upon the table until the said
Bill be read a second time, and that counsel be then heard on both sides.
On May 3 a day was appointed for the second reading, and on May 4 the House
received a further petition from landowners, tradesmen and others in
support of the Bill. The "Journals," however, contain no record of the
second reading having been reached, and their {219}only further reference
at all to the Bill is in the "General Index" to the volumes for 1790-1801,
where, under the heading "Navigations: Petitions to make Dram Roads to
Canals, &c.," it is said of the Bill in question "Not proceeded in."

There is no reason to doubt that this first scheme for the construction of
a railway--even though under the name of a "dram road"--which would have
been not only independent of canal transport but in direct competition
therewith, was killed through the opposition of the then powerful canal
interests. The tradition in Cardiff is that the Glamorganshire Canal
Company "got hold" of the leading promoters, and persuaded them to abandon
their scheme by electing them members of the managing committee of the
canal. Whether or not some additional inducement was offered to them is not
known. In any case, there was no further attempt to set up a railway in
direct and avowed competition with a canal until the great fight over the
Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill, a quarter of a century later.

The significance of all these facts will be found still greater in the
light of what I shall have to say subsequently in regard to the influence
of canal interests and canal precedents alike on railway development and on
railway legislation.

In some instances the railways belonging to the period here under review
were constructed by the canal companies not merely as feeders to the canals
but as substitutes for lengths of canal where the making of an artificial
waterway presented special difficulties. The Lancashire Canal Company,
incorporated in 1792, laid a line of railway for five miles, passing
through the town of Preston, to connect two sections of canal. The Ashby
Canal Company, under an Act of 1794, avoided a considerable expense in the
construction of locks by supplementing thirty miles of canal on the level
with intermediate lengths of railway to the extent of another twenty miles.
Writing in 1884, Clement E. Stretton says, in his "Notes on Early Railway
History," concerning these old tram-roads of the Ashby Canal Company: "One
part has since been altered and absorbed into the Ashby and Worthington
Railway;[36] but the branch from Ticknall {220}tramway wharf to Tucknall
has never been relaid or altered in any way, and, therefore, is a most
interesting relic of ancient times. To see waggons with flat wheels drawn
over cast-iron rails one yard long by a horse, cannot fail to interest
those who watch the workings of railways, and it most clearly shows the
great improvements made and the perseverance which has been required to
develop the present gigantic railway system out of such small beginnings."

The Charnwood Forest Canal, again, concerning which I shall have more to
say later, was a connecting link between two lines of edge-railway, the
purpose of the combined land and water route being to enable Leicestershire
coal to reach the Leicester market.

It will thus be seen that, whilst the coalowners introduced railways in the
first instance, it was the canal companies themselves who, in the days
before locomotives, mainly developed and established the utility of a new
mode of traction which was eventually to supersede to so material an extent
the inland navigation they favoured. It was open to those companies to
adapt their undertakings much more completely to the new conditions, if
they had had sufficient foresight and enterprise so to do.

The signs of the times were obvious enough to those who were able and
willing to read them, and there were many indications that canals would
assuredly be not only supplemented, but supplanted, by railways. An
impartial authority like Thomas Telford, in adding a postscript to an
article on "Canals" which he had contributed to Archdeacon Plymley's
"General View of the Agriculture of Shropshire," wrote under date November
13, 1800:--

"Since the year 1797, when the above account of the inland navigation of
the county of Salop was made out, another mode of conveyance has frequently
been adopted in this country to a considerable extent; I mean that of
forming roads with iron rails laid along them, upon which the articles are
conveyed on waggons, containing from six to thirty cwt.; experience has now
convinced us that in countries whose surfaces are rugged, or where it is
difficult to obtain water for lockage, where the weight of the articles of
produce is great in comparison with their bulk, and where they are mostly
to be conveyed from a higher to a lower {221}level,--that in those cases,
iron rail-ways are in general preferable to a canal navigation.

"On a rail-way well constructed, and laid with a declivity of 55 feet in a
mile, one horse will readily take down waggons containing from 12 to 15
tons, and bring back the same waggons with four tons in them....

"This useful contrivance may be varied so as to suit the surface of many
different countries at a comparatively moderate expense. It may be
constructed in a manner much more expeditious than navigable canals; it may
be introduced into many districts where canals are wholly inapplicable; and
in case of any change in the working of the mines or manufactures, the
rails may be taken up and put down again, in a new situation, at a moderate

Thomas Gray, writing in 1821, warned investors in canal shares that the
time was "fast approaching when rail-ways must, from their manifest
superiority in every respect, supersede the necessity both of canals and
turnpike roads, so far as the general commerce of the country was
concerned." He further expressed the conviction that "were canal
proprietors sensible how much their respective shares would be improved in
value by converting all the canals into rail-ways, there would not,
perhaps, in the space of ten or twenty years remain a single canal in the

Blinded by their prosperity, however, the canal companies failed to adopt
the necessary measures for ensuring its continuance, though the Duke of
Bridgewater himself saw sufficient of the new rival to get an uneasy
suspicion of what might happen. "We may do very well," he is reported to
have said to Lord Kenyon, when asked about the prospects of his canals, "if
we can keep clear of those ---- tram-roads." Unfortunately for the canal
interests, though fortunately for the country, the qualified tram-roads
were not to be kept clear of, but, with the encouragement they got from
those they afterwards impoverished, were to bring the Canal Era to a close,
and to inaugurate the Railway Era in its place.



Between 1801 and 1825 no fewer than twenty-nine "iron railways" were either
opened or begun in various parts of Great Britain. The full list is given
by John Francis in his "History of the English Railway." It shows, as
Francis points out, that from Plymouth to Glasgow, and from Carnarvon to
Surrey, "there was scarcely a county where some form of the railway was not
used." Most of these new railways were, however, still operated in
conjunction with collieries or ironworks and canals or rivers, as the
following typical examples show:--

1802: Sirhowey Tramroad, built by the Monmouthshire Canal Company in
conjunction with the Tredegar Iron-works; length, eleven miles; cost

1809: Forest of Dean Railway, for conveying coals, timber, ore, etc., to
the Severn for shipment; length, seven and a half miles; cost £125,000.

1809: Severn and Wye Railway, connecting those rivers; length, 26 miles;
cost £110,000.

1812: Penrhynmaur Railway, Anglesey; a colliery line, seven miles long,
consisting of a series of inclined planes.

1815: Gloucester and Cheltenham Railway, connecting with the Berkeley Canal
at Gloucester.

1817: Mansfield and Pinxton Railway, connecting the town of Mansfield,
Nottinghamshire, with the Cromford Canal at Pinxton basin, near Alfreton,
Derbyshire; cost £32,800.

1819: Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway; length 30 miles; cost £35,000.

1825: Cromford and High Peak Railway, connecting the Cromford and Peak
Forest Canals, and rising, by a series of elevations, 990 feet; length 34
miles; cost £164,000.

The first Act for a really _public_ railway, in the sense in which that
term is understood to-day, and as distinct from {223}railways serving
mainly or exclusively the interests of collieries, iron-works and canal
navigations, was granted by Parliament in 1801 for the Surrey Iron
Rail-way, which established a rail connection between the Thames at
Wandsworth and the town of Croydon, with a branch to some mills on the
river Wandle whose owners were the leaders in the enterprise. The total
length was about nine and a half miles. According to the Act, the line was
designed for "the advantage of carrying coals, corn and all goods and
merchandise to and from the Metropolis." Constructed with flanged rails, or
"plates," fixed on stone blocks, the line was available for any ordinary
cart or waggon of the requisite gauge. The conveyances mostly used on it
were four-wheeled trucks, about the size of railway contractors' waggons.
They belonged either to local traders or to carriers who let them out on
hire, it being doubtful whether the company had any rolling stock of their
own. The motive power was supplied by horses, mules or donkeys. Chalk,
flint, fire-stone, fuller's earth and agricultural produce were sent from
Croydon--then a town of 5700 inhabitants--to the Thames for conveyance to
London. The return loading from the Thames was mainly coal and manure. Two
sets of rails were provided, and there was a path on each side for the men
in charge of the horses.

Referring to the Surrey Iron Rail-way in his "History of Private Bill
Legislation," Clifford says:--

"The Act of 1801, upon which the rest of this early railway legislation was
framed, follows the canal precedents in their provision for managing the
company's affairs, for raising share and loan capital, and for compensating
landowners. Only the use of horse power was contemplated. The tracks, when
laid down, were meant, like canals, for general use by carriers and
freighters. The companies did not provide rolling stock; any person might
construct carriages adapted to run upon the rails, and if these carriages
were approved certain maximum tolls applied to the freight they might
carry.... Passenger traffic was not expected or provided for.... Such was
the first Railway Act, passed at the beginning of the century with little
notice by Parliament or people, but now a social landmark, prominent in
that stormy period of history."

{224}This was, however, in point of fact, only a further development of the
still earlier railway legislation (see page 210), which required the
proprietors of lines laid down for general traffic to allow anyone who
pleased to run his own vehicles thereon, subject to certain regulations and
to the payment of specified tolls.

The Surrey Iron Rail-way was also a landmark in railway history because,
although in itself of very small extent, it was originally designed to
serve as the first section of a railway which, made by different companies,
as capital could be raised, would eventually have extended from the Thames
to Portsmouth.[37] The second section was the Croydon, Merstham and
Godstone Iron Railway, which Parliament sanctioned in 1803. From Croydon
this further railway was to carry the lines on to Reigate, with a branch
from Merstham to Godstone Green, a total distance of sixteen miles in
addition, that is, to the nine and a half miles of the Surrey Iron
Rail-way. Both companies, however, drifted into financial difficulties, and
had to apply to Parliament again, in 1806, for fresh powers, while the
lines of the second company never got beyond the chalk quarries at

In the absence of the through traffic it had been hoped eventually to
secure, the local business alone available was evidently inadequate to meet
the charges on a capital outlay which, at that time, may have been regarded
as not inconsiderable, inasmuch as the Surrey Iron Rail-way attained to a
good elevation at its southern end, while the Croydon, Merstham and
Godstone line went through a cutting thirty feet deep, and crossed a valley
by an embankment twenty feet high. After a chequered career, the Merstham
line was acquired by the Brighton Railway Company in 1838 and closed, being
then no longer required. The Surrey line lingered on till 1846, when, with
the sanction of Parliament, its operation was discontinued, the rails being
taken up and sold by auction.

{225}It was unfortunate that these two pioneer public railways were a
failure because, had they succeeded, and had they really formed the first
sections of a through line of communication between the Thames and
Portsmouth, there would have been established a further precedent--and one
of much greater value than that of a common user--the precedent, namely, of
a trunk line made by companies co-operating with one another to give
continuous communication on a well-organised system, in place of
collections of disconnected lines designed, at the outset, to serve the
interests only of particular localities, with little or no attempt at

Yet the principle of a general public railway had, at least, been
established by the Surrey and Merstham lines, and this principle underwent
further important development by the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the
first Act for which was obtained in 1821.

The only purpose originally intended to be served by the Stockton and
Darlington Railway was the finding of a better outlet for coal from the
South Durham coalfield. A company, with Edward Pease as the moving spirit,
was formed in 1816, but two years later the projectors were still undecided
whether to make a canal or "a rail or tramway." George Overton, who
preceded George Stephenson as a distinguished railway engineer, wrote to
them, however, advising the latter course. "Railways," he said, "are now
generally adopted, and the cutting of canals nearly discontinued"; and he
told them, further, that within the last fifteen years the great
improvements made in the construction of tram-roads had led to the
application of the principle to a number of new roads. His advice was
adopted, and the first Act, obtained after several unsuccessful efforts,
authorised the making and maintaining of "a railway or tramroad" from the
river Tees, at Stockton, to Witton Park Colliery, with various branches
therefrom. The line would, the Act said, be "of great public utility by
facilitating the conveyance of coal, iron, lime, corn and other commodities
from the interior of the county of Durham to the town of Darlington and the
town and port of Stockton," etc.

It was first intended to use wooden rails, and to rely on horse-power, no
authority for the employment of locomotives being obtained under the Act of
1821; but George {226}Stephenson, on being appointed engineer to the line,
persuaded the company to adopt iron rails in preference to wooden ones, and
to provide a locomotive such as he had already constructed and successfully
employed at Killingworth Colliery. Two-thirds of the rails laid were of
malleable iron and one-third of cast iron. It was not, however, until
September, 1824, that the order was actually given for a locomotive, some
of the promoters having still shown a strong preference for the use of
stationary engines and ropes.

The line was opened for traffic on September 27, 1825, and the locomotive
which had been ordered--the "Locomotion" as it was called--was ready for
the occasion. It weighed seven tons, and had perpendicular cylinders and a
boiler provided with only a single flue, or tube, 10 inches in diameter and
10 feet in length, the heat being abstracted therefrom so imperfectly that
when the locomotive was working the chimney soon became red-hot.[38] The
usual speed was from four to six miles an hour, with a highest possible of
eight miles an hour on the level.

The company made provision for the anticipated goods traffic by having 150
waggons built; but they started with no idea of themselves undertaking
passenger traffic. Their first Act had laid down that "Any person is at
liberty to use and run a carriage on the railway, provided he complies with
the bye-laws of the company"; and J. S. Jeans, in his history of the
Stockton and Darlington Railway published (1875) under the title of
"Jubilee Memorial of the Railway System," says: "It was originally intended
to allow the proprietors of stage-coaches or other conveyances plying on
the route of the proposed new railway to make use of the line on certain
specified conditions." This, too, is what actually happened; for although,
a fortnight after the opening of the line, the railway company themselves
put on the line a springless "coach," known as the "Experiment," and drawn
by a horse, several coach proprietors in the district availed themselves of
their statutory right to run their own coaches on the railway, first, of
course, providing them with wheels adapted to the rails. They paid the
railway company {227}the stipulated tolls, and had the advantage of
requiring to use no more than a single horse for each coach. These horse
coaches for passengers seem to have run in the intervals when the lines
were not occupied by the locomotive engaged in drawing the coal waggons.

In a letter published in the "Railway Herald" of April 27, 1889, John
Wesley Hackworth, whose father, Timothy Hackworth, was for some time
engineer on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, says that twenty miles of
the line were at first worked by horses and locomotive in competition, and
at the end of eighteen months it was found that horse traction was costing
only a little over one-third of the traction by locomotive. Meanwhile,
also, the value of the £100 shares had fallen to £50. In view of these
results the directors had decided to abandon locomotive power, and depend
entirely on horses; but Timothy Hackworth said to them, "If you will allow
me to construct an engine in my own way I will engage it shall work cheaper
than animal power." He received the desired authority, and the "Royal
George," built by him, was put into operation in September, 1827. It
confirmed the assurance which had been given, and, says Timothy Hackworth's
son, "finally and for ever" settled the question of the respective merits
of horse and steam traction on railways.

Horse coaches still continued to run on the lines, however, in addition to
the mineral and goods trains, and in January, 1830, the company had to draw
up a time-table fixing the hours of departure for the coaches, thus
ensuring a better service for the public, and, also, protecting travellers
against any possible encounter with the locomotive as the horse ambled
along with them on the railway.

By October, 1832, seven coaches, belonging to various proprietors, were
doing fifty journeys a week between different places on the line; so that
thus far the original idea of Parliament, in enforcing against railways the
principle of a common user of their lines by the public, had appeared to be
warranted. A year later, however, the railway company, finding, as Jeans
tells us, that it would be more convenient and more advantageous for them
to take the whole carrying trade in their own hands and supersede the
horses by steam locomotives, bought out, on what were considered generous
terms, {228}the interests of the four coach proprietors then carrying
passengers on their own account on the lines.

Actual experience had thus nullified the expectation that a railway would
be simply a rail-road upon which anyone would be able to run his own
conveyances as on an ordinary turnpike road.

From October, 1833, the whole of the passenger traffic (then undergoing
rapid expansion) was conducted by the company. In April, 1834, the
directors, who had by this time acquired some other and better engines,
announced that they had commenced to run, six times a day, both "coaches"
(for passengers) and "carriages" (for goods) by locomotives; and this date,
probably, marks the final disappearance of the horse as a means of traction
for passenger traffic on public railways in England, though the word
"coaches," introduced into the railway vocabulary under the circumstances
here narrated, has remained in use ever since among railway men as applied
to rolling stock for passenger traffic.

Unlike its predecessors in Surrey, and though facing various difficulties
at the outset, the Stockton and Darlington line attained to a considerable
degree of prosperity. After undergoing various extensions from time to
time, and playing a leading part in the industrial expansion of the
district it served, it was incorporated into what is now the North-Eastern
Railway system.

Summing up the respects in which the Stockton and Darlington line had
carried forward the story of railway development, we find that it (1)
established the practicability of substituting locomotive for horse
traction on railways; (2) introduced the provision of waggons by the
railway company, instead of leaving these to be found by carriers and
traders; (3) proved that railways were as well adapted to the transport of
passengers as they were to the carriage of goods; (4) showed by actual
experience that the idea of a common user of railways was impracticable;
and (5) prepared the way for the eventual recognition, even by Parliament
itself, of the principle that transport on a line of railway operated by
locomotives must, in the nature of things, be the monopoly of the owning
and responsible railway company.

While the Surrey Iron Rail-way and the Stockton and {229}Darlington Railway
had been thus seeking to establish themselves as public railways, there was
no lack of advocates of what were then called "general rail-ways," to be
laid either on the ordinary roads or on roads made for the purpose; and
such general railways were especially advocated for districts where canals
could not be made available.

Dr James Anderson, writing on "Cast Iron Rail-ways" in the issue of his
"Recreations in Agriculture, Natural History," etc., for November, 1800,
had already strongly recommended them as "an eligible mode of conveyance
where canals cannot be conveniently adopted"; and he especially advised the
construction of one railway in London, from the new docks on the Isle of
Dogs to Bishopsgate Street, and another between London and Bath, "for the
purpose of conveying unsightly loads, leaving the roads, as at present,
open for coaches and light carriages." Such railways, he argued, would
render great service in relieving the ordinary road of heavy traffic, and
help to solve the road problem of that day--all the more acute because
McAdam had not yet shown the country how roads could and should be made or

On February 11, 1800, Mr Thomas, of Denton, read a paper before the
Newcastle Literary Society recommending the introduction of railways, on
the colliery principle, for the general carriage of goods; and R. L.
Edgeworth urged, in "Nicholson's Journal," in 1802, that for a distance of
ten miles or more one of the great roads out of London should be provided
with four tracks of railway operated by stationary engines and circulating
chains for fast and slow traffic in each direction.

But the most strenuous advocate of all was Thomas Gray. Both before and
subsequent to the publication, in 1820, of the first edition of his
"Observations on a General Rail-way," he had been pressing his views, in
the form of petitions, letters or articles, on members of the Government,
peers of the realm, M.P.'s, corporations, capitalists, reviews and
newspapers. His idea was that there should be six trunk lines of railway
radiating from London, with branch lines linking up towns and villages off
these main routes; but he was looked upon as a visionary, if not as a crank
and a bore whose impracticable proposals were not deserving of serious
{230}consideration. It was evidently Thomas Gray whom the "Quarterly
Review" had in mind when it said, in March, 1825: "As to those persons who
speculate on making railways general throughout the Kingdom, and
superseding all the canals, all the waggons, mail and stage-coaches,
post-chaises, and, in short, every other mode of conveyance by land and
water, we deem them and their visionary schemes unworthy of notice."

In the result Gray was left to spend the last years of his life in
obscurity and poverty, and the further development of the railway system of
the country was proceeded with on lines altogether different from, and far
less efficient, than those he had recommended.

The greatest impetus to the movement was now to come, not from any
individual pioneer, but from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; and this
line, in turn, was due far more to purely local conditions and
circumstances than to any idea of encouraging the creation of a network of
railways on some approach, however remote, to a national or "general"
system. The original cause of the Liverpool and Manchester line being
undertaken was, in fact, nothing less than extreme dissatisfaction among
the traders both of Liverpool and of Manchester with the then existing
transport arrangements between these two places.

Just as the Duke of Bridgewater had drawn his strongest arguments in favour
of a canal from the shortcomings of the Irwell and Mersey navigation, so
now did the traders base their case for a railway mainly on the
deficiencies and shortcomings alike of the river navigation and of the
canal by which the rivers had been supplemented.

There were, in the first place, physical difficulties. By whichever of the
two water routes goods were sent from Liverpool to Manchester, the barges
had first to go about eighteen miles along the Mersey to Runcorn, being
thus exposed for that distance to the possibly adverse winds and strong
tides of an open estuary. The boats often got aground, and many wrecks
occurred during stormy weather. On the canal itself the boats could often
go with only half loads in the summer, and they were liable to be stopped
by frost in winter, while the canal was closed altogether for ten days
every year for repairs.

{231}Supplementing these physical disadvantages of the navigation was the
attitude of the waterway interests towards the traders whom they held at
their mercy. Theoretically there was competition between the rivers and the
canal; but the agents of both extorted from the traders the highest
possible charges for a most inefficient service.

Joseph Sandars, who was to take a leading part in the movement for a
railway between Liverpool and Manchester, has some strong things to say
about the "exorbitant and unjust charges of the water carriers" in a
"Letter" on the subject of the proposed railway which he published in 1824.
He alleged that, whereas the Duke of Bridgewater had been authorised by his
Acts to charge not more than two shillings and sixpence per ton for canal
dues, his agents had, by various devices, which Sandars details, exacted
five shillings and twopence per ton. The trustees had, also, obtained
possession of all the warehouses alongside the canal at Manchester, and
they were thus able to exact whatever terms they pleased from the
bye-carriers and traders. If the canal trustees carried the goods in their
own vessels they were entitled to charge six shillings per ton; and their
aim seems to have been to render it impossible for the independent carriers
to do their business at a lower rate than this. When the carriers, using
boats of their own, would not pay the same rate as if the trustees had
themselves done the carrying, they were not allowed to land the goods.

Then, by acquiring all the warehouses and all the available land at Preston
Brook and Runcorn, the trustees had likewise got control over navigation on
the Trent and Mersey Canal, which joins the Bridgewater Canal at Preston
Brook. Sandars speaks of Mr Bradshaw, to whom the Duke of Bridgewater had,
by his will, given absolute control of his undertakings, as a dictator of
canal transport. "No man," he says, in giving examples of the wide extent
of the interests that Bradshaw controlled or sought to influence, "can
bring a Bill forward for a canal in any part of the Kingdom but Mr Bradshaw
interferes as a sort of canal Neptune, directing where, how, and at what
price it shall run. He has tortured the trade of the country to become
tributory to him in all directions. Every man, every corporate body, seems
spellbound the moment Mr Bradshaw interposes his authority." {232}As for
the profits of the undertaking, Sandars says: "There is good reason to
believe that the nett income of the Duke's canal has, for the last twenty
years, averaged nearly £100,000 per annum."

The Old Quay Company had refrained from exceeding the amounts they were
authorised to charge for tolls on the Irwell and the Mersey; but there was
no restriction on them in regard to traffic they themselves carried, and
Sandars alleges that they, also, had secured all the warehouse
accommodation on their own line of route, and had almost monopolised the
carrying trade, since a bye-carrier's business could hardly be conducted
without warehouses. They were thus making far more money than they could
have got from the statutory tolls alone. So profitable had the undertaking
become that the thirty-nine original proprietors had, Sandars continues,
"been paid every other year, for nearly half a century, the total amount of
their investment." An immense revenue was being raised at the expense of
the merchants and manufacturers, "and for no other purpose than to enrich a
few individuals who were daily violating Acts of Parliament, Acts which, by
a long course of cunning policy," they had contrived to convert into "the
most oppressive and unjust monopoly known to the trade of this Kingdom--a
monopoly which," Sandars goes on to declare, "there is every reason to
believe compels the public to pay, in one shape or another, £100,000 more
per annum than they ought to pay."

The agents of the two companies not only agreed between themselves what
charges they would impose but, autocrats as they were, they established a
despotic sway over the traders. They set up, says Francis, "a rotation by
which they sent as much or as little as suited them, and shipped it how or
when they pleased. They held levees, attended by crowds who, admitted one
by one, almost implored them to forward their goods. One firm was thus
limited by the supreme wisdom of the canal managers to sixty or seventy
bags a day. The effects were really disastrous; mills stood still for want
of material; machines were stopped for lack of food. Of 5000 feet of pine
timber required in Manchester by one house, 2000 remained unshipped from
November, 1824, to March, 1825."

{233}Merchants whose timber was thus delayed in transit were fined for
allowing it to obstruct the quays; and Sandars tells of one who paid £69 in
fines on this account during the course of two months. It was less costly
and more convenient to leave the delayed timber where it was, and pay the
fines, than to keep moving it to and fro between quay and timber yard;
though the effect--especially as the imports of timber increased--was to
block up, not only the quays, but the neighbouring streets, which thus
became almost impassable for carts and carriages.

Corn and other commodities had often to be kept back eight or ten days on
account of a lack of vessels. It sometimes happened that commodities
brought across the Atlantic in three weeks were detained in Liverpool for
six weeks before they could be sent on to Manchester. The agents would not
carry certain kinds of merchandise or particular descriptions of cotton at
all. Alternatively they would tell a trader: "We took so much for you
yesterday, and we can take only so much for you to-day." "They limited the
quantity," says Francis, "they appointed the time, until the difficulties
of transit became a public talk and the abuse of power a public trouble.
The Exchange of Liverpool resounded with merchants' complaints; the
counting-houses of Manchester re-echoed the murmurs of manufacturers."

To avoid serious delays either to raw materials or to manufactured articles
the traders were often forced to resort to road transport "because," says
Sandars, "speed and certainty as to delivery are of the first importance";
and he adds on this point, "Packages of goods sent from Manchester, for
immediate shipment at Liverpool, often pay two or three pounds per ton; and
yet there are those who assert that the difference of a few hours in speed
can be no object. The merchants know better."

The example already set in so many different parts of the country in the
provision of rail-ways, or railways, as they were now being generally
called, may well have suggested that in a resort to this expedient would be
found the most practical solution of the problem which had caused so much
trouble to the traders. Sandars himself says that inasmuch as the two
companies were "deaf to all remonstrances, to all entreaties," and were
"actuated solely by a spirit of {234}monopoly and extortion," the only
remedy the public had left was to go to Parliament and ask for permission
to establish a new line of conveyance--and one, also, that possessed
decided advantages over canal or river transport.

But here there arose a consideration which had a material bearing on the
problem immediately concerned, and was to affect the further development of
the railway system in general.

Numerous as were the lines already existing at this time, none of them
directly competed with the waterways. They were feeders rather than rivals
of the canals. Even the Surrey Iron Rail-way and the Stockton and
Darlington line, though operating independently of the canal companies, had
not come into conflict with them. In the one instance--that of the Merthyr
and Cardiff dram-road--in which a railway had hitherto been projected in
direct competition with a canal the scheme had been either killed or bought
off by the canal interests. But the proposed Liverpool and Manchester
Railway was avowedly and expressly designed to compete with the existing
water services. It was not simply to supplement the waterways. It
threatened to supplant them.

So the waterway companies, representing very powerful interests--inasmuch
as by 1824 the amount invested in canal and navigation schemes was about
£14,000,000--might well think it necessary to take action in defence of
their own position. Down to this time they had regarded the railway as
either a friend or a non-competitor, and they had either extended to it a
sympathetic support or had, at least, regarded it with a feeling of
equanimity. Henceforward they had to look upon it as an opponent.

The project for a Liverpool and Manchester Railway would seem to have first
begun to assume definite shape in or about 1822, when William James, a
London engineer, who had already proposed a "Central Junction Rail-way or
Tram-road" from Stratford-on-Avon to London, made surveys between Liverpool
and Manchester, and prepared a set of plans. The certain prospect, however,
of vigorous opposition from the waterway interests led some of the traders
to think they had better make terms with the men in possession, if they
could; and in that same year the corn merchants of Liverpool memorialised
the Bridgewater trustees, asking both {235}for a reduction in the rate of
freight and for better accommodation. Bradshaw replied with an unqualified
refusal, and he treated as idle talk the then much-discussed project of a
line of railway.

There is no doubt that if, at this period, reasonable concessions had been
made to the traders the building of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway,
although, of course, inevitable, would have been delayed to a later period.
The traders shrank, at first, from an open fight, and the project of 1822
was allowed to drop for a time. The situation was found to be so hopeless,
however, that in 1824 they decided that mere concessions from the waterway
interests would no longer suffice, and that the provision of an alternative
means of transport had become imperative. A Liverpool and Manchester
Railway Company was now formed, and on October 29, 1824, there was issued a
prospectus which was, in effect, a declaration of war against the waterway
parties who had so mercilessly abused the situation they thought they
controlled. This document, after mentioning that the total quantity of
merchandise then passing between Liverpool and Manchester was estimated at
1000 tons a day, proceeded:--

"The committee are aware that it will not immediately be understood by the
public how the proprietors of a railroad, requiring an invested capital of
£400,000 can afford to carry goods at so great a reduction upon the charge
of the present water companies. But the problem is easily solved. It is not
that the water companies have not been able to carry goods on reasonable
terms, but that, strong in the enjoyment of their monopoly, they have not
thought proper to do so. Against the most arbitrary exactions the public
have hitherto had no protection, and against the indefinite continuance or
recurrence of the evil they have but one security. _It is competition that
is wanted_, and the proof of this assertion may be adduced from the fact
that shares in the Old Quay Navigation, of which the original cost was £70,
have been sold as high as £1250 each!"

The canal interests in general had, however, anticipated the definite
challenge thus given, and there had already been a call to arms in defence
of common interests. In a postscript to the prospectus just referred to it
was mentioned that {236}the Leeds and Liverpool, the Birmingham, the Grand
Trunk and other canal companies had issued circulars calling upon "every
canal and navigation company in the Kingdom to oppose _in limine_, and by a
united effort, the establishment of railroads wherever contemplated."[39]

By this time, therefore, the projectors of the Liverpool and Manchester
Railway were threatened with the opposition, not alone of the Bridgewater
trustees and of the Old Quay Navigation trustees, but of the canal and
river navigation interests throughout the country. As Thomas Baines well
describes the position in his "History of Liverpool," "The canal
proprietors, with an instinctive sense of danger, justly appreciated what
they affected to despise, and, with one accord, and with one heart and
mind, resolved to crush the rival project which threatened to interrupt, if
not to destroy the hopes of prescription and the dreams of a sanguine

The real strength of the opposition thus being worked up against not only
the Liverpool and Manchester Railway but public railways in general will be
better understood if I supplement the references I have already made to the
shares of canal and navigation companies by a few further figures, showing
the financial position to which the waterways had attained, and the extent
of the vested interests they represented at the particular period now in

In a pamphlet published in 1824, under the title of "A Statement of the
Claim of the Subscribers to the Birmingham and Liverpool Rail-road to an
Act of Parliament; in reply to the Opposition of the Canal Companies"
(quoted in the fifth, or 1825, edition of Thomas Gray's "Observations on a
General Iron Rail-way"), it is stated that the amount of capital originally
subscribed for the old Birmingham Canal Company was about £55,000, in
shares of £100, subject to a stipulation that no one person should hold
more than ten shares. The pamphlet proceeds:--

{237}"By various subsequent Acts and collateral cuts, this canal, which has
now changed its name to the style of the 'Birmingham Canal Navigation
Company,' is extended to a distance of about 60 miles of water, containing
99 locks or thereabouts, 10 fire engines to raise water, number of bridges
not known to the present writer.

"The original shares are computed to have cost the proprietors £140 each.
In 1782 they were marketably worth £370, and in 1792, £1110. In 1811 an Act
increased the shares 500 to 1000, or, in other words, for marketable
convenience divided them. In 1813 the half share was sold as high as £585.
In 1818 power was given to the company of proprietors further to subdivide
the shares as they should deem advisable, on due public notice, etc. The
shares are now in eighths. Thus at the present time, and at the last quoted
prices in Wetenhall's list, there are 4000 shares of eighths, marketably
worth £360 per eighth, each receiving an annual dividend of £12-10-0. Thus
the original cost, compared with the present value of the 500 shares, is as
£70,000 to £1,444,000, the original share having risen from £140 sterling
(or thereabouts) to the sum of £2840."

Shares in the Loughborough Navigation cost the first holders £142-17-0
each. In the "European Magazine" for June, 1821, they are quoted at £2600 a
share, and the dividend then being paid is given as 170 per cent. In the
issue of the same magazine for November, 1824, the price per share is
£4700, and the dividend is shown to have risen to 200 per cent.

Among other canal shares quoted in the "European Magazine" for the dates
mentioned are the following:--

                                   1821               1824
                        £        £       £          £       £
  Coventry             100      970      44       1350   44 and 61
  Erewash              100     1000      56        --       58
  Leeds and Liverpool  100      280      10        570      15
  Oxford               100      630      32        900      32*
  Staffordshire and
    Worcestershire     100      700      40        950      40
  Trent and Mersey     200     1750    7575       2250      75*

  * And bonus.

{238}The following further quotations are from "Wetenhall's Commercial
List" for December 10, 1824:--

     COMPANY.                        SHARE.        PRICE.      DIVIDEND.
                                   £    s.  d.   £    s.  d.  £    s.  d.
  Ashton and Oldham                97  18   0   310   0   0    5   0   0
  Barnsley                        160   0   0   340   0   0   12   0   0
  Grand Junction                  100   0   0   296   0   0   10   0   0
  Glamorganshire                  172  13   4   280   0   0   13  12   8
  Grantham                        150   0   0   190   0   0   10   0   0
  Leicester                       140   0   0   390   0   0   14   0   0
  Monmouthshire                   100   0   0   245   0   0   10   0   0
  Melton Mowbray                  100   0   0   255   0   0   11   0   0
  Mersey and Irwell                    --      1000   0   0   35   0   0
  Neath                           100   0   0   400   0   0   15   0   0
  Shrewsbury                      125   0   0   206   0   0   10   0   0
  Stourbridge                     145   0   0   220   0   0   10  10   0
  Stroudwater                     150   0   0   450   0   0   31  10   0
  Trent and Mersey (half share)   100   0   0  2300   0   0   75   0   0*
  Warwick and Birmingham          100   0   0   320   0   0   11   0   0
  Warwick and Knapton             100   0   0   280   0   0   11   0   0

  * And bonus.

These figures, it will be seen, are given for years when the "canal
mania"--at its height between 1791 and 1794--had long been over, and they
suggest, therefore, _bona fide_ market values based on business done and
dividends paid. High as they are, it is doubtful if they tell the whole
story. I have mentioned on page 218 that in their petition to the House of
Commons against the proposed railway, or tramway, between Merthyr and
Cardiff, the Glamorganshire Canal Company represented that they were
restrained by their Act from paying more than a "moderate" dividend. The
dividend they were authorised to pay was one of eight per cent; but there
is a tradition in South Wales that the company, after checking effectively
the threatened railway competition, attained to phenomenal prosperity, and
resorted to an ingenious expedient as a means of deriving further pecuniary
advantage from the waterway without exceeding the statutory limitation in
regard to the dividend to be paid. This expedient took the form of a
suspension of all tolls for a large part of every year, the use of the
canal being free to the public for {239}the period so arranged. In some
years, it is said, no tolls were paid for six months at a time. This
practice was found preferable, for certain members of the managing
committee--ironmasters or large traders in the district--to a reduction of
tolls to be in force throughout the year, their practice being to keep back
their own consignments, whenever possible, till the free period, which they
could fix to suit their convenience. When the principal shareholders were
traders using the canal, it did not matter to them whether their profits
came wholly in dividends or partly in dividends and partly in free
carriage. Traders, however, who could not wait for their supplies or store
their manufactured goods until the free period came round had to pay the
full rates of tolls for, at least, the period during which these were

I shall refer later to the effect on railway legislation of the power and
influence to which the waterways had attained. The consideration for the
moment is that, even allowing for a certain number of minor or of purely
speculative canals which were admittedly failures, the waterway interests,
consolidating their forces, were able, by virtue of their position at the
time in question, to organise a powerful and widespread opposition to a
rival form of transport then still in its infancy, though obviously capable
of eventually becoming a formidable competitor.

The canal interests also made every effort to work up an opposition on the
part of representatives of the landed interests, who, however, developed
such strong hostility of their own towards the iron road that the arguments
of the canal proprietors were hardly needed to arouse them to violent
antagonism to the scheme. Popular prejudices, too, were well exploited, and
the most direful predictions were indulged in as to what would result from
the running of locomotives, so that, for a time, the promoters even
abandoned the idea of using locomotives at all.

The combined canal and land interests scored the first victory on the
Liverpool and Manchester Bill, which was thrown out in 1825; but it was
reintroduced and passed in 1826, the opposition of the Bridgewater trustees
having, in the meantime, been overcome by a judicious presentation to them
of a thousand shares in the railway.

The promoters thus established the new principle of direct {240}competition
between railways and waterways; but otherwise the Liverpool and Manchester
differed from the Stockton and Darlington, at the outset, and as a line of
railway, only in the fact that the former was to be provided throughout
with malleable iron rails, whereas the latter had two-thirds malleable iron
and one-third cast iron. On the one line as on the other, the use of
locomotives had not been decided upon from the start; and, unless the
Liverpool and Manchester had not only adopted locomotives but, as was, of
course, the case, improved on those of the Stockton and Darlington, it
would have shown little real advance in actual railway operation.

The motive power to be used on the Liverpool and Manchester remained
uncertain when George Stephenson and his "navvies" were attacking the
engineering proposition of Chat Moss. It was still uncertain in October,
1828--or two years after the passing of the Act--when three of the
directors went to Killingworth colliery, to see the early locomotive which
Stephenson had made there, and to Darlington to see the locomotives then
operating on the Stockton and Darlington line. They decided that "horses
were out of the question"; but even then the point remained doubtful
whether the Liverpool and Manchester should be provided with locomotives or
have stationary engines at intervals of a mile or two along the line to
draw the trains from station to station by means of ropes. How the
directors sought to solve the problem by offering a premium of £500 for a
locomotive which would fulfil certain conditions; how George Stephenson won
the prize with his "Rocket"; and how the "Rocket," with a gross load of
seventeen tons, attained a speed of twenty-nine miles an hour, with an
average of fourteen--whereas counsel for the promoters had only promised a
speed of six or seven miles an hour--are facts known to all the world.

If the Stockton and Darlington Railway had had the honour of introducing
the locomotive, it was the Rainhill trials, organised by the Liverpool and
Manchester Company, which gave the world its first idea of the great
possibilities to which alike the locomotive and the railway might attain.
In this respect the Liverpool and Manchester line carried railway
development far beyond the point already attained by the Stockton and
Darlington, although no fundamentally {241}new principle in railway working
was set up. The Liverpool and Manchester line did, however, establish a new
departure in proclaiming direct rivalry with the then powerful canal
interests, and the warfare thus entered on, and persevered in until the
railway system had gained the ascendancy, was to affect the whole further
history of railway expansion and control.



The monopolist tendencies of the waterway interests, the magnitude of the
profits secured, and the resort by traders to the building of railways as
an alternative thereto and as a means of meeting the transport requirements
of expanding industries, were factors in the development of the railway
system that operated as direct causes in the construction of other lines
besides the Liverpool and Manchester. From these particular points of view
the story of the Leicester and Swannington Railway is of special

In the closing years of the eighteenth century, when the Canal Era was in
full operation, the various new projects put forward included one for
constructing a canal, eleven miles in length, down the Erewash valley to
connect with the Trent, thus facilitating the transport of coal and other
products from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to places served by that
river; and another for rendering the Soar navigable from its junction with
the Trent to Leicester, this being known as the Loughborough Navigation.
These two schemes were to form part of a network of important waterways,
the Soar Navigation joining the Leicester Navigation, and this, in turn,
communicating with the Leicestershire branch of the Grand Junction Canal,
thus eventually giving a direct route from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and
Leicestershire to London.

The Leicestershire coalowners regarded these proposals with great
uneasiness. They were then supplying Leicester with coal conveyed there by
waggon or packhorse from the collieries on the other side of Charnwood
Forest, and they foresaw that the proposed navigations would give the
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire coalowners a great advantage over them in
the Leicester market. They accordingly offered a strong opposition to the
schemes, and persisted until the projectors {243}of the Loughborough
Navigation undertook to make that Charnwood Forest Canal which, with its
edge-railway at each end (see page 220), would connect the Leicestershire
coal-fields at Coleorton and Moira with Leicester, and so allow of the
threatened competition from the north of the Trent being duly met.

The Loughborough Navigation and its Charnwood Forest extension were
completed in 1798; but in the succeeding winter the Charnwood Forest Canal
burst its banks, and the damage done was never repaired, the Loughborough
Navigation trustees (who, though forced to construct the canal, did not
consider themselves obliged to maintain it) finding it to their advantage,
from a traffic point of view, to enable the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
coalowners to have a virtual monopoly on the Leicester market. It was under
these conditions that the Loughborough Navigation shares advanced, by 1824,
from their original value of £142 17s. each to no less a sum than £4700.

The local waterway interests maintained their supremacy and were, indeed,
complete masters of the situation for over thirty years; but the days of
their 200 per cent dividends were then numbered. Influenced by what the
traders of Liverpool and Manchester were doing to fight the canal and river
monopolists there, the Leicestershire coalowners got, in 1830, an Act of
Parliament authorising them to build a railway from Swannington to
Leicester. This line would give them the facilities they wanted for their
coal; but it was to be a "public," and not merely a private, railway. By
one of the clauses of the Act it was provided that "all persons shall have
free liberty to use with horses, cattle and carriages the said railway upon
payment of tolls." These tolls were arranged alike for passengers and for
goods and minerals, and they varied according to whether the travellers and
traders provided their own conveyances or used those of the railway
company. In the former case passengers were to pay twopence halfpenny each
per mile, and in the latter case threepence per mile, the tolls for goods
and minerals being in like proportion. In a later Act, however, passed in
1833, it was declared that "whereas the main line hath been constructed
with a view to locomotive steam engines being used, it might be very
injurious to the said railway and {244}inconvenient and dangerous if horses
or cattle were used," and the rights thus granted to the public under the
first Act were now withdrawn.

Opened in 1832, the Leicester and Swannington Railway restored to the
Leicestershire colliery-owners the advantage in the Leicester market of
which the canal companies had enabled their north-of-the-Trent competitors
to deprive them for so many years; and it was now the turn of the
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalmasters to consider what they should do
to meet the new situation which had arisen. They first had conferences with
the directors of the Loughborough, Erewash and Leicester Navigations, and
sought to induce them to grant such reductions in tolls as would enable
them to compete with the Leicestershire coal, now that this was no longer
shut out from Leicester by the dry ditch in Charnwood Forest. But the only
concessions the canal companies would make were regarded as wholly
inadequate by the Nottinghamshire coalmasters, who, meeting at a little inn
at Eastwood, on August 16, 1832, resolved that "there remained no other
plan for their adoption" than to lay a railway from their collieries to the
town of Leicester. They formed a Midland Counties Railway Company, obtained
an Act, built their line, and so laid the foundations of the great system
now known to us as the Midland Railway. Into that system the Leicester and
Swannington was absorbed in 1846.

The position to-day of the waterways which for thirty years controlled more
or less the transport conditions of the three counties in question, brought
great wealth to their owners, and, by their sole regard for their own
interests, forced the traders to resort to railways, is shown by the Fourth
or Final Report of the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways. From this
one may learn that the Loughborough and Leicester Navigations, which follow
the course of the Soar, are liable to floods and are, also, sometimes short
of water, in consequence of the want of control over the supply of water to
mills; and although, with the Grand Junction Canal, they offer "the most
direct inland water route" to London for the traffic of Derby, Nottingham
and Leicester and of the large coal districts, they serve at present, adds
the Report, but an insignificant part of the traffic which travels by this

{245}In effect, the very efforts made by the canal companies to preserve
the monopoly they had so long and so profitably enjoyed were only a direct
means of encouraging railway expansion; though few great institutions,
destined to lead to a great social and economic revolution, have
established their position in the face of more prejudice, greater
difficulties, and less sympathetic support from "the powers that be" than
was the case with the railways.

The traders of the country were naturally favourable to them, since the
need for improved means of communication, following on the ever-expanding
trade and industry of the land, was becoming almost daily more and more
acute. But the vested interests, as represented alike by holders of canal
shares, by turnpike road trustees and investors, and by the coaching
interests, were against the railways; the Press of the country was to a
great extent against them; leaders in the literary and the social worlds
either ignored or condemned them; landowners first opposed and then
blackmailed them; Governments sought to control and to tax rather than to
assist them; and then, when the railways had proved that they were less
objectionable than prejudiced critics had assumed, and were likely even to
be a source of profitable investment, they were boomed by speculators into
a popularity that led both to successive "railway manias" and to the whole
railway system being still further burdened with an excessive capital
expenditure which has been more or less to its prejudice ever since.

Some of the early denunciations by those who would have considered
themselves, in their day, to be leaders of public opinion, if not of light
and learning, afford interesting examples of the hostility which railways,
in common with every innovation that seeks to alter established habits and
customs, had to encounter.

In the article published in the "Quarterly Review" for March, 1825, in
which proposals for making railways general throughout the country are
condemned as "visionary schemes unworthy of notice," it is further said in
reference to the Woolwich Railway:--

"It is certainly some consolation to those who are to be whirled at the
rate of eighteen or twenty miles an hour, by means of a high pressure
engine, to be told that they are in {246}no danger of being sea-sick while
on shore, that they are not to be scalded to death, nor drowned by the
bursting of the boiler; and that they need not fear being shot by the
scattered fragments, or dashed in pieces by the flying off or the breaking
of a wheel. But, with all these assurances we should as soon expect the
people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of
Congreve's ricochet rockets as trust themselves to the mercy of such a
machine, going at such a rate. Their property they may, perhaps, trust; but
while one of the finest navigable rivers in the world runs parallel to the
proposed railroad, we consider the other twenty per cent which the
subscribers are to receive for the conveyance of heavy goods almost as
problematical as that to be derived from the passengers. We will back old
Father Thames against the Woolwich Railway for any sum."

In "John Bull" for November 15, 1835, railways are spoken of as
"new-fangled absurdities," and it is declared that "those people who judge
by the success of the Manchester and Liverpool Railroad, and take it as a
criterion for similar speculations, are dunces and blockheads." In the case
of that particular railway, the writer argues, the distance was short, the
passengers were numerous, the "thing" was new and the traffic was
great--above all the distance was short; but it did not follow that
railways were going to succeed elsewhere. He continues:--

"Does anybody mean to say that decent people, passengers who would use
their own carriages, and are accustomed to their own comforts, would
consent to be hurried along through the air upon a railroad, from which,
had a lazy schoolboy left a marble, or a wicked one a stone, they would be
pitched off their perilous track, into the valley beneath; or is it to be
imagined that women, who may like the fun of being whirled away on a party
of pleasure for an hour to see a sight, would endure the fatigue, and
misery, and danger, not only to themselves, but their children and
families, of being dragged through the air at the rate of twenty miles an
hour, all their lives being at the mercy of a tin pipe, or a copper boiler,
or the accidental dropping of a pebble on the line of way?

"We denounce the _mania_ as destructive of the country in a thousand
particulars--the whole face of the Kingdom is to be tattooed with these
odious deformities; huge mounds are {247}to intersect our beautiful
valleys; the noise and stench of locomotive steam-engines are to disturb
the quietude of the peasant, the farmer and the gentleman; and the roaring
of bullocks, the bleating of sheep and the grunting of pigs to keep up one
continual uproar through the night along the lines of these most dangerous
and disfiguring abominations....

"Railroads ... will in their efforts to gain ground do incalculable
mischief. If they succeed they will give an unnatural impetus to society,
destroy all the relations which exist between man and man, overthrow all
mercantile regulations, overturn the metropolitan markets, drain the
provinces of all their resources, and create, at the peril of life, all
sorts of confusion and distress. If they fail nothing will be left but the
hideous memorials of public folly."

In "Gore's Liverpool Advertiser" for December 20, 1824, mention is made of
some of the objections then being raised against railways, these being
described as "exceedingly trifling and puerile." "Elderly gentlemen," it is
said, "are of opinion that they shall not be able to cross the rail-roads
without the certainty of being run over; young gentlemen are naturally
fearful that the pleasant comforts and conveniencies of their foxes and
pheasants may not have been sufficiently consulted. Ladies think that cows
will not graze within view of locomotive engines, and that the sudden and
formidable appearance of them may be attended with _premature_ consequences
to bipeds as well as quadrupeds. Farmers are quite agreed that the race of
horses must at once be extinguished, and that oats and hay will no longer
be marketable produce."

Other alarmist stories were that a great and a scandalous attack was being
made on private property; that there was not a field which would not be
split up and divided; that springs would dry up, meadows become sterile and
vegetation cease; that cows would give no milk, horses become extinct,
agricultural operations be suspended, and houses be crushed by the railway
embankments; that ruin would fall alike on landowners, farmers, market
gardeners and innkeepers; that manufacturers' stocks would be destroyed by
sparks from the locomotives; that hundreds of thousands of people,
including those who had invested in canals, would be beggared in the
interests of a few; and that (as an anti-climax to all {248}these
predictions of national disaster) the locomotive, after all, would never be
got to work because, although its wheels might turn, it would remain on the
lines by reason of its own weight--a theory which, long pondered over by
men of science, led to early projects of "general" railways being based on
the rack-and-pinion principle of operation, and was only abandoned when
someone had the happy idea of making experiments which proved that the
surmise in question was a complete delusion.

I reproduce these puerilities of the early part of the nineteenth century,
not simply for the entertainment of the reader, but because it is a matter
of serious consideration how far they affected the cost of providing the
country with railways. and whether, indeed, the traders who smile at them
to-day may not still be paying, in one way or another, for the consequences
they involved.

The keener the prejudice, the greater the hostility and the more bitter the
denunciations when railways were struggling into existence, the more
vigorous became the antagonism of landowners, the higher were the prices
demanded for land, the more costly, by reason of the opposition, were the
proceedings before Parliamentary Committees, and the heavier grew that
capital expenditure the interest on which would have to be met out of such
rates and charges as the railways, when made, would impose.

To a certain extent one may sympathise with landowners who feared that the
amenities of their estates might be prejudiced by an innovation of which so
much evil was being said; but, as a rule (to which there were some very
honourable exceptions) it was found that their scruples in regard alike to
their own interests and to the national welfare eventually resolved
themselves into a question of how much money could be got out of the
companies. Thus the extortionate prices paid for land often had no relation
to the actual value of the land itself. They were simply the highest amount
the railway company were prepared to pay the landowner for the withdrawal
of his threatened opposition. If the company resisted the exorbitant
demands made upon them, and would not give a sufficiently high bribe, they
were so strongly opposed that they generally lost their Bill when they
first applied for it to Parliament. Thereupon they would {249}yield, or
effect a compromise on, the terms asked for, announce that they had made
amicable arrangements with the opposition, re-introduce their Bill in the
following Session, and then succeed in getting it passed.

It might happen, even then, that the companies obtained their powers
subject only to a variety of hampering or vexatious restrictions which the
landed gentry or others were able to enforce in order that due respect
should be shown to their fears or their prejudices. In some of the earlier
railway Acts the companies were forbidden to use any "locomotives or
moveable engines" without the written consent of the owners or occupiers of
the land through which their lines passed. One of the clauses of the
Liverpool and Manchester Act provided that "no steam engine shall be set up
in the township of Burtonwood or Winwick, and no locomotive shall be
allowed to pass along the line within those townships which shall be
considered by Thomas Lord Lilford or by the Rector of Winwick to be a
nuisance or annoyance to them from the noise or smoke thereof." The same
two individuals secured insertion of a clause in the Warrington and Newton
Railway Act to the effect that every locomotive used within the parishes
mentioned should be "constructed on best principles for enabling it to
consume its own smoke and preventing noise in the machinery or motion
thereof," and should use "no coal, but only coke or other such fuel" as his
lordship and the rector might approve.

The story of the London and Birmingham Railway is especially significant of
the general conditions under which the English railway system came into

Industrial expansion had brought about great developments in the Birmingham
and Black Country districts, the population in Birmingham alone having
increased from about 50,000 in 1751 to 110,000 in 1830. Wide possibilities
of increasing trade and commerce were being opened up, but these were
seriously hampered by the disadvantages experienced in the matter of
transport. Small parcels of manufactured goods could be sent by coach, and
a good deal of wrought iron--in small quantities per coach--was also
distributed in the same way during the course of the year. For bulky goods
or raw materials the only means of transport between Birmingham and London
was by canal, and this meant a three-days' {250}journey. Over 1000 tons a
week were then going from Birmingham to London by water; but there was
great need for a means of communication at once more speedy and more
trustworthy. Goods were delayed in transit even beyond the three days; they
were rejected by the shippers because they did not arrive in proper time;
they were sometimes held up by frost on the canal between Birmingham and
London and lost their chance of getting to the Baltic before the spring;
while, alternatively, they might be pilfered or lost on the canal journey,
and so not get even as far as London. There was often much difficulty,
also, in obtaining raw materials.

In the result manufacturers had to refuse orders because they could not
execute them in time, and the local industries were not making anything
like the advance of which, with better transport facilities, they would
have been capable. The business that Birmingham manufacturers should have
been doing with Italy, with Spain, or with Portugal was found to be
drifting more and more into the hands of Continental competitors who had
greater advantages both in obtaining raw materials on the spot and in
distributing their manufactured goods. It was further argued that in view
of the struggle then proceeding between this country and Continental
countries for commercial supremacy, the improvement of the means of
transport, even as regarded Birmingham and London, was a matter of
national, and not simply of local, concern.

It might well be assumed that such considerations as these would have
appealed to the patriotic instincts of the English people, and especially
to those of the landed gentry. Yet the issue, in January, 1832, of the
first prospectus of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, and the
introduction of their Bill in February of the same year, led to opposition,
to extortion and to actual blackmail of the most determined and most
merciless description.

The Bill passed in the Commons, but it was thrown out in the Lords. Its
rejection there was attributed to the landowners, who, it was declared, had
"tried to smother the company by the high price they demanded for their
property." The inevitable negotiations followed. Six months after the
defeat of the Bill the directors announced that the {251}"measures" they
had taken with a view to removing "that opposition of dissentient
landowners and proprietors which was the sole cause of their failure ...
had been successful to a greater extent than they had ventured to
anticipate. The most active and formidable had been conciliated," and the
Bill would be introduced afresh in the following Session. This was done,
and the Bill became an Act, receiving the Royal assent on May 6, 1833.

The nature of the "measures" which had succeeded in overcoming the
opposition may be judged from some facts mentioned by John Francis, who
says that land estimated in value at £250,000 cost the company three times
that amount. One landowner, in addition to getting £3000 for a certain
plot, extorted £10,000 for what he called "consequential damages"; though,
instead of injuring the remainder of his property, the line increased its
value by twenty per cent. For land used only as agricultural holdings the
company is said to have had to pay at the rate of £350 an acre.

But this was not all. There was the opposition of towns as well as the
greed of individuals to be taken into account. According to Robert
Stephenson's original survey, the London and Birmingham Railway was to pass
through Northampton, where, also, it was proposed to establish the
company's locomotive and carriage works. The opposition in Northampton,
however, was so great that in order to meet it the company altered their
plans and arranged for the line to pass at a distance from that town. They
further undertook to start their locomotive works at Wolverton, and thus
not interfere with the amenities of Northampton.

How much the town and trade of Northampton lost as the result of its
scruples could hardly be told; but the consequences to the railway company
of this enforced alteration of route were as serious as any of the
extortions practised by the landowners. The line had now to pass through a
tunnel at Kilsby, five miles distant from Northampton, and a contractor
undertook to cut this tunnel for £90,000. But, while engaged on the task,
he came upon a quicksand which reduced him to despair and led to his
throwing up the contract. Robert Stephenson thereupon took the work in hand
and he had to have 1250 men, 200 horses and thirteen steam-engines at work
raising 1800 gallons of water per minute night and day {252}for the greater
part of eight months before the difficulty was overcome. By the time the
tunnel was completed the cost of construction had risen from the original
estimate of £90,000 to over £300,000, this enormous expenditure having been
incurred, not because it was necessary for the line, as first designed, but
to meet the opposition and spare the feelings of the then short-sighted
dwellers in the town of Northampton.

The London and Birmingham Railway, with its terminus at Euston, was
eventually opened for traffic throughout in September, 1838. It was, of
course, one of the lines subsequently amalgamated to form the London and
North-Western Railway.

The first Bill of the Great Western Railway, applied for in 1834, was
strenuously opposed and defeated. The second Bill, brought forward in the
following session, was less strenuously opposed, and was duly passed. In
the interval the opposition of the dissentient landowners had been
"conciliated"; and, commenting thereon (in 1851), John Francis says:--

"The mode by which the opposition of landholders was met bears the same sad
character as with other railways. Every passenger who goes by the Great
Western pays an additional fare to meet the interest on this most unjust
charge; and every shareholder in this, as in other lines, receives a less
dividend than he is entitled to from the same cause. Nor does the blame
rest with the conductors of the railway. They were the agents of the
shareholders and were bound to forward their interests. The principle of
the case to them was nothing. They were bound to get the Act at the
cheapest possible rate, and if the law gave their rich opponents the power
of practically stopping the progress of the line, and those opponents chose
to avail themselves of the law, the shame rests with the proprietor of the
soil, and not with the promoter of the railway. Fancy prices were given for
fancy prospects, in proportion to the power of the landowner. Noblemen were
persuaded to allow their castles to be desecrated for a consideration.
There can be no doubt--it was, indeed, all but demonstrated--that offers
were made to and accepted by influential parties to withdraw their
opposition to a Bill which they had declared would ruin them, while the
smaller and more numerous complainants were {253}paid such prices as should
actually buy off a series of long and tedious litigants."

The promoters of that most unfortunate of lines, the Eastern
Counties--predecessor of the Great Eastern Railway of to-day--found
themselves faced with serious opposition in the Lords after they had got
their Bill through the Commons; "but," says the first report, "the
directors, by meeting the parties with the same promptness and in the same
fair spirit which had carried them successfully through their previous
negotiations, effected amicable arrangements with them," and the company
was incorporated in 1836. The negotiations must, however, have been carried
through with greater promptness than discretion, for, to save the fate of
their Bill, the directors undertook to pay one influential landowner
£120,000 for some purely agricultural land which was said to be then worth
not more than £5000. After they had secured their Bill they made persistent
attempts to get out of paying the £120,000; and, altogether, they so
shocked John Herapath that in successive monthly issues of his "Railway
Magazine" all references to the Eastern Counties Railway Company were
encircled by a black border.

In another instance a company proposed to meet the opposition of certain
landowners by carrying the line through a tunnel, which would enable them
to avoid the property in question. The tunnel would have cost £50,000, and
the landowners said, "Give us the price of that tunnel and we will withdraw
our opposition." The company offered £30,000, and the landowners agreed to
be "conciliated" on this basis. They still came off better than the
objector who began by demanding £8000 and finally accepted £80. John
Francis, too, relates the following story: "The estate of a nobleman was
near a proposed line. He was proud of his park and great was his
resentment. In vain was it proved that the new road would not come within
six miles of his house, that the highway lay between, that a tunnel would
hide the inelegance. He resisted all overture on the plea of his feelings,
until £30,000 was offered. The route was, however, afterwards changed. A
new line was marked out which would not even approach his domain; and,
enraged at the prospect of losing the £30,000, he resisted it as
strenuously as the other."

There were some honourable exceptions to the general {254}tendency to
extort as much as possible from the railway companies. Among these may be
mentioned the voluntary return by the Duke of Bedford of a sum of £150,000
paid to him as compensation, his Grace explaining that the railway had
benefitted instead of injuring his property; and by Lord Taunton of £15,000
out of £35,000 because his property had not suffered so much as had been
anticipated. Exceptions such as these do not, however, alter the fact that,
as stated by Francis in 1851, the London and Birmingham Company had had to
pay for land and compensation an average of £6300 per mile, the Great
Western £6696, the London and South Western £4000 and the Brighton Company
£8000 per mile.

One argument, at least, which can be advanced in favour of State
railways--as applying, however, to a country beginning the creation of a
railway system, or building new railways, rather than to one taking over an
existing system--is that extortions in respect to land could not be
practised on the State in the same way as they have been practised on
English railway companies left by their Government to make the best terms
they could with those who were in a position to drive the hardest of
bargains with them. In Prussia, for example, the securing of land for any
new lines wanted for the State railway system is a comparatively simple
matter. If the landowner and the responsible officials cannot agree to
terms, the matter is referred to arbitration, though with every probability
that the landowner will get no more than a fair sum, and will not be able
to extort fancy figures under the head of consequential damages or as the
"price" of his withdrawing any opposition he might otherwise offer.

Apart from other considerations, and taking only the one item of land, the
State lines of Continental countries may well have cost less to construct
than the English lines, while both in the United States and in Canada the
pioneer railway companies had great stretches of land given to them, by
State or Federal Government, not alone for their lines, but as a further
means of assisting them financially.

When one finds how the cost of creating the railway system in our own
country was swollen, under the conditions here stated, to far greater
proportions than should have been the case, and when one remembers that the
excessive capital {255}expenditure involved in meeting extortionate demands
had either to remain unremunerative or be made good out of the payments of
travellers and traders, it is evident that comparisons between English and
foreign railway rates and fares may be carried to unreasonable lengths if
they ignore conditions of origin by which the operation of the lines
concerned must necessarily have been more or less influenced. Francis
himself says on this point, while confessing that "every line in England
has cost more than it ought":--

"The reader may learn to moderate his intense indignation when,
anathematising railways, he remembers with what unjust demands and impure
claims they had to deal, and with what sad and selfish treatment it was
their lot to meet. They owe nothing to the country; they owe nothing to the
aristocracy. They were wronged by the former; they were contumaciously
treated by the latter."

Another factor, apart from cost of land, in swelling the construction
capital of British railways to abnormal proportions has been the cost of
Parliamentary proceedings; and here, again, State railways have had the
advantage. In Prussia the obtaining of sanction for the building of an
additional line by the State railways administration is little more than a
matter of official routine; whereas in England the expenses incurred by
railway companies in obtaining their Acts have often amounted to a
prodigious sum--to be added, of course, to the capital outlay which the
users of the railway will be expected to recoup, or, at least, to pay
interest on.

An especially striking example was that of the Blackwall Railway, now
leased to the Great Eastern Railway Company. The cost of obtaining the Act
for this line, which is only five miles and a quarter in length, worked out
at no less a sum than £14,414 per mile, the total cost being thus £75,673.
The amounts paid by certain other companies in securing their Parliamentary
powers are given as follows by G. R. Porter in his "Progress of the Nation"

  Birmingham and Gloucester                    £22,618
  Bristol and Gloucester                       £25,589
  Bristol and Exeter                           £18,592
  Eastern Counties                             £39,171
  Great Western                                £89,197
  Great North of England                       £20,526              {256}
  Grand Junction                               £22,757
  Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock                £23,481
  London and Birmingham                        £72,868
  London and South Western                     £41,467
  Manchester and Leeds                         £49,166
  Midland Counties                             £28,776
  North Midland                                £41,349
  Northern and Eastern                         £74,166
  Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester  £31,473
  South-Eastern                                £82,292

In some cases, Porter explains, the sums here given contain the expenses of
surveying and other disbursements which necessarily precede the obtaining
of an Act of incorporation. On the other hand, they include only the costs
defrayed by the proprietors of the railway, and not the expenses incurred
by parties opposing the Bills. Nor do they include the expenses incurred in
connection either with rival schemes or with schemes that failed
altogether; though, in these instances, of course, there would be no chance
of recouping the outlay out of rates and fares. No fewer than five
different companies, for instance, sought for powers to construct a line
from London to Brighton, and the amounts they expended are given by John
Francis as follows:--

  Rennie's line                   £72,000
  Stephenson's                    £53,750
  Cundy's                         £16,500
  Gibb's                          £26,325
  South-Eastern                   £25,000
                Total            £193,575

Another company, the name of which is not given by Francis, had so vigorous
a fight that they spent nearly £500,000 before they got their Act; but
still worse than this was the fate of the Stone and Rugby Railway, whose
promoters spent £146,000 on attempts made in two successive sessions to get
an Act (the Committee on the first Bill sitting {257}on 66 days) and then
failed. In another instance the promoters expended £100,000 with a like

After the early companies had got their Acts and obtained their land they
still, as railway pioneers, had to bear the expense of some very costly
experiments, of which railways constructed at a later date had the
advantage. The idea that the locomotive would be able to haul trains only
on the level involved much unnecessary expenditure on engineering works,
while the battle of the gauges led to a prodigious waste of money alike in
Parliamentary proceedings and in the provision of lines, embankments,
cuttings, bridges and viaducts adapted to a broad gauge eventually
abandoned in favour of the narrower gauges now in general use.

The facts here mentioned will have given the reader some idea of the
conditions under which the railways so greatly needed in the interests of
our national industries were handicapped from the very outset by an unduly
heavy expenditure; but there were still other influences and considerations
which materially affected the general position, more especially as regards
questions and consequences of State policy towards the railway system in



From the earliest moment of there being any prospect of railways, operated
by locomotives in place of animal power, coming into general use, the
attitude of the State towards their promoters was one less of sympathy than
of distrust; and this distrust was directly due to the experience the
country had already had of the waterway interests, whose merciless
exactions and huge dividends had led to the fear that if the railway
companies, in turn, were to get a monopoly of the transport facilities of
the country, they might follow in the footsteps of the inland navigation
companies unless they were restrained either by law or by the enforcement
of the principle of competition.

Public sentiment, which Parliament is assumed to represent, and of which
our legislation is supposed to be the outcome, was divided between, on the
one hand, the landed gentry, the canal proprietors (each alike hostile to
the railways until they found they had more to hope for from exploiting
them), and the inevitable opponents of innovations of any kind; and, on the
other hand, the traders, by whom the railways were being cordially
welcomed, not only because of the greater and better transport facilities
they offered, but also because they presented an alternative to the canals,
the earlier enthusiasm for which had been greatly moderated by the prospect
of an improved means of transport.

Without adopting wholeheartedly the views of either of these two opposing
parties, Parliament regarded the position with much concern lest there
might be a renewal, in another form, of what we have seen to be the
grasping tendencies of monopolistic canal companies; and the distrust
inspired, under these particular circumstances, and from the very outset,
towards railway companies which were preparing to create a revolution in
the transport conditions of the {259}country--a revolution the State was
not itself disposed to effect or to finance--was powerfully to influence
much of the subsequent railway legislation, if, indeed, it has even to-day
entirely disappeared.

At first it was assumed that competition in rail transport would be
assured, and the dangers in question proportionately reduced, by different
carriers using their own locomotives, coaches and carriages on the railway
lines, which alone, it was thought, would be owned by the railway companies
constructing them. In some of the earlier railway Acts there was even a
provision that the railway companies could lease their tolls, as turnpike
trustees were doing. But the apparent safeguard in the form of competition
between rival carriers disappeared when it was found (1) that, although a
railway company was required to allow a trader's own horse or locomotive to
use the line, it was under no obligation to afford him access to stations
and watering-places, or to provide him with any other facilities, however
indispensable these might be to the carrier's business; (2) that the tolls
charged by the railway companies were heavier than the carriers could
afford to pay; (3) that the entire operation of a line of railway worked by
locomotives must necessarily be under the control of the owning and
responsible company; and (4) that railway companies would have to become
carriers of goods as well as owners of rails.

A Parliamentary Committee which sat in 1840, and of which Sir Robert Peel
was a member, had reported in the strongest terms that the form of
competition originally designed was both impracticable and undesirable, and
that monopoly upon the same line, at all events as regarded passengers,
must be looked upon as inevitable. "Your Committee," said the report,
"deems it indispensable both for the safety and convenience of the public,
that as far as locomotive powers are concerned, the rivalry of competing
parties on the same line should be prohibited"; though, as some check to
the consequent monopoly of the railway companies, they suggested that the
Board of Trade should act as a supervising authority, with power to hear
complaints, consider bye-laws, etc.

A witness for the Grand Junction Railway Company, who gave evidence before
this Committee, said that any person {260}might run his own engine on the
Grand Junction, and in one instance this was done by a trader who had a
locomotive on the company's line for drawing his own coal; but the witness
apprehended the greatest possible inconvenience from any general resort to
such powers. On the Liverpool and Manchester, also, anyone might run his
own engines on the line; but, the witness added, "no one does."

The Royal Commission of 1865 summed up the position thus:--"No sooner were
railways worked on a large scale with locomotive power than it was found
impracticable for the general public to use the line with carriages and
engines, and railway companies were compelled to embark in the business of
common carriers on their own line, and conduct the whole operations."

When, in these circumstances, it was made certain that any idea of
competition between carriers using a railway company's lines in the same
manner as an ordinary highway would have to be abandoned, it became the
established policy of the State to promote competition between the railway
companies themselves by encouraging the construction of competitive lines
or otherwise, thus still protecting, as was thought, the interests of
railway users, and checking any monopolistic tendencies on the part of the
railway companies. The futility, however, of seeking to compel railway
companies to compete with one another had already been pointed out by Mr
James Morrison, whose speech on the subject in the House of Commons on May
17, 1836, confirms, also, the theory I have suggested as to the attitude
adopted towards the railway companies being traceable to fears engendered
by the undue prosperity of the canal and navigation companies.

If, argued Morrison, after one company had spent a large sum on a line to
Liverpool, another company were encouraged to spend as much again, with a
view to providing a competition which would keep down the charges, the two
would inevitably arrive at some understanding by which the original charges
would be confirmed; and the Legislature, he contended--though the
Legislature never acted on his contention--was "bound to prevent, as far as
it could, the unnecessary waste of capital" on the building of unnecessary
lines to promote a competition he held to be futile. The safeguarding of
the public interests could, he thought, be effected in another way.
{261}"The history of the existing canals, waterworks, etc., afforded," he
went on, "abundant evidence of the evils" of allowing too much freedom in
the matter of rates; and he quoted the high prices at which the shares of
the Loughborough Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal were then still being
sold,[40] adding: "The possession of the best, or, it may be, the only
practicable line, and the vast capital required for the formation of new
canals, have enabled the associations in question, unchecked by
competition, to maintain rates of charges which have realised enormous
profits for a long series of years."

The remedy he recommended in preference to competition was that when
Parliament established companies for the formation of canals or railroads
it should invariably reserve to itself the power to make such periodical
revisions of the rates and charges as it might deem expedient, examining
into the whole management and affairs of each company, and fixing the rates
and charges for another term; the period he favoured being one of twenty

There was no suggestion, at this time, that the railway companies _had_
abused their powers. The only suggestion--and expectation--was that
_because_ the canal companies had abused theirs, the railway companies
might, and doubtless would, do the same, unless they were prevented; and it
will {262}be found that this was mainly the position throughout the whole
of the subsequent controversies.

Morrison's proposal was approved in the House of Commons, and on May 17 he
brought in a Bill for giving effect to it in regard to all new railways, to
be sanctioned in that or any subsequent Session. But the prospect of a
Parliamentary limitation of the profits a railway might earn had a most
depressing effect on the railway interests, and on July 11 Sir Robert Peel
urged that the question should be decided without further delay inasmuch as
"this branch of commercial enterprise was injured and almost paralysed." On
the following day the Bill was brought up again, and it was then defeated.

In the same Session (1836) the Duke of Wellington moved, and carried, in
the House of Lords a general clause, to be inserted in all railway Acts,
the effect of which would have been to give to Parliament the power of
dealing as it might think fit with any railway company during the next
year. John Herapath thereupon inserted in the current issue of his "Railway
Magazine" a letter addressed to the Duke of Wellington, in the course of
which he said:--

"No person can doubt your Grace's intentions are honourable to all parties.
Fearful of the consequences of overgrown monopolies, you are anxious to put
some salutary restrictions to those bodies riding, as you apprehend,
rough-shod over the public; and you are anxious to do this before they
become too powerful to be ruled. Every honest and right-minded man must be
satisfied that such are needful; nor is there a company got up on
honourable principles that would object to any reasonable measure, in which
a due regard is paid to their own interests, and a proper consideration is
had to all the circumstances of their situation and risk. But in common
fairness these must be taken into account."

Defending the railways, and keenly criticising the attitude of the State
towards them, Herapath further said:--

"No man knows better than yourself that these works, if they are at all
likely to be beneficial to the nation--which everyone in his sober senses
admits--will form a great and brilliant era in its prosperity. Nay, my Lord
Duke, permit me to ask you if they have not been a Godsend towards the
preservation of this country, by giving a new impetus to {263}industry and
trade, and saving us from that anarchy and confusion to which distress was
fast hurrying a large proportion of our population? With all these
advantages staring us in the face, what have the Government done to promote
railways? Have they done a single thing? I am not conscious of one. Have
they removed a single impediment? Not to my knowledge; but they have raised
several. Have they contributed a single farthing? Rather, I believe, by the
intolerable and vexatious oppositions permitted in passing the bills, have
been the cause of spending many hundred thousands, which, like another
national debt, will prey to the end of time on the vitals of public

The Duke's proposed clause was dropped, and was heard of no more; but
Herapath's prediction as to the equivalent of "another national debt" being
imposed on public industry was to be verified by the course of subsequent
events still more than by any avoidable expenditure then already incurred.

If, again, as Herapath said, the Government had done nothing to promote
railways, they had not been backward in seeking advantage from them in the
interests both of the Exchequer and of the Post Office.

Within two years of the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester line, a tax
of one-eighth of a penny per mile for every passenger conveyed on the
railway was imposed, and the directors of the Liverpool and Manchester,
then struggling into existence, announced that, in consequence of the tax,
they would be obliged to charge the public higher fares. By 1840 the
Exchequer receipts from the tax amounted to £112,000. Two years later,
following on a great public agitation, Peel substituted for the mileage tax
a tax of five per cent on receipts from passenger traffic, and in 1844 the
tax (which had been especially oppressive on the poorer class of
travellers) was abolished in the case of third-class passengers carried at
fares not exceeding a penny a mile in "Parliamentary trains," stopping at
every station.[42]

The local authorities, with Parliamentary sanction, also subjected the
railways to a degree of taxation against which {264}Mr G. C. Glynn,
chairman of the London and Birmingham Railway, in a speech (at a meeting of
his company) quoted by Francis, protested in the following terms: "Then
comes the last item of local taxes and parochial rates; these, gentlemen,
we do take exception to.... The county assessors and the parties to whom
appeal from them is made seem actuated by one principle, namely, to extract
every farthing they can from the railway property. We ask no boon, we ask
for no favour from Government on this subject; but we do ask for justice."

The railways had to submit to the taxation, but they won the day as against
certain excessive and, as they considered, intolerable demands made upon
them by or on behalf of the Post Office.

In 1838, based on the recommendations of a Select Committee of the House of
Commons on the transmission of mails by railway, the Government introduced
a Bill which, in effect, placed the entire railway system of the country,
then and for all future time, at the command and under the supreme control
of the Postmaster-General. That functionary was empowered by the Bill to
call upon the railway companies to provide him with--at their own
cost--special or ordinary trains for carrying the mails at any hour of the
day or night, proceeding at such speed, and calling or not calling at such
places, as he might direct, the companies giving security to the Queen by
bond for duly complying with all Post Office orders, and being made liable
to a penalty of £20 in respect to every railway officer, servant or agent,
who might disobey any Post Office order. If the Post Office wished to use
its own engines and conveyances it was to be at liberty to do so without
paying any rates or tolls whatever; and it was, also, to be free to clear
away any obstructions to its engines, and use any of the railway company's
appliances it wanted. The railway companies were, in return, to be assured
a "fair remuneration" for (in effect) the wear and tear of the rails; but,
lest this payment might be too much for the Post Office, the
Postmaster-General was further authorised to recoup himself by carrying,
not simply the mails, but _passengers_, in the trains he might think fit to
command or to run, thus competing on the railway lines with the companies
whose property he was virtually to annex.

{265}The companies declared they were willing to render every reasonable
facility to the Post Office; but they protested most vigorously against
what they called "the absurd and tyrannical clauses" of the Bill.

These were, nevertheless, defended in the Commons on behalf of the
Government, the Attorney-General saying "he had no doubt if the prerogative
of the Crown were put in force, the Post Office and the troops and stores
might be transmitted along the railroads without the payment of any tolls
whatever; though he thought the companies should have a fair remuneration
for the accommodation given."

Sir James Graham, on the other hand, wanted to know what were the Queen's
rights on the Paddington Canal. He understood that troops were frequently
moved from Paddington to Liverpool by canal, but were always paid for as
passengers. Lord Sandon, too, declared that the question was whether the
public interest conferred a right upon the Post Office to take possession
of railroads, and make use of them without the slightest remuneration
whatever. That the railways should be subject to control he readily
admitted; but there was a wide difference between justifiable control and
absolute sway, between fair remuneration and robbery, for such it would be
to use the property of these companies without paying for it.

The companies, according to a statement in the "Railway Magazine" for
August, 1838, where a summary of the debate will be found, had been
"prepared not merely to petition but to act"--whatever this may mean. The
Government, however, adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards them by
either withdrawing or amending the clauses which had evoked these protests,
and an amicable settlement of the future relations between the railways and
the Post Office was then effected.

The rejection of Morrison's Bill and the withdrawal of the Duke of
Wellington's motion, following on their adverse criticism by the railway
interests, had committed the Government still more to their policy of
stimulating competition between the railway companies themselves, thus,
they considered, diminishing the risk of seeing any of them become too
prosperous a monopoly. It was in full accord with this policy that
encouragement was given to the creation of {266}many small, independent,
and more or less competing lines, and that no attempt was made to encourage
the provision, either by individual companies or by groups of companies, of
"trunk lines" of the type which Thomas Gray and others had been urging on
the country with so much though with such futile persistence.

The advent of the new means of transport was, in fact, marked by the
complete absence of any centralised effort with a view to securing the
network of a railway _system_, so planned or so co-ordinated as to make the
best possible provision for the country as a whole, and especially for the
rapidly increasing necessities of trade, commerce and industry. The failure
to act on these lines was, however, only in accordance with the previous
policy, or no-policy, which had successively left the improvement of
rivers, the making of roads, the construction of canals and the provision
of turnpikes either to private benevolence or to private enterprise,
influenced mainly by considerations of local or personal interests.

Much had certainly been done in these various directions by those to whom
the State had thus relegated the carrying out of public works which in most
other countries--as regards main routes, at least--are regarded as a matter
of national obligation. But, apart from any question of providing State
funds, the lack even of intelligent direction and efficient supervision by
a central power, qualified to advise or to organise private effort, had led
both to a prodigious waste of money and to results either unsatisfactory in
themselves or in no way commensurate with the expenditure incurred. The
same conditions now were to lead, in regard to the railways, to a further
waste of money, to disastrous speculation, to infinite confusion, to the
piling up of a huge railway debt, and to the provision of innumerable small
lines which were to remain more or less independent and disconnected
_fragments_ of a railway system until the more enterprising companies
began, on their own initiative, to amalgamate them into through routes of

The general position at the period here in question was well stated by G.
R. Porter in his "Progress of the Nation" {267}(1846), where he wrote, on
the subject of railway development:--

"The _laissez faire_ system which is pursued in this country to such an
extent that it has become an axiom with the Government to undertake nothing
and to interfere with nothing which can be accomplished by individual
enterprise, or by the associated means of private parties has been pregnant
with great loss and inconvenience to the country in carrying forward the
railway system. Perhaps there never was an occasion in which the Government
could with equal propriety have interfered to reconcile the conflicting
interests involved, and to prevent public injury arising from the false
steps so likely to be made at first in bringing about a total revolution in
the internal communication of the country. It is not meant by these remarks
to infer that Government should have taken into its own hands the
construction of all or any of the railroads called for by the wants of the
community; but only to suggest the propriety and advantage that must have
resulted from a preliminary inquiry, made by competent and uninterested
professional men with a view to ascertain the comparative advantages and
facilities offered by different lines for the accomplishment of the object
in view. If this course had been adopted before any of the numerous
projects were brought forward for the construction of lines of railway
between all imaginable places, and if it had been laid down as a rule by
the legislature that no such projected line could be sanctioned or even
entertained by Parliament which was not in accordance with the reports and
recommendations of the Government engineers, the saving of money would have
been immense. The expensive contests between rival companies in which large
capitals had been so needlessly sunk would then have been wholly avoided;
and it might further have followed from this cause that, a kind of public
sanction having been given to particular lines and localities, much of that
personal opposition which has thrown difficulties in the way of works of
great and acknowledged utility would never have been brought forward."

In making these remarks, Porter was only giving expression to views
entertained in various influential quarters, and to a certain extent he did
but anticipate, or re-echo, according to the precise date at which his
observations had been {268}written, certain views and proposals put forward
by the Select Committee of 1844, of which Mr Gladstone (then President of
the Board of Trade) was chairman. In the Fifth Report of this Committee it
is said:--

"The Committee entertain very strongly the opinion that in the future
proceedings of Parliament railway schemes ought not to be regarded as
merely projects of local improvement, but that each new line should be
viewed as a member of a great system of communication, binding together the
various districts of the country with a closeness and intimacy of relation
in many respects heretofore unknown."

So long, the Report continued, as railways were considered to be of
problematical benefit, and were in general subject to extensive opposition
on the part of the owners and occupiers of land, and of the inhabitants of
the districts they traversed, there might have been reasons for ensuring a
very full, and, in some points of view, a disproportionately full,
representation to local interests; but "The considerations which tend to
attach to railways a national rather than a local character gain weight
from year to year as those undertakings are progressively consolidated
among themselves, as the points of contact between them are multiplied, and
as those that were first isolated in comparison are thus brought into
relation with gradually extending ranges of space, traffic and population."

The Select Committee went on to give their reasons for considering that the
ordinary machinery of Private Bill Committees, with their separate and
unconnected proceedings, and an individual existence commencing and ending
with each particular Bill, was inadequate and unsatisfactory; and they
especially pointed to the fact that hitherto it had not been customary to
examine railway Bills "systematically and at large with reference to public
interests." There were various questions which could not be thoroughly
sifted under the mode of procedure then in vogue, and the Committee
recommended that, with a view to assisting the judgment of the Houses of
the Legislature, all future railway Bills should, previously to coming
before Parliament, be submitted to the Board of Trade for their report
thereon. They further said--and these observations have a special
significance in view of events that were to follow:--

{269}"The Committee entertain the opinion that the announcement of an
intention on the part of Parliament to sift with care the particulars of
railway schemes, to associate them with the public interest (in the cases
of all future schemes and of all subsisting companies which may voluntarily
accede to such an arrangement) ... will produce very beneficial effects in
deterring parties from the attempt to entrap the public by dishonest
projects, in securing railway projects against the shocks to which in
periods of great commercial excitement it must otherwise be liable from
such causes," etc.

Praiseworthy as was the design thus put forward by Mr Gladstone's
Committee, it failed to bring about the results anticipated.

In accordance with the recommendations made, a special department of the
Board of Trade, under the direction of Lord Dalhousie, was created, in
August, 1844, to inquire into and report to Parliament on all new railway
schemes and Bills, with a view to guiding the Private Bill Committees of
both Houses. The special department was more especially to report as to the
positive and comparative advantages to the public of any Bills proposed for
the construction of competing lines.

A great deal was hoped for from this new arrangement, and the decisions of
the department as to which of the schemes then being promoted they would
recommend for first consideration by Parliament were keenly awaited.

The expansion of the railway system had, by this time, proceeded so far
that by the end of 1843 Parliament had authorised the construction of 2390
miles of railway, of which 2036 miles were then open for traffic. The
capital of these lines was £82,800,000, and of this amount about
£66,000,000 had been raised. A good deal of wild speculation in 1836-7 had
been followed by a reaction, and the railway market was still depressed in
1843; but in 1844 interest in railway enterprise was greatly stimulated by
the announcement that the Liverpool and Manchester, the Grand Junction, the
London and Birmingham and the York and Midland were paying dividends of
from ten to twelve per cent each, and that the Stockton and Darlington was
paying fifteen per cent. The shares in existing companies rose in value, a
number of new companies were formed, and companies already operating
{270}projected branches in defence of their own interests against
threatened competition. It was at this juncture that Mr Gladstone's
Committee presented its Report and that, following thereon, the special
department of the Board of Trade was called upon to undertake its
responsible duties.

On November 28, 1844, the department intimated that the points it would
particularly inquire into in regard to railway Bills then before it were
(1) ability and _bona fide_ intentions of the promoters to prosecute their
application to Parliament in the following Session; (2) national advantages
to be gained; (3) local advantages; (4) engineering conditions; and (5)
cost of construction, prospective traffic and working expenses. On the last
day of the year the department announced which Bills they proposed to
recommend, and subsequently they issued reports giving their reasons.
Strong protests were raised by the disappointed projectors, and on the
opening of the Session of 1845 Sir Robert Peel announced that the
Government intended to leave railway Bills, as before, to the judgment of
the Private Bill Committees.

This meant the virtual setting aside of the newly-formed department, though
its actual existence was not terminated until the following August. It
meant--since each Private Bill Committee would deal only with the merits of
a particular scheme--the definite abandonment of any opportunity for
securing, through an authority dealing with railway projects as a whole,
the realisation of the ideal of Mr Gladstone's Committee that "each new
line should be viewed as a member of a great system of communication,
binding together the various districts of the country with a closeness and
intimacy of relation" previously unknown. It meant, also, the adoption of a
policy of free trade in railways, without protection for established
interests, and to any and every honest promoter or dishonest speculator who
had a scheme to propose it gave, in effect, _carte blanche_ to bring it

Much disappointment was felt at this collapse of Mr Gladstone's apparently
well-devised scheme, and the policy adopted in regard to it was keenly
criticised. Francis quotes, for instance, the following passages from
"Railway Legislation," the authorship of which, however, I have been unable
to trace:--

"Swayed by motives which it is difficult to fathom, the {271}two Houses,
with singular unanimity, agreed ... to give unrestricted scope to
competition.... Little regard was paid to the claims and interests of
existing railway companies, still less to the interests of the unfortunate
persons who were induced to embark in the new projects for no better reason
than that they had been sanctioned by Parliament.... The opportunity of
confining the exceptional gauge within its original territory was also for
ever thrown away. By an inconceivable want of statesmanlike views and
foresight, no effort was made to connect the isolated railways which then
existed by new links into one great and combined system in the form in
which they would be most subservient to the wants of the community and to
the great ends of domestic government and national defence. Further, the
sudden change from the one extreme of determined rejection or dilatory
acquiescence to the opposite extreme of unlimited concession gave a
powerful stimulus to the spirit of speculation, and turned nearly the whole
nation into gamblers."

Francis himself says of the position thus brought about:--

"All hope of applying great general principles passed away. Every chance of
directing the course of railways to form a national system of communication
was lost.... The legislative body--to appropriate the idea of Mr
Morrison--committed the mistake of converting the Kingdom into a great
stock exchange, and of stimulating the various members of the railway
system to a deep and deadly struggle, destructive of order and fruitful of

This may seem to be unduly strong language; but what actually and
immediately followed on the course of events here in question was--the
Railway Mania of 1845-6.

By the summer of 1845 the country had gone railway mad. In the Session of
1843 the number of railway Acts passed had been twenty-four, showing no
more than a normal development of the railway system in meeting the
legitimate needs of the country. In the Session of 1844 the number
increased to thirty-seven. In the Session of 1845 there were no fewer than
248 railway Bills. In the next Session Bills were deposited with the Board
of Trade for the construction of 815 new lines of railway, with a length of
20,687 miles, and capital powers to the extent of £350,000,000. Of these
815 Bills many were abortive for technical reasons, or {272}because the
necessary deposit was not paid; but over 700 of them reached the Private
Bill Office.

How every class of society joined in the scramble for shares; how
extravagant prices were given for the scrip of lines which, when completed,
could not for years have covered their working expenses; how half-pay
officers, ticket-porters and men, even, in receipt of parish relief put
down their names on the "subscription" lists for thousands of pounds' worth
of shares, on their being paid a fee--sometimes as low as five
shillings--for so doing; how "frenzy seized the whole nation"; how "there
was scarcely a family in England which was not directly or indirectly
interested in the fortunes of the rail"; and how the inevitable collapse
reached every hearth and saddened every heart in the Metropolis, bringing
many families both there and elsewhere to ruin, will be found recorded in
detail by John Francis, in his "History of the English Railway," and need
not be enlarged upon here.

In referring to the events of this period, the Report of the Joint
Committee on the Amalgamation of Railway Companies, 1872, admits that "One
effect of the favour shown by Parliament to competing schemes was to
encourage a large number of speculative enterprises." Leaving aside the
enterprises, of whatever type, that did not survive the passage through
Parliament, I compile, from figures given in Clifford's "History of Private
Bill Legislation," the following table showing new lines of railway
actually sanctioned by Parliament during the Sessions 1845-7:--

  1845        118    2700     £56,000,000
  1846        270    4538    £132,000,000
  1847        190    1354     £39,460,000
              ---    ----    ------------
    Totals    578    8592    £227,460,000

These figures indicate sufficiently the magnitude of the schemes in respect
to which, during so short a period as three years, Parliament assumed the
responsibility of giving its express sanction and approval.

The period of speculation was followed by the inevitable reaction, and in
1850 it was found necessary to pass an Act {273}"to facilitate the
abandonment of railways and the dissolution of railway companies." Of the
8592 miles of railway sanctioned in the three Sessions, 1845-7, no fewer
than 1560 miles were (as shown by the Report of the Royal Commission on
Railways, 1867), abandoned by the promoters under the authority of the Act;
while a further 2000 miles of railway, requiring 40 millions of capital,
are said by the Report of the 1853 Committee to have been abandoned without
the consent of Parliament.

To the extent indicated by these abandonments the railway situation was
certainly relieved. But the mania and the resultant panic had serious
consequences in regard not alone to investors in the schemes that failed
but also to the companies that survived.

Apart from projects designed to open up entirely new districts--many of
them of a perfectly genuine and desirable character--there were others
directly devised to compete with existing lines and capture some of the
remunerative traffic these were then handling; and it was, as I have shown,
quite in accordance with the accepted principle of State railway-policy
that such competition should be encouraged, in preference to any
"districting" of the country among particular companies or to the creation
or co-ordination of an organised system of railways on the lines proposed
by Mr Gladstone's Committee.

The existing companies, finding that the territory already "allotted" to
them (as they considered) was being invaded, or was in danger of being
invaded, felt themselves forced, for the purposes of self-defence, to enter
on a number of protective schemes which might not, at the time, otherwise
have been warranted. Clifford says on this point in his "History of Private
Bill Legislation": "As the Government took no steps to prevent the
promotion of competitive railways, tending to diminish the profits of
existing companies, the latter sought to protect themselves as they best
could, and justified their many unprofitable extensions and amalgamations
as measures forced upon them by the leave-alone policy of the Government."

Confirmation of this statement will be found in a speech delivered on
February 23, 1848, by Mr C. Russell, M.P., chairman of the Great Western
Railway Company, at the {274}sixth half-yearly meeting, at Paddington, of
the South Wales Railway Company (of which he was also chairman), and
reported in "The Times" of the following day. Referring to a pamphlet which
had been issued attacking the policy of the Great Western Railway Company,
Mr Russell said:--

"If their engagements were extensive, and he did not deny that they were
so, they had been entered in only as a matter of necessity. They all arose
out of the mania of 1845-46, and even in the pamphlet in question it had
been admitted that the Great Western was not one of those companies which
at that time had promoted any of the many schemes which were afloat. He, as
far as he was concerned, had not only not promoted these projects, but had
taken every means in his power to check them. In January, 1846, in his
place in Parliament he had predicted the results if some steps were not at
once adopted to put a curb upon reckless speculation; but most
unfortunately for all parties that was not the view which was taken by the
House of Commons. Mr Hudson and other gentlemen maintained that the course
he recommended would be an unfair interference with private enterprise, and
the consequence was that schemes involving altogether the sum of
£125,000,000 passed through the Legislature in that year. The Great Western
had remonstrated with the President and the Vice-President of the Board of
Trade, and, left to their own resources, they had been compelled, in
self-defence, to look after their own interests by getting hold of all the
rival or contemplated rival schemes."

In some instances the existing companies guaranteed interest to the
shareholders of branches and extensions which were feared as rivals. F. S.
Williams, in "Our Iron Roads," says of such lines as these that while many
of them were accepted as feeders they "proved for a time to be only

The effects of the mania on the finances of existing railway companies was
further shown by the fact that, in order to pay their contractors, some of
the companies were obliged during the crisis to raise money at from ten to
thirty, and, in some instances it is said, even at fifty per cent discount.
Then, also, the shares in ten leading companies suffered between 1845 and
1847 a depreciation in value estimated at {275}£18,000,000. The following
are typical examples of the falls experienced:--

      COMPANY.          SHARES.   JULY,1845. APRIL 4,1848. DECLINE.
                           £         £           £            £
  London and Birmingham   100       243         126          117
  Great Western            80(paid) 205          88          117
  Midland                 100       187          95           92
  London and Brighton      50        76          28½          47½

While the general situation in the railway world had been thus developing,
there was a revival, in 1846, of the idea that the work of Private Bill
Committees in respect to railway schemes should be supplemented by some
other form of inquiry into their merits.

Writing on this subject in the issue of his "Railway Magazine" for July,
1837, John Herapath had said:--

"It has long been anxiously expected that Parliament would take some steps
to relieve itself from the onerous duties of investigating and deciding on
railway matters. Probably no tribunals can be less fitted for inquiries of
this kind than Parliamentary Committees, of which the House of Commons has
lately given a demonstrative proof in the case of the Brighton line. After
Committees of the two Houses had sat nearly the whole of last session, and
a Committee of the Commons for thirty-five days of the present; after the
Committee's reports had been made on each of the lines and near 300,000l.
of the subscribers' money had been wasted, the House of Commons stamped its
own opinion of all those labours by giving them the 'go-by,' and referring
the whole four lines to the judgment of a military engineer."

As for the element of uncertainty in the decisions of Parliamentary
Committees, F. S. Williams is responsible for the statement that six
railway Bills rejected by Commons Committees in 1844 were passed on
precisely the same evidence in 1845; that of eighteen Bills rejected in
1845 seven were passed unaltered in 1846; and that of six Bills thrown out
by Committees of the House of Lords in 1845 four were adopted by other
Committees in 1846.

The failure, however, of the special department of the Board of Trade,
created on the recommendation of Mr {276}Gladstone's Committee to meet the
requirements of the situation, was complete. In giving evidence before the
Select Committee of 1881, the secretary of the Board of Trade, Mr T. Farrer
(afterwards Lord Farrer), referring to the work of Lord Dalhousie's
department, said the reports made "were very able, but they were thrown
over immediately they got to the House." When, he declared, the Board of
Trade had taken all the means in their power to make a full report, "it was
treated as waste paper. The Board might just as well have made no report at
all." On the other hand, he admitted that the reports had not been of much
actual value, the Board of Trade having no power to call the parties before
them and take evidence.

Apart from a feeling of jealousy entertained by members in general and
Private Bill Committees in particular towards any curtailment of their
powers, privileges and functions by departmental officials, experience had
shown that the Private Bill Committees, after examining witnesses, getting
expert testimony and hearing counsel, were better able to ascertain the
facts of particular schemes than the special department, while the latter
had lost credit, also, on account of its recommendations in regard to

The first scheme of this kind on which it was asked to report was one for
an amalgamation between the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the Grand
Junction Railway (from Liverpool to Birmingham) and the North Union (from
Warrington to Preston). The Bill was opposed by public bodies and traders
in the leading towns of Lancashire, and Lord Dalhousie's report favoured
the opposition; but the Select Committee on the Bill nevertheless assented
to an amalgamation which was, in effect, to lead to the creation of the
London and North-Western system of to-day. The department also reported
unsuccessfully in 1845 against the amalgamation of the Chester and
Birkenhead with the Chester and Holyhead Railway--two other lines which
were first united to each other and then to the London and North-Western.
It further reported against various proposed amalgamations and arrangements
in the Midland Counties; so that, as the Report of the Select Committee of
1872 points out, the department would have objected strongly to such
combinations as the present London and North-Western Railway, the
{277}Great Western, the North-Eastern, the Midland, the Great Northern and
the Great Eastern.

These considerations should be borne in mind by those who might otherwise
be disposed to criticise the attitude adopted by the Government of 1845
towards the special department here in question.

The one experiment had been a failure--with, as we have seen, deplorable
consequences for the country and serious prejudice to _bona fide_ railways;
but Committees of both Houses, appointed in 1846, were now to recommend
another. They advised the creation of a Board of Commissioners of Railways
who were to discharge the dual functions of (1) seeing that the railway
companies did not contravene the provisions of their special Acts or of any
general Statutes; and (2) report to Parliament, if so directed, upon any
pending railway Bills.

An Act to this effect was passed in 1846; but in the following Session
there was introduced a Bill which proposed greatly to increase the powers
of the Board of Commissioners. Clifford says, concerning this Bill, that it
made the Commissioners, in effect, arbiters of all railway legislation.
Promoters were not even to survey an intended line until the Commissioners
gave permission. When the survey was made one of their officers was to
report upon the project. With them plans and sections were to be deposited;
they were to examine into compliance with Standing Orders and report to
Parliament upon engineering merits and proposed rates. Considerable
authority was also vested in them over existing railways. They were to
report annually to Parliament upon tolls, fares and charges, and upon the
regularity or irregularity of trains; and they might call for returns as to
traffic and many other details of management, inspect the books and
documents of railway companies, and settle disputes between companies
having termini or portions of line in common.

"Parliament," Clifford further tells us, "was again jealous of this
proposed interference with legislation." The railway companies also
protested, and the measure was received with such general disfavour that it
was withdrawn before it reached a second reading. As for the Board of
Commissioners, instead of getting more authority it got less. Part of its
functions were re-united to those of the Board of Trade in 1848, and the
{278}remainder followed in 1851, whereupon the new authority ceased to

Once more, therefore, railway Bills were left to be dealt with on their
individual merits by Private Bill Committees operating on lines to which,
not simply John Herapath, but Mr Gladstone's own Committee, had taken
exception; and once more was a set-back given to the aspiration for the
establishment of some central authority which could organise, co-ordinate
or otherwise consolidate the still rapidly increasing railways on the basis
of a national system of rail communication. The difficulty might, perhaps,
have been met by the creation of a Minister of Communications, who would
have held a position somewhat similar to that of the Minister of Public
Works in Prussia or in France, and have discharged a useful function as
director-in-chief, or, at least, as adviser-in-chief, in regard alike to
railways, roads, rivers and canals. Such a Minister, being a member of the
Government, might have acted or recommended without wounding the
susceptibilities of Private Bill Committees or of individual members; he
might have organised or been the means of organising an efficient system of
railways at an earlier date and at far less cost; and he might have saved
both the country from its enormous losses on the wild-cat projects of
unscrupulous schemers during the mania period and _bona fide_ companies
from much of the excessive capitalization into which they were driven.

Whether or not the problems of the situation could have been solved in this
manner, the fact remains that it was the railway companies themselves
who--in spite of the established policy of the State, directed to the
maintenance of railway competition, and in spite of the disapproval of
amalgamations by one Parliament Committee after another--brought about the
conveniences of through travel or through transit. It was they themselves
who, by amalgamation or otherwise, instigated the creation of the "great"
companies which both ensured these conveniences and effected a complete
transformation in the general railway position, to the great advantage of
everyone concerned.

{279}Before, however, reaching this stage in their development, the
railways had had some other struggles with the Government on questions of
State policy arising out of those aforesaid feelings of suspicion and
distrust, and due to the same fear as before that the companies would be
sure to abuse their position unless they were restrained from so doing.

Following on the recommendations of the Committee of 1840, and with a view
to safeguarding the public interests in regard alike to safety and to
reasonable treatment, some important statutory powers had already been
conferred on the Board of Trade. Under the Regulation of Railways Act,
1840, notice was to be given to the Board of Trade of the opening of all
new lines of railway; such lines were to be inspected by Board of Trade
inspectors; various returns in respect of traffic, tolls, rates and
accidents were to be made to that body, to which, also, all existing
bye-laws affecting the public were to be submitted for confirmation. In
1842 a further Act gave the Board power to delay the opening of any new
line until they were satisfied that all the necessary works had been
effectively constructed. Mr Glyn, chairman of the London and Birmingham
Railway, said of this measure: "It is a Bill which I do not hesitate to say
is, on the whole, calculated to do the interests of railways very
considerable service."

But the attitude of the companies was no longer favourable when Mr
Gladstone's Committee of 1844 proposed to confer on the Board of Trade some
drastic powers for the periodical revision of railway rates, and likewise
sought to lay down the terms on which the State might acquire all future
lines of railway. The proposals in question were incorporated in a Bill
which was brought in by Mr Gladstone; but the measure met with strenuous
opposition from the railway interests, and the modifications introduced
before it became law were of such a nature that the Act has never been put
into operation.

In regard to the revision of rates, the Act laid down that if, after the
lapse of twenty-one years (not fifteen, as proposed in Mr Gladstone's first
Bill), any railway sanctioned after the passing of the Act had paid ten per
cent for three years, the Treasury (not the Board of Trade) might reduce
the rates, guaranteeing, however, a ten per cent dividend to {280}the
company, while the revised rates and the guarantee were to continue for
another twenty-one years. Needless to say, railway companies in general do
not pay ten per cent dividends, though in 1844 ten per cent was regarded as
quite a reasonable dividend for a railway, in view of what the canal
companies had been paying; while no such guarantee as that suggested is
ever likely to be made by the Treasury. Provisions authorising the Board of
Trade to make deductions from the guaranteed income as penalties for what
they might regard as mismanagement, and prohibiting a company from
increasing its capital pending a revision of rates, without the sanction of
the Board of Trade, were so vigorously opposed that they were abandoned.

The clauses of the Act relating to State purchase were to apply only to new
lines of railway, the 2320 miles of railway sanctioned prior to the Session
of 1844--and including many of the chief links in the great trunk lines of
to-day--being expressly excluded. As regarded railways sanctioned in the
Session of 1844, or subsequently thereto, it was enacted that after the
lapse of fifteen years the Treasury might acquire them for twenty-five
years' purchase of the average annual profits for the preceding three
years; but if those profits were less than ten per cent, the amount was to
be settled by arbitration. It was further enacted that no railway less than
five miles in length should be bought; that no branch should be acquired
without purchase of the entire railway; that the policy of revision or
purchase was not to be prejudiced by the Act; that "public resources" were
not to be employed to sustain undue competition with independent companies;
and, finally, that no revision of rates or State purchase of lines should
take place at all without an Act of Parliament authorising the guarantee or
the purchase, and determining how either was to be done.

To argue, as many advocates of the nationalisation of railways habitually
do, that the basis for State purchase has already been established by the
Act of 1844 is to set up a theory which is obviously inconsistent with the
real facts of the situation.

Commenting on this Act of 1844 the Joint Committee on the Amalgamation of
Railway Companies (1872) say in their report:--

{281}"It would be impossible to deal with railways made since 1844 without
dealing with railways made before that time, since both form part of the
same systems.

"As regards the revision of rates, no Government would undertake to try
experiments in reducing rates on an independent company whose income they
must guarantee; and efficient or economical administration could scarcely
be expected from a railway company whose rates were cut down and whose
dividend at ten per cent was guaranteed by Government.

"Whatever value there may be in the notice given to the companies by this
Act of their liability to compulsory purchase by the State, over and above
the general right of expropriation possessed by the latter in such cases,
its terms do not appear suited to the present condition of railway property
or likely to be adopted by Parliament in case of any intention at any
future time on the part of Parliament to purchase the railways."

The proposals contained in the Bill, and modified into the Act of 1844,
were, of course, simply a further development of the then established
policy of the State in taking precautions against the evils that might
result from railway monopoly.

A greater degree of apparent success was, at first, to attend those further
precautionary measures which took the form of encouraging the construction
of competing lines, leading both to new and to existing companies invading
the so-called "territory" of other companies, as distinct from the
provision of lines in districts which had no railways at all.

There was at this time much discussion as to the rights of established

When the proposal for the appointment of the Committee of 1840 was under
discussion in the House of Commons, Sir Robert Peel had contended that a
material distinction was to be drawn between new companies approaching
Parliament for the first time and companies which, relying on the faith of
Parliament, had invested their capital in the construction of railways.
"Parliament, it was true, might repent of the indiscretion and levity with
which it had granted those powers ... but he would advise Parliament to be
very cautious how it interfered with the profits or management of companies
which had been called into existence by the {282}authority, and had
invested their money on the faith, of Parliament." Mr Gladstone's Committee
of 1844 also declared that they had been "governed throughout their
consideration of the subject by the strongest conviction that no step
should be taken by Parliament which would either induce so much as a
reasonable suspicion of its good faith with regard to the integrity of
privileges already granted, and not shown to have been abused, or which
would prospectively discourage the disposition now so actively in operation
to extend the railway system by the formation of new lines."

On the other hand, there was that ever-present and ever-active dread of
what _might_ happen if the railway companies _did_ become grasping and
merciless monopolists. There was, also, the fact that while there would be
direct competition between two railways having the same terminal points,
each line might further serve a more or less considerable and important
intermediate stretch of country which otherwise would be left without
railway accommodation at all.

For one or other of these reasons competing lines continued to be
sanctioned, notwithstanding Special Committees' recommendations and railway
companies' protests. One such protest, giving a specific example of the
tendencies of the day, was made in a memorial to the Board of Trade, dated
June 26, 1857, and headed, "Proposed Remedies for Railway Grievances." The
memorial, signed by Sir John Hall, Bart., and six others, and addressed to
Lord Stanley of Alderley, president, and Mr Robert Lowe, vice-president, of
the Board of Trade, had been drawn up at the request of those two gentlemen
as a more detailed statement of facts to which their attention had already
been called. Five specific grievances were dealt with, and the first of
these was "The Tendency of Parliament to concede competing or otherwise
unnecessary lines." Under this head the memorialists state:--

"It is not our desire that the railway system should be legislatively
restricted within its present limits, or that existing shareholders should
by any process whatever be nominally or practically gifted with a monopoly
of the means of railway transit. We should submit to the introduction of
new lines of railway wherever called for by absolute public necessity....
In such cases, however, we consider that the Legislature would only be
doing justice to its previous enactments in {283}giving former applicants
time to complete their engagements so that they might be able, at the
proper time, to exhibit their ability and their willingness to consider the
wants of the public as well as their proper remuneration."

The memorialists mention the fact that in 1853 several new lines were
sanctioned, the period fixed for their completion being 1858, and they

"Already, however, before these lines are opened, others are promoted in
competition with them--promoted, not by a complaining locality, but in some
cases by existing companies, in others by persons whose only apparent
object is to sell the schemes to advantage when Parliament has sanctioned
their construction. In such instances as these we humbly submit that the
Legislature should not permit the introduction of new lines until it has
seen whether or not the company in possession can fulfil its engagements,
and whether, also, such company should not be permitted an opportunity of
electing to extend its undertaking, or to leave further effort to the
discretion of the Legislature."

Whilst the State was thus maintaining its own policy of competition, the
railway companies were equally persistent in keeping to their policy of
amalgamation; so that, as the Joint Committee of 1872 remarked, "A new line
was sure sooner or later to join the combination of existing railways, and
to make common cause with them."

Practical railway experience was showing that the ordinary ideas of
competition, as regarded commercial undertakings in general, did not and
could not be made to apply to railways beyond a certain point. The capital
sunk alike in obtaining a railway Act, in acquiring and adapting land, with
provision of embankments, cuttings, viaducts, bridges, tunnels, etc., for
the railway lines, and in supplying the various necessary appurtenances,
railway stations, and so on, was irredeemable, since, in the case of
failure of the line, due to competition or otherwise, the capital invested
could not be realised again, the land, rails, buildings, etc., on which it
had been spent being of little or no value for other than railway purposes.
There could thus be no transfer of capital from one undertaking to another,
as in ordinary commercial affairs.

In addition to this it might be that interest would have to be paid on two
lots of railway capital in a district where the {284}traffic was sufficient
to allow of the financial obligations of only a single company being
efficiently met, any success achieved by the new company depending (until
the available traffic increased) on its power to divert business and
profits from the other company.

Hence it might well occur that "the best laid schemes" of Parliament and
Parliamentary Committees, in approving competitive lines, resulted only in
the companies concerned coming to, at least, a friendly understanding; and
it might even be that the public did not eventually benefit at all,
because, as the Joint Committee of 1872 say, "The necessity of carrying
interest on the additional capital required for the new line tends
sometimes, in the end, to raise rather than to reduce the rates."

Economic considerations, again, apart altogether from those monopolistic
tendencies on the fear of which the policy of the State had been founded,
were quite sufficient to account for the absorption of one company by
another, and especially of small companies by larger ones, not so much to
avoid competition as to ensure the provision of through routes operated
under one and the same management, involving less outlay on working
expenses, and providing greater advantages to the public than if the same
length of line belonged to a number of different companies.

The lines between London and Liverpool, for example, were originally
divided between three companies, and the same was the case with the lines
between Bristol and Leeds. In some instances the companies were not on good
terms with one another, and they ran their trains to suit their own
convenience. Even when they were on good terms, they might not have any
interests in common, apart from (at one time) offering as few comforts and
conveniences as possible to the third-class traveller, and compelling him
at least to complete his journey by going first class, if he wished to get
to his destination the same night.

As early as 1847 attempts had been made by some of the companies to
overcome the glaring defects of the original system of railway construction
by establishing the Railway Clearing House, with a view to facilitating
through traffic and allowing of a better adjustment of accounts when
passengers or goods were carried over various lines in return for a
{285}single payment. The companies persevered, however, in their further
policy of amalgamation and consolidation, and in 1853 the number and
magnitude of schemes with these objects in view created such alarm on the
part both of politicians and of traders that a further Select
Committee--known as Mr. Cardwell's Committee--was appointed.

The members of this Committee pointed out in their report that the whole
tendency of the companies was towards union and extension, that competition
ended in combination, and that the companies were able in great measure to
attain these ends by agreements with one another without the authority of
Parliament. The economy and the convenience resulting from amalgamation
were admitted by the report; but, though still no proof was offered, or
suggestion made, that the companies were actually abusing the greater
powers they had thus secured, there was an obvious under-current of alarm
in the minds of the Committee as to the many undesirable things which large
concerns _might_ do.

The Committee were opposed to any "districting" of the country between
different companies, and they recommended that, while working agreements
might be allowed, amalgamations between large companies should not. As an
example of the combinations they deprecated, I might mention that they
pointed with evident feelings of much concern to the fact that if the
amalgamation schemes then being proposed by the London and North-Western
Railway Company were conceded, they would involve the union under one
control of a capital of £60,000,000, a revenue of £4,000,000, and 1200
miles of railway, with the further result of "rendering impossible the
existence of independent rival trunk lines." One wonders what the members
of this Committee would have said had they been told that by the end of
1910 (as shown by the Board of Trade "Railway Returns") the London and
North-Western would control a total authorised capital of (in round
figures) £134,000,000, have gross receipts in a single year amounting to
£15,962,000, and be operating 1966 route miles of line, equivalent to 5490
miles of single track (including sidings), besides being only one of half a
dozen great trunk lines.

A much more practical result of the deliberations of this Committee was
seen in certain provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1854,
which laid down that every {286}railway company should afford proper
facilities for receiving and forwarding traffic; that no undue or
unreasonable preferences should be given; and that where the systems were
continuous the companies should afford due and reasonable facilities for
the interchange of traffic, without undue preference or obstruction. In
this way it was sought to bring about greater co-ordination between the
numerous small lines, and secure a better provision for through traffic.
The Act is well described by the Select Committee of 1872 as "a measure
valuable in fact and most important in its scope and intention." It may
have been further anticipated that companies which, as the result of the
Act, secured running powers or free interchange of traffic over the lines
of other companies--and especially as regards lines having access to
London--would be less ready to agree to absorption by them; but if this
expectation were, indeed, entertained, it was not realised.

The companies, in fact, continued to develop their commercial undertakings
in accordance with what they regarded as commercial principles, and the
Joint Committee on the Amalgamation of Railway Companies, 1872, taking a
much broader view of the situation than previous Committees had done,
pointed out how small had been the effect of the policy sought to be
enforced against the railways, since the combinations which had enabled the
great trunk lines to attain to the position they occupied at that date had
been effected "contemporaneously with reports against large combinations,"
those reports having had "little influence upon the action of Private Bill
Committees," and not staying "the progress of the companies in their course
of union and amalgamation." The Committee further said, on the subject of

"Among the various suggestions which naturally occur when dealing with the
question of amalgamation, one of the most obvious and most important is to
the effect that for the future some endeavour should be made to compel
railways in amalgamating to follow certain fixed lines or principles.... If
at an earlier period in railway history such an attempt had been
successfully made, there is no doubt that it might have provided us with a
railway system, if not more efficient, at any rate far less costly than
that which we now possess. But considering _the policy, or want of policy_,
which has hitherto {287}been pursued, and the interests which have grown up
under it, the difficulties of laying down any fixed policy for the future
are very formidable."

The words in this extract which I have put in italics, representing, as
they do, the views of a Joint Committee of the House of Lords and of the
House of Commons, justify, I would suggest, much of the criticism in which
I have here ventured to indulge.

Among the conclusions at which the Committee arrived were the following:--

"Past amalgamations have not brought with them the evils which were

"Competition between railways exists only to a limited extent, and cannot
be maintained by legislation."

"Combination between railway companies is increasing and is likely to
increase, whether by amalgamation or otherwise."

"It is impossible to lay down any general rules determining the limits or
the character of future amalgamations."

In support of their views in regard to the first of these conclusions, the
Committee pointed especially to the North-Eastern and the Great Eastern
Railway Companies, each of which had so far pursued a policy of
amalgamation that the report speaks of the former as "pervading and
possessing one of the wealthiest and most important districts of the
Kingdom," and of the latter as having "almost exclusive possession of the
principal centres to which it extends."

The Committee did not suggest that either of these companies had abused its
powers, or taken undue advantage of such "monopoly" as it had secured in
the districts concerned. In fact, of the North-Eastern Railway they said:--
"That railway, or system of railways, is composed of thirty-seven lines,
several of which formerly competed with each other. Before their
amalgamation they had, generally speaking, high rates and fares and low
dividends. The system is now the most complete monopoly in the United
Kingdom ... and it has the lowest fares and the highest dividends of any
English railway." As for the Great Eastern, instead of abusing their
"almost exclusive possession" of the Eastern Counties, everyone knows that
the Company have won for themselves the credit of pioneering the movement
for offering {288}exceptionally low rates and other special facilities for
the transport of agricultural produce, and, also, of having done more,
perhaps, than any other single railway company to enable working men to
live in healthy suburbs around London.

The whole position in regard to the prospective abuse of a so-called
monopoly due to railway amalgamations is, in fact, much misunderstood.

A railway company which controls, or practically controls, the traffic in a
certain section of the country is especially interested in developing that
traffic because it will enjoy all the advantages thereof, without having to
share them with a rival. For this reason, instead of restricting
facilities, such a company seeks to increase them; instead of imposing
extortionate fares and rates it aims, not merely at immediate profits on
the transport of particular commodities, but at encouraging such a
development of the district in general as will ensure its prosperity,
increase its population, expand its trade, _and_ create more traffic of all
kinds in a not far distant future.

It was precisely this idea that led the Great Eastern Railway Company to
set the example it did in seeking to develop the interests of its
agricultural districts. The more these interests expanded, and the more
profitable the agricultural industry became to the people living in those
districts, the greater would be the demand for household supplies, for
furniture, for pianos, for building materials, and for countless other
commodities, most of which would bring additional traffic to the line apart
from the greater amount of agricultural produce carried, and apart, also,
from the further inevitable increase in passenger traffic.

Cornwall, again, might be regarded as the "monopoly" of the Great Western
Railway; but what person would suggest that the Great Western have not
sufficiently boomed "the Cornish Riviera"?

Nor is there necessarily a "monopoly" simply because a particular district
is served by a single railway. If the Great Eastern did not take people to
East-coast resorts at reasonable rates, or if the Great Western charged
excessive fares for the journey to Cornwall, holiday-makers would, in each
case, go elsewhere. If either company, or any other company, sought to get
too much for carrying milk to London, milk {289}would be obtained by the
metropolitan dealers from other districts, instead; and so on with most
other commodities.

Indirect competition, on sound economic lines, may, therefore, still exist
even when a railway company is, after many amalgamations, in the possession
of an apparent monopoly. The law of supply and demand will still regulate
both prices and charges. When, on the other hand, an attempt is made to
enforce an artificial and non-economic competition by Act of Parliament,
the inevitable result is that the companies concerned find it to their
advantage to combine, or to agree, rather than to compete in rates and
fares under conditions that would not only be mutually disadvantageous, but
confer no lasting benefit on the public they seek to serve.

How the ultimate result of railway policy, as here described, has been to
bring about the creation of great systems out of small ones may be seen
from the following typical examples, showing in each case the number of
lesser companies absorbed, leased or worked as the result of amalgamations,
of leases in perpetuity, or otherwise; though the figures do not include
railways which have been vested in two or more companies jointly:--

                                       Miles.            OR LINES LEASED.
  Great Central                          753                    15
  Great Eastern                         1133                    26
  Great Northern                         856                    22
  Great Western                         2993                   115
  Lancashire and Yorkshire               589                    14
  London and North-Western              1966                    59
  London and South-Western               964                    40
  London, Brighton and South Coast       454                    19
  Midland                               1531                    35
  North-Eastern                         1728                    41
  South-Eastern and Chatham              629                    29
  Caledonian                            1074                    41
  North British                         1363                    45
  Great Northern of Ireland              560                    14
  Great Southern and Western (Ireland)  1121                    19

{290}The process of amalgamation has been carried even further than these
figures suggest, some of the companies absorbed into the great systems
having themselves previously amalgamated a number of still smaller
companies. The North-Eastern, for example, came into existence in 1854,
through a combination of three companies--the York, Newcastle and Berwick,
the Leeds Northern, and the York and North Midland--which three companies
then represented between them what had originally been fifteen separate
undertakings. Since 1854 the North-Eastern Company have purchased or
amalgamated thirty-eight other companies, one of which, the Stockton and
Darlington (absorbed in 1863), was already an amalgamation of eleven

That the conveniences of travel and the advantages to traders have been
greatly enhanced by the substitution of these few great companies for a
large number of small ones is beyond question, and actual experience has
shown that the fears of grave evils resulting from prospective abuses of
the railway "monopoly" brought about by amalgamations such as these have
been mainly imaginary, notwithstanding the fact that they have formed the
basis of so much of the policy of the State in its dealings with the

There are still various small and even diminutive companies which have
escaped the fate of being swallowed up by their big neighbours. One of the
smallest engaged in a general traffic--as distinct from dock or mineral
lines--is the Easingwold railway, Yorkshire, which connects with the
{291}North-Eastern at Alne, but still maintains an independent existence.
According to the Board of Trade Returns for 1910 the Easingwold Railway
consists of two miles of line, or three miles if we include sidings, and it
owns one locomotive, two carriages for the conveyance of passengers and one
goods waggon. It carried in 1910 a total of 33,888 passengers, 5547 tons of
minerals and 11,214 tons of general merchandise. Its total gross receipts
from all sources of traffic for the year amounted to £2358, and the net
receipts, after allowing for working expenses, were £936. The authorised
capital of the company is £18,000, of which £16,000 has been paid up.

Small as this line is, it serves a useful purpose; but the policy of
amalgamation, followed up by leading companies with such pertinacity, and
in spite of so much distrust and opposition, has, happily, saved the
railway system of the country from remaining split up among an endless
number of companies of the Easingwold type--even though they might have had
more than three miles of railway and a single locomotive each.

Other developments of State policy towards the railways have applied to
ensuring both perfection of construction and safety in operation.

In the former respect the English lines have been built with a solidity and
a completeness not to be surpassed by the railways of any other country in
the world. Even in sparsely populated districts where, under similar
circumstances, the American or the Prussian railway engineer would lay down
only such a line as would be adequate to the actual or prospective traffic,
would give the passengers no platform, would provide little more than a
shed for a railway station, and would expect the public to be content with
a level crossing and look out for the trains, a British railway company is
obliged to respect State requirements by laying down a line equal to the
traffic of a busy urban centre, give the passengers such platforms as will
enable them to enter or leave the trains without the slightest
inconvenience, erect well-built and more or less commodious station
buildings, and, it may be, arrange for bridges, viaducts or underground
passages such as in other countries would be found only in centres having a
substantial amount of traffic.

Apart, in fact, from any question as to expenditure on {292}Parliamentary
proceedings and on the acquiring of land, the cost simply of building the
railway itself has, generally speaking, been far greater in this country
than, under corresponding geographical and traffic conditions, has been the
case elsewhere. Judging from the example of the Prussian State Railway
administration it is extremely doubtful if, had the British railway system
been constructed, owned and operated by the State, instead of being left to
private enterprise, any responsible Chancellor of the Exchequer would have
authorised so great a degree of expenditure, in the interests of an
absolute perfection of construction under all possible conditions, as that
which has been forced upon commercial companies dependent for their capital
on the money they could raise from investors.

Less scope for criticism is offered by the provision of the most complete
of safety appliances in regard to signalling and other phases of railway
operation. The desirability of reducing the risk of railway accidents to an
absolute minimum is beyond the range of all possible dispute. Yet, as a
matter of detail, the substantial cost of ensuring this all-important
element of safety, no less than the exceptionally heavy outlay on the lines
themselves, has helped still further to increase that capital expenditure a
return on which is only to be secured by the investors from the revenue the
companies can get from the railway users.

When we look for the ultimate and combined results of the various
conditions touched upon in this and the preceding chapter--excessive cost
of land, abnormal expenditure on Parliamentary proceedings and various
aspects of State policy and control--we find them in the fact that, whether
or not the British railways are really the best in the world, they have
certainly been the most costly.

Comparisons with other countries may be misleading unless we remember that
published statistics as to the cost of construction of the world's railways
apply to route mileage--or, otherwise, "length of line"--and that the
English lines have a large proportion of double, treble and other multiple
track, while in more sparsely populated countries the railways, except in
and around the large towns, consist to a far larger extent of single track.
The actual position is not, therefore, quite so bad as the comparative
figures appear to show. But, even allowing for these considerations, the
following table--which {293}I compile from data published in the "Bulletin
of the International Railway Congress Association" for February, 1911--may
be regarded as conveying the moral of the story I have here been seeking to


                                               CONSTRUCTION    CAPITAL
     COUNTRY.      SYSTEM.    YEAR.  MILES.       TOTAL.      PER MILE.
  Great Britain                                     £             £
    and Ireland    Entire     1905   22,843   1,272,600,000    55,712
  Germany            "        1908   35,639     813,300,000    22,821
  France         Main lines   1906   24,701     706,700,000    28,611
  Belgium       State lines   1907    2,523      93,600,000    37,088
  Netherlands      Entire     1897    1,653      28,700,000    17,350
  Denmark          State      1909    1,218      13,250,000    10,884
  United States
    of America      --        1908  233,632   3,521,200,000    15,071
  Canada            --        1907   22,447     269,850,000    12,022



Considering that, in spite of the unreasonableness, the exactions and the
large profits of many of the canal companies in the later days of their
prosperous monopoly, the canals themselves had rendered such invaluable
service to the trade, commerce and industry of the country, the question
may well have arisen why they were not allowed, or enabled to a greater
extent than was actually the case, to continue their career of usefulness.

There has, indeed, for some years been in the United Kingdom a
canal-revival party which favours the idea that either the State or the
local authorities should acquire and improve the canals with a view to
enabling them better to compete with the railways--which, as the story of
the Liverpool and Manchester line shows, were at one time expressly
designed as competitors of and alternatives to the canals.

So far has this resuscitation idea been carried that in December, 1909, the
Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways reported in favour of the State
acquiring, widening and otherwise bringing up to date a series of canals
radiating from the Birmingham district, and establishing cross-country
connections between the Thames, the Mersey, the Severn and the Humber. The
reasons for the decline of the canals and the practicability, or otherwise,
of reviving them may thus be regarded as questions of more than merely
historical or academic interest for (1) the traders who might benefit from
the said revival; (2) the traders who certainly would not benefit, but who,
in conjunction with (3) the general taxpayer, might have to contribute to
the cost if the State did acquire the canals and failed to make them pay.

The "real commercial prosperity of England" has well been dated from the
period of early canal development, when artificial waterways began to
supplement the deficiencies {295}of navigable streams limited to certain
districts and liable to floods, droughts and other disadvantages, and of
ill-made roads which even the turnpike system had failed to adapt to the
requirements of heavy traffic. In these conditions the movement either of
raw materials or of manufactured articles other than those which could be
carried on packhorses had, as we have seen, been rendered all but
impossible in many parts of the country on account either of the
difficulties or of the excessive cost of transport. Canals, constituting a
great improvement on any other existing conditions, came to the rescue, and
supplied the first impetus to that industrial revolution which the railways
were to complete.

This was a great work for the canals to have accomplished, and it was a
work that was essentially done by private enterprise. Clifford says that
"Parliament, by its legislation in furtherance of canals and of
agriculture, probably contributed more largely to the national prosperity
than by any group of public measures passed towards the close of the last
[eighteenth] century." There is here not a word of recognition for
Brindley, the Duke of Bridgewater and the other pioneers of the canal
movement, or for the private investors who provided the £14,000,000 spent
on the actual "furtherance" of canals. Parliament did not inspire,
originate or in any way improve the canals; it found none of the money
which they cost, nor did it even seek to direct their construction on any
such well-organised system of through and uniform lines of communication as
would have made them far more useful, and assured them, probably, a longer
lease of life. Yet Mr Clifford has no hesitation in giving all the praise
to Parliament because it _allowed_ the canal promoters and proprietors to
carry out the work on their own initiative, and at their own risk, as the
improvers of rivers and the providers of turnpike roads had done before

"Canals in this country," says the Final Report of the Royal Commission on
Canals and Waterways, "were constructed upon no general scheme or system.
As soon as it was seen that they were a profitable investment, independent
companies were formed in every district, and, according to their influence
or their means, obtained from Parliament Acts conceding powers to make
canals of the most varying length and character." If, in conceding these
powers, Parliament {296}had established some central authority with a view
to securing such uniformity in construction and such connected routes as
were practicable, it would have rendered a greater service than by simply
approving schemes put forward in what the Final Report itself describes as
a "piecemeal" fashion. This, however, was not done; nor, in fact, was
action taken to prevent the canal companies, after they had shown their
enterprise and risked their millions, from becoming in the pre-railway days
grasping monopolists whose one idea was to exploit the trader to their own
advantage, leading him to welcome the railways, as an alternative to the
canals, still more cordially than he had previously welcomed the canals as
an alternative to the roads and rivers.

So long as the locomotive remained in a comparatively undeveloped stage,
the canal companies refrained from regarding railways as serious rivals,
and continued to look upon them in the light, rather, of contributors of
traffic to the waterways; but in proportion as the locomotive was improved
and the rivalry of the railways became more and more pronounced the canal
companies grew alarmed for the prospects of their own concerns. They
entered on no new undertakings--the last inland canal, as distinct from
ship canals, was completed about 1834--and they got anxious as to the
future of those they had on their hands. They had first scoffed at the
railways as "nothing but insane schemes," or as costly "bubbles," and they
had then worked up a powerful opposition against them. Having failed in
each of these directions, they next took steps which they would have done
well to take earlier--they reduced their tolls, and they also began to
consider how they could improve their canals.

In 1835 there was a general reduction of rates on the Old Quay Navigation
between Liverpool and Manchester, but this belated policy of seeking to
make terms with the traders did not prejudice the fortunes of the new
railway between those places. As regards the improvements sought to be
introduced on the canals, Nicholas Wood, in the third edition (1838) of his
"Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads," says:--

"Canals, ever since their adoption, have undergone little or no change;
some trivial improvements may have been effected in the manner of passing
boats from one level to another, and light boats have been applied for the
conveyance {297}of passengers; but in their general economy they may be
said to have remained stationary. Their nature almost prohibits the
application of mechanical power to advantage in the conveyance of goods and
passengers upon them; and they have not, therefore, partaken of the
benefits which other arts have derived from mechanical science.

"The reverse of this is the case with railroads; their nature admits of
almost unrestricted application of mechanical power upon them, and their
utility has been correspondingly increased....

"At the time of the publication of the first[47] and second[48] editions of
this work scarcely any experiments had been made on a large scale to
elucidate the capabilities of canal navigation--none, certainly,
satisfactory; since then the competition of railways has aroused the
dormant spirit of the canal proprietors, and various experiments have been
made to ascertain the amount of resistance of boats dragged at different
velocities; attempts have been likewise made to adapt the power of steam to
propel the boats upon them, and other experiments have been adopted to
increase their activity as a mode of traffic, and especially for the
conveyance of passengers."

These various experiments had little practical result, and the navigation
companies found it more to their advantage, in many instances, to make good
use of their position and influence, while they were still a power in the
land, and force the railway companies either to buy them out entirely or to
guarantee them against loss. Such results were generally secured either by
first threatening opposition to the railway Bills, and then stating the
price for withdrawing therefrom, or, alternatively, by projecting schemes
for the competitive lines of railway specially favoured by the State policy
of the day, and likely, therefore, to be readily conceded.

When, in 1845, the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway
Company--afterwards amalgamated with the Great Western Railway
Company--were seeking powers of incorporation, they were opposed by the
Severn Commissioners, who represented that they had spent £180,000 in
improving the waterway, in anticipation of securing a revenue of £14,000 a
year. In order to overcome this opposition and get their Bill, the railway
company agreed to make up to the Severn {298}Commissioners any deficit
between the amount of their tolls and £14,000 a year. Under this obligation
the railway company paid £6000 a year for many years; but in 1890 the
obligation was commuted by a payment by the Great Western Railway Company
of £100,000, and by the giving up to them of certain mortgages to which
they had become entitled in consideration of the Commissioners discharging
them from the liability under their guarantee. In stating these facts in
evidence before the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, Mr T. H.
Rendell, chief goods manager of the Great Western Railway Company, added
(Question 23,834): "It is desirable to mention that, because it is rather
suggested that State aid should be given to enable this very waterway to
come into fresh competition with the railway. Of course, if that were so,
it would be only fair that the Severn Commissioners should re-imburse the
railway company the compensation they have received."

The acquiring of the Stratford-on-Avon Canal by the Oxford, Worcester and
Wolverhampton Railway was another of many instances of purchase by a
railway company being the price of withdrawal of canal opposition to
railway Bills.

By threatening to apply to Parliament for powers to build an opposition
railway, the Kennet and Avon Canal Company, in 1851, also induced the Great
Western to buy them out, the railway company agreeing to pay £7773 a year
for the canal, which has been a loss to them ever since.

In the same way the London and Birmingham Railway Company, now the London
and North-Western, originally acquired control over the Birmingham Canal
Navigations as the result of a declared intention on the part of the canal
company, in 1845, to seek for powers to build a competing line of railway
through the Stour valley. The railway company only overcame the threatened
opposition by guaranteeing the canal company £4 per share on their capital,
obtaining, in return, certain rights and privileges, in regard to control
and operation, in the event of their having to make good any deficiency in
the revenue. This they have had to do every year since 1874, with the
single exception of 1875; and down to 1910 the total amount paid by the
London and North-Western Railway Company to the proprietors of the
Birmingham Canal Navigations, under this guarantee, had been {299}no less
than £874,652. The payments for the years 1906-10 were as follows: 1906,
£37,017 14s. 9d.; 1907, £22,262 2s. 7d.; 1908, £44,690 3s. 11d.; 1909,
£45,697 10s. 3d.; 1910, £39,720 3s. 9d.

There has been much talk in the past of railway companies having obtained
possession of canals in order to "strangle" the traffic on them. It is
difficult to see why, except under pressure, railway directors, who count
among the shrewdest of business men, should have incurred such substantial
obligations towards canals which, at the time, everyone regarded as doomed
to extinction before a superior means of transport. It is equally difficult
to believe that, having incurred these costly obligations, the companies
deliberately "strangled" the traffic on the canals, instead of allowing
them to earn--if they could--at least sufficient to cover the cost of their

Whatever the precise conditions under which they acquired control, the
railway companies were compelled by Parliament to incur obligations in
regard to maintenance which have had the effect of continuing the existence
of many a little-used waterway that would long ago have become hopelessly
derelict if it had remained under the control of an independent canal
company, instead of being kept going out of the purse of a powerful railway
company in accordance with the statutory obligations imposed by Parliament.

These obligations were, of course, based on the principle of ensuring
competition even though canals and railways passed under the same control,
the former being supported and kept more or less efficient out of the
revenues of the latter. This policy, however, was regarded as only an
alternative to another, to which Parliament gave the preference--that,
namely, of maintaining, if possible, a still more effective competition by
strengthening the position of the canals, now the weaker of the combatants
in the economic struggle, and enabling them to continue their independent
existence, in preference to seeking absorption by the railways.

In 1845 an Act (8 & 9 Vic. c. 28) was passed, the preamble of which, after
alluding to the provision in the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845,
giving power to railway companies to vary their rates, declared that
"greater competition, for the public advantage, would be obtained" if canal
{300}companies, etc., were to have like powers granted to them in respect
of their canals, etc.; and the Act therefore conferred upon them the
necessary powers for varying their tolls.

The preamble of another Act passed in the same Session (8 & 9 Vict. c. 42)
recited the powers given to railway companies as carriers of goods on their
own lines, and stated that "greater competition, for the public advantage,
would be obtained if similar powers were granted to canal and navigation
companies." The Act accordingly extended to them the same powers. With a
like object, and again adopting the principle sanctioned in the case of
railway companies, the Act further authorised canal companies to make
working arrangements between themselves, and, also, to lease their canals
to other canal companies, with a view to a better provision of through
water routes, and, consequently, a more active competition with the
railways. Two years later another Act (10 & 11 Vict. c. 94) was passed,
giving the canal companies power to borrow money for the purposes here

In his presidential address to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1885,
Sir Frederick Bramwell, dealing with various matters relating to the
transport conditions of the country, said: "This addition to the legal
powers of the canal companies made by the Acts of 1845 and 1847 has had a
very beneficial effect upon the value of their property, and has assisted
to preserve a mode of transport competing with that afforded by the

It is true that the powers to act as carriers were taken advantage of by
leading canal companies, who worked up a good business as carriers,
although, to a certain extent, with a result directly at variance with the
widely accepted view that canals should carry heavy and bulky commodities,
and railways the lighter and more compact goods. What actually happened was
that the canal companies, as carriers, competed with the railways in the
transport of domestic supplies, while the railways still carried most of
the coal, iron-stone, etc., for which many people supposed that canal
transport is specially adapted.

While, however, as the result of these particular powers, some of the canal
companies improved their financial position, and were enabled to maintain a
better competition with the railways, very little use was made of the
authority given to {301}them to combine among themselves and establish
through routes, converting series of small canals into connected waterways
under one and the same control, if not actually owned by one and the same
company, as was being so actively done with the railways.

Some action had certainly been taken in this direction. The Birmingham
Canal system of to-day is composed of three canal companies which had
amalgamated prior to 1846, supplemented by a fourth which joined them in
that year. The Shropshire Union, also, is formed of four canal companies
originally independent. But these are only exceptions to the rule, for
though the Joint Select Committee of 1872, following up what had already
been done at an earlier period, recommended that the utmost facilities
should be given for amalgamations between canal companies, few of such
amalgamations have, as the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Canals
and Waterways points out, taken place since the full establishment of
railways. Goods sent to-day by canal from Birmingham, for instance, to
London, to Liverpool or to Hull will pass over waterways controlled by from
six to eight different authorities, according to the route followed.

One must, however, recognise the fact that the securing of uniformity of
gauge and the establishment of through routes presented far greater
difficulties in the case of artificial waterways than in that of railways.
The physical geography of England is wholly unfavourable to efficient
cross-country water transport, and this fact, in itself, is sufficient to
render impracticable any such scheme of canal resuscitation as that which
has been put forward by the recent Royal Commission.

The physical condition of England in relation to the building of canals is
well shown in the article on "Canals" published in "Rees' Cyclopædia"
(1819) where it is said, in this connection:--

"Great Britain ... has a range of high land passing nearly its whole
length, which divides the springs and rain waters that fall to the opposite
coasts: we shall call this range dividing the eastern and western rivers of
Britain the _grand ridge_.... No less than 22 of our canals now do or are
intended to pass this grand ridge, forming as many navigable connections
between the rivers of the east and west seas!... The Dudley canal crosses
this grand ridge twice, the two ends {302}being on the eastern side, and
the middle part on the western side thereof; the Kennet and Avon crosses
the eastern and western branches, into which it divides on the Chalk Hills,
west of Marlborough, by which parts of this canal are in the drainage of
the west, the south and the east seas! The Coventry Canal, also, by means
of its Bedworth branch, crosses the grand ridge twice. The populous and
remarkable town of Birmingham is situate on high ground, near to the grand
ridge, and has six canals branching off in different directions, either
immediately therefrom or at no great distance, and, what is singular, owing
to a loop, or sudden bend of the ridge at this place, no less than five of
them traverse the grand ridge, either by means of tunnels or deep-cutting."

While the grand ridge here in question presents no difficulty to powerful
locomotives, the position is altogether different with canals fed by
streams of water that will not flow up-hill. In the case of the Birmingham
Canal, specially referred to in the extract just given, there are three
separate "levels." The lowest is 209 feet, and the highest 511 feet above
sea level. Boats doing the cross-country journey, or passing between
Birmingham and the coast, would have to overcome such heights as these by
means of locks, lifts or inclined planes.

Here we have a very different proposition from that which is presented by
canals on the flat surfaces of Holland, Belgium and North Germany--with,
also, their abundant water supplies, from great rivers or
otherwise--whereas the upper levels of the Birmingham Canal are kept filled
with water only by means of costly and powerful pumping machinery,
supplemented by reservoirs.

When the original builders of canals had to cross the grand ridge, or any
other elevation over which they required to pass, they sought to economise
water consumption and to keep down both cost of construction and working
expenses by making the locks on the top levels only just large enough to
pass boats of a small size. The dimensions of any boat making a through
journey are thus controlled by those of the smallest lock through which it
would require to pass. On lower levels where the water problem did not
arise--or not to the same degree--the locks could well be made larger, to
accommodate larger boats engaged only in local traffic.

{303}The material differences in cost of construction and operation between
waterways on a low and uniform level and those crossing considerable
eminences, by means of locks, were well recognised by Parliament when
approving the lists of tolls to be paid on different waterways. On the Aire
and Calder the minimum toll, if a boat passed through a lock, was fixed at
five shillings. On the Rochdale Canal the minimum toll for a boat crossing
the summit level was ten shillings.[49] The reason for this difference is
that whereas the Aire and Calder navigation is but little above sea level
throughout, the summit of the Rochdale Canal is at a height of 600 feet
above sea level, and is crossed by means of ninety-two locks in thirty-two

The reader will see, therefore, that the want of a common gauge in the
construction of artificial waterways, mainly designed, at the outset, to
supply the needs of particular districts, may often have been due to more
practical reasons than simply a lack of combination or a difference of view
on the part of canal constructors, the problem of gauge on canals built at
varying elevations, and all depending on water supply, being entirely
different from any question as to the gauge or the running of railways on
the same or similar routes.

"The necessity of a uniform gauge on canals as on railways," says Clifford,
"is now clear enough. We need not wonder that, in the eighteenth century,
Parliament was no wiser than the engineers, and had not learned this
lesson." It was, however, not entirely a matter of wisdom. There were,
also, these inherent defects of the canal system itself to be considered.
It is very doubtful if even Parliament, had it possessed the greatest
foresight, could have forced, or have persuaded, the canal companies to
construct locks of precisely the same dimensions at elevations of 400, 500
or 600 feet, where water was difficult to get or costly to pump, as on
canals more or less on the sea level, and deriving an abundant water supply
from mountain streams or navigable rivers.

Forbes and Ashford, in "Our Waterways," also think it is much to be
regretted that in this country no standard dimension was ever fixed for
canals, "as has been done in France." But the superficial area of the
United Kingdom, {304}with its mountains and valleys, and hills and dales,
presents a wholly different problem, in the matter of canal construction,
from that offered by the flat surfaces of France, of Holland, of Belgium or
of North Germany. In 230 miles of waterway between Hamburg and Berlin there
are three locks. In this country there is an average of one lock for every
mile and a quarter of canal navigation. The total number of locks is 2,377,
and for each of these there must be allowed a capitalised cost of, on an
average, £1360.

The fate that overtook the once prosperous canals of South Wales when the
railways could no longer be suppressed by the canal companies, and were
allowed to compete fairly with them, has been materially due to their own
physical disadvantages in respect of the large number of locks they require
to overcome the steep inclines of the mountainous district in which they
were made. These facts are brought out in the Fourth (Final) Report of the
Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways, where it is said:--

"The Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals were bought by the Marquis of Bute
in 1885. They form a continuous narrow waterway with a total length of
about 32 miles. In this distance there are 53 locks.... The waterway is
used at the Cardiff end by small coasting vessels, but above this point the
traffic has fallen off considerably. The total tonnage carried on the
canals amounted in 1888 to 660,364 tons; in 1905 to 249,760 tons. Two
railways run parallel to the canals and carry almost all the coal brought
down from the collieries near the canals. The gradients from these
collieries to the port are considerable. This makes the haulage of full
railway trucks easy, and, on the other hand, in the case of the canal makes
necessary a great number of locks relatively to the mileage, with
consequent slowness of transport.

"The Swansea Canal belongs to the Great Western Railway Company. It is a
narrow canal, 16½ miles in length, and has 36 locks. The traffic has
diminished ... for reasons similar to those given with respect to the
Glamorganshire Canal."

Much more, however, than the provision of locks was necessitated by the
physical conditions of a country naturally unsuited for artificial
waterways. In some instances the canals were taken across broad valleys by
means of viaducts designed to allow of the waterway being maintained at the
same {305}level; and certain of the works thus carried out were, in their
day, deservedly regarded as of considerable engineering importance. The
Chirk aqueduct, which carries the Ellesmere Canal across a 700-feet stretch
in the Ceriog valley, and at a height of 70 feet above the level of the
river, and the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, 1007 feet long, which takes the same
canal over the river Dee, are spoken of by Phillips, in his "General
History of Inland Navigation" (1803), as "among the boldest efforts of
human invention in modern times." Elsewhere the canals had to pass along
high embankments or through deep cuttings. Canal tunnels of up to three
miles in length were not infrequent, though some of these were made so
narrow--in the interests of economy--that they had no towing-path, the
boats being taken through by men who lay on their backs on the cargo, and
pushed against the sides of the tunnel with their feet. Alternatively, it
was sometimes possible to avoid rising ground or deep valleys,
necessitating locks, by making wide detours in preference to taking the
shortest route, as a railway would do. Thus the distance by canal between
Liverpool and Wigan is thirty-four miles, as compared with a distance of
only nineteen by rail. From Liverpool to Leeds is 128 miles by canal and
eighty by rail. These windings made the canal compare still more
unfavourably with the railway when it was considered that the speed of
transport on the former was only about two and a half miles an hour,
without counting delays at the locks; and of these there are, between
Liverpool and Leeds, no fewer than ninety-three.

But just because these engineering works had been so bold and so costly, or
left so much to be desired in regard to length of route, and just because
so many physical difficulties had had to be overcome, it may well have
happened that when what was universally considered a better means of
transport was presented, general doubts arose as to the wisdom and
practicability of reconstructing, in effect, the whole canal system to
enable it to compete better with the railways in catering for that through
traffic for which the canals themselves were so ill adapted.

Supplementing these considerations as to the physical configuration of the
country is the further fact that in the colliery districts the keeping of
the canals in working order involves great trouble, incessant watchfulness
and very {306}considerable expenditure on account of subsidences due to
coal-mining. In my book on "Canals and Traders" (P. S. King & Son) I have
told how "throughout practically the whole of the Black Country, the
Birmingham Canal, for a total distance of about eighty miles, has been
undermined by colliery workings, and is mainly on the top of embankments
which have been raised from time to time, in varying stages, to maintain
the waterway above the level of the ground that has sunk because of the
coal mines underneath." Many of these embankments, as I have had the
opportunity of seeing for myself, are now at a height of from twenty to
thirty feet above the present surface of the land, and in one instance, at
least, the subsidences have been so serious that an embankment twenty feet
high and half a mile long has taken the place of what was formerly a
cutting. If the Birmingham Canal had not been controlled by the London and
North-Western Railway Company, who are under a statutory obligation to keep
it in good and effective working condition, it would inevitably have
collapsed long ago. No independent canal company, deriving its revenue from
canal tolls and charges alone, could have stood the heavy and continuous
drain upon its resources which, in these circumstances, the canal would
have involved; and like conditions apply to various other railway-owned
canals in the north, in Wales, and elsewhere.

Concerning the Glamorganshire Canal, it is said in "Transport Facilities in
South Wales and Monmouthshire," by Clarence S. Howells:[50] "The present
owners have spent £25,000 on the canal since 1885 in an ineffectual attempt
to revive its waning fortunes. One of its many difficulties is the
subsidence caused by colliery workings."

Dealing with the general position in regard to canal transport in the
United Kingdom, J. S. Jeans remarks in "Waterways and Water Transport"

"The railway companies have been accused of acquiring canal property in
order that they might destroy it, and thereby get rid of a dangerous rival.
This is probably not the case. The railway companies are fully aware of the
fact that water transport under suitable conditions is more economical than
rail transport. It would therefore have suited them, at the {307}same
rates, to carry by water heavy traffic, in the delivery of which time was
not of so much importance. But the canals as they came into their
possession were naturally unadapted for such traffic without being more or
less remodelled, and this the railway companies have not attempted.

"When we consider the enormous disadvantages under which the majority of
the canals of this country now labour, the great matter for wonder is, not
that they do not secure the lion's share of the traffic, but that they get
any traffic at all."

If, for the sake of argument, we leave out of account all the "enormous
disadvantages" here alluded to, and assume that the physical difficulties
already detailed could be overcome without much trouble or great expense
(though this would, indeed, be a prodigious assumption), we should still
have the fact that the number of traders in the country who could hope to
benefit from any possible system of internal navigation would necessarily
be limited to those in certain districts, whereas the railway can be taken
anywhere, and be made to serve the interests of each and every district or
community in the country.

It is true that when commodities can be sent direct from an ocean-going
vessel to a works situated immediately alongside a canal, the waterway may
have the advantage over the railway; and the same may be the case as
regards manufactured goods forwarded in the opposite direction. Of the
235,000 tons of flints, clay and other potters' materials brought into the
Potteries district of North Staffordshire during 1910, no fewer than
200,000 tons, imported at Runcorn, Ellesmere Port or Weston Port, were
taken by canal to pottery works located on or near to the canal banks. In
these circumstances the North Staffordshire Railway Company, who also
control the Trent and Mersey Navigation, cannot, as railway owners, compete
with themselves as canal owners. In the case of the Aire and Calder, the
physical conditions of which are exceptionally favourable, coal can readily
be sent from the collieries immediately alongside the waterway to the
steamers or the coal ships in the port of Goole. On the Birmingham Canal,
also, the traffic between collieries and works, or between works and
railway transhipping basins, on the same level, is already so considerable
that no great increase could be accommodated without carrying out on the
canal a widening {308}which would be fabulously costly, and, also, wholly
impracticable, on account of the great iron-works and other industrial
establishments which line almost the entire twelve-mile route between
Birmingham and Wolverhampton, forming, with their hundreds of private
basins, the actual boundary of the canal on one side or the other. To
"adapt" the Birmingham Canal to through traffic would produce chaos for the
local traffic.

Mr Jeans thus goes a little too far when he makes the sweeping statement
that "Canals as they were built a century ago have no longer any function
to fulfil that is worthy of serious consideration. Their mission is ended,
their use is an anachronism." Even the title given to the present chapter,
"Decline of Canals," is to be read subject to the exceptions represented by
those of the waterways that still answer these useful local purposes and
should have every encouragement therein. Mr Jeans is, however, fully
warranted in declaring that "it would be the idlest of idle dreams to
expect that the canal system of this or any other country as originally
constructed can be resuscitated, or even temporarily galvanised into
activity, in competition with the railways."

There is a still further consideration.

Whatever the prospective advantages of resuscitation when the point of
despatch and the point of delivery are both on the same canal--and
especially when both are on the same level of the canal, so that passage
through locks is unnecessary--it must be obvious that when commodities are
despatched from, or consigned to, places situate at such a distance from a
canal that supplementary transport is necessary, the cost thereof must be
added to the amount of the canal charges. The sum of the two may then be so
little below the cost of rail transport that the latter--coupled with the
greater speed and the greater convenience in the way, perhaps, of sidings
or of lines of rails coming right into the works--will be preferred.
Academic theories, on paper, as to the comparative costs of hauling given
weights of commodities on water and rail respectively may, in fact, be
rendered futile by (1) the supplementary cost of transport to or from the
waterway and of various services or conveniences included in the railway
rate but not included in the canal charges; and (2) the consideration that
if a large sum of money be spent on {309}improving the canals the interest
thereon must either be met by means of increased canal charges--in which
event the canal-users would have no advantage over the railway-users--or
remain as a permanent burden on the community.

How the cost of the supplementary charges and services operates in practice
may be shown by a reference to the London coal trade, coal being a
commodity which is regarded by those who favour State ownership of the
canals as one specially adapted for waterway transport.

Except as regards the consignments of sea-borne coal, the domestic coal
supply of London is carried almost exclusively by rail. The trucks can
generally go right up to the collieries; they convey the coal to special
and extensive railway sidings, there to await orders; and they proceed
thence, as required, to the suburban railway station or depôt nearest to
the premises of the actual consumer, in any part of the country; whereas
coal sent by canal would first have to be taken from the colliery to the
canal, and there be discharged into the boat, then be conveyed, say, to the
Thames, next be transferred from boat to cart, and finally be taken by road
across London to destination, with the subsidiary considerations (1) that
with each fresh handling the coal would deteriorate in value; (2) that the
traders would lose the advantage of railway coal sidings and station
depots; and (3) that the railway truck is a better unit than the canal boat
for the various descriptions or qualities of coal dealt in by the average
coal merchant, whose prejudices in favour of rail transport over canal
transport, when the consumers are not actually located on or quite close to
the waterway, can thus be accounted for by strictly business

The conclusion is forced upon one that, notwithstanding the useful purposes
which a certain number of canals are still serving, any resuscitation of
canals in general, or even any provision of improved cross-country canal
routes passing over the "grand ridge," at the cost of an indefinite number
of millions to the country, can hardly be regarded as coming within the
range of sound economics. It certainly is favoured by a larger number of
traders than the comparatively small proportion who would be able, or
willing, to use the canals when they had been improved; but this support is
directly due to a belief that nationalisation--though what is proposed
{310}is only a partial nationalisation--of the canals would tend towards
keeping down railway rates.

In other words, the scheme is but a further development of that policy
which aims at enforcing the principle of competition irrespective of cost,
and without regard for the capital expenditure on which a fair return ought
to be assured. One of the witnesses examined before the Royal Commission on
Canals and Waterways said there was a local feeling against the Wilts and
Berks Canal being taken in hand by the county council "because," he said,
"we are all afraid of the rates; but," he added, "from what I have heard
from traders and others, they would like to see it back again, mainly as a
means of cutting down railway rates." Mr Remnant, one of the Commissioners,
says in his separate report, in alluding to import and export traffic, that
most of the evidence given on this question "seemed to point to a desire on
the traders' part, not so much for the waterways as for lower railway
rates, in order to enable them to face foreign competition"; while Mr
Davison, another of the Commissioners, who also dissents from the
recommendations of the Majority Report, speaks of many of the canals as
being "of little economic value to the trade of the country, apart from
whatever influence they may have in keeping down railway rates," though he
adds: "If this latter result were otherwise secured their continued
existence could not be justified on economic grounds."

Any effect which the carrying out of the Majority Report scheme of canal
improvement _might_ have on railway rates would, all the same, be felt only
in the towns or localities directly concerned. Benefit would result to (1)
those traders who could use the canals, and (2) those who, though not using
the canals, obtained the lower railway rates, if reductions really were
secured through the canal competition; while traders at a distance from the
waterways would not only have to help to pay the cost, though themselves
deriving no benefit therefrom, but might even see two classes of their own
competitors in the favoured districts gain an advantage over them--one set
from State-owned and State-aided canals, and another from the local
reductions in railway rates to which those canals might be expected to

The proposals of the Royal Commission may well be approved by certain
localities or individual traders on the line {311}of route of the canals
proposed to be taken in hand. They are hardly likely, however, to commend
themselves to the traders and taxpayers of the country in general.

My own view is that if the State is prepared to find money for the purpose
of cheapening the cost of transport, it could do so to better advantage if,
instead of spending millions on an impracticable and partial scheme of
canal resuscitation, it lightened the burden of taxation now falling on the
railway companies, and thus improved their position in regard, not merely
to traders in particular districts, but to the trade and industries of the
United Kingdom as a whole.



The inherent defects of the turnpike system must in themselves have been
fatal to its permanent continuance, irrespective of the influence of the
railways, which did not kill the turnpikes so much as merely give them the
_coup de grace_.

No one can deny the adequacy of the time that Parliament had devoted to the
kindred subjects of roads and waggons. By 1838--and only a few years,
therefore, later than the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester
Railway--Parliament had passed no fewer than 3800 private and local
turnpike Acts, and had authorised the creation in England and Wales of 1116
turnpike trusts, controlling 22,000 miles of road. But the whole system was
hopelessly inefficient, wasteful and burdensome, besides being as
unsatisfactory in its administration as it was in its results.

Managed or directed by trustees and surveyors under the conditions detailed
in Chapter X, the actual work on the turnpike roads was mainly carried out
by statute labour, pauper labour or labour paid for out of the tolls, out
of the receipts from the composition for statute duty, or, as a last
resource, at the direct cost of the ratepayers, who were thus made
responsible for the turnpike as well as for the parish roads.

Statute labour was a positive burlesque of English local government.
Archdeacon Plymley says in his "General View of the Agriculture of
Shropshire" (1803): "There is no trick, evasion or idleness that shall be
deemed too mean to avoid working on the road: sometimes the worst horses
are sent; at others a broken cart, or a boy, or an old man past labour, to
fill: they are sometimes sent an hour or two too late in the morning, or
they leave off much sooner than the proper time, unless the surveyor watch
the whole day."

In the article already quoted from the "Westminster {313}Review" for
October, 1825, it is said: "Statute labour on the parish roads is limited
to six days work and on the turnpikes to three. But it is now found
generally expedient to demand or take money in lieu of labour, according to
a rate to be fixed by the justices in different places.... In practice the
statute labour was frequently a farce, half of the time being spent in
going and returning and in conversation and idleness."

An authority referred to in Postlethwayt's "Dictionary" (1745) had
suggested that criminals condemned to death for minor offences should,
instead of being transported, be ordered to do a year's work on the
highway. He further recommended, in all seriousness, that arrangements
should be made with the African Company for the importation of 200 negroes
as road-repairers, they being, as he said, "generally persons to do a great
deal of work." Failing criminals and negroes, some of the parishes did
employ paupers, gangs of whom were to be seen pretending to work at
road-mending, and getting far more degeneration for themselves than they
did good for the roads.

In 1835 Parliament abolished both statute labour and statute labour
composition, thenceforward wholly superseded by highway rates as applying
to the whole of the minor roads for which the parish was responsible.

Bad as the statute labour system had been, its abolition involved a loss to
the turnpike trusts estimated at about £200,000 a year; and this was a
serious matter to trustees whose financial position was becoming hopeless
in view of their liabilities and the discouraging nature of their outlook.
Such discouragement was due in great part to the advent of the railways,
but not entirely so, the Select Committee of 1839 on Turnpike Trusts saying
in their report that "the gradual decline in the transit on turnpike roads
in some parts of the country arises not only from the railways formed but
from steam vessels plying on rivers and as coasting traders"; and they
added: "Whenever mechanical power has been substituted for animal power,
the result has hitherto been that the labour is performed at a cheaper

The cost of making and repairing turnpike roads, especially under the
primitive conditions still widely retained, notwithstanding the improved
methods introduced by Telford {314}and McAdam, was in itself a most serious
item, apart from the excessive expenditure on administration. Dr James
Anderson says on this subject in the issue of his "Recreations" for
November, 1800:--

"I have been assured, and believe it to be true, though I cannot pledge
myself for the certainty of the fact, that there is annually laid out on
repairs upon the road from Hyde Park to Hounslow considerably above £1000 a
mile. A turnpike road cannot be made in almost any situation for less, as I
am told, than £1000 per mile; but where it is of considerable width, as
near great towns, it will run from £1500 to £2000 per mile; and in annual
repairs, including the purchase price of materials, carting them to the
road, spreading, raking off, and carting away again, from £100 to £1000 a

The trustees generally raised loans to meet their first expenses, payment
of interest being guaranteed out of the tolls levied; but though, at one
time, and especially before the competition of railways became active, the
security was regarded as adequate, an unduly costly management, combined
with decreasing receipts from tolls, resulted in the piling up of huge
financial liabilities which the trusts found it impossible to clear off in
addition to meeting current expenditure. The Select Committee on Turnpike
Trusts in 1839 reported on this subject: "The present debt of the turnpike
trusts in England and Wales exceeds £9,000,000, and it is annually
increasing, in consequence of the practice prevailing in several of the
trusts of converting the unpaid interest into principal, the trustees
giving bonds bearing interest for the amount of interest due." At this time
there were no fewer than eighty-four trusts which had paid no interest on
loans for several years, and there were said to be some trusts which had
paid no interest for sixty years. Sir James McAdam, son of John Loudon
McAdam, informed the Select Committee of 1839 that the amount of unpaid
interest on the trusts at that time was £1,031,096.

In order to improve their financial position, the trustees generally
adopted the expedient either of seeking Parliamentary authority to increase
their tolls or of setting up the largest possible number of toll-gates
along their own particular bit of road. In either case it was the road-user
who paid.

The Select Committee of 1819 reported that in the three {315}preceding
Sessions ninety turnpike trusts, seeking renewal of their Acts, had asked
for authority to increase their tolls on the ground that they could not pay
their debts without the assistance of Parliament. The alternative to an
increase of tolls was carried so far that it became customary for the
trusts to set up a toll-gate wherever there was the slightest excuse for so

"In some places," says J. Kearsley Fowler, in "Records of Old Times," "as,
for instance, my native town of Aylesbury, the place was literally hemmed
in like a fortified city,--not even an outlet to exercise a horse without
paying a toll." There were, he tells us, seven different trusts to maintain
at Aylesbury alone.

Mr George Masefield, a solicitor residing at Ledbury, Herefordshire, said
when giving evidence before the Select Committee on Turnpike Trusts in 1864
that in the twenty-one miles between Ledbury and Kingston, a journey he
frequently made, he had to go through eight turnpike gates. In the eight
miles' journey to Newent he passed through four gates and paid three times;
and in the thirteen miles to Worcester he went through six gates and paid
at five.

In Gloucestershire, said the "Morning Star" of September 30, 1856, "it
sometimes happens you have to pay five turnpikes in twelve miles"; though
such were the inequalities of the burden that in some other counties, said
the same paper, one could go for miles without paying anything.

These inequalities had been previously pointed out in the "Westminster
Review" article. In speaking of the practice followed in the location of
turnpikes, the writer declared that "gates are sometimes placed so as to
tax one portion and exempt another, so as to make strangers and travellers
pay, while those who chiefly profit by the roads, and who destroy them
most, are exempted." He further said that "the Welsh, with their
characteristic cunning, have contrived to exempt their own heavy carts and
to levy their tolls on the light barouches of unlucky visitors"; that one
might see, in Scotland, three toll-gates, and all to be paid, in the space
of a hundred yards; that one might, as against this, ride thirty miles
without paying one toll; and that "the inhabitants of Greenwich pay the
tolls for the half of Kent."

London in 1818 had twelve turnpike trusts for 210 miles of {316}road. The
tolls they collected in that year amounted to £97,482; the expenses were
£98,856, and the accumulated debt of the dozen trusts was £62,658.

On the Middlesex side of London there were 87 turnpike gates and bars
within four miles of Charing Cross, or, including the Surrey side, a total
of 100 within a four-mile radius. "Let the traveller drive through the
Walworth gate southward," says J. E. Bradfield, in his "Notes on Toll
Reform" (1856), "and note how every road, every alley, every passage has
its 'bar.' The inhabitants cannot move north, east, south, or west without
paying one toll; and some of them cannot get out of the parish without two
tolls. The cry at every corner of Camberwell is 'Toll.'" The position of
Walworth and Camberwell does not, however, appear to have been at all
exceptional. In Besant's "Survey of London" it is stated that a map of
London and its environs, published in 1835, shows that it was then
impossible to get away from town without going through turnpikes. On every
side they barred the way.

In the case of a stage-coach with four horses running every day between
London and Birmingham, the tolls paid amounted to £1428 in the year. At one
gate on the Brighton road the tolls collected came to £2400 in the year,
and of this amount £1600 was from coaches. The payment of these tolls was a
serious tax on the coaches, though an important source of revenue for the
turnpike trustees; and in proportion as the coaches were taken off the
roads, owing to the competition of the railways, the financial position of
the trusts became still worse. Mail-coaches were exempted from tolls in
England, though they had to pay them in Scotland.

The amount of the tolls varied according to the trusts or the locality.
Kearsley Fowler says that in Aylesbury for a horse ridden or led, passing
through the gates, the toll was 1½d.; for a vehicle drawn by one horse,
4½d.; for a carriage and pair, 9d., and so on. The tolls, he adds, fell
with particular hardship on farmers, and became a tax on their trade. When
sending away their corn or other produce with a waggon and four horses they
paid, in some instances, 1s. 6d. or 2s. 3d. If, as often occurred, the
waggon passed through two gates in eight or nine miles, the payments came
to 3s. or 4s. 6d. If the waggon returned with coal or feeding stuffs it had
to pay the same tolls over again.

{317}Nor did the toll-payers get anything like value for their money. About
fifty per cent of the amount received by the trustees, either direct from
the tolls or from the persons farming them, went in interest and management
expenses; and although the remainder might be spent on road repairs, a good
proportion of this was wasted because of the inefficient way in which the
work was too often done. Mr Wrightson, a member of the Special Committee of
1864, declared that every toll-gate cost on an average £25 a year, and that
every turnpike trust had, on an average, five toll-gates. The total number
of trusts in 1864 was stated in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the Local
Government Board (1886) to be 1048. An average of five toll-gates for each
would give them a total of 5240; and an average cost of maintenance of £25
a year for this number of toll-gates gives a total of £131,000 a year as
the cost simply of toll-gate maintenance, apart from salaries of official
staff and other items. Mr R. M. Brereton, surveyor for the county of
Norfolk, said in the course of his evidence before the Select Committee of
the House of Lords on the Highway Acts (1881): "In Norfolk we collected
£15,000 a year for tolls, but we only spent £7000 a year of that actually
on the roads."

It might even happen that, after costs of management and payment of
interest had been met, there was no balance left for road maintenance. In
the Report of the Select Committee of 1839 on Turnpike Trusts it is stated
that in several instances the creditors of the trusts had exercised the
power given to them under the General Turnpike Act (3 Geo. IV., c. 126) of
taking possession of the tolls to secure payment of their mortgage or
bonded securities and the interest due to them. "The result," says the
report, "must be to throw the burden of repairs and of the maintenance of
such roads on the several parishes through which they pass. Should such
measures now taken by some creditors become general throughout the kingdom,
the proprietors and holders of land will not only have to pay the tolls as
usual, but must also be called on to defray the expense of keeping the road
in a proper state for the public use, by an additional highway rate to be
levied on the parishes where the tolls paid by the public are seized by the

In addition to management expenses, expenditure on the roads and payment of
interest, allowance had to be made {318}for the profits expected by those
to whom the trustees farmed the tolls, offering them by auction to the
highest bidder. The contractors generally had a private understanding among
themselves as to the terms they were prepared to give. One of them, Lewis
Levy by name, farmed from £400,000 to £500,000 of turnpike tolls within a
radius of from sixty to eighty miles of London; and we may assume that he
would not have gone into the business on so large a scale as this unless it
had brought him an adequate return.

The ultimate result of these various conditions was that the sum total of
the indirect taxation thus collected from the public was not only great in
itself, and out of all proportion to the benefits received, but was
inadequate to cover an expenditure already swollen to abnormal proportions.
In his evidence before the Select Committee of 1839 Sir James McAdam stated
that in 1836 the gross income of the different roads was £1,776,586, and
the expenditure for the year was £1,780,349, exceeding by £3,763 the whole
of the income. In Lancashire alone the turnpike tolls came to £123,000 a

Collection of this considerable revenue from the community had, of course,
been duly authorised by Parliament; yet the trustees were under no
obligation to account for the moneys they received. Not only was there free
scope given for jobbery, embezzlement and malpractices in general, but the
turnpike commissioners could, as the "Edinburgh Review" pointed out in
1819, abuse their trust and yet go on levying tolls, keeping possession of
the road and defying complaints. The writer on "Roads" in "Rees'
Cyclopædia" (1819) further declares that "either from bad management, from
party influence or from chicanery and ignorance of surveyors and
contractors, the roads in many places are not only laid out in the most
absurd direction but are so badly constructed and kept in so wretched a
state of repair that they are almost impassable."

On the other hand, the great advancement in coaching, and the higher speeds
attained by the coaches during the first three decades of the nineteenth
century suggest that the improvements introduced by Telford and McAdam
could not have been without good effect on the chief of the main roads, at
least, however inefficient the making and repairing of the turnpike and
parish roads in general may still have remained. {319}All the same, and in
spite of the greater road traffic, the financial difficulties into which
the trusts drifted and the burdensome nature of the tax imposed by the
toll-system on traders, agriculturists and the public were beyond all

Various attempts were made to improve the position of the trusts.

A Committee of the House of Commons recommended in 1821 that Continuance
Bills for the periodical renewal of Turnpike Acts should be exempted from
fees. Another Committee made a like recommendation in 1827, and
subsequently a measure was passed scheduling in an annual public statute
the continuation of any trusts on the point of expiring.

Then, as there was so obviously an excessive number of trusts, with a
consequent undue expenditure on management, a Committee which sat in 1820
strongly recommended the consolidation of turnpike trusts around London. An
Act consolidating those on the north of the Thames was passed, the preamble
thereof reciting no fewer than 120 other Acts of Parliament which the new
measure superseded.

In 1833, 1836 and 1839 other Committees recommended a general consolidation
of trusts; but little, apparently, was done in this direction in England,
though in several counties of Scotland, as mentioned in the Report of the
Select Committee of 1864, the system was greatly improved by the
appointment of Road Boards which, by a consolidation of various trusts and
the association of several counties for the repair and maintenance of
roads, effected a material diminution in the expenses. In Ireland, also,
the abolition of the system of statute labour in 1763, the placing of the
business of roadmaking under the control of the grand juries, and the
meeting both of the cost of road repairs and the payment of interest on the
existing debts out of the rates of the counties and baronies led to better
roads being provided at a less burdensome cost.

By a General Turnpike Act passed in 1841, justices were authorised, on
proof being given to them of a deficiency in the revenue of a turnpike
trust, to order the parish surveyor to pay to the trust a portion of the
highway rates, to be laid out in actual repairs on parts of the turnpike
road within the parish.

Bondholders petitioned Parliament that any deficiency {320}in their profits
owing to railway competition should be made good by the railway companies;
but although this principle was already being enforced, in effect, in the
case of many of the canal companies, it was not adopted in that of the
turnpike trusts.

The various measures resorted to did no more than afford temporary relief
to the trusts, and, in the meantime, the obligation cast upon the community
of having to support so inefficient and so wasteful a system was found to
be intolerably vexatious and burdensome.

While some persons were praising turnpikes because of such improvement as
they had effected on the roads, the "Gentleman's Magazine" of May, 1749,
had spoken of them as "a great disadvantage in our competition for trade
with France, where they have excellent roads without turnpikes, which are
no small tax on travellers and carriers." Not only were the tolls a tax on
all commodities carried by road, but they constituted, to a large extent,
an unprofitable tax, because so considerable a proportion of the total
amount collected went to the support of officials, contractors, lessees,
toll-gate keepers and others, who lived on the system, and so small a
proportion--after allowing for money wasted--was usefully spent to the
direct advantage of the traders in facilitating actual transport. The
Committee of 1864 condemned the whole system of turnpike tolls as "unequal
in pressure, costly in collection, inconvenient to the public, and
injurious as causing a serious impediment to intercourse and traffic."

In Wales popular dissatisfaction with the great increase of toll-gates had
led in 1843-4 to the "Rebecca riots," bands of men 500 strong, their
leaders disguised in women's clothes, promenading the roads of
Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Breconshire at night and throwing down the
offending gates. It was only with considerable difficulty and much
bloodshed that the disturbances were eventually suppressed by a strong
force of soldiers. A commission appointed to inquire into the matter found
there was a genuine grievance, and an Act of Parliament was passed which
consolidated the trusts in South Wales, regulated the number of toll-gates
there, and provided for the extinction of the debt on the roads by the
advance of about £200,000, at three per cent interest, by the {321}Public
Works Loan Commissioners, to be repaid by terminable annuities within
thirty years. The loan was duly paid off by 1876.

Inasmuch as English traders and travellers simply grumbled and paid, and
refrained from demonstrating as the more emotional Welshmen had done, they
had to wait longer for any material relief from the grievances from which
they, also, were suffering.

Down to 1864 the duty of deciding in what order turnpike Acts should be
permitted to expire, instead of being renewed, was, as Mr George
Sclater-Booth (Lord Basing), formerly President of the Local Government
Board, informed the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Highway
Acts, when giving evidence before them in 1880, one of the functions of the
Home Office, and the Home Office, he said, "was timid at that time in
allowing these turnpike trusts to lapse." Pressure was brought to bear on
the department with a view to effecting a more rapid extinction of the
trusts; though the ratepayers had not then realised the results to
themselves of the cost of maintenance of disturnpiked roads being thrown on
the parish.

Following on the report of a Special Committee of the House of Commons,
recommending that the Turnpike Acts should be allowed to expire as rapidly
as possible, a House of Commons Turnpike Committee was appointed in 1864 to
take over the whole business from the Home Office. Thenceforward this
Committee prepared every year a schedule of turnpike trusts which they
thought should expire, the schedule being embodied in an annual Turnpike
Acts Continuance Bill which was duly passed by Parliament. So great was the
zeal shown by the Committee that from 1864 roads were disturnpiked at the
rate of from 1000 to 1700 or 1800 miles a year. "This," said Mr
Sclater-Booth, "has been most distinctly the policy of representative
members of the House of Commons, and not the policy of the Government of
the day, except in so far as the Government of the day has foreborne to
exercise any interference with the Turnpike Continuance Act in Parliament."

While the reduction in the number of turnpike trusts had been an undoubted
boon to users of the roads, it had thrown heavy burdens on the local
ratepayers. For a period of a {322}century, at least, most of them had, in
effect, and except in certain circumstances, been relieved by the turnpike
system of their common law obligation to keep main roads in repair; but in
proportion as the trusts expired the obligations in respect to maintenance
fell back again on the parishes. Under, also, old enactments which still
remained in force, not only land and houses but many other kinds of
property--stock-in-trade, timber and "personal estate" generally--were
assessed for highways and other purposes. These conditions remained until
1840, when an Exemption Act suspended the power of levying rates on
stock-in-trade, and other changes in the law of assessment were made

With the greater activity, from the year 1864, of the House of Commons
Turnpike Committee the burdens on the unfortunate parishioners became
heavier than before; and in the Turnpike Continuance Act of 1870 there was
inserted a clause to the effect that the cost of repairing any roads
disturnpiked after the passing of that Act should be borne by the highway
district, where there was one, and not by the parish. In 1874 and 1875 the
House of Commons Turnpike Committee "made very strong complaints," Mr
Sclater-Booth stated in his evidence, that they would not have proceeded so
fast as they had done, and would not have recommended Parliament to allow
so many miles of road to be disturnpiked year by year, if they had not felt
satisfied that the Government would have provided some remedy for the
injustice they occasioned. "They seemed to me," the witness continued, "to
have had no compunction in causing the injustice to be occasioned before
any remedy was provided for it; but, having permitted that injustice to
take place, they complained year after year of the action, or, rather, of
the non-action, of the Government in not applying a remedy for these

No effective remedy was, in fact, provided until 1882. Early in the Session
of that year notice was given in the House of Commons of a resolution which
declared that "in the opinion of this House immediate relief should in some
form be afforded to ratepayers from the present unjust incidence of rates
appropriated for the maintenance of main roads in England." Mr Gladstone
undertook that something should be done in conformity with the spirit of
this resolution, and thereupon a grant designed to cover one-fourth of the
cost of maintaining {323}disturnpiked roads was made annually by Parliament
down to the year 1888, when the relief granted was increased to one-half of
the total cost by a further sum of £256,000 allocated by Mr Goschen to the
same purpose from his Budget for that year.

The actual expenditure under these successive grants is shown in a Report
on Local Taxation made, in 1893, by Mr H. H. Fowler (afterwards Lord
Wolverhampton). The amounts there given are as follows:--

  1883         167,165
  1884         195,649
  1885         205,965
  1886         229,490
  1887         237,123
  1888         498,797
     Total  £1,534,189

After the passing of the Local Government Act of 1888 the grants were
discontinued, the said Act providing that from the 1st of April, 1889, all
main and disturnpiked roads should, with certain exceptions (and as
distinct from parish highways), be maintained by the county councils.

Parliament had thus at least broadened out the ratepayers' burden in
respect to road maintenance by spreading the charges over a larger area;
and it was, also, affording a very considerable measure of relief to the
road-users in freeing them from the obligations to pay tolls for the
keeping up, not simply of the roads, but of a machinery as costly as it was
inefficient. There was still a third set of interests to be considered, as
represented by those who had lent money to the turnpike trusts for road
construction or repairs, in the expectation of getting a fair return. The
proportions of the turnpike debt, the falling-off in tolls, and the
mismanagement of the system generally made the outlook for the bondholders
very unfavourable; but the best that was possible, in the circumstances,
was done for them.

Under an Act passed in 1872 it was laid down that, for the purpose of
facilitating the abolition of tolls on any turnpike {324}road, the highway
board and the trustees might mutually agree that the former should take
upon itself the maintenance and repair of such road, and, also, pay off and
discharge either the entire debt in respect thereto or such sum by way of
compensation as the Local Government Board, after an inquiry, might
determine. By a further Act, passed in 1873, highway boards were authorised
to raise loans for the more effective carrying out of this arrangement,
while Clifford states in his "History of Private Bill Legislation" that
"there have, also, been Acts confirming more than 200 Provisional Orders
passed to arrange the debts of these unlucky trusts, extinguish arrears of
interest, allow compositions, and generally make the best of some very
disastrous investments."[51]

How rapid the actual decline in the number of trusts was from the year
1864, when the House of Commons Turnpike Committee came into existence, is
shown by the following figures, taken from the annual reports of the Local
Government Board for 1886 and 1890:--

      DATE.          NUMBER OF TRUSTS.    MILES.
  December 3, 1864          1048          20,589
  January 1,  1886            20             700
      "       1890             5              77

Of the five survivals on January 1, 1890, three were to expire in that same
year and one in 1896, leaving only one the fate of which was then
undecided. It may be assumed that by the end of 1896 the system of
turnpikes on public (as distinct from private) roads, which had for so long
a period played so prominent, so vexatious, and, in many respects, so
unsatisfactory a rôle in inland communication, had wholly disappeared.

Turnpike roads, no less than canals, undoubtedly conferred great advantages
on the growing trade and industries of the country. Each, however, had its
serious drawbacks and disadvantages, and, in the result, the shortcomings
of the turnpikes, added to the shortcomings of the canals, gave still
greater emphasis to the welcome offered by traders to the railways which
were to become, to so large an extent, substitutes for both.



What are known as the "palmy days" of the coaching era began about the year
1820, and lasted until 1836. By 1820 the improvements in road-making of
Telford and McAdam had led to quicker travelling and the running of far
more coaches, at greater speeds, than had previously been the case. By 1836
it was evident that coaching had reached the climax of its popularity, and
could not hope to maintain its position against the competition of the
railways which were spreading so rapidly throughout the land.

Over 3000 coaches were then on the road, and half of these began or ended
their journeys in London. Some 150,000 horses were employed in running
them, and there were about 30,000 coachmen, guards, horse-keepers and
hostlers, while many hundreds of taverns, in town or country, prospered on
the patronage the coaches brought them. From one London tavern alone there
went every day over eighty coaches to destinations in the north. From
another there went fifty-three coaches and fifty-one waggons, chiefly to
the west of England. Altogether coaches or waggons were going from over one
hundred taverns in the City or in the Borough.

Big interests grew up in connection with the coaching enterprise. William
Chaplin, who owned five yards in London, had, at one time, nearly 2000
horses, besides many coaches. Out of twenty-seven mail-coaches leaving
London every night he "horsed" fourteen. He is said to have made a fortune
of half a million of money out of the business; but when he began to
realise what the locomotive would do he took his coaches off the road,
disposed of his stock before the railways had depreciated it, joined with
Benjamin Horne, of the "Golden Cross," Charing Cross, who had himself had a
large stock of horses, and founded the carrying firm of {326}Chaplin and
Horne, which became exclusive agents for the London and Birmingham Railway.
When the London and South-Western Railway Company found themselves faced
with serious difficulties he devoted alike his means, his experience and
his energies to helping them out of their trouble, rendering services so
invaluable to the company that he soon became deputy chairman of the line,
and was raised to the chairmanship in 1842. Another coach proprietor,
Sherman, who had had a large number of coaches running between London and
Birmingham, threw in his lot with the Great Western Railway as soon as it
was opened, and did much of the London carrying business in connection with
that line.

Other coach proprietors there were who, less far-sighted, or less
fortunate, held on to their old enterprises, influenced, it may be, by the
views of such authorities as Sir Henry Parnell, who, in the second edition
of his "Treatise on Roads" (1838), declared in reference to railways:--

"The experience which has been gained from those already completed, and
from the enormous expense incurred on those which are in progress, has led
to a general opinion that there is little probability of more than a few of
these works affording any ultimate return for the money expended upon them.

"The heavy expense which is proved by experience to be unavailable in
keeping the railways and engines in repair, where great speed is the
object, will in numerous cases soon make it evident that no dividends can
be paid to the shareholders, and the cheaper method of using horse-power
will be adopted....

"The attaining of the speed of 25 or 30 miles an hour, at such an enormous
expense, cannot be justified on any principle of national utility. The
usefulness of communication, in a national point of view, consists
principally in rendering the conveyance of all the productions of the soil
and of industry as cheap as possible.... But a speed of 10 miles an hour
would have accomplished all these purposes, and have been of great benefit
to travellers, while it could have been attained at from one half to one
third of the expense which has been incurred by the system that has been
acted upon. It is no doubt true that travelling at the rate of 25 or 30
miles an hour is very convenient, but how it can be made to act so as
{327}to contribute very much to the benefit of the country at large it is
not easy to discover. Economy of time in an industrious country is
unquestionably of immense importance, but after the means of moving at the
rate of ten miles an hour is universally established there seems to be no
very great advantage to be derived from going faster."

It is true that an acceleration had been effected in the rates of speed
attainable on improved roads, under the stimulus of mail and "flying"
coaches. But these results had only been secured with consequences for the
unfortunate horses which no one possessed of a spark of humanity could fail
to deplore. Several coach proprietors, each owning between 300 and 400
horses, informed a House of Commons Select Committee in 1819 that those of
their horses which worked within fifty miles of London lasted only three or
four years, in which period the entire stock had to be renewed. Mr Horne,
of Charing Cross, who kept 400 horses, said he bought 150 every year. On
some roads, it was affirmed, the mortality of the horses, due in part to
the bad state of the roads and in part to the accelerated speed, was so
great that the average coach-horse lasted only two years. On certain roads
around London it was necessary to have six horses attached to a coach in
order to drag it through the two feet or so of mud which, in wet weather,
was to be found on such roads as the one across Hounslow Heath.

In accounting for an increased demand for coach-horses in 1821, a paragraph
from the "Yorkshire Gazette," quoted by the "Morning Chronicle" of December
27 in that year, declared that it arose out of the new regulations of the
Post Office, which caused the death of two horses, on an average, in every
three journeys of 200 miles. "The Highflyer of this city," the paragraph
continued, "lately lost two horses, and it has cost the Manchester and
Liverpool coaches seventeen horses since they commenced to cope with the
mail and run ten miles an hour in place of seven or eight.... Several
horses, in endeavouring to keep time, according to the new Post Office
regulations, have had their legs snapped in two on the road, while others
have dropped dead from the effort of a ruptured blood-vessel or a heart
broken in efforts to obey the whip."

On one of the southern roads a coach was put on which {328}was run at the
rate of twelve miles an hour; but seven horses died in three weeks, and the
pace was then reduced to ten miles an hour. An average speed even of six
and a half miles an hour was declared to be scarcely possible on some of
the roads. "It tore the horses' hearts out."

One cannot wonder that, when the fact of trains on the Liverpool and
Manchester Railway doing an average of fifteen miles an hour with the
greatest ease, and attaining to double that speed when necessary, became
known, humanitarian considerations were, in themselves, sufficient to win
preference for rail over road transport.

There was also a practical as well as a humanitarian side to this appalling
death-rate among the coach-horses. Thomas Gray, in the course of his
"Observations on a General Iron Rail-way," showed that, reckoning the
number of coach and postchaise horses at no more than 100,000, and allowing
for renewal of stock every four years, keep and interest on capital
expenditure, the outlay would amount in twelve years to £34,700,000; while
a like calculation, for the same period, in regard to the 500,000 waggon,
coach, and postchaise horses employed on the main turnpike roads of the
country, gave a total of no less than £173,500,000.

While, again, fair-weather travellers may have enjoyed the scenery and the
poetry of motion when seated on the top of a coach going across country in
the summer-time, there were possibilities of great discomforts and dangers
having to be faced, as well. Accidents were so frequent that it was usual
for the coaches to carry a box of carpenters' tools, supplemented in the
winter by a snow shovel. Sometimes the coaches stuck in the mire; sometimes
they upset. They passed through flooded roads, they were detained by fog,
they got snowed up, or their passengers might run terrible risks from
frost. On the arrival of the Bath coach at Chippenham one morning in the
month of March, 1812, it was found that two passengers had been frozen to
death on their seats, and that a third was dying. In the winter of 1814
there was a prolonged fog, followed by a severe snow-storm which lasted
forty-eight hours. In one day thirty-three mail-coaches due at the General
Post Office failed to arrive. At Christmas, 1836, there was a snow-storm
which lasted nearly a week. On December 26 the Exeter mail had to be dug
out of the {329}snow five times. The following day fourteen mail-coaches
were abandoned on different roads.

So, in proportion as the railways spread, the coaching traffic declined. In
1839 a London coach proprietor, Mr E. Sherman, of the "Bull and Mouth,"
told the Select Committee on Turnpike Trusts that the persons then being
carried by coach were mostly timid people who did not like to go by
railway, though every day it was found that the timidity was lessening, and
that many individuals who formerly would not have travelled by train for
any consideration were doing so in preference to going by coach.

The severity of the railway competition with the coaches was, indeed,
beyond all question; but the coach proprietors considered that their
difficulty in facing it was rendered much worse by the heavy taxation on
their enterprise.

The earliest stage-coaches, patronised mostly by the poorer class of
travellers, were not taxed at all; but when the "flying coaches" and the
"handsome machines with steel springs for the ease of passengers and the
conveniency of the country" were put on the road and attracted passengers
of a better class, the owners of private conveyances began to complain of
the unfairness of their being taxed while the owners of public coaches were
not. Wanting more money to meet the heavy expenditure on the American war,
North met the complaints of the private-carriage owners by putting a tax on
the stage-coaches; and the precedent thus established, in or about the year
1780, was followed by later Chancellors of the Exchequer, the taxation
being subsequently extended alike to every class of vehicles used for coach
traffic and, in 1832, to all classes of railway passengers.

In 1837 a Select Committee appointed to inquire into the taxation of
internal communication reported that the taxes then in force in respect to
land travelling by animal power were as follows:--

  1. Assessed taxes on carriages and horses kept for private use.

  2. A post-horse duty.

  3. A duty on carriages kept to let for hire, being £5 5s. on each
  carriage with four wheels, and £3 5s. for each carriage with two wheels.

  {330}4. A license duty paid by each postmaster, being 7s. 6d. per annum.

  5. Mileage duty on stage-coaches.

  6. A license duty on stage-coaches, being £5 on each coach kept to run,
  and 1s. on each supplementary license.

  7. An assessed tax on coachmen and guards.

  8. An assessed tax on draught horses.

There were many variations in the mileage duty on stage-coaches. In 1780 it
was one halfpenny for every mile travelled; in 1783 it was raised to a
penny; in 1797 it was twopence, while subsequent increases led up to the
highest rate of all--one of fivepence halfpenny per mile for coaches
licensed to carry more than ten passengers inside. It was, in part, to
moderate the pressure of this tax that Shillibeer introduced the omnibus
into London,[52] his first conveyance being a huge, unwieldy conveyance
which, drawn by three horses, spread the fivepence-halfpenny mileage duty
over twenty-two inside passengers.

The yield from the mileage duty was £194,559 in 1814, £223,608 in 1815
(when there was an increase of one halfpenny per mile for every coach) and
£480,000 in 1835.

So long as the stage-coaches were well patronised, little or nothing was
heard about all this taxation, which was, in effect, passed on to the
traveller, who either paid without grumbling or else grumbled and paid. But
when the railways began to divert more and more traffic from the roads, the
duties in question fell with special severity on the coach proprietors, who
then divided their maledictions pretty equally between the railway
companies and the tax-gatherers.

The mileage duty was especially burdensome under the new conditions. Being
assessed on the number of persons each coach was licensed to carry, and not
on the number of passengers actually carried, it remained at the same
amount whether the coaches ran full, half full or empty. The fact that the
railways, which were depriving the coaches of their patrons, then paid
their halfpenny per mile only on every four passengers actually conveyed
became a grievance with the coach proprietors, who thought that the
railways should be taxed on the same basis as themselves.

{331}That the taxation pressed heavily on a declining business was beyond
all possibility of doubt.

A petition drawn up in 1830 by proprietors of stage-coaches employed on the
turnpike roads between Liverpool and various Lancashire towns showed that
the taxes they paid to the Government worked out for the year as follows:--

                                             £   s.  d.
  Duty on 33 coaches                       8,455 16  8
  Assessed taxes for coach servants          261  0  0
  Mileage duty                             5,779  3  4
                              Total       14,496  0  0

In addition to this they had to pay £8005 13s. 4d. a year for turnpike
tolls, while their general expenses, including horses (renewed every three
years), harness, hostlers, rent of stables, hay, corn and straw, etc., but
allowing for value of manure, came to £64,602 13s. 4d., their total annual
expenditure thus being as follows:--

                                            £   s.  d.
  Government duty and taxes              14,496  0  0
  Turnpike tolls                          8,005 13  4
  Expenses                               64,602 13  4
                                  Total  £87,104 6  8

W. C. Wimberley, a coach proprietor of Doncaster, who gave evidence before
the Select Committee of 1837, said that the Government taxation on a single
coach, the "Wellington," running between London and Newcastle, for a period
of 364 days, was as follows:--

  Duty for four passengers inside and       £   s.  d.
    eleven out, sixpence per double mile,
    that is up and down 278 miles          2529 16  0
  Stamps for receipts on payment of ditto     1 12  6
  Four licenses (four coaches being used
    successively up and down)                20  0  0
  Assessed taxes on coachmen and guards      17 10  0
                                          £2568 18  6

{332}The coach also paid, in the same period, £2537 7s. 8d. for tolls.

Another coach proprietor, W. B. Thorne, told the same Committee that on
five coaches to Dover he paid for mileage duty alone in the previous year a
total of £2273. On his coaches to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham he
paid £7017 in the twelve months, and the total amount of duty he paid for
all his coaches in the year was £26,717. He did not think, however, that
relief from taxation would save them from being annihilated by the
railways, except as regarded certain roads where the railways did not
directly operate against them.

Still another coach proprietor, Robert Gray, admitted to the Committee that
he did not think it would be possible for the coaches to compete on the
Bath road with the Great Western Railway even if all the duty were taken

There was no doubt that the coaches could not have held their own
permanently against the railways even if they had been relieved of taxation
as soon as the success of their rivals became assured. On the other hand,
if the coaches could have been afforded such relief that, while not
attempting to compete with the railways on main routes where competition
was hopeless, they would have been encouraged to cater for business on
routes not then served by the railways, an advantage would have been
gained, not only by the coach proprietors themselves, but by the public.
The early days of the railway undoubtedly brought serious inconvenience to
people who found themselves set down at a station ten, fifteen or twenty
miles distant from their home, with no chance of their getting a coach
because rail competition and Government taxation combined had made it no
longer possible to run a coach on that road. If the taxation had not, as
was often the case, made all the difference between profit and loss, many
of the coaches would probably have held on a few years longer, by which
time the railways would have been more generally developed. As it was they
were withdrawn in larger numbers, at an earlier period, than would
otherwise have been the case, and there were many instances of great
hardship to travellers whose means did not allow of their supplementing an
incomplete railway journey by hiring a vehicle specially for themselves.

{333}The report presented by the Select Committee of 1837 admitted the
inequalities of the taxation on land travelling as between the coaches and
the railways; but, instead of recommending, as the coach proprietors had
wanted, that the demands on the railways should be increased, the Committee
expressed strong disapproval of any tax at all being imposed on internal
communication. They said, among other things:--

"Very valuable evidence was submitted to your Committee by Sir Edward Lees,
secretary to the Post Office at Edinburgh, as to the increased speed,
security and cheapness with which the post might be conveyed over the
cross-roads of Scotland by the establishment of mail cars similar to those
now in use in Ireland, thereby increasing the Revenue and opening up
districts now altogether destitute of any mode of public conveyance; the
same remarks would necessarily apply to many cross-roads in England. The
grand obstacle, however, to the establishment of these cars is the heavy
taxation on travelling, which utterly deters individuals from engaging in
such speculations; while in Ireland, where the roads are decidedly
inferior, but where none of these taxes exist, cheap and expeditious public
conveyances are everywhere to be found."

The ultimate findings and recommendations of the Committee were summed up
in the following emphatic declaration:

"Your Committee earnestly recommend the abolition of all taxes on public
conveyances and on carriages generally at the earliest period consistent
with a due regard to the financial arrangements of the country."

Unfortunately, the financial arrangements of the country never have allowed
of this recommendation being carried out, and a further period of
thirty-two years was to elapse before even the moribund stage-coach
business was relieved altogether of the obligation to pay mileage duty.

The burdensome nature of these duties on internal communication led to the
formation of a "Committee for the Abolition of the Present System of
Taxation on Stage Carriages in Great Britain"; and in some "Observations on
the Injustice, Inequalities and Anomalies of the Present System of Taxation
on Stage Carriages," by J. E. Bradfield, issued by this Committee in 1854,
a strong case was made out in favour of such abolition. Bradfield based his
main arguments on the {334}contention that by removing restrictions placed
upon the freedom of communication the general welfare of nations was
promoted. The taxation of the stage-coaches conferred, he said, no
advantage on the coaching enterprise, since none of the money raised in
this way was expended on road improvement, while the amount of the taxation
often formed an abnormally large proportion of the receipts. He mentions
the case of one coach-owner in the Lake District, thirty per cent of whose
receipts in the winter had to go to the Government for the duties imposed,
not on the amount of business he did, but on the seating capacity of his
coaches. In another instance the duties paid were forty-five per cent of
the takings. Bradfield thought a fair average for the country in general
would be fifteen per cent. The existing system of mileage duties enforced,
he declared, an average tax of £80 per annum upon every stud of eight
horses employed in stage-coaches, as against £30 for the same number used
for postchaises, and £11 8s. in the case of those for private carriages.

Bradfield further quotes a Windermere coach-owner as being of opinion that
there was "still great scope for coaches as feeders to the railways if only
they were given greater relief in the matter of duties." He expresses his
own opinion that "coaches are legitimately the streams by which the traffic
should be conducted to the railways," and asks, "Why tax the stream more
than the river?"

The steady decrease in the yield from the stage-coach duties was in itself
sufficiently significant of the changes in travel that were then
proceeding. In 1837 the revenue from the duties was £523,856; but it began
to decline steadily as the "palmy days" of coaching came to an end, and in
1841 it had fallen to £314,000. In 1853, when, after various modifications,
the mileage duty was three-halfpence a mile, the yield was only £212,659.
In 1866, after further modifications, the duty was reduced to a farthing;
and in 1869 it was repealed altogether; though by that time the locomotive
had supplanted the stage-coach except in a comparatively few localities
where it still lingered, mainly, however, as a feeder to the railway.

The recent revival of coaching comes under the category of sport or
recreation rather than under that of internal transport and communication.



The combined result of (1) a vast increase in industrial production; (2)
the decline in river, canal and road transport; and (3) the various
conditions which checked competition on and between the railways was to
increase greatly the need for transportation facilities, and to make
traders and the public in general more and more dependent on the one means
of consignment and locomotion thus so rapidly becoming paramount. Coupled
with the many technical details which, as pioneers of the railway system,
the English companies had to work out for themselves, and, also, with the
questions arising as to the future relations between the railways and the
State, there were the further problems as to (a) the means to be adopted to
ensure that the rates and charges were reasonable, and not likely to become
unjust or oppressive, and (b) the bases on which the rates and charges
should themselves be fixed in order to secure due regard for the public
interests, to guarantee the operation of the railways on commercial lines,
and to ensure for the railway investors a reasonable return on their

The earliest railway rates of all were simply a toll (as on a turnpike
road) at the rate of so much per mile, or so much per ton per mile, for the
use of the rails, with an extra charge if the railway owners supplied the
waggons. This was the practice in vogue down to the Surrey Rail-way period,
the tolls for such use of road being fixed by Parliament because of the
railway lines being a monopoly.

The next development came when the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company
obtained powers to supply haulage by steam power or steam-engine, and were
authorised by Parliament to charge a "locomotive toll," in addition to the
road toll, when the trader made use of the company's engines.

There was a further development when the railway {336}companies undertook
the functions of carriers, provided waggons, carriages and staff, and were
authorised to make a charge for the "conveyance" of goods.

Parliament did not, at first, specify the amounts of the locomotive and
conveyance tolls, but simply required that they should be "reasonable," the
expectation at that time being that these tolls would be kept to reasonable
limits by the competition of the outside carriers. When it was found that
the outside carriers would not run their own locomotives on the railway,
and that the railways would do their own carrying, the amounts which could
be levied as locomotive and conveyance tolls were specified in the special
Acts of the companies concerned.

At one time, therefore, the railway companies were authorised by their Acts
to impose three separate charges, (1) road tolls, (2) locomotive tolls, and
(3) conveyance tolls; but in 1845 a "maximum rates clause" was introduced
which grouped these different tolls into a total charge something less than
the aggregate of the three.

In proportion as the railway companies themselves performed the duties of
carriers, instead of leaving this branch of the transport business to the
outside carrying firms, it became necessary for them to provide goods
depôts and warehouses, and to have a staff available for a variety of
services--loading and unloading, covering and uncovering, etc.--which were
necessary in the handling of the traffic. The companies then claimed that
for these "station terminals" and "terminal services" they were entitled to
make charges in addition to the maximum rates, whereas it was contended on
the part of the traders that these services were included in the maximum
rates, and that the companies had no right to charge for them separately.
After prolonged controversy and much litigation, the dispute was eventually
decided in favour of the companies; but Parliament required them to
distinguish the charges for conveyance, terminals, and collection and
delivery, and, finally, by the Charges Acts of 1891 and 1892, fixed the
amounts of the maximum station and service terminals that each company
might demand.

In the meantime much trouble had also arisen as the result of the haphazard
fashion in which the railways of the country had been called into being.

{337}The original classification of goods for transport was of the most
primitive kind. In the canal companies Acts the authorised tolls and
charges were generally specified in respect to only about a dozen different
articles. The early railway Acts followed the canal precedent in so far
that each of them contained a classification of the goods expected to go by
rail, the main difference being that the list given in the railway Acts
generally comprised from forty to sixty articles, divided into five or six

As the railways extended, and began to deal with the great bulk of the
commerce of the country, these original lists were found to be hopelessly
crude and inadequate, and one of the duties undertaken by the Railway
Clearing House, first set up in 1847 and incorporated by an Act of 1850,
was the preparation of what became known as the Clearing House
classification--a work required in the interests equally of the railways
and of the traders. At the outset the Clearing House classification
comprised about 300 articles. By 1852 the number had increased to 700, and
in 1864 it had further expanded to 1300.

The Royal Commission of 1865 recommended that the new and improved
classification thus compiled and put into operation by the companies
themselves should be the basis of the classification imposed by the special
railway Acts. The Committee pointed out that the rates authorised by
Parliament were no longer necessarily an indication of the charges actually
made in practice since these charges depended, not on the classifications
in the companies' Acts, but on the Clearing House classification, by reason
of which they were often lower than the statutory maxima. The Committee
regarded the classification of the private Acts as defective and
inharmonious, and they advised that the Clearing House classification
should be enacted by some general Act which might be adopted in the private
Acts by reference. The Joint Select Committee of 1872 also advised the
adoption of a uniform classification; but it was not until the passing of
the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888 that the recommendation was
carried out.

This Act of 1888 was, in part, the outcome of reasonable dissatisfaction
among the traders.

In the absence, from the outset, of any real and effective system for the
organisation of railways in accordance with {338}well-defined general
principles, based on the needs of the country as a whole, great uncertainty
existed as to the rates and charges to be paid. There were then no fewer
than 900 Acts of Parliament which dealt with the charging powers of 976
past or present railway companies, while the only uniform classification
was that of the Railway Clearing House, which had almost entirely
superseded the primitive classification in the railway companies' Acts but
had not yet received legal sanction.

A recommendation to the effect "that one uniform classification be adopted
over the whole railway system" had been made by a House of Commons Select
Committee in 1882. They considered that the adoption of this course was
necessary in view of the imperfection and want of uniformity in the special
Act classifications and charges, in which they had failed to discover any
general principle. "In some cases," they said, "reference must be had to
more than fifty Acts to determine the various rates the company is
authorised to charge."

The position in regard to a new and uniform classification thus so
persistently recommended was, however, complicated by the fact that the
adoption thereof would involve new maximum rates, since the rates charged
for the commodities carried naturally depended on the particular "class" to
which those commodities had been allotted. Hence when, by the Railway and
Canal Traffic Act of 1888, provision was at last made for a revised and
uniform classification, each railway company was further required to submit
to the Board of Trade, within a period of six months, revised schedules of
maximum rates, with a view to these ultimately--after approval by
Parliament--taking the place of the schedules in the existing special Acts.
The new scales were, also, to include fixed maxima for "station terminals"
and "service terminals," the controversy in regard to which, as already
spoken of, was thus to be definitely settled.

The railway companies complied with these requirements, the revised
classification and schedules of maximum rates being sent in by March, 1889,
to the Board of Trade, which appointed two special Commissioners, Lord
Balfour of Burleigh and Mr (afterwards Sir) Courtenay Boyle, to hold an
inquiry into them on its behalf. The traders were invited to {339}send in
any criticisms they might wish to offer to the companies' proposals, and by
June 3rd no fewer than 4000 objections had been received from over 1500
individuals or trading associations.

By this time the formidable nature of the work that had been undertaken
began to be more fully appreciated. Not only were there the 900 Railway
Acts dealing with rates and charges, but there were about 18,000 railway
stations and some 40,000 pairs of stations between which business was
actually transacted in regard to one or more of the 2500 articles that, by
this time, were included in the Clearing House classification. As for the
rates in force, we have the statement of Sir Henry Oakley that on the Great
Northern Railway alone they numbered 13,000,000, while Sir Richard Moon
estimated that on the London and North-Western Railway the total at this
period was no fewer than 20,000,000.

The task thus imposed by Parliament on the Board of Trade in the revision
of rates whose total number seemed almost as countless as the stars
themselves was, indeed, of stupendous magnitude, apart altogether from the
very heavy labours devolving upon each individual company in the
preparation of schedules for its own particular lines. The task itself was,
however, rendered still more difficult by the fact that, as pointed out by
Mr Temple Franks--[53]

"No principles of revision had been laid down for guidance. The
Commissioners were not told to regard either the existing statutory maxima
or the actual rates then charged. Amendments to this effect had been
rejected in Parliament. The Commissioners, therefore, held that the
Legislature contemplated a departure from existing maxima, and that it is
equitable 'to make a reduction in their present powers and fix rates based
to a great extent on existing rates, but with a reasonable margin of profit
for possible changes of circumstances injuriously affecting the cost of or
return from the carriage of merchandise by railway.' In determining,
however, the principles upon which the future maxima were to be governed,
they refused to accept the proposition that they shall cover _all_ existing
rates and non-competitive charges."

{340}With regard to a uniform classification, the Commissioners recommended
the adoption, with certain slight changes, of the existing Clearing House

There is no need to record here, in detail, the exhaustive nature of the
inquiries, protests, rejoinders, discussions and controversies to which the
preparation of the new schedules led. Suffice it to say that these and the
revised classification were eventually embodied in a series of Railway
Rates and Charges Orders Confirmation Acts which, as applying to the
different companies, either individually or in groups, were passed in the
Sessions of 1891 and 1892, and came into operation on January 1, 1893.
Under these Acts the scales of charges are divided into six parts, viz.:
(1) goods and minerals, (2) animals, (3) carriages, (4) exceptional, (5)
perishable commodities by passenger train, and (6) small parcels by
merchandise train. Each rate is made up of two parts--conveyance and
terminals. The conveyance scales for all companies are as near alike as
circumstances will allow, and the maximum terminals (station terminal at
each end and service terminals in respect to loading, unloading, covering
and uncovering) are common to all the Confirmation Acts.

Sir Henry Oakley, who was at this time acting as secretary of the Railway
Companies' Association, declared concerning the new conditions thus brought
about in regard to the bases of railway rates and charges that "practically
they amounted to a revolution." The maximum powers were reduced almost
universally; the classifications of the companies' own Acts were abolished,
and a new and uniform one substituted; various new scales were introduced;
the obligation was now for the first time thrown upon the companies of
carrying perishables by passenger train; and a new system of calculating
rates was established. "It was not," said Sir Henry, "so much per mile for
any distance beyond six miles, as it was in the original Acts, but for the
first twenty miles a certain rate, for the next thirty miles a certain less
rate, and for the next fifty miles a still further reduction, the effect
being that, by that mode of calculating, the longer the distance the goods
were carried the less the average rate per mile that was to be charged."

Within a very short time, however, of the new rates coming into force,
there were louder and more vehement protests {341}than ever on the part of
the traders. The advantages of a uniform classification were fully
realised, and the traders naturally did not object to the fact that (as
stated in evidence by Sir Henry Oakley, in 1893), from thirty to forty per
cent of the existing rates had been lowered. But they did object most
strongly when they found that certain of the rates had been increased.

It was explained by some of the railway companies that, owing to the vast
number of the rates involved, and to the short time between the passing of
their Rates and Charges Orders Confirmation Act and the 1st of January,
1893, when such Act came in force (the period in question being in some
instances not more than about four months), it had been impossible for them
to complete the revision of their rate-books by the date mentioned. The
class rates were ready, and what had happened was that these had been
temporarily substituted for the special rates when time had not allowed of
the latter being duly revised.

On the other hand it was alleged against the companies that, apart from any
question of shortness of time for their revisions, they had sought to adopt
a policy of recoupment, specially low non-competitive rates having been
raised to the new maxima with a view to counterbalancing the decreases.

While the plea of the companies in respect to shortness of time was
abundantly warranted, the counter-allegation of the traders would appear to
have been not without foundation, in view of the fact that the setting of
increases against the decreases was defended by the companies on the ground
that, being corporations based and operated on commercial principles, they
were bound to see that their revenue did not suffer, while, it was further
pleaded, they were still charging no more than the rates which, having been
expressly sanctioned by Parliament, were, presumably, reasonable. They gave
the assurance, however, that the rates were still undergoing revision, and
that the increases made were not necessarily final. They further undertook
that no increases should be made which would interfere with trade or
agriculture, or diminish traffic, and that, unless under exceptional
circumstances, there should be no increases at all which exceeded by five
per cent the rates in force in 1892.

{342}The undertaking thus given failed to satisfy the Select Committee
appointed in 1893 to inquire into these further grievances. The Committee,
in their report, expressed the opinion that the course taken by the
companies had been "mainly actuated by their determination to recoup
themselves to the fullest extent by raising the rates of articles where the
maximum rates were above the actual rates." They were of opinion that the
rates not reduced by the new maxima should have been left untouched; and
they affirmed that "the margin between the old actual rates and the present
Parliamentary maxima was not given by Parliament in order that immediate
advantage should be taken of it, or that the policy of recoupment should be
carried on, but only to meet certain contingencies, such as rises in prices
and wages," etc. They also recommended that further steps should be taken
to protect traders from any unreasonable raising of rates within the
maxima, the Railway and Canal Commission being empowered to deal with such
questions as they arose.

The outcome of all this controversy was the passing by Parliament, in the
following Session, of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894, which
introduced an entirely new principle in railway operation.

Turnpike trustees had always had full power to reduce and subsequently to
advance their tolls, at their own discretion, provided they never sought to
exceed the maxima imposed under their special Acts; and down to this time
it had been assumed that railway companies had similar powers in regard to
maxima which Parliament had already expressly sanctioned in the Act or Acts
of each individual company. There was--and still is--no question (except in
cases of "undue preference" or "through rates") as to the right of a
company to _reduce_ a rate, or to transfer a commodity to a lower class,
thus effecting the same object; and there was, down to 1894, equally
thought to be no question as to their right to increase a rate within the
same limitations as those applying to turnpike trustees.

What the Act of 1894 did was to restrict the powers of railway companies to
increase their rates even within the range of their statutory maxima. It
enacted that in the event of complaints being made of any increase of
rates, direct or indirect, since December, 1892 (and under the Act of 1888
{343}a railway company had already been required to give public notice of
any increase in tolls, rates or charges it proposed to make), "it shall lie
on the railway company to prove that the increase is reasonable"; and for
this purpose it is not to be "sufficient to show that the charge is within
any limit fixed by an Act of Parliament or by any Provisional Order
confirmed by Act of Parliament." Complaint is first to be made to the Board
of Trade, and, if agreement between the trader and the railway company
should not follow thereon, the trader has the right of appeal to the
Railway Commissioners, to whom jurisdiction to hear and determine such
complaint is given. "So that," as Butterworth remarks in his "Maximum
Railway Rates," "the legislation of 1888-1894 presents this remarkable
result--that Parliament in 1892, after probably the most protracted inquiry
ever held in connection with proposed legislation, decided that certain
amounts were to be the charges which railway companies should for the
future be entitled to make, and in 1894 apparently accepted the suggestion
that many of the charges, sanctioned after so much deliberation, were
unreasonable, and enacted that to entitle a company to demand them it
should not be sufficient to show" that the charge was within the limit
which Parliament itself had previously fixed.

Whether traders have really gained any balance of advantage from this
further outcome of legislative policy in the assumed protection of their
interests, as against the railway companies, is open to question. On the
one hand they have a guarantee against increases that offer even the
slightest suggestion of unreasonableness. On the other hand the Act has
destroyed the element of elasticity in rate-making, inasmuch as railway
managers must needs show extreme caution in granting reduced or
"experimental" rates--in the interests of growing industries--when, if the
experiment should fail, and the expected traffic not be forthcoming, the
company must go through the formality of advertising the "increase"
involved in putting the rate back to its former level, and must, also, run
the risk of having to "justify" such increase before the Board of Trade or
the Railway and Canal Commission. "I know of my own knowledge and my own
experience," Sir George Gibb once told a Departmental Committee of the
Board of Trade, "that the effect of these sections has been to {344}prevent
many reductions of rates that would have been tried experimentally."

When we pass on to consider the principles on which railway rates and
charges are based we are met with so many complexities in the solution of
transport problems, and with such direct conflict of interests on the part
of different groups of traders, that we can in no way be surprised at the
controversies and the grievances, real or imaginary, to which the subject
has given rise from time to time.

The original idea that railway rates and charges should be fixed on a
mileage basis, on the same principle as tolls on turnpike roads and canals,
was soon found to be impracticable, and successive Parliamentary Committees
have demonstrated its futility; though its advocacy, in one form or
another, has not even yet been discarded by those who think that railway
rates for any given commodity should be so much per ton per mile for all
traders alike, irrespective of distance and all other considerations.

One effect of such a principle of rate-fixing as this would have been to
exclude the long-distance trader from any particular market, and to confer
an undue advantage on the trader in the immediate neighbourhood, or at a
short distance therefrom, who would thus have gained a monopoly of the
market, to the disadvantage of other traders and of the local community.
Nor would such a system of rate-making have answered for the railway
companies themselves, since the discouragement of long-distance traffic
would have restricted the area of business, and limited their sources of

Another once much-favoured theory is that the railways should charge so
much for cost of service, plus a reasonable profit for themselves.

Here, in the first place, there is the impossibility of deciding what is
the cost of the service rendered in regard to each commodity and each
consignment thereof that is carried. No basis exists on which the most
expert of railway men could decide the respective costs of transport for
each and every article in a train-load of miscellaneous goods, nor could
any one apportion the exact amount that each should bear in regard to
interest on capital outlay and other standing charges which must needs be
covered as well as the proportionate cost of actual operation.

{345}Then we have the fact that, even if these figures could be arrived at,
many of the commodities carried would be unable to pay the rates fixed
thereon. This would especially apply to coal, iron-stone, manure and other
things either of low value or of considerable weight or bulk. Whatever may
be the real cost of carrying them, commodities of this kind cannot pay more
than a certain rate. If that rate is exceeded either they will be sent in
proportionately smaller quantities or they will not be sent by rail at all.

We arrive, in this way, by the logic of actual facts, at the fundamental
principle, adopted by railway companies, of charging "what the traffic will
bear"; and by this is meant "charging no more than," rather than "charging
as much as," the traffic will bear. Findlay, in his book on "The Working
and Management of an English Railway" (fourth edition, 1891) says of the
practice based on this principle:--

"The rates are governed by the nature and extent of the traffic, the
pressure of competition, either by water, by a rival route, or by other
land carriage; but, above all, the companies have regard to the commercial
value of the commodity, and the rate it will bear, so as to admit of its
being produced and sold in a competing market with a fair margin of profit.
The companies each do their best to meet the circumstances of the trade, to
develop the resources of their own particular district, and to encourage
the competition of markets, primarily, no doubt, in their own interest, but
nevertheless greatly to the advantage of the community."

The application of the principle is worked out by the division into various
classes of all minerals and merchandise carried on the railway. The classes
are known respectively as A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, the rates charged being
lowest for commodities in Class A and highest for those in Class 5. The
type of article included in each class may be indicated by the following

Class A (applicable to consignments of four tons and upwards).--Coal, coke,
gravel, iron-stone, limestone, stable manure, sand.

Class B (applicable to consignments of four tons and upwards).--Bricks,
concrete, various articles of iron and steel, granite (in blocks), lime (in
bulk), salt (in bulk), common slates.

{346}Class C.--Parsnips, pitwood (for mining purposes), potatoes (in bulk
or in sacks), salt (packed), soda, straw (hydraulic or steam-packed), waste
paper (for paper-making).

Class 1.--Cardboard, cotton (unmanufactured), onions, printing paper,
finished wrought iron in shafts (for driving mill wheels), soap, sugar (in
bags, cases or sacks), tallow, vinegar (in casks).

Class 2.--Bacons and hams (cured and packed), celery, coffee, copper,
earthenware (in casks or crates), crucibles (plumbago or clay), oranges,
ropes, raw wool or yarn.

Class 3.--Baths, calicoes, carpeting, china (in hampers), combs, cotton and
linen goods (in bales, boxes, etc.), cutlery, groceries, hardware, lead
pencils, tea, wheelbarrows.

Class 4.--Light drapery (various), footballs, garden arches, grates, ovens
or stoves, haberdashery, hats (soft felt), lamps, umbrellas.

Class 5.--Amber, engravings, feathers, cut flowers, hothouse fruit, furs,
dead horses, lace, looking-glasses and mirrors, musical instruments,
picture frames, silk.

These examples indicate the gradual rise in value in the articles included
in the several classes, though, assuming that the traffic will bear the
rate, other considerations as well as value will apply, among these being
liability to damage during transit, weight in proportion to bulk, and
nature of packing or cost of handling.

It is further to be remembered that although a good deal of raw material is
carried in the lowest classes at rates which might work out at less than
"cost" price, when every item in respect to "cost of service" and interest
on capital expenditure had been allowed for, the commodities in question
may reappear in various successive forms as part-manufactured or,
eventually, as manufactured, articles, paying a successively higher rate,
in accordance with their progressively greater value, on the occasion of
each further transportation. Even when these results do not follow, the
commodities carried at these low rates may help to develop the resources,
or to expand the population, of a particular district, and thus serve to
create traffic in other directions.

While, also, the rates for the low-value articles may not cover every item
in the so-called cost of service, they do contribute to the revenue an
amount which might otherwise {347}have to be made good by the fixing of
higher rates on goods in other classes. Traders dealing in commodities of
the latter type do not themselves lose by the fact that minerals, raw
materials, or other things are carried at rates which, although
exceptionally low, are the most they can be expected to pay. No injustice
is done to them because the other classes of traders concerned get lower
rates than they do themselves. They may even gain--directly, because they
are saved from having to cover a larger proportion of the total railway
expenditure; and indirectly, because the help given to those other lines of
business may either bring trade to them or else keep down the cost of
production in regard to manufactured articles they deal in or which they
themselves require.

The principle of charging "what the traffic will bear" does more than
govern the rates as applying to visible traffic. It embraces the further
principle of what Hadley, in his "Railroad Transportation," calls "the
system of making rates to develop business."

An immediate result of its application, not alone in England but in various
Continental countries, was to bring about a substantial reduction in rates,
so that, as Hadley further says, between 1850 and 1880 railway rates were
reduced, on an average, to about one-half of their former figures. It may
be assumed, also, that these former figures were themselves a substantial
reduction on the rates once charged under the toll system in force among
the "get-rich-quick" canal companies.

There was thus a gain to the traders as regards both an increase in
facilities and a reduction in the cost at which those facilities could be
obtained, as compared with previous conditions. The principle in question
necessarily involved discrimination between trades; but it became one of
the objects of the Legislature to prevent discrimination between individual
traders in the same line of business as carried on in the same town or

The general position has been further influenced by the existence of an
ever-active sea competition, which is said to affect probably three-fifths
of the railway stations in the United Kingdom. The rates for traffic
between Newcastle and London, or any other two ports, will necessarily be
influenced, if not controlled, by the possibility of the commodities going
by a coasting vessel if the railway company {348}should try to get more
than, in these particular circumstances, such traffic will bear. The amount
of the railway rate in such a case as this will, in fact, be determined far
more by the element of sea competition than by any question as to either
presumptive cost of service or actual mileage.

It may well happen that between two other points, in regard to which there
is no sea competition, the rates are higher than between two where there is
sea competition, although the distance is the same. Here we have the
elements of one of those "anomalies" which have often been urged as a
reason for equal mileage rates. The inequality in the rates is, however,
directly due to the inequality in the conditions. It is not a case of
making the no-sea-competition places pay a rate in itself unreasonable; it
is simply a case of charging the sea-competition places no more than they
would be likely to pay. There may be an apparent inconsistency; but an
increase in the rates where the sea competition exists would not
necessarily be of advantage to the trader in the district where there is no
such competition, though it might lead to the traffic going by sea, and
involve the railway company in a loss of revenue which would not improve
their position in giving the best possible terms to the inland trader. Nor
could any claim by the latter to be put on the same footing as the trader
on the coast, who has the alternative of sea-transport open to him,
necessarily be made good. Discrimination of places, in addition to the
discrimination of trades, there certainly may be; but it is a
discrimination due essentially to geography and economic laws.

Other apparent anomalies arise from the fact that where two or more railway
companies have lines running to the same destination, the rates charged by
each and all of them are, by arrangement between the companies concerned,
generally governed by the shortest distance. Here, again, the idea of equal
mileage rates is found impracticable. If the rates charged by each of the
companies were arbitrarily fixed at so much per ton per mile, the line with
the shortest route would naturally get all the traffic. When all charge the
same between the same points all of them benefit, and the traders have the
advantage of several routes instead of only one; though there is still the
"anomaly" that the trader whose consignment is carried twenty miles, and
the trader whose {349}goods are conveyed thirty miles or more to the same
destination both pay the same rate.

How the general principle of a sliding scale, under which the charge per
ton per mile decreases with distance over twenty miles, works out in
practice may be shown by taking the case of merchandise in Class 5, the
rate for which would be 4.30d. per ton per mile for a distance of up to
twenty miles. For the next thirty miles the rate would be 3.70d. per ton
per mile, for the next fifty miles 3.25d., and for the remainder of the
distance 2.50d. If, however, the consignment travels over the lines of two
or more companies on a through rate, the application of the scale begins
over again in respect to the territory of each company concerned. The
greatest degree of relative advantage is thus gained by the trader whose
consignments travel throughout on the lines of one and the same company.

In any case, however, the effect of the principle is that traders in, say,
Cornwall or Scotland are enabled to compete far more effectively on the
London market with other traders who are located much nearer to London and
thus pay less for rail transport, yet, it may be, do not have the same
advantages in respect to economical production as the trader at the greater
distance. The "tapering" railway rate--in addition to giving the companies
a greater volume of long-distance traffic, and bringing greater prosperity
to the long-distance places--thus helps to establish equality in the
general conditions in regard to a particular market, whereas the equal
mileage rate would keep the distant trader to markets within a
circumscribed area, and shut him out from others at which he might
otherwise hope to get a far better sale.

In the United States the effect of this "tapering" rate, when applied to
large volumes of traffic carried for distances of 1000 or 2000 miles or
even more, is to give a very low average rate per ton per mile, and
especially so when such average is worked out for the whole of the goods
and mineral traffic in the country. The United States average is, in fact,
for these reasons, much lower than the corresponding average for this
country, where both the average haul and the average weight per consignment
are considerably less. Then, also, as the charges for terminals remain the
same, whatever the length of haul, they make a material difference in the
rate per ton per mile for a haul of five, ten or twenty miles while
{350}assuming infinitesimal proportions per ton per mile when spread over a
haul of a thousand miles.

There is thus no real basis for the comparison formerly so often made
between average cost of transport per ton per mile in the United States and
the United Kingdom respectively. The only fair method of comparison is to
discard averages altogether, and contrast charges for actual consignments
of equal weight carried equal distances in the two countries; and
comparisons made on this basis will be found to favour the British lines
rather than the American.

In some instances group rates are in operation for a series of producing
centres or for a series of ports, the rates being common to all the places
or ports included in the group. This arrangement is of advantage to the
general body of the traders concerned, since it puts them all on a footing
of equality, without reference to differences in distance; and it is, also,
of benefit to the railway companies since it simplifies the clerical work
and helps further to avoid unremunerative competition.

Another important feature in connection with railway rates is the
distinction between "class" rates, which represent the authorised maxima
given in the railway companies' scales for the various classes already
mentioned, and "special" or "exceptional" rates, in which the companies
concerned have made reductions below their maximum powers, whether for the
encouragement of traffic or because of such reductions being warranted by
the volume or other conditions of the traffic already carried. In "The
Fixing of Rates and Fares," by H. Marriott (1910), it is stated that
"probably about seventy per cent of the traffic between stations in the
North of England is conveyed at 'exceptional rates,' much below the
statutory authority."

In my book on "Railways and their Rates" I have already given, as follows,
the general principles on which these special or exceptional rates are

(a) Volume and regularity of traffic between the points concerned.

(b) Weight per truck or by train which can be maintained by such regular

(c) General earning power of the traffic.

(d) Liability or non-liability to damage.

{351}(e) Competition, direct or indirect, by water, by road or by other

(f) Special requirements of shipping traffic to or from ports.

(g) The creation of traffic by enabling new or increased business to be

(h) A general consideration of what the traffic will bear.

The following examples illustrate the actual difference between the class
rates and the special rates at which the traffic is actually carried:--

                                CLASS RATE.     SPECIAL RATE.
  MILES.    COMMODITY.           per ton.         per ton.
                                  s. d.            s. d.
   17    Soap                     8  9 (a)         7 11 (a)
  107     "                      21  9 (a)        17  6 (a)
  154     "                      28  2 (a)        22  9 (a)
   46    Undressed leather       17  6 (a)        15  0 (a)
  179    Cotton and linen goods  45  7 (a)        40  0 (a)
   54    Common window glass     21  9 (a)        15 10 (a)
  207       "     "      "       43  4 (a)        30  5 (a)
   20    Iron in Class C          5  3 (b)(c)      3  8 (b)(d)
   51    Grain                    9  5 (b)(c)      7  6 (b)(d)
  150    Common bricks           11  0 (b)(d)     10  5 (b)(d)

  Notes: (a) Collection and delivery.
         (b) Station to station.
         (c) 2-ton lots.
         (d) 4-ton lots.

Yet another characteristic of English railway rates is their division into
"company's risk" rates and "owner's risk" rates, the latter being a lower
scale on which consignments are carried provided the trader signs either a
general indemnity for the whole of his traffic or a separate owner's risk
consignment note on the occasion of each despatch relieving the railway
from "all liability for loss, damage, misdelivery, delay or detention,
except upon proof that such loss, damage, misdelivery, delay or detention
arose from wilful misconduct on the part of the company's servants."

The difficulty of proving such "wilful misconduct" in case of damage or
loss has long been a grievance with traders consigning under "owner's risk"
rates, and vigorous efforts have been made by them, or on their behalf,
from time to time to obtain a modification of these conditions.

The railway point of view in regard to this vexed question was thus
expressed by Mr F. Potter, in an address on "The {352}Government in
Relation to the Railways of the Country," given to the Great Western
Railway (London) Lecture and Debating Society on February 11, 1909:--

"Traders are apt to conveniently overlook the fact that owner's risk rates
did not precede the ordinary rates, but that they have depended from the
latter, and proposals have actually been made that the order of things
should be reversed, and the owner's risk rates made the base rates, the
company's risk rates being arrived at by the addition of some percentage.
Traders well know the value of the insurance which the difference between
the two classes of rates represents to them, and, indeed, base their
practice in making use of either rate upon this knowledge. If the trader is
prepared to be his own insurer, that is, when there is a sufficiently wide
margin between the two rates, he takes the owner's risk rate; but if he
considers his goods are too valuable for him to accept the risk himself, he
makes the company do so by sending his freight at the ordinary rates."

In the controversies which have arisen on this question of owner's risk
frequent reference has been made to the fact that in Germany there is only
one kind of rate, and that under it the State railways do, nominally,
assume the risk. I have, however, already shown in my pamphlets on "German
_versus_ British Railways" and "German Railways and Traders" that unless
the consignments forwarded on the German State railways are packed so
securely that it is practically impossible for them to come to any harm,
they are accepted by the railway officials only after the trader has signed
a form of indemnity declaring that the goods are either "unpacked" or
"insufficiently packed," thus absolving the State railways of the
responsibility they are supposed to accept.

Complaints respecting "preferential rates" have been an especially fertile
source of controversy and litigation. The phrase as here used is somewhat
misleading. The real ground of complaint is against, not simply
"preference," but "_undue_ preference."

If a lower rate is given for a 2-ton or a 5-ton than for a 2-cwt. or a
5-cwt. consignment, the trader in the former case gets a distinct advantage
over the trader in the latter case, just in the same way as the wholesale
man buys a large quantity of goods at a lower price than that asked for
from {353}the purchaser of only a very small quantity. Here, in each
instance, we have "preference" strictly in accord with commercial

The question really at issue turns upon the consideration whether there is
undue or unfair preference. It is thus dealt with in a proviso to
sub-section 2, section 27 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888:--

"Provided that no railway company shall make, nor shall the Court, or the
Commissioners, sanction any difference in the tolls, rates or charges made
for, or any difference in the treatment of home and foreign merchandise, in
respect of the same or similar circumstances."

The position is thus controlled by the words "same or similar
circumstances." In what is known as the "Southampton case," decided by the
Railway and Canal Commission in 1895, the fact that foreign produce was
being carried at lower rates by the London and South-Western Railway
Company from Southampton to London than were being charged for English
produce was not disputed; but it was successfully argued (1) that lower
rates might reasonably be granted for train-loads of produce capable of
being loaded into the waggons at the docks and carried through, under the
best transport conditions, direct to London than for small consignments,
picked up at wayside stations, and loaded and carried under far less
favourable traffic conditions; (2) that there was no real detriment to
local producers, since the towns concerned were importing more than they
were sending away; and (3) that in no respect were the circumstances "the
same or similar." There was, said Sir Frederick Peel, one of the
Commissioners, "no concurrence between the two classes of traffic, and the
greater economy of transport in the dock traffic justified the lower rate."

The principle here involved disposes of, probably, most of the complaints
which have been made from time to time on the subject of undue preference;
but as these complaints were especially rife in 1904, a Departmental
Committee, presided over by Lord Jersey, was appointed by the Board of
Trade to inquire whether or not the railway companies were according
preferential treatment to foreign and colonial farm, dairy and
market-garden produce from ports to urban centres as compared with home
produce. The Committee declared {354}in their report "that the evidence
tendered has failed to show that the railway companies are giving undue
preferential treatment to foreign and colonial produce as compared with
home produce contrary to the intention and effect of existing legislation."
They found that some of the traders who complained had compared rates which
did not include terminal services with rates that did; had quite wrongly
divided what were, in effect, "through" rates, first subtracting the full
charge of the shipping company and then assuming that the remainder could
be compared with the rate from the first; or had omitted to take into
account differences in regard to bulk of consignments, packing, etc.

In effect, no British railway rate may give a preference to foreign as
distinct from British produce so far as quantities, conditions and
circumstances are the same. The rates are to be available for like
consignments whatever the source of their origin. Where the home producer
has been unable to provide the same quantities, under the same conditions
and circumstances as the foreigner, he has equally been unable to avail
himself of a rate open to all the world. He has had the disadvantage of the
retail trader as compared with the wholesale trader. The principle involved
is practically the same as that in operation on Continental State railways,
where the traders who can provide the biggest loads get the advantage of
the most favourable rates. On the Belgian State railways, for instance,
there are special rates for 50, for 100 and even for 300-ton consignments
which can obviously be taken advantage of by only a limited number of
traders. But while the retail man cannot expect to get the same terms as
the wholesale man, there is no adequate reason why the wholesale man should
be kept to the same level as the retail man, and be refused the lower rates
for his consignments to which he is entitled on account of their greater
bulk or better loading. The question is certainly complicated by the fact
that the wholesale man here in question is generally a foreigner; but the
railway companies could not be required to discriminate against him, and to
penalise him on account of his nationality. The matters at issue must needs
be looked at from the point of view of a business proposition rather than
from that of expecting the railway companies to usurp the functions of the
State in carrying out a policy of Protection.

{355}Of late years far less has been heard, in the agricultural world, at
least, of these allegations of undue preference. The whole position has
been changed through the praiseworthy efforts of the Agricultural
Organisation Society in spreading among the agricultural community a
practical appreciation of the advantages of combination, as adopted by
their foreign competitors, included in such advantages being the lower
rates which the railways already offer for grouped or other large
consignments. The excellent work carried on by the society is calculated to
confer, in many different directions, much more benefit on market
gardeners, dairy farmers and agriculturists in general than would be gained
by them simply from seeking to persuade, or even to force, the railway
companies to carry at wholly unremunerative rates the small consignments of
non-associated producers, forwarded under the least favourable conditions
in respect to economical transport.

As regards the machinery provided by Parliament for dealing with traders'
grievances, there is, in the first place, the Railway and Canal Commission,
which, taking the place of the earlier Railway Commissioners, was made a
permanent body under the Act of 1888. The Court consists of two
Commissioners appointed by the Board of Trade, and three _ex-officio_
members, chosen from the judges of the High Court, and nominated by the
Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Lord
Chancellor of Ireland for England, Scotland and Ireland respectively;
though in practice only one of the three takes part in the proceedings in
connection with any case brought before the Court. The jurisdiction of the
Commissioners includes powers to enforce obligations under special Acts,
and to deal with questions of traffic facilities, private sidings, undue
preference, through rates, etc.

Whether or not procedure before this body is too costly for other than
wealthy litigants to take advantage of is a question which need not be
discussed here; but traders have the further advantage of what is known as
the Conciliation Clause of the Act of 1888, which provides that "(1)
Whenever any person receiving, or sending, or desiring to send goods by any
railway is of opinion that the railway company is charging him an unfair or
an unreasonable rate of charge, or is in any other respect treating him in
an oppressive or {356}unreasonable manner, such person may complain to the
Board of Trade. (2) The Board of Trade, if they think that there is
reasonable ground for complaint, may thereupon call upon the railway
company for an explanation, and endeavour to settle amicably the
differences between the complainant and the railway company." A resort to
this expedient by aggrieved parties involves the payment of no fees or

The eleventh report by the Board of Trade of their proceedings under the
Conciliation Clause shows that during 1908 and 1909 the number of
complaints made to them was 280--a total insignificant in comparison with
the many millions of separate transactions in which the traders and the
railway companies must have been concerned during the two years in
question. The 280 complaints are classified as follows: Rates unreasonable
or excessive in themselves, 39; undue preference, 65; rates unreasonably
increased, 22; classification, 30; delay in transit, 27; owner's risk, 17;
rebates, 23, through rates, 15; miscellaneous, 42. Settlement or partial
settlement was effected in 91 cases; in 62 the complaints were not
proceeded with; in 122 an amicable settlement could not be arrived at; and
in five the proceedings had not been completed. "In certain of the cases,"
the report further states, "in which an amicable settlement was not
reached, it seemed clear to the Board of Trade that the complainants had no
real ground for complaint."

Boyle and Waghorn are of opinion that in matters more or less personal to
the applicant, or of comparatively minor importance, the procedure under
this Conciliation Clause has saved much litigation; though when questions
of general principles are at issue the Board of Trade, as a rule, prefer to
remit the determination of them to the Railway Commission. They further
say: "The principal cause of the comparative absence of litigation lies in
the fact that a law of railway traffic is being gradually evolved,
reasonably considerate of the rights of both parties, and adapted to the
actual circumstances of the traffic. In the early days of railways this was
very far from being the case." ("The Law Relating to Railway and Canal

Much of the adverse criticism of railway rates and charges which has been
indulged in of late years, without even any resort to an inexpensive
complaint to the Board of Trade, {357}has been due to comparisons with
railway conditions in other countries.

At one time the comparison specially favoured was between English and
American railway rates; and this was persisted in until it was conclusively
shown that there was, and could be, no basis of comparison between huge
consignments, carried long distances, on comparatively inexpensive lines,
and small average consignments, carried short distances, on the most costly
railway system in the world. The element of "the same or similar
circumstances" was obviously lacking.

Comparisons were then made with railway conditions in Continental
countries, and various tables of comparative rates were published from time
to time, in support of railway nationalisation theories or otherwise. But
many of these comparisons have been wholly untrustworthy because, once
more, they have not compared traffic carried under the same or similar
circumstances. Exceptional rates granted, say, by the Prussian Government
in the special interests of their commercial policy, but (1) applying to
large consignments sent to a port for shipment, the rates being
substantially higher when the commodities do not go further than the port,
(2) granted in competition with routes passing through adjoining countries,
and (3) being simply haulage rates, which include no additional services
whatever, have been compared with English "domestic" rates for smaller
quantities of traffic, or, it may be, with "paper" rates for traffic that
is practically non-existent, and, therefore, has not called for special
rates, while the English rates may also include a variety of supplementary
services by the railway company (loading, unloading, collection, delivery,
warehousing, etc.), which the Continental trader would either have to
perform himself or pay for as extras.

The comparisons may thus be wholly misleading; but, assuming that complete
equality of conditions could be assured, or allowed for, and assuming that
the Continental rates were then found to be lower than the really
corresponding English ones, it would still be necessary to remember that in
this country there have been, from the earliest period of railway
development, many circumstances and conditions, due to State policy or to
other causes, which have tended to swell {358}to abnormal proportions the
capital expenditure that the revenue based on rates and charges must needs
cover if any reasonable return at all is to be made to the investors. There
would, in fact, be no cause for surprise if rates and charges on British
railways could be proved to be higher than those in force on the Continent,
where the conditions attendant on railway construction and operation have
differed so materially from our own. The wonder is, rather, in view of all
that I have said as to the past history of our railway system, that British
railway rates and charges should, generally speaking, be as low as they



Whatever the difficulties which have attended the development of British
railways, the lines themselves have been spread throughout the three
kingdoms to such an extent that there are now very few districts not within
easy reach of a railway; while though the different lines are still owned
by, altogether, a considerable number of companies, the physical
connections between them and the arrangements of the leading companies, not
only for through bookings but for through trains, supplemented by the
operations of the Railway Clearing House, have brought about as close an
approach to a really national network of railways, connecting all the
different sections of the country one with another, as could well be
expected in view of the lack of co-ordination when the lines were first
called into being.

At the end of 1910, according to the Railway Returns issued by the Board of
Trade, the "length of line" of the railways in the United Kingdom was
23,387 miles. By itself, however, this figure does not give an adequate
idea of the extent of the railway system. This is better realised by taking
the figures for track mileage and sidings. A far greater proportion of the
railways in England and Wales than in any other country consists of double,
treble or other multiple track, so that for one mile in length of line
there may be two, three or more miles of separate pairs of rails,
increasing the transport facilities in proportion. The percentage of single
track to total length of line in various countries is shown by the
following figures:--

                                 PER CENTAGE OF
       COUNTRY.                   SINGLE TRACK.
  England and Wales                   33.0
  Scotland                            59.0
  Ireland                             80.2
  United Kingdom                      44.2
  Prussian State railways             57.3
  Germany (the entire system)         61.7
  France (main line system)           57.0

{360}"Track mileage" in the United Kingdom is shown in the Board of Trade
Returns for 1910 as under:--

  TRACK.        MILES.
  First         23,389
  Second        13,189
  Third          1,517
  Fourth         1,192
  Fifth            236
  Sixth            143
  Seventh           70
  Eighth            44
  Ninth             24
  Tenth             14
  Eleventh          10
  Twelfth            7
  Thirteenth         5
  Fourteenth         4
  Fifteenth          3
  Sixteenth--nineteenth 1 each

Corresponding figures for the United States of America, taken from an
abstract issued in July, 1911, by the Interstate Commerce Commission, give
the following classification of track mileage, excluding yard track and

  TRACK.        MILES.
  First        240,831
  Second        21,659
  Third          2,206
  Fourth         1,489

It will be seen from the figures relating to track mileage in the United
Kingdom that there is at least one mile of railway in the United Kingdom
which really consists of nineteen pairs of rails alongside one another,
though counting, in length of line, as only a single mile. In the United
States there seems to be no suggestion of any railroad having more than
four tracks.

The length of track in the United Kingdom is 39,851 miles. To this must be
added a further 14,460 miles, the length of sidings reduced to single
track, giving a total, including sidings, of 54,311 miles.

Rolling stock was owned in 1910 by the different railway companies
throughout the United Kingdom as follows: Locomotives, 22,840; carriages
used for conveyance of passengers only, but including rail motor carriages,
52,725; other vehicles attached to passenger trains, 20,090; waggons of all
kinds used for the conveyance of live stock, minerals or general
merchandise, 745,369; any other carriages or waggons used on the railway,
21,360; total number of vehicles, excluding locomotives, 839,544. These
figures are exclusive of about 600,000 waggons owned by private

{361}The total weight of goods and minerals conveyed in 1910 was
514,428,806 tons, and the total number of passengers carried (exclusive of
752,663 season-ticket holders) was 1,306,728,583. The miles travelled
were--by passenger trains, 266,851,217; by goods trains, 154,555,559; by
mixed trains, 1,814,762, giving a total of 423,221,538 miles. It is
difficult to grasp the real significance of these figures; but, taking the
train mileage alone the total distance run by trains in the United Kingdom
in 1910 was equal to nearly 17,000 journeys round the world, and to four
and a half journeys to the sun.

The total amount of railway capital returned as paid-up at the end of 1910
was £1,318,500,000, of which about £197,000,000, or approximately fifteen
per cent, was due to nominal additions on the consolidation, conversion and
division of stocks, showing a net investment of £1,120,500,000. The gross
receipts of the companies during 1909 were as follows:--

                                    PROPORTION TO
      SOURCE.              £        TOTAL RECEIPTS.
  Passenger traffic    52,758,489       42.57
  Goods                61,478,643       49.61
  Miscellaneous[55]     9,688,433        7.82
                       ----------       -----
              Totals  123,925,565      100.00

The working expenditure in the same period amounted to £76,569,676, a
proportion to total receipts of 62 per cent. The net receipts, therefore,
were £47,355,889, the proportion of which to paid-up capital was 3.59 per

The average rates of dividend or interest alike on ordinary {362}and on all
classes of capital paid in the years from 1900 to 1909, were as follows:--

  1900       3.34          3.45
  1901       3.05          3.33
  1902       3.32          3.45
  1903       3.30          3.44
  1904       3.26          3.42
  1905       3.29          3.43
  1906       3.35          3.46
  1907       3.31          3.45
  1908       2.99          3.32
  1909       3.15          3.39
  1910       3.48          3.53

It is pointed out in the Returns, however, that on account of the nominal
additions made to the capital of the companies the rates of dividend or
interest given in the tables are lower than they would otherwise be. Thus
the average rates of dividend or interest for the United Kingdom in 1910
calculated on capital exclusive of nominal additions would show: Ordinary,
4.28 per cent (instead of 3.48 as above), and "all classes" 4.15 (instead
of 3.53) per cent.

These averages, nevertheless, allow for a large amount of capital on which
the dividend or interest paid is either _nil_ or substantially below the
averages stated.

The rates of dividend on ordinary capital in 1910 were as follows:--

  RATES OF DIVIDEND OR INTEREST.     Amount of   Per cent of
                                      Capital.      Total.
  Nil                               £67,358,262      13.7
  Not above 1 per cent               29,427,057       6.0
  Above 1 and not above 2 per cent   18,072,847       3.7
    "   2       "       3    "       87,676,759      17.8
    "   3       "       4    "      109,788,247      22.3
    "   4       "       5    "       38,193,955       7.7
    "   5       "       6    "       85,503,721      17.4
    "   6       "       7    "       54,962,066      11.2
    "   7       "       8    "          362,000       0.1
    "   8       "       9    "           40,000       0.0
    "   9 per cent                      694,907       0.1
                                   ------------     -----
                         Total      492,079,821     100.0

{363}The various classes of capital on which the rates of dividend or
interest paid in 1910 were either _nil_ or not above three per cent may be
shown thus:--

                                 RATES OF DIVIDEND OR INTEREST.
                                                  Above          Above
                                                1 per cent     2 per cent
  DESCRIPTION OF                   Not above   and not above  and not above
     CAPITAL.           Nil.      1 per cent.   2 per cent.    3 per cent.
                         £             £             £              £
  Ordinary           67,358,262   29,427,057    18,072,847      87,676,759
  Preferential       16,607,907      631,967     2,296,250     103,019,553
  Guaranteed              --           --          101,180      23,318,760
  Loans and
    Debenture Stock     558,782      676,789         4,666     189,122,426
                     ----------   ----------    ----------     -----------
          Totals     84,524,951   30,735,813    20,474,943     403,137,498

There are those who regard railway shareholders as "capitalists," and
consider that the keeping of railway dividends at a low level, together
with any depreciation in the value of railway stock that may result
therefrom, are matters only likely to affect a comparatively few wealthy
men, and not, therefore, of material concern to the country so long as the
railways give the best possible service at the lowest possible rates. In
the United Kingdom, however, the ownership of the railways is distributed
among a far greater number of persons than is the case in the United
States, where the control and the dividends of a great railway system may
alike be in the hands mainly of a few financiers. That by far the larger
number of shareholders in British railways have comparatively small
holdings was well shown by a table published a few years ago giving the
percentage of holdings of £500 or under by shareholders, exclusive of
debenture-holders, in thirty-nine leading railways of the United Kingdom.
An analysis of this table gives the following results:--

  Number of    Percentage of Holdings of
  Companies.        £500 or under.
         2        32 to 40 per cent.
        10        41  " 50    "
         8        51  " 60    "
         9        61  " 70    "
         7        71  " 80    "
         3        81  " 90    "
  Total 39

{364}It is true that many of the shareholders here in question might have
invested in several companies, so that their £500 or less would not
represent the full extent of their railway holdings. On the other hand,
there is the fact that many of the single investments are those of friendly
societies, trade unions, or other organisations representing the interests
and dealing with the savings of a large number of members of the artisan

In any case, whether the railway shareholder be a capitalist large or small
or only an ordinary thrifty middle-class person who has saved a little
money which he seeks to put into something both safe and remunerative, the
fact remains that since the advent of the railway era he is the person who,
though supplying the means by which this huge system of inland
communication has been brought into existence, has had the least
consideration of all. The trader, the passenger and the railway servant
have all been the subject of much legislative effort for the protection or
the furtherance of their own interests, whereas the railway shareholder has
been too often regarded with an absolute lack of sympathy, and treated as a
person who must be severely restrained from becoming unduly wealthy at the
expense of these other interests, and should be thankful that he is not
deprived of his property altogether.

It has really seemed as though the aim alike of the State and of local
governing authorities has been less to ensure to the railway shareholders,
who have undertaken a great public work at their own risk and expense, a
fair return on their enterprise than to extract from the railway system
huge sums in the way of taxation.

What the railway companies have paid in the way of "rates and taxes" since
1894 is shown by the following table, which I compile from the Board of
Trade Returns for 1903 and 1910:

                                       INCREASE (+) or
                                       DECREASE (-) as
                    AMOUNTS PAID FOR    compared with
            YEAR.   RATES AND TAXES.    previous year.
                           £                  £
            1894       2,816,000              --
            1895       3,011,000         (+) 195,000
            1896       3,149,000         (+) 138,000
            1897       3,249,000         (+) 145,000
            1898       3,425,000         (+) 131,000                {365}
            1899       3,582,000         (+) 157,000
            1900       3,757,000         (+) 175,000
            1901       3,980,000         (+) 223,000
            1902       4,228,000         (+) 248,000
            1903       4,493,000         (+) 265,000
            1904       4,736,000         (+) 243,000
            1905       4,933,000         (+) 197,000
            1906       4,965,000         (+)  32,000
            1907       4,863,000         (-) 102,000
            1908       4,884,000         (+)  21,000
            1909       5,010,000         (+) 126,000
            1910       5,102,000         (+)  92,000
  Total payments in   ----------
      17 years        70,228,000

These figures show a continuous increase since 1894, with the exception
only of the year 1907, when there was a decrease of £102,000 as compared
with 1906, due to the activity of the railway companies in appealing
against excessive assessments. The advance in the total paid in 1910 over
the total for 1894 was no less than £2,286,000, or 77.9 per cent.

It should be remembered, also, that the figures given relate to sums paid
for rates and taxes, and do not include the expenses incurred by the
railway companies in respect both to their rates and taxes departments
(conducted by highly skilled officers) and to litigation arising on their
appeals against assessments they consider unfair. The total expenditure
under these two heads has been estimated at over £80,000 per annum.

Since comparisons are frequently made between English and German railway
rates, with a view to showing that the former are higher than the latter,
it may be of interest to compare, also, the amount paid for taxation by the
railways of the United Kingdom with the corresponding payments of the
Prussian State railways. The length of line of the two systems is
approximately the same; yet while the taxation of the British system comes
to £5,000,000 a year, that of the {366}Prussian State railways is only
£750,000 a year. Naturally, when a Government owns the railways, it is much
more interested in checking excessive taxation of the lines by the local
authorities than when the railways are owned by commercial companies; and
one of the questions to which proposals in regard to the nationalisation of
the British railways gives rise is whether, when the Government owned the
railways, they would be willing to continue the payment from the railway
revenues of all the taxation which local authorities are now able to exact
from the railway companies. Presumably not; and in that case the trader,
whether or not he got lower railway rates from the State, would probably
have to pay higher local rates in order to make up for the tolls no longer
levied, or levied only to a much less extent, on the railway traffic.

The growth in the payments made by individual companies for rates and taxes
between 1902 and 1910 may be illustrated by giving the figures for the
London and North-Western, the Great Western and the Midland Companies

             LONDON AND
                  £                 £             £
  1903         520,000           524,000       418,000
  1904         572,000           558,000       435,000
  1905         599,000           592,000       453,000
  1906         603,000           621,000       475,000
  1907         603,000           608,000       458,000
  1908         610,000           638,000       436,000
  1909         631,000           663,000       438,000
  1910         638,000           669,000       456,000

In addition to the items coming under the head of "rates and taxes" the
railway companies still have to pay to the Government the passenger duty of
which I have spoken on page 263, their function here, presumably, being
that of honorary tax-gatherers who are required to get the money from the
British public in the interests of the national exchequer, and save the
Government the cost and the trouble of collection. The passenger duty thus
collected by them in 1910 came to £319,404, the total contributions of the
railways to the public finances for that year being thus increased to

{367}The amounts paid in 1910 by some of the leading companies under the
two heads in question may be shown thus:--

                             RATES     PASSENGER
  COMPANY.                 AND TAXES.    DUTY.     TOTAL.
                                £          £         £
  Great Central              149,899      4,156   154,055
  Great Eastern              322,894     14,296   337,190
  Great Northern             223,254     13,099   236,353
  Great Western              669,330     29,640   698,970
  Lancashire and Yorkshire   261,734     18,141   279,875
  London and North-Western   638,443     50,359   688,802
  London and South-Western   268,130     34,356   302,486
  London, Brighton and
    South Coast              209,491     31,617   241,108
  Midland                    455,759     16,423   472,182
  North-Eastern              467,404     12,982   480,386
  South-Eastern and Chatham  278,505     53,015   331,520
  Caledonian                 150,609      8,905   159,514
  North British              129,486      8,721   138,207

The following table shows how the sum total of the payments both for rates
and taxes and for Government duty in the years from 1900 to 1910 work out
(a) per train mile and (b) per mile of open railway:--

          Rates and   Govt.      Rates and   Govt.
  YEAR.     Taxes.    Duty.        Taxes.    Duty.
              d.        d.           £         £
  1900      2.24       .21          172        18
  1901      2.39       .22          180        19
  1902      2.53       .23          190        19
  1903      2.73       .23          200        19
  1904      2.86       .22          209        18
  1905      2.95       .22          216        18
  1906      2.87       .21          215        18
  1907      2.72       .20          210        18
  1908      2.77       .20          210        17
  1909      2.86       .20          215        17
  1910      2.89       .19          218        16

This question of the taxation of railways is a matter of material concern
as regards (1) the direct results thereof on {368}(a) rates and charges and
(b) dividends paid--or not paid; and (2) the general policy of the State
towards the whole problem of internal communication.

As in the case of cost of land, of expenditure on Parliamentary procedure,
of capital outlay on construction, and of any undue increase in cost of
operation, the payments in respect to rates, taxes and Government duty can
be met by the railway companies only by one or other of two expedients:
either by getting the money back through the rates, charges and fares
levied on the railway users (an expedient necessarily curtailed both by
legislative restriction and by the economic necessity of not charging more
than the traffic will bear), or, alternatively, by leaving the railway
investors with only an inadequate return--if not, in respect to a large
proportion of the capital, with no return at all--on their investments.

The system of assessing railways for the purpose of local rating is one of
extreme complexity. It grew out of the earlier system of the taxation of
canals, and, had the railway companies fulfilled the original expectation
of being simply owners of their lines and not themselves carriers, the
principles on which the system was based might have applied equally well to
rail as to canal transport. But, while rail transport underwent a complete
change, there was no corresponding adaptation of local rating to the new
conditions, and the system actually in force is the outcome far less of
statutory authority than of custom, as sanctioned by the judges--who have
themselves had to assume the role of legislators--while the machinery of
railway valuation differs materially in England and Wales, in Scotland, and
in Ireland.[56]

In England and Wales there is a separate assessment of a railway for each
and every parish through which it passes. Such assessment is divided into
two parts: (1) station and buildings, and (2) railway line. The former,
arrived at by a per centage on the estimated capital value of buildings and
site, is a comparatively simple matter. It is in regard to the latter that
the complications arise. The main consideration in each case is the amount
of rent which a tenant might reasonably be expected to pay for the property
assessed; and such {369}presumptive amount is arrived at in regard to the
lines by calculating the amount of net earnings the railway is able to make
through its _occupation_ of the particular length of line that passes
through the parish in question, and according to the actual value of such
length of line as an integral part of one concern.

The extent of these net earnings is ascertained, in effect, by first taking
the gross receipts on all the traffic that passes through the parish, and
then making a variety of deductions therefrom. The cost of construction of
the railway does not enter into consideration at all. The calculations are
on what is called the "parochial earnings principle"--that is to say, the
amount earned _in_ the parish, and not the amount received from traffic
arising in the parish. The railway company may have no station in the
place, and the amount of traffic derived from the parish may be practically
_nil_; but the assessment of the line, on the basis mentioned, is followed
out, all the same.

The main principle is the same in Scotland and Ireland, but with this
important difference in detail: that in each of those countries a railway
is first valued as a whole, the total value being then apportioned among
the several rating areas.

It will be seen that the taxation of a railway line--as distinct from that
of railway buildings--is, to all intents and purposes, the enforcement of a
toll, on all traffic carried, for the privilege of passing through the
parish concerned; while there is no suggestion, as there was in the case of
turnpike roads, that those who collect the toll confer an advantage on
those by whom the toll is paid. The turnpike trustees did provide a road,
and they were, also, under an obligation to keep it in order. The
toll-payers thus got some return for their money, and, though the trade of
the district, or of the country, was taxed, it was, also, directly
facilitated by the toll-receivers. The railway company, on the other hand,
provide and maintain their own road, without putting the parish to the
slightest expense, yet the parish is authorised to levy upon them what is,
not only a toll, but a supplementary Income Tax for local purposes, based
on the principle of the profits the company are supposed to make in the
parish, often only because, for geographical reasons, it is necessary their
lines should pass through it in going from one part of the country to

{370}On page 114 I have told how, in the early part of the sixteenth
century, the local authorities of Worcester, Gloucester and other towns on
the Severn sought to raise funds for their local exchequers by taxing the
traders who used the river for the transport of their commodities; and I
have further told how, in 1532, it was enacted that any person attempting
to enforce such toll or tax should be fined forty shillings. But a practice
held in the sixteenth century to be unjust in itself as well as prejudicial
to the interests of trade, and penalised by the Legislature accordingly, is
considered quite right and proper, and receives express legislative
sanction, in the twentieth century, though the local authorities upon whom
the toll-privilege is conferred to-day may do no more to help the railways
than Worcester and Gloucester and the other Severn towns did to help the
river traffic--and that was nothing at all.

One result of the power thus given to local authorities to bleed the
railway companies as an easy and convenient method of providing themselves
with funds is that in a large number of parishes throughout the country a
railway company pays the bulk of the rates, even though it may not even
have a railway station in the place.

In Chapter IV of my book on "Railways and their Rates" I have given a table
showing that in a total of 82 parishes, divided into four groups, the
proportion of local rates paid by the London and North-Western Railway
Company ranges from 50 per cent to 86.9 per cent, although in 53 of the
parishes the company have no station. In a further table I specify sixteen
parishes in which the area of the same company's property ranges from four
to fifty-eight acres, or from 1.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent of the whole of
the land in the parish, while the proportion which the railway assessment
bears to that of the entire parish ranges from 66.9 per cent to 86.1 per

Being thus enabled to depend for the greater part of their revenue on
railway companies, who are given the privilege of paying but are denied the
privilege of representation or of having any voice in the way the money
they contribute shall be spent, there are local communities which show the
greater readiness to carry out comparatively costly lighting, drainage,
education, road improvement or other such schemes because {371}it is a
railway company that will pay most of the cost, the proportion thereof
falling on the great bulk of the individual ratepayers in the parish being
thus inconsiderable. Social reformers tell us of the improvements they find
proceeding to-day in village life in England. What is happening to a large
extent is that rural centres are providing themselves with urban luxuries
at the cost of the railway companies--that is to say, at the cost either of
the railway shareholders or of the railway users or both together.

The same tendency may, however, be carried further still.

On the occasion of the coronation of King George and Queen Mary, various
local authorities had the less hesitation in voting supplies to defray the
cost of festivities out of the rates because they knew that most of the
money so voted would have to be paid by a railway company. In a letter to
"The Times" of June 3, 1911, on this subject, Mr James E. Freeman, of
Darlington, says:--

"The village of Carlton Miniott, near Thirsk, lately held a parish meeting
to consider whether the £30 or so that will be spent in local festivities
in connexion with the Coronation should be raised by means of private
subscriptions or from the rates. It was decided to levy a penny rate, with
the result that the North-Eastern Railway Company, which had and could have
no voice in the decision, will pay £21 13s. 4d., and the loyal residents,
who receive the whole of the benefit, will pay £9 11s. 8d. towards the £31
5s. that is to be expended. At the neighbouring village of South
Otterington the keen-witted Yorkshiremen have profited even more from the
law's absurdities. They have voted a precept of £30 on the overseers for
their merry-making, and of this amount the North-Eastern Railway Company
will have the satisfaction of paying a little over £25."

The "Great Western Railway Magazine" for July, 1911, in referring to the
same subject, tells of "a parish having the good fortune to have a railway
running through one end of it, in which a rate of threepence in the £ has
been imposed. This has produced £200, all of which has been spent on eating
and drinking in a population of less than 2000, while the governing idea in
raising the rate appears to have been that the railway company would have
to pay some £70."

Without stopping to discuss the question as to the exact {372}proportion in
which the results of this taxation system should ultimately fall on, or be
made good by (a) shareholders, or (b) traders and travellers, the policy,
if not the justice, of allowing the internal transport of the country, and,
therefore, the trade and industry of the country, to be subjected to this
abnormal taxation, if not to this actual plundering, by constituted
authorities, may well be open to question, and especially so when one bears
in mind the already heavy expenditure which has fallen on the companies,
and the dissatisfaction expressed, from time to time, by traders with the
railway rates, by railway servants with their pay, and by shareholders with
their dividends. Certain it is that in the Board of Trade "Railway Returns"
all these payments on account of rates and taxes and Government duty are
included among the items of "working expenditure," and are deducted from
the gross receipts before arriving at the amount of the net income
available for dividends or to be taken in account in regard either to
reductions in rates and charges or to increases in wages.

There is no suggestion that railways should be exempted altogether from the
payment of local rates; but the complicated, anomalous and exorbitant
system of taxing the traffic on their lines has long called for amendment.

So far back as 1844 Mr Gladstone's Committee declared they were "satisfied
that peculiar difficulties attach to the application of the ordinary laws
of rating to the case of railways which give rise to great uncertainty and
inequality, as well as to expense and litigation, and they therefore
consider that the subject is one which will properly call for the attention
of the Legislature when any general measure for the amendment of the law
and practice of rating is before it."

In 1850 the unsatisfactory nature of the law and practice in regard to
railway assessments was pointed to by a Select Committee of the House of
Lords on "Parochial Assessments."

In 1851 Lord Campbell adjourned the case of R. _v._ Great Western Railway
Company, and expressed the hope that "before the next term Parliament might
interfere" and relieve the court from the difficult position in which they
were placed when called upon to administer the existing law {373}with
regard to the rating of railways. He added, in reference to the matters
arising in the case then before the court: "If we settle those questions we
may be considered as legislators rather than as judges, making rather than
expounding law."

In 1859 Mr Justice Wightman, in R. _v._ The West Middlesex Water Company,
said: "The whole subject matter appears to me to be involved in so much
difficulty and uncertainty that I cannot but hope that the Legislature may
interfere or make some provision adapted to the rating of such companies as
that in question."

Among still other judges who have expressed similar views and indulged in
similar hopes may be mentioned Lord Justice Farwell, who, in January, 1907,
in the case of the Great Central Railway _v._ the Banbury Union, said:
"Fifty-six years ago Lord Campbell protested and implored the Legislature
to intervene. His voice was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and
I suppose ours will be equally ineffectual if we make the same appeal."

Then, also, the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, in the report they
presented in 1901, made various recommendations in regard to the assessment
of railway companies; but the advice of Committees and Commissioners has
been no less unavailing than the protests of judges.

Meanwhile, and pending the long-delayed action by the Legislature, the
railway companies have themselves done what they could to protect the
interests of those they represent, or of those for whose wants they cater,
by appealing against excessive and unjust assessments, and in many of these
appeals they have been successful. Such appeals have been warranted, not
alone by unfair increases of assessments but by the fact that taxation
based on earning powers ought to be reduced as those earning powers
decline; and on this last-mentioned point the Assessor of Railways and
Canals in Scotland is quoted in "The Rating of Railways" as having said:--

"There is the undeniable fact, which the Board of Trade returns amply
prove, that the companies are now carrying on their business at less
remunerative rates than formerly. The average fare per passenger carried,
and the rates per ton for goods and minerals handled, have fallen
enormously; while, at the same time, working expenses have been
{374}continually going up, mainly owing to the demands for higher wages and
shorter hours of employment, and the more stringent regulations of the
Board of Trade as to block-telegraph working, brake-power, etc. Further,
the increased gross or net revenues could not have been earned without a
large capital expenditure for additional and more costly plant. It is well
known that what would have satisfied the public twenty years ago would be
deemed wholly inadequate to-day. Competition has compelled the companies to
advance with the times; engines are now more powerful, carriages more
comfortable, in many cases even luxurious; trains are better heated and
lighted; continuous brakes and also the newest type of telegraphic
instruments for signalling and working have been provided; stations are
better furnished and equipped--all of which would mean a greatly increased
outlay on the part of a tenant, which outlay he would undoubtedly take into
account before deciding what rent he could afford to pay."

The considerations here presented in regard to the general question of
railway taxation are strengthened by the fact that, although a railway
company is a commercial enterprise, it has not the facilities possessed by
commercial enterprises in general in meeting any increase in cost of
production or working expenses by an increase in its charges to the
consumer, or the person equivalent thereto. In this respect an ordinary
industrial concern, producing goods for sale, is a free agent to the extent
that it is restrained in its charges only by market and economic
conditions; whereas the railway company, producing for sale the service
known as transport, may not raise a single rate or charge in regard to the
transport of goods without incurring the liability of having to "justify"
such increase before either the Board of Trade or the Railway and Canal
Commission. It has even been recommended recently by a Departmental
Committee of the Board of Trade that like restrictions should be made to
apply in the case of increases of passenger fares.

The alternative for a railway company lies in the possibility of reducing
expenses; but there are limitations in this direction if perfect efficiency
in all branches of the service is to be maintained, and no one would be
likely to suggest that these exactions of local authorities should be made
good by {375}reductions in, for example, that especially large item of
working expenses represented by the wages of railway servants.

What I have said in regard to rates and taxes in general applies no less to
the increased financial burdens that would fall on railway companies in
respect to the National Insurance Bill. With the main issues presented by
that measure I have here no concern; but the difference between railway
companies which cannot "pass on" the heavier taxation that all measures of
this type involve and the ordinary industrial companies which can should be
sufficiently obvious.[57]

Clear, at least, it is that if both the Government and the local
authorities continue to pile up these burdens of taxation on transport
companies, themselves subject to the restrictions mentioned, the traders of
the country cannot expect much relief in the railway rates of which many of
them complain. It may be that the primary effect of the financial
conditions thus brought about falls on the railway shareholders. It is,
also, the case that the traders are well assured against any increase in
rates. But the traders suffer a disadvantage as well as the shareholders
because, though the railway companies may be prevented from raising their
rates, they may, also, find it practically impossible to reduce rates which
they would otherwise be willing to put on a lower scale. On the one hand
the traders are protected from being charged more. On the other hand they
are prevented from being charged less. They may not lose, but they may not
gain; and inability to secure a benefit that might otherwise be secured
amounts, after all, to the equivalent of a loss. In regard, also, to the
wages of the staff, these may not be reduced yet the power of companies to
advance them may be curtailed by any undue swelling of working expenses in
other directions.

{376}A good idea of the magnitude of the capital, the scope and extent of
the operations, and the greatness and variety of the interests concerned in
the working even of a single great railway company is given by the
following table of what are deservedly called "interesting statistics,"
drawn up in regard to the Midland Railway for the year ending December 31,

  Capital expended            £121,304,555
  Authorised Capital          £193,900,517
  Working Expenses              £7,716,665
  Salaries and Wages            £5,015,017
    Coaching                    £4,058,129
    Goods, Mineral & Cattle     £8,375,673
    Miscellaneous                 £607,581
  Rates and Taxes                 £450,379
  Lines owned (miles)                1,680
  Constructing or Authorised            10¾
  Partly owned                         329
  Worked over by Engines             2,378
  Train Mileage                 48,472,172
  Passengers carried            46,481,756
  Season Tickets                   221,862
  Coal and Coke consumed (tons)  1,773,179
  Minerals & General
    Merchandise passing
    over line (tons)            47,533,420
  Engines                            2,800
  Carriage Stock                     5,489
  Waggon Stock                     117,571
  Horses                             5,158
  Road Vehicles                      7,009
  Signal Cabins & Stages             1,942
  Miles of Teleg. Wire              31,446
  Railway Telegrams             14,542,689
  Steam Fire Engines, Pumps, &c        511
  Fire Hydrants                      1,619
  Men qualified to render first
    aid to the injured              10,037
  Contributions to
    Friendly Society               £21,916
  Sick Allowance paid by
    Friendly Society               £36,367
  Contributed to Superannuation
    Fund                           £34,858
  Total number of Employés          69,356
  Uniform Staff                     29,500
  Clerical Staff at Derby            2,519
  Workmen in all Shops              13,443
  Area of Carriage Works (Acres)       126
  Acreage of Loco. Works                80

The organisation and working of the English railway system as it exists
to-day are matters as to which a good deal of interest has been shown from
time to time, and a certain degree of knowledge thereof is essential to an
appreciation of the position that has developed from the primitive
conditions already detailed. The subject is treated very fully in "The
Working and Management of an English Railway," by the late Sir George
Findlay, formerly general manager of the London and North-Western Railway
Company, whose line {377}he naturally dealt with in his book. Much,
however, has happened since the first edition of that book was published,
in 1889, and some of the details given are not applicable to present
conditions. I do not propose to bring them all up to date, but it may be of
advantage if I attempt to convey to the reader a general idea of the basis
on which the London and North-Western, as a typical English railway, is
organised and managed, leaving aside the technical data concerning
construction and operation with which, although they occupy a considerable
space in Sir George Findlay's book, I have here no direct concern.

The London and North-Western Railway had, on December 31, 1910, a total
length of line of 1966 miles, of which 380 miles were single track and 1586
double or more. The total length of track, including sidings, in equivalent
of single track, was 5490 miles. The authorised capital was £133,989,000
and the paid-up capital £125,038,000. The magnitude of the company's
operations is indicated by the following figures in regard to traffic,
etc., in 1910: Number of passengers carried (exclusive of season-ticket
holders), 83,589,000; minerals, 43,384,000 tons; general merchandise,
10,511,000 tons; number of miles travelled by trains, 47,463,000; receipts
(gross) from passenger traffic, £6,699,000; receipts (gross) from goods
traffic, £8,900,000; total working expenditure, £9,937,000.

The supreme control is exercised by a board of twenty directors, including
a chairman and a deputy chairman. Four retire annually, and are eligible
for re-election. The directors are appointed by the shareholders, all of
whom have the right to express their views thereon at the half-yearly
meetings of the company; and when it is stated that the number of
shareholders--debenture, preferred and ordinary--in the North-Western is
100,000, representing 90,000 holdings, and that in 45,000 cases the holding
is £500 or under, it will be seen that an English railway company is a far
more democratic institution than one of those great railroad systems in the
United States which may be completely dominated by a single individual. Any
shareholder in the London and North-Western who possesses the necessary
qualification, by being the owner of ordinary stock to the value of £1,000,
is eligible for appointment on the board.

{378}The main functions of an English railway board are--to decide
questions of principle and policy; to keep close watch over the interests
of the shareholders in regard to all questions of finance; and to exercise
a general control and supervision in order to ensure the thorough
efficiency of the line. Subject to such general control and supervision,
the working details are entrusted to railway officers possessed of the
skill, judgment, experience and technical knowledge requisite thereto. It
is thus no more necessary that railway directors should be railway experts
than it is that the proprietor, the manager and the editor of a great daily
newspaper should themselves be able to write shorthand, set up type, cast a
stereo and run the machines. They can dictate policy, attend to business
details and direct heads of departments without these, in their case,
superfluous accomplishments. Railway directors who, going beyond their
legitimate functions as aforesaid, sought to interfere with or dictate to
skilled railwaymen on matters of ordinary detail or office routine would,
in fact, cause friction without necessarily promoting efficiency in

In practice it is not unusual for a retiring general manager to be invited
to take a seat on the board either of his own or of another company; but,
generally speaking, the main qualification for a railway director, apart
from the extent of his holding, is found in his possession, or assumed
possession, of good business qualities, coupled with an interest in some
particular part of the district the railway serves.

The full board of the London and North-Western Railway meets twice a month;
but much work is also done by committees which, as in the case of a county
council or other important public body, exercise supervision over certain
departments, or groups of departments, presenting minutes of their
proceedings to the board for confirmation. The principal committees are the
Finance Committee, the Permanent Way Committee, the Locomotive Committee,
the Passenger Traffic Committee, the Goods Traffic Committee and the Debts
and Goods Claim Committee. There are, in addition, various smaller
committees which deal with questions arising in connection with legal
business, stores, hotels, refreshment rooms, etc.

The heads of the different departments concerned attend, either regularly
or as desired, the meetings of these various {379}committees, whose members
are thus kept thoroughly in touch with everything going on in regard to
matters under their special cognisance.

On the subject of finance, Sir George Findlay says (and the position is
still as here stated, except that certain members of the Finance Committee
now meet weekly to pass current accounts for payment):--

"The system of control over the expenditure of the Company's money is a
very complete one. The general theory is that no expenditure is incurred
without the direct sanction of the directors, expressed by a minute of some
committee approved by the board. The district officers are, indeed, allowed
to make small necessary payments, but for these vouchers are submitted
monthly and, after being carefully examined, are passed by the Finance
Committee. No work is done by any of the engineering departments, except
ordinary maintenance and repairs, without a minute of the directors to
sanction it, and, in like manner, no claim is paid, except those of
trifling amount, without the authority of the 'Goods Claims Committee.'"

The executive management is carried out by the general manager, the chief
goods manager, and the superintendent of the line, the heads of the various
other departments--and, also, the district officers--reporting to, and
being under the direction of, one or other of these three officers, or, in
the case of the chief goods manager and the superintendent of the line, of
their assistants.

The general manager naturally exercises general control. He is accountable
to the chairman and directors for the good working of all departments, and
when one takes into account the magnitude of the financial interests at
stake; the extreme complexity of the movements and details involved in the
operation of so many miles of railway transporting so huge a volume of
traffic; the responsibilities of the company towards the multitudes of
travellers who depend for life or limb on the perfection of the
arrangements made for their safety; the enormous value of the goods of
which temporary charge is undertaken; the questions of principle or
precedent that arise in connection with a whole army of workers, no less
than the matters of policy as regards development of the line or the
relations with other companies, involving, it may be, {380}introduction of
or opposition to Railway Bills; the preparation of evidence to be given
before one or other of those oft-recurring Parliamentary or Departmental
Committees; together with the ever-present need of reconciling, as far as
possible, the conflicting interests of public, of staff and of
shareholders--when one tries to realise the full extent of all these
duties, obligations and responsibilities devolving upon the general manager
of a great English railway company, the holder of such a post would seem to
occupy a position more onerous than that, probably, of any other British
subject, even if he should not deserve to rank as a ruler of what, in the
variety and extent of the interests concerned--interests greater far than
those of many a Continental State--is itself the equivalent of a small

In the chief goods manager's department there are, besides himself, an
assistant goods manager, two outdoor goods managers, a mineral traffic
manager and a large staff of clerks. The chief goods manager and his
assistants take charge of all matters connected with merchandise and
mineral traffic, apart from the actual running of the trains. They arrange
the rates and conditions of carriage; control the handling, the
warehousing, and the collection and delivery of the goods; deal with all
questions of goods accommodation and goods rolling stock; negotiate the
arrangements in regard to private sidings for traders, and discharge a
great number of other duties besides.

The main function of the superintendent of the line, in whose department
there is, also, an assistant superintendent of the line and several
assistants, is to deal with all passenger, horse, carriage and parcels
traffic, and, also, the running of all trains, whether passenger,
merchandise, live-stock or mineral. All questions relating to the actual
working of the line, passenger stations, signals, etc., are referred to
him, and the issue of all time-tables is also under his control.

The other heads of departments include: Secretary; solicitor (with
assistant solicitor); chief accountant; locomotive accountant; cashier;
chief of expenditure department; chief of audit department; registrar;
estate agent; rating agent; chief engineer (with a chief clerk and two
assistant engineers, one for new works and one for permanent way); chief
mechanical engineer (with a chief indoor assistant {381}in locomotive
department, general assistant and two outdoor assistants); signal
superintendent; electrical engineer; rolling-stock superintendent; carriage
superintendent; waggon superintendent; stores superintendent; horse
superintendent; police superintendent; marine superintendent; hotel
manager; and chief medical officer. The total number of persons engaged in
these various departments, as carried on in the general offices at Euston
station, without reckoning those employed elsewhere, is about 1500.

For administrative purposes the entire system, with its close on 2000 miles
of railway, is divided into a number of districts, each of which is in
charge of a district superintendent who is responsible for the working of
the trains and the control of the staff in his district. Each district
superintendent has an assistant and several travelling inspectors working
under his direction, their duty being to visit regularly every station and
signal box, and deal with any matters requiring attention.

In some districts the superintendents are responsible both for passenger
traffic and for goods traffic. In this case they are called district
traffic superintendents. They report in regard to the passenger business to
the superintendent of the line and in regard to the goods business to the
chief goods manager. In the most important districts the district
superintendent is relieved of the management of the goods business (except
as regards the working of the trains) by other district officers known as
district goods managers, or goods superintendents, who are responsible to
the chief goods manager at Euston.

In Dublin there is an Irish traffic manager who takes charge of all the
interests of the company in Ireland, and there are agents in Paris and New
York who look after the Continental and American business.

The same general principle, as applied to the various districts, operates,
also, in regard to individual towns and the management of the stations
therein. At the majority of the company's stations there is an agent,
popularly known as the station master, who is in charge of both the
passenger and the goods traffic; and at the larger stations the work is
divided between a station master--who attends to passenger traffic, and is
accountable to the district superintendent--and a goods agent, who is
responsible for the goods work, and is under {382}the control of the
district goods manager. The station master, in turn, has authority over the
signalmen, porters and lamp-men at his station, just as the goods agent has
authority over the local goods department. The chain of responsibility thus
works out as follows:--

  Station staff.                Goods staff.
  Station master.               Goods agent.
  District superintendent.      District goods manager.
  Superintendent of the line.   Chief goods manager.
                    General manager.
                    Committees of the board.
                    Chairman and full board.

While the control through the board of directors and the general manager is
complete yet, at the same time, it would be impossible to keep pace with
the rapidity with which business is done at the present day unless the
district officers were able to act on their own responsibility in those
cases where time did not permit of matters going through the usual routine,
and for that reason the district officers of a company like the London and
North-Western are capable men who are able, and are encouraged, to take
full responsibility when it is necessary for them to do so.

Just as the committees of the board of directors keep in touch with the
chief officers and heads of departments, so do the chief officers keep in
touch alike with one another and with the country officers, doing this by
means of periodical conferences.

There is, in the first place, what is known as the "Officers' Conference."
Held once a month at Euston or elsewhere, as convenient, it is presided
over by the general manager, and is attended alike by the chief officers
and by the district officers for both the passenger and the goods
departments. At this conference the matters discussed include proposed
alterations in the train service, mishaps or irregularities and their
avoidance, suggested changes in the rules, and everything appertaining to
the working, loading and equipment of the trains.

Another conference, known as the "Goods Conference," is also held
monthly--generally on the day preceding the Officers' Conference--and is
presided over by the chief goods {383}manager, who meets the district
officers responsible for the goods working, and discusses with them the
various subjects that arise from time to time in connection with the goods

The minutes of both conferences are submitted to the directors, who are
thus kept still better informed of all that is happening. Nor do the
officers themselves, whether chief officers or district officers, fail to
benefit from the opportunities for the exchange of views and experiences
which the conferences afford.

Periodical inspections of the line, or of the stations, in various
districts by the directors and the chief officers--whether both together or
by the chief officers alone--afford further opportunities for checking any
possible irregularities, for ensuring the provision of adequate station
accommodation, for seeing that rules and regulations are properly observed,
and for maintaining the thorough efficiency of the system in general.

The locomotive works of the London and North-Western Railway Company at
Crewe extend over 140 acres, including 48 acres of covered-in shops, mills,
etc. These works give employment to about 10,000 men and boys. In addition
to the making of locomotives, the various processes carried on include the
production of steel rails, girders for bridges, underframes for carriages,
hydraulic machinery, cranes, bricks, gas-pipes, water-pipes, drain-pipes,
and a great number of other objects and appliances necessary to the
construction and operation of the railway. Created by the London and
North-Western Railway Company, Crewe has developed from an agricultural
village into a flourishing industrial town of 42,000 inhabitants.

At Wolverton, half-way between London and Birmingham, the company build and
repair their own railway carriages and road vehicles, and do much work
besides in the making of station furniture, office fittings, and other
requirements. The works cover 90 acres, and give employment to about 4000

The Earlstown waggon works extend over 24 acres and employ 1800 persons,
Earlstown, like Crewe and Wolverton, being essentially a railway colony. In
each instance--as will be shown more fully in Chapter XXVIII--liberal
provision is {384}made for the educational, social and recreative needs of
the workers and their dependents.

No fewer than 82,000 persons are included in the industrial army which
to-day constitutes the staff of the London and North-Western Railway. Of
this total 11,000 are salaried officers and clerks and 71,000 are employed
at weekly wages. A company which employs such a multitude as this, and,
indirectly, ensures sustenance to a much greater number of persons, incurs
obligations that are not met entirely by a stated salary or wage. Hence the
company, in addition to their encouragement of schools and educational
institutes, support a Superannuation Fund Association and a Widows and
Orphans' Fund for the salaried staff, and various funds, on a contributory
basis, for the wages staff. Other organisations supported by the company
include a savings bank, a literary society, chess, rifle and athletic
clubs, a temperance society and numerous coffee taverns for the staff.



To say that the railways have revolutionised trade and industries would be
simply to repeat one of the commonplaces of modern economic history. Taking
the general statement for granted, I would invite the reader to look a
little more closely at some of the actual results that railways have, or
have not, brought about.

In the first place it would be going too far to say that the Railway Age
inaugurated the Industrial Era. The invention of, or the improvements in,
machinery which gave so immense an impetus to our national industries
preceded the opening of the particular lines of railway--the Stockton and
Darlington and the Liverpool and Manchester--that were more especially to
lead to the great development of the railway system on present-day lines.
All the same, it was the railways that, by offering a far more effective
means of transport than was already afforded by canals, rivers or roads,
made it possible for the industries then already started, or for those
following thereon, to attain to their present proportions.

For the creation of what is known as the factory system, with its teeming
industrial populations aggregated into busy urban centres, the railways are
certainly far more responsible than the earlier modes of transport. The
merits or the drawbacks of that system, from the point of view of general
interests, are matters that need not be discussed here. Suffice it to say
that as soon as the railways had allowed of great quantities of raw
material being conveyed, at especially low rates, to particular localities;
of machinery being set up there, also at lower cost than before; of labour
from the rural districts being brought in and concentrated in the same
localities, and of an efficient distribution, again at lower rates, of
commodities produced on a large scale under the most economical
conditions;--it was inevitable that factories should supplant home
{386}industries, that manufacturers should succeed small masters, and that
great towns should grow up in proportion as rural centres declined.

In helping to bring about these results--results that so materially
accelerated the "economic revolution" already proceeding--railway transport
also supplied a ready means for providing these urban communities with the
necessaries of life.

It is only with the help of the railways that the provisioning of such vast
collections of humanity as are to be found in London, Manchester,
Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and other centres is rendered possible. As
compared with the earlier conditions of life, when households were mainly
self-supporting, each providing for its own needs from its own fields,
pasture or garden, the average urban family to-day is dependent on the
trader for practically all domestic necessaries, and the same is mostly the
case in suburban or even in country districts except, it may be, in regard
to vegetables, eggs and table poultry. It is doubtful if London or any
other of these great centres ever has more than, at the outside, a
fortnight's supplies on hand. The complete stoppage of the railway system
for any such period would thus be a national disaster. Food might still
come to the ports in the same quantities as before; but without the
railways there would be no adequate means for its distribution, and the
large inland towns would more especially be at a disadvantage. The mere
possibility of such an eventuality may help one to realise the extent of
our dependence to-day on rail transport from the point of view, not alone
of trade, industry and commerce, but of our daily life and sustenance.

While it is true that many rural centres suffered a decline in population
when the railways led indirectly to so many agricultural workers leaving
the fields for the attractions and the supposed advantages of urban life,
it is no less true that the expansion of the towns gave to those who
remained in the rural centres greater markets for the sale there of such
produce--and especially for such market-garden produce, eggs and
poultry--as they could supply to advantage. The railways may not have
annihilated distance, but they were engaged in curtailing distances; and
such curtailment became still more effective when the achievements of the
locomotive were {387}followed by the adoption of the sliding-scale
principle under which the rates per ton per mile decreased in proportion as
consignments were sent for a greater distance than twenty miles.

The towns and the industrial centres expanded further as rail transport
afforded increased facilities for the conveyance of raw materials to works
which, thanks to the steam-engine, could be set up in any part of the
country, regardless of the once indispensable water power; and the
procuring of these raw materials not only gave a further great expansion to
national wealth, but led to the opening up to industrial activity of many a
district previously isolated and undeveloped.

Increased congestion in the towns was thus none the less supplemented by a
widespread development of the interior resources of the country; and in
this respect the railways accomplished results that could not have been
attained by the most complete system either of canals or of turnpike roads.
There certainly were losses, besides those in the rural districts, and this
was notably the case in some of the county, market, or smaller towns which
no longer command the same distinction in the social and economic world as
before; but the balance as between gains and losses was in favour of an
industrial expansion, a commercial development, and an unexampled increase
in general prosperity.

On the general trade of the country the railway was to produce results no
less striking than those that related to individual industries.

When the facilities for distributing domestic and other necessaries
throughout the inland districts, and even in the most remote parts of the
country, were so greatly increased, the reason for the fairs which had for
many centuries played so all-important a part in English trade and commerce
no longer existed, and the country hastened to deserve Napoleon's sarcasm
by becoming "a nation of shopkeepers."

To the country trader the railway gave new opportunities. There was no
longer any need either for his going to one of the periodical fairs or for
his awaiting a call from a travelling middleman with his troop of
packhorses in order to obtain supplies. Nor was it now necessary for him to
purchase comparatively substantial quantities of wares at a time. Thanks to
the railway, he could generally have goods sent to him {388}direct from the
manufacturer or the warehouseman in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow
or elsewhere, and those goods, sent for one day and delivered the next,
could be ordered by him in exactly such quantities as would suit his
immediate requirements. In this way he was enabled to keep smaller stocks
of a greater variety of articles, trade with less, or with better
distributed, capital and anticipate a much larger turnover. The advantage
of these facilities became greater still in proportion as the post, the
telegraph and the telephone gave the retailer greater opportunities for
communicating his wants to the wholesale trader who supplied them.

In these circumstances village stores are to be found to-day in rural
districts where shops had been non-existent down to the Railway Age, while
the conditions of retail trade in probably every country town have no less
changed, and have altered to a proportionate extent the conditions, also,
of wholesale trade.

On the other hand, the same transport facilities which gave these
opportunities to the small trader are now, to a certain extent, operating
to his disadvantage, since there is an increasing tendency for retail trade
to be done by the large houses which are to-day more and more dealing
direct with the public, consigning to retail customers either by rail or by
parcel post. In this way many of the small traders are sharing the fate of
the small masters who had already been suppressed by the factory system.

The movement here in question is, of course, only a development of the dual
tendency now prevalent throughout the commercial world for (1) the
substitution of large or associated undertakings for numerous small and
independent ones; and (2) the abolition of middlemen; yet such a movement
could hardly have been carried out to its present actual extent but for the
opportunities offered by the railway for the regular, speedy and economical
transport of commodities under just such conditions as will alone allow of
this further transition in trade being brought about.

So far as the railways themselves are concerned, these various developments
have not been an unmixed blessing, since they have increased the tendency
for the general merchandise traffic to travel in small or comparatively
small consignments or parcels, involving a greater amount of {389}handling
and of clerical work, and, therefore, an increase in working expenses,
without a proportionate gain in revenue.

The vast majority of traders in the country seem content to live "from hand
to mouth," ordering only just what they want from day to day or from week
to week, and depending implicitly on prompt delivery by the railway
whenever they need fresh supplies. Thus we get such conditions of trade in
respect to general merchandise (distinct from minerals and raw materials)
as are suggested by the following table, showing the total tonnage of
traffic dealt with, and the average weight per package handled, at the
goods depôts mentioned:--

                                               AVERAGE WEIGHT
                          HANDLED.   PACKAGES.   Qrs. lbs.
  Broad Street, London        906     23,067      3    4
  Curzon Street, Birmingham  1615     51,114      2   14
  Liverpool Stations         3895     79,513      3   26
  London Road, Manchester    1341     28,277      3   22

How this small-parcel-at-frequent-intervals arrangement, so convenient for
a large number of traders, increases the work of the companies in a greater
ratio than it increases their receipts is shown by the following typical
figures, worked out by a leading railway company in respect to the
comparative increases in traffic receipts and number of invoice entries
respectively at four large stations on their system:--

                                              INCREASE IN
                             INCREASE IN     NO. OF INVOICE
     A.     1899 and 1906        2.93              40.0
     B.     1903  "  1907        5.74              28.46
     C.     1902  "  1905       10.36              22.0
     D.     1902  "  1905       14.33              24.3

The tendencies in the direction of repeat orders for small consignments are
no less prevalent in the case of raw materials and bulky commodities than
in that of general merchandise. The cotton-spinner has frequent
consignments of cotton, in quantities sufficient to meet immediate needs,
rather than less frequent consignments in greater bulk. The average builder
saves yard expenses and cartage by ordering from time to time {390}the
exact quantities of timber or the precise number of bricks he wants for the
particular work, or for a certain stage of the work, on which he is
engaged. The coal merchant orders forward from day to day, or at intervals
according to the state of business, only the particular quantities of coal
he requires for present or prospective early needs, since the railway
arrangements generally render it unnecessary for him to provide for more
than a few days' supply at a time. So it goes on through almost every
department of present-day trade.

The advantages for the trader himself are enormous, and the railways have
encouraged him in the tendency here in question by giving, for 2-ton or
4-ton lots, minimum special or exceptional rates which on the State
railways of the Continent would be available only for 5-ton, 10-ton or
still higher quantities. Yet when a trader has delivery made to him in
several consignments rather than one, it is evident that, whatever the
convenience to himself, the company must do more work for their money and
incur the risk, also, of having to run two or more partly-filled waggons on
separate days in place, it may be, of one full one. Hence a further problem
in the railway world of recent years has been how to adjust traffic
arrangements to commercial conditions based on the now established
requirements of the British trader for small consignments at frequent
intervals, and yet secure for the railways themselves the advantage of
economical loading. Much has been done in this direction by the leading
companies in the setting up of transhipping depôts and otherwise, and
substantial economies have been effected thereby.

Another respect in which railway facilities have influenced the course of
trade lies in the fact that the large warehouses, provided by the railway
companies at certain of their goods depôts enable a large number of
merchants, agents or other traders to dispense with warehouses of their own
and carry on their business from a city office, whence they send their
instructions to the railway companies as to the destination of particular
consignments when these are to be despatched to the purchaser. The railway
companies are thus relied on to (1) collect the goods, (2) load them into
the railway waggons, (3) transport them from one town to another, (4)
unload them, (5) remove them to the railway warehouse, (6) store them there
until they are wanted, (7) pick out, as and when required, {391}a
particular bale or parcel from a possible pyramid of bales or parcels
warehoused for the same trader; and (8) deliver it to a given address.

In some instances all these services are included in the railway rate, a
certain period of free warehousing being then allowed. In other instances,
or when the free period is exceeded, a charge is made for rent; but the
trader still saves considerably as compared with what he would have to pay
for a separate warehouse for himself, with rates, taxes and cost of cartage
in addition.

At the autumnal meeting, on October 3, 1906, of the Executive Council of
the National Chamber of Trade, held at Bradford, it was declared, in
reference to the inequality in assessments for local rates, that there were
in Bradford certain large concerns whose business turnover amounted to more
than £40,000 a year, while the rental of the premises they occupied was not
more than £100. Some exceptionally large and commodious railway warehouses
in Bradford are certainly made use of by local traders under precisely such
conditions as those here in question; and it is, probably, because of these
railway warehouses that the concerns alluded to are able to carry on a
£40,000 business in £100 premises.

Even when the traders own extensive mills or factories they often find it
convenient to allow the railway company to warehouse most of their raw
material for them, sending on supplies to them as needed, a saving thus
being effected in respect alike to capital outlay on land and buildings for
store rooms and to rates and taxes thereon. In other instances goods are
sent, as ready, to the railway warehouses at the port to await shipment,
the manufacturers once more saving in not having to provide extra
accommodation on their own premises for the storing of goods until a large
order has been completed or until a vessel is due to leave.

The extent of this railway warehouse accommodation will be better
understood if I mention that two sets of premises which constitute the
Broad Street goods depôt of the London and North-Western Railway Company,
in the heart of the City of London, have a total floor space of 29,500
square yards; that the same company have at Liverpool a series of
warehouses with a total of about 30,500 square yards of floor space; that
the Great Northern Railway Company have at Bradford one {392}wool-warehouse
which can accommodate from 50,000 to 60,000 bales, and another that has a
storage capacity of 150,000 bales; and that an exceptionally large goods
depôt and warehouse in Manchester, with floor space equal to one and a
quarter acres, cost the Great Northern Railway Company no less a sum than

To illustrate the nature of the accommodation offered by, and the work
carried on, in these great goods stations and warehouses, I offer a few
details respecting the Bishopsgate Goods Station of the Great Eastern
Railway Company.

Situate in the midst of one of the busiest of London's commercial centres
and in the immediate proximity of docks, wharves, markets and warehouses
carrying on, in the aggregate, an enormous business, the Bishopsgate Goods
Station is a hive of activity of so extensive and varied a type that the
working bees employed form a staff of no fewer than 2000 persons.

The premises, which have nine exits and entrances, are divided into three
levels, known as the basement level, the rail level and the warehouse
level. The total area covered by the goods station, including railway
lines, yard and buildings, is twenty-one acres.

The basement level consists of a series of arches on which the lines
leading into the goods station have been built. Originally the arches were
designed by the railway company to serve the purposes of a general fruit,
vegetable and fish market, and this market was opened in 1882; but the
lessee of the Spitalfields market claimed certain monopoly rights under an
ancient charter, and the Bishopsgate market had to be closed; though the
railway company continued to carry on a market they had previously opened
at Stratford, E., subject to the payment of certain tolls to the aforesaid
lessee in respect to his rights. The Stratford market, located immediately
alongside lines of railway bringing produce from the most important
agricultural districts of the Eastern Counties, has conferred great
advantages alike on traders and on residents in the East of London. The
basement arches at Bishopsgate are to-day let mainly to potato salesmen and
others, who find them of the greatest convenience because loaded trucks
arriving on the rail level can be lowered into the basement, there to be
moved by hydraulic power to the particular arch for which the consignment
is destined.

{393}The rail level is the goods station proper. It has eleven sets of
rails and five loading or unloading platforms, or "banks," while two
shunting engines are constantly employed in taking loaded or empty trucks
in or out. In 1910 the business done gave a daily average of 725 trucks
inwards traffic, and 632 outwards traffic, a total daily average of 1,357
trucks. About eighty goods trains leave or arrive at the station during the
twenty-four hours. These include two which are fitted with the vacuum
brake, and give the traders and inhabitants of Lincoln and towns beyond all
the advantages of an express goods service at ordinary rates--a service,
that is, equivalent to what, in Germany, traders would have to pay double
or treble their own ordinary rates for if they wished to ensure a
corresponding speed.

Of potatoes from the fenland districts of the Eastern Counties the total
quantity received at Bishopsgate during 1910 was 100,000 tons. Of green
peas from Essex as many as 1000 tons have been received in a single day.
Fish from Lowestoft and Yarmouth runs into an annual total of many
thousands of tons.

Passengers' luggage in advance is also dealt with at Bishopsgate. This
system, saving the traveller much trouble, and greatly facilitating the
working of passenger traffic at the stations, is evidently advancing in
favour, the packages handled at Bishopsgate having increased from 18,617 in
1900 to 87,129 in 1910.

In the matter of general merchandise, the experiences of the other railway
depôts already mentioned are confirmed by those at Bishopsgate, the taking
there of the number and weight of all consignments of merchandise forwarded
on a particular day having shown the following results:--

  Number of consignments                  7,932
  Average weight per consignment   3 cwt. 2 qrs. 25 lbs.
  Number weighing less than 3 cwts        6,056

The total "carriage paid" entries on outwards goods traffic in 1910
numbered over 970,000. For the month of November alone the total was

A large proportion of the commodious and well-lighted warehouse level on
the top storey is let off to individual traders in what are known as "fixed
spaces," the demand for {394}which is always in excess of the supply. Goods
of great variety and of great value are stored here. The warehouse is found
especially useful in connection with the extensive goods traffic carried by
the Great Eastern Railway Company between England and the Continent.

Mention might also be made of the fact that the cartage work done at
Bishopsgate requires a stud of about 1100 horses and 850 road vehicles, and
gives employment to nearly 800 carmen and van-guards; that nine
weighbridges have been provided; that a large staff of railway police is
always on duty to regulate the traffic in or out of the station and to
protect property; that the station has its own steam fire-engine and fire
brigade (the company likewise undertaking the fire insurance of goods
warehoused); and that the general arrangements include a complete ambulance
equipment for the rendering of first aid in the event of accidents to the

Apart from the provision of depôts and warehouses, the railway companies
facilitate the operations of traders by giving them certain free periods in
respect to the unloading of coal, potatoes, hay, straw and various other
commodities from the railway trucks, which serve the purposes of warehouses
on wheels and involve the trader in no further cost, in addition to the
railway rate, provided he can find a customer and arrange for the unloading
to be done within the free period allowed to him, thus escaping the
alternative charge for demurrage. Other conveniences afforded by the
English railway companies to traders include the provision--for hire at
cheap rates--of grain sacks, meat hampers and meat cloths. The Great
Eastern Railway, for instance, who serve a district mainly agricultural,
keep on hand, for the convenience of traders, from 700,000 to 750,000
sacks, 1200 meat hampers, and between 4000 and 5000 meat cloths.

Railways, as developed in England, have thus done more than increase the
facilities and decrease the cost of actual transport. They have, in various
ways, increased the facilities for, and decreased the cost of the exchange
of, commodities, since there is many a trader in the country who conducts
his business much more with the help of a railway company's {395}capital
than he does with his own. It is not alone that trade and industry have
vastly increased in volume as the result of railway operation. Trade and
industry have, also, completely changed in method, while thousands of men
can carry on a business of their own to-day who, in the pre-railway epoch,
must have been content to be little more than hewers of wood and drawers of

The economy in time, also, due to the speed at which the general
merchandise traffic of the country is carried, has been of no less
importance than the economy in cost of transport. Of these two elements
speed in delivery may often be by far the more important. Slowness in
transport, as is the case on canals, may cause no inconvenience where time
is immaterial and large, or comparatively large, stocks can be kept on
hand; but these considerations do not apply to the great bulk of English
trading and industrial enterprises as carried on under present-day
conditions. Hence to the direct saving in the cost of transport, and to the
greater advantages in the exchange and distribution of commodities brought
about by railways, must be added a fair allowance for gains secured
indirectly through this further saving of time. So far back as 1838, and
long, therefore, before goods trains were run at an equivalent to express
speed, Nicholas Wood wrote in the third edition of his "Practical Treatise
on Rail-roads," in comparing rail and canal transport:--

"In our comparison of the two systems of transit, we must not lose sight of
the very important consequences, resulting to the commerce of the country,
by the rapidity of communication effected by the railways, which far
outweighs any trifling balance of economy in favour of canals, even if such
do exist; and, therefore, we presume, whenever the balance between the two
modes in any degree approach each other, a preference will be given to
railway communication."

Against the various advantages that improved means of transport have thus
brought to the British trader must, nevertheless, in his case, be set
certain disadvantages. If he can forward his commodities with greater ease,
at lower rates, and in less time, to the leading markets of the country
than his grandfather before him could do, he finds that, in practice, the
foreigner can do the same. Where the foreigner produces at lower cost, gets
the lowest available rates by reason of size {396}of consignment, style of
packing, etc., has the benefit of an earlier season and so on, he may well
be able, under a system of free imports, to compete with the home producer
on his own markets; though the cost of transport to the foreigner has
naturally to be reckoned from the place of origin, and not simply from the
English port through which his consignments pass.

The general effect of rail transport on the trade and industry of the
country was thus described by Sir John Hawkshaw in his presidential address
at the Bristol meeting of the British Association in 1875:--

"Railways add enormously to the national wealth. More than twenty-five
years ago it was proved to the satisfaction of the House of Commons, from
facts and figures which I then adduced, that the Lancashire and Yorkshire
railway, of which I was the engineer, and which then formed the principal
railway connection between the populous towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire,
effected a saving to the public using the railway of more than the whole
amount of the dividend which was received by the proprietors. These
calculations were based solely on the amount of traffic carried by the
railways and on the difference between the railway rate of charge and the
charges by the modes of conveyance anterior to the railways. No credit
whatever was taken for the saving of time, though in England pre-eminently
time is money. Considering that railway charges on many items have been
considerably reduced since that day, it may be safely assumed that the
railways in the British Isles now produce, or, rather, save to the nation,
a much larger sum annually than the gross amount of all the dividends
payable to the proprietors, without at all taking into account the benefit
arising from the saving of time. The benefits under that head defy
calculation, and cannot with any accuracy be put into money; but it would
not be at all over-estimating this question to say that in time and money
the nation gains at least what is equivalent to 10 per cent on all the
capital expended on railways."

Sir John Hawkshaw, it will be seen, arrived at this result on the basis of
the saving in rates and charges and in speed; but one must further allow
for those various supplementary services on which the railways enable the
traders to effect savings in the carrying on of their business.

{397}Nor have the political and social results of the railway system been
in any degree less remarkable than the economic.

Politically, the railway has been a factor in the rise of Democracy.

The construction of railways, by giving employment to large numbers of
navvies in various parts of the country, to which they moved freely as
occasion required, did much to break down the restrictions to which the
labouring classes had so long been subjected under laws of settlement now
found to be no longer operative; and this greater freedom of movement,
combined with the wider opportunities opened out to them, had effects on
the workers far beyond the results accruing to them from an industrial
standpoint alone.

Under, again, the influences following on the spread of railways throughout
the country, England ceased to be simply a collection of isolated
communities, and attained to a greater degree of national life. Better
communication helped to make men better acquainted with one another, to
broaden their sympathies, to spread a better knowledge of public events at
home and abroad and to establish closer links between town life and country

Then the railways which rendered this closer communication possible proved
to be among the greatest of social levellers. The claims of the third-class
passenger were recognised in course of time, in spite of the unwillingness
of the pioneer companies to make them due acknowledgment; and the day was
to come when the artisan would go by the same express train as the noble
lord, arrive at his destination just as soon, and, though not having quite
so luxurious a seat, be afforded facilities of travel greater far than
those that could once be commanded even by kings and princes. Cheap
excursion trains gave to artisan and agriculturist the opportunity of
visiting great towns or pleasure resorts to which, in the old coaching
days, the well-to-do would alone have thought of travelling. In the same
way the advantages of a concentration of life, of thought and of movement
in the capital were spread by the easier means of communication to country
districts, and brought the population in general into closer touch with the
leaders of public opinion. The railways were the greatest disseminators of
intelligence through the newspapers or books carried by train or by the
post, itself no less dependent, in turn, {398}on the railway for the
facilities it conferred on the country. Without the railway a cheap and
widely distributed newspaper press, such as exists to-day, would have been

So the tendency of the railway was not only to advance trade, travel and
transport, but to open men's minds, to broaden the intellectual outlook of
the artisan and the labourer, to place them more on a level with their
social superiors, and to make them better fitted for the exercise of
greater political powers.

Socially, too, the railway system constitutes a paramount factor in the
national life.

Thanks to the greater facilities the railways afforded for the distribution
of commodities, and thanks, also, to the greater division of labour
following on the changed economic conditions, there was no need in the
Railway Age for householders to practise the same domestic arts that had
been more or less obligatory in the case of their forefathers. There was no
longer the same necessity for each family to brew its own ale, to bake its
own bread and make its own cloth, or to provide stores of salt beef and
other supplies in the autumn as if for a winter siege. When the railway
enabled the village shopkeeper to satisfy promptly all local requirements,
in winter as readily as in summer, the whole conditions of rural life were

In towns, as in villages, the railways allowed not alone of a better
distribution of domestic necessaries but of distribution at lower prices.
The distance at which a commodity was produced or from which it came had,
as a rule, comparatively little effect on the actual selling price. The
large towns, especially, had the entire country open to them as their
sources of supply, and were no longer limited to the produce--and the
prices--of, say, a fifteen or a twenty-mile radius.

Following closely on the necessaries came the luxuries, the cheapening of
which, mainly owing to the lower cost of transport, gave even to artisans'
families alternative food supplies of a kind beyond the reach even of the
wealthiest in the land a century ago.

The greater consumption of fruit and vegetables, sold at the lowest
possible prices, must have been of incalculable advantage to the health of
the community; though this advantage would not have been possible but for
the facilities {399}afforded by the railway in the bringing of huge
quantities at a low rate from even the most distant corners of the three

If, again, the railways had to share with invention and industrial
expansion the responsibility for the great increase in town life, and for
the overcrowding of many an urban centre, they have, on the other hand,
helped the towns to spread out into healthy suburbs, or have otherwise
relieved them of much of their overcrowding by providing workmen's trains
for the conveyance of artisans and labourers between their place of labour
and entirely new centres of population in what once were country districts.

As for the town workers who can afford to live at greater distances, the
issue of cheap season tickets and the running of business trains morning
and evening have greatly extended the suburbs of London, so that City men
now have their homes as far away as Brighton, Folkestone and Southend.

The encouragement thus offered by the railways to the setting up of country
or even seaside homes for town workers has further tended to the
improvement of the public health, in addition to effecting a complete
revolution in social conditions as compared with the days when the merchant
or the tradesman lived over his place of business in the very heart of the
City of London.

What shall be said, also, of the effect on the national life of that
"travel habit" which received its greatest development from the railways,
though further encouraged in recent years by the bicycle and the motor-car?
Under the combined influences of fast trains, corridor carriages, dining,
luncheon and sleeping cars and cheap fares, whether for day excursions,
short-date or long-date periods, tours at home or abroad, or any other of
the various combinations for which facilities are offered, the making of
pleasure trips has entered so thoroughly into the habits and customs of all
grades of society that the social and domestic conditions of to-day offer a
complete contrast from those that prevailed in the pre-railway period. It
is now only the poorest of families that fail to have an annual holiday at
a seaside resort or in the country, and even in their {400}case the
children may be provided for by one of the philanthropic organisations
established for this purpose.

Nor does the annual summer or autumn holiday now suffice in a vast number
of British households. There are supplementary holidays at Easter and
Whitsuntide; there are the trips taken on the other bank holidays besides;
and, lest all these opportunities may not suffice, the railway companies
now enable their patrons to take a little holiday, at reduced fares, every
week-end. Thanks, in fact, to the ever-expanding facilities for travel,
holiday-making--a former innovation now developed into an established
national institution--is no longer confined to a regular holiday season.
Winter holidays, also, are coming rapidly into vogue.

The question might well be asked if indulgence in the holiday habit is not
often carried too far, especially when trips unduly long for the time at
the tripper's disposal leave it doubtful whether the holiday-maker should
not have a second holiday in which to rest after the fatigues of the first;
though if English people are indeed giving themselves up far too much to
pleasure, sport and recreation, the railways must certainly share the
responsibility for what is happening.

Leaving medical authorities and social reformers to decide on the questions
just raised, one may, at least, safely affirm that the railway has been a
great promoter of friendship and family life, since visits can now readily
be exchanged between those resident in distant parts of the country, and
ties can thus be maintained that, at one time, would have been in danger of
complete severance by the difficulties or the undue cost of journeys by

In addition to doing so much to re-establish our industries, our trade and
our social life and manners on the new bases here indicated, the railway
companies have also sought to play their part in the great and responsible
question of national defence. The gravity of the issues that, in case of
invasion, would depend on the railways being able to arrange for the rapid
and safe movement of troops, of war material and of supplies from one part
of the country to another is self-evident. It is equally clear that the
necessary plans should be carefully prepared long in advance by those most
competent to make them.

Happily the requisite provisions to this end exist in an {401}organisation
known as the "Engineer and Railway Staff Corps," concerning which Mr C. H.
Jeune says in the "Great Eastern Railway Magazine" for June, 1911, in an
article accompanying a portrait (in uniform) of the general manager of the
Great Eastern, Mr W. H. Hyde, who is a Lieutenant-Colonel of the corps in

"In the case of the great Continental powers, with their system of
compulsory military service and the State ownership of railways,
immediately war is declared practically the whole of the efficient male
population, including the railway staff, is ready to place itself under
military discipline; the effect being that the transport or railway
department, like the infantry or artillery, becomes an integral part of the
armed forces of the country. But in England the transport arrangements must
of necessity be largely carried out by the railway companies with the aid
of their civilian employés. As a link between the army and the companies
there is an organisation, the existence of which is not widely known,
designated the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps. One of the peculiar
features of this body is that it consists of officers only, many of whom we
dare to say have no practical knowledge of the goose step. It never drills,
no band of music heralds its approach, yet its members are men of high
technical ability, and the duties it performs are of great value in the
schemes of national defence.

"The corps was formed in 1864 by the patriotic exertions of Charles Manby,
F.R.S., an eminent civil engineer, who held the post of adjutant with the
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the corps. It is composed of civil engineers
and contractors, also general managers and other officers of railway and
dock companies. At present there are, in addition to the Commandant, one
honorary Colonel, thirty Lieutenant-Colonels, and twenty-four majors. Their
function is to advise on the transport of troops by rail and the
construction of defensive works; to direct the application of skilled
labour and of railway transport to the purposes of national defence, and to
prepare in time of peace a system on which such duties should be

Selected members of the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps join with
representatives of the Admiralty and the War Office in forming the War
Railway Council, which {402}deals with transport and other arrangements for

Before leaving this branch of the subject I may, perhaps, be excused if I
look still further afield, and turn, for a moment, from what railways have
done for the nation to a few examples of what they are doing for the

In Australia the railways allowed of settlements established on the
coast-line of a continent (covering three million square miles) gradually
stretching far inland, utilising for agricultural purposes great areas of
land that must otherwise have remained little better than barren wastes.

Canada, as we know it to-day, owes her existence to the railways. "Without
them," said Mr E. T. Powell, in a paper read before the Royal Colonial
Institute on February 14, 1911, "the vast dominion which we are proud to
call the Canadian Empire would have remained a loose aggregate of scattered
agricultural communities. Quebec and Alberta must have known as much of
each other as do Donegal and Kamschatka.... A few thousand miles of steel
rail ... have saved Canada for the Empire.... Every year they draw the
Dominion into closer cohesion as a self-governing unit, while at the same
time they cement it more firmly into the Imperial fabric."

In South Africa the railways have rendered invaluable service from the
point of view alike of trade, of commerce, of colonial expansion, and of
Imperial policy. Rhodesia, especially, will have been indebted to her
railways for much of the future greatness to which she hopes to attain; and
no one would yet venture to limit the possible results of the Cape-to-Cairo
line, when that bold undertaking shall at last have been completed.

Less generally known, perhaps, is the story of what the railway is doing
both for the Empire and for civilisation on the West Coast of Africa.

Little more than a dozen years ago no railways at all had been constructed
there, and most of the colonies were in a more or less disturbed condition,
even if they had not been the scene of successive massacres, of sanguinary
wars, of much expenditure thereon, and of human sacrifices in districts
steeped in slavery, barbarism and superstition.

This was especially the case on the Gold Coast, where the {403}Ashantis
waged wars against us in 1875, 1896 and 1901. Two years after the last of
these wars the Gold Coast main line of railway was taken up to Coomassie,
the capital of Ashanti. To-day the Ashantis carry on strife with us no
longer. They work in the gold mines instead; and the railway that brings
the gold down to the coast has paid a five-per-cent dividend from the day
it was opened.[60]

Of "Sierra Leone and Its Commercial Expansion" Mr T. J. Alldridge said, in
a paper he read before the Royal Colonial Institute on March 21, 1911
(reported in "United Empire," May, 1911):--

"The extraordinary increase in the revenue of Sierra Leone during the last
few years fills one who knows the circumstances of the Colony with
amazement. It could never have been achieved had communication by railway
into oil-palm belts, formerly quite unworked, not been introduced by the
Government. The results have been extraordinary, although as yet hardly
more than the fringe of these rich forests has been reached.... Only since
the putting down of railways into our Protectorate has the Colony of Sierra
Leone made such noticeable or commercial progress. The extension in the
volume of imported merchandise, the expansion in its export products, and
the greatly increased revenue, stand out to-day as an extraordinary
revelation of what railway communication is capable of effecting in places
that were not long since un-get-at-able, but which Nature has lavishly
filled with a never-failing store of indigenous wealth."

Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria--the former having an area of 77,000
square miles and a population of 6,500,000 Africans, and the latter an area
of 256,400 square miles and an estimated population of 8,000,000--are both
of them countries of enormous natural resources which are being steadily
developed by railways already built or in course of construction. A writer
in "United Empire" for July, 1911, says of South Nigeria: "The trade
returns of 1910 have surpassed even the most optimistic expectations, but
there is good reason to look forward to further considerable increases in
view of railway developments, harbour improvements, road {404}construction,
river clearing," etc., while of Northern Nigeria he says: "When we remember
that a densely-populated area, twice as large as the United Kingdom, and
little more than a decade removed from the horrors of slavery, savage
warfare and wholesale human sacrifices, is run by about 300 Europeans on
£500,000 a year, and is rapidly arriving at conditions favourable to a
great development of commerce"--such conditions including the fact that a
trader can now travel from Lagos to Zaria in three days by rail, instead of
taking three weeks, as before--"it is, perhaps, a record in the annals of
British expansion."

As for the civilising effects of railways in West Africa, Mr P. A. Renner,
an educated native, said at a Royal Colonial Institute meeting on May 24,
1910: "In the few years I have lived on the coast I have seen an
improvement which has so astonished us as to make us almost worship the
white man. Previously to the introduction of railways the clan feeling and
tribal strifes and feuds were very rife, and the people of one village
would scarcely visit those of another. Now all this is changed."

When one looks back from the work the railway is doing to-day, in all these
different directions, to those very primitive beginnings of which I have
told in earlier chapters, the whole story appears to be far more suggestive
of romance than of sober fact and reality. From the colliery rail-way along
which John Buddie's "waggon-man" led his horse, encouraging it to greater
exertion with a handful of hay, to the railway that conveys, not only
passengers, but goods, at express speed, that has revolutionised our
industrial, our commercial and our social conditions, and is now
consolidating our Imperial interests and effecting the civilisation of once
barbarian lands, it is, indeed, a far cry; yet the sequence of events can
readily be traced, while all has been done within a century and a half of
the world's history.



Having seen the part that railways have played in helping to develop the
industrial interests of the country in general, we may now consider (1) to
what extent the railways themselves constitute a national industry, and (2)
various conditions relating thereto.

The latest available statistics as to the number of all classes of railway
servants connected with the working of railways, and including, as I
understand, both salaried and wages staffs with the exception of heads of
departments, are to be found in "Returns of Accidents and Casualties" as
reported to the Board of Trade by the railway companies of the United
Kingdom for the year ending December 31, 1910 [Cd. 5628]. These figures
give a total of 608,750 persons, classified as follows:--

                                         No. of Persons
                NATURE                    employed on
            OF EMPLOYMENT.              31st Dec., 1910.
  1. Brakesmen. (_See Goods Guards._)
  2. Capstan-men and Capstan-lads:
    (1) Men                                 1,421
    (2) Boys                                  140
  3. Carmen and Van-guards:
    (1) Men                                18,382
    (2) Boys                                6,604
  4. Carriage-cleaners:
    (1) Men                                 6,572
    (2) Boys                                  286
  5. Carriage and waggon examiners          3,811
  6. Checkers:
    (1) Men                                 9,112
    (2) Boys                                   77
  7. Chockers, Chain-boys and Slippers:
    (1) Men                                   288
    (2) Boys                                  271
  8. Clerks:
    (1) Men                                61,361
    (2) Boys                                9,044
  9. Engine-cleaners:
    (1) Men                                13,912
    (2) Boys                                4,267
  10. Engine-drivers & Motormen            27,330
  11. Firemen                              25,419
  12. Gatekeepers                           3,543
  13. Greasers:
    (1) Men                                   943
    (2) Boys                                  753
  14. Guards (Goods) and Brakesmen         15,339
  15. Guards (Passenger)                    8,239                   {406}
  16. Horse drivers                         1,159
  17. Inspectors:
    (1) Permanent-way                       1,029
    (2) Others                              8,603
  18. Labourers:
    (1) Men                                54,981
    (2) Boys                                1,333
  19. Lamp-men and lamp-lads:
    (1) Men                                 1,655
    (2) Boys                                  418
  20. Loaders & Sheeters                    4,274
  21. Mechanics & Artisans:
    (1) Men                                78,389
    (2) Boys                                8,294
  22. Messengers:
    (1) Men                                 1,124
    (2) Boys                                2,468
  23. Number-takers:
    (1) Men                                 1,252
    (2) Boys                                  671
  24. Permanent-way-Men                    66,305
  25. Pointsmen                               708
  26. Policemen                             2,130
  27. Porters:
    (1) Men                                53,388
    (2) Boys                                4,501
  28. Shunters                             13,281
  29. Signal Fitters and Telegraph Wiremen  3,905
  30. Signalmen                            28,653
  31. Signal-box lads                       1,894
  32. Station-masters                       8,684
  33. Ticket-Collectors and Examiners       3,904
  34. Watchmen                              1,151
  35. Yardsmen                              1,299
  36. Miscellaneous:
    (1) Adults                             33,620
    (2) Boys                                2,563
          Total                           608,750

The foregoing table serves to show the great extent of the railway industry
from the point of view of the number of persons directly employed therein,
and it also suggests a great variety in the occupations or grades of those
employed. In the latter respect, however, the information given fails to
offer a complete idea of the actual situation, since over 36,000 men and
boys (that is, persons under eighteen years of age) are, as will be seen,
classed as "miscellaneous."

Whatever the further variety in the particular occupations included under
this head, it is certain that the railway service affords employment for a
greater range and diversity of talent, skill, ability or effort than
probably any other single industry or enterprise on the face of the earth.
From the general manager to the railway navvy, and from the chief engineer,
working out intricate problems calling for a high degree of skill and
scientific knowledge, to the boy who helps in the unpretending but
necessary work of cleaning the engines, there is opportunity for almost
every possible class or type of labour, whether skilled or unskilled.

Over and above the employees, of all grades, concerned in {407}"the working
of railways," as here shown, there is a very considerable body of men
employed by the railway companies in the building of rolling stock, the
making of rails, in the provision of many other requirements, or in the
doing of much other work, necessary in the construction, equipment and
operation of their lines. The smaller companies are content to buy their
rolling stock, and they mostly have repairing shops only; but the larger
companies have their own locomotive, carriage and waggon works in which a
very considerable volume of employment is afforded to mechanics and
labourers who would hardly come under the ordinary designation of
"railwaymen" proper; while in this respect the companies concerned may be
regarded as not only providers of transport but as, also, in effect,
engineers and manufacturers.

In order to give the reader some idea of the extent of the employment
afforded by these subsidiary branches of what is still actual railway work,
I give on the next page a table--for the data of which I am indebted to the
companies mentioned--showing the actual or the approximate number of men
employed in the leading railway works of the type in question; though it
should be added that the figures relate only to the particular works
mentioned, and do not include men who may be engaged in engineering or
productive work elsewhere on the same company's system.

Information as to the extent to which the railway companies of the United
Kingdom in general afford employment in the directions here in question
will be found in the "Census of Production (1907)" [Cd. 5254], issued in
1910, included in these returns being three tables which are given under
the heading "Railways (Construction, Repair and Maintenance of Permanent
Way, Plant, Rolling Stock, etc.)," and relate to (1) output; (2) cost of
materials used; and (3) number of persons {408}employed.

                                                                   NO. OF
       COMPANY.              WORKS.           WHERE SITUATED.    EMPLOYED.
  Great Central         Locomotive            Gorton                2512

    "      "            Carriage and waggon   Dukinfield            1741

  Great Eastern         Loco. and carriage    Stratford, E.         4578

    "      "            Waggon                Temple Mills, E.       618

  Great Northern        Loco., carriage       Doncaster             6000
                          and waggon

  Great Western         Loco., carriage       Swindon             11,700
                          and waggon

  Lancashire and        Locomotive            Horwich               3850

     "    "             Carriage and waggon   Newton Heath          1960

  London and            Locomotive            Crewe                 9000

     "    "             Carriage              Wolverton             4000

     "    "             Waggon                Earlstown             1800

  London and            Loco., carriage       Eastleigh             3600
    South-Western         and waggon

  London, Brighton      Loco., carriage       Brighton              2035
    and South Coast       and waggon

   "  "  "  "             "   "   "           Lancing                129

  Midland               Locomotive            Derby                 3988

     "                  Carriage and waggon     "                   4300

  North-Eastern         Locomotive            Gateshead and         3953

       "                Carriage and waggon   York and Heaton       2932

       "                Waggon                Shildon               1161

  South-Eastern         Locomotive            Ashford, Kent          733
     and Chatham

     "    "             Carriage and Waggon      "       "          1211

  Caledonian            Loco., carriage       St. Rollax, Glasgow   2695
                          and waggon

  Glasgow and           Locomotive            Kilmarnock             986

     "    "             Carriage and waggon   Barassie               269

  North British         Loco., carriage       Cowlairs, Glasgow     2297
                          and waggon

  Great Northern        Loco., carriage       Dundalk                576
    (Ireland)             and waggon

  Midland Great         Loco., carriage       Broadstone Station,
    Western (Ireland)     and waggon            Dublin               549

{409}It is shown that the total value of all goods manufactured or of the
work done by railway companies' employees in construction, maintenance and
repair of permanent way, works, buildings, plant, rolling stock, etc. (such
values being sums representing only the actual cost of manufacture or work
done, and made up of wages, materials and a portion of the establishment
charges), amounted for the year 1907 to £34,703,000. The details are
grouped under seven different heads, as follows:--

  I. Engineering Department
        (New Works, Repairs, and Maintenance):--
    Permanent Way                                              9,346,000
    Roads, Bridges, Signals, and Other Works                   2,686,000
    Station and Buildings                                      1,749,000
    Docks, Harbours, Wharves, and Canals                         745,000
          Total--Engineering Department                       14,526,000

  II. Locomotive Department:--
    Engines, Tools, &c. (Construction and Repairs)             7,917,000
    Buildings (New Works, Repairs, and Maintenance)--not
      included under Head I.                                     175,000
          Total--Locomotive Department                         8,092,000

  III. Carriages, Waggons, &c.:--
    Carriages (Construction and Repairs)                       4,454,000
    Waggons (Construction and Repairs)                         3,701,000
    Road Vehicles for Passengers and Goods (Construction
      and Repairs)                                               272,000
    Buildings (New Works, Repairs, and Maintenance)--not
      included under Head I.                                      33,000
          Total--Carriages, Waggons, &c.                       8,460,000

  IV. Waterworks (Repairs and Maintenance)                       155,000

  V. Electric Works:--
    Buildings and Lines (New Works, Repairs, and
      Maintenance)                                               148,000

  VI. Steamboats (Repairs)                                       323,000

  VII. Other Productive Departments:--
    Lamps and Fittings for Lighting Purposes                     150,000
    Saddlery and Harness                                          32,000
    Tarpaulins, Waggon Covers, &c.                               345,000
    Clothing                                                      19,000
    Printing                                                      69,000
    Hoists and Cranes (if not previously returned under
      Head I.): Construction and Repairs                         303,000
    Gas manufactured for Companies' use (not included
      under other Heads)                                         286,000
    Electricity for Stations, &c.                                128,000
    Telegraphs and Telephones                                    481,000
    Buildings (not returned under other Heads): New                 {410}
      Works, Repairs, and Maintenance                             92,000
    Provender                                                    308,000
    Iron and Steel Manufactures                                  178,000
    Grease                                                       115,000
    Trucks, Barrows, &c.                                          39,000
    Other Manufactures and Work Done                             454,000
          Total--Other Productive Departments                  2,999,000
        Grand Total--Goods Made and Work Done                 34,703,000

The cost of the materials used was £17,600,000. Deducting this amount from
the total of the foregoing table, there is left a net sum of £17,103,000 to
represent wages and establishment charges; though it may fairly be assumed
that a good deal even of the £17,600,000 which stands for cost of materials
was on account of wages previously paid for the procuring or the
preparation of those materials by other than non-railway servants.

The total number of persons employed by the railway companies in the
manufacture of the goods or in the execution of the work comprised in the
statement was 241,526, in the proportion of 232,736 wage-earners and 8790
salaried persons. This figure of 241,526, however, is not necessarily to be
added to the 608,750 previously given as the number of railway servants
connected with the working of railways. There is nothing to show to what
extent the two tables overlap, though overlapping there obviously is, since
the first table includes 66,305 permanent-way men, while the second table
evidently includes the persons employed on permanent-way work, since the
value of that work is put down at £9,346,000. On the other hand, some
classes of servants included in the Census of Production returns are
excluded from the Railway Accidents return, so that although the exact
number of persons directly employed by the railway companies of the United
Kingdom cannot be stated, it must be somewhere between 608,750, the total
of the one return, and 850,276, the sum of the totals for both returns.

All the figures thus far given relate to work done by persons directly
employed by the railway companies themselves; but there is, in addition, a
vast amount of work done for the {411}railways by independent companies or
manufacturers. Taking, for instance, railway-carriage and waggon-building
factories in the United Kingdom, providing for the wants of the smaller
companies at home or for railway companies in the colonies or abroad, I
find from the Census of Production that this particular phase of "the
railway industry" (for it must needs be regarded as included therein,
notwithstanding the fact that a few of the items relate to tramcars, horse
vehicles, etc.), led in 1907 to an output of goods made or of work done
valued at £9,609,000. The items are:--

  Railway carriages for passengers, and parts thereof          1,676,000
  Railway waggons, trucks, etc.                                5,340,000
  Parts and accessories of railway carriages and waggons,
    not distinguished                                            129,000
  Railway wheels and axles complete                              771,000
  Tramcars and parts thereof                                     572,000
  Vehicles for goods, horse-drawn                                 75,000
  Machinery and accessories                                      135,000
  Iron and steel manufactures and structural work                174,000
  Other products                                                  93,000
          Total value of goods made                            8,965,000
  Repair work (including repairing contracts)                    644,000
          Total value of goods made and work done              9,609,000

The number of persons engaged in these railway-carriage and waggon-building
factories when the census in question was taken was 28,193, namely, 26,492
wage-earners, and 1701 salaried staff.

When one tries to form some idea of the further volume of employment that
results from the supply of the thousand and one necessaries which even the
most enterprising and independent of railway companies must still procure
from outside manufacturers, makers, growers or providers, it is obvious
that the railways, both as an industry in themselves and in their
dependence, in endless ramifications, on other industries concerned wholly
or in part in supplying railway wants, must provide more or less employment
for an army of workers vastly in excess even of the aforesaid 600,000 or

In many respects the railway service proper--that is to say, the particular
branches thereof which deal with actual {412}transport, as distinct from
construction and manufacture--offers features that are unique in their way,
even if they do not, also, bring about types of workers of a class distinct
from those to be found in the majority of other industries.

In the latter dependence is being placed more and more on the efficiency of
the machinery employed, and the person of greatest importance to them is
the machinery-inventor or the machinery-improver. The one who works the
machine may require to have a certain degree of skill or dexterity in
carrying on the necessary process, but the more nearly he can approach the
perfection of his machine and become, as it were, part and parcel of it,
the greater will often be his degree of success as a worker. In his case
the personal equation hardly counts. He is merely the penny put into the
slot in order that the figures may work, and any other man, or any other
penny, that fulfilled the requisite conditions might be expected to produce
the same results.

In railway operation great importance must certainly be attached to the
efficiency of the machinery, or of the system; but final success may depend
to a very material extent on the efficiency of the unit. Everything that
human foresight and railway experience can suggest may be done--both in the
provision of complex machinery and in the drawing-up of the most perfect
rules and regulations--to ensure safe working; yet the ultimate factor in
grave issues on which safety or disaster will depend may be a worker who
has either risen to, or has failed to meet, a sudden emergency. In this
way, not only does the individual unit count, but the individual unit in
railway operation may be the Atlas upon whose shoulders the railway world
does, in a sense, rest. A blunder in an ordinary factory or workshop may
involve no more than the spoiling of a machine or the waste of so much
material. A blunder on the railway may involve a terrible loss of human

Railway operation is thus calculated to give to the workers engaged in
transport a keener sense of responsibility, and to develop therewith a
greater individuality, than any other of our national industries. The
railway man concerned in operation requires to be capable both of foresight
and of initiative. It is said of a certain railway in India that a
telegraphic message was one day received at head-quarters from {413}a
station down the line to the following effect: "Tiger on platform. Send
instructions." In England there is no probability of railway-station
platforms being taken possession of by wandering tigers; but if anything
equivalent thereto, in the form of a sudden and dangerous emergency not
provided for by rules and regulations did arise, the officials on duty
would be expected to show alike resource and energy in meeting the
circumstances promptly and efficiently, so far as they could, instead of
waiting to ask the district superintendent or the superintendent of the
line for instructions.

Independently of the ever-present dangers of actual operation, to which I
shall revert later on, the fact of having to deal with such varied types of
humanity as are met with on the platforms of a busy railway station, under
conditions ranging between the extremes of amiability and irritability,
must also tend to sharpen the wits of the average railway worker, and make
a different man of him than he would be if he were to spend his working
days in feeding a machine in a factory with bits of tin or leather to be
shaped into a particular form. Nor, whether the railway man be concerned in
passenger traffic, in goods transport, or in checking claims and accounts
in the general offices, must he fail to be ever on the look-out for those
who, though they may be the most honest of men in the ordinary affairs of
life, never scruple to defraud a railway company when they can.

Another factor tending to differentiate the railwayman from the ordinary
industrial worker is the sense of discipline--and the consequent
subordination of each unit to an official superior--which must needs
prevail if a great organisation is to be conducted, not simply with success
for the shareholders, but with safety for the public. The maintenance of
effective discipline is obviously essential to the safety of railway
operation, just as it does, undoubtedly, further help to form the special
type of the railway servant.

The development of the same type is being fostered to an ever-increasing
degree by the special training which junior workers undergo with a view to
making them, not only better fitted for the particular post they already
occupy, but qualified to succeed to higher positions as opportunities for
their advancement may arise.

A railway manager is not alone concerned in the working {414}of his line,
and in the doings of his staff, day by day. He looks forward to the
requirements of the line and to the constitution of the staff at least five
or ten years hence, and he wants to make sure that, as the experienced men
around him are lost to the service, others will be at hand equally, or even
still better, qualified to take their place. He further realises that in an
undertaking in which, notwithstanding its magnitude, so much depends on the
unit, that unit should be encouraged, and enabled, to attain to the highest
practicable stage of efficiency.

This tendency is leading to results that are likely to be both far-reaching
and wide-spreading. It is a matter not only of giving to railway workers,
and especially to those in the clerical and operative departments, a higher
degree of technical knowledge, but, also, of rendering them equal to
responsibility, of fostering their efficiency still further through their
social, physical and material well-being, and of retaining them for the
railway service notwithstanding (in the case of the clerical staff) the
allurements of traders who look upon well-trained goods clerks, especially,
as desirable assistants in the counting-house, and seek to attract them
with the offer of a somewhat better wage.

The training and the higher education of railway workers have undergone
important developments alike in the United Kingdom, in the United States,
in Germany, in France, and elsewhere.

In the early days of the railway the most eligible person for the position
of general manager was thought to be some retired naval or military
officer, accustomed to controlling large bodies of men; and the first
appointments were based on this principle. But experience soon showed that
in undertakings where technical, commercial and economic considerations
were all-important, the real recommendations for leading positions were to
be found, rather, in proved capacity and in thorough knowledge of railway
operation and management.

Under the company system, as it prevails in the United Kingdom and the
United States, railwaymen, of whatever class, are now generally taken on as
boys, are trained for the position to which they are found to be adapted,
and rise to higher posts according to capacity _and_ opportunity--for these
must needs go together. In this way it is not unusual for the general
{415}manager on an English railway to have started as an office boy. Many a
head of department to-day entered the service as junior clerk, and worked
his way up to his present position; there are station-masters who began as
ticket clerks; there are guards who gained their first knowledge of railway
work as station porters, while engine-drivers are recruited from firemen,
and firemen from engine-cleaners.

For details as to what the American railway companies are doing in the
matter of "Education for Efficiency in Railroad Service" I must refer the
reader to a bulletin written by J. Shirley Eaton and published, under this
title, by the United States Bureau of Education. Here I can do no more than
reproduce the following extract, giving in brief Mr Eaton's view on the
general situation as he finds it on the other side of the Atlantic:--

"Railroads, as a whole, through a representative body such as the American
Railway Association, should in a comprehensive way take up the matter of
the education of railway employees. As they now have committees devoted to
standards of construction, maintenance, and operating practice, they should
also have a standing committee, of a character to command confidence, who
should sedulously foster a closer relation between the railroad and
educational agencies. This could be done by roughly grouping railroad
service into classes according to the requirements of service, indicating
the efficiency required in a broad way, and studying the curricula and
course of experience leading up to such efficiency. Such a body should
officially gather all railroad literature and accumulate the nucleus of a
railroad museum. In various ways the teaching force of educational
agencies, training toward railroad employ, could be drawn into study and
discussion of the practical everyday problems of railroad work. The large
public policies involved in railroad operation are to-day left to the
doctrinaire or accidental publicist, when they should be a subject of study
and effective presentation by the highest grade of trained experts which
the associate railroads could draw into their service. On the other hand,
such a standing committee could stimulate and guide the practice of
railroads in their methods of handling and instructing apprentices. Between
the instruction and practice in the service on the one side, and the
instruction outside {416}the service on the other side, they could foster a
closer relation, making them mutually supplementary. In developing approved
plans for recruiting the service they would necessarily indicate the lines
of a more direct access than now exists from the various schools to
apprenticeships in the service, and suggest the best methods by which such
apprenticeships would be gradually merged into the full status of regular
employ at the point of special fitness."

On this side of the Atlantic the railway servants' education movement has
assumed two phases--(1) secondary or technical education of junior members
of railway staffs in mechanics' institutions or kindred organisations,
created or materially supported by the railway companies, and already
carried on during a period of, in some instances, over sixty years; and (2)
a "higher education" movement, of a much more advanced type, developed
since about 1903, and conducted either in special classes held at the
railway offices or in connection with a University, a mechanics'
institution, a local educational body, or otherwise.

It is impossible in the space at my command to give a detailed account of
what every railway company in the United Kingdom is doing in these
directions. Some typical examples must suffice.

To begin with mechanics' institutions and other kindred bodies, these are
by no means purely educational in their scheme of operations. They include
many social and recreative features which, in effect, should play a no less
important part than educational efforts in promoting the general efficiency
of the railway worker by helping to give him a sound body, a contented
mind, and a cheerful disposition as well as more skilful fingers or a
better-cultivated brain. In the United States, judging from what Mr Eaton
says on the subject, all such "welfare" work as this, though carefully
fostered, is regarded by the railroad companies as a purely business
proposition; and he does not attempt to credit them with any higher motive
than regard for the almighty dollar. Here, however, while there has been
full recognition of the financial value of increased efficiency, the
companies have, also, not failed to realise their moral obligations towards
their staffs. Hence in seeking to promote the welfare of their employees
they have been inspired by motives of humanity, {417}goodwill and
honourable feeling in addition to, or even as distinct from, any pecuniary
advantage the shareholders themselves might eventually gain therefrom.

Crewe Mechanics' Institution dates back to 1844, when the Grand Junction
Railway Company provided a library and reading-room, and, also, gave a
donation for the purchase of books for the men employed in the railway
works then being set up in what was, at that time, a purely agricultural
district. In the following year this library and reading-room developed
into a Mechanics' Institution, the primary object of the railway company
being to afford to the younger members of their staff at Crewe greater
facilities for acquiring theory in classes at the Institution to supplement
the practical knowledge they were acquiring in the works, though the
benefits of the Institution were also to be open to residents of Crewe who
were not in the company's employ. The management was vested in a council
elected annually by the directors and the members conjointly; and this
arrangement has continued ever since.

Larger premises were provided in 1846, in which year the Grand Junction
combined with the London and Birmingham and Manchester and Birmingham
Companies to form the London and North-Western Railway Company. The classes
were added to from time to time until they covered the whole range of
subjects likely to be of service to the students. Beginning, however, with
the 1910-11 session, the art, literary and commercial classes which had
been held at the Institute for sixty-four years were transferred to the
local education authority, the Institute retaining the scientific and
technological subjects. In addition to the ordinary work of the classes,
the more recent developments of the "higher education" movement have led to
systematic courses of instruction--extending over four-year periods--in (1)
pure science, (2) mechanical engineering, (3) electrical engineering and
(4) building construction. An Institution diploma is given to each student
who completes a course satisfactorily. Visits are, also, paid to
engineering works, electrical generating stations, etc. Most of the
teachers are engaged at the Crewe works, and the instruction given is thus
of the most practical kind.

One feature of the Institution is the electrical engineering laboratory,
provided by the directors of the London and {418}North-Western Railway, who
have further arranged for a number of apprentices to attend at the
laboratory one afternoon every week to receive instruction, their wages
being paid to them as though they were still on duty in the works. There
is, also, a mechanics' shop, with lathes, drilling machines, etc.,
electrically driven.

Since 1855 the directors of the London and North-Western have given an
annual donation of £20 for books to be awarded as prizes to successful
students employed in their locomotive department and various other prizes
and scholarships, including Whitworth scholarships, are also awarded. The
Institution is affiliated with the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire
Institutes, the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Board of
Education, each of which bodies holds examinations and awards prizes and
certificates. The library has now over 12,000 volumes.

In addition to the reading-room the Institution has coffee, smoking and
recreation-rooms. Special attention is being paid to the social side of the
Institution's work through the appointment of a "Teachers' Committee for
Social and Recreative Development," the particular purpose of this
committee being to organise sports and entertainments and to secure the
formation of a literary society.

At Wolverton there is a Science and Art Institute at which many classes are
held, and, although none of these are directly under the management of the
London and North-Western Company, as at Crewe, the very successful and
numerous courses in engineering subjects and railway-carriage building
conducted by the committee of management, working in connection with the
Bucks County Council, receive the active support and encouragement of the
company's directors.

Science, commercial, art and domestic economy classes are also held at the
L. & N.-W. Institute at Earlstown, where definite courses of instruction,
in groups of subjects, and extending over at least two years, are given.

The Great Eastern Railway Mechanics' Institution, established in 1851 at
Stratford New Town, has made generous provision for the education,
recreation and social life of employees of that company resident in London,
East. The Institution comprises a library of 9000 volumes; reading-room;
baths (patronised by 10,000 bathers in the course of {419}the year); a
large hall for lectures, entertainments, balls or concerts; and a
billiard-room, three quoit pitches and a rifle range, the last-mentioned
being the gift of the Great Eastern directors. Science, art, technological,
commercial and other evening classes to the number of over forty were held
in the Institution during the Session of 1910-11. Among the subjects taught
were: machine construction, applied mechanics, mathematics, electrical
engineering, heat-engines, motor-car engineering, rail-carriage building,
drawing, book-keeping, shorthand, physical culture, the mandoline and the
violin; while still other classes included an orchestral class and ladies'
classes in "first aid" and "home nursing."

A series of practical classes, in connection with the same Institution, is
also held during working hours in the Great Eastern Railway Company's works
at Stratford. Arrangements are further made to extend the usefulness of
these classes by visits to engineering works and electrical generating
stations. Examinations are conducted in connection with the Board of
Education, the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Society of Arts,
and prizes, certificates and scholarships are awarded to successful
students. The total number of students attending the various classes in
1910-11 was 958. The Institution at the end of 1910 had 1471 members, of
whom all but 79 were in the employ of the railway company.

In 1903 the directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company gave a further
proof of their appreciation of the educational work thus being carried on
by granting to employee-students in the locomotive, carriage and waggon
department who could fulfil certain conditions leave of absence with full
pay for one or more winter sessions of about six months each, in order to
afford them increased facilities for taking up the higher branches of
technical study. Opportunities are also given to such students for visits
to manufactories, works in progress, etc. Of the twenty-one students who
had taken advantage of the arrangements in question down to the end of
1910, four had obtained the University degree of B.Sc. (Faculty of
Engineering); four had passed the intermediate examination for the same
degree; two had obtained Whitworth scholarships, and five had been awarded
Whitworth exhibitions.

{420}Clubs formed in connection with the Institution include an athletic
club, a rifle club, a quoit club, a cricket club and a football club.
Concerts, illustrated lectures and various entertainments are given in the
Institution during the course of each session.

The Midland Railway Institute at Derby, also going back to 1851, had a
membership in 1910 of 2621. Classes in French and shorthand are held, but
technical subjects are not taught, special facilities in this respect for
the company's staff being provided by a large municipal technical college
in the town. The Institute has a library of over 17,000 volumes, a
well-stocked reading-room, a dining hall, a restaurant (for the salaried
staff), a café (for the wages staff), committee rooms and a billiard-room;
while the various associations include an engineering club (which holds
fortnightly meetings during the winter months for the reading and the
discussion of papers, and, also, pays visits to engineering works), a
natural history society (which holds indoor meetings and organises Saturday
rambles), a dramatic society, a fishing club, a photographic society and a
whist and billiard club.

A Mechanics' Institute and Technical School opened at Horwich in 1888 was
mainly due to a grant of £5000 by the directors of the Lancashire and
Yorkshire Railway Company and to the gift of the "Samuel Fielden" wing by
the widow of that gentleman, for many years a director of the company. In
October, 1910, there were 2224 members, of whom all but 53 were in the
employ of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. The leading
features of the Institute include a dining hall, reading, magazine and
smoke-rooms, a library of about 13,000 volumes, a lecture hall with seating
accommodation for 900 persons, the Fielden gymnasium, a miniature
rifle-range, class-rooms, and chemical and mechanical laboratories.

Science, art, technical, commercial and preparatory classes are conducted
at the Institute in connection with the Board of Education, London, and the
instruction given includes a continuous course of study designed to enable
engineering students to make the best use of classes of direct service to
them. The special arrangements thus made comprise a preliminary technical
course (extended over two years), a mechanical engineering course (five
years) and an electrical {421}engineering course (four years). The classes
of the Institute (exclusive of those for ambulance work) were attended in
1910-11 by over 500 students. Examinations are conducted by the Union of
Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes, the Royal Society of Arts, the City and
Guilds of London Institute, and the Board of Education, and numerous prizes
and exhibitions are awarded.

Useful service from an educational standpoint is also rendered by the
Institution's engineering and scientific club, at whose meetings the papers
read and discussed have been on such subjects as "Prevention of Waste in
Engineering," "Evaporation and Latent Heat," "Electric Motor-cars and their
Repairs," etc. Other affiliated societies or clubs include a photographic
society, an ambulance corps and a miniature rifle club (also affiliated to
the National Rifle Association and the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs).
Popular lectures are given on six Saturday evenings during the winter

Other railway institutes are to be found at Swindon (Great Western
Railway), at Vauxhall and Eastleigh (London and South-Western Railway), at
York and various other centres on the North-Eastern Railway, and elsewhere.

I pass on to deal with recent developments of the higher education movement
in the railway service as operated (1) by the companies themselves, or (2)
by the companies in combination with outside educational authorities.

The Great Western Railway Company, on the recommendation of their general
manager, Sir James C. Inglis, inaugurated at Paddington station in 1903 a
school of railway signalling, designed to offer to the employees of the
company a definite means by which they could acquire technical knowledge of
railway working and management. The classes are conducted by the company's
signalling expert, and the instruction given is based on the object lessons
afforded by a model railway junction, furnished with a complete set of
signalling appliances on the standard lines as laid down by the Board of
Trade requirements. The experiment was so complete a success that similar
schools, provided with similar models, have since been set up at various
centres throughout the company's system.

In the "Great Western Railway Magazine" for November, 1911, it was
announced that a revised circular dealing with {422}these classes was then
in course of preparation, and that it would include the following clause,
setting out an important amendment of the scheme:--

"In order to maintain the value of the certificates awarded and the
standard of efficiency of certificate holders, each holder will in future
be invited to sit for re-examination before the expiry of five years from
the date of his certificate. Endorsement certificates will be awarded to
candidates who successfully pass the second and subsequent examinations.
This step is felt to be desirable having regard to changing conditions and
developments in connection with modern railway working. The date of the
last certificate will be taken into account in connection with
appointments, promotions, etc."

Other classes at Paddington, controlled by the chief goods manager, afford
instruction in railway accounts, and enable the clerical staff to gain a
better insight into matters connected with the receipt, transport and
delivery of goods, and, also, the preparation of accounts and statistics
both for the Railway Clearing House and for the company's audit office.
Shorthand classes are also held.

Annual examinations take place in connection with all these various
classes, and the students passing them receive certificates which are
naturally taken into account when questions as to advancement arise. On the
occasion of the distribution of certificates on January 14, 1910, the chief
goods manager, Mr T. H. Rendell, said that facilities for gaining
information on railway subjects were far more numerous to-day than they
were forty years ago, when he joined the service. "Continuation classes of
any kind," he proceeded, "were then conspicuous by their absence, and
practically the only classes of this kind were those held at the Birkbeck
Institute, which he attended, though he had to pay a substantial fee in
respect to each subject taken. Formerly there was no organised method of
acquiring knowledge of railway working, and they learnt to do right chiefly
by being blamed for doing wrong."

The London and North-Western Railway Company established block telegraph
signalling classes in 1910, the instruction given being facilitated by a
complete working model of a double-line junction, fitted with signals and
{423}interlocking; a set of standard block instruments and bells; an
electric train staff apparatus for single line working, and various
diagrams. The lectures, given in the shareholders' meeting-room at Euston
by the company's expert in signalling, were attended by students
representing nearly all the different departments on the station, and the
results of the examinations subsequently held were so satisfactory that the
company have since established similar classes at various other centres, in

To ensure the general efficiency of their clerical staff the London and
North-Western Company hold (1) an educational examination which a boy must
pass before he enters the service; (2) a further examination, at the end of
two years, to test the clerk's knowledge of shorthand, railway geography
and the railway work on which he has been engaged; and (3) an examination
before the clerk's salary is advanced beyond £50 per annum, it being
necessary for him to show a thorough knowledge of shorthand, and to write a
paper on such subjects as block working, train working or development of

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company have also established, at
their head offices in Manchester, a School for Signalling, the complete
equipment with which it is furnished including a full-sized lever frame.
Instruction is given free both to the head office staff and to the staff at
the stations within a radius of twelve miles. Special lectures, also, have
occasionally been given to the staff in the chief engineer's department by
that officer's assistants. Another feature of the educational work of the
Lancashire and Yorkshire is the sending round to the various locomotive
sheds of what is known as an instruction van. A full description of this
van will be found in the "Railway Gazette" for January 22, 1909.

The Great Central Railway Company, to meet their requirements more
particularly at the head offices and in connection with their Continental
business, adopted in 1908 a scheme designed to enable them to secure the
services of a certain number of young men with higher educational
qualifications than were usually possessed by those who previously
presented themselves for junior clerkships. The company accordingly offer
six positions annually to members of the existing staff, under twenty-five
years of age, who display the highest standard of knowledge and ability in
a competitive {424}examination, the successful candidates in each year
being promoted to an advanced scale of pay, and taking a "higher grade
course of training," which, it is thought, should fit them to hold
positions of responsibility in the future.

This higher grade course consists of periods of work, varying from three to
twelve months, in eight of the principal departments, viz. the engineering,
locomotive-running, goods, traffic, rolling stock, stores, marine and
general manager's departments. The entire course covers a period of four
years. During his stay in each of these departments the student is required
to pursue a course of reading in the theory of the work in which he is
engaged in that particular section; he is given an opportunity to acquire
practical knowledge of the work; he must report at the end of every month
to the head of the department on the progress he has made, and, on leaving
any one section, he is to send an essay to the general manager, showing the
knowledge he has gained. Heads of departments or sections are also required
to submit confidential reports to the general manager on the ability
displayed by the student while under their supervision.

The North-Eastern Railway Company have an elaborate educational system
which resolves itself into (1) preliminary tests; (2) Part I., and (3) Part
II., of a secondary examination. The subjects for examination in Part I. of
the secondary examination are--(i) Regulations for train signalling by
block telegraph and general rules and regulations; (ii) goods station
accounts; (iii) passenger station accounts; (iv) shorthand and typewriting
or practical telegraphy. Those in Part II. are--Railway subjects: (i)
Railway operating; (ii) railway economics (general); (iii) railway and
commercial geography of the United Kingdom; (iv) law relating to the
conveyance of goods and passengers by railway. Other subjects: (v)
Mathematics; (vi) commercial arithmetic and book-keeping; (vii) methods
employed in import and export trade of Great Britain; (viii) French; (ix)
German. Instead of examining candidates in Nos. v, vi, vii, viii and ix the
company will, as a general rule, accept certificates of proficiency in
these subjects of recent date obtained at various specified examinations
elsewhere. Each candidate is required to pass in railway operating and
three other subjects, one of which must be (ii), (iii) or (iv) of the
railway subjects.

{425}It will be seen that while the subjects for Part I. cover the
practical work at a station, those for Part II. deal more with the
principles of railway operation. To assist clerks in preparing for these
tests the company have issued several brief textbooks; they have arranged
for the delivery of series of lectures; they are utilising railway
institutes for the purpose of instruction, and they offer facilities for
the circulation of standard works on railway subjects. The company also
conduct at various centres railway block-telegraph signalling instruction
classes fully provided with the necessary apparatus, examinations being
held and certificates awarded.

Coming next to what is being done by educational bodies working in
connection with railway companies, reference should first be made to the
London School of Economics and Political Science.

Railway transport is a subject in which the authorities of the school have
always taken great interest, and in the session of 1896-7 a course of
lectures on railway economics was given at the school by Mr W. M. Acworth.
On this occasion the Great Western Railway Company paid the fees for
members of their staff to attend the course. When Mr Acworth gave a further
series of lectures in 1897-8, the Great Eastern Railway Company also paid
the fees for members of their staff who desired to attend. In 1904 seven of
the leading railway companies gave a definite guarantee which allowed of a
more elaborate system of railway instruction being organised at the school
(now one of the schools of the University of London, as reconstructed in
1900). Under the scheme in question a complete course of instruction is
given in the "History, Theory and Present Organisation of Transport,"
leading up, if desired, to the degree of B.Sc. (Econ.), with honours in
transport. The course is under the general supervision of a "Committee of
Governors on Railway Subjects," consisting of five prominent members of the
railway world. The lectures are as follows:--

(A) Courses on railway subjects:--

  1. Railway economics: operating (20 lectures).
  2. Railway economics: commercial (20).
  3. Economics of railway construction and locomotive operation (20).
  4. The law of carriage by railways (20).
  5. The consolidation of English railways (4).                     {426}

(B) Courses on subjects useful to railway students:--

  1. Accounting and business methods. Part I. (30).
  2. Accounting and business methods. Part II. (30).
  3. Methods and applications of statistics (15).
  4. Mathematical methods of statistics: elementary (15).

Examinations are held, and certificates and medals are awarded to
successful students.

The School of Economics has, also, in its library, a collection of works on
transport questions which it believes to be the best of the kind in
existence. It comprises no fewer than 12,000 books, pamphlets, plans,
reports, etc., and, as over 5000 of these were presented by Mr Acworth, the
name of the "Acworth Collection on Transport" has been given to this unique
and invaluable mine of information on everything appertaining to railways
and transport at home or abroad.

With the University of Manchester the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
Company (in addition to what they have done in other directions, as already
mentioned) made arrangements in 1903 for evening classes on railway
economics in the interests of their staff, and these classes have been
continued ever since. They are in three-year cycles, and students who go
through a complete course have the advantage of receiving, from thoroughly
qualified teachers, instruction in the following subjects: Railway
geography and railway history of the United Kingdom and of other leading
countries; economic analysis of the railway business in relation to other
businesses; motor power and rolling stock; goods traffic; passenger
traffic; theory of freight rates; accounts; Government in relation to
railways; and railway law.

The directors of the Lancashire and Yorkshire pay the fees for any members
of their clerical staff within a radius of twelve miles of Manchester who
desire to attend these classes, and at the close of each session they grant
to three of the most promising of the railway students scholarships which
are tenable at the University for a further three years, and allow of
attendance during the daytime at the classes in political economy,
organisation of industry and commerce and accounting.

It was in connection with the scheme here in question that {427}Mr H.
Marriott, now chief goods manager of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway,
delivered the excellent course of lectures which, republished by "The
Railway Gazette," under the title of "The Fixing of Rates and Fares," has
become a recognised textbook on that subject.

In 1907 the directors of the same company arranged with the Victoria
University, Manchester, for the delivery of a series of University
Extension Lectures on railway economics at the Burnley Grammar School,
paying the fees of any member of their clerical staff within a radius of
twelve miles of Burnley who wished to attend. The subjects chosen were
"Organisation of a Railway," "Goods Traffic," "Passenger Traffic" and
"Economics," and each subject extended over three lectures.

In the autumn of 1911 arrangements were concluded between the North-Eastern
Railway Company, the University of Leeds and the Armstrong (Newcastle)
University for the giving at those Universities of courses of evening
lectures on a variety of railway subjects, the company undertaking to pay
half the fee for all members of their staff who might wish to attend.

Finally I would mention, in this connection, that, by arrangement between
the Midland Railway Company and the University of Sheffield, a course of 40
lectures on economics, to extend over two years, was begun at the Midland
Railway Institute, Derby, on October 11, 1911, by Mr Douglas Knopp, the
special purpose of the course being to afford to members of the Midland
Railway staff an opportunity of studying, free of expense to themselves,
the economic features of modern industrial and commercial problems,
including transportation.

Literary societies and lecture and debating societies, formed by various
railway staffs, are another outcome of the aspirations of railwaymen for
wider knowledge and increased efficiency. The Great Western Railway
Literary Society, established in 1852, is one of the oldest institutions at
Paddington. It has a library of 10,000 volumes and various social
off-shoots. Another typical institution, the Great Western Railway (London)
Lecture and Debating Society, founded in 1904, serves a useful function in
affording opportunities for the reading of papers by heads of departments
or other {428}qualified persons on subjects likely to be of practical
service to members of the staff. It was before this society that the paper
on "The Government in Relation to the Railways of the Country," referred to
on page 352, was read by Mr F. Potter, chief assistant to the general
manager of the Great Western Railway.

Apart from the educational, literary or social organisations directly
associated with particular railway companies, there are other bodies formed
mainly by experts or workers in particular departments of railway
construction, maintenance or operation who, whatever their position or
attainments, find they are not yet too old to learn, that in the railway
world there is always something new, and that advantages are to be gained
by themselves from an exchange of views, opinions and experiences, apart
from the benefits they may confer on juniors in helping them to advance
their knowledge on technical questions. These associations are certainly to
be classed among those which promote the "higher education" of the
railwayman, though they may also serve various other purposes, social,
provident, etc.

Among organisations of this type the Permanent Way Institution, established
in 1884, and incorporated in 1908, occupies a leading position. It seeks to
promote among inspectors of way and works a more thorough knowledge of all
technical details connected with the discharge of their duties, and it
publishes for the use of members, and persons qualified to be members,
"information which may be likely to encourage and exert interchange of
thought, especially with a view to create a friendly and sympathetic
feeling between members and such other persons in their duties and labours,
and for mutual help of members in the discharge of the same." Sections are
formed in important centres throughout the United Kingdom, and the reading
and discussion at the meetings of the sections of short practical papers by
members, dealing mainly with matters appertaining to their employment, is
regarded by the Institution as an important phase of its system of
technical education. The sections are kept well supplied with literature,
reports, and communications affording good material for discussion at their
meetings, "and much benefit," says a prospectus issued by the Institution,
"has been derived for the members from this interchange of ideas {429}with
men in similar capacities in other parts of the world, whereas the former
isolation and rare opportunities for intercourse frequently caused
narrow-mindedness, prejudice, reservation of manner, and the natural loss
of much useful information and experience to both employer and employed."

Summer meetings, held in a centre where there are features of special
interest to railwaymen, are another valuable means for the exchange of
ideas between members of the Institution, for enabling them to gain fresh
experiences, and for promoting social intercourse. These summer meetings
have developed into "conventions" lasting a week each, and they are spoken
of as having been "of untold benefit to those participating in them." The
Institution has, also, various beneficent funds.

The Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers of Great Britain and
Ireland is a body whose members have, for a number of years, held two
meetings annually--in London in winter, and in the country in summer--for
the discussion of matters of interest to railway engineers and to railway
companies generally.

The Institution of Signal Engineers (Incorporated) includes in its objects
"the advancement of the science and practice of signalling by discussion,
enquiry, research, experiment and other means; the diffusion of knowledge
regarding signalling by means of lectures, publications, the exchange of
information and otherwise; and the improvement of the status of the
signalling profession". Only railway signal or telegraph engineers,
superintendents in charge of railway signalling, telegraph or kindred work,
and qualified engineers in Government service are eligible for full
membership; but other officers engaged in technical work in engineering
departments are eligible for associate membership, while in the autumn of
1911 the Institution was considering a scheme for student membership and
the offering of annual prizes to members of the student class for papers
and essays on technical subjects.

The Association of Railway Companies' Signal Superintendents and Signal
Engineers was formed in 1891 with the object of affording facilities for
the discussion of signalling questions by the chiefs of signalling
departments on the railways of the United Kingdom. Two meetings are held
each year at the Railway Clearing House.

A very useful purpose in developing the higher education, {430}not alone of
railway workers but of the ever-widening circle of those who are interested
in railway work, is being served by the Railway Club, which is established
at 92, Victoria Street, London, S.W., and has, also, various provincial
centres, with district representatives in Birmingham, Huddersfield,
Lancaster, Glasgow and Newhaven. Founded in 1899, the club is designed to
afford opportunities for bringing together all who are concerned in railway
questions in general; though some of the members specialise in locomotive
problems, others in traffic problems, and so on. At the London
head-quarters there is a club room well stocked with railway papers, and
here, also, the members can find a comprehensive library. In the same
building monthly meetings are held for the reading and discussion of
papers. Some of these are of a technical character, appealing only to
experts; but subjects of more general interest are also dealt with, the
programme for the 1910-11 session including papers by the Rev. W. J. Scott
(president) on "Railway History: 1860-80," and by Mr E. J. Miller (hon.
secretary) on "Belgian State Railways." Meetings are also held in the
provincial centres, and visits are paid both there and in London to railway
works, running sheds and other places of interest. The utility of the Club
is greatly enhanced by the publication of its excellent little organ, "The
Railway Club Journal."

From the details here given it will be seen, not only that the movement for
increasing the efficiency of the railway worker, by furthering his training
in railway and cognate subjects, has undergone great and varied expansion,
but that railway operation and management are coming more and more to be
regarded as a science, and one that, with its many problems and
complexities, calls for prolonged study, effort and experience on the part
of those who would attain to perfection, or even to exceptional knowledge
and skill, therein.

Nor should the said details fail to excite a more sympathetic feeling on
the part of the trading and travelling public towards railway workers who
find they can attain to greater proficiency, and acquit themselves better
of their responsibilities to the public, as well as to their company, by
undergoing as much of this training, or by securing as much of this
advancement in the technicalities of railway work, as their powers may
warrant or their opportunities allow.

{431}One may further anticipate that, as the various tendencies here in
question are developed, there will, not only inside but outside the
service, be a greater disposition to adopt the view of the American
authority already quoted in his suggestion that "the large public policies
involved in railroad operation are to-day left to the doctrinaire or
accidental publicist when they should be the subject of study and effective
presentation by the highest grade of trained experts which the associate
railroads could draw into their service." When this latter result is
brought about, whether through the higher education movement or otherwise,
not only will the railway service be rendered still more efficient, and not
only will even greater advantages be conferred on the country, but the
position of the railway interests themselves should be strengthened on
questions of State control in regard either to the principles of railway
policy or to the details of railway operation.

Recreation and physical culture, as part of the general scheme which aims
at promoting the efficiency and the personal well-being of railwaymen, are
fostered in the railway world by the athletic clubs formed by the staffs of
the various companies, with more or less official countenance and support,
and whether in connection with mechanics' institutes or otherwise. These
clubs favour, not only athletics proper but cricket, football, tennis,
hockey, bowls, harriers, swimming, angling, etc. They are supplemented by a
London Railways Athletic Association, which brings together the members of
the different clubs in friendly rivalry, while the various gatherings and
competitions have an excellent result--apart from the other advantages they
confer--in fostering that social life of the railway service which tends so
much to its widespread popularity.

Mention should, also, be made of the musical societies, the horticultural
societies, the rifle clubs, the chess clubs and other organisations. The
staff or society dinners, the outings, the smoking concerts and the
presentations to retiring colleagues help still further to promote feelings
of comradeship, mutual sympathy and goodwill not always to be found to
anything like the same extent in commercial undertakings of other types.
Such sentiments as these continue to be fostered, indeed, after the service
has been left, the Retired Railway Officers' Society having been formed,
{432}in 1901, "for the purpose of bringing together those who in past years
have held executive positions in the railway service of Great Britain, the
Colonies or India, and for the renewal and keeping up of former friendships
on the part of gentlemen once associated, in official relations, either on
the same or on different railways." The objects of the society are
exclusively social and friendly.

Sobriety being a virtue especially desirable on the part of those to whom
so vast a number of the British public daily entrust their lives or limbs,
temperance is encouraged in the railway service by the formation of Railway
Temperance Unions for all the leading lines. Each union has numerous
branches, and the various unions constitute, in turn, a federation known as
the United Kingdom Railway Temperance Union. This movement receives much
practical encouragement from railway directors and chief officers, and an
active propaganda is carried on. In some places the local Temperance Union
provides a Temperance Institute where the men employed at a station or in a
goods yard can take their meals in comfort or spend their leisure time.

The present membership (1911) of the Temperance Union in connection with
the London and North-Western Railway Company is 22,172, spread over 19
districts. The members of the same union in 1905 numbered only 4777.

Thrift in the railway service is facilitated by means of savings banks. One
of these, the Great Western Railway Savings Bank, states in its nineteenth
annual report that in 1910 it had 6385 depositors, who paid in a total of
£109,166, drew out £69,828 and had £495,504 to their credit at the end of
the year. The bank pays 3½ per cent on deposits up to £1000.

Nor are still higher things overlooked. For over forty years it has been
customary for workers in the Midland Railway locomotive department at Derby
to meet in one of their mess-rooms at breakfast-time, and, while having
their meal, take part in a short religious service conducted by one of
their number, a harmonium being provided as an accompaniment to the
singing. On the day preceding the Christmas holidays the service is devoted
entirely to Christmas carols or appropriate anthems.

A distinct advantage offered by the railway service is that, {433}subject
to the ability and good conduct of the individual, employment once obtained
with a railway company offers a tolerable assurance of permanent and
regular work. Railway companies do not run the same risk of becoming
bankrupt, and of having to wind up their business, that ordinary commercial
companies do, and though slackness of work may, indeed, lead to unavoidable
reductions of staff, or to reduced time, in the locomotive and carriage
works, the full staff will be required on the railway itself to keep it
going, whatever the amount of traffic. Should the traffic fall off, and
become non-remunerative, it is the shareholders who will suffer rather than
the railway servants engaged in the running of trains.

This fact is of the greater importance because there may be in the railway
service certain actual disadvantages, thus referred to in the "Report of
the Departmental Committee on Railway Agreements and Amalgamations," issued
in May, 1911:--

"The contention of the railway servants as to the specialisation of their
industry and the peculiar difficulty they find in changing their employment
has a substantial foundation as regards many classes of railway servants.
Men leaving one railway can seldom rely upon obtaining employment on
another, except in the lower grades, as the companies usually have their
own men waiting promotion. The value of a railway servant often consists
largely in a special skill which is of no worth in other employments."

On the other hand, the Departmental Committee recognise that "one of the
main inducements to compete for admission to the railway services is the
strong presumption of the permanence of employment during good behaviour";
and they further say that "while it would seem that the rates of pay to all
ranks in the railway service do not compare unfavourably with those given
in other commercial and industrial occupations, the railway companies
undoubtedly profit in the quality of their services by the large range of
selection they enjoy owing to the competition for situations under them."

On the subject of railwaymen's wages, various considerations arise which
tend to make any general assertions, or even carefully prepared "averages"
in respect thereto, of little real value.

{434}The range of employment, from unskilled to highly skilled, is so great
in the railway world that to lump together all the different grades, and
then strike a so-called "average," which gives too high a figure for one
large body of men and too low a figure for another, must needs be far from

General averages are further reduced by the inclusion therein of a large
number of boys. The table given on pages 405-6 shows that the total number
of railway servants employed on December 31, 1910, was 608,750; but in this
total there are no fewer than 43,584 boys (including signal-box lads), and
their wages, as boys, must needs reduce the average of the wages paid to
the adults. If, for example, we add together the six shillings a week paid
to a boy of fourteen or fifteen employed as engine-cleaner and the thirty
shillings a week paid to a certain grade of signalmen, we get an "average"
of eighteen shillings a week for the two; but no one could argue that this
result would give a real idea of actual conditions.

Then the average for the United Kingdom is below the average for England
and Wales because of the inclusion in the former of the wages paid in
Ireland, where the scale is distinctly lower than is the case of England
and Wales; whilst the inclusion in the figures for England and Wales of the
wages for numerous small and none too prosperous lines gives a general
average below what would be the actual average on the lines of the leading
English companies.

Subject to these considerations, I reproduce from the Board of Trade
"Report on Changes in Rates and Wages and Hours of Labour in the United
Kingdom, in 1910," two tables which give the average weekly earnings of
railwaymen in (1) the United Kingdom, and (2) various parts of the United
Kingdom separately. The figures are based on information supplied by
twenty-seven railway companies, employing over 90 per cent of the total
number of railway servants in the United Kingdom; they relate to workpeople
employed in the coaching, goods, locomotive and engineers' departments,
exclusive of clerical staff and salaried officers; and they refer to actual
earnings (including overtime), and not simply to rates of wages. The tables
are as follows:--

  I. UNITED KINGDOM                                                   {435}

    Period to which
  the figures relate.      Number      Amount paid in      Average
     First week in      employed in     wages in the   weekly earnings
      December:--      selected week.  selected week.     per head.
                                              £          s.     d.
  1901                    440,557         551,114        25    0¼
  1902                    448,429         559,179        24   11¼
  1903                    448,321         557,819        24   10½
  1904                    445,577         557,820        25    0½
  1905                    449,251         568,338        25    3½
  1906                    457,942         582,207        25    5¼
  1907                    478,690         618,304        25   10
  1908                    459,120         574,059        25    0
  1909                    459,444         582,782        25    4½
  1910                    463,019         596,342        25    9


          ENGLAND AND WALES.        SCOTLAND.              IRELAND.
                    Average               Average               Average
                     weekly                weekly                weekly
          Number    earnings    Number    earnings    Number    earnings
  Year.  Employed.  per Head.  Employed.  per Head.  Employed.  per Head.
                    s.   d.               s.   d.               s.   d.
  1901   378,121    25  6¼      43,710    23  1½      18,726    19  5
  1902   383,883    25  5¼      45,240    23  1¼      19,306    19  3¼
  1903   384,465    25  4½      44,922    22 11½      18,934    19  5
  1904   380,610    25  7       45,216    23  1¼      19,751    19  1½
  1905   384,321    25 10¼      45,399    23  3¾      19,531    19  2¾
  1906   391,661    25 11½      46,407    23  4¼      19,874    19  9½
  1907   412,804    26  4¾      46,416    23  5½      19,470    19  8¼
  1908   395,271    25  6¼      44,809    22  8½      19,040    19  8¼
  1909   394,928    25 10½      45,147    23  3¾      19,369    19 11
  1910   397,715    26  3½      46,105    23  3       19,199    20  7

Whatever the precise amount of the remuneration received, allowance must be
made for various subsidiary advantages of the railway service.

Free uniforms or clothes are given to various grades, the recipients
thereof on one of the leading lines including station-masters, district
police and traffic inspectors, platform inspectors, yard inspectors,
passenger guards, ticket collectors, foremen porters and foremen parcel
porters, foremen shunters, brakesmen, shunters, signalmen, parcel porters,
vanmen and {436}boys, porters, sergeants and policemen, telegraph
messengers, sleeping-car attendants and corridor attendants. Passenger
guards, for example, get a summer coat and vest every two years, winter
coat and vest every two years, summer trousers every year, winter trousers
every year, topcoat every three years, mackintosh every four years (main
line) or every three years (local line), belt (main line) when required,
cap every year, and two neckties every year. The amount which a man saves
by the supply of this free clothing naturally adds proportionately to the
actual value of his position.

On many of the lines the companies have provided for their workers a
considerable amount of cottage accommodation, with gardens and allotments,
charging rentals which yield little more than a nominal return on the
capital expenditure.

The Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company have organised, at
Cockerhill, a model village for the accommodation of the principal section
of the locomotive staff employed in the engine-sheds there. Purchase of
land and construction of buildings involved the company in an expenditure
of £70,000. To-day the village has a total population of 700 persons. Each
tenant gets three large rooms and a kitchen for a rental of £13 a year,
_plus_ local rates, which amount to about 17s. a year. Attached to every
house is a plot of ground where the tenant can grow his own vegetables, or
cultivate his favourite flowers. The centre of social life in the village
is the Railway Institute, a commodious building erected by the company, and
still maintained to a certain extent at their cost. Administration of the
affairs of this Institute is entrusted to a General Committee of thirty-two
of the tenants, elected annually, and having different subcommittees, each
of which takes charge of a particular phase of the work. The Institute has
a hall (reserved on Sundays for religious meetings of a strictly
non-sectarian character), reading and recreation-rooms, library and baths.
The village also has a fire brigade, a children's savings bank, and a
committee for the organisation of ambulance work.

A rent club, the subscription to which is one penny a week, ensures for its
members the continued payment of their rent in the event of their being
absent from work on account of sickness. Still another advantage offered to
the tenants is {437}that of a season ticket between Cockerhill and Glasgow
for themselves or for members of their household at the nominal charge of
five shillings a year.

One of the latest developments in connection with the housing of railway
companies' workers has been on the Great Eastern Railway, the chairman of
the company, Lord Claud Hamilton, saying at the half-yearly meeting on July
28, 1911:--

"We have been asked by a portion of our staff to do something for them in
respect of cottages, for although in some districts they can obtain
adequate lodging, in other districts it is exceedingly difficult to obtain,
at a reasonable rent, the decent accommodation which they require. Now that
our prospects are improving, we have settled as from the 1st of July to
spend £10,000 a year on cottages for our workmen. It is not a large sum,
but it is as much as we can afford, and I must tell you we can only expect
to get, at the most, 2½ per cent interest on that money. But although that
is a low rate of interest, and not remunerative, the extra comfort,
satisfaction and happiness which these men and their families will derive
from healthy and adequate accommodation repays us, I am sure, indirectly,
over and over again in their more willing service to their employers."

Railwaymen have, again, exceptional opportunities for getting cheap
holidays. In addition to the regular holidays given to members of the
salaried staff, most of the grades of the wages staff who have a certain
period of service to their credit get from three to six days' holiday a
year, with pay. In some cases the railway company provide special trains
enabling their employees in some railway colony--Swindon, for example--to
take a holiday _en masse_, the said colony becoming, temporarily, a
deserted village. The free passes given to members of the staff are
sometimes available for travel over the lines of other companies as well.

The concession, also, to railway servants of what are known as "privilege
tickets" enables them and their families to travel at exceptionally low
rates. These tickets are granted so freely that the number issued by one
company alone during the course of a single year has been nearly 800,000.

Provision for the railwayman's old age is assured by {438}superannuation
funds in the case of the salaried staff and by pension funds in the case of
the wages staff.

The whole question in regard to the standing of these funds was
investigated by a Departmental Committee which was appointed by the Board
of Trade in 1908, and presented its report [Cd. 5349] in 1910. It was the
position, more especially, of the superannuation funds that gave rise to
the uneasiness leading up to the appointment of this Committee. The
earliest of the said funds was started by the London and North-Western
Railway Company in 1853, and other companies followed the example thus set,
the Committee reporting on, altogether, fifteen superannuation funds
brought to their notice. At first no doubt was felt as to the stability of
the funds; but when the railway companies, with a view to maintaining the
efficiency of the service, enforced the retirement of officers at the age
of sixty-five, or in some cases at the otherwise optional age of sixty,
heavier demands were made on the funds at the same time that the benefits
were being increased. Actuarial investigations disclosed substantial
deficiencies, and some of the companies sought to cover these by abandoning
actuarial valuations altogether and guaranteeing payment of claims out of
their revenue, this being in addition to the ordinary contributions which,
in one form or another, all the companies were making to the funds. A
certain want of uniformity followed, and the Committee now made various
recommendations in regard to the future working both of the fifteen
superannuation funds and of seventeen pension funds applying to the wages

There is no need here to enter into the details of the actual or proposed
arrangements. Suffice it, therefore, to point to the existence of these
funds, with their accumulated reserves of close on £11,000,000, as designed
to assure the future of nearly 300,000 railwaymen, over and above whatever
salary or wage they may receive while in active employment.

The Railway Guards' Universal Friendly Society was established in 1849 to
encourage thrift and to provide, among other benefits, permanent pay for
life to disabled members and annuities for the widows and orphans of
deceased members. The total amount expended in relief down to the end of
1910 {439}was over £358,000, and there were then 250 members and widows in
receipt of life allowances amounting to £4758 per annum.

Further provision either for railwaymen themselves in times of distress or
for their widows and orphans is made through various organisations which
are supported by the contributions alike of railway servants, of the
railway companies and of the general public.

At the head of these excellent bodies stands the Railway Benevolent
Institution, which attained its jubilee in 1908. The objects in view, as
summarised by Lord Claud Hamilton at the fifty-third annual dinner on May
4, 1911, are: (1) To grant permanent annuities to railway officers and
servants in distressed circumstances; (2) to grant permanent pensions to
widows in similar circumstances; (3) to educate and maintain orphan
children between six and fifteen years of age, and then give them a start
in life; (4) to give by gratuities and by contingent annuities temporary
assistance until permanent relief can be secured from the funds of the
Institution; (5) to grant gratuities from the casualty fund to injured
servants and to widows of deceased servants; (6) to enable officers and
servants to insure their lives in the best approved companies on special
terms; and (7) to relieve distress whether arising among subscribers or

No fewer than 157,000 railwaymen of all classes are subscribers in one form
or another to the funds of the Institution, which, apart from amounts given
as gratuities, conferred its benefits in 1910 on 2,672 annuitants and
children, the total outgoings for the year under all heads being £55,396.
To particularise only one phase of this varied activity, the number of
children--mainly orphans of railwaymen killed in the service--who have been
educated in the great Railway Orphanage at Derby (a branch of the
Institution) has been over 2000.

Another leading railway charity, the United Kingdom Railway Officers and
Servants' Association, founded in 1861 to grant assistance in time of
distress and necessity to railway officers and servants, their widows and
orphans, held its jubilee festival on April 28, 1911, when Viscount
Castlereagh, M.P., who presided, announced that since the establishment of
the Association the relief afforded had been as follows:--

                                     £    s. d.                       {440}
  Annuitants                      51,233 13  0
  Sickness                       100,411  7  6
  Widows and members, at death    58,956  0  0
  Orphans                          4,595  3  0
  Special grants                   9,390 11  0

      Total                      224,586 14  6

Of great advantage, also, to railway workers is the Railwaymen's
Convalescent Home, opened at Herne Bay, Kent, in 1901, with its recent
extension in the form of a similar home at Leasome Castle, Wallasey,
Cheshire, to which, by permission of King George, has been given the title
of "The King Edward VII Memorial Convalescent Home for Railwaymen."

The London and South-Western Railway Servants' Orphanage was originally
opened at Clapham, in 1886, for children whose fathers, at the time of
their death, were in the employ of the railway company. Since July, 1909,
it has been located in a commodious range of buildings erected at Woking,
Surrey, for the purpose. From the time the orphanage was first opened over
400 children have been admitted to its benefits.

Thanks to a generous benefaction left by the late Mr F. W. Webb, locomotive
superintendent of the London and North-Western Railway Company, the railway
colony at Crewe is acquiring an orphanage which will accommodate twenty
girls and twenty boys, the construction cost being estimated at about
£16,000, while a further sum of £35,000 will be available for the purposes
of the endowment of what has, appropriately, been named "the Webb
Orphanage." In appreciation of the value of the services rendered by Mr
Webb to the company, and as an indication of their sympathy with the
institution, the directors of the London and North-Western Railway Company
have subscribed £1000 towards the funds of the orphanage.

In addition to such support as they may render, directly or indirectly, to
the recognised railway beneficent organisations, the railway companies of
the United Kingdom contribute to various other institutions and
associations, of various character, not directly controlled by them, and
not for the exclusive benefit of their servants. Such contributions are
reported to the Board of Trade, which issues an annual {441}return on the
subject. Among those for 1910 were the following:--

                                                             £    s. d.
  Hospitals, infirmaries and dispensaries                  7,832 10  6
  Convalescent homes and nursing associations                440 17  0
  Ambulance, medical, surgical aid and truss societies       308  1  0
  Benevolent and friendly societies, orphan asylums, etc.    790 19  0
  Mechanics', seamen's and fishermen's institutes          1,278 14  0
  Church funds                                             1,365 17  8
  Missions                                                   340  6  6
  Schools and technical institutes                         1,137 18  0

These contributions are made by the railway companies not so much,
presumably, from motives of ordinary philanthropy, but in return, more or
less, for benefits derived, or that might be derived, from the institutions
in question by members of their staffs.

Adding these further subsidiary advantages to the educational, social and
recreative facilities offered by the institutes, societies and clubs
already spoken of, it will be seen that there is more to be taken into
account in regard to the railway service in general than the question of
wages alone, and especially so when the statements concerning wages are
based on "averages."

Having seen what are the advantages of the railway service, we may pass on
to consider some of its possible disadvantages.

A return issued by the Board of Trade in August, 1911, gives the latest
available information as to the once much-discussed question of railway
servants' hours of labour. The special interest in this subject lies, of
course, in the fact that if men engaged in the movement of trains work
excessive hours the risk of accident is increased; and the Board of Trade
are authorised, under the Act of 1889, to call for particulars of the hours
of labour of railway servants.

At one time the returns published were presented in such a way as to make
the position appear much worse than really was the case, even after
allowing for unavoidable delays from fog, snowstorms, floods, fluctuations
in traffic, and breakdowns or other unforeseen mishaps which have been, and
must needs be, contributory causes of prolonged hours of duty. Thus, if an
engine-driver, having taken a train to some distant station, returned home
comfortably seated in a third-class carriage, he counted in the official
returns as being on duty, {442}as though he were still undergoing the
strain of driving the engine instead of being occupied, perhaps, in smoking
his pipe, or having a doze.

Following on protests by the railway companies, the returns are now
published in a form less open to criticism, while the agitation raised has
also led the companies to make further efforts to prevent the occurrence of
excessive hours of labour as far as possible. The return for May, 1911,
dealing with 109,041 servants in certain grades (guards, brakesmen,
enginemen, signalmen, examiners), who worked during that month a total of
2,740,693 days, shows that the number of days on which the men were on duty
for periods exceeding twelve hours by one hour and upwards amounted to
14,813, or only .54 per cent of the total days worked.

One of the greatest drawbacks in the railway service lies in the risks of
accident. The extent of these risks is shown by the General Report of the
Board of Trade on Accidents on Railways of the United Kingdom during 1910.

From this I find that the number of railway servants killed in "train
accidents" in 1910 was nine, and the number injured was 113. Of these,
eight were killed and 109 were injured in the work of running trains; and
the proportions of these last-mentioned figures to the total number
(76,327) of engine-drivers, firemen and guards employed on December 31,
1910, were: killed, one in 9541; injured, one in 700. Considering that the
number of miles run by trains on the railways of the United Kingdom in 1910
was 423,221,000, the figures given as to injuries or fatalities to railway
servants through actual train accidents do not constitute a bad record.
They suggest, rather, both the extreme care with which the railway servants
concerned discharge their duty and the effectiveness of the precautions
taken in the interests of themselves as well as of the travelling public.

Excluding train accidents, the numbers of accidents to railway servants due
to the "movement of trains and railway vehicles" in the same year were:
killed, 368; injured 4587. The number of railway servants exposed to danger
from the movement of railway vehicles being 331,296, the proportion of
accidents to number employed was: killed, one in 900; injured, one in 72.

When these last-mentioned figures in regard to injured are {443}compared
with the averages for earlier years, there appears to be a substantial
increase; but a "Note" thereon is given in the official returns to the
following effect: "An order of the Board of Trade on the 21st December,
1906, required non-fatal accidents to be reported whenever they caused
absence from ordinary work for a whole day (instead of absence preventing
five hours' work on any of the next three days). This alteration caused a
large apparent increase in the number of non-fatal accidents in 1907 and
later years." The details in regard to the killed afford, therefore, safer
guidance if one wishes to see whether the various appliances, precautions
and regulations adopted by the railway companies to ensure the greater
safety of those of their servants who are exposed to danger from the
movement of railway vehicles are having the desired effect. Turning to
Table X in the official returns, I extract therefrom the following

                                PROPORTION OF KILLED
     YEAR.                      TO NUMBERS EMPLOYED.
  1885-1894 (average)                 1 in 501
  1895-1904     "                     1  " 665
  1905-1909     "                     1  " 879
  1910                                1  " 900

Here, therefore, we have distinct evidence of improvement in the element of
risk in railway operation.

A third group of accidents to which railway servants are liable relates to
those that arise in the handling of goods, in attending to engines at rest,
or in other ways not connected with the movement of trains or of railway
vehicles. Here the figures for 1910 are: Killed, 36; injured, 20,305. "The
number of injured is large," says the return, "but the proportion of
serious injuries is smaller than it is in the case of railway accidents
proper, and it will be seen that the proportion of killed to injured is
relatively low." The proportion of killed, in this third group, to the
average number of railway servants exposed to risk was one in 12,546, and
the proportion of injured was one in 22. A considerable number of accidents
in railway goods sheds and warehouses which at one time were included in
the returns of accidents in factories are now included in the returns of
railway accidents.

Liability to accident, whether grave or slight, lends additional importance
to the encouragement given to {444}railwaymen by their companies to acquire
a knowledge of "first aid" and general ambulance work. Ambulance corps or
classes are now not only general but highly popular throughout the railway
system. Instruction is given by qualified teachers; certificates, vouchers,
medallions or labels are presented to those who pass the examinations held,
and not only do competitions for money or other prizes take place between
teams representing the various districts of a single company's system, but
an Inter-Railway Challenge Shield is annually competed for by the picked
experts of the various companies, the winning of this shield being regarded
as conferring a great honour on those who achieve the victory for their

I have here sought to give a comprehensive survey of the railway service,
as a national industry, alike from its economic and from its human side,
conveying some idea--even if wholly inadequate--of its extent and
widespread ramifications, and showing the various influences, educational,
social and otherwise, that are eminently calculated both to create a
"railway type" and to give to the service characteristics that distinguish
it in many respects from any other of our national industries.

While not being, perhaps, actually an ideal industry--and there are very
few workers, of any rank, who would be prepared to admit that their
occupation in life was absolutely free from drawbacks--the railway service
offers, as we have seen, many advantages. It is, in fact, really a
"service," and not simply a means of employment. One might regard it as the
equivalent of a civil service operated on commercial lines. Workers in all
of the many classes or grades "enter the service," as they are accustomed
to say, when they are young, and they generally do so with the idea of
spending their lives in it, and retiring on superannuation allowance or a
pension in their old age.

Railway managers, too, want workers who come to stay. In the United States
women typists are being gradually got rid of on the railway because they so
often retire at the end of two or three years and get married, the
experience of office work they have gained in that time being thus lost to
the company. Consequently American railway managers are now showing a
preference for male workers who will regard {445}the service in the light
of a future career rather than in that of a temporary employment.

That the railway service is a popular one is shown by two facts: (1) the
invariably large surplus of candidates over available vacancies; and (2)
the long-service records of many of the railway workers.

In regard to the former of these points, it will suffice to say that the
chairman of one of the leading English railway companies has stated that in
1906 the number of applicants for appointments on the staff of his company
alone in excess of the number for whom places could be found was over

As regards long service, instances of from forty to fifty years' work for
one and the same railway company are so common that they hardly call even
for passing mention. More exceptional was the case of the worker on the
Great Western whose father had served the company for forty-one years, and
who himself retired at the end of forty-two years, leaving a son who had
then been with the company twenty-three years--a total of 106 years for one
family, during three generations.

In another instance four generations employed successively on the Great
Western showed a total of 147 years; but even this record is surpassed by
that of a Cardiff family. The founder of the dynasty joined the Great
Western in 1840. He remained with the company forty-two years, and left
with them two sons, of whom one served forty-five years, and the other
forty-two years. Each of these two sons had five boys, and all ten followed
the example of fathers and grandfather in becoming servants of the same
company, keeping their positions for periods ranging from six to thirty
years. The fourth generation is represented by four members, one of whom
has already been with the company for over ten years. The total service of
those members of the family who were still working on the Great Western a
year or two ago was 147 years, and the aggregate for the four generations
was then over 800 years. Each of the workers concerned has been employed in
the locomotive department.

Notwithstanding the general popularity of the railway service, agitations
and strikes have occurred from time to time; though down to 1907 most of
these arose in connection {446}with questions of conditions of labour in
regard to particular lines of railway.

In 1907 an agitation was promoted by the Amalgamated Society of Railway
Servants in favour of what was called a "National All-Grades Programme" of
demands for higher wages, reduced hours, etc.; and there was a further
demand that the negotiations in respect thereto should be carried on
through the officers of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. The
companies declined to grant the concessions asked for in the "Programme,"
alleging that to do so would involve them in a wholly impracticable
increase in their working expenses. It was subsequently stated that
acceptance of the "Programme" would have increased the expenditure of the
companies by between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 per annum; that the cost to
the London and North-Western Railway Company alone would have exceeded
£500,000 per annum, equal to 1¼ per cent of the company's dividend; that on
the London and South-Western it would have been equal to a two per cent
dividend on the ordinary stock; and so on with other companies in like

In the result the demand for the concession of the "Programme" became
subordinate to the demand of the A.S.R.S. for "recognition"; but this,
again, was refused by the railway companies on the ground, not alone that
the membership of the society included only a minority of the men qualified
to join but, also, and more especially, because "recognition," involving
the carrying on of negotiations through the union leaders, would, it was
argued, lower the standard of discipline in a service where considerations
of the public interests, and especially of the public safety, made it a
matter of paramount importance that a high standard of discipline should be

Threats of a general railway strike caused much alarm, and led the
Government to intervene. The negotiations carried on at the Board of Trade
were based mainly on the possibility of arranging some system of
conciliation by means of which further disputes would be avoided; and
eventually a four-fold scheme was arranged, comprising, in the case of each
company accepting it, (1) consideration of applications by officers of the
department concerned; (2) sectional {447}conciliation boards; (3) a central
conciliation board, and (4) the eventual calling in of an arbitrator if the
matters in dispute should still be undecided.

Forty-six companies adopted the scheme. The conciliation boards were
elected; agreements were in many instances arranged as the result of their
proceedings; and, where no settlement could be arrived at by the boards,
arbitration was resorted to. Dissatisfaction with the course of procedure
and its results was, however, expressed from time to time more especially
by members and officers of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants; and
such dissatisfaction became acute during the prevalence of the "labour
unrest" which spread throughout the country in the summer and early autumn
of 1911, affecting, more especially, the various transport services. Joint
action was now taken by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, the
Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the General Railway
Workers' Union and the United Pointsmen and Signalmen's Society.

At the outset attempts had been made to show that the railwaymen had some
genuine grievances against the conciliation boards on account of their
"slowness," etc.; but it soon became apparent that the trouble was mainly
based on fresh demands for "recognition." On Tuesday, August 15,
representatives of the four societies issued from Liverpool an ultimatum in
which they offered the railway companies "twenty-four hours to decide
whether they were prepared to meet immediately members of those societies
to negotiate the basis of settlement of the matters in dispute"; and they
added: "In the event of this offer being refused, there will be no
alternative than to respond to the demands now being made for a national
railway stoppage."

The railway companies expressed their firm resolve to adhere to the
principle of conciliation, and on the following Thursday the "signal" was
given for a general railway strike. Only about one-third of the railway
workers responded, and, though great and very grave inconvenience and loss
were caused in some parts of the country, there was (owing, in part, to the
calling out by the Government of a large body of troops to protect the
railway operations) no such "paralysis" of the railway traffic in general
as had been threatened, while {448}public opinion was distinctly
unsympathetic towards the strikers.

Meanwhile active steps had been taken by the Government to effect a
settlement, and late on the Saturday night (August 19) an agreement was
drawn up and signed by the parties to the negotiations.

Under this agreement the men were to return to work forthwith; pending
questions were to be referred to the conciliation boards, while the
Government undertook to appoint, at once, a Royal Commission to investigate
the working of the conciliation and arbitration scheme, and report what
changes, if any, were desirable with a view to the prompt and satisfactory
settlement of differences. It was further announced that the Government had
given an assurance to the railway companies that they would propose to
Parliament in the Session of 1912 legislation providing that an increase in
the cost of labour due to the improvement of conditions of the staff would
be a valid justification for a reasonable general increase of charges
within the legal _maxima_, if challenged, under the Act of 1894.

Two statements, giving the result of the negotiations, were issued by the
Board of Trade on the night of August 19. In one of these it was announced
that Mr Claughton (chairman of the London and North-Western Railway
Company) and Sir Guy Granet (general manager of the Midland Railway
Company), who represented the railway interests at the Conference, had
"stated that the recommendations of the Commission would be loyally
accepted by the railway companies, even though they be averse to the
contention of the companies on any question of representation, and, should
a settlement be effected, any trace of ill-will which might have arisen
during the strike would certainly be effaced." In the other of these
official announcements it was said: "Assurances have been given by both
parties that they will accept the findings of the Commission." The
statements were repeated in "The Board of Trade Labour Gazette" for
September, 1911.

The Royal Commission, which consisted of five members, viz. Sir David
Harrel (chairman), Sir Thomas R. Ratcliffe Ellis, Mr Arthur Henderson,
M.P., Mr C. G. Beale and Mr John Burnett, held twenty-five sittings,
between August 28 {449}and October 3, for the purpose of taking evidence,
the witnesses examined by them during this period including thirty-four on
behalf of the various railway workers' unions, ten non-unionist workers and
twenty-three representatives of the railway companies.

The case presented on behalf of the railwaymen's unions was, in effect: (1)
that the working of the conciliation and arbitration scheme had in various
respects been very unsatisfactory, and changes therein or alternatives
thereto were recommended, though in regard to the details of these changes
and alternatives the witnesses did not all agree among themselves; (2) that
"recognition" of the unions, allowing of the labour unions officials--with,
as was said, their "trained and experienced minds"--taking part in the
negotiations with the railway companies, was essential to full justice
being done to the men, who were either not competent to state their own
claims or might have their position in the service prejudiced; (3) that
such recognition would be in the interests of industrial peace because of
the increased powers of the unions in enforcing the maintenance of any
bargains that were made; (4) that discipline on the railways would be
strengthened if the men were confident that there would be an impartial
investigation of their complaints; and (5) that, as the principle of
recognition was accepted in other great industries, the railway companies
were not justified in refusing it to their own men.

On the other side it was contended (1) that much of the disappointment felt
at the results of the awards--which had, nevertheless, led to substantial
concessions being made--was due to the unreasonable hopes raised by the
"National Programme," and that, although certain modifications might be
made in the conciliation scheme, the principle thereof was sound, while the
companies had made a "tremendous departure" by themselves proposing, in
1907, in the interests of peace, to concede the principle of arbitration,
which involved the "revolutionary" step of taking from the directors the
power of deciding what the rates of payment and the hours of labour of
their workmen were to be; (2) that the four unions concerned still included
only about one-fourth of the men, and that "recognition" of them would
inevitably lead to interference with questions of management and
{450}discipline, without--as shown by the experiences of the North-Eastern
Railway, where "recognition" had not prevented the occurrence of repeated
disputes--offering any guarantee for peace, while a partial strike on
certain of the Irish lines during the sittings of the Royal Commission was
pointed to as showing that the union officials were unable to control their
members; (3) that the allegations as to railwaymen being unable or afraid
to present their case to their own companies were unfounded, and that the
real object aimed at in demanding "recognition" of the union officials was
to coerce non-unionists into joining the unions which, with their increased
membership, would then be in a better position to force the railways to
agree to all demands; (4) that if the companies were compelled to accept
"recognition," with all the risks it would involve, they should, at the
same time, be relieved of their present responsibilities in respect to the
public safety and public interests; and (5) that no analogy, in regard to
"recognition," could be drawn between the railways, the continuous
operation of which was essential to the wellbeing of the community, and
ordinary commercial undertakings, which could suspend their working with
only a limited degree of inconvenience to the public, or none at all.

The Commissioners, in their report, issued October 20, 1911, declared that
in their opinion it was of the utmost importance that the initial stage of
conference between the men and the companies--apt to be regarded as simply
a preliminary to the later stages under the settlement scheme--should not
only be maintained but facilitated. They recommended the abolition, as
"redundant," of the central boards and the reference to the sectional
boards of "any matter dealing with hours, wages, or conditions of service,
except questions of, or bearing upon, discipline and management." Each
sectional board should have a chairman selected from a panel to be
constituted by the Board of Trade, but such chairman should be called on to
act (virtually as arbitrator) only in the event of the sectional board
being unable to agree. The men should be free to combine in the same person
the duties of men's secretary and advocate at all meetings of the Board,
and be at liberty to appoint to such post "any suitable person, whether an
employee of the company or a person from outside"; though this arrangement
was "not intended {451}to prevent the men from obtaining the services of a
special advocate before the chairman."

Much dissatisfaction with the report--and mainly so on account of what was
regarded as a wholly inadequate extension of the principle of
recognition--was expressed by the men's leaders and endorsed at meetings of
the men's societies, where demands were made for a general strike on a
greater scale than before, while the leaders repudiated any suggestion that
they had given a pledge to accept the findings of the Royal Commission of
Inquiry. A new National Programme of improved conditions was put forward,
but simultaneously therewith various of the leading railway companies
announced revisions of their rates of wages as applying to the lower grades
among their workers.

In the case of the Great Western Railway Company it was reported that
between 20,000 and 30,000 men would benefit from the concessions, the
immediate cost of which to the company would be £56,000 per annum, with an
eventual cost, at the end of three or four years, of £78,000 per annum. The
London and North-Western Company announced increases amounting in the
aggregate to £80,000 a year, these being an addition to increases already
made, under the arbitrator's award, at a cost to the company of £70,000 a
year. The Midland Railway Company gave notice that from November 3 the
minimum rate of pay for all adult members of their staff would be 22s. per
week if employed in London, 20s. per week in certain large towns, and 19s.
per week at all other places, the actual advances thus made to individual
workers ranging from 1s. to 4s. the week.

Material concessions were also announced by the Great Central and the
Caledonian, and intimation was given by other companies that they had the
matter under consideration. All these concessions were, however, apparently
disregarded by leaders of the extremest section among the men, who
declared, in effect, that they would be satisfied with nothing short of

In the week ending November 4 representatives of the men's unions held a
four-days' conference in London to consider what action should be taken,
and there would seem to have been some hope on their part that, influenced
by the threat of a further general strike, the Government would
{452}exercise its influence with a view to inducing representatives of the
railway companies to meet the other signatories of the August agreement and
discuss with them the terms of the report. On November 3 the Prime
Minister, Mr Buxton and Sir George Askwith did confer with selected
representatives of the companies at 10 Downing Street. No official
announcement was made as to the result, but this was evidently well
indicated by the following statement in "The Times" of November 4:--

"We understand that the attitude of the directors of the railways of the
country collectively is that, while they are prepared to carry out to the
full the whole of the recommendations of the Inquiry Commission, they are
not prepared to go any further."

Later in the same day the joint executive committee of the railway unions
informed the Press that they had decided to take a ballot of their
members--the papers to be returnable by December 5--on the question as to
whether or not they were prepared to accept the findings of the Royal
Commission and, also, "to withdraw their labour in favour of the
recognition of trade unions and of a programme of all railwaymen," to be
agreed upon by members of the joint executive committee.

Whatever may be the final outcome of all these controversies, the position
in regard to the troubles both of 1907 and 1911 has obviously been most
materially, if not, indeed, mainly, influenced by questions of trade union
recognition which do not necessarily cast any reflection on the railway
service itself, or detract from it as being one of the most important, most
popular and most sought after of our national industries.



In previous chapters I have shown that the first great highway for the
citizens of London passing from one part of the capital to another was the
River Thames; that the livelihood of the watermen became imperilled by the
competition successively of private carriages, hackney coaches, and
cabriolets, or "cabs"; and that these, in turn, had afterwards to face the
competition of omnibuses. A still further development, leading to
competition with the omnibuses, was brought about by the re-introduction of
the tramway, for the purposes of street transport.

It was in the United States that street tramways first came into vogue, and
it was by an American, George Francis Train, that the pioneer tramway of
this type in England was laid at Birkenhead at the end of the '50's. A few
other short lines followed, and some were put down--without authority--in
certain parts of London, only, however, to be condemned as a nuisance on
account of the hindrance to other traffic. It was not until 1868 that lines
laid in Liverpool secured public favour for the innovation. Fresh tramways
were laid in London between 1869 and 1871, and others followed in Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Dublin and elsewhere.

All the early lines were operated by horses; but various expedients were
resorted to with the idea both of obtaining greater speed and of carrying
more persons at comparatively less cost. Among these expedients were steam
locomotives and underground cables, the latter for cars furnished with a
grip attachment conveying to them the movement of the cables, as operated
by machinery at a central depôt. The greatest impetus to the street tramway
system came, however, with the application of electricity as the motive

The first line opened on the "trolley" system of overhead {454}wires,
conveying electric current to the cars, was in Kansas City in 1884.
Electric tramways were tried in Leeds in 1891, and the system was
afterwards adopted in many other towns. Underground conduit and
surface-contact systems were also employed, with a view to avoiding
overhead wires, to which widespread objection was, especially at first,
entertained; but the latter system has been the one generally adopted.

Development of the tramway system in England was slow on account, not of
any lack of enterprise on the part of business men, but of the discouraging
nature of tramway legislation.

Just about the time when the original horse tramways began to come into
vogue certain local authorities were cherishing strong grievances against
the gas and water companies in their districts. They complained that the
charges of these companies were extortionate and that the terms they asked,
when invited to dispose of their undertakings to the said local
authorities, were excessive. The companies, nevertheless, controlled the
situation because their Parliamentary powers represented a permanent
concession, and because, also, they were able to fix their own price in any
negotiations upon which they might be invited to enter.

When the introduction of another public service, in the form of street
tramways, seemed likely to create still another "monopoly," it was thought
desirable to prevent the tramway companies from attaining to the same
position as that of the gas and water companies. Powers were accordingly
granted to enable the local authorities, if they so desired, to acquire the
undertakings, at the end of a certain period, on terms which would be
satisfactory to themselves, at least.

It was motives such as these that inspired some of the main provisions of
the Tramways Act of 1870, the full title of which is "An Act to Facilitate
the Construction and to Regulate the Working of Tramways"; though in a
statement presented to a Committee on Electrical Legislation of the
Institution of Electrical Engineers, in 1902, the late Sir Clifton
Robinson, manager of the London United Tramways Company, declared that "if
it had been described as an Act to discourage the construction of tramways
it would have better described the action of some of its clauses."

The Act did, undoubtedly, confer certain advantages on {455}tramway
promoters, as well as on local authorities, since it abolished the
obligation previously devolving upon them to obtain--as in the case of a
railway company--a Private Bill in respect to each fresh line they desired
to construct. It authorised them to apply, instead, to the Board of Trade
for a Provisional Order which, on its formal confirmation by Parliament,
would have all the force of a Private Act. In this way the procedure was
both simplified and rendered less costly.

On the other hand, the Act of 1870 lai