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Title: Life of Robert Stevenson
Author: Stevenson, David
Language: English
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Edinburgh University Press:






_From a bust by Joseph, placed in the Library of the Bell Rock
Lighthouse by the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses_]










The addresses made to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the
Institution of Civil Engineers, at the opening meetings of the
session--1851, contained obituary notices of Robert Stevenson. The
late Alan Stevenson, his eldest son, also wrote a short Memoir of his
father, which was printed for private circulation.

But Robert Stevenson’s long practice as a Civil Engineer--the
important works he executed--and the valuable contributions he made to
Engineering and Scientific literature, seem to me to require a fuller
notice of his life than has hitherto been given.

This has been attempted in the following Memoir, which will be found
to consist of extracts from Mr. Stevenson’s Professional Reports--of
notes from his Diary--and of communications to Scientific Journals and
Societies, between the years 1798 and 1843, when he retired from active

These papers embrace a wide field of Engineering, including
Lighthouses, Harbours, Rivers, Roads, Railways, Ferries, Bridges, and
other cognate subjects.

Some of them describe Engineering practice which is now obsolete, but
not on that account, I think, uninteresting to such modern Engineers as
have regard for the antiquities of their Profession.

Some of them, I am aware, can only be appreciated by those who are
specially interested in the city of Edinburgh.

All of them will, I venture to think, be found worthy of preservation
as interesting Engineering records of an era that has passed away. It
formed no part of my duty to criticise them, in the light of modern
Engineering, and, unaltered in form of expression or statement of
opinion, they are now reproduced as they came from my father’s pen.

I offer no apology for presenting these Extracts as the outlines of the
life of one who occupied a prominent place among the Civil Engineers
who practised during the beginning of the present, and end of the
last century, shortly after British Engineering, with Smeaton as its
founder, may be said to have had its origin.

            D. S.




  Birth--Mr. Smith’s improvements in Lighthouse illumination--
    Origin of the Scottish Lighthouse Board--Acts as Assistant
    to their Engineer--Student at Andersonian Institution,
    Glasgow, and University of Edinburgh--Succeeds Mr. Smith
    as Engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board--Tour of
    inspection of English lights in 1801--Is taken for a
    French spy                                                         1



  Resolves to practise as a Civil Engineer--Journals--Reports--
    Design for the Bell Rock Lighthouse--Improvements on Smeaton’s
    design--Application to Parliament for Act in 1802--Act of
    Parliament passed in 1806--Works begun in 1807--Tender breaks
    adrift--Life in the floating light--Boating between the
    lightship and the rock--Anxiety for workmen--Sunday work--Life
    in the Barrack or Beacon--Visits the Eddystone in 1813 and
    1818--Sir Walter Scott’s visit to the Bell Rock                   12



  Early modes of illumination--Facet reflectors and lamps--Silvered
    copper reflectors and Argand lamps--Isle of May coal light--
    Improvements in catoptric lights--Distinctions for lighthouses
    invented by Mr. Stevenson, viz., flashing, intermittent, and
    double lights--Floating light lantern--Lighting of stage of
    Covent Garden Theatre--Dioptric system of lighthouse
    illumination                                                      48



  Early roads and road-making--Edgeworth and M’Adam’s systems of
    roads--Stevenson’s system of roads--Cast iron and stone tracks    64



  Design for approaches to Edinburgh from the East by Regent and
    London Roads, and opening up access to the Calton Hill--Sites
    for the new Jail and Court of Justiciary, and buildings
    in Waterloo Place--Regent Bridge--Feuing Plan for Eastern
    District of Edinburgh--Improvement of accesses to Edinburgh
    from the West and North, and from Granton--Removal of old
    “Tolbooth” Prison--Removal of University Buildings                74



  Ferry Engineering--Extracts from Report on the Tay Ferries--
    Reports on various Ferries--Orkney and Shetland Ferry, etc.      101



  Canals and Railways on one level--Haulage on Railways--Railways
    in Scotland--Edinburgh and Midlothian, Stockton and
    Darlington, and Edinburgh and London Railways--Uniform gauge
    proposed--Notes on Railways for the Highland and Agricultural
    Society--Letter from George Stephenson                           111


  HARBOURS AND RIVERS                                                130


  PRESERVATION OF TIMBER                                             155



  Marykirk, Annan, Stirling, and Hutcheson stone bridges--
     High-level bridge for Newcastle--Timber bridge of built
     planks--Winch Chain Bridge--American bridges of suspension--
     Runcorn Bridge--Menai Chain Bridge--New form of suspension
     bridge                                                          160


  WOLF ROCK LIGHTHOUSE                                               168


  CARR ROCK BEACON                                                   177


  CRANES                                                             181


  FISHERIES                                                          184


  MARINE SURVEYING                                                   196



  Contributions to _Encyclopædia Britannica_ and _Edinburgh
    Encyclopædia_--The alveus or bed of the German ocean--Sectio
    planography--Wasting effects of the sea at the Mersey and
    Dee--Density of fresh and salt water--The Hydrophore             203



  Wide range of subjects on which Mr. Stevenson gave advice--
    Reports on ruins of Aberbrothock Abbey--St. Magnus Cathedral,
    and Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall--St. Andrews Cathedral--Montrose
    Church Spire--Melville Monument, Edinburgh--Lipping of joints
    of masonry with cement--Provision for flood waters in bridges
    --Hydraulic mortar--Protection of foreshores--Cycloidal sea
    wall--Checking drift sand--Night signal lamps--Cause of heavy
    seas in Irish Channel--Sea routes across Irish Channel--Build
    of Ships--Prospective increase of population--Tidal scour--
    Unscrewing of bolts by the waves--Cement Rubble cofferdams--
    Buoyage system--Observations on fog signals--Regulations for
    steam vessels--Notes on shipwrecks                               236


  RETROSPECT OF MR. STEVENSON’S LIFE                                 264

  APPENDIX                                                           274

  INDEX                                                              277


  FRONTISPIECE,  _To face Title-page._

  _To face page_

     I. ELEVATION OF BELL ROCK LIGHTHOUSE,                            25

    II. SECTION OF BELL ROCK LIGHTHOUSE,                              25


          1814,                                                       77





    IX. DESIGN FOR WOLF ROCK LIGHTHOUSE,                             174

     X. CARR ROCK BEACON,                                            179

    XI. MOVEABLE JIB AND BALANCE CRANES,                             182

          THE DEPTHS OF WATER, 1820,                                 207




    Birth--Mr. Smith’s improvements in Lighthouse illumination--Origin
        of the Scottish Lighthouse Board--Acts as Assistant to their
        Engineer--Student at Andersonian Institution, Glasgow, and
        University of Edinburgh--Succeeds Mr. Smith as Engineer to the
        Northern Lighthouse Board--Tour of inspection of English lights
        in 1801--Is taken for a French spy.

Robert Stevenson, maltster in Glasgow, was born in 1720, and, as stated
on his tombstone, in the burial-ground of the Cathedral, died in 1764.

His fourth son, Alan, was partner in a West India house in Glasgow, and
died of fever in the island of St. Christopher, in 1774, while on a
visit to his brother, who managed the foreign business of the house at
that place.

The only son of Alan Stevenson was Robert, the subject of this Memoir,
who was born at Glasgow on the 8th of June 1772.

When his father died, Robert Stevenson, then an infant, was left in
circumstances of difficulty, for the same epidemic fever which deprived
him of his father carried off his uncle also, at a time when their loss
operated most disadvantageously on the business which they conducted;
and, strange to say, on account of legal difficulties, nearly half a
century elapsed before any patrimonial funds in which my father had an
interest were realised.

Under these circumstances his mother (Jean Lillie, daughter of David
Lillie, builder in Glasgow, who died, as stated on his tombstone, in
the Cathedral burying-ground, in 1774) resolved to go to Edinburgh to
reside with a married sister, and when her son reached the age of being
able for school she wisely took advantage of one of the hospitals in
that city for his education; and the spirit of the man is well brought
out by the fact that he devoted his first earnings in life, at the
Cumbrae Lighthouse, to making a _contribution_ to the funds of the
Orphan Hospital in payment of what he regarded as a _debt_.

It appears from “Memoranda” left by my father for the information
of his family, that his mother was a woman of great prudence and
remarkable fortitude, based on deep convictions of religion; and,
even in their time of trial, which lasted over his school days,
he says,--“My mother’s ingenuous and gentle spirit amidst all her
difficulties never failed her. She still relied on the providence of
God, though sometimes, in the recollection of her father’s house and
her younger days, she remarked that the ways of Providence were often
dark to us. The Bible, and attendance on the ministrations, chiefly of
Mr. Randall of Lady Yester’s Church, afterwards Dr. Davidson of the
Tolbooth,[1] and at other churches, where I was almost always her
constant attendant, were the great sources of her comfort.

“Her intention was that I should be trained for the ministry, with a
view to which I had been sent, after leaving my first school, to Mr.
Macintyre, a famous linguist of his day, where I made the acquaintance
of Patrick Neill, afterwards the well-known printer, and still better
known naturalist, who remained my most intimate friend through life,
and of William Blackwood, the no less celebrated publisher.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Circumstances, however, occurred which entirely changed my father’s
prospects and pursuits. Soon after he had attained his fifteenth year
his mother was married to Mr. Thomas Smith--son of a shipowner, and
member of the Trinity House of Dundee,--who himself was, my father
says, a “furnishing iron-merchant, shipowner, and underwriter”
in Edinburgh, and who being also a lamp-maker and an ingenious
mechanician, appears at a very early date to have directed his
attention to the subject of lighthouses, and endeavoured to improve the
mode of illumination then in use, by substituting lamps with mirrors,
for the open coal-fires which were at that early time the only beacons
to guide the mariner.

Mr. Smith’s improvements attracted the notice of Professor Robison,
Sir David Hunter Blair, and Mr. Creech, the publisher and honorary
secretary to the Chamber of Commerce. I find from the minutes of that
body, that in 1786, a complaint was made to them by shipmasters as to
the defective state of the coal light on the Isle of May, which was a
“private light” belonging to the family of the Duke of Portland.

The Chamber sent a deputation of their number to inquire into the truth
of the objections that had been made, who fully confirmed the justice
of the complaints.

When the result of the examination was reported to the Chamber of
Commerce, Mr. Smith submitted to them “a plan for improving the light
by dispensing with the coal-fire,” and after fully considering his
suggestions, the Chamber, at their meeting of 24th May 1786, resolved
“that while they allowed much ingenuity to Mr. Smith’s plan of
reflectors, they were of opinion that a coal light should be continued.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Board of Northern Lighthouses was constituted by Act of Parliament
in 1786; its members were the Lord Advocate and Solicitor-General,
the chief magistrates of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, and
Campbeltown, and the Sheriffs of the maritime counties of Scotland.
These Commissioners, happily for the interests of navigation, took a
more enlightened view of their duties than the Chamber of Commerce of
Edinburgh, and after hearing and considering Mr. Smith’s proposals,
formally appointed him their Engineer.

The preamble of the Act constituting the Northern Lighthouse Board,
states that it would greatly conduce to the security of navigation and
the fisheries if _four_ lighthouses were erected in the north part of
Great Britain. Such, it would seem, was the limited state of trade in
Scotland, that the erection of these four lighthouses was all that was
contemplated, on a coast, extending to about 2000 miles, of perhaps
the most dangerous navigation in Europe. It is now marked by sixty
lighthouse stations for the guidance of the sailor, but new claims
continue to be made, and new lighthouses are still admitted to be

The newly established Lighthouse Board at once entered on its important
duties, and the first light they exhibited was Kinnaird Head, which was
designed by Mr. Smith and lighted in 1787.

       *       *       *       *       *

These pursuits being very congenial to my father’s mechanical turn of
mind, he had rendered himself useful to Mr. Smith in carrying them
out, and was intrusted, at the early age of nineteen, to superintend
the erection of a lighthouse on the island of Little Cumbrae, in the
river Clyde, according to a design which Mr. Smith had furnished to the
Cumbrae Light Trustees. This connection soon led to his adoption as Mr.
Smith’s partner in business, and, in 1799, to his union with his eldest
daughter by a former marriage.

During the cessation of the works at Cumbrae in winter, my father, who
had determined to follow the profession of a Civil Engineer, applied
himself, as appears from class note-books in my possession, with great
zeal to the practice of surveying and architectural drawing, and to the
study of mathematics at the Andersonian Institution at Glasgow. Of the
kindness of Dr. Anderson, who presided over that Institution, he ever
entertained a most grateful remembrance, and often spoke of him as one
of his best advisers and kindest friends, and in the Memoranda already
noticed he records his obligations to him in the following words:--“It
was the practice of Professor Anderson kindly to befriend and forward
the views of his pupils; and his attention to me during the few years
I had the pleasure of being known to him was of a very marked kind,
for he directed my attention to various pursuits, with the view to my
coming forward as an engineer.”

After completing the Cumbrae Lighthouse he was further engaged, under
Mr. Smith, in erecting two lighthouses on the Pentland Skerries in
Orkney, where, in view of what lay before him at the Bell Rock, he had
the useful experience of living four months in a tent on an uninhabited
island, and arranging the landing of the whole of the materials of the
lighthouses in the difficult navigation of the Pentland Firth. But here
also he had a personal experience of God’s overruling Providence, which
clung to him through life, and, as we shall find, proved his stay in
times of danger, when personal resources had ceased to prove availing.
In returning from the Pentland Skerries, in 1794, he embarked in the
sloop ‘Elizabeth’ of Stromness, and proceeded as far as Kinnaird Head,
when the vessel was becalmed about three miles from the shore. The
captain kindly landed my father, who continued his journey to Edinburgh
by land. A very different fate, however, awaited his unfortunate
shipmates. A violent gale came on, which drove the ‘Elizabeth’ back
to Orkney, where she was totally wrecked, and all on board unhappily

Notwithstanding my father’s active duties in summer, he was so
zealous in the pursuit of knowledge that he contrived, during several
successive winters, on his return from his practical work, to avail
himself of the Philosophical classes at the University of Edinburgh.
In this manner he attended Professor Playfair’s second and third
Mathematical courses, two sessions of Robison’s Natural Philosophy,
two courses of Chemistry under Dr. Hope, and two of Natural History
under Professor Jameson. To these he added a course of Moral Philosophy
under Dugald Stewart, a course of Logic under Dr. Ritchie, and one
of Agriculture under Professor Low. “I was prevented, however,” he
remarks, in the Memoranda, “from following my friend Dr. Neill for my
degree of M.A. by my slender knowledge of Latin, in which my highest
book was the Orations of Cicero, and by my total want of Greek.” Such
zeal in the pursuit of knowledge, and views so enlarged of the benefits
and value of a liberal education, were characteristics of a mind of no
ordinary vigour; so that, early trained to practical work, and inspired
with a true love of his profession, it was not unnatural that on the
resignation of Mr. Smith the Board should have appointed Mr. Stevenson
to succeed him as their Engineer.

The first annual report made by him to the Board is dated June 1798,
and he continued annually to prepare one up to the time of his
resignation in 1843.

The first occasion on which he was sent by the Board on a special
mission was in 1801, when he was deputed by the Commissioners to visit
and report on the Lighthouses on the coasts of England, Wales, and the
Isle of Man. The report he submitted to the Board is a most elaborate
and valuable document. After describing upwards of twenty Public,
Private, and Harbour lights which he had examined, he proceeds fully to
discuss the different systems of management in use, and particularly
to compare the system adopted by the Scotch Board with that practised
in England by the Trinity House, most readily advising the adoption
of what seemed improvements in the administration of the Southern
Board. In reporting as to the Isle of Man he takes occasion to suggest
that the lighting of that island should be taken up by the Northern
Commissioners--a proposal which was acted on in 1815. He says:--

  “I had several communications with William Scott, Esq.,
  Receiver-General of the Customs, upon the subject of Lighthouses.
  At his request I went to the Point of Langness, and to the Calf
  of Man; the former a very dangerous point of land, the latter a
  situation that seems every way answerable to the general purposes
  of a site for a lighthouse.

  “As this island occupies a middle situation between Great Britain
  and Ireland, and is not included in any of these Acts of Parliament
  which relate to the erecting or maintaining of Lights, on either
  side of the Channel, perhaps it might answer to include the Isle of
  Man under the same Act which refers to the Northern Lighthouses;
  and by extending your powers this island might no longer stand a
  monument of darkness, and a great obstruction to the navigation of
  St. George’s Channel, particularly from the want of a light upon
  the Calf of Man.

  “Such a light, together with the late improvement of the Copeland
  light, and the erection of the Kilwarlin light upon the Irish
  coast, would in an eminent degree improve the navigation of the
  Irish Channel. From the central situation of the Isle of Man, a
  light would soon pay itself, by serving the trade of Maryport,
  Workington, Whitehaven, Lancaster and Liverpool, on the one side of
  the Channel, with Dublin and Newry on the other.”

With reference to this suggestion the Commissioners, in January 1802,
adopted the following resolution:--

  “In the above report Mr. Stevenson has stated very strongly the
  great utility of a lighthouse upon the Calf of Man; but not being
  within the jurisdiction either of the Trinity House of London, or
  of the Commissioners for the Northern Lighthouses, both of them
  are thereby prevented from accomplishing an object so much wished
  for by mariners, as it would prove a great additional security to
  the navigation between a great number of the ports on the west of
  England, and Dublin, and other ports in Ireland. In order therefore
  that this circumstance may not be overlooked, the Commissioners
  directed this notice to be taken of it in their Minutes, in order
  that if any application to Parliament shall at a future period be
  deemed necessary, the Commissioners may judge how far it may not be
  proper to apply for power and liberty to erect a lighthouse upon a
  situation so very eligible as the Calf of Man, being the southmost
  point of that island.”

The report was illustrated with plans of Douglas, Milford, Longships,
and Portland Lighthouses. The somewhat formidable journey he had
undertaken, involving 2500 miles of travelling, occupied eight weeks in
its performance, and the following amusing incident shows what peaceful
travellers, in those troubled times, had sometimes to encounter:--

  “I left the Scilly Islands considerably instructed by the
  examination of the machinery and apparatus of this lighthouse,
  and very much gratified. I took my passage in a vessel bound
  for Penzance, where, however, I had not been long landed, when
  I met with a circumstance which, while it lasted, was highly
  disagreeable, and as it is somewhat connected with the object of
  the journey, I beg your indulgence while I lay it before you.

  “Finding that I could not get any convenient mode of conveyance
  from Penzance to the Lizard Lights, I set off on foot for Marazion,
  a town at the head of Mounts Bay, where I was in hopes of getting
  a boat to freight. I had just got that length, and was making
  the necessary inquiry, when a young man, accompanied by several
  idle-looking fellows, came up to me, and in a hasty tone said,
  ‘Sir, in the King’s name I seize your person and papers.’ To which
  I replied that I should be glad to see his authority, and know
  the reason of an address so abrupt. He told me the want of time
  prevented his taking regular steps, but that it would be necessary
  for me to return to Penzance, and there undergo an examination, as
  I was suspected of being a French spy. Had I not been extremely
  anxious to get on my journey, I would not have objected to this.
  I therefore proposed to submit my papers to the examination of
  the nearest Justice of Peace, who was immediately applied to and
  came to the inn where I was. He seemed to be greatly agitated, and
  quite at a loss how to proceed. The complaint preferred against me
  was, ‘That I had examined the Longships Lighthouse with the most
  minute attention, and was no less particular in my inquiries at
  the keepers of the lighthouse regarding the sunk rocks lying off
  the Land’s End, with the sets of the currents and tides along the
  coast: that I seemed particularly to regret the situation of the
  rocks called the Seven Stones, and the loss of a beacon which the
  Trinity Board had caused to be fixed upon the Wolf Rock: that I had
  taken notes of the bearings of several sunk rocks, and a drawing
  of the lighthouse and of Cape Cornwall: further, that I had refused
  the honour of Lord Edgecombe’s invitation to dinner, who happened
  to be at the Land’s End with a party of pleasure, offering as an
  apology that I had some particular business on hand, upon which I
  immediately set off for the Scilly Islands. These circumstances
  concurring with a report that a schooner had been seen off the Land
  taking soundings, it was presumed that I was connected with her,
  and had some evil intention in making these remarks.’

  “In order to clear myself of this suspicion, I laid before the
  Justice your letter directing me to make the journey, which was
  signed by Mr. Gray (Secretary to the Board), as also several
  letters he had procured for me to some of the members of the
  Trinity House, London, together with a letter from the Trinity
  House, Leith, to the Marquis of Titchfield. I produced also my
  letter of credit from Sir William Forbes and Company, and, after
  perusing these letters, the Justice of Peace very gravely observed
  that they were ‘merely bits of paper,’ and was of opinion that I
  should be kept in custody till the matter should be laid before
  Lord Edgecombe, the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, and added, that
  he would most likely order me to be _sent_ to Plymouth.

  “I no sooner heard the opinion of this gentleman than I ordered a
  chaise and immediately returned to Penzance, where I laid my papers
  before the Justices of Peace, and waited their decision with much
  anxiety. They no sooner looked them over than in the most polite
  manner they cleared me of the suspicions I laboured under, and
  left me at liberty to pursue my journey, which I did with so much
  eagerness that I gave the two coal lights upon the Lizard Point
  only a very transient look, and passed on to Plymouth.”




    Resolves to practise as a Civil Engineer--Journals--Reports--Design
        for the Bell Rock Lighthouse--Improvements on Smeaton’s
        design--Application to Parliament for Act in 1802--Act of
        Parliament passed in 1806--Works begun in 1807--Tender breaks
        adrift--Life in the floating light--Boating between the
        lightship and the rock--Anxiety for workmen--Sunday work--Life
        in the Barrack or Beacon--Visits the Eddystone in 1813 and
        1818--Sir Walter Scott’s visit to the Bell Rock.

From what has been said in the preceding chapter, it will be seen that
Mr. Stevenson, from an early period, evinced a decided liking for
general Engineering, and I find that almost simultaneously with his
appointment under the Lighthouse Board, for whose peculiar duties he
had qualified himself by a pretty large and hard-earned experience, he
resolved to prosecute the practice of Civil Engineering, in all its

I find also that coincident with this start in life, he commenced a
systematic “Journal,” beginning in 1801, of the various travels made in
the prosecution of his profession, which occupies nineteen octavo and
quarto manuscript books.

His Reports, many of them on subjects of great interest, occupy
fourteen folio manuscript volumes, and his printed reports occupy four
thick quarto volumes.

These books, together with relative plans, the number of which I fear
to mention, are the documents I had to consult in obtaining the records
of my father’s professional life. The Journals, Reports, and Plans
extend over a period of nearly fifty years, and the selection of topics
from such a mass of matter has been no easy task. But as the duty I
have undertaken is to convey to the reader a sketch of my father as
a Civil Engineer, I have been content, passing over many interesting
subjects, to select from the documents before me only so much as should
be useful in carrying out that object; and even in this I encountered
the difficulty of determining the best order in which the selections
I have made should be given. To do so according to any chronological
arrangement I find to be impossible, and having resolved to give them
not as a consecutive narrative, but in the form of detached notices, I
think it will be most appropriate that I should commence the story of
Mr. Stevenson’s professional life with his great work--the Bell Rock
Lighthouse,--which extended over a period of twelve years, commencing
with his early conception of its structure in 1799, and terminating
with its completion in 1811.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Inchcape or Bell Rock lies off the east coast of Scotland, nearly
abreast of the entrance to the Firth of Tay, at a distance of eleven
miles from Arbroath, the nearest point of the mainland. The name of
“Bell” has its origin in the legend respecting the good intention of a
pious Abbot of Aberbrothock being frustrated by the notorious pirate,
Sir Ralph the Rover, as related in Southey’s well-known lines, which I
have given in an Appendix.

Of the origin, progress, and completion of the lighthouse Mr. Stevenson
has left a lasting memorial and most interesting narrative in his
quarto volume of upwards of 500 pages, a great part of which was
written to his dictation by his only daughter, and was published in

But there are some circumstances connected with the early history
of the Bell Rock, which, while they could not properly have found
a place in his narrative, have been noticed in his Memoranda, from
which I shall transcribe a few paragraphs detailing his early efforts
and disappointments while engaged in designing and arranging for the
prosecution of that great work:--

  “All knew the difficulties of the erection of the Eddystone
  Lighthouse, and the casualties to which that edifice had been
  liable; and in comparing the two situations, it was generally
  remarked that the Eddystone was barely covered by the tide at _high
  water_, while the Bell Rock was barely uncovered at _low water_.

  “I had much to contend with in the then limited state of my
  experience; and I had in various ways to bear up against public
  opinion as well as against interested parties. I was in this state
  of things, however, greatly supported, and I would even say often
  comforted, by Mr. Clerk of Eldin, author of the System of Breaking
  the Line in Naval Tactics. Mr. Clerk took great interest in my
  models, and spoke much of them in scientific circles. He carried
  men of science and eminent strangers to the model-room which I had
  provided in Merchants Hall, of which he sometimes carried the key,
  both when I was at home and while I was abroad. He introduced me
  to Lord Webb Seymour, to Admiral Lord Duncan, and to Professors
  Robison and Playfair, and others. Mr. Clerk had been personally
  known to Smeaton, and used occasionally to speak of him to me.”

It is impossible to read this little narrative without feeling
a respect for Mr. Clerk’s hearty enthusiasm, and perceiving the
beneficial influence which a kindly disposition may produce on the
pursuits of a young man, by stimulating an honourable emulation and
discouraging a desponding spirit.

  “But at length,” the memorandum continues, “all difficulties with
  the public, as well as with the better informed few, were dispelled
  by the fatal effects of a dreadful storm from the N.E., which
  occurred in December 1799, when it was ascertained that no fewer
  than seventy sail of vessels were stranded or lost, with many of
  their crews, upon the coast of Scotland alone! Many of them, it
  was not doubted, might have found a safe asylum in the Firth of
  Forth, had there been a lighthouse upon the Bell Rock, on which,
  indeed, it was generally believed the ‘York,’ of 74 guns, with all
  hands, perished, none being left to tell the tale! The coast for
  many miles exhibited portions of that fine ship. There was now,
  therefore, but one voice,--‘There must be a lighthouse erected on
  the Bell Rock.’

  “Previous to this dreadful storm I had prepared my pillar-formed
  model, a section of which is shown in Plate VII. of the ‘Account of
  the Bell Rock Lighthouse.’ Early in the year 1800, I, for the first
  time, landed on the rock to see the application of my pillar-formed
  model to the situation for which it was designed and made.

  “On this occasion I was accompanied by my friend Mr. James Haldane,
  architect, whose pupil I had been for architectural drawing. Our
  landing was at low water of a spring-tide, when a good _space_ of
  rock was above water, and then the realities of its danger were
  amply exemplified by the numerous relics which were found in its
  crevices, such as a ship’s marking-iron, a piece of a kedge-anchor,
  and a cabin stove, a bayonet, cannon-ball, silver shoe-buckle,
  crowbars, pieces of money, and other evidences of recent shipwreck.

  “I had no sooner set foot upon the rock than I laid aside all idea
  of a pillar-formed structure, fully convinced that a building on
  similar principles with the Eddystone would be found practicable.

  “On my return from this visit to the rock, I immediately set to
  work in good earnest, with a design of a stone lighthouse, and
  modelled it. I accompanied this design with a report or memorial to
  the Lighthouse Board. The abandoned pillar-formed plan I estimated
  at £15,000, and the stone building at £42,685, 8s. But still I
  found that I had not made much impression on the Board on the score
  of expense, for they feared it would cost much more than forty or
  fifty thousand pounds.”

It was as to some of the details of this stone design that my father
asked Professor Playfair to give his opinion, and received the
following reply, which was not a little encouraging to the young
engineer attempting to improve on the design of the great Smeaton:--

“Mr. Playfair is very sorry that he has scarce had any time to look
more particularly over the plans which Mr. Stevenson has been so good
as to send him. Mr. Playfair is too little acquainted with practical
mechanics to make his opinion of much weight on such a subject as the
construction of a lighthouse. But so far as he can presume to judge,
the method of connecting the stones proposed by Mr. Stevenson is likely
to prove perfectly secure, and has the advantage of being more easily
constructed than Mr. Smeaton’s.”

“_9th August 1802._”

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lord Advocate Hope, one of the Commissioners of Northern
Lighthouses, and Member of Parliament for the city of Edinburgh, who
had interested himself much in the Bell Rock question, and often
conferred with Mr. Stevenson on his design for the work, determined
that the matter should not be allowed to rest, and introduced a Bill
into Parliament in 1802-1803 to empower the Board to carry it out.

This Bill passed the House of Commons. The Committee to which it was
referred report--“That it appears that a sufficient foundation might
be prepared on the north end of the rock, where the surface is highest
and of greatest dimensions: That artificers could work five hours at
the times of each low-water in the day-time of the summer months, and
that if the building should be made of masonry the stones to form it
might be prepared on shore, marked and numbered, and carried off to the
rock and properly placed: That as the present duties may not for a long
time enable the Commissioners to defray the expense of erecting and
maintaining a lighthouse on the Bell or Cape Rock, it will be expedient
to authorise the Commissioners to levy and take further duties for
that purpose, with power to borrow a further sum on the credit of said

At that early date there was no “standing order” of the House requiring
the promoters of a Bill to lodge plans of their proposed works, and my
father in his Memoranda says:--“The only plans in Mr. Hope’s hands were
those which, in 1800, I submitted to the Lighthouse Board.”

In the House of Lords the Bill met with opposition from the Corporation
of the City of London, as including too great a range of coast in
the collection of duties, and such alterations and amendments were
introduced in the Upper House as rendered it necessary for the Lord
Advocate to withdraw the Bill.

       *       *       *       *       *

In order to fortify Mr. Stevenson’s views as to the practicability of
building a stone tower in such a situation, which was apparently the
chief difficulty in all the early negotiations, the Board resolved
to take the advice of Mr. Telford, then employed by Government in
reporting on the Highland Roads and Bridges and the Caledonian Canal,
who, however, was unable to overtake the duty, and thereafter, on
Mr. Stevenson’s suggestion, they applied to Mr. John Rennie, Mr.
Stevenson’s senior by eleven years, who had, like himself, at the early
age of twenty-one, commenced the practice of his profession, and was
then settled in London as a civil engineer. Rennie having concurred
with Stevenson as to the practicability and expediency of adopting a
stone tower, the Lighthouse Board resolved to make another application
to Parliament.

The second application was made in 1806, in a Bill introduced by Lord
Advocate Erskine, and proceeded on the same design and estimate of
£42,685, 8s., prepared by Mr. Stevenson, in 1800; and the following is
an extract from the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons to
whom was referred the petition of the Commissioners of the Northern

“Proceeded to examine Mr. Robert Stevenson, Civil Engineer, who, in
his capacity of Engineer for the Northern Lighthouses, has erected six
lighthouses in the northern parts of the kingdom, and has made the
erection of a lighthouse on the Cape or Bell Rock more particularly his
study,--especially since the loss of about seventy sail of vessels in a
storm which happened upon the coast in the month of December 1799, by
which numerous ships were driven from their course along the shore, and
from their moorings in Yarmouth Roads, and other places of anchorage,
southward of the Firth of Forth, and wrecked upon the eastern coast of
Scotland, as referred to in the report made to this House in the month
of July 1803; the particulars of which he also confirms: That the Bell
Rock is most dangerously situated, lying in a track which is annually
navigated by no less than about 700,000 tons of shipping, besides his
Majesty’s ships of war and revenue cutters: That its place is not
easily ascertained, even by persons well acquainted with the coast,
being covered by the sea about half-flood, and the landmarks, by which
its position is ascertained, being from twelve to twenty miles distant
from the site of danger.

“That from the inquiries he made at the time the ‘York’ man-of-war was
lost, and pieces of her wreck having drifted ashore upon the opposite
and neighbouring coast, and from an attentive consideration of the
circumstances which attend the wreck of ships of such dimensions, he
thinks it probable that the ‘York’ must have struck upon the Bell
Rock, drifted off, and afterwards sunk in deep water: That he is well
acquainted with the situation of the Bell Rock, the yacht belonging
to the Lighthouse service having, on one occasion, been anchored near
it for five days, when he had an opportunity of landing upon it every
tide: That he has visited most of the lighthouses on the coast of
England, Wales, and Ireland, particularly those of the Eddystone, the
Smalls, and the Kilwarlin, or South Rock, which are built in situations
somewhat similar to the Bell Rock: That at high water there is a
greater depth on the Bell Rock than on any of these, by several feet;
and he is therefore fully of opinion, that a building of stone, upon
the principles of the Eddystone Lighthouse, is alone suitable to the
peculiar circumstances which attend this rock, and has reported his
opinion accordingly to the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses
as far back as the year 1800; and having given the subject all the
attention in his power, he has estimated the expense of erecting a
building of stone upon it at the sum of £42,685, 8s.

“Your Committee likewise examined Mr. John Rennie, Civil Engineer, who,
since the report made to this House in 1803, has visited the Bell Rock,
who confirms the particulars in said report, and entertains no doubt of
the practicability of erecting a lighthouse on that rock, is decidedly
of opinion that a stone lighthouse will be the most durable and
effectual, and indeed the only kind of building that is suited to this
situation: That he has computed the expense of such a building, and
after making every allowance for contingencies, from his own experience
of works in the sea, it appears to him that the estimate or expense
will amount to £41,843, 15s.”

This application was fortunately successful, the Act having obtained
the royal assent in July 1806, when the Commissioners at once
determined to commence the work.

Mr. Stevenson now began to feel the full stress of his responsibility.
He accordingly says in his notes:--

  “The erection of a lighthouse on a rock about twelve miles from
  land, and so low in the water that the foundation-course must be
  at least on a level with the lowest tide, was an enterprise so
  full of uncertainty and hazard that it could not fail to press on
  my mind. I felt regret that I had not had the opportunity of a
  greater range of practice to fit me for such an undertaking. But
  I was fortified by an expression of my friend Mr. Clerk, in one
  of our conversations upon its difficulties. ‘This work,’ said he,
  ‘is unique, and can be little forwarded by experience of ordinary
  masonic operations. In this case Smeaton’s Narrative must be the
  text-book, and energy and perseverance _the pratique_.’”

Mr. Rennie also, who had supported the Bill of 1806 in Parliament, and
afterwards was appointed by the Commissioners as an advising Engineer
to whom Mr. Stevenson could refer in case of emergency, and who had
suggested some alterations on Mr. Stevenson’s design of the lighthouse
in which he did not see his way to acquiesce, nevertheless continued
to take a kind interest in the work, and they continued to correspond
frequently during its progress. “Poor old fellow,” Rennie says in one
letter, alluding to the name of Smeaton, “I hope he will now and then
take a peep of us, and inspire you with fortitude and courage to brave
all difficulties and all dangers, to accomplish a work which will, if
successful, immortalise you in the annals of fame.”[3]

How well Mr. Stevenson met the demands which, in the course of his
great enterprise, were made on his perseverance, fortitude, and
self-denial, the history of the operations, and their successful
completion, abundantly show. The work was indeed, in all respects,
peculiarly suited to his tastes and habits; and Mr. Clerk
truly--although perhaps unconsciously--characterised the man, in
his terse statement of what would be required of him: “The work is
unique--ordinary experience can do little for it--all must depend on
energy and perseverance.” No one can read Mr. Stevenson’s “Account
of the Bell Rock Lighthouse” without perceiving the justness of this
estimate of the difficulties that lay before him, and his ability to
overcome them.

Though ever maintaining the highest respect for Smeaton and his noble
work, Mr. Stevenson was led, in his original design of 1800, as we
have already seen, and further in his actual execution of the Bell
Rock tower, to deviate to a considerable extent from the design of the
Eddystone. Mr. Stevenson adopted a height of one hundred feet instead
of sixty-eight for the height of the masonry, and he carried the level
of the solid part of the tower to the height of twenty-one feet above
high water, instead of eleven feet as at the Eddystone. In addition to
these deviations in the general dimensions of the tower, he increased
the thickness of the walls, and he also introduced some changes of
importance in its interior structure, whereby he secured a greater
continuity, and therefore greater strength of the masonry of the walls
and floors, which he describes in his book as follows:--

  “Each floor stone forms part of the outward walls, extending
  inwards to a centre stone, independently of which they are
  connected by means of copper bats, with a view to preserve their
  square form at the extremity, instead of dovetailing. These stones
  are also modelled with joggles, sidewise, upon the principles of
  the common floor, termed feathering in carpentry, and also with
  dovetailed joggles across the joints, where they form part of the
  outward wall.... The floors of the Eddystone Lighthouse, on the
  contrary, were constructed of an arch form, and the haunches of the
  arches bound with chains to prevent their pressing outward, to the
  injury of the walls. In this, Mr. Smeaton followed the construction
  of the Dome of St Paul’s; and this mode might also be found
  necessary at the Eddystone, from the want of stones in one length,
  to form the outward wall and floor, in the then state of the
  granite quarries of Cornwall. At Mylnefield Quarry, however, there
  was no difficulty in procuring stones of the requisite dimensions;
  and the writer foresaw many advantages that would arise from having
  the stones of the floors to form part of the outward walls, without
  introducing the system of arching.”

Smeaton in fact adopted an arched form for the floors of his building,
which rendered it necessary, in order to counteract the outward thrust,
to insert chains, embedded in grooves, cut in the masonry; but Mr.
Stevenson, in designing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, improved on Smeaton’s
plan, not only by a better general arrangement of the masonry, but
by converting the floors into effective bonds, so that, instead of
exerting an outward thrust, they actually tie or bind the walls
together. This is at once apparent from Figs. 1 and 2, which show the
floor-courses of the Eddystone and Bell Rock in section.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Eddystone.]

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Bell Rock.]

The engineer of the Bell Rock had all the advantage of Smeaton’s
earlier experience, which he ever thankfully acknowledged; but there
can be no doubt whatever that the Bell Rock presented peculiar
engineering difficulties. The Eddystone Rock is barely _covered_ by
the tide at high water, while the Bell Rock is barely _uncovered at_
LOW WATER, rendering the time of working on it, as we shall afterwards
find, extremely limited; and the proposal to erect a stone tower on
this low-lying isolated reef, at a distance of twelve miles from land,
was no less remarkable for its novelty than for its boldness.


          _PLATE I._


  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._


          _PLATE II._


  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._

Plate I. is an elevation of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, and Plate II. is
a section showing the manner in which the interior is laid out, and,
so far as the size of scale admits, the peculiar arrangements of the
masonry, to which reference has been made.

The following is a brief statement of the progress of the work:--

The spring of 1807 was occupied in preparing a floating lightship to be
moored off the rock, erecting the timber framework which was to support
the barrack to be occupied as a temporary dwelling by the workmen,
and in carrying out other preliminary arrangements. During this first
season the aggregate time of low-water work, caught by snatches of an
hour or two at a tide, amounted to no more than thirteen and a half
days’ work of ten hours each.

In 1808 the foundation-pit was excavated in the solid rock, and the
building was brought up to the level of the surrounding surface, the
aggregate time of low-water work amounting to twenty-two days of ten
hours, so that little more than a month’s work was obtained during the
first two years.

In 1809 the barrack for the workmen was completed, and the building of
the tower brought to the height of seventeen feet above high water of

In 1810 the masonry of the tower was finished and the lantern erected
in its place, and the light was exhibited on 1st February 1811. The
light is of the description known as revolving _red_ and _white_, and
hence Sir Walter Scott’s “gem of changeful light” (see page 47).

These weary years of toil and peril were also years of great
professional responsibility for the Engineer, and of constant
anxiety for the safety of his devoted band of associates, including
shipmasters, landing-masters, foremen, and workmen, in all of whom
Mr. Stevenson took a cordial and ever friendly interest, and in whom
he invariably placed implicit confidence when he found that their
several duties were faithfully discharged. To form strong attachments
to trustworthy fellow-workmen was ever a marked feature in my father’s
character, and after a lapse of nearly half a century many who joined
in his labours at the Bell Rock were still associated with him in the
business of his office, or as Inspectors of works.

His daily cheerful participation in all the toils and hazards which
were, for two seasons, endured in the floating lightship, and
afterwards in the timber house or barrack, over which the waves broke
with very great force, and caused a most alarming _twisting_ movement
of its main supports, were proofs not merely of calm and enduring
courage, but of great self-denial and enthusiastic devotion to his
calling. On some occasions his fortitude and presence of mind were most
severely tried, and well they stood the test.

The record of this great work is, as I have already said, fully given
in the “Account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse,” to which I must refer
professional readers; but as this volume is out of print, and is not
easily accessible, I shall give a few extracts from it, which I feel
sure will be read with deep interest, and convey to the reader at
least some idea of the difficulties with which this undertaking was

  “Soon after the artificers landed on the rock they commenced work;
  but the wind coming to blow hard, the Smeaton’s[4] boat and crew,
  who had brought their complement of eight men to the rock, went
  off to examine her riding-ropes, and see that they were in proper
  order. The boat had no sooner reached the vessel than she went
  adrift, carrying the boat along with her; and both had even got
  to a considerable distance before this situation of things was
  observed, every one being so intent upon his own particular duty
  that the boat had not been seen leaving the rock. As it blew hard,
  the crew, with much difficulty, set the mainsail upon the Smeaton,
  with a view to work her up to the buoy, and again lay hold of the
  moorings. By the time that she was got round to make a tack towards
  the rock, she had drifted at least three miles to leeward, with the
  praam boat astern; and having both the wind and tide against her,
  the writer perceived, with no little anxiety, that she could not
  possibly return to the rock till long after its being overflowed;
  for, owing to the anomaly of the tides, formerly noticed, the Bell
  Rock is completely under water before the ebb abates to the offing.

  “In this perilous predicament, indeed, he found himself placed
  between hope and despair; but certainly the latter was by much
  the most predominant feeling of his mind,--situate upon a sunken
  rock, in the middle of the ocean, which, in the progress of
  the flood-tide, was to be laid under water to the depth of at
  least twelve feet in a stormy sea. There were this morning in
  all thirty-two persons on the rock, with only two boats, whose
  complement, even in good weather, did not exceed twenty-four
  sitters; but to row to the floating light with so much wind,
  and in so heavy a sea, a complement of eight men for each boat
  was as much as could with propriety be attempted, so that in
  this way about one-half of our number was unprovided for. Under
  these circumstances, had the writer ventured to despatch one of
  the boats, in expectation of either working the Smeaton sooner
  up towards the rock, or in hopes of getting her boat brought to
  our assistance, this must have given an immediate alarm to the
  artificers, each of whom would have insisted upon taking to his own
  boat, and leaving the eight artificers belonging to the Smeaton
  to their chance. Of course, a scuffle might have ensued, and it
  is hard to say, in the ardour of men contending for life, where
  it might have ended. It has even been hinted to the writer that a
  party of the _pickmen_ were determined to keep exclusively to their
  own boat against all hazards.

  “The unfortunate circumstance of the Smeaton and her boat having
  drifted was, for a considerable time, only known to the writer,
  and to the landing-master, who removed to the further point of
  the rock, where he kept his eye steadily upon the progress of the
  vessel. While the artificers were at work, chiefly in sitting or
  kneeling postures, excavating the rock, or boring with the jumpers,
  and while their numerous hammers, and the sound of the smith’s
  anvil, continued, the situation of things did not appear so awful.
  In this state of suspense, with almost certain destruction at hand,
  the water began to rise upon those who were at work on the lower
  parts of the sites of the beacon and lighthouse. From the run of
  sea upon the rock, the forge-fire was also sooner extinguished
  this morning than usual, and the volumes of smoke having ceased,
  objects in every direction became visible from all parts of the
  rock. After having had about three hours’ work, the men began,
  pretty generally, to make towards their respective boats for their
  jackets and stockings, when to their astonishment, instead of
  three they found only two boats, the third being adrift with the
  Smeaton. Not a word was uttered by any one, but all appeared to
  be silently calculating their numbers, and looking to each other
  with evident marks of perplexity depicted in their countenances.
  The landing-master, conceiving that blame might be attached to him
  for allowing the boat to leave the rock, still kept at a distance.
  At this critical moment the author was standing upon an elevated
  part of Smith’s Ledge, where he endeavoured to mark the progress of
  the Smeaton, not a little surprised that the crew did not cut the
  praam adrift, which greatly retarded her way, and amazed that some
  effort was not making to bring at least the boat, and attempt our
  relief. The workmen looked steadfastly upon the writer, and turned
  occasionally towards the vessel, still far to leeward. All this
  passed in the most perfect silence, and the melancholy solemnity of
  the group made an impression never to be effaced from his mind.

  “The writer had all along been considering various
  schemes--providing the men could be kept under command--which
  might be put in practice for the general safety, in hopes that
  the Smeaton might be able to pick up the boats to leeward,
  when they were obliged to leave the rock. He was, accordingly,
  about to address the artificers on the perilous nature of their
  circumstances, and to propose that all hands should unstrip their
  upper clothing when the higher parts of the rock were laid under
  water; that the seamen should remove every unnecessary weight
  and encumbrance from the boats; that a specified number of men
  should go into each boat, and that the remainder should hang by
  the gunwales, while the boats were to be rowed gently towards the
  Smeaton, as the course to the Pharos or floating light lay rather
  to windward of the rock. But when he attempted to speak, his mouth
  was so parched that his tongue refused utterance, and he now
  learned by experience that the saliva is as necessary as the tongue
  itself for speech. He then turned to one of the pools on the rock
  and lapped a little water, which produced an immediate relief.
  But what was his happiness when, on rising from this unpleasant
  beverage, some one called out ‘A boat! a boat!’ and on looking
  around, at no great distance, a large boat was seen through the
  haze making towards the rock. This at once enlivened and rejoiced
  every heart. The timeous visitor proved to be James Spink, the Bell
  Rock pilot, who had come express from Arbroath with letters. Spink
  had for some time seen the Smeaton, and had even supposed, from the
  state of the weather, that all hands were on board of her, till
  he approached more nearly and observed people upon the rock. Upon
  this fortunate change of circumstances sixteen of the artificers
  were sent at two trips in one of the boats, with instructions for
  Spink to proceed with them to the floating light.[5] This being
  accomplished, the remaining sixteen followed in the two boats
  belonging to the service of the rock. Every one felt the most
  perfect happiness at leaving the Bell Rock this morning, though a
  very hard and even dangerous passage to the floating light still
  awaited us, as the wind by this time had increased to a pretty
  hard gale, accompanied with a considerable swell of sea. The boats
  left the rock about nine, but did not reach the vessel till twelve
  o’clock noon, after a most disagreeable and fatiguing passage of
  three hours. Every one was as completely drenched in water as if he
  had been dragged astern of the boats.”

After this accident difficulty was experienced in getting the men to
turn out next morning, as related in the following extract:--

  “The bell rung this morning at five o’clock, but the writer must
  acknowledge, from the circumstances of yesterday, that its sound
  was extremely unwelcome. This appears also to have been the feeling
  of the artificers, for when they came to be mustered, out of
  twenty-six, only eight, besides the foreman and seamen, appeared
  upon deck, to accompany the writer to the rock. Such are the
  baneful effects of anything like misfortune or accident connected
  with a work of this description. The use of argument to persuade
  the men to embark, in cases of this kind, would have been out of
  place, as it is not only discomfort, or even the risk of the loss
  of a limb, but life itself, that becomes the question. The boats,
  notwithstanding the thinness of our ranks, left the vessel at
  half-past five. The rough weather of yesterday having proved but
  a summer’s gale, the wind came to-day in gentle breezes, yet the
  atmosphere being cloudy, it had not a very favourable appearance.
  The boats reached the rock at six A.M., and the eight artificers
  who landed were employed in clearing out the bat-holes for the
  beacon-house, and had a prosperous tide of four hours’ work, being
  the longest yet experienced by half an hour.

  “The boats left the rock again at ten o’clock, and the weather
  having cleared up, as we drew near the vessel, the eighteen
  artificers who remained on board were observed upon deck, but as
  the boats approached they sought their way below, being quite
  ashamed of their conduct. This was the only instance of refusal
  to go to the rock which occurred during the whole progress of the

The state of suffering and discomfort, as well as danger, on board the
floating light, which lay moored off the rock during the first two
seasons of the work, before the timber beacon was used as a habitation,
is described, in the following passage, which presents a striking
illustration of the continual anxiety that must have existed in the
minds of those engaged in the work, and of the frequent calls for
energetic and courageous exertion:--

  “Although the weather would have admitted of a landing this
  evening, yet the swell of the sea, observable in the morning, still
  continued to increase. It was so far fortunate that a landing was
  not attempted, for at eight o’clock the wind shifted to E.S.E.,
  and at ten it had become a hard gale, when fifty fathoms of the
  floating-light’s hempen cable were veered out. The gale still
  increasing, the ship rolled and laboured excessively, and at
  midnight eighty fathoms of cable were veered out; while the sea
  continued to strike the vessel with a degree of force which had not
  before been experienced.

  “During the last night there was little rest on board of the
  Pharos, and daylight, though anxiously wished for, brought no
  relief, as the gale continued with unabated violence. The sea
  struck so hard upon the vessel’s bows that it rose in great
  quantities, or in ‘green seas’ as the sailors termed it, which
  were carried by the wind as far aft as the quarter-deck, and
  not unfrequently over the stern of the ship altogether. It fell
  occasionally so heavily on the skylight of the writer’s cabin,
  though so far aft as to be within five feet of the helm, that the
  glass was broken to pieces before the dead-light could be got into
  its place, so that the water poured down in great quantities. In
  shutting out the water, the admission of light was prevented, and
  in the morning all continued in the most comfortless state of
  darkness. About ten o’clock A.M. the wind shifted to N.E., and
  blew, if possible, harder than before, and it was accompanied by a
  much heavier swell of sea; when it was judged advisable to give the
  ship more cable. In the course of the gale the part of the cable
  in the hause-hole had been so often shifted that nearly the whole
  length of one of her hempen cables, of 120 fathoms, had been veered
  out besides the chain-moorings. The cable, for its preservation,
  was also carefully “served” or wattled with pieces of canvas round
  the windlass, and with leather well greased in the hause-hole.
  In this state things remained during the whole day,--every sea
  which struck the vessel--and the seas followed each other in close
  succession--causing her to shake, and all on board occasionally
  to tremble. At each of these strokes of the sea the rolling and
  pitching of the vessel ceased for a time, and her motion was felt
  as if she had either broke adrift before the wind, or were in the
  act of sinking; but when another sea came, she ranged up against
  it with great force, and this became the regular intimation of our
  being still riding at anchor.

  “About eleven o’clock, the writer, with some difficulty, got out
  of bed, but, in attempting to dress, he was thrown twice upon the
  floor, at the opposite side of the cabin. In an undressed state
  he made shift to get about half-way up the companion-stairs, with
  an intention to observe the state of the sea and of the ship upon
  deck, but he no sooner looked over the companion than a heavy sea
  struck the vessel, which fell on the quarter-deck, and rushed
  down-stairs into the officer’s cabin, in so considerable a quantity
  that it was found necessary to lift one of the scuttles in the
  floor to let the water into the limbers of the ship, as it dashed
  from side to side in such a manner as to run into the lower tier
  of beds. Having been foiled in this attempt, and being completely
  wetted, he again got below and went to bed. In this state of the
  weather the seamen had to move about the necessary or indispensable
  duties of the ship, with the most cautious use both of hands
  and feet, while it required all the art of the landsman to keep
  within the precincts of his bed. The writer even found himself so
  much tossed about that it became necessary, in some measure, to
  shut himself in bed, in order to avoid being thrown to the floor.
  Indeed, such was the motion of the ship, that it seemed wholly
  impracticable to remain in any other than a lying posture. On deck
  the most stormy aspect presented itself, while below all was wet
  and comfortless.

  “About two o’clock P.M. a great alarm was given throughout the
  ship, from the effects of a very heavy sea which struck her, and
  almost filled the waist, pouring down into the berths below,
  through every chink and crevice of the hatches and skylights. From
  the motion of the vessel being thus suddenly deadened or checked,
  and from the flowing in of the water above, it is believed there
  was not an individual on board who did not think, at the moment,
  that the vessel had foundered and was in the act of sinking. The
  writer could withstand this no longer, and as soon as she again
  began to range to the sea, he determined to make another effort to
  get upon deck.

  “It being impossible to open any of the hatches in the fore part
  of the ship in communicating with the deck, the watch was changed
  by passing through the several berths to the companion-stair
  leading to the quarter-deck. The writer, therefore, made the best
  of his way aft, and on a second attempt to look out, he succeeded,
  and saw indeed an astonishing sight. The seas or waves appeared
  to be ten or fifteen feet in height of unbroken water, and every
  approaching billow seemed as if it would overwhelm our vessel,
  but she continued to rise upon the waves, and to fall between the
  seas in a very wonderful manner. It seemed to be only those seas
  which caught her in the act of rising which struck her with so much
  violence, and threw such quantities of water aft. On deck there was
  only one solitary individual looking out, to give the alarm in the
  event of the ship breaking from her moorings. The seaman on watch
  continued only two hours; he had no greatcoat nor overall of any
  kind, but was simply dressed in his ordinary jacket and trousers;
  his hat was tied under his chin with a napkin, and he stood aft the
  foremast, to which he had lashed himself with a gasket or small
  rope round his waist, to prevent his falling upon deck or being
  washed overboard. Upon deck everything that was moveable was out
  of sight, having either been stowed below previous to the gale, or
  been washed overboard. Some trifling parts of the quarter-boards
  were damaged by the breach of the sea, and one of the boats upon
  deck was about one-third full of water, the oyle-hole or drain
  having been accidentally stopped up, and part of the gunwale had
  received considerable injury. Although the previous night had been
  a very restless one, it had not the effect of inducing sleep in
  the writer’s berth on the succeeding one; for having been so much
  tossed about in bed during the last thirty hours, he found no easy
  spot to turn to, and his body was all sore to the touch, which ill
  accorded with the unyielding materials with which his bed-place was

  “This morning about eight o’clock the writer was agreeably
  surprised to see the scuttle of his cabin skylight removed, and the
  bright rays of the sun admitted. Although the ship continued to
  roll excessively, and the sea was still running very high, yet the
  ordinary business on board seemed to be going forward on deck. It
  was impossible to steady a telescope so as to look minutely at the
  progress of the waves, and trace their breach upon the Bell Rock,
  but the height to which the cross-running waves rose in sprays,
  when they met each other, was truly grand, and the continued roar
  and noise of the sea was very perceptible to the ear. To estimate
  the height of the sprays at forty or fifty feet would surely be
  within the mark. Those of the workmen who were not much afflicted
  with sea-sickness came upon deck, and the wetness below being dried
  up, the cabins were again brought into a habitable state. Every
  one seemed to meet as if after a long absence, congratulating his
  neighbour upon the return of good weather. Little could be said as
  to the comfort of the vessel; but after riding out such a gale,
  no one felt the least doubt or hesitation as to the safety and
  good condition of her moorings. The master and mate were extremely
  anxious, however, to heave in the hempen cable, and see the state
  of the clinch or iron ring of the chain cable. But the vessel
  rolled at such a rate that the seamen could not possibly keep their
  feet at the windlass, nor work the handspokes, though it had been
  several times attempted since the gale took off.

  “About twelve noon, however, the vessel’s motion was observed to
  be considerably less, and the sailors were enabled to walk upon
  deck with some degree of freedom. But to the astonishment of every
  one it was soon discovered that the floating light was adrift!
  The windlass was instantly manned, and the men soon gave out that
  there was no strain upon the cable. The mizzen-sail, which was bent
  for the occasional purpose of making the vessel ride more easily
  to the tide, was immediately set, and the other sails were also
  hoisted in a short time, when, in no small consternation, we bore
  away about one mile to the south-westward of the former station,
  and there let go the best bower-anchor and cable, in twenty fathoms
  water, to ride until the swell of the sea should fall, when it
  might be practicable to grapple for the moorings, and find a better
  anchorage for the ship.

  “As soon as the deck could be cleared the cable end was hove up,
  which had parted at the distance of about fifty fathoms from
  the chain moorings. On examining the cable, it was found to be
  considerably chafed, but where the separation took place, it
  appeared to be worn through, or cut shortly off. How to account for
  this would be difficult, as the ground, though rough and gravelly,
  did not, after much sounding, appear to contain any irregular
  parts. It was therefore conjectured that the cable must have hooked
  some piece of wreck, as it did not appear from the state of the
  wind and tide that the vessel could have _fouled_ her anchor when
  she veered round with the wind, which had shifted in the course of
  the night from N.E. to N.N.W.

  “Be this as it may, it was a circumstance quite out of the power of
  man to prevent, as, until the ship drifted, it was found impossible
  to heave up the cable. But what ought to have been the feeling
  of thankfulness to that Providence which regulates and appoints
  the lot of man, when it is considered that if this accident had
  happened during the storm, or in the night after the wind had
  shifted, the floating light must inevitably have gone ashore upon
  the Bell Rock. In short, it is hardly possible to conceive any case
  more awfully distressing than our situation would have been, or
  one more disastrous to the important undertaking in which we were

The distance at which the floating light was moored from the rock was
about three miles, and the passage of the men to and from their work,
and boarding the vessel in rough weather, was a source of great anxiety
and danger, and is described in the following paragraphs:--

  “When the tide-bell rung on board the floating light, the boats
  were hoisted out, and two active seamen were employed to keep them
  from receiving damage alongside. The floating light being very
  buoyant, was so quick in her motions, that when those who were
  about to step from her gunwale into a boat, placed themselves upon
  a “cleat” or step on the ship’s side with the man or rail-ropes in
  their hands, they had often to wait for some time till a favourable
  opportunity occurred for stepping into the boat. While in this
  situation, with the vessel rolling from side to side, watching the
  proper time for letting go the man-ropes, it required the greatest
  dexterity and presence of mind to leap into the boat. One who was
  rather awkward would often wait a considerable period in this
  position: at one time his side of the ship would be so depressed
  that he would touch the boat to which he belonged, while the next
  sea would elevate him so much that he would see his comrades in
  the boat on the opposite side of the ship, his friends in the one
  boat calling to him to ‘jump,’ while those in the boat on the
  other side, as he came again and again into their view, would
  jocosely say--‘Are you there yet? You seem to enjoy a swing.’ In
  this situation it was common to see a person upon each side of the
  ship for a length of time, waiting to quit his hold. A stranger to
  this sort of motion was both alarmed for the safety, and delighted
  with the agility, of persons leaping into the boat under those
  perilous circumstances. No sooner had one quitted his station on
  the gunwale than another occupied his place, until the whole were
  safely shipped.”

On their return trips from the rock to the floating light, the men had
a no less hazardous and trying ordeal to undergo, for Mr. Stevenson
records the following as an example of the risks to which they were

  “Just as we were about to leave the rock, the wind shifted to the
  S.W., and from a fresh gale it became what seamen term a hard
  gale, or such as would have required the fisherman to take in two
  or three reefs in his sail. The boats being rather in a crowded
  state for this sort of weather, they were pulled with difficulty
  towards the floating light. Though the boats were handsomely built,
  and presented little obstruction to the wind, as those who were
  not pulling sat low, yet having the ebb-tide to contend with the
  passage was so very tedious that it required two hours of hard work
  before we reached the vessel.

  “It is a curious fact, that the respective tides of ebb and flood
  are apparent upon the shore about an hour and a half sooner than
  at the distance of three or four miles in the offing. But what
  seems chiefly interesting here is, that the tides around this small
  sunken rock should follow exactly the same laws as on the extensive
  shores of the mainland. When the boats left the Bell Rock to-day,
  it was overflowed by the flood-tide, but the floating light did not
  swing round to the flood-tide for more than an hour afterwards.
  Under this disadvantage the boats had to struggle with the
  ebb-tide and a hard gale of wind, so that it was with the greatest
  difficulty they reached the floating light. Had this gale happened
  in spring-tides, when the current was strong, we must have been
  driven to sea in a very helpless condition.

  “The boat which the writer steered was considerably behind the
  other, one of the masons having unluckily broken his oar. Our
  prospect of getting on board, of course, became doubtful, and our
  situation was rather perilous, as the boat shipped so much sea that
  it occupied two of the artificers to bale and clear her of water.
  When the oar gave way we were about half-a-mile from the ship, but,
  being fortunately to windward, we got into the wake of the floating
  light at about 250 fathoms astern, just as the landing-master’s
  boat reached the vessel. He immediately _streamed_ or floated a
  life-buoy astern, with a line which was in readiness, and by means
  of this useful implement, the boat was towed alongside of the
  floating light, where, from the rolling motion, it required no
  small management to get safely on board, as the men were much worn
  out with their exertions in pulling from the rock. On the present
  occasion, the crews of both boats were completely drenched with
  spray, and those who sat upon the bottom of the boats to bale them
  were sometimes pretty deep in the water, before it could be cleared
  out. After getting on board, all hands were allowed an extra dram,
  and having shifted, and got a warm and comfortable dinner, the
  affair, it is believed, was little more thought of.”

An interesting incident, showing the constant anxiety of the chief for
his men, is given in the following passage:--

  “The boats left the ship at a quarter before six this morning,
  and landed upon the rock at seven. The water had gone off the
  rock sooner than was expected, for as yet the seamen were but
  imperfectly acquainted with its periodic appearance, and the
  landing-master being rather late with his signal this morning,
  the artificers were enabled to proceed to work without a moment’s
  delay. The boat which the writer steered happened to be the last
  which approached the rock at this tide; and, in standing up in the
  stern, while at some distance, to see how the leading boat entered
  the creek, he was astonished to observe something in the form of a
  human figure in a reclining posture upon one of the ledges of the
  rock. He immediately steered the boat through a narrow entrance to
  the eastern harbour, with a thousand unpleasant sensations in his
  mind. He thought a vessel or boat must have been wrecked upon the
  rock during the night; and it seemed probable that the rock might
  be strewed with dead bodies--a spectacle which could not fail to
  deter the artificers from returning so freely to their work. Even
  one individual found in this situation would naturally cast a damp
  upon their minds, and, at all events, make them much more timid
  in their future operations. In the midst of those reveries, the
  boat took the ground at an improper landing-place; but, without
  waiting to push her off, he leapt upon the rock, and making his way
  hastily to the spot which had privately given him alarm, he had the
  satisfaction to ascertain that he had only been deceived by the
  peculiar situation and aspect of the smith’s anvil and block, which
  very completely represented the appearance of a lifeless body upon
  the rock. The writer carefully suppressed his feelings, the simple
  mention of which might have had a bad effect upon the artificers,
  and his haste passed for an anxiety to examine the apparatus of the
  smith’s forge, left in an unfinished state at the evening tide.”

In the following words Mr. Stevenson explains his resolution to regard
the operations at the Bell Rock as a work of mercy, and to continue
them, when weather permitted, throughout all the seven days of the

  “To some it may require an apology, or at least call for an
  explanation, why the writer took upon himself to step aside from
  the established rules of society by carrying on the works of this
  undertaking during Sundays. Such practices are not uncommon in
  the dockyards and arsenals, when it is conceived that the public
  service requires extraordinary exertions. Surely if, under any
  circumstances, it is allowable to go about the ordinary labours of
  mankind on Sundays, that of the erection of a lighthouse upon the
  Bell Rock seems to be one of the most pressing calls which could
  in any case occur, and carries along with it the imperious language
  of necessity. When we take into consideration that, in its effects,
  this work was to operate in a direct manner for the safety of many
  valuable lives and much property, the beautiful and simple parables
  of the Holy Scriptures, inculcating works of necessity and mercy,
  must present themselves to every mind unbiassed by the trammels of
  form or the influence of a distorted imagination. In this perilous
  work, to give up every seventh day would just have been to protract
  the time a seventh part. Now, as it was generally supposed, after
  taking all advantages into view, that the work would probably
  require seven years for its execution, such an arrangement must
  have extended the operation to at least eight years, and have
  exposed it to additional risk and danger in all its stages. The
  writer, therefore, felt little scruple in continuing the Bell Rock
  works in all favourable states of the weather.”

He however conducted a regular Sunday service, as noticed in the
following paragraph:--

  “Having, on the previous evening, arranged matters with the
  landing-master as to the business of the day, the signal was
  rung for all hands at half-past seven this morning. In the early
  state of the spring-tides, the artificers went to the rock before
  breakfast, but as the tides fell later in the day, it became
  necessary to take this meal before leaving the ship. At eight
  o’clock all hands were assembled on the quarter-deck for prayers,
  a solemnity which was gone through in as orderly a manner as
  circumstances would admit. Round the quarter-deck, when the weather
  permitted, the flags of the ship were hung up as an awning or
  screen, forming the quarter-deck into a distinct compartment with
  colours; the pendant was also hoisted at the main-mast, and a large
  ensign flag was displayed over the stern; and, lastly, the ship’s
  companion, or top of the staircase, was covered with the _flag
  proper_ of the Lighthouse Service, on which the Bible was laid. A
  particular toll of the bell called all hands to the quarter-deck,
  when the writer read a chapter of the Bible, and, the whole
  ship’s company being uncovered, he also read the impressive prayer
  composed by the Reverend Dr. Brunton, one of the ministers of

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--The Beacon or Barrack.]

So soon as a barrack of timber-work could be erected on the rock as a
substitute for the floating light, it was inhabited by Mr. Stevenson
and twenty-eight men. This barrack was a singular habitation, perched
on a strong framework of timber, carefully designed with a view to
strength, and no less carefully put together in its place, and fixed
to the rock with every appliance necessary to secure stability. The
tide rose sixteen feet on it in calm weather, and in heavy seas it was
exposed to the assault of every wave. Of the perils and discomforts of
such a habitation the following passages give a lively picture:--

  “This scene” (the sublime appearance of the waves) “he greatly
  enjoyed while sitting at his window. Each wave approached the
  Beacon like a vast scroll unfolding, and in passing discharged a
  quantity of air which he not only distinctly felt, but was even
  sufficient to lift the leaves of a book which lay before him....

  “The gale continues with unabated violence to-day, and the sprays
  rise to a still greater height, having been carried over the
  masonry of the building, or about 90 feet above the level of the
  sea. At four o’clock this morning it was breaking into the cook’s
  berth (on the Beacon), when he rang the alarm-bell, and all hands
  turned out to attend to their personal safety. The floor of the
  smith’s or mortar gallery was now completely burst up by the
  force of the sea, when the whole of the deals and the remaining
  articles upon the floor were swept away, such as the cast-iron
  mortar-tubs, the iron hearth of the forge, the smith’s bellows, and
  even his anvil, were thrown down upon the rock. The boarding of the
  cook-house, or story above the smith’s gallery, was also partly
  carried away, and the brick and plaster work of the fireplace
  shaken and loosened. It was observed during this gale that the
  Beacon-house had a good deal of tremor, but none of that ‘twisting
  motion’ occasionally felt and complained of before the additional
  wooden struts were set up for the security of the principal beams;
  but this effect had more especially disappeared ever since the
  attachment of the great horizontal iron bars in connection with
  these supports. Before the tide rose to its full height to-day,
  some of the artificers passed along the bridge into the lighthouse,
  to observe the effects of the sea upon it, and they reported that
  they had felt a slight tremulous motion in the building when great
  seas struck it in a certain direction about high-water mark. On
  this occasion the sprays were again observed to wet the balcony,
  and even to come over the parapet wall into the interior of the
  light-room. In this state of the weather, Captain Wilson and the
  crew of the ‘Floating Light’ were much alarmed for the safety of
  the artificers upon the rock, especially when they observed with a
  telescope that the floor of the smith’s gallery had been carried
  away, and that the triangular cast-iron sheer-crane was broken
  down. It was quite impossible, however, to do anything for their
  relief until the gale should take off....

  “The writer’s cabin measured not more than 4 feet 3 inches in
  breadth on the floor; and though, from the oblique direction of the
  beams of the Beacon, it widened towards the top, yet it did not
  admit of the full extension of his arms when he stood on the floor;
  while its length was little more than sufficient for suspending a
  cot-bed during the night, calculated for being triced up to the
  roof during the day, which left free room for the admission of
  occasional visitants. His folding-table was attached with hinges
  immediately under the small window of the apartment; and his books,
  barometer, thermometer, portmanteau, and two or three camp-stools,
  formed the bulk of his moveables. His diet being plain, the
  paraphernalia of the table were proportionally simple; though
  everything had the appearance of comfort, and even of neatness, the
  walls being covered with green cloth, formed into panels with red
  tape, and his bed festooned with curtains of yellow cotton stuff.
  If, on speculating on the abstract wants of man, in such a state of
  exclusion, one were reduced to a single book, the sacred volume,
  whether considered for the striking diversity of its story, the
  morality of its doctrine, or the important truths of its Gospel,
  would have proved by far the greatest treasure.”

The Barrack was not removed immediately on the completion of the tower,
and on Mr. Stevenson’s first visit to the rock after the light had
been established, it was with feelings of emotion that he viewed his
old quarters. His Journal says--“I went up the trap and entered my own
cabin with mingled thoughts of reflection upon the many anxious hours
I had spent within the narrow precincts of its little walls, and here
offered up thanks to God for the happy termination of this work.”

Mr. Stevenson’s merit as Engineer of the Bell Rock Lighthouse does
not rest in his bold conception of, and confident unshaken belief in,
the possibility of executing a tower of masonry on that submerged reef,
or even in his personal courage and discretion in carrying out so
difficult a work, in the face of so many dangers, when he had neither
“steamboat” nor “steam-crane” to call to his aid. But his mechanical
skill in all the arrangements of the work was pre-eminent in bringing
his labours to a successful issue. Not only did he conceive the plan
of the moveable _jib_ and _balance cranes_, described in a subsequent
chapter--which he applied with much advantage in the erection of the
tower, and the former of which is now in universal use,--but his
inventive skill, ever alive to the possibility of improving on the
conceptions of his great master, Smeaton, led him to introduce all
those advantageous changes in the arrangements of the masonry of the
tower, which have been already described, as distinguishing it from the

The Commissioners entertained a high sense of Stevenson’s services at
the Bell Rock Lighthouse; and, as many of them took a deep interest in
the execution of that remarkable work, and paid occasional visits to
it during its progress, they were well able to appreciate the ability
and zeal with which he devoted himself to this arduous task, and they
resolved, at a meeting held in the lighthouse itself--“That a bust of
Mr. Robert Stevenson be obtained, and placed in the library of the
Bell Rock Lighthouse, in testimony of the sense entertained by the
Commissioners of his distinguished talent and indefatigable zeal in the
erection of that lighthouse.” A beautiful bust in marble, by Samuel
Joseph, from which the frontispiece has been engraved, was accordingly
placed in what is called the library, being the upper apartment of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Stevenson’s interest in the Eddystone did not cease on the
completion of his own work. We know that he paid at least two visits
to the Eddystone after the completion of the Bell Rock. One of those
visits was made in September 1813, when, by the courtesy of the Trinity
House, he was accommodated with the use of the ‘Eddystone’ tender, and,
though the weather was not very favourable, succeeded in landing on the
rock and making a hasty inspection of the far-famed lighthouse.

Mr. Stevenson’s last visit was made in 1818, on a voyage in the
Northern Lighthouse tender, on which occasion he was favoured with a
smooth sea and a low tide, and enabled to make a thorough inspection
of the rock. It is important and interesting to record that this
examination strongly impressed him with the _ultimate_ insecurity of
the structure, as appears from the following almost prophetic extract
from his Journal:--

  “The house seems to be in a very good state of repair, and does
  not appear to have sustained any injury by the lapse of time. The
  joints are full of cement, and the stone exhibits little appearance
  of decay, being granite or syenite. The rock itself upon a narrow
  inspection seems to be gneiss. The rock is shaken all through, and
  dips at a very considerable angle, perhaps one in three, towards
  the south-west; and being undermined on the north-east side for
  several feet, it must be confessed that it has rather an alarming
  appearance. I am not, however, of opinion that it has altered
  its state perhaps since the date of the erection of the tower.
  Since my last visit in 1813 I am not sensible of any change
  upon it. On the north-east side, however, at what is called the
  ‘Gut’ landing-place, where the men sheltered themselves from the
  fire of Rudyerd’s Lighthouse, but especially at low-water mark of
  spring-tides, there is a hollowing of the rock which penetrates
  at least to the circumference of the base of the lighthouse. I
  therefore conclude that when the sea runs high there is danger of
  this house being _upset_, after a lapse of time, when the sea and
  shingle have wrought away the rock to a greater extent. Nothing
  preserves this highly important building but the hardness of the
  rock and the dip of the strata, but for how long a period this may
  remain no one can pretend to say.”


          _PLATE III._


That period has at length arrived, and the Trinity House, under the
advice of Mr. Douglass, their Engineer, have resolved that Smeaton’s
Eddystone--the engineer’s long cherished object of veneration--must
be renewed, and henceforth Stevenson’s Bell Rock must be held as the
earliest existing type of a class of bold and skilful works--still few
in number--which, by converting a dark sunken danger into a source of
light and safety, have saved many a ship, and cheered the heart of many
a tempest-tossed sailor, as happily expressed in Sir Walter Scott’s
impromptu “Pharos loquitur,” written in the Album of the Lighthouse,
when he landed with a deputation of the Commissioners in 1814.

   “Far in the bosom of the deep
    O’er these wild shelves my watch I keep,
    A ruddy gem of changeful light,
    Bound on the dusky brow of night;
    The seaman bids my lustre hail,
    And scorns to strike his timorous sail.”




    Early modes of illumination--Facet reflectors and lamps--Silvered
        copper reflectors and Argand lamps--Isle of May coal
        light--Improvements in catoptric lights--Distinctions
        for lighthouses invented by Mr. Stevenson, viz.,
        flashing, intermittent, and double lights--Floating light
        lantern--Lighting of stage of Covent Garden Theatre--Dioptric
        system of lighthouse illumination.

Seeing that, for reasons stated in the last chapter, I was led to give
up the idea of attempting to follow any chronological sequence in this
Memoir, it may perhaps be convenient, before speaking of my father’s
general practice as a Civil Engineer, that I should supplement the
sketch I have given of the Bell Rock Lighthouse by some account of the
other important duties he performed as Engineer to the Commissioners of
Northern Lighthouses--an office which, as we have seen, he held for so
long a period.

The lighthouse towers of the last century, though useful as beacons by
day, were after all most imperfect guides by night. Indeed, the rude
expedients adopted at that early period to give light to the sailor
in a dark and moonless sky, present a very curious contrast to the
modern system of lighthouse illumination--the result of careful study
by modern philosophers and engineers. If proof of this be wanted,
we have only to refer to the twenty-four miserable candles, unaided
by reflectors or any other optical contrivance, which shed their dim
and uncertain light from Smeaton’s famous Eddystone for nearly half a
century after it was built.

But indeed at that early time all lights had not even the advantage of
the glazed lantern which protected the candles of the Eddystone from
the winter’s blast and summer’s breeze; the grand Tour de Cordouan on
the coast of France was then lighted by blazing fagots of wood burned
in an open chauffer, and many of the early lighthouses were open coal

When Mr. Smith, however, was appointed Engineer to the Scotch
Lighthouse Board, he, as has been already said, came forward as the
advocate of lamps aided by reflectors, a system which he introduced
at Kinnaird Head in 1787; so that the Lighthouse Board of Scotland
never employed any less perfect mode of illumination. These early
reflectors, which had been in use in England, consisted of small pieces
or facets of common mirror glass arranged in a hollow mould and fixed
in their places by plaster of Paris; but soon afterwards the facets of
mirror glass, though forming good instruments for their day, and of
their kind, were discarded, and the reflectors were thereafter made of
copper, plated with silver, and brightly polished.

I am not in a position to say when or by whom these metallic reflectors
were first introduced, or what was their exact form, the question being
invested in some degree of doubt; but it was to the perfecting of these
optical instruments and adapting them to practical use in a lighthouse
that Mr. Stevenson’s attention was early directed. Thus we find him in
1805 reporting as follows:--

  “The operations at the Start Point were this season begun upon
  Monday the 27th of May, and the lighthouse was finished upon
  Saturday the 17th October and the light advertised to be lighted
  upon the night of Wednesday the 1st of January 1806. Some nights
  before I left Sanday I had the light set in motion, when the effect
  appeared to be most excellent; indeed, it must be equal to the
  Scilly or Cromer lights, and superior to the revolving light at
  Tinmouth: at the former there are twenty-one reflectors, and at the
  latter there are fifteen, whereas at the Start Point Lighthouse
  I only use seven reflectors, but by altering the motion of the
  machinery and construction of the revolving part, I produce the
  desired effect.”

And again in 1806:--

  “I was late in the season for making all the observations I could
  have wished upon the Start Point and North Ronaldsay lights, and
  was not very well appointed in a vessel for keeping the sea in
  bad weather. I however made a cruise for this purpose, and stood
  towards the Fair Isle in a heavy gale of wind, with an intention
  to run for Shetland, but the wind shifted, and I stretched towards
  Copinshaw, at the distance of about ten or twelve miles to the
  westward of Orkney, with both lights in view. The second night
  I went through North Ronaldsay Firth to have a west view of the
  lights. I put about off Westra, and stood northward with both
  lights in view, when it came to blow with great violence from the
  s.w., and it was with much difficulty we could regain the coast.
  Although on this trip I had rather bad weather, with a heavy swell
  of sea, yet it was very answerable for my purpose, and I was upon
  the whole much pleased with the appearance of the new light; but
  I find, when at the distance of ten or twelve miles, with the sea
  running high, the light is seen for rather too short a period, so
  that it would be proper to place other seven reflectors upon the
  frame at an angle of about 40° to the present reflectors, in the
  event of removing North Ronaldsay light.”

I find from his correspondence that my father consulted Sir John
Leslie, the distinguished Professor of Natural Philosophy, and
Alexander Adie, the well-known optician, as to the best mode of
procuring a true parabolic form for the construction of his reflectors,
and having introduced a simple means of withdrawing the lamp from
the reflector, his new catoptric apparatus may be said to have been

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

The Bell Rock was the first lighthouse that was illuminated by Mr.
Stevenson’s improved apparatus (shown in section in Fig. 4), where _a_
is the fountain for the oil, _b_ the burner, and the directions of the
incident and reflected rays are represented by dotted lines. In Fig. 5
the reflector is shown in elevation; the lamp is represented as lowered
down from the reflector, which is effected by a sliding arrangement
controlled by a guide,--the object being to allow the lamp to be
removed while the reflector is being polished, and to insure its being
returned to its exact position in the true focus of the reflector.
Perhaps the most valuable opinion that can be quoted as to the utility
of this arrangement is that of Mr. Airy, the Astronomer-Royal, who,
after the apparatus had been in use fifty years, and after having
inspected the lighthouses both of Britain and France, says--“This
lighthouse” (Girdleness, in Aberdeenshire) “contains two systems of
lights. The lower, at about two-fifths of the height of the building,
consists of thirteen parabolic reflectors of the usual form. I remarked
in these, that by a simple construction, which I have not seen
elsewhere, great facility is given for the withdrawal and safe return
of the lamps, for adjusting the lamps, and for cleaning the mirrors;”
and in closing his report he adds, “It is the best lighthouse that I
have seen.”[6]

Notwithstanding the introduction of this improved apparatus at the Bell
Rock in 1811, a coal-fire, which had existed for the long period of 181
years on the Isle of May, at the entrance to the Firth of Forth, still
continued, in 1816, to send forth its feeble and misleading light, and
as it was one of the best specimens of the lighthouses of days now
passed away, it may not be uninteresting to give a short account of it.

The May light was at that period what is called a “private light”--the
right of levying dues on shipping being vested in the Duke of Portland,
who was owner of the island. There were many private lights in
England, but the Isle of May was the only one that still remained in
Scotland, and the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, believing it
to be advantageous that so important a light should be placed under
public management, so as to secure for the shipping a better light,
and exemption from the high passing tolls charged by the proprietor,
entered into treaty with the Duke of Portland for the purchase of his
rights. This negotiation resulted in the introduction of a Bill into
Parliament in 1814, authorising the purchase of the Isle of May, with
the right of levying toll, for the sum of £60,000.

So soon as the property came into the hands of the Commissioners they
erected a new lighthouse, and on the 1st of February 1816 the old coal
chauffer was discontinued, and a light from oil with reflectors was
exhibited in its stead. I am enabled from an old plan in my possession
to present the reader with two sketches of the original chauffer light
of the Isle of May.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

Fig. 6 is an elevation of the building, with the tackle for raising
the fuel to the top, and its inscription stone over the door bearing
the date 1635. Fig. 7 shows the building in section, with its stone
winding staircase and vaulted chambers, the whole structure apparently
being so designed as to be perfectly proof against fire--a precaution
very necessary for a building dedicated to such a purpose, for it is
recorded that no fewer than 400 tons of coal were annually consumed in
the open chauffer on its top.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

It was, as I have said, one of the best coal-fires in the kingdom,
and three men were employed to keep the bonfire burning, so that its
inefficiency as a light was not due to any want of outlay in its
support. But its appearance was ever varying, now shooting up in high
flames, again enveloped in dense smoke, and never well seen when most
required. When Mr. Stevenson visited the island, with a view to its
purchase by the Commissioners, he was told by the keeper, that in
violent gales the fire only kindled on the _leeward_ side, and that he
was in the habit of putting his hand through the _windward_ bars of
the chauffer to steady himself while he supplied the fire with coals,
so that in the direction in which it was most wanted hardly any light
was visible. Nothing can be worse than any variableness or uncertainty
in the appearance of a light. Better far not to exhibit it at all than
to show it irregularly; and the coal lights were so changeable and
destitute of characteristic appearance as to be positively dangerous.
This indeed was too sadly proved by the loss of H. M. ships ‘Nymphen’
and ‘Pallas,’ which on the 19th December 1810 were wrecked near Dunbar,
the light of a limekiln, on the coast of Haddington, having been
mistaken for the coal light of the Isle of May. Fortunately only nine
of their combined crews of 600 men perished; but the vessels, valued at
not less than £100,000, became total wrecks.

During the long period he held the office as Engineer to the Board, Mr.
Stevenson designed and executed eighteen lighthouses in the district
of the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners, many of them in situations
which called for much forethought and great energy. All his lighthouse
works were characterised by sagacity and inventiveness, and exhibit
successive stages of improvement, equally indicative of the growing
prosperity of the Board and of the alacrity and zeal with which their
Engineer laboured in his vocation. Whether we consider the accuracy and
beauty of the catoptric apparatus, the arrangements of the buildings,
or the discipline observed by the lightkeepers of the Northern
Lighthouses, we cannot fail to recognise the impress of that energetic
and comprehensive cast of mind which directed the whole. Acting under
the direction of an enlightened Board of Commissioners, my father may,
with the strictest propriety, be said to have created the lighthouse
system of Scotland. His merits indeed in this respect were generally
acknowledged in other quarters; and many of the Irish lighthouses, and
several lighthouses in our colonies, were fitted up with apparatus
prepared after his designs.

In the course of his labours my father’s attention was much given to
the question of _distinction_ among lights--a matter of the utmost
importance, especially in narrow seas, where many lights are required;
and at his suggestion, the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners fitted up
a temporary light-tower on Inchkeith, in which numerous experiments
having this object in view were made.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.

FIG. 9.]

He was the inventor of two useful distinctions--the _Intermittent_
and _Flashing_ lights. In the intermittent distinction the light is
suddenly obscured by the closing of metallic shades which surround the
reflector frame, and on their opening, it is as suddenly revealed to
sight, in a manner which completely distinguishes it from the ordinary
revolving light, which from darkness, _gradually_ increases in power
till it reaches its brightest phase, and then gradually declines until
it is again obscured; the action of these shades in producing the
intermittent effect is illustrated in Figs. 8 and 9. The _Flashing_
light, by a peculiar arrangement of reflectors, and a rapid revolution
of the frame which carries them, is made to give a sudden flash of
great power, once in five seconds of time, and thus has a distinctive
appearance very different from either the revolving or intermittent
light. For these distinctions Mr. Stevenson received from the King of
the Netherlands a gold medal as a mark of his Majesty’s approbation.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

Mr. Stevenson also, in 1810, gave a design for a double light at the
Isle of May, as shown in Fig. 10, in which all lighthouse engineers
will see the embryo of the double light of the present day.

I must not omit to notice his improvement on the lanterns of floating
lightships, now universally adopted, which he introduced in 1807.
Previously to this date the lightships exhibited their lights from
small lanterns suspended from the yardarms or frames. Mr. Stevenson
realised the inutility of such a mode of exhibition, and conceived the
idea of forming a lantern to surround the mast of the vessel, and to
be capable of being lowered down to the deck to be trimmed, and raised
when required to be exhibited. His plan had the advantage of giving a
lantern of much greater size, because it encased the mast of the ship,
and with this increase of size it enabled larger and more perfect
apparatus to be introduced, as well as gearing for working a revolving
light. Fig. 11 shows this lantern, and the following is his description
of it:--

  “The lanterns were so constructed as to clasp round the masts and
  traverse upon them. This was effected by constructing them with
  a tube of copper in the centre, capable of receiving the mast,
  through which it passed. The lanterns were first completely formed,
  and fitted with brass flanges; they were then cut longitudinally
  asunder, which conveniently admitted of their being screwed
  together on the masts after the vessel was fully equipped and
  moored at her station. Letters _a a_ show part of one of the
  masts, _b_ one of the tackle-hooks for raising and lowering the
  lanterns, _c c_ the brass flanges with their screw-bolts, by which
  the body or case of the lantern was ultimately put together. There
  were holes in the bottom and also at the top connected with the
  ventilation: the collar-pieces _e_ and _g_ form guards against
  the effects of the weather. The letter _h_ shows the front of the
  lantern, which was glazed with plate-glass; _i_ is one of the glass
  shutters by which the lamps were trimmed, the lower half being
  raised slides into a groove made for its reception; _k_ shows
  the range of ten agitable burners or lamps out of which the oil
  cannot be spilt by the rolling motion of the ship. Each lamp had a
  silvered copper reflector _l_ placed behind the flame.”

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

The reputation of my father’s catoptric apparatus was not, it appears,
confined to those interested in the welfare of the seaman. In 1819,
Mr. Stevenson was waited on by a gentleman passing hurriedly through
Edinburgh, who came on behalf of Mr. Harris, the manager of Covent
Garden Theatre, who was desirous to try catoptric apparatus for certain
stage effects which he intended to introduce in London. The proposal
seems rather to have taken the Lighthouse Engineer by surprise, but on
learning that the gentleman who had favoured him with a call was Mr.
Benson, the famous singer of the day, he wrote the following letter to
Mr. Harris:--

  “I had some conversation with Mr. Benson of your theatre on the day
  he proposed to leave this for London. The purpose of his visit to
  me was to inquire about the reflectors we used in the lighthouses
  upon this coast, which are under my direction, as he had some plan
  in view for dispensing with the _footlights_ on the stage by the
  introduction of reflected light.

  “Being desirous to give every facility to Mr. Benson’s views,
  I offered him the loan of a reflector, which I showed him; but
  from his being on the eve of setting off, and wishing to keep the
  discovery, if practicable, for your theatre, I agreed to send it
  to you at Covent Garden, and this letter is to acquaint you that a
  case containing the reflector and its burner was shipped to your

  “You are to understand that there is no charge whatever to be made;
  I only request that the reflector may be returned when you have
  made your trials. I no sooner learned that I conversed with the
  gentleman who sings so delightfully in ‘Rob Roy’ than I felt an
  irresistible inclination to oblige him.

  “Wishing you every success in the projected improvement in lighting
  the stage, I remain,” etc.

The reflector was duly returned by Mr. Harris. The note intimating its
shipment says--“It is an excellent reflector, but it collects the light
too much in one spot for our use; I mean, it does not spread the light
sufficiently about.”

I mention this small matter, not so much because the manager of Covent
Garden Theatre came to Edinburgh to get his information, but to show
that Mr. Harris’s experiment, made in 1819, foretold the result of all
trials that have since been made to light railway stations, public
gardens, and parks, by using lighthouse apparatus, which is designed
to _condense_ the rays of light, and not to _diffuse_ them, and is
therefore inapplicable for such purposes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The remarks I have made on lighthouse illumination refer to what
is known as the _catoptric_ system, whereby the light is acted on
by _reflection_ alone. The invention of the _dioptric_, system by
Fresnel was first communicated to Mr. Stevenson in a letter received
from Colonel Colby of the Royal Engineers, who had an opportunity of
knowing the benefit of Fresnel’s dioptric light in making certain
trigonometrical observations for connecting the Government surveys of
the shores of England and France across the English Channel. The letter
is in the following terms:--

            “TOWER, _1st Nov. 1821_.

“MY DEAR SIR,--I am quite ashamed of having delayed answering your
letter, and thanking you for the communications you sent me for so long
a time. In regard to the lamps, an account will be given of them in the
_Annales de Chimie_ for the next month. The lens is composed of pieces
of glass forming a circle three feet in diameter, ground to three feet
focal length. The lamp is similar to an Argand lamp, having hardly any
other difference, except four concentric circular wicks instead of
one. The external wick is about three inches in diameter. The light
given by the lens is remarkably brilliant. When we were at Folkestone
Hill, the lamp at Blancnez appeared to give about four times the light
of the Dungeness Lighthouse, though the distance of the lamp was nearly
double that of the lighthouse. The only difficulty which occurs to me
in their employment in lighthouses is the small angle to which a single
lens gives light. I think one lens is brilliant for seven degrees, and
could not answer for more than eight or nine degrees.

“The Cordouan Lighthouse is to be fitted up with ten lenses round one

“With best wishes to Mrs. S. and your family, ever yours,

            “THOS. COLBY.”

The merits of the dioptric system of illumination were brought before
the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses in Mr. Stevenson’s Report of
December 1821, and, as is well known, it has, with various extensions
and important improvements, been very generally adopted in all cases
where it is applicable to lighthouse illumination.




    Early roads and road-making--Edgeworth and M’Adam’s systems of
        roads--Stevenson’s system of roads--Cast-iron and stone tracks.

Writing at an early date, Mr. Stevenson has given the following sketch
of Roads and Road-making:--

  “In early periods, when every family formed a kind of community
  within itself for providing the necessaries of life, it is obvious
  that there could be little communication with distant parts of the
  country, and there was, therefore, no use for roads, which, long
  after the establishment of towns, must have continued in the state
  of _footpaths_ and _horse-tracks_. The bulky articles of fuel and
  building materials are likely to have given rise to the first idea
  of a sledge, the precursor of the wheel-carriage, which ultimately
  led to the construction of anything like a regular path. The first
  roads of Britain appear to have been the Military Ways of the
  Romans. Some remains of these are still to be seen in various parts
  of the kingdom, and even in the immediate vicinity of the city of
  Edinburgh. It is, however, quite astonishing how slow the progress
  of improvement in road-making seems to have been, and especially
  its adaptation to economical purposes; although all classes must
  have felt an equal interest in the formation of roads, as both the
  landed proprietor and the citizen were to be mutually benefited
  by thus laying open the country. But it requires the accumulated
  wealth of ages to produce improvements so expensive. It is long
  before the mind can be brought to approve of any radical change of
  habit, however advantageous; and the scale adopted in the first
  instance is often so circumscribed, that the whole measure requires
  to be extended and even to be changed a second, and perhaps a third
  time, in keeping pace with the public demands for improvement.

  “It is well known, that even so late as about the middle of the
  last century, almost the whole land carriage of Scotland, and a
  great part of England, was conducted upon horseback, the animals
  employed being termed _pack-horses_. To the horse-tracks thus
  produced, and which in the first instance were _formed_ without
  regard to steep acclivities, are to be ascribed the evils which
  we now labour under, as attendant on the laying out of our roads
  for the modern improvement of wheel-carriages. Nor was it till
  after much practice and the application of scientific principles,
  long after the introduction of carriages, that we were induced
  to improve the line of draught and adopt level tracks of road,
  although perhaps more circuitous.

  “In Great Britain the road department, after much experience,
  is now brought into a system by which the highways are made
  and upheld by dues directly levied on those who travel or use
  them,--excepting, indeed, such roads as are situated in very
  remote parts of the country, where the Government, with the most
  enlightened policy, has either executed the works directly by the
  troops upon the _peace establishment_, as in the case of General
  Wade’s army, or given aid towards the original formation of
  extensive lines of road, for opening the more remote districts of
  the country. There is, perhaps, no better criterion for judging of
  the prosperity of a country than by its public improvements; and
  were this subject considered in all its bearings, we should hardly
  be able to quote any stronger evidence of internal riches and true
  greatness, than we find connected with the subject of its public
  roads. It appears from a very general or cursory calculation,
  which the reporter has made, that the highways of Great Britain
  and Ireland, independently of the almost innumerable parish and
  private roads, extend to about 25,000 miles. The expense of these,
  including bridges, etc., on a very moderate calculation, may be
  stated throughout the kingdom at the rate of £800 per mile, which
  is equal to no less than the aggregate sum of twenty millions
  sterling. Now, to what branch of political economy can we look with
  more certainty and propriety than to such splendid examples of the
  substantial wealth and resources of a country? for until a kingdom
  is traversed and laid open by roads, its government must be weak,
  and its people remain in a state of comparative poverty.

  “But in so extensive a concern as the system of roads, involving
  so great an expense, we may naturally look for small beginnings
  and very gradual advancement. Accordingly, we find in the first
  formation of highways, before their utility could be fully
  understood or experience had shown the benefits of science in the
  practice of the engineer, the early road-maker only increased the
  breadth of the horse-track, and strewed it over with gravel from
  the neighbouring brook. Indeed, we know that so late as the year
  1542, even the streets of London were formed in this way; and it
  is said to be established by the records of Parliament, that when
  the new system of road-making was first proposed to be extended
  beyond the region of a few miles from that metropolis, such was
  the mistaken policy and narrow-minded views of the immediate
  proprietors, that the measure was strenuously opposed by those who
  wished to make a monopoly of the supplies for the metropolis, as
  detrimental to the established order of things.”

The names of Richard Edgeworth, F.R.S., and John M’Adam, are well known
in connection with roads--Mr. Edgeworth writing in 1813, Mr. M’Adam in
1816. Both men had, it appears, given attention to the subject before
the end of the last century. Mr. Edgeworth says:--“I have visited
England, and have found, on a journey of many hundred miles, scarcely
twenty miles of well-made road. In many parts of the country, and
especially near London, the roads are in a shameful condition, and the
pavement of London is utterly unworthy of a great metropolis.”

Mr. M’Adam had been much struck by the entire want of system that
existed in the management of roads at that early period, and strongly
urged the necessity of a reform in road _management_ as a pre-requisite
to road _improvement_. He urged the laying out of the roads of the
country into separate districts, with the appointment of road trustees
to manage them--the appointment of chief and assistant road-surveyors
to superintend them--and a new system of accounting and finance,--all
under statutory regulations; and it cannot be doubted that in all
this Mr. M’Adam did good service, which was recognised in 1823 by
Parliament voting a sum of money to him for having introduced a system
of “repairing, making, and managing turnpike roads and highways, from
which the public have derived most important and valuable advantages.”

It appears to me, however, that all that is said in Mr. M’Adam’s first
edition of his book on road-making, in 1816, is of so general and vague
a nature that he cannot have known of Mr. Stevenson’s work at an early
part of the century.

From Mr. Stevenson’s reports it appears that he was much employed in
road-engineering in the counties of Edinburgh, Stirling, Linlithgow,
Perth, and, indeed, generally throughout Scotland, extending as far
north as Orkney and Shetland; and without raising any claim to priority
of design, I give the following extracts from reports made by him in
1812 and 1813, after he must have had at least several years’ previous
study and practice of road-making, which I think clearly show that
Mr. Stevenson, if not the _original_, was at least an _independent_
inventor of the system of road-making which is termed “macadamising.”

In a report to “The Honourable the Committee of the Trustees for the
Highways and Roads within the county of Edinburgh,” dated 1812, he

  “It may not, however, be considered altogether out of place to
  notice that the pieces of stone composing the road-metal in common
  use are perhaps one-half, and in some instances two-thirds, larger
  than is suitable for the best condition of a road. Road-metal of a
  small size consolidates by the pressure of weighty carriages, when
  stones of the size _commonly used_ are either pounded under the
  wheel or forced into the road. It would therefore be desirable, as
  an experiment upon the large scale, to lay one of the most public
  roads in the county to the extent of one fourth of a mile with
  stones broken much smaller than is _customary_.

  “In some instances, especially within a few miles of Edinburgh,
  it might be worthy of consideration by the Honourable Trustees
  of this county how far _cast-iron cart-tracks_ might not be
  advantageously laid upon the roads. Some years since the reporter
  got two or three yards’ length of these iron tracks brought from
  the Shotts ironworks, where they have been used for years with much
  advantage, and, it is believed, with economy. These cart-tracks
  would cost about £2000 per statute mile, including upholding by the
  iron-founder for one year. It would be interesting to have also a
  trial made of these in some very public road, although it were only
  to the extent of two or three hundred yards.”

Again, in a report to “The Honourable the Trustees for the Bridge of
Marykirk,” also in 1812, he says:--

  “In the annexed specification of road-makers’ work, the reporter
  makes some alterations upon the _common_ and _ordinary_ method of
  breaking and laying road materials, by reducing the road-metal
  to a more uniform size, and using a course of gravel, if it can
  be procured, or even of clean sharp sand, as a bottoming for the
  broken stones. A road composed of stones of various sizes can never
  be brought into that smooth and uniform surface, which is so much
  to be desired, for the moment the pressure is brought upon one of
  these _out-sized_ stones, it must either be crushed under the wheel
  or be forced by repeated attacks into the road, and thereby it
  displaces the surrounding stones, and in either case admission is
  given to the surface-water; a pit is immediately formed, and every
  succeeding wheel widens the breach, until the road is rendered
  impassable. To counteract this very common effect, arising chiefly
  from the very vague manner of defining the dimensions of road-metal
  by bulk or even by weight, the reporter provides that the Trustees
  shall furnish a riddle or screen, the meshes or openings of which
  are to be of such dimensions that a stone measuring more than one
  inch and a half upon any of its sides cannot pass through it.”

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--Section of one half of Roadway.]

Mr. Stevenson’s specification of the Regent Road in Edinburgh is
fuller, and is in the following terms:--

  “The cross section (shown in Fig. 12) of the metalled road to
  be the same in all respects as that already described for the
  causewayed roadway. But the cross section is to rise from the
  interior _brows_ or slopes of the paved channels to the centre of
  the roadway, at the rate of 1 in 25. The bottoming of the road is
  to be of broken stones from the excavated matters of the Calton
  Hill works; the pieces of stone not to exceed five or six lbs.
  in weight; to be laid _by hand_ in a compact manner to the depth
  necessary for preparing the road for the upper strata, viz., a
  layer or stratum of clean sharp sand four inches in thickness, laid
  all over the surface, and forming a bed for the upper or road-metal
  stratum, which is to be seven inches in thickness, and to consist
  of broken stones taken from the quarries of Salisbury Crags, or
  the lands of Heriot’s Hospital, as may be finally agreed upon. The
  road-metal is to be broken into pieces of such dimensions as to
  pass freely through a screen, to be provided by the Commissioners,
  the meshes of which shall not exceed one inch and a half square.
  The whole to be finished with a ‘top-dressing’ of sea-gravel, in
  such a manner that none of the road-metal shall appear on the
  surface of the roadway when it is completed.”

These extracts, so far as I have been able to discover, contain the
earliest proposals and precise specification of the construction of
road now known by the familiar name of “macadamising,” and I dismiss
the subject with the following candid quotation from Mr. Stevenson’s
Memoranda, in which he says:--

  “It may be well to notice that in 1811 I specified road materials
  of the size as nearly as may be of road-metal, which _afterwards_
  became what is called ‘macadamised roads.’ I am not sure if I was
  before Mr. M’Adam in this respect; at all events he had the great
  merit of introducing the system of smooth roads. When I first
  proposed this method, I think, to the Trustees of Marykirk, they
  objected to it upon the score of expense.”

As regards the iron cart-tracks suggested for trial by Mr. Stevenson
in his report to the Edinburgh Road Trustees, already quoted, he
subsequently matured his views and described them in the article
“Roads” in the _Edinburgh Encyclopædia_, where he proposed to use stone
tracks as a “smooth and durable city road,” which he describes as

  “The individual component stones of the wheel-tracks, hitherto,
  very partially in use, extend from three to four feet in length,
  are about ten or twelve inches in breadth, and eight or ten
  inches in depth. The stones of the tracks recommended by me, on
  the other hand, are of a cubical form, measuring only from six to
  eight inches in the lengthway of the track, and twelve to fourteen
  inches in depth, eighteen inches in breadth at the base, and
  twelve inches at the top or wheel-track. The stones are therefore
  proportionate in all their dimensions, for unless they contain a
  mass of matter corresponding to their length, they will be found to
  want strength and stability. It would hardly be possible to keep
  slender stone-rails in their places, and hence the chief benefit of
  a connected railway would be lost. On the other hand, very large
  materials are difficult to be got, and are also more expensive in
  carriage and in workmanship than stones of a smaller size. The
  Italian wheel-tracks are composed of stones two feet in breadth,
  and of various lengths. To lessen the risk of horses falling,
  these broad stones are kept in a rough state, by occasionally
  cutting grooves with a pick-axe upon their upper surface. A mode
  of paving with large blocks of granite, chequered or cut in this
  manner, has been tried in some of the streets in London. In order,
  however, to give pavement of this kind the necessary stability,
  the blocks would require to have their dimensions equally large on
  all sides, the expense of which would be too great. But cubical
  stones of the size now recommended may be procured at a moderate
  price, and throughout a great range of country; while the tracks,
  if properly laid, will actually be more stable than if blocks
  of larger dimensions were employed. For we may notice that a
  carriage-wheel rests or impinges even upon a less surface than
  one inch of its track at a time, in the course of each revolution
  round its axis; hence, it may be conceived to produce a kind of
  compensating effect, connected with the use of small stones, which
  prevents the tremor from being communicated beyond the limited
  sphere of each particular block, and, consequently, extending only
  a few inches. This system of paving I originally proposed for the
  main street of Linlithgow, forming part of the great western road
  from Edinburgh to Stirlingshire, and a correct idea of the proposal
  will at once be acquired by examining Fig. 13. By using tracks of
  this description--giving the stones a proportionally broad bed, and
  laying them upon a firm foundation (which is indispensable)--we
  should have our streets and the acclivities of our highways
  rendered smooth and durable, avoiding the expense and inconvenience
  of the common road, and also the irksome noise and jolting motion
  of the causeway.

  “The tracks may be formed of granite, whinstone, or any of the hard
  varieties of rock capable of being hammer-dressed.”

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Section for Road Metal. Section for Causeway.]

Specimens of these stone tracks were laid in Edinburgh, in terms of
Mr. Stevenson’s specification, on South Bridge Street opposite to the
College, and in the Pleasance, and a third specimen was laid by the
Road Trustees on Liberton Hill, which still remains after a lapse of
half a century.

Subsequently to this Mr. Walker laid similar tramways in the Commercial
Road, London, and as is well known, they have been pretty largely used
in the principal towns in Italy.

For a “city road,” as Mr. Stevenson termed it, the system he proposed
has certain advantages, inasmuch as carriages with any form of wheel
may use it, and this freedom of use admits of any amount of traffic
being accommodated, carriages having the freedom of passing from the
stone track to any part of the road. The introduction of iron “street
tramways” may, however, be said, for the present, to have taken the
place of all other plans for improving city passenger traffic.




    Design for approaches to Edinburgh from the East by Regent and
        London Roads, and opening up access to the Calton Hill--Sites
        for the new Jail and Court of Justiciary, and buildings in
        Waterloo Place--Regent Bridge--Feuing Plan for Eastern District
        of Edinburgh--Improvement of accesses to Edinburgh from the
        West and North, and from Granton--Removal of old “Tolbooth”
        Prison--Removal of University buildings.

Ancient Edinburgh was famed for its narrow streets and crooked wynds,
and even at the period when this Memoir begins, much remained to be
done for the improvement of the various accesses to the city. These
roads, leading from north, south, east, and west, were under the
management of different Trusts or public bodies, by all of whom Mr.
Stevenson was on various occasions consulted; and the subject seems
to have had for him more than a merely professional interest, for
his advice was generally far “ahead” of the cautious views of his
employers, on whom he seems often to have had no small difficulty in
urging the adoption of sufficiently comprehensive designs. His love
for the beautiful rose above all other feelings, and he succeeded, not
without difficulty and perseverance, in securing for Edinburgh those
spacious road improvements which have undoubtedly helped her to claim
the title of “Modern Athens.”

The “Modern Athenians” who now enjoy the magnificent approach to
Edinburgh by the Regent Road and Calton Hill, or that no less
commodious access from Parson’s Green to Leith Walk, known as the
“London Road,” can hardly realise the time when the only communication
from Princes Street to Portobello was by Leith Street, Calton Street,
and the North Back of the Canongate.

At that time Princes Street was abruptly terminated by a row of houses
at the Register Office, and the Calton Hill was in a state of nature.

Mr. Stevenson’s scheme of forming a direct access to London and the
south, by making a roadway over the Calton Hill, was based on a
comprehensive scale, providing sites for public buildings, and an
extensive feuing-plan for the eastern portion of Edinburgh, all of
which were ultimately carried out under his directions.

But this scheme, boldly conceived and so beneficial to Edinburgh,
was not well received by the inhabitants. It had the _economical_
objection of interfering to some extent with house property, a liberty
to which people were only reconciled in modern times when sites had to
be acquired for railway stations. It had the _engineering_ objection
of involving what were represented in those days as dangerous rock
cuttings and extensive high retaining walls along the sides of the
Calton Hill; but above all, it had the serious _social_ objection that
its route ran through the “Old Calton Burying-ground,” and involved the
removal of the remains of those interred in it to a new resting-place,
to be provided by the Improvement Commissioners. This last objection
subjected Mr. Stevenson to some ill feeling; and the fact that the
place of interment of his own family was one of those to be removed
to the new cemetery, did not succeed in allaying the discontent. It
was undoubtedly in consequence of Mr. Stevenson’s perseverance and
unfaltering conviction that his advice was _sound_, and calculated to
benefit his fellow-citizens, that his plan was ultimately adopted and
carried out.

It is proper to notice that the new jail and the buildings in Waterloo
Place were designed by Mr. Archibald Elliot, and at a more recent
period the houses in the Regent and Royal Terraces by Mr. Playfair,
and the High School and Burns’s Monument by Mr. Thomas Hamilton, all
architects of eminence, whose works added to the attractiveness of Mr.
Stevenson’s splendid access.

In carrying the road round the part of the hill now occupied by the
High School, Mr. Stevenson had some difficulty, owing to the height
of the retaining wall, in avoiding what would have appeared as a dead
wall, and would have proved unsightly as viewed from Arthur’s Seat. He
accordingly built a strong retaining wall of masonry, which supports
the road, and is covered by an exterior wall of rough masses of stone
arranged as rustic work, which, when viewed at a distance, has all the
appearance of a face of natural rock.

In Lord Cockburn’s _Memorials of his Time_ he says:--“Scarcely any
sacrifice could be too great that removed the houses from the end of
Princes Street, and made a level road to the hill, or, in other words,
produced Waterloo Bridge. The effect was like drawing up the curtain of
a theatre.”


          _PLATE IV._


  _J. Bartholomew Bain._

In Plate IV. are traced, in red colour, the various lines of connecting
road which go to make up this grand improvement, of the value of which
those who know the locality can judge for themselves.

In the following report, addressed to the “Sheriff-Depute of the county
of Edinburgh, as convener of a committee for erecting a new jail for
the county of Edinburgh,” Mr. Stevenson details the various benefits to
be derived by adopting his proposal; and as his views on this matter
encountered, as has been stated, much opposition, I give extracts from
his report, begging of those readers who have no local interest in it
kindly to pass it over:--

  “In the report which you addressed to the Commissioners for
  erecting a new jail for the county of Edinburgh, the Calton Hill
  is amongst other places alluded to as a site. But the difficulty
  of access to that commanding and healthful situation presents
  itself as a strong objection to its being adopted. As, however,
  an approach to the city from the eastward, with access to the
  extensive lands connected with the Calton Hill, valuable both as
  building grounds and as a delightful city walk, has long been a
  _desideratum_, and as the present seemed a fit time for again
  attempting this measure, the reporter had the honour to receive
  your instructions to inquire into the practicability of making a
  proper communication to the Calton Hill, with the view of there
  building the intended new jail; and he is now to submit the
  accompanying survey of the grounds, together with the requisite
  plans and sections connected with the design of a road from
  Shakespeare Square, at the eastern extremity of Princes Street, to
  join the great road to London at the Abbeyhill.

  “The Hon. Sheriff is aware that the attainment of this object
  has long been wishfully kept in view by the public. It is
  believed that at different times such proposals were by them
  brought under the notice of Mr. Adam and of Mr. Baxter, the most
  celebrated architects of their day. But still the work remains
  to be accomplished, not certainly from any physical difficulty
  necessarily attending its execution, but from the want of
  sufficient energy to meet the expense that must unavoidably attend
  an operation of this nature, involving the removal of some valuable
  buildings, and otherwise interfering with private property. Were
  the reporter to have in view merely the forming of an improved
  approach to the city of Edinburgh from the eastward, instead of the
  present inconvenient access by the Water Gate, he might here allude
  to the intended London Road through the lands of Hillside to Leith
  Walk, or to the once proposed line of road terminating by a bridge
  from the northern side of the Calton Hill to Greenside, opposite
  York Place, and the completion of this fine street by the removal
  of the old and ruinous houses which still continue to encumber
  its entrance; or he might take notice of the less commodious road
  at one time in view over the higher parts of the Calton Hill, and
  joining the lower part of Leith Street by means of an arch over
  Calton Street. But all of these lines of road are _objectionable_,
  in a greater or less degree, inasmuch as they include the acclivity
  of Leith Street before the passenger can arrive at the level of
  the North Bridge. To obtain this in the most eligible manner, we
  must look to the extension of the line of Princes Street to the
  Calton Hill, for although the other lines of road have been looked
  forward to as improvements to a certain extent, yet still they were
  defective, and must have left something undone, while the extension
  of Princes Street by a bridge over Calton Street, and a road to the
  Abbeyhill, seems to answer every purpose. It unfortunately happens,
  however, that if carried in a direct line it must pass through the
  Calton Burying-ground; and if this part of the road were made with
  a curve, the most desirable effect in point of beauty would not
  be produced. There was a time indeed when, without encroachment
  upon the burying-ground, the road could have been made with a curve
  to the southward of Hume the historian’s tomb; but of late years
  the walls of the burying-ground have been extended to the verge
  of precipitous rocks, so that the removal of numerous private
  cemeteries would now be indispensable in carrying the road at
  an elevation sufficient to command the proper view. If a lower
  level were adopted in this direction, the fine prospects of the
  higher road would be lost, and this line would then become quite
  uninteresting, while a heavy expense must be incurred in carrying
  the road through much private property, considerations which are
  sufficient to render this line highly objectionable.

  “But the road which would afford the easiest line of draught is
  that which the reporter has delineated upon the plan by a curved
  line towards the left from the eastern extremity of the new bridge,
  crossing the present road to the Calton Hill, winding round the
  northern side of the hill and joining the intended ‘London Road’
  through the lands of Hillside near the eastern road to Leith. By
  this line of road the level of Princes Street may be conceived to
  become the summit level of the road, which would admit of being
  made with a uniform declivity from Shakespeare Square to the
  Abbeyhill, while the acclivity to Bridewell by the present road
  might be greatly reduced, and the road improved in connection with
  the new line of road. In the present instance, however, it is
  not to the easiest line of draught as an approach to the city of
  Edinburgh that the Sheriff directs the attention of the reporter,
  but to a better access to the higher lands of Calton Hill, with
  a view to obtain a proper site for the new jail, and therefore
  only an eye view of the northern line of road is given. Yet when
  a communication is opened with the Calton Hill by a bridge from
  Princes Street, we may expect at some future day to see one
  continuous street or drive round the hill. Before proceeding
  further, a preliminary remark may here be stated, and in making
  it the reporter thinks it proper to say that no one can hold the
  great professional abilities of Mr. Adam in higher estimation than
  he does; at any rate he is certain that it could not fall to the
  lot of any individual who would feel more compunction in proposing
  an alteration even upon an outward wall of a work executed under
  his directions. But such is the inconvenience and even danger to
  passengers attending the projection of the south-eastern angle
  of the parapet wall in front of the Register Office, that in the
  progress of these improvements the reporter would humbly propose,
  for the greater accommodation and comfort of the public, that
  this fine piece of masonry should undergo a small alteration, as
  represented in dotted lines upon the plan, in order to widen the
  street and improve the great thoroughfare to the port of Leith.

  “_Description of Line of Road recommended._

  “In reference to the accompanying survey and plan, it will be
  proper to describe it more particularly. The first step towards
  forming the proposed new approach to the Calton Hill will be the
  removal of the houses which presently shut up the eastern extremity
  of Princes Street, and the other property in its direction
  eastward. The approach will then be made up to the proper level
  by a bridge extending in length about 362 feet from Shakespeare
  Square over Calton Street, towards the western extremity of the
  Calton Burying-ground, through which it will pass. Thence, passing
  in front of Bridewell, or between it and Nelson’s Monument, it is
  continued along the southern side of the Calton Hill to the line of
  wall of division between the property of the city of Edinburgh and
  the lands of Heriot’s Hospital. At this position the road begins to
  skirt along the southern side of the rising grounds in the parks of
  Heriot’s Hospital, and crossing the eastern road to Leith it passes
  behind the houses of Abbeyhill, and ultimately joins the great road
  to London.

  “The line of road just described has been laid out with gradients
  varying from 1 in 39 to 1 in 22. The more to the eastward the new
  line of road is carried before it joins the present London road,
  the more gradual and gentle the acclivity becomes. To improve this
  line of road still further by cutting deeper into the rock at the
  summit would not only create a great additional expense, but would
  place the road in a hollow, and shut out these characteristic views
  of the city which are the chief inducements to the new line of road.

  “In determining the line of direction for the street from
  Shakespeare Square to Bridewell, it seems desirable that it
  should run in a straight line. The only objection to this is
  its interference with the Calton Burying-ground. In making any
  encroachments upon a place of burial, there is no doubt something
  very repugnant to the feelings, but in many cases this has been
  found necessary for public improvements, of which we have an
  example in the improved access from the bottom of Leith Walk to
  Bernard Street, where the road was carried through part of the
  churchyard of South Leith, and so in other parts of the country.
  The reporter has been at much pains in endeavouring to avoid the
  burying-ground, by attempting to turn the road more or less towards
  the left in going eastward, and by this means taking only a part
  from the northern side of that ground. But were the burying-ground
  to be encroached upon at all, and this cannot well be prevented,
  it seems less objectionable to carry the road in a straight line
  through it, especially as it may be found practicable to give an
  equal quantity of ground immediately contiguous to the present
  burying-ground without materially trenching upon any plan that
  may be in view for the erection of the prison; and as there will
  be a considerable depth of cutting in carrying the road through
  the burying-ground, the surface terring of the different places
  of interment may be removed to the new grounds with due care and
  becoming solemnity.

  “The reporter gives a preference to this line, because it seems
  best suited to the peculiar situation of the ground, being
  calculated to show to much advantage the rugged rocks on which
  Nelson’s Monument is erected, which beautifully terminates the
  view in looking eastward; and in entering the town from the
  opposite directions, it exhibits at one view, from a somewhat
  elevated situation, the striking and extensive line of Princes
  Street. Now the reporter is humbly of opinion that to attain
  these objects, this line of road should be carried straight from
  Shakespeare Square to the eastern side of the burying-ground, after
  which it may be made to suit the position and nature of the ground
  in all its windings, as delineated upon the survey.

  “As this road is not only to be the great approach from the
  eastward, but likewise to become the chief thoroughfare to the
  extensive lands of Heriot’s and Trinity Hospitals, and to the
  lands of the other conterminous proprietors, henceforth likely
  to become the principal building grounds for this great city,
  which is always increasing towards its port of Leith, it becomes
  desirable for these purposes, and particularly to preserve the
  interesting view of the Calton Hill, that this road should not
  be less than seventy-five feet in breadth, or similar to Princes
  Street, exclusively of the sunk areas, which is certainly adequate
  to all the ordinary purposes of utility, intercourse, and elegance.
  There is, however, one way of viewing the width of this part of
  the road or street, by which it may appear to be too narrow even
  at seventy-five feet, and that is by comparing it with the width
  of Princes Street, which, including the sunken areas, measures
  ninety-five feet in breadth. Princes Street, however, comes more
  properly under the description of a row or terrace, and the
  principal footpath being on the north side of the street, it may
  consequently be apprehended that unless the new street were of an
  equal width, a spectator looking from the north side of the new
  street towards the line of Princes Street would command but an
  imperfect view of it. This to a considerable extent would be the
  state of the case even at seventy-five feet of breadth, and were
  the street reduced to sixty feet in breadth, as has been proposed,
  the view of the higher parts of the Calton Hill would be hid from
  the pavement on Princes Street. But the narrowing of the street
  even to sixty feet in width, with two elegant buildings in the form
  of pavilions or wings to the bridge, would have an effect similar
  to what is strikingly observable in looking from the western end
  of George Street towards the Excise Office. Examples of narrowing
  streets are not uncommon, as Great Pulteney Street in Bath, and
  Blackfriars and Westminster Bridge Streets in London. The reporter,
  however, confesses that he is not induced to consider sixty feet,
  or even seventy-five feet, as the most desirable breadth for the
  new bridge from any views of elegance; with him the reduction of
  the width of the street is proposed rather from motives of economy
  to insure the success of a great measure, than from choice in
  making the design. In this situation a bridge of ninety-five feet,
  or equal to the extreme breadth of Princes Street, would most
  unfortunately place the new buildings upon the north-western side
  so near to the houses of Leith Street, that the windows of the
  houses of Leith Street and those of the new street would be shaded
  by each other, so as to require the buildings at the western end
  of the bridge to be kept less in height, if not to be discontinued
  altogether, for a considerable way, which would render the building
  grounds of much less value. Two or three of the new buildings,
  indeed, might be joined or connected with the old houses, but still
  the property upon the whole would be greatly injured. Considering
  this, and also the additional expense of the bridge without greatly
  increasing the value of the cellarage, together with the greater
  trespass that would be made on the burying-ground by a street of
  ninety-five feet in breadth, the reporter has been induced to
  delineate upon the plan a bridge of seventy-five feet, and a road
  from it to the Abbeyhill of sixty feet in breadth. Yet if it shall
  appear that funds cannot be conveniently obtained to meet even this
  expense, it may then be found necessary to make the whole of the
  uniform breadth of sixty feet. From the annexed estimate for the
  purchase of property, building a bridge of seventy-five feet in
  width, and making a road from it to the Abbeyhill of sixty feet in
  breadth, it appears that the expense will amount to £71,976, 14s.

  “In estimating the expense of these works, the reporter has had
  in view that the road should be executed in aisler causeway, and
  that the whole should be executed in a substantial manner. From
  the borings in the strata which have been made by the directions
  of the reporter, there is reason to hope that the foundations of
  the bridge will not be difficult, and he therefore trusts that the
  several sums in the estimate of the expense already alluded to,
  will be found adequate to this purpose.

  “The expenditure will no doubt be large, but the advantages are
  great in proportion.

  “In considering this proposed new approach, it may be proper to
  notice it particularly as the means of procuring a proper site for
  the new jail and court house; _second_, as calculated to raise the
  value of certain building grounds; _thirdly_, as a public road;
  and _lastly_, as contributing individually to the comfort of the
  inhabitants of Edinburgh.

  “_Site for the Jail._

  “In any display of the advantages of this measure, the motive which
  led to it should not be overlooked. It was not the convenience
  of the wealthy citizen, nor the increased value of ground for
  building, nor even the improvement of the public roads that was
  sought after. It was to obtain a healthful situation for a _common
  jail_, and thereby to extend the comforts particularly of one
  unfortunate class of individuals, who, perhaps from the unavoidable
  circumstances of their lot, or from innocent misfortunes, are
  unable to pay their debts, and are cast into prison; and even of
  another class, certainly less to be pitied, who from a perversity
  of disposition or the depravity of their nature, forfeit their
  liberty for a time.

  “In looking for a proper site for building a jail upon the Calton
  Hill, the eye is naturally directed to the position of Bridewell as
  a fit place for concentrating the whole establishment of prisons
  for the city of Edinburgh to one spot, and if thought advisable,
  to put the whole under the care of the same governor, as is the
  general practice in England. A suitable site for the felons-jail
  has been pointed out upon the western side of Bridewell; and
  with a proper discrimination, the Sheriff proposes to erect the
  debtors-jail upon the other side; and if these buildings be
  constructed in the same style of architecture as Bridewell, the
  whole will present one uniform front or suite of buildings. The
  reporter understands, however, that the Sheriff does not wish this
  to be understood as fixed, but that the opinion of the most eminent
  architects should be obtained regarding the jail to be erected.

  “_Site for the Justiciary Court House._

  “Supposing, for the present, that the jails were arranged in this
  manner, and that it were necessary in connection with them to erect
  a Justiciary Court House and public offices, a place must be found
  for them that shall at once be suitable in point of elegance, and
  be at the same time convenient for communicating with the prisons.
  In the event of adopting a street with a turn at the eastern end of
  the bridge, a site for these buildings could be very appropriately
  got, either facing the line of Princes Street or upon the southern
  side of the arch over Calton Street. On this last spot it may
  be objected that the buildings would not be fully seen till the
  spectator had reached the open arch of the bridge. Both of these
  situations would, however, be contiguous to the Register Office
  and North Bridge, and could be made accessible to the prisons by a
  private way round the southern side of the burying-ground.

  “But certainly the most commanding site, in regard to elegance and
  grandeur of effect, for a public building would be to place it
  opposite to the prisons in the opening of the street, as marked
  on the plan. In such a position, when viewed from Princes Street
  in connection with the monument, the effect of these Court houses
  in perspective would indeed be very fine, and in coming round the
  hill by the line of road from the eastwards, it would be no less

  “The site for the prisons naturally points out itself contiguously
  to Bridewell, as well for the reasons already stated as on account
  of its southern exposure, and it has been observed to be just at
  the point of elevation for receiving a supply of water from the
  city’s reservoir. But in setting down the public buildings for the
  county and for the Sheriff Court at so great a distance from the
  Court of Session and the other Courts of Law, the convenience of
  the practitioners is a consideration of importance which presents
  itself as requiring very mature deliberation, which does not
  strictly come under my notice.

  “_The value of Feuing Ground._

  “The prolongation of the line of Princes Street by a bridge over
  Calton Street is calculated in a particular manner to benefit
  the extensive lands of Heriot’s and Trinity Hospitals, and the
  conterminous proprietors to the eastward of the Calton Hill,
  by affording a better access than can be obtained in any other
  direction, especially in so far as it regards the higher grounds
  of Heriot’s Hospital. But on this subject the reporter has already
  submitted his opinion in so far as regards Heriot’s Hospital,
  in a report to the Governors of that institution; and as the
  same argument held in a greater or less degree with the other
  proprietors, it seems unnecessary, in this place, to resume the

  “_As a Public Road._

  “As a new approach to the city of Edinburgh from the Abbeyhill to
  the central parts of the city, avoiding the inconvenient acclivity
  and awkward termination of Leith Street, or the still more
  intricate and incommodious access by the North Back of Canongate,
  this road will be regarded by the Trustees for the highways within
  the county as an improvement of the first importance. As a road,
  it is at once direct and obvious. By an extension of this line of
  road to Leith by the eastern road, or still more to the eastward
  through the lands of Restalrig, this access will be found of very
  general utility, while the traveller thus entering Edinburgh will
  be presented with the most characteristic views of the city, both
  old town and new town, calculated to inspire the highest opinions
  of its picturesque beauties.

  “_To the Inhabitants of Edinburgh._

  “As a great addition to the individual comfort and convenience
  of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, the bridge over Calton Street
  will open an elegant access to the lands of the Calton Hill, from
  which the surrounding country forms one of the most delightful
  prospects of distant mountain ranges,--detached hills and extensive
  sea-coast, with numerous ships ever plying in all directions,
  together with the finest city scenery that is anywhere to be met

  “Those who have admired the city of London from an eminence have
  indeed seen more extended lines of street bounded perhaps by a
  richer country, yet it is very deficient in that variety and
  boldness of feature which is so striking in this place. When it
  is wished to extend this walk to the eastward, the new road will
  lead the pedestrian commodiously to the bottom of Arthur’s Seat,
  round the eastern side of which a path to Duddingston, branching
  out in various directions in its course round to Salisbury Crags,
  might, in a very delightful manner, be imagined to complete an
  afternoon’s excursion. Let those who have not a lively picture in
  their mind of the prospect from the Calton Hill walk along the line
  of the projected road, and upon attending to it they will meet
  with such a richness and variety of scenery as will satisfy them
  how greatly the ornament of the city, and the pleasures of the
  inhabitants and of its occasional visitants, would be promoted by
  the continuation of the line of Princes Street towards the lands
  of Calton Hill. Whether therefore we consider a bridge over Calton
  Street as calculated to improve the approach to the city from the
  eastward, or as rendering accessible many acres for building, and
  villa grounds which must otherwise remain as grass fields for an
  indefinite period, or as opening an easy way to the rising grounds
  of the Calton Hill, in all these and in other important purposes
  the reporter is humbly of opinion that this measure ought to be
  regarded as the greatest object which has engaged the attention of
  public men since the erection of the North Bridge, which was a very
  bold and enterprising undertaking for any period of provincial or
  even of metropolitan history.

  “Under these circumstances, it must be doubly gratifying to learn,
  that notwithstanding the facility which an improved access must
  afford in laying out the city grounds of the Calton Hill for
  buildings, it is understood to be the intention of the Lord Provost
  and Magistrates, in framing the Bill for an Act of Parliament
  for regulating these works, to provide, with a proper liberality
  and a due regard for the immediate and ultimate interests of the
  community, that these lands shall in all time coming be preserved
  open and free as at present from all common buildings. It is also
  hoped that the Hon. and Rev. Governors of Heriot’s Hospital, with
  enlightened sentiments, will preserve the view of Holyrood House
  and its connecting scenery, by restricting the buildings on the
  southern side of the new road through the Hospital’s land to such
  limits as may seem for that purpose to be necessary.”

The Bill for this new approach to Edinburgh was passed in 1814, and,
on the 9th of September 1815, the foundation stone of the Waterloo
Bridge was laid with great masonic ceremony, bearing the following

                         URBIS PRAEFECTO ITERUM
                          CIVES EDINBURGENSES
                        NOVUM HUNC ET MAGNIFICUM
                           PER MONTEM VICINUM
                     AD SUMMAM URBEM ADITUM MOLITI

which I quote, because Mr. Stevenson, in his notes, mentions a curious
circumstance in connection with it:--“The late James Gregory, then
Professor of the Practice of Medicine in the University, the well-known
author of the _Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae_, was applied to by
the Commission for the improvement to put the inscription in classical
Latin. The Doctor came to me to say that he must style me _Architect_,
there being no such word as _Engineer_ to be found in the history of
the Arts, and so it stands in the inscription. I wanted the Doctor
to introduce the term Engineer, as it was very desirable to have
the profession recognised in works now exclusively entrusted to the

Mr. Stevenson’s original feuing plan, already referred to, for the
Calton Hill had three ranges of terraces at different levels, as shown
by a picture in my possession, from which Plate V. has been engraved.
The middle line of terrace shown in the drawing corresponds to the
Regent Terrace as ultimately constructed.

The approach on the northern side of the hill, known as the “London
Road,” was executed according to Mr. Stevenson’s design immediately
after the completion of the Regent Road and Waterloo Bridge; and the
whole of the new lines of road, as shown in red in Plate IV., were, as
I have stated, part of the same design.

Mr. Stevenson’s further contributions to the improvement of the
approaches to Edinburgh were made between 1811 and 1817 to the
“Trustees for the Post-road District of Roads,” the “Trustees of the
Middle District of Roads,” the “Commissioners for forming and feuing
Leith Walk,” and the “Trustees of the Cramond District of Roads.”
These were the several authorities at that time in power, under whose
directions he laid out the access to Edinburgh from Stockbridge by
Royal Circus, and from Inverleith by Canonmills to Dundas Street, and
from Canonmills to Bellevue Crescent. More recently the access from
Granton Harbour to Inverleith Row on the east, and to Caroline Park on
the west, were designed and executed under his direction in connection
with his design for Granton Harbour, made to the Duke of Buccleuch in

To Mr. Stevenson’s engineering skill, therefore, it may truly be said
that modern Edinburgh owes much of its fame as a city of palaces,
commanding views of the Firth of Forth and surrounding country which
cannot be surpassed.


          _PLATE V._

  Robert Stevenson, F.R.S.E. Civil Engineer.

  W. & A. K. Johnston Lithog. Edinburgh.      G. C. Scott, Delt.


While Mr. Stevenson was elaborating his designs for the new approaches
to the city, his attention was naturally directed to the crowded state
of the buildings in the old town; and as we shall see, he did not fail
fully to appreciate this evil, or forget to suggest a remedy for it in
his plans of improvement.

The old “Tolbooth” prison, in the High Street of Edinburgh--the scene
of so many incidents in the _Heart of Midlothian_--was still the
only stronghold in which debtors and criminals were indiscriminately
confined. Its position in the centre of the High Street, at St. Giles’
Church, was very objectionable, and the erection of a new jail, in a
more favourable situation, had been often proposed, but never carried

In pursuance of this desirable object, Sir William Rae--the
Sheriff-Depute of Edinburgh--in 1813, accompanied by Mr. Stevenson
as a professional adviser, visited many of the principal jails in
England, including Newgate, Kingsbench, Cold Bath, Oxford, Gloucester,
Chester, and Lancaster, to inquire into their general arrangements and

Sir William Rae also remitted to Mr. Stevenson, in conjunction with
Mr. Crichton, architect, to report on the condition of the ancient
“Tolbooth;” and from the conclusion arrived at by the engineer and
architect, most people of the present day will readily sympathise with
the Sheriff in his ardent desire for the erection of a new building.
Their report is curious, as conveying an idea of the state of prison
discipline in the early part of this century, and is interesting in
connection with the antiquities of Edinburgh. Messrs. Stevenson and
Crichton say:--

  “Agreeably to the directions of the Honourable the Commissioners
  for erecting a new jail, the reporters have examined both the
  exterior walls and the interior parts of the present jail,
  and they now report that this building, which was erected in
  1562, originally formed the western extremity of a continuous
  range of buildings in the middle of the High Street, called the
  Luckenbooths. A few years ago these buildings were partly removed,
  leaving the old jail in an insulated and unsupported state. The
  street at the north-eastern angle of the buildings was at the
  same time lowered several feet; and these changes, together with
  the defective state of the masonry, appear to have produced the
  following effects upon the eastern and northern walls of this now
  shattered fabric.

  “The eastern wall or gable is rent in three places. Two of these
  fissures extend from the ground to the top of the building, and the
  wall is found to bulge or bend outwards.

  “On the northern side there has been a junction of the walls of
  two separate buildings, forming what is called the _debtor_ and
  _criminal_ sides of the prison, which seem to have been erected at
  different periods. At this place there is a very apparent opening
  from the bottom to the top of the prison, and the eastern or
  criminal end appears to be settling at the north-eastern angle, as
  further appears from the doors of the guard-house and black hole,
  situate in that quarter of the building, having at different times
  required some alterations to make them move upon their hinges.

  “This wall, like the eastern one, is also bulged outwards to the
  extent of from six to ten inches in different places.

  “The roof of the prison is likewise unsafe, particularly upon the
  criminal or eastern side, where the rafters have sunk in the middle
  and pressed the side wall outwards at the top.

  “_Interior of the Prison._

  “Upon examining the interior of the prison, it was found that the
  several _cracks_ and _fissures_, already described as observable on
  the outside of the building, were also most distinctly visible from
  within, and that the northern wall in several of the apartments
  appears to have separated from the floors. In confirmation of
  these facts, which appear particularly to claim the notice of
  the Honourable the Commissioners, it was distinctly stated to
  the reporters by Mr. Sibbald, the head jailer, that he had been
  conversant with this prison about twenty-two years; that about
  seven years ago he became principal jailer, and had ever since been
  in the habit of making requisitions for the necessary repairs,
  which were always executed at his sight; that these openings and
  fissures, which now appeared obvious to the reporters, had been
  frequently plastered over with lime, sometimes previously to
  whitewashing the apartments, and at other times at the earnest
  request of the prisoners, to stop the current of air, which annoyed
  them, and still these fissures appeared to be getting wider; that
  in every instance where the walls had been attempted to be forced
  by the prisoners, the mortar was found to be loose and soft,
  without having taken bond; in particular it was stated that two of
  the prisoners had lately excavated about two cartloads of rubbish
  from the walls with a small piece of iron, in the course of a few

  “It is therefore humbly concluded, from the information obtained
  by the reporters upon the spot, but especially from their own
  knowledge and observation, that there are data for assuming
  that the eastern and northern walls of the prison have deviated
  considerably from the perpendicular of their original elevation;
  that there is reason to consider them still continuing to deviate
  from the perpendicular; and that finally, in the decayed state
  of this building, it is impossible to warrant its stability for
  any given period of time. The reporters should even consider the
  continuing the use of this building for one year longer than is
  indispensably necessary for the erection of a sufficient jail, an
  evil if possible to be avoided, as involving imminent danger to the
  wretched inmates, and much hazard to the public at large, from its
  position in the heart of the city.

  “It would accordingly be very desirable that some support could
  be given to this old building immediately, but unfortunately
  its position renders this quite impossible without seriously
  obstructing the High or principal street of the city. Had it formed
  any part of the Honourable the Commissioners’ instructions to the
  reporters to take notice of this jail as a place of security for
  the safe custody of prisoners, it would only be necessary for them
  to refer to what is herein stated regarding the insufficiency of
  the walls, and to remark that the floors, being wholly composed of
  timber, are neither proof against the simplest accident by fire
  nor against the slightest attempt at escape by the prisoners. It
  is truly surprising that any criminal of a desperate character can
  be retained within its precincts to abide the pains of law, which
  nothing but the active vigilance of its keepers could insure.”

This ancient prison-house was removed in 1817, and in his Notes to the
_Heart of Midlothian_, Scott says:--“That with the liberal acquiescence
of the persons who had contracted for the work, he procured the
stones which composed the gateway, together with the door and its
ponderous fastenings, to decorate the entrance to the kitchen court at


There is yet another report which, though its interest may only be
local, I think is worthy of a place in this Memoir, as it not only
shows Mr. Stevenson’s firm conviction in the ultimate success of his
Calton Hill improvements, but is a pleasing record of his interest in
the scene of his early studies.

It is not, I believe, generally known that Mr. Stevenson made an
unsuccessful attempt to have the University buildings, then in
progress, removed from the old town to the _site_ proposed to be opened
up on the Calton Hill; and the remarks he then made, addressed to the
Right Honourable Sir John Marjoribanks, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, may
have interest even at the present day, as shadowing forth views which,
in the now altered relations of the new and old town, have been to some
extent realised.

  “In making the following observations at the desire of the Lord
  Provost regarding the completion of the College of Edinburgh, the
  memorialist would be understood as referring to the _site_ of the
  building rather than to the merits of any particular design, of
  which he does not presume to give any opinion, as it is a matter
  which more properly falls under the observations of the architect
  than the engineer.

  “In treating of the fitness of the present site of the College of
  Edinburgh, it may be proper to take some cursory notice of the
  situation of the Old College, as connected with the houses and
  streets in the neighbourhood, and then show the alterations which
  the University grounds have undergone since the design was first
  formed of rebuilding the College.

  “_Old College._

  “In so far as the memorialist can recollect the exterior of the
  area of the Old College, it was occupied by a range of _low_
  buildings of only two stories, particularly upon the southern and
  western sides, and was again divided by a range of buildings into a
  small lower court towards the north, and the present main courtyard
  on the south, and these two courts communicated with each other
  by a spacious flight of steps, so that the principal or higher
  court was comparatively open and free to the influence both of the
  sun and of the air. Nor was there any obstruction to this state
  of things beyond the precincts of the College for a considerable
  period after the New College was commenced, and until the elegance
  of the building stamped a new value upon all the surrounding
  property. But, unfortunately, by this time the funds for the works
  fell short, and the operations were stopped. The Magistracy, also,
  who originally entered upon this great work, in rotation retired
  from office, and the same zeal was perhaps not felt by those who
  immediately succeeded; and we are now left to regret the shortness
  of the period of human life, which has removed the man who
  conceived the magnificent design of this building, which is now so
  completely invested with streets as to be rendered nearly unfit for
  the purposes of its foundation.

  “_New College._

  “The _site_ of the New College of Edinburgh, as already stated,
  does not possess any of those properties which are considered
  essential to the convenience and eligibility of a public school.
  Instead of being in a retired situation with sequestered
  walks, like the other colleges of the United Kingdom, it is
  closely surrounded by paved streets, which are the most public
  thoroughfares for carriages in the city, insomuch that the
  memorialist has witnessed the annoyance of Playfair’s mathematical
  class by a ballad-singer, and he has oftener than once seen the
  Professor of Moral Philosophy put to silence by the disloading of
  a cart with _bars of iron_ in College Wynd; and at all times the
  driving of a single carriage briskly in the streets which surround
  the College is sufficient to disturb, and even to interrupt,
  the classes. To this it may be replied that double windows will
  prevent such interruptions; but these would obscure the light
  which already, from the late erection (on all sides) of very high
  buildings, is much injured.

  “So strongly is the memorialist impressed with these views, from
  what he has himself as a student experienced, and from what he has
  heard from others, that he cannot resist bringing them forcibly
  under the notice of your Lordship in connection with the erection
  of a building for one of the first seminaries of education in

  “When your Lordship’s predecessors in the office of the magistracy
  adopted the plan of Robert Adam, the most eminent and justly
  celebrated architect of his day, the site was comparatively free
  from the objections stated. It is not therefore the plan which
  is objectionable, but it is the neighbourhood which has been so
  altered and changed as to be very unsuitable to the elegant design
  of the architect.

  “From causes to which it is unnecessary to allude, the building
  of the New College has only advanced about one third towards the
  perfecting of the design, and a sum of money is now expected to be
  procured for its completion. The present moment is therefore one
  of the greatest importance for considering the deficiencies of the
  present site, and if found materially defective, as humbly appears
  to your memorialist to be the case, it were much better to change
  the site of the building while it may be done without much loss,
  and execute the design in a more eligible situation.

  “It must always be kept in view that when this design was made the
  grounds were open to the free circulation of the air and the full
  influence of light. But now the case is materially altered, and
  if the design is executed under such a change of circumstances
  the direct rays of the sun will hardly ever reach the area of the
  courtyard, especially in the winter months, neither will there
  be that free circulation of air which is essential to health and
  comfort, and moss (byssus) will make its appearance upon the lower
  parts in the interior of the courtyard, which is very unsuitable in
  a magnificent building such as Mr. Adam’s design for the College of

  “At the period when the rebuilding of the College was determined
  upon there was perhaps little choice as to the spot for its
  erection; the number of students, now greatly on the increase,
  was at that time much smaller, and the College grounds were then
  much more relieved and uncumbered with other buildings, a state of
  things which most unquestionably would have been preserved had the
  building proceeded as was expected; but in the lapse of about one
  third of a century many changes take place, and the slow progress
  of the building necessarily produced a want of energy in the
  official people to prevent the use that has since been made by the
  respective proprietors of the surrounding grounds.

  “At the present crisis, however, your Lordship will now feel
  yourself called upon in a review of these circumstances to consider
  what is proper to be done upon a great scale for the ultimate
  best advantage of future generations in a matter of great public
  interest. Under these impressions a field of operation is just
  opening for your Lordship’s consideration, in a prolongation of
  Princes Street in a direct line to the lands of Calton Hill and
  Heriot’s Hospital, now in progress under the auspices of your
  Lordship. To take a minute view of this improvement would be
  tedious, and would require the notice of more particulars than
  these observations are intended to refer to. But in a general
  way it may be noticed that there is ample space and freedom for
  the execution of Mr. Adam’s design on the lands to which the new
  approach will lead by a very easy access.

  “It may be objected to the removal of the College that it would be
  inconvenient for the students; but for those who are perhaps the
  most numerous, living in the New Town, a site for the College on
  the north side of the town would be the most convenient, and for a
  different class lodgings at a cheap rate would be procured quite at
  hand in the Canongate.

  “A more powerful objection would perhaps arise from the contiguity
  of the present site of the College to the Infirmary and other
  institutions connected with the education of the medical classes,
  but these may also be got over by a little arrangement in the
  present hours of the classes, and one would not despair of seeing
  a more direct road projected from the Calton Hill to the southern
  side of the town were the College removed to that neighbourhood.
  With regard to any real loss to the students, it is not believed
  that such could be instructed were this proposition fully
  considered. But those who would perhaps be the most clamorous are
  the persons who have made the most of their property by building
  immense piles of lodging-houses in the immediate vicinity of the
  College, and have thus ruined the neighbourhood.

  “With regard to the funds for this change of site, your memorialist
  is of opinion that the removal of the College from the present
  valuable grounds in the central parts of the city, for buildings
  applicable to commercial and economical purposes, would be attended
  with an increase of funds towards the new erection;--for the lower
  part all round would be opened for valuable shops, while the higher
  parts would answer for dwelling-houses and other purposes. The part
  of the front would be easily convertible into a house for the Royal
  Bank, which seems much wanted, and in short it may be confidently
  stated that upon the whole there would be no loss, but gain, by the
  change of position, while very many advantages could be pointed
  out as attending such a measure, were this the proper place for
  entering more fully into the subject.

  “The proposal stated is not new; it has been often under the
  memorialist’s consideration, and he has heard it favourably spoken
  of and received by several of the Professors of the University, in
  particular Professors Leslie and Playfair, and others eminently
  qualified to judge correctly upon the subject.”

With this report I conclude what may be fairly held to be of purely
_local_ interest, but which nevertheless I have thought worthy of a
place in the memoir of one whose great anxiety ever was to secure the
amenity of Edinburgh, and make it attractive not only as a place of
residence but as a seat of learning.



    Ferry Engineering--Extracts from Report on the Tay Ferries--
        Reports on various Ferries--Orkney and Shetland Ferry, etc.

Before we had steamers to navigate our firths and railways to bridge
our estuaries, the “crossing of the ferry” was an event of no small
solicitude to the traveller. In the sailing pinnace-boat of those
days he not only might encounter serious danger, but his exposure
to sea-sickness and drenching spray depended wholly on the weather,
and sometimes the length of the passage, and the duration of his
suffering could not be foretold by the most experienced “Skipper,” as
the captain of the boat was invariably styled. Anything that could
reduce the hazard and uncertainty of so miserable a state of things was
naturally hailed as a priceless boon; and the improvement of “ferry
communication” at the beginning of this century was an important
branch of civil engineering. Its successful practice demanded nautical
knowledge as well as constructive experience, for the engineer had
first of all to study the strength and direction of the tidal currents
of flood and ebb, and then to consider from what points on the shore
a ferry-boat, under the varying states of wind and tide, could most
readily make her passage across. He had further to select the most
suitable sites for landing-places, and to construct high and low
water _slips_ at different points to meet the varying states of tide
and wind, and to construct roads of more or less extent to connect
the landing-places with existing turnpikes. All this arrangement was
required, because at the time of which I write, before steamboats were
invented, two costly deep-water piers placed _ex adverso_ of each
other, one on each side of a ferry, would not have met the requirements
of the case; for the management of a sailing pinnace, at the mercy
of the currents and winds, demanded not a single pier for which to
steer, but a choice of several points, on as wide a range of coast as
possible, for which the “skipper” could shape his course and make a
landing. Mr. Stevenson’s nautical experience peculiarly fitted him for
giving valuable advice in this important branch of marine engineering.
It is no doubt a branch of the profession which may be said to be
obsolete, but I do not know that on that account it is undeserving of
notice; and the best mode I can think of for conveying to any one who
may be interested in it an idea of the “ferry engineering” of former
times, is to give an extract, with an illustrative sketch, of one of
Mr. Stevenson’s early Ferry Reports. I select for this purpose a report
made to the “Freeholders, Justices of the Peace, and Commissioners of
Supply of the counties of Fife and Forfar” relative to the ferries
across the Tay at Dundee:--

  “Having examined the shores and firth of Tay the reporter has now
  the honour of submitting the following as his report regarding the
  proposed improvements:--

  “The improvement of the ferries on the Tay has long been the
  desire of the public; and though this measure has hitherto been
  delayed, on account of the expense which necessarily attends such
  operations, yet so desirable an object has been invariably kept in
  view; and now, when the advantages attending the recently improved
  state of Queensferry and Kinghorn ferries have been in a good
  measure realised, the passage across the Tay has very opportunely
  been brought under the consideration of the freeholders of the
  adjoining counties.

  “The present landing-slips or quays upon the Tay are situate at
  Dundee upon the north, and at Woodhaven and Newport on the south.
  The bed of the firth or river at Dundee is so much silted up and
  encumbered with sandbanks and mud, that the piers, which were no
  doubt originally built of sufficient extent, and perhaps commanding
  the necessary depth of water for floating the passage-boats at low
  tides, have at length become inadequate to so great a thoroughfare,
  and the boats are now left by the water at every spring-tide, to
  the great annoyance and inconvenience of the public.

  “It will be observed from the plans accompanying this report that
  the Craig pier at Dundee is proposed to be extended from the
  southern extremity of the present landing-slip or pier 400 feet in
  length, or to the southern extremity of the Craig rock, so as to
  command a depth of about five feet at low water of spring-tides,
  which will be sufficient to float decked boats of twenty to
  twenty-five tons register, built upon a suitable construction for
  sailing. It is proposed to construct this pier, where the greatest
  business is to be done, upon the plan of a double pier, sixty feet
  in breadth; and as it will now be of a much greater extent than
  formerly, a _screen wall_ is proposed to be erected in the middle
  of it, in a longitudinal direction, so as to check the waves or run
  of the water over the pier, and also for the defence and shelter
  of passengers from the inclemency of the weather. This pier will
  form an inclined plane sloping to seaward at the rate of one
  perpendicular to twenty-six horizontal.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

  “In sailing from the southern side of the Tay for Dundee, it will
  on some occasions be found convenient, with certain directions
  of the wind and currents of the tide, to have landing-slips or
  piers both above and below the town of Dundee, so as to prevent
  the necessity of _tacking_ with adverse winds, as is the case at
  present from the want of such accommodation. Upon examining the
  shores above or to the westward of Dundee, the most convenient
  position for a landing-slip is at the Magdalene Point, about 1400
  yards to the westward of the Craig pier at Dundee.

  “In the same manner a convenient position presents itself on the
  rocky shores of the Rood Yards, about 2000 yards below or to the
  eastward of the Craig pier. These proposed new piers are delineated
  and laid down in the drawings accompanying this report.[8]

  “Upon the southern side of the Tay, and opposite to Dundee, the
  harbour or landing-slip most frequented at present is that of
  Newport. In former times, when the accumulation of sand, called the
  Middle Bank, between the opposite shores of the ferry at Dundee,
  was less extensive, the principal landing-place upon the Fife side
  of the firth was that of Woodhaven. Newport is a small harbour,
  built of masonry, with a landing-slip or sloping pier attached
  to the outward wall of the harbour for the convenience of the
  ferry-boats. At this station it will therefore only be necessary to
  extend the landing-slip about eighty-eight feet northward, in order
  to obtain five feet of depth at low water of spring tides; and as
  the present sloping pier or slip is inconveniently narrow, it is
  proposed to add fourteen feet to its breadth; and the reporter
  would recommend that this work, in connection with the pier at
  Dundee, should be executed in the first instance, on account of its
  being of primary importance in the improvement of the Ferry.

  “At Woodhaven it is proposed to add seventy-one feet to the length
  of the landing-slip, to enable the ferry-boats to approach it at
  low water of spring tides, in the same manner as at Newport.

  “At or near Craighead, about 830 yards below or to the eastward of
  Newport, there is a convenient point of land, where it is proposed
  to erect a slip or pier 250 feet in length and 30 in breadth. This
  pier will command five feet, or a sufficient depth of water for the
  ferry-boats at the lowest tides, and is in a position calculated to
  be highly useful.

  “A pier has likewise been suggested as necessary at Wormit Bay,
  about a mile to the westward of Woodhaven, which, in certain
  directions of the wind, may no doubt be found useful; but when the
  piers opposite to Dundee come to be put in good order, and the
  ferry placed under proper regulations, it is presumed that a pier
  at Wormit Bay would very seldom be found necessary. The cost of
  these works is estimated at £20,952, 13s. 6d.

  “In forming the several landing-places already described, it
  is obvious that there must be a ready communication between
  each of these piers and the public roads in their respective
  neighbourhoods. It will also be of essential importance to this
  measure, that a connection by good roads be formed and kept up
  between the several landing-places, in so far as this can be
  effected. At present there is a pretty good line of road between
  Woodhaven and Newport, which would require to be extended eastward
  to the landing-place at Craighead.

  “In the event of Craig pier being adopted as the landing-place at
  Dundee, it might be advisable to take a power in the proposed Act,
  as a measure of the burgh of Dundee, for making a new and more
  direct approach from that pier to the main street. The extension
  and formation of these roads, however, will necessarily fall under
  the joint consideration of the trustees for the ferries and roads
  in apportioning the expense between the respective trusts.


  “At present there are said to be no less than about thirty boats
  plying upon the passage at Dundee, which are navigated by about
  fifty men and boys. But were the piers and landing-places, with the
  accesses to them, completed in the manner proposed, and the whole
  placed under proper regulations, there can be little doubt that
  the ferry of Dundee would be much better attended, and the public
  better served, by one half of the present number of boats, as has
  been experienced on the ferries of the Firth of Forth.


  “Some are of opinion that both the number of boats and of piers or
  landing-places might be still further reduced by the introduction
  of the _Steamboat_ upon this passage. The reporter, however,
  does not think it would be advisable to have fewer than three
  landing-places at each station, as even the steamboat itself is
  more or less liable to fall short or to be driven past its port by
  adverse winds and strong currents; and, in a great public measure
  of this kind, it is proper to be prepared for the worst that is
  likely to happen. Regarding the adoption of the steamboat in
  preference to sailing-boats, the reporter is not however prepared
  to give any very decided opinion upon the subject. He has, indeed,
  seen the steamboat used with great facility on the passage across
  the river Mersey at Liverpool, and has himself brought the plan
  of a steamboat under the notice of several of the trustees for
  Kinghorn and Queensferry passages, proposed to be constructed upon
  similar principles with that originally tried, it is believed,
  by the late Mr. Millar of Dalswinton. But it would seem to be
  premature to recommend the framing of the Bill or the construction
  of piers for Dundee ferry upon the idea of the exclusive use of
  the steamboat. The consideration of the late unpleasant accidents
  which have befallen some of those boats renders this a matter of
  great delicacy, and one in which much precaution should be used
  on so public a ferry. Under such circumstances it is not only
  necessary to consult the actual safety of passengers while afloat,
  but even to meet their prejudices, with proper attention to their
  comfort. From considerations of this kind, the reporter recommends
  that such of the piers or landing-slips on the ferry of Dundee as
  may ultimately be erected, should be completed agreeably to the
  plan herein proposed; and it is fortunate that, with some trifling
  alterations or additions, the piers suitable for the common boat
  can be made answerable for the steamboat. When this measure is in
  full operation it may then be highly proper to make an experiment
  with the steamboat upon the passage at Dundee, and if this mode is
  approven of by the public it can be extended, and the number of
  sailing-boats diminished accordingly.”

Mr. Stevenson was employed to give similar advice by other Trusts,
and particularly by the “Trustees of the Queensferry Passage” and the
“Trustees of the Edinburgh and Fife Ferry,” both across the Forth,--the
“Freeholders and Justices of Peace of the counties of Ross and
Sutherland,” for the Ferry of the Dornoch,--the “Freeholders of the
county of Glamorganshire,” for the new passage-ferry of the Severn, to
all of whom he made reports at various times, as to the improvement of
the mode of communication under their charge. He also was engaged by
the Lords of the Treasury “to inquire into and report on the best mode
of improving the post-packet communication to Orkney and Shetland,”
which he did after careful survey and consideration, in an elaborate
report, from which I give the following extracts, as illustrating some
of the disadvantages under which the public laboured before steam was
generally adopted:--

  “The islands of Orkney are separated from the coast of Caithness or
  mainland of Scotland by the rapid channel of the Pentland Firth,
  which varies in breadth from six to nine miles, while Zetland lies
  fifty miles to the northward of Orkney.”

  “These two groups of islands, forming one county, are of late
  years greatly advanced in importance, and possess an aggregate
  population of 60,000 inhabitants, who are chiefly engaged in
  maritime affairs and fishing adventures. From their local position
  also in the North Sea, they lie much in the track of vessels
  sailing in the higher latitudes, and correspondence with them
  regarding the destination and insurance of ships is often of the
  greatest importance to commercial men. It is likewise known to the
  Right Honourable the Lord Advocate of Scotland, and the Honourable
  the Sheriff of the county, that the want of a proper communication
  by post not unfrequently interferes with the regular administration
  of justice in these islands; and now that Orkney and Shetland
  jointly send a member to Parliament, the evils resulting from the
  want of a regular communication press more forcibly, not only on
  the inhabitants of these islands, but on the public generally.

  “So uncertain is the post of Zetland on its present footing, that
  the reporter himself carried to Lerwick the first intelligence of
  the appointment of Sir William Rae as Lord Advocate of Scotland,
  after it had been currently known through the newspapers in all
  other parts of the kingdom for several weeks, and it is well known
  that the succession of the King was not known in Lerwick for
  several months after the event took place. During the winter months
  the intercourse is indeed precarious as well as uncertain, and much
  painful delay is often experienced by parties interested in any
  question connected with the insurance of vessels wrecked on this
  dangerous coast.

  “In order to lessen the labour and expense to themselves, the
  Orkney ferrymen on either side contrive to leave their shores so as
  to meet about the middle of the Firth, where they exchange the mail
  and passengers, and then return to their respective homes. In this
  way they seldom complete the full trip across the Firth, excepting
  when obliged by stress of weather. This interchange of the post
  from boats, it must be allowed, is rather a hazardous experiment
  anywhere, but more especially in the middle of the Pentland Firth;
  and whether the inhospitable state of the shores on either side,
  the rough and boisterous nature of the sea to be passed through, or
  the want of management be considered, there is evidently great room
  for improvement on the ferry of the Pentland Firth.”

This communication is now, as is well known, carried on by first-class
steamers, which touch at Kirkwall and Lerwick, and by a daily mail
steamer which crosses the Pentland Firth from the low-water pier at
Scrabster in Caithness to Stromness in Orkney; and the travelling
public may be congratulated that the ferry communication of the early
part of the century, of which I have given a sketch in this chapter, no
longer forms a part of the practice of the civil engineer.




    Canals and Railways on one level--Haulage on Railways--Railways
        in Scotland--Edinburgh and Midlothian, Stockton and
        Darlington, and Edinburgh and London Railways--Uniform gauge
        proposed--Notes on Railways for the Highland and Agricultural
        Society--Letter from George Stephenson.

Great powers of observation, combined with fertile and practical
mechanical resources, enabled Mr. Stevenson in many cases to form
engineering opinions which may truly be said to have been “before their
time,” and in no subject, perhaps, was this more strikingly realised
than in his views as to railways.

Impressed with the great inconvenience of change of level in canals,
involving “lockage,” with all its expensive works and serious
obstruction of traffic, he early formed a firm belief that wherever
lockage could be avoided, by making even a considerable detour in
the line of canal, it was sound engineering to adopt the level line,
although it might be at the cost of additional length. Founding on
this general opinion, so early as 1812, he traced out and proposed
lines of canal to be carried upon _one level, without lockage_, through
the valleys of Strathmore and Strathearn, connecting Perth, Forfar,
Arbroath, and Montrose, and also by a line of canal, by Broxburn,
Linlithgow, Polmont, Castlecary, Campsie, and Broomielaw, to unite
Edinburgh and Glasgow.

His early researches on the subject of canals prepared him, about
1816, to extend the same reasoning to railways, which, with wonderful
sagacity, he foresaw must become what he termed the “British highway”
of the future. He found that his first idea of tracks of iron and
stone to improve the draught on common roads was not destined to
meet the requirements of the future; and when as yet nothing was
known of railways beyond the tramways connected with coal-fields, and
no proposal had been made to adapt them to passenger traffic, Mr.
Stevenson was engaged tracing in all directions through Scotland lines
of railway as a new mode of conveyance to supersede roads. Some of
these early proposals, extending to about five hundred miles, are shown
in hard lines on Fig. 15, and of all these railways he made surveys,
estimates, and elaborate reports addressed to Committees of subscribers
by whom the various schemes were supported.

It must be remembered that at that early period no other power than
that of horses was contemplated for performing the haulage either on
road, canal, or tramway, and Mr. Stevenson, true to his early views
as to the disadvantage of lockage on canals, spent much time in
experimenting on the prejudicial effect of steep inclines on horse
railways, and in endeavouring, in his various surveys, to discover
routes by which his lines of railway might be carried through, as much
as possible, on one level, regarding a few miles additional length
of line as quite unimportant compared to the disadvantage of a steep
gradient,--a view which was more appreciated before the locomotive
engine had taken upon itself the labour of the horse.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

To show the state of railway matters at the period to which I refer,
I think it may not be uninteresting to give, even at some length,
extracts from Mr. Stevenson’s report on what was called the Edinburgh
Railway. The report, which is dated 1818, was addressed to “His Grace
the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, and the other noblemen and
gentlemen, subscribers for a survey of a railway from the coal field of
Midlothian to the city of Edinburgh and port of Leith.”

  “In the course of a report relative to a line of canal upon one
  level, or without lockage, between the cities of Edinburgh and
  Glasgow, the reporter took occasion to state the practicability
  of a line of railway from the coal field of the vale of the Esk
  to the city of Edinburgh and the port of Leith, founded upon a
  communication which he had the honour to make to Sir William Rae,
  Baronet, and the Honourable Baron Clerk, so far back as the year
  1812. This subject having since attracted the notice of Sir John
  Hope, Baronet, and several of the other landed proprietors of
  Midlothian, the reporter had consequently a correspondence with
  Messrs. Gibson and Oliphant, Writers to the Signet, on the part of
  the promoters of this measure.

  “A public meeting was accordingly called by advertisement to be
  held in the Royal Exchange Coffee-house on the 3d day of September
  1817, when John Clerk, Esq. of Eldin, having taken the chair, the
  reporter received instructions to survey a line or lines of railway
  from the Midlothian coal field to the city of Edinburgh and port
  of Leith; and he now submits the following as his report, with
  reference to the accompanying map or plan, and sections of the
  several lines of road surveyed.

  “It is uncertain at what periods the inhabitants of Edinburgh
  were generally obliged to lay aside the use of timber, from the
  distance of carriage, as their chief building material, or of wood
  and turf as fuel; neither have we any certain information at what
  time pit coal was discovered, or the coal field of the Lothians
  first opened. But it is in the recollection of some persons still
  living, that, owing to the miserable and circumscribed state of
  the roads, or rather the want of formed roads altogether, pit coal
  continued to be conveyed in sacks and on horseback for supplying
  the city of Edinburgh. These horse tracks, originally taken up
  by accident, were persevered in by obstinate habit; and being
  afterwards followed as the lines of our future roads, have become
  the ultimate source of much of the difficulty attending their
  improvement, from the soft and miry track of the pack-horse and
  the sledge, to the broad and spacious _stoned_ carriage-way, in
  combination with the trim footpath of the present day. But, even
  here, experience shows that it would be improper to rest satisfied,
  and cease from further exertion. The acclivities of the road may
  still be levelled, and its asperities smoothed, by the introduction
  of the more compact and durable materials of the _British Roadway_
  or Iron Bail. Such, however, has been the progressive nature of
  discovery in all ages, that we are only beginning to appreciate
  the immense advantages which would attend the introduction of a
  new system of roads or railways, laid upon a level or horizontal
  base, as admirably calculated to increase the power of the horse in
  a tenfold proportion by destroying friction--that bane to animal
  labour as now applied on the common road.

  “Wagon-ways constructed entirely of square wooden frames or rails,
  laid in two right lines on wooden sleepers, appear to have been
  in use at Newcastle so far back as the year 1671. The plan of
  cast-iron railways seems to have been originally introduced by the
  great Iron Company of Colebroke Dale in Shropshire, only about the
  year 1786, as an improvement upon the tram or wooden railway; and
  such are likely to be the benefits resulting from this discovery,
  that we doubt not, as this system develops itself, the name of the
  person who first conceived the idea will eagerly be sought after,
  and honour done to him, as to one of the greatest benefactors of
  his country. We might mention the name of the late Mr. Jessop,
  as the first engineer of eminence who seems to have introduced
  railways in the south. He was also the engineer for the magnificent
  works of his Grace the Duke of Portland in Scotland, connected with
  which there is a double railway from Kilmarnock to Troon, which is
  ten miles in length. The other railways in Scotland of any extent
  are those at the works of the Carron Company, Lord Elgin’s, Mr.
  Erskine of Mar’s, Sir John Hope’s, and other coal works. A public
  railway has also been projected from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Glasgow,
  an extent of country of about 125 miles; and an Act of Parliament
  has already been obtained for completing part of this track, viz.,
  from Berwick to Kelso.

  “A railway has the advantage of being formed at an average of one
  third perhaps of the expense of a navigable canal; and in many
  situations its first cost may even be compared with the expense of
  making a common road. The result is also favourable if we inquire
  into the comparative quantities of work done upon a canal and a
  level railway. Upon the canals in England, a boat of thirty tons
  burden is generally tracked by one horse, and navigated by two men
  and a boy. On a level railway, it may be concluded that a good
  horse managed by a man or lad will work with eight tons. At this
  rate the work performed on the railway by one man and a horse is
  more than in the proportion of one third of the work done upon
  the canal by three persons and a horse, if we take into account
  the more speedy rate of travelling and the facilities to general
  trade in loading and discharging, together with the difference
  of the first cost of a railway, which altogether give it in some
  cases a decided advantage over the navigable canal. If we compare
  the railway with the common road, it may be fairly stated that,
  in the instance of a level railway, the work will be increased
  in an eight or ten fold proportion. The best horse, indeed, with
  difficulty, works with three fourths of a ton on the common road,
  from the undulating line of its draught, but on a level railway it
  is calculated that he will work even with ten tons. But to increase
  the economy of the railway system still further, we have only to
  employ one man to work two horses.

  “_Line of Draught._

  “With regard to the line of draught, or longitudinal section of a
  railway, it may be stated as one of its great advantages that it
  is more easily accommodated to the irregularities of the ground
  through which it has to pass than a navigable canal; and even where
  the ground is so irregular as not to admit of a uniformly level
  track, or an inclined plane, there are several simple methods
  which may be resorted to for lifting the wagons from one level to
  another, so as to produce similar effects with lockage on a canal.
  In so far, however, as the present design of the Edinburgh Railway
  has been carried by actual survey, neither of these plans will be
  found necessary upon the main lines. Even on the descending line,
  the fall is so extremely gentle that the horses in returning may be
  loaded with four or five tons. But the proposed mode of lockage may
  with propriety be introduced on the several offset branches, such
  as those from Leith to the main line, and from Monkton Hall and the
  Cowpits to Dalkeith, and to the southern parts of the county, on
  which a trade may be expected to be carried both to and from the
  main line.

  “Where the load or trade is all in one direction, it is a maxim in
  _practice_, that the fall should be so apportioned to the rise,
  that the work may be equal _down_ with the load, and _up_ with
  the empty wagons. But where there is to be a trade both ways, it
  is obviously much to be desired that a level in all such cases
  should be obtained. This, in the Edinburgh Railway, has been found
  from the declining aspect of the country towards the sea; but as
  there will be less return trade on this railway in merchandise
  and manure, etc., to the eastward, than the coal and building
  materials, etc., carried to the city, it becomes a question of
  policy how far it may be proper, in this instance, to adopt the
  level line at a great additional expense.

  “By the level line to Edinburgh the branch to Leith becomes also
  somewhat more lengthened than by the descending line, which,
  instead of preserving the level, is always falling, or approaching
  towards Leith. The reporter, as before noticed, has various modes
  in view, by which the branch to Leith may be made of a very easy
  line of draught, or be thrown into a succession of levels, by a
  species of lockage or stepping. Where sudden acclivities occur on
  the line of a railway they are generally overcome by an inclined
  plane, of greater or less extent, according to the particular rise,
  and on this the loaded wagons are brought up by a steam-engine. But
  to render railways applicable to all situations, it seems to be
  necessary that the overcoming of such obstacles should be within
  the reach or power of the driver and his horse; by working a kind
  of _gin_ connected with an inclined plane, or by lifting the loaded
  wagons perpendicularly, which may in various ways be accomplished
  by the aid of pulleys, by the common lever, or the revolution of a

  “This subject has been justly considered to be a matter of so
  much public importance, that the Highland Society of Scotland
  has offered a premium for an Essay, with models, for lockage on
  railways; and the reporter has no doubt that by this means much
  additional light will be thrown on the subject.

  “There are few subjects on which those conversant in the working
  of draught animals are more divided than about the proper _line
  of draught_. Some do not hesitate to affirm, that a level road is
  injurious to the horse, and that an undulating road is preferable
  to one by which the ascent is long, though gradual. Such are of
  opinion, that by throwing the road into successive eminences, or
  _up and down hill_, various muscles are brought into action, while
  others are left at rest, and this alternation they conceive to be
  the best condition of things for the animal.

  “Being rather, however, at a loss in regard to that part of the
  subject which relates to the operation of the muscles, the reporter
  applied for a solution of the case to a distinguished medical
  friend in this city [Dr. John Barclay], eminent for his knowledge
  and for his great exertions in the science of _Comparative
  Anatomy_. His answer to the queries which he allowed the reporter
  to put contain the following comprehensive passages: ‘My
  acquaintance with the muscles by no means enables me to explain how
  a horse should be more fatigued by travelling on a road uniformly
  level than by travelling over a like space upon a road that crosses
  heights and hollows; and it is demonstrably a false idea that one
  set of muscles can alternately rest and come into action in cases
  of that kind. The daily practice of ascending heights, it has been
  said, gives an animal _wind_, and enlarges the chest; it may also
  with equal truth be affirmed that many horses lose their wind under
  this sort of training, and irrecoverably suffer from imprudent
  attempts to induce such a habit.’ In short, he ascribes much to
  prejudice, ‘originating with the man, who is continually in quest
  of variety, rather than the horse, who, consulting only his own
  ease, seems quite unconscious of Hogarth’s _line of beauty_.’

  “In the course of investigating the subject of the draught of
  horses, the reporter has made several experiments with the
  dynamometer, both upon canals and railways, with a view to
  ascertain the power of horses and the best line of draught; and
  he has further the satisfaction to find, that the result of
  these trials agrees nearly with experiments made, and obligingly
  communicated to him, from various parts of the kingdom. The
  reporter therefore concludes that the force with which a horse will
  continue to work is about one-sixth or one-seventh of his absolute
  weight. Now, as he found the average weight of three ordinary cart
  horses to be about ten cwt. it may be assumed, generally, that
  a horse can continue to work with a force equal to 160 lb.; and
  allowing 40 lb., or one fourth, for friction, there remains 120 lb.
  to be applied to the load. In these trials, when the wagons were
  put in motion, it appeared, under favourable circumstances, that a
  force of about 12 lbs. only was necessary to move one ton upon a
  level edge railway, which by calculation would give about ten tons
  as the load of a good horse weighing ten cwt.; but, for practice,
  this will perhaps more properly be taken at about eight tons. With
  regard to inclined planes, it may be noticed, that for every one
  fourth of an inch of rise to the lineal yard of road, the force
  must be increased, or the load diminished, in a ratio or proportion
  varying at the rate of about one half, one third, one fourth, one
  eighth, and one ninth, etc.

  “Such are the happy effects of a wise and extended policy, that,
  notwithstanding the expensive war in which this country has been
  engaged, more has actually been done in Great Britain, within
  the last twenty or thirty years, for the improvement of the
  highways, and in laying open the country by new and better lines
  of road, than was effected for centuries before that period. With
  such public improvements we presume to class the measure of the
  proposed railway from the city of Edinburgh and its port of Leith,
  calculated as it is to ramify through the various tracts of East
  Lothian, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk shires, and to become,
  in time, a system of the greatest importance in its consequences to
  the advancement of the commerce and agriculture of this part of the
  kingdom. Under impressions of this kind, the noblemen and gentlemen
  who now come forward as promoters of this measure are actuated; and
  with this in view, the reporter lays before them the accompanying
  survey, and will now endeavour to state the consideration which
  he has given the subject, by describing the several lines he has
  surveyed, and estimating the probable expense and advantages of the

Mr. Stevenson then describes the proposed line, which he estimated
at £52,000, and terminates his report by giving some remarks on the
construction of railways, which are interesting as noticing the use of
cast and malleable iron rails, and George Stephenson’s experiments on

“_Construction of the Railway._

  “In giving some general description or outline of the construction
  of the proposed railway, it may be observed, that the formation
  of railways, or roads of cast iron, is comparatively but a recent
  discovery, which, however, is likely to be attended with immense
  advantage to this commercial and agricultural country. From the
  great traffic to be expected upon the Edinburgh Railway, two sets
  of wheel-tracks will require to be laid,--one for the wagons or
  carriages coming to town, and another for those going to the
  country. This double railway, with the necessary allowance for
  driving-paths, etc., will occupy at least twenty feet of space in
  its cross-section, viz., four feet three inches for each set of
  tracks; a space of four feet between the respective wagon-ways; and
  three feet nine inches on each side for a driving-path, fences, and
  gutters. The horse-paths, or spaces between the waggon-tracks of
  the railway, as proposed above, will be four feet three inches in
  breadth, or the width of the _square part_ of the common cart axle,
  it being also a great advantage for the convenience of loading,
  etc., and for the stability of the railway, to have broad and
  rather low wagons. But from the general use to which this public
  railway is applicable, it may be found advisable to acquire even
  a greater breadth than twenty feet. The space between the tracks
  will be made up with stones, broken very small, and blinded or
  covered with gravel, as in the best description of road-making.
  The footpath for the drivers may be made with gravel, coal dust,
  pan ashes, or brick-dust, as may be found most convenient in the
  district of the railway.

  “_Cast Iron Rails._

  “The cast iron tracks of the earlier railways were made flat, or
  about four inches in breadth, with a projecting ridge or _flange_,
  upon the outer verge, and are technically called _plate rails_.
  But the reporter is led from his own observation, and the opinion
  of the following professional gentlemen obligingly communicated
  to him, viz., Mr. Wilson of Troon, Mr. Bald of Alloa, Mr. Landale
  of Charlestown, Mr. Grieve of Sheriff Hall, and Mr. Buddle of
  Newcastle, who are not only scientifically but practically
  conversant in this matter, to conclude that the plate rail not only
  induces greater friction, but is more exposed to have the wheels
  clogged and interrupted with gravel or small stones than that
  called the _edge rail_, which, in its best construction, of cast
  iron, consists of a bar of about 1½ inch in thickness or breadth,
  for the _seat_ of the wheel, and of a depth corresponding to the
  weight to be carried. This bar is set upon edge instead of being
  laid flat. In this manner the edge rail presents less friction,
  and, weight for weight, is much stronger for the load than the
  plate rail; upon the same principle as, in modern carpentry, the
  beam is now set on edge, instead of being laid on its side as
  formerly. The Reporter is therefore to recommend an edge rail
  warranted to work with two tons, including the wagon, of the weight
  of 140 lb. per lineal yard of finished double railway. Lighter
  dimensions might indeed be found to answer; but for a public
  railway, the rails should be made of a greater strength than is
  barely sufficient for a given weight, as this cannot always be
  kept within bounds, or regulated to a nicety. The expense of a
  little additional weight of cast iron, in the first instance, will
  be greatly compensated in the end, by avoiding frequent repairs,
  and will thereby be amply repaid, while the expense of laying the
  road, and other contingencies, are much the same in the light as
  in the heavy rail. The mode of fixing is another point of great
  importance in the construction of a substantial railway. In the
  early practice of laying railways, the value of this new discovery
  was for a time lost to the public, owing to the intricacy and
  difficulty of this part of the design. Much trouble and expense
  have in this way been occasioned, in consequence of using, for the
  underground fixtures, soft and friable stones, liable to be acted
  upon by the alternate changes of the weather, from their being
  necessarily placed so near the surface. A method has been adopted
  of making the cross fixtures under ground, with bars wholly of
  cast iron, to which the rails are attached, with iron pins. Much,
  however, depends upon the nature and tenacity of the ground to be
  passed over. At the works of Lord Elgin and the Carron Company,
  the use of the sleeper or cross iron bar is laid aside, and other
  alterations are daily suggested as improvements, in the method
  of laying and fixing the rails, and also in the construction of
  the wheels and wagons. With regard to the construction of _cast
  iron rails_, they are, in general, made in the lengths of from
  three to four feet; but the reporter is inclined to think that
  the perfection of the cast-iron railway will be found to consist
  rather in shortening the rails very considerably than adopting even
  the shortest of those lengths; but this and similar matters will
  fall more properly to be matured in the practical details of the

  “_Malleable Iron Rails._

  “One point, however, deserves particular notice here, as likely
  to be attended with the most important advantages to the railway
  system, which is the application of malleable iron instead of cast
  iron rails. Three miles and a half of this description of railway
  have been in use for about eight years on Lord Carlisle’s works
  at Tindal Fell in Cumberland, where there are also two miles of
  cast iron rail; but the malleable iron road is found to answer the
  purpose in every respect better. Experiments with malleable iron
  rails have also been made at Mr. Taylor’s works at Ayr and Sir John
  Hope’s at Pinkie; and, upon the whole, this method, in the case of
  the Tindal Fell Railway, is not only considerably cheaper in the
  first cost than the cast iron railway, but is also much less liable
  to accident. In the use of malleable iron bars the joints of the
  railway are conveniently obtained, about twelve feet apart, and
  three pedestals are generally placed between each pair of joints.

  “_Locomotive Engine._

  “Some of the most striking improvements in the system of railways
  are the patent inventions of Mr. Stephenson of Newcastle,
  particularly his _locomotive engine_, by which fifty tons of coal
  and upwards are at one load conveyed several miles along a railway
  by the power of steam.”

Acting on the same general principles, Mr. Stevenson surveyed and
reported on such lines as the “Montrose and Brechin Railway,” the
“Strathmore Railway,” and the “East-Lothian Railway,” which, as has
been shown, embraced a large portion of the principal business part
of Scotland. But at that time Scotland was not ready either to take
up his enlarged views, or to find money to carry them out, and the
prospectuses issued by the different Committees who zealously promoted
these railway schemes did not meet sufficient support to enable
the promoters to form Companies to apply to Parliament for their
construction. We all know that in England, at a later date, our British
Railway system was first inaugurated, but it is a fact that redounds
greatly to Mr. Stevenson’s credit as an engineer, that all of these
Scottish lines, originally surveyed by him, have, with or without
deviation, been now carried out.

Mr. Stevenson, in his researches for adapting railways to the general
communication of the country, had made a great advance in bringing
the subject before the public; and he was requested to visit the coal
districts in the north of England to advise as to establishing a
railway between Stockton and Darlington, with extensions to the coal
fields of Bishop-Auckland; which he did in 1819, meeting with Mr.
Pease, Mr. Backhouse, and other influential men there, to whom, after
making a survey, he reported on the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

In making these various researches, Mr. Stevenson was enabled to
suggest many proposals which can only be regarded as valuable for
the period at which they were made, but he gave many opinions, which
undoubtedly have come wonderfully true in the history of railway

The Right Honourable Sir John Sinclair, Bart., proposed, in 1823,
certain queries to Mr. Stevenson relative to a proposal for the
construction of an iron railway between the cities of London and
Edinburgh, and the following is an extract from his reply, showing,
that while he fully appreciated the value of _ship-canals_, he
entertained the conviction that “iron railways” would become, as I have
already said, the highway of the future.

  “Regarding the practicability of such a scheme, it may be noticed
  that the late eminent James Watt entertained an idea of the
  eligibility and great advantage which might accrue to the public
  from the formation of a central and considerably elevated line
  of inland navigation constructed so as to ramify through the
  interior districts of England, and communicate with the principal
  manufacturing and populous towns in the kingdom.

  “In any comprehensive view of a measure of this kind there can
  be no doubt that an iron railway would not only be much more
  practicable, but more commodious and useful for general intercourse
  than a canal. And the comparative expenses of the two operations
  would probably be in the ratio of about one to eight in favour of
  the railway. Again, if the advantages of carriage by the railway
  and the _common road_ be compared, it will be found that the
  proportion is at the rate of about one to seven, also in favour of
  the railway.

  “The economy of carriage on the railway, when fully contrasted
  with that of the canal, is also much greater. It may now, indeed,
  be considered as a generally received opinion, that, unless for
  enabling sea-borne ships to pass from one side of the coast to
  another, so as to avoid a tedious or dangerous circumnavigation,
  the railway in every other case is preferable. It is at the same
  time to be noticed that when Mr. Watt suggested the idea of a
  central line of canal many years since, the railway system was then
  neither so well known nor so much acted upon as now.”

Mr. Stevenson’s belief that railways would ultimately be the general
highways of the world, led him to regard with distrust their
_immediate_ introduction into Britain in absence of some public Act
for their proper regulation, and accordingly, on 29th January 1825, he
writes to Lord Melville in the following terms:--“It seems necessary at
this time, even before any Act is proposed for a public railway, that a
Committee of the House should take the subject of regulating the width
according to the number of tracks, and perhaps the strength of rails
and weight to be carried on four wheels, in a public Act, otherwise
much confusion will ensue. It will be a great loss if these railways,
like the common road, should require to be altered that they may
communicate with each other.

“All the engineers I have spoken with, including Mr. Telford, agree in
this. I have noticed it to Mr. Home Drummond and Mr. Gladstone.

“I put the specification of the bridge at Melville Castle in train
before I left home.”

Had it been possible to carry out the spirit of this suggestion,
made at that early period, in an Act of the Legislature, I think, in
the retrospect of much that took place during our “railway manias”
and “railway company competitions,” it might possibly have proved
advantageous to the community.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, which has ever been
foremost to encourage everything that tends to the improvement of the
country, regarded the introduction of railways as a matter of great
importance, and considering it a subject that came legitimately within
their province, offered, in 1818, a premium of fifty guineas for the
best essay on the construction of railroads. Many competing treatises
were given in, and the Society placed the whole of them in the hands
of my father for his opinion and report on their merits, “together
with such remarks of his own as he might judge useful.” The result of
his examination is given at great length in the Transactions of the
Society,[9] accompanied by “notes,” in which he makes several valuable
suggestions. Before the period alluded to, the rails in use had been
almost invariably made of cast iron or timber; but my father in his
notes says--“I have no hesitation in giving a decided preference to
malleable iron formed into bars from twelve to twenty feet in length,
with flat sides and parallel edges, or _in the simple state in which
they come from the rolling-mills of the manufacturer_.” He also
recommends that they should be fixed into guides or chairs of iron
supported on props placed at distances in no case exceeding three feet,
and that they should be connected with a clamp-joint so as to preserve
the whole strength of the material. It is not a little singular that
this description, given about forty years ago, may, to use engineering
phraseology, be not inaptly called a “specification of the permanent
way” of our best railways at the present day.

I close this chapter by giving a letter which shows the value that
George Stephenson attached to my father’s researches on railways,
while it is at the same time interesting as showing the very moderate
estimate which the great Railway Engineer at that time entertained of
the performance of the locomotive engine--a machine which was destined
ultimately to become, under his skilful management, so important an
agent in changing the inland communication of the whole civilised

              _June 28, 1821_.


  “SIR,--With this you will receive three copies of a specification
  of a patent malleable iron rail invented by John Birkinshaw of
  Bedlington, near Morpeth. The hints were got from your Report on
  Railways, which you were so kind as to send me by favour of Mr.
  Cookson some time ago. Your reference to Tindal Fell Railway led
  the inventor to make some experiments on malleable iron bars, the
  result of which convinced him of the superiority of the malleable
  over the cast iron--so much so, that he took out a patent. Those
  rails are so much liked in this neighbourhood, that I think in a
  short time they will do away the cast iron railways. They make a
  fine line for our engines, as there are so few joints compared with
  the other. I have lately started a new locomotive engine, with some
  improvements on the others which you saw. It has far surpassed my
  expectations. I am confident a railway on which my engines can work
  is far superior to a _canal_. On a long and favourable railway
  I would stent my engines to travel 60 miles per day with from
  40 to 60 tons of goods. They would work nearly fourfold cheaper
  than horses where coals are not very costly. I merely make these
  observations, as I know you have been at more trouble than any man
  I know of in searching into the utility of railways, and I return
  you my sincere thanks for your favour by Mr. Cookson.

  “If you should be in this neighbourhood, I hope you would not pass
  Killingworth Colliery, as I should be extremely glad if you could
  spend a day or two with me.--I am, Sir, yours most respectfully,

            “G. STEPHENSON.”




There is scarcely a harbour or river in Scotland about which, at some
time, Mr. Stevenson was not asked to give his advice. His opinion was
also sought in England and Ireland, and he executed works of greater or
less extent in many of the cases in which he was consulted.

We may select from his reports the names of Dundee, Aberdeen,
Peterhead, Stonehaven, Granton, Fraserburgh, Ardrossan, Port-Patrick;
the rivers Forth, Tay, Severn, Mersey, Dee, Ribble, Wear, Tees, and
Erne, as among some of the many places in the United Kingdom where he
was employed.

In a subsequent chapter extracts will be found illustrating Mr.
Stevenson’s views on various professional subjects, and from these
it will be seen that he brought his large experience and study of
the waves to bear advantageously and practically on his harbour
engineering. He was, as will be gathered from the extracts, at an early
period fully alive to the value of spending basins for tranquillising
a harbour, and of the proper disposition of the covering piers, in
reference to the line of exposure, so as to avoid throwing sea into
the harbour’s mouth, or causing it to heap up on coming in contact
with the piers; while, as regards rivers, he was no less alive to
the value of _backwater_ in keeping open estuaries, and to the
necessity of removing all obstructions to the free flow of the tide in

At an early date, for example, Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Price were jointly
consulted as to the navigation of the Tees, and I am indebted to Mr.
John Fowler of Stockton, the engineer to the Tees Navigation, for the
following statement as to the result of that joint reference:--

“The Navigation Company consulted Mr. Stevenson and Mr. H. Price, who
differed in opinion as to the general treatment of the river. Mr. Price
recommended that it should be contracted by jetties, and Mr. Stevenson
that the banks should be faced with continuous walls, stating as his
reason for this recommendation, that ‘to project numerous jetties into
the river, I regard as inexpedient, being a dangerous encumbrance
to navigation, and tending to disturb the currents and destroy the
uniformity of the bottom.’ The plan adopted by the Navigation Company
was, however, that of Mr. Price; and jetties were constructed on the
river to a large extent,” and Mr. Fowler adds, that “after a trial
of twenty-seven years it was found that they were liable to all the
objections that had been urged against them by Mr. Stevenson.”

Accordingly, under Mr. Fowler’s direction, the whole of the jetties
have been removed.

One of the early harbour schemes in which my father was engaged in
England, was a harbour at Wallasey Pool, on the Mersey, in which he
acted in conjunction with Telford and Nimmo. The following reports
will show the nature and extent of work then contemplated as a
commencement of the Birkenhead Docks, now so valuable an adjunct to the
port of Liverpool. But at the early period of 1828, when the reports
were written, the public were not prepared to entertain a scheme of
improvement based on so great a scale. It included, as will be seen,
not only the formation of a floating harbour at Wallasey on the
Mersey, but the construction of a harbour at Helbre on the Dee, with a
connecting ship canal between the two estuaries.

  “_To the Subscribers for the proposed Wet Docks at Wallasey Pool._

        Engineers, on the proposed improvements at Wallasey Pool.

“_Liverpool, Feby. 23, 1828._--Having been requested to examine
the situation of the Wallasey Pool with a view to discover how far
additional accommodation might be obtained there for the increasing
trade of the port of Liverpool, we did accordingly meet at Woodside on
the 10th February 1828, and after examining the pool at high and low
water, and the action of the tides on the northern edge of the Leasowe
level, which we found to be overflowed at high water of the 16th and
17th and 18th February, with off-shore winds and moderate weather,
we next examined the shore down to low water in that place called
Mockbeggar Wharf, which we found to consist of turf and soft marl over
a bottom of fine clay. We afterwards visited the western part of the
level, which extends to the immediate vicinity of the estuary of the
Dee, part of which we examined, also Helbre, Hoylake, and the Rock
Channels, and directed certain surveys and levels to be taken for our
further information, and though we have not yet obtained all the data
requisite for forming estimates of the expense of improvement, we are
generally of opinion as follows:--

“That this situation of Wallasey Pool affords, beyond doubt, the most
favourable position in the vicinity of Liverpool for an extension of
the accommodation of the shipping trade of the port, at a very moderate

“The ground being level, the soil water-tight and of easy excavation,
docks may be formed there of any extent. The bay in front between
Seacombe and Woodside, though mostly shallow at present, affords the
first place of shelter within the Mersey, and small vessels lie there
out of the stream in perfect safety. It possesses a creek or channel
which could easily be enlarged and deepened so as to form an outer
tide harbour similar to the original harbour of Liverpool, but upon a
greater scale, and for the scouring of which it would be easy to open
up the tide in the pool to the extent of 250 acres, as far as Viners
Embankment, and above that to any extent that may be thought desirable.
This space having a deep creek through its whole extent forms a
complete half-tide basin for facilitating the entrance into the Docks
on either side, while on the shallow parts may be formed extensive
timber-ponds. Works of masonry in this situation being out of the
sea-way and of the stream of the tide, may be constructed with great
economy; good building stones are to be found at Bidston Hill, and the
whole soil is a brick earth.

“The situation possesses other advantages of access not so obvious,
but which may eventually be of the greatest importance. The Leasowe
level at the head of this pool extends as far as the river Dee, and
touches the sea-shore at Mock Beacon, where indeed it is occasionally
overflowed by the tide. In this direction it would be quite practicable
to open a direct passage for ships into the Horse Channel, by
excavating in marl and clay, only quite clear of the shifting sands
which are found in all other parts of the Mersey and Dee. And towards
the Dee a ship canal may easily be cut with its entrance either at
Dawpool in Hoylake, or in a tide harbour which could be formed at
Helbre, a position which affords many maritime advantages.

“That position has several good anchorages in its vicinity, three
different passages to sea, and is only five miles from the floating
light, the distance of which from Liverpool by Wallasey and Helbre is
exactly the same as by the Rock Channel; and nine miles of it would be
inland navigation, instead of an intricate passage among sandbanks, the
whole of which inland navigation is an addition to the floating harbour.

“Having thus briefly shown the facilities possessed to seaward, we may
next turn our attention to those connected with the inland navigation.
It is evident that to the ‘flats’ which navigate the Duke’s Canal,
Mersey and Irwell, Ellesmere, Sankey, and Weaver Navigations, Wallasey
Pool is just as accessible as the Docks of Liverpool, while by a canal
to Helbre you communicate with the large navigation of the Dee, and the
valuable mineral county of Flintshire; and if ever, as is extremely
probable, the canal navigation should be brought nearer to Liverpool,
the natural termination would be Tranmere or Wallasey Pool, between
which a cut can be easily formed. By this means boats from the small
canals in Staffordshire and the other inland counties can be brought
down to the seaport and return their cargo without the trouble of
transhipment,--an object, as being important to the proprietors of
these canals, that there can be little doubt of their endeavouring to
carry it into effect whenever the shipping can be accommodated on the
Cheshire side.

“Although in the present state of our survey, and until we meet our
eminent friend and colleague Mr. Telford, we are not prepared to
enter into any detail of plans or estimates of the expense of these
improvements, yet we are satisfied he will agree with us in opinion
that the cost of even the most expensive will be greatly inferior to
that of obtaining any important additional accommodation upon the
Liverpool shore, which being almost entirely occupied already, we
consider it impossible to obtain there at any expense sufficient room
for the increasing trade; and we would conclude this preliminary report
by recommending to the thriving and enlightened community of Liverpool
to weigh well the advantages above alluded to, and the benefit of now
extending their operations to the Cheshire shore.

            “ROBERT STEVENSON.
             ALEXANDER NIMMO.”


        NIMMO, Civil Engineers, recommending Two extensive new Sea
        Ports, etc., on the Rivers Dee and Mersey, adjacent to
        Liverpool, with a Floating Harbour or Ship Canal to connect

“The undersigned, having so far completed their land and water surveys
as to enable them to speak with confidence upon the practicability of
extending the accommodation for shipping to suit the rising demands
of this great commercial emporium, beg leave to commence their report
upon this important subject by describing the general outline of the
proposed improvements, and then to proceed to discuss them in detail;
but previous to this it is necessary to make a few preliminary remarks.

“_On the Estuaries of the Dee and Mersey._

“In one or other of these must always continue to be the great port of
the north-west of England, the preservation and improvement of which
has become the more important since this last century has added so
much to the progress of manufacturing and commercial enterprise, and to
that extension of inland navigation, which has rendered Liverpool not
only the great mart of the north-west of Britain and of all Ireland,
but nearly of the whole western world.

“The chief feature of these estuaries is the extensive range of
sandbanks in their front, through which an intricate ship-navigation
has to be carried. These channels have been always subject to
variations, and are now only safely navigated by a careful system of

“In the progress of our investigations, and feeling the great
importance of the measures we are about to recommend, we have carefully
inquired into the various changes which have taken place on these
banks, as far as can be collected from history or inferred from
observation, in order to be enabled to judge what is likely to take
place as to their future permanent condition.

“In the time of the Romans the Ribble seems to have been the chief port
of this district, and Ribchester is said to have been a city as great
as any out of Rome; the port was Poulton below Preston, at the Neb of
the Naze, so vastly inferior at the present time to various situations
on the Mersey and the Dee that it is impossible not to admit that some
extraordinary change has taken place in their physical condition since
that period. Tradition says that the port of the Ribble was destroyed
by an earthquake, and also that there were tremendous inundations in
Cheshire and Lancashire about the termination of the Roman sway in
Britain; and various phenomena we have seen seem to point to some such

“It is well known that in the Saxon times the river Dee was an
important navigation, and that Chester was then and for many ages after
the great port of the west, and for the connection with Ireland, whilst
the Mersey was little known, and Liverpool only a fishing village.

“But in after times the port of Chester was so much obstructed by
sandbanks in the upper portions that the city became inaccessible to
vessels of large draught, and though serious efforts were made to
remedy this evil, and have even partly accomplished it, yet the trade
of the country was gradually transferred to Liverpool on the Mersey,
which had become a place of considerable importance at the time of the
Revolution, and had been created an independent port: before, it was
only a creek of Chester.

“In our inquiries into the early state of the navigations of the Dee
and Mersey, the oldest chart we have found of any authority is that of
Grenville Collins, in 1690. It is dedicated to King William, to whom he
acted as pilot on his expedition to Ireland; and as that army embarked
from Hoylake, as also that of the year before under General Schomberg,
and as Collins was officially employed in making charts of the coast,
there can be no doubt that, though rude, it conveys, as far as it goes,
an authentic representation of the state of navigation at that time.

“The roadstead of Hoylake was then spacious and deep, with five fathoms
into it, and seven fathoms inside, from one half to three quarters of a
mile wide, and covered by the Hoyle Sand, which was then one solid bank
without any swash or opening across it, and was dry at neap tides as
far as opposite the Point of Air and beyond.

“The Dove Point then projected a mile and three-quarters from the
shore, separating Hoylake from the Rock Channel, which was then nearly
dry at low water as far as Mockbeggar, between which and Burbo Sand
there was only one quarter fathom, and between Dove Point and Burbo
only two fathoms.

“The large vessels which at that time belonged to Liverpool put out
part of their lading in Hoylake until they were light enough to sail
over the flats to Liverpool.

“The union of Hoylake and the Rock Channel formed, as at present,
the principal passage to sea, called the Horse Channel, then a fair
opening with three to seven fathoms, but considerably to the eastward
of the present channel of that name; for Collins’s sailing mark through
it was Mockbeggar Hall upon the Banquetting-House in Bidston, would
mark the present Spencer’s Gut as having been the channel. The north
spit did not then exist, or rather was part of the Hoyle bank; and the
Beggar’s Patch seems to have been the extremity of Dove Point. The
Formby Channel was said to have three fathoms on the bar, but was not
buoyed or beaconed, therefore not used.

“The Chester bar had nine feet least water; and Wild Road is marked
as good anchorage, much used in the coal trade. About 1760, published
in 1776, we have the Survey of Mackenzie, who was employed by the
Admiralty to make charts of the western coasts of Britain, which are
still in high reputation.

“At this time Hoylake continued to be a good roadstead, though greatly
altered; the depth at entrance was only two fathoms, eight fathoms
in the middle, the width only three furlongs, and its length had
diminished at least a mile. A passage was opened from the Rock Channel
across to Dove Point into Hoylake, and across the east end of Hoyle
Sand, with four to eight fathoms, forming the present Horse Channel.

“On this chart we also perceive the beginning of another opening across
the Hoyle Sand, now called Helbre Swash, then dry at low water at each
end, having three fathoms in the middle, now a deep and fair channel
with seven to nine fathoms, and two and a half least water at its mouth.

“Since the opening of this channel or swash little or no tide sets
through the Hoylake, which is gradually closing up, and now used only
for small craft.

“The existence of Hoylake was of material importance to Liverpool and
also to the Dee, for vessels could run there at any time; the entrance
to it was marked by leading lights in the middle of last century, one
of the first applications of reflecting lights to the purposes of
navigation; they are now of little use, as the sand has shifted to the
eastward, and the entrance is nearly dry at low water.

“The Rock Channel seems to have undergone a very important change by
the time of Mackenzie’s survey. We have observed that in Collins’s
time, 1690, it was dry at low water as far nearly as Mockbeggar.
Although this is still nearly the case at the Perch at low tides, it is
opened below that in a material degree. In the space of seventy years
the channel had deepened to have three or four fathoms in Wallasey
Hole; also between Mockbeggar Wharf and the north bank, which was dry
at low water; and a channel had opened across Dove Point, with two and
three fathoms, into Hoylake, and from thence across the east end of
Hoyle, forming the present Horse Channel, as before described, with
four to eight fathoms out to sea. On the other hand, the sand from
this deepening had been carried down to seaward, forming a complete
shoal across the original Horse Channel of Collins’s time, in whose
sailing-line is marked a depth of four feet only, and this shoal
connected with that called the Beggar’s Patch, and thence with the spit
or flat along the west side of the Horse Channel, on which was six
feet water. This last channel was direct and fair, with five to eight
fathoms, and previous to the publication of Mackenzie’s chart, but
after the time of his survey, was marked by two lighthouses at Leasowe
shore, and subsequently by that on Bidston Hill under the direction of
Captain Hutchinson, as was also the entrance into Hoylake by the two
lights near Meols, as before described.

“The Formby Channel is marked as deep upon Mackenzie’s chart, with
four fathoms at the entrance, and between Taylor’s Bank and Middle
Patch two fathoms; there is now only five feet over the flats at low
water at its entrance, and it was buoyed in at Mackenzie’s time; but,
though the deepest channel to Liverpool, it is, from its intricacy and
instability, still very little used for navigation.

“Lieutenant Evans published a survey of the Liverpool and Chester
rivers, with a book of sailing directions, which is in good repute. We
have preferred the chart by Mr. Thomas in 1813, made by order of the
Lords of the Admiralty, for the purpose of comparison with the several
before mentioned surveys, as more minute in detail.

“At the time of this survey, fifty years after that of Mackenzie,
Hoylake had diminished in breadth to one furlong; the depth at the
entrance was three to seven feet; four fathoms near the Red Stones;
since that time it is still shallowing, and now may be walked across at
low water, from Dove Point to East Hoyle; so that this roadstead may be
considered as lost.

“Helbre Swash had opened to half a mile wide, with six or eight fathoms
water, but with a shoal at its entrance of one fathom; there are now
two fathoms and a half through that entrance.

“The Brazil or North Bank had extended dry, at low water, as far as
Spencer’s Gut Buoy, and the North Spit or four feet flats had extended
into the Horse Channel across the line of sea lights, thereby forcing
that channel further into Hoyle Bank. The lower part of the Rock
Channel had enlarged by the formation of a passage on each side of the
Beggar’s Patch.

“The entrance to Formby Channel had very much altered since Mackenzie’s
time, and, though better marked, still continued to be little
frequented. The floating light placed opposite Helbre Swash and the
Horse Channel, outside of all the banks, has made a great improvement
in the access from the seaward in that direction.

“The Rock Channel, from these circumstances, continues to be the main
passage to and from the harbour of Liverpool, but it is only provided
with day marks, and though well buoyed cannot be navigated by night;
being very narrow, and having banks in its middle, it is difficult for
vessels to beat through with foul winds in one tide, and as there is no
secure anchorage, frequent delays and losses take place in this part of
the navigation.

“Within the harbour of Liverpool or in the river Mersey the principal
places of anchorage are--

“1st, Abreast the town.

“2d, Off the Magazines, which is used by the outward-bound vessels.

“3d, Up the river in Sloyne Roads, or Broombro Pool, which is almost
confined to vessels under quarantine.

“In the two first-mentioned anchorages a great sea tumbles in, with NE.
gales, and this, with the rapid tide and bad holding ground, causes
vessels to drift, even with two anchors down, so that it is necessary
for all the merchant vessels, as soon as the tide serves, to proceed
into dock and remain there until a favourable opportunity occurs of
putting to sea, so as to get through the Rock and Horse Channels with
daylight; hence a considerable accumulation of vessels within the docks
at all times, but especially when there has been a continuance of
northerly and westerly winds, and which has made it necessary to look
now for additional accommodation on the opposite shore of Wallasey Pool.

“_Proposed establishment at Wallasey._

“Small craft find good shelter on the banks at the mouth of Wallasey
Pool, being there out of the stream, and land-locked by the Point of

“The steamers also, to which dispatch is of moment, moor along this
shore, and if there was more room in Wallasey Pool it would decidedly
be the best anchorage about Liverpool.

“Wallasey Creek runs nearly for two miles from the Mersey, where it
is stopped by an embankment, through which the waters of 3000 acres
of marsh land pass by a tunnel. The pool below the embankment covers
nearly 250 acres at spring-tides, and by its backwater maintains a
channel through the creek down to low water springs, and with seventeen
feet at high water springs as far up as the embankment.

“Previous to the embankment it is certain that this creek was
materially deeper. On Mackenzie’s chart, opposite to its mouth, there
are twenty fathoms marked, being much more than anywhere within the
Mersey at present, and a bottom of rock. This channel would therefore
be restored by any considerable addition to the backwater; and at
all events, if the lower parts of the creek were opened by dredging,
and, by a power of scouring it, low water obtained, a safer inlet for
vessels to run to would be acquired than at present exists anywhere in
the neighbourhood of Liverpool.

“On the south side of the creek, between Woodside Ferry and Bridge End,
there is a bottom of sandstone rock, but this ceases at Bridge End
Creek; and above that place the shore is composed of firm clay, fit for
brick making, to a depth at least of thirty feet, in which excavation
for docks and basins could be carried on with great facility.

“Upon the attention being directed to Wallasey Pool as a commercial
station, it will appear at first view obvious that an entrance might
be made along the low ground which extends from it to the sea shore
at Leasowe, by which a direct passage to sea might be obtained, and
the insecurities and dangers of the bar and banks of the Rock Channel
be avoided; but the objections to such an entrance are, that the
channel outside affords no safe anchorage, and the cut would be exposed
directly to the stroke of the sea, and if protected by piers their
construction would not only be expensive, but might also materially
alter the channel along shore.

“But the ground continues equally favourable to the westward as far as
Hoylake and the Dee below the hill of the Grange. The shore is skirted
by a narrow belt of sandhills, through which however there would be
no great difficulty in making a passage into the tideway. Here it
is important to remark that the Helbre Swash opens a deep and fair
channel, well sheltered by banks on each side, and only five miles in
extent to the floating light, which is in a direct line with it.

“This channel has been formed within the last century, and readily
accounts for the deterioration of Hoylake; it now carries down most
of the ebb of the Dee, and is likely to improve still more, having
deepened materially since Thomas’s survey in 1813.

“Through all the vicissitudes we have traced there has been deep water
and good anchorage at the point of Helbre Island; and as that situation
affords solid rock for every sort of construction, there can be no risk
of the permanency of any work that may be established there.

“Sea-locks constructed at Helbre would be protected against the
prevailing westerly gales by the island itself, against the northerly
by the bank of East Hoyle; and they may be connected to the mainland by
banks formed across the strand, which is mostly dry at high water of
neap tides; and by means of these banks a pond of sixty-four acres may
be enclosed, which, being filled at spring tides, may be employed for
the purposes of scouring and keeping open the harbour and its entrance,
and as a reservoir for a ship canal from thence to the shore, and along
the low ground to Wallasey Pool. Such a canal, of large dimensions, and
seven miles long, will be one continued floating harbour, which may be
carried to a great extent in various directions and on the same level.

“Independent of Helbre Swash two other channels for ships passing
to sea unite at that position; one, the original Hoylake, still
sufficiently navigable at high water; the other, the passage by Wild
Road and Chester Bar, greatly superior in safety and permanency to that
of the Formby Channel; for in all the successive charts little or no
change seems to have taken place on that bar, which continues to have
nine feet at low water, with a rise of thirty. The great extent of
ebb-tide from the Dee (being quite as extensive an estuary as that of
the Mersey) must always keep one or other of those channels or all of
them open, so that ships may sail from Helbre in almost every wind; and
if necessary to beat out, a vessel starting from Helbre with the first
of the ebb down the Swash will be at the floating light and clear of
the banks before another from Liverpool can get round the Rock Perch.

“To persons at all acquainted with the navigation to Liverpool it
must be quite unnecessary to point out the benefit of this proposed
arrangement, which, while it preserves all the advantages of
communicating with the Mersey, and the extensive inland navigations
connected therewith, affords a new passage to and from the sea,
by means of the Dee, by which both the distance and dangers of an
intricate navigation will be wholly avoided.

“An important advantage obtained by this plan is, that the proposed
entrance at Helbre is within the jurisdiction of the port of Chester,
of which it is recorded as a creek in Sir Matthew Hale’s Treatise _De
portibus maris_; and business done there or upon its waters, even as
far as Wallasey Pool, being within the port of Chester, will have to
pay the dues at that port; and unless ships and goods lock into the
Mersey they are exempted from the dues of Liverpool. The facility of
construction is so great that a moderate charge for dues will be a
sufficient remuneration for the capital required. The ground on either
side of the canal is singularly suitable to be appropriated to any kind
of establishment connected with shipping, and there can be no doubt
that it will be so employed even by private speculation; but in so
extensive a scheme as we propose it will be advisable for the promoters
of the measure at once to establish a set of docks and warehouses
of the most perfect description, as has been done in all the docks
which have been constructed in and adjacent to London, and we have
accordingly designed a set of such warehouses and yards as part of the

“_Details of the Plan._

“Commencing at the river Mersey, we propose to dredge out and widen
Wallasey Creek at least to the depth of three feet under low water of
spring tides, being four feet below the sill of Prince’s Dock, and
this for 200 feet in width up as far as the entrance into the basins;
to lay the sill of the greater entrance lock at that level, also the
sill of the basin of the barge lock. The barge entrance lock to have
a lift of ten feet; the ship lock four feet; so as to give the same
water when the gates are opened as into the Prince’s Dock. The side of
Wallasey Creek will be quayed for four hundred yards below the entrance
of the dock, to facilitate transporting vessels into and out of the

“The tide basin is 1000 yards long, and 100 yards wide in the middle,
curving on the north side towards the locks at each end, the south side
receding 100 feet, so as to give berthage to timber vessels, and in
the front of them a sloping wharf and bonding yards for timber; a line
of barge canal between these yards and the warehouses on the main dock
will facilitate the removal of the timber without interfering with the

“The entrance lock into this basin from the tideway will be fifty feet
wide, the entrance wing walls widening gradually to 100 feet, to afford
easy access to the shipping when both gates are thrown open. At low
water, neaps, or half tide, two or three vessels may pass at a time.
The upper lock between this basin and the canal to be double; one large
lock, forty-five feet wide and 160 feet long, for great ships, and
another, twenty-five feet wide, for smaller vessels, with gates at each
end, pointing both to land and seawards. These locks to rise to four
feet below the old dock sill of Liverpool, and thus to have twenty-two
feet water in the canal on the level of an eighteen feet tide, which we
propose to make the surface level of the canal.

“The ship dock parallel to this basin will be 400 yards long and 100
wide, with warehouses on each side, supported by iron pillars, so as to
form a covered wharf, as at the St. Katherine’s Dock in London; behind
these warehouses a parallel barge canal fit for river flats, forty feet
wide, which will, as in Holland, be found a singular convenience.
These canals communicate with a dock and basin for flats only, whence
the barges may be let down into the creek during the ebb; and as they
navigate at the lowest water they will be ready to pass up the Mersey
with the first of the flood; and in like manner, coming down with the
last of the ebb, will get into the pool and enter the dock without
losing a tide. Ships from the Mersey, in like manner, may enter the
basin with half-flood, and be ready to proceed down the Swash with the
first of the ebb.

“The flat marsh by the Boilers Yards is well adapted for this
establishment, but as the ground beyond is high for some distance we
propose the canal to be 124 feet only at water surface for 1000 yards
from the locks, and to be lined with a stone wall on each side, so that
this space will, in fact, be also a dock. Afterwards the marsh widens,
and here is a favourable place for another entrance basin and dock,
if necessary. From this point we propose to continue the canal with
sloping banks, the bottom to be four feet under the level of the old
dock sill, and 163 feet in width at the surface of the water, which
will be twenty-two feet in depth.

“The canal proceeds at first in the direction of the Leasowe
Lighthouse, and approaches within half a mile of the shore, and about
the same distance north of the village of Moreton, and then turns to
the westward, keeping half a mile inland from the villages of Great and
Little Meols through Newton Car, where it turns off to Helbre Island,
and enters the strand about half a mile above the hotel; across the
strand it is carried by embankments to the upper end of Helbre Island.
A large breadth is allowed for the embankment on the sea-side, with
facing mound of stone from the rocky point near the Red Stone to within
600 feet of the Point of Helbre. The head of this pier to be of rough
stone, rounded off, and carefully paved. A pier head is to be built
in Helbre of 300 feet in length, leaving an opening of 300 feet into
the tide harbour, which is fifty acres in extent, and to be cleared
to at least low water of a spring-tide, and preserved of that depth by

“A quay wall is to be constructed of hewn stone along the Helbre Island
from the pier-head 600 yards to the tide lock, which is to be fifty
feet wide, as at Wallasey; another tide lock of similar dimensions on
the north side of the harbour. The north pier is only intended to be
of rough stone; but a short covering pier will be made to protect that
lock and facilitate the entry of ships. Above these locks the canal is
to be formed into a tide basin of 500 yards in length, the level of
which may be kept at that of the tide of the day; and at the upper end
are two parallel canal locks, as at Wallasey, with gates pointing to
the sea and land at each end, as the tide will occasionally rise higher
than the level of the water in the canal.

“From Helbre Island to the Middle Helbre, thence to the Eye, and from
that to the shore at Kirby Church, an embankment and road will be
carried along the ridge and made water-tight. By this and the canal a
pond, as has already been described, will be enclosed, of 640 acres,
which will fill at spring-tides to the depth of nine feet, containing
3,000,000 of cubic yards, and may be all emptied for the purpose of
scouring the outer harbour; but at the latter part of the spring tides
it will be advisable to fill this pond as a reservoir for lockage
water, for which purpose it may be drawn down three feet to the canal
level, and will hold 1200 locks-full for ship lockage at each end,
and, if necessary, 1000 more locks-full may be drawn off without any
material inconvenience to the navigation.

“We now subjoin an estimate of what we conceive will be the expense of
completing these works, including an extensive range of warehouses on
each side of the dock at Wallasey Pool, and of enclosed timber yards
along the tide basin; and for all the items we have made a liberal


  Excavations in Wallasey Creek and Helbre Harbour, also in
    the Locks, Basins, and Canal to Helbre, and Barge Canal
    and Basins,                                                 £436,017

  Quay Walls on Creek, Basins, Locks, and Canal at Wallasey
    Pool,                                                        230,100

  Bridges and Tunnels,                                            38,000

  Piers and Quays Walls, Helbre Harbour,                          95,100

  Locks, Dams, and Culverts, Helbre Harbour,                     111,000

  Warehouses at Wallasey Pool, Inclosure Walls, and Paving,      183,000

  Purchase of Land,                                              125,000

  For Surveys, Act of Parliament, Law Expenses,
    Superintendents’, Lock-keepers’, and other Offices,
    etc., and Contingencies on Works, Fifteen per Cent.,         182,731

“For the above sum a floating harbour will be obtained of seven miles
in length, capable of indefinite enlargement, with extensive warehouse
accommodation, and with a sea-port at either end on the two separate
estuaries. That this is not too great for the wants of the country will
be at once admitted by those who consider the vast extent of shipping
usually moored in the Thames, notwithstanding all its docks; the total
inapplicability of the rivers Mersey or Dee to such a purpose; and the
confined space which even the docks of Liverpool can afford for the
accommodation of a trade now hardly inferior to that of the metropolis,
and certainly and rapidly increasing.

            “THOS. TELFORD.
             ROBT. STEVENSON.
             ALEXANDER NIMMO.

   “LONDON, _16th May 1828_.”

    “FURTHER REPORT respecting the proposed two new Ports, etc., on the
        Rivers Dee and Mersey, adjacent to Liverpool.

  “In the foregoing report we have shown the form and expense of this
  establishment when completed upon an extensive and perfect plan.
  At the commencement, however, of so great an undertaking it is
  not to be expected that all the conveniences we have proposed can
  be immediately required; a considerable portion may therefore be
  deferred until the wants and increasing demands of trade shall show
  them to be necessary. In the meantime the essential parts of the
  improvement may be effected, with a smaller expenditure of capital,
  so as to obtain all that safety and facility of access which we
  have shown to be leading features of this plan.

  “We have proposed to make the canal from Wallasey to Helbre wide
  enough for three great ships, so as to admit of part of it being
  used as a floating harbour, still leaving room for navigation;
  but for navigation alone it will be quite enough to adopt the
  dimensions of the Caledonian Canal, viz., 120 feet at surface,
  and if the trade should increase so as to require it, instead of
  widening it, a parallel canal may hereafter be made, with a bank
  and two towing-paths between, leaving the whole of the opposite
  banks applicable to berthage and commercial establishments. The
  same locks will serve at either end, and the transporting of ships
  be greatly facilitated; and the construction of this canal, or
  repair of the other, may be effected without any interruption to
  the navigation by such an arrangement. Again, the double locks at
  the Wallasey end of the canal, intended for the greater dispatch
  of business, may very well be deferred for the present, and the
  entrance basin made of smaller dimensions. The ship dock there may
  at first be made as a part of the canal, and quayed on one side
  only, and afterwards widened and completed when wanted. The half
  tide dock may be dispensed with by enlarging the barge tide dock so
  as to serve also for ships, and the quay walling of the pool and of
  the first mile of the canal may also be deferred. The warehouses at
  Wallasey dock may be dispensed with at first, or left to individual
  capital; but it will be highly proper to secure a sufficient
  quantity of land to enable all these improvements to be undertaken
  at some future period. We do not deem it advisable to give up the
  enlargement and deepening of the entrance of Wallasey Pool, as on
  that depends much of the utility of the plan in giving access to
  vessels at low tides; and for a similar reason we would preserve
  all the works proposed for the harbour at Helbre Island. Upon this
  modified plan the expense, as below, will be £734,163.

           “THOS. TELFORD.
            ROBT. STEVENSON.
            ALEX. NIMMO.

           “CHESTER, _July 14, 1828_.


  Excavating Tide Basin, Barge Dock, and half of Ship Dock,
    at Wallasey End,                                          £25,000

  Walling along the Pool, from Brassey’s Works, also the
    Barge Dock and one side of Ship Dock,                      31,500

  Ship Lock, Barge Lock, and Tide Gates for Basin, and two
    Swivel Bridges,                                            36,500

  Dredging Wallasey Creek, as before,                          20,000

  Land and Damages,                                            51,000

        Fifteen per Cent. Contingencies,                       24,485
        For Wallasey End,                                    £188,485
  Excavating Canal,                                          £207,403

  Bridges and Tunnel,                                          22,000

  Land and Damages,                                            27,000

        Fifteen per Cent.,                                     38,460
        For the Canal,                                       £294,863
  Pier and Quay Walls from Helbre, as before,                 £95,100

  Locks, Dams, and Culverts, do.,                             111,000

  Excavation in Harbour,                                       10,000

  Strand and Damages on Isle,                                   2,000

  Fifteen per Cent.,                                           32,715
        GENERAL TOTAL,                                       £734,163”

I have given the Reports of the three Engineers to whom this question
was remitted, to show the very comprehensive view they took of the
important subject referred for their opinion; and it is almost
unnecessary to tell professional readers that after a lapse of nearly
a quarter of a century the embryo but comprehensive proposal of
Telford, Stevenson, and Nimmo resulted in the modified but still large
Birkenhead Dock scheme of J. M. Rendel.

       *       *       *       *       *

The original design for the improvement of the Tay was made by Messrs.
Robert and Alan Stevenson, in 1833, and in connection with my father’s
life a short account of the works may be desirable as illustrating his
practice in River Engineering in the Tay and other rivers.

The river Tay, with its numerous tributaries, receives the drainage
water of a district of Scotland amounting to 2283 square miles, as
measured on Arrowsmith’s map. Its _mean_ discharge has been ascertained
to be 274,000 cubic feet, or 7645 tons of water per minute. It is
navigable as far as Perth, which is twenty-two miles from Dundee and
thirty-two from the German Ocean.

Before the commencement of the works, certain ridges, called “fords,”
stretched across the bed of the river, at different points between
Perth and Newburgh, and obstructed the passage to such a degree that
vessels drawing from ten to eleven feet could not, during the highest
tides, make their way up to Perth without great difficulty. The depth
of water on these fords varied from one foot nine inches to two feet
six inches at low, and eleven feet nine inches to fourteen feet at
high water of spring tides; so that the regulating navigable depth,
under the most favourable circumstances, could not be reckoned at
more than eleven feet. The chief disadvantage experienced by vessels
in the unimproved state of the river was the risk of their being
detained by grounding, or being otherwise obstructed at these defective
places, so as to lose the tide at Perth,--a misfortune which, at times
when the tides were falling from springs to neaps, often led to the
necessity either of lightening the vessel, or of detaining her till the
succeeding springs afforded sufficient depth for passing the fords.
The great object aimed at, therefore, was to remove every cause of
detention, and facilitate the propagation of the tidal wave in the
upper part of the river, so that inward-bound vessels might take the
first of the flood to enable them to reach Perth in one tide. Nor was
it, indeed, less important to remove every obstacle that might prevent
outward-bound vessels from reaching Newburgh, and the more open and
deep parts of the navigation before low water of the tide with which
they left Perth.

The works undertaken by the Harbour Commissioners of Perth for the
purpose of remedying the evils alluded to, and which extended over six
working seasons, may be briefly described as follows:--

_1st_, The fords, and many intermediate shallows, were deepened by
steam dredging; and the system of harrowing was employed in some of
the softer banks in the lower part of the river. Many large detached
boulders and “fishing cairns,” which obstructed the passage of vessels,
were also removed.

_2d_, Three subsidiary channels, or offshoots from the main stream, at
Sleepless, Darry, and Balhepburn islands, were shut up by embankments
formed of the produce of the dredging, so as to confine the whole of
the water to the navigable channel, and the banks of the navigable
channel were widened to receive the additional quantity of water which
they had to discharge.

_3d_, In some places the banks on either side of the river beyond low
water mark, where much contracted, were excavated, in order to equalise
the currents, by allowing sufficient space for the free passage of
the water; and this was more especially done on the shores opposite
Sleepless and Darry islands, where the shutting up of the secondary
channels rendered it more necessary.

The benefit to the navigation in consequence of the completion of
these works was of a twofold kind; for not only was the depth of
water materially increased by actual deepening of the waterway, and
the removal of numerous obstructions from the bed of the river, but a
clearer and a freer passage was made for the flow of the tide, which
begins to rise at Perth much sooner than before; and as the time of
high water is unaltered, the advantages of increased depth due to the
presence of the tide is proportionally increased throughout the whole
range of the navigation; or, in other words, the _duration of tidal
influence has been prolonged_.

The depths at the shallowest places were pretty nearly equalised,
being five feet at low and fifteen feet at high water, of ordinary
spring tides, instead, as formerly, of one foot nine inches at low and
eleven feet at high water. Steamers of small draught of water can now
therefore ply at _low water_, and vessels drawing fourteen feet can now
come up to Perth in _one tide_ with ease and safety.




In 1808 Mr. Stevenson was the discoverer of the _Limnoria terebrans_,
that small but sure destroyer of timber structures exposed to the
action of the sea, and forwarded specimens of the insect and of
the timber it had destroyed to Dr. Leach, the eminent naturalist,
of the British Museum, who, in 1811, announced it as a “new and
highly interesting species which had been sent to him by his friend
Robert Stevenson, Civil Engineer,” and assigned to it the name of
_Limnoria terebrans_ (_Linnean Trans._, vol. xi. p. 37, and _Edinburgh
Encylopædia_, vol. vii. p. 433).

The _Teredo navalis_, which is a larger and even more destructive
enemy, is happily not so prevalent in northern seas as the _Limnoria_.

So impressed was Mr. Stevenson with the importance of his discovery as
affecting marine engineering, and especially harbour works, that he
resolved to establish a train of systematic experiments by exposing
the timber of different trees to the action of salt water, and it
occurred to him that no situation could be more suitable for such
observations than the Bell Rock, where the specimens would not only be
fully exposed to the sea, and free from any interference, but would
be strictly watched and minutely reported on by the lightkeepers. He
further conceived it proper, in the interests of the navy, to take
the Admiralty into his counsels, and he accordingly communicated his
intention to that Board, with the result that many of the specimens
of timber experimented on were sent from Woolwich dockyard, and the
results of the trials were from time to time communicated to the

The different blocks of timber under trial were treenailed to the rock,
and the experiments extended over a period of nearly thirty years.
They clearly proved that teak, African oak, English and American oak,
mahogany, beech, ash, elm, and the different varieties of pine, were
found sooner or later to become a prey to the _Limnoria_. Greenheart
oak was alone found to withstand their attacks, and even this timber
was ultimately not entirely unaffected.

The result of these valuable experiments is given in the following

    TABLE showing the different kinds of Timber which were exposed to
        the attacks of the _Limnoria terebrans_ at the Bell Rock in
        1814, 1821, 1837, 1843, with their durabilities.

  |                 |Decay    |Unsound | Quite  |                  |
  | Kind of Timber. |first    |  and   | sound  |     Remarks.     |
  |                 |observed.| quite  |  for   |                  |
  |                 |         |decayed.|        |                  |
  |                 |yrs. mo. |yrs. mo.|yrs. mo.|                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Greenheart, 1    |         |        |19   0  |1 Affected in     |
  |                 |         |        |        |  one corner.     |
  |Teak-wood,       |         |        |13   0  |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Beef-wood,       |         |        |13   0  |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Treenail of      |         |        | 5   0  |                  |
  |  Bullet-wood,   |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Beech, Payne’s   |10   7   |        |        |2 A little        |
  |  patent pro., 2 |         |        |        |  holed at        |
  |                 |         |        |        |  one end         |
  |Teak-wood, 3     | 5   6   |        |        |  underneath.     |
  |                 |         |        |        |  Nearly sound    |
  |African Oak, 4   | 5   6   |        |        |  7½ years after  |
  |                 |         |        |        |  being laid      |
  |                 |         |        |        |  down.           |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Do. do.          | 4  11   | 10  0  |        |3 Nearly sound    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  7½ years after  |
  |English Oak,     | 4   7   | 10  0  |        |  being laid      |
  |  kyanised,      |         |        |        |  down.           |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Teak-wood,       | 4   7   | 12  0  |        |4 Nearly sound    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  7½ years after  |
  |American Oak,    | 4   3   |        |        |  being laid      |
  |  kyanised, 5    |         |        |        |  down.           |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |British Ash,     | 3   0   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |5 Decaying,       |
  |Scotch Elm,      | 3   0   |  5  0  |        |  but slowly, 5   |
  |                 |         |        |        |  years and 7     |
  |Ash,             | 2  11   |  4  3  |        |  months after    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  being laid      |
  |English Elm,     | 2  11   |  4  7  |        |  down.           |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Plane Tree, 6    | 2  11   |        |        |6 Decaying,       |
  |                 |         |        |        |  but slowly, 5   |
  |American Oak,    | 2  11   |  4  7  |        |  years and 7     |
  |                 |         |        |        |  months after    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  being laid      |
  |                 |         |        |        |  down.           |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Baltic Red       | 2   9   |  4  3  |        |7 A good deal     |
  |  Pine, 7        |         |        |        |  decayed when    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  first observed. |
  |English Oak,     | 2   4   |  4  7  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Scotch Oak, 8    | 2   4   |        |        |8 Much decayed    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  when first      |
  |Baltic Oak,      | 2   4   |  4  3  |        |  observed.       |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Norway Fir,      | 2   4   |  3  1  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Baltic Red       | 2   4   |  4  7  |        |                  |
  |  Pine, kyanised,|         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Pitch Pine,      | 2   4   |  4  3  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |American         | 2   4   |  3  7  |        |                  |
  |  Yellow Pine,   |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |American Red     | 2   4   |  3  1  |        |                  |
  |  Pine,          |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Do. do.,         | 2   4   |  4  7  |        |                  |
  |  kyanised,      |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Larch,           | 2   4   |  4  3  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Honduras         | 2   1   |        |        |9 Nearly sound    |
  |  Mahogany, 9    |         |        |        |  3½ years after  |
  |                 |         |        |        |  being laid      |
  |Beech,           | 1   9   |  3  1  |        |  down. Washed    |
  |                 |         |        |        |  away 6 months   |
  |American Elm,    | 1   9   |  3  1  |        |  later.          |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Treenail of      | 5   0   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |  Locust,        |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |British Oak,     | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |American Oak,    | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Plane Tree,      | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Honduras Teak    | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |  treenails,     |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Beech,           | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Scotch Fir,      | 1   6   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |  teak treenails,|         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Do. from         | 1   6   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |  Lanarkshire,   |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Do. do.          | 1   6   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Do. Locust       | 1   6   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |  treenails,     |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Memel Fir,       | 1   6   |  5  0  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Pitch Pine, 10   | 1   6   |  2  6  |        |10 Going fast     |
  |                 |         |        |        |   when first     |
  |English Oak,     | 1   1   |  3  1  |        |   observed.      |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Italian Oak,     | 1   1   |  3  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Dantzic Oak,     | 1   1   |  2  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |English Elm,     | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Canada Rock      | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |                  |
  |  Elm,           |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Cedar of         | 1   1   |  2  6  |        |                  |
  |  Lebanon,       |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Riga Fir,        | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Dantzic Fir,     | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Virginia Pine,   | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Yellow Pine, 11  | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |11 A good deal    |
  |                 |         |        |        |   gone 18 months |
  |Red Pine,        | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |   after being    |
  |                 |         |        |        |   laid down.     |
  |                 |         |        |        |   Swept away by  |
  |                 |         |        |        |   the sea 7      |
  |                 |         |        |        |   months         |
  |                 |         |        |        |   afterwards.    |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Cawdie Pine, 12  | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |12 A good deal    |
  |                 |         |        |        |   decayed when   |
  |                 |         |        |        |   first observed.|
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |Polish Larch, 13 | 1   1   |  1  6  |        |13 Going fast     |
  |                 |         |        |        |   when first     |
  |Birch, Payne’s   | 0  10   |  1  10 |        |   observed.      |
  |  patent pro.,   |         |        |        |                  |
  |                 |         |        |        |                  |
  |American         | 0   8   |  3  0  |        |                  |
  |  Locust         |         |        |        |                  |
  |  treenails,     |         |        |        |                  |

Mr. Stevenson seems to have formed an opinion that the best
preservative against decay was charring the timber, as recommended in
the following extract from a report, made in 1811, to the Trustees of
Montrose Bridge:--

  “The changeableness of climate to which the northern parts of this
  island are subject renders edifices of timber more liable to decay
  here than perhaps in any other country in Europe. But the bridge
  at Montrose is curiously circumstanced; for while it unavoidably
  exposes a great surface of timber to the action of the weather,
  some of the wooden piers are immersed twenty-two feet in the water,
  where they are attacked by a destructive marine worm. Some of the
  woodwork at the Bell Rock was infested with the same species of
  animal which preys upon the wooden pier at Montrose. In some of
  the temporary works there, as in the beams laid for carrying the
  railway over the inequalities of the rock, the timber was so much
  wormed that some logs measuring one foot when laid down would not
  square to more than nine inches at the end of three years. The
  beams which supported the wooden house for the accommodation of
  the artificers while the lighthouse was erecting escaped almost
  untouched, having been slightly charred, but the reporter, when
  inspecting the Bell Rock works this year, found that these worms
  are making some impression upon the ends of the supports resting
  on the rock where the charring could not take effect. The reporter
  is therefore of opinion that there is no better defence against
  the effects of this animal than slightly charring the timber, and
  he would recommend the practice at the bridge of Montrose wherever
  it can be applied. The operation of charring at the Bell Rock was
  performed by previously scraping off the adhering matter upon the
  logs and laying the skin of the wood open, and tar was applied
  to promote the combustion. Charcoal, besides being tasteless and
  inodorous, possesses some very curious properties in its action
  upon vegetable and animal substances, which may not only render it
  insipid, but even offensive to this insect. For those parts between
  the high-water mark and the roadway it will be enough to scrape the
  timber and lay it over with hot tar.”

I need hardly say that this advice would perhaps not have been given at
the present day, when even creosote has been found to delay, though not
to act as a perfect defence against, the ravages of the _Limnoria_.[10]


At a more recent period Mr. Stevenson experimented at the Bell Rock
Lighthouse in the same way on twenty-five different kinds of malleable
iron, with the result that all of them were soon affected, and that
galvanised specimens resisted oxidation from three to four years, after
which the chemical action went on as quickly as in the others.




    Marykirk, Annan, Stirling, and Hutcheson stone bridges--High-level
        bridge for Newcastle--Timber bridge of built planks--Winch
        Chain Bridge--American bridges of suspension--Runcorn
        Bridge--Menai Chain Bridge--New form of suspension bridge.

Mr. Stevenson’s stone bridges over the North Esk at Marykirk, and
the Nith at Annan (Plate VI.), are good specimens of road bridges
of moderate extent; and his bridge over the Forth at Stirling, and
Hutcheson Bridge over the Clyde at Glasgow (Plate VII.), are structures
of a larger class.

Of the latter, Mr. Fenwick, of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in
the preface to his work on the _Mechanics of Construction_, published
in 1861, says,--“The London and Waterloo Bridges, in the metropolis,
which rank among the finest structures of the _elliptical arch_, and
Stevenson’s Hutcheson Bridge at Glasgow, which is one of the best
specimens of the _segmental arch_, together with many others, have
supplied me with a variety of problems for illustration.”


          _PLATE VI._



  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._


          _PLATE VII._



  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._


          _PLATE VIII._



  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._

The Hutcheson Bridge was completed in 1832. The masonry of the piers
was laid at the level of seven feet below the bed of the Clyde, on a
platform of timber, on piles eighteen feet in length. I found by
a section made in 1845, after a lapse of thirteen years, that the level
of the river had been lowered, in consequence of the deepening of the
river Clyde by the Navigation Trustees, no less than eleven feet, and
even with that amount of scour the bridge was, and might long have
remained, a safe structure. But immediately above its site there is a
weir which dams up the Clyde and forms a lake, or almost still pool, in
the river’s bed for several miles. It was determined, in the interests
of navigation, to take powers to remove the weir, and on its removal
the bridge could, no longer be pronounced safe; it was also resolved to
take powers to replace the Hutcheson by the new Albert Bridge, designed
by Messrs. Bell and Miller.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Stevenson has also left behind him some traces of originality of
design in bridge-building.

In 1826 he gave a design to the Corporation of Newcastle for raising on
the existing bridge another roadway, on a high level, to communicate
with the higher parts of the town, as shown in Plate VIII., being the
idea since so successfully carried out on a large scale by the late
Mr. Robert Stephenson in his justly celebrated “high-level railway
viaduct.” Mr. Stevenson’s design, as will be seen, consists of piers of
masonry raised on the piers of the old bridge supporting a roadway of
cast iron. The upper bridge being continued across the quays on either
side of the river, and joining the roadways leading towards the south
and north by easy gradients, avoided the circuitous and dangerous route
of the old post road through Newcastle.

For timber bridges Mr. Stevenson also proposed, in 1831, a new form
of arch of a beautiful and simple construction (Fig. 16), in which
what may be called the “ring-courses” of the arch are formed of layers
of thin planks bent into the circular form and stiffened by _kingpost
pieces_, on which the level roadway rests. This form of bridge was
afterwards very generally employed for railway bridges before the
discovery had been made that for such works, structures of iron were,
in the end, more economical than timber.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

In 1820, he proposed to the Cramond District of Road Trustees, with a
view mainly to lessening the cost of the work, a form of suspension
bridge applicable to spans of moderate width, in which the roadway
passes _above_ the chains, and the necessity for tall piers is avoided.
The suspension bridge over the Rhone at Geneva, and other bridges, have
since been constructed on this principle.

In 1821 Mr. Stevenson wrote an article on Suspension Bridges for the
_Edinburgh Philosophical Journal_; and as it contains a description of
this new form of construction, as well as some historical information
relative to bridges on the suspension principle, a few extracts from
the paper may not be without interest:--

  “_Winch Chain Bridge._--The earliest bridges of suspension of
  which we have any account are those of China, said to be of great
  extent; Major Rennell also describes a bridge of this kind over
  the Sampoo in Hindostan, of about 600 feet in length. But the
  first chain bridge in our own country is believed to have been
  that of Winch Bridge over the river Tees, forming a communication
  between the counties of Durham and York. This bridge is noticed
  and an elevation of it given in the third volume of Hutchison’s
  _Antiquities of Durham_, printed at Carlisle in 1794. As this
  volume is extremely scarce, owing to the greater part of the
  impression having been accidentally destroyed by fire, the writer
  of this article applied for a sight of it from the library of his
  friend, Mr. Isaac Cookson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The following
  account is given by Hutchison at p. 279:--‘The environs of the
  river (Tees) abound with the most picturesque and romantic scenes;
  beautiful falls of water, rocks and grotesque caverns. About two
  miles above Middleton, where the river falls in repeated cascades,
  a bridge suspended on iron chains is stretched from rock to rock
  over a chasm nearly sixty feet deep, for the passage of travellers,
  but particularly of miners; the bridge is seventy feet in length,
  and little more than two feet broad, with a hand-rail on one side,
  and planked in such a manner that the traveller experiences all
  the tremulous motion of the chain, and sees himself suspended over
  a roaring gulf, on an agitated and restless gangway, to which few
  strangers dare trust themselves.’ We regret that we have not been
  able to learn the precise date of the erection of this bridge, but
  from good authority we have ascertained that it was erected about
  the year 1741.

  “_American Bridges of Suspension._--It appears from a treatise
  on Bridges by Mr. Thomas Pope, architect, of New York, published
  in that city in the year 1811, that eight chain bridges have
  been erected upon the catenarian principle, in different parts of
  America. It here deserves our particular notice, however, in any
  claim for priority of invention with our transatlantic friends,
  that the chain bridge over the Tees was known in America, as
  Pope quotes Hutchison’s vol. iii., and gives a description of
  Winch Bridge. It further appears from this work that a patent was
  granted by the American Government for the erection of bridges of
  suspension in the year 1808. Our American author also describes
  a bridge of this construction, which seems to have been erected
  about the year 1809, over the river Merrimack in the State of
  Massachusetts, consisting of a catenarian arch of 244 feet span.
  The roadway of this bridge is suspended between two abutments or
  towers of masonry, thirty seven feet in height, on which piers
  of carpentry are erected which are thirty five feet in height.
  Over these ten chains are suspended, each measuring 516 feet in
  length, their ends being sunk into deep pits on both sides of the
  river, where they are secured by large stones. The bridge over the
  Merrimack has two carriage-ways, each of fifteen feet in breadth.
  It is also described as having three chains which range along the
  sides, and four in the middle, or between the two roadways. The
  whole expense of this American work is estimated to have been
  20,000 dollars.

  “_Proposed Bridge at Runcorn._--Perhaps the most precarious and
  difficult problem ever presented to the consideration of the
  British engineer was the suggestion of some highly patriotic
  gentlemen of Liverpool, for constructing a bridge over the estuary
  of the Mersey at Runcorn Gap, about twenty miles from Liverpool.
  The specifications for this work provided that the span of the
  bridge should measure at least 1000 feet, and that its height above
  the surface of the water should not be less than sixty feet, so as
  to admit of the free navigation of this great commercial river. The
  idea of a bridge at Runcorn, we believe, was first conceived about
  the year 1813, when the demand for labour was extremely low, and a
  vast number of the working classes of Lancashire were thrown out of
  employment. A variety of designs for this bridge were procured by
  a select committee of the gentlemen who took an interest in this
  great undertaking. The plan most approved of, however, was the
  design of a bridge of suspension; and Mr. Telford the engineer, and
  Captain Brown of the Royal Navy, are understood pretty nearly to
  have concurred in opinion as to the practicability of such a work.
  Mr. Telford has reported fully on the subject, and has estimated
  the expense of his design at from £63,000 to £85,000, according to
  different modes of execution. Though as yet little advancement has
  been made in carrying this enterprising design into execution, yet
  the novelty and magnitude of an arch of 1000 feet span is a subject
  of so much interest that we have thought it proper in this place to
  mention these circumstances.

  “_Menai Chain Bridge._--The Straits of Menai, which separate
  the island of Anglesea from Caernarvonshire, have long formed a
  troublesome obstruction upon the great road from London to Dublin
  by Holyhead, by which the troublesome ferry of Bangor might be
  avoided. Many plans for the execution of this undertaking have also
  been agitated, chiefly in cast iron, including a range of estimate
  from about £128,000 to £268,000; but that which is now acted upon
  is a bridge of suspension upon the catenarian principle, the extent
  of which between the piers or points of suspension is to be 560
  feet, the estimate for which is only about £70,000. This by many
  has been considered a work of great uncertainty; but the Union
  Bridge on this plan has already been executed on the Tweed, to the
  extent of 361 feet.”

Mr. Stevenson then goes on to mention several wire and chain bridges
erected in Scotland, and gives the following description of his design
for Cramond Bridge:--

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

  “Fig. 17 is a section and plan designed for crossing the river
  Almond on the great north road between Edinburgh and Queensferry.
  The extent of the span between the points of suspension is laid
  down at 150 feet. The chief circumstances which particularise
  this design are a mode of fixing the chains to the abutments of
  suspension on each side of the river, by which the main chains
  can be distributed equally under the roadway. The main chains are
  likewise made to collapse or turn round the abutments of masonry,
  as will be seen from the section, in which the parts of the work
  are so contrived that access can be had to the chains by an arched
  way on each side. In this design the two ends of the chains are
  formed into great _nails_ or bolts, with countersunk or conical
  heads made to fit into corresponding hollow tubes of cast iron
  built into the masonry of the abutments.

  “From this description the reader will readily form an idea of the
  simplicity and effect of this mode of fixing the chains, being
  such, also, that any particular chain may be withdrawn and replaced
  without deranging the fabric of the bridge. The roadway, instead of
  being _suspended_ from the main chains, is made up to the proper
  level upon the chains by a framework of cast iron, prepared for the
  reception of a stratum of broken stones for the road.

  “The making up of the roadway of this bridge, however, and the
  enlarged angle of its suspension, may be considered as limiting
  the span or extent of bridges of this construction to about 200
  feet. The structure represented by Fig. 17 appears to possess many
  advantages for bridges of that modified extent, and the manner of
  fixing the chains is applicable to all bridges of suspension; it is
  likewise new, so far as we know.”

In the close of his paper Mr. Stevenson says:--

  “To what extent suspension bridges may be carried is very
  uncertain, and he who has the temerity to advance sceptical or
  circumscribed views on this subject would do well to reflect upon
  the history of the steam-engine. When the Marquis of Worcester
  first proposed, by the boiling of water, to produce an effective
  force, no one could have conceived the incalculable advantages
  which have since followed its improvement by our illustrious
  countryman, Watt.”

A prophetic announcement, which has had its full realisation in the
Suspension _Railway_ Bridge of 821 feet span at Niagara Falls, and in
the still bolder design now in execution for connecting New York and
Brooklyn by a steel wire suspension bridge, having a clear opening
between the piers of no less than 1600 feet.



About the year 1812, Mr. Stevenson having, as adviser of the
Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, attained the position of being
the most eminent Lighthouse Engineer of his day, was requested by the
Admiralty to report on the practicability of erecting a lighthouse on
the Wolf Rock, lying about eight miles off the Land’s End in Cornwall.

I give, from Mr. Stevenson’s “Journal,” the following curious account
of the first visit he made to the rock; and it may perhaps be as well
to say that all quotations made from what I have called his “Journal”
are records of what he roughly noted down at the time in the form of
a Diary, and are on that account perhaps all the more interesting, at
least to non-professional readers.

  “_14th Sept. 1813._--Waited upon Sir Robert Calder, Admiral of the
  port of Plymouth, on the 13th, in consequence of letters from Lord
  Melville relative to a vessel to carry me to the Wolf Rock.

  “The Admiral accordingly appointed the ‘Orestes,’ Captain Smith, to
  proceed with me to the Wolf, and after landing me there, and having
  made my observations, Captain Smith was directed to land me at any
  port most convenient for me, according to the state of the weather.
  Captain Smith, in consequence of this order, and to suit my
  convenience, got the ‘Orestes’ in readiness two days sooner than he
  otherwise intended, and I embarked on the 14th at 2 P.M. agreeably
  to appointment.

  “The Captain took me by the hand and welcomed me on board His
  Majesty’s ship, and introduced me to his first lieutenant, Mr.
  Fallick. He then proceeded to give orders for casting off, which
  was done in an instant after the word was given. The ‘Orestes’ is
  properly a gun brig, but rigged as a ship, has 28 guns and 100 men.
  Kept plying to windward, and in the evening had the Eddystone light
  in view, still upon our lee quarter, distant eight or ten miles.

  “_15th._--Kept working along the shore all day, and at 7 P.M. a
  pilot from Mousehole by Penzance came on board. Upon consulting
  the pilot, he recommended that the ship should be brought to an
  anchor in Mounts Bay, or rather Newland Road, all night, as it
  would answer no good purpose to go round the land so soon after a
  fresh gale of wind, with the view of landing on the Wolf, which
  he represented as being only practicable in the finest of summer
  weather. This was poor heartening. The Captain submitted to me
  whether it were not more advisable to come to an anchor, in which,
  with all submission to him, I consented. The ship, accordingly, was
  brought to an anchor in twelve fathoms, clean sand.

  “On board of the ‘Orestes’ two of the people were punished,--one
  for threatening to _knock down_ the serjeant of marines, while on
  duty, received three dozen; another who offered an insult to a
  lieutenant, received one dozen.

  “I was sitting below, the time this was going forward, when all
  hands were piped on deck, and the Captain began to read the
  Articles of War. He had previously said to me that two men were in
  irons, whom he meant to punish and liberate. I went upon deck to
  learn the cause of all being so quiet, and discovering what was
  intended, I went below and waited in great suspense till the men
  began to call out for mercy. I took the liberty of sending a note
  to the Captain--the circumstances were so painful to me--to see if
  he could remit any part of the punishment, to which I afterwards
  understood he had listened, as he did not give them so many lashes
  as was intended. Captain Smith had by no means the character of a
  severe commander, as I understood from some of the officers he had
  been two years in the ship, and had only punished twice.

  “About 9 P.M., while the Captain and myself were at supper, we
  heard a conversation between the pilot and Mr. Fallick, the first
  lieutenant, about a vessel being on fire. The former was of opinion
  that it was a pilchard boat, the crew of which were roasting
  pilchards, while Mr. Fallick insisted that it was a vessel on fire.
  In a short time the vessel or boat appeared to be in flames, and
  with all sail set she approached the ‘Orestes.’ On shore the people
  of Penzance and Mousehole were afraid of the ‘Orestes’ taking fire
  and discharging a broadside upon the town. In the meantime the
  vessel on fire approached the ‘Orestes’ so directly that Captain
  Smith gave orders to veer out all the cable, stand by to cut or
  bend on more rope, according to circumstances.

  “The weather became moderate, and we had little or no wind, and the
  vessel on fire (which turned out to be a sloop of 80 or 90 tons,
  bound for St. Sebastian with bottled porter and bale goods) passed
  ahead of the ‘Orestes’ about half a cable’s length. Her hull was
  then completely on fire, but the rigging and sails had not then
  caught fire, and she kept an undeviating course till she grounded
  on the shore.

  “Captain Smith then despatched officers and men in three boats to
  endeavour to save as much as possible, but a report having gone
  abroad that she had gunpowder on board no person ventured near the
  vessel on fire till it was too late to be of any service, and in
  the morning when Captain Smith and I went on shore nothing remained
  but the keel and a few of the ‘futtocks’ half burned, and the mast
  over by the deck, the lower part having been consumed by the
  flames. The vessel was just getting under weigh when the accident
  occurred, through the carelessness of a boy, who set a lighted
  candle into a crate of straw in which bottles were packed. The crew
  soon afterwards appear to have carelessly deserted the vessel and
  landed at Mounts Bay, three miles from Mousehole, and appear not to
  have been very active in doing what was in their power. The loss of
  ship and cargo was estimated at £14,000.

  “_16th._--Got under weigh at 6 P.M., and left Mousehole Bay with
  an intention to go round the land; but the weather fell calm, and
  after shutting in the Lizard lights came to an anchor in Mounts
  Bay till next morning. The Lizard lights appeared to very great

  “_17th._--Got under weigh at 6 A.M., wind shifting from southwest
  to east with a fine breeze, and at 11 A.M. got up with the Wolf
  Rock. At 12 noon two boats were manned--one commanded by a
  midshipman, and the other by Lieutenant Fallick, into which I
  went, and after pulling round and round the rock with both boats,
  sounding all the while, we made preparations for landing. Mr.
  Fallick arranged his boat’s crew, and let go a grapling over the
  stern, then veered away upon this stern rope watching a smooth, and
  when the boat was near enough the young man (the same who had two
  days before got one dozen of lashes) appointed to land with a bow
  rope to make fast, leaped upon the rock, and upon these two ropes
  the boat was hauled off and on with great ease and facility. In
  this manner Lieutenant Fallick landed next, then I landed, but not
  without much difficulty, and watching an opportunity to get on the
  rock with a smooth between the seas.

  “Upon leaving the ship, about a quarter of a mile from the rock,
  I began to sound, and at from two to three cables’ length off the
  rock have 41, 40, and 38 fathoms water, with shell sand of a fair
  colour. At about one cable’s length have 13 fathoms, same bottom.
  Within this distance have 10, 8, 5, 3½, and 2 fathoms, chiefly
  rocky bottom.

  “The rock is steep in all directions; the south-west if anything
  draws to a point with rather less water near it than in other

  “At low water of a neap tide the rock appeared to be about twelve
  or fourteen feet in perpendicular height above the surface of the
  water. Its surface is very irregular, jutting up in masses of from
  six to ten feet in height. These inequalities all presented marked
  and angular outlines, terminating in well-defined points and edges.
  The central part of the rock is formed pretty much into a hollow,
  where there have been some quarrying operations in fixing the
  beacon which was erected upon it. The margin of the rock is upon
  the whole pretty regular, as it appears jutting out of the water.
  On the eastern side it is not so regularly formed at the water’s
  edge as on the western side. It slopes outwards, and seems to form
  a large stool in every direction. At some places there are guts or
  slips in the rock, but none of these are large enough to be useful
  for a boat landing at. The best and perhaps the only landing place
  is at the north-east side, where the rock is most precipitous.

  “Taking the dimensions in the largest directions with the
  lead-line, in fathoms, it measured twenty-two fathoms in a
  north-east and south-west direction, and sixteen fathoms in a
  north-west and south-east direction.

  “Upon the surface in the middle, at the hollow place, I found a
  hole of six inches in depth, and about nine inches square, and
  connected with it, at six feet distant, three holes for bats, which
  I presume to have been the step of the beacon, and the iron bats
  were still to be seen which had been used as guys. This fragile
  affair appears to have wanted base and every requisite suited to
  such an exposed situation and important purpose, and accordingly
  the beacon, with a wolf of metallic work, erected by a Lieutenant
  Smith, who erected the Longships Lighthouse, is said not to have
  remained longer than a few days, and was carried away in the first

  “Besides these holes and bats, which last seem not to have exceeded
  1½ inch iron in strength, I found several eye bolts in different
  parts of the rock, particularly at the landing place, which had
  been put in to make fast boats, etc., while the beacon was being

  “The surface of the rock is extremely rugged, and running in every
  direction into sharp angular points. The rock seems to run in beds
  from an inch to a foot in thickness. It has much the appearance
  of limestone, but upon a narrow inspection it turns out to be
  porphyry. It is covered with the barnacle, many limpets of a very
  large size--say two inches diameter,--and mussels. These were the
  only animal productions that were found upon it. Of the marine
  _fuci_ there were two or three varieties.

  “That it would be practicable to erect a building upon this rock I
  have no doubt, but from its shape and figure, and the great depth
  of water in all directions round it, together with the smallness
  of its dimensions, it would be a work of great difficulty, and be
  attended with much expense and great hazard.

  “I am therefore of opinion that it might cost from £80,000 to
  £90,000 to erect a lighthouse at the Wolf, with all the requisite
  buildings and appointments, like the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

  “In a conversation on this subject with Lieutenant Smith in 1806
  (who had erected the beacon on the Wolf), he pronounced it as
  an impracticable work. But his opinion, from the work he had
  performed at the Longships, and other circumstances, made very
  little impression upon my mind, at the time, in regard to the Bell
  Rock, and since seeing the Wolf Rock I think his arguments were ill
  founded, and I am perfectly decided in opinion that the work is a
  practicable one.

  “The wind being nearly easterly, and consequently unfavourable for
  returning with dispatch to Plymouth, the captain gravely proposed
  that we should stand towards ‘the Bay’ for a few days, when it
  might shift. Not being fully aware of what was meant by the Bay, I
  put the question, when to my surprise he meant the Bay of Biscay,
  and said we should see St. Sebastian, which had just fallen; but to
  this I replied, that I should much rather be landed at the Land’s
  End. He was constantly on the outlook for prizes, and as I came not
  to fight I wanted much to be on shore, that I might pursue my way
  to Bath, where I knew Mr. Rae, the Sheriff of Edinburgh, would be
  waiting my return to proceed upon the visit to the Prisons on our
  return to Scotland.

  “The ship was therefore directed to steer for the Land’s End, and
  the pilot took the ship within the Longships Lighthouse, and he and
  I landed at Sennan on the same evening.

  “Having procured horses for myself and luggage, I set off
  immediately for Penzance, which I reached about 10 o’clock at
  night, the 17th September, much pleased with my trip upon the whole.

  “_18th._--Leave Penzance, and reach Falmouth by the fly.

  “_19th._--Leave Falmouth, and that same night, or early next
  morning, reach Exeter.

  “_20th._--At 6 A.M. leave Exeter, and 8 P.M. reach Bath.

  “From Plymouth to the Wolf, and returning to Bath, only eight days.”

Mr. Stevenson at a subsequent date made another visit to the Wolf,
accompanied by an assistant, when a careful survey was made, followed
by a well-considered design, which is shown in Plate IX., and is
described by him as follows:--


          _PLATE IX._


  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._

  “Plate IX. is the section of a design formed by the revolution of
  the parabola round the axis of a building, as its asymptote, whose
  base measures fifty-six feet in diameter, and parallel at the top
  of the solid is thirty-six feet; and height to the entrance door,
  thirty-five feet. The contents of this figure between these
  parallels is calculated at 45,000 cubic feet; but the whole of
  the masonry of the design is estimated at 70,624 cubic feet. Its
  general features may be stated as similar to those of the Eddystone
  and Bell Rock Lighthouses, the parts being only enlarged, and the
  parabolic instead of the logarithmic curve adopted for its outline.
  In this design, the parabolic curve is continued from the basement
  to the copestone of the light room, exclusively of the projection
  for the cornice and balcony. The masonry is intended to be 120
  feet in height, estimating from the medium level of the sea, of
  which the solid, or from the foundation to the entrance door, forms
  thirty-five feet, the staircase twenty-five feet, and the remaining
  sixty feet of its height is occupied with six apartments, and the
  walls of the light room. In the staircase a recess is formed for
  containing the machinery for raising the stores to the height of
  the entrance door; here a small hole is perforated through the
  building for the admission of the purchase chain. The thickness
  of the walls immediately above the solid is twelve feet; at the
  top of the stone staircase they are eight feet, and where the
  walls are thinnest, immediately under the cornice, they measure
  two feet. A drop hole formed in the courses of the staircase and
  solid, provides for the range of the weight of a revolving light.
  The ascent to this building, as at the Bell Rock, is intended
  to be by an exterior stair or ladder of brass, and the interior
  communication between the several apartments by means of flights of
  circular oaken steps.”

The only estimate Mr. Stevenson ever made of the work was that already
stated in his Journal, at a cost of £80,000 to £90,000 for the tower
and requisite dwellings for the lightkeepers and crew of attending
vessel ashore.

Mr. Stevenson’s original visit was, as we have seen, made in 1813, and
in 1870, after a lapse of fifty-seven years, the present tower on
the Wolf Rock, the joint work of the late Mr. James Walker and of Mr.
James N. Douglass, was successfully accomplished under the auspices
of the Trinity House. The cost of the tower, exclusively of the shore
establishment, which it was unnecessary to provide, was £62,726, being
not very different from the estimate of Mr. Stevenson (from £80,000 to
£90,000), which included a shore establishment.




The Carr Rock is a tide-covered reef extending about 1¾ mile from the
shore of Fifeness, and forming a _turning point_ in the navigation
of the northern-bound shipping of the Firth of Forth, and on Mr.
Stevenson’s recommendation the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses
resolved to erect a beacon of masonry to mark the danger.

It may seem to be unnecessary, after describing the Bell Rock
Lighthouse, to notice so apparently small a work as this; but in such
matters it is unsafe to generalise; each case must be considered on its
own merits, and great difficulties were encountered in accomplishing
the work. The formation of the Carr Rock rendered it impracticable to
secure a base for a building of greater diameter than eighteen feet,
and as part of that base had to be founded under the level of the
lowest tides by cofferdams which were removed and taken ashore after
each tide’s work, even the Engineer of the Bell Rock Lighthouse found
all his resources taxed to a considerable extent, and he was in the end
foiled in carrying out his design for the building. But irrespectively
of these physical difficulties, the Carr Rock is a work of great
interest to the lighthouse engineer, inasmuch as Mr. Stevenson at that
early date conceived the idea of calling to his aid the power given
by the rise of tide on the building to move a train of clock work to
sound a warning bell; and again, when the destruction of the upper
portion of his beacon by the sea obliged him to relinquish this plan,
unwilling to be beaten, he suggested that the same tidal action might
be made to sound a whistle; and failing that, he proposed to exhibit a
phosphorescent light from the top of the building. All of these ideas
suggested by Mr. Stevenson’s inventive mind have been from time to time
revived by modern inventors.

The original design of the Carr Rock Beacon was made in 1810, and
the work was commenced in 1813. After portions of the masonry had
repeatedly been carried away by the sea, the original design for
surmounting the building by a bell to be rung by the rise and fall
of the tide was abandoned, and the beacon was completed in 1821, by
raising an iron structure, as shown in Plate X. Fig. X-2, on the
foundation that had escaped the fury of the sea, and that structure is
still in perfect preservation. So great, indeed, was the difficulty
that Mr. Stevenson, in 1818, contemplated using blocks of cast iron
instead of stone to insure greater specific gravity--a proposal which
is believed to have been then made for the first time.

The following is Mr. Stevenson’s own description of this interesting

“The form and construction of the Carr Rock Beacon, as originally
designed and ultimately executed, will be better understood by
referring to Plate X. The motion originally intended to be given to
the bell-apparatus, or tide machine, Fig. X-1, was to be effected by
admitting the sea through a small aperture of three inches in diameter,
perforated in the solid masonry, communicating with a cylindrical
chamber in the centre of the building, measuring two feet in diameter,
in which a float or metallic air tank was to rise and fall with the
tide. During the period of flood tide, the air vessel, in its elevation
by the pressure of the water, was to give motion to machinery for
tolling the bell and winding up a weight, which last, in its descent,
during ebb tide, was to continue the motion of the machine, until the
flood tide again returned to perform the joint operation of tolling the
bell and raising the weight. A working model of a machine upon this
principle having been constructed, it was kept in motion for a period
equal to several months; this was effected by water run through a
succession of tanks raised by a pump from the lower one to the higher,
thus producing the effect of flood and ebb tides. The time during which
this apparatus was in action having been ascertained by an index, a
constant attendance upon the machine during this protracted experiment
became unnecessary.


          _PLATE X._



“The upper termination of the beacon, in its present form, as shown in
Fig. X-2, does not admit of the application of the tide machine with
the bell apparatus. Experiments as applicable to this have, however,
been tried with a wind instrument, to be sounded by the pressure of the
sea water, but it has not succeeded to the extent that seems necessary
for a purpose of this kind. We have, indeed, thought that the
application of pressure as a power, communicated by the waters of the
ocean, in mechanical operations, might be carried to almost any extent
by simply providing a chamber or dock large enough for the reception of
a float or vessel, of dimensions equivalent to the force required. This
description of machinery is more particularly applicable in situations
where the tides have a great rise, as in the Solway Firth, Bristol
Channel, and other parts of the British seas; and at St. Malo on the
coast of France.

“A beacon of any form, unprovided with a light, must always be
considered an imperfect landmark, and therefore various modes have
been contemplated for more completely pointing out the position of
the Carr Rock. It has been proposed that phosphoric lights should be
exhibited from the top of the building. This object, however, would
be more certainly accomplished by the erection of leading lights upon
the island of May and mainland of Fife. But these, with other plans,
which have been under the writer’s consideration, would necessarily
be attended with a great additional expense, which, in the present
instance, it is not thought advisable to incur.”



It appears that Mr. Stevenson was much perplexed as to what sort
of cranes he should use in building the Bell Rock Lighthouse. His
difficulties were twofold:--

_First_, In consequence of the dovetailed form of the stones he
required a crane that would drop them as nearly as possible on the beds
on which they were permanently to rest.

_Second_, Supposing he devised a _guy crane_ that overcame this
difficulty, what was to be done as the building rose in height, and the
guys became too nearly perpendicular to admit of such a crane being

In his private notes Mr. Stevenson regrets that he could get no advice
from anybody he consulted, all of whom recommended him to employ common
sheer poles, such as had been used by Smeaton at the Eddystone; and he
adds, “I may say, morning, noon, and night, these difficulties have
haunted me.” But thrown back on his own resources, and appreciating the
difficulty as no one else could so well do, he found, as is often the
case, that he was his own best counsellor, and he succeeded in solving
the problem that had given him so much concern, by inventing what he
called the “moveable beam crane,” and also the “balance crane,” which
are shown in Plate XI. The former, as modified to suit particular
cases, is now in universal use for building purposes, and the latter
has been employed in rearing most of our Rock Lighthouses, so that I
think professional readers will not object to my giving Mr. Stevenson’s
description of these cranes, as designed by him at the beginning of
this century. He says:--

“In cranes of the common construction the beam is a fixture, and
is placed at right angles to the upright shaft: but in the machine
represented in the Plate (Fig. XI-1), its attachment is at the lower
extremity of the crane, where it is moveable up and down upon a journal
or bolt. This crane is therefore termed a moveable beam crane. The
moveable property of the beam, in so far as the writer knows, is new,
and possesses the advantage of laying any stone within its range
perpendicularly on its site. This, from the dovetailed form of the
stones at the Bell Rock, rendered it particularly fitted for this work,
to which a crane of the ordinary construction could hardly be said to
be applicable. At the Eddystone Lighthouse this operation was performed
by means of triangular sheers; but, from the greater extent of the Bell
Rock works, and their greater depth in the water, such means must have
rendered the process of building extremely tedious. These cranes were
necessarily immersed at high water, and were retained in their places
by four guys fixed at the top of the upright shaft, and the moveable
jib or beam being lowered down, was secured to an eyebolt batted into
the rock.”


          _PLATE XI._


  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._

“The ‘balance crane’ (Fig. XI-2) was constructed on a new principle
for building the upper part of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, when the guy
ropes of the moveable beam crane became ‘too taut,’ as sailors express
it, or were too near the perpendicular, thereby rendering the beam
cranes unstable. To remedy this, the balance crane was so arranged as
to be kept in equilibrium by a back weight of cast iron, so adapted
as to counteract the varying load upon the working arm or beam. The
elevation here represented is the same in principle with that used at
the Bell Rock, but differs somewhat in form, agreeably to improvements
made in order to adapt it to the erection of the Carr Rock Beacon.
The upright central column is a tube of cast iron put together in
convenient lengths with flush joints, after the manner of spigot and
faucet, fitted by turning and boring. The centre column of this machine
might have been carried to any suitable or convenient height, by adding
length to length, as the building advanced, without once moving the
foot on which it rested, but at the Bell Rock not more than three
lengths of from six to nine feet were generally in use. A malleable
iron cross head was stepped into the void of the central shaft or
column when the body of the crane was to be elevated. This operation
was accomplished simply by hooking the main ‘purchase’ and ‘traveller’
chains into the eyes of the crosshead, when the machinery of the crane
was employed with great facility as a locomotive power for lifting
itself as each new length of central column was added. The weight of
this crane as used at the Carr Rock did not exceed two tons.”



Mr. Stevenson was ever an intelligent and anxious observer of the
habits and industry of the people of those remote and isolated parts of
the country which he so often visited. He was specially interested in
the fisheries from which they mainly derive their support, as testified
by frequent allusions to them in his journals and notes.

The following notice regarding the state of the Scottish fisheries,
made in 1819, to the editor of the _Edinburgh Philosophical
Journal_,[11] will be read with interest:--

“Having been for many years conversant with the navigation of the
Scottish seas, I have, prior to the war with Holland, seen fleets of
Dutch ‘busses’ engaged in the herring fishery off the northern parts of
our coast. For a long time past, however, those industrious fishermen
had not ventured to approach these shores; and they are now only
beginning to reappear.

“In the early part of August last, while sailing along the shores of
Kincardineshire, about ten miles off Dunnottar Castle, the watch upon
deck, at midnight, called out ‘Lights ahead.’ Upon a nearer approach
these lights were found to belong to a small fleet of Dutch fishermen
employed in the deep sea fishing, each vessel having a lantern at her
mast head. What success these plodding people had met with our crew
had no opportunity of inquiring; but upon arriving the next morning at
Fraserburgh,--the great fishing station on the coast of Aberdeen--we
found that about 120 boats, containing five men each, had commenced
the fishing season here six weeks before, and had that night caught
no fewer than about 1500 barrels of herrings, which in a general way,
when there is a demand for fish, may be valued at £1 sterling per
barrel to the fishermen, and may be regarded as adding to the wealth
of the country perhaps not less than £3000. In coasting along between
Fraserburgh and the Orkney Islands, another fleet of Dutch fishermen
was seen at a distance. The harbour and bay of Wick were crowded with
fishing boats and busses of all descriptions, collected from the Firth
of Forth and southward even as far as Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The
Caithness fishing was said to have been pretty successful, though not
equal to what it has been in former years.

“In the Orkney and Shetland Islands one would naturally look for
extensive fishing establishments, both in herrings, and what are termed
white fish (cod, ling, and tusk); but it is a curious fact, that while
the Dutch have long come from their own coast to these islands to fish
herrings, it is only within a very few years that the people of Orkney,
chiefly by the spirited and praiseworthy exertions of Samuel Laing,
Esq., have given any attention to this important source of wealth. It
has long been a practice with the great fishmongers of London to send
their _welled_ smacks to fish for cod, and to purchase lobsters, around
the Orkney Islands; and both are carried alive to the London market.
This trade has done much good to these islands, and has brought a great
deal of money to them; but still it is of a more circumscribed nature,
and is less calculated to swell the national wealth, than the herring
and white fishery in general.

“Hitherto the industry of the Orcadians has been chiefly directed to
farming pursuits; while the Shetlanders have been almost exclusively
occupied in the cod, ling, and tusk fishing. It is doubtful, indeed,
if, up to this period, there be a single boat belonging to the Shetland
Isles which is completely equipped for the herring fishery. But on
reaching Shetland another fleet of Dutch doggers was seen collecting in
numbers off these islands--a coast which is considered a rich harvest
in Holland.

“So systematically do the Dutch pursue the fishing business upon our
coasts, that their fleet of busses is accompanied by an hospital ship.
This vessel we now found at anchor in Lerwick roads, and were informed
that she paid weekly visits to the fleet, to supply medicines, and to
receive any of the people falling sick, or meeting with any accident.

“Though Shetland is certainly not so much an agricultural country as
Orkney, yet it may be hoped that the encouragement judiciously held
out by the Highland Society, for the production of green crops in
Shetland, may eventually have the effect of teaching these insular
farmers the practicability of providing fodder for their cattle in the
spring of the year. This has long been a great desideratum. The command
of a month or six weeks’ fodder would enable the proprietors of that
country to stock many of their fine verdant isles with cattle, and to
employ their hardy tenantry more exclusively in the different branches
of the fishery.

“It is well known, that, next to the Newfoundland Banks, those of
Shetland are the most productive in ling, cod, tusk, and other white
fish; and by the recent discovery of a bank, trending many leagues to
the south-westward, the British merchants have made a vast accession
to their fishing grounds. The fishermen who reside in the small
picturesque bay of Scalloway, and in some of the other bays and voes on
the western side of the mainland of Shetland, have pursued with much
success the fishing upon this new bank, which I humbly presume to term
the REGENT FISHING BANK--a name at once calculated to mark the period
of its discovery, and pay a proper compliment to the Prince. Here
small sloops, of from fifteen to twenty-five tons burden, and manned
with eight persons, have been employed. In the beginning of August
they had this summer fished for twelve weeks, generally returning home
with their fish once a week. On an average, these vessels had caught
1000 fine cod fish a week, of which about 600 in a dried state go to
the ton, and these they would have gladly sold at about £15 per ton.
So numerous are the fish upon the Regent Fishing Bank, that a French
vessel, belonging, it is believed, to St. Malo, had sailed with her
second cargo of fish this season; and though the fishermen did not
mention this under any apprehension, as though there were danger of the
fish becoming scarce, yet they seemed to regret the circumstance, on
account of their market being thus preoccupied.

“Here, and at Orkney, we had the pleasure to see many ships arriving
from the whale fishing, and parting with a certain proportion of their
crews. To such an extent, indeed, are the crews of the whalers made up
from these islands, that it is calculated that not less than £15,000
in cash are annually brought into the islands by this means. With
propriety, therefore, may the whale fishery be regarded as one of the
most productive sources of national wealth connected with the British

“From the Orkney and Shetland Islands our course was directed to the
westward. A considerable salmon fishing seems to be carried on in the
mouths of the rivers of Lord Reay’s Country in Sutherlandshire: the
fish are carried from this to Aberdeen, and thence in regular trading
smacks to London. We heard little more of any kind of fishing till we
reached the Harris Isles. There, and throughout the numerous lochs
and fishing stations on the mainland, in the districts of Gairloch,
Applecross, Lochalsh, Glenelg, Moidart, Knoidart, Ardnamurchan, Mull,
Lorn, and Kintyre, we understood that there was a general lamentation
for the disappearance of herrings, which in former times used to crowd
into lochs which they seem now to have in some measure deserted. This
the fishermen suppose to be owing to the _Schools_ being broken and
divided about the Shetland and Orkney Islands; and they remark, that,
by some unaccountable change in the habits of the fish, the greatest
number now take the east coast of Great Britain. This is the more to
be regretted, that in Skye, the Lewis, Harris, and Uist Islands, the
inhabitants have of late years turned their attention much to the
fishing. Indeed, this has followed as a matter of necessity, from
the general practice of converting the numerous small arable farms,
which were perhaps neither very useful to the tenants nor profitable
to the laird, into great sheep walks; so that the inhabitants are
now more generally assembled upon the coast. The large sums expended
in the construction of the Caledonian Canal have, either directly or
indirectly, become a source of wealth to these people: they have been
enabled to furnish themselves with boats and fishing tackle, and for
one fishing boat which was formerly seen in the Hebrides only twenty
years ago, it may be safely affirmed that ten are to be met with now.
If the same spirit shall continue to be manifested, in spite of all
the objections which have been urged against the salt laws, and the
depopulating effects of emigration, the British Fisheries in these
islands, and along this coast, with a little encouragement, will be
wonderfully extended, and we shall ere long see the Highlands and
Islands of Scotland in that state to which they are peculiarly adapted,
and in which alone their continued prosperity is to be looked for,
viz., when their valleys, muirs, and mountains are covered with flocks,
and the people are found in small villages on the shores.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following history of the origin of the Shetland herring fishery,
communicated to _Blackwood’s Magazine_ in 1821, is, I think, worthy of
being recorded:--

“Few people, on examining the map of Scotland, would believe that the
herring fishing has only within these few years been begun in Orkney,
while the natives are almost strangers to the fishing of cod and ling.

“On the other hand, it is no less extraordinary that although the cod
and ling fishery has been carried to so great an extent in Shetland
as to enable them to export many cargoes to the Catholic countries on
the Continent, not a herring net has been spread by the natives of
Shetland till the present year (1821), when Mr. Mowat of Gardie, and a
few other spirited proprietors of these islands, formed themselves into
an association, and subscribed the necessary funds for purchasing boats
and nets, to encourage the natives to follow the industrious example of
the Dutch.

“The immediate management of this experimental fishery was undertaken
in the most patriotic and disinterested manner by Mr. Duncan, the
Sheriff-Substitute of Shetland. Having procured three boats, he
afterwards visited Orkney, to ascertain the mode of conducting the
business there, and having also got fishermen from the south, this
little adventure commenced. Its nets were first wetted in the month
of July, and it is believed its labours were concluded in the month
of September, after obtaining what is considered pretty good success,
having caught as follows, viz.:--

  The ‘Experiment,’ 6-manned boat,        212½    crans.
  The ‘Hope,’       5     ”               119¾      ”
  The ‘Nancy,’      4     ”                80       ”
                                          412¼      ”

“The great object which the Shetland gentlemen have in view, in this
infant establishment, is to give employment to their fishermen in the
herring trade, after the cod and ling season is over, and by this means
to enable them to partake of those bounties and encouragements so
properly bestowed by Government on the fisheries; and thus abstract the
attention of the lower orders of these islands from an illicit traffic
in foreign spirits, tea, and tobacco, which has greatly increased of
late years.

“The profit of the herring fishing at its commencement has, however,
afforded more encouragement than could have been expected; for, besides
paying the men a liberal allowance for their labour, a small sum has
been applied towards defraying the expense of the boats and nets. But
what is of far more consequence to this patriotic association is the
spirit of enterprise which it is likely to create by bringing forward a
number of additional boats in the way of private adventure, which must
be attended with the best advantage to the Shetland Islands.”


Again, in 1820, Mr. Stevenson took occasion to express his solicitude
for the welfare of the fishermen in the following note, suggesting the
means whereby they might sometimes avoid a coming storm--a suggestion
which is now to some extent carried out by the Board of Trade’s
establishment of marine barometers at many of our fishing stations:--

“Mr. Stevenson informs us,” says the editor of the _Edinburgh
Philosophical Journal_[12] for 1820, “that having occasion, in the
beginning of September last, to visit the Isle of Man, he beheld the
interesting spectacle of about 300 large fishing boats, each from
fifteen to twenty tons burden, leaving their various harbours at that
island in an apparently fine afternoon, and standing directly out to
sea with the intention of prosecuting the fishery under night. He at
the same time remarked that both the common marine barometer, and
Adie’s sympiesometer, which were in the cabin of his vessel, indicated
an approaching change of weather, the mercury falling to 29·5 inches.
It became painful, therefore, to witness the scene,--more than a
thousand industrious fishermen, lulled to security by the fineness of
the day, scattering their little barks over the face of the ocean,
and thus rushing forward to imminent danger or probable destruction.
At sunset, accordingly, the sky became cloudy and threatening, and in
the course of the night it blew a very hard gale, which afterwards
continued for three days successively. This gale completely dispersed
the fleet of boats, and it was not without the utmost difficulty that
many of them reached the various creeks of the island. It is believed
no lives were lost on this occasion, but the boats were damaged,
much tackle was destroyed, and the men were unnecessarily exposed
to danger and fatigue. During the same storm, it may be remarked,
thirteen vessels were either totally lost or stranded between the Isle
of Anglesea and St. Bee’s Head in Lancashire. Mr. Stevenson remarks,
how much it is to be regretted that the barometer is so little in use
in the mercantile marine of Great Britain, compared with the trading
vessels of Holland, and observes, that although the common marine
barometer is perhaps too cumbersome for the ordinary run of fishing and
coasting vessels, yet Adie’s sympiesometer is so extremely portable
that it might be carried even in a Manx boat. Each lot of such vessels
has a commodore, under whose orders the fleet sails; it would therefore
be a most desirable thing that a sympiesometer should be attached to
each commodore’s boat, from which a preconcerted signal of any expected
gale or change of weather as indicated by the sympiesometer could
easily be given.”


The following notes as to the habits of fish may prove of interest to
the naturalist:--

“It has often been observed in the course of the Bell Rock operations,
that during the cold weather of spring and autumn, and even at all
seasons, in stormy weather, when the sea is much agitated by wind,
the fishes disappear entirely from the vicinity of the rock, probably
retreating into much deeper water, from which they do not seem
to return until a change of weather has taken place; so much was
this attended to by the seamen employed on this service, that they
frequently prognosticated and judged of the weather from this habit of
the fishes as well as from the appearance of the sky.”

“It was a general remark at the Bell Rock that fish were never plenty
in its neighbourhood, excepting in good weather. Indeed, the seamen
used to speculate about the state of the weather from their success
in fishing. When the fish disappeared at the rock, it was considered
a sure indication that a gale was not far off, as the fish seemed to
seek shelter in deeper water, from the roughness of the sea, during
these changes of the weather. This evening, the landing master’s crew
brought to the rock a quantity of newly caught cod fish, measuring
from fifteen to twenty-four inches in length. The membrane called the
_sound_, which is attached to the backbone of fishes, being understood
to contain, at different times, greater portions of azote and of oxygen
than common air, the present favourable opportunity was embraced for
collecting a quantity of this gas in a drinking glass inverted into a
pail of salt water. The fish being held under this glass as a receiver,
their bladders were punctured, and a considerable quantity of gas was
thus collected. A lighted match was afterwards carefully introduced
into the glass, when the gas exhibited in a considerable degree the
bright and luminous flame which an excess of oxygen is known to

On showing this extract to my friend Dr. P. D. Handyside, who has
contributed some interesting papers to the Royal Society of Edinburgh
on the Polyodon gladius, he writes:--“Biot and De La Roche found that
the proportion of oxygen in the air bladder increases with the depth of
the water in which the fish usually lives, from a small quantity up to
87 per cent. Biot found in the deep Mediterranean fishes 87 parts of
oxygen, nitrogen, and carbonic acid. Humboldt found in the electrical
eel 96 parts of nitrogen and 4 only of oxygen. No hydrogen has ever
been detected in this organ. In the air bladder of marine fishes oxygen
predominates, and in that of fresh-water fishes nitrogen. No air sacs
exist in rays, flounders, sole, turbot, and others which lie at the

Dr. Handyside adds: “The extract shows with what a practical and
accurate mind your father was endowed, and I think, in justice to him,
you should give his observations.”

I also communicated Mr. Stevenson’s papers on fishings to the Honble.
B. F. Primrose, C.B. (Secretary to the Fishery Board: Scotland), who
has kindly sent me a letter explaining why the progress of the fishings
in the Shetland Islands is slow, from which I give a few extracts:--

  “I have read with great interest your father’s notes upon the
  fisheries of Scotland. They bear distinctly the impress of that
  practical and accurate mind with which he is described as having
  been endowed. It is also pleasant to see that his mind went a great
  deal further, and grasped the application of science to solve the
  mystery of fishings.

  “He seems to have overlooked, as was universal in his day, that the
  secret of fisheries is not the presence of fish but the certainty
  of markets. Samuel Laing of Orkney, to whom he refers, was, I
  think, the first that struck this key note of truth. The Dutch
  came here and fished for herrings because they could not fill
  their vessels fast enough for the markets behind them in Holland.
  The Shetlanders did not fish for herrings because they had no
  remunerative market for them, but they fished, and fished boldly,
  where they had one, viz., for the whales of the Arctic Regions.
  They might have brought the herring home from off their own coasts
  and got nothing for them, but they could not bring the whale oil
  home without a secured profit.

  “The same thing obtains still. Shetland, from its position, cannot
  compete with the mainland of Scotland either in the home market
  or in the great continental markets for herrings; but it yields
  large supplies of cod, ling, and tusk, for which it pushes distant
  adventures to Iceland and the Faroe Isles.”



Modern engineers who have practised only under the benign reign of
Ordnance Surveys and Admiralty Charts, can have no idea of the toil
their predecessors underwent in procuring data for their designs and
reports; and I am safe in saying that Mr. Stevenson was of all others
the engineer to whom in his sea coast practice, such useful aids would
have been of the very highest value.

For example, before he could tell, with the exactness he desired, the
distance between the Bell Rock Lighthouse and the shore, he had, in
absence of any reliable information, to undertake a pretty extensive
trigonometrical survey of the coast, involving the measurement of
a _base line_ upwards of two miles in length--a most “laborious
operation,” he observes, in which his assistants were aided by six
sailors from the lighthouse tender.

Again, to show the difficulty in determining the best site for a
lighthouse in those early days, before an accurate Government survey of
the coast line had been made, I give from Mr. Stevenson’s Journal the
following notes of his observations to determine the best site for a
lighthouse at Kinnairdhead in Aberdeenshire. I give them _at length_,
as jotted down at the time, for they may perhaps lead young engineers
of the present day to be thankful that, in most cases at least, they
are not, from want of accurate coast surveys and soundings, left to
resort altogether to their own resources in getting the information
they require. But I think they are specially worthy of record as
showing the extreme care bestowed by Mr. Stevenson in getting the
data to enable him to determine the exact positions of the several
lighthouses _he designed_. His Journal says:--

  “_First._--I caused a mast to be erected upon the top of
  Kinnairdhead Castle or Lighthouse, making its extreme height from
  the ground 100 feet.

  “Got the yacht under weigh, and having a careful pilot on board, I
  sailed for Rattray Head, and there observed the mast over the land
  of Cairnbulg, it being then high water, or twenty minutes past 7
  P.M. With the parapet of the lighthouse in view, have eight fathoms
  water off the head, which bore W.N.W. Run in upon the head with
  flag upon the mast seen over the land till seven fathoms water,
  when the flag disappeared. Then leave the vessel and sound from the
  boat, and have 6 fathoms, 5, 5, 4¼, 3, 2, 1 fathom, and lastly 3½
  feet. Return to the ship in a more southerly direction, and have 3
  feet, 1 fathom, 2, 2¼, 2¾, 3½, 4, 4¾, 5, 5½, 6½, and 7 fathoms. All
  these soundings rocky bottom.

  “With the Windmill near Peterhead on with Stirling hill, and
  Monument hill on with the rounded Sandy Down of Rattray, and the
  parapet of Kinnairdhead Lighthouse seen over Cairnbulg land, you
  are in 8 fathoms water off Rattray Briggs, which lie about ¼ of a
  mile to the southward of the Sandy Down.

  “Wait off the Briggs till the light was seen, then stood in upon
  the Briggs till the light was shut in by the land of Cairnbulg, and
  at that moment had 8 fathoms water, so that at present the light
  forms an excellent direction for Rattray Briggs.

  “Find that the lightroom is seen fully from the yacht’s deck in 8
  fathoms water off Rattray Briggs, that the flag upon the masthead
  is seen in 6 fathoms water--high water spring tides. Ship then
  bearing from the head E.S.E. and W.N.W., distant about one mile
  from the shore, where a man is distinctly observed at a boat in the

  “_Secondly._--Remove the mast from the castle or lighthouse on the
  morning of the 15th to Cairnbulg, and elevate a flag to the height
  of 86 feet from the ground, or 97 feet from high water mark, at the
  distance of about 100 yards from the high water mark at the point
  connected with Cairnbulg Briggs.

  “The yacht lying off or to the westward of the Briggs, was got
  under weigh at 2 A.M. of the 16th, and beat up the north shore
  as far as Rosehearty, and there observed the flag over the land.
  Found off Rosehearty that the flag was just hid by the highest
  inequalities of the land to the southward of the Castle, and
  that it appeared at the lower or flat places sometimes in sight
  20 feet above the land, and at other places intercepted by the
  land and houses of the town, amongst which it often appeared and
  disappeared. The range of the flag along the land was as far as Mr.
  Dalrymple’s house when it was time to put about, having there three
  fathoms at nearly low water.

  “After completing the observations in this direction, sailed along
  the shore southwards to Rattray Briggs. Find that Inverallochy
  head, south-eastward of the town of Cairnbulg, is the eastmost
  point on this coast, but, being at a distance from the foul ground
  of Cairnbulg, would make a less desirable point than Cairnbulg.

  “Off Rattray, in eight fathoms water, begin to lose sight of
  the lantern on Kinnairdhead Castle as before. See the mast and
  flag at Cairnbulg a considerable way up the country over the
  lands of Inverallochy. See the flag, standing in upon Rattray
  to five fathoms water at half tide, lose it, and then stand for

  “As the result of these trials, find that Inverallochy head or
  point is the most eastern or projecting point of land upon that
  coast, that Cairnbulg is the next projecting point. The former lies
  between the points of danger, viz., Rattray and Cairnbulg.

  “Find that if the light were to be moved to a more southern
  situation, it would be better on either of the above places than
  Rattray Head, which would entirely remove its usefulness from the
  Moray Firth.

  “Find that in the event of two lights for this coast, the one
  ought to be at Kinnairdhead, and the other upon the Cock Inch at

  “Under all the circumstances of the case, find that it would be
  most advisable to erect a new lighthouse at Kinnairdhead, about
  100 yards more to the eastward than the Castle stands, and erect
  it about twenty or thirty feet higher than the Castle. This, with
  a better light, would perhaps answer the general purposes of
  the coast better than a single light placed on any of the other
  stations along this coast.”

After perusing this extract, the reader, I think, will not be surprised
to find Mr. Stevenson making an urgent appeal on behalf of all
interested--Seamen--Fishermen, and Engineers, for a Government Survey
and “Sailing Directions” of the intricate navigation of the shores of
Scotland, which he did in the following terms:--

  “The attention which Government has long paid to the improvement
  of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in connection with the
  British Fisheries, has been attended with the best effects in the
  country at large. It is much to be wished that these shores were
  rendered more accessible to the mariner.

  “The marine survey of the Highlands by Murdoch Mackenzie,
  undertaken by order of the Lords of the Admiralty, may be
  considered as the first grand step towards the improvement of the
  Highlands, and next to that the later institution of the Northern
  Lighthouses. By means of these the fisher may find his way from
  loch to loch, and the mariner bound over seas, instead as formerly
  of holding a course without the Lewis Islands, can now find his
  way through the Sounds, and in adverse winds take shelter in safe
  harbours, instead of being exposed to the boisterous seas of the
  Atlantic Ocean; these charts and lighthouses have in many points
  of view contributed to the improvement of the Highlands, and to
  the present flourishing trade carried on through these Sounds from
  Liverpool, etc., to the northern continent of Europe. However, from
  the extensive range of coast which these charts include, together
  with the prodigious number of extensive lochs and small islands, it
  was impossible that any first survey could be made so accurate as
  to supply the place of pilots, where there are neither landmarks
  to characterise the coast, nor beacons or buoys to point out the
  situation of sunk rocks; and although these charts have certainly
  contributed much to the facility and security of the navigation
  of the Highlands, yet no one will say that they are free from
  imperfections, and their incommodious size and high price are
  insurmountable bars to their general utility, thereby rendering
  them impracticable for the use of small vessels, so that they
  are only to be found in the cabins of large vessels, where large
  accommodation affords room to unfold them, but even here also the
  price forms an objection, as the charts are always _found_ by the

  “Nothing therefore can be more necessary or essential to the
  improvement of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, than an
  accurate survey of the fishing grounds, lochs, and harbours, upon
  a scale considerably larger than Mackenzie’s charts, given in the
  form of a book of the size of a large quarto, containing only the
  lochs, etc., interleaved with printed directions and descriptions
  of each chart or harbour, which book of charts, accompanied with a
  general chart would sufficiently guide the mariner and fisher in
  their several pursuits.

  “With regard to an accurate survey of the lochs and harbours
  in the Highlands published in the most commodious form for the
  use of small vessels, such an undertaking would require to be
  sanctioned in a manner similar to the survey undertaken by Murdoch
  Mackenzie, and though in process of time the sale of these charts
  might produce a considerable return to those concerned with it,
  yet the time and attention which such (with a laborious number of
  soundings) must occupy would certainly require that those concerned
  in the undertaking should be put in possession of certain sums
  of money to enable them to go on with that deliberation which is
  essential to accuracy, and this encouragement should be the more
  considerable that the charts might be procured to the public at a
  moderate price.”

This Memorial, written in 1803, was intended for and in some shape
communicated to the Admiralty, and was followed by good results.

In “A Memoir of the Hydrographical Department of the Admiralty,”
published in 1868,[13] are the following remarks:--“It was about this
time,” 1810, “that the Admiralty first conferred on the Hydrographer
the privilege of selecting a surveyor for the _home coasts_. Singular
as it may appear, the Hydrographer had at this time great difficulty
in finding a naval officer competent to fill the position, or who
was acquainted with anything beyond surveying by common compass. At
length, however, about 1811, Mr. George Thomas, a master, was selected”
for home service. The Memoir also states that at the same time the
Hydrographer appointed to foreign service Mr. Beaufort, afterwards
Sir Francis Beaufort, the eminent Hydrographer to the Admiralty,
who was, all his life, Mr. Stevenson’s intimate friend and constant

There is therefore, I believe, no reason to doubt that Mr. Stevenson’s
original appeal and subsequent personal friendly and free intercourse
with the officials of the Admiralty led to the establishment, on a
_systematic footing_, of our Government “Admiralty Survey,” which, as
all engineers know, indicates with marvellous accuracy and detail every
shoal, sunken rock, and sounding on the coasts of Great Britain and
Ireland; and from which the “Admiralty Sailing Directions” have been
prepared with such discernment and care that the whole system of our
coast survey may now be said to have attained perfection.

With Colonel Colby, also, of the Royal Engineers, who was Director
of the Ordnance Survey, Mr. Stevenson regularly corresponded, being
no less interested in the progress of the great national work so
successfully carried on under his charge.



    Contributions to _Encyclopædia Britannica_ and _Edinburgh
        Encyclopædia_--The alveus or bed of the German Ocean--Sectio
        planography--Wasting effects of the sea at the Mersey and
        Dee--Density of fresh and salt water--The Hydrophore.

We have seen that Mr. Stevenson’s college education was mainly, if not
altogether, due to his own thirst for knowledge, and his education
being voluntarily undertaken, could hardly fail to issue in good
results. That his early studies were of incalculable value to him
no one can doubt; and his own conviction of this may explain the
solicitude with which, in after life, he impressed on his sons the
extreme importance of being properly grounded in every branch of study,
_scientific_ and _practical_, which a well trained engineer has to call
to his aid in the practice of his profession.

Fortified by this valuable training, Mr. Stevenson had also that
unselfish love of his profession which alone can move a man to give
the results of his experience freely to others, and this he did to the
_Edinburgh Encyclopædia_ and the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, in articles
on “Roads,” “Lighthouses,” “Railways,” “Dredging,” “Blasting,” and
other engineering subjects.

But he did not confine his literary labours to matters purely
professional. His love for nature in all its aspects led him also to
make communications to the Scientific Journals of the day on subjects
of more general interest. Of these his papers “On the Alveus or Bed of
the German Ocean,” in which by an investigation of many evidences he
is led to the conclusion that the sea is gradually encroaching on the
land, may be quoted as an example.

Mr. Stevenson’s first communication on this subject was published in
1816, in vol. ii. of the Wernerian Transactions, in which he gives
examples, from actual observation, of the wasting effects of the
sea on various parts of the coasts of the British Isles. His second
communication was made to the Wernerian Society in March 1820, and
published in the _Edinburgh Philosophical Journal_ of that year.

In the fifth edition of Baron Cuvier’s “Essay on the Theory of the
Earth,” reference is made to Mr. Stevenson’s theory. His papers are
several times quoted in Lyell’s _Principles of Geology_, and the
General Committee of the British Association at York in 1834 passed
a resolution, “that Mr. Stevenson be requested to report to the next
meeting upon the waste and extension of the land on the east coast of
Britain, and upon the general question of the permanence of the level
of the sea and land, and that individuals who may be able to supply
information upon the subject be requested to correspond with him.”

Without discussing in how far Mr. Stevenson’s theory may be sound
(for on such questions it is notorious that the views of geologists
do not always coincide), it cannot be denied that his mode of dealing
with the subject is original and interesting, and as the papers are
not now accessible to the general reader, it may be excusable to give
one of them _in extenso_. I also notice another feature which gives
interest to the subject. In his illustrations he adopted a mode of
representation which was peculiarly suitable for the object in view. It
will be seen from Plate XII. that the sections are laid down on what is
now known by engineers as _sectio planography_, which it is believed
was used for the first time in illustrating this paper.

        Wernerian Natural History Society, 25th March 1820.)”

“The efforts of man in exploring the more occult processes of nature
are necessarily much circumscribed, especially when his attempts are
directed to the investigation of regions which his senses cannot
penetrate. It has accordingly been with the utmost difficulty that
his exertions have been rendered in any degree successful in prying
into the bowels of the earth, or in his endeavours to ascend to the
aërial regions. In proof of this, the limited excavations even of the
most extensive mining works, have required the lapse of ages, and the
powerful stimulus of commercial enterprise, for their accomplishment.
From these the philosopher has not hitherto derived much light,
to enable him to compare the theories which have been assigned by
geologists to account for the various and discordant appearances of
the structure of the globe. It has also been with much difficulty,
and at no small personal hazard, that the philosophical inquirer has
ventured to climb the highest mountains, to examine into the phenomena
of the atmosphere. The balloon has indeed enabled us to attain still
higher points of elevation; but as yet we do not seem to have made
proportional progress in knowledge. In all such attempts to ascend
the greatest heights or penetrate the deepest excavations, we still
breathe in our own element, though under different modifications. If,
however, we would explore the depths of the Ocean, we immediately
encounter an element to which the organisation of our lungs is not at
all adapted; the density of air, compared with water on a level with
the surface of the sea, being in the ratio of one to about 850; and our
difficulties must consequently increase in a very rapid proportion.
Here therefore we are unavoidably left to conjecture on many points
of our inquiries regarding this highly interesting subject. Even the
ingenious contrivance of the diving bell contributes but little towards
our investigations for ascertaining the nature of the bottom of the
sea, at least to any considerable depth, on account of the difficulty
of its application in situations exposed to stormy weather, and also of
the increasing ratio of the pressure of the fluid as we descend. This
curious machine, it is believed, was invented and employed, about the
year 1720, by a Captain Rowe for raising the wreck of ships upon the
coast of Scotland; and in the year 1778, the active mind of Smeaton
first applied it to the operations of the engineer.


          _PLATE XII._

  CHART of the
  with SECTIONS of the
  _Illustrative of Observations_
  _Civil Engineer_

  _W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh._

“Our knowledge of the bottom of the ocean, therefore, remains still
very imperfect, and, with little exception, the simple apparatus of the
mariner, consisting of a plummet and line, continues to be chiefly in
use for ascertaining the depth of the sea and the nature of the ground.
With these, and the addition of a little grease applied to the lower
extremity of the plummet, which strikes against the bottom, we learn
the quality of the soil, though imperfectly, by the particles which
adhere to the grease. What the navigator has yet been able to discover
regarding the depth and the nature of the bottom of the German Ocean, I
shall now endeavour to notice, being myself enabled to offer the result
of a pretty extensive acquaintance with this field of inquiry.

“It may be necessary to premise, in treating of a subject so extensive,
and in comparing great things with small, that we are obliged to speak
of the North Sea as a bay or basin, and of the immense collection of
débris which we meet with, extending over a great proportion of its
bottom, under the common appellation of sand banks. We must also be
allowed to consider the undulating line, or the irregularities of the
bottom, to arise chiefly from the accumulation of deposited matters;
and in most of the situations connected with these banks, we are
supported and borne out in this conclusion, by their local positions
relatively to the openings of firths, and the line of their direction
in regard to the set or current of the ebb tide.

“The accompanying map (Plate XII.) of the eastern coast of Great
Britain, with the opposite Continent, though upon a small scale,
exhibits numerous soundings of the depth of the German Ocean; and
the sections delineated on it will perhaps be found to give a pretty
distinct view of the subject. This chart extends from the coast of
France, in latitude 50° 57´ to 61° N. On the east, this great basin is
bounded by Denmark and Norway, on the west by the British Isles, on the
south by Germany, Holland, and France, and on the north by the Shetland
Islands and the Great Northern or Arctic Ocean. The term _German
Ocean_, though in very common use, is certainly not so comprehensive in
its application to this great basin as that of _North Sea_, now more
generally used by the navigator. The extent of this sea from south to
north, between the parallels of latitude quoted above, is 233 leagues,
and its greatest breadth from west to east, reckoning from St. Abb’s
Head, on the coast of Scotland, to Ringhjoöbing Fiord, on the opposite
shore of Denmark, is 135 leagues. The greatest depth of the water in
this basin seems to be upon the Norwegian side, where the soundings
give 190 fathoms; but the mean depth of the whole may be stated at only
about 31 fathoms.

“To be more particular with regard to the depth of the German Ocean,
or North Sea, it will be observed by the sections and soundings marked
upon the chart, that the water gradually deepens as we sail from south
to north. The first of these sections which we shall notice is on the
parallel of three degrees of east longitude, running from Ostend to the
latitude of the northmost of the Shetland Islands, being an extent of
227 leagues. The depth, as will be seen from this section (which, to
avoid confusion in the body of the chart, is traced along the western
side of it), varies rather after an irregular progression, from 120
fathoms towards the northern extremity of this sectional line, to 58,
38, 24, and 18 fathoms, as we proceed southwards, to within five miles
of the shore, nearer which we do not approach in our remarks regarding
the soundings. Notwithstanding the irregularity of the depth from the
occurrence of numerous sandbanks, it is curious to observe the increase
upon the whole as we proceed from south to north, by which this sea
exhibits all the characteristic features of a great bay, encumbered
with numerous sandbanks.

“In the same manner, though not strictly connected with our present
purpose, we may observe that the English Channel deepens progressively
from Dover to its entrance, formed by the Land’s End of England and
the Isle of Ushant, on the coast of France; so that the Strait between
Dover and Calais may be said to form a point of partition between two
great inclined planes, forming the bottom of these seas.

“Besides the longitudinal, or north and south sectional line described
above, we have also six other sections delineated in an easterly
and westerly direction, across the accompanying chart, which are as
follow. One between the Shetland Islands and the coast of Norway; a
second between Tarbetness in Ross-shire and the Naze of Norway; a third
extends from the Firth of Forth to the coast of Denmark; a fourth
from the mouth of the river Tyne to Sylt Island, also in Denmark; a
fifth from Flamborough Head, in Yorkshire, to the mouth of the River
Elbe; and the sixth is from Yarmouth to Egmond-op-Zee, on the coast of
Holland. Other sections of this sea have also been made, which include
the general elevation of the land, as, for example, one of these
extends from Holland across the German Ocean to the Thames, and through
the interior of the country to the Bristol Channel; then crossing St.
George’s Channel, this sectional line passes through the southern
extremity of Ireland, and falls into the Atlantic Ocean; but this will
be more particularly noticed, when I come to speak of the bed of the
English Channel, in a future paper.

“On examining the accompanying cross sections of the depths of water
on the same parallel they will be found to vary considerably. It may,
however, be stated as a general conclusion, that there is a greater
depth of water on the eastern and western sides of the German Ocean
than in its central parts, and that, upon the whole, it is deeper
on the British than on the continental shores, the coast of Norway

“We have already observed, that this sea is much encumbered with
sandbanks, or great accumulations of débris, especially in the middle
or central parts, and also along the shores towards what may be termed
the apex of the bay, extending from the river Thames along the shores
of Holland, etc., to the Baltic. One of these great central banks,
delineated on the chart, and known to mariners as the Long Forties,
trends north-east in the direction of the ebb tide from the entrance
of the Firth of Forth no less than 110 miles, while the Denmark and
Jutland banks may also be traced on the chart from the entrance of
the Baltic, upwards of 105 miles in a north-western direction. Besides
these, we have also another great central range of banks, which is
crossed by no fewer than four of our sectional lines. These are known
under the common appellation of the Dogger Bank, which is subdivided by
the navigator into the Long Bank, the White Bank, and the Well Bank,
including an extent of upwards of 354 miles from north to south. There
are also a vast number of shoals and sandbanks, lying wholly to the
southward of our section, between Flamborough Head and Heligoland.
Altogether, therefore, the superficies of these extensive banks is
found to occupy no inconsiderable portion of the whole area of the
German Ocean; the surface of which, in making these investigations,
has been estimated to contain about 153,709 square miles, while the
aggregate superficial contents of the sandbanks alone amount to no less
than 27,443 square miles, or include an area of about 5¾ of the whole
surface of the North Sea.

“But to render these dimensions a little more familiar by comparison,
we may notice, that the Island of Great Britain contains about 77,244
square miles, being not quite one half of the area of the North Sea; so
that the area of the sandbanks bears a proportion equal to about one
third of the whole _terra firma_ of England and Scotland; and they are,
therefore, perhaps, far more considerable in their extent than has been
generally imagined.

“In speaking of the dimensions of sandbanks situate in the middle of
the ocean, we are aware that great allowance must be made in forming
a proper estimate of their extent, especially in speaking of their
cubical contents. From a vast number of observations and comparisons
relative to this subject, I have, however, been enabled to determine,
that the average height of these banks measures about seventy-eight
feet, from a mean taken of the whole. In ascertaining their height
above the surrounding bottom, the measurement has been taken from the
general depth around each respectively. Now, upon taking the aggregate
cubical contents of the whole of these immense collections of débris,
supposing the mass to be uniformly the same throughout, it is found to
amount to no less a quantity than 2,241,248,563,110 of cubic yards,
being equal to about fourteen feet of the depth of the whole German
Ocean, or to a portion of the firm ground of Great Britain, on a level
with the sea, taken twenty-eight feet in perpendicular height or depth,
supposing the surface to be a level plane.

“These calculations at least tend to show that an immense body of water
must be displaced, in consequence of these banks occupying so very
considerable a proportion of the bed of the North Sea, the unavoidable
effect of which must give a direct tendency to the tidal waters, and
the flux produced by storms in the Atlantic, to overflow the bed of
the German Ocean, in the same manner as if stones or other matter were
thrown into a vessel already nearly brimful of water. This may further
be illustrated by considering the actual state of any of the great
inland lakes, as those of Geneva, Lochness, Lochlomond, etc., which for
ages past have been receiving the débris of the surrounding mountains.
We must doubtless allow that they contain a smaller portion of water,
or are actually of a less depth than they were at an earlier period of
the history of the globe. Accordingly, from inquiries, which, in the
prosecution of this subject, I have been led to make regarding the two
last mentioned lakes, it has satisfactorily appeared that their waters
are subject to overflow or rise upon their banks. On Lochlomond, in
particular, the site of a house at the village of Luss was pointed
out to me, which is now permanently under _the summer water mark_,
while the gable of another house in its neighbourhood is in danger of
being washed down by the increase of the waters of the loch. Whether
this striking appearance is to be attributed wholly to natural causes,
or partly to artificial operations upon the bed of the river Leven,
flowing from the loch, I have had no opportunity of inquiring. But the
great bench or flat space round the margin of the loch, which is left
partly dry during summer, forms altogether such a receptacle for débris
as to be sufficient to affect the surface of the loch, and indeed
permanently to raise its waters. We also infer, though by a different
process, that the constant deposition going forward in the bed of
the German Ocean must likewise displace its waters, and give them a
tendency to enlarge their bed and to overflow their banks or boundary.

“In this view of the subject, it will appear that we have not only to
account for the supply of an immense quantity of débris, but we must
also dispose of the water displaced by the process of deposition which
is continually going forward at the bottom of the ocean.

“With regard, then, to the supply of the débris of which these banks
are composed.--We find that a very great portion of it consists of
siliceous matters in the form of sand, varying in size from the finest
grains to coarse bulky particles, mixed with coral and pounded shells,
the quantity of these calcareous matters being altogether astonishingly
great; and being specifically lighter than the particles of sand, the
shells generally cover the surface of these sunken banks. With regard
to the vast collection of siliceous particles connected with the banks,
our surprise ceases when we consider the receptacle which the North Sea
forms, to an almost unlimited extent of drainage from the surrounding
countries, on which the change of the seasons, and the succession of
rain and of drought upon the surface of the earth, are unceasingly
producing their destructive effects. All have remarked the quantity of
mud and débris with which every rill and river is charged, even after
the gentlest shower; especially wherever the hand of the agriculturist
is to be found. His labours in keeping up the fertilising quality of
the ground consist in a great measure in preparing a fresh matrix for
the chemical process or the germination of the seeds of the earth, in
lieu of that portion of the finely pulverised soil which the rains are
perpetually carrying to the sea, as the grand receptacle and storehouse
of nature for these exuviæ of the globe. From the effect of rills
and rivulets, we should, perhaps, rather be apt to expect a greater
deposition in the bed of sheltered bays and arms of the sea than we
really observe. So that we can readily believe that the quantity of
débris, even for a single year, along such an extent of coast, may
bear some consideration in respect to the bed of the German Ocean;
what, then, must these effects produce in the lapse of ages?

“Whatever be the cause, the fact is certain, that on almost every
part of the shores of Great Britain and Ireland, and their connecting
islands, from the northernmost of the Shetland to the southernmost of
the Scilly Islands, and also upon the shores of Holland, and part of
France, particularly in the neighbourhood of Cherbourg, this wasting
effect is going forward. These shores I have myself examined. But my
inquiries have not been confined to the coasts which I have personally
visited, having also, through the kind attentions of some nautical
friends, been enabled to extend my investigations even to the remotest
parts of the globe. The general result has been, that equally in the
most sheltered seas, such as the Baltic and Mediterranean, and on the
most exposed points and promontories of the coasts of North and South
America, and the West India Islands, abundant proofs occur, all tending
to show the general waste of the land by the encroachments of the sea.
Such wasting effects are quite familiar to those locally acquainted
with particular portions of the shores; and I have often received
their testimony to these facts, as the sad experience of the removal
of buildings, and the inundation of extensive tracts of land by the
encroachment of the sea.

“Indeed, by a closer inquiry into this department of the subject, we
shall, perhaps, find ourselves rather at a loss to account for the
_smallness_ of the quantity of this deposition, considering the waste
which is constantly going forward in the process of nature, and even
be led to seek for its wider distribution over the whole expanse of the
bed of the ocean, as has been supposed in that theory of the globe, so
beautifully and so ably defended by our late illustrious countryman
Professor Playfair.

“One of the most striking and general examples of this kind may perhaps
be found in the abrupt and precipitous headlands and shores which we
everywhere observe along the coast, and which we suppose to have once
been of the same sloping form and declining aspect with the contiguous
land. In the production of these effects alone, an immense quantity of
débris must have been thrown into the bed of the ocean. The channels
which are cut by the sea in the separation of parts of the mainland,
and the formation of islands, no doubt make way for a considerable
portion of the displaced fluid; but still these channels, when filled
with water, come far short, in point of bulk, when compared with the
portions of the elevated land which are thus removed. Now, it has been
alleged by some, that while the land is wasting at certain points,
it is also gaining in others; and this is a state of things which is
freely admitted to take place in various quarters; yet these apparent
acquisitions are no more to be compared with the waste alluded to,
than the drop is to the water of the bucket. But accurate observations
regarding the formation of extensive sandbanks, and the accumulation
of the débris, of which they are formed, are not to be made in a few
years, perhaps not in a century, nor indeed in several centuries; for
although the short period of the life of man is sufficient to afford
the most incontrovertible proofs of the waste of the land where we
become observers, yet when we extend our views to the depths of the
ocean, and speak of the events and changes which are there going
forward, we must not be supposed to set limits to time.

“We have many convincing proofs in the natural history of the globe,
that the sea has at one time occupied a much higher elevation than at
present. On the banks of the Firth of Forth, near Borrowstounness, for
example, I have seen a bed of marine shells, which is several feet in
thickness, and has been found to extend about three miles in length,
and which is now situate many feet above the present level of the
waters of the Forth. A recent illustration of this subject occurred
also in the remarkable discovery of the skeleton of a large whale,
found in the lands of Airthrey, near Stirling,--the present surface of
the ground where the remains of this huge animal were deposited, having
been ascertained (by my assistants, when lately in that neighbourhood)
to be no less than twenty-four feet nine inches above the present level
of the Firth of Forth at high water of spring tides. Now, whether
we are to consider these as proofs of the higher elevation of the
waters of the ocean in the most general acceptation of the word, at
a former period, I will not here attempt to inquire. But aside from
these anomalous appearances, there is reason for thinking that the
waters of the higher parts of the Firth of Forth, like those of the
Moray Firth, may, at one time, have formed a succession of lakes, with
distinct barriers, as we find in the case of Lochness, and the other
lakes forming the track of the Caledonian Canal. My object on the
present occasion, however, is simply to notice the wasting effects of
the North Sea upon the surrounding land, its deposition in the bottom
of the sea, and the consequent production of surplus waters at the
surface, and to endeavour to account for these appearances consistently
with the laws of nature. The opinion accordingly which I have formed,
and the theory which I have humbly to suggest (for I am not aware that
this subject has been before particularly noticed) is, that the silting
up of the great basin of the North Sea has a direct tendency to cause
its waters to overflow their banks.

“Referring to the chart, we find that the North Sea is surrounded with
land, excepting at two inlets or apertures, the one extending about
100 leagues, between the Orkney Islands and the Norwegian coast, and
the other between Dover and Calais, which is of the width of seven
leagues. The aggregate _waterway_ of these two passages forms the track
for the tidal waters, and also for the surplus waters produced during
storms which affect the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. It is also obvious
that this waterway must remain nearly the same, and admit a constant
quantity; or, to speak more correctly, by allowing these inlets to
follow the general law, they must be enlarged by the waste or wearing
of their sides, in a ratio perhaps greater than the silting up of
the bottom in those particular parts, while the interior and central
portions of the German Ocean are continually acquiring additional
quantities of débris, along with the drainage water of the widely
surrounding countries. If therefore the same, or a greater quantity of
tidal and surplus waters continue to be admitted from the Atlantic and
Arctic Seas into this great basin, where the process of deposition is
constantly going forward, it is evident that the surface of the German
Ocean must be elevated in a temporary and proportionate degree, and
hence the production of those wasting and destructive effects which are
everywhere observable upon its shores.

“This reasoning is also applicable, in a greater or less degree, to
all parts of the world; for as the same cause everywhere exists, the
same effects, when narrowly examined, must everywhere be produced.
In the Southern or Pacific Ocean we have wonderful examples of great
masses of land formed by madrepores and extensive coral banks, which in
time assume all the characteristic features of islands. These occupy
considerable portions of the watery bed of the ocean, and displace
corresponding portions of the fluid. Immense quantities of mud are
also said to be deposited in the Yellow Sea of China, in the great
deltas formed at the mouths of the Ganges, the Plate, the Amazon, the
Mississippi, the St. Lawrence, the Nile, the Rhine, and other large
rivers, whose joint operations, both at the surface and bottom of the
ocean, are continually carrying forward the same great process of
displacing the waters of the ocean; for it matters not to this question
whether the débris of the higher country which is carried down by the
rains and rivers, or is occasioned by the direct waste produced by the
ocean itself on the margin of the land, be deposited at the bottom or
surface of the ocean, it must still be allowed to displace an equal
or greater bulk of the fluid, and has therefore a direct tendency to
produce the derangement which we are here endeavouring to describe.

“A striking illustration of this doctrine may be drawn from M.
Girard’s able and ingenious observations on the delta of Egypt, made
in 1799, and published in the _Mem. de l’Acad._ for 1817, in a memoir
_Observations sur la Vallée d’Égypte, et sur l’exhaussement séculaire
du sol qui la recouvre_. It appears that the whole soil of the “Valley
of the Nile” is very considerably increased by the alluvium deposited
annually by the inundations of the Nile, as ascertained by the marks
on some ancient Nilometers and statues, the dates of which have been
traced and compared by Girard, with the corresponding historical
periods. In the quarter of Thebes, where the statue of Memnon is
erected, the increase of the soil since the commencement of the
Christian era is lm. 924 (6 feet 3·7 inches), or this process may be
stated as going forward at the rate of 0m. 106 (4·17 inches) in the
course of each century. The magnitude of the deposits at the mouths
of the Nile, in the bed of the Mediterranean, appears to be no less
surprising. It is remarked that the Isle of Pharos, which in the time
of Homer was a day’s journey from the coast of Egypt, is now united to
the continent.

“If, then, we compare these effects with the same process, going
forward in a certain proportionate rate over all parts of the globe,
and where the same facilities for these depositions being made on firm
ground are not afforded, we shall find that the quantity of deposit in
the bottom of the ocean must be so considerable as to affect the level
of the waters of the ocean.

“In thus disposing of the waste of the surrounding land beyond the
accumulation of the sunken banks in the German Ocean, we are not left
at any loss for a distributing cause, as this is provided by the tides
and currents of the sea; and with regard to their action we have
many proofs, even at very considerable depths, by the breaking up of
the wrecks of ships, the occasional drift of seaweed, and also drift
timber, nuts, etc., into regions far distant from those in which they
are spontaneously produced. The dispersion of fishes, evinced by their
disappearance from the fishing grounds in stormy weather, tends to show
the disturbance of the waters of the ocean to the depth of thirty or
forty fathoms. This observation I have frequently had an opportunity of
making near the entrance of the Firth of Forth. Numerous proofs of the
sea being disturbed to a considerable depth have also occurred since
the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, situate upon a sunken rock in
the sea, twelve miles off Arbroath, in Forfarshire. Some _drift stones_
of large dimensions, measuring upwards of thirty cubic feet, or more
than two tons weight, have, during storms, been often thrown upon the
rock from the deep water. These large boulder stones are so familiar to
the lightkeepers at this station as to be by them termed _travellers_.
It is therefore extremely probable, that a large portion of the débris
is carried down with the drainage water of the higher country, as
before noticed, and ultimately washed out of the North Sea into the
expanse of the ocean.

“The question which naturally arises as to the result of all this
waste or transposition of the solid matters of a large portion of the
globe, is to inquire what has become of the body of water displaced by
this wasting process. Without attempting to go into all the minutiæ
of this part of the subject, I shall here briefly observe, that there
seems to exist (if I may be allowed so to express myself) a kind of
compensating arrangement between the solid or earthy particles of the
globe in the one case, and the waters of the ocean in the other. Thus
by the process of evaporation, and the universal application of water,
which enters so largely, in its simple or chemical state, into the
whole animate and inanimate creation, the surface of the ocean may be
kept nearly at a uniform level. Phenomena of this description are, no
doubt, difficult in their solution upon the great scale, being met
by the process of _decomposition_, which resolves bodies into their
constituent parts, and also by our theory of the atmosphere, by which
its limits and operations are determined. But were we to abstract our
attention from the more general view of the subject, and confine our
inquiries to the German Ocean, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Red
Sea, or to any other inland and circumscribed parts of the ocean, this
difficulty seems to be lessened. Indeed, the probability is, and it is
a pretty generally received opinion, that a greater quantity of water
is actually admitted at the Straits of Gibraltar and of Babelmandel
than flows out of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. We consider water,
therefore, as the great _pabulum of nature_, which, as before noticed,
enters either simply or chemically into the constitution of all
bodies, and appears to be held, almost exclusively, in solution, in the
formation and maintenance of the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms,
and is found to exist largely in the composition of all mineral
substances. The quantity of water, consequently, that is required, and
is continually supplied from the ocean by the process of evaporation,
both for the support and reanimation of nature, must be immense, and
may of course be supposed permanently to absorb a very large proportion
of the surplus waters of these circumscribed seas, while the remaining
portion of surplus water, if not thus wholly accounted for, may be
distributed over the general expanse of the ocean.

“But if we suppose with some, that in nature there is neither an excess
nor diminution of the waters of the globe, and that the united and
counterbalancing processes of evaporation, condensation, decomposition,
and regeneration, so completely equalise each other, that the surplus
waters, arising from the displacement of a portion of the solid surface
of the globe, must again be wholly distributed and intermixed with
the waters of the ocean, the portion of water remaining thus to be
accounted for becomes more considerable, and, upon the great scale,
must be permanently disposed of, independently of the process of

“Another view has been suggested as applicable to the distribution of
the surplus waters produced by the gradual filling up of the bed of the
ocean. These waters, in place of being elevated in any sensible degree,
may be naturally disposed to find their level in the great polar
basins, or oblate portions of the surface of the globe which are known
to exist next the poles. The oblate figure of the earth at the poles
makes these imaginary points the nearest to the centre of the earth,
and consequently, with regard to level, they are also the lowest. It
therefore appears to follow, that any filling up of the bed of the sea
near the equator, or at a distance from the poles, will have the effect
of promoting the retiring of the surplus waters to the polar regions
by their own gravity, while the centrifugal force occasioned by the
earth’s diurnal motion will prevent their being further removed from
the earth’s centre, without a corresponding elevation of the waters in
the great polar basins.

“In this manner, such an accumulation of water may, at a former period
of time, have taken place at the then poles of the globe, as to have
altered the position of these points, and given rise to the Flood, or
temporary general overflowing of the waters over the earth’s surface,
producing a change in the beds of the seas or oceans of former times.
In this way may have been produced many of the phenomena observable
in the crust of the earth, which are otherwise with much difficulty
accounted for.

“Of what has now been advanced, regarding the waste of the land by the
operations of the sea, it will be proper to notice that much consists
with my own personal observation. The consequences of this process must
be the deposition of débris, and a tendency to raise the bottom of the
ocean and produce a proportional elevation of the water. With regard,
however, to the distribution of the surplus waters that is produced,
what I have now said is offered with much deference, in the hope that
some one better qualified than myself will turn his attention to this
curious subject.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In connection with this discussion I give the following interesting
account of observations on the estuary of the Mersey:--

        RIVERS MERSEY AND DEE. (Read before the Wernerian Society, 8th
        March 1828.)

“On a former occasion I had the honour to make a few observations which
appeared in the second volume of the Society’s Memoirs regarding the
encroachment of the sea upon the land generally. The present notice
refers only to that portion of the coast which lies between the rivers
Mersey and Dee, extending to about seven miles.

“To this quarter my attention, with that of Mr. Nimmo, Civil Engineer,
had been professionally directed in the course of last month. In our
preambulatory survey we were accompanied by Sir John Tobin and William
Laird, Esq., of Liverpool, along the Cheshire shore and its connecting
sandbanks between Wallasey Pool in the Mersey, and Dalpool in the river

“Within these estuaries the shores may be described as abrupt,
consisting of red clay and marl, containing many land or boulder stones
of the cubic contents of several tons, and very many of much smaller
size, diminishing to coarse gravel. But the foreland or northern
shore between these rivers, which I am now to notice, is chiefly low
ground, and to a great extent is under the level of the highest tides.
The beach or ebb extends from 300 to 400 yards seaward, and toward
low water mark exposes a section of red clay; but toward high water
it consists of bluish coloured marl, with peat or moss overlaid by
sand. This beach, at about tide level, presents a curious and highly
interesting spectacle of the remains of a _submarine forest_. The
numerous roots of trees, which have not been washed away by the sea, or
carried off by the neighbouring inhabitants for firewood, are in a very
decayed state. The trees seem to have been cut off about two feet from
the ground, after the usual practice in felling timber, and the roots
are seen ramifying from their respective stumps in all directions, and
dipping towards the clay subsoil. They seem to have varied in size
from eighteen inches to perhaps thirty inches in diameter, and when
cut with a knife appear to be oak. Several of the boles or trunks have
also been left upon the ground, and being partly immersed in the sand
and clay, are now in such a decomposed state that, when dug into with a
common spade, great numbers of the shell fish called _Pholas candida_,
measuring about three fourths of an inch in length and two inches in
breadth, were found apparently in a healthy state. These proofs of the
former state of this ebb or shore--now upwards of twenty feet under
full tide--having been once dry land to a considerable extent beyond
the region of these large forest trees were rendered still more evident
by the occurrence of large masses of greenstone, which, at a former
period, had been embedded in the firm ground here, and especially on
the shore within the river Dee. It may further deserve notice that the
inhabitants of this district have a traditional rhyme expressive of the
former wooded state of this coast, where not a tree is now to be seen,
viz., “From Birkenhead to Helbre a squirrel may hop from tree to tree;”
that is, from the Dee to the Mersey, now presenting a submarine forest.

“As these evidences of great changes upon the state and former
appearances of the land were highly interesting to the party, and
intimately connected with the professional inquiries of myself and
colleague, it seemed desirable, if possible, to get them corroborated
by oral testimony. Sir John Tobin accordingly very obligingly took
measures for examining the oldest people in the neighbourhood as to
their recollection of the former state of these shores. In particular,
Thomas Barclay, aged ninety-three, “all but two months,” by profession
a mason and measurer of country work; Henry Youd, labourer, aged
eighty-six; and John Crooksan, labourer, aged eighty, were examined.
Barclay stated that he had been employed at the erection of the
Leasowe landward lighthouse in the year 1764; that there were then
two lighthouses near the shore, for a leading direction to shipping
through the proper channel to Liverpool; and that the seaward light
became uninhabitable from its being surrounded by the sea. A new light
was then built upon Bidstone Hill, and the present Leasowe Lighthouse,
formerly the landward light which he had assisted in building, became
the sea light. He could not condescend upon the distance between the
two original lights, but was certain that it must have been several
hundred yards; that he knows that in the course of thirty years the
shore of the Leasowe lost _by measurement_ eleven Cheshire roods or
eighty-eight yards; and verily believes that, since he knew this shore,
it has lost upwards of half a mile of firm ground. To the correctness
of these statements the other two aged men gave ample testimony, Henry
Youd having also worked at the lighthouse.

“As to the present state of things, the party alluded to were
eye-witnesses of the tides on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of February
1828, having exhibited a very alarming example of the encroachment
of the sea upon the Leasowe shore. At high water it came over the
bank, and ran in a stream of about half a mile in breadth surrounding
the lighthouse, and continued its course through the low grounds
toward Wallasey Pool on the Mersey, thereby forming a new channel,
and threatening to lay several thousands of acres of rich arable and
pasture lands into the state of a permanent salt lake. The present
Leasowe Lighthouse, which, in 1764, was considered far above the reach
of the sea, upon the 17th of February last was thus surrounded by salt
water, and must soon be abandoned unless some very extensive works be
undertaken for the defence of the beach, the whole of the interior
lands of the Leasowe being considerably under the level of high water
of spring tides.

“This coast, with its sandbanks in the offing, its submarine forest,
and the evidence of living witnesses as to the encroachment of the
sea upon the firm ground, is altogether highly interesting to the
geological and scientific inquirer. The remains of forests in the bed
of the ocean occur in several parts of the British coast, particularly
off Lincoln, on the banks of the Tay near Flisk, at Skail in the
mainland of Orkney, and in other places noticed in the Transactions of
this Society, and are strong proofs of the encroachments of the sea
upon the land. However difficult, therefore, it may be to reconcile
the varied appearances in nature regarding the sea having at one time
occupied a higher level than at present, yet its encroachment as a
general and almost universal principle seems to be beyond doubt in the
present day.

“Since I had last the honour of addressing the Society on this
subject, opportunities have been afforded me of making many additional
observations on the British shores, and of personally extending these
to almost every port on the Continent between the Texel and the
Garonne. I have also, through the obliging communications of friends,
been enabled to extend my inquiries to other quarters of the globe,
and I am now prepared to state that, with a few comparatively trifling
exceptions, the sea appears to be universally gaining upon the land,
tending to confirm the theory that débris arising from the general
degradation of the land, being deposited in the bed of the minor seas,
is the cause of their present tendency to overflow their banks.”


Mr. Stevenson’s discovery that the salt water of the ocean flows up the
beds of rivers in a stream quite distinct from the outflowing fresh
water, was made in 1812, when investigating a question regarding
salmon fishings on the Dee. It is described in the following extract
from his Report:--

“The reporter observed in the course of his survey that the current
of the river continued to flow towards the sea with as much apparent
velocity during flood as during ebb tide, while the surface of the
river rose and fell in a regular manner with the waters of the ocean.
He was led from these observations to inquire more particularly into
this phenomenon, and he accordingly had an apparatus prepared under
his directions at Aberdeen, which, in the most satisfactory manner,
showed the existence of two distinct layers or strata of water; the
lower stratum consisting of salt or sea water, and the upper one of
the fresh water of the river, which, from its specific gravity being
less, floated on the top during the whole of flood as well as ebb tide.
This apparatus consisted of a bottle or glass jar, the mouth of which
measured about two and a half inches in diameter, and was carefully
stopped with a wooden plug, and luted with wax; a hole about half an
inch in diameter was then bored in the plug, and to this an iron peg
was fitted. To prevent accident in the event of the jar touching the
bottom, it was coated with flannel. The jar so prepared was fixed to
a spar of timber, which was graduated to feet and inches, for the
convenience of readily ascertaining the depth to which the instrument
was plunged, and from which the water was brought up. A small cord was
attached to the iron pin for the purpose of drawing it, at pleasure,
for the admission of the water. When an experiment was made the bottle
was plunged into the water; by drawing the cord at any depth within
the range of the rod to which it was attached, the iron peg was lifted
or drawn, and the bottle was by this means filled with water. The peg
was again dropped into its place, and the apparatus raised to the
surface, containing a specimen of water of the quality at the depth to
which it was plunged. In this manner the reporter ascertained that the
salt or tidal water of the ocean flowed up the channel of the river
Dee, and also up Footdee and Torryburn, in a distinct stratum next the
bottom and under the fresh water of the river, which, owing to the
specific gravity being less, floated upon it, continuing perfectly
fresh, and flowing in its usual course towards the sea, the only
change discoverable being in its level, which was raised by the salt
water forcing its way under it. The tidal water so forced up continued
salt; and when the specimens from the bottom, obtained in the manner
described, were compared with those taken at the surface by means of
the common hydrometer of the brewer (the only instrument to which the
reporter had access at the time), the lower stratum was always found to
possess the greater specific gravity due to salt over fresh water.”


The instrument Mr. Stevenson then invented and used was that to which
the term _hydrophore_ has been applied. Figs. 18 and 19 show two forms
of hydrophores made under his directions.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]

Fig. 18 is used for procuring specimens of water from moderate depths,
drawn on a scale of one-tenth of the full size. It consists of a tight
tin cylinder, _a_, having a conical valve in its top, _b_, which is
represented in the diagram as being raised for the admission of water.
The valve is fixed _dead_, or immoveable, on a rod working in guides,
the one resting between two uprights of brass above the cylinder,
and the other in its interior, as shown in faintly dotted lines. The
valve rod is by this means caused to move in a truly vertical line,
and the valve attached to it consequently fills or closes the hole in
the top of the cylinder with greater accuracy than if its motion was
undirected. A graduated pole or rod of iron, _c_, which in the diagram
is shown broken off, is attached to the instrument, its end being
inserted into the small tin cylinder at the side of the large water
cylinder, and there fixed by the clamp screws shown in the diagram;
the bottom of the water cylinder may be loaded with lead to any extent
required, for the purpose of causing the apparatus to sink; but this,
when an iron rod is used for lowering it, is hardly necessary. The
spindle carrying the valve has an eye in its upper extremity, to which
a cord is attached for the purpose of opening the valve when the water
is to be admitted, and on releasing the cord, it again closes by its
own weight. When the hydrophore is to be used, it is lowered to the
required depth by the pole which is fixed to its side, or, if the depth
be greater than the range of the pole, it is loaded with weights, and
let down by means of a rope so attached as to keep it in a vertical
position. When the apparatus has been lowered as far as is required,
the small cord is pulled, and the vessel is immediately filled with the
water which is to be found at that depth. The cord being then thrown
slack, the valve descends and closes the opening, and the instrument is
slowly raised to the surface by means of the rod or rope, as the case
may be, care being taken to preserve it in a vertical position.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

The form of hydrophore represented in Fig. 19 is used in deep water,
to which the small one just described is inapplicable. It consists of
an egg-shaped vessel _a_, made of thick lead to give the apparatus
weight, having two valves, _b_ and _c_, one in the top and another in
the bottom, both opening upwards; these valves (which are represented
as open in the diagram) are, to insure more perfect fitting, fixed on
separate spindles, which work in guides, in the same manner as in the
instrument shown in Fig. 18. The valves, however, in this instrument
are not opened by means of a cord, but by the impact of the projecting
part, _d_, of the lower spindle on the bottom, when the hydrophore is
sunk to that depth. By this means the lower valve is forced upwards,
and the upper spindle (the lower extremity of which is made nearly to
touch the upper extremity of the lower one, when the valves are shut)
is at the same time forced up, carrying along with it the upper valve,
which allows the air to escape, and the water rushing in fills the
vessel. On raising the instrument from the bottom, both valves again
shut by their own weight, and that of the mass of lead, _d_, which
forms part of the lower spindle. The mode of using this hydrophore is
sufficiently obvious; it is lowered by means of a rope, made fast to a
ring at the top, as shown in Fig. 19, until it strikes on the bottom,
when the valves are opened in the manner described, and the vessel is
filled; on raising it the valves close, and the vessel can be drawn to
the surface without its contents being mixed with the superincumbent
water through which it has to pass. This instrument, shown on a scale
of one twentieth of full size, weighs about half a hundredweight, and
has been easily used in from thirty to forty fathoms water.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Stevenson subsequently extended his experiments on the density of
salt and fresh water to several firths and tidal rivers, and gave the
results in a paper communicated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in
May 1817, of which the following digest is given in Thomson’s _Annals
of Philosophy_:[14]--

“The waters of the Thames opposite the London Dock gates were found to
be perfectly fresh throughout; at Blackwall, even in spring tides, the
water was found to be only slightly saline; at Woolwich the proportion
of salt water increases, and so on to Gravesend. But the strata of salt
and fresh water are less distinctly marked in the Thames than in any of
those rivers on which Mr. Stevenson has hitherto had an opportunity of
making his observations. But these inquiries are meant to be extended
to most of the principal rivers in the kingdom, when an account of the
whole will be given.

“From the series of observations made at and below London Bridge,
compared with the river as far up as Kew and Oxford, Mr. Stevenson
is of opinion that the waters of the Thames seldom change, but are
probably carried up and down with the turn of the alternate tides for
an indefinite period, which, he is of opinion, may be one, if not the
principal cause of what is termed the extreme softness of the waters of
the Thames.

“Mr. Stevenson has made similar experiments on the rivers Forth and
Tay, and at Loch Eil, where the Caledonian Canal joins the Western Sea.
The aperture at Corran Ferry, for the tidal waters of that Loch, being
small compared with the surface of Loch Eil, which forms the drainage
of a great extent of country, it occurred to him that the waters of the
surface must have less saline particles than the waters of the bottom.
He accordingly lifted water from the surface at the anchorage off Fort
William, and found it to be 1008·2; at the depth of 9 fathoms 1025·5;
at the depth of 30 fathoms, in the central parts of the Loch, it was
1027·2; being the specific gravity of sea water.”

The hydrophore, which was originally devised and used by Mr. Stevenson,
in 1812, at Aberdeen, has now reached its height of excellence of
construction and scientific importance in the famous ‘Challenger’



    Wide range of subjects on which Mr. Stevenson gave advice--Reports
        on ruins of Aberbrothock Abbey--St. Magnus Cathedral, and
        Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall--St. Andrews Cathedral--Montrose
        Church Spire--Melville Monument, Edinburgh--Lipping
        of joints of masonry with cement--Provision for flood
        waters in bridges--Hydraulic mortar--Protection of
        foreshores--Cycloidal sea wall--Checking drift sand--Night
        signal lamps--Cause of heavy seas in Irish Channel--Sea routes
        across Irish Channel--Build of ships--Prospective increase
        of population--Tidal scour--Unscrewing of bolts by the
        waves--Cement Rubble cofferdams--Buoyage system--Observations
        on fog signals--Regulations for steam vessels--Notes on

Judging from Smeaton’s well known “Reports,” to which all have
access, we may conclude that the “professional advice” given by early
Engineers was very generally accompanied by a fuller and less reserved
discussion of opinion than is to be met with in the brief and technical
Engineering reports of the present day. In early times, Engineers did
not hesitate to express themselves freely on physics, æsthetics, or
commerce, provided their views had a collateral bearing on the subject
under discussion, and this often added to the interest of their reports.

These early Engineers were also consulted on a much wider range of
subjects than the Engineers of modern times. We know that the larger
requirements of modern Engineering demand that its practice should be
classified under distinct branches, such as harbours, navigations,
water works, gas works, lighthouses, or railways, not to mention
electrical and sanitary engineering, and other branches of modern
growth, all of which cannot possibly be advantageously practised by any
one member of the profession; for no one mind can grasp the theoretical
knowledge, and no one life can compass the practical experience, to
enable a man to attain eminence in all these departments of modern

A biographical sketch of Mr. Stevenson’s professional life would,
it seems to me, be incomplete if it did not convey to the reader
some notion, however general, of the wide range of subjects brought
under his notice, in these early times, and of his comprehensive and
suggestive mode of treating every case on which he was professionally
consulted. This object would be only imperfectly attained were I
to restrict my reference to his reports to the examples given in
the preceding chapters; for I have found in his numerous writings
casual notices of a miscellaneous and fragmentary character, many of
which seem to me to be interesting to the profession, and worthy of
preservation, and I propose, in this chapter, to give a few of these
extracts, without order of subject or date; and I think they will
justify my remark as to the great variety and fulness of treatment to
be found in the reports of early Engineers.

       *       *       *       *       *

It appears, for example, that Mr. Stevenson was often called to advise
on matters which were more related to architecture than engineering.
Of this nature was his tour of inspection to the jails of England,
in company with Sir William Rae, the Sheriff of Edinburgh, in 1813,
referred to in a former chapter.


In like manner he inspected Aberbrothock Abbey, with Sir Walter Scott
and the Sheriff of Forfar, in 1809, to advise as to preserving the
ruins, some of the turrets being in imminent danger of falling; and
after procuring a survey of the whole building he prepared a report,
with plans and specification, which were submitted to the Barons of
Exchequer, and the work was thereafter carried out under his direction.


He also reported in a similar way to the Sheriff of Orkney with
reference to the repairs of the Earl’s Palace at Kirkwall, estimated at
£500, and on certain alterations at the Cathedral of St. Magnus.


With a similar object in view he inspected and reported on the
Cathedral of St. Andrews, and the steeple of the Church of Montrose,
which was thought to be in danger, and the result of that inquiry was
the present beautiful spire, built from the designs of James Gillespie


He was also associated with Mr. Burn in the Melville Monument of
Edinburgh,--the preparation of the foundation, the rubble work for the
tower, and the scaffolding and tackling for raising the statue were
carried out under Mr. Stevenson’s direction; the whole architectural
design being due to Mr. Burn alone.


The well known practice of what is termed “lipping” with cement the
mortar joints of masonry exposed to the wash of water is described by
him as new in his report to the Trustees of Marykirk Bridge, of 16th
July 1812, where he says:--

“Upon carefully examining the face joints of the masonry of the south
pier under water line, some of these were found not to be so full of
mortar as could have been wished, and although Mr. Logan (the inspector
of works) had taken the precaution to cause the joints to be covered
with clay to preserve them from the effects of the water, yet this had
not altogether answered the purpose, and hence the reporter recommended
to the meeting of the 8th current _to provide a few casks of Parker’s
Roman Cement, to be laid to the breadth of three or four inches upon
the bed and end joints under the low water mark of the remaining


In determining the waterway of his bridges, Mr. Stevenson invariably
provided for prospective increase of flooding due to agricultural
improvements, as stated in the following extract from a report made in

“To preserve an ample waterway the north abutment is placed about
twelve feet from the edge of the river, leaving a sufficient passage
for the water in floods. A less waterway might perhaps have answered
the purpose, but as the valleys through which the North Esk passes may
come to be meliorated by drainage, and especially those districts of
country on each side of the feeders which join the river, the facility
with which the surface water may then escape must greatly increase the
floods, and although their duration will be shorter, yet their rise
must be proportionally higher.”


The following remarks on hydraulic mortar, made in 1811 to the
Commissioners of Montrose Bridge, are interesting as showing the detail
which he brought to bear on all his works:--

“The best mortar for water work is a mixture of Pozzolano earth with
lime and sand, but the late interrupted state of commercial intercourse
with the Mediterranean has for years past rendered Pozzolano so scarce
an article as hardly to be procured on any terms. Your reporter has
therefore been induced to make various experiments with preparations
of lime and Roman cement, and finds that a mixture may be made which
will set under water and answer every purpose. For this mortar the
lime ought to be well burned, and put into casks when drawn from the
kiln. It should be brought to the work as recently after being burnt as
possible. This will be most readily attained by taking the lime from
Boddam kilns. English lime is in general stronger and cleaner, but
some of it brought for the purpose of agriculture is not so suitable
for buildings as Lord Elgin’s lime. These limes, however, cannot be
had very newly burnt, and it will be preferable to take lime from some
of the kilns in the neighbourhood which are of good character. When
brought to the bridge the lime should be kept under cover, opening only
one barrel at a time; the shells must be pounded to a state of powder,
and immediately before mixing it with the other ingredients it will
be proper to sprinkle a little water upon it to dissolve any gritty
particles that may remain amongst it.

“The sand for this work, though fine, must nevertheless be sharp; it
must also be passed through a sieve, and cleaned of all impurities by
washing, if found necessary. For ramming the joints and pointing under
water, let equal parts of lime in its powdered state and of Roman
cement be used, with one fourth part of prepared sand, but for the
upper works the quantity of Roman cement in the mortar may be reduced
to one third part.

“The mortar must be mixed in small quantities and quickly beaten up
into a consistency suitable for the work. All white specks, which are
apt to swell and spoil the joints, must be carefully rejected from the


Some suggestive remarks on the protection of foreshores, made in 1812,
in a report to Lord Rosebery, on his Lordship’s property at Barnbougle
Castle on the Firth of Forth, are given in the following terms:--

“If the operation of the waters of the ocean be attended to in the
formation of the shores, some useful hints may be gained. These shores
will be found to be so many inclined planes, varying in declivity
according to the tenacity of the matter of which they, are composed.
Hence it is that the minute grains of sand and the light sea shell
become a lasting barrier against the rapid river current and the
tumultuous ocean, while the erect sea wall is levelled with the
ground. For the truth of this it were needless to refer to the works
of nature in different quarters of the world, or in distant parts of
this country; it is only necessary to examine the shores on each side
of Barnbougle Castle, where the beautiful beach, consisting of sand and
shells, between the Cockle Burn and the sea, forms a complete defence
to the low grounds behind it, while to the northward of the castle the
massive wall is in danger of being completely thrown down. Without
waiting to inquire into the causes which regulate these appearances, it
will be more consonant to the business of this report to point out how
their simple forms may be imitated and turned to advantage.”


In reporting on the defence of the lands of Trinity, on the Firth of
Forth, Mr. Stevenson recommended the adoption of a cycloidal talus
wall, which was executed under his direction in 1821:--

“In giving an opinion relative to the best mode of defending and
preserving this property, the reporter observes that it fortunately
happens that the beach is pretty closely covered with large boulder
stones, which now form a kind of _chevaux de frise_ in breaking the
force of the sea, and making it fall more gently towards high water
mark. Were it not that these stones are proposed to be employed in the
erection of a more effectual barrier against the waves, the reporter
would not fail to disapprove of their removal for any other purpose.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

“The reporter proposes that a _Talus wall_ or bulwark should be
built of these boulder stones, roughly dressed and laid so as to
form a cycloidal curve in the central part, as nearly as may be, as
represented in the section with its tangents (Fig. 20). The properties
of the cycloid as applicable to a sea wall in an exposed situation are
very important. In particular, if compared with any other curve, in the
same vertical line and down through the same points, it will be found
of swiftest descent under similar circumstances, therefore the water
in its rise must be proportionally retarded. The lower tangent to the
curve alluded to also forms a wall towards low water, best adapted
for admitting the sea to flow gently over it, while that connected
with the upper extremity of the cycloidal part, tending towards the
perpendicular, brings gravity into action against the rise of the
waves. The practical execution of a wall upon this construction is
simple, while the aggregate quantity of materials is less than for any
of the curves of the conic sections of similar extent, and it seems
upon the whole to be peculiarly applicable for the defence of the sea
beach in question.

“If we examine the numerous works of this kind erected for similar
purposes along this coast, we shall find that the general process or
action of the waves is to undermine the seaward courses of the walls.
In some cases, however, where due attention has not been paid to
making up the backing of the face wall in a compact and firm manner,
the central parts have been found to sink and give way. But the more
common mode of failure is by the undermining of the seaward courses,
arising from too sudden a slope being given to the face wall, which
has a direct tendency to produce additional agitation in the waters
at the bottom of the wall, by which the beach is excavated, and the
foundation, being exposed to the wash of the sea, its destruction soon
follows. If we attend to the distribution which nature makes of the
matters composing a sea beach, unless where special local causes occur,
we find them laid with a very gradual descent towards low water mark.
The sands of Portobello, in this neighbourhood, form a striking example
of this. Here small quartzose grains mixed with light sea shells prove,
in their effects, a more effectual barrier against the overwhelming
force of the waves than perpendicular and massive walls of masonry.”


Mr. Stevenson recommended Lord Palmerston to introduce the _Pinus
maritima major_, as a check for sand drift, on his estate of
Mullaghmore, in the following report, dated 21st July 1835:--

“During the reporter’s visit to Mullaghmore, his advice was also asked
regarding the operations at present going on for the improvement of
the land. He had then much satisfaction in viewing the interesting
improvements of reclaiming bog lands, and checking the inroads of the
sand flood or drift, by planting ‘bent’ grass upon the shores of this
estate. The system of dibbling the bent grass, pursued by Mr. Lynch,
is in the best style which the reporter has anywhere met with; and he
has been so impressed with the national importance of this scheme, from
the success already experienced at Mullaghmore, that he has already
taken the opportunity of recommending this system as applicable to the
entrance of Ballyshannon, and in other quarters, particularly to the
Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

“The question chiefly submitted to the consideration of the reporter,
in regard to these operations, was the best mode of defending the
margin of the bent grass towards the sea. For such purposes, buildings
or fences of any kind are not only expensive in their formation, but
are also in constant need of repair. Mr. Lynch seems so much at home
in all planting operations that the reporter begs simply to bring
under your Lordship’s notice the French mode of planting a species
of fir (_Pinus maritima major_), which was originally suggested to
the Government by the late M. Bremonteuil, _Ingénieur des Ponts et
Chaussées_. This system has been extensively tried along the stormy
shores of the Bay of Biscay, particularly in the district of Grave, at
the entrance of the Garonne, where the arid and sterile sands have been
covered with extensive forests, which thrive quite close to the water’s
edge. From the climate and exposure of the shores at Mullaghmore,
the reporter has no doubt of the success of similar plantations in
arresting the progress of the sand flood. It is believed that Mr.
Lawson, seedsman to the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland,
is taking measures to import the seeds of the _Pinus maritima major_,
with a view to trying it on some of the exposed sandy districts of

From the following extract of a letter from Mr. Kincaid of Dublin, who
was Lord Palmerston’s Commissioner, it is interesting to know that the
experiment was entirely satisfactory, proving that the _Pinus maritima
major_ is well adapted to the climate of the coasts of the British

“The Mullaghmore plantations extend to about 200 acres. About eighty
of these were planted twenty-five years ago. Some of the trees are
thirty feet in height, and vary from that height to about twenty or
twenty-five feet. The remainder were planted ten years ago, and are
making fair progress. All the pine plantations from opposite Newtown
Cliffony to Mullaghmore are in a most healthy condition, the trees
making growths of from twelve to twenty inches each year. The storms
have no bad effect on the south side of the great sand hill, but on its
summit, and towards the west side, the spray and gales of the Atlantic
will not allow the young trees to make any progress.”


In a report to the Trustees for improving the Queensferry passage, made
in 1811, Mr. Stevenson proposes a set of signals as described in the
following extract, his proposal being, in fact, the signal now in use
on all British railways:--

“Upon the supposition of its being the intention of this Honourable
Trust to have an establishment on the south side of the Firth similar
to that which is now proposed for the north side, the reporter takes
the liberty of observing that much advantage, as the Trustees know,
might be derived by the public from a few simple and well appointed
signals, both for night and day.

“Those intended for the day may be constructed upon a modified scale,
after the common telegraphic method; while the night signals can be
rendered extremely simple and effective by interposing at pleasure
between the observer and the reflector a shade of coloured glass. By
connecting these partial obscurations of colouring the light with an
index that shall be understood on both sides of the passage, orders may
be communicated in a very expeditious manner.”


In a report to the Right Honourable Viscount Cathcart, Commander of His
Majesty’s Forces, made on Portpatrick harbour in 1812, he gives the
following explanation of the well-known rough sea between Portpatrick
and Donaghadee:--

“In describing the harbour of Portpatrick, it may be noticed that
although the coast on which it is situated is not directly exposed
to the Atlantic Ocean, yet the opposing tides of the north and south
channels meet there and separate to flow up the Clyde and Solway
Firths, which, independent of storms, must occasion a very considerable
commotion in the waters of the channel between Portpatrick and

“Accordingly we find that the sea has made a great impression upon
the coast of Wigtonshire; and though the shores between Loch Ryan
and the Bay of Glenluce consist chiefly of whinstone (the greenstone
of mineralogists), which is one of the most indestructible rocks we
have, yet the figure of the coast is indented with many small cuts or
creeks, and rocks are all along the shore found jutting into the sea.
At the head of one of these creeks, which is about a hundred fathoms in
length, and thirty fathoms in breadth, the harbour of Portpatrick is
situated between two insulated rocks, upon one of which the piers are
built, the harbour being formed by an excavation, chiefly in the solid


In the same report he states the relative advantages of various routes
of communication across the Irish Channel:--

“A further extension of the intercourse between Scotland and Ireland
could be made with much advantage to both by a regular establishment of
packets between Ardrossan, Troon, or Dunure in Ayrshire, and Larne in
the county of Antrim. Between the two last places, viz., Dunure and
Larne, the distance would only be about sixty miles, being ten miles
shorter, and unquestionably much safer, than the passage from Holyhead
to Dublin.

“Under all the views of this subject, from the greater contiguity
of Portpatrick and Donaghadee than of Lochs Ryan and Larne, and the
former places having more immediate access to the open sea than the
latter, and also from the intercourse being now fully organised by
long establishment, it were perhaps better, even at a much greater
expense, to continue the present system than to change it. Portpatrick
harbour may be rendered incomparably better by the plan now proposed,
and Donaghadee is also capable and stands much in want of improvement,
by an extension of its piers and the erection of a permanent light to
direct the packets into the harbour under night.”


In reporting to the Royal Burgh of Dundee as to the improvement of the
harbour in 1814, Mr. Stevenson takes occasion to introduce one of those
collateral questions to which I have referred:--

“It is curious to observe the changes and to trace the progressive
improvements which have taken place in the form and _build_ of ships.
When we contrast those of early navigators with ships of modern
times, among the many alterations, none seems more striking than the
difference of their depth. The draught of water that was required for a
ship of 300 tons burden would hardly be found enough to float a modern
built vessel of 100 tons. This alteration in the construction of
ships, which is mainly calculated to improve their sailing, by giving
them a better hold of the water, seems gradually to have advanced, as
the mariner became more adventurous in his voyages; and is only now
restrained by certain considerations of convenience, of which the most
prominent is the want of a sufficient depth of water in the havens and
harbours on the coast for their reception,--a circumstance which arises
partly from the natural position of harbours, but is chiefly owing
to the difficulties and expense attending the necessary engineering
operations, which increase enormously with the depth of water. Hence
it is that many of the ancient seaport towns of this country, which
at one time possessed an extensive trade, have, from neglecting their
harbours, sunk into a state of insignificancy; while others, by
proper exertions in this respect, have, under the most inauspicious
circumstances, attained to great commercial importance.”


Another case of the same kind occurs in his report on the harbour of
North Berwick, made in 1812:--

“Before closing this report it may be noticed that North Berwick has
considerable advantages, which if acted upon would infallibly lead to
the rapid improvement of the town and neighbourhood. Situated upon an
extensive flat which skirts along the high land of North Berwick Law,
on a beautiful sandy bay, which is intersected by the street leading to
the harbour, few towns will more easily admit of elegant extension or
are better calculated for becoming a sea-bathing retreat.”

It has now the well-known reputation of being the best frequented
watering place on the east coast of Scotland.


In the report, of 1814, on Dundee we find the following remarks on
tidal scour:--

“To put this matter in a clearer point of view, let us see what nature
does upon the great scale, as for example in the extensive basin
forming the Firth of Tay. We there find that in consequence of the
rapidity of the current at the narrow passage in the neighbourhood of
Broughty Castle, which may be viewed as the _scouring aperture_ of the
basin of the Tay, the water is from forty to eighty feet in depth, and
moves with a velocity which carries a great quantity of sandy particles
along with it. But no sooner are the waters of this current allowed to
spread and cover the basin of the Tay, than the velocity ceases, and
the foreign matters fall to the bottom and form the various sandbanks
which appear at low water. In a similar way the deposition of silt and
earthy particles brought down the river in speats is accounted for.
Now, this view of the case is equally applicable to the harbour of
Dundee, for so long as the water preserves the velocity it acquires in
the _scouring apertures_ or arches in the quays, it carries all its
foreign matters along with it; but the moment it is allowed to expand
over the extent of the harbour the deposition of these earthy particles
begins. And in every case the well-known law in hydraulics holds good,
that the _scouring effect_ of a fluid is in the ratio of the square of
the velocity.”


The following observations made in 1807 on the action of the waves in
unscrewing bolts, are interesting:--

“The unlocking of screws, where _washers_ had been introduced as a
security was rather unexpected, and the writer took an opportunity of
conversing with his much respected friend Professor Playfair regarding
this circumstance. The Professor observed, that he had experienced some
inconvenience of this kind from the unlocking of almost all the screws
of a telescope which had been sent to him from London by the mail
coach. Indeed, from the spiral form of the screw, which is, in fact, an
inclined plane, Mr. Playfair readily accounted for such an occurrence,
and, when reflected upon, it seems to be an effect rather to be looked
for, and is a reason why riveting the point of a bolt in preference to
screwing it should generally be resorted to, where much motion is to be


I give his description of the cement rubble cofferdams, first used in
1808, at the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse:--

“At seven o’clock this morning, the tide proving more favourable,
the artificers began to work. At nine o’clock the rock was again
overflowed, and the boats returned to the tender after two hours’
work. Part of the operations of this morning’s tide consisted in
building up the crevices and inequalities of the rock round the margin
of the foundation with Pozzolano mortar and the chips produced from
excavation, with the view to dam out the water. These little walls
varied from six to eighteen inches in height; a small sluice or
aperture being formed in one of them, by which the water, during ebb
tide, was allowed to drain off.

“It formed part of the writer’s original design to erect a cast iron
cofferdam of about five feet in height round the site of the building;
but the surface of the rock was so irregular that the difficulty of
tightening it, and also of emptying the contained water, so as to get
the benefit of it during ebb tide, would have been so great, that
taking these circumstances into account, together with the loss of time
which would attend the erection of such a preparatory work, the idea
of a cofferdam was laid aside, soon after entering upon the actual
execution of the work.”


In his report on the Forth Navigation, made to the Magistrates of
Stirling in 1828, Mr. Stevenson proposed a system of buoyage, which
has since been adopted by the several Lighthouse Boards of the United

“The channels proposed to be cleared through the different fords are
coloured red on the Plan, in reference to the sectional line. For the
use and guidance of river pilots, buoys and perches or beacons are
likewise intended to be placed in the positions shown in the Plan;
those coloured red are to be taken on the starboard, and those coloured
black upon the larboard side, in going up the river; and the whole are
to be so placed in connection with the clearing and deepening of the
fords as to be approached with safety.”


At a very early period Mr. Stevenson’s attention was directed to the
dangers of fog at sea, and the best means of providing an effective
fog signal for the mariner, and so long ago as 1808 he had come to
the conclusion that the best signal adapted for the purpose was the
sustained sound of a horn, which, as is well known, has within the last
few years been so much employed in the fog signals which are now being
established at many of the lighthouse stations in this and foreign
countries. The following extracts give an idea of the difficulties he
encountered, and his views on the subject:--

“The boats landed this evening (23d June 1808), when the artificers
had again two hours’ work. The weather still continuing very thick
and foggy, more difficulty was experienced in getting on board of the
vessels to-night than had occurred on any previous occasion, owing
to a light breeze of wind which carried the sound of the bell, and
the other signals made on board of the vessels, away from the rock.
Having fortunately made out the position of the sloop “Smeaton,” at the
north-east buoy, to which we were much assisted by the barking of the
ship’s dog, we parted with the Smeaton’s boat, when the boats of the
tender took a fresh departure for that vessel, which lay about half a
mile to the south westward. Yet such is the very deceiving state of
the tides that although there was a small binnacle and compass in the
landing master’s boat, we had nevertheless passed the ‘Sir Joseph’ a
good way, when fortunately one of the sailors caught the sound of a
blowing horn. The only fire-arms on board were a pair of swivels of one
inch calibre; but it is quite surprising how much the sound is lost in
foggy weather, as the report was heard but at a very short distance.
The sound from the explosion of gunpowder is so instantaneous that
the effect of the small guns was not so good as either the blowing of
a horn or the tolling of a bell, which afforded a more constant and
steady direction for the pilot. It may here be noticed that larger guns
would have answered better, but these must have induced the keeping of
a greater stock of gunpowder, which in a service of this kind might
have been attended with risk. A better signal would have been a bugle
horn, the tremulous sound of which produces a more powerful effect in
fog than the less sonorous and more sudden report of ordnance.”

And again he says:--

“In the course of this morning’s work two or three apparently distant
peals of thunder were heard, and the atmosphere suddenly became thick
and foggy. But as the Smeaton, our present tender, was moored at no
great distance from the rock, the crew on board continued blowing a
horn, and occasionally fired a musket, so that the boats got to the
ship without difficulty. The occurrence of thick weather, however,
became a serious consideration in looking forward to the necessary
change of quarters to the Pharos, distant about one mile from the rock,
instead of a few hundred yards, as in the case of the Smeaton.

“The weather towards the evening became thick and foggy, and there was
hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the surface of the water; had it not
therefore been the noise from the anvils of the smiths, who had been
left on the beacon throughout the day, which afforded a guide for the
boats, a landing could not have been attempted this evening, especially
with so large a company of artificers. This circumstance confirmed the
writer’s opinion with regard to the propriety of connecting large bells
to be rung with machinery in the lighthouse, to be tolled day and night
during the continuance of foggy weather, by which the mariner may be
forewarned of too near an approach to the rock, while every distant
object is obscured in the mist.”

Following out this subject, Mr. Stevenson caused observations to be
made at the Calf of Man--a small island at the south of the Isle of
Man, and separated from the main island by a narrow “sound.” The place
is noted for its fogs, on which Mr. Stevenson says:--

“I sent Mr. Macurich, a shipmaster in the lighthouse service, to the
Calf of Man, with directions to reside there, and make monthly returns
of the state of the weather, agreeably to a printed form. During his
stay of seven months, it appears upon the whole that the fog rested
only twice upon the highest land of the Calf Island, while it cleared
partially below. On one of these occasions I was on board of the
lighthouse yacht, then at anchor off the island, when the fog was for
a time general; and as the weather became clear, I observed that it
first disappeared upon the lower parts of the island, and that in half
an hour the whole of the Calf was seen. In the monthly returns made by
Mr. Macurich, the Calf island is represented as often perfectly free
of fog, while the higher parts of the opposite mainland of the Isle of
Man were hid in mist. To account for this, it may be noticed that the
mass of matter in the Calf Island is much less, and the land is also
much lower than in the main island. Part of this effect may also be
ascribed to the rapidity of the tides, which create a current of wind,
particularly in the narrow channel between the main and Calf islands,
which have a direct tendency to clear away the fog, as I have observed
at the Skerries in the Pentland Firth, and in similar situations on
different parts of the coast, where rapid currents prevail.”

These extracts are given to show the attention Mr. Stevenson gave to
the subject of fogs, which, as already noticed, led him to recommend
the horn, the instrument now so much used in giving signals to the

Akin to this may be mentioned his expression of regret that no means
existed for determining the force of the wind, as noticed in the
following paragraph:--

“We cannot enough regret the want of an efficient anemometer, or
instrument for measuring the force of the wind. Indeed, we hardly know
any desideratum of more universal interest, for, notwithstanding the
labours of Lind and others on this subject, from the want of a proper
scale we are still groping in the dark with the use of such indefinite
terms as ‘light airs inclining to calm,’ ‘fresh breezes,’ ‘fresh
gales,’ ‘hard gales,’ and ‘very hard gales;’ for it rarely happens that
the sailor will admit the term ‘storm’ into his nomenclature.”


The loss of the ‘Comet’ steamer by collision on the Clyde, in 1825, led
the Lord Advocate to entertain the idea of introducing a Bill for the
regulation of steamers, and to issue a circular in the following terms,
of which Mr. Stevenson received a copy:--

            “EDINBURGH, _4th Feby. 1826_.

  I annex a copy of the heads of such a Bill as, in my opinion, may
  be calculated to afford sufficient security to steamboats, and
  thereby alike promote the interests of the owners of such vessels
  and that of the public. I feel noways wedded to any of the proposed
  provisions, and am anxious to submit them to the consideration of
  the better informed on such subjects, so as to obtain suggestions
  either as to the additions or amendments which the Bill may be
  fitted to receive.

  “In directing your attention to this important subject, I need
  hardly remind you that in our endeavours to render such vessels
  perfectly secure in so far as respects the passengers, we must
  not lose sight of the interest of the owners, or attempt to clog
  the trade with unnecessarily embarrassing regulations. Such
  restrictions are seldom enforced, and, if they should receive
  effect, might lead to such harassing consequences as would injure
  this useful description of property, and thereby to a certain
  extent deprive the public of the great benefit which is now derived
  from the use of vessels navigated by steam.--I have the honour to
  be your most obedient servant,

            “WM. RAE.”

The only account I can find of Mr. Stevenson’s views on this important
subject is contained in the following extract from a letter, dated
3d November 1825, to Captain Foulerton, one of the Wardens of the
Trinity House, with whom he appears to have had much correspondence,
in which he explains views which are very much in accordance with the
regulations for steamers now issued by the Board of Trade. His letter

“We lately had a melancholy accident, as you would see, by the running
down of the ‘Comet’ steam packet, by which, it is believed, that about
seventy people lost their lives. The Lord Advocate attended himself at
the taking of the precognition, and is, I believe, to bring some of the
parties to trial. He has also in view some regulations by an Act on
this new and important subject.

“From my seeming marine habits his Lordship has desired me to state
what occurs on the subject of lights. If we need this on the Forth and
Clyde, you must be in a worse state in the Thames. I have no doubt you
had this under the notice of your House. I think there should be two
lights, one in each bow, but under deck, in order to keep the lights
_entirely_ out of the view of those on deck. I am not for interfering
with their head sails. I would have them licensed like stage coaches,
and placed under the inspection of an officer of the navy, not below
the rank of a lieutenant. Six or eight officers might do the duty for
the whole United Kingdom for a time.”

The accident seems to have led to a further investigation into the
general question of the saving of life in cases of shipwreck on
the coasts of Scotland; and on this subject Mr. Stevenson made the
following replies to the queries submitted to him by the authorities:--

    “QUERY.--Are shipwrecks frequent on the coasts of Scotland and
        its islands?”

“Wrecks between the Firths of Forth and Moray are more frequent than on
any other part of the coast of Scotland. This may probably be accounted
for by the great number of vessels passing and repassing along that
coast. In the month of December 1799, a strong gale from the south-east
occasioned serious disasters on these shores, when upwards of seventy
sail were wrecked on the eastern coast of Scotland, and many of their
crews perished. This lamentable catastrophe was the means of causing
lifeboats upon Greathead’s plan to be fitted out at St. Andrews,
Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, Peterhead, and other places, which have
been found highly useful in saving the lives of mariners. This gale was
also the immediate cause of the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse,
which may be said almost entirely to have prevented shipwreck, so
frequent in St. Andrews Bay and the entrance of the Firth of Forth in

“From the Moray Firth along the shores of the mainland to the entrance
of the Firth of Clyde, wrecks cannot be said to be very frequent,
although the navigation is rather difficult; but the safety of shipping
on this coast depends upon the great number of excellent natural bays
and harbours upon it.

“In the Orkney and Shetland Islands few seasons pass without wrecks
occurring. On the Lewis and Western Hebrides shipwrecks frequently

    “QUERY.--Are the coasts of Scotland in general well provided
        with the means of giving assistance in case of shipwreck,
        or are they deficient in such provision?”

“The coast of Scotland is provided with no other means of saving the
crews of vessels than the assistance they accidentally meet with from
the inhabitants along shore. The only lifeboats established are those
at the ports already mentioned.

“If Captain Manby’s apparatus was generally known and applied upon the
coast, it would be found highly beneficial.”

    “QUERY.--Are any instances remembered of total shipwrecks where
        lives lost might have been saved by the lifeboat or by
        Captain Manby’s apparatus, at the distance of 350 or 400
        yards off the coast?”

“In the year 1813 the ‘Oscar,’ Greenland ship of Aberdeen, Captain
Innes, went ashore upon Girdleness, at the entrance of Aberdeen
Harbour. There were on board fifty-four persons, of whom only two were
saved, by dropping from the bowsprit end. The ship was very near the
shore. She broke up about twenty minutes after she struck, and I have
no doubt that, if an active person had been on the spot with Captain
Manby’s apparatus, the greater part of the crew of this ship might have
been saved.

“In the winter of 1824 the ‘Deveron’ of Aberdeen, Captain Scott, went
ashore upon the sands three miles north of Aberdeen in a gale at
south-east. She was only about 300 yards from the shore, and here the
whole crew must have perished had it not been for the prompt use of
Captain Manby’s apparatus.

“Every one who has seen this apparatus must have admired its simplicity
and effect. It is however difficult to see how its application can be
very generally introduced so as to be useful along the whole extent of
chequered coasts of the British dominions. Certainly at all principal
ports it would naturally be expected that both this and the lifeboat
would be provided.

“A time seems to be approaching when the coast will be much more
complete in all such provision from the hands of the humane for the
safety of the mariner. We also hail with pleasure the extending efforts
of the respective Lighthouse Boards on the coasts of England, Scotland,
and Ireland, as a certain means of adding to the security of that
useful body of men, as well as to the facilities of her enterprising
merchants. Nor can we withhold the notice of the effect of the
operations of the Scots Board in this respect. At the entrance to the
Firth of Forth, prior to the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, few
winters passed without some disastrous shipwreck.

“Even after the completion of this arduous undertaking, until the
beacon was erected on the Carr Rock, off Fifeness, the fisherman’s
observation was--‘The Carr has always her wreck: if she misses one
year, she is sure to have two the next.’ But since the erection of this
beacon in 1820 till this date (1825), not a single wreck has happened
on this part of the coast.”



The unconnected sketches which form this Memoir extend over a period
of about forty years. They have, as already stated, been selected from
among a large mass of documents, in order to convey to the reader,
not only some idea of the great variety of subjects Mr. Stevenson was
called on to consider, but also to show his happy power of dealing with
engineering questions in the several aspects under which they were
presented to him. In perusing them, the reader can hardly have failed
to remark in how many instances the views Mr. Stevenson expressed
were forecasts either of great fundamental social changes, such as
the substitution of the railway for the road, or of smaller though
important matters of detail, as, for example, the signal lights of our
railways and steamers, without which the “night traffic”--so popular a
feature of modern travelling--could not possibly be conducted. These
and many other instances must have satisfied the professional reader
that _foresight_ and _originality_ were remarkable features of Mr.
Stevenson’s character.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the department of Lighthouses, he had experiences which, it may
be safely said, none of his compeers possessed, and I think it will
be admitted that in his general practice he displayed powers of
observation of a high order. Acting as he did with Rennie, Telford,
Nimmo, and afterwards with Walker, George Rennie, and Cubitt, with all
of whom he ever remained in friendly intercourse, his experience was
both large and varied, and the whole of his practice as an Engineer was
distinguished by full preliminary investigation of his subject--great
caution in forming his conclusions--elaborate preparation of his
reports and designs, and, as specially called forth at the Bell
Rock Lighthouse, masterly skill, indomitable energy, and unwavering
fortitude in carrying his designs into execution.

       *       *       *       *       *

My father was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in
1815, and soon after joined the Antiquarian and Wernerian Natural
History Societies, taking an active part at their meetings and
communicating papers to their proceedings. He was a Fellow of the
Geological and Astronomical Societies of London, a Member of the
Smeatonian Society, and of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He was also one of the original promoters of the Astronomical
Institution, out of which has grown the present establishment of
the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, and the following account of
the early origin of the Institution was drawn up some years before
Mr. Stevenson’s death at the request of Professor Piazzi Smyth, the
Astronomer-Royal of Scotland:--

“There was a young man named Kerr--an optician--in Edinburgh, who, on
commencing business, brought about the formation of a Club, somewhat
like a Book Club, for procuring philosophical instruments for the use
of its members. These were more particularly optical instruments and
theodolites, etc., for surveyors, which were also to have been lent out
for hire. I think the subscription was a guinea. The meetings were,
perhaps, monthly; they were held in the office of Mr. James Ogilvy,
Accountant, Parliament Square.

“I attended two, or perhaps three, meetings in the year. The Club was
formed before I was invited to become a member. At the first meeting
I found present Mr. James Bonar, treasurer of the Royal Society; Mr.
Christison, mathematician; Mr. Brown, bookseller, opposite the college;
Mr. Ogilvy, and Mr. Kerr.

“After attending one or two meetings of this very modest Society for
the advancement of science, Mr. Bonar and I had some conversation
upon its prospects, and the difficulties attending such a scheme of
procuring philosophical instruments, and systematising the lending
out, and keeping in efficient order theodolites, levels, telescopes,
etc.; and we concurred in opinion that the scheme could not succeed.
We deemed it advisable rather to endeavour to get Short’s observatory
on the Calton Hill occupied as a ‘Popular Observatory.’ We spoke to
some of the magistrates on this subject, who, on the part of the town,
were quite favourable to the idea. We also applied to Mr. Thomas Allan,
then an active member of the Royal Society, and he joined us in a
communication to Sir George Mackenzie of Coul, who warmly entered into
our views; and ultimately we had an interview with Professor Playfair,
who, in his mild and placid manner, agreed to consider the subject,
but felt some difficulty on account of his colleague, the Professor
of Practical Astronomy. After a time Professor Playfair undertook to
draw up a statement for the public, which he did in his usual elegant
and concise style. Thus, step by step, we succeeded in obtaining
subscribers, and under the countenance and support of Playfair, many
were found who patronised the proposal of establishing an observatory
on the Calton Hill.

“Our idea was that we might look forward to a Popular Observatory which
would not interfere with the existing Professorship of Astronomy, but
have an establishment to which, with our families, we might resort in
an evening with the advantage of oral and ocular demonstrations in the
science of Astronomy, treated after a popular form.

“The present characteristic and beautiful building was then erected,
and with the aid of Government, it was furnished with some of the
chief instruments; but much to my regret the establishment has been
exclusively limited to the purposes of a scientific observatory,
without any provision of a popular description for which it was
originally intended.

“Unfortunately there was nothing to keep our constitution alive in the
minds of the public--nothing to allure additional subscribers to our
funds, so as to extend the building, and fit it with a theatre and
apparatus for popular purposes--no Lecture was established, and, in
short, the original object fell dead in the hands of the Directors.
I thus personally lost my object in this establishment, and in all
my _uphill_ journeys and manifold meetings, I had chiefly in view
the pleasure of interviews with my excellent friend the late Thomas
Henderson, the Professor of Astronomy in the University.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Passing from what may be regarded as Mr. Stevenson’s public character
as an engineer, it is only natural that I should conclude this Memoir
by adding a few paragraphs descriptive of his social bearing as a man.

In politics my father was a decided conservative, but he never took a
prominent part in political or municipal affairs. He was, however, from
his earliest days a loyal subject of the king; and, as we find from
his Journal, a zealous supporter of the Government. He says:--“After
my return from the Pentland Skerries in 1794, I enrolled myself as
a private in the 1st Regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers raised as the
local Defenders of our _Firesides_ against the threatened invasion by
the French, and served about five years in the ranks of that corps.
However, when the war became hot, and invasion was fully expected,
other corps of Volunteers were embodied, when I was promoted to be
a Lieutenant in the ‘Princess (Charlotte’s) Royals,’ and afterwards
Captain of the Grenadier Company.”

His connection with the volunteers seems to have been of a very
agreeable and satisfactory character, proving that such loyal and
patriotic services were not then and are not now incompatible with the
most ardent pursuit of those studies and duties which are to qualify
a man for the business of life. On his promotion to the Royals he
received the following friendly letter from his Colonel, Charles Hope,
Lord Advocate, and afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session:--

            “_24th January 1804._

  “SIR,--I always part with any of my friends in the Regiment with
  great regret, especially such as belonged to the old Blues. But I
  cannot object to your leaving me in order to be more extensively
  useful in another corps. I therefore heartily wish you every
  success in your new undertaking, and have no doubt that you will
  prove a valuable acquisition to the discipline of the Spearmen.

  Notify to Captain Spens your resignation, that he may send for your
  arms.--I am, Sir, yours sincerely,

                C. HOPE,
            “_Lt.-Col. 1st. R.E.V._

    “Capt., Spens’ Company.”

Mr. Stevenson remained several years in his new corps, until he
was obliged, on commencing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, to tender his
resignation, when he received a letter from Colonel Inglis conveying
the request of the Regiment that he should continue as an honorary
member of the corps:--

            “EDINBURGH, _9th April 1807_.

  “SIR,--My anxious desire to have, if possible, devised means for
  detaining you among us, must plead my excuse for being so long
  of replying to your letter; and it is with most sincere regret,
  that, after the most mature consideration, I am obliged to express
  my fears that the rules of the Volunteer Corps must deprive us
  of your services, in consequence of your active charge of a work
  of national importance, rendering your absence from Edinburgh
  unavoidable for years, during the months of drill.

  “While I feel myself impelled, therefore, to accept of your
  proffered resignation, I beg to assure you of my own sense, as well
  as that of all the other officers, of the loss we sustain, and of
  our great personal regard.

  “And I am directed to entreat you will do us the favour of
  continuing as an honorary member of a corps which has been so much
  indebted for your zeal and exertions.

  “I cannot conclude without returning you my thanks for the obliging
  sentiment contained in your letter towards myself; and have the
  honour to be, with much esteem, sir, your faithful obedient servant,

            “WILLIAM INGLIS, L.C.C., L.E.S.


Many of his personal friends have recorded the pleasant satisfaction
with which they continued through life to look back upon the days spent
in my father’s company on board the lighthouse tender, while making his
annual inspection of the lighthouses. On one of these voyages he was
accompanied by his friends Patrick Neill, LL.D., the Botanist; Charles
Oliphant, Writer to the Signet; and John Barclay, M.D., the Anatomist;
who presented him with a piece of plate in remembrance of “the many
happy hours they passed in his company on sea and shore.”

On another occasion in 1814, the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses
invited Sir Walter Scott to accompany them on their annual tour. Mr.
Lockhart, in his life of Scott, says, “The company were all familiar
friends of his, William Erskine, then Sheriff of Orkney, Robert
Hamilton, Sheriff of Lanarkshire, Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfarshire,
but the real chief of the expedition was the Surveyor Viceroy, the
celebrated Engineer Stevenson, and Scott anticipated special pleasure
in his society.” “I delight,” Scott writes to Morritt, “in these
professional men of talent; they always give you some new lights by the
peculiarity of their habits and studies, so different from the people
who are rounded, and smoothed, and ground down for conversation, and
who can say all that every other person says, and--nothing more.” I
quote a single paragraph from Scott’s diary of this memorable voyage,
in which he gives an amusing account of the first landing of the
Commissioners on the rock on which the celebrated Skerryvore lighthouse
has since been erected by Alan Stevenson, who succeeded my father as
Engineer, on his retirement from the Scottish Lighthouse Board in 1843.

  “Having crept upon deck about four in the morning,” says Sir
  Walter, “I find we are beating to windward off the Isle of Tyree,
  with the determination, on the part of Mr. Stevenson, that his
  constituents should visit a reef of rocks called Skerry Vhor,
  where he thought it would be essential to have a lighthouse. Loud
  remonstrances on the part of the Commissioners, who one and all
  declare they will subscribe to his opinion, whatever it may be,
  rather than continue this infernal buffeting. Quiet perseverance
  on the part of Mr. S., and great kicking, bouncing, and squabbling
  upon that of the yacht, who seems to like the idea of Skerry Vhor
  as little as the Commissioners. At length, by dint of exertion,
  come in sight of this long ridge of rocks (chiefly under water),
  on which the tide breaks in a most tremendous style. There appear
  a few low broad rocks at one end of the reef, which is about a mile
  in length. These are never entirely under water, though the surf
  dashes over them. To go through all the forms, Hamilton, Duff,
  and I resolve to land upon these bare rocks in company with Mr.
  Stevenson. Pull through a very heavy swell with great difficulty,
  and approach a tremendous surf dashing over black, pointed rocks.
  Our rowers, however, get the boat into a quiet creek between
  two rocks, where we contrive to land well wetted. I saw nothing
  remarkable in my way excepting several seals, which we might have
  shot, but in the doubtful circumstances of the landing, we did not
  care to bring guns. We took possession of the rock in name of the
  Commissioners, and generously bestowed our own great names on its
  crags and creeks. The rock was carefully measured by Mr. S. It will
  be a most desolate position for a lighthouse, the Bell Rock and
  Eddystone a joke to it, for the nearest land is the wild island of
  Tyree, at fourteen miles’ distance. So much for the Skerry Vhor.”

In family life Mr. Stevenson was a man of sterling worth. As a husband,
a father, and a friend, he was remarkably distinguished by the absence
of selfishness. His exertions in forwarding the progress of young men
through life were generous and unwearied; and few men had more solid
grounds than he for indulging in the pleasing reflection that, both in
his public and private capacity, he had consecrated to beneficial ends
every talent committed to his trust.

He was a man of sincere and unobtrusive piety; and although warmly
attached to the Established Church of Scotland, of which for nearly
forty years he had been an elder, and for many years a member of the
General Assembly, he had no taint of bigotry or of party feeling, and
he died calmly in that blessed hope and peace which only an indwelling
personal belief in the merits of a Redeemer can impart to any son of
our race.

       *       *       *       *       *

At a statutory general meeting of the Board of Northern Lighthouses,
which was held on the 13th July 1850, the day after my father’s death,
the Commissioners recorded their respect for his talents and virtues in
the following Minute:--

“The Secretary having intimated, that Mr. Robert Stevenson, the late
Engineer to the Board, died yesterday morning,

“The Board, before proceeding to business, desire to record, their
regret at the death of this zealous, faithful, and able officer, to
whom is due the honour of conceiving and executing the great work of
the Bell Rock Lighthouse, whose services were gratefully acknowledged
on his retirement from active duty, and will be long remembered by the
Board, and to express their sympathy with his family on the loss of one
who was most estimable and exemplary in all the relations of social
and domestic life. The Board direct that a copy of this resolution
be transmitted to Mr. Stevenson’s family, and communicated to each
Commissioner, to the different lightkeepers and the other officers of
the Board.”



    An old writer mentions a curious tradition, which may be worth
        quoting. “By east the Isle of May,” says he, “twelve miles
        from all land in the German Seas, lyes a great hidden rock,
        called Inchcape, very dangerous for navigators, because it is
        overflowed everie tide. It is reported in old times, upon the
        saide rock there was a bell, fixed upon a tree or timber, which
        rang continually, being moved by the sea, giving notice to the
        saylers of the danger. This bell or clocke was put there and
        maintained by the Abbot of Aberbrothok, and being taken down
        by a sea pirate, a yeare therafter he perished upon the same
        rocke, with ship and goodes, in the righteous judgement of
        God.”--STODDART’S _Remarks on Scotland_.

    No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
    The ship was still as she could be;
    Her sails from heaven received no motion,
    Her keel was steady in the ocean.

    Without either sign or sound of their shock
    The waves flowed over the Inchcape Rock;
    So little they rose, so little they fell,
    They did not move the Inchcape Bell.

    The Abbot of Aberbrothok
    Had placed that Bell on the Inchcape Rock;
    On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
    And over the waves its warning rung.

    When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
    The mariners heard the warning Bell;
    And then they knew the perilous Rock,
    And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok.

    The Sun in heaven was shining gay,
    All things were joyful on that day;
    The sea-birds scream’d as they wheel’d round,
    And there was joyaunce in their sound.

    The buoy of the Inchcape Bell was seen
    A darker speck on the ocean green;
    Sir Ralph the Rover walk’d his deck,
    And he fix’d his eye on the darker speck.

    He felt the cheering power of spring,
    It made him whistle, it made him sing;
    His heart was mirthful to excess,
    But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.

    His eye was on the Inchcape Float;
    Quoth he, “My men, put out the boat,
    And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
    And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”

    The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,
    And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
    Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
    And he cut the Bell from the Inchcape float.

    Down sunk the Bell with a gurgling sound,
    The bubbles rose and burst around;
    Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock
    Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”

    Sir Ralph the Rover sail’d away,
    He scour’d the seas for many a day;
    And now grown rich with plunder’d store,
    He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.

    So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky
    They cannot see the Sun on high;
    The wind hath blown a gale all day,
    At evening it hath died away.

    On the deck the Rover takes his stand,
    So dark it is they see no land.
    Quoth Sir Ralph, “It will be lighter soon,
    For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.”

    “Canst hear,” said one, “the breakers roar?
    For methinks we should be near the shore.”
    “Now, where we are I cannot tell,
    But I wish I could hear the Inchcape Bell.”

    They hear no sound, the swell is strong;
    Though the wind hath fallen they drift along,
    Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,
    “O Christ! it is the Inchcape Rock!”

    Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair;
    He curst himself in his despair;
    The waves rush in on every side,
    The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

    But even in his dying fear
    One dreadful sound could the Rover hear,
    A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
    The Devil below was ringing his knell.


  Aberbrothock Abbey, 238.

  Aberdeen Harbour, 130.

  Adam, Robert, architect, 78, 80, 97, 98.

  Adie, Alexander, optician, 51, 192.

  Admiralty Survey, appeal for, 199.

  ---- Memoir of, 201.

  Airy, Sir G. B., 52.

  American Suspension Bridges, 163.

  Anderson, Dr., 5, 6.

  Anemometer, 257.

  Annan Bridge, 160.

  Ardrossan Harbour, 130.

  Argand lamps. _See_ Lighthouse Illumination.

  Astronomical Institution of Edinburgh, origin of, 265.

  Backwater, value of, 131.

  Balance crane, 181, 182.

  Barclay, Dr. John, 119, 270.

  Barnbougle, foreshore, 241.

  Base line, measurement of, 196.

  Baxter, Mr., architect, 78.

  Beaufort, Sir F., 202.

  Bell Rock Lighthouse:--Dangers of the rock, 13, 15;
    ballad of Sir Ralph the Rover, 13, 274;
    “Account” of, 14;
    Mr. Stevenson’s design of 1800 for a stone tower, 16;
    improvements on Smeaton’s tower in design and arrangement of
          materials, 16-24;
    Bill of 1802-3 thrown out on financial grounds, 18;
    Mr. Telford and Mr. Rennie called in to support Mr. Stevenson’s
          design, 18;
    Act passed in 1806, 19;
    progress of the work, 25;
    attending boat breaks adrift, 27;
    life in the floating lightship, 31;
    boating between lightship and the rock, 37;
    Mr. Stevenson’s anxiety for the workmen, 39;
    Sunday work, 40;
    life in the barrack or beacon, 42;
    cranes invented for the work, 45, 181;
    bust of Engineer placed in the tower by the Lighthouse Board, 45;
    Sir Walter Scott’s visit to the tower, and lines inscribed in the
          album, 47;
    experiments on preservation of timber, 155;
    experiments on iron, 159;
    measurement of base line for ascertaining its distance from the
          shore, 196;
    cement rubble cofferdams used at, 252;
    observations on fog and fog signals, 254;
    Southey’s “Inchcape Rock,” 274.

  Benson, Mr. (Covent Garden Theatre), 61.

  Birkenhead Docks, 132-150.

  Blackwood, W., publisher, 3.

  Blair, Sir D. Hunter, 3.

  Blasting, 203.

  Bolts, unscrewing of, by the waves, 252.

  Bremonteuil, M., 246.

  Bridges:--Mr. Stevenson’s designs for Marykirk, Annan, Stirling,
          and Hutcheson stone bridges, 160;
    high level road bridge for Newcastle, 161;
    bridge of built planks, 162;
    new form of suspension bridge, 162-165;
    paper on suspension bridges, 162;
    provision for flood waters, 239.

  Buoyage system, Mr. Stevenson’s, 253.

  Burn, Mr., architect, 238, 239.

  Canals:--Mr. Stevenson’s Reports on, upon one level without
          lockage, 111;
    Strathmore, 111;
    Edinburgh and Glasgow, 111;
    ship canals, 125;
    canal between the Dee and Mersey, 132-150.

  Carr Rock Beacon:--Design for, and tide machine for ringing bell or
          sounding a whistle, 177.

  Cast iron rails. _See_ Railways.

  Cast iron tracks. _See_ Roads.

  Cathcart, Viscount, 247.

  Catoptric system. _See_ Lighthouse Illumination.

  Cement. _See_ Mortar.

  Clerk, John, of Eldin, 14, 15, 21, 22, 114.

  Coal light. _See_ Isle of May.

  Cockburn, Lord, 76.

  Cofferdams, cement rubble, 252.

  Colby, Colonel, 62, 202.

  ‘Comet’ steamer, accident to, 258.

  Corran Ferry, 235.

  Covent Garden Theatre, 60.

  Cramond Suspension Bridge, 162, 165.

  Cranes:--Moveable jib and balance cranes invented by Mr.
          Stevenson, 45, 181.

  Creech, Mr., 3.

  Crichton, Mr., architect, 91, 92.

  Cubitt, Sir W., 265.

  Cumbrae Lighthouse, 2, 5.

  Cycloidal talus wall, 242.

  Davidson, Rev. Dr., 2.

  Dee, River (Cheshire), 130, 132-150.

  ---- wasting effects of the sea at, 225.

  Dee, River (Aberdeenshire), density of salt and fresh water at, 229.

  Dioptric system. _See_ Lighthouse Illumination.

  Double light, 58.

  Douglass, J. N., C.E., 47, 176.

  Dredging, 203.

  Duff, Sheriff, 238, 271, 274.

  Duncan, Sheriff, 190.

  Dundee Harbour, 130, 249, 251.

  Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall, 238.

  East Lothian Railway, 124.

  Eddystone Lighthouse, Mr. Stevenson’s inspection of, in 1813 and
          1818, 46;
    fears as to its security, 46;
    to be rebuilt, 47.

  Edgeworth, R., 66.

  Edinburgh Astronomical Institution, origin of, 265.

  Edinburgh, Mr. Stevenson’s design for approaches from the east by
          Regent and London Roads, and opening up access to the Calton
          Hill, 74;
    sites for the new Jail, Court of Justiciary, and buildings in
          Waterloo Place, 77;
    Regent Bridge, 88;
    Feuing Plan for eastern district of Edinburgh, 90;
    improvement of accesses from the west and north and from
          Granton, 90;
    removal of Old Tolbooth Prison, 91;
    proposal to remove the University buildings, 95.

  Edinburgh Railway, 114.

  Edinburgh and Glasgow, canal between, 111.

  Elliot, A., architect, 76.

  Erne, River, 130.

  Erskine, Lord Advocate, 19, 271.

  Facet reflector, 49.

  Fenwick, Mr., 160.

  Ferries, 101;
    Ferry Engineering illustrated by Mr. Stevenson’s Report on the Tay
          Ferries, 102;
    Reports on various ferries, 108;
    Orkney and Shetland Ferry, 108.

  Fisheries:--Mr. Stevenson on the Scottish fisheries, 184;
    origin of the Shetland herring fishery, 189;
    sympiesometer suggested as a storm warning for fishing boats, 191;
    habits of fishes, 193;
    gases in air sacs of fishes, 194;
    Dr. Handyside’s remarks on, 194;
    Hon. B. F. Primrose on the slow progress of the Shetland
          fisheries, 195.

  Flashing light, invention of, by Mr. Stevenson, 57.

  Floating light lantern, 58, 59.

  Fog and fog signals, observations on, 254.

  Foreshores, protection of, 241.

  Forth, River, 130, 253.

  Foulerton, Captain, Trinity House, 259.

  Fowler, J., C.E., 131.

  Fraserburgh Harbour, 130.

  Fresnel, A., 62.

  German Ocean, the alveus or bed of, 204, 205.

  Graham, J. Gillespie, architect, 238.

  Granton Harbour, 90, 130.

  Gregory, Professor, 89.

  Haldane, J., architect, 15.

  Hamilton, T., architect, 76.

  Hamilton, Sheriff, 271, 272.

  Handyside, Dr. P. D., 194.

  Harbours, Mr. Stevenson’s Reports on various, 130;
    value of spending basins for, 130.

  Harris, Mr., 60.

  Henderson, Professor, 268.

  Highland and Agricultural Society, 127, 246.

  Hope, Lord President, 17, 18, 269.

  Hope, Professor, 7.

  Hutcheson Bridge, 160.

  Hydraulic mortar, 240.

  Hydrophore, Mr. Stevenson’s invention of, 231-235.

  Inglis, Colonel, 269.

  Intermittent light, invention of, by Mr. Stevenson, 57.

  Irish Channel, cause of heavy seas in, 247;
    sea routes across, 248.

  Iron, experiments on the durability of, 159.

  Isle of Man Lighthouses, 8.

  ---- observations on fog at, 256.

  Isle of May Lighthouse, 3, 53, 58.

  Jameson, Professor, 7.

  Joseph, Samuel, R.A., 45.

  Kincaid, Mr., 246.

  Kinnairdhead Lighthouse, 5, 49, 196.

  Laing, S., 185, 195.

  Leach, Dr., 155.

  Leslie, Sir J., 51, 100.

  Lifeboats, 260.

  Lighthouse Illumination:--early modes of, 48;
    facet reflectors and lamps, 49;
    silvered copper reflectors and Argand lamps, 49;
    sliding lamp carriage, 51;
    coal lights, 53;
    distinctions among lights, 57;
    dioptric system, 62.

  Lightship lantern, Mr. Stevenson’s design for, 58, 59.

  _Limnoria terebrans_, ravages of, on timber, 155.

  Lipping of joints of masonry, 239.

  Loch Eil, 235.

  Locomotive engine, 124.

  Lockhart, J. G., 270.

  London and Edinburgh, railway between, 125.

  Low, Professor, 7.

  M’Adam, J. L., 66, 67, 70.

  Mackenzie, Murdoch, 138 _et seq._

  Manby’s apparatus, 261, 262.

  Marine Surveying, 196;
    measurement of base line for Bell Rock, 196;
    fixing site of Kinnairdhead light, 196;
    appeal for Admiralty Survey, 199;
    history of Admiralty Survey, 201.

  Marjoribanks, Sir J., 89, 95.

  Marykirk Bridge, 69, 160, 239.

  Melville, Lord, 126, 168.

  ---- Monument, Edinburgh, 238.

  Mersey, River: Reports on harbour and dock at Wallasey and the Dee,
          with connecting ship canal, 132-150;
    wasting effects of the sea at, 225.

  Montrose Bridge, 159, 240.

  ---- church spire, 238.

  Mortar, hydraulic, 240.

  Moveable jib crane, 181, 182.

  Mowat, Mr., of Gardie, 190.

  Mullaghmore Harbour, 245.

  Neill, P., LL.D., 3, 7, 270.

  Netherlands, King of, 58.

  Newcastle, design for high level road bridge at, 161.

  New York Suspension Bridge, 167.

  Niagara Suspension Bridge, 167.

  Night signal lamps, 247.

  Nimmo, Alexander, C.E., 132, 135, 225, 265.

  North Berwick Harbour, 250.

  Northern Lighthouse Board, origin of, 4;
    Mr. Smith appointed Engineer, 4;
    first light exhibited by, 5;
    Mr. Stevenson appointed Engineer, 7;
    annual inspections and reports on the lighthouses, 7;
    send Mr. Stevenson on a visit to the English lights, 7;
    Bell Rock Lighthouse, 12;
    improvements in lighthouse illumination adopted by, 49;
    lighthouses designed by Mr. Stevenson, 56;
    Minute on the death of Mr. Stevenson, 273.

  Ordnance Survey, 202.

  Orkney and Shetland Ferries, 108.

  ---- Fisheries, 185, 189, 195.

  Palmerston, Lord, 245.

  Pentland Skerries Lighthouse, 6.

  Peterhead Harbour, 130.

  _Pinus maritima major_, for checking sand drift, 245.

  Playfair, Mr., architect, 76.

  Playfair, Professor, 7, 15, 16, 96, 100, 252, 267.

  Population, prospective increase of, 250.

  Portpatrick Harbour, 130, 247, 248.

  Price, H., C.E., 131.

  Primrose, Hon. B. F., 195.

  Queensferry passage, signal lamps for, 247.

  Rae, Sir William, 77, 91, 114, 174, 238, 258, 259.

  Rails, cast and malleable iron, 122, 123, 128.

  Railways on one level, 112;
    haulage on, 112;
    lines of railway in Scotland laid out by Mr. Stevenson, 112;
    Report on Edinburgh Railway, 114;
    cast iron and malleable iron rails, 122, 123, 128;
    locomotive, 124;
    Reports on various railway lines, 124, 125;
    uniform gauge, etc., proposed for, 126;
    notes on railways for the Highland and Agricultural Society, 127;
    description of permanent way of, 128;
    letter from George Stephenson, 128;
    article on, 203;
    signal lamps, 247.

  Reflectors. _See_ Lighthouse Illumination.

  Rendel, J. M., 151.

  Rennie, George, 265.

  Rennie, John, 18, 20, 21, 22, 265.

  Ribble, River, 130.

  Ritchie, Professor, 7.

  Rivers, Mr. Stevenson’s Reports on, 130;
    value of backwater, 131;
    Tees navigation, 131;
    Reports by Telford, Stevenson, and Nimmo, on harbours and wet docks
          at Birkenhead and at the Dee with connecting ship canal, 132;
    improvement of the Tay navigation, 151;
    experiments on the density of fresh and salt water, 229.

  Roads:--Early roads and road making, 64;
    Edgeworth and M’Adam’s systems of road making, 66;
    Mr. Stevenson’s system of road making, 67-70;
    cast iron tracks, 68;
    stone tracks as a smooth and durable city road, 71;
    article on, 203.

  Robison, Professor, 3, 7, 15.

  Rosebery, Lord, 241.

  Salt water, density of, in estuaries and rivers, 229.

  Sand drift, checking of, by “bent” grass and planting _Pinus maritima
          major_, 245.

  Scotch Lighthouse Board. _See_ Northern Lighthouse Board.

  Scott, Sir Walter, 25, 47, 94, 238, 270.

  Sectio planography, 205.

  Severn, River, 130.

  Shetland Ferries. _See_ Ferries.

  Shetland Fisheries, 185;
    origin of herring fishery, 189.

  Ships, build of, 249.

  Shipwrecks, notes on, 260.

  Signal lamps, 247.

  Sinclair, Sir John, 125.

  Skerryvore Lighthouse, 271, 272.

  Smeaton, John, 21, 23, 24, 206, 236.

  Smith, Captain of the ‘Orestes,’ 168 _et seq._

  Smith, Thomas: improvements in lighthouse illumination, 3, 4, 49;
    Engineer to the Scotch Lighthouse Board, 4;
    Cumbrae Lighthouse, 5;
    Pentland Skerries Lighthouse, 6.

  Smyth, Professor Piazzi, 265.

  Southey’s “Inchcape Rock,” 274.

  Spink, J., Bell Rock pilot, 30.

  St. Andrews Cathedral, 238.

  St. Magnus Cathedral, 238.

  Steamboats, 107;
    regulations for, 258;
    lights for, 259.

  Stephenson, George, 121, 124, 128.

  ---- Robert, 161.

  Stevenson, Alan, 151, 271.

  Stevenson, Robert:--birth, 1;
    superintends erection of Cumbrae Light, 2, 5;
    resolves to be a Civil Engineer, 5;
    student at Andersonian Institution, Glasgow, and University of
          Edinburgh, 5-7;
    superintends Pentland Skerries Lighthouse works, 6;
    appointed Engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board, 7;
    annual inspections and Reports on the Scotch Lighthouses, 7;
    inspection of and report on English lights, 10;
    is taken for a French spy, 10;
    Journals, 12;
    Reports, 12.

    Design for the Bell Rock Lighthouse, personal superintendence of
          the work during its execution, and incidents connected
          therewith, 13-47;
      “Account” of, 14.

    Lighthouse illumination, improvements in, 49;
      sliding lamp carriage, 51;
      lighthouses in Scotland designed by, 56;
      invents distinctions for lighthouses, viz., flashing,
          intermittent, and double lights, 57;
      design for floating light lantern, 59;
      Report on dioptric system of illumination, 62.

    System of road making, 67-70;
      cast iron tracks for roads, 68;
      stone tracks, 71.

    Improvement of Edinburgh:--design for approaches from the east by
          Regent and London Roads, and opening up access to Calton
          Hill, 74;
      Report on sites for new Jail and Court of Justiciary and buildings
          in Waterloo Place, 77;
      building plan for eastern district of Edinburgh, 90;
      improvement of accesses from the north and west and from
          Granton, 90;
      visit to the jails of England, 91;
      Old Tolbooth Prison, 91;
      Report on removal of University buildings, 95.

    Ferries:--Reports on, illustrated by those of the Tay, 102;
      Reports on various ferries, 108.

    Report on canals on one level without lockage, 111;
      Reports on railways, 112;
      uniform gauge, etc., proposed for railways, 126;
      notes on railways for the Highland and Agricultural Society, 127;
      description of permanent way, 128.

    Harbours and Rivers:--Reports on, 130;
      Tees navigation, 131;
      Reports on harbour and wet docks at Birkenhead, and harbour at
          Helbre on the Dee with connecting ship canal, 132-150;
      Tay river improvements, 151.

    Preservation of timber:--experiments on, 154;
      preservation of iron, 159.

    Bridges:--designs for Marykirk, Annan, Stirling, and Hutcheson
          stone bridges, 160;
      design for high level road bridge at Newcastle, 161;
      bridge of built planks, 161;
      new form of suspension bridge, 162, 165.

    Design for Wolf Rock Lighthouse, 168.

    Design for Carr Rock Beacon, 177;
      proposal to use the tide for tolling a bell or sounding a
          whistle, 178.

    Invents the moveable jib and balance cranes, 181.

    Fisheries:--notes on the Scotch, 184;
      origin of the Shetland herring fishery, 189;
      suggestion for using the sympiesometer as a storm warning, 91;
      experiments on air sacs of fishes, 194.

    Marine survey, 196;
      measurement of _base line_, 196;
      mode of ascertaining positions of lighthouses, 196;
      appeal for Admiralty Survey and Sailing Directions, 199.

    Contributions to _Encyclopædia Britannica_ and _Edinburgh
          Encyclopædia_, 203;
      alveus or bed of the German Ocean, 204, 205;
      sectio planography, 205;
      wasting effects of the sea on the estuaries of the Mersey
          and Dee, 225;
      discovery that the salt water flows up the beds of rivers in a
          stream distinct from the outflowing fresh water, 229;
      invents the hydrophore, 231.

    Wide range of subjects on which Mr. Stevenson gave advice, 236;
      architectural reports, 236;
      extracts from early Reports, 239.

    Retrospect of life, 264.

  Stewart, Professor Dugald, 7, 97.

  Stirling Bridge, 160.

  Stockton and Darlington Railway, 125.

  Stonehaven Harbour, 130.

  Stone tracks. _See_ Roads.

  Strathmore Canal, 111.

  ---- Railway, 124.

  Suspension Bridges. _See_ Bridges.

  Sympiesometer, 191.

  Tay Ferries, 102.

  ---- River, 130, 151, 251.

  Tees, River, 130, 131.

  Telford, Thomas, 18, 127, 132, 149, 265.

  Thames, River, 234.

  Thomas, Captain, Admiralty Survey, 140, 201.

  Tidal scour, 251.

  Timber:--experiments on durability of, 155;
    ravages of the _Limnoria terebrans_ on, 157;
    charring, 158;
    creosoted 159.

  Tour de Cordouan, 49, 63.

  Trinity, cycloidal sea wall at, 242.

  Walker, James, C.E., 73, 176, 265.

  Water:--experiments on the density of fresh and salt water at the
          Dee, 229;
    Thames, Loch Eil, etc., 235;
    hydrophore for obtaining specimens of, 231.

  Watt, James, 125, 126, 167.

  Waves, action of, in unscrewing bolts, 252.

  Wear, River, 130.

  Wilson, Captain, 43.

  Winch Chain Bridge, 163.

  Wolf Rock Lighthouse:--design for, 168;
    Journal of visit to, 168-175;
    tower built in 1870, 175.



[1] Mr. Randall assumed the name of Davidson after succeeding to the
estate of Muirhouse.

[2] Account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse. Drawn up by desire of the
Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses, by Robert Stevenson.
Edinburgh, 1824.

[3] 7th September 1807.

[4] The tender was named after the great Engineer.

[5] Spink’s boat was too large to come close to the rock.

[6] Report of the Royal Commission on Lighthouses, 1861, p. 86.

[7] _Translation also by Dr. Gregory_:--“In the reign of George the
Third, the father of his country, in the second year of the Provostship
of Sir John Marjoribanks, Baronet, of Lees,--The citizens of Edinburgh
having made this new and magnificent access over the neighbouring hill
to the capital city, according to the plan of Robert Stevenson, Civil
Engineer, ordered the name of the _Regent_, George Augustus Frederick,
to be inscribed on this bridge.”

[8] From which Fig. 14 has been made.

[9] The essays most favourably noticed are those of Mr. Alexander
Scott, Mr. George Robertson, Mr. George Douglas, Mr. John Ruthven, Mr.
James Dickson, Mr. James Walker (Carron), Mr. James Walker (Lauriston),
Mr. John Fraser, Mr. John Wotherspoon, Mr. John Moore, and Mr. John

[10] Notice of the Ravages of _Limnoria terebrans_ on Creosoted
Timber.--_Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh_, vol. iv. and
vol. viii.

[11] Vol. ii. p. 129.

[12] Vol. ii. p. 196.

[13] A Sketch of the Institution and the progress of the Hydrographical
Department of the Admiralty, from its first establishment in the year

[14] Vol. x. p. 57.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Illustration facing page 77: credit line not entirely readable.

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