The Last Day at old Smithfield Market

Our picture (SM109) shows the scene at Smithfield on the day the old market closed in 1855 – a livestock market has been held here since the Middle Ages. The Illustrated London News tells the story:

‘On Monday, the 11th of June, the last market (a more than usually crowded one) was held on this memorable site, which for many centuries has been so well known as the scene of historical events, and a place of bustling commerce.

‘Wishing to see the last of this ancient institution, we progressed at midday to the spot, and found the place occupied by hundreds of sheep and oxen. Scores of animals and hundreds of pounds of sterling currency changed hands hourly. Men learned in the qualities of meat were seemingly mesmerising the devoted beasts, most of which bore the handling with innocent patience. We have never been able to get accustomed to old Smithfield; and notwithstanding the unfitness of the position and space for its purposes, it has never failed in interest … Wandering in a dreamy manner from pen to pen, the lowing and bleating might have taken us in memory to green pastures, but for the strange and strong oaths of the drovers, and the peculiar bark of the vulture-headed sheep-dogs. The mind became confused with calculations as to how many millions’ worth of human food had here been sold? How many pounds of good English roast beef at Christmas time in the days of ‘good Queen Bess’? How much in those of Queen Victoria? …

‘The scene of confusion would have been to a stranger overwhelming. ‘Mind yourself! Whoop! Whoop!’ Dogs yelped and ran over the backs of flocks of sheep. One of the most unpleasant sounds which helped to make the Babel-like confusion was the sharp knocking on the tender part, the horns of the oxen. ‘Why, Mr Drover, do you strike the animals so sharply when it seems so unnecessary; why prick them so savagely in the tender parts near the eye; why twist their tails? That poor animal has stood there tied to the stake without food or water and not allowed to lie down since one o’clock this morning, it is now two in the afternoon?’ ‘Mind yourself, mister. Heup; heup!’ and off goes Mr Drover, more savagely than ever bent upon his business.

‘The old women who sell leather purses – the venders of periwinkles, whelks and such like dainties – who have, from times immemorial, pitched in old Smithfield, wondered if they would be allowed in the new one. The shopkeepers popped out in front, and conversed gloomily together – a great deal of hand-shaking went on between them and well-known customers …

‘Great and beneficial as will be the change effected by the removal of Old Smithfield market – as the time came for the ringing of the last bell – we felt a sort of indescribable regret, something like that occasioned by the necessity which causes us in its old age to change our hack horse for a young one, or of adopting the swift, strong and wonderful locomotive for the pleasant and sociable stage-coach. This feeling, in different degrees, seemed to be shared by all, but generally in a somewhat jolly manner. The countenances of the drovers had, by numerous potations, become more like the animals who were beside them. ‘Good-by, old man! We shan’t see you any more in the Old Market – come, old fellow!’ and friends rushed into the Rose and other neighbouring hostelries.

‘A quarter-past three. – The last bell of Old Smithfield market was rung. Soon after the stock on hand slowly moved off, the sweepers began to clean the ground, the six or seven banking-houses were closed, and this immense space was left in as much silence as such a place can be in this great and populous city. This, which has been a Fair and Market for more than 800 years, was closed without any ceremony …

‘What is to be done with Smithfield? Dwellings are wanted suitable for the families of porters, warehousemen, etc, employed in the City – for married clerks, etc. We want more baths and washhouses, schools, and similar establishments. Here is an area which, if wisely occupied, may not only be made profitable to the Corporation and to the surrounding neighbourhood, but also to the community at large.’

In fact, the Corporation of London decided to build a new market building here, and in 1868 the vast cathedral-like structure of cast iron, glass, stone and slate was opened. It is still in use today, and Smithfield is the largest – and oldest – meat and poultry market in Britain.

Child labour in the brickyards, 1871: ‘permanent weakness or deformity’

 

Our pictures (SO127, SO145) show little girls labouring in a brickyard. These engravings first appeared in the Graphic magazine of 10 June 1871, and the accompanying article had this to say about child labour:

‘There are not wanting advocates in favour of the present system of child labour in brickfields, and by these it is contended that many of the alleged instances of improper child-employment are simply cases of children bringing meals to their parents or other relatives, and staying for an hour or two … But this does not in any way invalidate the statements respecting the excessive amounts of labour exacted from thousands of children of tender years …

‘There are many upon whose tender frames the excessive labour tells with terrible effect, sometimes producing permanent weakness or deformity. This is particularly the case with the pusher-out, who has to carry 210 to 270 lbs weight of bricks at one time on a one-wheeled spring barrow, a distance of fifty yards or more. Children often begin at a very early age this kind of work, and we hear of both boys and girls becoming crippled thereby. In like manner the “pug-boys” are injured by continually lifting heavy masses of clay, weighing from 30 to 40 lbs each. A boy of twelve years old will lift from the ground this weight of clay and bear it a distance of five yards up an incline 123 times in the course of a single hour. The heavy loads carried by market-porters seem insignificant compared with those of the brickyard children. By the time the young worker has attained the age of thirteen or fourteen, he will have carried or lifted a far heavier aggregate weight than many of the strongest Covent Garden porters have borne during a whole lifetime.

‘The physical results of such undue exertion are often most injurious. We are told that a girl who began at nine years old to load for her father had at thirteen a crooked ankle and a knee grown out at one side … The pug-boys frequently suffer from having to carry the lumps of cold wet clay against their chests, especially in damp weather. “After a frosty night in April, for instance,” said a workman, “the damp clay strikes very cold.” We should think so. How many English parents are there who would like their little ones to be so employed? It reads like a page from the history of negro slavery in America …

‘The sifting of coal dust is a very unhealthy process, and for hours afterwards those so employed are continually expectorating coal dust. Punching out the holes is sometimes done while the brickkilns are still full of fire, or when they have to be cleansed out before being relighted. It is done by means of heavy crowbars and hammers. The children keep the fires fed with coal, and it often follows that the girls, from the ragged character of their dress, catch fire, and have their limbs and hair singed …

‘All industrial establishments should be placed under the Factory Act’.

The Factory Act (1833) had prohibited the employment in factories (but not in other places of work) of children younger than nine, and had ordered that children of nine to thirteen should only work for a limited number of hours. In 1878 the Act was revised so that children no younger than ten should be employed, and this was to apply to all trades, not just factories. This was reinforced by the Education Act of 1880 which made schooling compulsory up to the age of ten. By the end of the Victorian era schooling was compulsory up to the age of twelve.

Would you pay rent for this hovel?

Our picture of an Irish peasant cottage (SO151) appeared in the Illustrated London News of 9 April 1870, which told of ‘the miserable condition of a number of mud cabins in the principal street of Kildare’.

The dwelling in our picture ‘consisted of a single room, eight feet by ten in size, in which lived a widow, with a grown-up son twenty years of age, another son, of sixteen, and a daughter, of ten years. They had no bedstead or bedding, but slept in their clothes on the bare ground, with a few dirty rags over them. The only furniture was a rickety table and a broken bench, with an iron pot and kettle and two or three cups …

‘Save that it actually has a chimney and a comparatively lofty roof, blackened, however, by a century of smoke, and that it accommodates at night simply a donkey instead of the customary pig, this is about as bad a specimen of an Irish cabin as could be found in any village in the county. There were puddles of water in different places on the mud floor, and the planks of the door very nearly tumbled apart every time it opened or shut. The widow who occupied the cabin, although in rags and with bare legs and feet, was a person of some intelligence, who had a good choice of language, and had taught her children to read, if not to write as well; her idea being “there was nothing like education to get on in the world.” Getting on, from this poor creature’s point of view, was, no doubt, limited to a certain and sufficient supply of food and fuel all the year round.

‘The rent of this hovel of hers …has been increased to 10d a week [about £2 in today’s money]. The Irish peasant may well be dissatisfied with his condition when he has to pay £2 3s 4d per annum for a bare shelter from the elements’. She would also have had to pay rent for land where she could cultivate potatoes, the staple food; the current rate was £7 per annum (about £320 today) for an acre.

‘An immense variety of amusements’: Cremorne Gardens

To spend an afternoon or evening at Cremorne, enjoying the gardens and the various amusements, or dining, dancing and drinking, was a popular outing for all classes in the Victorian era.

The gardens, originally the grounds of Viscount Cremorne’s London house, were situated in Chelsea beside the Thames. The 12-acre site was bought in 1845 by Thomas Simpson, a coffee-house owner, who developed it as pleasure gardens and managed it himself or let it to various managers. At the time of our picture (LP240) Cremorne Gardens were in their heyday, for this was 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. The Illustrated London News of 28 June 1851 described them thus:

‘The Gardens, apart from the variety of entertainments offered to visitors, form in themselves one of the most attractive resorts in the vicinity of the metropolis; indeed, we do not know any pleasure-grounds to which the public have access that can be compared with them. Trees centuries old, broad greensward, and spacious flower-gardens, interspersed with the choicest subjects of Grecian art, contribute to make up a scene of exquisite beauty. The visitor is removed altogether from the bustle and turmoil of London life into delicious seclusion. The parklike character of the grounds makes them a delightful resort for a summer’s afternoon …

‘There are added, for those who desire it, an immense variety of amusements. Here round an orchestra, brilliant with lights and gay colours, extends a vast circle or plateau for the votaries of Terpsichore. Then, when the lights of the grand gala of the “Feast of the Roses” are over, “the Star of Beauty”, one of Herr Deulin’s pretty ballets – “The Tableaux Vivants of the Prize Medals of the Exhibition” – the Panorama of Nineveh: its Rise and Fall – the Cosmorama of the Great Exhibition – the Ethiopian Serenaders – the “surprising exercises” of the Three Brothers Elliot – the “Double-sighted Youth” – a female conjuror, Mdme. Tallien – to say nothing of a maze, a real live gypsy in her tent, a shooting gallery, and an American bowling-saloon – succeed each other in an ever-varying round of pleasurable and exciting change, to be finally crowned with the grand display of fireworks … Monsieur Franconi, of the Cirque Nationale de Paris, “with all his horses and all his men”, is also engaged to delight the visitors with the performance of his unrivalled troupe, in a new pavilion.

‘Mr Simpson has good cause for congratulation in both the number and class of his visitors.’

Although decorous by day, Cremorne Gardens were more rowdy by night, increasingly so in the 1870s, and they closed in 1877. The area became increasingly run-down. It was bombed heavily in the Second World War, and in the 1960s and 70s social housing and community facilities were built, including the Cremorne Estate and the World’s End Estate. Today all that remains of Cremorne Gardens’ former glory is a small park beside the river.

Dead cattle and human tragedy: a double railway accident

In September 1867 a dreadful railway accident occurred on the Peak Forest line which joined Manchester and Buxton and ran through New Mills Station (see our picture TR149).

The Illustrated London News of 21 September 1867 reported: ‘It was a double accident. In the first instance, a collision occurred between a cattle train and a ballast train in the Peak Forest tunnel. The greater part of the cattle train was detached by the shock and sent rolling down the inclined road for miles until it came into collision with an express passenger train and the latter in its turn, was impelled backwards some miles further till a change of gradients bought it to a standstill.

‘It was between five and six in the evening when the cattle train going from Liverpool to Birmingham entered the tunnel at Chapel-en-le-Frith. It was a very heavy train of 25 trucks, containing about 1,000 head of sheep and cattle. A ballast train had preceded it into the tunnel on the same line of rails, and, according to rule, the signalman at the Chapel-en-le-Frith end should allow no second train to enter till a signal from the southern end announced that the first train had passed out. The signalman, however, negligently allowed the cattle train to pass into the tunnel, which is a long one, and when it had reached the midst it dashed into the ballast train, which had been stopped to unload.’

The ballast train, consisting of ten wagons and eight men, was standing in the tunnel around a quarter of a mile from the Buxworth (known then as Bugsworth) entrance. Some fifty or sixty navvies were throwing ballast onto the railway when the heavy cattle train ran into the ballast train. The cattle train consisted of the trucks full of beasts, a 3rd-class carriage in which eight cattle drovers were travelling, and a brake van; it was drawn by two powerful engines, which were thrown off the rails – one of them was partially buried in the wreck of the ballast train.

None of the navvies was injured by the collision, but the daughter of a blacksmith, Martha Vaines of Dove Holes, who happened to be sitting in the brake van of the ballast train, was killed instantly. The little girl had missed her train at Buxworth and had received permission to ride in the brake van from there to her home. The van was broken into pieces, and three or four of the ballast wagons were thrown off the line and damaged. Both lines were blocked with debris.

The ILN report continues: ‘The coupling chain which had attached the foremost truck or wagon to the nearest engine was broken off, and immediately after the collision the whole cattle train, without the engines, was again in motion in the contrary direction to that which it had come … Before [the guard and the drovers] had quite realised their position in the darkness, they found themselves rapidly nearing the entrance of the tunnel again. The return to daylight enabled them to perceive that … the train was rolling backwards down the incline, gaining speed as it went. One of the men called to the rest to jump for their lives, and he and two or three of them did so, including the guard.’ (Two of these drovers sustained severe head injuries).

‘The other men, five in number, clung to their places and were fated to be sufferers by the second collision, which occurred after the runaway trucks had travelled back, a distance of more than eight miles, at express speed, passing through the Bugsworth station. A little short of New Mills station the second collision occurred, by the meeting of the cattle trucks with an express train from Manchester … It had passed New Mills station in safety, and through a tunnel about 200 yards further … On emerging from the tunnel the driver [Edward Cooper of Buxton] found a signal against him, and, as the rules require the speed to be moderated at this point had no difficulty in stopping his train.’

Neither he nor the signalman knew the nature of the danger that threatened them. The guard ran to the front of the train to ask the cause of the stoppage, and Mr Lofts, the stationmaster, was about to step up on the engine with the same object, when he observed the cattle train coming towards them round the curve on the same line at a speed of about 40 to 50 miles an hour. The stoker jumped off the engine and ran with the guard and Mr Lofts out of the way. Cooper bravely threw the engine into reverse and turned on full steam, hoping to minimise the unavoidable collision. But before the passenger train had gone back six yards, and as Cooper was jumping clear, the cattle train struck it. The scene was described as appalling. The funnel, dome and other projections on top of the express engine were swept away by cattle trucks which were at once piled upon it.

One or more sheep were pitched out of the cattle train upon the engine, which fortunately stayed on the rails and gradually drew backwards out of the mass of debris that had been thrown against it. The guards van and passenger carriage attached to the cattle train were completely smashed. Twelve or thirteen of the cattle trucks were wrecked, lifted off their wheels, and their woodwork so torn that they looked like a mass of firewood. A large area became one vast heap of twisted metal, broken timber, and dead and dying cattle. Buried beneath it all was Cooper, the driver of the express, who was severely injured – he later recovered. Of the five drovers who had stayed on the cattle train, four were killed – the one survivor had his foot cut off by the wheels of a truck.

Meanwhile the driverless express train, ‘with its freight of frightened passengers,’ had gained extra impetus from the collision as it backed away from the cattle trucks, ‘and was propelled down the incline at a tremendous rate.’ The New Mills station master telegraphed Marple and Romiley, and at Marple it was sent on another line so that it might not meet an advancing train. It was at length bought to a standstill when ascending an incline near Romiley. Some of the passengers were found to be severely shaken, but none was hurt.

Men were quickly employed to clear the line and remove the cattle; thirty sheep had been killed and twenty more had to be destroyed. Eight bullocks had also been killed, and others so seriously wounded that they had to be slaughtered. Men worked all through the night by the light of large fires to clear the lines at New Mills and within the tunnel, but such was the damage that only one line was ready for use the following day.

Acknowledgements: www.stevelewis.me.uk

‘This abominable traffic’: a consequence of gun manufacture

The Illustrated London News of 1 February 1851 carried a long article on gun barrel making (see our pictures ST216, ST217 and ST218 by typing the codes into our website search box), which included the following:

‘The manufacture of fire-arms is one of the most extensive trades carried on at Birmingham; and in all its various departments – of stock, lock and barrel – is estimated to give employment to between 6000 and 7000 persons. During the war, happily ended by the peace of Waterloo, Birmingham could not manufacture fire-arms with sufficient rapidity to meet the necessities of the Government; although for a period of many years it turned out, according to a phrase still repeated in the town, “a gun a minute, night and day, Saturdays and Sundays”, or 525,600 per annum … Though the trade since those times has greatly diminished, Birmingham still manufactures immense quantities of fire-arms of all descriptions; and supplies the gun-makers of every part of the kingdom with gun-barrels and gun-locks, which are afterwards fitted together in London and elsewhere …

‘A proportion of the gun-barrels thus produced are for the Government and for the East India Company; and another portion are for sporting purposes, for the home and foreign trade; but by far the largest number are manufactured for Africa. The African trade in this article alone supports many hundreds of people. The guns are of the cheapest and commonest description. The orders are received from the merchants of London and Liverpool, who barter the guns on the African coast for ivory, spices, gold-dust, and other produce. It is asserted that many of these guns find their way to Brazil, and that the Brazilian slave-traders carry on an extensive business with some of the African kings and chiefs, by exchanging guns for men. When this abominable traffic was legal in England, a Birmingham gun was the common price for a negro.’

‘An amphitheatre of enormous dimensions’: Batty’s Hippodrome

William Batty (1801-68) was an equestrian performer, probably the most successful circus proprietor in the Victorian age, and for a time the operator of Astley’s Amphitheatre (a highly popular performance venue in London, and a long-lived one too – it opened in 1773 and finally closed in 1893).

In 1850 he acquired land in Kensington Gardens and built a huge oval arena for equestrian and other events; it was just five minutes’ walk from the Crystal Palace, and Batty was hoping to attract at least some of the thousands of visitors to the Great Exhibition. Batty’s Hippodrome could seat 14,000 people in a roofed grandstand surrounding the arena.

Here is an account of some of the performances in 1851 from The Illustrated London News:

‘Mr. Batty has erected a novel kind of circus, calculated to be a rival to his own Astley’s, but for the difference of locality and aim. Opposite the Broad-walk, Kensington Gardens, an amphitheatre of enormous dimensions, under the title of “the Hippodrome,” attracts all lovers of horsemanship. It consists of a circle of boxes and stalls divided by two opposite orchestra stations, which are occupied by two brass bands, who continue playing during the performance and an hour previous. The seats for the audience are covered, but the arena for Equestrian exhibition is open to the air and sky. We are thus carried back to the ancient times of Greece and Rome, and our own Elizabethan era; and the entertainments are suitable to these classical associations. Tournaments, chariot races, Trojan youths and Thessalian steeds, and such reproductions from the days of old, are the prevailing amusements. We believe, indeed, that the bills attempt no delusion in stating, that these exercises are “on a scale of extent and grandeur hitherto unattempted in England.”

‘The artists have been drafted from the Hippodrome at Paris, the principal being M. Louis Soullier, equerry to his Highness the Sultan Medjid of Turkey and the Emperor of Russia, and “his numerous and highly-trained stud of horses” to whom may be added his company. The performance on Wednesday commenced with a pageant representing the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I on the Field of the Cloth of Gold … The second part was not less interesting. The Brazilian coursers, performed by the three brothers Debach, on four horses each, was a highly exciting scene – presenting a trial of skill emulously carried out. But this was exceeded in interest by that exhibited by three female competitors, in a grand chariot race. The performances concluded with a monkey riding and driving four ponies; dames of the chase, in characteristic costume, on leaping palfreys; M. Frantz Debach, on the globe arienne, a well-known but difficult feat [he travelled up and down a narrow inclined plank balancing on a large ball], and in this instance executed with inimitable grace; and the Corso races by Barbary coursers, an exhibition at the Carnival of Rome. We have omitted to mention an exceedingly amusing race by two ostriches of the desert, with their Arab riders, one of whom was thrown in the experiment.’

Another attraction at Batty’s Hippodrome was the spectacular ascent of the balloon ‘Erin go bragh’, shown in our illustration LP233. This was the first balloon ever to be made in Ireland, and was reputed to be the second biggest balloon in the world.

Batty’s Hippodrome opened for two seasons. After 1852 it became a riding track and riding school, and was demolished after the 1860s.

Bizarre inflatable swimming suit demonstration

Try this stylish indiarubber body-costume with handy rocket and book storage when you get caught by the tide. Or maybe not.

From ‘The Illustrated London News’ 1874

‘An exhibition took place last week in Cork harbour which was viewed with great interest by thousands of spectators. This was the performance of Captain Paul Boyton with the American swimming apparatus of Mr. Merriman. He came over from New York in the steamer Queen, of the National line. There is a corps of “Life Guards,” in which he is a captain, fur­nished with the apparatus to save persons in danger of drown­ing, at the bathing-places on the Atlantic coast of America.

The apparatus is a complete body-costume, manufactured chiefly of india rubber, in two pieces, which are united at the waist. The pantaloons include covering for the feet, with strong soles, drawn on over the wearer’s ordinary dress, usually of blue flannel, and kept in position by strong suspenders passed over the shoulders and buckled to the inside of the waist.

The waist is fitted with a steel ridged hoop, which is a protection to the wearer’s person and furnishes a watertight joint to the upper portion of the dress, which is drawn down to meet it. This upper garment is a jacket and headpiece with gloves for the hands all in one piece. At the waist its elastic material is strained tightly over the hoop of the pantaloons, so as to exclude the water and keep in the air, and its adjustment is preserved by another belt or strap buckled over the joining. It hangs loosely all over the person, except at the hands and feet; but in a few minutes, by blowing through the five tubes attached to outside of its different parts, air is introduced into the chambers which lie between the outer and inner skin of the costume.

The head-piece fills at the back and draws the casque tightly over the face till the edges of the orifice in front press closely against the cheeks, forehead, and chin, leaving the coun­tenance exposed.

The body and legs are made perfectly buoyant and defended by elastic cushions and air-filled chambers from external violence. Small pockets are distributed over the outside of the dress, into which are pushed such small articles as the wearer may wish to have ready to hand. If any portion of it become detached, such as the sole from one of the feet, though the water would then enter all over the body, the apertures would still be full of air where it remained intact, and its floating power only slightly diminished. It is capable of sustaining in the water a weight of 200 lb, in addition to the weight of the wearer. The latter can preserve any position in the water he pleases, erect or horizontal; and when erect the waist belt is the water-line, so that he has a clear look-out over the sea.

He carries a store of provisions, capable of supplying him for ten days, in a water-tight bag, which floats beside him, provided with air-chambers, being towed after him by a strong line across his back. Besides his day’s supply of food this bag contains a number of signal lights, which can be held high over the water, round a small lamp with bull’s-eye, which, being lighted, he can affix to his head-piece, and so protect himself from being run down by any craft. He can also stow a few books in his little store-room, with which to beguile the time at sea. He also provides himself with a long sheath-knife and an axe. His means of propulsion is a double-bladed paddle of wood; and, under favourable circum­stances, he makes a very fair speed. He can also call the wind to his aid by rigging a small sail to his paddle. Should he be in distress from want of food or having met with any accident, he can signify the fact by hoisting the stars and stripes on his paddle and reversing the jack.

Captain Boyton was dropped from the Citizen steam-boat below Queenstown, and floated up to Haulbowline with the tide, remaining two hours in the water. He ate and drank, and fired rockets, as shown in our Illustration. His clothes, within the india rubber suit, were kept perfectly dry, and he was not exhausted by the labour of paddling.’

Ordnance Survey observatory perched on the cross on top of St Paul’s Cathedral

The Ordnance Survey’s name indicates its original military purpose, which was to map Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. There was also a more general and nationwide need in light of the potential threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1747, Lieutenant-Colonel David Watson proposed the compilation of a map of the Highlands to help to subjugate the clans. In response, King George II charged Watson with making a military survey of the Highlands. The survey was produced at a scale of 1in to 1000 yards (1:36,000). One of Watson’s assistants was William Roy, who later had an illustrious career in the Royal Engineers, rising to the rank of General, and he was largely responsible for the British share of the work in determining the relative positions of the French and British royal observatories. This work was the starting point of the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (1783-1853), and led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey itself.

From the 1840s, the Ordnance Survey concentrated on the Great Britain ‘County Series’, modelled on an earlier Ireland survey of the 1830s. A start was made on mapping the whole country, county by county, at six inches to the mile (1:10,560).

The ‘Illustrated London News’ of 24 June 1848 reported on the Ordnance Survey’s survey of London being made by the Royal Engineers, and the construction of an observatory for that purpose on top of St Paul’s Cathedral, which can be seen in our pictures ST201 and ST202:

‘In order to conduct the Survey, it is necessary to select high buildings, as principal observing stations; whence “are taken angles with theodolites from the most commanding objects to the other remarkable objects, such as church spires, or towers, cupolas, factory chimneys, &c, for the purpose of ascertaining their relative bearings and distances.”

‘St. Paul’s Cathedral, by its position and commanding height, is, probably, the best station in or about London. Accordingly, there has been erected a scaffold from what is termed the Golden Gallery to the summit of the Cross. Upon this scaffold is a stage, 10 feet square, which supports an observatory, within which is placed upon a table a theodolite 18 inches in diameter of the circle. A railing, roughly but securely put up, surrounds the stage. The observatory is a hexagon figure, 3 feet in diameter, and about 11 feet high, with panelled sides and canvas roof.

… ‘The ascent is by the inside of the tower or lantern to the circular openings; then passing to the outside to the foot-ladders, which are set at the north-east corner, parallel to the north-east principal post, inside the scaffold. The whole of the materials have been drawn up from the floor by a permanent windlass (erected in the tower) to the Golden Gallery; and thence passed to the outside horizontally, through an aperture 32 inches wide. The greatest care has been taken to make the stage secure, and fit for the important use for which it has been constructed. It is about five tons weight; and, deducting the time for stoppages (during the performance of Divine Service in the Cathedral), as well as taking into account all the attendant difficulties, the raising has been by no means slow. The whole has been executed under the superintendence of Corporal Beaton, by direction of Captain Yolland, of the Royal Engineers.

‘The probable number of points to be observed is about 900; and the number of observations may be 1500 or 1800.

‘We subjoin a few additional details, explanatory of the Survey, from the Builder: “In every extensive survey, conducted with a due regard to scientific accuracy, it is a matter of the first importance to determine with unerring correctness the relative distances and bearings of the principal or most conspicuous objects within the country or district to be surveyed. To effect this, the first operation is to measure a ‘base line’—that is, a straight or right line between two points, varying in length according to the extent of the survey and the facilities afforded by the nature of the ground for the measurement … The base line being measured, the next step is to connect its extremities by means of angles taken with theodolites or other angular instruments, with all the conspicuous objects visible; the relative distances and bearings of which with each other, and with the base, become thus determinable by means of certain well-known trigonometrical formulae. By selecting the most suitable of these observed objects for new observing stations, the calculated distances become, in their turn, base lines for expanding the operations of the ‘ triangulation’, until the whole country, by a connected line of observing stations, becomes united or interlaced by a perfect net-work of triangles … The London survey will be connected by its triangulation with the general survey of the country, and in its levelling with the one uniform datum plane to which the altitudes of the Ordnance six-inch map are referred.”’

The chef with a social conscience

Alexis Benoit Soyer was born in France in 1810 and trained as a cook. In 1830 he moved to London, where he became chef to the Duke of Cambridge and then chef at the Reform Club. Despite his associations with the rich and famous, his highly developed social conscience led him to write to the press in 1847 voicing his distress about the starvation resulting from the potato famine in Ireland.

He went to Dublin, where he built kitchens from which he sold simple meals to the poor at minimal prices. He wrote ‘Soyer’s Charitable Cookery’, giving part of the proceeds to charities. He invented a lightweight portable stove to be used in remote and difficult locations, such as field hospitals. He became an expert in developing cheap, easy-to-cook recipes for wholesome, palatable food from basic ingredients; he later wrote ‘A Shilling Cookery Book for the People’.

In February 1855 Soyer travelled to the Crimea at his own expense to support the army, who at this time were malnourished and scurvy-ridden. A soldier’s daily ration was 1lb of army biscuit and 1lb of meat, but there were supply problems, no efficient catering system (each soldier had to cook for himself) – and no fuel to cook with. First Soyer revised the diet sheets and recipes for the hospitals at Scutari and Constantinople, using his portable stove to prepare food (see our picture HS157). During two visits to Balaclava he, Florence Nightingale and the medical staff re-organised the hospitals. He also cooked for the 4th Division of the army.

He returned to London in May 1857, and died in 1858.

Here are two of Soyer’s recipes for the troops, taken from letters he wrote to The Times while he was at Scutari:

STEWED SALT BEEF AND PORK A LA OMAR PASHA

Put into a canteen saucepan about 2lb of well soaked beef, cut in eight pieces; ½lb of salt pork, divided in two, and also soaked; ½lb of rice, or six tablespoonsful; ½lb of onions, or four middle-sized ones, peeled and sliced; 2oz of brown sugar, or one large tablespoonful; ¼oz of pepper, and five pints of water; simmer gently for three hours, remove the fat from the top and serve. The first time I made the above was in Sir John Campbell’s soup kitchen, situated on the top of his rocky cavern, facing Sebastopol, near Cathcart’s-hill, and among the distinguished pupils I had upon the occasion were Colonel Wyndham, Sir John Campbell, and Dr Hall, Inspector-General of the Army in the Crimea, and other officers. This dish was much approved at dinner, and is enough for six people, and if the receipt be closely followed you cannot fail to have an excellent food. The London salt meat will only require a four hours soaking, having been only lightly pickled.

COSSACKS’ PLUM PUDDING

Put into a basin 1lb of flour, ¾lb of raisins (stoned, if time be allowed), ¾lb of the fat of salt pork (well washed, cut into small dies, or chopped), two tablespoonsful of sugar or treacle; add a half pint of water; mix all together; put into a cloth tied tightly; boil for four hours, and serve. If time will not admit, boil only two hours, though four are preferable. How to spoil the above:- Add anything to it.