Iron & Steam

A journal of Victoriana, industry, history, and more

Page 2 of 4

Young Brunel in the Thames Tunnel

From the Delaware State Journal, Advertiser and Star, September 06, 1833

The Thames Tunnel has almost ceased to be a wonder; but the conduct of the younger Brunel on the two occasions referred to below can never lose its claim to admiration. The extract is from an article on the tunnel in the Courier & Enquirer, of Saturday : –

The tunnel has been twice inundated, the first time it occurred, the disorder and fright it caused among the workmen was extreme. Neither Mr. Brunel nor his son were there, but one of the superintending engineers, of the name of Griffiths, preserved his presence of mind, rallied the men, and conducted them in safety to the opening before the water had gained the summit of the arch. In a few minutes afterwards, it was filled.

Mr. Brunel being ill, his son, Isambard, was selected to make this examination. As he descended the stair-case, which led to the tunnel, with Mr. Griffith and another sub-engineer who was to accompany him, the workmen evinced the apprehensions they felt for their safety, by frequent exclamations of “God bless you, gentlemen!” At the moment that Isambard was about to enter the boat and was taking leave of his mother, a young man sprang forward and persisted in sharing his danger, which after some difficulty he was allowed to do.

The distance they had to pass was about seven hundred feet. When they reached the buckler, a large excavation was perceived in the upper parts, stopped in part by the tarred sail cloth and clay above alluded to, but still sufficiently open to allow a considerable quantity of water to enter. They took the dimensions of the opening, and were drawing a sketch of it on a piece of wood, when Mr. Griffith stooping down to Isambard  said to him in a whisper, ‘the water gains on us,” “I know it,’ said Isambard ‘we’ll finish and go.’ At the same time the people at the mouth of the tunnel had perceived the water increased. Many of them threw themselves into it swimming, to warn them of their danger. Others were calling to them through speaking trumpets. This noise was heard by the young man who had insisted on accompanying them; perceiving that the distance to the top of the arch was but four feet he sprang up crying “let us go,” and striking his head against the arch, fell down, upsetting the boat and extinguishing the light they had with them.

On coming to the surface, Isambard called to his companions, two answered him, and conjured him to hasten away, as the water continued gaining on them. Isambard plunged repeatedly to the bottom in search of the other, and at last brought him up. His friends again entreated him to think only of himself, but he answered by begging them to assist him in placing his burthen on his shoulders. Animated by the example, they now all carried the body by turns, and at last, with their heads every instant striking against the arch, again saw the light of day. They had not ascended half way up the stair-case when the water reached the top of the arch. The body was then examined. Isambard and his friends had brought out a corpse. The unfortunate young man had fractured his skull.

After this accident, the steam engines soon regained their superiority, and the works were re-commenced. Some months had passed, when a second irruption took place. This time, Isambard was in the tunnel. He had just left the buckler and was half way down one of the passages, when the cry of water! water! struck his ear. He sprung forward, and having noticed the extent of the disaster sufficiently to inform his father of it, he collected as the thought, all the workmen together, and led them to the mouth of the tunnel. There, a glance around him, told him that many were still missing. He reentered the subterranean passage, with the water up to his middle and guided by confused and smothered cries, perceived that a considerable number of the men, instead of taking the ordinary passage to pass out of the tunnel, had taken that one, of which egress was stopped, These poor men, instead of returning in their fright struck against the obstacle which prevented then getting out and which all their exertions could not move. Isambard hastened to them and persuaded them to come back; the first communication between the two passengers was already closed; at the second, they all passed through before him except two, who could not swim, and who begged Isambard to leave them and save himself. Isambard compelled one of them, the father of a family, to get on his shoulders, and he reached the entrance with him. Then, tearing himself away from those who endeavored to retain him, he returned and brought out the second. When near the entrance of the tunnel, he was struck on the head lay a piece of timber which was drifting on the water, but a hundred arms were stretched out to save him, and he was carried senseless to his father’s house, where his wounds confined him for two months to his bed.


Source: Delaware State journal, advertiser and star. [volume] (Wilmington, Del.), 06 Sept. 1833. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042477/1833-09-06/ed-1/seq-2/>

The Monster Great Eastern

From The New York Herald, September 23, 1859, Morning Edition

The Trip Out of the Thames and Arrival in the Nore.

IMMENSE SUCCESS OF THE STEAMER,

THE GREAT SPEED ATTAINED.

The Voyage Across the Atlantic from Port to Port to be Made in One Week.

All John Bulldom in a Delirium of Excitement,

&c., &c., &c.

Special Correspondence the N.Y. Herald.

Great Eastern, Nore Light, Sept. 8, 1869.

Splendid Performance of the Ship – Her Great Success – Her Great Speed, &c.

The Great Eastern is a success. She left Deptford at 7:80 yesterday, and with the aid of four steamtugs worked round the sharp points of the Thames to Purfleet, below Woolwich, where she lot go a single anchor  one of Trotman’s patent – and swung to her moorings as easily and gracefully as a yacht. At 8 A. M. we weighed anchor, passed Gravesend at 10:30, and at 11 cast off all the tugboats, and steamed up with nine turns of the paddle engines and thirty of the screw engines. She made thirteen knots, exceeding by nearly half a knot the estimate of her builder and engineers, which gives her at full speed nineteen knots an hour. Little doubt is now felt that she will go twenty nautical miles, and keep up long after ordinary ships would have to slow down for bad weather. In every respect the performance of the ship is most satisfactory. She steers as easily as a pilot boat, and parts the water forward as easily as a North river steamboat. Her engines – screw and paddle – work with as much regularity as if they had been at it for months. In short, the ship and machinery seem to be perfect

Continue reading

The Disaster to the Great Eastern

From The Weekly Pioneer and DemocratOctober 11, 1861

She Breaks her Rudder and Becomes Unmanageable.

FEARFUL ROLLING OF THE VESSEL

TERRIBLE SCENES ON BOARD

She Reaches Cork a Floating Wreck.

Farther Point, Tuesday, Oct. 1.—The following in regard to the disaster to the steamship Great Eastern is taken from the English papers :

The Great Eastern left her moorings in the river Mersey at half past one o’clock on Tuesday, the 10th of September. The pilot boats left her at 4 o’clock. She immediately put on full speed, and all went well with her until 4 o’clock on Thursday, when, a strong breeze prevailing, the aft tackle of one of the forward boats on the port side became unhooked, leaving it suspended by one tackle. The captain endeavored to steady the ship while this was rectified, but found to his surprise that she did not answer the helm. The fact was, though it was not known at the time, the rudder pin was broken. The fore staysail was run up but it was blown away. The paddle engines were now stopped, and the the boat lashings cut away, when the Great Eastern once more started on her course. The passengers then went down to dinner, and from that moment commenced a chaos of breakages which lasted without intermission for three days. Everything breakable was destroyed. Furniture, fittings, services of plate, piano—all were involved in one common ruin. It now became known that the rudder was unmanageable. About six o’clock the vessel had to be stopped again owing to two rolls of sheet lead, weighing several hundred weight each, which were in the engine room, rolling about with every oscillation of the vessel with fearful force. These having been secured, another start was made, when a tremendous grinding was heard under the paddle-boxes. The shaft had become twisted, and the floats were grinding against the side of the ship. The paddles were stopped, and thenceforward the scene is described as fearful in the extreme. The ship rolled so violently that the boats were washed away. The cabin, besides undergoing the dangers arising from the crashes and collisions which were constantly going on, had shipped, probably through the port holes, a great deal of water, and the stores were floating about in utter confusion and ruin. Some of the chandeliers fell down with a crash. A large mirror was smashed into a thousand fragments, rails of banisters, bars, and numerous other fittings, were broken into numberless pieces. Some idea of the roughness of the night may possibly be gathered from the fact that the large chain cables polished themselves quite bright with friction on deck. A spare riding bit gave way on the cabledeck, and knocked a hole through the ship’s side. Two oil tanks, also on the cabledeck, were so much damaged by another concussion that 200 gallons of fish oil contained in them ran into the hold, and caused, during the rest of the unhappy voyage, a most intolerable odor. The luggage of the passengers in the lower after cargo space was lying in two leet of water, and, before the deliverance of the ship was effected, the luggage was literally reduced to rags and pieces of timber. Twenty-five fractures of limbs occurred from the concussions caused by the tremendous lurching of the vessel. Cuts and bruises were innumerable. One of the cooks was cast violently, by one of the lurches, against the paddlebox, by which he sustained fearful bruises on the arms, putting it out of his power to protect himself. Another lurch drove him against one of the stanchions, by which concussion one of the poor fellow’s legs was broken in three places. The baker received injuries of a very terrible character in vital parts ; and one of the most striking incidents of the disaster was this poor, brave man, crawling in his agony to extinguish some portion of the baking gear, which at that moment had caught fire.

Continue reading

Obituary of John Armstrong

From Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 14, 1855

John Armstrong was born at the village of Ingram, Northumberland, on the 13th of October, 1775; his early years were spent in agricultural pursuits, and he scarcely had any opportunity of acquiring more than the rudiments of education; he then became the apprentice of a millwright, and the first mechanical engagement he received was under the late Mr. Thomas Dodgin, millwright, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, by whom he was employed at the White-Lead Works, Bill Quay, where his Brother was the foreman.

About the close of the last century he settled in the neighbourhood of Bath, where he ultimately was engaged in the construction of the Pulteney Bridge, for a portion of which he became the contractor.

In the year 1804 he was employed, under the late Mr. Jessop, in the construction of the Docks, at Bristol, where he remained until their completion; all the lock-gates, swivel-bridges, cranes, steam-engines, pumps, sluices and other machinery being constructed under his immediate directions.

For some years he remained chiefly at Bristol, practising as a Millwright and Engineer, and generally engaged in such works as the lock-gates at Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, the gates and sluices of the Congresbury Drainage, &c.; he was then engaged under Sir Robert Smirke upon the construction of the bridge across the Severn, at Gloucester, and in 1821 his services were secured by Mr. Rennie and subsequently by Mr. Telford, for superintending the construction of the new arch of Rochester Bridge, on the completion of which he undertook the direction of the works for the Grosvenor Canal.

His next engagement was at the Thames Tunnel, under the late Sir Isambard Brunel, from whence his services were transferred to Messrs. Bramah, by whom he was employed, among other works, upon the construction of the lock-gates for the St. Katherine Docks, and subsequently in the direction of their building speculation at Calverley Park, near Tonbridge Wells.

At that period (1831) the post of City Surveyor, at Bristol, becoming vacant, he was unanimously elected to the position by the Paving Commissioners, and fulfilled the duties to their entire satisfaction, until within the last week of his life.

He was a very valuable public officer, and the loss of his services to the city will be felt, not in his own department only, as his general amenity of disposition and impressiveness of manner enabled him to become a mediator in many cases, so as to avoid litigation. He had in the course of his varied practice, during a long life, amassed a great store of useful information, which he knew how to apply with judgement; he was a sound good mechanic and millwright, of the school now fast passing away; his steadiness and punctuality could always be relied upon, and his decease, on the 17th of March, 1854, at the advanced age of seventy-eight years, was acutely felt by his family and a large circle of friends.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, in the year 1828, and during his residence in the Metropolis was a constant attendant at the meetings.

The Departure of the Great Eastern

From The Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, September 30, 1859

From the London Times.

Nore Light, Thursday, Sept. 8.

After her first short run the Great Eastern remained at her anchor off Purfleet for the rest of the night, and slowly resumed her progress down the river at a quarter to 9 o’clock this morning. Her stoppage at Purfieet was a sad disappointment to many thousands who had been collecting at Gravesend all day in the firm belief that she could or would stop nowhere else. Her slight detention at Blackwall point, however, prevented this, and it became absolutely necessary from the state of the tide to bring up at once at Long Reach. The distinguished arrival threw Purfleet into a state of uncommon excitement. Every one within moderate reach of it by road or rail hurried to the little village till it was thronged to the water’s edge. Gravesend, also, seemed most unwilling to yield up its share in the great occasion without an effort, and before long crowded boats steered round and round the ship, the passengers cheering themselves till they were hoarse again, while the bands played “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” “Rule Britannia,’’ and ail sorts of musical welcomes. For the rest of the evening there was a constant repetition of such visits. Not a vessel passed that did not turn up hands to cheer, while many, as they came down the river, dressed in flags from stem to stern. It was not till night had fallen that the great ship was fairly left alone, and began swinging round to her anchor with the rising tide. The night was a little puffy, and seemed inclined to come more so, but the wind fell as the moon rose, and the weather eventually settled down into a dead calm, it took upwards of an hour for the tide to turn the ship fully round, and at low water, as she lay across the river for a short time in turning, she might almost be said to have stopped the navigation with her colossal bulk. During the night she swung twice again, and by daylight was lying with her head fair for the resumption of her course down the river.

Continue reading

The Atlantic Telegraph Cable

From The Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser, August 7, 1865

The last steamer from England brings the following:

The shore end of the Atlantic cable was landed and successfully connected with the instruments on board the Great Eastern. The Knight of Kerry invoked success on the undertaking, and in conclusion called on Sir Robert Peel, who made an admirable address. Cheers were then given for the President of the United States, when paying out of the heavy shore end of the cable commenced. The splice was completed in the most successful manner, and the cable worked perfectly. The gunboats Terrible and Sphynx accompanied the Great Eastern. A telegram from Valencia, dated the 24th of July, says : “Insulation defects took place on Monday afternoon. The mischief is supposed to exist three miles west of the shore-end splice, and it is believed that it was caused by too much strain from the Great Eastern. She hove too [sic] ten miles from the shore. The Caroline is picking up and underrunning the splice and repairing the fault. It is expected that the damage will be rectified immediately.

The rest of the cable remains perfect. A telegram from the Great Eastern, dated the 25th of July, says: “The cable is all O. K. again.” The signals are perfect. A small fault was discovered and cut out. The Great Eastern is now paying out the cable in lat. 52, long. 12.”

From this end of the line we have the following: Aspy Bay, Aug. 5. – We have succeeded in getting on board three miles of the Newfoundland cable after great labor; the cable, however, is so much corroded that we have no hopes of repairing it. In underrunning it parted three times. We get no tidings of the steamship Great Eastern as yet.


Source: Alexandria gazette. [volume] (Alexandria, D.C.), 07 Aug. 1865. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025007/1865-08-07/ed-1/seq-4/>

Obituary of Marc Isambard Brunel

From the Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 10, 1851

Sir Marc Isambard Brunel was born in the year 1769, at Haqueville, in Normandy; his family had for several centuries held an honourable station in the Province, living on the estate on which he was born, and numbering among its members Nicholas Poussin, of whom France is justly proud.

He was educated at the seminary at Rouen, with the intention of his entering holy orders, but his predilection for the physical sciences was so strong, and his genius for mathematics and mechanics so decided, that, on the advice of the Superior of the establishment, he was removed, to follow a more congenial career.

His father then destined him for the naval service, which he entered on the appointment of the Mareschal de Castries, the Minister of Marine, and made several voyages to the West Indies. In this position, although only in his fifteenth year, his mechanical talents developed themselves actively on many occasions, and he surprised his Captain by the production of a sextant of his manufacture, with which he took his observations.

On his return to France, in 1792, he found the Revolution at its height, and, like all who entertained Royalist principles, was compelled to seek safety in emigration, which, with considerable difficulty, he accomplished, and found refuge in the United States of America, where, driven by necessity to the exercise of his talents, as a means of support, he followed the bent of his inclination and became a Civil Engineer and Architect.

His first engagement was on the survey of a tract of land near Lake Erie; he then became engaged in cutting canals, and was employed to erect an arsenal and cannon foundry, at New York, where he applied several new and ingenious machines; his highly ornamental design for the House of Assembly, at Washington, was rejected, as being inconsistent with the simplicity of a Republic. He was, however, engaged to design and superintend the construction of the Bowery Theatre, New York, since destroyed by fire; the roof of which was peculiar and original.

The idea of substituting machinery for manual labour, in the making of ships’ blocks, had long occupied his mind, and, in 1799, having matured his plans, finding the United States unable to afford full occupation for his inventive genius, he determined on visiting England.

Earl St. Vincent was at that time at the head of the Admiralty, and after the usual delays and difficulties, which were ultimately overcome, chiefly through the powerful influence of his steady friend and patron Earl Spencer, and aided by the recommendation of Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Bentham, who at once perceived and appreciated the merit of the machines, and the talent of the inventor, the system was adopted, and eventually the beautiful and effective machinery was erected, which has continued to the present time, without alteration, to produce nearly all the blocks used in the Royal Navy.

The construction of these machines was intrusted to the late Henry Maudslay, who with true discrimination, he selected for the purpose, and by whom he was ably assisted. The beautiful simplicity of these machines, their perfect adaptation to their various purposes, and notwithstanding the recent advances in mechanics, their continuing for nearly half a century in active work, without any improvements having ever been suggested, must rank themas among the most complete and ingenious pieces of mechanism ever invented.

A description of these well-known machines would be superfluous, but it should be remarked, that in them are combined all the motions and functions, since so universally applied to machines for working metals, the introduction of which, into engine and machine factories, has induced the substitution of machinery for manual labour, and has tended so essentially to secure for English machinery the deservedly high reputation which it has acquired.

The block machinery was completed in 1806, and it was estimated that the economy produced by it, in the first year, was about £24,000, two-thirds of which sum were awarded to the ingenious inventor, who was soon after engaged, by the Government, to erect extensive saw-mills, on improved principles, at Chatham and Woolwich; when he suggested modifications of the systems of stacking and seasoning timber, which, it is understood, are, after this lapse of years, to be carried in effect.

Some time previously, he invented the ingenious little machine for winding cotton-thread into balls, which, simple as it may at first sight appear, has exercised great influence in the extension of the cotton trade.

He found time, also, to invent an instrument for combining the use of several pens, for producing simultaneously a number of copies of a manuscript; a simple and portable copying machine; a contrivance for making the small boxes used by druggists, which had been previously imported in large quantities from Holland; a nail making machine also occupied his attention, and he discovered the system of giving the efflorescent appearance to tinfoil, by which it was fitted for ornamental purposes.

Among other more important improvements, must be mentioned, that of cutting veneers, by circular saws of large diameter; and to that is mainly due the present extensive application of veneers of wood to ornamental furniture.

A short time before the termination of the war, he devised the system of making shoes by machinery; and, under the countenance of the Duke of York, the shoes so manufactured, in consequence of their strength, cheapness, and durability, were introduced for the use of the army; but at the peace in 1815, manual labour becoming cheaper, and the demand for military equipments having ceased, the machines were laid aside.

Steam navigation also attracted his attention, and he became deeply interested in establishing the Ramsgate steam vessels, which were among the first that plied effectively on the River Thames; and on board of them, it is believed, that the double engines were first used.

About this period, after much labour and perseverance, he induced the Admiralty to permit the application of steam, for towing vessels to sea, the practicability of which he had strenuously urged. The experiments were tried chiefly at his own expense, a small sum in aid having been promised, but it was eventually withdrawn, before the completion of the trials; the Admiralty considering the attempt ‘too chimerical to be seriously entertained.’

He introduced various improvements in the steam-engine, and for nearly ten years persevered in the attempt to use liquefied gases, as the source of motive power, in which he was ably assisted by his Son; the necessary experiments were most laborious, and needed all the persevering energy and resources of a mind determined not to be foiled; in spite, however, of his efforts, after a great sacrifice of time and money, the plan was abandoned.

He furnished designs, also, for some suspension bridges, which, being for peculiar localities, exposed to the violence of hurricanes, in the Isle of Bourbon, exhibited, as usual, some original features.

The whole power of his mind, however, was soon to be concentrated on one great object, the construction of the Tunnel, for traversing from shore to shore, beneath the bed of the River Thames. It is said, that the original idea occurred to him, as applied to the Neva, at St. Petersburgh, in order to avoid the inconvenience arising from the floating ice; a plan which he offered to the Emperor Alexander, on the occasion of his visit to this country in 1814.

Undismayed by the previous signal failures, in the attempt to tunnel beneath the Thames, Brunel, confident in his own powers, persevered in his efforts, and in 1834, under the auspices of F. M. the Duke of Wellington, who always entertained a favourable view of the practicability of the scheme, a Company was formed, for its execution, and after numerous accidents, and suspensions of the works, accounts of which were frequently laid by Sir Isambart before this Institution, and are recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings, this great and novel undertaking was successfully accomplished, and opened to the public in the year 1843.

In the prosecution of this work, he received great assistance from his son, Mr. I. K. Brunel, V. P., and in a scientific point of view, the construction of the Tunnel will be regarded, as displaying at the same time, the highest professional ability, an amount of energy and skill rarely exceeded, and a fertility of invention and resources, under what were deemed insurmountable difficulties, which will secure to the memory of Sir Isambart Brunel, a high position among the Engineers of this country.

He received the honour of Knighthood, in 1841: and the Order of the Legion d’Honneur, in 1829, was a Corresponding Member of the French Institute, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and joined this Institution as a Member, in the year 1823, constantly attending all the meetings, giving accounts of the progress of his works, bringing forward subjects, taking part in the discussions, serving on the Council for some years, and aiding in the advancement of the Society, by every means in his power.

He was unaffected and simple in his habits, and possessed indomitable courage, perseverance and industry; whilst his general benevolence of disposition, constantly prompted him to the kindest acts, as it did to the forgiveness of injury, or slight, offered to him. His labours had so seriously impaired his health, that for some years after the completion of the Tunnel, he was unable to mix in active life, and he expired on the 12th of December, 1849, in his 81st year, after a long illness, as much regretted, as he had been loved and respected, by all who knew him.

Extract from Letter Entitled “The Ascent of Popocatapetl”

From Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, Volume 1 (November 1826 to June 1833)

An extract of a letter was read from Lieutenant William Glennie, R.N., dated Mexico, May 6th, 1827, entitled “The Ascent of Popocatapetl.”

Many contradictory reports having long existed respecting the volcanic nature of this mountain, the author felt desirous of ascertaining its actual condition in person.

The ascent commenced during the month of April 1827, from the village of Ameca, situated in the province of Puebla, and near the N.W. foot of the volcano, at an elevation of 8216 feet above the level of the sea, and distant 14 leagues from Mexico.

The author describes the sides of the mountain as thickly wooded with forests of pines, extending to the height of near 12,693 feet, beyond which altitude vegetation ceased entirely. The ground consisted of loose black sand of considerable depth, on which numerous fragments of basalt and pumice-stone were dispersed. At a greater elevation, several projecting ridges, composed of loose fragments of basalt, arranged one above another, and overhanging precipices 600 or 700 feet deep, presented formidable impediments to the author’s progress; and, in one direction only, a ravine was observed to pass through these ridges, having its surface covered with loose black sand, down which fragments of rocks ejected from the crater continually descended.

After twelve hours of incessant fatigue the author gained the highest point of the mountain on the western side of the crater, 17,884 feet above the sea; at which station the mercury in the barometer subsided to 15.63 inches, and the temperature indicated by the attached and detached thermometers, was respectively 39° and 33° Fahr. at 5 o’clock P.M., when exposed to the direct rays of the sun. The plain of Mexico was enveloped in a thick haze, and the only distant objects visible at that time, were the volcanoes of Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl. The crater of Popocatapetl appeared to extend one mile in diameter, and its edges of unequal thickness descended towards the east. The interior walls consisted of masses of rock arranged per- . pendicularly, and marked by numerous vertical channels, in many places filled with black sand. Four horizontal circles of rock differently coloured were also noticed within the crater; and from the edges of the latter, as well as from its perpendicular walls, several small columns of vapour arose smelling strongly of sulphur. The noise was incessant, resembling that heard at a short distance from the sea shore during a storm; and at intervals of two or three minutes the sound increased, followed by an eruption of stones of various dimensions; the smaller were projected into the ravine before mentioned, the larger fell again within the crater.

The sensations experienced by the author were analogous to those usually felt by travellers at considerable elevations; viz. weariness, difficult respiration, and headache, the latter inconvenience having been first perceived at a height of 16,895 feet. Tobacco smoke and spirituous liquors were also found to produce an unusually rapid effect upon the sensorium.

Scilla Autumnalis on St. Vincent’s Rocks

From The Journal of Botany: British and Foreign, Vol. XXVII, 1889

Scilla Autumnalis on St. Vincent’s Rocks. — It is gratifying to be able to announce that the hope expressed in the ‘Flora’ [of the Bristol Coalfields] (p. 201), that this rare bulb might yet be rediscovered on St. Vincent’s Rocks, has been justified. We are indebted for this pleasure to Mr. J. C. House, who, during a scramble in autumn, came upon a patch of about a hundred plants. It was somewhat perplexing, however, to find that the spot was made ground, the site of ancient quarrying; but this circumstance has been explained and accounted for in a very interesting and satisfactory manner. Mrs. Glennie Smith has kindly furnished information on the matter that was conveyed to her by Mrs. Glennie, widow of Mr. William Glennie, who was engineer, under Brunel, of many great works in the West of England. The account runs as follows:- When Brunel was about to commence the construction of the Suspension Bridge, Mrs. Glennie told him that he was going to destroy the Clifton locality of Scilla autumnalis, as it grew just where the approach on the Gloucestershire side was to be made. The engineer immediately informed himself carefully of the exact spot, and, before the ground was broken, he made some of his workmen dig up the turfs containing the bulbs, and transplant them safely beyond the reach and influence of the works he was about to begin. Mrs. Glennie could not remember if she ever knew the place to which the transference was made, but it seems tolerably clear that Mr. Brunel’s care was effectual in preserving for us a choice plant, the locality for which, when undisturbed, was evidently of very small dimensions.-J. W. WHITE (in Proc. Bristol Nat. Soc. v. iii. 232).

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2021 Iron & Steam

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑