Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XV.

CHAPTER XV. This is mostly 1845. George Hudson (1800-1871) was an English railway financier and politician who, because he controlled a significant part of the railway network in the 1840s, became known as “The Railway King”. Eventually in 1849, a series of enquiries launched by the railways he was chairman of, exposed his methods, and it was established that he was essentially running a Ponzi scheme paying dividends from capital. He had been elected M.P for Sunderland in 1845, and so was immune from arrest for debts. He become bankrupt in 1853, and after losing his Sunderland seat in 1859, he fled abroad to avoid arrest for debt, returning only when imprisonment for debt was abolished in 1870.  General Narvaez was the Prime Minister of Spain. Sir Joseph Paxton was the head gardener at Chatsworth House, so close to Stephenson at Tapton House; he also designed the Crystal Palace, and was the M.P for Coventry for eleven years.

George Hudson (1800-1871)

At this time the railway mania was at its height, and a company was formed to construct a line from Madrid to the Bay of Biscay. George Hudson was to be chairman. Sir Joshua travelled to Spain to inquire personally into details, and his report was unfavourable. This occasioned great discontent ; but it was only when George Stephenson offered to accompany him on a second voyage, and gratuitously give two months of his time, in order to survey the most difficult parts of the line, that Sir Joshua consented to a second journey. [This was the early autumn of 1845]

” Stephenson,” he writes, ” was a wonderful travelling companion. We travelled in an open barouche, and his keen eye was ever on the alert. Though abounding with difficulties, Stephenson asserted that they could be overcome, while at the same time he fully justified my refusal to deposit the caution- money. On reaching Madrid, Stephenson dictated one of those lucid reports he excelled in, setting forth the obstacles and consequent heavy cost, at the same time showing the importance of the line, and making stipulations in favour of the Anglo-Spanish Company. “

” Several interviews took place with General Narvaez, but all ended in a great show of politeness, great speeches, and nothing else. A bull-fight was organised in our honour ; but at last, to bring matters to a point, I notified that Mr. Stephenson and I would wait a week longer for the reply of the Government, and in the name of the English company refused to enter further into the scheme until our terms were agreed to. “

Eastern Pyrenees

The week elapsed and still no answer came, so the travellers set their faces homewards. They took the more easterly direction and crossed the higher range of the Pyrenees, travelling, as they came, in the open barouche. ” The old man,” says Sir Joshua, ” usually sat with a map spread over his knees, and a pencil in his hand with which he marked down very accurately the villages as we passed. He enjoyed pointing out on the map the exact spot on which we were standing. “

” One day, after a weary ascent of several hours, during which Stephenson had marked out our route with pencil dots, he looked up and said : ‘ Walmsley, we’ll reach the summit in ten minutes now.’ ‘Nay, we’ve passed it already, we’re going down,’ I answered. “

” This reply was almost too much for the old man’s equanimity, always easily ruffled at contradiction. ‘You know nothing about it; it will take us ten minutes to reach the summit, I tell you,’ he said testily. After a short silence he threw down the map. ‘The map is all wrong,’ he growled. ‘ Nay, it was I who was wrong,’ he added, correcting himself a minute after. ‘ How did you know we were going down that time ? ‘ ‘While you were buried in your map I caught sight of a stream, and we were going down with it,’ I answered, laughing ; the old man joined in the laugh. ‘ Better look at nature than all the maps. You’ve beaten the old engineer for once,’ quoth he. “

” Another day the Spanish muleteers were urging their mules to a tremendous pace. ‘ No machinery could stand this pull,’ said Stephenson, and turning to our interpreter requested him to tell the driver to moderate his speed. The muleteers grinned in answer ; they evidently enjoyed what they took to be a token of the fright of the Englishmen, they therefore lashed and urged on their mules to go faster still. ‘ Another can play at the same game,’ said Stephenson, with the sense of fun that often made him seem but a boy in years ; and standing up he clapped his hands and he hallooed, evidently bent upon making the mules go faster and yet faster still. The muleteers were astonished ; the Englishmen after all were not frightened, and so they abated the speed and performed the rest of their journey at a reasonable trot.”

Les Gorges de la Dordogne

The travellers’ way now lay across France, and in this part of their journey occurred the two following incidents. ” We crossed on foot, “ says Sir Joshua, ” the chain-bridge suspended over the Dordogne. ‘Let us go over it again,’ said Stephenson, when we had reached the other side. Accordingly over it again we went, the ‘ old man ‘ walking very slowly with head bent down, as if he were listening to and pondering over every step he took. ‘ The bridge is unsafe, it will give way at the first heavy trial it meets with,’ he said, decisively, at last ‘We had better warn the authorities, your name will carry weight,’ I replied. We went to the mayor, we were politely received, and we related the object of our visit. The mayor shrugged his shoulders with polite incredulity ; he assured us that the engineer who had built the bridge was an able man. Stephenson urged his warning, supporting the interpreter’s words with gestures and rough diagrams drawn on the spot. Still the French official shrugged his shoulders, looked incredulous, and finally bowed us out. “

Only a few months later Stephenson’s warning came true. A regiment of soldiers crossed the bridge without breaking step, the faulty structure gave way, and scores of men in heavy marching order were hurled down into the eddies of the rapid river below, where many were drowned before means of rescue could reach them.

” Another day we passed by a French line in process of construction ; the navvies were digging and removing the soil in wheelbarrows. Stephenson remarked that they were doing their work slowly and untidily. ‘ Their posture is all wrong,’ he cried; jumping out of the carriage with the natural instinct that impelled him to be always giving or receiving instruction, he took up a spade, excavated the soil and filled a wheelbarrow in half the time it took any one of the men to do it. Then further to illustrate that in the posture of the body lies half the secret of its power, he laid hold of a hammer and mallet, and poising his figure, he threw it at an immense distance before him; challenging by gestures the workmen, who had now gathered round him, and were curiously watching him, to do the same, but they one and all failed to equal the feat. The interpreter explained the lesson to the navvies, and told them who their teacher was. ‘ Ste-vim-son ! ‘ the name went from mouth to mouth. The intelligent appreciative Frenchmen gathered close around him and broke into vociferous cheers, such as I thought could only proceed from British lungs, until the echoes rang around us on every side. “

” Pressing engagements were calling us home, and we journeyed continually day and night. The fatigue and irregular hours began to tell upon the old man’s health ; by the time we reached Paris, symptoms of severe indisposition had set in. I was anxious to get him home as soon as possible, but Stephenson consented to remain a day in Paris, to avail himself of the invitation of Mr. Brassey, Mr. Mackenzie, and others to a dinner given in his honour. The next morning a special train was ready to convey us to Havre ; Stephenson was very ill, but he persisted in travelling onwards. By the time we had reached Havre, unmistakable symptoms of pleurisy had declared themselves. I got him on board, and sent for a surgeon, who bled him profusely. There is little doubt this prompt action saved his life. On reaching London, next morning, I took him to the Arundel Hotel, Haymarket, where for six weeks he remained confined to his bed. I now became his nurse and sole attendant. “

Haymarket, London

” During the first part of the time, no one else was allowed near the sick man. Stephenson’s active temperament could ill brook the inaction to which he was now condemned, and he fretted against the precautions enjoined upon him. The activity of his mind remained wholly unimpaired by the sufferings of his body, and he kept pondering over his schemes. As soon as he was able, he insisted upon dictating aloud. I was his amanuensis, and was amazed at the clearness and vigour of his intellect, at the just views he entertained, not only on railway matters, but of the characters of public men. Remembering his lack of learning, the happy illustrations he used often surprised me, as well as the correctness of his style, that seldom needed alteration in word or phrase. “

” What became of these papers I never could make out. Stephenson took possession of them, but they have not been given to the public. One treatise was devoted to the elaboration of a favourite scheme of his, for constructing a mineral or a goods train line of rail from the Derbyshire coal-fields to London. Coals and heavy goods alone were to be carried on this line. The idea originated with Mr. Charles Binns, secretary to Mr. Stephenson, and the present able manager of the Clay Cross Colliery.[Hugh neglects to mention that he was also Josh’s son-in-law, and his own brother-in-law] He had written a book upon the subject, that attracted much attention at the time. Stephenson had taken up the idea ; his arguments in its favour were strong, and in this treatise he enforced them with some eloquence. He pointed out how collisions would necessarily be avoided by the separation of the passenger and goods trains at the outset. That such an arrangement must ultimately be adopted, Stephenson was convinced ; and he advised that the construction of the goods train should go on simultaneously with that of the passenger line. I entered heartily into the plan, but in an evil hour it all fell to the ground. “

” Another paper, “ says Sir Joshua, ” dictated by Stephenson during his illness was devoted to the arguing out of his original proposal, that Government should construct and hold the Grand Trunk lines of rail through the country. He pointed out all the jobbery that would have been avoided had this plan been adopted from the first, and he fearlessly showed up the deplorable mismanagement that had occurred in railway direction. He painted George Hudson’s portrait with such keen discriminating touches, that I was amazed at the fidelity and delicacy of the delineation. At this time the railway king was at the zenith of his power, courted and toadied by the aristocracy. Stephenson predicted his speedy downfall No one appreciated more than he did the pluck, the strong will, and business capacity of Mr. Hudson ; qualities that had lifted him from his small draper’s shop in York to the place of arbiter of the fortunes of millions in England ; but that no eminence can long be held by unprincipled means, was a tenet too firmly held by the ‘ old man ‘ to allow him to be swayed or blinded by the railway king’s position. Another treatise he dictated to me was in vehement opposition to the proposed atmospheric railway. He was very positive in his condemnation of the scheme. It is told that one day, when a nobleman, a zealous advocate of atmospheric railways, said to him : ‘ Mr. Stephenson, you are a very able man, but you are not strong enough for the atmospheric system.’ With characteristic fierceness, the ‘ old man ‘ seized him by the collar and expelled him from the house. Those papers also contained some valuable observations on the steam-plough, and the heaving up of coal by machinery, in both of which experiments Stephenson believed. “

” When Stephenson’s report was laid before the board of directors, the scheme for an Anglo-Spanish railway was abandoned, and the line of conduct I had adopted in the first instance was justified. The subscribed capital, minus incurred expenses, was ultimately returned to the shareholders. So persuaded however, was Mr. Stephenson that the railway was practicable, and that when achieved it would prove of the highest importance to the Spanish nation, that he again tendered his services gratuitously as consulting engineer to the Spanish Government, should it resolve upon constructing the line during his lifetime. ”

A few more details, gathered from the notes before us, and the record of Sir Joshua’s and Mr. Stephenson’s friendship closes for ever. In them we see the latter at Tapton House, surrounded by his dogs, his horses, and his cows. His enjoyment of country life remained to the end, keen as in his boyhood. ” He was very proud of his vines, melons, and pine-apples,” says Sir Joshua, ” in the cultivation of which he would only admit Sir Joseph Paxton for rival.” Before this hale and vigorous old age many years seemed still to be stretching.

In January, 1848, Mr. Stephenson married for the third time. The marriage was contracted without Mr. Robert Stephenson’s knowledge, and it caused some ill-feeling between him and his father. Sir Joshua Walmsley became the mediator between the two. Letters before us, of a nature too delicate and private for publication, show the tact and zeal with which he pursued his self-imposed task.  No one understood better than he the strong affection that bound the father and son. Mr. Robert Stephenson has said that he never had but two loves in his life, his wife and his father; and this only son was the chief pride of the old man’s heart

Suddenly, on the 10th of August of this same year [1848], Stephenson died. A chest complaint carried him off at the age of sixty-eight, before any of the many sources of interest and enjoyment of life had begun to fail him. His son was with him— his faithful and tender nurse to the last during this illness.

Two days before the great engineer’s death came the news that the House of Lords had passed the bill for the railway from Ambergate to Manchester. Stephenson gave a feeble cheer at the tidings. He had long struggled to obtain the passing of this Act.

On Thursday, the 15th, Mr. Stephenson was buried in Trinity churchyard, Chesterfield. Mr. Robert Stephenson wrote to Sir Joshua : ” I am desirous that the funeral should be as private as possible, attended only by a few of his pupils, who like myself have been dependent upon him for our professional success. “ There was, therefore, no large gathering of mourners at the house, but the mayor and corporation of Chesterfield met the cortege on its way. A file of carriages and a train of three hundred persons followed the hearse, that was bearing to its last resting- place the body of one revered by all for the greatness of his services, and very dear to those who had known him intimately. ” He ought to be lying in Westminster Abbey, and not in a country churchyard, “ Sir Joshua often said.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIV

CHAPTER XIV.  This chapter takes us from 1843 to about 1846, and follows Josh and Lord Palmerston’s defeat at the 1841 election in Liverpool. It is quite unlike the previous five  [political] chapters. It’s a tale of country life, and a picture of Josh as an agricultural pioneer. But it also throws in a series of major political figures as guests of Josh. It introduces Justus von Liebig(1803-1873), and James Muspratt as proof of Josh’s pioneering ways. Professor Liebig (1803-1873) was a German chemist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and was considered the founder of organic chemistry, and inventor of artificial fertiliser.

Richard Cobden was an Anti-Corn Law campaigner, and M.P, and shortly to be Josh’s next-door neighbour in Westbourne Terrace, in London. The Marquis of Saldanha was a  Portuguese politician who was in exile following the  Portuguese revolution of 1836, though he returned to become Prime Minister of Portugal in 1846. Sir Charles Wolseley (1769-1846), Josh’s neighbour in Staffordshire, was the 7th baronet of that name, and the family estate was in their hand for over a thousand years. The family finally losing it in 2014. Rather splendidly, Charles Wolsey was imprisoned for 18 months on sedition and conspiracy charges in 1820. William Cobbett (1763-1835) was a journalist, parliamentary reformer, and, towards the end of his life, a member of parliament. Cobbett spent two years in Newgate prison for treasonous libel in 1810.

As ever with Uncle Hugh, one is never entirely sure how much of this is embroidered, and what to take at face value, and what to be a little wary of. It could be him embellishing the story of his father, or it could be Josh himself adding to the tale, or mis-remembering. In any event, the only thing we can be sure of is William Cobbett not being at Ranton Abbey in 1846 because he had been dead for eleven years.

 

The ruins of Ranton Abbey

Sir Joshua deeply felt the loss of the Liverpool election, and he resolved to sever his connection with its municipality, and, without leaving business entirely, to enjoy a country life. In the year 1843 he carried out his plans, leaving Liverpool for Ranton Abbey, a property belonging to the then Earl of Lichfield, about seven miles from Stafford. This he rented, with the splendid shooting over several thousand acres.

With his accustomed energy he turned his attention to farming. ” Agriculture,” he says, ” was at a very low ebb in Staffordshire, and I resolved to mend matters if I could. Taking a few hundred acres of land into my own hands, I engaged a Scotch bailiff and two Scotch ploughmen. The tenants were a set of well-to-do farmers, whose brains grew a wonderful crop of prejudices. I got up an Association, the meetings being held at the Abbey, and argued with them, but it was hard work. Then I tried practical illustration. Turnips they asserted could not be grown on the land ; the soil was too heavy, and the fly took the young plants more than once in a season. I knew these objections to be valid, but thought I could overcome them. Taking a small piece of land, I manured it highly, forcing a crop of swedes early, so that it was ready for transplanting. As soon as the land was in a satisfactory state, and waiting a rainy term, I transplanted thirty-five acres. The result was a fine crop of turnips. I invited the yeomen and farmers to come and see the result. “

” They came, but they shook their heads over it. It was all very well for me, with a long purse, but it would not do for them. I proved to them by my account-books that the expense was not greater than the ordinary mode of culture, much hoeing out being saved. Still they shook their heads, and insisted turnips would not grow on this soil. “

” Another custom, dating from time immemorial, was to cut through the stiff clayey soil with a plough drawn by three, four, and sometimes five horses, placed one before the other in tandem fashion, led by a boy. At the Association meetings, I urged the loss of power consequent on the horses thus yoked dragging each the one behind him, and pointed out that two horses harnessed abreast would do more work, by giving all their strength to drawing the plough. A boy to lead them would also become unnecessary, and the expense of tilling the ground would thus be reduced one half or more. “

” Again the farmers shook their heads ; it was impossible, they said, for two horses to plough this stiff land. They declined to try the experiment ; the native ploughmen refused to enter my service, and drive my light Scotch ploughs with two horses yoked abreast. I was left in solitary grandeur to plough in my own fashion. The farmers would occasionally come round, and watch my two Scotch ploughmen at work in the fields. They shook their heads at sight of them, prognosticating I would soon come to ruin. A year passed, and I invited the farmers and the surrounding gentry to a ploughing- match offering a first, second, and third prize for the best work done within a certain time. On the trial- day ten teams were on the ground. A large concourse of spectators assembled, amongst whom were many leading agriculturists. Lord Talbot, Mr. Hartshome, Sir Charles Wolseley. It was a splendid day ; the house, the grounds, the fields were full of people. My two Scotch ploughmen stood behind their light ploughs, to each of which two horses were harnessed abreast. Every other plough present was drawn by a file of three, four, or five horses, the head of the foremost held by a boy. “

” When the ground was cleared the judges entered, and the first two prizes were adjudged to my two Scotch ploughmen, who had distanced all competitors in quality and quantity of work ; the third prize was awarded to an excellent ploughman who had been in my service but who had quitted it, and who that day drove three horses in tandem fashion. Thus were the advantages of the Gaelic system satisfactorily demonstrated. The next day Cobden and I were walking through some fields, when we came across the winner of the third prize driving a file of four horses. Cobden  remonstrated with him in his mild clear manner, reminding him of yesterday’s result and explaining the reason of it. The man shook his head ‘ It’s always been the coostome of the country and we’re not going to alter it, ‘ he said. After awhile, however, the farmers one after another gave the experiment a trial, and finding the result worked better, and expense curtailed by half, the ‘coostome of the country ‘ was altered and finally done away with. “

” I was not, however, always in the right. At one of the meetings of the Yeomen’s Association,  I dilated on the efficacy of deep trenching. When I thought I must have convinced the assembly by my arguments, I asked my hearers if I was not right. ‘ Ay, ay, Sir Joshua, right enow’ answered an old farmer, with a dryly humorous puckering up of the corners of his mouth, ‘ if ye want a field full of nettles.’ “

” According to my habit, I at once tried the experiment I had advocated on one of my own fields, the one that had produced the turnips. This field I had deeply trenched, not a nettle had ever been seen on it, but now the farmer’s words came true. It produced the finest crop of nettles ever seen in the country. Henceforth, the farmers never forgot to bring up the fact against me whenever I propounded one of my new-fangled ideas. ”

James Muspratt

Sir Joshua’s interest in agricultural pursuits brought him at this time in contact with Professor Liebig. He read this eminent man’s work on agricultural chemistry, and was so impressed with the force of the reasoning displayed in it, that he wished practically to try the effect of restoring by chemical means the disturbed equilibrium of the soil, thus returning to it the exact amount of substance lost in the labour of production. “ With Mr. James Muspratt, of Liverpool, “ he says, ” a man well versed in chemistry, I entered into an arrangement with Professor Liebig to manufacture an article that would give back to land all that cropping had taken out of it. That soil would never decrease in fertility if the equivalent of its loss were restored to it, and that chemistry could exactly ascertain the loss and give back the restoring element, I deemed that Professor Liebig had satisfactorily proved. The courtesy, simplicity, and high sense of honour of the German professor, coupled with his genius, made me look back upon this partnership with him as a privilege, such as the failure of the enterprise could not lessen. “

” The ingredient was found too expensive for the returns, and after a fair trial, upon which was spent some thousands of pounds, the undertaking was relinquished. Professor Liebig being freed from all loss or responsibility. Though unsuccessful, I continued unshaken in the conviction that the professor was right, and that the experiment would prove successful in other hands. It was almost impossible that a small private undertaking could satisfactorily establish and work out a principle comprehensively proved by a man of genius, but that by its very nature must require vast appliances to carry out. Yet I always felt pride in the thought that Mr. Muspratt and I had been the first in England to endeavour to put into practice Professor Liebig’s self-evident theory. ”

At Ranton, Sir Joshua delighted to gather around him his relatives and friends. The large house was always full of guests, among whom none was more frequent or welcome than Mr. Stephenson.

George Stephenson by William Daniel © Victoria and Albert Museum.

It was during one of his visits to Ranton that the portrait was painted that now hangs in the South Kensington Museum, and considered by the ‘ old man ‘ the best likeness ever taken of him. Another guest often to be met at Ranton was Sir Joshua’s neighbour, Sir Charles Wolseley, the friend of Cobbett. Of him. Sir Joshua says, ” Extreme in his political opinions. Sir Charles Wolseley advocated universal suffrage, annual Parliaments, paid representatives ; and yet he was loud in his denunciations of the manufacturing classes, whom he regarded as trenching upon the old county families, and whose interests he considered antagonistic to the landed interest. In the same breath that he portrayed the sufferings of the people, he would attack the idea of the repeal of the Corn Laws. Years before I knew him, his name had been struck off the Commission of the Peace, for instigating to sedition the mob at Chester, telling it in the course of an inflammatory speech that he had been present at the storming of the Bastille, and it was incomparably stronger than Chester Castle. He was the queerest compound of the aristocrat and democrat. His family pride was easily roused. “

” Once the Marquis of Anglesea, who was the principal owner of Cannock Chase, was negotiating with Sir Charles to buy from him the few hundred acres he held of that property. Before concluding the purchase, he requested the baronet to show his title-deeds, ‘ Go and tell the marquis that the Wolseleys held their estate before the Pagets were heard of. ’ said Sir Charles, and he at once broke off all negotiations. “

” Removal from the magistracy affected his spirits. His ways became eccentric ; he would often spend whole nights in his study, and the household would hear him in animated speech, addressing ‘Mr. Speaker,’  discussing the various political questions of the day, and with powerful eloquence describing the hardships of the people. Often Sir Charles and I went out shooting together, and not seldom we would lose ourselves in vehement discussion, for towards me the old baronet would step out of the sensitive and somewhat gloomy reserve he adopted towards others. The subject of railways was another constant topic between us. Sir Charles opposed them as vehemently as he opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws. No good could come out of either, and to every argument advanced in favour of quick locomotion, he would growl out, ‘  Why should we want to go quickly ? Between your Anti-Corn-Law League and your rail – ways, you’ll ruin England.’ ”

At Ranton, game was so plentiful that it was necessary to shoot every week during the season. Here the training of Kirkby Stephen stood Sir Joshua in good stead. Keenly enjoying the sport, the exercise, the glorious sense of freedom he had so relished in his boyhood, he never missed an available day. A pleasant friendly feeling existed between the tenants and the reformer who was always rousing them out of the comfortable, inert habits they had followed for generations. It was counted a grievance when shooting over a farm, if Sir Joshua did not go in to lunch with the owner. He and his head keeper, weighing some eighteen stone, and who was as active as he was weighty, following close at his master’s heels, were always welcome.

Shooting Party at Ranton Abbey 1840

” During my stay,” he says, ” at the Abbey, where game was so plentiful as to require my utmost exertions to keep it under, I never had a claim from a farmer, never had to pay damages of any kind, or to prosecute a poacher. ”

Of his skill as a sportsman he gives the following example : ” I once laid a wager with a crack shot that I would fire at whatever passed before me in a narrow avenue, and that I would not miss one of the first fifty shots. I was accordingly posted in the centre of a small cover, on a rising ground, an under- keeper placed behind me to load a second gun. Beaters drove the wood before them, and the result was I successfully made sixty-four shots before missing one. ”

These were happy days at Ranton ; many were the shooting-parties that set out on bright autumn mornings, and for the most part the men that composed the group had, in one way or another, made their mark upon their age. ” On one occasion, “ says Sir Joshua, ” George Stephenson formed one of the party, and he carried a gun, and tramped sturdily along with the others. The ‘ old man ‘ seemed to enjoy the scene, but I noticed that during the day he never once fired a shot. The bag made was a large one, and at dinner Stephenson broke out into earnest remonstrances at the inhumanity he had witnessed that day, at the cruelty exhibited in such wholesale destruction of the wild creatures that enjoyed life so harmlessly. His protest had little effect in damping our ardour; we set out merrily next morning, but the ‘old man ‘ declined to accompany us. When we returned in the cool of the evening, we spied Stephenson on the other side of the lake, close to its edge, apparently beating the air with a bush held in each hand. On approaching we found he was engaged in a conflict with wasps, a hecatomb of which lay dead at his feet. His face and his hands were stung all over. At dinner, when the cloth was removed and servants were out of the room, the sportsmen had a good laugh at the ‘ old man.’ He did not escape scot-free from the sallies levelled against him for his wholesale destruction of wasps, but he returned the cross fire with quick retort, and defended himself well. ”

While enjoying rural sports and  devoting much time and energy to farming pursuits it was evident this mode of life was nor enough to satisfy Sir Joshua’s energetic temperament, and that his mind was still pressing on towards the active political life that had once absorbed every other interest. ” Often when cover-shooting ” he tells us, ” a halt would be made at mid-day for lunch under the shade of some forest tree ; then political discussions would ensue between the sportsmen, and often interfere with the shooting. “

Wolseley Hall, Staffordshire.

Sir Charles Wolseley would tell anecdotes of former friends. How, once he had invited Cobbett down to Wolseley Hall for a few weeks. There it was that the ‘ Legacy to Parsons ’ had been written, Cobbett dictating to his amanuensis in that pure idiomatic English of his, lashing himself up into a state of excitement, that every word might hit like the blow of a bludgeon. Weeks passed, Cobbett showed no signs of leaving. He occupied his leisure with gardening, a pursuit in which he delighted. Sir Charles at last, desiring himself to quit the Hall, intimated this to his old friend. Then the reason of Cobbett’s long stay came out. He, who at that time was influencing all England by his political writings and speeches, had not money wherewith to leave Wolseley Hall. 

There was a walk on the farther side of the lake, which wound in and out amongst clumps of evergreens, and shaded by great trees. Here, in the Lady’s Walk, as it was called. Sir Joshua might often be found strolling about with such friends as Stephenson, Liebig, Cobden, the Marquis of Saldanha, William Cobbett, and others. With the three last he was ever sure to be deep in political discussions. They often urged him to return to public life. Invitations came from different boroughs to represent them in Parliament. ” My old friend Cobden was the most eager of all, “ says Sir Joshua, ” in pressing me to accept one of these. He would taunt me with abandoning the good cause. “ Some years were to elapse, however, before Sir Joshua would again seriously entertain the thought of entering Parliament.

In the meanwhile an episode occurred, that furnished many pleasant recollections to him in after life, viz. his journey to Spain with Mr. Stephenson.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter VII.

CHAPTER VII.  This chapter introduces George and Robert Stephenson to the story, it takes us from 1825 to 1830. Josh is still being a corn broker, but is increasingly diversifying his business. “Mr. Sanders” is actually Joseph Sandars (1785-1860) another Liverpool corn merchant. This chapter also covers the Rainhill trials, and the death of William Huskisson – the world’s first fatality caused by a passenger train. Getting the chance to invest with the Stephensons at this stage was the equivalent of investing in Apple in 1976, or Facebook in 2004.

Between 1825-26 the famous George Stephenson took up his residence in Liverpool. This most remarkable man, of whom the world was to hear so much, came there simply as principal engineer of the company formed by Mr. Sanders for constructing a railway between Liverpool and Manchester. “ It took longer at that time,” says Mr. Walmsley, ” for the Manchester manufacturers to get their cotton from Liverpool than it had done for the same bales to come from America to England. The canal company, strong in its monopoly of transit, took life easily, stored the bales on their arrival until their turn for delivery came. No remonstrance could induce them to add to their number of boats, or to increase their speed, or reduce the rate of freights.”

Bridgewater Canal

Mr. Sanders was, as Mr. Walmsley records, the first of our merchants who took up the scheme for constructing a railway between Liverpool and Manchester. Gifted with energy, foresight, and tact, he possessed in a higher degree than I ever met in any man the power of personal influence. By him the subscriptions for preliminary expenses were collected, and to him the first great experiment owed its original impulse. He never relaxed his efforts, though the scheme encountered fierce opposition, till he brought together a body of men fully competent to carry the enterprise to a successful issue. Still more valuable than his efforts to promote the railway scheme was the moral support he gave George Stephenson at the board. His firm friendship and absolute faith in him inspired them with confidence, and that the directors should believe in their engineer was the more important, for the reason of their own utter ignorance of the details of the undertaking they had embarked in. Doubts and difficulties were constantly arising, which Stephenson’s lack of education disabled him from grappling with. He had no doubts, but others must be convinced, and the difficulty he had in expressing himself so as to demonstrate to others the feasibility of a scheme that was clear to his own mind, rendered Sanders’ staunch consistent support of the utmost value.

We need do no more than refer to the various interests that leagued themselves together against the great railway innovation, or to the superstitious dread with which it was regarded by many. The best engineering capacity in the kingdom declared Mr. Stephenson’s plan for uniting Liverpool and Manchester utterly impracticable. The projected railway must cross the heaving bog of Chat Moss, run through the rock called Mount Olives, and be carried by viaducts over rivers and valleys — in short, be driven right through all that obstructed its progress. In the face of such antagonism and such difficulties it was most assuredly necessary that the directors should feel confidence in their engineer, almost amounting to blind faith.

Chat Moss

” I had frequently heard,” says Sir Joshua, “ through Mr. Sanders of this singular man, who though often at a loss how to demonstrate by argument, had a homely mode of illustration of his own, that sometimes threw a flood of light upon a tedious discussion. For example, one day the board had been divided on the question whether the train should be drawn along or propelled from behind. “

” Stephenson took a piece of white chalk, drew a line on the table, fastened a bit of twine round the ink- stand, and bade the directors try the experiment themselves, to push and then draw the bottle over the line, and judge which was the easier mode of proceeding, and which produced the least friction. The experiment was conclusive.”

” Curiosity induced me to make Mr. Stephenson’s acquaintance. At that time I shared the fears of those who regarded the railway scheme as Utopian, but I soon learnt to have entire faith in Stephenson’s genius, and better still, I learnt to love the man, to revere his truthfulness and honesty, and value his brave tender heart. A close friendship ensued ; we spent much of our time together, and I never met a truer friend, a more consistent man, or a more agreeable companion. Our lives henceforth became in a manner bound up together.” Further on Sir Joshua says : ” There was a zest about him, a rugged outspokenness, a flavour of pungent homely humour. His speech was sharp and quick, his manner often abrupt. What he said he asserted positively, laying down the law. It was the self-reliance of a man whom experience had taught to have faith in himself. Sometimes this self-reliance might degenerate into obstinacy, but it was the obstinacy of conviction, not of conceit.”

This earnestness gave a freshness and simplicity to Stephenson’s manner that inspired a feeling of mingled tenderness and reverential enthusiasm in those who knew him well. His very foibles were dear to his friends ; they were part of him, and all his ways were expressive of ,the man. Lovingly and respectfully they spoke of him as the ” old man.” ” It was delightful to hear the old man converse on subjects familiar to him,” says Sir Joshua. ” His Northumbrian burr had a sort of cadence in it. He was not a book-reading man, but Nature had kept her book open for him to read, and every line of it he had studied. Nothing escaped his keen eye out of doors. He observed everything, and his memory was extra-ordinary. What he had once seen or read he never forgot. Geological strata, differences of soil, varieties of cattle, the construction of a bird’s nest — all were taken note of, all were thought over. Even on questions relating to speculation on philosophy and theology, his words gave evidence of deep meditation.”

” Geology was the topic he most delighted in. He loved to dilate on the great age of the earth. He had his hobbies and theories, some of the latter strikingly profound. One was that trees were nourished rather through their leaves than through their roots. His theory about coal, that it contained within itself the sun’s rays, as it were preserved, has become a received fact of science.”

” On the subject of politics, he was generally reticent. He had a certain disdain for it as a hopeless confusion, void of any law that he could grasp. Philosophers and children alike found delight in listening to him ; intellects in contact with his felt the stimulus of his powerful mind, and hearts felt refreshed by the simple poetry of his. It was sincerity combined with genius that attracted men ; and as for children, Stephenson had always a hospitable knee for them.”

” It was a joyous sight,” continues Sir Joshua, ” to see the great engineer with young people. They would hold on to his hands, trot by his side, or clamber about him as he taught them. He would tell them of ‘ the birds,’ who next to them held the warmest place in his heart, ‘ flying away when the cold blast came, and coming again when the sun shone.’ Taking up the most every-day manifestations of Nature, a bit of chalk or quartz, he would, step by step, lead them upwards with the most persuasive arguments and illustrations, speaking to them of nature in a way that made it a living book to them.”

Stephensons Rocket

“In the early part of October, 1829,” proceeds Mr. Walmsley, “came off” the trial of the engines, competing for the prize of five hundred pounds offered by the railway directors for the best steam locomotive manufactured in England. Rainhill was the scene of the trial. A level piece of railway two miles long was to be run over backwards and forwards twenty times.

 

Four engines entered the lists. Mr. Erickson’s ‘Novelty’/ Mr. Hackworth’s ‘Nonpareil’/ Mr. Bustail’s ‘Perseverance’/ and Mr. Stephenson’s ‘Rocket.’

On the appointed day, crowds assembled to witness the contest. The ‘Novelty’ was the first called out. It was a beautiful piece of machinery to the eye, but false in principle, and Mr. Stephenson knew this. As he and I stood together alongside his trial engine, someone who had witnessed the performance of the ‘Novelty ‘ came up breathless from the speed at which he had run. ‘You are beaten, Stephenson,’ he shouted out, ‘there’s no chance for the “Rocket” The ” Novelty ” has surpassed all our expectations. It has run at the rate of twenty-four miles an hour.’  

‘ How many carriages were attached to it ?’ asked Stephenson, quietly.  ‘ None,’ was the reply.

The ‘ old man ‘ gave a low laugh, then patting his engine with confiding affection, said : ‘ Is that all? The ” Rocket ” will go thirty miles an hour, carrying a whole train behind it. ‘

When its turn came, the ‘ Rocket ‘ fulfilled its master’s expectations. The prize was won by Stephenson.”

The 15th of September, 1830, at Liverpool, saw the inauguration of a new order of things. It was a brilliant day. Flags were flying ; soldiers marching to the strains of martial music, the sun shining on their weapons and uniforms, and on the holiday garbs and gear of the crowd ; all going in the direction of the new railway, leaving the streets of Liverpool to unwonted silence and solitude. Mr. Walmsley had gone with Mr. Stephenson. They were both expected back in the afternoon, but the afternoon waned, and still no sign of the returning spectators. No tidings of the day’s events had come. Groups began to form and rumours to fly vaguely. Messengers were despatched and contradictory reports spread. Night came at last, and with it the announcement of the cruel tragedy which had inaugurated the day’s proceedings. Mr. Huskisson, the advocate in Parliament of railways, had fallen a victim to the new order of things. 

William Huskisson M.P. 1770 -1830

Referring to Sir Joshua’s notes, we give his account of this ill-omened tragedy.

” Huskisson was in the train, the engine of which, named the ‘ Northumbrian,’ was driven by Stephenson. The Duke of Wellington was in the state carriage. The accident occurred at Parkside, where the ‘ Northumbrian ‘ had drawn up on a line of rail. “

” Here the eight trains that formed the procession were to pass in review before the Duke. Already the ‘Phoenix,’ driven by Robert Stephenson, and the ‘ North Star ‘ had passed There was to be an interval of a few moments, and then the ‘ Rocket ‘ driven by Mr. Locke, was expected. The excitement was immense. In spite of the placards warning passengers not to quit their carriages, men found it impossible to sit still — they got out to talk. The Duke of Wellington, seeing Mr. Huskisson standing on the bank close to the line, held out his hand to him; while they were shaking hands a shout rose from the guards, and was taken up all along the line, ‘Get in, get in ! ‘ A train rushed past ; the passengers in the carriages half thrust themselves out of the windows. “

” Someone had been knocked down. The ‘ Rocket ‘ passed on, and a mangled body was dragged from off the rails. It was Mr. Huskisson. “

” The pageant, the triumph, was now turned into a funeral procession. Stephenson drove the dying man to Eccles, putting his engine to its highest speed. The Duke of Wellington and his colleagues wished to return at once, but the directors, fearing the damage that the panic would cause to the railway interest if the ‘Northumbrian’ did not get to Manchester, persuaded them to go on.”

” At Manchester, the scene was very different from that which Liverpool had presented in the morning. At Liverpool, thousands in holiday gear had cheered the departing train ; at Manchester, thousands greeted its arrival with hootings.”

” A public demonstration had been got up against the Duke of Wellington, who was at the head of that active determined Tory party opposing Parliamentary reform, and Manchester had no representative in Parliament. Brickbats and stones were flung at us. The Iron Duke bore the attack with consummate indifference, and thus the journey and inauguration closed in painful contrast with its outset.”

”Tragic as was the occasion, Stephenson could not resist a quiet thrill of satisfaction as he remarked to me, on returning to Liverpool, that the ‘Northumbrian ‘ ‘ had driven Mr. Huskisson to Eccles at the rate of forty miles an hour. Five years ago,’ he added, ‘ my own counsel thought me fit for Bedlam for asserting that steam could impel locomotives at the rate of ten miles an hour.”

Huskisson Memorial, St James Cemetery, Liverpool

” Mr. Huskisson was buried on the 24th of September, at St. James’ Cemetery. People then remembered that when he opened the burial-ground, one short year before, he had been so impressed by the beauty of the site and the stillness of the place, that he remarked to those around him that, when his hour came, he would like this burial-ground to be his final resting-place. And there they now laid him.”

We next come to the account of an enterprise, the course of which illustrates George Stephenson’s extraordinary tenacity of purpose and Sir Joshua’s unwavering faith in him :

” When Robert Stephenson was superintending the construction of the Leicester and Swanington Railway, he came to the conclusion that coal was to be found in the Snibstone Estate, near Ashby, which was then in the market. His father concurred in his belief. A close observation of the surrounding country brought home the certainty to him that rich beds of unworked coal lay beneath the corn and turnip fields of Snibstone.”

“ Stephenson bought the estate, and then invited Mr. Sanders and me to take shares in the undertaking. We relied so implicitly on his judgment that we at once complied. The sinking began. One day Stephenson was superintending the work, when a farmer came to him : 

” ‘ I thought as much, sir,’ he said, looking at the preparations made ; ‘ I thought you were after coal, but you did not know that we have tried that dodge already and failed.’ The man evidently relished the manner in which the landowner had got the better of the engineer. “

” ‘ Oh I ‘ replied Stephenson, in his deliberate way, ‘ I thought as much ; I saw your old workings away yonder. And what made you fail, mon ; what beat you?’ “

” ‘ Only a river of water, that you’ll come to/ replied the farmer, laughing.”

” ‘You’re easily beaten, mon,’ said Stephenson, pointing to some pumping-engines and a mass of cast- iron tubbing, prepared in anticipation of such an eventuality. ‘We don’t care for your river,’ he added, with a humorous twinkle in his eye and a slight increase of the burr. “

“The next time the farmer came to look at the works, he found all had come to pass as Stephenson had anticipated. The water had burst into the shaft, but it had been pumped up and beaten back by the process called ‘ tubbing,’ practised at that time in the Northumbrian mines only.”

” So far Stephenson was victorious, but a greater difficulty was ahead; one that it was impossible to have foreseen, and which most men would have considered insuperable. A bed of green-stone, hard as granite, of unknown thickness, ran right through the land that the shaft now pierced. The contiguity of the estate to the Forest Rocks rendered this obstacle all the more serious, in that its thickness could not be estimated. Stephenson examined the unlooked-for obstacle, declared that it was but an overlap of green- stone, and persisted in asserting that coal lay below.”

” They set to work again — Stephenson confidently, and I with unshaken faith in him. Mr, Sanders in this instance did not share my fait. The process of boring was distressingly slow. Only a few inches could be pierced through daily. Sanders loudly protested, declaring the enterprise foolhardy. Stephenson was hurt. He could not demonstrate the existence of coal, he could only reiterate his assertion that it was there. With almost childish petulance he would entreat me not to allow Sanders to write to him; repeating, in his letter to me, ‘ That coal is there, on one side, coming close up to the Forest Rocks, and extending in the opposite direction. This obstruction is but an overlap of stone. Success will come if we will but persevere.’ Desirous of letting the ‘old man ‘ work on, unshackled by criticism, I offered at this crisis to buy up Mr. Sanders’ share. This offer testifying my confidence in the enterprise, removed his doubts, and he declined to sell out. Stephenson never forgot the reliance I showed him on this occasion. For many months we still bored on, without coming to coal. I confess the sight of the cold green- stone sometimes chilled my heart. “

Then I would ask : ‘Well, George, do you think you will ever come to coal?’

” ‘ I’ve no doubt of overcoming all difficulties,’ the ‘ old man ‘ would answer, with such quiet confidence that all my doubts would vanish. After nine or ten months the reward came, the green-stone was pierced through and a rich bed of coal was found beneath. “

” Another curious incident belongs to this story of the Snibstone mine. The original purchase had only included some seven hundred acres of land. Stephenson asserted that a coal bed extended over at least six hundred acres more. Just as the agreement to work the main seam was being completed, it struck Stephenson that other beds besides the main seam might exist

” ‘ What if such prove the case ? ‘ he asked the owner.

” ‘ Pay for the main seam, which you know exists, and you are welcome to all you find besides,’ said the landlord.

” ‘ Have you any objection to insert this in the agreement?’ asked Stephenson.

” ‘ Not in the least ! ’ replied the landlord, laughing, ‘and I’ll only ask from you a peppercorn rent for ninety-nine years.’ “

” This was done, and subsequently fourteen seams of coal were found, which under the agreement became the property of the partners.”

There is a portrait of Mr. Stephenson in the collection bequeathed by Sir Joshua Walmsley to the South Kensington Museum. It was taken some years after their first acquaintance by Mr. Daniel, an artist from whom Sir Joshua expected great things.

George Stephenson by William Daniels, 1846; V and A Collections

 

 

It represents a spare elderly man sitting very upright, as was Stephenson’s wont — active, observant, shrewd. It is a kindly face, guileless, yet with rare acuteness stamped upon it. Friends smile when they look upon it, for it is the faithful representation of the great and simple man they loved, who in age and success never lost the quiet zest for natural things he imbibed in the unconventional life of his childhood and youth.

An Anti-Corn-Law Leaguer. The Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – The Spectator review 1880

This may seem a slightly curious place to start, but it’s as good as any to introduce Uncle Hugh’s book about his father. A great deal of the review is very fair indeed, and the Life of Sir Joshua raises almost as many questions as it provides answers. The first chapter which in part covers Josh’s “ half-gipsy, half-sportsman life led on Stanemoor” up in Cumbria is so fantastical that it probably owes more to C19th romantic novels rather than real life. He was, with no doubt, highly successful in business leaving an estate of £140,000 when he died in 1871 [a modern equivalent of just over £ 97m.] Whether he really managed to get there from a few shillings in his pocket in 1811, or was rather creating a rags to riches  story is almost irrelevant. He had a curiously Zellig-like ability to be somewhere around some fairly extraordinary events throughout the C19th, and the luck or nous to invest very early on with the Stephensons.  The book is a surprisingly good read, large sections of it are from Sir Josh’s notes and diaries, and it’s certainly massively better than at least one of Uncle Hugh’s other books  “The Ruined Cities of Zululand”.  I will be posting each chapter, in a series, to let the work speak for itself, and then try to discover more about the man himself.

 

Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P. 1794 -1871

 

AN ANTI-CORN-LAW LEAGUER.

The Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley.

By his Son, Hugh Mulleneux Walmsley,

London; Chapman and Hall. 1879.

No doubt, Mr. Walmsley has thought, and probably with truth, that the public would be impatient of personal details in the life of a man only known to them as a politician ; but then, he should have called his book, “The Political Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley.” The Paddington station-master might almost as well call a careful journal of all that happens at his station—royal entrances and exits, and the like, with which he is largely concerned—his life, as Mr. Walmsley call the book before us the life of his father. With the exception of his boyhood, we hear nothing of his private life, except a shooting episode. Two pages are thought sufficient in which to summarise the events of the four years which followed his retirement from public life. We hear nothing whatever of personal or family life, of his religious opinions, of his social relations or influence, of his tastes and pursuits at home, or of his holiday wanderings abroad. We hear nothing of his wife, after his marriage, till his death ; and nothing of children ; nor of friends, except such friends as were joined with him in public affairs. In fact, we gather that Sir Joshua’s whole soul was first in business, then in municipal work, and finally in helping to bring about those great political and fiscal reforms which were to benefit the country by putting the necessaries and comforts of life within easier reach of the people. But of Sir Joshua Walmsley himself we seem to have no picture, except as an ambitious and hard-working politician, who threw all his weight into the scale of the Liberal party.

His life—if we are to call it a life—will interest all politicians, especially Liverpool people, who remember the stirring years in the earlier part of the century, from 1826 to 1846, when municipal reform, the opening of the first railways, and the great measure of this century—the repeal of the Corn Laws—kept England—and particularly the North of England, whence emanated the Anti- Corn-Law League—in a state of excitement and action that was stimulating and spirit-stirring. In all this work Sir Joshua took a very active and useful, if not a very distinguished part, though we cannot remember him as a speaker. Bright and Cobden, indeed, or Cobden and Bright—for one was as great in lucid and logical exposition as the other was eminent for force and eloquence—threw all their fellow-workers into the shade; but Walmsley had a clear head, an iron constitution, and an invincible will, and was one of the most efficient members of the indomitable and victorious band of Anti-Corn Leaguers and Parliamentary reformers.

His early life was curious, and illustrates remarkably his tenacity of purpose. It is not perhaps altogether the most pleasing trait in his character that he seems to have been much impressed by the worldly wisdom of his father, and especially by an act and an aphorism of that father’s, and to have been largely influenced by them through life. The young Joshua had brought down a few crabs with a stone ; his father at once aimed instead, and with success, at some fine, sweet apples, and remarked to his son, “Remember, through life, my lad, that an apple is as easily felled as a crab.” On another occasion he had asserted confidently that “Jos will be Mayor of Liverpool some day,” and these words, he used to say, “rang in his ears.” His father died when his son and daughter were only thirteen and twelve; leaving them—owing to sad reverses— penniless ; they both became teachers in the schools where they had been pupils. Joshua’s engagement was at a school amongst the moors of Westmoreland, and his employer, the head master, being a good shot, united with the profession of school- master the curiously incongruous one of purveyor of game to the large towns. Joshua proved an infinitely better shot, however, than his employer, and in future led a hard but to him almost a fascinating life,—camping-out on the moors and driving home his cartload of game ; alternating this employment with that of making up his master’s books. But his ambition was not satisfied with a life so little likely to lead to anything better, and he returned to Liverpool, and sought—till he was penniless, and indebted to his kind landlady for subsistence—for a situation. One was found at last in a school, and he rose in the good graces of his employer ; but ambition was a very active force in Mr. Walmsley’s constitution, and he declined a partnership in the school, worth £400 a year, for a clerkship in a corn merchant’s office worth £40, bat which seemed to him to offer better chances of future wealth and influence. He rose rapidly, was offered a partnership in another house, and his marvellous knowledge of the grain-trade enabled him to make, lose, and remake a large fortune, and retire, according to our calculation—but there is a sad scarcity of orderly dates—at about fifty years of age. His affections seem to have been as tenacious as his purposes. He engaged himself, when a small boy at a dancing-school, to a little girl of seven, and he afterwards married her, and at the close of life attributed to her influence and. wisdom much of his varied success.

Mr. Walmsley seems to have had a strong personal friendship. for three considerable men—whose friendship in return reflects honour upon him – George Stephenson, Richard Cobden, and Joseph Hume; and it is one of the book’s merits that we hear – almost as much of Hume and Cobden as of Sir Joshua himself. Of the great engineer, with whom Sir Joshua made a business journey to Spain, we have several interesting anecdotes. We select the following, which the present writer, who had the pleasure of knowing Stephenson, recognises as very characteristic :

“The travellers’ way now lay across France, and in this part of their journey occurred the two following incidents. We crossed on foot, says Sir Joshua, “the chain bridge suspended over the Dordonne. Let us go over it again,’ said Stephenson, when we had reached the other side. Accordingly, over it again we went, the ‘old man’ walking very slowly, with head bent down, as if he were listening to and pondering over every step he took. The bridge is unsafe ; it will give way at the first heavy trial it meets with,’ he said, decisively, at last. We had better warn the authorities, your name will carry weight,’ I replied. We went to the mayor, we were- politely received, and we related the object of our visit. The mayor shrugged his shoulders with polite incredulity ; he assured us that the engineer who had built the bridge was an able man. Stephenson urged his warning, supporting the interpreter’s words with gestures and rough diagrams drawn on the spot. Still the French official shrugged his shoulders, looked incredulous, and finally bowed us out. Only a few months later Stephenson’s warning came true. A regiment of soldiers crossed the bridge without breaking step, the faulty structure gave way, and scores of men in heavy marching order were hurled down into the eddies of the rapid river below, where. many were drowned, before means of rescue could reach them. Another day we passed by a French line in process of construction ; the navvies were digging and removing the soil in wheelbarrows. Stephenson remarked that they were doing their work slowly and untidily. Their posture is all wrong,’ he cried ; jumping out of the carriage, with the natural instinct that impelled him to be always giving or receiving instruction, he took up a spade, excavated the soil, and filled a wheelbarrow, in half the time it took any one of the men to do it. Then further to illustrate that in the posture of the body lies half the secret of its power, he laid hold of a hammer and mallet, and poising his figure, he threw it to an immense distance before him ; challenging by gestures the workmen, who had now gathered round him, and were curiously watching him, to do the same, but they one and all failed to equal the feat. The interpreter explained the lesson to the navvies, and told them who their teacher was. Ste-vim-son !’ the name went from mouth to mouth. The intelligent, appreciative Frenchmen gathered close around him, and broke into vociferous cheers, such as I thought could only proceed from British lungs, until the echoes rang around us on every side.”

And while we are speaking of Sir Joshua’s friends, we must quote an anecdote, which, his son tells us, he was fond of repeating, illustrative of Mr. Hume’s popularity amongst the “working-classes :”—

” A strike had been resolved upon by the London cabmen. The night was wet and miserable. On leaving the scene of our labours, we saw through the rain a reassuring assemblage of four-wheelers and hansoms. No sooner, however, did we hail the cabs, than with a loud halloo the drivers impelled them in various directions. Hume and I were walking arm-in-arm. ‘We’ll give old Joe a lift,’ shouted three or four retreating cabbies drawing up their horses. They actually fought for the privilege of giving him a lift ; and since I was walking with him, I was allowed to get in, and so shared the advantage of his popularity.”

Before leaving Sir Joshua’s friends and acquaintance, we must record his spirited account and sagacious opinions of a party of patriots with whom it was his chance to spend an evening, and of whom, at that time, all England was speaking. The quotation is part of a narrative in Sir Joshua’s own words :—

“One morning, in February, 1854,” he narrates, “a gentleman was introduced into my study. On looking at his card, I found it was Mr. Saunders, the United States Consul. We had never met before. He intimated to me that his object in calling was to invite me to meet Mr. Buchanan, the American Minister, and some political friends. It was against my rule to accept invitations of a political or party character. I asked Mr. Saunders who the guests would be ; the list was as follows :—Mazzini, Garibaldi, Louis Kossuth, Walsh, Pulski, Ledru Rollin, Count Woxcell, and Orsini. I could not resist this catalogue of fiery names and accepted the invitation. At 25 Weymouth Street, Portland Square, the singular gathering took place. Mazzini sat at our host’s right hand. His appearance was very impressive and characteristic. His eyes, burning in his wasted countenance, his high, narrow forehead, spoke of a mind lofty and pure, but wanting in variety and flexibility. His whole appearance indicated a man of few ideas, but these ideas sublime and true. It was a never-to-be-forgotten sight, this group of patriots assembled together,—the simple, manly, honest face of Garibaldi, the attenuated features of Woxcell, the grave and handsome countenance of Kossuth, the beautiful young head of Orsini. The dinner was genuinely American in the abundance and costliness of its service. The wit, the humour, the vivacity of the conversation, were delightful, but so long as servants were present I knew the talk was superficial. When the cloth was removed and the servants had left the room, the doors were closed. I noticed they were double doors. Then a toast was given; it was to ‘Humanity.’ Mazzini was the first to speak. His austere eloquence, lit with flashes of enthusiasm, profoundly impressed me. It was like listening to the utterances of the old Hebrew prophets. He sketched the dark part of humanity, trodden down by kings and priests. Then came the struggles of the people for liberty. He saw streaks of the dawn in the present. In the future lay the glorious day of a regenerated humanity, free, self-respecting, -on whose banner the word Duty’ was inscribed. It was from his beloved Italy that he looked for this new revolution to come. Each one of the party, after him, rose and addressed the gathering. And the theme of every speaker was his country’s sufferings in the past and present, and his aspirations for it in the future. All spoke ‘freely, as men who had cast off restraint, and who were convinced of the accomplishment in the future of their object. In discussing their country’s wrongs, they frankly discussed the means by which they proposed to redeem and deliver her. From these means I should over shrink. But at such a moment, the reasoning power of the Listeners was carried away on this torrent of fiery zeal, impassioned patriotism, and persuasive eloquence. As patriot after patriot spoke, each seemed to press on to a higher and ever higher view of the subject in hand. After Mazzini, Kossuth addressed us in a speech full of power; but his eloquence was more flowery than Mazzini’s, and left less impression upon me. He was too much of a poet to guide up the dangerous height to which he had climbed. His friend Pulski was more of a man of business, and ever proved himself a sound patriot. Of all that night’s discourses, Garibaldi’s simple and straight- forward words moved me most. Ho seemed to take the wisest view of the coarse to be pursued, and to bring to the service of the subject the greatest amount of practical knowledge. His address, more unpretentious, was, to my mind, more convincing than the others. Orsini looked like a man inspired by, and resolved upon, his purpose. He spoke with much seeming sorrow of the necessity for deeds which be himself was prepared to accomplish. I shall never forget how young and handsome he looked that night, and I am persuaded that the wisest course Napoleon could have pursued would have been to have pardoned him. Of Ledru. Rollin I did not conceive a high idea. The impression he made upon me was that of a disappointed politician, rather than that of a patriot. Count Woxcell represented Poland. An exile for many years, he was so poor as often to lack the necessaries of life, yet he never complained. That night he had .evidently risen from a bed of sickness. His fine features contrasted with the exhaustion and feebleness of his frame ; death was stamped on his countenance; but his mind was bright with hopes of his country’s redemption. As he spoke of Poland’s sufferings, tears flowed down his pale cheeks.”

Those who know what were the views of Mr. Hume and Mr. Cobden know pretty nearly Sir Joshua Walmsley’s. He looked, evidently, in his Parliamentary career, as Member for Leicester, to their guidance, but was not wanting in independence and originality. He did not for instance, heartily concur in Cobden’s enthusiasm for non-intervention, though it is curious to note that he bought an interest in the Daily News, at Mr. Cobden’s suggestion, for the purpose of pressing this theory, for which, Mr. Cobden thought, the country was getting ripe. What would he say now?  Mr. Hume was eager for Parliamentary and Mr. Cobden for financial reform, and Sir Joshua seems to have shared the eagerness of both, but in a more moderate degree ; his readiness and energy were remarkable, and as in the struggle to repeal the Corn Laws, so in the subsequent efforts for financial and representative reform, Hume and Cobden, and the many other noble workers of that party, were vigorously and effectively backed by Walmsley’s business powers and knowledge, and by his wonderful faculty for success. But perhaps the great work of his life was the fierce and successful, but most laborious, attack he made on the dens of vice in his native town of Liverpool – of which he was afterwards mayor – accompanied by his reorganisation of the police, and succeeded by his earnest and successful efforts in favour of the education of the poor, which, in his view, alone went to the root of the matter, and on which he relied for the future freedom of his town from that army of beggars, paupers, and evil-doers which ignorance alone can generate and nourish, and education alone can ultimately stamp out.

The above text was found on p.17, 10th January 1880 in “The Spectator”