When is a railway not a railway?

Surry_Iron_Railway

The Surrey Iron Railway, Wandsworth, London: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1805

The Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) was first public railway independent of a canal to be built by Act of Parliament (1801).

Although private railways were already in operation around Britain these were used exclusively by the owners of mines and quarries for moving their own goods. The SIR was different, it levied Tolls allowing independent goods hauliers to use their own wagons (with wheels at a suitable distance apart) pulled by horses.

Opened in 1803 it ran for approximately nine miles along the side of the River Wandle from Wandsworth Wharf, on the River Thames, towards Mitcham and Croydon

The Surrey Iron Railway is famous for being the first company in the world to include the word “railway” in it’s title.  Despite this it was not what we today would recognise as a railway.  It was actually a plateway, where vehicles with plain wheels ran along flanged rails.

The track comprised iron L-section rails 4ft 2in (1.27m) apart secured onto stone blocks. The trucks were horse-drawn, typically 8ft x 4ft x 2ft deep and weighing about 1 tonne. They could carry 3 tonnes of coal, lime or grain. One horse could pull up to ten wagons but the usual number was about four.

The original plan for a transport connection between Wandsworth, on the River Thames, and the Wandle Valley had been for a canal, but doubts about the availability of water led to the adoption of a plateway.

The railway was only briefly successful financially. It lost much traffic after the Croydon Canal opened in 1809 and continued to decline as steam railways took hold. The advent of faster and more powerful steam locomotives spelled the end for horse-drawn railways. In 1823, William James, a shareholder in the railway, tried to persuade George Stephenson to supply a locomotive. Stephenson realised that the cast-iron plateway could not support the weight of a locomotive and declined and railway was finally closed to traffic on 31st August 1846.

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From a fleece to a coat in 24 Hours

NewburyCoat

Newbury, Berkshire – Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1817

In June 1811, John Coxeter,  a well-known cloth manufacturer, the owner of nearby Greenham Mills, took on the challenge of the making of a legendary coat for Sir John Throckmorton.

Coxeter, is reported to have said “So great are the improvements in machinery I have lately introduced into my mill, that I believe that in twenty- four hours I could take the coat off your back, reduce it to wool, and turn it back into a coat again”.

So impressed was Sir John with Coxeter’s claim that not long after the conversation had taken place, Sir John Throckmorton laid a bet of a thousand guineas that at eight o’clock in the evening of June the 25th, 1811, he would sit down to dinner in a well-woven, properly-made coat, the wool of which would come from fleeces still on the sheeps’ backs at five o’clock that same morning. Most thought the feat impossible and it was not long before his bet was eagerly accepted.

Promptly at five o’clock operations commenced, and no time was lost in getting the sheep shorn, the wool was washed, spun, and woven. The cloth was manufactured, dyed and prepared by four o’clock in the afternoon. Just eleven hours after the arrival of the two sheep in Coxeter’s mill-yard. The cloth was now put into the hands of the tailors. Mr. James White, together with nine of his men, began the process of turning the cloth into a “well woven, properly made coat”. For the next two and a quarter hours the tailors were busy cutting out, stitching, pressing, and sewing on buttons and at twenty minutes past six Mr. Coxeter presented the coat to Sir John Throckmorton, who, before over five thousand people who had gathered to watch, put on the coat and sat down to dinner with 40 invited guests in time for dinner to be taken at eight o’clock that evening.

Throckmorton won his 1000 guineas and John Coxeter had the sheep roasted for the crowds that had gathered to see the fun, as well as donating 120 gallons of beer in one of the greatest publicity stunts of the age.

The original coat is still displayed at Coughton Court near Alcester the seat of the Throckmorton family since 1409.

Newbury, however, has its own version of the coat, produced when the feat was repeated in 1991 – knocking a further hour off the record!

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Map of the month – Webb, Dover & JellyFish

Captain nWebbDover, Kent (MAP: OS Revised New 1:50,000 – published in 1898)

Captain Matthew Webb was born at Dawley in Shropshire, one of twelve children. He acquired his ability to swim in the River Severn at Coalbrookdale.

At age twelve Webb joined the merchant navy, starting with a three-year apprenticeship. Later, whilst serving as second mate on the Cunard Line ship Russia, he attempted to rescue a sailor, who had fallen from the rigging of the ship, by diving into the sea in the mid-Atlantic. Webb swam for more than half-an-hour, but the man was never found. Webb’s daring won him an award of £100 and the first Stanhope Medal, and made him a hero of the British press.

In 1873, Webb was serving as captain of the steamship Emerald when he read an account of the failed attempt by J. B. Johnson to swim the English Channel. He became inspired to try himself.

On 12 August 1875, he made his first cross-Channel swimming attempt, but strong winds and poor sea conditions forced him to abandon the swim. Just 10 days after this first abortive attempt, on August 24 1875 Webb dived from Dover ’s Admiralty Pier and headed towards France. Porpoise-grease helped insulate him against the cold, but couldn’t prevent the pain of numerous jelly-fish stings. Tantalisingly close to the French shore strong currents prevented him from completing the last few miles for several hours; but eventually the currents slowed and his steady breast-stroke won out. Webb walked ashore some 21 hours and 45 minutes after he left England. His zig-zag course across the Channel had totalled over 39 miles (64 km). He was an instant national hero.

After his record swim, Captain Webb basked in national and international adulation, and followed a career as a professional swimmer. He licensed his name for merchandising such as commemorative pottery and wrote a book called The Art of Swimming. A brand of matches was named after him. He also participated in exhibition swimming matches and stunts such as floating in a tank of water for 128 hours… don’t tell David Blaine.

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A Race Track, an Airfield and Maggots

Silverstone (MAP: OS Old Series 1:50,000 – published in 1835)
Silverstone
Silverstone is a village and civil parish in Northamptonshire. The village is listed in the Domesday Book.

Silverstone is also the current home of the British Grand Prix, which it first hosted in 1948. The circuit itself straddles the Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire border, with the current main circuit entry on the Buckinghamshire side and built on the remains of a WWII RAF base.

Even being at the forefront of technical innovation Silverstone has its roots firmly in the landscape’s past. All the corners of the racing circuit have names, many relating to the local area, as shown on the map.

• The first corner on the circuit is Abbey. Named after Luffield Abbey, which occupied the centre of the site from the twelfth century until its Dissolution in 1551 when the land was passed to Sir Francis Throckmorton.
• The second, Farm Curve, simply takes it’s name from a nearby farm.
• The third and fourth corners have literal names in Village, named after Silverstone Village and The Loop, the only corner to be named after it’s shape.
• Then there is Aintree, named after the Aintree course, where the Grand Prix alternated with Silverstone in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s.
• Followed by the Wellington Straight, only named in 2010, which takes it’s name from the Wellington Bombers which flew from RAF Silverstone during WWII.
• Next comes Brooklands, named in honour of the Brooklands Motor Circuit, known as the home of British motor racing.
• Luffield, like the first corner is named after the medieval Abbey.
• Woodecote, like Brooklands, was named in honour of an existing circuit, namely the RAC owned Woodcote Park in Surrey.
• Copse corner is named after the nearby Chapel Copse and Cheese Copse that border the track.
• The oddly named Maggotts actually takes its name from the adjacent Maggots Moor (written with only the one ‘t’ on the map).
• Becketts and Chapel Curve both take their names from the medieval chapel of St Thomas à Beckett which stood near the track features.
• Like the Wellington Straight, Hangar Straight takes it’s name from the time of the RAF base. Two of the largest hangars stood in this area.
• The next corner Stowe takes it’s name from the local area of Stowe, to the south of the track, famous for Stowe School.
• Vale. Although the track is predominantly flat, this is the only undulating area on the track and the probable source of the name. Another theory is that is named after the district of Aylesbury Vale, in which it sits.
• The final corner Club is, like Woodecote, named after the famous RAC club in Pall Mall London.

This weekend sees Silverstone hosing the British Grand Prix with nearly 300,000 people expected to attend. A far cry from the quiet landscape shown on the above 1835 map.

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Mapmaker Plus – Price drop!

Create your own bespoke maps with Mapmaker Plus.

Mapmaker PlusNow available from £14.99

Large format maps supplied folded or rolled. A total combination of 13 map scales and series. Maps available from 1805 to the present day. Choose from seven OS Historical Map Series.

Now includes six present day Ordnance survey mapping series.

• Centred on a location of your choice            • Never be on the edge of a map again
• Ideal for creating your own walking maps   • Explore the past with a historical map

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Historical Map Downloads – Half price!

Cassini Downloadable maps
Warnborough - 1871. 1:2,500

From only £3.99 – One week only. Offer finishes on the 16th February 2015
Coverage – England, Scotland, Wales.
Ideal for research, or print and frame for a personalised decorative map centred on the location of your choice. A4 maps £3.99, A3 maps £4.99

Cassini’s downloadable maps from 1805 to the present day.

• Instant map downloads of any area.  • Including personal inscription.
• Available for all historical OS series. • Choose from eight historical map series
• Highly customisable.                          • Coverage of England, Scotland* and Wales.

Cassini is delighted to offer you our stunning range of historical Ordnance Survey maps. Whatever your interest in the past our historical maps are invaluable works of reference. Ideal for reasearch, or print and frame for a personalised decorative map centred on the location of your choice.

Simply search for the area you are interested in, buy and download the PDF. No waiting for the map to arrive in the post.

Maps available for site-centred downloads
1855-1896 County Series 1:2,500
1880-1910 County Series 1:10,000
1805-1874 Old Series 1:30,000 – 1:50,000
1871 Registration District 1:30,000 – 1:50,000
1896-1904 Revised New 1:30,000 – 1:50,000
1919-1926 Popular Edition 1:30,000 – 1:50,000
1945-1948 New Popular 1:30,000 – 1:50,000
Present Day Ordnance Survey 1:30,000 – 1:50,000

*Scottish maps are only available for Old Series 1805-1874, Revised New Series 1896-1904 and Presentr Day OS mapping.

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Map of the week – Hebburn Colliery & the Davy Lamp.

Original Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1:50,000 – 1867

Hebburn CollieryOn the 9th January 1816 Sir Humphry Davy first demonstrated the Davy Lamp.

Sir Humphry Davy (17 December 1778 – 29 May 1829), a chemist and inventor born in Penzance in Cornwall, tested his Davy safety lamp for miners at Hebburn Colliery. Three years later Davy was awarded a baronetcy, at the time the highest honour ever conferred on a man of science in Britain. In 1820 he became President of the Royal Society.

Davy’s lamp was made public at a Royal Society meeting in Newcastle, three years after the Felling mine disaster in 1812. Davy had discovered that a flame enclosed inside a fine mesh cannot ignite firedamp (a name given to a number of flammable gases, especially methane). The screen acts as a flame arrestor; air (and any firedamp present) can pass through the mesh freely enough to support combustion, but the holes are too fine to allow a flame to propagate through them and ignite any firedamp outside the mesh. If flammable gas mixtures were present, the flame of the Davy lamp burned higher with a blue tinge. Lamps were equipped with a metal gauge to measure the height of the flame. Miners could also place the safety lamp close to the ground to detect gases, such as carbon dioxide, that are denser than air and so could collect in depressions in the mine (black damp or chokedamp); if the mine air was oxygen-poor the lamp flame would go out.

Unfortunately the introduction of the Davy lamp led to an increase in mine accidents. Although the principle was perfectly sound the lamp encouraged the Mine owners to work mines and parts of mines that had previously been closed for safety reasons. A contributing factor to this rise in accidents was the unreliability of the lamps themselves. The bare gauze was easily damaged, and once just a single wire broke or rusted away, the lamp became a hazard in itself.

If you have an interesting story and would like to see a historical map of your area then why not let us know by emailing us.

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Free historical map of your home!

Cassini Free Map Offer
Only one map per visit.  Available only while stocks last.

Cassini’s historical printed maps are digitally enhanced reproductions of the original Ordnance Survey maps of the same names – but with a very important difference. We have combined, re-projected and enlarged them to match the scale and coverage of the present-day Ordnance Survey Landrangers®, so making direct comparison between the past and the present easy and accurate.

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Maps are chosen from one of the three Cassini Historical map series:

Old Series MapOld Series Edition
Created from Ordnance Survey Old Series Edition maps first published between 1805 and 1874 These maps were the result of the first ever national survey of England & Wales. From the late 1790s until 1874, a small army of surveyors covered every corner of the what was still an almost entirely rural country. Their work provided a stunning portrait of the landscape, with every farm, track, copse and hamlet recorded. Many of these features would have been unchanged for centuries, reminders of ancient patterns of settlement dating back to Saxon times.

Revised New SeriesRevised New Series (Colour)
By the late 1890s, the Ordnance Survey had produced two complete series of maps of England & Wales but the increasingly rapid pace of change and development meant that revising them was now a never-ending task. The main cause of this change was the growth of the railways. From being little more than a good idea in 1830, the network covered over 18,000 miles by the end of the century, enabling the spread of goods, people and ideas and changing the character of every place it touched.

Popular Edition
Popular Edition MapThe original Ordnance Survey Popular Edition series was conceived before, but published just after, the First World War. This was the first of Ordnance Survey’s series to be conceived from the outset as a mass-market product, and the first to be produced in full colour. The new technology was put to the test in catering for a wholly new market.
If the railways were the transport revolution of the 19th century, the motor car was certainly that of the 20th.

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Some areas have limited stock availability. If the Map of your selected area is not available you will be advised of this on the Website at the time of making your application in which case you may then choose a Map of a different area.

The map of your chosen area will be from one of the three available series.
Unfortunately it is not possible to choose which series your map is from.
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Map of the week – The hottest town and the biggest bang!

Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series 1:50,000 – 1805
Faversham, Kent

Faversham in Kent. The hottest town on record and the biggest bang in history.

As summer looks to have finally arrived we decided to look at Faversham, which holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK. A temperature of 38.5C (101.3F) was recorded at the Brogdale Horticultural Trust, on the southern edge of the town, on the 10th August 2003.

Faversham (shown on this map of 1805 as Feversham) is a market town and civil parish in the Swale district of Kent. Faversham is one of the few UK places with a hybrid Latin/Anglo-Saxon name: Favers (Latin faber = blacksmith) + ham (Anglo-Saxon ham = homestead).

The building of Watling Street, soon after the Romans arrived in 43AD, led to the growth of small settlements along-side the road with the first in this area being built at Ospringe. Not long after, the small town of Durolevum (meaning stronghold by the clear stream) was established nearby and grew to become modern day Faversham. In 811AD the name of ‘Fefresham’ was first recorded in a Royal Charter calling it “the king’s town”. Faversham is the only town in the UK to use the Royal arms of England as its own heraldic emblem.
The town also became known as the birthplace of the explosives industry in England. 

The first gunpowder plants were established in the 16th century, The early factories were small, but by the early 18th century these had formed into a single plant, later to be known as the Home Works. A second factory was started by Huguenot settlers towards the end of the 17th century, and became known as the Oare Works. The third and last gunpowder factory to open was the Marsh Works, built by the British government 1 km northwest of the town and opened in 1787.

When the First World War started in 1914, the two original factories were requisitioned by the Admiralty. Production facilities were expanded and many new staff recruited from Faversham and elsewhere in east Kent.

At 2.20pm on Sunday 2 April 1916, a huge explosion ripped through the Marsh Works gunpowder mill, when 200 tons of TNT ignited. The blast killed 105 people and was recorded as “the worst ever in the history of the UK explosives industry”. The munitions factory was in a remote spot in the middle of the open marshes, next to the Thames coastline and was heard across the Thames estuary as far away as Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Southend-on-Sea, where domestic windows were blown out and two large plate-glass shop windows shattered.

All three gunpowder factories closed in 1934. ICI, the then owners, sensed that war might break out with Germany, and realised that Faversham would then become vulnerable to air attacks or possibly invasion. Production was transferred to Ayrshire, Scotland.

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The Battle of the Medway & Dutch courage

Chatham - The Battle of Medway
Map: Ordnance Survey Old Series – 1805

Battle of the Medway

Contrary to popular belief British shores have been invaded may times. The most damaging to our prestige and morale, since the Battle of Hastings, was a Dutch attack on The Medway in 1667, during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

Charles II’s Navy was in a reduced state due to recent expenditure restrictions. With London largely destroyed by fire the previous year (having already been ravaged by plague), Charles had his fleet laid up in Chatham. The Dutch decided this was the moment to attack, and it proved one of the boldest naval raids in history.

The Battle of the Medway, as it was to become known, began on June 10, as the Dutch, with a fleet of about thirty ships, attacked the Island of Sheppey. Under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter the Dutch bombarded and then captured the town of Sheerness.

By the 12th June 1667 they had sailed up the River Medway towards Chatham. The Dutch fired upon the few poorly-armed and poorly-manned ships they encountered, broke through the six-inch thick iron chain stretched across the Medway to the East of Gillingham Fort (the English fleets the primary defence against invaders) and upon reaching Chatham the dockyard was set ablaze and Upnor Castle bombarded. Fireships caused havoc with the moored English warships, burning three of the four largest “big ships” of the navy and ten lesser naval vessels, as well as capturing HMS Unity and HMS Royal Charles, flagship of the English fleet, which they towed away as war trophies.

On the 14th June, fearing a growing English resistance, the Dutch decided to forego a further penetration and withdraw. After attacking several other ports on the English east coast, a failed attempt to enter the Thames beyond Gravesend and a Dutch marine force landed near Woodbridge north of Harwich, which was repelled, the Dutch fleet withdrew.

The raid led to a quick end to the war and a favourable peace for the Dutch was signed on 21 July 1667.

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