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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Ballot Box, Balls and a Roman

Ballot Street, Smethwick (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:500 – published in 1887)
Ballot - Town Plan Maps

The map above is an example of one of Cassini’s newly available Town Plans. A great number of English towns, those with a population of over 4,000, were surveyed on the large scale of 1:500. Other early plans were published at scales of 1:528 and 1:1056, but from 1855 onwards the scale of 1:500 was settled on and most were surveyed only once. The maps, published between 1855 and 1920’s, show an immense amount of detail, down to every lamp-post and every pillar-box, even paths, trees and sheds in peoples gardens.

As we have chosen Ballot Street, here’s a bit of history you may, or may not, know. A ballot is a device used to cast votes in an election. It was originally a small ball used to record decisions made by voters. The word ballot comes from Italian ballotta, meaning a “small ball used in voting”. The first use of paper ballots to conduct an election appears to have been in Rome in 139 BC.

The coin shown above is Roman from around 63 B.C. Issued by Cassius Longinus, who became a proconsul in 48 B.C. and a Tribune of the Plebs in 44 B.C. The reverse of the coin shows a voter about to deposit a voting tablet marked V (meaning yes – ‘as you ask’) into a voting urn.

The first British secret ballot using ballot papers and a ballot box was held in Pontefract on 15 August 1872, under the terms of the recently enacted Ballot Act 1872. In a ministerial by-election following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Hugh Childers was re-elected as MP for Pontefract. The original ballot box, sealed in wax with a liquorice stamp, can still be seen in Pontefract Museum.

Find out about the history of your area. Visit Cassini Maps

Special Offer – 30% Off all Cassini Maps

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Maps for genealogy and local history
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Old Parish Maps – Reduced to £5.99

Cassini Old Parish Map

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14,659 individual historical Parishes Maps are now available to download and to print at home. These maps provide a vital link to Parish Records and show in great detail the historical Parishes in which your ancestors lived and worked. Each maps is taken from the Ordnance Survey County Series 1:10,560 maps from the cusp of 19th and 20th centuries and show the Historical Parish Boundary as recorded at the time of the 1911 census.

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Historical Map downloads of Ireland – Half Price!

Cassini’s Irish downloadable maps from the mid to late 1800’s.
Cassini Historical Mapping of Ireland

From only £4.49! One week only. Offer available until 16th Feb 2015

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Cassini is delighted to offer you our stunning range of historical Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland. Simply search for the area you are interested in, buy and download the PDF.

Whatever your interest in the past our historical maps are invaluable works of reference. Ideal for research, or print and frame for a personalised decorative map centred on the location of your choice.

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