London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3
THE next part of my subject is the "watercarriage," carried on by means of canals and rivers. The means of inland navigation in England and Wales are computed to comprise more than miles, of which miles are in navigable canals and in navigable rivers. In Ireland, such modes of communication extend about miles, and in Scotland about . As railways have been the growth of the present half-century, so did canals owe their increase, if not their establishment, in England, to the half-century preceding—from to ; -fourths of those now in existence having been established during that period. Previously to the works perfected by the Duke of Bridgewater and his famous and self-taught engineer, James Brindley, the efforts made to improve our means of water-transit were mainly confined to attempts to improve the navigation of rivers. These attempts were not attended with any great success. The current of the river was often too impetuous to be restrained in the artificial channels prepared for the desired improvements, and the forms and depths of the channels were gradually changed by the current, so that labour and expense were very heavily and continuously entailed. Difficulties in the way of river navigation," says Mr. M"Culloch, "seem to have suggested the expediency of abandoning the channels of most rivers, and of digging parallel to them artificial channels, in which the water may be kept at the proper level by means of locks. The Act passed by the legislature in for improving the navigation of Sankey Brook on the Mersey, gave rise to a lateral canal of this description about miles in length, which deserves to be mentioned as the earliest effort of the sort in England. But before this canal had been completed, the Duke of Bridgewater and James Brindley had conceived a plan of canalisation independent altogether of natural channels, and intended to afford the greatest facilities to commerce by carrying canals across rivers and through mountains, wherever it was practicable to construct them."
The difficulties which Brindley overcame were considered insurmountable until he did overcome them. In the construction of a canal from Worsley to Manchester it was necessary to cross the river Irwell, where it is navigable at Barton. Brindley proposed to accomplish this by carrying an aqueduct feet above the surface of the Irwell. This was considered so extravagant a proposition that there was a pause, and a gentleman eminent for engineering knowledge was consulted. He treated Brindley"s scheme as the scheme of a visionary, declaring that he had often heard of
|castles in the air, but never before heard where was to be erected. The duke, however, had confidence in his engineer; and a successful, serviceable, and profitable aqueduct, instead of a castle in the air, was the speedy and successful result. The success of Brindley"s plans and the spirited munificence of the Duke of Bridgewater, who, that he might have ample means to complete his projects, at time confined his mere personal expenses to a-year—laid the foundations of the large fortunes enjoyed by the Duke of Sutherland and his brother the late Earl of Ellesmere.|
The canals which have been commenced and completed in the United Kingdom since the year are in number, and extend miles in length.
Mr. M"Culloch gives a list of British canals, with the number of shareholders in the proprietary of each, the amount and cost of shares, and the price on the . The Erewash, with shares, each returned a dividend of , each share being then worth The Loughborough, with only shares, the average cost of each share having been , had a dividend of and a selling price per share of The Stroudwater, with shares of , returned a dividend of , with a price in the market of On the other hand, the shares of the Crinau were then selling at The shares of the North Walsham and Dillon were of the same almost nominal value in the market; and the shares of the Thames and Medway, with an average cost of , were worth but Of the cost expended in construction of the canals of England, I have no means of giving a precise account; but the following calculation seems sufficiently accurate for my present purpose. I find that, if in round numbers the shares of the principal canals averaged an expenditure of per share—the result would be , and perhaps we may estimate the canals of the United Kingdom to have cost , or - as much as the railways.
The foregoing inquiries present the following gigantic results:—There are employed in the yearly transit of Great , abroad and along her own shores, sailingvessels and steam-vessels, employing seamen. Calculating the value of each ship and cargo as the value has been estimated before Parliament, at , we have an aggregate value — sailing-vessels, steamers, and their cargoes included — of Further, supposing the yearly wages of the seamen, including officers, to be per head, the amount paid in wages would be
The railways now in operation in the United Kingdom extend miles, the cost of their construction (paid and to be paid) having been estimated at upwards of Last year they supplied the means of rapid travel to above of passengers, who tra- versed above a billion of miles. Their receipts for the year approached of money, and nearly -quarters of a million of persons are dependent upon them for subsistence.
The turnpike and other roads of Great alone (independently of Ireland) present a surface miles in length, for the various purposes of interchange, commerce, and recreation. They are maintained by the yearly expenditure of a million and a half.
For similar purposes the navigable canals and rivers of Great and Ireland furnish an extent of miles, formed at a cost of probably Adding all these together, we have of turnpike-roads, railways, and canals, no less than and odd miles, formed at an aggregate cost of upwards of If we add to this the capital expended in the mercantile marine, we have the gross total of more than of money sunk in the transit of the country. If the number of miles traversed by the natives of this country in the course of the year by sea, road, rail, river, and canal, were summed up, it would reach to a distance greater than to the remotest planet yet discovered.