Picture of George Head

George Head

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THE road from Scarborough to Whitby is, perhaps, the worst in all England—neither is that from Whitby to Stockton much better: the greater part of the way across a moor of high elevation, where rolling stones and deep sand render progress dangerous as well as difficult. The more exhilarating is the sensation when, a few miles before arriving at Stockton, the prospect suddenly brightens, as from an eminence the rich vale of Cleveland bursts on the view. The river Tees, here below, gracefully winds its course towards the sea; and on its opposite banks, about four miles distant from each other, are the two towns of Stockton and Middleborough. Both, as objects in the landscape, are almost in equal proportion attractive to the eye; yet the latter, although fast increasing in extent and importance, has within a few years only been called into existence.

Unlooked-for changes of scenery are sweet among fortune's vicissitudes; as the light of hope upon the mind, rendering sparkling and verdant the path of the future, and illuminating the darker vaults in the depths of memory. As the coach rolled on at a rapid pace towards Stockton through this noble country, the fertile scene called forth a series of pleasing influences; so that by the time I arrived even at a noisy inn, imagination alone had embellished the objects round and about, and rendered them, for the time being, agreeable to the senses. Above, a huge black lion, carved in wood, brandished his tail at the outside of the window; the broad airy street below was the rendezvous for mail and stage coaches.

The evening was particularly serene, and my attention soon engaged by the dulcet tones of music—an Italian boy, with his monkey and organ, was exhibiting to the younger classes of the community: though the musician was a foreigner, the organ produced good old-fashioned English tunes, to which a mob of at least thirty or forty little children, with hardly a big one among them all, were pressing around him to listen.

It was pleasing to observe the animation of countenance displayed by some of the very least of the infant crew, as, with eager and intuitive love of harmony, they crept close to the feet of the young artist, stretching out their arms as if to feel for the notes among the ambient air, and evidently confounding in their minds things visible and tangible with the sensations of sound. I almost felt as if all these little children belonged to myself; and that, too, without the inconvenient drawback of paternity.

The monkey performed with eclat his part in the drama; for he picked up a sixpence when thrown on the ground, and presented it to his master. And then, like the rest of the world when paid for it, he exhibited his gratitude; that is to say, he pulled off his cap on receiving a jerk at his weasand, which jerk was nearly enough to shake the cap off, head and all.

Whatever craniologists may pretend of Jacko's forehead—if breadth be an earnest of sagacity—therein is wisdom; and on his ruminative countenance dwell content and a consciousness of worldly dignity. Many people there are in the world inclined to value themselves highly even on more trivial grounds, for, seated on the shoulder of his master, he receives daily offerings of nuts, apples, &c., from those whose faces he never saw before, as the reward of sheer merit: moreover, he possesses limbs unassailable by gout or rheumatism, a capital set of teeth, an enviable digestion, and, above all thing's, enjoys the faculty of executing and uttering daily tricks and pleasantries, intelligible to the meatiest capacity, appreciated by old and young, the fool and the philosopher; the which latter of mortal blessings, namely, to hold in absolute control the risible organs of the multitude, falls not at all events to the lot of his betters.

The mouth of the river Tees is, at the present time, an interesting point on the eastern coast; that by which the coal monopoly has been principally wrested from the Tyne and Wear; the channel whence coalfields, which, but for the discoveries and improvements of modern times, would remain undisturbed these fifty years to come, have been compelled to disembogue their produce for the London market.

These local operations have chiefly been effected by the people called Quakers, to whom the town of Middleborough especially owes its birth. "The Quaker's Railroad," as it is termed, upon the north bank of the Tees, extends from their coalfield near Darlington as far as Stockton, where it crosses the river by a suspension bridge, and proceeds four miles farther along the southern shore straight to Middleborough. The "Clarence Railway" reaches from the neighbourhood of Durham to a point on the north bank of the Tees, somewhat lower down the river than the former: hence (he proprietors, though not with the energy of the other establishment, are now making shipments.

The following anecdote relating to the suspension bridge across the Tees, before mentioned, forms a part of its early history:—

The number of coal wagons which now pass over it, linked together, is almost indefinite; at all events, the trains cover the whole surface of the platform, and ground on both banks of the river besides. When the bridge was completed on the suspension principle, it was found, by previous experiment, not to be strong enough) even for twenty wagons, the number then stipulated for. The first trial was made with sixteen, upon which the bridge gave way; that is to say, as the sixteen carriages advanced upon the platform, the latter, yielding at first to their weight, became elevated in the middle, so as by degrees to form an apex, which was no sooner surmounted by half the number, than the couplings broke asunder, and eight carriages rolled one way and eight another— the one set onward on their way, and the other back again. In consequence of this misadventure, the construction was necessarily altered, the platform remaining suspended, as before, but being fortified underneath by four starlings, upon which it is supported. By the latter operation the stress on the chains was so effectually relieved, that the platform now assumes a convex appearance.

By pacing the platform, I found it to be one hundred and four yards in length: it swings on twelve chains, six on one side and six on the other; the circumference of the links of the chains is six inches and a quarter; the number of perpendicular rods, of three inches and five eights circumference, is one hundred and ten—fifty-five on one side and fifty-five on the other. As the trains of coal wagons crossed, the whole space appeared to be covered by about five-and-twenty; the whole train being longer considerably than the bridge.

A train of coal wagons, touching close together, and motionless on a railway, occupy about ten feet of space each wagon; moving, and at the extent of their couplings, considerably more; the weight of an empty coal wagon is from 26 to 30 cwt.—the load 53 cwt., or a Newcastle chaldron—the weight of the engine, eight tons; consequently the weight laid on the bridge at present is more than a hundred tons.

Even to those who delight in the relics of antiquity, the nascent town of Middleborough might afford matter for rumination; inasmuch as, by placing the prospective for the retrospective, the same feelings are conversely brought into action, and the sympathies even more profitably exercised among the expanding elements of youth than in regarding the withering features of age.

The town of Middleborough on the Tyne, as well as Goole, upon the Ouse, has not yet, generally speaking, been laid down on the maps; nevertheless, in addition to the coal wagons from the Darlington pits, of which frequently not less than three hundred may be seen together at the staiths, a communication by steam for passengers has been also established with Stockton, from whence trains of carriages have departed and returned thither, for these twelve months past, regularly six times a day.

Having crossed the old stone bridge over the Tees, close to the town of Stockton, I took my seat on one of these carriages, and was deposited at Middleborough in about twenty minutes.

The extraordinary length of the building appropriated to the coal staiths, four hundred and fifty yards long, or thereabout, by means of which all the shipping operations are conducted close to the water's edge under cover, renders it, at first sight, a remarkable object, and the more singular inasmuch as the laden coal wagons are, in the first instance, raised by a steam engine to the upper floor, and then lowered again to the vessel below —a circuitous application of additional labour, than which it certainly appears a more direct mode might have been devised.

As many persons have never even heard of a coal staith, it may be here observed that a coal staith merely signifies a raised platform, from which the cargo is discharged into the vessel or carriage below: this operation was for many years performed by means of an iron spout, about three feet in breadth, as a channel to direct the coal in its descent. The violence of the fall, however, by the above mode, caused such considerable damage and breakage, that it became indispensable to determine upon a better expedient. Accordingly, about a dozen years since, or more, the said spout was in many places superseded by the drop, the latter being a contrivance whereby the laden wagon, placed on a cradle or frame, with a man beside it, is daintily let down by machinery within a few feet of the hold of the vessel, where a bolt being stuck out, the coal immediately falls through the bottom of the wagon, which latter is then bodily lifted up again.

Within this building are contained eight drops, constructed as aforesaid, and along the whole length of the upper floor a railway extends in the middle from one end to the other, viz., four hundred and fifty yards. Cross rails are laid down at right angles leading to the several drops, and others towards opposite windows or openings, out of which the empty wagons, as soon as unladen on one side, are let down by a separate apparatus of machinery through the other, into the yard of the establishment. Notwithstanding these sixteen windows, the inside of the building, owing to its length, is nearly as dark as a coal pit.

The wagons, as they arrive from the pit, are, in the first instance, as has been observed, raised to the upper floor by a steam engine: one is continually at work for the purpose, and the proprietors are also provided with another, to the end that they may be prepared with a second in case of the first's being out of order. Haifa dozen laden wagons are dragged together along the railroad to the particular drop then at work by a stout cob, which is then ridden carelessly back again barebacked, by a small boy, at a shambling trot, not withstanding-that the interstices between the plunks below admit here and there full two inches of daylight. However, the pony proceeds, clattering on unconcernedly, otherwise than holding his nose close to the floor, the better, and more cautiously, to observe where to place his feet at every Step: and thus with horses generally; the less the rider thinks of himself, the more care they take of him. The beast, when I saw his performance, had only a halter on his head, without blinds, or any harness except collar and light rope traces. As soon as the boy had fastened the hook of the trace to the foremost wagon, the pony invariably turned round his head, as if to inquire whether all was ready, and then exactly at the proper moment commenced his march, the load meanwhile rumbling after him: arrived at the drop, the carriages being detached, he here stood jammed close to the wall; showing perfect cognizance, as the carriages passed him, of the degree of attention due to the various noises and manoeuvres going forward, and not only being aware when it was proper to step out of the way, but how long precisely it was safe to stand still.

The better to describe the celerity and adroitness displayed in lading the vessels from the drops, a further illustration of the machine may be afforded by an object familiar to everybody—that of the vertical roundabout, commonly adapted to the amusement of children at fairs, where a small carriage performs a circle in the air, as it swings between two parallel levers. Each carriage at one extremity of a diameter is here counterbalanced by the carriage at the other extremity: thus, precisely in like manner, the frame or cradle, with the wagon and man upon it, swings upon an iron bar, laid across two parallel levers at their extremity; as it descends it is counterpoised by heavy weights—pigs of iron weighing about four tons; the coal being discharged in the hold of the vessel, these cause the wagon and platform to ascend, as it were spontaneously, by restoring the equilibrium; the motion, during the previous descent, is regulated by a brake wheel.

I observed that, in ordinary course, the wagons were discharged at the rate of one in two minutes. Each carriage was no sooner pushed upon the frame, than both frame and carriage began to descend; before the motion had ceased, the bolt had been struck out of its place, the coal was discharged, and they began to ascend again. Thus, absolutely, no time was lost in the delivery of the cargo, other than was necessary to complete the ascent and descent of the wagon. I have no doubt that, in a case of emergency, with special assistance to push the wagons on the frame, and remove them when empty, the rate might yet be increased, I should think, even as far as a wagon a minute. Thus, as there are eight drops, and as each wagon contains 53 cwt. of coal, the proprietors possess the power of lading at the rate of 211 /5 tons a minute.

It still remains to be stated how the empty wagon, after having delivered its cargo at the drop, is then disposed of, it being remembered that it is hoisted up to the upper floor of the building by a steam engine, drawn with five or six others by a horse to the drop in question, where it is unladen, and being empty, lowered through the opposite window back again into the yard of the establishment. Although for the purpose of merely letting down the empty wagon the machinery is as simple as may be, there is a part of this process very particularly deserving of notice. It is, perhaps, one of the most simple, and at the same time most ingenious devices ever hit upon.

To a spectator standing below, and observing the process, each wagon is seen at the commencement of its descent to stand at right angles with the line of the building; that is to say, the front part of the wagon is opposite the spectator, provided he is immediately before the aperture. But during its descent it swings round in the air, and alights with a jerk upon a railroad parallel to the building. By the twist aforesaid, it is not only placed in its proper position on the railroad, as was required, but it also receives an impetus sufficient to propel it forward of its own accord, without help of man or boy; nor does it stop till, with a hard clattering thump, it salutes its fellows standing in a row nearly a hundred yards distant.

This manoeuvre is effected by two diagonal iron rods, which, passing through holes in the corners of the frame, direct its descent, causing it to traverse horizontally a quarter circle, or right angle, as has been stated. The rods in question, seen from below, appear to be about a couple of inches in diameter, and bent into a curve, somewhat resembling the handle of a scythe.

But to render the description more clear—two cards being placed one upon an another, on a table, let them be transfixed at the corners A and D by two pins, or pieces of wire, driven perpendicularly into the table. It is now evident that while the pins remain as they are, if the upper card be lifted up, it will move in a perpendicular line. But if, while the upper extremity of the pin at A retains its position, the point be placed in the lower card at B, and in like manner, while the upper extremity of the pin at D retains its position, its point be placed at C; then, if the upper card be lifted up, it will descend in an oblique line, and occupy at the bottom a position at right angles to its former one. I have here, in order to avoid complexity, supposed the line from A to B and D to C to be straight in the experiment, whereas the rods in question are curved, in order to give the impetus aforesaid; but the resemblance to a scythe handle being borne in mind, the bend to be given to the rods for the purpose in question may be easily imagined. Thus the wagon, after discharging its cargo into the vessel lying underneath in the river from one window, is, on being raised again empty, merely pushed across to the other window, let down, as has been described, whence it runs away of itself along the railroad, and leaves clear space below for the next.


Added to a scene of activity displayed at this spot, unusually striking, appearances are rendered still more lively by numerous attendant steamers employed here, as well as on the Tyne, to tow vessels in and out of the harbour; although the latter operation is still indispensable, the navigation, nevertheless, has been of late years much improved by jetties thrown out from many projecting points, and new cuts, which have in many places altogether altered the course of the channel.


THERE exists not in the kingdom, at the present day, a more industrious and trustworthy class of individuals than those functionaries whom custom has identified with their profession by the soubriquet of "Boots." Those who sit in armchairs, and live quietly at home in their own houses, can form but an imperfect idea of the extent of the responsibility that falls to the share of this part of his majesty's subjects. Since the improvement in roads and the increase of trade have set the commercial world in a state of perpetual locomotion, many and various are the wants of a traveller in the way of assistance and information on arriving at the place of his daily destination: yet no sooner does he plant his foot in an inn, than his objects, be they what they may, are immediately undertaken and accelerated by honest Boots. Whether it be that letters are to be delivered, or valuable parcels, or local matters of any sort to be attended to, application is always made in the first instance to Boots. Boots is the last person seen in the house at night, and the first again on foot in the morning: of him it is required to know everybody and everything; to have not only a strong back, but a civil, good-humoured countenance; to be able to work hard upon little pay; to possess a clear head and a light pair of heels, and, in short, with never-ceasing activity and time at command infinitely divisible, to officiate in every respect, and to the benefit of the travelling world, as the Mercury of the lower heaven. Hardly does the cock crow in a morning before Boots is on the alert— before the time of his repose arrives at night, every inmate in the house will have sunk down in leaden slumbers. Traveller, remember poor Boots. You have given him his fee: yet, peradventure some copper money may still jingle in your pocket; nay, if it be a sixpence, it will not be ill bestowed on him who has welcomed your arrival, has sped your departure, has strained his sinews in your service, has done his duty, and now stands before you respectfully, wiping the perspiration from his brow with a fustian sleeve. Traveller, probably you are a bachelor; then now is the time to be liberal—remember poor Boots, while no weightier claims upon your purse disturb you—wait not for the hour when, with your travels at an end, and locomotive faculties impeded by joint gravity, a life of peregrination concludes by short stages, like the days of an uxorious blue bottle fly at the close of a summer.

I had remained more than two days at Stockton, when mere chance brought to my notice a card, inviting strangers to repair to the Dinsdale Hotel, in the immediate neighbourhood of the Dinsdale Spa, or Spaw. Never having heard either of the hotel or the spring, I was indebted to Boots accordingly for all necessary intelligence, and was moreover by him speedily consigned to a steam carriage on the Darlington Railroad, which deposited me at "The Fighting Cocks," four miles short of Darlington.

The approach to the hotel is extremely circuitous, for although the distance is not more than a mile from the road, the carriage way is full three miles: meanwhile the traveller, like the sailor kept off his port by contrary winds, makes his way in a spiral line, hardly sensible of progress, although the object all the time is in a conspicuous position.

Perhaps the want of access from the railroad is in some degree the cause of keeping the establishment in the background, the spa, although long resorted to, being very little known without the limits of the county of Durham. Nevertheless, it possesses advantages, as a place of summer resort, not to be equalled, I think, in all England.

In the first place, the house is a spacious, well-built mansion, lately erected by Lord Durham, (some say for his own residence, or that of a part of his family,) embellished with lawn and pleasure grounds, and situated on an eminence, commanding a magnificent view over the broad vale of Cleveland, as a foreground, and in the distance bounded by the Yorkshire mountains. Immediately below, the river Tees, almost equal in beauty to the Thames at Richmond, forms an ample and graceful bend; and on its hither bank plantations afford a retired and shaded walk nearly two miles in extent. The hotel, the lawn, and plantations altogether, bear the appearance of a good, comfortable, gentleman's residence, rather than of an inn. As to the style of things within the house, I was induced, after one experiment, to make a second; on which latter occasion I remained there several days, and was really delighted by the tranquillity of the spot, and the quiet, comfortable habits of the inmates. Upward of a dozen people met daily at breakfast and dinner at the common table, as well as at tea, in the evening in the drawing room; the remainder of the day everybody managed his or her time as if the house belonged to them. The fare was most excellent, and the terms even less than might be called reasonable; besides the party at the table d'hote, several people occupied private apartments.

Notwithstanding the highly medicinal quality of the spring, there is not in the neighbourhood, excepting at the Dinsdale Hotel, accommodation for families, otherwise than on an inferior scale. At the village of Middleton One Row, a mile distant, a naked-looking row of ill-placed and ill-contrived lodging houses, resembling in appearance those "now and then knocked up in a hurry" in the neighbourhood of a brickfield, and all perfectly alike, afford each a miserable substitute for a habitation; their site, moreover, is totally unprotected by trees, on a bare common, fronting the south, and exposed from morning till night to the rays of the sun; so that the aforesaid houses are, as regards the comfort of the visiters, like so many small ovens. The name of "Middleton One Row," on first hearing it pronounced, sounds rather extraordinary, and is in fact unintelligible to strangers, it not being very clear how the noun. of multitude is to be taken; whether as one Middleton, or one row—or altogether, as the name of a place; yet such is the confusion of terms by which the authorities have been pleased to designate a small village— at least, so say the tailboards of the farmers' carts, and the directing posts in the vicinity.

The spring, discovered about forty or fifty years ago, has been resorted to by the people in the neighbourhood ever since. A new bath house, a handsome brick building, was erected at the same time with the hotel: the previous edifice, such as it was, as my informant expressed himself, "a dog-kennel sort of a place," having been let on lease to an old blacksmith, little encouragement was held out to visiters, till Lord Durham, the lease having fallen into his hands, commenced the present improvements.

Besides conveniences for bathing, an apparatus is afforded for heating the water, its natural temperature being too cold for some stomachs; which latter objection is the less unreasonable, considered together with the quantity swallowed by the patients; some of whom drink four and others six large tumblers full before breakfast: one slim gentleman in particular informed me he took twelve tumblers in the course of one morning. They all say, that, drink as much as ever they will, they never feel full. Whatever may be the sensations of the parties, I can certainly testify to the inordinate quantity that, in their instance, the human haggis will hold: I have seen ladies and gentlemen swill tumbler after tumbler, till I have been in dismay, and have, though needlessly, almost trembled for the consequences. The boiling process, however, certainly deprives the water of its strength, as I ascertained by ascending a small ladder to the caldrons in a loft above: there appeared on the surface of the water an incrustation nearly half an inch in thickness, and so solid that, by placing under it the hooked end of a small cane, I was enabled to remove one piece entire, as large as a folio sheet, and exactly resembling a cake of plaster ripped from a wall, containing, no doubt, much of the virtuous essence of the water, and being, in point of fact, chiefly car donate of lime.

The chymical analysis is of course to be obtained in the proper quarter; in the mean time the unlearned may bear testimony, from its nauseous effluvia, to the resemblance it bears to the water of the Harrowgate well. Here, as there, they occasionally spell the word with a w —Spaw; which last letter, placed where it is, gives the word, when seen in print, a formidable appearance, sufficient of itself almost to turn the inside topsyturvy: thence it really seems advisable to turn the w out—just as IM ought to be served in other cases, and are treated, particularly among the modern languages. Sulphur, at all events, is contained in the water in considerable proportion; so much that those who drink it find, in a very few days, every article of silver in their pockets turned quite yellow; snuffboxes, thimbles, and what not, all assume the appearance of silver gilt when very much worn. Trinkets of every description thus exhibit an inverse sympathy with the complexions of the owners, as if the goddess of the fountain, having first bidden their white cheeks glow with rosy red, then, inverting her wand, turned all their shillings yellow. Much is indicated as to the efficacy of the water by this very simple fact: for if its potency be sufficient even to discolour the silver in a gentleman or lady's pocket, it is but reasonable to conclude that, in its journey thither, carried, as it were, by wind and tide, through the various channels and pores of the body, it must necessarily, at the same time, work an indisputable change in the system: particularly, the situation of the bath house and spring being close to the river Tees, the inmates of the hotel have thereby the additional advantage of accelerating the natural process, by descending and returning by a steep hill, three or four hundred yards in length, in order to reach it.

There are other sulphur springs in the neighbourhood; one especially discharges itself, about a mile and a half above, into the Tees. The water, that trickles from it in a rivulet, leaves a white incrustation along its channel, in appearance exactly like soapsuds. Here is also a basin of the same water, whence, I believe, it rises, nearly circular, about ten feet diameter and six deep: the water is exceedingly clear, and minute white particles adhere to the moss and subaqueous plants at the bottom, bedecking them with a shining spangled covering that creates an imposing effect; precisely that of an artificially ornamented grotto.

The walks through the fields and woods in the neighbourhood of the Dinsdale Spa are as beautiful as can be imagined, containing a splendid distant prospect, with a home picture of rural retirement; but there are few particular points of attraction in the way of rides or drives in the neighbourhood. There is, however, one local curiosity, which, if by chance seen under favourable circumstances, is worth the pains of a journey from London to obtain a sight of it; I allude to the salmon leap, (or Fish Lock, as it is called,) about two miles up the river. This barrier, when the water is low, is merely an artificial perpendicular fall of seven or eight feet in height, by means of a dike, or stone wall thrown nearly across the river; I say nearly, a space being left on both sides, by which the fish, at particular seasons, enter, and are taken.

A stranger about to visit the salmon leap has one matter of importance to bear in his mind, namely, that he had, in the first instance, better beware of the dog— a dog belonging to the miller, whose mill is close to the lock; a savage animal of a rare breed, just such a description of brute as is by no means agreeable to encounter; that is to say, a brindled bull, half mastiff, jaws underhung, rat tail, and ears as sharp as a fox. He has a trick (if he be still alive) of laying his nose cannily on his paws, as if asleep: meanwhile, on the visiter's approach, the lids of a pair of heavy-looking, vicious eyes, are but barely open; yet, no sooner is the incautious adventurer within his reach, than, with savage ferocity, he jumps up, all fours, and springs upon him. It happened to be my lot to make his acquaintance as I was turning round a corner unaware, but a moment's glance having developed his good intentions, I shaped my course accordingly another way. On returning to the hotel I found his deeds were notorious, for only a few days before he had charged a Newcastle alderman, and nearly seized him by the leg; nay, he would have succeeded, but that the alderman's steed, like that of Tam O'Shanter, saved the limb of his master, at the expense of a large mouthful of the hair of his own tail, which the dog retained as a trophy.

The river having been previously swollen by a few successive days' rain, I saw the salmon leap in great perfection; which spectacle very far surpassed any idea formed from accounts previously heard, although, as to the height or distance that the fish is able to fling itself out of the water, I had overrated its powers. The river was at the time tumbling violently in a cascade the whole breadth of the fall, and the fish, although unable to surmount the obstacle, were advancing incessantly to the charge: it was said they would have gained the summit, but that the torrent was too heavy, forming so strong an eddy below as to render a sufficiently near approach impracticable. As far as I could see, they usually rose out of the water about six or eight feet from the bottom of the fall, although many sprang from a greater distance without reaching the cascade at all; the greater part leaping into the midst, were beaten down, and ingulfed in a moment. It was beautiful to see the courage, determination, and perseverance displayed in this instinctive manoeuvre; during a whole hour I was on the spot, although only three fish ascended the torrent, their attempts were not less daring and incessant; springing, without intermission, at the rate of twenty a minute—for I saw, I am sure, no less than twelve hundred leaps in that hour. The animal darts at his leap, as a foxhunter charges a brook, exerting himself to the utmost, not only to the very last moment, but even when in the air: then they wriggle their sides like a horseman doing his best; at the same time, if it were not fancy, the eye seemed to flash, and an expression of energy animated for the moment even the countenance of a salmon: many drove themselves headlong straight at the watery barrier; others threw themselves against it sidewise, flapping their bodies heavily against the water; frequently not less than five or six were in the air at the same time.

Although several people had collected on the banks of the river, more fish made the attempt towards that part, in spite of the crowd, than at a greater distance, and although so near that any one of the bystanders might have knocked them down with a long pole, they showed, to all appearance, an utter disregard of danger.

The fish were, for the most part, small—about a couple of feet in length. Of the three which succeeded in the attempt, one, a very large one, made a clear spring to the top, covering perhaps in his leap three yards in height and four in length. For some seconds he struggled hard with the torrent above, remaining, with his back above water, without advancing an inch; till at last, success crowning his endeavours, he dived down almost perpendicularly, with his head against the stream, and immediately disappeared—as if eager to exchange turbulent ambition for scenes of quiet repose.

The sound of the engines, on the Stockton and Darlington Railroad may be distinctly heard on a still day at the Dinsdale Hotel, like the flapping of mighty wings, as they pass along; and the line being in many parts circuitous, the puffs of smoke are seen here and there among the trees in a thickly wooded country, sufficient to mark the progress of the trains and changes in point of direction. In one part of the railroad the rails are laid straight for more than a mile together. Here I used to feel much gratification, by seating myself to watch the approach of the several heavy trains of coal wagons, on their way backward and forward, laden and unladen, between the Darlington coalfield and the staiths at Middleborough or Stockton.

The general order of things on a railroad is curious from its novelty; it is a new description of property altogether, wherein the vested right of the public in the way and footpath is not acknowledged, and while their advantages are increased by rapidity of locomotion, the disadvantages of the thoroughfare to the proprietor of the soil, in comparison with those attendant on highways in general, are diminished in an equal proportion. On the banks of a canal a nuisance is ordinarily created by navigators and loiterers, who infest the towing paths, but all descriptions of travellers on a railroad may rather be compared to a flock of pigeons or swallows, that confine their flight to the regions of the air, and leave neither track nor trace behind; silence and stillness reign within its precincts, and harmonize with the grandeur of the spectacle. The rails converging in perspective seem to form the track of a terrestrial zodiac—lines terminating in points in the horizon, whence at prescribed periods earthly objects rise and perform their transit, while many a muscular arm toils in preparation for the phenomenon, which appears and passes away. As train after train of rolling wagons approached, a black speck first appeared in the distance, gradually and by slow degrees extending its dimensions; meanwhile the sound, like the roaring of the sea, became as a heavy gust of wind, and then, as the carriages receded, grew again less and less audible, till it expired in a low gentle murmur.

I remarked especially one train, consisting of upward of a score of laden coal wagons, on their way for shipment at the mouth of the Tees. As they glided onward, steadily but rapidly, the attitudes of the two engine men in front were in striking contrast with the stupendous momentum of the advancing body. Impelled by a power called by themselves into action, with their arms folded on their bosoms, they seemed either lost in their own reflections, or dozing life away, passively reclining in an easy posture, and whirled along with an incessant and equable velocity.

Behind the coal wagons, the last carriage of all was a low truck, on which stood an old cart horse quietly eating hay out of a basket. The sagacious animal, thus left to himself, on a bare platform of boards, within a couple of feet of the ground, and without side rail or guard, of any description, displayed a consciousness of the danger of jumping out, by the mode in which he cautiously rested on his haunches, prepared by his attitude against the possible sudden contingency of a halt.

With reference to this mode of conveying horses on the carriages, one particular instance of sagacity displayed by an animal on this line is worthy of notice. An old horse, regularly employed to draw wagons laden with lime along the level, on arriving at an inclined plane where the carriages descend by their own gravity, his services not being required, is accordingly unhitched; on which occasion he invariably first allows the carriages to pass him, and then trotting after the train, leaps on to the low carriage of his own accord; and he performs the feat, not only without urging, but, on the contrary, with so much eagerness, as to render it difficult to keep him off, though the carriage is two feet from the ground, and the progressive rate nearly five miles an hour. As a basket of hay is constantly suspended on the aforesaid carriage for his use, the only wonderful part of the ceremony is its performance, for one would imagine it difficult for a four-footed animal in such a case to preserve its equilibrium.

As the train before mentioned passed along, it was wonderful to see the living creatures in a state of absolute torpidity, compared with the appearance of the engine that bore them on their way; the latter, by its tumultuous pantings, seemed endowed as it were with animal breath and progressive motion, attributes of life itself. Fable reports Prometheus of old, to have animated clay by means of fire stolen from heaven; if man, in modern times, has thus actually though imperfectly imitated his own image, it follows that the fiction of fire from heaven may bear some obscure relation to the discovery of steam, and the fable of Prometheus, altogether, perhaps refers, in dark and ambiguous terms, to the real inventions of former days.

George Head, A Home Tour through the Manufacturing Districts of England in the Summer of 1835 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1836) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2009.

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