Archive for the ‘History’ Category

LSWR M7 No 245

Posted: December 10, 2018 in History, Trains

The M7 class locomotive came into service in 1897 and was primarily used on the London Network of the London and South Western Railway (LWSR). In all 105 engines were built between 1897 and 1911. In later years they became common on branch lines as other newer locomotives replaced them on suburban passenger services.

Loco 245 is one of the original 1897 batch. It was withdrawn from service in 1962.

The M7’s were withdrawn from service starting in 1957 and by 1964 there were no more running on network lines. Two survive in preservation No 245, which is in the National Railway Collection and No 53 on the Swanage Railway.

Born sometime around 207 AD, Severus succeeded his cousin Elagabalus, when the latter was assassinated. He was 15 years old at the time and this made Severus the youngest of all Roman Emporers at that time.

Severus Alexander (Liverpool Museum)

He was an able administrator and most of his reign was a prosperous time for the empire. He had an open opinion on religion and reformed the rights of soldiers.

In 231, the Sassanids invaded the eastern empire. The accounts of the campaign are contradictory. Herodian records a number of defeats for the Romans, but Historia Augusta and Severus own dispatches record great victories. However, Severus did recover the lost territory and prevent further incursion into the empire, at least for the present. In 234 the German tribes crossed the Rhine and Danube borders. Concerned that his army was not in a fit state to face the invaders, Severus sought a diplomatic solution and if this should fail, bribery.

This didn’t sit well with the legions, who felt such an approach dishonoured them and their abilities. There had been a growing discontent amongst the legions and this was the final straw. He was assassinated by a group of soldiers on 19th March 235 and the legion acclaimed Gaius Lulius Verus Maximus, a soldier from Thrace, as Emporer. Severus had reigned for 13 years and most of these had been prosperous for the empire.

Many historians see the assassination of Severus as the beginning of a crisis in the empire which would last for 50 years. It would be a time of invasion, civil war and economic failure. In the next 50 years, there would be 26 claimants to the throne of the Emporer. It would see the establishment, and subsequent fall, of a number of independent regions within the empire and would only end when Diocletian gained the throne in 284. It is interesting to note that although immediately after his death Severus was condemned by the Senate, within a few years of Maximus’ death in 238, they had deified Severus, recognising, in hindsight, the stability he had bought to the empire.

This statue of General Gordon is located in the riverside park at Gravesend in Kent, close to Gordon Promenade and Khartoum Square.

Gordon had been born in SE London in 1833, the son of an army officer. Gordon and all of his brothers joined the army when they were old enough. His first commision was to oversee the construction of defences at Milford Haven in Wales. It was whilst stationed here that he became a Christian, although he never aligned himself with any denomination and enjoyed attending services in many different churches. He once remarked to a priest that the church was much like the army ‘one army, but many different regiments’. 

He saw service in Crimea and China before returning to the UK in 1864 and was placed in command of the defences of the River Thames and its estuary. He based himself at Gravesend. His views on the defence of the river were ignored but, under protest, he carried out the plans of the War Office. In Gravesend Gordon is not remembered for his military activities, but for his work with the poor and homeless of the town including teaching at the ‘Ragged School’, feeding and housing homeless boys and the dedication on his statue ranks this work over any of his other achievements. He spent much of his salary on his chariable projects.

He left Gravesend in 1871 to work on the Danube navigation and then as war graves inspector in the Crimea. whilst on this trip he met the Prime Minister of Eygpt and he was attached to Eygptian forces (with the consent of the British Army). He was appointed governor of Equatoria (South Sudan and Northern Uganda). He did much to suppress the slave trade in the area. Eventually he became Governor-General of the Sudan. He worked to abolish torture and public floggings and became well-known for his obstenacy. He once joked that ‘the Gordons and camels are of the same race. let them get an idea into their heads and nothing will take it out’. He did much to maintain peace in the Sudan, including on one occasion riding into the rebel camp armed only with his cane to demand the surrender of the rebel forces.

Exhausted he resigned in 1879 and returned to London. He was in much demand. the King of Belgium offered him the Governorship of the Congo and the Cape Colony approached him to become its military commander. He became private secretary to the Governor-General of India but resigned after a few weeks because he found it boring. Against the wishes of the British Government, he travelled to China to try and broker peace in the tensions between China and Russia. After predicting that the actions of the ruling elite would eventually lead to a revolution of the people he was expelled from Beijing. Under threat of discharge from the army, Gordon returned to London. He set about championing land reform in Ireland, much to the annoyance of William Gladstone, the prime minister. He was soon sent off to command the Royal engineers in Mauritius, building defences against a possible Russian attack. He was posted to the Cape province the following year and in 1882 went to Palestine, where he visited the historic sites of Christianity.

He returned to London in 1883 and he was sent to Sudan to counter the Sudanese revolt led by the Mahdi. The situation worsened and following the defeat of the Egyptian army, Gordon was sent to Khartoum to evacuate the city. However, the Egyptians had other ideas and pressed him to take control and expel the Mahdi and his forces and he soon decided to hold the city against the rebel forces. The siege of Khartoum began in March 1884. The British Government had decided to abandon Sudan, hence the evacuation plan, but Gordon had other ideas and had great public support. In August the British Government bowed to public pressure and issued the orders for a relief force to be sent to Khartoum, but it was not until November that it was ready to leave.

In January 1885, the fort at Omdurman fell to the rebels enabling them to fire with cannon on the city. The relief force defeated a rebel army on 18 January leading the Mahdi to realise that if he was going to capture the city he needed to do so before the relief force arrived. It took only an hour for them to breach the defences and thereafter killed 10000 soldiers and civilians including Gordon. The relief force arrived on 28 January, two days after the city had fallen. Under heavy fire, they turned back from the city.

The failure to rescue Gordon was a major blow to the government’s popularity and Queen Victoria sent a telegram rebuking Gladstone for his lack of action. This was leaked to the press and added to the government’s unpopularity. Stones were thrown at the windows of 10 Downing Street and Gladstone was dubbed ‘Murderer of Gordon’. But they stuck by there decision to abandon Sudan.

The Mahdi, encouraged by the lack of international action established a state which reversed many of the reforms Gordon had introduced. It is estimated that between 1885 and 1898 approx 8 million people died in the lands controlled by the Mahdi. Eventually, in 1898 a force under general Kitchener comprehensively destroyed the rebel army at Omdurman. It was subsequently revealed that the expedition had eventually been sent because the British Government was concerned that the French might try to liberate Sudan and establish control.

The famous farting lamp of London

Posted: November 28, 2018 in History, London, UK

Following on from my post about Frederick Winsor and the production of Gas in London, I was interested to read this post from Stephen Lidell which presents a whole different method of producing gas to light our streets.

Stephen Liddell

Last week I wrote on The Great Stink of 1868.  By chance todays post is on a related subject.  Many people will be aware that in the Victorian age, much of London was lit with gas lamps and in deed several places still are.   Less well known is that some of these lamps were powered by the gas from human sewage.

The Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp was invented in the late 19th century by the Birmingham inventor Joseph Webb. In London the lamps were used for two main reasons; firstly to burn off the smells and germs from London’s sewer system, and secondly as a low cost, low maintenance way to keep London lit up at night.

wp1e8f8dc3_1aPart of the original patent for the sewer lamps.

Methane was collected by a small dome in the roof of the sewer, with the gas then being diverted into the…

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John Franklin was born in Lincolnshire in 1786. He went to sea in a merchantman at the age of 12 and in 1800, his father secured him a position aboard the 64 gun Royal Navy vessel HMS Polyphemus. He saw action at the battle of Copenhagen. Transferring to HMS Investigator he was appointed midshipman and travelled to Australia. He returned to Europe to serve on HMS Beelerophon at the battle of Trafalger. 

In 1819 Franklin was chosen to lead an expedition overland from Hudson Bay charting the coast of Canada. He returned to England in 1823 but was soon back in Canada leading expeditions to chart the Mackenzie River and surrounding areas returning each year to winter at Fort Franklin. In Summer of 1827 he returned to England.

He was knighted in April 1829 for his expeditionary work. He also recieved awards from France and Greece in recognition of his work. In 1836 he was appointed Lieutenant Governer of Van Dieman’s Land (modern day Tasmania) and he served until 1843. In 1845 it was decided to send another expedition to complete the mapping of arctic waters and Franklin was named as the Commander. Two ships and 129 men set off from Greenland and were last seen by a whaler on 26 July.

After 3 years a search party was dispatched. Eventually, they found some evidence of the expedition on Beechey Island where 3 graves were found. Although no evidence of survivors was found, Franklin, in absentia, was promoted to Rear-Admiral. A note found on Beechey Island reported that Franklin had died there in 1847. It was not until 1854 that John Rae, an explorer learnt from Inuit Indians that the two ships had become ice-bound and that the men had tried to escape on foot, but had succumbed to the cold. The wrecks of the two ships were eventually found in 2014 and 2016.


Posted: November 26, 2018 in History, Trains
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Gladstone was built at Brighton works in 1882 and saw service on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway until 1927. It is the last surviving engine of its type with the driving wheels at the front of the locomotive. It was designed to haul express trains on the London to Brighton line. 

When it finished service it was purchased by the Stephenson Locomotive Society and was exhibited at the LNER museum at York. In 1959 it was given to the British Transport Commission as part of the national collection and is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York. 

Frederick Winsor was born in 1763 in the German principality of  Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. In his 30s, he relocated to London to further his interests in technology. In 1807 he started a gas-works and lit one side of Pall Mall with gas lamps. Having been refused a charter for his gas company he relocated to Paris, but he could not repeat the success he had achieved in London. He died in Paris in 1830.

The company Winsor founded, The Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC), was granted a charter shortly after Winsor left for Paris and continued to operate. It took over many other local gas supply companies during the next 120 years. In 1949 it was nationalised and became a major part of one of the 12 new Regional Gas Boards, which would eventually become British Gas.

A plaque in Pall Mall commemorates that first large-scale use of gas illumination of a road in 1807. Another memorial to him is Winsor Road in Beckton in east London, a road that led to the Beckton Gasworks, the largest such plant in the world for many years, which was opened by the GLCC in 1870. It ceased operation in 1969 when the requirement for manufactured Gas had been replaced by Natural Gas supplies.

Roman Emporers: Gaius Caesar

Posted: November 21, 2018 in History, Roman History

In this case a nearly Emporer. Gaius was the Grandson of Augustus Caesar and the son of Marcus Agrippa and was the nominated heir to the purple. He was both a skilled politician and military leader and was an almost ideal candidate to succeed his grandfather, talented and much loved by the Roman people. He led successful military campaigns in Parthia, Arabia and Armenia.

In 2AD, during the Armenian Campaign, the rebel leader sent a message that he wanted to negotiate a truce. Unfortunately it was a trick and when Gaius showed up, he and his attendants were attacked by the rebels. Gaius was wounded. Initially he seemed to recover and his forces went onto defeat the rebels.

Within a year things took a turn for the worse. Long-term effects of his wound began to take their toil. evetually at the age of twenty-three he resigned his commision and retired to Syria. He sent his grandfather a letter in which he told him he wanted to resign from public life. Augustus, no doubt hoping this was a temporary setback and the Gaius would recover, tried to convince him to return to Italy and the court, but Gaius refused. By February of 4 AD, he was dead.

We are told that the whole Empire was shocked and saddened by the death of this much loved leader. He was granted many posthumous honours ny the Roman state.

Both Tacitus and Cassius Deo writing years later suggest that it was not the wound that killed him but that he was poisoned. The main candidate for this was Livia, Gaius’ step-mother, whose son Tiberius became the heir on the death of Gaius.

Class 08 064

Posted: November 19, 2018 in History, Trains
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Class 08 locomotives were a common sight on UK railways being the standard shunter engine of their time. They now form the most commonly preserved class of locomotive due to their great functionality as a shunter for moving other stock around yards. They were produced between 1953 and 1962 and in total, almost 1000 engines were produced. It was estimated in 2011, 50 years after the last one was built, that over 100 class 08 engines were still in active service on industrial or national rail sites across the country plus many more on heritage lines.

BR 1037 (D3079;08064) was built at Darlington in 1953 and now forms part of the National Railway Collection at York, alongside its sister locomotive 08911, an example of an engine modified by reducing the height of the bodywork for use on the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Railway in South Wales.

This statue of Robert Scott, the famous explorer, can be found in Waterloo Place in London. It was erected by Officers of the fleet to commemorate his achievements and life. It was sculpted by Scott’s widow Kathleen and is one of two identical statues. The other is to be found in Auckland New Zealand.

Previous posts about Robert Scott can be found at: