Henry Maudslay, London
ContentsVoyage to London with specimens of workmanship ,
First walk through London ,
Visit to Henry Maudslay ,
The interview ,
Exhibit my specimens ,
Taken on as assistant ,
The private workshop ,
Maudslay's constructive excellence ,
His maxims ,
Uniformity of screws ,
Meeting with Henry Brougham ,
David Wilkie ,
Visit to the Admiralty Museum ,
The Block machinery ,
The Royal Mint ,
Steam yacht trip to Richmond ,
Lodgings taken ,
"A clean crossing" ,
THE chief object of my ambition was now to be taken on at Henry Maudslay's works in London. I had heard so much of his engineering work, of his assortment of machine-making tools, and of the admirable organisation of his manufactory, that I longed to obtain employment there. I was willing to labour, in however humble a capacity, in that far-famed workshop.
I was aware that my father had not the means of paying the large premium required for placing me as an apprentice at Maudslay's works. I was also informed that Maudslay had ceased to take pupils. After experience, he found that the premium apprentices caused him much annoyance and irritation. They came in "gloves;" their attendance was irregular; they spread a bad example amongst the regular apprentices and workmen; and on the whole they were found to be very disturbing elements in the work of the factory.
It therefore occurred to me that, by showing some specimens of my work and drawings, I might be able to satisfy Mr. Maudslay that I was not an amateur, but a regular working engineer. With this object I set to work, and made with special care a most complete working model of a high-pressure engine. The cylinder was 2 inches diameter, and the stroke 6 inches. Every part of the engine, including the patterns, the castings, the forgings, were the results of my own individual handiwork. I turned out this sample of my ability as an engineer workman in such a style as even now I should be proud to own.
In like manner I executed several specimens of my ability as a mechanical draughtsman; for I knew that Maudslay would thoroughly understand my ability to work after a plan. Mechanical drawing is the alphabet of the engineer. Without this the workman is merely a "hand." With it he indicates the possession of "a head" I also made some samples of my skill in hand-sketching of machines, and parts of machines, in perspective -- that is, as such objects really appear when set before us in their natural aspect. I was the more desirous of exhibiting the ability which I possessed in mechanical draughtsmanship, as I knew it to be a somewhat rare and much-valued acquirement. It was a branch of delineative art that my father had carefully taught me. Throughout my professional life I have found this art to be of the utmost practical value.
Having thus provided myself with such visible and tangible evidences of my capabilities as a young engineer, I carefully packed up my working model and drawings, and prepared to start for London. On the 19th of May 1829, accompanied by my father, I set sail by the Leith smack Edinburgh Castle, Captain Orr, master. After a pleasant voyage of four days we reached the mouth of the Thames. We sailed up from the Nore on Saturday afternoon, lifted up, as it were, by the tide, for it was almost a dead calm the whole way.
The sight of the banks of the famous river, with the Kent orchards in full blossom, and the frequent passages of steamers with bands of music and their decks crowded with pleasure-seekers, together with the sight of numbers of noble merchant ships in the river, formed a most glorious and exciting scene. It was also enhanced by the thought that I was nearing the great metropolis, around which so many bright but anxious hopes were centred, as the scene of my first important step into the anxious business of life, The tide, which had carried us up the river as far as Woolwich suddenly turned; and we remained there during the night. Early next morning the tide rose, and we sailed away again. It was a bright mild morning. The sun came "dancing up the east" as we floated past wharfs and woodyards and old houses on the banks, past wherries and coal boats and merchant ships on the river, until we reached our destination at the Irongate Wharf, near the Tower of London. I heard St. Paul's clock strike six just as we reached our mooring ground.