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 Wellington, Tredegar's Hero?
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  13:03:38  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
There’s probably nothing more dear to the collective Tredegar heart than our world famous town clock.
Although relentlessly mocked by many inhabitants of other less lucky Valley towns their musings usually carry a strong green tinge.
One thing I’ve always felt slightly embarrassed about, though, (and no, it’s not the obvious phallic nature of our most prized municipal possession) is the panel at the base of the clock that reads:
“Wellington, England’s Hero”

I say embarrassed because surely, if the inscription needed to be there then it should have read “Britain’s Hero”.
I don’t dispute that he was a hero (although, as is so wonderfully in-keeping with accounts of our Country’s history, its far less reported that Wellington had effectively lost the Battle of Waterloo until the arrival of the Prussians under Blucher, late in the day) but I do dispute the reference to “England” on a Welsh Town Clock in a Welsh town.
I’ve always interpreted it as a put down of the Welsh culture of the Welsh inhabitants of a Welsh town, courtesy of the tendency of Victorian England to ethnically cleanse and dominate whenever and wherever it could.
Of course, to be fair, at the time, the legal position of the County of Monmouthshire was at least “debatable” thanks to Henry VIII: was it in Wales or in England?
Anyway, Prof. John Davies (the eminent Welsh historian) in his latest book (“One Hundred Welsh Things to See before You Die”) has a similar but, perhaps, more sinister take on the inscription.
He says it was there because the Ironmasters and Coal owners wished to recognise their deep sense of gratitude to Wellington for having vehemently opposed Chartism and any other sort of electoral reform that would have given the ordinary working man the Vote.
Wellington had been Prime Minister twice between 1828 and 1834 and had, for example, led opposition to the “[Great] Reform Act of 1832” (it was neither “Great” nor reforming for the vast majority of Tredegar people but did get passed”).
Of course “the ‘Masters” knew that getting the vote was the first step in erosion of their power over employees and their families: people they had exploited for so long.

Anyway, I’d like to suggest that the local council spend a small amount of money on a plaque to explain the origins of the inscription to visitors to our town.
After all, he might have been “England’s Hero” but I very much doubt he was much of a hero to our impoverished ancestors.

uncle bob
Super Member

United Kingdom
2378 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  14:53:49 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by uchlawycoed

There’s probably nothing more dear to the collective Tredegar heart than our world famous town clock.
Although relentlessly mocked by many inhabitants of other less lucky Valley towns their musings usually carry a strong green tinge.
One thing I’ve always felt slightly embarrassed about, though, (and no, it’s not the obvious phallic nature of our most prized municipal possession) is the panel at the base of the clock that reads:
“Wellington, England’s Hero”

I say embarrassed because surely, if the inscription needed to be there then it should have read “Britain’s Hero”.
I don’t dispute that he was a hero (although, as is so wonderfully in-keeping with accounts of our Country’s history, its far less reported that Wellington had effectively lost the Battle of Waterloo until the arrival of the Prussians under Blucher, late in the day) but I do dispute the reference to “England” on a Welsh Town Clock in a Welsh town.
I’ve always interpreted it as a put down of the Welsh culture of the Welsh inhabitants of a Welsh town, courtesy of the tendency of Victorian England to ethnically cleanse and dominate whenever and wherever it could.
Of course, to be fair, at the time, the legal position of the County of Monmouthshire was at least “debatable” thanks to Henry VIII: was it in Wales or in England?
Anyway, Prof. John Davies (the eminent Welsh historian) in his latest book (“One Hundred Welsh Things to See before You Die”) has a similar but, perhaps, more sinister take on the inscription.
He says it was there because the Ironmasters and Coal owners wished to recognise their deep sense of gratitude to Wellington for having vehemently opposed Chartism and any other sort of electoral reform that would have given the ordinary working man the Vote.
Wellington had been Prime Minister twice between 1828 and 1834 and had, for example, led opposition to the “[Great] Reform Act of 1832” (it was neither “Great” nor reforming for the vast majority of Tredegar people but did get passed”).
Of course “the ‘Masters” knew that getting the vote was the first step in erosion of their power over employees and their families: people they had exploited for so long.

Totaly agree with this post well written,I like your member name!

quite sure you're not English!!!!

Anyway, I’d like to suggest that the local council spend a small amount of money on a plaque to explain the origins of the inscription to visitors to our town.
After all, he might have been “England’s Hero” but I very much doubt he was much of a hero to our impoverished ancestors.


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Samstan
Super Member

827 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  15:26:52 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Speaking up for the English (as I am one!) I think given that explanation (v. interesting BTW) I doubt he was England's hero either as the working class of England will have been equally affected by such opposition to electoral reform.
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  15:37:33 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very good point Samstan, one that I'm very pleased to concede.
We (especially me perhaps ) must always distinguish the people of a nation with actions done in the name of a nation...especially in those in the past.

I've got admit it but not even the Welsh are perfect all the time....
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pierre
Webmaster

United Kingdom
13018 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  15:42:58 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by uchlawycoed



I've got admit it but not even the Welsh are perfect all the time....



Now hold on a minute

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News & Information on Tredegar since 1991
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pierre
Webmaster

United Kingdom
13018 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  16:12:31 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Here is a picture. Correct me I'm wrong, but it was the royal navy, yes?

Maybe the lady that got the funds (well some them), to build the clock was English and requested it on the side maybe?

A good question, and one that has quizzed me for many a year.



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News & Information on Tredegar since 1991
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milkman
Super Member

United Kingdom
1075 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  17:23:41 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Whilst having no specific knowledge about Wellington & clock; we specifically referred to our county as England, Wales and Monmouthshire when at school. (As some may recall Newport players did actually play for England until the 1950s).
I think it quite possible that in the 1850s no big fuss was made about being "Welsh" at that time. I say this because about 45% of my family were English and this is true of my wife's family also.
They had migrated to Wales only perhaps 10-20 years previously and probably still considered themselves English. (The population of Tredegar was only about 1000 in 1800 so there was tremendous migration to Tredegar and great numbers came from Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.)
Just a thought since like most of you I consider myself Welsh but am really a mongrel.
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TYG
Full Member

83 Posts

Posted - 13/12/2010 :  20:24:03 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by uchlawycoed

I don’t dispute that he was a hero (although, as is so wonderfully in-keeping with accounts of our Country’s history, its far less reported that Wellington had effectively lost the Battle of Waterloo until the arrival of the Prussians under Blucher, late in the day)


It’s far less reported because it is not very accurate. I think you may have read some of the more basic accounts of the battle. Have a look at some of the more comprehensive writings of John Keegan or Richard Holmes. It may change your view.

"if God has no sense of humour, I'm in trouble."
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 14/12/2010 :  09:46:16 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have read quite extensively on the subject of Waterloo and, indeed met Richard Holmes personally at the Hay Festival.
I love RH's books and he's a really marvellous speaker but both he, and, much more especially John Keegan I would consider traditional, "conservative" historians.
I'm not saying that in a dismissive way.
I'm quite sure the latter in particular would approve of the tag as he is history correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and also contributes to the American conservative website National Review.
From my perspective I'm fairly confident that a majority of modern historians would take the view I've repeated in this Forum: Waterloo would probably have been lost had it not been for the presence of the Prussians.
Of course, such an account would be instinctively favored by any left leaning school of history just as the interpretation favoured by RH and JK is the one that accords with a more conventional “establishment” view: history often reduces to opinion and "one pays ones money and one takes ones choice".
On the whole, I stand by my choice (but could be persuaded otherwise).

I'm confident there's a lot of truth in milkman's post. I've got a feeling that any debate on the ethnic origins of Valleys' peoples is viewed by some as a can of worms - national identities and ethnic origins can be a dangerous area to debate - our identity is often our most precious possession.
Similarly, I wonder if there’s been any real, in-depth research into the cultural mix of Iron Belt towns like Tredegar in the mid Victorian period. I don’t know.
Remember that the “Iron Belt” (roughly the current Heads of the Valleys area now) was industrialized on a large scale before other Valleys that grew from coal alone (mass industrialization of the Rhondda only occurred with the sinking of the first deep mine in 1854, for example).
Anyway, my original points were:

Why Duke of Wellington on the town clock and why, "England's Hero"?
The explanation?


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mike
Advanced Member

United Kingdom
381 Posts

Posted - 14/12/2010 :  14:58:08 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Wellington had been feted as a hero since his (and Blucher's) defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. He died (in 1852) less than five years before the clock was first mooted.

There are a number of other Wellington memorials of roughly the same age:-

Wellington's statue, placed on top of the (then) Green Park Arch in 1846. The arch is now known as the Wellington Arch.
The Wellington Monument, Wellington, Somerset, completed 1854.
The Wellington Testimonial Clock Tower, erected in Southwark in 1860, subsequently moved to Swanage.
The Wellington Monument, Dublin, completed 1861.
Wellington's Column, Liverpool, completed 1865.

I think that the panel just reflects the "fashion" (for want of a better word) of the time.

Mike
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TYG
Full Member

83 Posts

Posted - 14/12/2010 :  23:59:49 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by uchlawycoed


From my perspective I'm fairly confident that a majority of modern historians would take the view I've repeated in this Forum: Waterloo would probably have been lost had it not been for the presence of the Prussians.

Without the Prussians the battle would almost certainly have been lost (or at least been inconclusive and carried over to another day). In your previous post you said Wellington had “effectively lost the Battle of Waterloo until the arrival of the Prussians”. But Wellington knew the Prussians were in the field and trusted that they would either join him or converge along his most likely line of retreat. His conduct of the battle was based around this – almost a holding action rather than an offensive stance. The battle wasn’t lost, it was waiting for Blücher. If Wellington had not been confident of Prussian support, he may not have given battle at all that day.
quote:

Of course, such an account would be instinctively favored by any left leaning school of history just as the interpretation favoured by RH and JK is the one that accords with a more conventional “establishment” view: history often reduces to opinion and "one pays ones money and one takes ones choice".


Traditionalist versus revisionist is the only way historical scholarship can move forward (and continue to sustain a large publishing industry!) But it can get a little stale with such a well worn subject as Waterloo. It gets harder and harder to generate the new evidence that is needed to reinterpret events or defend the established view.
quote:


On the whole, I stand by my choice (but could be persuaded otherwise).


How dare you come here with an open mind.
While a longer discussion trying to persuade each other would be interesting, I am not sure the rest of the forum would find it quite so enthralling. Besides, I always say old battles should be refought with the two opponents facing each other over a good single malt.


"if God has no sense of humour, I'm in trouble."
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 15/12/2010 :  08:09:23 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

These are interesting points TYG, thanks. Are we in danger of being the only guests at our own Xmas Party!
The original post was prompted as I happened to stumble on Prof John Davies's interpretation of the Town Clock inscription "Wellington England's Hero" in his [superb] book "100 Welsh Places to Visit Before You Die".

I was immediately struck by it, because, as a Welshman (no doubt with at least some English blood, Milkman - I know I've also got Scottish, Irish, French and indeed, Viking ancestry - the latter because of a congenital deformity originating in Scandinavia - I'm drifting off-point - like Lloyd George himself and indeed "our Neil" I can be a bit of a windbag) I'm sensitive to the label English or England pertaining in any way to me or my birthplace.

Of course, part of the attraction of Davies's explanation is that it added a twist to my long held (prejudiced?) opinion about it (in my original post).

Now, normally, I'm suspicious of anything other than a "straight forward" explanation and very attracted to the sort of reasoning applied by Mike, in his previous post.

But in this case, I wonder?

Was there an ulterior motive, eloquently expressed by Davies, to including this inscription on the clock?
Wellington, the "hero", the grandest of grand old Tories, probably the most important politician in the 1820s and 1830s, had a lifelong opposition to extending in any way the vote to "lower orders" and had been an implacable opponent of Chartism - much, no doubt, to the 'Masters great approval.

Why might all of this be of any relevance to the people of Tredegar, today?

To many, the Town Clock is the very symbol of our town, its history and its people.
Inscribed on it, is a commemoration of a significant and influential individual who for many years had opposed the extension of what today would be considered a fundamental right: the right to choose and elect one's representatives.

In doing so, one could argue, quite rationally, that Wellington was, to the vast majority of inhabitants of Tredegar, as much an oppressor as hero.

To those who say, yes, but thanks to Wellington the people of Tredegar may have been compelled to speak French courtesy of Napoleon rather than English courtesy of Victoria, then I might reply [tongue in cheek, perhaps] that in the interests of fairness the clock should also include a salutation to Marshal Blucher, the Commander of the Prussian army whom we are all agreed played (at a minimum) a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo (and, in doing so, by the way, inadvertently helped establish the Pax Britannica).

Anyway, there's another inscription on the Town Clock.

"Dieu et mon droit" (the moto of the Monarchy, “God and My Right”).

Anybody care to argue the concept: “God given right to rule”.

Penny dropping?
In a way, the two inscriptions reference the same common idea, do they not?


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mike
Advanced Member

United Kingdom
381 Posts

Posted - 15/12/2010 :  20:02:56 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by uchlawycoed

...
But in this case, I wonder?

Was there an ulterior motive, eloquently expressed by Davies, to including this inscription on the clock?
Wellington, the "hero", the grandest of grand old Tories, probably the most important politician in the 1820s and 1830s, had a lifelong opposition to extending in any way the vote to "lower orders" and had been an implacable opponent of Chartism - much, no doubt, to the 'Masters great approval.

Why might all of this be of any relevance to the people of Tredegar, today?

To many, the Town Clock is the very symbol of our town, its history and its people.
Inscribed on it, is a commemoration of a significant and influential individual who for many years had opposed the extension of what today would be considered a fundamental right: the right to choose and elect one's representatives.

In doing so, one could argue, quite rationally, that Wellington was, to the vast majority of inhabitants of Tredegar, as much an oppressor as hero.

To those who say, yes, but thanks to Wellington the people of Tredegar may have been compelled to speak French courtesy of Napoleon rather than English courtesy of Victoria, then I might reply [tongue in cheek, perhaps] that in the interests of fairness the clock should also include a salutation to Marshal Blucher, the Commander of the Prussian army whom we are all agreed played (at a minimum) a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo (and, in doing so, by the way, inadvertently helped establish the Pax Britannica).

Anyway, there's another inscription on the Town Clock.

"Dieu et mon droit" (the moto of the Monarchy, “God and My Right”).

Anybody care to argue the concept: “God given right to rule”.

Penny dropping?
In a way, the two inscriptions reference the same common idea, do they not?



That's an interesting theory, but I am a bit dubious about the inscriptions being some sort of coded message to the humble workers from the ruling classes (in this case, Mr & Mrs R.P. Davies).

You only have to look at the "benevolent" treatment of their workers when compared to other ironmasters in the iron belt (with the possible exception of Joseph Tregelles Price in Neath).

I think the clock (and inscriptions) were more to do with gaining "brownie points" with the local Squirearchy.

Mike
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 16/12/2010 :  07:58:51 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, I'm not suggesting cryptic messages, conspiricies, or anything of that kind: I hope I haven't done that; I certainly didn't intend leaving that impression.

“Penny dropping” referred to the two inscriptions representing a common idea, expressed in different ways: this is not immediately obvious from a casual reading of the inscriptions and I used that term because the "penny hadn't immediately dropped" for me. That happened when I read John Davies's take on the Wellington reference in the work cited in my original post (I was really pleased to see Tredegar in that book, by the way: "100 Welsh Places to Visit Before You Die").

What I am suggesting is that the inscriptions are indicative of the attitudes and thinking that predominated amongst “the establishment” at that time: the lower orders should be ruled by institutions unelected by the vast majority, and, the head of which, claimed a divine right to be there. They were, in modern parlance, a “window” on their mindset.

View it in the context of the day: our nearest neighbour, France (much of Europe for that matter), in a constant state of political upheaval, Marx and Engels publishing their seditious writings etc etc . The ruling classes were in a constant state of anxiety regarding the lower orders and felt the need to impress them with an establishment view that stressed the need to maintain the political status quo.

Anyway, its all a matter of opinion: I concede one reads into it what one wants to read into it and one must guard against reading too much into it!

I don’t think I’ll post again on this topic but two things come to mind:

We still have a head of state who's motto is "Dieu et mon droit".

Wellington remains a hero to many

Neither (1) nor (2) are to my taste.
Although I was pleased to be in the company of such an eminent Welsh academic as Prof. Davies I concede we may have got it all wrong...perhaps
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 20/12/2010 :  08:45:40 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

I’m a Wetherspoons fan but I don’t normally go there for intellectual stimulation.
However, I couldn’t help noticing one of the wall posters above Table 11 in the Tredegar branch. It read:

"The Clock Tower."
Tredegar’s best known landmark is the Clock Tower in the centre of The Circle. The 72 feet tall tower was erected in 1859 in honour of the Duke of Wellington.
Wellington, who had died 7 years earlier was honoured as the hero who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
After his military exploits Wellington returned to politics becoming Prime Minister in 1828.
He was also “Lord High Constable of England”. In that post he organised the defence of London against an anticipated insurrection of Chartist reformers in 1848.
This may have motivated mine owners and ironmasters to erect a monument in his honour.
The Clock Tower in The Circle was partly paid for with proceeds from a bazaar organised by the wife of one of the ironwork’s managers.
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milkman
Super Member

United Kingdom
1075 Posts

Posted - 20/12/2010 :  16:21:30 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As KenJ says we must be careful in not reading too much into "past" situations.
According to our best known local historian The local ironmaster (Samuel Homfrey I believe) sat in Bedwellty House and waved and wished the Chartists luck on their way to Newport.
He was of English stock although may have been born in the Head of the Valleys. As commented previously the Tredegar ironmasters werte noted for being fair to their workers.
Of course, "fair" in those times, 150 years ago, would not be perceived similarly nowadays.
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Fluffpants
Full Member

107 Posts

Posted - 20/12/2010 :  17:15:37 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
A bit contraversial I know, but perhaps an easier answer would be that as Tredegar used to be part of Monmouthshire and thereby, considered by some to be English. Would that not explain the inscription??

http://www.crosskeys.me.uk/location/monmap.htm
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  08:21:37 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
All valid points, I think.
I'm glad I'm not alone in finding the subject fascinating.

To digress slightly. I'd love to be able to go back in time, for a few hours (majically dressed in an appropriate "dandy's" outfit!), to say, November 1839, just as the Chartists are leaving on their ill advised jaunt to Newport.
Mind you, I don't think I'd like to be at their destination as, of course, I'd run the risk of being shot dead by soldiers of the Crown defending the Westgate hotel.
Mmmm…thinking about it, that’s what Sir Paul Stephenson must have meant when he said his armed Royal Protection Officers had shown “remarkable restraint” when their Royal Highnesses had been viciously attacked by that gang of weapon-wielding, student layabout scum filth in London recently.

There we are, see, there’s progress for you.
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pierre
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United Kingdom
13018 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  09:15:29 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Its reported that the clock took over 6 weeks to erect, coming up from Newport (but the iron used was from Tredegar). Would have been a sight seeing it go up.........

The engineering at the time must have been pushed to its limits. How did they do it with no cranes ?

Also makes you think how the nine arches was constructed. Must have provided a lot of work for local people.

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News & Information on Tredegar since 1991
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  10:04:34 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Levers and pulleys and brute strength (men and/or horses) and, at that time, occasionally steam power, Pierre.


Not a bit of wonder life expectancies were late thirties \ early forties. From our current perspective, relentless, gruelling hard work, relatively poor diets, poor health care etc. No antibiotics, no anaesthetics, no electric light etc etc


Just the sort of conditions still "enjoyed" by millions in the Third World today as I'm so prone (and, often, secretly grateful if the truth is known) to forget.
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pierre
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United Kingdom
13018 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  10:09:29 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Would you know what type of steam power they would have used uchlawycoed ?

A very interesting subject.
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  10:16:53 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Is it certain the iron used for the clock was from the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company?
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mike
Advanced Member

United Kingdom
381 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  10:25:08 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I would imagine that by the mid-mineteenth century, heavy lifting technology would have been fairly well developed. Assembling the clock would probably been on a par with (or even easier than) erecting the eponymous iron bridge at Coalbrookdale just over a century earlier.

The builders of the clock would have been familiar with the use of derricks and sheerlegs as lifting machines, even if they had no cranes.

Mike
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uchlawycoed
Full Member

85 Posts

Posted - 21/12/2010 :  10:30:18 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Steam engines had become reasonably advanced by the 1850s and were either static or the familiar mobile steam engine (on rails): thier power could be harnessed to do mechanical work pumping water, pulling chains etc etc

By advanced I mean that considerable progress had been made in all aspects of ferrous metallurgy, enabling stronger material to be more reliably rivet joined. This, in turn, allowed higher steam pressures to be reliably attained (emphasise reliability: many engineers were maimed or killed with imploding exploding steam engines) and this gave more powerful engines.

All this coupled with the breathtaking ingenuity of Victorian engineers.

We truly were the workshop of the World.

Of course, the 1850s would eventually bring one truly revolutionary industrial advance - one of the great discoveries of all time - the development of bulk steel making via the Bessemer process.

Steel was the main material of the modern World.
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