The Great Eastern

The Great Eastern
We had an excellent talk by Philip Unwin, a volunteer with the SS Great Britain Trust, on The Great Eastern, Brunel’s 3rd and last ship.  As Philip explained, she was huge being twice the length, width and draught of the SS Great Britain.  Her size, however, caused several problems wherever she went and that together with various financial problems and a degree of bad luck led many to think she was jinxed.
She was designed by Brunel to take 4000 passengers to the Far East without refuelling and for this reason had both propellers and paddles as many of the places it was intended to go to had shallow waters.  5 engines were required to provide enough power to drive the ship.

Brunel discussed his design with John Scott Russell, an excellent engineer and shipyard owner in Millwall, who he had met at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and found that Russell had had a similar idea.  He approached the Eastern Steam Navigation Company who agreed to fund the project.  Brunel estimated that the cost of building the ship would £500K but Russell put in a much lower bid which Brunel accepted and, in 1854, they began building the ship on a timber grid, the remains of which can still be seen.  Philip showed us several plans of the design of the ship.

Brunel was, apparently, a difficult man to work with and insisted that he had to authorise every change needed to be made during the ship’s construction but of course this was impossible as he had a lot of other projects to supervise. This was to prove significant.

The ship had a double iron hull which required 3 million rivets that had to be driven by hand, enormous 50ft paddles, and a cast iron screw propeller which was 24 ft in diameter.   When complete in 1854 it was said to be the largest man-made moveable object.

The cost of constructing the ship was enormous and this, together with the amount of time it took meant that the ship had 2 different owners all of whom had lost money before the launch.

Launch Day was set for 3 November 1857.  Because of its size it had been designed to be launched sideways using hydraulic rams.  The first ones they used were inadequate for the job and Richard Tangye from Birmingham was asked to provide stronger ones.  This he did bringing them down from Birmingham – an enormous task in itself but it was very good publicity for him.

Brunel had hoped to launch the ship with a minimum amount of publicity but, as Philip explained many people had been watching the building of the ship and it had been a real tourist attraction.  Even Queen Victoria apparently made a visit although she was most displeased at the stench coming from the Thames.  The directors, who were in need of any money they could get, decided to capitalise on the publicity and sold 3,000 tickets for the event at 5 shillings each.  Brunel was not pleased.

The ship was launched by attaching chains from the ship to two barges which were securely moored so that when the rams pushed the ship down the slip the barges would hold it, but on the first occasion the anchors of the barge dragged and the ship only moved 6 feet.  The next time it was tried there was no movement at all as the chains broke and various people were hurt. In the end it took 3 months before she was floated out and moored. The time taken and the ship’s sheer size led to a lot of mockery and there was a Punch cartoon showing Brunel on board with a hot air balloon, a cattle show and other things which ridiculed the whole process. Ironically this presaged how she would end up.

Brunel himself was annoyed that the launch had not been done the way he had planned and had been humiliated by the launch. He died 10 days later, in 1858, following a stroke.  Although it was said that the ship had killed him he had, in fact, been quite ill for some time and suffered from Bright’s disease and by the time the ship was built he was also exhausted.  The 48 cigars a day he apparently smoked probably didn’t help either.

The total cost of the launch was £170K.  The ship with an estimate of £500K to build had eventually cost £730K and still needed to be fitted out.  Her owner, the Eastern Steam Navigation Company was now in severe financial difficult and a new company, the Great Ship Company, was set up which bought out the original shareholders.  They bought the Great Eastern for £160,000 and had enough capital to pay for the fitting out. Philip said this was a bargain since there was at least that value of iron there although there was less than Scott Russell said he had provided!

 Philip showed pictures of the inside of the ship which was extremely luxuriously fitted out.

It was a very grand ship and was completed in 1859.   Despite the fact that Brunel had intended that the ship sail to the Far East and advised that it should never cross the Atlantic, the first voyage in 1860 was to America with 400 passengers only 35 of whom were paying and so there was no profit. She sailed with a new captain as the original one had drowned in an accident in Southampton.

This was, according to Philip, the first intimation that the ship was jinxed.

In 1861 it made its second trip across the Atlantic, having been chartered to carry 2400 troops to reinforce the British garrison in Quebec in response to American threats to move into Canada. Although this trip did make a profit it also turned into a PR disaster.  The civil war was going on in America and not many people were interested in the ship.  In order to promote it, therefore, the Captain decided to offer paying passengers a cruise.  1500 people signed up, far more than they had crew for and so they hired local labour. The cruise proved to be a total disaster; the local crew members were often drunk and rude to the passengers, there was not enough food and fresh water and there were a lot of complaints.  Fed up with the state of affairs, Philip explained that many people grabbed bottles of booze and got drunk, going onto the upper deck to sleep.  Unfortunately for them there were 5 funnels all belching out black smoke and when they awoke in the morning they were black.  With not enough fresh water to wash themselves, this added to the complaints.  When they got back to New York the ship owners were used by the local press for gross inefficiency and misleading advertising.

The Grand Saloon during storm Sept 1861. Based on a sketch by a passenger, C. F. Hayward

The third voyage also had problems.  During a very bad storm the rudder broke although it was 24 hours before the passengers realised what had happened. The problem was that when the rudder flapped about it damaged one of the paddles necessitating the other paddle to be stopped plus the engines.  Philip read an extract from an account written by one of the passengers in which he described how nothing was chained down, tables and chairs tumbled, mirrors were smashed and broken, the grand piano broke away and in the dining room and galley there was flying crockery, food and cutlery.  It was mayhem and must have been terrifying for the passengers and crew.

One of the passengers, who was an engineer, had a plan to resolve the issue but the Captain refused to listen to him.  The passengers took matters into their own hands and the passenger committee demanded that the Captain try out the plan.  This involved putting chains around the rudder head to control it.  In order to do this it was necessary for someone to go over the side to secure a chain to the rudder.  One brave sailor volunteered and managed to do it.  Once they got underway again, the passengers had a whip round and were able to give him £100.  A sizeable amount in those days.  By the time the ship was repaired, however, the ship was off course.  A small coaster from America came alongside and offered to accompany the ship overnight.  Although this must have been a reassurance to the passengers in reality, as Philip explained, they couldn’t really have done very much.  What they did do, however, was to charge the ship owners demurrage because of the delay they incurred getting to port.  It was yet more expense for the owners.

After the necessary repairs the ship made 3 more voyages but on the last to New York she got a gash in the hull.  This became known as the Great Eastern Rock incident. Although they arrived safely in New York the ship was listing badly and when they examined the ship they found that a section between the hulls was full of water.  Although the gash was very large and bigger than the one that sunk the Titanic, the ship had survived because of the double skin.  Due to her size it was impossible to repair her in a dry dock and so a cofferdam was built to effect the repairs.

There were three more voyages but the company was running out of money and in January 1864 the ship was put up for sale and was bought by a new company, The Greater Eastern Steamship Company with the purpose of laying a transatlantic cable.

In April 1864 the ship was chartered to the Telegraph Construction Company.  The Great Eastern was the only ship big enough to take the length of cable required for this huge operation, and it took five months just to load it.The cable was 2000 miles long and 1 inch in diameter. All this had to be accommodated in the hold and paid out gradually to a depth of about 2 miles. The first attempt took place on 14 July 1865 andthe cable broke 5 times.  Each time the cable had to be brought back into the ship to be repaired.  They had to find cable, then draw it up and as it had to be brought in over the bow they had to turn the ship round each time.  It was very tedious and each time took 12 – 17 hours.  As Philip said, it must have been a soul destroying job.

The second attempt using a lighter and stronger cable was successful and the transatlantic cable linking Ireland to Newfoundland was completed on 1 September 1866.Messages were being sent back all the time reporting their progress and there was much excitement.

It was then chartered to a French company who laid a cable from Brest to New York and also one from Aden to Bombay.  It was then chartered to a French company who wanted to use her as a cruise liner and they put back all the furnishings.  This was never very successful and she was eventually laid up in Milford Haven.

At the end of her life the ship became much like the one lampooned in Punch.  She was, amongst other things, used as a fairground and went up and down the Mersey advertising Lewis’s Department Store. In 1888

she was sold for scrap and was broken up on the banks of the Mersey.  She was so strong that it took 2 years to break her up.

A sad end.

 

Garden Party 30 June 2019

Garden Party at The George House courtesy of Robin Goodfellow. 

Several members had a very enjoyable visit to Robin’s garden on a lovely sunny day.
Merle (Robin’s dog) had an excellent time showing us around the garden although it was quite exhausting and she did need to take the odd breather.

Fortunately Robin was on hand to talk rather more authoritatively about the planting schemes in the garden and I think I can safely say that everyone was amazed at the amount of work that had gone in to making it so impressive.  Grateful thanks to Robin for hosting the event.     

David Roberts gave an excellent presentation on the archaeological work that had taken place in the upper part of the garden and Madeleine Roberts and the team were on hand to dispense drinks on what was a very hot day. Thanks to all of them for a lovely day and to Jonathan Friend for the photos

Axbridge Weekend May 18 and 19

We had a very successful weekend of events with far more people attending than we expected.  As a result it was considered too hazardous to have a walk around the narrow streets of Axbridge and therefore on Saturday morning John Page gave a talk in the Square and a brief walk to look at some of the houses there. The afternoon saw us in the Church where Dr Jerry Sampson entertained us with an excellent talk about the building and its history and revealed a few of the little things you had never noticed such as a mason’s mark and the remains of coloured plaster work.

On Sunday afternoon two groups led by Madeleine and David Roberts went to consider Madeleine’s evidence for the existence of a port, walking from Axbridge along Bailiff’s wall down to Cradle Bridge on the River Axe and back along Hook wall to Axbridge.  Her theory that there was a port of Axbridge was both very interesting and intriguing.

The photo is of the two groups meeting on their way to and from the River Axe.

Rev. Dr Thomas Whalley

March meeting.
Chris Stephens gave an excellent talk on his research into the life of the Rev. Dr Thomas Whalley (1746-1828), which he sub-titled A True Story of Georgian Life at the time of Jane Austen.

His interest in the subject was aroused when he was asked to re-build some walls that ran alongside Mendip Lodge, which was built by the Rev. Dr Whalley as a summer retreat.

Much of Whalley’s life is known from his letters edited and published by his great nephew in 1863, but recent research has revealed a far more interesting and complete account.  His life was clearly one of extravagance, generosity and intellectual activity and he spent much of his time with many of the most influential people of the time.

He was the son of John Whalley, Master of Peterhouse College in Cambridge and his mother was the daughter of the Chancellor of Wells Cathedral.  He married a widow, Elizabeth Sherwood, who was the heir to Langford Court and it was her money that enabled him to buy a house in the Royal Crescent in Bath, which he used during the “season.”  Apparently he thought of himself as a poet and playwright and enjoyed living in Bath which was, at the time, a centre of social life and where there were many famous people such as Mrs Siddons, Hannah More, David Garrick and Mrs Thrale (Piozi). Chris used Whalley’s extensive correspondence with these people to inform his research.

Thomas and his wife went to France in 1783 ad let their house, Langford Court,  When they  returned in 1787 he built Mendip Lodge because Langford Court had been let you during their absence from England.  No expense was spared building the house and the cost of landscaping the grounds alone was, according to De Quincy, about £30,3000.  The equivalent to day of about 30 million,

In 1801 Thomas’s wife died and in 1803 he married a Miss Heathcote who was also very rich but sadly she died in 1807.  Although relatively wealthy, the upkeep of Mendip Lodge and his somewhat extravagant lifestyle meant that it made sense for Thomas to marry for a third time and in 1815 he married the widow of the wealthy General Horneck.  Unfortunately, as Thomas found out, Mrs Horneck herself was not well off, having been left out of the will of her late husband.  The marriage was not to last long and the couple separated in 1819. Quite what the reasons were for this are unclear but his wife’s accusation of cruelty led Thomas to seek a legal separation.

In 1819 he sold Mendip Lodge to Benjamin Somers, a relative by marriage of his first wife, but had to buy it back in 1822 when Somers failed to keep up the mortgage payments.

After his separation from his third wife, Thomas retired from public life in Bath and in 1820 was living in La Fleche, in France where his niece, Frances, and her husband lived.  Until his death Thomas seems to have divided his time between various places in Britain and in France.  He died in 1828 and was buried in La Fleche.

The Queen of Bath, Frances Sage

Thomas had a sister, Elizabeth, who he adored and who married an East India Company man called Isaac Sage.  When she died in 1778, she left a daughter Frances who was then 7 years old and since her father was in India, Thomas and his wife took care of her. Frances grew up to be a very accomplished and popular young lady and it is her who was to become the Queen of Bath.

The well-known figure, Richard Beau Nash was the self-appointed “Monarch of Bath” and logically he needed  “Queen.”  Various people held the post until, in 1788, aged 19 years,

Frances was hailed as the next Queen and stayed as such until 1790.  Why her tenure was so short is not known but Chris speculated that perhaps her behaviour had not been all that it should be!  She was described as spirited, independent and worldly.

In 1790 she married William Mullins, an Irish widower with 2 small children. However, although from a rich family and due to inherit a title and fortune, it seems that William had very little money and the couple had no settled home.  The marriage was clearly not a happy one and In 1795 Frances left William who divorced her on the grounds of infidelity.  She had, in fact, gone away with Captain Abel Rous Dottin, the eldest son of wealthy parents, who were plantation owners in Barbados.  It would appear that the two had known each other for many years and it is supposed that the whole “adultery” charge might have been staged. Whalley remained friends with William Mullins for many years and Dottin married 3 years after this event and became an MP with the help of Isaac Sage, France’s father.  A divorce was granted in 1796 and Frances received a settlement of £1000 per annum for life.

A mere three weeks after the divorce Frances married Rev. Robert Boyle Sullivan.  The suggestion is that France had fallen in love with him hence the staged adultery. Sullivan was a curate at Winscombe for a time but was removed for neglecting his duties.  Influential friends meant that he was able to obtain a curacy at Bradford on Avon.  In 1815 following the Battle of Waterloo, however, the Sullivans were in France. Although they appeared to live quite well it is unclear whether Robert had any employment or what exactly their financial situation was.  Frances did, of course, have her annuity.

In 1818, when her father died he left her only £1000 in his will, thinking that she was well provided for.  However in 1824 when her first husband died she lost her annuity and when Robert Sullivan died in 1826 Frances was in dire need of financial assistance.  She appealed for help to her uncle Thomas and he bought her a house in  in France and left her £1000 in his will.

Around 1830, with growing unrest in France, Frances sold the house and returned to England.  In 1841 she is recorded as residing in a lodging house (possibly her own) and in the 1851 census she is described as a an annuitant.

She died in 1857 aged 86 and is buried in Bath Abbey.

Chris ended with a question, which was whether Frances Sage and Thomas Whalley were known to Jane Austen.  He suggested that, as Austen knew Bath very well, that the families might have been known to each other and that Frances might well have been a source for some of her characters.  Chris surmised that one of the characters in  Lady Susan,Austen’s first bookwritten about 1794, was indeed modelled on Frances.

An intriguing thought to end with!

Chris has done an enormous amount of research in writing this book, which is available at a bargain price from the King John’s Hunting Lodge.

Thanks to the Georgian Society and Bath City Council for the pictures

Geophysics Survey at Allerton

After a brief introduction from Elizabeth Friend on the reasons why Poolhayes was chosen as the site of the recent survey, Liz Caldwell and Nigel Harvey spoke about the techniques they used and the results of the full survey which was done in October 2018,  Although nothing conclusive was found there were a few anomalies suggesting  ditches and a number of curvilinear lines which were not consistent with the current field boundaries and which seemed to leading up to the field beyond Poolhayes.  This is much higher than the village and the activity seen could, they suggested be evidence of an earlier settlement there.

Liz went on to outline the use of geophysics and illustrated this with examples of work that they have done.

The results of the survey will form part on an exhibition at the King John’s Hunting Lodge Museum in Axbridge which will open at Easter.The field is numbered 144 on the Dean and Chapter map 1786

 

Daily Life in Roman North Somerset

Talk by John Smith on September 19th

Making a return visit to AALHS John, once again, gave a fascinating talk about what it was like to live in Britain under the Romans and, along with giving us a potted history of Roman occupation, brought along various artefacts to show us.

He started by explaining that Somerset was an important place to the Romans for lead mining, minerals, agriculture and a labour force.  As the invading army moved around they made a record on wax tablets of all the crops, numbers of people and animals which was, in effect, a tax record.

example of a mosaic floor

John drew attention to the benefits of Roman occupation, which included the introduction of writing and a fixed coinage system.  The Romans also changed the way that houses were designed, introducing the idea of separate rooms and a rectangular shape.  The houses of the wealthy were built with piped water, windows and many of the features that we recognise in houses today.  Mosaic floors were another introduction and were an indication of wealth and status.  John explained that these were made in sections off site and then assembled in the house. Amusingly in St Albans there is a floor where one section was laid the wrong way round.

typical roman sandals for outdoor use

John showed us various examples of clothing.  Simple tunics were usually made of wool and linen and examples found in Somerset were often of high quality.  He also showed sandals with hobnails for outside use and shoes for indoors.

Cooking utensils were also on display:  These included basic bowls of black burnished ware from Dorset and a bowl of Samian ware.

example of black burnished ware

John also speculated whether coin hoards were hidden at times of political or economic upheaval or perhaps when it would have been difficult to exchange coins.  Most were found in the 3rdcentury AD which was when Britain broke away from central Roman rule.

In conclusion John pointed out that when the Romans left, Britain reverted to a system of subsistence farming and it is of course likely that in country areas the Romans would have had little impact on the way of life anyway.   He thought life had been better under the Romans.
An interesting insight into what life might have been like!

Visit to the Old Deanery Gardens, Wells

13 members of the Society and 2 visitors went to visit the Old Deanery Gardens on July 11

the group listening intently to Frances

Frances Neale, one of our vice-Presidents gave an excellent talk about the history of the garden and Sylvia Hanks, one of the founders of the restoration project talked about how the project started.  Having had no planting plan left by William Turner It was really interesting to see how they interpreted what it might have looked like.  All the plants in the garden are ones that the Dean would have known and had described in his Herbal.

looking down at the garden from the ramparts

The Gardens are open every Wednesday and there is free admission – well worth a visit
Link here http://www.olddeanerygarden.org.uk

 

Geophysical Survey Training Day at Chapel Allerton

SANHS e-bulletin August 2018
Archaeology: Geophysical Surveying Training Day at Chapel Allerton
On Saturday 30th June SANHS held its first geophysical surveying training day with the help of members of the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group (SSARG) and GeoFlo Southwest Geophysical Services. The event took place at Chapel Allerton and participants included members of the Axbridge and Chapel Allerton Local History Societies. The field chosen for the survey is located opposite the church and has a lot of potential for interesting results.  There are several linear earthworks which are clearly visible, including what appears to be a rectilinear enclosure. Historically the field used to be the site of the Village Fair, plus there was a trackway through it which led to the local mill.This Summer has been a scorcher and 30th June was no exception! Nine hardy volunteers braved the heat to try their hand at resistivity and gradiometry surveying.  Unfortunately, despite the hot weather, the grass was too long in the part of the field that we really wanted to survey, plus there were cattle roaming around, so instead we chose a small 20 x 80m strip between the road and a small copse of trees in the middle of the field.             The volunteers were instructed in how to set up the survey grid, and then had the opportunity to use the resistivity meter and gradiometer.  We managed to survey the area completely with both machines and then retired to the relative coolness of the church to have a look at the results.  Unfortunately the gradiometer results were severely affected by ferrous magnetic disturbance, but the resistivity results revealed some irregular linear anomalies of varying strength and alignment.  It is possible that some of these could be associated with a former building, and if so it is also possible that some of the disturbance in the gradiometer results could be due to demolition rubble.

The rest of the field is due to be surveyed this Autumn after the grass has been cut and the cows are indoors, and volunteers from the training day have been invited to come along.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped out on such a hot day, and especially for arranging access to the church and providing drinks and biscuits and cake!

Liz Caldwell

Ed:  AALHS and the Allerton History Society are grateful to SANHS and the grant from the Maltwood Fund for financing this project.

 

 

 

The Mapping of Somerset

Joe and Christine King

Another difficult talk to describe without the illustrations. Although all the maps had a function they were also very decorative and it is that which makes them very interesting to look at. I will put some example on the website.

Joe started by saying how intriguing it was that Somerset was so well mapped and explained that this was because in the Elizabethan era they were very fearful of Catholic opposition to Elizabeth 1 and it was felt that her position was insecure. Her Chancellor, Lord Burghley was very anxious about the security of the throne and saw the value of having maps for defence and administration purposes.

He asked Thomas Seckford to arrange for the mapping of the country and he, in turn, asked Christopher Saxton to do this. Saxton had been a servant of John Rudd, vicar of Dewsbury who had, himself, tried to map the kingdom but couldn’t complete the task because it needed the assistance of all the great landowners.

He had been helped by Saxton and it was Saxton who the Privy Council asked to undertake the mapping of the kingdom and all the great landowner were instructed to give him assistance. He used a crude form of triangulation using the beacons, which were on all the high places and in five years had mapped the whole country. Somerset was one of the first places to be mapped and Joe showed the first published map of Somerset produced by Saxton, which is a fairly good representation of the county.

There are lots of decorative details on it, fish, boats, the coat of arms of Elizabeth 1 and also of Seckford which states “Sloth is the country’s bane”. The scale was of the military mile ie 1000 paces. The mile that we recognise today was fixed in 1592 but, as Joe pointed out, for the next 180 years or so many maps had a short mile, a middle mile and a long mile on them.   No-one knows why.

The people who made the maps were Flemish craftsmen who had come to England. The early maps were made on copper sheets, which were hammered flat and then the map was scribed on them. Names of course had to be done in mirror writing – very clever as Joe said. After about 300 copies of a map the sheet had to be scribed again.

The early maps showed various places such as Cheddar, Axbridge and Wookey Hole but it is the rivers that predominate. These and the bridges over them were, of course, the most important features to show given their significance for trade and travel. Roads were not shown until later and hills on the early maps looked like little mole hills. The depiction of hills was refined later.

Another main feature of these early maps was the inclusion of deer parks. Mappers had, of course, to be polite to important people but a deer park was also the site of an annual general muster for the villagers to prepare for war.

Given that Saxton had started with no idea of the shapes of counties, his maps were an extraordinary achievement. Editions of the maps, which were in black and white were produced for the next 100 years, although some were hand-coloured.

The next maps Joe showed were those of John Speed produced around 1610.

Speed was an historian who, when James 1st came to the throne was tasked with proving a direct lineage from James to the Greek heroes. No mean feat!

Joe showed Speed’s map of 1612. This shows, in one corner, a town plan of Bath complete with the heraldry of important people on it. It was the first map of the city and shows various details; baths, a horse bath, trees etc. It was very informative as a map and also shows the first reference to a tennis court. Perhaps the major change from previous maps was that it shows the Hundreds for the first time, which were, of course important administratively.  One question Joe raised was whether old maps were always correct. There were, of course, errors, but for many years the early maps were replicated by others and so the errors remained. As an example he showed Speed’s Wiltshire map, which shows two villages, now known as North and South Burcombe. On the original drawing Speed had written Quare (meaning query) next to North Burcombe and this was then engraved. For the next 162 years or so the “village of Quare” remained on the maps until the mistake was spotted.

Joe then showed a strange and unusual 1612 map by Michael Drayton who was a contemporary of Shakespeare. This showed women with trees growing out of their hair, ladies with cities on their heads and all manner of weird images.

Must try and find it for the website!

The Saxton and Speed were large and bound as books. In 1626 a map was produced by John Bill, which was of a size that could be put in a saddle bag and reflects the fact that people were moving about more and maps were useful to have with you. Knowing distances was also useful and the next map Joe showed was from 1625 and produced by John Norden who invented a table, which showed the distances between various places.

From then on, there were various innovations which I will just outline briefly.

John Ogilvy produced strip maps which covered the routes that people would commonly travel and which showed various landmarks you might see on your journey.

In 1676 maps were produced by Robert Morden which, for the first time showed roads. The first maps he produced were actually on the back of playing cards and these are now very rare collectors items. In 1695 Morden produced larger maps but interestingly these had no roads marked on them but did have 3 different mile scales despite the fact that it was over 100 years since the government had set the statutory mile we know today. These continued to be published after his death and the smaller plates were also produced with the roads marked.

Further changes to maps reflected wider social changes for example the addition of things of interest, which gave people more information about the places they were visiting. One example shown was of a map by Herman Moll, a friend of Daniel Defoe which included depictions of various antiquities .  Similarly John Gibson produced a small map with commodities such as corn, lead, woad, Bristol stone and lapis calaminaris (calamine) illustrated on it.

Strachey produced a vertical map of mining at Chew Magna showing what was going on underground. Although he was the first to do this he has received no credit for doing so and it was a William Smith who later produced similar maps and took the credit. Joe also showed a lovely county map done by Strachey with a plan of Wells on it complete with cathedral and houses.

New maps following the draining of the moors around 1769 showed that roads were then the dominant feature not rivers. Maps around this time were the last to be produced on copper and soon engravings on steel replaced them. These enabled the map-makers to have much finer lines and more detail.

Pinot 1842 showing roads, canals and railways

In the 19th century maps began to have a wider use, often reflecting economic changes. George III commissioned maps, which showed the agricultural use of the land for example. By 1820 mail coach roads were shown on the maps and around 1840 there were maps showing canals and later, ones showing railway lines also appeared. Such was the proliferation of railway building that maps were sometimes produced by the railway companies to advertise new lines that were never actually built!

County maps were, of course, still being produced and from 1812 some were in colour and Joe showed several examples. Many of them showed a lot of detailed information reflecting the Victorian desire for self-improvement.

Not all maps were decorative, however. Joe showed an example of what he called a “very miserable map” which was produced by William Cobbett.

The last decorative map was produced by Thomas Maule in 1838.

In conclusion Joe showed some strip maps, and some maps of Somerset where the county looked nothing like Somerset. One produced in 1742 made Somerset look like Africa. Finally, Joe urged everyone to keep a look out for old maps which do turn up occasionally in unlikely places. Some playing card maps recently made £1500 at auction!

An interesting talk and there was plenty to look at. Joe and Christine had a fine display of their maps around the room.