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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Green Fraud

A few years ago the government introduced the Home Information Pack for domestic conveyancing in England & Wales. (Scotland has its own way of buying and selling houses). The idea was to make all the information available for the prospective purchaser to be able to make an informed choice.  It was, of course, flawed.  For one thing the cost of buying the pack was more than the fine for not having one, and the pack needed to contain a copy of the Local Authority Search.  The flaw with that is that the Search is a snapshot taken on a particular day.  If plans are submitted for a multi-storey car park or industrial estate next door to your intended purchase on the day after the search was undertaken, then it would not show up.  That is why Local Searches are only valid for six months.  For your Home Information Pack was to have any real relevance, it needed to be kept up to date.  And that costs money, so the government decided that the pack didn't need refreshing after all.  So a property could be on the market for a couple of years and the HIP pack would be out of date.  Just an unnecessary expense.

The packs would also incorporate the latest EU wheeze called the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  These were produced by Energy Assessors who would visit your home, inspect your lightbulbs and loft space and generally poke about.  They would then (at a cost) issue you with your certificate showing the energy rating of your property.  All well and good, except the figures were based on a formula based on your home's construction. A single thickness brick built house would score lower than a double thickness wall with air gap, but if the air gap was filled with cavity wall insulation then it'd score higher again.  Did that not make the wall a single thickness?  Just asking.

But what if your house was built of stone? And what if that stone was three feet thick? Would that be more or less insulating than brick? What if your house was made of cob, which is just compressed mud?  These house have stood for centuries and appear to be warm and energy efficient, or they'd have been torn down years ago.  It appears that they hadn't made allowances for cob and so anyone with a cob walled house was marked down on their EPC.  If you had the old incandescent lightbulbs in your rooms, that was an environmental sin.  If you had the new fangled low energy bulbs that was saintly, despite the fact that they are full of mercury and can't be put into landfill, and despite the fact that they don't give off enough light and may trigger an epileptic fit in sufferers.

In my job I saw no evidence to suggest that a HIP made the buying and selling of a property any easier.  Eventually the new government abolished them, but kept the EPC which, being an EU directive meant that they couldn't get rid of them.

Since then the government has now introduced the Green Deal.  When the Energy Assessor comes to make his assessment of your property he will also highlight in his report some recommendation that can be funded through the Green Deal.  The work is carried out and the cost is recouped through your bills.  However, there is a sting in the tail.  The amount you owe stays with the property, so if you sell it, the new owner will have to take on the debt.  So it's not all good news.  Just as with renting your roof out to a Solar Panel company, which may make your house unsaleable, the hidden Green Deal charges may also put many a buyer off.

Here's a panel from a recent EPC that I saw-

This house looks fairly energy efficient. The actual score is 71 while according to the assessor the potential is an eye watering 93.  How can this amount of efficiency be attained?  Look at the panel below and it suggests the best ways to improve your score and estimates how much money you might save over the next three years.  So, if you spend between £800 and £1200 on floor insulation you may save- wait for it- as much as £83 over the next three years! At that rate it will take more than 30 years to recoup even the lower figure.
Likewise if you were to spend between 4 and 5 thousand pounds on solar water heating, you may just get your money back before you die- assuming of course that the equipment lasts that long.

Here's another EPC
In this case the property is judged to be less energy efficient than the first. The current score is a measly 53, but wait- the potential is a lofty 79!  And how do they suggest this can be achieved? Look below to where they helpfully suggest some "Top actions you can take to save money and make your home more efficient"
The first, they suggest, may be available with Green Deal.  For an outlay of only £4,000- £14,000 (now that's probably the loosest guestimate I've ever seen) it may be possible to save £687 over three years. That's a remarkably precise calculation, given the loose guestimate.  Spend between 4 and 14 thousand and save £225 a year, meaning it will take anything between 20 and 60 years to recoup the cost- which will be added to your energy bill.  So you won't actually save any money because if you have the work done you will pay through your bill, and if you don't have the work done you'll pay more heating anyway.

It's a scam. A con. A fraud.  A scheme to keep semi skilled clipboard wielding busybody "assessors" in work. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

50 ways to die in Victorian Cornwall- Part One



A sift through the West Briton 1837-45

1. 9th January 1836
On Tuesday last, an inquest was held at Bodmin by Joseph Hamley, Esq. on the body of an inhabitant of that Town called Michael Weary, who was found hanging in his dwelling house. It appeared in evidence that the deceased who was a respectable and industrious farmer, and had formerly lived in the parish of Cardinham, but latterly come to reside with his son at Bodmin, that last week his son had gone off taking with him all the property the old man possessed, from which circumstance, he had become very desponding and had committed suicide. Verdict, temporary insanity.

2. 29 January
A timber ship called the "Agenoria," bound to Telgamouth, landed yesterday at Falmouth, (with) ten sailors, taken off the "Frances Spright" bound from St. John's New Brunswick, to Limerick, which vessel was fallen in with, waterlogged, on the 23rd ult in latitude 40 deg. N, longitude 37 deg 21 min W. The poor men had been 28 days on the wreck, and suffered dreadfully, and for several days had been reduced to the extremity of subsisting on the dead bodies of some of their comrades.

3. 12 February 1836, Friday
Disasters at Sea - The "Fanny" of St. Ives, belonging to Mr. James Sandow, has been lost during the late gales, and the whole of the crew, including Mr. Sandow's two sons, one of whom was the Captain and the other the Mate, have met with watery deaths. The stern of the vessel has been washed on shore near Newquay.

4. 4 MARCH 1836
St. Blazey - An inquest was held at the Cornish Arms Inn, St. Blazey, before J. Hambly, Esq. and a respectable jury, on view of the body of Mr. John Harris of St. Austell, who was found dead near the former place early on the morning of the day above mentioned.  It appears that the deceased had been sent by his brother-in-law, Mr. R. Williams, butcher, to a farm near Lostwithiel, and on his return he incautiously lay down to rest himself, and in consequence of the severity of the weather had become so benumbed as to have been unable to rise again, and in this state died.  Deceased was about 41 years of age, and has respectable connections "Verdict - found dead.

5. 18 March 1836
A man named Canenon was killed on the 10th instant at the Carnbrea Mines, in the parish of Illogan; a train which he had laid for the purpose of blasting a rock exploded and crushed him so much, that he survived the accident but a few hours.

6. 6 May 1836, Friday
Before Hosken James, Esq. County Coroner. Yesterday week, at the dwelling house of Mr. Trevorrah, Innkeeper, in the Parish of Redruth, - Francis Rule, a boy of about eleven years of age, whose death was occasioned by the following circumstances.
The deceased, in the service of Mr. Goggin, tailor, of Redruth, accompanied the 14 yr. old son of his master to St. Day, to care for his horse while the son took care of various commissions. He got on the horse behind his young master, and the spirited horse ran off and threw the deceased, who was so much hurt in the head by the fall that he died the same evening. Verdict, accidental death. Deodand, s.

7. 3 June 1836, Friday
Hydrophobia - On Monday last, the inhabitants of St. Austell were thrown into considerable excitement by a report that several persons were bitten by a dog supposed to be in a rabid state.  The report was soon confirmed, and it was ascertained that three persons, several dogs, pigs &c were bitten.  To prevent a recurrence of so dreadful an evil, a public meeting was held in the market-house, on Tuesday morning.....resulting in resolutions requiring all person who have dogs to confine them, and to destroy them if supposed rabid.  A reward of 10s was offered for the destruction of the dog above referred to, and 2s 6d for any other which might be found at large after due notice of the passing of the resolutions.  To meet any expenses which might be incurred a subscription was immediately opened, and in the course of a few hours a large amount was raised for the purpose.  We trust that the example thus set will prompt other towns to follow, and by timely interference prevent the possibility of such dreadful accidents from occurring.

8. 17 June 1836
Dreadful Accident - On Tuesday last, as a girl of about eleven years of age, of the name of Mary Quick, daughter of Mr. Thomas Quick, was returning from school in St. Ives, a kettle of boiling water was incautiously thrown upon her, by a person whose door she was passing, which scalded her so dreadfully that her life is despaired of.

9. 24 June 1836
Dreadful Accident
On Saturday last, as Mr. James Quick, of Trevega, was removing his horses from the whim, in Trevega Mine, in the parish of Zennor, the kibble slipped from the hook and the whim was, in consequence, pulled round with such violence, that he was knocked down by the bar, and his ribs, back bone, and limbs, were so dreadfully fractured, that no hopes are entertained of his recovery.

10. 1 July 1836, Friday
Coroner's Inquest - On Friday last, an inquest was held before Hosken James, Esq. at the schoolhouse, in the parish of Feock, in this County, on the body of Paul Thomas, a youth of about 15 years and the son of the schoolmaster. (John Gay was sinking a well close by, and finding the ground hard, was obliged to blast the rock with gunpowder. The youth, who assisted Gay, "put off the train", and was safely drawn up to the surface before the explosion took place. About a quarter of an hour later, unknown to Gay, he descended by the rope from the Windlass into the shaft.) Gay faintly heard him call to be pulled up, and immediately attempted to execute his wish, but the deceased fell out of the kibble three or four feet from the bottom, and never spoke afterwards, having, no doubt, been suffocated by the smoke. The body was taken up in about ten minutes, when life was found to be quite extinct. Verdict, accidental death.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Working for nothing- Part 3

This is the third part of my Cheapest is Dearest series of thoughts written down. In the first I wrote about the obsession with market share that was driven by Tesco and other supermarkets. Their mantra was “Pile it high and sell it cheap” This tactic has diminishing returns and also teaches your customers never to pay the full price. Eventually they demand cheap goods as a right, irrespective of their cost or damage to the environment and oblivious to the human cost in producing them.
The second part dealt with outsourcing, when companies stop making goods and only buy them from the factory gate. An unintended consequence of the combination of these factors is the cost of Research & Development expressed as a percentage of the profit margin. If you cut your margin to the bone in order to compete, how can you afford R&D? If you close down your manufacturing base, where is your R&D going to take place?
Another unintended consequence is the loss of copyright and patent protection. It’s no coincidence that since manufacture was transferred to Asia the number of counterfeit goods has soared. At the moment the Western companies can claim copyright and patent rights, but it’s not beyond one’s imagination to think that this could change overnight, should China choose to ignore international patent law.
Those firms that shut their factories and gave their manufacturing processes and secrets to Asian firms may yet regret that decision.
 The rise in counterfeit goods goes hand in hand with internet piracy. Once the technology had developed to the point where any text, picture both moving or still, or audio could be converted into a series of 1s and 0s, the way was open for people to exchange files without paying the owner or producer of the work. Despite every effort, no way can be found around this. Since its inception less than twenty years ago, the internet is a place where everything is either free or unbelievably cheap. The dotcom boom of a dozen years ago showed how hard it is to make money from the internet because no-one wants to pay for content.
Music was the first media to lose value. Why buy an album when you can copy your friend’s or download it from a stranger via a torrent site? The print media didn’t help when they gave music away stuck to the cover of their publications. The music business contributed to its downfall by allowing supermarkets to loss lead on chart albums, and consigning specialist music shops to history.
The other unintended consequence of the digitisation of music is that every recording made since recordings began is capable of being stored digitally. This means that any new music has to fight to be heard through the echoes of the twenties, thirties, forties and so on. All the recorded music that has survived is now available somewhere on the internet. How do you make money from that?
The cost of breaking an artist is now astronomical compared to thirty or even twenty years ago. Warhol was truly prescient when he said that one day everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.
The unintended consequence is that it is almost impossible to make a living by being a professional musician. The music and entertainment industry is governed by the laws of Supply and Demand. Every new singer or band increases the supply side, while the availability of music online or on 24hour satellite and cable TV diminishes demand. When supply exceeds demand the price goes down.
Other areas of the entertainment industry are suffering. With the advent of cheap digital cameras and iphones, everyone can make a movie and upload it, and shows like “You’ve been framed” can only show a tiny fraction. Youtube has thousands upon thousands of videos uploaded every day and only a tiny tiny fraction go viral. Of those that do, most are viewed once and then forgotten, and nobody gets paid.
Once upon a time one would have to venture into an adult store to buy a sex tape, and the prices were higher than what you’d pay for a mainstream movie. Since the advent of digital cameras and a change in the sexual mores in the west, anyone can make a porn movie and upload it. No-one gets paid, and that’s bad for those who once made a living from the adult movie industry. Why buy a porn movie when you can watch some amateurs’ home movie? Why buy a new movie when every porn clip ever made is probably available somewhere on the net?
Back in the mainstream TV world, the rise of reality TV and docusoaps mean that schedules can be filled with programmes that are cheap to produce because professional actors aren’t used. And that’s bad for the acting profession, because supply has exceeded demand once more and that means that the price goes down.
TV Talent shows are also cheap to produce. The stars of the show- the judges get paid, but those who perform don’t. It’s an old twist on the kind of theatre talent shows like Carroll Levis. He toured the UK in the 1950s with “The Carroll Levis Discovery Show”, booking a theatre and inviting the local talent to play for nothing. The “winner” would be selected to play at a regional final. Just like X-factor or BGT. The audience would pay to watch the show. Levis got rich, and the wannabees got nothing (except their fifteen minutes of fame.) A similar show ran at the Apollo in Harlem, called “Amateur Night”.
Even the prostitutes are struggling. I read an article in the press recently that prostitutes are finding it hard to attract clients because of the way young girls on a night out dress. Yes- they dress like prostitutes and the real ones don’t stand out. With the sexualisation of our culture and the apparent willingness of girls to have sex- why pay for sex when your girlfriend is giving it away? And so on.
In the world of business it’s hard to get a paid job. Why pay someone to work for you when thousands of young people will work as interns for nothing? What has happened to us that goods are so cheap and the supply of labour has far outstripped the demand? What has happened to the value of work?
The future is uncertain. We can expect an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, drawn here by the promise of riches. For most of them their journey will be in vain. They will be stranded here, unable to go back and will inevitably become the focus of anger from the local population.
Every year in the USA, thousands make the journey across the border to chase the American Dream, only to find that the America in the movies never existed.
The rich of this world, the shadowy and untouchable elite, who never pay taxes and never mix with the rest of us are already planning their escape. Some will base themselves in tax havens like Monaco, or offshore islands. Others are buying up real estate in Montenegro. When the balloon goes up, they will be long gone. Certain politicians are cosying up to the super rich in the hope that they will be awarded a seat on the last plane to leave. How else can you explain their actions?
When the dust has settled the world will be a different place. We will have new rulers.
And many people who put their trust in politicians and businessmen will curse them.

The Cheapening of Labour- Part 2



I think (but can’t prove) that Ghandi once said that the problem facing India at the time of their independence wasn’t one of “mass production”, but rather of “production for the masses”. He saw the vast tide of humanity that needed gainful employment and the opportunities for betterment that accompanied it.

He was swimming against the tide.
In the West, mass production was all the rage. Kurt Vonnegut’s excellent book “Player Piano” published in 1952 railed against the idea that machines would take over the repetitive tasks like machining metal parts for automobiles, leaving the machinist unemployed. Vonnegut’s book comes highly recommended. I won’t spoil your future enjoyment by revealing the ending but he made a valid point.
Did those with power and influence heed Vonnegut or Ghandi?

Did they hell! Walk through any car plant today and observe the computer controlled robots doing work once done by humans. When I worked at a brand new factory in Northampton almost 40 years ago a whole floor of the office block was filled with accounts staff. The factory is long gone but the office block, built for one firm, now houses a host of companies, each one occupying a single office, each one equipped with computers more powerful than NASA used for the moon landings.
When I worked in a bank almost 50 years ago we had a dozen staff to operate the machines that processed cheques and punched data to be transmitted to the Bank’s computer. In today’s bank there is no back office. The cashier enters the information at her till position.
Once upon a time (in fact only about twenty five years ago), the boss of a company would have a secretary and the use of a pool of typists, who would type letters for him to sign. These days he’s likely to type them himself.
A few short years ago the supermarkets started installing self service tills, ostensibly to speed the customer through the checkouts. A single member of staff would be on hand in case the customer got into difficulty. The reality was that for every two self service checkouts they could get rid of one member of staff.

All through the last sixty or so years traditional jobs have been disappearing at an alarming rate. In the UK we’ve lost all the metal bashing industries as plastics and micro electronics have changed every kind of tool or gadget or vehicle. Cars are smaller and lighter, but are also faster and more economic. Technology has changed our world more swiftly and more dramatically than the Industrial Revolution of two centuries ago. And the biggest change has been the loss of jobs.

The current unemployment, especially across Southern Europe is a sign of things to come. All through Africa and the Middle East jobs are hard to come by. The Far East is currently the workhouse of the world. Vast factories can produce products to satisfy demand for the whole of the planet. That was Britain’s role a mere hundred years ago.

About a dozen years ago Naomi Klein wrote “No Logo” which told the story of companies like Nike who decided that they no longer needed to make the goods they sold, but to sub contract the manufacture to factories in the Far East.
By doing so, they could free themselves of the bother of owning factories, sourcing raw materials, employing staff, providing healthcare and pensions. They would design the goods, order them from a factory, collect the finished goods from the factory gate and concentrate on the marketing and selling the goods. Once other companies saw how successful this strategy was, they followed suit and the death knell of manufacturing in the US and UK was sounded. Governments in the Far East fell over themselves in the rush to accommodate these trans-national companies. If a particular country’s employment laws were too stringent, they created employment zones where the laws didn’t apply. It was blackmail on an international scale.
If you want our factory in your country you’d better give us a good deal.
Some countries found to their cost that the multinational/trans-nationals had no loyalty and would up sticks if they could find a better deal elsewhere.
Even the UK was drawn into paying Japanese car manufacturers to set up factories here in the UK. Twenty years on and we’re discovering that multinational companies don’t pay tax- anywhere. And while a few workers might have jobs and there might be foreign cars with “Made in Britain” emblazoned on them, just as in the Far East, the host country does not get a good deal.
Northamptonshire is famous for shoes. When the railways opened up the land and made transporting goods cheap and easy, the shoe trade boomed. Boot and shoe factories in Kettering shod the Armed Forces. Shoes became cheaper. It was possible for a working man to own more than one pair. Even children could be shod.
Shoe factories sprung up in very town and every village. At the bottom of every terraced house in every town there was a brick built shed where shoe components were made by home workers. Every village had a shoe factory.
One particular firm struck lucky when they bought the rights to a sole invented by a Doctor Martens. For forty years Doc Martens were bought and worn by punks and skinheads, boys and girls alike. They were sold across the world and were an indispensable item in every wardrobe. Uppers were part stitched in Brazil and shipped to the UK to be made into footwear in the little village factories.
Having seen the success of Nike and the other fashion leaders, Griggs, the owners of Dr Martens decided to follow suit. The local factories that had seen generations of loyal and skilled shoe workers were closed. The machinery was sold off and the factories torn down. Griggs no longer made shoes. They bought them from a factory in China. They continued to make profits but the local economy saw no benefit.
Back in the early eighties a friend’s firm rented out some factory space to store machinery. All the metal working machines, lathes, etc from factories that had closed were stored ready for export to Asia.
When the machines left, so did the ability to retool and restart the manufacturing in the UK. Every clothing factory, every metal machining, shoe making or clothes making process needs machines and skilled people. The machines were sold, the people dismissed. Some people retrained, others never worked again.
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, producers of goods destined to the four corners of the world, was closed, sold off and levelled.
And not just in the UK. The USA has also seen all its manufacturing capability transferred to Asia. It’s doubtful whether the USA or the UK for all our economic might could ever start manufacturing in the same way again.
Is that good or bad?

Both the UK and the USA have a strong Protestant work ethic. Our forefathers believed the Bible where it says “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. We humans are not made for a life of economic inactivity.

And all the while the shedding of labour continues. One man looking at a bank of computer screens can load a train of coal wagons in minutes. Huge warehouses surround this town, but each one only employs a handful of people. Computerised systems have eliminated the need for loaders and packers. In the USA they are trialling cars that don’t need a human to drive them. Will the future bring unmanned buses, controlled remotely by a person looking at a screen fifty miles away?

Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi classic “Dune” was published in Analog magazine in 8 parts, from 1963. Part of the plot structure involves an event referred to as “The Butlerian Jihad” when all thinking machines, computers, etc were outlawed. When Herbert was writing his book, could he have anticipated how much computers and modern technology have changed the world of work? A world where work is becoming increasingly rare?

The cheap race to oblivion- Part One.


Many years ago I worked for Tesco. You know- “Pile it high, sell it cheap”. That was the company mantra back in the 60s and 70s. Sell your wares cheaper than the opposition. Take the pain until your opposition gives up. It worked- for a while.
Look at the terraced streets in your town. There used to be a Corner Shop on- yes- every corner. One small shop could supply the basic needs of 100 homes. It was a living. The Asians that Idi Amin displaced from Uganda couldn’t buy them quickly enough. They extended the opening hours and worked hard to provide a service to the community. They hope to pass the business on to their children. All in vain.

The first supermarket in the UK wasn’t opened by Tesco but by Lyons (of Corner Shop, Lyons Tea, Lyons Cakes, Lyons Maid Ice Cream fame) Who? Never mind. Just content yourself that fifty years ago they were one of the biggest names in food retailing. Gone now.
The first supermarket in the UK opened in West London in 1951. It was on the corner of their huge factory named Cadby Hall and opposite the Empire Hall at Olympia.
Empire Hall? That was what it was called before Ikea moved in. Cadby Hall? That is now converted into luxury flats after the manufacturing was moved out of London.
J Lyons & Co were famous for LEO, a computer that became operational in 1951 and was used as part of their accounting systems- a world first.
When the Lyons Supermarket opened, the customers didn’t know what to do. Up to that moment, one went into a shop and asked an assistant for whatever you wanted. She (invariably) selected the item for you. Suddenly customers were confronted with shelves of goods and a wire basket and told to serve themselves. Revolutionary.

When I worked in Olympia in the early 1970s I would use the Lyons Supermarket from time to time. It had been open for 20 years and was starting to look tired. It kept “regular” opening hours- it closed at 5.30 and wasn’t open on Sundays. It couldn’t compete with the corner shops nor the likes of Tesco. It closed down in the mid 70s.

A few years later I worked at a huge Tesco in Northampton, having moved from Cadby Hall along with the manufacturing. The store sold furniture, clothes, records as well as the usual food lines. How could a corner shop compete? How could the local chains of foodstores compete? The Co-op? One by one they closed branches. Tesco began buying up chains of supermarkets in their quest for market dominance. The buzzword was “market share”. I remember a supermarket opening locally in a blaze of advertising. They tried to take Tesco on, shaving their margins and hoping for vast numbers of customers to make the numbers work. At the time I said it wouldn’t last and I was proved right. It was window dressing. The store was opened with the apparently sole aim of making it attractive to a rival chain. It was taken over, rebadged and then closed down once the new owners realised they’d been conned. But hey, all’s fair in love and supermarket wars.
The government of the day were all in favour of competition.
Competition good, monopoly bad- the mantra went.
Leave the supermarkets to slog it out and may the best man win- ignoring the obvious. The end result of all this competition would be to leave one firm standing victorious- in other words- a monopoly.
This insane disease of cutting margins to the bone spread to other areas of retail. I was by now working in the book trade, and the sale of books was subject to the Net Book Agreement. Loud voices in the media were all in favour of abolishing it. After all they said- if the consumer could buy a tin of beans for a few pence cheaper in the store next door- what’s to stop them?
Books aren’t beans. The same reasoning does not apply. An author might write a book a year. Prolific authors might write three every two years. Every book is unique- otherwise, why bother reading it? Certain publishers have been successful selling the same book over and over again- Mills & Boon for example, but even they aren’t the same as a tin of beans. You buy a tin of beans, eat it, and then go and buy another identical tin the next week.
When you treat books in the same way- you buy a book, read it and then…..? Wait a year for the author to write another. The skill of the bookseller is to match the customers reading preferences with the books on the shelf. You’ve read all of Steven King’s so why not try James Herbert or Dean Koonz? A good bookseller will know his books and his customers. I was a good bookseller. Our margins were good and our customers loyal.
Then the publishers got greedy. The next Jeffrey Archer or Jilly Cooper (This was the late 80s by the way) was offered to the supermarkets and petrol stations. Instead of selling 400 copies of a new title I’d only sell 100. The braying voices had forgotten that the customer only buys one copy of the book. Once he’d bought it and read it- that was it until the next release.
In amongst the din were those that shouted that they’d sell more books if the Net Book Agreement was ditched. At the time I failed to see how this could be so. I was only going to sell one copy of one book to one customer. My profit margin was around 35%. By knocking a pound off the price all that would achieve was that my margin and profitability and viability would be hit.
Empty vessels make most noise. The Net Book Agreement was scrapped. The owners of the chain of bookshops saw the writing on the wall and sold up. Soon afterwards I was out of a job. The new owners knew best. Right.
A few years later the bookshop was gone. Suffocated by debt caused by bad buying decisions and too small a margin.
Cheapest is dearest.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another by product of my research into my family

I'm researching my family history and reading lots of source material. Every now and then I stumble on something that while not directly relevant to my research is nevertheless interesting to me. Here's another article Until the early nineteenth century the roads in the UK were little more than rutted tracks that were almost impassable when it rained. If you wished to travel any distance it was probably quicker to go by sea, even though that had risks because of the weather or the possibility of being attacked by a French warship. In Edmund Vale’s book “The Harvey’s of Hayle” he tells of a journey by one of Henry Harvey’s associates that took upwards of two weeks to get to London by sea.
He also recounts how Richard Trevithick, a fiery tempered genius, invented the world’s first road vehicle in 1802. The poor roads accounted for its early demise. Along with the first road vehicle, he is also credited with the world’s first recorded instance of wheel spin, as recorded for posterity in the song “Going up Camborne Hill coming down”.
When John MacAdam was appointed Surveyor to the Bristol Turnpike Trust in 1816 things started to improve. He was the first person since the Roman road builders in the first century AD to construct a road using sharp pointed stones rather than round pebbles, and giving the road surface a camber to improve drainage. The Romans built their roads with big irregularly shaped stones at the base, covered with ever smaller stones so that the stones would wedge together rather than slide apart. All these road improvements came at a cost and Turnpike Trusts were set up. They would build or improve a stretch or road, and charge travellers who wished to use it.
You still see Turnpike or Tollbar houses by the side of our roads. They are characterised by the window bays that allow the occupant to see down the road in both directions. The Hayle causeway was built in the early 1820s and once opened saved travellers from taking the long detour to St Erth and the 14th century tollbridge over the river. This bridge was widened in the early 19th century, but once the causeway was opened, St Erth became a rural byway. Prior to the opening of the causeway in 1825, travellers would have to brave the sands and the tides and cross from Millwards (now the Royal Standard Inn) in Hayle to Lelant at low tide, but now they paid a toll and crossed in safety, speed and comfort.
Richard Trevithick designed a screw propeller for ships in about 1812 and tried to get the Admiralty interested. This was just a few years after Trafalgar and not surprisingly they gave this giant of a Cornishman short shrift.
 He was years ahead of his time.
His road vehicles needed good roads and they weren’t built for twenty or more years.
His steam locomotives broke the cast iron rails. It was to be twenty years before Stephenson developed wrought iron rails for the Stockton and Darlington railway.
His ideas for steam powered boats weren’t new, but the idea of using a screw instead of paddles was. It was to be another 30 years before Brunel built the Great Western in 1845 and incorporated a screw propeller. Trevithick was indeed a man ahead of his time.
Having said that, his ideas didn’t go unnoticed. It was clear that steam propulsion was the way forward, even as the Admiralty was planting hundreds of thousands of oak trees to provide wood for the ships of the future. (Wood that is today being harvested and used in house building, oak furniture, etc)
The first steam powered ships called into Hayle in 1824 and no doubt Henry Harvey and his associates watched with interest because in 1831 regular steamship services between Hayle and Bristol began. The ship, owned by Harvey, was the “Herald” and the service proved successful. So much so that when the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London opened in 1841 trade increased to the extent that Harvey’s decided to add a second ship.

Much has been written about the rivalry between Harvey & Co who were based at Foundry, and Sandys Carne & Vivian (aka The Cornish Copper Company) based at Copperhouse. The companies had fought long and hard, both literally on the riverbed that divided the parishes of Phillack and St Erth, and through the courts. Harvey’s new paddle steamer “Cornwall” was delivered in May 1842.
The West Briton reported in their May 6th edition:  
“STEAM COMMUNICATIONS WITH BRISTOL. In a recent visit to Hayle, we had the pleasure of inspecting the new steamer just about to start on the station between Hayle and Bristol. We have seen many beautifully fitted up vessels, but in elegance and chasteness of design, combining every comfort, we think the "Cornwall" will be allowed to be the most complete. The saloon is spacious, the panels are of papier mache, painted with groups of flowers, every one containing different flowers. The berths are commodious and airy, and the arrangements altogether quite unique. She has had her sailing qualities tried, and has answered the most sanguine expectations of Messrs. Harvey and Co., by whom the engines were manufactured. She leaves Hayle on Tuesday next on her first voyage, and we trust that the shareholders will be amply remunerated for their spirited undertaking. (From a correspondent)”
She entered service in June 1842, and not to be outdone, Sandys Carne & Vivian introduced their own paddleship the Brilliant a few weeks later. At 246 tons she was smaller than the Cornwall. There was great rivalry between the two companies. Each considered their ship to be superior and faster and to a certain extent they were egged on by bystanders and the newspapers.
Here’s an account in the West Briton of December 23rd 1842  
“QUICK PASSAGE. On Tuesday last, the "Brilliant" steamer, accomplished the passage from St. Ives to Bristol in 14 hours and two minutes - the shortest passage which has hitherto been made by any vessel.”
 It was now possible to travel from London to Cornwall in just over a day, rather than the ten days of just a generation ago. For the next 18 years and the opening of the Albert Bridge over the Tamar at Saltash which gave a through route from Penzance to Paddington and a journey time of less than ten hours, this was the fastest way to travel.
 The rivalry whether real or imagined between the Cornwall and the Brilliant continued into 1843. The West Briton even tried to concoct a story about a race between the two ships.  
26 MAY 1843, Friday STEAM-BOAT CONTEST. The merits of the great rival steam-boats of Hayle, was tested last Tuesday, by a bet of five pounds which would land their passengers first at Bristol. Every available means was used to facilitate their speed, and all parties betrayed great anxiety for the result. After an interesting run of about fourteen hours, the contest terminated in favour of the "Brilliant," which boat preceded the "Cornwall" into the lock exactly twenty-seven minutes.”
 A week later that ran a retraction. It seems that Harveys must have called foul  
2 JUNE 1843, Friday “STEAM BOAT CONTEST. Under this heading, we last week inserted a paragraph stating that a bet had taken place on the relative merits of the "Cornwall" and "Brilliant" steamers, and that it had been decided in favour of the "Brilliant" which boat preceded the "Cornwall" into the lock at Bristol exactly 27 minutes. We received the paragraph from a most respectable correspondent, on whose accuracy we thought we could rely; now we are assured that at the time "Brilliant" started, the "Cornwall" was taking on goods and passengers at St. Ives, and that neither the master, engineer, or any of the officers knew of such a bet having been made. We, therefore, regret that we should have been made the unconscious instrument of misleading the public.”

There now followed a curious number of events. In Leicester in 1840 a man named Thomas Cook hired a train and filled it with passengers who paid him for the privilege of a day trip to Loughborough and the modern tourist industry was born.
While scanning the pages of the West Briton I came across this article  
23 JUNE 1843, Friday “HAYLE. On Saturday last, the peace of our pillows was disturbed at an early hour by the rumbling of carriages and the clattering of voices. The morning was beautifully serene, all nature smiled, and who could subdue the inward transports of joy to behold the merry faces of the thousands who thronged the wharfs to see the departure of the steamers for the Channel Islands, their decks being one impact mass of living beings. The "Brilliant" took the lead, and entered the pier at St. Ives; the "Cornwall" followed, and lay to outside. Having taken in their passengers, they started for Penzance, the "Cornwall" being five minutes in advance of the "Brilliant." Both kept their distance going round land, as if they were chained together, and within seven minutes after the "Cornwall" the "Brilliant" anchored 400 yards nearer to Penzance pier head, after a fine run of three hours. They remained there nearly two hours, and at noon, they sailed for the Islands, the "Cornwall" being again five minutes in advance of the "Brilliant," amidst the firing of guns, the waving of flags, the strains of music, and the sight of thousands of spectators. From a correspondent.”

In the following week’s edition we read this
30 JUNE 1843, Friday  
“HAYLE. On Thursday, the 22nd inst., our snug little port presented a glowing sight, in consequence of the return of the steamers from the Channel Islands. Both vessels landed their passengers at Guernsey on Sunday morning, soon after sun-rise, and on Monday at noon, they started for Jersey, where they arrived about 3pm. On Wednesday, at noon, they left for Guernsey, on their return, and the same afternoon sailed for Penzance, which place they reached after a beautiful journey then proceeded to their destination here. Nothing untoward occurred, except a few drops of rain and the limited shelter of the steamers, to mar for a moment the pleasures of this enchanting excursion, or the enjoyment of the natural and artificial luxuries of those picturesque gardens of the ocean, the Norman Isles. We believe that the steamers, at the expressed desire of the public, intend to visit the Islands and Havre, again in August, when every bough teems with golden fruit, and golden waves undulate across the corn fields. At Midnight, the boats left for home laden with goods and passengers, awakening the sleep of the night with the noise of their cannon. (from a correspondent)”
Was this the first ever tourist excursion by sea? Given that the two Steam Ship Companies were in competition and a fierce rivalry existed between Harveys and Sandys Carne & Vivian- who organised the trip? Who chartered the two ships and sold the tickets? Who organised the accommodation on Guernsey and Jersey? According to the account, the ships arrived at Guernsey on the morning of Sunday 18th June, stopped overnight then left for Jersey on the Monday. On the Wednesday they returned via Guernsey arriving back at Penzance after an uneventful journey. From the account it seems that the ships didn’t arrive back at Hayle until close on midnight. It does not recount how many passengers there were, only that the decks were “One impact mass of human beings”
More questions. While the two ships were away from Saturday until the following Thursday- which ships covered the regular Packet Sailings?
In August the Cornwall made another trip, taking 260 passengers to Penzance, stopping overnight before taking some 90 passengers on to the Channel Islands and Le Havre in France. Was this the first organised tourist trip to a foreign country? Did the passengers require passports?
The trips must have been made regularly because in the September 8th edition of the West Briton we read: “SMUGGLING. On Monday last, on the arrival of the "Brilliant" steamer, at Penzance, from the Channel Islands, &c., a considerable number of passengers landed among whom was a gentleman who had in his pockets a bottle of brandy and two or three bottles of claret, which being discovered by one of the Custom-house officers, were, of course, immediately seized. The seizure having been reported to the Collector, an examination took place, the articles were declared to be forfeited, and the gentleman was obliged to leave his brandy and claret behind him, and to pay a fine and expenses.”
Was he the first tourist to be caught at customs with contraband? Whatever rivalries existed between the companies that owned these ships, there was a trust and cooperation between the captains and their crew. Both ships were moored at Scilly (Hughtown?) in May 1844, as the West Briton recounts:  
“THE RIVAL STEAMERS. On Sunday last, Capt. PENTREATH, who had just set the watches for the night, and was about to go below on board the "Brilliant," steamer, which vessel was lying along side the jetty, at Scilly, heard a monstrous splashing and cries of distress proceeding from near the jetty stairs. Quick as thought, he leaped onto the bulwark of his vessel into his boat, and was as quickly followed by one of his men. They pulled towards the noise, and to their astonishment saw a boat capsized, and several persons struggling in the water. After great exertion, they hauled the drowning persons into the boat, and found them to be CAPTAIN VIVIAN, and some of the crew of the "Cornwall" in a very exhausted and helpless state. CAPT. Pentreath afforded them every assistance in his power, and ordered his boat's crew to put them on board the "Cornwall" which vessel was at anchor off the jetty. It was fortunate that the "Brilliant" was alongside the jetty, otherwise, as no other assistance was near, the party must have met with a watery grave.”
The two ships continued to work the Hayle to Bristol route for many years. In 1852 the Brilliant’s engines were removed at she was converted to sail. The Herald was broken up in 1849 after she was replaced by the Express. The Cornwall, at 343 tons the biggest of the three vessels, was converted to sail soon after the Saltash Bridge was opened in 1859. The heyday of steam services between Hayle and Bristol was over. Other ships came and went, the last being a coaster called M J Hedley which carried passengers on a triangular route between Hayle Liverpool and Bristol. This service ended in 1917.
Sources “The Harveys of Hayle” by Edmund Vale
 “The History of the Cornish Copper Company” by W H Pascoe
 “Cornish Steam Ships and Owners: the View from England” by Roy Fenton http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wbritonad/index.html
TRANSCRIPTIONS OF THE ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER, 1836 - 1887
A Project created by Julia Symons Mosman and Rita Bone Kopp

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Safety on the Hayle Railway 1837-1844

Safety on the Hayle Railway 1837-1844

The Hayle Railway was incorporated by an Act of Parliament which received Royal Assent on 27th June 1834. It authorised a line to run from Hayle Foundry, over a drawbridge to Copperhouse and then to Tresavean, with branches for the Towans or Sandhills of Phillack, to the mines of Roskear, from Cook’s kitchen to Wheal Crofty, to Portreath, another to Wheal Tolgus and one to the town of Redruth. (G.H Anthony “The Hayle, West Cornwall and Helston railways, pub Oakwood Press 1968).

The line was to be worked by steam locomotives, except for the inclines at Angarrack (known as Steamers Hill and at Portreath. These were to be worked by stationary engine and wire rope, while the inclines at Penpond and Tresavean were to be traversed using the counter balance principle, as the engine climbed the incline loaded wagons would be lowered  on the adjacent track) (Anthony)

Construction proceeded apace and was almost complete by 1837, except for the drawbridge over Copperhouse creek. Henry Harvey refused to allow the railway to open until this was installed, and after a short delay, the line opened from Hayle Foundry to Pool, then on to Portreath on 23rd December 1837.

Before the line opened the West Briton Newspaper reported on the progress of the line. In the 5th May 1837 edition they wrote;
“EXPERIMENT ON THE HAYLE RAILWAY - On Wednesday last, the locomotive engine, called the "Pendarves", belonging to the Hayle Railway, made an experimental trip over part of the road between Hayle and Camborne, which gave much satisfaction to the parties interested, and to the crowd of persons who were attracted by the novel spectacle.  The engine, with a train of wagons containing about 300 persons, and moving with caution, the road being new to those guiding her, travelled the distance, about three and one half miles, in eleven minutes.  Not the slightest accident occurred”

The line from Portreath Junction to Redruth was opened on June 11th 1838, a week after the planned opening date which was a Whit Monday. The directors feared that the huge numbers of spectators that were sure to attend would compromise safety so the opening was delayed. The line was authorised to carry passengers, but the Company did not have dedicated passenger coaches. Any passengers would travel in the wagons. It was not long before the first serious accident occurred, as the West Briton of July 20th 1838 reported:

“MELANCHOLY AND FATAL ACCIDENT
Last Friday afternoon, just as the Hayle and Redruth locomotive was starting with a train from the engine-house, at the top of the Portreath inclined plane, Mary Ann Keast, the wife of one of the workmen in charge of the wagons, rashly attempted to pass from another train to one of the carriages to which the locomotive was attached, and which starting at the same moment, caused her to fall between the carriages across the rail, when the train, passing over her chest, so dreadfully crushed her, that the poor woman almost instantly expired.  She was about 23 years of age, had only been four weeks married, and had come out for the pleasure of a ride.  We hope this calamitous accident will operate as a warning to others, and that persons will no longer be allowed, with such heedless temerity, to place themselves in situation of extreme danger, as they frequently been observed to do on this railroad.”

That was not all. The same edition also reported:

“FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT
On Tuesday evening last, soon after the train of carriages had left Hayle, a fine boy, about seven years old, named Hosking, in attempting to get into one of the wagons, fell, and the wheel passing over his body, killed him on the spot.  The wagon contained a weight of five tons.”

A few months later the following accident was reported in the November 30th edition of the paper:

“SERIOUS ACCIDENT ON THE HAYLE RAILROAD AND EXTRAORDINARY FORTITUDE
On Monday afternoon, the 19th instant, as George Lumley, aged 23, was fastening the tail rope to the train of waggons and the locomotive engine, the latter was put in motion before he expected, in consequence of which the rope threw him off his legs, and he fell between the rails, with his right arm over one of them, when five laden waggons passed over the arm, dreadfully lacerating and fracturing it.  Immediately on the trains passing over him, he arose, and holding his shattered arm with his left hand, walked about 100 yards; and, having been assisted into one of the waggons, was taken to Camborne.  On his arrival, he, with very little assistance, walked to Mr. Gurney’s surgery, about half a mile, where his arm was immediately amputated just below the shoulder joint.  The poor man bore the operation almost without a murmur, and although Mr. Gurney lent him a chair to be carried in to the railway, he, nevertheless, walked, and was then taken in the train to about a quarter of a mile from his lodgings, to which place he also walked.   For several days the man was in a very excited, restless, and unconscious state, but he is now better, and hopes are entertained of his recovery.  It is feared that the accident was occasioned by the engineer starting the locomotive too quickly, but we hope, on inquiry, it will turn out to be otherwise.  However, great caution is necessary, as an accident occurred on the same spot a few days before, when a man was jammed between two carriages, but not seriously hurt.  It would also be well if the engineers were to use more caution when crossing the main roads, as frequently, when horses are passing, they lift the valve and let out the steam, which, making a hissing noise, frightens the horses; and what may appear as fun to the parties in the locomotive and trains, may be attended with serious consequences to persons on horseback or in carriages.”

At a time when the fastest speed then attainable was of a galloping horse, the speed of the trains took many by surprise, as this account in the 24th May 1839 edition tells:

“Fatal Accidents - On Thursday the 16th inst., as Mrs. Courts was attempting to cross the inclined plane of the Hayle Railway, near Angarrack, at the time the wagons were descending, she was struck down by the foremost carriage, the wheel of which passing over her, killed her on the spot. The deceased was 79 years of age, and resided near the place where she met her death.”

Another similar accident occurred the following November as this account in the
20th  NOVEMBER 1840 West Briton recounts:
“DISTRESSING ACCIDENT ON THE HAYLE AND REDRUTH RAILWAY - On Friday evening last, about half-past five, as Betsy Angove was proceeding from Pool to her residence at Illogan church-town, imprudently choosing to walk by the railway, which shortens the distance, she was overtaken by one of the trains proceeding to Portreath; and being thrown down with her neck on one of the rails, her head was instantly severed from her body. The deceased was a widow, about 66 years of age, and very much respected. She resided in one of the cottages belonging to Lady Basset, rent free, and, we believe received from the Noble Lady and from the Rector of the parish a weekly sum, sufficient for her maintenance. An inquest has been held on the body, and a verdict of accidental death returned.”

During 1841 the Directors of the Hayle Railway turned their attention to the potential for carrying passengers between the towns of West Cornwall. The Great Western Railway had opened the line between Bristol and London (not the other way round!), and there were regular Steam Packet services between Hayle and Bristol. Steam Packets were ships authorised to carry the mail. Only a generation before it would have taken over a week to travel from West Cornwall to the capital, and now the potential existed to do the trip in less than two days.

The West Briton of 19 February 1836 advertised the following:

“HERALD to end from Bristol and Cornwall - STEAM PACKET HERALD - John Vivian, Commander, Order of "The Herald" sailing for FEBRUARY, 1836 - From Hayle to Bristol - Monday, 29th, One, Afternoon, From St. Ives - half an hour later From Bristol to Hayle Saturday, 20th - Eight, Morning - The run from Hayle to Ilfracombe is ten hours and to Bristol sixteen or eighteen hours; from Bristol to Ilfracombe seven hours, and to Hayle eighteen hours. FARES, including Steward's Fees. To or from Bristol, Cabin 25s., Deck 10s.6d... ...Ilfracombe 22s., 8s. 6d. Children under 12 years of age, half price. Horses, Carriages, Luggage, and General Merchandise carefully conveyed. Refreshments of the best description, and at moderate charges, provided on board.”
The Directors concluded that a regular passenger service between Hayle and Redruth, together with connecting horse omnibus services between Redruth and Truro, Redruth and Falmouth and Hayle to Penzance would tap into this potentially lucrative market. Two passenger coaches, each capable of carrying between 20-30 persons were obtained, and railway stations were provided at Hayle Foundry, Copperhouse, Angarrack, Gwinear, Penponds, Camborne Pool and Redruth, and a regular service started on May 22nd 1843, as reported in the May 26th 1843 edition of the West Briton:

“HAYLE RAILWAY. On Monday lst, this line of railway was opened for the conveyance of passengers, and as no charge was made for that day, the carriages were literally crammed with persons of both sexes, who were anxious to enjoy the luxury of a gratuitous ride. We are glad to learn that although the train went three times over the line during the day, no accident of any consequence occurred.”

The Railway ran mixed trains with the goods wagons immediately behind the locomotive and the passenger coaches at the rear. It would appear that they would separate the coaches from the train as it travelled along the undercliff at Riviere, with the wagons being shunted onto the North Quay, thereupon the points would be reset and the coaches continue to the station at Foundry by gravity. It’s not known how long the Company used this method, but on September 1st 1843, there was a derailment, luckily without loss of life.
It would appear that the company was engaged in track maintenance and the rails were not fixed to the sleepers, as this account in the West Briton of the 8th September relates:

“HAYLE RAILWAY. On Friday afternoon last, as the second afternoon down train from Redruth, laden with ore and passengers, reached the branch line which leads to the north quays of Messrs. SANDYS, CARNE, and VIVIAN, Hayle, a tremendous crash took place. The rail at that part of the line being under alteration, the sleepers were bared, and the rail temporarily laid on them. Before the train arrived at the branch line, the passenger carriages were, as usual, cast off for the terminus, and following the train by the given impetus. The engine proceeded on with the rest of the train to the diverging line, and when it reached the place under alteration, the rail slipped off the sleepers, and the foremost carriage was thrown off, turned upside down, and dashed to atoms. The second carriage was piled on the first and destroyed, and the third on the second. The fourth was brought up by the third, and the rest of the train by the large granite sleepers, the whole having been forced off the rail. By that time the passenger carriages ran on and were brought up against the engine. We rejoice to state that only a few persons were slightly bruised and frightened. When the train reached that place, some one of the train generally runs forward on the carriages to the foremost carriage. Fortunately, in this instance, he had only got so far as the last but one; when he was hurled on the cliff uninjured. Had he been in the foremost carriage, he would have been crushed to death. If some one had dragged the passenger carriages, that collision might have been prevented. Each carriage contained three and a half tons of ore, and although no ore was lost (being in sacks), the damage is estimated at GBP100.”

The reference to “Dragging the carriages” alludes to applying a brake to the wheels. It is not know if the rolling stock were braked at this time.

The following month there was another fatality near North Roskear, when a labourer on horseback was run down by the train. The full account is here in the 27th October edition of the paper:

“On the 21st instant, in the parish of Illogan, on the body of William Jackson, aged about 46 years, who accidentally met his death on the preceding day, on the railway between Redruth and Hayle. The deceased, it appears, was a labourer generally employed at the mines in the neighbourhood of the railway, in the discharge of coals and other goods brought to the mines by that conveyance, and had been on the day of the accidental occurrence sent from Stray Park mine to North Roskear to discharge tools. He usually walked, but somehow, upon on this occasion, he had a horse intrusted to him, on which he mounted, and was proceeding thereon on the railway towards North Roskear. When first seen by the train he was considered to be distant therefrom about a quarter of a mile, and was then riding by the side of the road, without the rails. The whistle was sounded to clear the way, and the train proceeded at the pace it was then going, which was computed to be about 15 miles an hour. The train, of course, speedily gained on the man and horse, and it was found that instead of getting out of the way, they had gotten on the road within the rails. The whistle was, therefore, again sounded repeatedly, and the speed of the train was checked from, as was supposed, 15 to about 7 miles an hour, still expecting that the deceased would get out of the way; but most unaccountably he did not do so, and the latter speed of the train being continued with that expectation, the engine at length came so close upon the horse on which the deceased was riding, that both were thrown down before the driver of the engine had the power to stop the train altogether, and killed on the spot. The deceased had both his feet cut off a little above the ankles, and his head was also considerably injured. The driver of the steam carriage received an excellent character for steadiness and care, and the jury found a verdict of Accidental death, and a Deodand of one shilling on the wheels of the tender.”


By this time there was a growing tide of opinion against the Railway Companies of the UK attitude towards safety. As can be seen, the numbers of people killed or injured on the Hayle Railway was causing concern, and the Coroners began to impose a form of fine called a Deodand. According to Wikipedia:
Deodand is a thing forfeited or given to God, specifically, in law, an object or instrument which becomes forfeit because it has caused a person's death.
The English common law of deodands traces back to the 11th century and was applied, on and off, until Parliament finally abolished it in 1846. Under this law, a chattel (i.e. some personal property, such as a horse or a hay stack) was considered a deodand whenever a coroner's jury decided that it had caused the death of a human being. In theory, deodands were forfeit to the crown, which was supposed to sell the chattel and then apply the profits to some pious use. (The term deodand derives from the Latin phrase "deo dandum" which means "to be given to God.") In reality, the juries who decided that a particular animal or object was a deodand also appraised its value and the owners were expected to pay a fine equal to the value of the deodand. If the owner could not pay the deodand, his township was held responsible
During the 1830s, the rapid development of the railways led to increasing public hostility to the epidemic of railway deaths and the indifferent attitudes of the railway companies. Under the common law of England and Wales, the death of a person causes purely emotional and economic loss to their relatives. In general, damages cannot be recovered for either type of damage, only for physical damage to the claimant or their property, and families of fatal accident victims had no claim. As a result, coroner's juries started to award deodands as a way of penalising the railways.)

In May 1844, almost a year after passenger services commenced on the Hayle railway the station building at Foundry were opened, as recounted in the 31st May edition of the West Briton:

“HAYLE AND REDRUTH RAILWAY - On Whit-Monday, the neat station-house, recently erected at the Hayle terminus, was opened. The comforts afforded to passengers by this establishment are inappreciable, and the refreshment stall did credit to Mr. CROTCH, whose civility and attention need no comment. Upwards of 2,000 persons passed over the line throughout the day, and we did not hear of any accident”

An interesting footnote to the early history of the Hayle Railway, and its attitude towards competitors is revealed in the following :
“The West Briton, 15 NOVEMBER 1844, Friday
CAMBORNE PETTY SESSIONS. On Tuesday last, Robert Lilly, policeman, of Redruth, appeared to answer a charge of assault preferred against him by William Chudley, guard of the new omnibus which has just started, to run between Penzance and the railway station at Hayle. It appears that the new omnibus runs in opposition to that of the railway company, and that the policeman of Redruth was employed to keep persons connected with it out of the station, in doing which he severely beat Chudley, which led to the present charge. The bench, it seems, thought that the complainant had no lawful right on the station, and therefore dismissed the case, ordering each party to pay his own costs.”

Source material gleaned from here
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wbritonad/index.html
TRANSCRIPTIONS OF THE ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER, 1836 - 1887
A Project created by Julia Symons Mosman and Rita Bone Kopp

And
G.H Anthony “The Hayle, West Cornwall and Helston Railways, pub Oakwood Press 1968.
Not forgetting Wikipedia.




Monday, December 03, 2012

Feeling philosophical

It's that time of year. Winter has set in. It's about three weeks to my birthday. I'm busy researching for a book I want to write about my ancestors. I'm looking at transcripts of the West Briton from the 1830 and 1840s. Life was hard then.
The people who transcribed the papers have made a hard task easier by putting any names in capital letters which means that you can scan the text rather than read every word. So many people. So many lives.
Most of those who have gone before are long forgotten, yet the scant accounts in news articles and books give a hint to who they were. I'm trying to flesh out a host of little titbits, entries in a register, scraps of information gleaned from books and articles, in order to tell a story, one that not only satisfies my curiosity about who I am and where I came from, but one that will have a wider appeal.
For many years we've holidayed in Cornwall and invariably spent time in the town where I grew up. As we get older, our conversation inevitably turns to the possibility of moving back there.
There are of course, the problems of affordability and whether my health issues would be better served by remaining here.
Our ancestors had no such dilemmas. When the town of Hayle died just over a hundred years ago, my ancestors had to move. Move or starve.
Most of our ancestors lived and died and are forgotten. A few have left a mark.
And us? When we go, will we leave a mark, or a stain? If we move, will we move to live, or move to die?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Apologies for absence

I've been busy on a host of other projects so haven't blogged here for months. I read this today and thought it apt for our times. It was written by William Playfair, inventer of the bar and pie-charts at the turn of the 19th Century ":...wealth and power have never been long permanent in any place. ...they travel over the face of the earth, something like a caravan of merchants. On their arrival, every thing is found green and fresh; while they remain all is bustle and abundance, and, when gone, all is left trampled down, barren, and bare." Never a truer word spoken. Look around you. All those factories- gone. All those shops- boarded up. All those jobs- in China and South East Asia.... for the time being.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is home ownership a barrier to economic recovery?



I've been doing a fair bit of research into my family history. It has involved poring over census records trying to trace my ancestors. You notice all sorts of entries in passing and this one caught my eye:

1881 Census
Trelissick Terrace, Hayle
John Winter Head M 44 Ship Builder Scotland
Margaret Winter Wife M 44 Scotland
Margaret M Winter Daur S 20 Milliner Dress Northumberland, Newcastle
John E Winter Son S 17 Ship Builder Northumberland, Newcastle
Edith Winter Daur S 13 Scholar Durham, West Hartlepool
Maud E Winter Daur S 10 Scholar Durham, West Hartlepool
George J Winter Son S 4 Scholar Hampshire, Southampton

Ok, so what do we have here? It's 1881 and Hayle is a town in the far west of Cornwall. The west end of Hayle is called Foundry, named after the foundry where Harveys of Hayle built the huge Cornish beam engines. Harveys also built ships- iron ships. Harveys were the first firm IN THE WORLD to successfully install a steam engine in an iron ship. As usual the Admiralty were having none of it and it was thirty years before the idea of steam powered ships or even iron ships caught on. Isambard Kingom Brunel was a frequent visitor to Hayle, and many of the parts of his most famous bridges- the Clifton Suspension bridge in Bristol and the Royal Albert bridge at Saltash were manufactured in Hayle. Clifton Terrace which overlooks the harbour was built and named when the contract for the bridge was won.

Harveys built a number of ships, mostly tugs and river steamers and would have employed a lot of men in the shipyard. They would have come from all over the country- hence the appearance of the Winter family in 1881.

From the record you can see that John and his wife Margaret were scottish and when first married would have moved to the shipyards on the Tyne to work. The eldest two children were born there.
Later they moved to Hartlepool and the shipyards there. They were there for at least three years, possibly five, as their next two children were born there.
In 1875/6 they'd moved to Hampshire, once again to work in the shipyards. Finally in 1881 we find them in Hayle.
By now the eldest two were working locally, one as a dressmaker and the eldest son in the shipyard with his father.
But times were changing. In 1881 Harveys imposed a 10% pay cut on the workers. The mines had all closed and thousands had emigrated or moved to other mining areas in the UK. The shipyard struggled on. The last ship it built was the largest at 4000 tons and was launched in 1891.
So what happened to the Winters? They don't appear in the 1891 census for Hayle. They'd moved on. John Winter would have been in his 50s and his youngest child would have started work. There was no unemployment benefit, no health service, no housing benefit. You worked or you starved.
If there was no work in your town, you moved to where there was work. Cornwall's men moved abroad in their thousands, so much so that most of my female ancestors (my great grandparents' siblings) never married. There were no available eligible men. My great aunts lived at home with their ageing parents and worked as dressmakers.

In the UK the trend since the end of the Second World War has been to own your house. It is something many people aspire to. I understand that this is peculiar to the British. The Germans seem happy to live in rented accomodation.

Home ownership has been a boon to many- if you bought your home 50 years ago you are sitting on a gold mine. I work in a solicitors and occasionally get a glimpse of old conveyance documents. In the fifties a house in this town would sell for a few hundred pounds. That same house today would cost up to £150,000. In the sixties my parents bought our house in London as sitting tenants. It cost £2600. Today those houses are worth £750,000!
There is a diminishing return however. We bought our house 20 years ago and it's now worth three times what we paid for it. A house bought ten years ago is only worth twice a much, etc etc.

One wonders why all the effort and expense to buy a house that ties you to a particular location? A hundred and thirty years ago we had a mobile workforce that could move to where the work was to be found.
Now we don't.

Have the presumed blessings and benefits of the Wefare State become a curse?

We have thousands of people looking for work, and apparently have thousands of vacancies. We have upwards of a quarter of a million migrant workers from Eastern Europe paying rent and doing all manner of jobs that our university educated youth consider beneath them, or pay so "poorly" that they cannot afford to come off benefits. There's also a whole underclass of unemployables who produce nothing but children. The Ancient Romans called them the Proletariat so it's not a new phenomenon.

How can we break the cycle that will inevitably result in the destruction of this country of ours, an outcome that mirrors the fall of the Roman Empire 1500 years ago?

One small step might be to remove the stigma that appears to taint the idea of paying rent for your home. My son is typical of the viewpoint. He wants to buy a house because he thinks that in twenty five or thirty years he will have something to show for all his mortgage payments. But will he?
It's true that those who bought houses fifty, forty or thirty years ago have made huge profits. But that won't happen in the future. The cost of getting on the housing ladder is already beyond most people's ability to pay, and it could be argued that the monthly mortgage payment is pricing many out of the jobs market.

I'm Cornish and the idea of moving back there is appealing but for two glaring points.
The first is the cost of housing in Cornwall. The locals can't afford to buy houses, and neither can I. I happen to live in one of the cheaper parts of the East Midlands, which suited me when I was moving to the area, but it means that I can't afford the same size house anywhere else in the country.

Home ownership stifles mobility.

The second point is the wages in Cornwall. They are far below the national average. If i could find a house I could afford, could I find a job that paid enough?

Home ownership stifles mobility.

It could well be that there's a job going down there that only I can fill. The vacancy may go unfilled because I can't move there to take it.

Unless I rent.
Food for thought?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Great Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962


Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. These days the media make a huge fuss over extreme weather events, and some claim they are proof of Climate Change or Global Warming. I beg to differ.

In 1962 my family moved from Cornwall to London. It was in July. We'd no sooner got settled in our new home when we experienced the wettest August Bank Holiday since records began. Our house looked out (to the rear) at the huge Kensal Green gasometer and we could see the rain flowing off the structure in rivers. The drains could not cope. A few months later, following the Guy Fawkes night where everyone in London had a bonfire, we had the worst smog ever. I used to walk to school and for the three weeks that it lasted you could not see the other side of the road. All noise was muffled and buses drove carefully along with headlights on full- even at midday, the drivers straining to see the bus stops. For Parliament it was the last straw. Within a few months they'd passed the Clean Air Act, which prohibited coal fires and bonfires in London, and they never had another smog like it. The air was foul. You could taste it. If you breathed through a handkerchief it soon became filthy with soot and smuts. Eventually the rain fell and cleared it away.
We had a couple of weeks of "normal" weather before it snowed on Boxing Day. I know we all sing about "White Christmases" but it was no joke. The snow didn't clear. It froze hard and stayed frozen for about three months.
We had no central heating. Very few people did. I was thirteen and my daily chore was to take our old pram to a coal merchants off Southern Row, about 500 yards away. The coalman would fill my sack with 56lb of coal and I'd wheel it home, stopping to collect a gallon of paraffin for the heater in the kitchen. That was the extent of our heating. A coal fire in the living room (which I'd clean and light every morning), and an old paraffin heater in the kitchen.
We survived.

But back to March 1962. I'd forgotten when this occurred until I read an account in Wattsupwiththat a couple of days ago.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/06/50-years-ago-the-great-atlantic-storm-of-1962/

The author describes the damage caused to the eastern seaboard of the US, but the same storm wreaked havoc in Cornwall, most notably in Penzance.
I used to travel by train from Hayle to my school in Penzance. We knew there's been a storm in the night, but when the train was terminated at Marazion and we had to get on buses to continue, we realised that it had been serious.
I sat upstairs in the bus and we saw that Mounts Bay was full of ships sheltering from the storm. The storm had hit land at Penzance, which was unusual in itself as it's sheltered from the prevailing winds. As we neared Penzance station we could see that the sea had washed away some of the trackbed and the harbour was severely damaged. Huge blocks of granite had been lifted and tossed aside. I could only guess at the power of the sea that could do that.

The WUWT article caused me to look up to see if there was anything on the net about the storms. I found two sites
http://picturepenzance.co.uk/photos/showimage.php?i=14759&c=373
And here
http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~treevecwll/pzseaashwed.htm

Here's one of the photos. If you know Penzance Promenade you will be amazed at the damage caused.

And here's a picture I took of a storm hitting Penzance in 2006. Just not in the same league.

That 1962 storm must have been one of the biggest to hit these shores

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wise words from a wise man


I was over at wattsupwiththat and he drew my attention to an article first published over 60 years ago. Bertrand Russell wrote it, and you can find it here:
http://www.panarchy.org/russell/decalogue.1951.html

As someone commented, some of it can be summed up simply:
Be sure your sins will find you out.
Or as Blanchard & Peale wrote in their book "The power of ethical management":
There ain't no right way to do a wrong thing

Russell wrote:
The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1.
Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2.
Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3.
Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4.
When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5.
Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6.
Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8.
Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9.
Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10.
Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

The wheels are falling off the Man Made Global Warming bandwagon. Mr Gore and his cronies might wish to look at what a very wise man wrote all those years ago..

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quote of the day


“The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

—George Orwell, “In Front of Your Nose“, 1946