The workshops of Liverpool 111
Vauxhall Foundry, Vauxhall Road
At the end of Tithebarn St the Vauxhall Rd opens up in a northerly direction, and there, between Banastre St and Midghall St are situated the well known works of Messers Forrester and Co. There is a very extensive, although by no means showy, front, as it occupies the entire space between the streets we have just mentioned and has besides, a lofty, arched entrance gateway. The whole concern seems instinct with labour and industry - mechanical and scientific skill.
It will be no unfavourable introduction to the premises and to survey the operations going on within if the visitor should make his visit during the relaxation time of the noon-day meal, for, after their refreshment, the season be fine, as at present, the labourers and working men are in the habit of lounging about the flagways and either side of the street, with boys and apprentices without number, and all age, indulging themselves in the air and sun until the well known bell shall ring for their return to labour.
The numbers of artificers and workmen in the establishment is astounding, and all looking as stout and able-bodied, athletic men as could be seen in any part of the world. As soon as the bell peeled, the dark masses in hundreds, immediately withdrew from the public way and were once more restored to their several furnaces and mechanical departments.
Notwithstanding the prodigious extent of the concerns, and holding their premises at the other side, there is scarcely sufficient space for even the temporary disposal of the enormous quantity of materials and machinery being daily despatched and received at the establishment. The yard during our visit was strewn over with shells of every description, of all sorts and sizes, ready for transmission at the direction of the mighty wizard of the mechanical operations - the Government.
The supply in the workshop and stores is unlimited both in ore and materials of all kinds. The value of the stock must be wonderful, and it would be a curiosity, in calculation, to find a man with any reasonable time who could take the amount, so great is the variety, so vast the weight, and so unlimited the quantity throughout the premises, it was no easy task to wade ones way along the board floors of the workshop, so blocked up are they with supplies, both of metal and mechanical implements. There can be no doubt of it being a genuine workshop, it is a constant unvarying round of never ending labour and art.
Of the workshops of this concern, for there are many, connected with each other, the foundry itself, where at the moment shells are being cast, there appeared to be noble proportions to this splendid workroom, and it was crowded along the floor with empty metal moulds, which bore, no resemblance to the rude Roman urns of an early era.
A little sand had to be shaken by the workman at first, in order to prevent any untimely or improper adherence of the living metal with the brawny arm of the officiating vulcan which raised the ponderous ladle and poured the red hot sweep of burning, glowing iron down briskly, but steadily and firmly. Nothing can exceed the graceful ease of those operations by the skilled mechanic. While the red ball is still glowing, though, somewhat solidified and strengthened by its exposure to air, it is whipped down upon the boyle [a light hand carriage or little iron truck] when a youngster appears and takes immediate command of the new born shell, rolling it down to another part of the premises. Some of these juveniles are fearless characters, each with his apportioned ball of the burning metal, and are seen every moment driving up and down to the proper destination. So easy, quick and prompt is the operation undertaken that the visitor may think it one of the simplest things in nature or art.
Observe the keen calculation of the workmanís eye as he pours out the liquid lava into the frame or mould, how there is no waste or superfluity, and admire the extreme accuracy with which the exact quantity of the red glowing metal is thrown down. Another thing that strikes the visitor, there were no calls from man to man, nor man to boy, all workers seemed to be on the alert and watchful, with an eye ear and hand, ready for his accustomed and allotted business, it was done, and well done.
Boys, labourers and artisans throughout the foundry at Vauxhall appear to do their work with a steady and cheerful alacrity. The apartment is well ventilated and airy, notwithstanding the hot metal and furnaces for it appears large enough to have been a field, roofed and walled in for the service of the engineer. It is light and well secured from the elements.
The fearlessness of the young boys pushing their trucks with their burning lumps of red metal creates astonishment in everyone. It requires the most care and attention by the unwary passenger to save himself from any close proximity to these glowing balls, they would sufficiently ignite any wool or linen garment that unluckily came into contact with them.
These are the shells, the supplies of which are looked for so anxiously in the Crimea and the Baltic, and are destined to convey no inexpressive communications to the Imperial troops to the autocrat of all Russias. They are made at all sizes, but these at present by order of the Government and for Government use are 13 inch shells, Government size. The Great Britain on Tuesday September 4th, conveyed a vast quantity to the seat of the war.
Here is one of the unmistakeable hot beds of labour. Here is some of those furnaces of molten ore which supply all those weighty pieces of metal castings and rough drafts of machinery, which human skill and art elaborate into forms of wondrous execution. Here is the source who issue engines of all kinds, which in their application to locomotion and subservience to scientific skills, confer lasting benefits to mankind. Beam engines are manufactured her for stationary machinery, or disc engines in which it is necessary to concentrate the greatest power to the narrowest compass, with myriads of moving pistons and travelling gear. We must not forget that printing machines and presses are sent hence to the world, according to the latest improvements of Applegarth. Screw cutting lathes, self-acting drills, patent saws and machines for cutting in every possible direction, railway bars and mine-blasting apparatus, here in the workshop for them all whether large, elaborate or minute.
The next workshop shown and immediately joining the former is one in which various machines and wheels are simultaneously in motion, the boring department. Here where numbers of large mortars, for the purpose of being bored, and which bear no slight resemblance to the distillery puncheon. These are the rough drafts of those destructive weapons which carry death and destruction wherever they are missioned as missiles amongst enemy legions. These are lying around in every conceivable position and now seem to bear a very harmless and innocuous appearance what ever they may do in a few weeks or months hence. On the right and left are heaps of shells, some in the rough state, some smoothed ready for service.
There is another neighbouring workshop for boring and drilling purposes, which has been apparently constructed with considerable attention to effect, as the walls on both sides have been fitted with narrow counters, whilst in the centre is a long continuous set of working platforms, to which is attached every sort of machine for boring, drilling and polishing. Along the line of counter at the left, at intervals are Smithís vices, about 2 dozen. Here was one of the huge mortars under the operation of a clever, but aged workman who seemed to be cutting it up internally with the greatest ease and facility. He ceases the operations, the metal now too hot to bear the touch after the rapid friction of the boring machine.
The pattern-room or workshop for moulding, the various works, preparatory to their being executed in metal is one of the most curious and useful in the whole concern. Here everything small, large or elaborate to be manufactured, by order of the Government or private account, is first struck off in the form of a pattern or model for future guidance or improvements. There were several young apprentices here who appeared far above the ordinary run of engineering mechanics, they were smart and efficient, as they all are, but, these appeared of more than usual intelligence. Several turning lathes were in brisk operation, their services were awaited of in fabricating many ingenious pieces as well as ornamental designs. Patterns and pieces of all sorts, are suspended about the apartment, which bestow on it something of the look of an antique museum. There are wheels for mills of all kinds, wheels for railway carriages of all widths and sizes, and wheels for steam-engines of every grade and calibre, while specimens and models of rails and sleepers are without number.
While we look at the regulations adopted at the Vauxhall Foundry, and recollect how practise makes perfect, we can no longer wonder at the great beauty and perfection of Mr J. Granthamís model of the docks and the town of Liverpool which created such lively astonishment and admiration at the Great Exhibition in 1851. These young Vauxhall apprentices are here making models, which are truly wonderful displays of ingenuity and art.
We are conducted to another department where all the shells which have been rejected as badly cast or deficient in some or other of the material and necessary requisites, are subjected to a sudden blow and severance from an engine of immense but almost silent power. Here a workman was quietly seated, who drew one after the other of discarded shells, and one by one, placed them under the control of this gigantic manipulation. The machine was set in motion, it fell, though the blow was scarcely heard, when the implement was again drawn up and severed in two halves, all the pieces are again consigned to the furnace.
Several engineers of great skill and eminence are employed in this establishment but the great guiding and controlling genius of the whole concern is the principal, Mr McGregor himself who superintends everthing and is the real life of the vast establishment.
Daily Post 9th April 1859
On Monday evening Mr William PRESCOTT late foreman pattern maker of the Vauxhall Foundry was presented with a watch and chain by the workmen of his department, on the occasion of him leaving the establishment.
Mr PRESCOTT had been at the foundry for 19yrs. The presentation took place at the Derby Arms, London Rd
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