Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - About London, by J. Ewing Ritchie, 1860 - Chapter 3 - About Coal

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I AM sitting by my sea-coal fire, and, from the clear way in which it burns, and the peculiarly pleasant warmth it seems to give out, I have every reason to believe that the thermometer is below the freezing point, that the ground is hard as iron, and that before to-morrow's sun rises, Jack Frost will not only have lavishly strewn the earth with pearls, but have sketched fairy landscapes innumerable on my window-panes. Ah, well, it matters little to me:
        "The storm without might rain and ristle,
        Tam did na mind the storm a whistle."
    The respected partner of my joys and sorrows has retired to roost, far away in the nursery the maternal pledges of our affection have done ditto. Unless an amorous member of that inestimable class of public servants - the metropolitan police - be at this moment engaged in a furtive flirtation with the cook, I have no reason to believe that, beside myself, any of my limited establishment is awake. My boots are off - I have an old coat on - I have done my day's work - I don't owe [-24-] anybody any money (the reader need not believe this)- I poke the fire - I light a cigar - and think there is nothing like a good fire after all.
    1 am thankful I am not in Paris now: I take down my French Pocket Dictionary, published by Orr in 1850, and cannot find the French for fire-place; I find firearms, fire-ball, fire-brand, fire-brush, fire-cross, fire-lock, but no fire-place. Ah, here it is (fire-side, foyer- substantive, masculine) ; but, to make quite sure, I turn to the French-English, and I turn up foyer there ; and, here, I find it means, "heat, tiring-room, green-room," and so on. Well, am I not right? there is nothing like an English fire-place after all. The Germans are not much better off than the French; the German porcelain stove, for instance, standing in the middle of the room, like a monument, and nearly filling it, is not for a second to be compared with a jolly English fire; besides, it is very dangerous, and, when the flue gets stopped is, I was going to write, as great a murderer as a medical man. Can I ever forget how when I lived in the Kitchen Strasse of a far-famed and delightful city, distant about 700 miles from where I write, how one morning I came down-stairs to have my frühstück, and how, in the very middle of my meal, I felt an uncomfortable sensation, as a gigantic Dane was reading to me a memorial he was about to address to the British government? May I tell the reader how at first I thought the document to which I have referred might have something to do with it? Will he forgive me, if I narrate how, at length, I gra-[-25-]dually came to the conclusion that the cause was in the atmosphere, which seemed to be splitting my head, and swelling out my body to the point of bursting? can he imagine my deplorable situation when I became insensible, and when I recovered consciousness found that I had been poisoned by the fumes of charcoal, and that I should then and there have shuffled off this mortal coil, had not my Danish friend, for a wonder, lifted up his eyes from his precious document, and, seeing me go off, thrown open the window, and, in a polyglottic way, called for help? Truly, then, may I say, that, for comfort, and for safety, and for warmth, if you can have it pretty nearly all to yourself, and do one side thoroughly first before you roast the other, there is nothing like an English fireplace in the world.
    Woe is me! the present generation,- a generation most assuredly wise in its own eyes, can never know what I, and others verging on forty, know - the real luxury of an English fire after travelling all night as on outside passenger on the top, say, for instance, of the Royal London and Yarmouth mail. Pardon my emotion, but I must shut my eyes, and endeavour to recall the past. It is six o'clock on a night cold as that in which I now write; I am at the ancient hostelry, now gone to the dogs, known as the White horse, Fetter Lane, on the top of the mail aforesaid. The many-caped coach-man, has clambered up into his seat; I sit by his side, perched somewhat like a mummy; outside and in we are full of passengers. The red-coated guard blows [-26-] cheerily on the far-resounding horn. "Let them go," says the coachman, and four faultless greys, impatient of restraint, rush forth with their living load: in a twinkling we stoop under the ancient gateway, and turn into Fetter Lane; now we cautiously descend Holborn Hill, skilfully we are steered through Cheapside, past the Mansion House, through Cornhill, along dark and sullen Leadenhall, Whitechapel, all glaring with gas and butcher's meat; our driver gives the horses their heads, and our pace becomes pleasant. We pass Bow Church, and the bridge at Stratford, and now we have left the gaslights far behind, above us is the grand dome of heaven studded with its myriads of stars. Hedge and field far and near are covered with a mantle of virgin snow. The traffic on the road has trodden it into firmness, and on we speed till we reach Romford, not then as now known all over London for its ales. I believe these ales are the occasion, of an anecdote, which I may here repeat :- Two friends went into a public-house and were regaled plentifully with them, but not finding them so strong as they wished were much disgusted, and rose to go; however, they had not gone far before the ale began to tell one traveller soon found himself in a ditch on one side of the road, while his friend was prostrate in another. "Holloa," said the one to the other, "that ale war'nt so bad- as I thought." "No, no," was the reply of his now apparently-satisfied friend. But here we are at Romford. Fresh cattle are standing ready to take the place of the our who have gallantly drawn us hither. But there is [-27-] time to jump down, and "have a drop of summut short," to catch a glimpse from the most glorious of fires, and to feel for the buxom landlady, and her clean and rosy-cheeked Hebes, very strong feelings of personal regard. "All ready," cries the ostler, and away we rush from this fairy land, as it seems to us, out into the cold dark night; the guard blows his horn; curtains are drawn on one side as we pass, that, out of warm rooms, curious eyes may look on us. The pikekeeper bids us, for him, an unusually cheerful good-night, and by this time some of the old pilots returning to Southwold, or Lowestoft, or Yarmouth, after having been with vessels up the Thames, cheered by the contents of various libations, wake the dull ear of night with songs occasionally amatory, but chiefly of a nautical character; and if there is a chorus, - why, we can all join in that ; are we not jolly companions, every one? Does not this beat railway travelling? "I believe you, my boys." I say the present race of men have no conception of this. Why, look at a London omnibus; for nine months out of the twelve a cockney can't ride, even from the Bank to Pimlico without getting inside. A friend of mine, one of the good old sort, rides into town winter and summer outside a distance of about nine miles. "Of course you wear a respirator," said a young cockney to him. My friend only laughed. When the Royal Yarmouth Mail ran its gay career, there were no respirators then. What if the night were cold - what if snow laid heavily on the ground - what if railway rugs were not : did we not sit [-28-] close together and keep each other warm - did we not smoke the most fragrant of weeds - did we not, while the coach changed horses, jump down; and, rushing into the cosiest of bar-parlours (forgive us, J. B. Gough), swallow brandy-and-water till our faces were as scarlet peonies, and we tingled, down to the very soles of our feet, with an unwonted heat? A coal fire then was a sight to cheer the cockles of one's heart, to look forward to for one long stage, and to think of for another. But times change, and we with them. The other day I met one of our mail-coachmen ingloriously driving a two-pair buss between the City and Norwood; he looked down at his horses and then up at us with an expression Robson might have envied. Let me return to coal. Gentle reader, did you ever go down a coal-pit ?-I once did, and I think, with Sheridan, it is hardly worth while going down one, when you might just as well say you had been I was a stranger then to coal-pits and collieries, rather greener then than I am now, and had on a bran-new suit of clothes and patent-leather boots, and thus accoutred I was let down into the bowels of the earth, wandered along little ways in beds of coal, past little nooks where black men were at work, or resting on lumps of coal dining on bread-and-bacon, and drinking cold tea; and then there were tramways, and horses drawing the coal to the mouth of the pit, and boys to drive the horses, and boys to hold lamps, and all around you was black coal, save where it shone with the reflection of your light, and beneath you trod in mud, all made of coal-dust and water, of a [-29-] character to ruin patent-leather for ever. I was not sorry, I assure you, when I left the lower regions, and was hauled up to the light of day. Once upon a time, an exciseman at Merthyr Tydvil was overcome by liquor (for excisemen are but men) and fell asleep. Excisemen are not generally a very popular class of Her Majesty's subjects, and there are many who owe them a grudge. This was the case with our hero. Accordingly, the enemy, in the shape of half-a-dozen dusky colliers, made their appearance, and deposited their unconscious prize, 
        "Full many a fathom deep,"
as Mr. Campbell says, in a coal pit. Alas! the inspiration of wine is but short-lived. From his glorious dreams of marble halls the exciseman awoke; wonderingly he opened his eyes and looked around. Where was he? To what dark and dolorous shades had he been conveyed? That conscience which does make cowards of us all answered the question :-he had been for his sins conveyed to that fearful locality which a popular clergyman once told his hearers he would not shock their feelings by naming in so well-bred and respectable an assembly; there he was, far away from the light of the sun and the haunts of men. Everything around him was dark and drear. At length a faint glimmer of light appeared in the distance. It came nearer and nearer, by its light he saw a form he thought resembled the human, but of that he was not quite sure, The exciseman felt with Hamlet: 
    [-30-]     "Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned. 
                Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
                Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
                Thou comest in such a questionable shape
                That I will speak to thee."
    Accordingly he spoke, and very naturally asked the new-comer, "Who are you?" "Why, I was when I lived on earth an exciseman, but now I am -" "You don't say so," exclaimed the interrogator, as sober as he ever was in his life. But the joke had now been carried far enough, and the exciseman gladly returned to the light of day, and the society of his fellow-man.
    A coal pit, or rather a coal country, such as that you see around Merthyr Tydvil, or as you speed on by the Great Northern to Newcastle, does not give you a bad idea of Pandemonium. A coal pit is generally situated by the side of some bleak hill where there are but few signs of life. A cloud of smoke from the engine, or engines, hangs heavily all round. The workmen, of whom there may be hundreds, with the exception of a few boys, who stand at the mouth of the pit to unload the coal waggons as they come up, or to run them into the tram-road that connects them with the neighbouring railroad, or canal, are all under-ground. If you descend, a lighted candle is put into your hand, and you must grope your way as best you can. If the vein of coal be a pretty good one you will be able to walk comfortably without much trouble, but you must mind and not be run over by the coal waggons always [-31-] passing along. As you proceed you will observe numerous passages on each side which lead to the stalls in which the men work, and hard work it is, I can assure you: a great block is first undermined, and then cut out by wedges driven into the solid coal; I believe the work is chiefly contracted for at so much a ton· In these little stalls the men sit, and dine, and smoke. Little else is to be seen in a coal pit. There are doors by which the air is forced along the different passages; there are engines by which the water is drained off; there is constant communication between the upper and the lower world, all going on with a methodical exactness which can only be violated with loss of life. Let the engines cease, and possibly in a couple of hours the pit may be filled with water. Let a workman, as is too often the case, enter his stall with a candle instead of with a safety lamp, and an explosion may occur which may be attended with the loss of many lives; but the rule is care and regularity, each man doing his part in a general whole. The mortality in coal mining is still unusually great. It is ascertained that of the total number of 220,000 persons employed as colliers, 1000 are killed annually - that is to say, the poor collier has 1000 more chances of being killed at his work than any one of the whole travelling public has of being killed or injured on English railways. Dr. Philip Holland read a paper on the subject at a recent meeting of the Society of Arts. He stated that out of 8015 deaths by accidents in eight years, 1984 (or about one-fourth) were caused by ex-[-32-]plosions. Remarkable it is, that in the northern counties of Durham and Northumberland (in which one fourth of the coal is raised, and one-fifth of the collier population employed) the average deaths per annum from explosions do not exceed 21 out of 248; and as the average of such deaths for the whole country, including the Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Staffordshire districts, is 105, so 143 lives yearly are lost because the precautions against explosion proved to be effectual in the extreme north are neglected in all the other districts. Equally remarkable it is that falls of roof have caused nearly 1000 more deaths in the eight years than explosions, although the latter chiefly excite public feeling. Here, again, the extreme northern district affords a gratifying contrast with the others, as, out of an average of 371 such accidents yearly, only 49 occur there. It is suggested that the comparative immunity of the north from this cause of accident is attributable to the fact, that one man in six belongs to the safety staff, who are charged with the superintendence of ventilation, road, and prop making, &c. In other parts no such person is employed, and the men in their anxiety to get coal neglect these salutary means of safety. The next greatest number of fatal accidents occurs in the shafts, 1734 in the eight years. Here, again, the cautious north exhibits its superiority, its proportion of fatalities. from this source not being more than a fifth part of the proportion throughout the country. Other fatalities there are, principally the result of bad discipline, the [-33-] employment of too large a proportion of boys under fifteen years, the use of machinery where hand-pulling would be preferable, the narrowness of the galleries, and such like. Dr. Holland notices that the system of government inspection has, in the southern coal districts, led to the discontinuance of the services of "viewers," or mine engineers, to direct the operations, which it never was intended to do. Either these viewers must, as a rule, be reinstated, or the government system of inspection must be enormously increased. Among the means suggested to prevent accidents is that of making the coal owner civilly responsible for accidents caused by the obvious neglect of reasonable precautions in the working. In the course of the discussion which followed, it was urged that the workers should no more be exempted from the penal consequences of neglect than the employers.
    Fancy - I can do it easily, over my sea-coal fire - fancy the coal dug out of the pit, put into a waggon, that waggon put on a railway-travelling, it may be, some distance, and depositing its precious burden in a collier's hold; imagine this collier put to sea, and safely arrived in the Thames. As Mr. Cobden said, "What next, and next?" Here a new agency comes into play, the coal cannot come right to my fire. We leave the collier at Gravesend and land, let us say, at Billingsgate - never mind the fish, nor the porters, nor the fair dealers in marine products. Come right away into Thames Street - cross it if you can, for this street, of [-34-] all London streets, bears away the palm for being blocked up at all times and seasons, and this morning there has been a block lasting a couple of hours; but. the people here are used to it, and do not think it worth while to have recourse to hard words, nor to repeat sounds very much like oaths, nor to grow red in the face and threaten each other, as is the case with the angry Jehus of Cheapside and Holborn Hill. We enter a handsome building by a semi-circular portico, with Roman Doric columns, and a tower 106 feet high. A beadle in magnificent livery, and of an unusually civil character - for beadledom is generally a terror to our species - meets us. We wish to see our friend; right into the middle of a busy group of coal dealers and factors the beadle rushes, and repeats the name of our friend; up one story, and then another, and then another, the sound ascends; our friend hears it, and, rapidly descending, gives us a welcome as warm as his own fire-side. We begin our voyage of discovery :-first we descend and examine a Roman well, in excellent preservation, discovered in excavating the foundation of the new building. The water looks thick and muddy, but they tell you it is clear; but the fact that it ebbs and flows seems to connect it with the Thames; and Thames water, when taken opposite Billingsgate, is not generally considered clear. We again ascend to the ground-floor, which is a rotunda sixty feet in diameter, covered by a glazed dome seventy-four feet from the floor. This circular [-35-] hall has three tiers of projecting galleries running round it; the floor is composed of 4000 pieces of inlaid wood, in the form of a mariner's compass; in the centre is the city shield, anchor, &c., the dagger blade in the arms being a piece of mulberry tree, planted by Peter the Great when he worked as a shipwright in Deptford Dockyard. The place is worth coming to see - country cousins ought to look at it; the entrance vestibule, Mr. Timbs, in his "Curiosities of London," informs us, is richly embellished with vases of fruit, arabesque foliage, terminal figures, &c. In the rotunda, between the Raphaelesque scroll-supports, are panels painted with impersonations of the coal-bearing rivers of England - the Thames, Mersey, Severn, Treat, Humber, Aire, Tyne, &c.: and above them, within flower borders, are figures of Wisdom, Fortitude Vigilance, Temperance, Perseverance, Watchfulness, Justice, and Faith. The arabesques in the first story are views of coal mines - Wallsend, Percy, Pit Main, Regent's Pit, &c. The second and third storey panels are painted with miners at work; and the twenty-four ovals at the springing of the dome have upon a turquoise blue ground, figures of fossil plants found in coal formations. The minor ornamentation is flowers, shells, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles, miners' tools and nautical subjects ;- there you can see all the process of coal mining, without troubling yourself to go down a mine, and in a small museum, too small for such a grand building and such a wealthy trade, curious specimens [-36-] of fossil products and coal will make the observer still more learned; but let us look at the living mass beneath. Some of the men below are famous city names. There sometimes you may see Sir James Duke, who came to London a clerk, poor and under-paid, on board a man-of-war, and who on this Coal Exchange has made a colossal fortune, and who was made a baronet, he being at the time Lord Mayor, when the New Exchange was opened by Prince Albert, on the 29th Oct., 1849, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal. Here oftener you may see Hugh Taylor, M.P., who began life as a cabin-boy, then became a captain, then was developed into a coal-owner, and who is said to be a perfect Midas, and possesses an art, very much thought of by city people, of turning everything he touches into gold. On a door just below where we stand is inscribed the name of Lord Ward, for even noblemen don't mind sullying their fingers with vulgar trade, if anything is to be made by it. And there is the name of a Welsh coal-owner, who, some fifty years back, was a clerk in a certain timber merchant's at a guinea a week, and who now, I believe, can raise and ship a couple of thousand tons of coal a day. Depend upon it there is some money made by these black diamonds, and the corporation of London know it, for they have managed to get a tax levied of one penny on every ton of coals, whether brought by sea or rail within thirty miles of where we stand. What they do with the [-37-] enormous sum thus collected it is impossible to say; it is true they built this handsome Exchange, at a cost altogether of £91,167. 11s. 8d., but that is a small part of their receipts. When the tax was first levied it did not much matter; about the year 1550 one or two ships sufficed for the coal trade of London. On Friday, December 2nd, 1859, the number of ships with cargoes for sale on that day was not less than 340 - and on an average each ship employed in the coal trade carries 300 tons of coal. In the month of October alone there were brought into the London markets 283,849 tons by sea, and by rail 95,195 tons and three-quarters. Of course in winter time the trade is very brisk. The retail dealers in the metropolis will tell you that a few cold days make an enormous difference in the sale of coals, and the large dealers are driven to their wits' end as to how they can find enough waggons and horses to enable them to supply their customers. In the large coal-yards in the winter time the men are at work from five in the morning till late, very late, at night. I am thankful for their industry, I hope they are well paid.
    But I have not yet said how the business at the Coal Exchange is carried on. There are two classes of men connected with the place, - the factors, who have a handsomely furnished room up above, and who elect each other by ballot, - and the merchants, who have a room below, to which they pay so much a year, and to the use of which they also are elected by ballot. On [-38-] the topmost story of all are the offices of the gentlemen who collect the city dues, and render themselves useful in similar ways. When the colliers arrive at Gravesend, a messenger is sent up with their names and the number of coals on board, and so on. Each ship is consigned to a London factor, and in the official room is a large case full of pigeon-holes, in which the papers for each factor are deposited; these papers are collected by the factor's clerks, and with these the factor goes .into the market to sell; for if he does not sell-unless the charter party permit him to wait for a second market day - he has to pay a demurrage of three-halfpence a ton, a demurrage, however, often submitted to rather than the coals should be sold at a loss of a shilling per ton. A bell rings at twelve, and all at once you see, by the sudden apparition of merchants and factors from the surrounding offices, that business has commenced; however, little is done till towards the close at two, the factors till then holding out for high prices, and the merchants holding back. I may add that there is very little speculation in this trade, all is fair and above-board. In the rooms of the factors, as well as of the merchants, is a daily list of what vessels have arrived at Gravesend, with what amount of cargo, and what vessels are on their way, and how many are going up to the north in ballast; thus the buyer knows as much about the state of the trade as the seller - and as he thinks the factor must sell before the market is over, he waits till the very last before he concludes his bargain. At the end of the market, when there is a [-39-] heavy sale, people get a little excited. They arc also rather more numerous and noisy than when you first entered, and, besides the regular dealers, a good many others are present: sailors out of curiosity, captains who want to know who are the purchasers of their coals, and where they are to deliver them to; general dealers, who do not belong either to the Factor's Society or that of the Coal Merchants'; and here and there a lady may be seen gazing with curious eyes on the groups below. When the sales are effected, the broker pays the city dues - for bulk must not be broken till then under a penalty of five hundred pounds - and a gentleman attests the purchases, and publishes them in a list, sent that evening to all subscribers as the real authenticated state of the markets for that day. I may as well say that the market-days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. By way of compendium, I add, that the price of coals, as given in the daily newspapers, is the price up to the time when the coals are whipped from the ship to the merchants' barges. It includes, 1st, the value of the coals at the pit's mouth; 2nd, the expense of transit from the pit to the ship; 3rd, the freight of the ship to London; 4th, the dues; and 5th, the whipping. The public then has to pay, 6th, the merchant for taking it to his wharf and keeping it there, and his profit; and, 7th, the retailer for fetching it from the merchant's, and bringing it to their doors. Of course you may save something by going at once to the merchant's. The poor cannot do this, and have to pay [-40-] an extra price on this, as on almost everything they consume.
    And now once more I am by my sea-coal fire, burning up cheerily in this bleak winter night. Let me light up another cigar, and indulge in a reverie. I am in a Welsh port on the Bristol Channel. Yesterday it was a small borough, with an ancient castle, and an appearance of dirt, and poverty, and age. To-day its moors have become docks, or covered with iron roads, its few streets, but lately deserted, now stretch far away and are teeming with busy life. Where the heron flew with heavy wings, - where the sportsman wandered in search of fowl, - where idle boys played, thousands of habitations and warehouses have been planted. There the snort of the iron horse is heard morning, noon, and night. There the ships of almost every country under heaven float. There you meet German, and French, and Dane, and American, and Italian, and Greek. What collects that many-coloured and many-language-speaking crowd? Where has come the money to build those big warehouses, to excavate those capacious docks, to plant those iron rails, to make on this ancient desert a Babel busier and more populous than Tyre or Sidon of old? The answer is soon given. Up those bleak hills, a few miles away, are the coal-works, a little further still are more, a little further still are more, beyond them are the iron-works, and thus we go on, coal and iron everywhere, all fast being changed by magic industry into gold. Nature- has destined England to be the workshop of the world. [-41-] She sent here the Saxon race, she filled the bowels of the land with ores more valuable than those of Potosi. To France and Spain she gave wine; to the countries lying on the Baltic, timber and grain ; to Russia, hemp and tallow; to Lombardy, its rich silk; to Calabria, its oil; to Ceylon, its spices; to Persia, its pearls; to America, its cotton; to China, its tea; to California, its glittering gold; but she has given us the iron and the coal - without which all her other gifts were vain - and with which all the others can be bought. To the rank we take amidst the nations of the earth, from the first we were destined. Ours is not the blue sky of Italy, nor the warm breath of the sunny south, but it is an atmosphere that fits-man for persevering industry and daily toil. Let us, then, brace ourselves up for our mission. Let us proclaim the dignity of labour - its beneficent effects-its more than magical results. Let us honour the workman, whether he stand at the loom or plough the field - or sail 
        "-Beyond the sunset
        Or the baths of all the western stars,"
or labour in the dark and dangerous recesses of the mine. Thus shall we build up a barricade against the murderous art of war, teach all the world the advantages of peace, and make manifest to the nations how to live. 
    One word more - don't let the reader go away with the idea that there is likely to be a dearth of coals in his time. Let him make merry by his own fireside, and not vex his small brain about what the world will be when the years have died away. A writer in the [-42-] Times, of May 24th, 1860, says, "As a good deal of anxiety has been recently shown regarding the probable extinction of the resources of steam coal in Wales, it may be interesting to state that, by the successful results of the prosecution for time last five years of the operations of the Navigation Works at Aberdare, near Merthyr, all fears upon the subject may be discarded. This pit is the largest in the world, being 18 feet in diameter and 370 yards in depth. The estimate of its workings is 1000 tons per day. The expenses thus far have been £130,000, exclusive of the value of waggons, &c.- £35,000. The ground is of a most difficult nature, the layers often extending 15 feet without a bed, crack, fissure, or any opening whatever. The rock had all to be blasted with gunpowder. The resources of the seam are comparatively boundless, the property extending seven miles from Taff up to Cwm Neal, and three miles in width, covering 4000 to 5000 acres of '4 foot coal.' The royalty is for 99 years, and is held by a firm, composed of Mr. John Nixon, the well-known colliery proprietor at Merthyr; Mr. Hugh Taylor, M.P. for Tynemouth; and Mr. W. Cory, the large coal contractor of London. The commencement of the use of this smokeless coal afloat began about 1840, on board the Thames steamboats, to work Penn's engines. In the same year a cargo was shipped to Nantes, and given away to the French for trial, with the sole condition that the engineer should throw it into the furnaces and leave it alone to stoke itself. Next, the sugar refiners [-43-] adopted it, as they suffered considerably if the steam was not kept up to a presure of 50lbs., and if allowed to fall below that rate their works were completely stopped. With the Welsh coal they cleaned out their fires but once instead of twice, and thereby effected a saving in the working day of three hours and a half. The French river steamers followed, and here the only objection raised was, that without the long trail of smoke from the funnel their customers would not be able to see their vessels approaching from a distance. The French Government then became convinced of its efficiency, and, adopting it, have adhered to its exclusive use ever since. Other Governments have likewise profited by its advantages: but, although it is consumed in the Peninsular and Oriental Company's fleet, the Royal Mail, Cunard's, and others, the English Government has not hitherto availed itself of it. The embryo town of Mountain Ash, with already a population of 5,000, has recently been the scene of great rejoicings, as the 'winning' or striking of so enormous a seam it is expected will bring with it additional prosperity and considerable increase to its neighbourhood."