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Letter from Joseph Phillips to Alfred Lawrence

Birmingham.—As Lawrence was out when he went up to London to see the Great Exhibition, he took his sister. Is presently working on a bridge at Newark. Discusses his own and his colleagues’ working conditions and their relations with Mr Henderson. Asks whether Lawrence has decided on a place. Will not be able to join Lawrence’s party on the 18th.

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Transcript

Birmingham
11th June 1851

My dear Lawrence,

After all attempts I find myself located here, without having seen you again, or Claiming my bet.—It was not my fault however. I called & you were out, of course I anticipated it,—it was nt likely I should take all that trouble & find you at home.—So as I could nt enlist you for the Exhibition I took my Sister: I achieved one of the most severe days of bodily labour I have ever known.—Even now I am not quite sure I have been all over, although I tried hard to penetrate the remotest depths.—I returned to Birmingham on the Sunday Night per Mail,—one of the most agreeable journeys I ever had for I slept the whole way down.—Since here I have been working upon the Bridge,—a very large one 260 ft Span for which we have lately had the order upon I beleive Captn Warrens principle.—

We work till 8:9 & 10 oclock at Night—the last Mentioned hour seems by far the most Common here,—but I should Mention the Clerks are all paid over time, & tea is provided by Mess: F. H. & Co although as yet I have not been able to discover any “ham.”—I do not know anything of my future Movements, & so as yet have not said anything about over-time for myself,—but work & wait.—Mr H is still very weak & ill he comes to the Works but for a few hours ea day.

The Chaps’ here hatred of him only seems equalled by their fear,—they represent him as a perfect devil.—Of one thing I can have no doubt, although I may of the rest, which is that he keeps the Works & Clerks and all in splendid order—& not only works himself but makes those around him do so too.—One of the reasons they appear to dislike him so, is, he not only talks, but actually does things himself no other person would dream of doing, & having done them expects his Clerks to do them likewise such is a bad habit of his, going to dinner & back in ½ an hour,—although his house is quite 10 Minutes walk—

To me however he is very kind. a rather lucky thing occurred to me the other day.—

The painter to whom I let the Glazing & Painting at Bletchley.—found he had made a mess of it. girting the Sash Bars ruined him. he swore he would not consent to it.—but finding the agreement I had drawn up quite explicit on the point could not get out of it.—& so wrote me a very polite letter informing me I had made too sharp a bargain with him & that by it he should lose 45£ which he was sure Messs F. H. & Co {1} would not wish him to do.—“Oh! of course not.”—& begging me to lay a statement of the case before them. I showed the letter therefore with the bill to Henderson.—& it seemed to tickle his fancy amazingly. The Chaps all say it ought to make my fortune, for if there is one thing upon Earth which would please Haden more than another it would be the idea a man had lost money by a job—How this is I can’t say—but he signed me a Cheque & appears altogether very well satisfied with the Bletchley job—One thing I may say without vanity nobody could have taken more trouble over it than I did.—it is indeed almost a regret for a great many efforts were thrown away & production of no good.—

Cowper is universally detested I cannot use a word more forcible or I would.—I speak you will understand only as I hear & see—to me he is very kind.—

I have taken lodgings abt 1½ Miles fm the works & the same from Birmingham what they call the Sand pits. Doubtless if you drove out of Birmingham you will recollect having to pay a toll at the bottom of the hill.—close by this Turnpike are my lodgings.—

The more I see of the resources of these Works the more I am surprised. The Shop for the manufacture of Chain Cables is an addition since you visited them, if not indeed the large Steam Hammer Shop for forging Anchors.—Then we are making 2 large Stationery Engines several Hydraulic Machines,—& boring Cannons in a new manner, the bore being oval instead of round making peculiar Balls of […] {2} & Cast Iron thus [There follows a small sketch of an acorn-shaped ball] to suit them acorn shape.—A New Foundry & Workshops attached is being erected at Derby for the Manufacture of a patent Stove or rather fire place, of which at present great numbers are being made here.—

Yet with all these things in addition to the large Contract the Works do not seem really full,—& a job even like the Bridge before mentioned makes little sensible difference.—How do you get on? have you yet decided upon a place. I suppose when you do,—you will be down in this part buying Tools.—

We have some Screwing Machines, wh. I think far superior to any I have before seen.—I will try & get a Tracing for you.—There is no chance of my being able to join yr party on the 18th.—I have deferred answering the Note,—because I had a latent hope of being in London this week, but Cowper has gone himself, bad luck to him for the same.—I must leave off it is very late.—The fact is instead of sitting down to write this immediately after Tea, I went out for a long walk & made a vain endeavour to get out of Birmingham into the Country but alas! Brumagan seems to pervade everything for Miles around—all looked black & smoky—I have got so accustomed to the open air at Bletchly I cannot do without it, at least such is my fancy.—Altogether my health is first rate,—& I can walk 9 or 10 Miles without fatigue.—A most wonderful thing for me, is it not?—Your kind intention of getting me an introduction fm. Sheffield, is frustrated,—for I am certain not to go there.—I wish it had been for Birmingham, I fear I shall be very hard up on Sundays for a dinner.—

I need scarcely say how pleased I shall be to hear from you at yr leisure.

Yours very Sincerely
J Phillips

Mr Henderson has just promised to raise my Salary & has put the Newark Bridge into my hands for the present,—he will not promise me I shall fix it but says that, that at present is his intention.—What do you think my chance worth? & what odds will you give?—I hope to heaven I shall make no blunders.—

12th June 1851.

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{1} Fox, Henderson, & Co., who had ironworks at Smethwick and Woodside in Birmingham.

{2} An indistinct word.

Letter from Joseph Phillips to Alfred Lawrence

11 Brighton Terrace, Icknield Street West, Birmingham.—Has returned to Birmingham with his sister after an absence connected with some sad news. Is pleased that Lawrence has begun doing something. Discusses the progress of work on the Newark bridge and the arrangements at the works. Henderson is ill.

(Black-edged paper.)

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Transcript

11 Brighton Terrace | Icknield St. West | Birmingham
1st. Oct. 1851

My dear Lawrence,

I have your kind note of the 15th. Ult. before me & feel quite ashamed of my neglect, but I have had so much to do & think of these last few Weeks, I can scarcely realize the time which has elapsed.—I returned here on the Monday Night with my Sister by the Mail Train,—just a week after I had first heard the sad news.—My reason for coming back so soon was because I knew my presence was wanted at the Works,—& Mr. Henderson had behaved so kindly in the matter, I did not like to appear taking any advantage.—The change of Air seems to have done my Sister much good,—although she is necessarily very lonely. I however persuaded her yesterday to pay a visit to some Friends who reside at Handsworth, & were very anxious to see her.—I think a little society every-way beneficial,—as my eldest Sister Mrs. S— is very far from well, I fear my Sister’s visit here must be short, her return to Town is already besought.

I intend if possible to take her up myself as I wish to pass a day or two in Town.—

I am very glad to hear you have commenced doing something, although you speak so vaguely I have but little information on the subject,—it is too bad of you to keep one in such suspense.—Why not tell me where & what you are building.—I suppose it will all come in time.

So you see your friend H. G. is at last a liveryman. I have heard nothing of yourself or how you came off—or rather whether you ventured to stand the test.

The Newark Bridge is getting on most dreadfully slow,—& I do not think it will leave our Works for another 3 Months.—There is great difficulty in rolling some [of] {1} the Links for it,—it is still under my entire Charge & I have been at Newark several times setting out Foundations, & arranging the plans & contract for the staging.—

I get on very well with Mr. Henderson, & am not any way mixed with the draughtsmen,—who at this place are a very seedy lot, & for the most part badly paid, & bullied dreadfully they never see Henderson,—but have their orders, through an old Chap who keeps the drawings.—I on the contrary am privileged to enter his rooms when I have occasion, receive all my instructions direct, & am now generally employed, getting out rough sketches & designs under him,—& which the draughtsmen have afterwards to make drawings of.—

When I add to this, that my Salary has been raised as promised & all my back Money paid,—you will suppose I have nothing much to complain of at present,—indeed I am myself quite amazed at my good fortune, when I contrast the treatment I have received with many of those around.—

You will of course recollect old Mowatt of “savage” memory—if I recollect aright he left our Works because of his temper.—Well I should say his temper & his conceit has been the ruin of him do you know that Chap positively got “Henderson” his situation at these Works first,—& now is himself there at the rate of 25s– per Week,—working from 8 oclock in the Morning till 7 at Night, if this time is not made it is all deducted from the said money.

The Chap is as good a draughtsman as ever, but he drinks occasionally, & is fearfully obstinate & altogether has fallen irretrievably he is now also quite a Misanthrope & inveighs with stern energy against such “upstarts” as myself for instance, or in fact with anybody who is happy & contented or speaks a good word of Henderson or gets more tin than him.

For the bye speaking of Mr. H.—I am sorry to tell you his health is very precarious & at times he appears in great pain.—Yet such is his indomitable spirit he will not give up working, for instance,—the other night he was so ill whilst conversing with me he was obliged to send for his Carriage & go home, abt 4 oclock in the afternoon,—saying he would finish the matter with me the next Morning.—Judge my surprise in half an hour to receive a summons to go to his house upon arriving there,—he had just had a warm bath, & was lying on the sofa—& he kept me talking on several matters for 2 hours,—before he would go to bed.—

I fear to have bored you a great deal by the egotism I seem to have displayed in writing so much abt myself—really I do not mean it,—& it is but an apology for a better subject. Should you deem me able to afford you any information you might require I think you will do me the justice to beleive†,—it would confer the greatest pleasure on me to be able to assist in anything whatever.—

Hoping to hear from you soon,—& with my kind regards to your family,

Believe me as ever,

Yrs. Faithfully
Joseph Phillips

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{1} Omitted by mistake.

† Sic.

Letter from Joseph Phillips to Alfred Lawrence

Newark.—Is sorry he was away when Lawrence was at Birmingham. Discusses his work on the Newark bridge and his relations with his colleagues, and refers to his travels around the country. Asks how Lawrence is getting on with his factory. The masters were unwise to close their works in response to the strike.

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Transcript

Newark.
24th January 1852

My dear Lawrence,

Your letter from Chester dated the 21st only reached me this morning, what a pity you should go to Birmingham and find me absent, doubtless you have felt somewhat disappointed.—I have been quite out of temper abt it all day.—Spiers was more fortunate in his visit to me here, & we spent a very pleasant evening together talking upon all sorts of subjects interspersed by a sprinkling of scandal of all our Friends & one or two in particular their doings & their folly!—I wish you had come on here and spent the Sunday {1} with me, that would have been your proper course of action & to say the truth when I heard a double knock just now & somebody ask if Mr. Phillips was at home, I half expected to see you walk in,—but it was only the resident Engineer of the Gt Northern line who came to ask me to dine with him tomorrow, & so my hopes of seeing you & my chance of getting my respected Umbrella back (an article of wh I am greatly in want of here) were completely crushed.—N’importe, I’ll make amends some other day at the present moment my feelings will not allow me to say more upon such a tender subject.

You are aware I have been fortunate enough to get the superintendance of this Newark Bridge and as it is of 260 ft span & contains upwards of 600 Tons of Iron it may be considered rather a crack job to have. Hitherto I have had the whole management of it at the Works, & here have been engaged in preparing the scaffolding & staging across the river for it to be erected upon, & which I can assure you is no little matter.

Pile driving at the best of times is not very delightful work but in the midst of Winter with such weather as we have had it has been really arduous. Snow, Wind, Rain & floods have all combined to hinder our progress so that, between the one & the other & the hostility of all the Bargemen navigating the river I have had enough to do, indeed Lawrence,—the cold blooded brutality of those Bargemen have nearly at times maddened me, the contempt they express for my person & for all them damned Railway people who stop an honest Man getting his livelihood, as they inform me all railway people do, is dreadful, & the most courteous salutation as they pass is to consign us all to the devil.—One morning I had 3 Piles, ea one representing a days Work for a gang of 8 Men completely shattered to atoms by a vessel either on purpose or by clumsyness, & to hear the fiendish shouts of laughter which burst forth from the crew as the vessel came smashing & crashing amongst our piles would have made yr heart ache Lawrence, as for me I have been for the last 2 Weeks quite hoarse with shouting & stiff in every limb from making frantic gestures indicative of my displeasure, at their obstinate conduct. I summoned a whole gang of them & got two fired & now am allowed to proceed in peace, but of course this measure has raised the hostility of the Trent Navigation Cy., before whom these Bargemen tell of their injuries, & I am threatened by the board with no end of damages for obstructing, during several days the navigation of the River, there are 6 sheets of Foolscap full of it, but I have not even looked into & don’t intend.—

These are my difficulties here, & then although this Bridge has been dawdling for months when our firm wished it pushed on, the Company have suddenly found out it is the only thing which delays the opening of the line thro,—& so Cubitt keeps bullying our people & they transmit his letters with sundry additions continually to me, & always requesting a very full report of the whole state of the Work by return of post.—

The last 3 days it has been blowing a perfect Gale & today is accompanied by torrents of rain so that [it] {2} is impossible to work; owing to the floods & the rapid stream caused thereby the rafts on wh are the Pile Engines are always under water at the best of times, the worst of the work is however not done & on Tuesday I expect to return to Birmingham for abt 10 days to superintend the proving of the Span of the Bridge now erected at the Works, & at which no end of Engineers are to be present.—Joseph Cubitt the Engineer of the line I like very much I have seen a good deal of him, as I conducted all the previous Experiments at the Works, both he & Fox always shake hands with me, wh although nothing abstractedly considered, is more pleasant than being snubbed, as I have upon some occasions felt myself by certain parties, nameless.—I fear you will think me very egotistical but really I have nothing but myself & my Work to talk of. I have not met an adventure for Months a very striking Circumstance & particularly denoting the absence of all female attractions &c in this part,—for the bye I did fall in love at Hull abt 6 Weeks ago, but it [was] {3} so long ago I had forgotten it. I did pay another visit there last Week but my inamorata {4} was not at home,—perhaps You may know the people The Messs Wade, Timber Merchants of Hull. I have bought all the Timber for this Bridge of them & went there to select it & agree abt the price, & whilst with them they entertained me with true Yorkshire hospitality, & one of the daughters is sweetly pretty.—

This Newark during the Winter is a wretched hole unless one has time & money for shooting, hunting, & visiting but the Town itself is remarkably slow, there are only 3 good things in the place, the Inn, the Church, & the library & newspaper room,—at the first of these I was so comfortable I stopped a fortnight, & the second I visited once, last Sunday, & the third I generally look into ea day,—as I am made an honorary member during my stay here,—which speaks more for the good sense of the inhabitants of the place than any other argument I could adduce.—

I like Lincoln very much, all Cathedral Towns have an air of respectability abt them, wh most Manufacturing towns are in in† want of, there are too lots of pretty girls & some little fun usually going on. The Gt Northern Hotel you will find, one of the best Houses in the Kingdom—& well appointed.—You do not tell me whether you have seen anything of Chester. I have always heard it spoken of as such a romantic old place that I have quite a desire to see it. Albert Smith I think speaks of it in one of his Works.—

How do you get on with your Factory? & are you fully at work?—all this I suppose you meant to form the topics of our Conversation at Birmingham.—I trust however you will let me know. I really am ashamed of my great negligence towards you, in not writing, making resolutions is you know in such cases usually of little consequence but really I will try to be better in future, & for my excuse hitherto you must bear in mind that I have worked harder this last 6 Months than ever I did in my life—you think, I might easily do that & without injuring myself?—Possibly so, but still I have really fagged—I wanted to get this Bridge & I had a good many competitors.—I am more fitted for out door Work than the office, and would rather meet tenfold greater difficulties, than those I have even enumerated before,—than be compelled to office Work, & in which I fear I should never particularly shine.—As it is here I am tolerably my own Master and do as I please. I suppose too by time the Bridge is finished I shall have become acquainted with most of the people round, as it is at present I only know the Engineer I dine with tomorrow what we shall do if it is a day like this has been I know not,—probably amuse ourselves by making faces at each other all the Afternoon.—You ask me what I think of the Strike,—perfectly agree with the Masters, but think they have not acted wisely in closing their Works.—To have let those Work who would & even to have taken on unskilled hands and taught them their trade, would in my opinion have done far more to have annihilated the amalgamated Society & with much less injury to the Masters than the closing their works,—for in the course of a few Months the men who held out would have found themselves supplanted by a fresh race, & thrown upon the trade as supernumerary hands—whilst the Shop being open would have afforded them a good opportunity of gradually going to work, & that way in my opinion the society would soon have lost the bulk of its members—As regards the expediency of certain friends of ours closing their Works, it appears to me the most absurd & suicidal plan wh could have been adopted, & my own idea is, they will find to their Cost they have been entirely duped, & that vanity & a love of meddling has urged them upon a course of which they know not the consequences.—Well I am sure I must be boring you with this insensate epistle & so I will say adieu,—& hoping to hear from you soon & with kind remembrances to your family,

Believe me,

Ever yr attached Friend
Joseph Phillips

P.S.—You are far behindhand in your address to me at Birmingham, I left there Months ago, ever since the woman cried into my vegetable dish because I spoke crossly whilst bringing the dinner one Sunday.—My present address there is | 21 George St. | Spring Hill.—

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{1} 21 January.

{2} Omitted by mistake.

{3} Omitted by mistake.

{4} This is evidently the word intended, but the spelling is unclear.

† Sic.

Letter from Joseph Phillips to Alfred Lawrence

Newark.—Encloses a list of tools in his possession, and asks for help in valuing them. Will not be able to come to London on the suggested date. Has been invited to a fête at Grantham to commemorate the opening of the railway.

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Transcript

Newark
22d May

My dear Lawrence,

The accompanying is a list of a portion of the Tools I have here & I have to send in my Stock papers immediately with the price attached as I am very far from being up in such Matters & knowing you to have them at your finger ends. I should feel greatly obliged if you would attach a price to any you can.—Of course you will scarce be able to do all without seeing the things themselves, & I do not expect you to be aware of the state they are in but to suppose everything new, & if doing so you can tell me the value of any of the Articles in the list I shall feel greatly indebted as it will show me how far my own views are correct.—

I regret to say I do not see any chance of my having urgent business in Town to bring me up on the 27th.—The Railway here is to open on the 15th June, & I shall have regular pushing {1} work to get ready. There is to be a grand fete given at Grantham to the Directors &c.—& look Myself & Sister are asked.

Return me the list before Saturday at latest. | & Believe me with kind regards to yr brother.

Ever yrs Faithfully | great haste.
J. Phillips

A. Lawrence Esqr.

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{1} Reading uncertain.

Letter from ‘E. B.’ to ‘Bully’ (probably F. W. Lawrence), including sketches by ‘Multy’

Log Cottage, Hindhead.—Acknowledges the receipt of ‘Bully’s’ letter. Discusses arrangements for meeting next Saturday, and refers to the visit of some factory girls.

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Transcript

Log Cottage | Hindhead
8. Aug. 87.

Dear Bully,

Was it not an odd co-incidence? I had just finished that nice little letter to you when yours came yesterday. After deliberation, I decided that it should go, so that you might be the better able to gauge the revolution of feeling that took place in our ’earts on reading your scrummy (that’s Multy’s) invitation for next Saturday. I have not time to-day to enlarge upon the subject, but Multy has some good sketches which she is doing to enclose in this with a few joint appropriate remarks.

Likewise also is it an odd co-incidence that the day on which we are to have the honour of being presented to les nôtres, our two Mums & the Dad (that sounds rather naughty, & you so young too!) will be staying here & are hoping to see the author of the blouse. Don’t be alarmed they are good sort of folk and ripe for fun at any time.

Our factory girls were a great joke, they stayed from Saturday till Tuesday & thought iverry-think real ’ansim, strite they did. Was the blot that you made in describing your night in the boys’ camp done intentionally and were we to imagine it walking off the paper? Three more of Multys sketches represent what we imagine your feelings to have been on that occasion.

[There follow three pencil sketches of facial expressions, the first apparently asleep, captioned ‘In for the 9 hours’; the second apparently waking and yawning, captioned merely with a blot; and the third screwed up, captioned ‘—!’]

You will come then won’t you (to lunch if possible) next Saturday? though it be through hail, snow, ice thunder, lightning fire, water or sunshine & we will follow thee withersoever thou goest and eat and drink with thee.

Don’t get too legal or too mathematical or too economical, mais restez toujours l’incomparable Bully de nos amies

E. B.

[On a separate sheet are eight more sketches of facial expressions, captioned as follows:]
I July 26th No letter from Bully for a week!
II Aug: 2nd Still silence
III Aug: 7th A.M. Bully chucked!
IV Aug: 7th p.m. Letter!
V E. “My Mother will be here on the 14th!”
VI B. “My Mother will be here on the 14th too!”
VII Both. Phewwww! . . . .
VIII Never mind—BULLY’S COMING –!–

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