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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 Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Hillside, Caversham, Reading.—Commends his promptness in writing, and teases him about his failings as a lover. Refers to his mother’s wish to know more about her, and asks whether he has told Percy (of their engagement).

Letter from W. A. W. Clark to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, 6 Tees January Marg, New Delhi.—Commends Pethick-Lawrence’s speech at Sapru House last night. The High Commissioner (MacDonald) is sorry he could not be present.

(Signed as Deputy High Commissioner.)

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