Monday 24 June 2013

The Death of King George IV, 26 June 1830

"A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion" -
A cartoon of the Prince which alludes to his
love of good food and wine, as drawn by
James Gillray, 1792.
[Source : Wikipedia]

This two part blog, which forms part of my 'trilogy' of Royal deaths, specifically looks at the death and funeral of King George IV in 1830, the latter drawing heavily on reported events as described in the black-bordered copy of 'The Edinburgh Evening Courant' newspaper in my possession, being featured below. The second part of this Blog, which features the funeral of the late King George IV, may be accessed HERE.

The reign of King George IV, as Prince Regent from 1811 and as King from 1820 until his death in 1830, is primarily remembered today for his profligate lifestyle, his secret marriage to Maria Fitzherbert, his disastrous subsequent marriage to Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the Regency on behalf of his "mad" Father King George III, the death in his lifetime of his only legitimate Daughter and heir to the throne, the well-liked Princess Charlotte of Wales after a still-birth; and his decidedly poor management of money.

"The Edinburgh Evening Courant" Newspaper,
dated Edinburgh, 15th July 1830, with black
borders in mourning for the recent death of
King George IV of Great Britain & Ireland.
[From my personal collection]

There were many who did not mourn his passing. "The Times" opined, perhaps rather harshly, that "there never was an individual less regretted by his fellow low-creatures than this deceased King". But those who were close to him or knew him well were more apt to describe him in rather more complimentary terms. The Duke of Wellington candidly [or prosaicly?] remarked that George had been "...a magnificent patron of the arts… the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy, and good feeling—in short a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good—that I ever saw in any character in my life."

His contribution to the Arts and to the irreplaceable Royal collection we know today along with his overall contribution to what we now term 'the Regency Age' cannot be underestimated. He also became a leader in fashion, admittedly often to suit himself, but others willingly followed his lead. He is well remembered  for being the first English Monarch to set foot on Scottish soil in 177 years, a well received visit which did much to heal lingering rifts north of the border. But coincidentally, his visit also directly led to the revival of and widespread wearing of tartan in Scotland.

A flattering portrait of King
George IV in full Highland dress
by Sir David Wilkie, 1830
[Source : The Royal Collection]  

As the caricature at the top of this page infers, George was particularly known for his love of good food and wine and his banquets were lavish affairs. This naturally led to him becoming, even by the end of the 18th century, quite rotund, and not unsurprisingly, he developed gout. The painting directly above therefore portrays the King in a decidedly flattering pose. As George became older he increasingly suffered from very serious bouts of ill-health, not being helped by his painful rheumatism, "emotional disturbances" and a self-administered addiction to laudanum.

During the Regency George already had a large medical team at his disposal, "The medical department consists of four physicians in ordinary; ten physicians extraordinary, physician to the household; and two surgeons; also ten surgeons extraordinary, surgeon dentist; a dentist; two occulists, and an occulist extraordinary; a cupper, and two apothecaries." [J.Norris Brewer, 1816]  

But by the end of his reign his heavy drinking and indulgent lifestyle had all taken their toll of his health. By 1824 his corsets had to accommodate a waist measurement of 50 inches (130 cm). He was now morbidly obese and desired not to appear in public, and on those occasions when he did he was often the target of ridicule. He naturally "evinced a great disposition to exercise of any kind".

A miniature of the young Princess Alexandrina Victoria
of Kent (the future Queen Victoria) as she appeared
 around 1826-27
[Source : The Royal Collection]

Queen Victoria recalled that as a girl of seven (around 1826) her Uncle pulled her onto his stout knee and desired to kiss her but that she found it "too disgusting as his face was covered with grease-paint". Nonetheless she still remarked on his "wonderful dignity and charm of manner".   

King George's last years were characterised by gout, rheumatism, hardening of the arteries, 'dropsy', and possibly also porphyria, being the same illness which had afflicted his late Father. While showing signs of mental instability this was less extreme than his father and could also have been due to the onset of dementia. Perceptions of the King's "madness" were not helped by a habit he developed latterly of pretending to have taken part in events which he had not, such as having fought at the Battle of Waterloo or riding a winner at the Goodwood races, tears often welling up in his eyes with emotion. Either he privately took a perverse pleasure in duping his listeners with his tall tales or in his 'insanity' he did in fact believe them to be true.  

The Lower Ward of Windsor Castle, as depicted by Joseph Nash
in 1848. The Windsor Castle we know today largely dates from the
rebuilding work commenced under King George IV in 1824.
[Source : Wikipedia]  

The Upper Ward, as depicted by Joseph Nash in 1848
[Source : The Royal Collection]

George now led a secluded life in the relative privacy of Windsor Castle and would latterly spend whole days in bed and suffered spasms of breathlessness that would leave him half-asphyxiated. By 1827 George was often having to be carried up and down stairs and "in general to be wheeled about everywhere". Thus he became more reclusive than ever. Great pains were taken at St. James's Palace to prevent the public from witnessing him being carried to and from his carriage. During the last two to three years of his life and while out in his pony-chaise in the parks around Windsor, servants stationed at various public crossing points did their best to ensure that the King would not be observed. Should anyone be observed along the usually secluded route it would be immediately altered. Such was George's well-known desire for privacy during his drives that anyone passing through the Park or Virginia Water dreaded the possibility of even coming upon him. Latterly George also became blind in one eye, most likely due to cataracts.

King George IV out in his pony-chaise, shown riding past
Sandpit Gate Lodge on his way to view his menagerie.
[From "Memoirs of George IV" by Robert Huish, 1830]

By the Spring of 1830 his "embarrassment of breathing" (as the Court Bulletins expressively described it) had become severe and sleep often alluded him, suffering also "at times great depression of spirits". He would often be found "lost in abstraction, only relieved by shedding tears". The frequent pain he suffered caused him to take enormous doses of laudanum, up to 250 drops in a 36 hour period, a low dose no longer having any effect. His Doctors often bled him and even applied leeches to his pelvis to try and effect a remedy for lower body pain. 

But still over-eating, the Duke of Wellington stated that for breakfast on the 9th April 1830 The King ate "A pigeon and beef steak pie of which he eat [sic] two pigeons and three beef-steaks, three parts of a bottle of Mozelle, a glass of dry champagne, two glasses of port [and] a glass of brandy..."

A portly King George IV at Windsor Castle.
From the engraving of E. Scriven
after George Atkinson.

Towards the end of the third week in June his team of Doctors unanimously considered that the King's health was "giving way at all points". But until the bursting of a blood vessel the day before his death, "the King did not think his case absolutely hopeless.. [and] the slightest refreshment of sleep rallied his spirits a little."

Seriously ill on the night of the 25th June 1830, the King managed to fall asleep in his specially fitted up chair as he could no longer comfortably use a bed. He would lean over onto a table placed in front of him, his forehead resting on one hand. George had dismissed his Physician, Sir Henry Halford, for the evening and sent him to bed while his pages had retired to the outer room. But George's long-term Opthalmologist and close friend, Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller, sat up with him holding his other hand as the King required someone with him at all times for assistance or just reassurance. Waking at a quarter to two in the morning he asked for his medicine, drank a little clove tea, and thereafter again fell asleep. Just before 3am he woke again and asked for his pages to bring his night-chair. "He had instantly a purgative motion" but observed "I do not think all is right", adding an expression which he commonly used, "What shall we do next?". Waller answered "Return as soon as possible to your chair". The King did so but then felt faint so ordered the windows opened. Trying without success to drink a little sal volatile, Halford his Physician was then summoned. Then holding Waller's hand "more strongly than usual" when suddenly he looked Waller full in the face and, "with an eager eye" exclaimed "My dear boy! This is death!". George then closed his eyes and lay back in his chair. At that moment Halford entered the room. His Majesty gave him his hand but never spoke afterwards and with a few short breaths "expired exactly as the clock struck the quarter after three, June 26, 1830."  

Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller who attended
King George IV the night he died.
[Source : Wikipedia] 

The Kings features after death "were neither drawn nor distorted, but appeared in that serene and tranquil state which would have induced the belief that his Majesty still slept... The cheeks, however, appeared somewhat sunk and the abdomen much raised".

It should be noted that various accounts of the King's last moments exist, such accounts being published as early as 1830. That a page held the King's hand during his last moments appears to be spurious. I have kept as closely possible to Christopher Hibbert's account published in 1976 as this version had been recounted by Waller himself. Hibbert also appears to have accessed the largest amount of primary resource material including undertaking considerable research in the Royal Archives.  

Please click HERE to read the second part of this Blog details the funeral and burial of the late King George IV.

Bibliography : 

- Various Internet resources including Wikipedia
- "George IV" by Christophet Hibbert, 1976
- "Memoirs of George the Fourth", Volume II, by Robert Huish, 1830
- "The Edinburgh Evening Courant", 15th July 1830

Monday 17 June 2013

The Euston Arch - Shall It Rise Again?

The Imposing Euston Arch, built in 1837 as the
Grand Entrance to Euston Railway Station London 

A recent Blog by 'Melbourneblogger' on the historic London Bridge of 1831, which had been taken down stone by stone and rebuilt at Lake Havasu City Arizona in 1971, reminded me of another iconic London structure which has now largely been forgotten - The Euston Railway Arch. Sadly, the latter was not to enjoy an honoured 'retirement', being ruthlessly demolished amidst huge opposition in 1961-62. However, a recent interesting discovery may mean that this woeful act of architectural vandalism can now be remedied.

But first, what was this Arch, where was it built, and why was it famous?

A period drawing of the Euston Arch under construction, 1837-38

The 'Euston Arch', in the form of a Doric 'Propylaeum', the largest in Britain, had been built in 1838 as the grand front entrance portico to the 'London and Birmingham Railway' Station on Euston Road, London :

"The Entrance to the London Passenger Station opening immediately upon what will necessarily become the Grand Avenue for travelling between the Metropolis and the midland and northern parts of the Kingdom, the Directors thought that it should receive some architectural embellishment. They adopted accordingly a design of Mr. [Philip] Hardwick's for a grand but simple portico, which they considered well adapted to the national character of the undertaking." [L&B Railway Report, 1837]

Euston Railway Arch and flanking pavilions, as built, 1838

This structure was the first great monument to the Railway Age and for close to 135 years served as the 'gateway' from London to the north. Standing an impressive 72 feet high (22 metres) and 44 feet deep (13 metres), the diameter of each of the columns were an equally impressive 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 metres). This "simple portico" still cost the then large sum of £35,000 On each side of the Arch were two 'lodges' or pavilions in the classical style, being separated by decorative and imposing cast iron gates.

A circa 1910 view of Euston Arch facing Drummond Street

But not everyone viewed the Arch positively. As early as 1851 one guide viewed it as "gigantic and very absurd". A later station owner, the 'London and North Western Railway', had the lettering "EUSTON" proudly incised on the pediment in 1870.

The red arrow marks the location of the Arch fronting Drummond
Street and the Euston Hotel. The 1968 rebuilding removed part of
Drummond Street and Euston Street to make way for the new
Railway Station and approach.
[From a 1908 map in my possession]

Unfortunately redevelopment in 1881 removed the westernmost pier and lodge of the Arch to make way for offices, and soon afterwards a hotel extension blocked the clear view from Euston Road. This spoilt the original classical design and symmetry of the whole structure. But the Arch itself still stood proud, although by now somewhat hemmed in and encrusted with grime.

A 1936 aerial view of Euston Station showing the original
location of the Arch fronting Drummond Street with the
Euston Hotel in foreground. Post 1881 Victorian buildings
have encroached on the original grand station frontage.  

But even by 1938 the fate of the Arch had been in the balance. A plan by the then owners, the 'London, Midland and Scottish Railway' [LMS] envisaged removing the Arch to facilitate the building of an imposing new railway terminus in the "stripped classical style" based on an American inspired design. But to his credit, a Georgian Conservation lobby group managed to persuade Lord Stamp, the President of the LMS Railway, that removal and rebuilding of the Arch on Euston Road was entirely possible if not desirable. But sadly, the Second World War halted all further progress and by 1948 the mighty LMS Railway itself had even ceased to exist, having now become part of the newly nationalised "British Railways". A whole decade would pass before the fate of the Euston Arch and of the old and congested but 'atmospheric' L&NW Railway Station would again come to the fore.

A 1960 colour slide of Euston Arch with
the name highlighted in gold paint

The axe finally fell in January 1960 when the British Transport Commission notified its intention of demolishing the 'inconvenient and outdated' old L&NWR Euston Station - including the iconic Euston Arch. Alas the 1849 "Great Hall", with its wonderful coffered ceiling adjoining the station, would also be demolished. While the suggestion was again put forward that the Arch could simply be re-sited, no one was willing to fund the estimated £180,000 cost. A myriad of last minute lobbying ultimately proved fruitless.

Demolition in Progress, 1961-62

The entirely unsympathetic Conservative Party Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who had the power to veto the demolition, "stated that he had decided against adopting the suggested preservation strategy, and explained that "every possible way" of preserving the arch had been investigated by the British Transport Commission, but the lack of available land, the operational requirements of the station and the removal costs entailed made the project unfeasible."  

Demolition in Progress, 1961-62
Note the stone stacked up on the ground

The 'Euston Arch' had acted as the grand entrance to this major London Railway Terminus for almost a century and a quarter, becoming a well-known and iconic landmark to generations of travellers. But it would now, despite "massive opposition", be ruthlessly demolished to create a convenient but clinical and soul-less flow-through station and precinct befitting the 'modern' image which British Railways now wished to project. The quite striking late 1930's combined LMS Station, Hotel and Offices would have been wholly preferable. But this was but one example of the "desecration" of our heritage then endemic in post World War Two Britain. It is interesting, if not ironic, that the wave of opposition to this demolition, although ultimately unsuccessful, effectively strengthened the successful and coordinated campaigns to save other iconic railway structures and architecturally significant buildings. The now restored and venerated St Pancras Hotel in London is cited as being one significant example.

Demolition in Progress, 1961-62

A short but fascinating seven minute UTube video detailing the actual demolition, which began in December 1961, may be viewed Here. Jack-hammers roughly prised apart the stonework with no thought of preservation. The demolition contractor, Frank Valori, stated that he had undertaken the demolition "without pleasure". His offer to store the stones at his own expense for a future rebuilding was turned down, no doubt because it would have increased the demolition costs as extra care would have been required. Two side 'lodges', which must have formed part of the original Railway Station, were however rebuilt facing Euston Road with an entranceway to the new Station in between. And there ended the story of the Euston Arch - until 1994 that is.

The two small side 'lodges' rebuilt on Euston Road, as I viewed
them in 1986. The long building in the centre is offices built in
front of the new 1968 station building.
[From my own collection]

In that year, the Architectural Historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank, and after a 15 year search, discovered that some surviving stonework had been used in the demolition contractor's own garden, partially as a garden terrace, as foundation material, and for a pond. This then led to the discovery that Valori had sold around 60% (about 4,000 tons!) of Euston Arch stone to British Waterways to fill a chasm in the Prescott Channel of the River Lea in East London. Cruickshank arranged for a section of one fluted column to be raised up from the river bed to show that the hard stone, which had come from a quarry in Yorkshire, had weathered little. Further stones were raised by British Waterways in 2012 in connection with other work associated with waterways serving the Olympic Park.

Dan Cruickshank supervising the recovery of a pediment stone
from the River Lea. Damage to the stone is clearly evident.

In 1996, Dan Cruickshank launched the "Euston Arch Trust" which aims to raise public awareness, to raise the necessary funds to rebuild the Arch, and also to attempt to restore the early nineteenth century Euston Square which had also fallen victim to the re-development of Euston Station. To date progress by the Trust has been slow but steady.

Dan Cruickshank with a section of one of the fluted Doric
columns. The original light coloured stone under the grimy
exterior is just visible around the damaged edges 

The current station owners, "Railtrack", support the idea of rebuilding the Arch but as at 2009 the expected combined recovery and rebuilding costs stood at £10 million. Sub-letting space in and under the Arch has been suggested as a means of generating some revenue to recover costs, including a 'banqueting hall' at the top of the Arch and a 'night-club' in the basement. Steel would replace the original brick shell of the Arch to increase space. The well-known comedian, actor, writer and television presenter, Michael Palin, has now also joined the campaign to rebuild "the first great building of the railway age" writing;

"The enormous popularity of the restored St Pancras has shown that celebration of the past and potential of the future are not mutually exclusive. The restoration of [the] Euston Arch would restore to London's oldest mainline terminus some of the character and dignity of its great neighbours."

The L&B Railway Curzon Street Station Booking Hall,
Refreshment Room and Offices, Birmingham.
Now standing in total isolation but secure.

It is interesting that the 'orphaned' but still extant 1838 Grade One listed grand booking hall, refreshment room and offices of the same 'London and Birmingham Railway' at the other end of the original line in Birmingham will be incorporated into the overall design of the new High Speed 2 ('HS2') Rail terminus. Now we respect and honour the past instead of tearing it down. Euston Station is planned as the London terminus for 'HS2'.

How the rebuilt Arch would appear on Euston Road
placed between the two existing pavilions.

It was announced in April 2013 that while Euston Station would still be developed as the London terminus for 'HS2' it would be in a scaled back format using existing facilities rather than outright demolition and rebuilding of the current 1968 station. Although new plans are yet to be released these should not affect the Euston Arch rebuilding proposals. The Arch originally stood back from Euston Road about where the buffer stops are in the current station so rebuilding at the original site would in any case be impossible. The universally agreed ideal position for a rebuilt Arch is fronting Euston Road between the two rebuilt 'lodges', thus somewhat restoring the context of how it originally appeared, but still fronting the present Euston Station site. That the Arch would again serve as the grand railway "Gateway to the North" is highly appropriate. But the continued presence of what I consider to be an ugly four story modern office block on pillars, with an entirely open ground level enabling vehicular and pedestrian access through to the 1968 station, is unfortunate. Continued convenient access to an even busier "HS2" railway station will now be the main consideration, besides finding the necessary funding to rebuild the Arch. 

An early Victorian engraving of the Euston Arch and
flanking pavilions, as drawn for the "British Gazetteer". 

There now appears to be plenty of original stone to work with and the consensus of opinion is that it would be reprehensible not to attempt to use it. Obviously, even when the necessary funds are forthcoming, the state of the damaged stonework will provide many challenges as much of it will need to be heavily repaired or re-carved from new stone. Reconstructed buildings in Germany show that this is, with care, entirely possibly and that a mix of original and new elements matching the original does not necessarily detract from the original historic authenticity of a structure. When rebuilt, the Arch would undoubtedly be Grade One listed, the maximum protection a building or structure can be given. That this Arch has somewhat slipped from the public radar is primarily due simply to the fact that it has not been visible for the past fifty-one years, almost a whole generation. The original and highly decorative cast iron gates, which had been manufactured in the foundry of the Engineer and Locksmith, John Joseph Bramah in 1838, are now on public display in the National Railway Museum at York.

The original Euston Arch Gates, now in the
National Railway Museum at York
[Photo credit : S Carroll]

A close up of the gates showing the
London and Birmingham Railway Coat of Arms
[Photo credit : S Carroll]

As Dan Cruickshank wrote, "Its destruction was an act of barbarism. Now a great cultural wrong can be put right."  We wait and hope that this grand Arch and monument to the great Victorian Railway Age can again be restored to its proper place in London.  

Bibliography :

- Various Internet Resources
- The Euston Arch Trust
- The Euston Arch Campaign [UTube Video]
- Unless otherwise stated all images are from Internet sources and are in the public domain.

Monday 10 June 2013

Remembering The 1901 Royal Visit to Auckland, New Zealand

"Welcome" : Flags and the Royal Coat of Arms atop
the Landing Arch on the Queen Street Wharf, Auckland.
[Photographer RA Cook]

This is a companion piece to my previous blog relating to the visit of [the then] HRH Prince George, Duke of Cornwall & York and HRH Princess Mary, Duchess of Cornwall & York (later King George V and Queen Mary) to New Zealand in June 1901. This blog specifically features the visit of the Royal couple to Auckland, using a number of unique photographs in my collection.

The Duke & Duchess of Cornwall and York, 1901
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

Those photographs attributed to Mr RA Cook are from my own collection. To the best of my knowledge these have never been seen before and are unpublished. We shall see more of Mr Cooks photographic work in future blogs. I have been unable to ascertain anything more about Mr Cook other than that he appears to have been an employee of "Smith & Caughey Ltd" in Queen Street Auckland, a member of the West End Rowing Club, and possibly residing in Ponsonby. There appears to be no record of his burial in Auckland. I would be interested in any further information on Mr Cook.

The Royal Yacht "Ophir" pictured in the Waitemata Harbour,
having carried the Duke and Duchess to New Zealand.
[Source : The Auckland Weekly News]

The Royal Yacht 'HMS Ophir" (actually the Orient line passenger steamer 'S.S. Ophir'), conveyed the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York on their tour of the British Empire, visiting Gibralter, Malta, Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Canada.

The Auckland Wharf at the foot of Queen Street
decorated for the Royal Reception
[Photographer RA Cook]

Above we see pedestrians promenading along the Auckland Wharf at the very foot of Queen Street which has been decorated with various flags to welcome the Royal guests.  

The Auckland Harbour Board Arch
[Photographer RA Cook]

During the Royal Reception the Duke and Duchess would "progress" through a series of these celebratory arches. This image, taken looking south from the base of Queen Street Wharf, shows pedestrians walking through the nautically themed Auckland Harbour Board Royal Reception Arch. The words on the arch read (in Māori) "Haeremai", meaning "Welcome".  To the right can be seen Mrs H. Spargo's "Gladstone Coffee Palace" with the "Waverley Hotel" visible directly through the arch.

The Royal Reception, Lower Queen Street
[Source : New Zealand Electronic Text Collection]

A view of the large crowds gathered in front of the dais and Government platform at right, taken in Lower Queen Street Auckland during the Royal Reception, 11th June 1901

Another view of the Royal Reception, Lower Queen Street
[Source : Ed Kruger]

Two views of the military guard of honour and large crowd gathered in Lower Queen Street during the Royal Reception. The large building to centre left is the Waverley Hotel.

The Duke and Duchess were welcomed onto the dais by the Mayor of Auckland, Dr Logan Campbell; the Governor of New Zealand, Lord Ranfurly, the Prime Minister, Richard "King Dick" Seddon; and Pa Maretu Ariki, a Sovereign Chief of the Cook Islands. Unfortunately the rain came down during the reception and umbrellas promptly appeared amongst the crowd.      

Auckland Troops at the Royal Reception
[Photographer RA Cook]

The Friendly Society [a Masonic order] marching
along Queen Street during the Royal Reception
[Photographer RA Cook]

The Municipal Arch, Wellesley Street East
[Photographer RA Cook]

The Auckland City Municipal Arch on Wellesley Street East. The City Coat of Arms can be seen at the top of the arch. At left can be seen part of the Auckland Free Library building (now the Auckland Art Gallery). 

The New Zealand Government Reception Arch
[Photographer RA Cook]

The classically New Zealand Government Reception Arch, complete with Ionic columns. The wording on the arch reads in English and Māori : "Welcome - Aroha Tonu, Ake Ake Ake", meaning literally 'with continuing affection always', with "Cornwall" and "York" above the side arches.

Queen Street Auckland decorated for the Royal Reception
[Photographer RA Cook]

Queen Street Auckland festooned with flags, a profusion of greenery, and what appear to be floral ropes, for the Royal Reception. The large building to left of centre and surmounted with the small round tower is the Victoria Arcade Building, being on the corner of Queen Street and Fort Street. This building included 'George Fowlde Ltd', Outfitters, on the ground floor.

Smith & Caughey Ltd Department Store in Queen Street
[Photographer RA Cook]

Next to Smith & Caughey's at centre right is 'WC Dennes' selling pianos, organs, knitting machines, mangles & perambulators, and on the right is Rendell's Ladies' Warehouse.

The Duke and Duchess passing along a rather wet Queen Street
in an open horse-drawn carriage during the Royal Reception
[Photographer RA Cook]

A military Guard of Honour lines the route as the Royal part pass by. While the Duchess is using an umbrella (along with many in the crowd), the Duke is showing that stoical British spirit and braving the winter elements!

The Duchess is reported to have been "...simply dressed in a black cloth gown with a black fur about her throat, and a small black tulle toque." The Duke wore a Naval uniform, "The Duke's handsome Admiral's uniform was hidden under a great cloak. He smiled and doffed his cocked hat in response to the cheering".     

New Zealand Militia firing a 'feu de joie' in Auckland during the Royal Tour
[Source : National Library of New Zealand]

A 'Feu de joie' is a progressive firing of guns, literally the 'Mexican wave' version of firing off a volley of rifle shots into the air. I believe this may have taken place at "Potter's Paddock" in Remuera during a review and march-past of 4,000 troops in front of 20,000 people, being attended by the Duke and Duchess. Rain is reported to have fallen at times with the ground being "wet and muddy".

Not Forgotten

South African War veterans also attended the review, "some of them lame, and others apparently not quite robust, but the crowd had not forgotten the service they had rendered to the Empire; and the Empire had not forgotten it either, for later on they received their medals at the hands of the Duke."

Somewhat Upside-down

But an embarrassing faux-pas took place prior to the review. The grand stand had been decorated with flags "stretched from gable to gable.. [but] ..The principal flags had apparently been hoisted by some amateur, for the lions of the Royal Standard above the Ducal pavilion were on their backs, and even the Union Jack at the saluting base was upside down. There was something decidedly funny about this, but it must be remembered that we are at the antipodes, and naturally things are somewhat upside down. The Royal Standard was turned the other way around after the Duchess had taken her seat, but the poor, unoffending Union Jack fluttered to the end as it had been originally hoisted."

Bibliography :

- Papers Past
- Those images attributed to Mr RA Cook may be freely copied for personal, academic and non-commercial use provided a link is given back to this page. 

Monday 3 June 2013

The Saga of Southland's Wooden Railway 1864 - 1867

"Crampton" type locomotive "Oreti" departing Invercargill Railway
 Station on the "Great Northern Railway" to Makarewa in 1864.
The sleepers - and the rails - are wooden.
[From a painting by W.W. Stewart] 

Last Update : August 2017

The idea of a "wooden railway", with wood replacing iron rails, sounds decidedly far-fetched. But a wooden railway is indeed what was constructed in the deep south of New Zealand during 1863-64. But ultimately this whole sorry saga precipitated the bankruptcy of the local Provincial Government, became synonymous with New Zealand's first railway fatality, and immortalised the story of "the lady who raced the train".

The route of the "Great Northern Railway"
from Invercargill to Makarewa and
eventually to Winton

Planned to initially run the eight mile distance between Invercargill and Makarewa for goods and passenger use, this was no mere 'bush railway'. But it was always envisaged that iron rails would eventually replace the wooden rails and for the route to be extended further north.

A bullock team in Tay Street Invercargill, 1860's 

The reasons for its construction were primarily two-fold. The land around Invercargill tended to be swampy with very little road metal [gravel] where it was needed thus the bullock wagons frequently became mired in deep mud. This made communication and transport exceedingly difficult. Secondly, with gold having recently been discovered in the interior, Invercargill saw itself as "the supply centre for a rich and thriving mining district". But to achieve that required a reliable transport route north. What was to be done?

In the early 1860's the main route north from Invercargill
was nothing more that a muddy track. This photograph is
taken at Waikiwi only 2 miles north in the 1860's.
The name "Bush Hotel" is very appropriate.

The 'Southland Provincial Council', led by their far-sighted Superintendent, the Hon. Dr. James Menzies, decided that railways were the answer. At that time all New Zealand provinces had a considerable degree of self-governance, perhaps not unlike the Australian model. So, having already heavily committed themselves to the construction of an iron railway south from Invercargill to the Bluff, thoughts now turned north. But the lack of money and inability to take on another equally large debt brought forth a novel suggestion from Mr James R. Davies, a contractor for the Bluff Railway - that of a wooden railway! Mr Davies had in fact designed and built a wooden railway in Victoria Australia when he held the position of Chief Engineer for the 'Ballarat and Geelong Railway'.

Advertisement for "'Davies' Patent Locomotive
 Engines, Carriages, Trucks, Wagons &c.
circa 1861  

The Council, to their credit, were naturally sceptical - who would not be? But to convince them otherwise, the entrepreneurial Davies imported the "Lady Barkly" 0-4-0 locomotive of around 8 tons from Australia, having been built in 1861 to his own design, by "Hunt and Opie" at the 'Victoria Ironworks' in Ballarat, Victoria. For two years it had been employed "to great satisfaction" on a wooden line at Green Hills, near Meredith in Victoria.  Davies successfully demonstrated the 8 ton "Lady Barkly" on a short wooden track laid on the Invercargill jetty on Saturday, the 8th August 1863. This locomotive thus has the honour of being the first locomotive to run in New Zealand, although not in revenue earning service.

Historian J.O.P. Watt states that "no dimensional details are known of this locomotive." But knowing the driving wheels were "about three feet" and using scaling a knowledgeable Australian source (who, by the way is building a miniature replica of the "Lady Barkly") has advised me that he believes her length to have "been a bit longer than 15 feet". One other source quotes 12 feet but this appears to be an unqualified estimate. There is another image of the locomotive Here (and is one that I had not previously seen).

The "Lady Barkly" Locomotive of 1861 and
the first locomotive to run in New Zealand in 1863.

"The afternoon of Saturday last witnessed the experimental trip of the first locomotive, which has ever snorted along a New Zealand tramway. Wooden rails were laid the length of the Jetty, and from one o'clock till five, the "Lady Barkly" was driven up and down sometimes at a speed of 25 miles an hour, with the most complete success... Crowds of spectators passed the afternoon at the Jetty in riding delightedly in the locomotive. The motion was found pleasant and quite free from that oscillation and concussion, which distinguish travelling on iron rails..."

With flange-less wheels running on 8 inch wooden rails, the small locomotive was kept on the track by means of inside guide wheels angled at 45 degrees and running against the top inside edge of the "rails". Thus Davies demonstrated that the system, which had been patented by William Prosser in 1844, could be made to work and that construction could proceed at a faster pace by utilising wooden rails. The construction cost per mile in iron would be £2000 but only £460 in wood.

An artist's impression of the "Lady Barkly" steaming
along the wooden railway

The previously sceptical Provincial Council were now enthusiastic. Despite suggestions from some quarters, and based on varying reports from Australia that further - and longer - trials should be conducted, the Council passed an ordinance raising a loan of £100,000 to fund the railway which they now planned to extend to Winton, a total distance of 18½ miles. It would be known by the grandiose name of "The Great Northern Railway" and, independently minded as ever, it would be constructed at the 'standard' 4ft 8½ inch gauge. Provincial Councils could not even agree on a consistent gauge and the 3ft 6in 'narrow' gauge would soon become the New Zealand standard.

Typically for new railways, a dispute then arose over the route, and that it should not bypass the nearby settlement of Wallacetown. But at an additional cost of £10,000 and with the attraction of the popular "public house" in this township no doubt figuring highly in the minds of many, good sense finally won the day and the railway would proceed in a direct line. Local farmers remained suspicious, fearing that they would be required to subsidise a line that primarily favoured the merchants of Invercargill.

A model of Invercargill Railway Station, complete
with overall roof. A veranda would later be added.

The ceremonial turning of the first sod took place on Wednesday the 25th November 1863 at the "Government Reserve" at the end of Esk Street, being the site of the new Railway Station. This was followed by a "Grand Ball" in the Southland Club. Hopeful of completion by the mid-year winter season of 1864, work proceeded slowly. But work halted on the 20th May when the Council found itself in financial difficulties - due primarily to railway construction debt. But thankfully the work recommenced in August with Makarewa soon being reached. A new "commodious" wooden railway station was constructed in Invercargill, the tender being let on the 10th Feb 1864 for £5020.

The 'Crampton' No 3, named "Oreti" pictured at the Soho
Works of 'Robinson Thomas & Co. of Ballarat in 1864.
The inclined guide-wheels are clearly visible.

Two heavier locomotives to work the new 'Great Northern Railway' were ordered from Victoria, Australia, being based on the classic 'Crampton' design and manufactured at the Soho Works of 'Robinson Thomas and Company' at Ballarat. The "No 2" locomotive ["Makarewa"] was first used on a ballast train on the 5th September 1864 while the "No 3" ["Oreti"] locomotive was landed at the Invercargill wharf early the following month. Both were of a 2-2-0 design with 1,000 gallon tenders, 54" wheels, 150 psi boilers, two 10½ in cylinders, and outside Stephenson link motion.

A copy of an early photograph of the Invercargill Railway Station
with the overall wooden roof. The wooden rails are apparently for
the construction tramway for the yard development and are not
the rails for the actual "wooden railway". Circa 1864

An official opening of the "Great Northern Railway" took place in mid October 1864 but a furore developed as only management and their official guests could take part in the festivities. Towns people gathered to "heartily groan and boo" as the train left the station. So they organised their own "do"! Suitably chastened and contrite, the Council organised a 'public' "Railway Opening Celebration Day" for the following week on Tuesday, the 25th October 1864.

The account of the Fatal Death of Alfred Gasket, 1864

But an unfortunate accident occurred the day before the opening when Alfred Gasket [later recorded as "Glascott"], a 17 year old railway employee, "slipped between the engine and the tender" of the slow moving train and with his head resting on one of the rails was hit with one of the guide wheel axles and instantly killed. His "carelessness of manner" in standing on the tender was a contributing factor. This did not bode well, also being New Zealand's first recorded railway fatality.

The Crampton No 2 "Makarewa" would have been the locomotive used on opening day, the train waiting at the station that morning comprising of the engine, two closed carriages and seven open trucks fitted with seats. Two return trips were made to Makarewa, carrying upwards of 1,000 people [one source says three trips were made "carrying fully 2,000 people"] including local school children. A picnic with food, sports and fun for all, together with a brass band, would make for an enjoyable day out.

But for the last trip back to Invercargill difficulties arose. After a heavy shower of rain and with clay being trampled onto the wooden rails, the locomotive - and lacking a supply of sand for gripping the rails - could not get traction when faced with a 1 in 90 gradient. An added problem was that the locomotive developed leaky tubes "which almost extinguished the fire". The excursionists were either forced to walk home on muddy roads, 'camping out' at Makarewa, or return with a portion of the train which finally managed to reach Invercargill at 11.30pm.

The opening Day occasioned a General Holiday and a
"Triumphal Arch" over Esk Street. The National Library
of New Zealand holds a collection of early Ross
photographs but have confirmed to me that they
unfortunately do not hold these particular images.

Regular trains were not run for some months, hindered primarily by the lack of finance. Nor was there money to extend the line. The Southland Provincial Council had appealed to the General Government but their plea fell on deaf ears, they had already gained a reputation for "extravagance", being regarded as "the 'naughty boy' of the provincial family". By the end of 1864 the Provincial Council had become critical of  their Superintendent, Dr. Menzies, who was then forced to resign his position although he remained on the Council. Menzie's far-sighted schemes had left the province owing £400,000 on public works but furthermore, gold output had declined, men were leaving the southern provinces, and the whole country was in recession.

In April 1865, and due to the very poor state of the north road, the Government borrowed the "Lady Barkly" [having been used as a ballast engine on the Bluff line] from its owners and re-commissioned the line to Makarewa to run the mails and to haul a very limited amount of goods. The Cromptons had of course proven too heavy for the line so could not be used. But the small "Lady Barkly" soon proved to have insufficient power for the task expected of it and was barely capable of hauling even ten tons. Additionally, because she had never been intended to work on the Great Northern Railway, she was not of the correct gauge and thus damaged the wooden rails. Her wheels projected about two inches from the outer edge of the wooden rails and she could not continue to run without excessive wear to the rails.

The contractor, Mr Davies, then offered to fit up a more powerful portable locomotive. "Puffing Billy", as she would be known, proved capable of hauling twice the load of the "Lady Barkly". A knowledgeable reader from Southland believes that Davies used one of the tenders from a Crampton as a basis for the new locomotive and this explains why one Crampton was later sold without its tender.

To confuse matters, railway writer Charles Rous-Marten, who travelled on the line at this time, states that it was Mr William Conyers (a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers), and Manager of the Locomotive Dept. of the Southland Railways who conceived the idea of converting a stationary sawmill engine into a coupled locomotive "in the hope of tiding over the difficulty until more suitable engines and permanent way could be provided." Rous-Marten regretted that he held "no photograph of this ingenious but amazing nondescript". He does however give a full description "of her astonishing appearance" which he added, "probably stands alone in locomotive history". So, one can assume that Conyers (a competent and knowledgeable engineer in his own right) came up with the idea and that Davies must have fitted it up, using a Crompton tender for the same purpose.

But the service proved "slow, intermittent, and unsatisfactory". Capable of up to 20 miles per hour, the "locomotive" only came off the rails once, the sole damage being a smashed basketful of eggs which a farmer's wife was taking to market. "Puffing Billy" ran for a short time until October 1865 when it is reported that its "crank-shaft broke" necessitating repairs. Mechanical troubles were only repaired with difficulty, as the workmen who had built the engine had left the province, and "her mysterious structure baffled other engineers".

In May, 1866, "The Southland News" reported: “The line in its present state is an absolute nuisance and instead of being a convenience to the public is the reverse. At uncertain intervals there is a breakdown; perpetually the wooden rails have to be lifted and turned to present a fresh surface to the action of the engine.

Fares were initially high, being 2s 6d a single and 5s 0d return with a charge of £2 each way for the hire of a truck. With grades of 1 in 79 to 1 in 90, the great railway writer Charles Rous-Marten recalled on one occasion being "politely requested", along with the other passengers, to leave the carriage "and help to push the carriages and engine to the summit of the bank" due to the lack of adhesion. This they did "with colonial cheerfulness" but "on resuming our seats the guard promptly collected 2s. 6d. apiece from us as our fares!". The inevitable protests as to high fares led to a reduction in fares to 1s 6d single and 2s 6d return with freight now at 10s 0d per ton (1s 3d per mile) but this naturally reduced income.

On the 2nd December 1866 cinders set the wooden rails alight. It was at this point that the locomotive was again reported to be out of action, this time for several weeks. The railway engineer now 
reported that owing to the defects of the track, traffic could only be continued at an ever increasing cost. 

"The decay and warping of the rails necessitated constant turning, so that in many cases all four surfaces were soon worn out. An average of twenty rails per week had to be replaced completely. Little hope was held out of being able to keep the line open through the winter without an entire relaying of the track. There was a constant loss on working. From April, 1865, to November, 1866, the expenditure was £3,730, while the revenue amounted to only £1,432."

Tenders invited for the purchase of one of the
'Crampton" locomotives, 14th February 1867

While proud of their new railway, the locals recognised its limitations. When Mrs Steel of West Plains, some 5 to 6 miles out of town, was one day walking to Invercargill, well laden with produce for the market, she was obliged to wait a few minutes at a railway crossing while the train passed. The friendly engine driver called to her "Wull ye tak' a lift?" She responded politely "and with no intention of humour", "No' the day, I thank ye!, i'm just wanting to mak' a wee bit of haste the day!". So on she trudged and had sold her butter and eggs at the market and was enjoying a cup of tea by the time the train finally trundled into Invercargill.

She thought no more of it as everyone knew the train was slow. But her "fame" spread to a "Home" paper back in Scotland where a few verses entitled "The Lady Who Raced the Train" appeared [the full poem appears below]. This story would perhaps be considered apocryphal but for the testimony of the Rev. James H. MacKenzie, Minister of Wallacetown Parish 1881-1889, who sought out Mrs Steele. He proudly wrote to his relatives in Scotland, "I have done something I thought long ago I would like to do. I have met in the flesh the lady who raced the train, and I have shaken her by the hand!"

"Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand" also relates an unverified story of how slow the train was. One day it caught up with a local woman herding a cow along the track. ‘Get off the line!’ the driver shouted. Sidestepping the engine she shouted back, ‘Man, ye’re in an awfu’ hurry this mornin!’

In Disgrace - "Crampton" locomotive "Makarewa"[?] being
pulled by a bullock team to Mr Fraser's Steam Saw Mills in
July 1867 to be used on a bush tramway. 

While the formation for the line further north to Winton had been completed there were not the funds available to physically extend the line. Thus all further railway extension work had ceased, a bitter blow for settlements further north. Probably in desperation, the Southland Provincial Council signed a new contract which included converting the unsucessful wooden railway to iron and extending it north, being secured on 60,000 acres of Crown land. Unfortunately the state of the wooden rails meant that they could not be used as longitudinal sleepers which would have been a cost saving.

In 1867, Mr Davies, the original Railway Contractor and promoter of the 'Wooden Railway', received compensation of £32,500 from the Government for the great expense he had incurred on "bringing over an extensive plant, and owing to the works having been suddenly stopped..."

By the end of 1869 the new "Iron Railway" had reached Makarewa and then Winton finally on the 22nd September 1870. Some revenue could now be derived from the heavy expenditure which had been expended on the line. But by now the lucrative goldfields traffic was only a memory, and Southland had agreed to surrender her independence as a separate province.

Dr J.A.R. Menzies,
Founder & Superintendent of
 Southland Province   

But the achievement of finally having iron rails laid was bitter-sweet for by October 1870 the 'Southland Provincial Council' had succumbed to its crippling debt of [now] £450,000 and ceased to exist. The chastened 'naughty boy of the provincial family' had been forced to re-unite with its big brother, the 'Province of Otago'. That was not to be the end of Southland's railway woes but the "temporary wooden railway" ultimately proved to be its undoing. Led by their ambitious Superintendent Menzies, it became a victim of economic realities, bad business decisions - and very bad luck. Menzies is still well thought of in the south but was perhaps a man before his time, "He was at his best when advocating a cause [but] less successful in the detailed work of administration. Menzies saw what was needed in the south and in different circumstances his courage might have met with the success it deserved."

The replica of the "Lady Barclay" on
Stead Street Wharf, Invercargill

What remains of this Railway today?

The railway formation north to Makarewa, now at the standard New Zealand narrow gauge of 3ft 6in, still carries freight trains through the rich Southland countryside to and from the Ohai coalfields. This branch line received a major refurbishment in 2012 so would appear secure for now. The 1870 branch line from Makarewa [Junction] north to Winton and Lumsden closed on the 13th December 1982.

A replica of the Hunt and Opie 2-2-0 "Lady Barclay" of 1861 now sits on the Invercargill Stead Street Wharf.

An example of the original wooden rail is held by the Southland Museum in Invercargill, having been milled to the required size but never used so had been incorporated into a local farm building from whence it was retrieved.

The builders of the original 1864 Invercargill Railway Station could not have imagined that it would last until 1978, then the oldest in New Zealand and apparently by then "totally decayed". During demolition it was noted that a vast number of nails had been used. Ironically, the New Invercargill Railway Station, built at a cost of $1.7 million in 1978, no longer handles passenger rail traffic. I rather preferred the historic and rather more 'atmospheric' old station.

The "Lady Barkly" adapted for use by "Massey & Co"
Sawmillers at Woodend, Southland circa 1886 

And What Became of the Locomotives?

"Lady Barkly" - the First Locomotive to Run in New Zealand :

The "Lady Barkly" appears to have quickly been converted to drive a sawmill but still capable of running on rails as the image above shows. Originally built at the "Irish" broad  gauge of 5'3", she was converted to the standard gauge of 4ft 8½ inch for the Southland "Wooden Railway", then finally converted to the narrow 3'6" gauge.

Around 1874 it appears to have been in use by a sawmill north of Winton, employed cutting sleepers for the Winton to Kingston line. This area became known as "Lady Barkly". There are also reports of it being used by "Massey & Co," sawmillers at Woodend [noted round 1886] then by "Guthrie & Larnach", sawmillers at Clifton [this must be when it operated a mill in the late 1890's at the site of the present day Kew Hospital]. The above photo at least conclusively confirms its use at Woodend around 1886. An article in "The Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle" for the 26th July 1905 would appear to give a contemporary account of what finally became of the "Lady Barkly" :

That the boiler was "lying in a paddock in Makarewa" would suggest it was put to some final use here but we may never know. As to "the moving part" it is unfortunate the the flaxmill in question is not specifically identified, there being a number then operating in Southland. That the chassis and cylinders were still in use would suggest that the "Lady Barkly" was either reboilered or connected to a stationary boiler, not surprising considering the original "Hunt & Opie" locomotive boiler dated from 1861.

To further confuse matters, Mr John A Bennett of Tuatapere [died 2001 aged 91 years] advised "The Southland Times" in the early 1980's that the "Lady Barkly" supposedly finished its days carting timber for Raymond's Mill at Tuatapere. This information, which I was aware of even before this article hit the press, would now appear to be totally spurious. Mr Bennett claimed that at an auction of Raymond's Mill in 1925 his Father bought the "Lady Barkly", along with the mill engine but as the locomotive proved of little use, it was soon scrapped.

"The old loco carried a lot of copper and brass fittings and ornaments, and these were at that time valuable scrap, so along with the cast iron cylinders, they were sold to an Invercargill foundry in exchange for a turnip ridger worth £28. The chassis and wheels of the Lady Barkly lay around our farm for many years and were eventually used by my brother as the foundation of a stock bridge over a small stream to an island in the Waiau [River] near the Tuatapere Domain. This chassis with the four wheels and axles attached is still in the same place but is no longer used for its original purpose and could be easily retrieved by the use of a bulldozer."  

A very helpful reader who uncovered the above 1905 article has also advised me that Gerald Petrie in his publication "NZ Steam Locomotives by Official Number", being a research manual for privately owned locomotives in New Zealand, records that the above-mentioned locomotive owned by I W Raymond's sawmill was in fact made by Henry Hughes & Company in 1878. Prior to being owned by Raymond's Sawmill it had been used on the Dunedin tramway system. Petrie also notes that it was last inspected in 1928, the owner then being Thomas Bennett of Tuatapere. Being date specific, this information must have been gleaned from original records relating to official boiler inspections. I am also strongly assuming that Petrie is referring to a mobile locomotive rather than the static "mill engine" which Bennett's also purchased at the Raymond's Mill auction. But even so, the 1878 locomotive would still be of some interest so is not without it's own historic value.

Update Mar 2015 - A very knowledgeable reader from Southland has advised me that the Tuatapere locomotive dumped in the Waiau River was in fact a "Barclay" locomotive [Andrew Barclay & Sons of Kilmarnock, Scotland]. If this is indeed correct the manufacturers name may have caused Mr Bennett's confusion. So some further research is required here.

The above information concerning the Tuatapere locomotive is included in this article as Mr Bennett's testimony was widely believed to be correct until, as per the above research, totally disproven in recent years. This was not helped by the above mentioned article in the "Southland Times" which also promoted the Tuatapere locomotive as being the actual "Lady Barclay" and efforts were hopefully going to be made to retrieve it as a basis for display purposes. Research, as above, has however now totally disproven this spurious story. This locomotive, or at least what is left of it, is still of some interest.

Any further information or period references relating to the last years of the real "Lady Barkly" would be appreciated. I can be contacted via the Email link in the right-hand menu bar.

"Makarewa" :

The "Crampton" No 2 engine "Makarewa" was sold in 1867 to Mr W. Fraser's sawmill at Makarewa (?) to operate on a bush tramway, converted to a stationery boiler from 1903 operating untill 1917. Presumably scrapped after this date.

"Oreti" :

The "Crampton" No 3 engine "Oreti" was sold in 1869 to "Hare & Pratt's" Mill in Dee Street, Invercargill then in 1873 to "Sykes & Tulloch's" mill at Makarewa, thence to John Murdoch then the "New Zealand Pine Company" at Woodend in 1892. The boiler was condemned in 1908. Presumably scrapped after this date.

Finally, here is the short poem which appeared in a Scottish newspaper :

"The Lady Who Raced the Train"

"Na na," she cried in quite a flurry,
"I'd rather walk, I'm in a hurry.
"So puff awa' in a' your glory,
"I'll be in town an hour afore ye!"

Bibliography : 

[Other than "Papers Past" and "The New Zealand Railway Magazine", all reference sources are from my own collection] 

"Southland's Pioneer Railways", by J.O.P. Watt, 1965
- "The Flame Unquenched", by Georgina McDonald, 1956 
- "Footplate - The Victorian Engineman's New Zealand", by Gordon Troup, 1978
- "Papers Past" - National Library of New Zealand
- "The New Zealand Railways Magazine", Dec 1938 - NZ Electronic Text Collection
- "The Southland Times" newspaper
- "When Steam Was King", by W.W. Stewart, 1970
- "Historical Southland", by F.G. Hall-Jones, 1945 
- "Centenary of Invercargill Municipality 1871-1971"

And with grateful thanks to those who have contributed additional information to this Blog (updated August 2017)