Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

4thly. The application of steam-power to the raising of water when that in the reservoirs should be exhausted. 5thly. The providing the mains at frequent intervals with fire-cocks, they being prepared for the ready screw-sary; and, possibly, the scanty supply of water sometimes ing on of hose.

6thly. The combining fire-extinguishing apparatus with works for the supply of water for domestic and other purposes on land and for ship uses, and thereby ensuring constant readiness of the whole apparatus for immediate

use.

[ocr errors]

similar arrangement of mains, since great saving in original outlay must necessarily result from the substitution of pipes of smaller diameter than would otherwise be necescomplained of on the occasion of conflagrations, might be obviated, in many instances, were the supply given in a double direction instead of a single one. In regard to the forcing pump proposed, he stated that its situation was particularly advantageous, as it commanded an inexhaustible supply of water from either of the basins, and from The Lords of the Admiralty having ordered the dig- the harbour itself; and he added that the bringing this ging of one well, it was completed, and on the 27th pump into frequent use seemed important as a means of September, 1801, the Inspector-General informed the securing its being in a state of constant readiness for its Admiralty that "it had for many months been found to more particular use, in case of a sudden alarm of fire. yield an abundance of excellent water;" he, therefore, The estimate for the whole of the above-mentioned works submitted to them various details for carrying into exe amounted to 6,4037. 8s., including 10 per cent. for concution his proposal of 1797, particularly the laying of tingencies. Sir Samuel's plan having been ordered for pipes for the supply of ships in the basin, or at the jetties; execution, he from time to time furnished the requisite that "the apparatus provided for this purpose may like- drawings and details, and when completed the managewise, with the assistance of the steam engine and ma- ment of these works was confided to him, that is in as chinery already erected for other purposes, be so arranged far as it did not interfere with the police of the yard, for as in case of fire to afford the means of throwing large which the Commissioner was responsible; all that the quantities of water over any of the buildings, as well as over inspector-general could therefore do was to give such any of the ships lying contiguous to the yard." He proposed written instructions to the master-millwright, an officer a pump of 8 inches diameter,connected with the well of fresh under his individual control, as would ensure a perfect water, and delivering into a tank at the top of the engine- state of the whole apparatus, and that four men, well achouse; that, branching out from this principal short 8-inch quainted with the works, should nightly remain in the main, one of 6 inches diameter be led along the northern engine house, ready to put them to use in case of fire. part of the yard, and joined again into the 8-inch main, In 1805 he was despatched to Russia on a ministerial and another set of 6-inch mains be led along the southern mission, which prevented the preparation of detailed plans part of the yard, also joining into the 8-inch main; "that for fire or water works for other dockyards; but soon after along the whole extent of these mains, at an average of his return home, namely on the 8th April, 1808, he furabout 100 feet, there be inserted a short branch reaching nished the Navy Board with a detailed description of the to the surface of the yard, and provided with a cock pre- Portsmouth water and fire extinguishing works. He pared to receive a flexible hose." He farther proposed the stated that water had been obtained in the well at a fixing a large foreing-pump in the salt-water well, in depth of 274 feet below the surface of the ground, and such manner as to be used in conjunction with the other that the water was soft and pure; that the stop-cocks pump, for either lowering or heightening the level of were to the full bore of the mains; that the fire-cocks water in the basin; for pumping the docks; or for sup- were of 2 inches bore, that being the largest diameter plying water to the mains in case of fire, so that of the fire-extinguishing hose; that in the wood mills water in great quantities might, on the occurrence of such extraordinary precautions were taken for the extinguisha disaster, be thrown into the whole series of pipes, and forced ment of fire, for from each of the two cisterns over the through them by the full power of either of two 50-horse two principal buildings a three-inch pipe is brought down steam-engines, as also by that of the action of the enor- into each of the floors below, and into this pipe on each mous chain-pumps he had caused to be provided for floor a fire-cock is fixed, with a hose always screwed upon pumping into or out of the basin. He represented to it in readiness for throwing water, on simply turning the their lordships that by conducting the pipes circuit- cock; and another cock is fixed for drawing water into ously to the distant parts of the yard, so as to connect buckets." On this occasion Sir Samuel recommended an each of these mains at both ends with the principal main, addition to the original works; it was a forcing-pump to be besides a more advantageous distribution of the water worked by men by means of a capstan. The commissioner throughout the yard than can be obtained by the ordinary resident at the yard, Commissioner Grey, had suggested mode by a main connected at one end only, and having the forming of a common pump, the inspector-general detached branches, there would be gained two distinct adopted the idea, but proposed a forcing pump instead of advantages of considerable importance: First, in case of a common one, and devised its construction in such a any extraordinary demand for the delivery of as much manner as that it should be no obstruction to the business water as possible at any particular point, as on the event of the yard; the pump itself he contrived to place unof fire, the supply of water would by brought through derground, and that it should be worked by a capstan, both ends of the 6-inch main at the same time from the the bars of which being removable at pleasure, the stanprincipal or 8-inch main, so as to flow in twice the quan- dard of it would be the only part permanently above tity that could be furnished by a pipe of the same bore ground. This might seem a superfluous addition to were it to issue from the principal main in the usual the Portsmouth works, supposing them to be kept conmanner, without returning to it. Secondly, In case of stantly in an efficient state, but as the cost was but little an accidental obstruction in any part of these mains, or it appeared to be worth encountering as an additional in case of the necessity of stopping any part for the precaution. On the 12th April of the same year, Sir purpose of repair, or for making any addition to them, Samuel submitted to the Admiralty a plan for water and still the water could be conveyed to all other parts of fire extinguishing works at the several principal dockthese mains from one or other of the ends without im-yards; and conformably to his proposal of 1797, those at pediment." Plymouth, to be without the aid of a steam-engine, the head of water being of sufficient elevation to supply the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

This particular part of Sir Samuel's invention has not, to my knowledge, been adopted in any water works, not-works naturally. withstanding its evident advantages; for although the Portsmouth water works, and their efficiency in extinguishing fires, have been known to the public for half a century, the details of their arrangement have been buried in official communications. But the above specified advantages are not the only ones derivable from a

Though the efficiency of the Portsmouth works in question had been abundantly proved on several occasions when fire had broken out there, yet he thought it desir able to have their competency exhibited in his own presence. Accordingly, on the 25th June, 1811, he caused them to be tried. I was myself present at the experiment, and

had to note down the several particulars; six hose could
be worked simultaneously, each of them throwing water
to the height of 70 feet from the ground, and to a hori-
zontal distance of 110 feet from the nozzle of the flexible
pipe, that is in height and distance, far over the highest
buildings in the yard. On the 8th June, 1811, a destruc-
tive conflagration broke out in Plymouth dock-yard; the
fire-extinguishing works there, though in a state of pro-
gress were still very incomplete, but Mr. Mitchell, who had
been selected by Sir Samuel to superintend the execution
of his plan, had always, as far as the pipes were laid, kept
them full of water, and thereby on this occasion saved
many costly buildings from destruction. At this yard
also a forcing pump formed a part of Sir Samuel's plan,
similar to that he had designed for Chatham yard; that
is to raise and force upon a fire about a ton of water per
minute, by the power of from 60 to 80 men applied to the
capstan bars, the men progressing at the rate of 24 miles
per hour.
A peculiarity of this pump was the providing
it with two suction-pipes, thereby to balance the weight
of water; and in fixing the apparatus great attention was
paid to facility of getting at the working parts in case
of their derangement. It will be seen hereafter that this
forcing pump saved from destruction by fire a vast amount
of public property.

In Sir Samuel's "Design for a new dockyard at Sheerness," Feb. 1812, he proposed "that water-works should be provided for the more perfectly filling or emptying the several receptacles, such as basins, or docks, for which sea water is requisite for supplying fresh water to all habitations and various other buildings, as well as to ships and boats, immediately from exterior and from interior wharves, as also for forcing water, fresh or salt, through a system of pipes throughout the whole of the arsenal, and its immediate vicinity, to the height necessary for extinguishing fire in the highest buildings; and for giving or transmitting motion in some cases to machinery along the range of the pipes." His office having being abolished in the same year, the improvement of Sheerness yard was confided to a private engineer, who made no provisions of either water or fire extinguishing-works, other, indeed, than that of the deep well which Sir Samuel had already caused to be made, and which furnished abundance of most excellent water for the supply of the fleet, instead of, as theretofore, bringing all the water required for that purpose in boats from Chatham. The Mr. Mitchell above mentioned, and who was fully conversant with Sir Samuel's water-works, having been removed from Plymouth, and become civil engineer of Sheerness yard, for several years attempted in vain to protect it from fire by such works as had been found so efficacious in the other principal dockyards. This gentlemen retired from the service, but hearing that he could furnish many particulars that were unknown to me, I in December last requested him to favour me with information on the subject of Sheerness; the following is his reply, which with his premission, I copy from his letter

to me:

"5, Devonshire-street, Islington, Dec. 1853. "Dear Madam,-On my first entrance to Sheerness dock-yard, in 1819, the only means for extinguishing fire were by the water from a cistern, holding 100 tons of water, raised about 16 feet high, and supplied by the navy well at the rate of about 15 tons per hour, and that of having casks of water placed at different parts of the yard, which, on the event of fire, were rolled to the place of the fire to supply the extinguishing engines. In the progress of the new works of the yard I had often been impressing on the authorities the importance of an efficient system of fireextinguishing works, but to little or no purpose, until, about July, 1827, a fire occurred in the town so close to the dockyard that the windows of my house, which was within the yard, were quite scorched. In this fire 64 houses were consumed; and after this some little was done, but not to the extent that I proposed. Again, about the latter end of the year 1829, another fire occurred, which consumed about 46 houses, when I again urged more forcibly the

necessity of a system of fire-extinguishing works; and on
the 5th January, 1830, an answer was received, enquiring
what had been done, and if the system could be carried out
with little expense. I was by this cramped and prevented
from carrying my plan out to the extent I intended, and
limited the expense to £1,000, using old pumps, and other
materials in the yard; and that these works should throw a
thousand gallons of water 150 feet high per minute by the
steam-engine. Notwithstanding this low estimate, several
vexatious mutilations were made in my plan until about
the year 1832, when Sir James Graham, being then First
Lord of the Admiralty, on his first visit of inspection to
Sheerness yard, made many particular enquiries with respect
to the supply of water for the fleet, and on the event of
fire. I had then the honour of submitting to him my
plans, which embraced both these purposes, of which he
highly approved, and gave orders for some of the works
to be carried out forthwith, especially that of a tank at
the victualling store-house for the supply of the fleet, and
he also instructed me to make out drawings and estimates
to be forwarded to the Admiralty. This was done 22nd
# * * but several changes having been
June, 1832,
made at the Admiralty, the works were still retarded in their
progress until 1839, after the great fire at Plymouth, when
the present system was allowed to be carried out, more
particularly the double lines of pipes, one for fresh water,
for the daily purposes of the yard and supply of the fleet,
the other line for salt water on the event of fire, for
watering and laying the dust in the yard, &c., &c., but
both applicable to one purpose if required, especially on
the event of fire, which together were capable of throwing
about 10 tons of water per minute over any ship or build-
ing in the yard."

By a former letter from the same Mr. Mitchell, 28th
July, 1851, it appears that "in the double line of pipes
I had a further view of their utility and applicability, for,
by a simple hydraulic motion attached, water could be
transmitted from the steam-engine to perform various
operations in different parts of the yard; one object was
that of working the capstans of the masting sheers, which
now requires 200 to 300 men, according to the size of the
mast, and for which pipes are already laid; also to work
cranes for loading and unloading ships; to work store
cranes in taking stores up and down in the storehouses;
to stack and unstack timber likewise working capstans
by the dockside in all parts of the yard; besides various
other operations now performed by manual labour." Mr.
Mitchell also introduced at Sheerness "air vessels attached
to all the force-pumps for supplying water to the pipes.
* * I have for many years seen the necessity of air
vessels placed at intervals on the lines of water-pipes for
preventing them from sudden shocks, as in the shutting
of stop or fire cocks, and the especial danger when, on the
event of fire, the cocks are liable to be shut instanta-
neously.*

* • The air-vessels at Sheerness are placed on different parts of the lines of pipes, and are each 16 times the capacity of the forcing-pumps, so that either of the steam engines may stop a few minutes without its being materially felt."

Sir Samuel Bentham, not long after the abolition of his office, retired to the Continent. During his residence in France he did not lose sight of the protection afforded to property by works of the same nature as those above specified, and on his own estate provided an ample supply of water, raised by mules from a well, nearly 100 feet below his chateau, and the farm buildings that surrounded the back court-yard of it, the water being stored in an ample reservoir. Well it was that this had been done, for on the outbreak of a fire in the farm stables, that reservoir afforded an immediate supply of water, available on the instant, and until the mules could raise a further supply. The stable in which the fire originated was, indeed, destroyed, but many farm buildings, and the chateau itself, were thereby saved.

After Sir Samuel's return to England, his attention was roused by repeated conflagrations in the metropolis, and

536

JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY OF ARTS.

he devised the application of the water-works of London to the prompt extinguishment of fire, on the same principle as that he had so successfully introduced in the Royal dockyards. He communicated his project to his friend Sir Herbert Taylor, who, being struck with its importance, advised its author to state his ideas, in the shape of a letter, to the late Sir Robert Peel, and Sir Herbert undertook to present it himself to the Prime Minister. The outlines of a plan were accordingly drawn up, and so presented. The following are extracts from the more important parts of that communication:

'To the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, &c., &c., &c. "Lower Connaught-place, Feb. 1830. "Sir,-The sensation produced by the late destructive conflagrations has at last induced me to communicate a plan which occurred to me some time ago, for the better security of the metropolis against the ravages of fire. It cannot be considered in the light of an untried project, for it is grounded on the efficiency which has been experienced of the water and fire extinguishing works which, according to my proposals, made in the years 1797 and 1801, were introduced first in Portsmouth dockyard, and similar works have since been executed in the other principal dockyards.

"As in regard to Portsmouth dockyard the efficiency not less than the economy of the works in question depend on their being combined with water-works for other purposes, and with the steam-engine for manufacturing purposes, so with regard to the metropolis it appears to me that works already existing might be made the basis of the plan I have to suggest; thus the expense to be incurred compared to the object in view would be light, and the efficiency of the fire extinguishing apparatus would be secured in a manner much more certain than it could ever be expected to be if made for this purpose alone. To give an idea of the plan I have in view, it may be best to transcribe a part of one of my official communications on the subject."

in the interior, such as is above described as existing in
the wood-mills at Portsmouth; and forcing-pumps might
also be applied to any of the public wells."
The letter went on to observe, that however efficient
fire-extinguishing works might be in themselves, no
dependence could be placed on them unless they were
kept ready for prompt use in times of need; and it gave
instances of late failures of the existing apparatus in Lon-
don from causes that were avoidable; such as the freezing
of the fire-plugs on the occasion of the Argyll fire, which
might have been obviated by the simple expedient of
filling up the plug-holes with wooden plugs; the time
lost in finding and rousing of turncocks before water can
be obtained. "To remedy this, means of turning on
water should be in the hands of persons awake, and, it
may be said, on the spot, whatever be the part of the
town; such persons exist in the police," and he proposed
that their truncheons should be made applicable to the
turning on of water, without rendering them either cum-
bersome or heavy; adding, "if it be called to mind how
very frequent the occasions are when such delay has
occurred, it may well be thought worth while not to re-
ject a suggestion of this nature, because it professes to
effect an important purpose by very simple means."

After various other details, the General went on to say, "In order to insure the readiness for use in case of fire of the whole apparatus, the keeping it in constant use would be the most effectual; the steam-engines at waterworks, for example, might work at night as well as in the day with advantage to the proprietors; but even were they not to work in the night, the fire might be damped-up, ready to make the engine start at any time; and for ensuring the sound state of the hose, it might be used for watering the streets, instead of sending carts about with water for this purpose." He then describes various minor contrivances that were in use in foreign countries for securing lite and property from conflagration; and said it was desirable that the new police should be furnished with instructions for their guidance in case of fire. He instanced occasions on which the prompt application of trivial means had extinguished fire, as, for example, by throwing a wet blanket over a chimney in flames, and concluded with the observation, that government had at its command the services of the machinist of Portsmouth dockyard, Simon Goodrich, Esq,, who had afforded much assistance in arranging details of the water-works there, and had carried into execution the fire-extinguishing works in the other dockyards.

In a note subjoined to the above, Sir Samuel noticed that fire-extinguishing works, on the plan of those at Portsmouth, had lately been provided for the protection of Windsor Castle.

The letter proceeded with a description of the Portsmouth works, the more important particulars of which have been already mentioned in this narrative, and he added that, "In regard to the efficiency of the fire-extinguishing works at Portsmouth, several alarming fires have broken out there since they were established, but the vast quantity of water promptly thrown upon the flames by means of these works have always extinguished the fire before it could make any progress." He then entered into particulars of his plan for the metropolis, premising that it was supplied by mains with water under a pressure sufficient to carry it to the top of the highest dwellings, and said, "There were two ways in which the existing apparatus might be adapted to the extinguishment of fire: 1st. By such an alteration of the plugs as The late Sir Robert Peel, on considering this proposal, should enable hose to be screwed upon them. * * * was of opinion that the public mind was not yet ripe for 2ndly. by adapting in front of each house, where it might the introduction of the plan. At the same time, the late be thought desirable, lesser screw-plugs, ready for screw-eminent engineer, Henry Maudslay, informed the General, ing on a hose * *. The whole expense attendant on these alterations would consist in the alteration of the plugs, and the provision of suitable hose; the first could be inade wholesale at a trifling cost. The large hose would of course be a public concern. * * * The smaller plugs being peculiarly suitable for application at the first moment of fire being discovered, this small hose might be provided by private householders, and kept if desired on the premises themselves. *

*

*

that many of the insurance companies would oppose the measure, they thinking it subversive of their interests; so that Sir Samuel took no further steps for the introduction of it.

Lord Lincoln, in the year 1844, brought in his bill "for the better security of the metropolis against fires," when Sir Samuel's above-mentioned proposal was submitted by me to his Lordship. Possibly it might never *have come under his cognizance, though it was safely delivered at his office.

In addition to these means of converting the existing water-works into fire extinguishing works, it may be ob- It can hardly be doubted but that the successful operaserved that there already exist in London many deep wells, tion of the fire-extinguishing works at the several dockcapable of affording a great supply of water, and steam-yards, particularly the combination of those works with engines often on the same spot, with forcing-pumps for raising water: these, wherever thought desirable, and where permission could be obtained fro n the proprietors, might be connected with the general system of pipes. In particular buildings of great value, or of a peculiarly hazardous nature-such as libraries, manufacturies, theatres, &c., an apparatus might be introduced

* * *

*

those for the supply of water, led to the adoption of similar ones in various British towns, as well as at Hamburgh. After the dreadful conflagration that destroyed great part of the latter city, a British engineer was charged with the introduction of efficient water-works. This gentleman's plan appears to be, excepting in one of its details, an exact copy of the Portsmouth and Ply

mouth works. That detail is, that at Hamburgh the tions." So the hose-reels greatly facilitate the conveyance stem of the delivering pipe is curved at the upper part, of hose from place to place; the General Board of Health for the purpose of screwing on two hoses, whereby the state that such are in use at Liverpool.-4thly. That jet of water cannot but be diminished. By Sir Samuel's" at night the pumps could be scarcely set to work in less plan the straight orifice leading directly into the hose, pre-than twenty minutes." It was for this reason that Sir vented the loss of any force by curvature of the stream. Samuel always insisted on the need of elevated reservoirs The successful operation of the Hamburgh works has been of water, sufficient in capacity to furnish a supply till the tested on various occasions of fire in that city; and, so far from pumps could be brought into action. In his time a few minutes injury to the interests of fire insurance companies, they-three or four perhaps would only have been required; have been enabled to lower their premiums in all those parts of the town where fire-extinguishing apparatus has been introduced.

Understanding, in July, 1851, that it had been stated to the Select Committee of the House of Commons, that a continuous supply of water to the metropolis was not to be depended on, and by reason of occasional repairs to the water-pipes, or of accidental obstructions in them, I took the liberty of submitting to the Committee that this objection had been obviated by Sir Samuel Bentham, in the works he had devised for Portsmouth Dockyard, in which water was delivered by two different courses to every important part of the yard.

It having been suggested that the General Board of Health would feel an interest in the communication of what Sir Samuel had done, in respect to water and fireextinguishing works, copies of his proposals of 1797 and of February, 1830, were furnished to that Board. They were pleased to cause me to be informed by their Secretary, that they had perused the statement with much interest that the system so long ago suggested by Sir Samuel Bentham has now for some time been in successful operation in various towns-and that the General Board of Health, unaware of Sir Samuel Bentham's pro position, have, in their recent report on the supply of water to the metropolis, laid considerable stress on the importance of adopting similar means for London ;" and then referred to pages 231 to 261 of their Report. It may seem remarkable that the General Board of Health should not, in their investigations, have heard of the water and fire-extinguishing works in the Royal Dockyards, since several circumstances had given them notoriety, though the plan for adapting the water-works of London to the same purpose was less known, although it had twice been submitted to Ministers of the Crown.

It appeared in the newspapers of May, 1852, that a fire had broken out in Portsmouth Dockyard, and that it had been extinguished by hand-engines worked by men, the fire-plugs and hose attached to them having been used, it is true, but for the sole purpose of supplying hand-engines with water. I, in consequence, requested Rear-Admiral Prescott, then Admiral-Superintendent of that yard, to favour me with information on the subject. The Admiral most courteously caused a memorandum to be drawn up for my satisfaction- —as he said—and by which I should "see that his (my husband's) valuable arrangements have not been allowed to fall into desuetude, and, in some respects, are naturally improved and enlarged." From the memorandum which was enclosed, and which is given at length at the end of this article, it appears, 1st. That additional cisterns have been constructed, and that it is salt water with which they are supplied.-2ndly. That these cisterns are each of them supplied by its own set of pumps, and have their respective sets of mains—It must be observed that this provision of a separate set of pumps and separate mains, is subversive of a fundamental principle adhered to in all Sir Samuel's arrangements, namely, that every part of the apparatus should be contrived to serve as many different purposes as possible, thereby ensuring their constant readiness for use.-3rdly. That there are powerful hand-engines at well-known stations. So Sir Samuel not only provided hand-engines, but gave them specially in charge to his master-millwright, who was made individually responsible for their being always in the best state for immediate use; but it is a considerable improvement that they should be kept at different parts of the yard, at "well-known sta

for the steam-engine at the Metal Mills was in constant use, night as well as day; and, by his regulations, four men conversant with the fire-extinguishing works were always in the engine house, by night as well as day. Now that those engines are never worked by night, more capacious reservoirs are indispensable; but this may suggest the expediency of keeping one engine constantly at work, though it were but for pumping purposes. Indeed, the filling capicious reservoirs with salt water precludes the use of it for domestic purposes, and, conse quently, the insurance that frequent use can alone afford that the whole apparatus is in an efficient state.-5thly. The two remaining paragraphs seem intended to answer my particular inquiry, namely, whether the hose attached to the fire-cocks had been applied to the extinguishinent of the fire, or whether only for the supply of water to handengines? But a direct reply to this question is evaded in the memorandum, and Adiniral Prescott's letter affords no information on the subject, so that it may be concluded that the intended use of those hose had fallen into desnetude. As to the practice of laying a hose at night on board of every ship in or contiguous to the yard, it cannot but be considered a desirable precaution, though experience had proved that the hose attached to fire-plugs had promptly extinguished fire on board of a ship at one of the jetties; and it should not be lost sight of, that hose screwed on to fire-cocks are provided for prompt use by night as well as by day. The fire of 1851 broke out by day, and at a time when all the operatives in the yard were at their work, so that hands were speedily collected to work the hand-engines; but far otherwise would it have been by night, or even at meal-times; whereas by using the fire-works, half-a-dozen men would have sufficed for throwing water from half-a-dozen large hose upon the flames, by night no less than by day.

On the 4th of April, 1853, I took the liberty of furnishing the Lords of the Admiralty with an abstracted account of the means already taken to arrest conflagration in her Majesty's dockyards; and on the following day submitted to their Lordships a proposal for a very partial adoption of Sir Samuel's invention, merely for the protection against fire of the Admiralty and of Somerset House. Aware of the many difficulties that stand in the way of the adoption of his plan in regard to the metropolis itself, it appeared to me that it might be advantageously introduced by their Lordships for the security of buildings completely under their control. The project, should it be adopted, would serve as an example of the facility with which the existing water-works of London might be employed for the very prompt extinction of fire, and how trifling would be the expense incurred. The project also indicated that Somerset House would exemplify the simple expedient of depending alone on the head of water at a level much above that of the building, whilst the Admiralty would show how easily the force of a steamengine might be adapted to the throwing water over high edifices. The further liberty was taken of suggesting to their Lordships the expediency of introducing fire-extinguishing works in all her Majesty's naval establishments, and that, as a regular police is now established in them all, that some of those men being always on the spot, they should all be instructed in the use of such works, and be habituated to their employment by laying dust with them, washing the exterior of buildings, and so forth. Their Lordships were pleased to command their Secretary to give their thanks for these suggestions, but whether measures have been taken for their adoption has

Unfortunately experience has shown that a neglect of constant nse in other than fire-extinguishing works has too often caused fearful disasters; but as the present communication is confined to fire-extinguishing apparatus, it suffices to record some few instances in which its constant readiness for use have been successful, and, on the other hand, to note failures consequent on either neglect of the works themselves, or from ignorance of the manner of applying them to use.

not transpired. On the 14th of last April, the liberty was cient to give a supply over any of the buildings or ships also taken of suggesting to the Earl of Aberdeen the ex-in dock, but the pipes had been so neglected, in not having pediency of adapting fire-extinguishing works to public been scoured out, that they had got so full of corrosion buildings generally. and dirt-they not having been cleaned out from the time I left that yard, in 1819, although I had made provision for that purpose-so that from the branches of pipes by the sides of the docks not a drop of water, or at most very little, could be obtained; so that instead of the watchmen being able to screw on to the fire cocks hose at the first alarm, the fire-bell had to be rung, and the people collected, the engines, &c, got out, whilst the fire was rapidly progressing, so that all endeavour to subdue it was in vain--all that could be done was to protect those parts that had not caught fire. I was informed by a gentleman who was at the taking up of these pipes, that they had been so neglected in not having been scoured out from the time that I had left that yard, that the branches of the pipes by the sides of the docks were full of corrosion and dirt. I very much fear that those at Sheerness are much in the same state, as so far as I can learn, these pipes have never been cleared out since I left that yard; and that the large powerful pumps, worked by two powerful steam-engines of 50 horse-power each, are about to be taken out and done away with, and an engine of only 25 horse-power to be substituted in the place of the two 50 horse-power engines."

Many are the examples afforded in Portsmouth dockyard of the promptitude with which fire was extinguished there whilst Sir Samuel Bentham was charged with the management of the water-works, but particulars of these occurrences would be an unwarrantable encroachment on the Society's time: to pass on, therefore, to an example of great national interest, the fire that broke out last year in Windsor Castle. It has above been seen that works, similar in a great measure to those at Portsmouth, had been established for the protection of that Castle, when the plan for the metropolis was submitted to Sir Robert Peel. Since that time, I have understood that a very capacious reservoir has been added to those works, so that a profuse supply of water from that elevated reservoir is always at command. According to a good account of the accident in March, 1853, "all the passages and staircases in the Prince of Wales' Tower were filled with smoke to an extent that rendered traversing them exceedingly difficult. Happily all the staircases were furnished with an excellent supply of water, with hose and fire-cocks on every landing. These were well-understood by parties in the Castle, and, notwithstanding the difficulty arising from the heat and density of the smoke, very little time was lost in getting to work.

*

*

A remarkable example of the absence of persons conversant with fire-extinguishing works occurred at Sheerness in September, 1872. On that occasion a fire broke out in the old town, which proved the need of strict discipline in the persons who have charge of such works, and of their presence on the spot. The conflagration broke out near to the dockyard wall, and within a short distance from some of the many fire-cocks in it that were provided in case of fires in the town; but on the occurrence of that event the only persons in whom the fire-extinguishing *works were confided lived at the new town, Mile-town as it is called, and it was thought a pity to disturb their night's rest by calling them up, and the fire was left to progress without their aid, or that of the dockyard works; luckily, however, a gazer at the fire happened to be conversant in the use of those works, and, seeing them neglected, hastened into the yard, set the engine to work, applied hose to the fire-cocks in the wall, water was thrown from them upon the flames, so that, as some say, after the fire had been raging for an hour and a half, others only half an hour, as no water could be obtained, but "immediately on the application of the power of the steam-engine, the fire was subdued in a few minutes."

Under the guidance of Mr. Turnbull, the clerk of the works, the hose had been attached to various fire-cocks in different parts of the Castle, and an immense quantity of water was poured into those rooms where the fire was most perceptible." Hand-engines were indeed brought from Windsor to the Castle, but, though they were zealously worked, it appears that the extinguishment of the conflagration was due to the works that had been copied from those at Portsmoth.

The mischievous consequences that attend neglect of fire-extinguishing works themselves, and of want of knowledge of their use, and promptitude of action, are but too numerous. In the way of example of disasters that have occurred in Royal dockyards from these causes some instances have been afforded me by the above-mentioned Mr. Mitchell, probably the only living officer conversant in such matters, who has had an intimate knowledge of dockyards for more than half a century, whose veracity, it is believed, may be relied on no less than his skill and powers of observation, and who has kept plans and notes to which he is in the habit of referring. In Mr. Mitchell's note to me of the 31st December, 1853, he says-"When first I went to Plymouth yard, in 1810, the only means they then had of extinguishing fire was from a pipe that delivered water at the gate, led to different parts by canvas hose, by which also the ships were watered, and which was in charge of a man who was allowed to take away the key of the house where all the canvas and other hose and fire-buckets were kept. This man lived at Saltash, four miles up the river. A few months before I went to Plymouth a fire occurred in one of the hemp-houses, called the topping-house; the bell was rung, but the keys were at Saltash, they had therefore to break the door open to get at the fire-gear, but no water could be had."

In reply to inquiries respecting the destructive conflagration in Plymouth dockyard, 1839-40, Mr. Mitchell stated, that "The mains consisted of 8, 6, and 4-inch pipes. * The head of water was suffi

*

But it is no longer only in Royal dockyards that fireextinguishing works are rendered unavailing by want of constant use for other purposes. The late disastrous fire at Mr. Scott Russell's premises come in proof of this assertion. Mr. Scott Russell is well known to be eminent in scientific acquirements, and he had provided a large reservoir on the top of his factory, but the means of turning on the (water, and its application in case of fire were either unknown to his people or forgotten by them. On the first discovery of the fire it might easily have been subdued by the water in that reservoir; but that resource having been neglected, or forgotten, hand-engines had to te waited for, to the destruction of an immense amount of property. Many private manufacturers, in and near Lon-· don, have in their factories introduced more or less of the fire-extinguishing works exemplified in Portsmouth yard, and in some public establishments they have been partially adopted, as at the British Museum, under Mr. Braidwood's direction, as I have been told. That gentle-man visited Portsmouth yard to acquaint himself with the works in question there. The new Palace at Westminster, it has been said, was intended to be fully protected from fire by similar works; but on a late occasion, when some carpenters' stores were on fire within the building, it appeared that the intended fire-extinguishing works were still wanting; surely it cannot but be regretted that every possible precaution should not have been early taken for

« AnkstesnisTęsti »