I may mention that one of the principal advantages of the site of my works was its connection with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, as well as with the Bridgewater Canal. There was a stone-edged roadway along the latter, where the canal barges might receive and deliver traffic in the most convenient manner. As the wharfage boundary was the property of the trustees of the Bridgewater Canal, it was necessary to agree with them as to the rates to be charged for the requisite accommodation. Their agent deferred naming the rent until I had finally settled with Squire Trafford as to the lease of his land, and then, after he supposed he had got me into a cleft stick, he proposed so extravagant a rate that I refused to use the wharf upon his terms.
It happened, fortunately for me, that this agent had involved himself in a Chancery suit with the trustees, which eventually led to his retirement. The property then merged into the hands of Lord Francis Egerton, heir to the Bridgewater Estates. The canal was placed under the management of that excellent gentleman, James Loch, M.P. Lord Francis Egerton, on his next visit to Worsley Hall, called upon me at the foundry. He expressed his great pleasure at having us as his near neighbours, and as likely to prove such excellent customers of the canal trustees. Because of this latter circumstance, he offered me the use of the wharf free of rent. This was quite in accordance with his generous disposition in all matters. But as I desired the agreement to be put in a regular business-like form, I arranged with Mr. Loch to pay 5s. per annum as a formal acknowledgment, and an agreement to this effect was accordingly drawn up and signed by both parties.
Lord Francis Egerton was soon after created Earl of Ellesmere. He became one of the most constant visitors at the foundry, in which he always took a lively interest. He delighted to go through the workshops, and enjoy the sight of the active machinery and the work in progress. When he had any specially intelligent visitors at Worsley Hall, which was frequently the case, he was sure to bring them down to the foundry in his beautiful private barge, and lead them through the various departments of the establishment. One of his favourite sights was the pouring out of the molten iron into the moulds for the larger class of castings; when some twelve or sixteen tons, by the aid of my screw safety ladle, were decanted with as much neatness and exactness as the pouring out of a glass of wine from a decanter. When this work was performed towards dark, Lord Ellesmere's poetic fancy and artistic eye enabled him to enjoy the sight exceedingly.* [footnote... I had the happiness to receive the kindest and most hospitable attention from Lord Ellesmere and his family. His death, which occurred in 1857, at the early age of fifty-seven, deprived me of one of my warmest friends. The Countess of Ellesmere continued the friendship until her death, which occurred several years later. The same kindly feelings still exist in the children of the lamented pair, all of whom evince the admirable qualities which so peculiarly distinguished their parents, and made them universally beloved by all classes, rich and poor. ...]
I must here say a few words as to my Screw Safety Ladle. I had observed the great danger occasioned to workmen by the method of emptying the molten iron into the casting moulds. The white-hot fluid was run from the melting furnace into a large ladle with one or two cross handles and levers, worked by a dozen or fifteen men. The ladle contained many tons of molten iron, and was transferred by a crane to the moulds. To do this required the greatest caution and steadiness. If a stumble took place, and the ladle was in the slightest degree upset, there was a splash of hot metal on the floor, which, in the recoil, flew against the men's clothes, set them on fire, or occasioned frightful scalds and burns.
To prevent these accidents I invented my Safety Foundry Ladle. I applied a screw wheel, keyed to the trunnion of the ladle, which was acted on by an endless screw attached to the sling of the ladle; and by this means one man could move the largest ladle on its axis, and pour out its molten contents with the most perfect ease and safety. Not only was all risk of accident thus removed, but the perfection of the casting was secured by the steady continuous flow of the white-hot metal into the mould. The nervous anxiety and confusion that usually attended the pouring of the metal required for the larger class of castings was thus entirely avoided.
At the same time I introduced another improvement in connection with these foundry ladles which, although of minor importance, has in no small degree contributed to the perfection of large castings. This consisted in hanging "the skimmer" to the edge of the ladle, so as to keep back the scorae that invariably float on the surface of the melted metal. This was formerly done by hand, and many accidents were the consequence. But now the clear flow of pure metal into the moulds was secured, while the scoriae were mechanically held back. All that the attendant has to do is to regulate the inclination of the Skimmer so as to keep its lower edge sufficiently under the surface of the outflowing metal. The preceding illustrations will enable the reader to understand these simple but important technical improvements.
These inventions were made in 1838. I might have patented them, but preferred to make them over to the public. I sent drawings and descriptions of the Safety Foundry Ladle to all the principal founders both at home and abroad; and I was soon after much gratified by their cordial expression of its practical value. The ladle is now universally adopted. The Society of Arts of Scotland, to whom I sent drawings and descriptions, did me the honour to present me with their large silver medal in acknowledgment of the invention.
In order to carry on my business with effectiveness it was necessary that I should have some special personal assistance. I could carry on the whole "mechanical" department as regards organisation, designing, and construction; but there was the "financial" business to be attended to,--the counting-house, the correspondence, and the arrangement of money affairs. I wanted some help with respect to these outer matters.