Another important point has to be mentioned. A fine bed of brick-clay lay below the surface of the ground, which supplied the material for bricks. Thus the entire works may be truly said to have "risen out of the ground;" for the whole of the buildings rested upon the land from which the clay below was dug and burned into bricks. Then, below the clay lay a bed of New Red Sandstone rock, which yielded a solid foundation for any superstructure, however lofty or ponderous.
As soon as the preliminary arrangements for the lease of the six acre plot had been made, I proceeded to make working drawings of a temporary timber workshop; as I was anxious to unload the floor of my flat in Dale Street, and to get as much of my machinery as possible speedily removed to Patricroft. For the purpose of providing the temporary accommodation, I went to Liverpool and purchased a number of logs of New Brunswick pine. The logs were cut up into planks, battens, and roof-timbers, and were delivered in a few days at the canal wharf in front of my plot. The building of the workshops rapidly proceeded. By the aid of some handy active carpenters, superintended by my energetic foreman, Archy Torry, several convenient well-lighted workshops were soon ready for the reception of my machinery. I had a four horsepower engine, which I had made at Edinburgh, ready to be placed in position, together with the boiler. This was the first power I employed in starting my new works.
I must return for a moment to the twenty horse-power engine, which had been the proximate cause of my removal from Dale Street. It was taken to pieces, packed, and sent off to Londonderry. When I was informed that it was erected and ready for work I proceeded to Ireland to see it begin it's operations.
I may briefly say that the engine gave every satisfaction, and I believe that it continues working to this day. I had the pleasure of bringing back with me an order for a condensing engine of forty horse-power, required by Mr. John Munn for giving motion to his new flax mill, then under construction. I mention this order because the engine was the first important piece of work executed at the Bridgewater Foundry.
This was my first visit to Ireland. Being so near the Giant's Causeway, I took the opportunity, on my way homewards, of visiting that object of high geologic interest, together with the magnificent basaltic promontory of Fairhead. I spent a day in clambering up the terrible-looking crags. In a stratum of red hematite clay, underneath a solid basaltic crag of some sixty feet or more in thickness, I found the charred branches of trees--the remains of some forest that had, at some inconceivably remote period, been destroyed by a vast out-belching flow of molten lava from a deep-seated volcanic store underneath.
I returned to Patricroft, and found the wooden workshops nearly finished. The machine tools were, for the most part, fixed and ready for use. In August 1836 the Bridgewater foundry was in complete and efficient action. The engine ordered at Londonderry was at once put in hand, and the concern was fairly started in its long career of prosperity. The wooden workshops had been erected upon the grass. But the sward soon disappeared. The hum of the driving belts, the whirl of the machinery, the sound of the hammer upon the anvil, gave the place an air of busy activity. As work increased, workmen increased. The workshops were enlarged. Wood gave place to brick. Cottages for the accommodation of the work-people sprang up in the neighbourhood; and what had once been quiet grassy fields became the centre of a busy population.
[Image] Bridgewater Foundry. From a sketch by Alexander Nasmyth.
It was a source of vast enjoyment to me, while engaged in the anxious business connected with the establishment of the foundry, to be surrounded with so many objects of rural beauty. The site of the works being on the west side of Manchester, we had the benefit of breathing pure air during the greater part of the year. The scenery round about was very attractive. Exercise was a source of health to the mind as well as the body. As it was necessary that I should reside as near as possible to the works, I had plenty of opportunities for enjoying the rural scenery of the neighbourhood. I had the good fortune to become the tenant of a small cottage in the ancient village of Barton, in Cheshire, at the very moderate rental of #15 a year. The cottage was situated on the banks of the river Irwell, and was only about six minutes' walk from the works at Patricroft. It suited my moderate domestic arrangements admirably.