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.
The village was surrounded by apple orchards and gardens, and situated in the midst of tranquil rural scenery. It was a great treat to me, after a long and busy day at the foundry, especially in summer time, to take my leisure walks through the green lanes, and pass the many picturesque old farmhouses and cottages which at that time presented subjects of the most tempting kind for the pencil. Such quiet summer evening strolls afforded me the opportunity for tranquil thought. Each day's transactions furnished abundant subjects for consideration. It was a happy period in my life. I was hopeful for the future, as everything had so far prospered with me.
When I had got comfortably settled in my cosy little cottage, my dear sister Margaret came from Edinburgh to take charge of my domestic arrangements. By her bright and cheerful disposition she made the cottage a very happy home. Although I had neither the means nor the disposition to see much company, I frequently had visits from some of my kind friends in Manchester. I valued them all the more for my sister's sake, inasmuch as she had come from a bright household in Edinburgh, full of cheerfulness, part of which she transferred to my cottage.