“Industrial history is not primarily about machines, raw materials, processes and products. It is about the people who created, innovated, laboured, suffered, acquired, bought and enjoyed, became rich or died young, lived comfortably on the profits or were crushed by the harshness of it all. None of this would have happened without people …….”
This quote is from “Britain’s Industrial Revolution, The Making of Manufacturing People 1700-1870” (Barrie Trinder), a book that has inspired us to embark on another section of our Tour of England. One in which we visit the places that give an insight into this remarkable period of history that affected my ancestors across those two centuries, ancestors who worked in tin and copper mines, building canals, mining coal, submerged in iron ore mines, building railroads, and working in foundries and ironworks. Many worked in agriculture too, but all were swept along by the tsunami of change led by men like Watt, Newcomen, Trevithick, Abraham Darby, Henry Bessemer, Richard Arkwright, Brunel, Telford, Josiah Wedgwood, Stephenson ….. the “Galacticos” of a new type of industry.
Our plan is to list and visit places connected with the people who changed the world as well as our country ….. Cromford and Masson Mills in Derbyshire, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Kelham Island Museum near the steel town of Sheffield, The Science & Industry Museum in Manchester, The Lion Salt Works in Northwich, and some revisits to Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge, The Gladstone Pottery …. to name only a few. In the same way that William Cobbett toured the south of England in the early 1800s observing agricultural land and practices, resulting in his book Rural Rides, these will be our Industrial Rides!
I am assuming that visiting the mills, works and factories of Brunel, Stephenson, Darby, Arkwright, Wedgwood, Trevithick, Bessemer …. will have a similar effect to what I personally experienced on my first visit to Swayambhu, Nepal’s most famous Buddhist temple in 1983, and how it opened my eyes to Buddhism generally, to the culture of Buddhism and to Buddha himself; this just wasn’t possible from reading books, talking to Buddhists or meditation. I had to smell, see, hear and feel what Buddhism really meant to the people who were born into it, and what it meant to them in the way they lived their daily lives. A visit to Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall was the first test as to whether the ghosts of these early industrialists and my mining ancestors would connect in the same way as that first visit to Swayambhu and you can find out in the next post.