Sir Richard Arkwright 1732 – 92

Sir Richard Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby (1789)

Richard Arkwright was born in Preston, Lancashire, a self-educated man whose career began as a barber and wigmaker, for which he was reputed to use genuine human hair. His industrial knowledge led him to adopt the idea of a water-powered spinning machine that he patented in 1769. Called the water frame, the machine allowed mechanisation of what had previously been a cottage industry and brought spinning into the factory age. By 1782 he employed more than 5,000 workers in his cotton mills.

In 1775 he patented a carding engine, based on a hand-worked machine that had been invented earlier by Lewis Paul. Arkwright’s machine incorporated a crank and comb mechanism that drove the comb up and down and lifted the combed fibres onto a cylinder to create a continuous fleece for spinning.


His first mechanised mill was built at Cromford, south of Matlock in Derbyshire. The site was developed only two years after the patent for the water frame was taken out and was the first water-powered mill in the world. The complex of workshops was powered by wheels driven by the Bonsall Brook, which flows into the River Derwent close to the site.

Arkwright was also generous to his workers, in common with other industrialists of later times, and built a number of houses in the nearby village for his staff. North Street is one of the best-preserved terraces, built in approximately 1777. One of the homes is now preserved as a Landmark Trust property and is available for holiday lets.

1905 – Einstein’s miracle year

Almost everyone has heard of e=mc2 – the formula behind the Theory of Special Relativity – but very few people realise that it was just one of Einstein’s significant scientific breakthroughs of the year. It might also be worth considering that this was just 4 years after the death of Queen Victoria. Few people would think of Einstein as being an eminent Victorian but in fact he was.

The first scientific paper that Einstein published in this year was on the photoelectric effect. It showed that light sometimes behaves like a stream of particles with discrete energies called “quanta” and sometimes behaves like a wave of energy. The paper earned him a Nobel Prize.

The second paper was on Brownian motion – a random motion that can be observed when very light particles (such as Indian ink) are suspended in a liquid (such as water). It is caused when the molecules of the liquid collide with the particles and propel them in different directions. The paper included an experimental test for the theory of heat.

The third paper was the most famous – the Theory of Special Relativity – that included the famous equation quoted above. Behind the equation is the idea that mass and energy are actually two versions of the same thing and the amount of energy contained in mass is related to a constant (c). And the other key idea is that space and time are related.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915)
The Soldier was published in May 1915 as part of the collection 1914 & Other Poems.

Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford 1757 – 1834


Menai Bridge

Thomas Telford was responsible for the early 19th century improvements to the main line canal at Birmingham. Having surveyed the original Brindley contour canal across the Birmingham Plateau he declared it “little better than a crooked ditch” and set about carving a straight line across the route. The result was the largest earthwork in the world at the time – a little over 70 feet deep and a mile long – now known as the Galton Valley. It was crossed by the magnificent Galton Bridge, at the time the longest single span bridge in the world. Among his other improvements to the canal system were the Engine Arm feeder canal that crosses the new line and carries water supplies to the old main line across the dramatic, cast-iron Engine Arm aqueduct, a scheduled ancient monument.

Telford is also known for his audacious improvements to the old Roman road of Watling Street (the A5) that led from London to Wales. His engineering feats include the masterpiece of the Menai Bridge, a suspension bridge that carries the road across the Menai Strait and onto Anglesey to open up the western port of Holyhead. The Menai Bridge was built between 1818 and 1826 at a height of 153 feet, a length of 1388 feet and a main span of 580 feet.

Waterloo Bridge

Another of his A5 works is the magnificent Waterloo Bridge over the River Conwy at Betwys-y-Coed inscribed: “This arch was constructed in the same year the Battle of Waterloo was fought. 1815”

See also: Cantlop Bridge


Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882

Darwin’s theories scandalised the Victorian world when he first suggested his ideas of evolution. The theories challenged the religious view, at the heart of church belief, that the world was created by god in six days. They also had little to do with the scientific views that held sway at the time and thus the “Origin of Species” alienated him from large sectors of society.

He formed his first ideas about how species develop while he was voyaging on the HMS Beagle on which he was employed as – unpaid – naturalist. His studies of the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands made him realise how each species develops to exploit particular resources and therefore become most “fit” for its habitat. The idea of Survival of the Fittest is often misunderstood to mean the strongest, rather than the best adapted.

Without earlier work by people like Lyell, who had already realised the vast expanses of time necessary to undergo the geological processes that had formed the earth, Darwin might have faced a tougher struggle to have his ideas accepted. But the tides of thought were already changing. Others were starting to consider the possibility that natural forces might drive species development and Darwin himself always credited biologist Alfred Russel Wallace with having discovered very similar ideas independently.

Down House

His ideas were not without opponents, however, and the overriding opinion among scholars of the day was that Darwin’s theories were mostly conjecture and that there was very little evidence in his publication. There was a special meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science a year after “On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection” was published in 1859. It was at this meeting that Darwin’s great opponent Bishop Samuel Wilberforce challenged “Darwin’s Bulldog” T H Huxley by asking whether it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed decent from monkeys. Huxley’s reported reply was that he would rather be decended from two apes than be “a man afraid to face the truth”.

Darwin’s home in later life, and where he wrote “Origin of Species”, was Down House in Kent. The beautiful property stands overlooking the Kent countryside and is surrounded by woods and farmland. Around the house was Darwin’s “thinking path” where he often walked to gather his thoughts before retiring to his study to put them on paper. His experiments were all over the study and often spilled out into the kitchen, drawing room and even on to the billiard table if he needed more room.

Cargoes by John Masefield 

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,

Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Cantlop Bridge

A single span iron bridge built to a design approved by Thomas Telford.

Telford was county surveyor of bridges for Shropshire from 1787 to 1834 and was responsible for 42 bridges in the county. Cantlop Bridge is the only one still remaining in its original position.

It is no longer used by road traffic, however. It was replaced by a nearby concrete bridge in the 1970s.

Reproduction of the plan, dated 1818, submitted to Telford for approval before the bridge was constructed

1. Flat deck
2. Cast iron beam
3. Lattice spandrel
4. Cast iron arch rib
5. Abutment
6. Iron deck plate

The Pre-Raphaelites

Founded in 1848 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood originally consisted of seven members: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) his brother, art critic William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) painter James Collinson (1825-81) painter William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) painter John Everett Millais (1829-96) sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825-92) and art critic Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907). Dante Rossetti was a pupil of Ford Madox Brown (1821-93) who was also involved with the movement. Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was one of Rossetti’s pupils and is included in the Pre-Raphaelite group.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti’s portrait of Jane Burden –
Mrs William Morris.
The typical Pre-Raphaelite woman

Born London 1828, the eldest son of Gabriel Rossetti, professor of Italian at King’s College, London and Frances Polidori. Attended King’s College School from 1836. Moved to Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy in 1841 and became a probationer at the Royal Academy in 1844. In 1848 studied under Ford Madox Brown and introduced himself to Holman Hunt after seeing his works at the RA Summer Exhibition. September that year the Brotherhood was formed. Met Elizabeth Siddal 1850. Met Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris 1856 and the following year worked with them on the Oxford Union Murals. 1860 married Elizabeth Siddal but she died two years later and Rossetti’s poetry manuscripts were buried with her. However, they were later recovered from the grave in 1869. At the same time Rossetti began his relationship with Jane Morris. A year later started taking medication for insomnia, which led to addiction. Between 1871-74 shared Kelmscott Manor with the Morrises. Died 1882.

William Holman Hunt

The Scapegoat 1854. Represents the Jewish ritual where a goat is driven into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement to carry away the sins of the congregation.

Born 1827, Cheapside, London, eldest son of warehouse manager William Hunt and his wife Sarah Holman. Appointed clerk to estate agent who was an amateur artist in 1839 and encouraged to take up art. Took drawing classes at the Mechanics Institute. In 1843 Hunt’s father gave permission for him to take up art full time and he became a Royal Academy probationer a year later. In 1848 he was working in Millais’s studio. Also met Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. Following year toured

Edward Lear 1857. One of two portraits donated to Liverpool city and now in the Walker Art Gallery.

parts of Europe with Rossetti. Exhibited at Royal Academy 1850.

Toured Holy Land 1854-5 where he found inspiration for several worked including the Scapegoat. 1865 married Fanny Waugh but she died in childbirth within a year. 1869-72 made several visits to Europe, Egypt and Jerusalem. 1873 married his sister-in-law Edith Waugh. By the late 1890s his eyesight was failing. 1907 exhibited 125 works at Liverpool and donated two to the city’s art collection. Died 1910.

John Everett Millais

Lingering Autumn. 1890
Now in Lady Lever Gallery,

Born 1829 in Southampton, youngest son of John William Millais and Emily Hodgkinson, the family moved back to Jersey, where Millais’s parents were both born, in 1833. He moved to London in 1838 to study at Henry Sass’s Drawing Academy and then moved to the Royal Academy as a probationer in 1840. Exhibited at the RA in 1846. 1848 began close friendship with Holman Hunt and became Brotherhood founder member later that year. Married Ruskin’s ex-wife Euphemia Gray 1855. 1870s began work on a series of portraits and in 1878 was awarded the Medaille d’Honneur after a very successful exhibition in Paris. Bubbles used 1886 by Pears Soap to advertise the product in magazines. Created Baronet 1885. 1890s returned to landscapes, including Lingering Autumn. 1896 elected President of the Royal Academy but was already seriously ill and died in August that year. 1898 posthumous exhibition at the RA.

Ford Madox Brown

Self portrait 1850 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Born 1821 in Calais. 1830s family moved to Belgium and Brown studied in Bruges, Ghent and at Antwerp Academy. 1839 moved to live with sister in Antwerp after the death of his parents. 1840 visited France to study works in the Louvre and began exhibiting at Royal Academy in London. Married cousin Elizabeth Bromley. 1844 entered contest for decoration of Houses of Parliament. Wife died 1846. Settled London 1847. 1848 Rossetti asked to be a pupil. Brown was sympathetic to the Brotherhood’s aims but did not officially join when the group formed that year. 1850s married second wife Emma. Exhibited in Liverpool and went to the city 1856 to meet Pre-Raphaelite supporters there. By late 1850s had several Liverpool patrons. 1874 daughter Lucy married William Michael Rossetti. Died 1893, three years after Emma. (Other works Work/Last of England)

Edward Burne-Jones

Born in Birmingham in a house on Bennett’s Hill. Burne-Jones studied under Ruskin and carried out many sketches of the works of the great masters, an influence that can be detected in his later work. For part of his career Burne-Jones designed for William Morris. Fine examples of his art can be seen in St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham, which stands just a few hundred yards from where he was born. The building boasts four huge stained glass windows designed and installed between 1885 and 1897.

Another church where Burne-Jones’s work can be seen is Wilden, near Stourport in Worcester. The tiny church there has several of his designs, although they were all installed after his death. The windows were all of a modular design and it was possible to order saints and holy figures, backgrounds and surrounds in a kind of mix-and-match way. The figures found at Wilden can also be seen in other churches in different combinations.

In the picture above, from Wilden, there are two panels. The left-hand one is a foliage design by William Morris but the right-hand one is Burne-Jones’s Joshua. In the background of the panel it is possible to make out trumpeters (from the bible story of the Walls of Jericho) It was possible to order other panels to stand beside this one that showed more trumpeters.

William Blake 1757-1827

“I Want I Want” (1793) engraving. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

JERUSALEM (from ‘Milton’)
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.


Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial is one of the best known monuments of the Victorian Age. Architect George Gilbert Scott wanted to set up something similar to a Medieval shrine and is believed to have been influenced by the Eleanor Crosses set up by King Edward I after the death of his Queen. Those crosses were built at all the places her coffin rested on her funeral procession. Few remain but there is a fine example at Geddington in Northamptonshire.

The memorial to Albert, Victoria’s Prince Consort, has 169 carved figures on a frieze as well as sculptural groups at each corner representing Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering and Manufacture. Other groups represent Africa, America, Asia and Europe. The figure of Albert himself, sculpted by John Foley, is seated at the centre and is covered in gold. The enormous edifice is highly ornate and typical of the overblown High Victorian design of its time. The whole thing is more than 170 feet tall.

Materials used in the construction include glass, stone, cast iron, lead and bronze as well as the gilding on Albert himself. The statue was re-gilded as part of a major overhaul of the monument in the 1990s and was officially reopened in October 1998.