Thursday, 24 April 2014

Canal Cuttings (10)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been doing some research from old newspapers and magazines. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

Fire at Rotherhithe

The Spectator: 7th January 1832
About two o'clock on Friday morning, the inhabitants of Rotherhithe were thrown into a state of great alarm, by a fire breaking out on board the large ship Amelia and Ann, an East Indiaman, lying in the East Country Dock; which illuminated the atmosphere to a considerable distance; and presented a grand and awful sight. Assistance was promptly rendered by the dock master and his men; and the other ships, with the aid of their crews, were fortunately, but with great difficulty, got out of harm's way, and safely moored beyond the reach of the flames. The fire continued to rage with fury for upwards of an hour; when, by the aid of the dock-engine, it was got under' but not before the ship was burnt nearly to the water's edge, her keel and figure-head alone remaining entire. 

It appears that the Amelia and Aim has recently undergone a thorough repair, at a ship-builder's yard, and was brought into the East Country Dock, to be fitted out, on Thursday afternoon. Two boys were in charge of the vessel ; one of whom, during the night, left her ; and it is supposed that in his absence, a lighted Candle which he left below had set fire to a sail. The ship was the property of Mr. Soames, the wealthy shipowner and chandler, of Ratcliffe.

On Thursday afternoon, a number of young men and boys ventured upon the ice on the Canal in St. James's Park, notwithstanding it was declared to be unsafe by the men belonging to the Royal Humane Society. About two. o'clock, a part of the ice gave way, and four boys were precipitated into the water. Some lines belonging to the Society men were thrown out to them, and a boat was put off to the spot two of the lads seized the rope, and the other two clung to their legs, and they were happily preserved. A young man was drowned on the same day in the Regent's Canal, near Kentish Town; and two lads lost their lives on the Surrey Canal, near the Kent Road, by the ice giving way. 

On Sunday morning, a little boy in Hyde Place, Westminster, having gone to the fire, to cry "sweep" up the chimney, to frighten his sister, his night-clothes caught the flames. The mother of the child extinguished the fire, but not before he was so dreadfully burned, that he only survived a few hours. On Sunday morning, the body of a young man named Thomas Andrew Stroher, was found, at the foot of the steps leading down to the water at Westminster Bridge, with the throat cut in the most effectual manner. The deceased had been a clerk of Mr. Barron, the builder, Of St. Martin's Lane. He had fallen into the company of gamblers; and on the previous Wednesday, he told an acquaintance that he had been nearly ruined at a gambling-house in the Quadrant, Regent Street, not a great many doors from the County Fire Office. 

The following letter was sent to a fellow clerk, on Wednesday evening. Stroher had absconded on the Saturday before from his employer. I have at length decided at which bridge it should be done London; for then the stream will carry me down, and I hope I shall never be found. Shall I relent? Never. I will pay the great debt of Nature. A coroner's inquest, how dreadful, and then a stake. My head turns dizzy. The York Road rent is quite correct. I am not any thing deficient to Mr. Barron. I have paid Gulston. I am square with them. I do not fear death; and yet how human nature clings to life. I would solicit assistance from my family, but no, it must not be. I have disgraced them, and on me let the odium rest. Should you ever see my father, tell him not of my good qualities, but only of my bad ones; let him rather be pleased that I am dead than that I have so disgraced him.

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