MONTHLY SUPPLEMENT OF
THE PENNY MAGAZINE
SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFUSION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE
THE COLLIERIES.?No. II.
March 31–April 35 1835
[View on the Tyne. showing the mode of shipping the Coal]
We explained in the preceding Supplement the process of obtaining coal, and the manner in which it is prepared for the market. When this is accomplished, it has next to be transported to the ships employed in the coal-trade. For this purpose a road is constructed (generally a rail-road) leading from the mouth of the pit directly to the nearest harbour or river.
Nature has intersected the northern coal-field by three considerable rivers, in consequence of which the whole district possesses an easy, cheap, and expeditious mode by which its produce may find its way into the general market. These three rivers are the Tyne, the Wear, and the Tees, each of which is admirably adapted, both by its volume of water, its tides, and harbour-room, for the purposes in question.
The Tyne is the most important of the northern coal-rivers, and, as it possesses all the excellencies of the others, we shall confine our description to it. It originates from two small streams called the North and South Tyne, which unite a little above the ancient town of Hexham, at about thirty miles distance from the sea, where it becomes navigable for small craft.
From Hexham it flows through a fine hilly country to Newcastle, where it is sufficiently wide and deep for vessels of large burden, and where its office as a coal-river may be said properly to commence. Its course from Newcastle to the sea, at Tynemouth, presents scenes full of activity and enterprize. Nowhere is capital seen in fuller or more beneficial employment. Heedless alike of the obstructions of hills and valleys, it has created hundreds of railways, which, commencing at the mouths of the different pits, terminate at some convenient place on the banks of the river. On these thousands of waggons convey with rapidity the produce of the mines to the vessels lying at anchor in the river, which, as they complete their freight, are towed out and depart with every favourable wind for their several destinations.
The large collieries in the vicinity of the rivers have each a railway running in the most direct line to their banks. Upon these railways the waggons move in trains of from ten to thirty or more in number, according to the extent of the works or the existing demand for coal. The nature of the power which puts them in motion depends in some measure on the distance they have to travel, and the inclination or other peculiarities of the surface. On those which are perfectly level, a locomotive steam-engine generally heads the train, and drags it to its destination with startling rapidity. On other railroads, which have a regular descent the whole way, the waggons are impelled by their own gravity, and, by the aid of a long rope and a series of pulleys, drag up the empty train, which, in its turn, when again descending with a load, draws the other to the pit in like manner.
When the railroad is carried up an ascending piece of ground, the train is drawn up the ascent by a winding-engine placed at the summit. In many small establishments, and in some which are situated very near one of the rivers or the coast, horses are employed to draw the train of coal-waggons; and, in others, a combination of all these methods is practised. Those collieries which are situated several miles from either the rivers or coast have frequently to pay sums amounting to 400l. or 500l. a year for the right of carrying their communications through private property which intervenes between the pits and the place of loading.
At the end of the railway, and overhanging the river, a large platform of wood is erected, which is called a staith. Upon this the waggons laden with coal are brought to a stand previous to the discharge of their contents into the holds of the ships which lie at anchor underneath. Each waggon contains about 2 and a half tons (53 cwts.) of coal, and when the number of waggons has been entered by a clerk appointed for that purpose, they are placed, one at a time, on a square open frame, which, on the withdrawal of a bolt, is immediately moved from the staith by machinery until it is suspended over the main-hatchway of the vessel. A man who descends with it then unfastens a latch at the bottom of the waggon, which, being made to turn upon hinges like a door, immediately opens, and the whole of the coal in the waggon is cleanly poured into the hold. To facilitate this operation the sides of the waggons converge towards the bottom, and are lined with smooth iron-plates. Attached to the suspending machinery are two counterpoising’ weights, which, being less heavy than the waggon when laden with coal, do not impede but add steadiness to its descent; but, the moment the coal is discharged, their gravity draws up the waggon to the staith. This mode of loading the vessels is both complete and ingenious. In an excursion on the Tyne, between Newcastle and Shields, the perpetual ascent and descent of the waggons in the manner above described forms a very novel and curious spectacle to a stranger.
In situations where, owing to the height of the cliffs, the above mode of emptying the waggons would be inconvenient or impracticable, a large spout is used, and the vessel is brought under the aperture at the lower end; so that the coal emptied at the top passes along the spout, and is discharged into the ship’s hold. The height of the staith at Seaham is perhaps forty feet above the deck of the vessel, and to diminish the force with which the coal would descend the spout from such a height, there is a trap-door at the lower end, by which the force of its descent is diminished, and it reaches the hold without injury to the vessels. The accompanying cuts (pages 161 and 168) represent both the mode of loading by staith and by the spout.
One of these two methods is invariably pursued wherever there is a sufficient depth of water to allow the vessel to come alongside the staith; but as this is not always the case, whenever an impediment exists, some other mode becomes necessary. There are many coal-works in which, owing to local obstacles and the intersection of private property, a right of way cannot always be obtained. The greatest obstacle of all, and one which is coeval with the coal-trade itself, is the bridge which crosses the Tyne at Newcastle, which effectually bars the passage of coal-vessels above the town. Those owners, therefore, whose pits lie “above bridge” are compelled, in addition to the railway and staith, to employ a number of light barges called “keels”, for the purpose of conveying their coal to the ships. This mode of conveyance is the most ancient, and was universal before the invention of this staith and its mechanical apparatus.
A keel is built sharp at both ends, and is capable of containing about 16 and a half London chaldrons of coal (about21 tons), has a sort of quarter-deck for the convenience of the keelmen, and a footway or gangway along the sides. The collier, waiting to receive the cargo of the keel, lies at anchor in a convenient part of the river, and generally a keel is lashed on each side of her. The coal is shovelled through her ports, or into a large tub, which, when filled, is drawn up, turned over, and the coal emptied into the hold. But this method occasions the breakage of the coal to such an extent as to deteriorate its value in the market.
By the vessel receiving her cargo from the staith, without the intervention of the keel, a saving of about 9d. per London chaldron is effected in keel dues. The employment of keelmen is therefore dispensed with wherever it is possible. Still their wages are tolerably constant, and are higher than those received by pitmen, and considerably higher than the wages of an agricultural labourer. They average from 18s. to 21s. per week, and occasionally they obtain, under certain circumstances, from 30s. to 40s. They are paid by the tide, voyage, or trip.
We feel much pleasure in recording a circumstance in the history of the keelmen, which does great credit to their foresight, and is worthy of imitation by all classes of our industrious population. Warned many years ago by the sentiment expressed in the northern proverb?
” Did youth but know what age would crave, Many a penny it would save,”
they raised a sum by subscription among themselves, with which they founded an extensive establishment in Newcastle, known by the name of the “Keelman’s Hospital.” In this quiet retreat fifty-two aged men and women find a comfortable asylum during their latter years. We believe that this is the only hospital in the kingdom built and supported by the working classes for their own members. The keelmen meet once a year to celebrate the establishment of this institution, perambulating the town with bands of music, playing the lively Northern air?” Weel may the keel row.”
A stranger who visits the banks of the Tyne will not fail to be struck by the immense heaps of sand which are to be seen, some of them being from 100 to 200 feet in height. The colliers, after discharging their cargoes, take in a quantity of sand as ballast, and on their return to the river, it is discharged on its banks. It is afterwards removed to the top of these ?ballast hills?, which is often a tedious and expensive process. Sometimes a steam-engine and an ?endless train” of ascending and descending buckets is necessary.
Newcastle, the metropolis of this district, has doubled its population within the last thirty years. It has been enriched by the coal-trade, which attracts vessels from all parts of the world to discharge their merchandize upon its quays. By the exchanges which follow these transactions, a multitude of trades are called into activity, which in their turn give employment and wealth to industrious thousands, who, spreading over the neighbourhood, form new and flourishing communities. In this way North and South Shields, at the mouth of the Tyne, and many intermediate villages on its banks, have sprung up within the memory of persons yet living.
Of the coal annually consumed in London, one-half, amounting to more than 1,000,000 tons, is shipped at Newcastle. The foreign export of coal from Newcastle amounted, in 1833, to 233,448 tons, being above a third of the whole quantity sent abroad. Vessels do not enter or clear at North and South Shields, but at Newcastle, of which those places are the out-stations. The number of ships registered at Newcastle is above 1,100, and their tonnage amounts to 221,276 tons. A collier makes on an average nine or ten, and sometimes more, voyages to London in a year ; and the number of arrivals in the Tyne annually is not less than 13,000 or 14,000,-10,000 of which are on account of the coal-trade.
Sunderland is the great shipping port of the Wear. The number of its registered vessels has more than doubled within the last fifty years, being 625 in the year 1829, and the tonnage 107,880. The average number of vessels quitting the port is 176 per week, or 9152 in a year. The amount of coal sent abroad from Sunderland is about 176,000 tons annually; and it supplied the London market in 1833 with 667,787 tons, besides enjoying, along with Newcastle and other ports of the North, a share in the general coast-trade in coal. Stockton, on the Tees, is a thriving port; and its trade in coal, though not so large as its more powerful neighbours, Newcastle and Sunderland, is, we under stand, increasing.
Blythe, or Blythe Nook, is a small port on the river Blythe, which may be considered one of the smaller livers on the Northern coal-field. Above 100 vessels belong to this port. Seaton Sluice is another small port in this quarter and, within the last few years, a harbour has been formed at Seaham, near Sunderland, by the Marquis of Londonderry. A rail-road leads to it from the South Hetton colliery, a distance of about four miles, passing, in its course, across valleys, and through passages cut in the solid rock. There did not exist, at Seaham, the slightest natural appearance of a harbour; but it is now a most convenient shipping-station for colliers to receive their cargoes in safety. Two piers have been constructed, and a village has sprung up on the site where these improvements have been so successfully undertaken.
The quantities of coal shipped from the different ports of England, Scotland, and Wales, in 1829, were as follows:?Quantities sent coastwise, 5,014,132 tons; to Ireland, 840,246 to the British colonies, 128,893 to foreign countries, 240,854 making the total quantity shipped 6,224,125 tons.
Soon after the Revolution, in 1688, a duty was imposed on coal brought coastwise into the port of London in addition to the municipal charges with which it was burdened. During the last war, it was as high as 9s. 4d per chaldron; but was reduced to 6s. in 1824. There was a drawback allowed on coal sent coastwise to Cornwall for the use of the mines. This drawback amounted, in 1829, to 16,148l. There was no duty on coal sent coastwise from one part of Scotland to another and the duty on that exported to Ireland was only 1s. 1d. per ton. After having, in the interval, undergone some modifications, the whole of these duties were totally abolished in 1831.
The total sum received for the duty on coals amounted, in 1829, to œ1,021,862 of which London contributed œ464,599; Norfolk, œ83,564; Kent, œ52,549; Devonshire, œ42,784; Hampshire, œ37,813; Sussex, œ36,295; Essex, œ30,881; making, with other maritime counties, œ847,265.
In the same year, the duty on coal exported to Ireland amounted to œ74,050. The chief ports of shipment were Whitehaven, Liverpool, Newport, Swansea, Irvine, Ayr, and Glasgow.
Up to August, 1831, the duty on coal exported to British possessions was Is. 6d. per chaldron, and to foreign countries 17s. per chaldron, Newcastle measure. (53 cwts.) Since that year, the duty on coal sent to foreign countries has been 3s. 4d. per ton ; and on small coal 2s. In 1829, the quantity exported was 369,747 tons; whereas, in 1833, owing to the reduced duty, it had increased to 634,418 tons.
In 1829, there were sent to the British possessions 128,893 tons. In 1833, the isles of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Man imported 53,866 tons; our North American settlements, 55,313 tons; British West Indies, 46,449; Gibraltar, 9914 tons; and Malta, 7000 tons.
Of the coal exported to foreign countries, Holland takes a greater quantity than any other. In 1833, the exportation from this country to Holland amounted to 142,38 tons. Denmark took 74,445 tons; Germany, 69,896; France, 45,218 ; the United States, 28,512; Prussia, 24,068; Portugal, 13,532; and Italy, 10,000 tons.
London is, of course, the most important market for coal. In 1833, the supply amounted to above 2,000,000 tons, which was furnished by the following- places 😕 Newcastle, 1,060,839 tons; Sunderland, 667,787; Stockton, 170,690; Blythe and Beaton Sluice, 48,689 : from Scotland, 15,138; from Wales, 32,156; from Yorkshire, 16,110; from inland pits, by the Grand Junction Canal and the western part of the Thames, 4395 tons, making a total of 2,015,804 tons.
The immense activity which the coal-trade gives to the shipping interest renders this branch of commerce not only important on account of the wealth which it creates, but intimately allies it with our national welfare, by forming a most admirable nursery for seamen. Even sixty years ago, when it was far less extensive than it is at the present moment, Postlethwaite said that, “in a time of urgent necessity, the colliery-navigation alone has been able to supply the government with a body of seamen for the royal navy able to man a considerable fleet at a very short warning, and that without difficulty, when no other branch of trade could do the like.” Above 10,000 men and boys are engaged in the Newcastle shipping alone.
Five-and-thirty years since, Colquhoun, who wrote a treatise containing an historical view of the commerce of the port of London, says, in that part of it which relates to the coal-trade, that this branch of our enterprise ” exceeds the foreign commerce in the number of ships annually discharged; and requires double the number of craft which is required for the whole import and export trade of the Thames.” In 1799, the number of colliers which arrived in the Thames was 3279; in 1818, there were 5239; and in 1833, 7077. The two ports of Newcastle and Sunderland now possess shipping whose tonnage is above 310,000 tons, being about 50,000 tons more than the whole mercantile navy of the country about the year 1700. But as there was no legal registry of tonnage at that time, the presumption that the shipping of Newcastle and Sunderland now and that of the whole country in the year 1700 were equal is, perhaps, the most accurate.
Owing to the configuration of our coasts, persons who reside a great distance from inland collieries can be supplied from pits 400 or 500 miles off at a cheaper rate than if coal had to be procured by land-carriage only a few short miles from their homes. Even at a distance of 600 or 700 miles from the pit, the sea-borne coal commands the market. Hence the most distant parts of the country partake of the advantages of cheap fuel; and if they be remote from the coast, it is ten to one but capital has been employed to open a cheap communication with an inland coal-district by means of a canal, which always benefits the humble labourer, whilst the capitalist whose money has been expended on such works is frequently compelled to wait for years before he begins to receive a profitable return on his investment; the advantage to the former commencing from the moment that the first boat-load arrives by the new communication, rendering an article, which formerly only the rich could afford to purchase, accessible to the humblest cottager.
There is generally an intermediate agent between the coal-owner and ship-owner or merchant, termed a coal-fitter. The intervention of such a class of men is an economical and beneficial arrangement to all parties, and renders it unnecessary for a coal-owner to leave his works and attend the shipping-port in search of buyers; at the same time it prevents the ship-owner leaving his ship in order to seek a cargo at the pit. When the trade is unusually good, the coal-owners sometimes hire vessels and send them to market at once. A cargo is generally purchased by the trader, who, after payment of the freight and other charges, disposes of it to the London merchant.
[Inclined Plane on the Railway from South Hetton to Seaham Harbour, showing the manner in which a Loaded Train of Waggons pulls an empty one up the declivity.]
Legislation on the subject of coal commenced about 400 years ago, and as the use of this article gradually became more extensive, it was surrounded by many regulations, some of which were intended to benefit the consumer, and others to render the imposition of a tax beneficial to the state. The enormous supply which the metropolis at present requires is furnished under peculiar local regulations, one of the most important of which is that all coal must be publicly sold at the Coal .Exchange. The following extract from an old pamphlet, published nearly 200 years ago, and purporting to be a dialogue between a wholesale and retail dealer, will show the advantages of a public market for the sale of coals. The former, detailing the means which he used to enhance the price of coal, says:?” Though the fleete be an hundred saile, yet we meet them at Yarmouth, or before they come so farre, and suffer not above twenty or thirty to appeare at a time, and then give out the rest are suspected to be lost or taken. We tell the masters that our yards at London are full, that money is dead, and they must deliver or sell forthwith, or else their charges will quickly eat out their gaines; and so we get coales at our owne prices, and sell them as we list.” He then goes on to say :?” There are now some forty or fifty saile of colliers come into the poole, and the poore people have great hopes to see coales fall in their prices; whereas, alasse, poore silly fools, our agents at Newcastle have bought them all for us.”
The practice at present is, when a vessel with coal arrives in the port of London, to transmit to the authorised factors at the Coal Exchange a statement containing the name of the vessel, the port to which she belongs, and the quantity and name of the coal she contains. The sale of the cargo then takes place under certain known and public regulations. The times of sale are between the hours of twelve and two on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in each week. The average number of ships at market on each of the above days during the year is about ninety; the average number sold each day about forty-six.
In the port of London the crew are not employed in delivering the cargo when sold. In order, therefore, to avoid any delay in this operation, which would be injurious both to the seller and purchaser, but particularly to the former, whose profits depend to a great extent upon the rapidity of his voyages, a beneficial division of employment is created, which is useful to both parties under the existing regulations concerning the delivery of the ship. Men, called coal-undertakers, attend the Coal Exchange when the vessel whose cargo he has engaged to deliver is to be sold. He obtains the name of the buyers, and then hires a gang of labourers, and apprises the purchasers of the time when the delivery will commence.
The men whose duty it is to deliver the colliers of their cargoes, are called coal-whippers or coal-heavers, and are about 1800 in number. Their existence is entirely owing to the regulation which precludes the crew of the vessel from performing this work. In any other port but London it is done by them. They are therefore a “privileged” class; but, like similar bodies whose interests are based upon regulations which are artificial and incompatible with the general good, they fail to draw from them all the advantages which at first sight they might be thought undoubtedly to confer. As far as the consumer is concerned, the operation of
[Seaham Harbour, showing the Termination of the South Hetton Railway.]
this monopoly is decidedly injurious. The expense of delivering a cargo of coal is above œ20, while a vessel laden with timber, which is a more cumbersome article, is delivered at a cost of about 9/., owing to the competition of labour being unfettered. Each of the 1800 coal-whippers of London earns on an average œ66 a year. This sum, with economy and good management, would surround them with many comforts, and if the general habits of this class were steadier, they would form a respectable body amongst the industrious population of the metropolis. They deserve to be well paid, as their labour is very severe; but it would not be difficult to prove that there are much better means of sustaining the animal powers than ale and porter, or gin, which too often they consume in large quantities. But if these men be not distinguished by their habits of temperance, the unfortunate position in which they are placed with respect to the coal-undertakers (who are usually publicans), absolutely compel them to become his customers.
This degrading thraldom is the result of their ?privileges?, and could not be maintained if competition were free to any one who was capable of earning his bread by such labour. There were but 800 coal-whippers when Colquhoun’s work was published. But he gave in that work statements proving that the coal-heavers were each defrauded out of œ30 annually; and he estimated the profits of the publicans on the liquors which are forced upon these men, with the money taken for commission, as being not less than œ8577/. per annum.
It appears that there existed at one time an act (10 George III., cap. 53) which, as far as possible, relieved the coal-heavers from their dependence on publicans, by enacting that no coal-undertaker should take or demand money from any coal-heaver as a commission for procuring him employment; and that no coal-undertaker should be a victualler, or directly or indirectly concerned in receiving any part of the profits of such trade, or in any other manner in the selling of spirits or drink of any kind, on pain of being deprived of his appointment. This act was in force for three years, when it expired, and has never since been re-enacted.
Perhaps we ought to add, that though the circumstances described by Colquhoun still exist, and the habits of coal-heavers may still be characterized as frequently intemperate, yet that the intensity of these has considerably diminished; and it is gratifying to reflect that, although the wages of coal-heavers are not so high as they once were, they now bring home to their families a larger weekly sum than at the former period.
The bargemen are employed in conducting the barges from the ships’ side to the different wharf’s. An idea of their number may be formed by comparing the coal-trade at the commencement of the present century and its extent at this time. At the former period the monthly supply of coal for the metropolis was estimated at 300 cargoes per month. Colquhoun observes that, on some occasions, 90 colliers (each requiring on an average thirteen barges) were then discharging their cargoes at once, giving employment to 1170 barges. The total number of barges engaged in the trade he estimated at 2196.
From returns obtained from the Coal Exchange, it appears that there are now 598 cargoes sold per month, which is double the quantity brought to the metropolis when the above estimate was made. The number of coal-barges at present employed is therefore most probably above 4000. They are usually the property of coal-merchants, and must be navigated by members of the Watermen’s Company. The charges for lighterage,?ie., for conveying the coal from the vessel and discharging it at the wharf,?is 2s. per London chaldron. Many of the bargemen receive about 30s. per week for conducting their barges up and down the Thames. We believe that coal is often taken from the vessels and conveyed as high as Lambeth at the rate of 1s. per Chaldron. These barges an; carried by the tide, and conducted by a single man. If their cargoes had to be conveyed the same distance by land, the cost of coal would be enormously increased to the consumer.
The wholesale coal-merchants have wharfs along the banks of the river. In the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558) twenty wharfs were established, and up to the commencement of the present century their number had not been increased. The coal being brought by the barges from the vessel is landed on the wharf, from whence it is sent out to the retail dealers and larger consumers. The cost for cartage and shooting is about 3s-. 5«d. per ton per mile, and assuming the average distance carted to be a mile and a half, it will amount to at least 7s. per London chaldron. The charge of unloading the waggons is 1s. 6d/. per chaldron.
Previous to 1831 the coal-trade of the metropolis was under a series of close municipal regulations, many of which are now done away with. They were, however, insufficient to prevent the extensive prevalence of fraud, and an act was passed in 1831, which, by one of its clauses, simplified the previous cumbersome administration of the. law, and placed the trade on a footing much more advantageous to the consumer. This beneficial change was accomplished by an enactment under which, within twenty-five miles of London, all coal must be sold by weight and not by measure. Every waggon carrying out coal from the merchant’s yard is required to be provided with a weighing-machine, and the waggoner is compelled, under heavy penalties, to weigh any sack which the consumer may conceive to be deficient in amount. A ticket must always be delivered to purchasers of a certain quantity, specifying the name of the coal, and the number and weight of sacks which the waggon contains. Temptation to fraud is now removed as far as possible, and can be easily discovered if suspected.
To that class of persons whose consumption is small, the change in the mode of selling is of the greatest importance. Dr. Hutton who, being brought up a collier, is a good authority on such a point, says, that if a cubic yard of coal when broken be equal to five bolls, it will measure seven and a half when broken small?Mr. Buddie thinks eight. The consumer, therefore, paid for the latter proportion and received only the former. It was therefore clearly the interest of all classes of dealers through whose hands the article passed, to cause as much breakage as possible.
In addition, the evil of selling by measurement at all was greatly aggravated by the nefarious practice of selling by heaped measure. By forming the cone of small coal, much less would be measured than if larger pieces were used. Happily for all classes of consumers, the Act respecting ?Weights and Measures?, which came recently into operation, has abolished heaped measures entirely.
In an active and wholesome state of competition there cannot exist in any trade a class of men whose functions are not obviously connected with its useful and beneficial operations. It appears that in the middle of the sixteenth century the supply of coal was in the hands of too great a number of dealers. This subdivision, however, was not owing to the perfected manner in which men carried on their different trades, but shows rather that these trades had not yet found their natural channels, and that they were so unimportant as to have been unable to maintain a separate existence, just as we see now a village shopkeeper acting as a hatter, a draper, a grocer, a druggist, &c. An Act passed in the reign of Edward VI. attributed the circumstance of a trade being divided in the above manner to the ” greedy appetite and covetousness of divers persons ;” and then went on to state, that, in consequence of this, ” fuel, coal, and wood runneth many times through four of five several hands or more, before it cometh to the hands of them that for their necessity do burn or retail the same ;” and as a remedy for the evil,?”It is therefore enacted that no person shall buy any coal, but only such as will burn or consume the same; or such persons as sell the same again by retail to such as burn or consume the same for their own occupying.”
Admitting, however, that the trade was, at the above period, engrossed by too great a variety of dealers, we shall see that 100 years afterwards, either in consequence of this very enactment, or from the fluctuating and unsettled condition of trade, it was then monopolized chiefly by two classes of traders. In a pamphlet from which we have already quoted, published at that time (1653), and entitled, ?The two grand Ingrossers of Coles, viz., the Woodmonger and the Chandler,’ it is shown that they bought the coal at the pit, and so held in their hands the power of controlling the market. In this instance an intermediate class of men was required between the coal proprietor and the London wholesale merchant, whose interests should be best promoted by carrying supplies into the market as quickly as possible.
In order, therefore, that the very poorest class may enjoy the luxury and comfort of a fire, there are, first of all, men employed in procuring the coal from the bowels of the earth,?others in navigating the ships which bring it to market,?merchants possessing wharfs and the conveniences which enable them to keep a sufficient store; and then come the retail dealers, from whom even so small a quantity as a single pennyworth can be obtained. Lest an article so important should become a monopoly where it is sold in large quantities, it can only be disposed of, in London, in a public market, in which every transaction that occurs is published and widely circulated in newspapers, which also state the prices which the various descriptions of coal are fetching from one market-day to another.
The tricks which were practised in this trade some two hundred years ago, and which the old pamphlet we have noticed details, would now be utterly void of success. The ?chandler” of that day mentions to a brother dealer the devices which he adopts in order to procure a temporary rise in fuel. ” First,” says he, ” I vent it out by carmen and poor folks, that indeed there was a fleet come of sixty-five or seventy saile almost as far as Harwich ; but there rose a violent storm, so that most of the fleete was shipwreckt, and the rest rendered unserviceable to put to sea till next Easter at least. At the report of this, O how the poore shrug in their shoulders, and pawn their pewter dishes and brasses, and any goods, at the brokers, to get some coales in at any rate; and then I vend my worst coales, or mingle them with a few good ones.”
Camden, in his history of Durham, the materials for which were collected more than 250 years ago, said that that county was rich in pit coal, ?which we use for firing in many places.” About 100 years afterwards the quantity imported into London was 270,000 chaldrons; in 1688, 300,000 chaldrons; and in 1750, 500,000 chaldrons ; and the consumption has gone on gradually increasing until its use has become universal. In 1801 the consumption of coal in the metropolis was 1.05 chaldrons per head; in 1828 it had increased to 1.156. Owing to the very nature of mining speculations, it is scarcely possible that there should be any monopoly of the article by the coal-owners. We have stated that when the trade in London is unusually good, the coal-owners occasionally freight ships on their own account, in order to have the benefit of the market; and it appears that they also do this at times when prices are excessively low.
Mr. Buddle stated to the Parliamentary Committee,?” Although many collieries in the hands of fortunate individuals and companies have been perhaps making more than might be deemed a reasonable and fair profit, according to their risk, like a prize in a lottery ; yet, as a trade, taking the whole capital employed on both rivers, he should say that certainly it has not been so.” Being asked, ?What have the coal-owners on the Tyne and Wear, in your opinion, generally made on their capital employed?” He replied,?” According to the best of my knowledge, I should think that by no means 10 per cent, has been made at simple interest, without allowing any extra interest for the redemption of capital.” | In 1813 coals were from 52s. to 55s. 9d. per chaldron; and in 1932, from 25s. to 31s. In 1833 the price was from 15s. to 18s. per ton. The difference in price at the two periods when the demand for coal is likely to be most dissimilar?January and July?has gradually become less striking.
Previous to 1831 the price paid by the consumer for a chaldron of coals was apportioned in the following manner:?
Coal-owner, for coal 13 9
Coal-fitter, keel-dues, &c 2 3
Shipowner, for freight, &c 8 6?
Municipal dues at Newcastle 0 8¬
Government tax 6 0
Municipal dues in the port of London …….. 4 4 ?
Coal Factor, commission 0 4?
Coal merchant 12 6
Sundries 2 2?,
œ2 10 7i
The alterations which have taken place since this period, first in the abolition of the Government tax of 6s. per chaldron, and next in the fees which were paid to the meters, which amounted to upwards of œ24,000 a year, have rendered coal much cheaper, it is true; but there are still many vexatious regulations which enhance its price, and which ought, to be modified or abolished. A sum of œ25,000 a year is paid annually to the Corporation of London for ?metage?, and is claimed as one of their prescriptive rights; but it might be advantageously commuted, as the Richmond duties have been. A further sum of œ63,000 a year, paid as orphans’ dues, will expire in the course of a few years. Some of the other charges are also susceptible of considerable reduction, amongst which is the enormous sum of œ107,000 a year paid to the coal-whippers, which, as it has been stated, benefits a number of publicans at the expense of the health and morals of these men. The charge for the work which they perform is 1s. 1d. a chaldron, whereas at Newcastle and Sunderland the waggons are filled at a cost of only 1¬d, or l?d. per chaldron; the additional labour of raising-coal a little greater height in the former case would be well paid by an allowance of 4d. per chaldron. If the trade were free, the public would not be burdened by the support of the odious monopoly of the publicans.
It will be seen that the cost of bringing coal from the ship to the consumer’s cellar exceeds the original price of the article, and is also much higher than the expenses of transit from the pit’s mouth to the Thames. The charges of the London coal-merchant, amounting to 12s, 6d. per chaldron, consist of the following items:
Buyer’s Commission 1 0
Lighterage 2 0
Cartage 6 0
Credit 2 0
Shootage .®? 1 3
Sundries 0 3
The charge for lighterage very much exceeds in amount the charges paid in the North for a similar sort of work.
Mr. Buddie states that the Tyne keelmen, who take the coal from the spouts, or staiths, to deliver into the vessels, are paid 1s. 3d. per London chaldron for navigating their keels from seven to eight miles, and casting the coals into the ship, a height of five feet, independently of the horizontal distance which it is requisite to project them to reach the port-hole of the vessel into which they are loaded: in addition to which the keels will cost them from three-halfpence to twopence the London chaldron; ” so that our keelmen have not so much as the lighterage in London comes to for merely carrying the coal from the side of the ship to the wharf; although the keelmen navigate the vessels from seven to eight miles, and discharge the cargo by shovelling it out of the keels into the ship.”
The price of cartage in London Mr. Buddie also thinks enormous. ?In the North,” he says?, we let cartage by contract, including the loading, at 7d. to 8d. per ton, per mile, on turnpike-roads, and at from 9d. to 10d. per ton on heavy country-roads; so that the price of cartage in London is from four to five times as much as we pay for it in the country.” In allusion to the charge of 1s. 6d. for ?shootage?, which is paid in London for shooting the coal down into the cellar, Mr. Buddie says that, ?at the rate we pay our waggon-men for filling the waggons, I believe they would be very glad, for twopence, to heave these same coals out of the cellar again up the hole.”
The artificial circumstances in which, until a recent period, the coal-trade has been placed, may have occasioned some of the charges noticed above to have risen beyond the usual cost of labour; but it is highly probable that, in proportion as the influence of (his state of things decreases, that the coal-trade will not, any more than other branches of enterprise, present such anomalies as those described by Mr. Buddie.
Mr. Taylor, an experienced individual connected with the coal-trade, laid before the Lords’ Committee the following estimate of the consumption in Great Britain
The annual vend of coal carried coast
wise from Durham and Northumber
land is 3,300,000
Home consumption, say one-fifth 660,000
Which quantity supplies 5,000,000 per-
sons ; and supposing the whole popula-
tion to amount to 15,000,000, the
estimate will therefore be 11,880,000
Consumed in Iron-works 3,000,000
Annual consumption of Great Britain.. 14,880,000
Exported to Ireland 900,000
Mr. Taylor has not, in this estimate, taken into account the foreign export of coal, which, in 1833, was 634,448 tons. The population of Great Britain is now about 17,000,000. The estimate will therefore stand thus:?
Tons. Consumption of 15,000,000 inhabitants 11,880,000 Add for consumption of 2,000,000, the
additional population 1,584,000
Exported, in 1833, to foreign countries . 634,448
Exported to Ireland 900,000
Consumed iu Iron-works …………………. 3,000,000
Mr. Buddle supplied some interesting information to the Parliamentary Committee. On being asked if he had anything to state respecting the number of men and ships employed on the rivers Tyne and Wear, he said that he had made a summary??that there are seamen, 15,000; pitmen and above-ground people employed at the collieries, 21,000; keelmen, coal-boatmen, casters, and trimmers 2000; making the total number employed, in what I call the Northern Coal Trade, 38,000. In London, whippers, lightermen, and so forth, 5000; factors, agents, &c, on the Coal Exchange, 2500; 7500 in all. Making the grand total in the North country and London departments of the trade, 45,500. This does not, of course, include the persons employed at the out-ports in discharging the ships there.?
The above return is strictly confined to the Tyne and Wear, and does not include Seaham, Blythe, Hartley, or Stockton. From it we may obtain a tolerably accurate approximation of the numbers employed in the trade of Great Britain. In the first place, then, it may be inferred that as the produce of the collieries on the Tyne and Wear does not exceed 3,000,000 tons, and employs 21,000 men, the whole of the collieries in Great Britain, as their produce is six times greater, will
employ at least 121,000 men.
For the supply of London with less than 2,000,000
tons of coal, the shipping on the Tyne and Wear
employs 15,000 seamen; and as the whole quantity
shipped coastwise in 1833 was nearly 6,000,000
tons, the number of seamen employed in the coal-
trade must be 30,000
London consumes one-ninth part of the produce of
the mines of Great Britain ; and as the number
of factors and individuals to whom the trade gives
employment in the metropolis amounts to 7500,
the number for Great Britain is probably 45,000
The bargemen employed on the Tyne and Wear
are 2000 in number ;?for the whole country the
number cannot be less than 10,000 men
The population to whom the coal gives direct em
ployment is therefore about 206.000
Mr. McCulloch estimates the number of individuals employed at from 160,000 to 180,000; but the increase in the consumption which has taken place since the abolition of the coast duty has enabled the consumers to go to market every year with nearly a million of additional capital, and the use of coal in gas-works, and for a variety of purposes, has therefore been considerably extended.
The capital employed in collieries, on the Tyne and Wear, Mr. Buddie estimates at about œ2,200,000 Mr M’Culloch estimates at œ10,000,000 the capital employed in the coal-trade of Great Britain.
Camden remarked, about two centuries and a half ago, that “sea-coal are dug in great plenty, to the great benefit of the inhabitants.” We shall not stop to inquire what signification he attached to the expression ?great plenty?, but if the benefits arising from the use of coal were apparent then, they are now increased a thousand-fold, and the possession of an almost inexhaustible source of supply of coal has become one of the most important of our national resources, with which the stability of our manufactures, commerce, and strength as a nation is identified.
[Seaham Harbour Coal Staith, Mode of Loading by the Spout.]