This site is English – get used to it…

Victorian legacies


Black Country canals

The canal in the picture was built in the 18th century and was part of a valuable transport system for the goods that were made in the Black Country. It runs into Walsall and to the ‘Waterfront’ near the new art gallery. The canal goes past those factories then crosses the M6 motorway; the modern transport link to the Black Country. Then on to cross the railway that was to come later as a major transport network then an aqueduct takes it over the River Tame. The Tame looks like little more than a brook there but that was an important source of power at one time driving the hammers of a local forge. 

In the 18th century industry was booming based on the ‘thick’ coal and evidence of that is still there today. The field beyond those factories has a sign saying to beware of old mine shafts. Children in those days would use blackboards and chalk, no pens or paper for them! They left school earlier than today’s kids too, often at 12 years old. I found a text book out today from the 19th century. I think the date is around 1870. Kids were taught quite practical things in those days. Arithmetic was important, but they also were taught algebra. The emphasis was on the practicalities and they were taught about electricity even though it had only just been discovered and was still largely experimental. I was interested in the maths. Many of the questions they had to answer involved percentages. What return would you get on a government bond with a coupon of 6% if the price was £120? A simple question that a Victorian kid would work out in his head, no need for the chalk and board. How would a 21st century kid fare? I know a few that would fail. Leverage in Victorian times was how a hoist worked and other mechanical levers. Now leverage is all about borrowing other people’s money to gamble with on the stock market. I was amazed to find that the stock brokers fee in those days was 1/8%. That’s 125p on a £1,000 trade, you would pay 10 times that much now. You have to pay a fixed fee of around £12 on all trades so it favours people trading at over £10,000 a trade; so that prices out the working class and many middle class people.

In those days they would move quite fast getting a bill through parliament to build a canal and work would start within a month.  The canals were usually built straight and level and were amazing works of engineering. Now they want to build HS2, a high speed rail link from London to Birmingham. That will be years in the planning and consultation;  then it will be a waste of money. The Victorians didn’t carry people; they carried goods for people. That was why they were a success. People now are obsessed with travel. They want foreign holidays every 5 minutes. The Black Country is a shadow of it’s formers self and appears to have a collective inferiority complex. 

I hope you found today’s post interesting, I’ll be back to Neodigital Art and the manipulation of photographs tomorrow. There are more fascinating blogs on my Home Page. Please comment and click share to share on Facebook, etc.…


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