Book reviews — February 1984
ROSPA MAGAZINE "Occupational Safety & Health" for December 1983 (pp. 13-15) has an article of interest to GLIAS members? "Time Piece" discusses how the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust tackles the safety problems of operating historic machinery and reviving old industrial processes. Blast furnace blowing engines have been reconstructed and a steam colliery winding engine, printing shop and sawmill are in regular use on the Blists Hill site. Compromises between providing adequate guarding for machinery yet allowing the public to get a 'feel' for the original conditions include, for example, electrically powered overhead line shafting (ostensibly driven by an oil engine). This arrangement allows emergency switches to be located near the sawmill cutting machines. Other problems encountered include the making of ceramic replicas which include the use of traditional lead glazing processes and 'construction site' activities during re-building work.
HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORS OF FACTORIES 1833-1983 (price £5 from HMSO) contains a number of essays commemorating 150 years of health and safety inspection. Topics include the early history of the Factory Inspectorate, descriptions of working conditions in the 19th century and current health and safety matters. These papers contain many insights into what industrial life meant (and means) to many ordinary people in terms of illness, accident and death.
This HMSO publication contains a chapter on women factory inspectors, but there is mere about their work in the more anecdotal, private publication of 1980 RECOLLECTIONS OF SOME FORMER INSPECTORS OF FACTORIES from the Assn of Former HM Inspectors of Factories & Canteen Advisors, which contains contributions by women and therefore devotes more space to the fields it was felt were suitable for them: welfare and the textile industry. In the latter is the marvellous, if oft repeated tale of the inspector following up a complaint of illegal employment of children in a woollen mill. After touring the whole mill and finding not one young person the inspector lifted by chance the cover of a skip and a small voice piped up "Put i' doon, silly bugger, Factory Inspector's aboot".
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HM FACTORY INSPECTORATE (HMSO, price £2) covers its development up to its absorption in 1975 into the Health & Safety Executive in 30 pages; while the subject can be brought right up to date by reading the annual MANUFACTURING & SERVICE INDUSTRIES REPORT for 1982 price £6.50. David Willis
CHARLES BLACKER VIGNOLES, ROMANTIC ENGINEER by K.H. Vignoles
Cambridge University Press 1982 187pp illustrated £18 ISBN 0 521 23930 3
C.B. Vignoles was an important engineer who was active in railway construction as early as 1825 and for much of a long life continued in this field. In 1841 he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at University College, London, but his course attracted few students and he seems to have taken more delight in conducting site visits than in formal lecturing. Luckily the 'Railway Mania' was soon to provide him with ample work including the great suspension bridge over the River Dnieper at Kiev (1853) and the Tuleda & Bilbao railway over the Pyrenees in the 1860s. He became President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1870.
This biography by K.H. Vignoles, a great grandson, supplements that of C.B. Vignoles' son the Rev. Olinthus J. Vignoles (1889) and is based on the Vignoles family correspondence together with the engineers' extensive diaries, as well as minutes and newspaper reports. It is well produced with quite good illustrations and contains more than its 187 pages would suggest, but it is expensive and unlikely to reach a large readership to make Vignoles better known as he deserves, but I have no hesitation in recommending GLIAS members to ask their local librarians to obtain a copy. Bob Carr
EAST LONDON RECORD has always been good, but No. 6, just published and obtainable from Alan Searle, East London History Society, 67 Fitzgerald Road, E11 2ST for £1.20 (incl. postage), is a bumper number for. IA as it contains excellent articles on The British Xylonite Company of Homerton by A.J. Wait about this pioneering, plastics firm, a local mineral water manufacturer H.J. Glover by Mike Sandow and 4 other articles with a high IA content as well as reviews of not-often-come-across-publications on East End history. A must for GLIAS members.
© GLIAS, 1984