SMEATON, RENNIE AND LEATHER -- THE AIRE & CALDER NAVIGATION Volume of 'Engineers Reports on Aire & Calder Navigation 1771-1829' and 1754

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Lot 43
SMEATON, RENNIE AND LEATHER -- THE AIRE & CALDER NAVIGATION
Volume of 'Engineers Reports on Aire & Calder Navigation 1771-1829' and 1754, A MAJOR SOURCE FOR THE HISTORY OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, CONTAINING THE EARLIEST, AND HITHERTO UNRECORDED, ENGINEERING PROJECT BY JOHN SMEATON

Sold for £ 21,250 (US$ 28,434) inc. premium
SMEATON, RENNIE AND LEATHER -- THE AIRE & CALDER NAVIGATION
Volume of 'Engineers Reports on Aire & Calder Navigation 1771-1829' and 1754, c.380 pages, dust-staining throughout and other signs of wear through office use but nevertheless overall in good, sound condition, nineteenth century cloth, original spine (quoted) detached, later tape-repairs, the Smeaton booklet taped in at a later date, all pages folio except where otherwise stated, the volume comprising:

(i) "Book of Remarks by Mr Smeaton on Air & Calder 28 October 1754", the first page headed "Observations on the Navigation of the Rivers Air and Calder, with remarks concerning the Improvement thereof from a View taken the 8th 9th & 16th July 1754", and surveying sixteen locks (measurements followed by "Remarks" on each) at Hadlesey, Beal, Knottingley, Castleford, Methley, Fleet, Woodlesford, Old Norths, Thwaite, New Mill, Hunslett (Hunslet), Leeds, Penbank, Lake, Kirkthorp (Kirkthorpe), and Wakefield, concluding: "These Operations duly executed will perfect the Navigation of the Air & Calder, by making 3 Feet Water in Summer & near 4 in Winter quiet throughout, will render them Independant of all the Mills; & free from Impediments & obstructions occasioned by drawing of the water in one place to help Vessels over the Shoals in another./ Wakefield 28th October 1754/ J. Smeaton" (contractions expanded); followed by an "Estimate of a Pile Dam with Draw Gates, to be Erected at Knottingley", totalling £762, a signed "Estimate of the Expence of such Works as will be necessary to render the Navigation Independant of the Mill, from Leeds to Fleet Mill Lock", totalling £670-10s, and an "Estimate of the Expence of Building a Lock at Hunslett or New Mill after the Dams are made & foundations cleared", totalling £249-18s-4d; seemingly in a scribal hand throughout, written in a stationer's notebook, the upper cover incorporating an engraving of 'New Dwinko' (Archangel), 22 pages plus inscribed cover, blanks at end, dust-staining, spine taped for subsequent insertion into the main volume, small 4to, 28 October 1754

(ii) Contemporary office-copy of Smeaton's report "upon the means of improving the navigation of the Rivers Aire and Calder", with abstract of estimate, 20 pages, Austhorpe, 28 December 1771; his assistant William Jessop's (? autograph) report "relative to a Proposed Canal, from Haddlesey to Armin: in consequence of a Survey of the River Air, and of the proposed Track, made in the Months of September & October, 1772", 8 pages, Austhorpe, 29 October 1771; printed report by Jessop taken from the foregoing, 2 December 1772; office-copy of Smeaton's report on Jessop's proposal, 5 pages, Austhorpe, 5 December 1772

(iii) Three letter-reports signed by John Rennie the Elder ("John Rennie"), the first accompanying his estimate on "the proposed Canal from the Aire & Calder Navigation above Knottingly Lock to the River Ouse at Goole, with a Basin at Goole Vase & also a Branch to the Aire at Bank Dole & another to the Dutch Rover at Newbridge", totalling £137,700, (plus duplicate office-copy), 15 pages, London, 30 December 1818; office copy of the foregoing; the second reporting on his survey of the Aire & Calder "between Leeds and Knottingley and between Wakefield and the Junction of the Calder with the Air near Castleford", 15 pages, London, 10 August 1818; the third on the Knottingley Cut and Bank Dole entrances, 8 pages, London, 18 December 1820; together with an office-copy of Rennie's report of 3 March 1820 and letter forwarding it from Bateman & Jones of Lincoln's Inn (29 February 1820) plus office-copy of a letter by Rennie to Samuel Hailstone discussing acts of parliament relating to the navigation, 13 March 1820

(iv) Three letter-reports signed by George Leather the Younger ("Geo: Leather"), the first written after succeeding Rennie as engineer for the Aire & Calder and opening: "The lamented death of Mr Rennie has caused a chasm in the department of Civil Engineery, which will be found difficult to fill up...", with an autograph estimate for two locks and another for barge locks at Goole, 19 pages, Bradford, 23 January 1822; the second letter-report opening: "The Works on the New Canal from Knottingley to Goole are now in progress...", 6 pages, Bradford, 3 August 1822 (docketed: "Read at the General Meeting Aug: 5th 1822"); the third discussing work on the streets, dams, canal and docks at Goole, 9 pages, Wakefield, 16 December 1822

(v) Report signed by Francis Giles ("Francis Giles"), with signed cover: "A Report upon the present state and Improvements of the River Aire Navigation from Leeds to Knottingley", 42 pages, London, 31 January 1823

(vi) Ten letter-reports signed by George Leather the Younger (some signatures possibly scribal), with an autograph postscript and estimates, discussing "the New Canal from Knottingley to Goole", "the Plans & Sections of the River Aire from Leeds to Knottingley, prepared by Mr Giles, at the recommendation of Mr Rennie", "the plans and sections of the River Aire between Leeds and Knottingley, which have been put in my hands by your order as well as the reports of Mr Smeaton, Mr Rennie and Mr Giles touching the state of the navigation thereof", etc., often in some detail ("...We have already made about 200,000 Stock Bricks for fronting buildings and I hope that we shall be able to make about as many more during this season; I have also ordered as many Common Bricks to be made as the season will permit..."), c.170 pages in all, the reports dated 4 August 1823, 22 December 1823, 22 December 1823, 31 July 1824, 31 July 1824, 30 July 1825, 19 November 1825, 5 August 1826, 5 August 1826, 7 October 1826; with (bound between Leather's reports of 31 July 1824 and 30 July 1825) an office copy of John Rennie Junior's report of 6 October 1824

(vii) Retained office copy of the letter and instructions submitted to Thomas Telford by John Lowther, Chairman of the Aire & Calder, docketed "Directions for Mr Telford", 6 pages, 4to, 4 June 1827; office copy of "Reports on the Aire and Calder Navigation made July 1827 by Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer, FRSL & E" (including Goole Harbour), 11 pages, London, 17 July 1827; office copy of Telford's letter to the Navigation's general agent James Priestley, forwarded to William Leatham at Wakefield, 1 page, 4to, London, 24 January 1828; report signed by George Leather the Younger, of "a Plan of proceeding to carry into Execution, the powers granted by the late Act for the Improvement of the Navigation", 5 large 4to fold-out pages, Leeds, 2 August 1828; "Report of the Auditor and Chief Clerk made to the Directors of the Aire and Calder Navigation" signed by the auditor and chief clerk, William M. Maude and James Priestley, 3 pages, [Wakefield], 9 July 1829; report on rendering a five-feet navigation between Knottingley and Selby, marked in pencil "J.H. Bartholomew 1829", 5 pages, [1829]

Footnotes

  • A MAJOR SOURCE FOR THE HISTORY OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, CONTAINING THE EARLIEST, AND HITHERTO UNRECORDED, ENGINEERING PROJECT BY JOHN SMEATON: the Aire & Calder Navigation, linking as it does the great industrial centres of Leeds, Wakefield and other great industrial centres in the West Riding of Yorkshire, has been described as 'one of Britain's most long-lived and important navigations' (A.W. Skempton, editor, John Smeaton, FRS, 1981, p.126). The present file of papers evidently derives from the offices of the proprietors themselves.

    In the words of his biographer: 'Smeaton was the earliest of the great British civil engineers and the first to achieve distinction as an engineering scientist. It is also to him, more than any other person, that credit is due for laying the foundations of the civil engineering profession in this country; foundations on which is successors, very notably Thomas Telford, built the superstructure' (Skempton, p.7). While his best-known work is the Eddystone Lighthouse of 1756-9, his work on the Aire & Calder Navigation is generally given prominence among his other achievements (see for example Skempton, p.1). This however is not the scheme for improving navigation as laid out in our manuscript, but rather his last river-engineering project, the Aire & Calder report of 1771 (an office copy of which is to be found in our volume, listed under item ii above), a scheme commissioned when the Aire & Calder was threatened by a rival canal, at a period when canals were all the rage. This later report envisages a minimum depth in the dry season of 3ft 6in; whereas in his first scheme of 1754 three foot sufficed. In all events, comparison of the two proposals could well prove instructive, and might well cast further light on Smeaton's thinking and the development of his engineering practice.

    Hitherto, the earliest known of his plans is that for the Calder & Hebble Navigation of 1757 (designed to link up with the Aire & Calder): for a discussion of this, see Charles Hadfield, 'Rivers and Canals' in John Smeaton, FRS, pp.103-8; see also the complete list of 'Papers, Reports and Drawings' by Skempton, op. cit., pp.229-45, where our report of 1754 is not listed. Even though Smeaton's proposals of 1754 were clearly never put into effect, the fact that his manuscripts were acquired and listed by Joseph Banks soon after his death, with practically all his reports being published in three quarto volumes in 1812, makes the disappearance of this, his first major report -- and its reappearance in 2017 -- all the more remarkable.
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