Page images

nually make 256,583,040 yards of linen cloth, from the additional quantity of flax, hemp, and tow, procured from the same number of acres grown. This quantity of linen cloth, selling in the shops on an average of 2s. per yard, would give an annual increase to our national wealth, from the same number of acres employed in this cultivation, of £25,658,304. Exclusive of the cost of the raw material, and the expenses of preparing it by Messrs. Hill and Bundy's machines; the expense for spinning and weaving it into linen goods is taken at £52. 17s. 8d. per ton. This cost of labour, on the quantity of flax, hemp, and tow, saved by the operation of these ma chines, namely, 57,273 tons from the 120,000 acres, would amount to £12,114,747. 2s. and which would yearly give employment to 807,649 persons, calculating the value of the labour of each at 1s. per day the year round, and estimating them to work 300 days in each year. This average will not be considered too low, when it is considered that a large portion of the labour is performed by women and children.

Are you acquainted with Mr. Lee's machine, intended to effect a like purpose with those of Messrs. Hill and Bundy ?— Not particularly: I saw a machine, or set of machines, which I was informed were Mr. Lee's, at St. Pancras workhouse, about three, four, or five months ago; those consisted of a scraping-machine, lying horizontally; the flax was held by one hand, and drawn through this machine, while the presser, having teeth in it, was worked by the other hand. There was also a swinging-machine. I do not know the names by which he designates his particular machines, but it appeared to be precisely the same as the machine which is now in this room. I enquired particularly at that workhouse whether that was the whole process, and was informed it was all they knew of; but Mr. Lee has this day shewn and explained his machinery to me. I find the same two machines which I before saw, namely, the horizontal and vertical machine; and, in addition to that, a machine, consisting of fluted rollers, which I had not before seen. I have likewise, this day, seen some flax passed through the several machines, with the exception of the horizonta machine. I did not see that used; but the woody matter ap

peared to be very well separated by the swinging machine. It was afterwards cleared by passing the fluted rollers, in a skain, formed by passing one end into the other, so as to make a perpetual revolution; and this seemed to me to answer the purpose as effectually as the machine of Messrs. Hill and Bundy: it produced the same end, though by a different process. I am not, however, prepared to state the difference in them, though I have no doubt the loss or gain would be precisely the same. Mr. Lee then passed a portion of flax-stem through the fluted rollers, without the operation of the beating-machine; and this, I must confess, did not appear to me to answer the purpose of separating the woody part from the fibres: it was merely broken into short pieces, but it did not peel off, or leave the fibre.

Do the machines of Messrs. Hill and Bundy resemble those of Mr. Lee?—I do not myself, speaking candidly, see any similarity. The operation of Hill and Bundy's first machine. is different from a regular revolution by rollers, inasmuch as an alternating motion is produced, and there is such a distance between the teeth in their machine, that the woody matter has an opportunity of escaping; while, on passing through the rollers of Mr. Lee's machine, it appears to me to be compressed upon the fibre, instead of separated from it.

Have there ever been any machines in use prior to Mr. Lee's, for the purpose of dressing flax in this manner?—I am not certain that flax has been dressed by the dry process; but the old machine, which has been in use for a great length of time, approximates very closely to both the beating-machines of Mr. Lee. The swinging-machine is exactly similar to a machine of Mr. Bond's, deposited in the repository of the Society of Arts; except that his works in a nearly horizontal direction, while that of Mr. Lee's works in a vertical one. I have never, till lately, paid much attention to the operation of dressing flax; but having had occasion to notice that subject in my Lectures at the Royal Institution, I have investigated the different processes, as far as I was able to obtain information, from books and inquiry; and it does not appear to me that the process of breaking by tooth-rollers, moving

with a regular continued motion, is new, inasmuch as that is described in an old edition of Chambers's Cyclopedia.

Do you conceive those two machines to be likely to produce great national advantage?—I certainly think, that as far as employment of the poor can produce them, they do hold out very reasonable and fair ground for supposing, that a novel branch, or rather an extended branch of manufacture, may be introduced into this country, by the improved process of manufacturing flax. There is a great prejudice existing in the country, among farmers, from the circumstance of flax making no return to the land. It is unlike other crops, inasmuch as it is pulled up by the root, instead of being cut; and, by the old process, all that was nutritious in it was wasted, or washed away, by the process of water-steeping; whereas, from the analysis which has just been mentioned, it appears that if the product should be wanted for food, that flax is as capable of making a return to the land as any other crop. Another material advantage in the present process is, that instead of the flax becoming ripe at nearly the time of corn-harvest, and requiring to be, attended to immediately, it may now be dried in the same manner as hay, and laid up in barns, so as to afford winter employment to farmers' servants, and others, at a season of the year when such employment very rarely exists in any other form. It would, therefore, enable the farmer to keep a greater number of servants, with advantage to himself, and to the other parts of his farm, than he could afford to do, if he did not encourage this kind of culture.

Would it be highly beneficial also in wet weather?—Yes; it would afford means of employmont in wet weather.

Have you any mode of calculating the expense of the old process, compared with what it would be by the improved system? I have not.

You said it would require sixteen minutes to pass through both machines separately; would not both machines work at the same time?-Certainly; but it would require preparation to connect the two processes. There is no doubt but that the two machines might be working at the same time; though, as this was an experiment upon a particular

quantity, one machine was standing idle while the other was in use.

Then a pound might be done in eight minutes?-A pound would be done in eight minutes, and part of another pound begun; because part would have passed a second machine, and there would have been a lapse of three minutes upon the second machine.

What you speak of, is a pound of rough material?—A pound of flax in its dry state, as it comes immediately from the farm. How many pounds of flax could be prepared in twelve hours, and by what number of hands, by the machine?-Twenty pounds by one man and two children.

Would that machine require the full power of a man, or could he work more machines than one ?-He could work one breaking, and two rubbing machines, with three children.

Then the three machines would require how many hands? -One man, and three children.

They would do sixty pounds ?-No: forty pounds; twenty pounds the breaking-machine, and twenty the pair of rubbingmachines.

Would a man be able to continue twelve hours driving that machine?—Not twelve hours, because twelve hours has always the interval of dinner, and so on; ten working hours is usually a day's work.

. Could he work that?—I have no doubt he could: I have known men work ten hours at more laborious work than this.

Have you seen the hackling-machine employed?—I have: and I have stated, respecting it, that it went too slowly.

Do you know the quantity it would dress in two hours?-No, I do not.

Do you know the waste?-The waste on what I saw was very little I merely saw one handful passed through it, and the waste was not a fortieth, I should think, but it was not weighed.

A very trifling waste?-Yes. I do not, however, myself conceive the machine to be in its perfect state.

Is Mr. Lee's, or Messrs. Hill and Bundy's, the most simple? -Certainly Mr. Lee's is the most simple.

Do you apprehend that Mr. Lee's, being the most simple, is less liable to be put out of order?-Certainly it is.

That part of Messrs. Hill and Bundy's, that is more liable to be put out of order, consists of beech-wood.

Could that be put in order again by any common carpenter? -The rubbing part might; but the machines contain wheels, and some degree of intricacy, in their other parts.

With regard to the rollers, they are not liable to be broke? -I conceive not; the only parts which would be subject to wear, would be the pivots on which they turn, and they could be replaced very easily.

Mr. Lee's machine, you said, had not the effect of separating the woody part from the fibres?—The beating process separated it most effectually, but not the rollers; but I ought, in justice, to say, that Mr. Lee told me that this arose from the flax not being sufficiently dry; and I then had Mr. Lee's assurance that it would answer, if dry.

Do you suppose the small rolling-machine of Mr. Lee's would complete the business well, if the flax had been good, or formed into a skain ?—I should doubt it very much, without the application of the breaking-machine.

Will not the rollers, in Mr. Lee's patent, tend to divide the fibres, and render the flax finer, when it is brought to the hackle? Certainly: any pressure upon the stalk of the flax, so regulated as not to cut the fibre, will tend to spread or open it, and make it finer; but that is equally well answered in the rubbing process, for there it is spread; and, in the other machine, a simple roller, without fluting, would answer that purpose.

The other witnesses examined on this subject were Mr. James Mead, foreman to Messrs. Benyon of Leeds, above referred to; Mr. Ralph Wood, bailiff at Stoneley Abbey, Warwickshire; James Prentice, foreman to Messrs. Hill and Bundy; Lieut. Wright, R. N.; John Millworth, a labourer; Mr. Samuel Hill; Mr. James Lee, the proprietor of the respective machines above alluded to; and Elizabeth Wilson, and Sarah Smith, who had worked at the machines. But as the evidence of these parties was generally corrobative of Mr.

« PreviousContinue »