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FREE THE ATMOSPHERE
IN A VERY CONSIDERABLE DEGREE,
SMOKE AND DELETERIOUS VAPOURS
WITH WHICH IT IS
HOURLY IMPREGNATED ?
BY W. FREND,
ACTUARY OF THE ROCK INSURANCE,
SMOKE OF LONDON.
The Smoke of London, first viewed from a distance, affords a sight which strikes a foreigner with astonishment. The inhabitants are so accustomed to it, that they cease to regard it as a matter of much inconvenience, though a box of clothes sent from the metropolis sensibly affects their country friends. In fact, the Londoner is in the situation of a man, who lives in a smoký house : he is used to it: but every one, who comes to visit him, perceives the difference between his souty chambers and a well ventilated mansion.
There are people, who, from long habit, are not disgusted with dirt and nastiness. The Hottentot returns to his grease : but, I believe, that, if the smoky atmosphere of this great city was exchanged for a purer air, none of the inhabitants, or the occasional visitors of the metropolis
, would lament the loss of their black fog. All talk of the smoky town; but they sit contented under their dense vapours, from an opinion, that the evil is incurable.
This is the case with every improvement that is suggested. A few years back, the visitors of Bedlam were assured, that it was impossible to keep the unhappy patients but by such immense locks, bolts, and chains, as shocked humanity. The very people, who were thus manacled and fettered, are now walking about at their ease in the new Bedlam, and are inore tractable in consequence of the removal of these restraints. I went over this excellent institution the other day, and, op contrasting it with what I had seen
in the former mansion, could not but congratulate human nature on the modern improvements in the treatment of the greatest galamity to which it is liable. The application of the same common sense would produce similar improvements in a variety of instances.
To form a judgment of the smoke of London, a person should take a few turns on Blackfriars' Bridge, in the middle of the day, and notice the effect of the vomitories of smoke that surround him. A similar walk, at night, will point out more strongly the defect in their construction, when he perceives, from many of them, volumes of frame issuing forth, as from so many volcanoes. If he takes his morning walk in the middle of summer, the contrast between the smoke from the furnaces, and from the ordinary fires, will be particularly striking. I conjecture, that the smoke, occasioned by a vast variety of manufactories, forges, glass-houses, &c., is at least three times as great as that proceeding from all the chimneys for family use : and it is to be recollected, that from some of these furnaces issue forth matter of a most deleterious nature.
On the mischief arising from noxious vapours, the medical men are the best judges; but it is somewhat remarkable, that so little attention is paid to this subject by the Legislature. Within these few years, an instance occurred, which brought it forcibly within There was a
lane near me, which I used to frequent as a walk before breakfast. Soon after I had discovered this little walk, preparations were made for building, and in a short time two spacious erections appeared, both furnished with furnaces, the chimneys of which were not carried ten feet above the roof. One of them was applied to the smelting of lead, the other to the melting, I think, of iron. In a short time proceeded the usual appearances of such works, and the air was proportionably infected. A great road, which promises to be one of the most considerable thoroughfares in London, has lately been made near this place; and, when the wind is favorable, the pale whitish smoke from the lead manufacture is sensibly felt by those, whom business or pleasure carries that way. On the erection of these buildings, I could not help pointing out to the owner the high chimney of the great manufacture near the Asylum, and with what advantage, both to himself and to the public, the very meritorious engineer, the owner of them, had constructed his works. But how could it be expected, that such an expense should be incurred, since the public did not require it? and all that was wanted, in this instance, was a common blast furnace, whose smoke, when it reached the top of the works, was of no farther concern to the owner.
Common sense ought to have instructed us, that an individual, who makes a fortune by his works, ought to take care, that it should be done at the least inconvenience to his neighbours. But,
in the case of the great works in and about London, this principle is almost entirely neglected. A man, for example, erects a brewhouse upon a small scale : his business extends, and with it his works gradually increase, so that what was at first scarcely felt now becomes a nuisance to a very great extent, and a volume of smoke is emitted, which is felt in magnificent houses at a very considerable distance from his brewery.
It will be asked, how can this be remedied? To this may be replied, let a man on Blackfriars' Bridge look around him, and observe the state of the different manufactories. He will see from one a large column of smoke, driving before the wind, scarcely impaired, to a great distance; and from another a much smaller column, much sooner dissipated, and yet, perhaps, the coals consumed in the latter are ten times as much as in the former. Whence, then, is this difference? It is in the height of the chimneys; and common sense, therefore, points out, that the height of the chimneys should bear some proportion to the quantity of coals consumed in the furnaces beneath them.
It is possible to contrive it so, that the column of smoke proceeding from the greatest vomitory in the metropolis, shall not exceed that from a common kitchen chimney. To do this, it is necessary only to have a proportionate length of chimney. Suppose a brewhouse to be constructed in a square, the sides being a hundred feet in length, and the height of the building to be seventy feet. Let the furnace be near one of the sides, communicating its smoke to a chimney, inclosed at top, twelve feet square at the bottom, and decreasing in dimensions to half the height of the building. At half of the height of this chimney let there be two apertures, one on each side, and a flue from each to run round the building till it comes to the top. Supposing each to make a complete turn, its smoke must pass through above four hundred feet, and let it then pass through the vent at the top, thirty feet high. Thus the column, which now bursts forth in such a torrent, will be diminished more than one half at the lower aperture of the flues, and each separate column thus formed will be diminished in a very great proportion by the quantity of space it has to go over. This quantity will be greatly diminished by chambers being formed at each corner of the building, similar to that of the chimney first erected; and, besides, instead of coming out at top at one hole, the upper chimney may be so contrived, that there shall be several apertures, and the smoke at last will be speedily diluted with the common air.
This it will be said is all very good in theory, but it will not do in practice. I went over, a few years ago, the works of some celebrated mines in the North. They give support to a considerable population in the neighbouring village. This population had been
subjected to much disease from the effluvia of the lead in its processes of smelting. The proprietors made an alteration in their works. Their vast furnaces were now so constructed, that the smoke from them was conveyed to a common chimney, and this chimney was constructed under ground in the rising hill, the vent being at a considerable distance from the works. The consequence was, that a vast quantity of deleterious matter was retained in the chimney, and afforded an annual rent to the proprietors : and what came out at last was at such a distance from the workmen, that it could not produce any injurious effects to their health. The village now performs its daily task with alacrity ; and, I believe, that that which used formerly to be so dangerous an occupation, is now more innocent than a vast variety of eniployments in the metropolis.
I lay it down, then, as a position, that the smoke, emitted by the vomitories, may be greatly reduced in quantity; that the expense of doing it is trifling in comparison of the profits of the works; and that the Legislature will not be ill employed in taking such measures as shall secure the public from its present nuisance,
If it is desirable that the trial should be made, the first thing seems to be, to enquire into the present state of the buildings employing furnaces, comparing each with the other, according to the quantity of coal consumed; to examine into the expense that would be incurred by conducting the smoke in the manner above recommended, or something similar to it, according to the nature of the works; to ascertain, whether the proprietors of old works should be put wholly to this expense, or be indemnified in part by the public; and, lastly, to prevent any new works, unless on regulations adopted on the principle, that a furnace should not be permitted to emit more smoke than a common chimney. If the last principle is adopted, the erection of a very extensive manufactory will not produce a hundredth part of the smoke that would be occasioned by ordinary houses, built on the same extent of ground.
These hints are thrown out with a view of exciting some persons to take this matter into consideration. A few copies only have been printed for the use of the writer's friends, and for some members of the Legislature, to whom he has taken the liberty of submitting them. They are merely hints ; but, if a Committee of the Legislature should be appointed to examine this subject, he has no doubt, that the light, thrown upon it by engineers and manufacturers, will show, that the diminution of the smoke of London will be highly beneficial, both to the proprietors of works and to the public.