Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,415 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Bush

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William Bush.

1841 Patented invention of "improvements in the means of, and in the apparatus for, building and working under water"[1]

William Bush designed an iron 'lighthouse beacon' for Goodwin Sands. The first example was constructed in 1841[2]

This great undertaking, so important in all its bearings to a commercial community, is about to be commenced.
About fifty years since the Trinity House directed its attention to the practicability of erecting a lighthouse upon these sands, and sent down several experienced engineers, but the design was deemed impracticable and abandoned. A floating light was, however, placed at the back of the North Sand-head.
About the commencement of this year, however, Mr. Bush, civil engineer, turned his mind to the subject, and having obtained the sanction and co-operation of government, he caused to be made at Thorncliffe Iron-works, near Rotherham, the immense base or shaft of the pillar on which the new light is to be placed. This shaft, of cast-iron, and hollow within, is sixty-four feet in height, and ninety[?] feet in diameter, and nearly 200 feet in circumference. It is divided into three parts, for more easy transport. The total altitude of the light will thus be 150 feet, and it is to be surmounted with a cast-iron statue of Queen Victoria, giving it an additional elevation of 40 feet, in all 190. The weight of the lower shaft alone is 120 tons; and it has been for some time at Deal, where two government steamers arrived on Tuesday, from Woolwich, in order to tow it this day to the North Galloper Sand-head, when Mr. Bush proposes to sink it 30 feet below the sands, on a chalky substratum.
The North Galloper is situate midway between the North and South Sand-head, about 12 miles from the North Foreland, and three from the Gull-stream Light.
The cassoon proceeded to the Sands yesterday at high water; the government steamers Fearless and Sheerwater assisting in the operation. When it reaches its destination it is to be fastened down by anchors, when it will sink by the receding of the tide into the Sands. When the tide is low, persons will enter the air-tight cone at bottom, and excavate until they reach the chalk rock, and then to build in with solid masonry till they reach eighteen feet above high water mark: this base is to support the iron pillar, eighty feet high, with a lanthorn at the top. It is also, we learn, the intention of the projector to bring an Artesian well through the centre to supply the fleet with water.
The cassoon, we should state, is thirty feet in diameter, and twenty-four in depth, made of plate-iron, perfectly circular, amd equal to very great pressure. The water draught afloat is thirteen feet. We wish this great and national undertaking the most complete success, and shall watch with much interest its progress to completion.'[3]

1842 'The Light of All Nations.— It was last week alleged that the caisson for the erection of this work on the Goodwin Sands, had burst, but this was false. The works in connexion with the adaptation of the machine for obtaining a foundation for the intended lightlouse are in rapid progress, including tbe air pumps, guages, valves, and apparatus. The caisson has already advanced some considerable distance through the sand, and there is every reason to conjecture from the appearance of the water and other indications that it is already approaching a chalky stratum.'[4]

Extract of a letter from Dover:-
"There is no prospect of the caisson being placed on the Goodwin this winter. Whether the plan of fixing a light on the fatal Goodwin Sands by the said caisson may answer, is, in my opinion, very doubtful. At all events, the present machine will not do. It has, I learn from practical men who have seen it, been constructed of too light iron work at the base and is in consequence so leaky that it does not hold in the air or exclude the water, and remains a fixture in the mud at the pier end. It is now stated that it is to be taken to pieces and reconstructed — on the same principle, however — in the naval dockyard. It is to be built, so I understand, on a cradle of wood-work, and, when finished, launched into deep water like a ship. If this is so, they must take care to make it quite tight, else it will, of course, find its way to the ground as now. Mr. Bush and his friends are as sanguine of success as ever. The subject of getting a foundation on these sands is a very important one. It is, I believe, well understood that chalk rock is the base of these quick and shifting sands, at a depth varying from 20 to perhaps 100 feet ; but, even when the chalk has been reached, it may not prove of sufficient firmness to build the pillar on. The Bell Rock pillar is founded on a rock, in a manner I conceive Mr. Bush's would require to be, to stand the raging elements ; but then the foundation of the Bell Lighthouse is high and dry at low water, composed of solid rock, into which the masonry is dove-tailed and battened down in the strongest possible manner. Now, to me, the great difficulties in the present case are the getting at the foundation, and the doubtful texture of the stuff of which it is composed, and to which the pillar, I think, must be firmly fixed, lest it should topple over whole bulk some stormy morning."[5]

1843. Patented a strange combination for preventing effects of local attraction on the needle of a compass. [6]

1844 'The Caisson on the Goodwin Sands.
Mr. Bush the civil engineer, who about two years ago sunk the caisson the Goodwin Sands, with the view of constructing a lighthouse, to be edited "The Light for all Nations," has at length established in his caisson upwards of twenty feet of the iron shaft, or column, on the summit of which the lighthouse will be placed. It is now above high-water mark, and it is expected to be finished and ready to be illuminated by the 1st of January. The shaft penetrates through the various iron chambers of the caisson, and is firmly sustained in its perpendicular position by two iron blocks of great strength. It is also further secured by iron stays or braces, bolted to the outer part the caisson, and attached the top as well as the centre of the column. The new light will have an elevation of thirty-three feet above high-water mark, and the lighthouse will be approached by a light iron spiral stair, which winds round the exterior of the column, and is an octagon of about ten feet in diameter, surmounted a plate-glass lantern. The colour of the light is to be pale blue, which will distinguish it from any other in the locality of the Goodwin. It appears that the caisson, which is 30 feet in diameter, has remained undisturbed in the position in which it was sunk, when the untoward accident occurred by the American brig being driven against it, shortly after Mr. Bush had partially fixed it, which completely frustrated his original plan of making the superstructure of solid masonry. The caisson is, however, to be filled with blocks of stone and concrete ; and the naval authorities of Deal have reported to the Admiralty that they expect main land will be formed, the caisson forming a nucleus for accomplishing this desirable object.'[7]

1847 'The Light of All Nations on the Goodwin Sands. —The recent gales have swept away all that remained of the beacon known as the Light of all Nations, on the Goodwin Sands. The iron caisson that formed the foundation was sunk in the sands to a depth that was thought to meet all inroads of the weather, it being filled with concrete and other hard material. The works had been raised fifty-two feet above low-watermark, when a subsidence took place, and notwithstanding the most strenuous exertions were made to overcome it, the completion of the erection was given up, the treacherous character of the sands rendering it impracticable. Captain Bullock's beacon, erected 1840, higher up the sands, braves the weather in the most successful manner.'[8]

1847 'NEW BEACON ON THE GOODWIN SANDS. The honourable corporation of Trinity House have recently erected a new beacon on the southern extremity of the Goodwin Sands, and its stability is rendered a matter of demonstrative certainty. Our readers may recollect that a few years ago an attempt was made in a most favourable situation upon the sand, to erect a landmark and lighthouse, to be called the "Light of all Nations," and the difficulty as well as the failure, of that undertaking, may give some idea of the value of any plan which securely drives a foundation series of solid piles through the shifting sands or any loose shingle. The unsuccessful plan of Mr. Bush was based upon the expectation of allowing caissons "to descend by their own weight; in this way, a depth of 28 feet was reached, but they would not descend any further. Those for general purposes were intended to be constructed 30 feet in diameter, diminishing 1 foot in 6, and 42 feet high. Now, that such a contrivance will sink a certain depth, there can be no doubt; it will descend through the sand and water a certain way by its own gravity. But the failure of this principle depends upon this, that there is a natural limit to the extent of the descending power, the caissons being dependent for descent upon their "own weight;" at least, such is the conclusion or understanding to which we come, after a careful perusal of the not very intelligilble development of the plan given in that gentleman's evidence before the parliamentary commission in 1845, on the subject of harbours of refuge. In advance upon the proved inefficient contrivance of caissons so constructed, we have to describe the pneumatic process for sinking piles, patented by Dr. Potts. We cannot adduce a fact which proves the perfect success of the doctor's principle more striking than this -that for the foundation of the new beacon, cast iron columns have been made to penetrate the sand to 32 feet, the central column is 2 feet 6 inches in diameter, the others narrower, and all well secured together means of wrought iron rods and clips, every square foot of the sand being susceptible of being covered in the same way till nothing is presented but a forest of closely-packed, tightly-wedged piles, that may be driven by this process downwards any required depth. Dr. Potts has for many years devoted his mind to the subject, but there are some peculiarities in driving piles of wedges through wet or shifting sand that require or admit a peculiarity of adaptation. If a bar of iron three inches diameter be driven into the Goodwin Sands 13 feet, as was done by Captain Bullock, it would require 46 blows of a ram of 1 cwt. at 10 feet fall to drive it only a single inch further. Now the principle of the doctor is very simple and ingenious.— If a hollow cylinder, open at the lower end, inverted in water over the sand in which it is intended to be sunk, and if attached the upper surface be a tube, connected with an exhausting air-pump, it will be found that as the cylinder becomes exhausted, it will progressively descend, its lower rim will cut its way through the sand, gravel, or shingle, and the space in the tube previously occupied by air, will filled by the gradual ascent of the displaced materials, and this will go on till the tube has not another cubical inch of air to be exchanged for sand from below. Obviously, as the sand rises in the tube, the tube itself must sink. This an exposition the principle. The tubes being driven, they are readily emptied of tbeir sand, and may be easily filled with concrete, into which iron rods or masts may be inserted, or in fact, a series of iron square hollow pillars, with hearts of stone, may be laid accurately in juxtaposition to form a foundation of mingled stone and iron. The advantage of having large masses deeply driven into the sand, or into any loose foundation, is, that no transverse screws at the foot of the pile are necessary, as seems to have been deemed so in the construction of several lighthouses of modern date raised upon piles. The rapidity with which the piles may be sunk is very surprising — more may be done in an hour by the air pump and hollow tube, whether circular or square, whether of metal or of wood, than can be performed in a week in the most favourable situation by the old method of driving a heavy wooden iron-shod and pointed pile, by means of monkey or a ram we belive some districts the thing is called a "tup," essentially nothing more than a hoisted mass of iron allowed to fall upon the upper end of the pile. Of course, this ingenious adaptation of a great natural law is applicable to other instances than driving foundation into shoals of sand at sea. Foundations for railways and bridges, for large buildings, such as our Custom House, near the Thames, which lately required a new and permanent foundation, may be rapidly constructed by this process. The Lords of the Admiralty, the Board of Ordnance, the Trinity Board, and other branches of government, have verified the truth of this novel principle, and are adopting it upon various parts of Ihe English coast. The Trinity Board directed a pile of 2 1/2 feet diameter to be driven on the pneumatic principle, and the state of the weather required it to be done at three intervals; on Saturday, July 19, 1845, the pile, in three hours, descended 22 feet; the following Monday, in one hour, it descended 10 feet further; on Saturday, the 26th, in an hour and a half, the application of the air pump caused the tube to descend another 19 inches ; thus making an aggregate descent of 33 feet 7 inches, in five hours and a half, not as the result of brute force, which very probably, exerted its most tremendous extent, could not have accomplished, but as the triumph of ingenuity and science over the untaught exertion of human muscles, the quiet subjection of inert passive matter to the dominion of philosophic mind. Franklin, harmlessly beguiling the destructive lightning by means of a kite and string, on an iron wire, ensuring results the most astonishing, by a simplicity of apparatus that gave into his hand power over the elements, was but in his day the exponent of a principle seized by Dr. Potts — an intelligent familiarity with the laws of the material universe, with the principles that govern the displacement of physical masses and the relations they respectively bear, has enabled him to make the yielding air his servant in driving into the earth the heaviest bodies. The adoption of the system must be universal, and though engineers and contractors cannot but be already familiar with the process, there is in the doctor's invention so much of the history of human progress, that we doubt not our notice of it will be acceptable to the general reader,— Canterbury Journal.'[9]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1856/06/27
  2. [1] Memorials of the Goodwin Sands by George Byng Gattie, 1904
  3. Morning Chronicle - Friday 17 September 1841
  4. Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 12 August 1842
  5. Morning Herald (London) - Wednesday 13 October 1841
  6. The Engineer 1866/06/29 page 469.
  7. Hertford Mercury and Reformer - Saturday 21 December 1844
  8. Hereford Journal - Wednesday 3 February 1847
  9. Sussex Advertiser - Tuesday 12 October 1847