A plan of the River Calder…

This map shows that, leading up to and during the Industrial Revolution, the improving of rivers for navigation went in tandem with the more celebrated building of canals. The noted engineer and surveyor John Smeaton (1724-1792) has made a map of part of the River Calder from just south of Halifax to Wakefield, listing along the route with variations of capital and lowercase letters the owners of the land,  the places marked for some form of navigational work (mainly locks and bridges) and mill owners.

A plan of the River Calder from Wakefield to Brooksmouth and from hence to Salter Hebble Bridge, laid down from a survey taken  in October and November 1757, with a projection for continuing the navigation from Wakefield to Salter Hebble Bridge near Halifax in the County of York by John Smeaton. 1757. (E) C17 (451) [17]

The whole amounts to a beautifully drawn and engraved map of the river at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and, with it’s listing of owners of lands and mills, a nice glimpse into Yorkshire life around 1757, a glimpse increased by the depictions of the towns and villages along the way, including the important wool town of Halifax. The map is both a plan of the river and a proposal for changes to the river to aid navigation, hence the claiming to be both a map of the river from Wakefield of Salter Hebble Bridge as well as a ‘projection for continuing the navigation…’ between the two. It’s nice to be able to note that the instrument maker Jesse Ramsden was born in Salter Hebble (now Salterhebble Bridge and part of Halifax) in 1735. Ramsden made the theodolite used by General Roy in the triangulation of Britain.

The left and right of the map in more detail.

The way the Calder links up with the other river and canal systems in the area can be seen on this map.

With A map of the existing navigations of Yorkshire… from 1819 all the smaller rivers merge with larger waterways, eventually joining the Humber and from there the North Sea. The industrial importance of the area can be seen by the reference to local industry; coal, iron, waste, lime and chace (a form of metal working) and the map is, like the main map in this blog, a proposal for a new waterway, in this instance the Went Canal, though a proposal that seems not to have come to anything as the Went doesn’t appear on subsequent Ordnance Survey maps.

Smeaton was an important figure in the history of surveying and engineering. Born in Leeds in 1724 after working in law and as an instrument maker by the time of this map he was working on the use and working of watermills. This led to the creation of an equation named after him, the ‘Smeaton coefficient’ which dealt with the power of wind and water to turn wheels in mills, and was used by Orville and Wilbur Wright when they designed and flew the first motor-driven aeroplane, the Wright Flyer, in 1903.

Smeaton’s fame is based on a large number of civil engineering works, including the third Eddystone lighthouse, numerous bridges including those over the Tweed, Perth and Hexham as well as a number of harbours, including this one at Ramsgate, from a map made by Smeaton a few years before he died.

Plan of Ramsgate Harbour and principal works thereof 1790. (E) C17 (451) [63]

The two maps by Smeaton come from a volume of plans and maps of English navigational waterways spanning two hundred years, from the early 1600s to the early 1800s. The collection has the rather appropriate overall title of ‘The Cutt’.