A Conversation for The History of English Black Powder and Gunpowder

The History of English Black Powder and Gunpowder

Post 1


Nice succinct article Bob.

I'd love to know where you found the poem about the Waltham Abbey mills - I've never seen it before despite a lot of wandering about! Can I ask why you think it was "composed to be painted on the face of the factory clock"? I wonder if you're merely trying to make sense of the obscure reference to "Mr. bridges' clock" in the lines, even though they say that the mills were "portrayed" on the clock rather than the poem.

In fact, Henry Bridges, a local man, became briefly famous after having constructed a very large ornate astronomical clock in 1718. It had numerous dials and several painted scenes - including one of the gunpowder factory. See these URLs for starters:


[note: the last bracket needs to be included! Type it in by hand]


This "Microcosm" is, then, what the poem is referring to. After Bridges' death, the Microcosm was acquired by Edward Davies, a businessman who showed it at different venues all over Britain - and further afield - for a small admission fee.

"The "Microcosm of London" was advertised in 1755 by Henry Bridges in an advertisement printed by [Benjamin] Franklin that is no longer extant. This object is another large musical clock that is preserved in the British Museum. It traveled around the colonies and was displayed in other cities. A broadside advertising its display in Boston in May 1756 is in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society." (From http://www.ephemerasociety.org/articles/barnhill.html - about 3/4 down the page.) [Note: I believe this ref. is partly confused, as 'the Microcosm' (clock) was distinct from 'The Microcosm of London' (a book of London views first published by Ackerman in 1808). I don't believe that the clock was ever referred to as 'of London.']

There are several versions of a multi-page pamphlet advertising various British Microcosm shows in the British Library. One version is described here: http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetails?bi=866322581 .

Henry Bridges' memorial is still standing in Waltham Abbey churchyard (near the south doorway); its inscriptions were carefully recarved in 1974.

"Worthy Walton" was John Walton, proprietor of the gunpowder mills in 1735. His widow Philippa sold them to the govt. in 1787. There is still a "Walton House" on the site, now offices and display space, which was once Philippa's home. She is still seen there to this day, keeping an affectionate eye on the place, if you happen to look up at a certain window from outside at the right moment!

I have no idea what 'River's model' was, though it was undoubtedly something to do with the River Lea, on which the gunpowder mills were (and are) sited, which has a long history as a navigable water course (going back even to King Alfred's reign!) and one of the most important water supplies to London. It has numerous channels, not all natural, the River Lee (sic) Navigation being the result of several Acts of Parliament (see for example http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/History16.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Lee_Navigation ). The engineer Robert Whitworth also published "A Report and Survey of the Canal, Proposed to be made on one Level, from Waltham-Abbey to Moorfields" but this appeared about 40 years after the poem was written, and his proposed canal was never built anyway.

Regards, eldeworth. smiley - alesmiley - ale

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