THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 40
THE WEARMOUTH RAILWAY BRIDGE & THE WEAR
BRIDGE (1882) (& RELATED ETCHING)
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It is always a pleasure to access my e-mail in the morning and find that someone, somewhere in the world, has been in touch & has provided new data about Thomas M. Hemy & his works. So I sincerely thank Brian Wharmby of Leicestershire, U.K., for providing the fine work that is presented on this page. And also the work on page 41, that used to also be on this page. Both are sepia etchings of the River Wear in Sunderland, & both are 50 cm x 35 cm in size.
To the webmaster, the work with the old iron bridge over the river is most dramatic, especially with its splendid lighting. And that image has accordingly been presented first along with, below & separately, the header of the print. The print also bears an interesting insignia, of a sextant with motto, which Brian informs me was unofficially used at the time as the Arms of the City of Sunderland. Brian informs me also that the bridge carried a plaque of those Arms. That insignia can be seen here, should you wish to see it.
The image, while not titled, is signed in pencil below the image by the artist. It identifies Hills and Co as being the publishers with a date of September 1, 1893. The work has not been removed from its frame, so it is possible that more data is recorded on the rear of the print. Brian acquired the prints (on this page & on page 41) at a Newcastle upon Tyne auction in May 1974. Both were, I understand, framed by J. Burnham, Gilder and Picture Frame Maker, of 1 Derwent Street, Stockton Road, Sunderland.
THE WEARMOUTH RAILWAY BRIDGE AND THE WEAR BRIDGE
It may very well be that the image at left is the original work which became the above etching. It was at auction at Tennants Auctioneers in Jul. 2006.
Now Tennants have a number of locations & this was in a sale conducted at Leyburn in North Yorkshire, U.K., on Jul. 20, 2006. The work was described as being:
'The Wearmouth Railway Bridge and the Wear Bridge' Shipping on the Wear with Figures and Buildings in the Foreground. Signed and dated '1882', also extensively inscribed on various later labels verso with historical details of the bridge and other documents relating to a further picture by the same artist in Sunderland Museum, pencil and watercolour heightened with white with scratching out, 49cm by 64cm (19¼in by 25¼in). Estimated sale price £400-600.
I now learn, thanks to Mr. Andy Dennis of Sunderland, U.K., that the work sold at the Tennant's auction for £1,700, rather higher than the pre-sale estimates. Andy advises also that the purchaser was not the Sunderland Museum. And that in fact the work was bought by a most interested private collector. Thank you for your input, Andy!
Were the actual purchaser to see these words, it would be of great interest to know the content of the 'other documents' referred to in the auction listing.
SOME WORDS ABOUT THE TWO WEARMOUTH BRIDGES
It is appropriate, I believe, to provide information on this page about the two Wearmouth bridges depicted in Thomas Hemy's works, which truly are unique depictions of a bygone age in the history of Sunderland. However the webmaster has never visited Sunderland, & errors can easily creep into text when one writes words without first hand knowledge. Hopefully any errors in my text will, in due course, be identified & brought to the webmaster's attention by Sunderland residents perhaps or by others whose knowledge will permit.
The bridges are essentially side by side & parallel to one another.
THE RAILWAY BRIDGE The main subject of the Hemy etching on this page is the railway bridge, depicted so dramatically in his work. It was, I learn, built in 1879. So while it looks well used & black with grime, indeed looks as though it had sat there for decades, it was just three years old when Hemy painted it. Andy Dennis advises that the bridge today provides service between between Newcastle & Teesside. And more recently, since 2002, it serves the electrified local Tyne and Wear Metro commuter system between Newcastle & South Hylton.
The bridge (designed by T. E. Harrison) looks most impressive to the webmaster. 'When built it was the largest hog-back iron girder bridge in the world - the single span of 300 feet (91.4 metres) is 86 feet (26.2 metres) above high water.' But Sitelines seem quite unimpressed. In their words on a 'Historical Themes' page re bridges - 'By contrast, Wearmouth Railway Bridge ... built in 1879 for the North Eastern Railway, is of rather dull design.' So there, take that, Thomas Hemy! But I like the bridge & I suspect others will like it also. And it has stood there & served the city for 130 years! Until the bridge was built in 1879, rail service ended on the north bank of the river while the city of Sunderland essentially occupied the south bank.
And here is the railway bridge today (in front of course in the left image) in a 'Ian Britton' image available on 'FreePhoto.com'. I cannot spot a way to thank Ian for the use of his image. At right is an image kindly taken for the site by Mr. Andy Dennis, photographed from a location quite close to where Thomas Hemy set up his easel in 1882.
And next is a fine photograph indeed, of Engine No. 67689 crossing the 1879 railway bridge - An Allan Edwards image. I saw this image on the 'old photos' section of Bob Exton's 'Circle City Communities' website and particularly here. The full size complete image is available at that link at the click of the mouse. I do not show all of it here so that you can view it without scrolling. We thank both Allan Edwards for the use of his image and Bob Exton for obtaining Allan's kind permission. From the 1960s, I suspect.
THE ROAD BRIDGE A visitor might appreciate a little knowledge of Sunderland and of its past to appreciate the history of the road bridge. First, one should understand that Sunderland is close to the North Sea, & that the River Wear (pronounced Wee-er & tidal to some distance above Sunderland), astride which the city sits, flows through some very high banks indeed. For generations, one could & did cross the river by ferry but with some considerable inconvenience. One would cross by a chain ferry, or by a flat bottomed rowing boat called a 'coble' or maybe 'cobble'. But the gorge was so wide that no bridge in stone, then the way that bridges were constructed, could span the gorge which is 250 feet or 75 metres wide. A further difficulty was that the bridge needed to be constructed in a single span, so there would be no impediment to tall masted ships passing underneath it. Sunderland's main business at the time was the export of coal by sea & access to the coal loading docks by sea-going vessels was quite essential.
The vessels were not the giant ocean going vessels of today. Rather smaller vessels of 300 or so tons, workhorses of the maritime trade. They carried the coal to London & to other markets in the south of England.
The answer lay in the use of cast iron, a new technology at the time. If such a bridge could be constructed it would permit the wide span to be bridged in a material that would endure.
In Jun. 1792, the King approved an Act of Parliament which empowered a bridge over the river to be constructed. The foundation stone was laid on the north side on Sep. 24, 1793. Bridge abutments were commenced & finished in 1795. Almost all of the bridge cost was subscribed for by one Roland Burdon, M.P. for Co. Durham.
The bridge was tested by marching 1,000 militiamen across it on Jun. 18, 1796! I bet they were glad when it didn't fall down, because it would have been a long, long fall to the water below! There might have been a better way to have tested the bridge!
The above image came from the site of the 'University of Newcastle Upon Tyne' website available here ("©SINE Project"), whom we thank. And here is the 1796 bridge again. Substantially the very same view of it. It comes from 'Wearsideonline' here, whom we also thank. I cropped the image a bit and darkened it also for better presentation on this page. Both drawn from a vantage point to the west of the bridge. I read that the roadway itself was 22 feet wide while at each side were raised 5 feet wide stone flagged footpaths.
And another fine image of the 1796 bridge thanks again to 'Wearsideonline' here. Who have a 4 page gallery of Sunderland images on their site. And seem to generally promote the Tyne and Wear area.
The bridge opened with great fanfare on Aug. 9, 1796, the opening being presided over by Prince William of Gloucester & attended by some 80,000 people. It was, when it opened, the largest single span bridge in the world. A toll bridge for traffic & pedestrians, the pedestrian toll being abolished in 1846 & the traffic toll only in 1885.
And here is that 1796 bridge again, as it was depicted in 'Illustrated London News' in 1842, viewed from the east, as reported low on this page on this most ambitious of sites, run perhaps by 'J. Weedy' who has 3,000 past issues of ILN & proposes over 20 years or so to show them (and more) on his (or her) site. An amazing and worthy purpose indeed for which he (or she) invites support. That first link shows descriptive words under the bridge image which reports of a person 'who met his doom by leaping from the highest point of Sunderland Bridge'. I am sure that he was not the first to end his life in that way & certainly was not the last.
In these pages, the webmaster is happy to present related data from any source providing it relates to the theme. So next I show an image of the 1796 bridge as it was illustrated on a piece of pottery! A most valuable piece of pottery it would seem. The jug was sold via e-Bay in Sep. 2006 for GBP 280 or approximately U.S. $ 527.49. It had a little damage, it would seem, & surely would have achieved an even higher price had it been of perfect quality. The jug is stated to date from c. 1840, created by the J. Phillips & Co, Sunderland Pottery. This is the 3rd face of the jug depicting the Coat of Arms of 'The Grand Union of Oddfellows'. It would seem that this is not the sole depiction of the bridge on pottery. See below for the 1929 bridge in blue pottery.
I must soon re-organise these pages, because this page with its data and imagery about the Sunderland bridges is becoming much too large for comfort. But until such a re-organisation is accomplished here is a splendid image indeed - entitled 'Sunderland' - of the River Wear bridge in 1832, said to originate from 'Meyer's Universum'. Viewed from the west. The print, available for purchase in Oct. 2006, is 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches in size on a page 7 x 10 1/2 inches in size. The image I present originates with 'martin2001', of Virginia, U.S.A., a friend of the site if I may so describe him, whose fine prints have featured in many of my site pages. Why so? Because the images he chooses to present of his sale items are of a consistently fine quality. The listing has some related text which however seems not in fact to relate to this fine image. 'Martin2001', I thank you again.
Now 'martin2001' dates his print as being from the 1850s. 'Meyer's Universum' would seem to have been published over many years. 1833 is the earliest date I could quickly spot & 1858/59 the latest. Most valuable volumes indeed. I have also seen this print available on e-Bay hand-coloured & said to originate from 'Westmorland, Cumberland, Durham and Northumberland Illustrated' - from original drawings by Thomas Allom (1804-1872). And dating from 1832, hence my dating above. It would seem to have not always been published exactly as it appears below. For your interest, here is another T. Allom print, engraved by W. Le Petit, essentially identical in its content, but with the area along the bottom quite different. We thank Gary Defty of Manchester, U.K., for that image.
And next another quite similar print that originates, I understand in Finden's 'Ports, Harbours & Watering Places of Great Britain', published in 1842. The print is entitled 'SUNDERLAND' & the following words are under the bottom of the print: '(THE BRIDGE FROM THE WESTWARD)' & 'London. Published 1836 by Charles Tilt, 86 Fleet Street.' It shows the 1796 River Wear bridge in a panoramic view from the west. Drawn by G. Balmer & engraved by W. Finden. We thank Gary Defty for this image also. A coloured version of the print is also available. Thought to be c. 1845.
The prominent structure at left in the print below is, I learn, a lime kiln & would seem to be in fact located at about the same spot from which Thomas Hemy later painted the railway bridge almost 50 years later. There were, & indeed still are to this very day, lime kilns on the banks of River Wear, but they are located a little further west, on the north bank opposite Deptford. James Bryce of the 'Southwick History and Preservation Society' (SHAPS) kindly advises that there were two independent lime kilns located there, specifically the Burdis (or Burdes) and the Bowes (or Bowers) kilns. Now with a 'listed building status', I read, which I presume means they will continue to be preserved.
An old print of a lime kiln, maybe one or other of those two named kilns, can be seen via this page. And a 2004 image of the restored kilns is available at that link also. And I now see that through that page an SHAPS website is available with almost 1,300 local images including a series of 13 images of the Southwick kilns & their setting today (images #702 through #714). You can gladly access the site & the image archive but the many thumbnail images will take a while to download. To me the most representative image was this one, #708, which shows the taller Burdis/Burdes lime kiln in the foreground & the Bowes/Bowers lime kiln behind in a photograph taken in Jul. 2004.
That first bridge had a modest 'hump' in the centre, as you can see in the images above, a hump which proved to be of some considerable inconvenience to traffic. And with the passage of time major repairs became necessary. The bridge was substantially repaired in 1805. In 1858 a major reconstruction of the bridge was carried out to the recommendations of consultant engineer Robert Stephenson & a reconstructed bridge, now substantially of wrought iron, was opened on Mar. 5, 1859 absent the 'hump' in the centre.
It is the 1859 bridge that one can see peeping underneath the railway bridge in Hemy's watercolour and print. And in the print that next follows:
It was described on the website of Justin F. Skrebowski, seller of antique prints, of 177 Portobello Road, London, W11 2DY, U.K., as being:
'after W. R. Robinson' and 'London, R. Vint & Carr c. 1860. Steel engraving or woodcut. Original hand-colouring. 320 x 465 mm.'
My purpose on this page is to depict the bridge alone so I have cropped the available image. Should Mr. Skrebowski prefer the print not appear on this page, I will of course remove it.
The University of Newcastle believes that the print dates from 1841, was engraved and printed by W & A. K. Johnston of Edinburgh and is of the proposed bridge across the river - see this page.
The 1859 bridge is well illustrated indeed in the image that follows - originally published, in 1863, I read, in 'Reid's Handbook to Newcastle Upon Tyne'. The print appears on the most extensive 'Pictures of Gateshead' site, the effort of Mr. Andy Williamson. You can see the image on his site via this page (4th row). And his 'front door' is here. Andy, we sincerely thank you! Images of the 1859 bridge seem to be relatively scarce & this one is a beauty.
And here again is that same 1859 bridge, in a dramatic print that shows the now long gone 'Ironworks' of S. Tyzack & Co. The image comes from the site of the 'University of Newcastle Upon Tyne' and can be seen here ("©SINE Project") along with another image of the 1859 bridge. Indeed, at that page you can 'zoom in' on the print, to view it in greater detail. To the webmaster's eyes the bridge seems to 'dip' a little in the centre, but I am sure that is not, in fact, correct.
That 1859 bridge survived until 1927, when construction commenced of a new bridge with prominent arches, reminiscent of the Sydney Harbour bridge in Australia. It re-used balustradings from the prior bridge as much as possible, & the same pattern was used for the new railings required.
The bridge was opened on Oct. 31, 1929 by the Duke of York (later to be King George VI). Decorative panels at mid-span panels were included with the words 'Nil desperandum auspice deo' which I gather essentially means 'Do not despair, put your trust in God'.
Those Latin words, I now read, were on the city arms or seal of the City of Sunderland.
Both of the last two images, depict the bridge, drawn, I believe, from the east.
The panels, indeed the whole 1929 bridge, is/are still there today.
The next image shows the 1929 road bridge in a recent image with the 1879 railway bridge (or the track & a bit of the bridge at least) just visible at left. The image came from a City of Sunderland site, a page which may no longer be available but was preserved in Google memory. I thank the City of Sunderland & hope that use of the image on this non-profit & informational site is in order. A comment which applies equally to other images on this page. Next below that image is a composite image of the 1929 road bridge which shows the opening of the bridge in 1929 & one of the decorative panels mentioned above. The bridge opening image, taken from the south bank on the east side of the bridge, came from Carol Green's interesting web page which seems no longer to be available. For a while, I could not find again the image of the decorative panels to be able to thank the source of that fine image. But have since done so. It is image # 2 in a number of images provided by the BBC available here. We thank the photographer whose name, however, seems not to be stated.
And here is a postcard image dating from 1931, a Valentines postcard mailed from Sunderland on Jan. 17, 1931. Of the then quite new road bridge. I think my scanning of it might be improved, however.
And here is the 1929 bridge in pottery! Artistic licence I presume, since there would be no position from which such a view would be possible - since the railway bridge IS, like it or not, there. This image is ex e-Bay & the jug featured no less than six U.K. bridges. A 'Rington Tea Merchants' (Rington's of Algernon Road, Newcastle On-Tyne) bowl by Wade Ceramics with a reference to 'Maling". I now read that 'The 'Maling Pottery' of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, was in production from 1762 to 1963, the first Maling pottery being established by William Maling at North Hylton, near Sunderland, in 1762. In 1817, Robert Maling, (3rd generation) moved the facilities to Newcastle where it continued to manufacture through 1963. Maling was associated with Rington from 1928 through 1962. The jug was 6 1/4 or 6 1/2 inches wide by 3 1/2 inches deep. Old? Not particularly I suspect, but collectible most certainly. That e-Bay item sold for GBP 14.50 or approximately U.S. $27.13. Many such bowls have been available, one for the more modest price of GBP 5.19 or approximately U.S. $9.91.
The above is a distillation of words from many sites. For greater detail than I can provide here, may I suggest you access other WWW sources including an interesting two-page pdf document by the City of Sunderland that is most informative. One can even buy a 'cross-stitch' pattern of the 1929 bridge, I see, 6th item down on this page!
If YOU can provide, for use on this page, large scans of early engravings of the bridges, or other images that relate to the general subject, your contribution would be most welcomed.
We sincerely thank Brian Wharmby for images of the above etching. And Tennants Auctioneers and Tyne and Wear Museums for what may be the original work. If YOU could add more information, do please contact the webmaster.
And do visit the next page, i.e. page 41 for the artwork & print entitled 'Old Sunderland'.
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