Sir Charles Fox and the Crystal Palace

Sir Charles Fox 1810-1874

I just found a copy of “Sixty-three years of engineering, scientific and social work” by my great great great uncle Sir Francis Fox on His father Sir Charles Fox is my great great great grandfather. I’ve included the introduction as it gives a fascinating account of Sir Charles’ early career as an engineer culminating in his structural work on the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which he was knighted. It’s also interesting because it’s a story told about an ancestor by his son. This history alone would be amazing, but the story includes being looked after by the Duke of Wellington, attending Faraday’s lectures, seeing the first submarine, and more. It’s also helped explain that Sir Charles Fox’s parents were Dr. Francis and Charlotte Fox, and that his siblings were Frank, Douglas, Archibald, Julia, Harriet, and Charlotte.

Sixty-three years ago I began work with my father, the late Sir Charles Fox, and my brother, the late Sir Douglas Fox. Of my father I have written in River, Road, and Rail, but there are some further facts about him which may be recorded here. Soon after the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851, a public dinner was given to him by the Mayor and Corporation of Derby on June 27, 1851. My uncle, Mr. Douglas Fox, who, for three years in succession, held the office of Chief Magistrate of Derby, occupied the Chair, and gave some details about his brother’s youth:

And now allow me to observe that the great and crowning delight of my life was the opportunity afforded of witnessing the well-merited honour done to my beloved brother for his exertions and skill. From his infancy he possessed intuitive mechanical powers, but it has been by his own ability and energy that he has arrived at his greatest measure of success. When he was a child eight years old, if he went into any of the manufactories in Derby, he would return and not only give a faithful description of a machine, but describe with accuracy its mechanical action.

It was the wish of his father that his mind should be devoted to the medical profession,
and he was a student under me until he arrived at the age of twenty; but so inveterately was his mind bent on mechanics that frequently at breakfast his appearance was more like that of a chimney sweep than any decent person ” (cheers and laughter) ” from his having been plying his favourite studies from early dawn. It was by his assistance that I was able to lay before friends the experiments by which my lectures at the Mechanics’ Institution in Derby were illustrated; and I saw that all my hope of my brother becoming a surgeon was gone, and I at once gave him his indentures, and he became a student and eventually an assistant under Mr. Robert Stephenson, under whose fostering care he received a great deal of valuable information.

It was about this date, June 1833, that Dr. Chalmers visited my grandfather’s home in Derby. In his diary, published by Dr. Hanna, his son-inlaw, he says: “I visited the talented and cultivated family of the Foxes, at the Wardwick in Derby, one of the best and most interesting families I ever knew.” This refers to Dr. Francis
Fox and Charlotte Fox, my grandfather and grandmother, and their children, Frank, Douglas, Archibald, and Charles, Julia, Harriet, and Charlotte.

In talking about his early life in Derby, my father used to describe the introduction of gas made from coal, the credit of which was due, among others, to Mr. George Low, who fixed the first light over the front door of my grandfather’s house in the Wardwick. It was regarded as so extraordinary that crowds of people, passing along the street, stopped to gaze at it with wonder and admiration.

When my father gave up the idea of becoming a surgeon, he left Derby for Liverpool, his entire fortune consisting of eight sovereigns. He obtained work under Ericsson (River, Road, and Rail, page 2) ; afterwards with Messrs. Preston & Fawcett, the celebrated makers of machinery, and for a time as engine-driver on the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, at £1 a week. He was present when Mr. Huskisson, a Director of that Company, was killed.

He was eventually articled to Mr. Robert Stephenson and became one of his assistants in the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway (now part of the main line of the L.M. & S.). Whilst thus employed on the London and Birmingham Railway, he received an offer from Captain W. S. Moorsom to act as his assistant on the Birmingham and Gloster Railway with a salary of £750, and was also invited by Mr. Robert Stephenson to go out to Italy to construct the Florence and Leghorn Railway, at a salary of £1,250 a year. Both of these offers he declined, from the conviction that to remain with Mr. Robert Stephenson at the London end of this, the most important line of railway, would not only give him a standing in his profession which he could not hope to attain in any other situation, but would bring him into contact with the many
foreign engineers who visited this great work.

He remained with Mr. Stephenson until the railway was completed and opened for traffic, and then, in order to gain a thorough knowledge not only of the construction and repair but also of the working of railways, he applied for and obtained the appointment of Resident Engineer to the London half of the line, at a salary of £300 a year. He had not been long in this position when he received a tempting offer of £1,500 a year to take over the management of a large establishment in London. But this offer, too, he refused for reasons similar to those I have already described.
He continued to fill the arduous post of Resident Engineer until the end of 1838, when he tendered his resignation and received an acknowledgment for his services in the form of a cheque for £500.

Before the opening of the Exhibition of 1851 I was taken to Paris by my father and mother. We were accompanied by Mr. Thomas Brassey, Mr. Joseph Paxton, and Mr. John Cochrane, who, with my father, had various important matters of business to which to attend. We went to Versailles to select a number of orange trees, growing in large boxes, for the decoration of the Exhibition, and afterwards of the Crystal Palace.
Some of them I believe are still at Sydenham.

Mr. Brassey, the contractor for the Paris and Rouen Railway, asked my father to accompany him to Rouen to inspect the scene of the accident which had just occurred to the great Viaduct on that railway. This was the latest of several unfortunate contretemps which gave rise to the remark that the name of the railway ought to be
changed to ” Perish and Ruin.” On their arrival on the scene they were received by the members of the staff, all of whom were in a state of consternation, as the Viaduct was lying flat on the ground, and they were expecting their dismissal.

Both my father and Mr. Brassey held the opinion that it was a mistake to blame any employe for an accident unless it had occurred through gross carelessness or neglect. If the accident were due to misfortune or to an error of judgment, they considered that the man had been educated at the expense of his employer, and was not likely to repeat the blunder ; in fact he would be the safest man to employ at that particular point.

Mr. Brassey looked at the ruins and then remarked, “It’s a bad job.” My father said, “Well, Brassey, you take it quietly enough. What are you going to do ?” “Do !” was the reply, “put it up again of course; it will only alter the figure at the foot of the column in the ledger.”

While we were in Paris we visited the studio of the famous photographer M. Daguerre, one of the earliest workers in what was then a new art, who gave his name to the once popular Daguerreotype. He was the maker of perhaps the earliest form of stereoscope, that ingenious contrivance which enables the object photographed to stand out so wonderfully in relief.

I have a considerable collection of these photographs prepared for the stereoscope, all printed on silver plates.

We stayed at the Hotel Bristol in the Place Vendome (looking on to the Rue de la Paix). My father had a suite of apartments in the hotel, as it was very central, and he had to be in close touch with the Emperor Napoleon III and the members of the French Government. Amongst the many important works which he assisted in carrying out, not only in France but elsewhere on the Continent, may be mentioned a portion of the Paris and Marseilles Railway, between Dijon and Tonnerre, with its great number of tunnels; the large bridge over the River Saone at Lyons; the railway from Geneva to Amberieu; the Berlin waterworks ; the harbours at Kiel and Korsoer ; the railway from Copenhagen to Korsoer; the drainage of Harlemmer-meer in Holland; and the great bridges over the River Danube at Budapest and over the River Dnieper at Kieff.

It was in 1850 that my father was first asked to interest himself in the building of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The Commissioners had received 240 different designs, but to Mr. (afterwards Sir) Joseph Paxton belongs the credit of the scheme ultimately adopted—a palace of iron and glass with many novel details of design. In like manner it was due to the energy and skill of my father, afterwards Sir Charles Fox, that Paxton’s bold project, based upon the Chatsworth conservatory, was translated into accomplished fact.

It should be borne in mind that although the building was intended to last only for two or three years, it has stood on its present very elevated site at Sydenham exposed to all the vicissitudes of our climate for seventy years, and is still in such good condition that, with a continuance of the care bestowed upon it by Mr. Wright, the present engineer, it may confidently be relied upon to stand for another long term of years.

In my book, River, Road, and Rail (John Murray, 1904), were narrated some of the difficulties which arose in the erection of this unique structure. Some further interesting and amusing facts have come to light, which are worth recording.

The troubles and opposition that were encountered from the first were almost insuperable. One of the first difficulties was to obtain possession of the site in Hyde Park between the Serpentine and the Knightsbridge Barracks. This was effected only on July 30, 1850, ten months prior to the intended opening on May i, 1851.

The Solicitor to the Treasury gave it as his opinion, that until a Royal Charter was obtained the Commissioners could not legally proceed, and were, therefore, not in a position to give an order to anyone. My father’s firm, however, faced the risk of preparing the drawings and making arrangements for the erection of the building without waiting for the grant of the Charter. At the same time they requested the Commissioners to appoint Mr. (afterwards Sir) Joseph Cubitt, the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, as their representative with whom to consult. It was not until October 31, 1850, that the Charter was obtained, and by this time my father’s firm had expended £50,000 without any security from the Commissioners. Lord Granville stated publicly that ” but for the courage thus evinced by them, the Exhibition of Industry of all nations would never have taken place.”

One of the greatest difficulties was to find a sufficient number of firms of iron founders to supply the girders and columns, and to ensure that these would fit together exactly when deposited on the site. Standardisation was, therefore, adopted, so that everything should be a multiple of eight, and the bolts and bolt holes should all correspond.

Perhaps one of the most hazardous and certainly the most interesting part of the work was the raising of the sixteen ribs of the transept to their places. A month was the shortest time allowed for this operation, but they were all fixed in eight working days, the last one being put in place in the presence of H.R.H. the Prince Consort. The question of preserving the large elm trees on the site had to be dealt with, and this was solved in most cases by the introduction of the fine centre transept, referred to later on, instead of the flat roof proposed in Mr. Paxton’s original sketch. An immense improvement was thus effected in the appearance of the building. One or two of the trees, however, were in the exact line of the fagade of the structure, and their removal was essential. Application was accordingly made to the Office of Woods and Forests for permission to remove them, and the following peremptory reply was received from Lord Seymour (afterwards Duke of Somerset) : “I thought that my former letter had been distinct enough to satisfy you by an explicit answer: I object to any tree being cut.”

But an equally high official, Lord Grey, wrote to Lord Granville:

The Prince is very anxious that the trees which are to come down for the building should be cut at once, before any ill-natured person can move anything about them in the House of Commons. Once down, they will puzzle even Lord Brougham to put them up again. If they could be cut down in the morning and the carcases at once removed, I am sure from experience in such matters they could never be missed. Would it be impossible to get them down to-morrow?

A meeting was therefore arranged on the spot, when all who were interested attended, but the leading official ordered that “the trees must not be touched.” My father turned to his foreman and said, “John, you hear what this gentleman says : on no account must this tree be removed.” “All right, sir.” That night the Gordian knot was cut ; the tree was felled, and, as Lord Grey had said,when once down it could not be reinstated.

Two thousand three hundred men were employed on the work, besides many thousands of others in the blast furnaces, foundries, and work’ shops of every kind throughout the kingdom. The entire building, covering an area of 18 acres, was erected in twenty weeks. The glazing, which ran into many more acres, was executed with great rapidity by means of a large number of tents travelling on wheels which ran in the gutters of the roof. The workmen were thus enabled to fix the glass and putty in the stormiest weather. It is an interesting fact that many of the original sash bars, made of ordinary timber, lasted over sixty years, and were only removed from the building quite recently (1918-20).

The extraordinary speed with which the building was erected went some way to justify the statement of a well-known and competent authority of the day that ” England possesses mechanical appliances and physical energies far exceeding those which gave form and being to the most celebrated monuments of antiquity.”

At the dinner mentioned on page 1 the guest of the evening gave an amusing list of objections raised by scientific bodies, and men of high position, intending to prove the impossibility of erecting and maintaining such a fabric.

” As the building progressed,” said Sir Charles Fox, ” I was assailed on all sides, not only by unprofessional persons, but by men of high scientific attainments who doubted the possibility that it could possess, as a whole, that strength which was necessary to make it safe against the many trying influences to which it must be subjected. This opinion was held, notwithstanding the careful calculations which had been made, and the satisfactory proofs to which all the important parts were individually subjected, as soon as these parts were put together, thus producing a structure of unparalleled lightness. One gentleman, after complimenting me on the beautiful appearance of the building, stated his belief that it would never come down unless it tumbled down, hinting that the first gust of wind would blow it down like a pack of cards. Another, holding a high scientific appointment under Government, after a long investigation of the various parts of the building, expressed at the Institution of Civil Engineers a belief in the entire absence of safety in its construction; and after explaining the mode of connecting the girders with the columns by means of projections technically called ‘ snugs,’ went on to indulge in an airy prophecy* that a wind exerting a force equal to 10 lb. per superficial foot would bring such a strain upon these snugs as to break them all off, and cause them to fall down in showers.[* This refers to Punch’s amusing remark that the Astronomer Royal, Professor Airy, should have been Professor Windy.]’ I may just remark that since the expression of this opinion the wind gauges around London have registered in the late storms upwards of 20 lb. per foot : and I have pleasure in informing you that the encouraging predictions of this gentleman as well as those of many others have not yet been fulfilled.”

“It may be amusing and not uninteresting to enumerate briefly some of the difficulties and dangers which were foretold:

“1. We should never get through our work in time.

“2. The foundations were defective, and would surely give way,

“3. The building was more like scaffolding than anything else, and was so light that it must tumble down.

“4. The weight of the goods and people in the galleries would be sure to bring down the building; and if the mere weight did not produce the effect, the vibration caused by people walking, or more especially running, would be sure to do so.

“5. The girders, expanding by the heat of the sun, would push the columns out of their places, and in so doing would break them, and let down the building.

“6. That if it should happen that the weight and vibration did not produce the effects expected, the equinoctial gales would at all events finish the business.

” 7. That if the building was not blown down, the sashes or windows were so feeble that they would assuredly be blown in or out, but it was difficult to say which.

“8. That the glass was so weak that it could not resist a gale of wind, but would inevitably be blown to pieces.

” 9. That if the wind did not act as was expected, firing cannon in Hyde Park on the opposite side of the Serpentine could not fail to demolish the windows.

“10. That the first hailstorm would leave the whole roof without glass.

“11. That by the vibration of the moving machinery the building would be gradually shaken loose in all its connections, and must consequently fall down.

“12. Such were the fears entertained for the safety of the galleries containing the large organ and choirs, that a request was made to Dr. Henry Wylde by some members of the Jury for musical instruments that he would, previous to the inauguration, urge upon my mind the necessity for an investigation into the results likely to ensue from the effect of the vibration whichwould be brought into action during the performance of the National Anthem.

“13. That the vibration caused by the diapason pipes of the large organ would shake out the glass, which would fall in showers upon the spectators; and our Chairman was accordingly instructed by the Commissioners to make experiments with the view of ascertaining what the result would be—and these experiments were officially made on the day previous to the opening.

“Many of these misgivings appeared in the newspapers and one foretold that we were on the eve of a frightful catastrophe, but wisely abstained from pointing out the nature of the danger we were running. In fact, statements of this kind were so frequent and pointed, that we were often seriously advised to reply to them, but feeling confident we were right, and that we should succeed in all that we have undertaken, and consequently that the more people spoke against us, the more complete would be the reaction in our favour, we abstained from taking any notice of what was said, leaving the public to amuse themselves in the matter in any way they thought proper.”

I was only seven years old when the Exhibition was opened, but I used to visit the building with my brother Douglas during its erection nearly every day, and on several occasions with the old Duke of Wellington. He was almost the only man who thought the work would be completed in time, and he used to pat my father on the shoulder, saying, ” You’ll do it yet.” On one of these occasions my father was called away, and he requested the Duke ” to look after my boys that they do not get into danger from the machinery.” His Grace took my brother Henry and myself both by the hand, and we found it impossible to release ourselves from his iron grip. We felt, in later years, that we understood how he won the battle of Waterloo, and earned the
title of ” The Iron Duke.”

A pleasing incident occurred on the opening day. The Duke was an early arrival, and he
walked up to my father and, grasping his hand in both of his, said, ” Didn’t I say you would have it ready in time ? ” As a marvel of rapid work it has never been equalled either before or since.

The following letter was written by Queen Victoria to her uncle the King of the Belgians two days after the opening of the Exhibition:

Buckingham Palace,
3rd May 1851.

My dearest Uncle,
I wish you could have witnessed the 1st May 1851, the greatest day in our history,
the most beautiful, and imposing and touching spectacle ever seen, and the triumph of my beloved Albert. Truly it was astonishing, a fairy scene. Many cried, and all felt touched and impressed with devotional feelings. It was the happiest, proudest day in my life and I can think of nothing else. . . . The triumph is immense, for up to the
last hour, the difficulties, the opposition, and the ill-natured attempts to annoy and frighten, of a certain set of fashionables and Protectionists, were immense: but Albert’s patience, firmness, and energy surmounted all, and the feeling is universal. You will be astounded at this great work, when you see it !—the beauty of the building, and the vastness of it all. I can never thank God enough. I feel so happy, so proud. Our dear guests were much pleased and impressed. . . . Now good-bye, dearest Uncle, Ever your devoted Niece,
Victoria R.

Before describing the circumstances which led to my own entry upon engineering work in 1861, I may perhaps be allowed a few varied recollections mainly concerned with London, of a time now long past.

One of the greatest attractions in London in those days was the entertainment by Albert Smith depicting the ascent of Mont Blanc, with his inimitable description of Switzerland and of the Swiss, who, at that date, were but little known to the public.

The Diorama or Panorama in Regent’s Park, on the site of which the Baptist Church of the Rev. W. Landels was built at a later date, was also very interesting. We were ushered into a dimly lighted passage, draped with heavy darkred velvet curtains, leading into what was apparently a small chamber equally sombre, and called ” the ascending room “—the first attempt, it is believed, at achieving the modern lift, or elevator. The doors were closed ; we were conscious of the working of some machinery, and also of some kind of mysterious movement ; and when this ceased and the doors opened, we found ourselves on a circular gallery at a considerable altitude. In front of us was a life-like representation of the ” great earthquake of Lisbon ” with the accompanying noise and crash of falling buildings.

On other occasions was shown ” London by day,” followed by ” London by night “—spectacles which lived long in the memories of those who saw them.

” The Polytechnic ” in Regent Street, since remodelled by Mr. Hogg, was a most excellent and instructive institution, under the control of the well-known scientist Professor Pepper, of ” Pepper’s Ghost ” fame, assisted by Mr. King, who lived at Merton.

One of the great features of the Polytechnic was a daily lecture by Mr. King, illustrated by lantern slides, on any event that had just occurred, sometimes only the day before, in distant countries. In after years Mr. King told me of the immense amount of research (undertaken in the shortest space of time) that these demonstrations demanded, adding that ” although there was on the Throne our beloved Queen Victoria, there was only one King,” The old diving-bell and diver, announced by the loud gong of unusual power ; the glass blowing ; and many other highly instructive demonstrations filled every moment of one’s time on these visits.

Professor Faraday’s Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution were great events in our lives as children. His simple experiments and explanations were a never-failing source of pleasure ; and if an experiment did not always succeed, we were intensely delighted with his investigation into the cause of the failure, and appreciated his kind and sympathetic treatment of the assistant, who was never blamed for carelessness in the arrangement of the apparatus.

Professor Faraday after his lectures sometimes came to our house in Portland Place. When the meal was over he would play “hide and seek” behind the furniture of the three drawing-rooms,and often pursue us children on his hands and feet in the role of a bear.

During the Crimean War, about 1855, Lord Dundonald proposed a method for capturing, at a cost of a million sterling, the great fortress of Kronstadt, protecting St. Petersburg—or Petrograd as it is now known. By an arrangement with the Admiralty, he had to divulge his scheme to my father, under an oath of secrecy. I have a copy of my father’s report, in which he stated his opinion, without giving any details, that the project would be successful.

But although the declaration of peace rendered its application unnecessary, my father would never give us the slightest idea of what had been proposed. All we did know, and that was a matter of common knowledge, was that a mysterious vessel had been built by Scott Russell in his shipyard at Millwall for travelling under water. I remember seeing this, the first of submarines, lying on the banks of the Thames, resembling a Thames barge turned upside down. Alongside of her the Great Eastern steamship was then being slowly launched sideways from the same yard. This submarine had been sent into the English Channel and was there cruising about, when one day, coming up to ” breathe,” she bumped against the keel of a sailing collier, and dented some of her own plates. She was compelled to return to Millwall for repairs, and there we frequently saw her, lying on the muddy banks.

About the year 1861, as a young man of seventeen, I accompanied Lord Clyde to Shoeburyness to witness the testing, for the first time, of the Warrior target. This vessel, H.M. iron-plated steam frigate of 6,170 tons, was at that date the largest vessel afloat, with the exception of the Great Eastern, and was coated with armour 4 and half inches thick. The experiments were not only to test the resisting power of this armour, but also the penetrating effect of a flat-ended shell having neither percussion cap nor fuse, and depending entirely on the heat generated by the impact against the iron plate to explode the charge, which was contained in a flannel bag in the shell. The great object was to have a missile which would deliver the blow as a solid shot, and would not explode until after the perforation of the plate. This would then blow to pieces the heavy oak backing, which was several feet in thickness.

When all was ready the visitors were ordered into shelter, but with the enterprise and curiosity of youth I looked round the corner to observe the result, and was rewarded by seeing the enormously high flame generated by the impact. Investigation showed that a clean hole had been punched through the plate, and the strong oak backing blown into matchwood. The effect of such a missile striking a ship of that period can be better imagined than described.

On our return to London, Lord Clyde was very silent and depressed. He told me he was wondering whether the wars of the future would not bring developments against which man would be unable to stand.

Further recollections bring to my mind the construction of the Victoria Embankment between Westminster and Blackfriars which replaced the mud banks of the Thames. In the old days a large number of penny, and even halfpenny steamers plied up and down the river, and these had to be reached by floating gangways across the mud at low water. Mud banks also extended all along the river in front of the Houses of Parliament. The available waterway was much improved by the removal of the old masonry bridge now replaced by the modern (and none too strong) Westminster Bridge.

Early in the ” sixties,” when, of course, all vehicles on the public roads were drawn by horses, one’s sympathy was often aroused on behalf of these poor animals. They suffered grievously when descending the declivities so often encountered in London thoroughfares ; such, for instance, as the incline from the Strand to Whitehall, which exists to-day, and the steep gradients of Holborn and Newgate Street before Holborn Viaduct was built.

Brakes were seldom provided, and the wretched animals in their efforts to retard the heavily laden vehicles, would slide down the hill on their haunches. On the up journey their sufferings were painful to witness. In 1870 I wrote to the Omnibus Company suggesting the provision of brakes, but getting no satisfactory reply, I purchased the necessary shares to enable me to attend the Company’s annual meeting, and speak publicly on the subject. It was not only the treatment of the horses, but also the hard lot ofthe drivers and conductors to which I wished to draw attention, in those days now happily past. Year in, and year out, these men were kept at work for sixteen hours a day and more—Sundays included, for they never had a Sunday’s rest unless they paid for a substitute. If a man applied too frequently for a Sunday off, he was dismissed. Men with families scarcely ever saw their children, except when they were abed and asleep.

I attended a meeting and spoke on both subjects, but met with much opposition. The manager objected that the cost of brakes would be prohibitive. As for the men, if they were dissatisfied they could leave. For every vacancy, he said, there would be at least 800 applications.

I declined to accept these statements. I pointed out that if brakes were adopted, the harness could be greatly simplified and reduced in weight, the breeching, the saddle, and the crupper could be dispensed with, and only the bridle, collar, and traces need be retained. I had taken the precaution of getting a design for the brakes, together with a definite offer from a well-known omnibus builder, to supply and attach a suitable brake for £5 a vehicle. I showed that the saving in horseflesh and harness would soon defray the entire expense. As regarded the men, I appealed to the chairman and directors to deal humanely with them, with kindness and consideration.

The chairman replied that my proposals were absurd, and as the manager was determined not to adopt my suggestion, I, being a young man and not anxious for notoriety, left the room in disgust, sold my shares, and severed my connection with the Company.

My protest, however, had not been in vain, for, within a few months, brakes began to be fitted, the harness was simplified, and in a comparatively short time there was not a brakeless bus in London. The men too had their hours of work materially reduced, and in other ways they were better treated.

It had been my father’s intention to send Douglas and myself to Cambridge, and my name was actually entered at Trinity College, when an unfortunate and very serious accident befell my father, upsetting all his plans for our future, and changing the whole course of our careers. It happened at one of our seaside watering-places, where the tide, one night, washed away part of the esplanade, leaving a yawning crevasse in the footway which was invisible in the darkness. Approaching the spot during the evening, my father stepped unconsciously into the gap and fell a considerable depth on to the fractured masses of masonry and concrete. Being a powerful swimmer, he would probably have escaped unhurt, had it been high tide ; but the water was low and he was very badly injured and rendered unconscious by the fall. He recovered consciousness to find himself lying on a table at the police-station, a passing constable having heard his groans and procured assistance to convey him there. My father survived the accident some thirteen years, but never completely recovered from its effects. Its immediate result was the cancellation of the Cambridge arrangements, and my brother and myself were compelled to plunge into work forthwith. I was conscious of the fact that my education was arrested, and determined, as far as possible, to make up the deficiency by private study, and by attending the lectures of Professor Tyndall, Dr. Miller, and other leading men of that day. With these studies were combined work in mechanical shops where could be learnt the use of tools, in turning, pattern making, smithing and forging, besides civil and mechanical engineering; and lastly chemistry under my old and valued friend, the late Dr. Stead, F.R.S., of Middlesbrough. Both my brother and I were, about the years 1867-70, officers in the London Rifle Brigade, which, years later in the Great War, did such magnificent work for the Empire.

Our firm, under the title of ” Sir Charles Fox & Sons,” consisted of my father, my brother Douglas,and myself ; but eventually after many years it was changed to its present firm, ” Sir Douglas Fox and Partners,” to enable the younger generation to be admitted as partners.

Sir Francis Fox 1844-1927
Posted in Fox

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