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long been out of print, and very few people have read it or even heard of it, and it is for this reason that I have given this brief outline of its contents. The fine obituary notice of Owen by his contemporary and friend, Mr. G. J. Holyoake, together with the book on his life and times by his fellowworker, Lloyd Jones, show that I have in no way exaggerated either his character or his achievements.
BEDFORDSHIRE : SURVEYING
It was, I think, early in the summer of 1837 that I went with my brother William into Bedfordshire to begin my education as a land-surveyor. The first work we had was to survey the parish of Higham Gobion for the commutation of the tithes. It was a small parish of about a thousand acres, with the church, vicarage, and a good farmhouse on the highest ground, and a few labourers' cottages scattered about, but nothing that could be called a village. The whole parish was one large farm ; the land was almost all arable and the fields very large, so that it was a simple piece of work. We took up our quarters at the Coach and Horses public-house in the village of Barton-in-the-Clay, six miles north of Luton, on the coach-road to Bedford. We were nearly a mile from the nearest part of the parish, but it was the most convenient place we could get.
An intelligent young labourer was hired to draw the chain in measuring, while I carried a flag or measuring-rod and stuck in pegs or cut triangular holes in the grass, where required, to form marks for future reference. We carried billhooks for cutting rods and pegs, as well as for clearing away branches that obstructed the view, and for cutting gaps in the hedges on the main lines of the survey, in order to lay them out perfectly straight. We started work after an early breakfast, and usually took with us a good supply of breadand-cheese and half a gallon of beer, and about one o'clock sat down under the shelter of a hedge to enjoy our lunch.
My brother was a great smoker, and always had his pipe after lunch (and often before breakfast), and, of course, the chain-bearer smoked too. It therefore occurred to me that I might as well learn the art, and for a few days tried a few whiffs. Then, going a little too far, I had such a violent attack of headache and vomiting that I was cured once and for ever from any desire to smoke, and although I afterwards lived for some years among Portuguese and Dutch, almost all of whom are smokers, I never felt any inclination to try again.
Three miles north of Barton was the small village of Silsoe adjoining Wrest Park, the seat of Earl Cowper, whose agent, Mr. Brown, was known to my brother, and had, I think, obtained for him the parish survey we were engaged upon. A young gentleman three or four years older than myself who was, I think, a pupil of Mr. Brown's, was sent by him to learn a little land-surveying with us, and was a pleasant companion for me, especially as we were often left alone, when my brother was called away on other business, sometimes for a week at a time. Although the country north of Barton was rather flat and uninteresting, to the south it was very picturesque, as it was only about half a mile from the range of the North Downs, which, though only rising about three hundred feet above Barton, yet were very irregular, jutting out into fine promontories or rounded knolls with very steep sides and with valleys running up between them. The most charming of these valleys was the nearest to us, opening behind the church. It was narrow, with abundance of grass and bushes on the sides of a rapid-flowing streamlet, which, about a quarter of a mile further, had its source in a copious spring gushing out from the foot of the chalk-hill. On the west side of this valley the steep slope was thickly covered with hazel and other bushes, as well as a good many trees, forming a hanging wood full of wild flowers, and offering a delightful shade in the heat of the afternoon. About a mile to the east there was an extensive old British earthwork called Ravensburgh Castle, beyond which was another wooded valley; between these was a tolerably level piece of upland where the villagers played cricket in the summer.
My friend, whose name I forget (we will call him Mr. A.), was a small-sized but active young fellow, very good-looking, and quite the dandy in his dress. He was proud of his attractions, and made friends with any of the good-looking village girls who would talk to him. One day we met a pretty rosy-cheeked girl about his own age-a small farmer's daughter-and after a few words, seeing she was not disinclined for a chat, he walked back with her, and I went home. When he returned, he boasted openly of having got her to promise to meet him again, but the landlord advised him to be careful not to let her father see him. A day or two after, as we were passing near the place, he saw the girl again, and I walked slowly on. I soon heard loud voices, and, looking back, saw the girl's father, a big, formidablelooking man, threatening the young Lothario with his stick, and shouting out that if he caught him there again with his girl, he would break every bone in his body. When the young gentleman came back he was not the least abashed, but told us the whole story very much as it had happened, and rather glorying in his boldness in not running away from so big and enraged a man, and intimating that he had assuaged his anger by civil words, and had come away with flying colours.
One day he and I went for a walk over the hills towards Hitchin, where on the ordnance map a small stream was named Roaring Meg, and we wanted to see why it was so called. We found a very steep and narrow valley something like that called the Devil's Dyke near Brighton ; but this was thickly wooded on both sides, and the little stream at the bottom, rushing over a pebbly bed, produced a roaring sound which could be heard at a considerable distance. This northern range of downs has the advantage over the south downs of having numerous springs and streams on both sides of it, and these are especially abundant around the ancient village of Toddington, five miles west of Barton, where the ordnance map shows about twenty springs, the sources of small streams, within a radius of two miles.
It was while living at Barton that I obtained my first
information that there was such a science as geology, and that chalk was not everywhere found under the surface, as I had hitherto supposed. My brother, like most land-surveyors, was something of a geologist, and he showed me the fossil oysters of the genus Gryphæa and the Belemnites, which we had hitherto called “thunderbolts," and several other fossils which were abundant in the chalk and gravel around Barton, While here I acquired the rudiments of surveying and mapping, as well as calculating areas on the map by the rules of trigonometry. This I found very interesting work, and it was rendered more so by a large volume belonging to my brother giving an account of the great Trigonometrical Survey of England, with all the angles and the calculated lengths of the sides of the triangles formed by the different stations on hilltops, and by the various church spires and other conspicuous objects. The church spires of Barton and Higham Gobion had been thus used, and the distance between them accurately given ; and as the line from one to the other ran diagonally across the middle of the parish we were survey. ing, this was made our chief base-line, and the distance as measured found to agree very closely with that given in the survey. This volume was eagerly read by me, as it gave an account of all the instruments used, including the great theodolite three feet in diameter for measuring the angles of the larger triangles formed by distant mountain tops often twenty or thirty miles apart, and in a few cases more than a hundred miles; the accurate measurement of the base-lines by steel chains laid in wooden troughs, and carefully tightened by exactly the same weight passing over a pulley, while the ends were adjusted by means of microscopes; the exact temperature being also taken by several thermometers in order to allow for contraction or expansion of the chains; and by all these refinements several base-lines of seven or eight miles in length were measured with extreme accuracy in distant parts of the country. These base-lines were tested by repeated measurements in opposite directions, which were found to differ only by about an inch, so that the mean of all the measurements was probably correct to less than half that amount.