Tommy Astles - Common Law of Nuisance - 1869.

Business Economics - wealth creating technology or political shenanigans ...

In 1869 the Warrington Guardian reported that Thomas Astles had found himself in trouble with the law!

Tommy loved the Common Law of England ... customary law which evolved over centuries in the courts of the land to resolve all manner of tedious disputes as folk went about their daily social business. Some of those decisions of the courts which reflected acceptable practice at the time survived and were spread throughout the land creating a stable understandable system of 'common' practice. In this way trades in Anderton were conducted in the same manner of mutual respect as trades in London. Endless time wasting disputes and feuds could be avoided and folk could get on with their jobs.

He was happy that the common law had been codified and was generally applicable, spreading trust throughout a larger community. He was also happy that the court decisions were flexible as new circumstances developed ... and the industrial revolution had brought about spectacular new circumstances ...

Tommy knew he was in a cleft stick as he addressed the court at Daresbury and described the operations in his manufactories and the control of nuisances in his own words - 'as far as practicable', 'practice proved by scientific evidence from an engineer', 'a mechanical and steam engineer', 'the consumption of smoke was more to his own benefit than anyone's else', 'he adopted a plan of his own based on his practical and experimental knowledge, he trained his men', 'no one had watched the chimney more than he', 'The Engineer's Society, Salford, said the plan was as good as any they had seen', 'unavoidable circumstances', 'heat was essentially necessary for the consumption of smoke' ...

He also knew the salt, manures and saltpetre that he produced in his manufactories were essential riches that kindled the industrial revolution ... and provided jobs for local families ...

He remembered how the plague spread along the rich trade routes in the old days, and how as it decimated folk it impoverished everyone. Was manufacturing now bringing both riches and disease?

The dense mass of working people brought together by the rapid growth of manufacturing resulted in unprecedented sanitary difficulties and disease. The first sanitary Act was passed in 1388 which imposed fines upon persons who cast animal filth and refuse into rivers and ditches. In 1489 an Act prohibited the slaughter of cattle within cities and boroughs. But it was the ravages of cholera in 1841 that galvanised parliament into action.

1846 saw the first of a series of Acts for the removal of nuisances as local Justices and Boards of Guardians were empowered. In 1848 the great and comprehensive Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Act was passed. Were nuisance & disease separate subjects? Or was it all basic inspired economics as Tommy suggested? Spewing & rotting filth was a manufacturing cost at two levels - the degradation cost to quality and value and the disease cost to suppliers, workers & customers.

The summary of legislative acts confronting Tommy Astles was awesome. Endless new & amended Acts all saying the same thing with different words along with constant reorganisations of committees & responsibilities ... it all seemed like a hectic panic, and failed to acknowledge that all progress seemed to come from new knowledge & 'know how'.

Passing laws was the easy bit. Ignorance of causes and absence of corrective technology were the underlying issues for Tommy Astles. Progress and solutions depended on science and technology.

The Royal Sanitary Commission of 1871 included in their report the following sentence -

... but how could they, they were a class apart ... although they did call for the central committees to be packed with scientists of the highest scientific knowledge ... perhaps they would have done better to co-opt into their deliberations a hairy engineer like Tommy Astles ... but then, no doubt, Tommy would have been too busy developing his life saving technologies and have little spare time for committees ...

Tommy knew the MPs were pushing at an open door, there was money to be made in reprocessing filth! But the development of enabling technology was not helped by tax appropriations for committees ... 

On Saturday July 3rd 1869 The Warrington Guardian reported the court proceedings -
Before Edward Greenall Esq (Chairman), B Pierpoint, and Lieutenant Colonel Greenall.

Thomas Astles was summoned as the owner or occupier of lands and premises situate at Anderton, on which there exists a nuisance, to wit, a chimney not being annexed to a dwelling house, which sends forth smoke in such quantities as to be a nuisance. Mr Cheshire, clerk to the Northwich Board of Guardians, attended to support the information. This, he said, was laid under the Sanitary Act of 1866, section 19, clause 3, and also under the Nuisance Removal Act for England. The first Act invested Boards of Guardians with the duty of prosecution where there was no Local board and no Corporation, and the second Act defined the offence. In the present case the Inspector gave the defendant notice to abate the nuisance as long ago as December 1867, and after the date of that notice the Inspector had no complaint to make till the 4th March in the present year, so that the effect of the notice was to make him careful. Since the latter date, for some reason or other, either by carelessness of his men, or some other reason, the nuisance had increased very much. It was a rather different case to others because the nuisance was caused by an engine chimney, and it was a recognised fact it was more easy to apply smoke consuming apparatus to a steam engine than to other processes of manufacture. He knew there was a steam engine belonging to the River Weaver Trustees in Castle Northwich, to which the apparatus had been applied and had succeeded admirably. If the defendant adopted the same process he thought he would be able to do away with the nuisance arising from his works. Mr Cheshire then called Arthur Arrowsmith, one of the Inspectors of nuisance for the Northwich Union. This witness after proving the service of the notice stated that on March 4th he made observations on the defendant’s chimney which smoked 29 minutes in one hour and seven minutes, on March 6th it smoked 22 minutes, seven, nine and six minutes in 41 minutes, on the same day it smoked twelve, eight and five minutes, the smoke issuing during the twelve minutes being very black. On the April 10th it smoked eleven and eight minutes; May 1st, nine and six minutes; May 6th 29 minutes out of 63 minutes; May 29th 18minutes out of 40 minutes. The smoke was black and its effect was to darken the atmosphere and blacken the buildings around. It was also much thicker in March than it had been previously. He had a conversation with the defendant on the previous Thursday when he admitted having cautioned his men for allowing the issue of black smoke. The smoke emitted was a nuisance. Cross examined by the defendant: Do you know the sole and indispensible laws by which smoke can be consumed? Witness: I am not aware of that. Defendant: I shall be able presently, your Worships, to produce scientific evidence to prove that. George Arrowsmith, another of the Union inspectors, gave evidence that he some time ago had occasion to serve the defendant with notice to abate a nuisance caused by black smoke and between that time and the month of March1869 he had never been able to detect any black smoke for more than a few seconds at a time. In March it got a great deal worse. Samuel Longshaw, farmer in Anderton, said he was well acquainted with the defendant’s premises and constantly saw smoke issuing from his chimney. He had 25 acres of land almost ruined by the smoke. Cross examined by the defendant: His land was surrounded by salt woks and smoke came from the works altogether. This was the case for the prosecution.
The defendant said he believed the complaint was made under the Nuisance Act, a copy of which he received from Mr Cheshire as far back as 1866, accompanied by a note requesting him to take means for consumption of smoke on his premises. Having quoted the clause in the Act which has been repeatedly given in reports of these cases defendant stated that he was a mechanical and steam engineer and was occupier of the premises complained of in this case. Their’s were not salt works but steam boiler furnaces of which they had three. Their chimney was large for its purpose and about 90 ft high and the draught was good. They had an excess of boiler accommodation having double the quantity which was considered necessary for driving engines of their power. He had for a long time directed his attention to the consumption of smoke, knowing it was more to his own benefit than anyone’s else that it should be consumed. Being under that impression he adopted a plan of his own based on the knowledge not hearsay but practical and experimental, that oxygen gas and heat in sufficient quantities and brought into contact in a proper manner with the smoke, was the sole and indispensible means of consuming smoke. The proper arrangements were made by him and he trained the men into the proper use of them and that they might the more exactly follow out his directions he had explained to them in different ways and from time to time the nature of the action of those means. No one had watched the chimney more than he had as he lived near the premises and he was perfectly satisfied that according to the meaning of the Act no nuisance was existing caused by that chimney and that the smoke was consumed as far as practicable. They had heard the evidence of Mr Longshaw which they thought was no evidence at all but if it was necessary he did not think there were another person in Anderton who would say that black smoke to be complained about had for several years been emitted from their chimney. The making of a little smoke at times was unavoidable as he thought he would be able to prove by the scientific evidence of an engineer from Manchester. That the smoke complained of by Mr Arrowsmith was emitted from their chimney under unavoidable circumstances and that it was so little that it ought not to have been complained of as he thought he should be able to prove by several witnesses. Mr Astles went on to state that in the morning it required some time to effectively consume the smoke in consequence of letting the furnace cool and the same applied to any stoppage which might occasionally be made in the day. He then called Charles Millward, of Salford, practical engineer and a member of the Engineers’ Society, Salford, who said his experience in the consumption of smoke was considerable and he had both seen appliances for the purpose and their effects. He had seen the plan now in use at the defendants works and considered it as good as any he had seen. After describing the plans adopted the witness said that if the gases mingled the smoke was consumed, whatever plan was adopted. Heat was also essentially necessary for its ignition a bright red heat. If the furnaces were cooled it would be impossible directly after to consume the smoke. The smoke inspector at Manchester who was a practical man, in two or three cases which he knew had passed over the emission of black smoke for a few minutes while getting up steam. In reply to questions of Mr Cheshire witness said a great deal depended on the firemen, smoke would be made with any apparatus it they were not careful. Mr Hazelhurst weighing clerk to the British Salt Company stated that his office was opposite the defendant’s chimney. He could see it from where he sat all day and for three months he had not seen anything to complain of. He was there on the 4th and 6th of March, no smoke at all came from it then. The Chairman: Not even for a moment? Witness: When they are getting the fire up it cannot be avoided. It is not black smoke to be called a nuisance. Mr Cheshire: Then what you mean to say is that you do see smoke come out of the chimney but it is not sufficient, in your opinion, to cause a nuisance. Witness: Just so and when I do see it, it is not more than a minute. In answer to further questions from Mr Cheshire witness said is duties as weighing clerk called off his attention from the window for a few seconds and he had fifteen minutes at liberty. He never noticed that the fields roundabout were injured by the smoke. For ten hours out of every day he would not know there was fire at the bottom of the chimney. In reply to Mr Pierpoint witness said he took notice of the chimneys round about in consequence of the late nuisance prosecutions. John Moreton of Anderton stated that he lived a few hundred yards from the chimney in question and that he had never known it to smoke worse than the rest or anything to complain of. Cross examined by Mr Cheshire: He would not swear that he had not expressed to the inspectors his satisfaction that they were coming about there. He attended the Northwich and Manchester markets and therefore was absent sometimes, during which time the inspectors might have seen the chimney smoking. He had never made any memorandum of his observations. William Boardman, farmer, also residing in Anderton stated that he had not seen anything in connection with the defendants chimney to complain of. In cross examination by Mr Cheshire defendant admitted having made complaints to Mr Arrowsmith, but would not say that he had complained of. They had not been about his works. He got as good a crop as anyone and therefore did not think the smoke did him any harm. PC Dalziel of Comberbach, had been employed to meet the inspector 18 months ago. He never saw anything from Mr Astles’ chimney to draw his attention. Cross examined by Mr Cheshire: He had never particularly noticed engine chimneys as he confined his observations to salt works. Defendant having called attention to the provisions contained in the extract of the Act forwarded to him by the Northwich Guardians Mr Cheshire submitted that the proviso relied upon by the defendant did not apply to the case of an engine furnace like the one complained of. The word chimney was not mentioned in the proviso which applied only to the first offence and not to the second, showing clearly a deliberate intention on the part of the legislature to make two separate offences, one a furnace not properly constructed and the other a chimney by itself. The defendant said the chimney itself ought not to be considered it was merely a stack of bricks and of itself could not cause a nuisance. The Magistrates Clerk the proviso was clearly applicable to that part of the Act referring to furnaces & c and not to chimneys. The magistrates retired for a few minutes to consider their decision. Having again taken their seats the Chairman said they were of the opinion that black smoke had been issued from the chimney in such quantities as to be a nuisance and therefore they made an order for it to be abated in two months.
Messrs Bromilow, salt manufacturers were summoned for disobedience of an order made by the bench on the 28th February 1868 to abate a nuisance arising from the emission of smoke from chimneys in their occupation, within two months. Mr Cheshire, who prosecuted on the part of the authorities, said orders to abate the nuisance were made on the defendants and William Hayes at the same time. The cases were very simple. The law was that if it was proved to the satisfaction of the Justices that black smoke was emitted from chimneys on the defendant’s premises, so as too cause a nuisance, they might make an order to abate it, and in the case of non-compliance, defendants were liable to a penalty of 10s a day after the expiration of the time allowed. He thought all he had to prove was that the order was made, and that black smoke has been emitted from the defendant’s premises so as to make a nuisance after the expiration of the two months. PC Dalziel proved having served the order on the on the agent of Messrs Bromilow. Arthur Arrowsmith was called and stated that on the 2nd of November last year he mage observations and found from three of the defendants chimneys, black smoke issued. Mr Green of Northwich, who appeared for the defendants, here objected that the offence should not be dated more than six months back, but the objection was over ruled. Mr Arrowsmith continued, On December 2nd black smoke issued from five chimneys 15, 16, 13 and 17 minutes. Witness also gave the result of observations made by him at different periods from February to May. PC Dalziel and George Arrowsmith also gave evidence. As there were two more summonses for the non-consumption of smoke, the magistrates decided to hear them all and then give their decision in each case at the end. Arthur Arrowsmith gave evidence of his observations at Mr Hayes’ works. He had seen black smoke issuing for as many as 31 and 39 minutes from some of the defendants chimneys. Evidence was given too by George Arrowsmith. Mr Hayes in defence stated that he had tried Hogarth’s plan at his works at Marston, and it had failed. Mr Green, in addressing the bench for Messrs Bromilow complained that that when the inspectors made their visits they did not communicate in any way to the defendants, so that they had no chance of remedying anything wrong and yet they were summoned after eight weeks had elapsed. He mentioned the names of several manufacturers who had tried Hogarth’s plan for consuming smoke, (which seemed to be, he said, in favour with the inspectors) and added that they had all failed. He called in evidence Thomas Fryer, manager to Messrs Bromilow, who stated that they had tried many plans, Hogarth’s among others to consume smoke, and the plan they now had was as good as any he knew. John Lovett, ferryman between Witton and Winnington, near the defendants works had never noticed anything to complain of. Joseph Cox, blacksmith. Anderton, and Thomas Astles, Anderton Hill, concurred in stating that nothing wrong had ever been seen by them. Richard Bostock, gardener at Winnington Hall about 400 yards from the defendants works said the smoke rather benefited him than injured him as it killed insects. William Boardman, farmer, Anderton, did not think the smoke from Messrs Bromilow’s injured his crops at all. George Johnson. Bailiff to Lord Stanley at Winnington had not seen any nuisance arising from Messrs Bromilow’s works for the last six months. Mr Hickson, manager to Mr Higgins, thought Messrs Bromilow’s plan a good one. Thomas Higgins was summoned for not obeying an order made on the 30th of June 1868, the order being to abate a nuisance arising from chimneys sending forth black smoke. Mr Cheshire prosecuted and Mr Roper of Liverpool defended Mr Higgins. The evidence adduced was of a similar nature to that given in the last cases. The inspectors speaking to observing black smoke at different times after the two months expired. In defence Mr Roper said he thought these smoke nuisances cases had now become rather too much of nuisance themselves and were a little too much pressed. No doubt in the first few instances the prosecutions had been beneficial, but works had now been attended too, improvements made and the smoke reduced to a minimum compatible with the manufacture of salt. Mr Higgins had laid out an immensity of money already on his works and he now believed he had reached the minimum of nuisance possible. The result of these prosecutions, if pressed further, would be to make it impossible for manufacturers to go on in their trades so as to pay them. Mr Higgins himself was determined in such a case to stop his works, thereby causing a great number of persons t go on the parish. Mr Roper after some further remarks in which he contended that ‘as far as practical’ the smoke had been consumed, called Robert Hickson, the defendant’s manager. He said he had since the date of the original summons examined a large number of plans and adopted the process which seemed to be the most satisfactory, Hogarth’s, and this had been applied to all the furnaces. On onr day mentioned by the inspector, they had a breakdown causing he furnaces to cool, and in firing up again, Messrs John Lovett, Fryer, Bostock, Boardman, George Johnson jun and Thomas Vernon, residing in the vicinity of the defendant’s works, stated that they had not observed any nuisance arising from them. These concluded all the cases and the Magistrates retired with their clerk for consultation. On their return the Chairman said they were of the opinion that the defendants Thomas Higgins, William Hayes and William & George Bromilow should be fined £5 and costs in each case. Mr Roper asked if the magistrates would request the inspectors to go to the works which they were observing and inform the occupants af any so called nuisance, so that if summoned they might have an opportunity of getting more direct evidence on their behalf. The Magistrates however, thought they could not enter into this question.


back to Weaver Refining Co Ltd.