Prof. Hugh Torrens
|Interview||List of publications||Sydney Savory Buckman publications|
More on J.B.longmire is to be found at items No 191 (1991) and in a section of No 385 (2016) of my online bibliography.
Economic historians have recently claimed that the main single reason for the rise and timing of the British Industrial Revolution was in its relation to the use of coal. This allowed a coal-fuel technology to evolve 1. In the same way it has also been claimed with much conviction that the delays in the industrialisation of the United States of America were due above all to the general non-availability of any coal based fuel before the 1830's 2. Similar problems have been suggested as one explanation of the difficulties faced by Russian industrialists in the same period 3. R.C. Taylor clearly showed the dependence of Russia on coal imported from Great Britain, which rose from 2,316 tons in 1810 to 150,422 tons in 1845 4; leaving Russia by then one of the few countries in Europe that still imported coal for manufacturing purposes.
However it would be wrong to think that Russia was slow in trying to reverse this trend. Several attempts to find native coal supplies there were made by foreign prospectors from at least 1722 5 up to the period of the series of attempts described here in 1817-21, near Tula south of Moscow the "Sheffield of Russia" where there were extensive ironworks much needing good quality coal.
J.B. Longmire, the Englishman principally involved in these attempts was born on July 1 1785 at Crowmires in the picturesque village of Troutbeck, Westmorland in the northern English Lake District. His father James Longmire (1749-1831) was a yeoman farmer there, owning his own small estate and married John's mother, née Elisabeth Bateman (1752-1797), in 1775. She was the more significant in influencing her younger son's career towards mining as she was a younger sister of one John Bateman (1749-1816). The Bateman family came from the neighbouring Westmorland village of Crook where they too were farmers 6.
The immediate area of Crook and Troutbeck is now known to lie on Ordovician and Silurian sediments and volcanic rocks. It is some miles from the Coal Measure rocks of Western Cumberland or the epigenetic mineralisation of the central Lakeland area. Not that the immediate area of Troutbeck is of any limited geological interest. It was a quarry near the Low Wood Inn on Lake Windermere only 3 kilometres from Troutbeck which in 1788 had yielded specimens to prove to James Hutton (1726-1797) and John Clerk (1728-1812), that the claimedly "primitive Schistus mountains" in Cumberland contained marine fossils; which were not supposed to occur in such rocks 7. These rocks are now known to belong to the Ordovician Coniston Limestone 8.
For reasons which are still uncertain, John Bateman, who was a second son, decided to become a mining engineer or viewer as the profession was then called 9. In later letters of 1805 and 1809 he records he had then been a collier or involved in coal about 38 and 44 years respectively suggesting he entered the profession between 1765-7, at the age of 16-18. He was certainly employed at Howgill Colliery at Whitehaven, Islest Cumberland in 1772 and in 1774 was appointed under-viewer or steward in charge of Howgill and Scalegill collieries 10. He was also for a period before this employed in the early 1770's as an under viewer at Willington Colliery near Wallsend on Tyneside 11, at a salary of £60 a year under William Brown senior "the most important viewer of his day" 12 Bateman on his return from this colliery in the North East of England was under-viewer at Howgill Colliery under James Spedding (1720-1788), son of another of the foremost mining engineers and inventors of his time Carlisle Spedding (1695-1755) 13. But after a dispute in 1781 James Spedding was forced to retire and was replaced by Bateman as manager of all the Lowther family collieries at Whitehaven whose trade was mainly with Ireland. Bateman continued in office here until January 1791 when the miners accidentally broke into old workings which caused flooding and major subsidence in the town of Whitehaven 14. James Lowther (1736-1802), first Earl of Lonsdale, the then owner of the Whitehaven Collieries abruptly sacked Bateman and replaced him with Thomas Wyley (c. 1726-1798) who, however, became an alcoholic.
Despite this major set back in 1791, Bateman then got to work at the documentation of the Whiteman mines he knew so well and by September 1793 had completed a manuscript Account of sundry experiments made to ascertain the specific gravity and thickn ess of the different strata or layers of Coal etc....... in Howgill and Whingill Coallieries, near Whitehaven 15. This was an investigation designed to demonstrate the qualities of each particular seam since the lighter the coal the better it was thought to be 16. This investigation of the deepest pits then in Britain was done at the request of Richard Watson (1737-1816) Bishop of Llandaff, who lived at Calgarth Park, very near Troutbeck. He was deeply committed to the utility of a knowledge of the stratification of British Isles 17 and the need to encourage it at public expense 18. Watson sent Bateman's paper to Sir Joseph Banks for possible publication in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society with a covering letter from Whitehaven doctor Dr Joshua Dixon (c. 1745-1825) to Watson, which hinted that Bateman should also be considered for Fellowship of the Royal Society. But he was not elected and his paper was returned unpublished. Bateman however also sent a significantly modified version of the same paper to the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society in 1794 19. This also survives 20 and the modifications dating from 1771, demonstrate that Bateman was then clearly aware that Coal was to be found, and to be sought, beneath a cover of 11 either Limestone or Red it Freestone or sandstone 21 contrary to the "opinion maintained by many viewers about Newcastle and in Scotland". Bateman was elected an Honorary member of the Newcastle Society for this paper in 1794 22.
In 1794 23 Bateman's nephew J.B. Longmire came to Whitehaven to live with Bateman at the age of nine with his only surviving sister Agnes Longmire (1783-1830) later Wilson. The reason for their leaving home in Troutbeck is clearly connected with their father's illicit relationship with Margaret Atkinson (1765-1868), by whom he had an illegitimate son Robert in 1794 24. This relationship was only legalised in 1798 after the death of his wife Elisabeth (née Bateman) in 1797! John and his sister Agnes lived at Bateman's house at Corkickle a suburb of Whitehaven, and are presumed to have attended a local school for a short time.
In May 1802 the first Earl of Lonsdale died and soon after Bateman was reinstated by his successor as Lord Lowther's colliery manager or viewer in August 1802 at the impressive annual salary of £500 25. He soon started to reverse the major decline in production of coal which the Lowther collieries had experienced in the decade under Wyley and others' inept managements but not without difficulties as Oliver Wood has described. J.B. Longmire worked to assist his uncle in reversing this decline, at first as an office clerk and copyist to Bateman but having been carefully and thoroughly trained by his uncle as a collier viewer he was soon also helping in colliery surveying work 26. In January 1804, with his uncle's intercession, he was appointed under-viewer with, responsibility for the entire Howgill colliery complex 27 at the age of only 18. Two years later his annual salary was £300 28 only £200 less than that of his uncle, but this figure included premiums of £l48 paid when profits exceeded £30,000 that year, on top of his £l52 basic salary.
In 1777 the Whitehaven collieries were already described as perhaps "the most extraordinary of any of the known world.... being sunk to a depth of 130 fathoms (238 m) and extended under the sea to places where there is, above them, sufficient depth of water for ships of large burden. These are the deepest coal mines that have hitherto been wrought; and perhaps the miners have not in any other part of the globe penetrated to so great a depth below the surface of the sea" 29. Such mining brought particular technical problems, the solution of which meant the Whitehaven collieries had become, by the first decade of the nineteenth century, some of the most advanced technologically in the world.
Newcomen steam engines had been early on introduced here (in 1715) to deal with dewatering the mines, and such steam engines were in use 30 underground here by 1776 30. Transport of the coal above and below ground was also amongst the most advanced anywhere 31. In the period 1802-1811 under Batemads management cast iron rails were being introduced to the local tram-road complex, 20 miles (32 km) of which was underground. In 1817 early experiments were also made with a steam locomotive for haulage but it was not successful. Steam winding of coal here was first via a water wheel in 1787 32 and then by an early direct steam winding engine introduced in 1791 using the patented two cylinder engine 33 developed by Workington-born Adam Heslop (1760-1826). In 1811 the largest steam engine ever erected a Newcomen pumping engine of 120 H.P. with 82 inch cylinder and 8 ft (2.4 m) stroke was completed at William Pit 34. In 1815 about 900 men were employed in the Whitehaven collieries 35.
In all of this J.B. Longmire was heavily and directly involved, both in the multifarious engineering and surveying operations needed and in the often very dangerous coal-mining activities 36. Details of his activities both above and below ground in what were then both the deepest (272.5 m) and largest coal mines in the country 37 much of them below the Irish Sea, survive in the many letters written between Bateman and the Earl of Lonsdale over 1802-1811. Of particular note was the complex sinking of William Pit at Bransty just north of Whitehaven in which John Longmire was particularly involved 38. It started in 1804 and at a diameter of 15 ft. (2.3 m) was completed to 630 ft. (192 m) in 1812. This pit was regarded as the best equipped in the country at the time 39. It closed in 1955.
William Lowther (1757-1844) second Earl of Lonsdale, as he became in 1807, seems to have been a highly enlightened, if patriarchal, employer and he encouraged John Longmire in a number of ways, purchasing apparatus and books in 1804 which would help with his coal-viewing career 40. Of John his uncle proudly wrote in May 1804 "I have great satisfaction in saying [Coal Mining] Business is his greatest pleasure and if he continues to improve himself at the same rate he has done I shall have great credit in making him a Collier" 41. In June 1804 Longmire was allowed to join a small team which went from Whitehaven, with Lord Lowther's permission, to visit and study the machinery used in the coal mines based on Newcastle-on-Tyne in the North East of England 42. On this occasion Longmire met John Buddle (1773-1843) then the best colliery viewer of this area who in July 1804 is reported as having gone along with this Whitehaven party "and explained every thing to them where he was employed. The other General Agents [at other collieries) did the same" 43. Later Bateman wrote "when John was at Newcastle Mr Buddle was so much pleased with his remarks and memoranda that he made him a very handsome offer to go into his Service if he could be spared". Longmire's reported reply is significant "he said he had no will of his own, he was wholly at your Lordships disposal". Bateman proudly concluded John "is perfectly free from all vice, his progress is astonishing, he will beat us all very soon" 44.
In April 1805 Bateman, Longmire and an Edinburgh based coal-viewer called John Grieve set off on a further month-long tour to report on all the collieries on the western coasts of England and Wales which competed with the Whitehaven collieries' lucrative coal-exporting trade with Ireland 45. Part of their report has survived and shows how thorough this survey was 46. After their return Longmire seems to have made further visit, to the Sussex limeworks of Lord Ashburnham. Since Lord Lowther also owned limeworks in the Whitehaven area 47 a comparative visit there was also thought useful.
In the winter of 1806-7 Longmire was given leave of absence by Lord Lowther for a more significant journey, to attend the winter series of lectures at Edinburgh University. He attended as a matriculated student and is known to have attended classes in Chemistry and Physics 48. He was away from November to at least June 1807 49 and visited a number of Scottish collieries and iron works during the same period, as well as a further visit to the Newcastle collieries on his way home.
One of the many duties John Longmire had as an underviewer was to mark out sites for trial boreholes both within the then known area of the West Cumberland coalfield and in areas further afield outside the known coalfield. Trials of particular significance for his later activities in Russia were made of this latter category in the Carlisle area, well to the north-east of Whitehaven during 1808-10. These were made for the Earl of Lonsdale first at Stainton N.W. of Carlisle and later to the north West at Bowness on the edge of the Solway Firth 50. Both were sited on what is now known to be the unconformable cover of the Triassic Stanwix Shales but Bateman and Longmire were, as we have seen, well aware of the possibility of coal being found beneath such a cover 51. The Stainton trial reached 70 fathoms (128 m) and that at Bowness 68 fathoms (124 m). Both were abandoned in the St. Bees Sandstones below without reaching coal 52, but it is still thought likely today there is coal concealed at considerable depth, in this area and thus these trials were certainly made with a "scientific" basis both for their time and now. John Longmire was involved in visits to the sites "to see the boring paste as it comes up" and was thus specifically informed of the somewhat primitive techniques of English coal borers and prospectors. Longmire was also in charge of writing up the reports of these particular trials.
These trials were soon followed by different trials of a potentially catastrophic nature. These took all the energies and skills of Bateman, Longmire and the whole mining community in the Whitehaven collieries three months to overcome. In November 1809 a drift driven through a fault in the Main Band Seam in the Whingill colliery hit a very large feeder of water which threatened to engulf these workings. Bateman ordered remedial operations to be carried out and John Buddle was summoned urgently from Newcastle to report on the problem 53. He reported that he thought the water came only from old workings and that despite these workings being beneath the sea, he saw no likelihood of the colliery becoming inundated from the sea as was feared. Buddle was proved right but not before superhuman exertions by all involved at Whitehaven with underground fires also to contend with 54. Bateman singled out the engineman Taylor Swainson (1760-1839) and John Longmire for special praise to Lord Lonsdale, "Swainson has behaved nobly, he constantly went with my nephew and together they were able to do anything that is possible to be done and they have the full confidence of all the workmen for judgement and foresight". Later Bateman added his "pleasure in completing this very hazardous business without the loss of any lives" amongst the volunteers who succeeded in averting disaster. Ventilating the workings after such accidents was a particularly dangerous process and brought out the best in some of the work force and the worst in others. Longmire then "ran very uncommon risks - his last effort in the dark to determine if the fire was out was hazardous in the extreme, at first no person would go with him but when Tom Marley found him going alone, he said he would die with him as he could not lose his life in company with a bolder fellow". Longmire's readiness to share the risks run every day by the colliers made him very popular with them 55 - a particular irony in view of one of the reasons for Longmire's subsequent dismissal from Lord Lonsdale's service in 1811, namely the colliers' public rejoicing at his return.
In 1810 Longmire was also appointed one of the surveyors to the local Turnpike trust 56 but the major effort in this year was completing the complex machinery for the new William Pit which had been started in 1804. For some reason which is not known Bateman even tendered his resignation as colliery viewer in April 1810 57 but was persuaded to stay after a personal visit made by Lord Lonsdale. The great Newcomen Engine of 120 H.P. was then being erected under Longmire's supervision and first set to work in October 1810. Longmire seems to have had a particular aptitude for things mechanical 58; a very requisite skill among collier viewers of this period.
In late 1810 Longmire was taken ill for the first time since his arrival at Whitehaven sixteen years before. What his illness was is unknown but it seems likely to have been a breakdown caused by overwork in the previous year. Bateman wrote of him in December 1810 in a most significant way ".... John.. seems at present very fond of power, he will not let the lads do anything he can help, his nor any other constitution can perform the duty long [that] he at present performs". Although Longmire recovered from his illness by January 1811 59, such a breakdown may help explain what is otherwise inexplicable, namely his sudden departure from Whitehaven in March without warning his uncle 60 and, crucially, without asking permission from his employer. He was away from March 6 to August 19, although little is known of his movements. In a letter of July 4 he writes "I am at present attending [Robert] Jameson ['s lectures at Edinburgh University] on Natural History.... the most interesting part of the course to me (Mineralogy) is nearly over" 61. Few details of Robert Jameson's (1774-1854) Natural History course seem to be available in print though the synopsis has been published 62. Jameson was a remarkable man especially for his breadth of interests but his views in geology were at this time excessively influenced by his former tutor A.G. Werner (1749-1817) and Jameson's influence on stratigraphical thought in forcing English and Scottish rocks into what was a Wernerian straitjacket was clearly unfortunate. As Joan Eyles has noted this had particular repercussions in the field of coal prospecting 63. This was a subject particularly covered in Jameson's lectures as "Modes employed in searching for Useful Minerals". Jameson's widely used textbook to accompany his lectures classed stratigraphic units into Primitive, Transition and Floetz Rocks 64 and noted that coal mainly occurred in the Independent Coal Formation and in the Newest Floetz Trap Formation and in "Alluvial Land". The first of these, but placed above the Chalk 24th of 26 Strata, was the main formation in which to seek coal and Jameson gave some instruction in how to locate such deposits in another book published in 1805 65, whose chief purpose according to a reviewer 66 was to find coal in Dumfries-shire where it was not known before. Jameson gives details of nine situations in which coal might be sought. He advocated if Floetz-Trap rocks were found, or suspected to cover the Independent Coal Formation, searches should be made but if various sandstones were found instead no trials should be made. The major problem as James Headwick observed was, since there were several red or variegated sandstones in Britain, in knowing which sandstone was which. Despite Jameson, Longmire would have known of the correct Cumberland observation that coal was there quite clearly found below and hidden beneath what are today called the St. Bees sandstones of Triassic age.
William Smith's alternative stratigraphic sequence for England may also have been known to Longmire although Smith himself did not visit Whitehaven until 1821. In 1824 Smith prepared a Geological Section through Yorkshire to the Sea at Whitehaven, but it remained unpublished 67. In any case the sequence worked out by Smith and his followers had by 1818 the major British Coal Measures overlying the Mountain or Carboniferous Limestone 68, a situation which an English coal prospector like Longmire would also have found simply misleading in far away Russia as we shall see.
Longmire's unexplained absence from Whitehaven caused considerable difficulties, loss of coal production and extra work for his uncle 69. Apart from completing Jameson's Lecture course until mid August, to include the lectures on Agriculture and Botany which he had not been able to attend in 1806-7 70, he also made during his absence a tour which extended to Wales, Liverpool, Glasgow and perhaps even Cornwall" to visit the different coal mines to pick up any new machinery now in use" 71. This information would have proved very useful if, as Bateman and clearly Lord Lonsdale always expected, Longmire had succeeded Bateman as Lonsdale's chief colliery viewer.
A possible reason for Longmire's absence may have been his wish to be his own master. This suggestion is made in a letter of July 1811 72. Perhaps too Longmire reacted to the enormous differences then operating between lord and servant. His own salary of up to £300 a year in years when a premium was paid was handsome enough, but has to be contrasted with the extraordinary wealth of Lord Lonsdale whose total income in 1808 was estimated to be between £80,000 and £l00,000 a year, £25,000 to £30,000 of which came from the Whitehaven collieries 73 alone. Longmire seems to have felt he was in his earlier words "wholly at [Lord Lonsdale's] disposal" and wished to change his situation or return only if "he can have an uncontrolled power to act as he thinks right", not believing that he would ever succeed his uncle 74. Whatever the cause of his behaviour and inflated opinion of his own importance, their effects were conclusive, as he was dismissed from Lord Lonsdale's service on 23 August 75. The final straw to bring this about seems not to have been his absence but the way in which his return was publicly celebrated by the colliers and people of Whitehaven (and it was reported Bateman), with the former of whom, as we have seen, he was particularly popular. This not only caused Longmire's dismissal but on 17 September that of his uncle as well 76. With this John Bateman's letters to Lord Lonsdale abruptly cease and this source of information with them.
Longmire is still referred to as "engineer and steward of collieries" in a 1811 Whitehaven directory 77. But after his dismissal in August 1811 at the age of only 26 he started to publish a series of articles on mining geology and technology in the Annals of Philosophy and the Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society written between 1812 and 1816 78 from various addresses in the Lake District and Whitehaven. The first significantly advertised in 1813 as an Essay on Geognosy 79 later became an elaborate Essay on the Shapes, Dimensions and Positions of the Spaces in the Earth which are called Rents, and is a pioneering survey of the origin and causes of the faulting and ductility of rocks. In its terminology and use of Wernerian stratigraphic nomenclature Jameson's influence is clear as is Longmire's wide personal acquaintance with many outcrops and mines in England and Scotland. He thought that coal formations were sediments formed in former lakes and that sandstones were large bars deposited by former rivers, where they had entered these lakes, but he makes almost no mention of true fossils in these papers.
Other subjects covered in these papers include a pioneering essay on the rheology of rocks, water in mines, meteorology, the origin and detection of carburetted hydrogen gas (firedamp) and explosions in mines and the Davy safety lamp. This latter had had an early trial in the Whitehaven collieries 80, where the abundance of fire-damp had earlier spurred the invention of the steel-mill. Longmire however argued that the 'perfect security' it was claimed to give was a dangerous delusion. The lamps were not always safe and would further deteriorate in rough use he claimed, adding that they "enjoyed at present a greater reputation than they will retain". They were in fact banned by Act of Parliament in 1887 and recent research certainly supports his claims 81. Longmire thought that better mine ventilation was really what was needed, on which once again pioneering work had been done in the Whitehaven coalfield from an early period 82.
It is unclear exactly how or when Longmire was recruited for work in Russia. Richard Warner (1763-1857) in recollections written late in life 83 (and thus not completely reliable as far as dates are concerned) records the role played by Count Grigorii Vladimir Orlov (1777-1826) and Dr Iosif Khristianovich Gamel (1788-1862) in recruiting such men. Orlov and Gamel visited Bath (and must have met Warner) in 1814 and were told of William Smith (1739-1839). Smith's work was also known to another influential Russian in Britain Rev. Iakov Ivanovich Smirnov (1754-1840), the Chaplain to the Russian Embassy 84 who had long had an interest in geology and who had also visited Bath and been shown (in about 1802) Smith's stratigraphic collection of fossils 85. He later subscribed to Smith's geological map of 1815.
After Orlov and Gamel's visit to Bath in 1814 86 Gamel was specifically commissioned to find "some English practical mineralogist to direct and superintend coal works in Russia" 87. The services of William Smith were sought through Warner while Smith was in London 88 arranging his collections at the British Museum, which could have been at any time between mid 1815 and mid 1817 (and most probably in 1817). Smith was either unwilling to go or could not be contacted in time 89. Gamel, who travelled all over the British Isles from 1814 to 1818, reporting on the state of science and technology in Britain to the Russian Government, had started a major tour of Northern Britain late in 1814. By December 1814 he was in Newcastle studying George Stephenson's (1781-1848) new locomotive and staying with John Buddle (1773-1843) the Newcastle-on-Tyne colliery viewer 90. In view of the always close connections between the Whitehaven and Newcastle collieries, Buddle would certainly have known of the summary dismissal of Longmire from the Whitehaven colliery service a few years earlier and is very likely to have then been the intermediary responsible for suggesting Longmire's recruitment for Russia. For most of 1815 Gamel was on tour in Scotland and Ireland returning to London by 1816, when arrangements were probably set afoot with Longmire. Longmire's uncle John Bateman had died on 5 March 1816 91 and his sister Agnes was very soon to marry Jacob Wilson in the same year; both events which would have cut his new family ties with Whitehaven. The town was also then suffering a severe depression induced by the end of the Napoleonic War, which would have further encouraged him in going to Russia 92.
Longmire had certainly contracted with the Russian Government through their British Ambassador Khristofor Andreevich Lieven (1774-1838) 93 by June 20 1817 when Longmire left Whitehaven 94. He sailed with an assistant draftsman and four pitmen from Whitehaven and two Newcastle borers from Gravesend on July 1, "all their equipments for the voyage being on the most liberal scale". The plan received an enthusiastic reception in the local Whitehaven newspaper which wrote:-
In this immense tract of country, it is well known that hitherto there have been no coal mines. - An attempt to raise coal, that prime article of fuel, is now about to be made, - under the immediate patronage of the EMPEROR.
The spot fixed upon, for this purpose, is in the vicinity of Tula, - Tula, celebrated for its extensive iron-works - and especially recollected at this time, from the circumstance of BUONAPARTE's brilliant but defeated intention of destroying them. Tula is the capital of the government of that name; distant from Moscow one hundred and fifteen miles, and situate on the river Upka. We have already said, that this undertaking, (the success of which will form an epocha never to be forgotten in the annals of the Russian Empire) is under the immediate patronage, - we might have added, and at the instance of the truly patriotic and enlightened ALEXANDER.
The party arrived in St. Petersburgh on July 12 95 and was "to winter at Moscow, excepting a few occasional visits to Tula, as the season may allow, and to commence operations as early after that as the climate will permit". Longmire was certainly at "Toula" on September 25 1817 when he sent a list of items "wanted for carrying on the trials for Coal" apparently back to Whitehaven 96. These included timber and paper, which one is surprised to find requested from England, with hammers, spades, hacks, picks, trams, coal baskets and a multitude of other equipment. Three bore holes were then intended and the 3 boring hammers and a hundred yards of "bore rods to the patterns made by the English Miners", and rope ordered show that Longmire was using the standard and even by then antiquated rotative percussion boring technology 97 so long in use unchanged in the English coalmining industry 98, and which had been in use in the Carlisle area trials noted above. This technique used boring rods of small diameter which, when rotated, generated only a paste of disaggregated fragments of the rock bored through. It was often not easy to tell what had been penetrated from such a paste and in one boring the Whitehaven borer twice between 1804 and 1806 went right through 3 ft (0.9 m) and 6 ft (1.8 m) thick coal seams within the coal field, which were therefore expected, without realising it. This was when fire damp in the seams forced water up the borehole with the "paste" which was then rendered uninterpretable 99.
A much better device was then available for Longmire to have used at Tula. This was the boring apparatus which Irishman James Ryan (c. 1770-1847) had patented in 1805 100, and which had been demonstrated at the Whitehaven collieries to a depth of 82 ft (25 m) in July to October 1807 by Ryan himself 101, after Longmire had returned from Edinburgh. This device enabled oriented cores to be recovered from trial bore holes, for the first time in Britain. But Bateman, who saw Ryan's device demonstrated (and who termed Ryan a"braggadochia"- an empty boaster), seemed to think only in terms of costs and was accordingly not impressed with Ryan's better but more expensive techniques. In any case Ryan's equipment would have had patent protection until 1819, after Longmire had departed for Russia, and zi licence fee would have been due for its use.
The first record of Longmire found in Russian sources is dated August 1817. This reported Longmire's recruitment and the new resolution that, since the coal prospecting was intended for the use of the Tula arms foundry, all the weapons draftsmen also recruited from England and the coal prospecting team led by Longmire should be transferred to the sole jurisdiction of the War Ministry from the Ministry of Finance. Longmire who then knew no Russian, was to have an interpreter and 10 pupils from the Corps of Mining were to be assigned to him. In addition he was to have the rank of Titular Councillor 102.
To a mining engineer and geologist used to the coastal scenes of Whitehaven and the hills and lakes of the Lake District, the Tula area will have provided quite a contrast. In 1800 E.D. Clarke (1769-1822), the English mineralogist and traveller passed through the town and left his impressions of the place, and the flatness of the country. He too was impressed with the scale of industrial activity at this - the Sheffield of Russia as he termed it - "the great mart of hardware for the whole empire, containing a manufactory of arms, all sorts of cutlery and other works in polished steel". Clarke reported that the armament factory employed 6,000 workmen, that the local fuel was then wood and that the major limitation on the works was the insufficiency of water power to drive them 103. There was thus a double need for indigenous supplies of coal to provide a fuel for both the works and the town and for use in iron working. The attempts to find coal in Kaluga, Tula and Moscow provinces have been described in detail in two papers by A.I. Olivieri published in 1840 104 and 1841 105. These need only be summarised here.
Olivieri reports that prospecting for coal in these provinces only started in 1812 when the shortage of wood fuel started to cause difficulties, and indications of coal were found near Tula. Officials from the Dept. of Mining and Salt Affairs were sent for to investigate these indications, and three seams 18 inch (0.46 m) to 3 ft (0.91 m) were located, and it was thought were also suitable for iron smelting. These investigations were halted in 1813 because of the French invasion nearby. Further investigations in 1814 had succeeded in locating other seams of coal which Olivieri lists. In 1816 these prospecting operations and all mining operations at Tula were placed under Mines Inspector Vladimir Iur'evich Soimonov (1772-1825), nephew of M.F. Soimonov (1730-1804) who was the chief of the Russian College of Mines from 1771 106 and who had earlier been involved in the investigation of coal and iron deposits in the Moscow region. Soimonov junior reported on Tula coal prospects in 1816 and said that the prospecting had so far been too superficial. He also suggested in 1817 that the major prospecting effort should be in Moscow province to supply the capital. Soimonov seems to have been a man of competence and might have succeeded with some of his plans but for the decision of the Government in 1817 as we have seen, that all mining activities of the Mining Dept. should be transferred to the War Ministry and emphasis placed on Tula province prospecting to support the armaments factory there. Clearly the French invasion of the previous years had inspired this move and the recruitment to lead the prospecting of John Longmire.
The work of Longmire is described in Olivieri's second paper 105, relying on War Ministry records. He reports Longmire was recruited in June 1817 as "a person experienced in the theory and practice of working coal", a different emphasis from that given in English sources. Longmire was to have oversight and management of the operation which was to be at the expense of the government. His salary for three years annually from the 1st June 1817 was to be an impressive £800. The draftsman was to receive an annual £65 and the six English workmen £90 a year. Longmire contracted both to make the necessary mineralogical investigations of those places where coal had been found already and direct the search for seams better both in quality and thickness and then to work them.
The first requirement for Longmire on arrival at Tula was to engage workers of whom he demanded 300, but which the commander of the foundry was unable to supply without disrupting the work of the foundry. Only 100 foundry workers could be found and meanwhile initial surveys were made with the 10 Mining Corps pupils and 50 peasants. Serious work began in 1818 as was all along envisaged (see p.15) with prospecting at six sites where coal had earlier been found. Longmire had many difficulties to contend with; before prospecting operations could begin permissions had to be sought and payments made. Only in 1819 did a sufficiently large labour force materialise and this is probably one major reason why Longmire achieved less than was expected in his prospecting operations. In addition the deliquescent sand which formed the topmost stratum in the Tula area made boring using English techniques very difficult. Shaft sinking was also very difficult and shafts collapsed because they needed to be more strongly boarded up than Cumberland shafts. Coal was indeed found in some of these shafts but it proved to be of considerably inferior quality to the imported material the foundry was then using. Other shafts met so much water that the horse driven pumps used had great difficulty in removing it. For many of these problems especially problems with the quality of coals found - Longmire could hardly be held responsible.
Longmire's contract was renewed for a further year from June 1820 to June 1821 in hopes of an improvement in results. In this period Longmire attempted to prospect in another area near Tula but the landowner would not give permission. Areas further afield were then tried in other Provinces nearer Moscow and near Kaluga but in all cases the quality seemed to be the same and inadequate. Eventually Soimonov junior, the Moscow Inspector of Mines, was called in by the War Ministry to give an opinion on prospects which was also unfavourable.
By 1821 Longmire was convinced no economically viable coals to replace the black coals imported and used in the Tula foundry were to be found in the Tula region. So on 14 June 1821 Longmire was released from service at Tula and asked to proceed to St. Petersburg to discuss what had or had not been achieved despite the considerable outlays of capital. Longmire reported that he had had great expectations on his arrival at Tula as the surface signs there were the same as in normal coal bearing regions.
The disposition of the strata there was also normal for coal forming country except that one part was "formed by limestone, against the norm of coal formations" (see p.23). But the major problem lay in the thinness of the seams which had been found and which did not contain the quality of coal needed, only brown coals of lesser quality. Soimonov's report in 1821 agreed with this opinion.
It is clear from Olivieri's paper that Longmire succeeded to a considerable degree in extracting coal in the Tula region which although at the time was hardly of use in iron smelting and working (which was why it was being sought in the first place), was of use for domestic purposes as a replacement for wood if it could be mined at low enough cost.
After his four year contract Longmire returned to St. Petersburg in mid 1821 but he did not as has been claimed 107 return to England in that year. A senate decree of 23 March 1822 discussed the whole question of further mineral prospecting, and the question of Longmire's continued employment for this purpose. Longmire was clearly happy to continue prospecting for three further years in other areas of the Russian Empire under the same terms of salary as in the previous four years with accommodation, heating and travel expenses. The Finance Ministry on the other hand thought the proposal then put to them was too ambitious and concluded significantly that Longmire's continued service was unnecessary because "Russian mining officers now knew the business so well that foreigners are not necessary at all", and because Longmire's knowledge of mineralogy had been called into question by his failure to find coal despite government expenditure of 350,000 roubles. This had supposedly not yielded anything beyond what Mining Officers had already discovered at much less cost 108. So Longmire's continued service was not needed and he was free to return home, which he must have done sometime in 1822.
Meanwhile back in England, despite his absence, Longmire had been able to subscribe late to the second edition of Westgarth Forster (1772-1835)'s book on the strata in Northumberland and Cumberland which appeared late in 182 109. In August 1822 Longmire published the first of a further three papers based on his experiences in Russia, which relate to meteorology and botany 110. He also later published a final three papers including a series of articles on the Construction Of Sea Harbours inspired no doubt by the work then being considered on extending Whitehaven harbour 111. Thee first of this series was written at Whitehaven but the second was written from his birthplace Troutbeck in May 1823 to which he had now returned. He made his will in 1824 and now described himself as "gentleman". In June 1825 he refused an offer made by his old 112 Newcastle mining friend John Buddle to go out to South America 112. This clearly involved mining of some unspecified sort but Longmire was not interested and the job seems instead to have gone to another pioneer of Cumbrian geology Joseph Harrison Fryer (1778-1855) who went out to Peru on a metal mining venture in 1826 113, for three years.
John Longmire had by 1825 settled in the beautiful old farmhouse of Far Orrest in Applethwaite, Troutbeck which overlooks Lake Windermere. This had been willed to him by a relative and still stands. Longmire seems to have spent the next few years of his life here, his last publication in March 1826 on the flame of a candle, probably being written here. He had made a considerable sum of money by his Russian service and had also been well provided for in the will of his uncle John Bateman. These funds enabled him to live in comfort in at least semi-retirement. He died however in Whitehaven to which he must have later returned in his declining years on 5th February 1858 at the Black Lion Hotel 114. There He was buried in the old Greenhowes Cemetery, 115 appropriately enough beneath a red sandstone gravestone 115. His cabinet of minerals had been willed to the Corporation of the town of Kendal. It could have provided very tangible evidence of his Russian adventures but can sadly no longer be found, although it certainly safely reached the Kendal Literary and Scientific Society Museum after his death 116.
In conclusion, and at this distance in time, one feels considerable sympathy for Longmire's failure to find adequate quantities of good quality coal near Tula. As Batiushkova et al. 117 rightly point out a knowledge of the geology and of the geological structure of the localities was essential to such a search, and such knowledge was simply not available at the time. External signs such as those advocated in an influential book published in a second edition at Edinburgh by James Millar 118, just before Longmire's second stay at the University there, were really all that were available, unless the stratigraphic sequence and the stratigraphic horizons of the coal bearing beds within it were both known. Although as we have seen Longmire was at least happy to consider seeking coal, in line with Cumberland tradition, beneath a cover of limestone or red sandstone which many other English and Scottish "practical mineralogist" would then have regarded as external signs which clearly and simply denied the existence of economic coal beneath them. In fact Longmire, and V. Iu.Soimonov as Olivieri makes clear, were both in some doubt about the significance of the limestones they encountered during their Tula prospecting.
By the time of Longmire's departure for Russia, which was well after the publication of William Smith's geological map of England and Wales in late 1815, the stratigraphic scheme for much of Britain down to "the Coal" was known. But even if this sequence was known to Longmire, it could merely have misled him in a Russian situation. When the next Englishman to notice these Tula coal deposits, William Strangviays (1795-1865), whose half brother had employed William Smith to survey his English estates, published his survey of Russia in 1822 he merely noted that good coal had been found near Tula but "that the quantity is so small and the difficulty of working it beneath a loose and half-liquid bed of quicksand is so great, that it seems unlikely to be of much utility" 119. R.I. Murchison in his later survey 120, using Olivieri's work, wrote that the Tula coal beds lay stratigraphically below a limestone with Productid brachiopods which Murchison equated with the English Carboniferous Limestone 121; a rock which, if encountered in an English bore-hole in 1818 would have justified in the eyes of most English geologists (and coal viewers) the abandonment of that boring.
Final problems which Longmire faced, but was never able to overcome entirely, included his unfamiliarity with Russian language which would have restricted his access to any native Russian coal-seeking skills and traditions. In addition and certainly crucial was the fact that the Tul a foundry was tied to a charcoal or black-coal-fuel technology which was not easy to replace directly with coals of different quality when they were found at Tula. As Chandler has pointed out 122 the North American problem experienced at the same time was not just in the location of native American coal but also in getting the imported coal-fuel technology modified to suit a different type of coal, in this case anthracite.
Longmire's problems in Russia certainly do not seem to have stemmed from any lack of abilities, as Olivieri seems to imply but resulted from the state of scientific prospecting at the time he was there and were those of any foreigner hoping to directly export one technology to a location to which it was alien, at least in the short run. Brassed John Bateman, who described his nephew in 1811 as "a young collier [Who was] certainly esteemed the first in the kingdom" of Britain and as "the pride of his life and the very life and soul of all the [Whitehaven] Coal Works" would have been proud to emphasise the benefits Longmire could have brought to Russian coal prospectors. They were able to claim after his work with them that foreigners were then not necessary at all as Russian Mining Officers now knew the business so well. It seems probable that Longmire was at least partly responsible for this situation and this needs to be set against his basic failure as a coal prospector in Russia.
Working in widely different areas we have incurred debts to many; especially to the librarians and archivists throughout Britain who have given us help with our enquiries and access to their collections. We especially thank D.J. Butler (Durham), J.T.D. Hall (Edinburgh), B.C. Jones and all his staff (Carlisle), Sheila MacPherson (Kendal), Margaret Norwell and C. Parish (Newcastle) and E.R. Wilkinson (Carlisle).
For help in unravelling Longmire genealogy we thank Ben Bather, Kathleen Hayhurst, C. Roy Hudleston, K. Ireland and Judith Longmire. In other areas we received particular assistance from Tony Cross, Joan Eyles, Harry Fancy, Jean Jones, Peter Mulholland, John Thackray and Oliver Wood without whose help this work would simply not have been possible. In the same way we thank the staff of Keele University library; always so willing to assist even with the most esoteric of requests. Finally but by no means least we thank Professor E. Amburger and Dr Irena G. Malakhova for help in uncovering more of John Longmire's activities in Russia and for proving that the spirit of international cooperation is as strong in 1984 as one hundred and sixty years before.
I would also like to say how much I had owed to a then Keele Colleague Roger Bartlett, for all his help with Russian sources and their translations.
Documents in the Lonsdale archives are quoted by kind permission of the 7th Earl of Lonsdale.