‘A great day for Annan, and Annan did its best to make it memorable’
‘No such pusillanimous spirit…’
To understand why a railway was being constructed across the difficult terrain of Bowness Moss, it’s necessary to go back to the 1850s.
On September 2nd 1857, John Brogden and his son Alexander celebrated the opening of the Ulverston & Lancaster Railway with a déjeuner, ‘served up in elegant style’ for numerous high-ranking guests at Furness Abbey. On the Thursday of the same week, the workmen who had been employed on the railway ‘were treated to an excellent and substantial dinner’ in Leighburn Park, also provided by Brogden, ‘their respected employer’. Having been ‘liberally regaled with ale’, the 550 or so men spent the afternoon ‘in foot racing, sack racing, and steeplechase.’ The scene is far too easily imagined.
Brogden senior was then 59 years old, and Alex was thirty-two [1825-1892], and Brogdens had been involved in the building of railway lines since 1838. In the late 1840s, the company had also diversified into iron ore mining in the Furness area: Furness was not connected with the mainline railways so the haematite had to be shipped out by sea, an inconvenient and expensive means of transport. It was from this basis – their expertise in setting up railway and mining companies – that Brogdens had decided to link Furness to the main line via a new railway, the U&LR.
Their engineer on the U&LR had been James Brunlees ([1816-1892] who, as the son of a gardener and land-steward’s assistant has an interesting back-story), and that railway had famously crossed, by means of two elegant viaducts, the wide estuaries of the Kent and the Leven that flowed into the unstable reaches of Morecambe Bay.
Meanwhile, the mining of haematite in West Cumberland was increasing year on year, the ore being sent to the smelting works in the south of Scotland either by ship, or by railway up to Carlisle and then via the westward dog-leg through Gretna to Lanarkshire.
It’s little wonder therefore that, just a few years later, the Brogdens and Brunlees discussed shortening that journey by building a new railway and a long viaduct that would cross the Solway Firth itself. They had the expertise – and they perhaps liked the idea of another big, showy project, that would not only showcase the grandeur of their vision, but would also bring in considerable revenue by capturing the market for the transport of ‘Cumberland ore’.
Alexander Brogden (from Wikipedia)
James Brunlees (from Wikipedia)
The Solway Junction Railway Act 1864
Following a period of considerable politicking and bluffing amongst the various railway companies that would be affected, the first Solway Junction Railway Act was passed by Parliament in 1864, enabling the SJR company to raise capital to build a railway linking the Caledonian Railway (CR) near Kirtlebridge in Scotland, to the Maryport and Carlisle Railway (M&CR) near Brayton in Cumberland, by crossing the Solway Firth.
By then, Alex Brogden had been appointed Director of the company, and he contracted James Brunlees, a tall, spare man almost ten years his senior, to be the engineer and to design the viaducts across the River Wampool and the Firth.
Their intention was that the SJR would be open for business within two years.
The Sod-cutting Ceremony, Tuesday 26th March, 1865
The ceremony took place in Annan, where a public holiday had been declared, ‘a great day for Annan, and Annan did its best to make it memorable.’ The procession, the crowds, the déjeuner and the multiple speeches, are recorded minutely – including the interjected ‘hear, hears’ and ‘laughter’ – in the Carlisle Journal for Friday March 31st 1865.
There were banners and decorated arches, and more than 500 people processed – carters, lorries with a blacked-up ‘King Cotton’ and a steam-operated loom; the police, the Rifle Volunteers, school-children, the clergy, ‘representatives of various trades’, the Freemasons lodges; there was a cart bearing a printing press from which programmes ‘were scattered in the streets’. An important component was the ‘silver spade and silver-mounted mahogany barrow for the work of the day, borne shoulder-height by four navvies in the smock frocks, red neck-cloths, and white nightcaps of the order.’ And then of course there were the MPs, the town clerks, and the Directors and shareholders of the SJR and other railways – clearly no-one was to be left out.
Eventually, Mr Ewart, the MP, was presented with the silver spade by Alex Brogden, and ‘he cut the first sod and raised it in the air on the spade amid the loud cheers of the assembled multitude.’
Mr Cunningham no doubt profited handsomely from his foresight:
A cannon was fired, prayers were offered, the procession re-formed – and in due course the dignitaries entered a decorated pavilion for their déjeuner à la forchette. Very many speeches accompanied the meal, but the company’s Director, Alex Brogden – who professed himself ‘too young to have achieved [this] position’ – reiterated the raison d’être for building the SJR:
‘We have started a railway which will bring into economical development the great mineral resources of Cumberland, and convey them by a shorter and more economical route to the destination where they have to be consumed. … There are 200,000 tons of ore to be carried from Cumberland to Scotland annually, which will be carried one shilling per ton cheaper than they are now carried …’
The project was started, the team was ready to go: designer and engineer-in-chief, James Brunlees; resident engineer Mr Alexander McKerrow; the main contractors Waring Bros. & William Eckersley, and Mr George Potter who ‘had charge of the works on their behalf’ (The Railway News, Feb 13th, 1869).
The line of the SJR looking South from the Bowness viaduct (C) James Smith
In the Archive collections at both Whitehaven and Carlisle are the 8-foot-long rolls of the plan and elevations of the proposed railway line across Bowness Moss, from the new viaduct over the River Wampool to Whitrigg to Rogersceugh to Herd Hill at Bowness. The Whitehaven copy is made almost useless by a large spill of ink that obliterates the Earl of Lonsdale’s portion at Rogersceugh (an accident or a fit of pique?), but on the Carlisle copy are pencilled notes and addition sums, indicating the areas of land that would need to be purchased from the various people – Lonsdale, Mary Lawson, Robert Pattinson and others – who owned land along the path of the railway.
The line of the track as drawn is deceptively simple.
Sections of the Bowness Common plan (from Whitehaven & Carlisle Archives)
There are separate scraps of tissue paper with outlines of land traced and coloured in, with numbers next to the letters A.R.P (the area in Acres, Rods and Perches). A small broken-backed book lists the owners and amounts to which they are due, and I was especially thrilled to find the tiny slip relating to Mary Lawson’s land at the northern Bowness end of the track.
Record of land purchases
Areas and owners, Bowness ebd
Mary Lawson’s land
Jane Holliday’s land
At its deepest, the peat on Bowness Moss was ‘fifty feet deep’, a figure that accords well with modern corings that have shown depths between 6 – 15 metres. Undisturbed, undrained peat doesn’t form a solid substratum, but is ‘95% water, 5% solid matter’, and the peat-bed usually contains channels and holes and hollows.
At the North end, ‘The first mile and a quarter of this moss was in a very unreclaimed state when the Company began their operations upon it. Horses could not go upon it and, except in the height of summer, cattle could not even traverse it.’ (Whitehaven News Feb 11th 1868)
But nearly 40 years previously Chat Moss had been conquered by George Stephenson during the building of the London & Manchester Railway; the track had been ‘floated’ across the Moss on wooden faggots and hurdles and ash. Solutions were therefore available.
The Earl of Lonsdale had already, in about the 1850s, drained some of his holdings at the southern side of Bowness Moss. It sounds as though some preparatory drainage for the SJR track was carried out by Waring Bros & Eckersley in 1867, but in early 1868 Brunlees was reporting to the Directors and shareholders that ‘On sections Nos 3 and 4, Bowness to Kirkbride, and Abbeytown to Brayton, nothing has been done in the half-year. The drainage of Bowness Moss, on section No.3, will, however be resumed [my italics] as soon as the necessary arrangement can be made by the contractors.’ (Whitehaven news Feb 11th 1868)
A year later, in February 1869, the Railway News was reporting that ‘Very heavy and extensive draining operations [were] being required, and infinite labour [was] being consumed in laying the way over’ the Moss.
A large team of navvies would have been needed to dig the drains right across the Moss from Bowness to Whitrigg. The two longitudinal ditches ran in parallel with the track, at a distance of 1 chain (66 feet) each side. At every half-chain was dug a cross-ditch, each draining into the longitudinal channels. This was a standard method of drainage that had been introduced by the Dutch on bogs used for peat-cutting. The photos below show an actual ‘Chain’: one end was held by the handle, and the far end thrown out; there are markers for the different distances and a French coin shows the half-way point. (My thanks to David Park of Carlisle for showing me this Chain measure.)
The Chain, with markers
Because of the slightly domed shape of the Moss, typical of a raised mire, 65 chains at the North end drained into the Solway, and the remaining southern section drained into the Wampool.
A ditch just South of Bowness station (Dec 2016)
Culvert of drainage ditch through Bowness station overbridge (March 2017)
This release of water from the damaged peat caused the level of the Moss to drop by 4-5 feet each side of the track.
The track-bed itself was thus raised above the surrounding moss, and in the central area of Bowness Moss it passed through a shallow cutting in a ‘mineral island’ or drumlin – where there is still a large pit that was probably used as a ‘borrow-pit’ to supply stone for ballast.
But the peat substrate itself was still very unstable. ‘Faggots [bundles of wood] are used for laying the road wherever the moss is in such a state as to require them, two layers being put down before the road is laid’ (Whitehaven News Feb 11th 1868).
On top of these, was laid ballast (stones and/or clinker), then the sleepers, to which were attached the rails.
In some places even this proved insufficient and double-length 18-foot sleepers had to be laid over the worst parts to spread the load, covered with more layers of faggots upon which were laid the usual sleepers; 90,000 faggots were laid in total! (Building News, Sept 17th 1869.) One wonders where all those faggots came from – there are reports of large stands of coppicing East of Carlisle, which could have provided suitable wood.
(There is also the question of the origin of the wooden sleepers. They certainly didn’t come from North-West Cumberland: as Walker notes in his 1966 seminal paper on the Late Quarternary History of the Cumberland Lowlands (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 251, pp. 1-210), “By the middle of the seventeenth century only small and carefully conserved patches of forest remained. The relative scarcity of timber at this time, at least in Holmcultram, can be judged by the measures to conserve Wedholme Wood in A.D. 1640 for the regular repair of the sea dyke.”)
On June 26th 1869 (reported in Whitehaven News, July 1st 1869) the SJR ‘which is just completed’, was tested by a ‘party consisting of the directors, engineer, and contractors of the line, with two of the largest and most powerful engines belonging to the Caledonian Company’; Mr Brunlees made a series of observations as the train passed over the viaduct, with satisfactory results.
‘Bowness Moss, the only doubtful part of the line, was then successfully crossed, with the slight incident that when the engines were passing a small portion of the moss at the southern end, which had been drained for many years and was considered quite dry [Lonsdale’s land?], and on which the rails were laid on ordinary sleepers in the same way as on hard ground, the moss yielded to a certain extent and threatened disaster, but the engine passed over all right. The rails on this part of the moss will require to be underlaid with faggots and sleepers in the same way as the worst parts of the moss have been so successfully treated.’ Whitehaven News, July 1st 1869
Despite this slight setback, the trip was deemed ‘altogether a gratifying success’.
The Cumberland Paquet of 6th July 1869 was a little more cavalier with the truth (not quite ‘fake news’, but it makes an entertaining tale).
‘The first railway engine on Bowness Moss.
The Solway Junction viaduct across the Frith did not prove the most difficult part of the undertaking in an engineering point of view. The crossing of Bowness Moss was a much more perplexing undertaking. After the deep drains had been in operation, and the water had been running in river-like streams on each side of the proposed line for many weeks [my italics] and the faggots in thousands had been laid, it was expected that something like a good foundation had been obtained. This hope was delusive. A line of rails was laid, and an engine was run along, but one fine morning the engine nearly disappeared. It sank down into the moss, and looked like bidding farewell to the scene of its labours; but fortunately for the contractors the steam was up, and the engine had strength enough to drag itself out of its perilous position. Now all difficulties appear to have been surmounted.’
From Carlisle Journal, 25th October 1867
Further strengthening work on the moss continued, the longer sleepers were laid, more faggots brought in.
By September 17th 1869 Engineering was reporting ‘The Solway Junction Railway was opened for goods and mineral traffic on Monday. There was no ceremony of any kind.’ Three goods trains were run each way daily, carrying pig iron, ore, and iron plates, and ‘Bowness Moss successfully resisted the pressure of the trains.’
In late 1869, Waring Bros. & Eckersley had clearly signed off on the SJR project. On Saturday September 25th 1869, the auctioneer Mr Wheatley Kirk placed a notice in the Railway News announcing the ‘eminent contractors’ had instructed him to proceed with a massive sale – ‘Important to shipowners, railway contractors, builders, engineers, brokers, agriculturists and others’ – which would include the iron-screw steamer ‘Solway’, the locomotive ‘Handy’, barges, pile-drivers, wrought iron, sleepers, buildings, even horses … This list itself provides interesting insights into the magnitude of that extraordinary project.
The line across the Moss was in use by freight trains but had not yet been passed for passenger traffic. There was still a stretch of about 500 yards ‘over the deepest part of the moss’ which had caused the Board of Trade Inspector, Major Yolland, some concern, but on Thursday 14th June 1970 he and the resident engineeer, Mr McKerrow, ran an engine weighing 45 tons over the contentious length, and the moss ‘stood the test remarkably well.’ (Whitehaven News, June 16th, quoted from the Annan Observer).
OS map of Bowness station
Bowness station looking towards the viaduct
Bowness station looking towards the Moss
Bowness station today (amongst the trees) (C) James Smith
At last! On August 27th 1870, Railway News reported (p226) the SJR was open for pasenger through-traffic – four trains a day in each direction between Kirtlebridge and Brayton, stopping only at Bowness and Annan stations.
Whitrigg station by the R Wampool
Plan of the Whitrigg end of the SJR
The Whitrigg station was a request stop until 1873 when a crossing-keeper was appointed. Goods trains also stopped specially at Whitrigg and Bowness in the early hours to take on livestock (p19, Edgar & Sinton, The Solway Junction Railway).
Bowness Moss, like Chat, had been ‘compelled to forget its waywardness’.
‘… his navvies consumed on average 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of bread, and 5 quarts of ale a day’
From Carlisle Journal September 4th 1857
In September 1857, after completion of the U&LR, the director John Brogden arranged a dinner and day of entertainment for his navvies; at least 550 men turned up for the event and the men were ‘liberally regaled with ale”. Nevertheless, Brogden apparently gave a speech in which he praised the sobriety of his workers (Les Gilpin, personal communication).
Railway construction was booming throughout Britain in those decades – in Cumberland and the Borders, Lancashire, south Scotland and elsewhere – and navvies walked from project to project, looking for work. So it is entirely possible that many of the Brogdens’ navvies followed the Company of their ‘respected employer’ to work on the SJR. They would have been joined by local men, often agricultural labourers, and Irish, Scottish and English navvies from elsewhere, gathering together to form ‘a temporary concentration in particular localities, often at spots but before thinly inhabited…’ (Select Committee Report 1846, Railway Labourers and Labourers on Public Works)
The Solway Junction Railway was rather different from other railways in that it was being built in two countries divided by a tidal arm of the sea, and so there must have been two separate groups of navvies. There would have been hundreds of them, as well as joiners, masons, stable-lads and wheel-wrights; some of the men would have brought their families. They arrived together, they worked together, they lived together; there was no escape or respite for the months and years of the construction project.
Where did the men on the Cumberland side live? The villages of Kirkbride, Bowness, Glasson, the nearby hamlets and possibly farms would have been overwhelmed.
Often ‘poor people’ took in lodgers: here’s a fairly typical response from one of the interviewees before the 1846 Select Committee :
“Mr John Baird, the clerk of the peace for Dumfriesshire, examined in relation to the railway labourers at Lockerby.—Is there any special provision for their lodging in the village? —No; they lodge with poor people in the place. What has been the consequence of that? —The accommodation is very inadequate for the increased number of inhabitants, in consequence of the labourers coming amongst them. What is the ordinary population of Lockerby? —Fourteen hundred, and there is added to that upwards of 600, with no additional means of accommodation. … I know a house with only two apartments, where 21 individuals sleep.”
(Note that a few months previously, the 200 or so English navvies working at Ecclefechan on the Caledonian line in Annandale marched to meet the 200 or so Irish navvies working at Lockerby, ready for a fight and ‘armed with pitchforks, old scythes, bludgeons and bars of iron’. Fortunately, the fight was averted [Dumfries & Galloway Advertiser, November 1845] – but navvies were notorious throughout the country for their fights and ‘randies’.)
Returning to the matter of housing: in the 1860s and a little to the South-east, where the Lake District line was reaching out from Keswick to Cockermouth, the Cumberland Paquet (June 3rd 1863) reported that the benevolent Mrs Jeremiah Spencer ‘had taken a large house in Kirkgate for the accommodation of the hardy, but oft-improvident railway navvies, many of whom have come to Cockermouth from many distant parts with a hope of getting employment on the new line, but without a coin in their pockets.’ Mr Spencer said his wife ‘would see that they did not want breakfast so long as they kept sober’!
But not all navvies were so lucky. Most lived in huts and shanties and temporary ‘villages’ built by themselves.
In 2008 Channel 4’s Time team excavated the navvies’ village by the Risehill Tunnel, built during 1870-75 in Cumbria along the Settle to Carlisle line. The results were recorded by the Wessex Archaeological Society. The few buildings the team uncovered in the time allotted had stone footings and were constructed of wood. Otherwise, navvies’ shanties were usually of wood and turf, often crowded, with bunks against the walls; often damp and dirty, places where illness could catch hold and spread. By the 1860s the huts were sometimes supplied by the contractor, to whom rent was paid.
The 1846 Select Committee had reported on the unfairness of paying the navvies’ wages only once a month; during that period the men often had to rely on ‘truck’ – payment in goods or tickets which could be exchanged for goods at the truck- (or tommy-) shop which had been organised by the contractor. For men living in the back of beyond far from a town or market, it sounds good sense for the contractor to bring bulk quantities of food and drink to the work- and living-space. But in practice, the tommy-shops extracted a levy, which went to the contractor, and sold over-priced, short-weight and often bad provisions. Pay-day – and real money in the hand – led to alcohol being bought and consumed, and then fights and days off work. A fight amongst Settle & Carlisle navvies started near Eckersley & Bayliss’ tommy-shop (the same Eckersley that was contractor for the SJR?) at Armathwaite in 1870, on ‘big pay day’, and was much reported in the Cumberland Paquet (Oct 25th) and elsewhere.
This is of course over-simplifying the picture – some of the expert witness accounts, and the highly readable book, ‘The railway navvies’ (Terry Coleman, 1965, Penguin) – give a much wider picture of the life of a navvy in a general sense. And there were improvements: later in the century, a contractor might provide a room so the navvies’ children could be schooled, a preacher to make a weekly visit, and health checks.
The photographer S.W.A. Newton captured the process of building the Great Central Railway from Nottingham to Marylebone in the 1890s, with images of Mission Sunday Schools, boys leading horses, tip-trucks, bands of men with shovels building embankments – and the bare bones of tunnels and bridges and the permanent way: the men are posed, unsmiling figures, but you can also look beyond them to see the conditions in which they worked and lived (in The making of a railway, by L.T.C. Rolt, 1999).
So, what of the SJR’s navvies? It seems to be impossible to find out much about them.
First reference to some smartly-dressed navvies on the SJR comes from the Sod-cutting Ceremony on March 26th 1865, when the ‘silver spade and silver-mounted mahogany barrow for the work of the day, [was] borne shoulder-height by four navvies in the smock frocks, red neck-cloths, and white nightcaps of the order’ . When Mr Ewart MP was ready to cut the Sod, ‘The navvy in charge … said, “I hope as how he will take his coat off before he starts”. With this request the hon. Member good humouredly complied, though the navvy was evidently disappointed that his pupil did not strip to the buff.’ (Carlisle Journal, Friday March 31st 1865.)
Coleman (in The Railway Navvies, 1965, p28) says their dress ‘was distinctive. They wore moleskin trousers, double-canvas shirts, velveteen square-tailed coats, hobnail boots, gaudy handkerchiefs, and white felt hats with the brims turned up. … their distinctive badge was the rainbow waistcoat.’
A month after the SJR’s Sod-Cutting Ceremony the Carlisle Journal (Friday April 28th 1865), under the heading ‘Solway Junction Railway’, notes that ‘On Wednesday afternoon a band of navvies commenced the formation of this railway in a field on the south side of the Glasgow and South Western railway’.
In October 1867, Whitehaven News reports that ‘in the course of the next 14 days a large body of navvies, masons and other workmen will be collected and placed on the line, with the view of enabling the company, in April next, to open for traffic the portion of it between Annan and Kirtlebridge.’ (Meanwhile ‘not much progress’ had been made on the line between Kirkbride and Bowness ie on Bowness Moss.)
Navvies were still needed in January 1869:
The Abbey to Brayton stretch, Section 4 of the SJR, was a dry section of the track where ballast and sleepers could be more easily laid, an enormous contrast with the long-delayed, wet and difficult work across Bowness Moss.
No description exists of the early stages of construction on Bowness Moss, but Samuel Smiles (in Lives of the Engineers. The Locomotive. George and Robert Stephenson, 1879) gives a vivid picture of the similar challenges, and how they were overcome, for the London & Manchester Railway, L&MR, across Chat Moss nearly forty years earlier.
(p177) “When they reached Chat Moss, Mr. Dixon found that the line had already been staked out and the levels taken in detail by the aid of planks laid upon the bog. The cutting of the drains along each side of the proposed road had also been commenced; but the soft pulpy stuff had up to this time flowed into the drains and filled them up as fast as they were cut. Proceeding across the Moss, on the first day’s inspection, the new resident, when about halfway over, slipped off the plank on which he walked, and sank to his knees in the bog. Struggling only sent him the deeper, and he might have disappeared altogether, but for the workmen, who hastened to his assistance upon planks, and rescued him from his perilous position. ..[he] floundered on until they reached the further edge of the Moss, wet and plastered over with bog-sludge. Mr. Dixon’s companions endeavoured to comfort him by the assurance that he might avoid similar perils, by walking upon “pattens,” or boards fastened to the soles of his feet, as they had done when taking the levels, and as the workmen did when engaged in making drains in the softest parts of the Moss.” [my italics]
This is exactly what the navvies would have been dealing with as they cut the drains and cross-drains across the thick peat of Bowness Moss. Such foot-boards were still being used a century later by men hand-cutting peat on nearby Kirkbride Moss.
Only when they reached the slight raise of the drumlin in the centre of the Moss would they hit firm soil and pebbles and stone. Here they would need to dig out a cutting, firming the sides, and using the dug-out material later for ballast. Temporary rails would have been laid as they pushed across the Moss.
On Chat Moss,
“The first thing done was to form a footpath of ling or heather along the proposed road, on which a man might walk without risk of sinking. A single line of temporary railway was then laid down, formed of ordinary cross-bars about 3 feet long and an inch square, with holes punched through them at the ends and nailed down to temporary sleepers. Along this way ran the waggons in which were conveyed the materials requisite to form the permanent road.”
The SJR waggons were most likely pulled along the temporary rails by horses (rather than pushed by boys, as on Chat Moss).
The contractor’s office was clearly on the Scottish side of the Solway, as the notice for the final auction of equipment mentions buildings and stables at Shawhill, Annan. Amongst items to be sold were ‘200 earth wagons, with wrought and cast iron wheels; a horsebox; large quantity of navvy barrows.’ Surely there must have been stables near Whitrigg, too, and other buildings for storage of tools and materials on the English side?
Navvies and other trades worked on Bowness Moss for nearly 18 months, walking and squelching to work every day, perhaps occasionally hitching a ride on a waggon.
Throughout that time they would have been eating and drinking enormous amounts of food and drink, for navvies had to be strong, fit men – agricultural labourers who joined up could not, at first, stand the pace. Navvies on the Settle & Carlisle Railway, involved in a drunken fight and death at Armathwaite in 1870, were ‘big brawny Scotchmen, stout uncultivated Lancashire and south country labourers …’ (Cumberland Paquet, October 25th 1870). Joseph Firbanks (contractor for many railways including the Settle & Carlisle) ‘mentions quite casually that his navvies consumed on average two pounds of meat, two pounds of bread, and five quarts of ale a day (quoted in Terry Coleman’s The railway navvies, 1965, p86).
Navvies generally went by nicknames (which caused the police some difficulties in trying to find the Armathwaite killers) such as Tiger, Gipsey, Dagger, Belter, Punch, Portsmouth, Fighting Jack and Fisherman. They worked in close-knit gangs, and sometimes also fought in close-knit gangs.
They were also known for poaching fish and game. The Kendal Mercury, quoting the Ulverston Advertiser, (Aug 17th 1867) – ‘two boats filled with fishermen, navvies &c., singing and drinking ale and on the sand opposite stood a great number of policemen, gamekeepers &c….’ There were deer, hares and wildfowl on the marshes and mosses of the Upper Solway, and fish in the rivers and the Firth – it’s highly likely that the navvies supplemented their diets by poaching.
But by the end of 1869, the navvies had all moved on … and we know almost nothing about them and their living conditions, or their views about Bowness Moss.