Appendix, No. 14. (A.)

QUERIES regarding Roads and Wheel Carriages; and Answers; by Sir Alexander Gordon, of Culvennan, in Scotland.

Have you had any experience in the making and reparation of Roads, and in what part of the United Kingdom?
I have had experience in the making and repairing of Roads in the two counties of Galloway, and chiefly in that division of Galloway called the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

What was the nature of the Road, and of the country through which it was carried?
The surface of these two counties is very uneven and hilly, and is divided by two large, and many small rivers and brooks, or burns; and the sub-soils are of different qualities, from hard rock, to peat moss or bog. Fifty years ago there was no made Road in these counties, and consequently only four or five Carriages for travelling, and about twice as many Carts, and no inland trade except in cattle.

Have great improvements been made in the direction of Roads in your neighbourhood, and on what principle?
Very great improvements have been made, and the principle will be stated at some length. About fifty years ago the late Marquis of Downshire was travelling through Galloway, having labourers with their tools attending his coach, which was then a necessary part of the retinue; but notwithstanding that precaution, his Lordship and his family were obliged to send away their attendants, and to pass a night in his coach, upon the Corse of Slakes, a hill three miles from the village of Creetown. That event was the cause of consultation between his Lordship, and the late Duke of Queensberry, and other Noblemen and Gentlemen in that neighbourhood; and forty-seven or forty-eight years ago, Colonel Rixon was sent by Government, with a large party of soldiers, to make a Road through these counties and the county of Dumfries. Soldiers were kept at work on that Road for nearly thirty years. I was frequently with them, and soon began to observe errors in the execution of the work, as well as in the direction, which was without any survey. The errors arose chiefly from ignorance, but frequently from the mistaken selfishness of the proprietors, who objected to the opening of particular enclosures; and also from the tricks of the soldiers, in regard to the execution of their work, and the neglect of the officers; and sometimes from small bribes given to the inferior overseers, and to the soldiers.

Twenty-five years ago I was appointed to be Sheriff Depute of Wigtown, and, in the next year, I was removed to be Steward Depute of Kirkcudbright; by the law of Scotland, these officers are directed to attend to the state of the Roads. In that capacity I made a representation to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury, through Peter Johnston, Esq. then Member of Parliament for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright; in consequence of which Major Frazer was sent to examine the state of the Road, and some alterations were ordered and executed.

I had many consultations with the late Admiral Keith Stewart, and other Gentlemen, in consequence of which, Acts of Parliament were obtained for improving the Roads of the two counties of Galloway, and I attended to the execution of these Acts in both districts.

I had from my youth many consultations with the late Sir John Clerk of Pennycuik, and afterwards with the late Basil William, Lord Daer, on the best principles of directing and making of Roads, which are chiefly these, that the Roads be made in the shortest direction, level, hard, smooth and dry, and of solidity and width, sufficient for the trade that may be expected upon them. It is indispensably necessary, that very exact and carefully taken levels, plans and estimates, be made by intelligent Surveyors, previous to the work being commenced.

Lord Daer was the most active person at preparing Bills or new Acts for these counties, founded upon these principles; and after his death, I used every endeavour in my power to obtain them. In 1795, I was appointed to be Convener, or Chairman of the Committee for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, to obtain an Act for that county; and in 1796, an Act was obtained, which contains the most important regulations suggested by Lord Daer. I was also appointed Convener, or Chairman of the Committee for carrying the Act into execution, and I continued in that office, till nineteen miles of new Road were completed upon that plan, from the river Dee till within two miles of the town of Dumfries; when, from the influence of some proprietors, the line in which these two miles were making, was altered: they have since been made, but not in the direction approven of by me, and at an expense far exceeding what the other direction would have cost; I therefore relinquished the chief management; but I have since attended in other parts of the Stewartry, whenever I thought that I could be of service, and great tracts of Road have been made very properly, but the best principles have not always been attended to.

An Act has also been obtained for the Shire of Wigtown upon the same principles, but some exceptionable clauses have been introduced into it, which counteract the benefit, in some places, in a very pernicious manner; for instance, there is a clause prohibiting any Road from being taken through plantations of trees, and some proprietors have planted narrow stripes, which prevent very beneficial improvements.

The Road from Dumfries to Portpatrick is now nearly finished for about eighty miles, and notwithstanding the deviations from the true principles upon some parts of it, there is not, on the whole, any Road in the British Isles, equal, or at least superior to it.

The width of the Road is thirty-five feet, and room is kept for a footpath of five feet wide.

There are still considerable improvements necessary to be made in these Roads, and several large Bridges are wanted; but as the Trustees have very spiritedly advanced large sums beyond their immediate resources, these improvements have at present come to a stop, principally on account of the fall of a great Bridge over the Cree, in consequence of an extraordinary flood.

Would it be of great public advantage to have a survey of the Roads between London and Edinburgh, as suggested in the Second Report from the Committee on Highways, printed 18th July 1806?
It would certainly be of the greatest public advantage to have a survey made of that Road. Surveys are as necessary for Roads, as for Canals and Railways or Tram Roads; and the waste of money, and the misapplication of labour, that is now going on in the British Isles, upon Roads that have not been properly surveyed, is immense. A survey of the Road from London to Ireland, from the point where it should separate from the Road to Edinburgh, and to proceed by Carlisle to Dumfries, would also be of great advantage. The Road to Bath also, fine as it is, might be greatly improved by an able Engineer, and the advantage would be seen by great numbers of persons who may not have an opportunity of examining the other lines. It is certainly right, to make general surveys at once, because partial improvements may be lost when general improvements shall afterwards be made; and steep hills remaining in the Roads of one county, would prevent, in a great degree, the benefit that the improven Roads in another county, would otherwise afford.

What improvements occur to you for the advantage of the Roads of the Kingdom or the Carriages passing thereon?
No improvements should be adopted till fully confirmed by trials. I was thence led, above thirty years ago, to get a Screw-spring Draught Measurer made, which I applied to a Phaeton for one Horse, and travelled many journeys with it, which shewed that directing and making Roads properly, and keeping them in constant good order, is the most important improvement; and the level direction of them is the most beneficial object. I have observed, that in every situation which I have surveyed, the ascents may be reduced very low without lengthening them, and the Roads may be shortened and made more level at the same time. The nineteen miles that were made in the line of which I approved entirely, are in no part of greater ascent than one in forty, and I have not seen any line of Road, that may not be made as easy without lengthening it.

I apprehend that it would be of very great benefit to the improvement of Roads, if the Honourable House of Commons would direct Reports to be made by the Trustees of the respective Turnpike Roads, of the execution of the trust committed to them; and, in particular, a Report should always be made, before any trust should be renewed.

At the same time that I have given attention to the directing, making, and repairing of Roads and Bridges, I have observed, and thought much, of the Carriages that are drawn upon them, and I have made models and experiments without number. When I saw the Essay by Mr. Cumming upon Cylindrical and Conical Wheels, I was so much satisfied with the excellence of his models and experiments that I laid aside all the models that I had prepared, and I have directed my attention to other parts of Wheel Carriages. I have made a large model or small Waggon, upon Wheels of the construction proved by Mr. Cumming to be the best, in which the axles are made fast in the Wheels, and every Wheel has an axle belonging to it; and I am very much convinced, that it will be a Very great improvement in the building of Carriages; indeed, I have not been able to conceive any other way, in which Wheels can be made to go perfectly just. That manner of making axles, will allow them to be made lighter, and the Carriages may be made wider than at present, which will allow loads to be lower, and thereby prevent the danger of overturns, and will do less injury to Roads not in complete repair, than is done at present by high-raised tottering loads. I also think that the joints of Carriages may be made upright, which may be more beneficial than the level joints used at present; but I have not yet completed the model for that improvement. I am much pleased with Mr. Elliott's Coaches without Perches, for there certainly is no more use for a Perch under a Coach, than under a Waggon, if the Springs can be made equally easy; and I think that the Screw-springs may be usefully applied to support these Carriages. If the upright joints shall be found to answer, only one Screw-spring will be necessary before a Coach.

Is the plan of Stone Railways, suggested in the same Report of 1806, likely to be of any use in your part of Scotland?
I expect that it will become of very great use, in that part in my neighbourhood where the subsoil is granite; and the use of it may be extended, when Canals and Railways shall be made, upon which the granite may be transported.

Do you understand that it is likely to be serviceable in any foreign country?
I travelled through the granite country in my neighbourhood, in company with Mr. Telford the engineer, and Mr. Bage, a Swede, an engineer, and they agreed with me, that it should be tried; and Mr. Bage is to try it in Sweden.

On what principles have the Roads been made in your neighbourhood?
Mr. Alexander Melville was occasionally very useful in directing the Road, while he was Factor, or Land Steward to the Earl of Selkirk, having had his Lordship's permission to attend the Trustees. He has since been appointed Superintendant of the Roads and Bridges in the Stewartry, and he has been most useful; he will, if desired, send Copies of the Regulations for making, and for repairing the Roads. I shall now mention three Regulations which are found to be particularly beneficial: - First, the drains along the Roads ought always to be within the fields. - Secondly, there ought always to be an earthen bank, about three feet high, along the sides of the Roads, which is the best and the cheapest means for protecting Carriages, and everything else, from falling over at dangerous places; - and, Thirdly, when a Road is conducted along the side of a hill, it ought always to be sloped towards the hill, at about the rate of one in twenty-four ; this prevents ice from being formed on the Road, assists the bank in directing the stream of the wind, so that such Roads have never been shut up with snow, and is another security from danger along the edge of precipices.