1 OCTOBER 1853, Page 9


1 Adam Street, Adelphi, 28th September 1853. yeare ago I "assisted "—in French phrase—at an earthquake. ft:wrie not a Scotch nor yet an English earthquake, but a bona fide earth- whirling, "Jaaokwards. and forwards, and upwards and downwards, and round and round," over 900 miles of latitude; toppling down a town and dechnating its denizens, and, after the actual slaughter which heralded its co#idtencement, continuing its freaks for a whole calendar month, keeping up the fears of humanity with the dread of "more to come." Escaping by neniiraele, but.breirtue of living in a house constructed on the "wattle and principle--i.e. -a wooden framework planted in the earth, lashed toge- ther with thongs, .plastered with clay, and whitewashed, I was enabled, while looking at it as it lay half on its beam-ends, to draw a favourable com- parison between that mode:of-structure and the brick houses whose materials . 411.1amdritogether only by natural gravitation pressure : a lesson I did not

, In'iralkinethrough London the reflection often occurs to my mind as a linestion, if that earthquake iroduced such an effect, with buildings mostly

ground-fioors only,' and scarcely any of more than a single story above, what would be the effect of such an earthquake in London ? Not a building . would, remainundemolished ; the sewers would be choked, the bridges would !form dams to-the river, which would spread out over all the low-lying districts, ae in the time of Julius Cresar. The destruction of life, and consequent putrid exhalations, would induce a pestilence, and the destruction of property, a con- dition of poverty and impeded industry that would lessen our population IcitfeJLv.; end, were the race of men less noble in these islands, might 117:'-tlrbitrate before the incursions of barbarous hordes, only that we have taken seeurity'fdr telp in the prosperous colonies that we have planted over the globe, whd Wild--not lobk coldly:on and behold the desecration of their parent land. Thug and ,the. Norse lands our ancestors came from would 'give of their people talaild.our nation anew. We should build London anew, or a new Losidonadaewbere, and better than before, even as the Cali-

do,.. The last,thinulacking _to our People will be courage in ad- versity. We may never have an earthquake ; and Lisbon had none—till it came : but it.is worth considering whether our buildings are usually 4z:instructed on the principles likely to hold them together under vibration. Letiving other buildings oat of the question, Jet us cosuuler Ihree streets composed of rows of shops, s. B.:places to show-up goods, The louses are constructed on prin- ciples diametrically oppoehe to those of the most durable buildinp of the world—the .Egyptian Pyramids ; M. which the bulk and weight is below, and diminishes towards the summit, while the external pressure is all in- wards, towards the centre, the parts balancing each other. In examining the structure of a house with a London shop, we find that the least bulk and weight is below ; that the lower part is composed of slender cast-iron or more bulky wooden stilts, while above them on a brestsummer (brest sous star) is borne a huge mass of bricks called the front wall—and, be it remembered, not on posts or frames fixed in the earth, but on veritable stilts that may be knocked away laterally. But that the houses are in a row and support each other, they could not possibly stand under the vibrations of our street earth- quakes,—the heavy carriages rumbling along at greater or less speed,—in which, fortunately, the vibrations are all vertical and not lateral. At first sight, it puzzles the simple observer to understand how such struc- tures have come to pass. The old wooden houses, projecting story over story across the street, could hold together because they were tenacious frames. When they were prohibited from dread of lire, it was only possible to construct brick walls vertically. Those brick walls were pierced with windows vertically above one another, with vertical piers between. Desire of more light and show space caused the owners to devise the plan of taking out the piers at the lower part and supporting the upper part by a brest- summer on a post. Subsequently a larger brestsummer was applied and the side walla taken away, leaving the whole front on posts. What was at first a mere contrivance came to be a custom, and new houses were and are constructed in imitation of the patchwork in old ones. The exaggerated American expediency, "Issy, mistress, lend us the loan of your meat-axe to make our hog a hencoop," is.no WAS simile. Build us a front wall to cut away, to make a show-up out of it. ,

But front walls grew old, and to put in a new handsome front, sometimes only the show-up t soreetimes from top to bottom, was a usual first step in business. New brick-work cotild'net combine with old, and the new wall was simply like a plaster oast against the neighbouring house without being bonded thereto. Then, again, as the floor-timbers usually extended from party-wall to party-wall, there:was nothing effective to tie the front wall to the floors. To prevent the wall settling unequally, it was customary to build in a scantling ■af '4bond timber," equivalent to a row of bricks, at intervals of six or eight feet, in the inner side, such bond timber serving to fix inner linings to. The wall settling, or the bond timber rotting, or both together, caused the wall to camber outwards ; and then an iron screw rod, with a large iron 8, or some. such elegant device, outside the wall, was applied to stop it from falling. An intermediate house might have a chance; but a corner shop, the fa- vourite of retail traders, was in double danger. With its two front walls pasted endwise against the neighbouring houses, and no adhesion to them save the ends of the toor-joices bi one or other of the neighbours' party- walls and with no party-wall of its own—space pfobably being worth a hundred pounds per inch—it is quite evident that any settlement outwards must pitclh the whole kite the street. By the removal of the houses in the Strand, that of the .late Mr, Thompson became virtually a corner house. It stood upon ifs one party-wall and some stilts in front ; but little interference with the foundation was needed to bring the whole down : it slipped away from its neighbour sad fell in a heap ; the Material being so small in quantity that peeple wondered what had become of it. Numerous shop-houses in London are in this *Mon ; and were the vibrations of the carriages hori- zontal instead of vertical, we bliould 'have sundry burstings-in of the roofs of oninibeses from the'fallffig:materials of the buildings.

Ordinary brick and mortar does not become a homogeneous substance. Brick with hot lime, and sufficient iron. hoop binding, does. But iron hoop binding cannot be used to connect new walls to eld ones endwise. Rightly i

used it s a most valuable method, -as, hermetically sealed in mortar, it does not mat; but when it is left for months exposed to rain and rust, hanging in strips from the wall of an existing building, to connect it to an intended one, its tenacity it mostly destroyed.:

The system of building,houses in rows, with one party-wall between each, always involves difficulty in repairs; and fear of fire with wooden floors and joioes prevents the thorough incorporation of the timber in the party-walls. If the ioices in Mr. Thompson's house had passed through the walls, they would have served as ties to prevent the building from falling. Merely resting a few inches in a superficial hole of the brick-work, they could only support the mere floor vertically. Shops or show-ups are now creeping upwards to the first-floors—in some cases to the house-tops. Space is wanting. Amongst the models of every kind, there is wanting a model shop or show-house, and a man of original mind to construct it. A framework of wrought-iron, braced and tied to- gether as tenaciously as a bird-cage, and the front and back interstices filled with plate-glass, in some cases double, end coloured or clear, or opaque or semi- opaque, to admit or modify or exclude light, is the thing required. With cast and wrought iron, and plate-glass and porcelain and slate, and such an artist as Mr. Pickett for a designer, an enterprising shopkeeper might practically en- large the.site of his worn-out building, shut out noise and dust, and have for advertisement a buildIng unique in its character, and more permanent than was the Great Exhibition; a building that would not tumble down nor require insurance against fire, into which vermin could not enter, and on which, if the Smoke Abolition Act prove not a dead letter, the owner might sit in a greenhouse at eventide, where once the " cockloft" held filth and foul air a building that with one-third the dead weight would possess fiftyfold the strength, and be independent of the incessant reparations of the patchwork contrivances now existing, in which the aim seems to be how to support a heavy mass of bricks on a crystal basement by certain half-con- cealed stilts; a building showing how the area of London might be practi- cally increased, and serving as a type of the progressive future.