Sunday, 6 December 2020

Three visits to 137 Houndsditch

In January ‎2019 Gina Koellner and I made a pilgrimage to the site of Goldner's preserved provisions manufactory.

The site is now partly occupied by a somewhat stern faced office building named Five Acre Square with the nominal street address of 133 Houndsditch.

Supimposing the footprint of the McCall & Co warehouse from Charles Goad's 1887 insurance map on a Google Maps image of the present day street layout shows how the new road, Stoney Lane, was driven through the site of the largest building in the range.

A different kitchen once occupied this spot

A cosy hostelry for City workers

The corner of the new building which overlies the Goldner site contains a bar called CBK, for City Bar and Kitchen. It would have been wrong to visit the location without popping in for a coffee, or a cheeky beer in my case.

Illustrated London News, Page 93, 31 January 1852

The Illustrated London News paid their own visit in January 1852. Their article concluded:

Our sketch represents the establishment of Messrs. Ritchie and M'Call, of Houndsditch, whose preserved provisions are excellent, as we can testify from experience, having examined the contents of canisters taken at random from their stores.

The Parliamentary Inquiry reported that Thomas Thorp, who had been employed by Goldner at Galatz for five or six years, had stated that Goldner still had an interest in Ritchie's business. 

The interior scene depicted exhibits quite a close correspondence with the plan of the Southern building in the complex. It should be remembered that the map is from many years later so it is likely that there may be some differences. I take the figures "1=2" in the corner to mean a single story building with the height equivalent to two stories. In other words, a double height space. The shaded rectangles in the corner are steam boilers, presumably to heat the preserving vats. The forty foot tall chimney shown in the plan was the cause of a notice of a nuisance complaint being issued in 1853 due to emission of opaque smoke. The proprietors promised to take greater care in feeding the furnace and no further action was taken.

Although not mentioned in the article, at the time of the ILN's visit, the three storey warehouse on the Northern side of the complex was in ruins as it had been gutted by a fire in November 1851. Several local newspapers carried the following report:

Fire at Aldgate Old Workhouse. — A fire, attended with much destruction of valuable property, broke out shortly after twelve o'clock on Saturday morning, in the immense range of premises formerly Aldgate Workhouse, but at the present time in the tenure of Messrs. Ritchie and M'Call, household provision manufacturers, situate in Cock and Hoop-yard, Houndsditch. The flames originated from some unknown cause in the staircase of the north wing, and very speedily three of the floors became fired almost simultaneously, and for some time nothing short of the complete destruction of the premises could apprehended. Numerous engines of the London Brigade and West of England Office, with the Royal Society's fire escapes, were remarkably early it arriving, and no time was lost in setting the machinery to work, but, in spite of the most strenuous exertion of the firemen, it was nearly three o'clock before the fire could be extinguished. The damage done is thus officially reported :— Three floors of warehouse and store rooms burned out; greater part of roof burned off of one half of the north wing. The floors adjoining, together with their contents, considerably damaged by water, and the furniture in dwelling-houses by water and removal. The building was insured in the Sun, and the contents in the Phoenix offices.

The report of the Parliamentary Inquiry contains a record of the earliest documented visit to the factory at 137 Houndsditch although the author's imperfect memory substitutes Shoreditch for Houndsditch.


The witness, Commander George Farquhar Morice, RN 1792 - 1868, was Master Attendant of the Victualling Establishment Deptford from 1833 to 1850. He mentions two senior officers, William Henry Shirreff (1785–1847) and Sir John Hill (1774–1855), in charge of the Navy's most important victualling establishments at the time of the Franklin expedition. The fact that William Henry Shirreff retired in 1846 indicates that the visit must have been earlier than the five or six years remembered by Commander Morice in 1852. It seems a reasonable inference that the reason this inspection happened was connected with the provision of supplies for Franklin's ships.

The inevitability that Goldner's reputation would be destroyed had been predictable many months before January 1852 when the shocking revelations of the Navy's preserved meats scandal would erupt from the pages of The Times. Those months were not wasted: "Goldner's Patent" preserved provisions would be rebranded as Ritchie and McCall's. Ritchie would subsequently depart to set up a business in Australia leaving the business of McCall and Co. to thrive for nearly a century, being finally wound up on 14 April 1964. That is not the end of the story though as there was another business associated with Goldner which played a part in the production of the canned provisions for the Franklin expedition. Remarkably that business has survived to the present day with the most recent report of annual earnings being greater than 500 million US Dollars.

Comments are welcome here or on the Remembering the Franklin Expedition Facebook page.


Tuesday, 24 November 2020

The other "137 Houndsditch" - Stephan Goldner's Factory revealed.


My previous post concerning the Nag's Head pub was something of a tinned herring - an appetiser intended to gently tease the readership' historical palate and leave them hungry for more. I hope it did that! Now look closely at the map above. Starting from the street outside number 137 Houndsditch, the Nag's Head, you can go through the wood ceiling-ed passage into Cock and Hoop Yard. Continuing on to the end, the number 137 appears again. This "137 Houndsditch" really is Goldner's establishment although by 1889, the date of this map, it is M'Call's Preserved Provision Warehouse. A quadrangle of buildings roughly 110 feet square, with the central courtyard covered over by a glased roof, it has by far the largest footprint of any property in the block.

The map is extracted from  Insurance Plan of City of London Vol. III: sheet 71 courtesy of the British Library.



This slightly earlier map (above) depicts the area as Goldner knew it. It shows the mid nineteenth century layout prior to the extension of the Metropolitan Railway to Aldgate in the 1870s. The quadrangle lies between Houndsditch, which follows the line of the wall of Roman Londinium, and New Middlesex Street, formerly Petticoat Lane, which is the boundary of the City of London. An article in The Builder periodical from February 1872 entitled Homes in the East of London: Jew and Christians, gives a flavour, or perhaps more accurately, a whiff of the vile stench, of the neighbourhood.

This aerial view brings home the relative proximity of Goldner's factory to the heart of the City of London. It is a sobering juxtaposition - the wealth of City institutions and individuals side by side with the grinding poverty and squalor of the poor neighbourhoods of the vicinity. A further twist is that prior to the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, the buildings which became Goldner's factory had been home to the parish workhouse of St Botolph's Aldgate. The new law allowed individual parishes to pool their resources resulting in the much larger Union workhouses with a distinctly harsher regime than the version of Christian charity previously dispensed by the parishes. Houndsditch, for all its dead-dog associations, is one of the main thoroughfares of the City so for commercial purposes the address of 137 Houndsditch has a certain cachet. To locals the address was simply "Aldgate old workhouse".

Next: A visit (or three) to Goldner's factory.

Comments welcome here or the Rembering the Franklin expedition Facebook page.

Monday, 23 November 2020

The Secret of 137 Houndsditch


The painting above, dated 1889, shows the ancient Nag's Head pub shortly after some of the adjacent buildings to the South had been demolished to allow for the construction of a new road.

The detailed map below is slightly earlier and shows the layout before the demolition mentioned. The Nags Head is labelled P.H. for Public House and the numbering on the roadway shows that its street address was number 137. It is surrounded by retail shops (S), dwelling houses (D), warehouses, and hat factories.

The address of the Nag's Head pub was 137 Houndsditch in the City of London, an address famous (or, let's face it, notorious) as the location of Stephan Goldner's preserved meat manufactory between about 1839 and 1851. The old pub in the painting looks like it has stood on the site for centuries, so where was Goldner's factory really? The answer to this (hopefully) amusing conundrum will be revealed in my next post.

Monday, 16 November 2020

The Official Aquittal of Stefan Goldner


The Report from the Select Committee on Preserved Meats (Navy), Together with the Minutes of Evidence, Appendix and Index,  is a weighty document of nearly 500 pages.

As the title page suggests, it documents in great detail the Government's inquiry resulting from the Preserved Meats scandal which broke in the Times on January 3, 1852.

The examination and condemnation of canned meat at the Royal Clarence Victualling Establishment in Gosport, Hampshire, which the Times reported on was just one episode in the closing stages of an official Admiralty investigation which had already been underway for the best part of a year.

Deep in the Appendices, on page 393, is the document which explicitly exonerates Goldner of any criminality.

On 27 August 1851 Thomas Tassell Grant, The Comptroller of the Navy's Victualling Department, wrote to William Frogat Robson, the Admiralty Solicitor, to ask if any of Goldner's actions rendered him liable to prosecution.

The conclusion was received the next day from Robson's deputy, H Swainson:

There appears to have been repeated quarrels between Mr. Goldner and his servants at the factory, which may account for the bad state of some canisters by the introduction of offal and filth. It is not likely that Mr. Goldner, under the serious penalties of his contract, would make himself a party to so flagrant a breach, which must fall upon himself; and unless he could be fixed with a knowledge of using or conniving at the use of some dangerous ingredients in the mode of curing or preserving the meat, he cannot be held criminally responsible for the acts of others.

But what really happened?

The report states that Goldner had been going on well between 1844 and 1849.

There had been occasional reports of improper substances in the cans but rarely were they anything sinister. On several occasions the cans were rejected for containing tongue. Tongue is classed as offal but is actually a premium meat fetching a higher price than many other parts of the carcass.

As well as these problems, the scale of the business had grown considerably since the original running contract of 1844 so the Admiralty decided to move to annual contracts for fixed quantities open to competitive tender as was done for other foodstuffs.

The real problems began with the 1850 contract which required the meat to be packed in larger pieces and in larger cans than before - 6, 9, and 12 pound cans. The men disliked their meat being served in small pieces and the larger cans were a cost saving.

An additional change was how the weight of the meat was reckoned.
The 1844 contract specified the cans to be packed with raw meat before processing, then on opening each pound of contents was required to provide 12 ounces of cooked meat and 4 ounces of gravy. This had led to many complaints about short measures so the 1850 contract stipulated that each pound must be 16 ounces of cooked meat and only so much gravy as necessary. This change necessitated the meat to be pre-cooked before canning and the cans packed tighter with less room for the liquid to circulate during the heat processing. The net result of these changes was to reduce the margins for error during processing and making under-processing more likely.

The recipe for disaster was compounded by Goldner's combative personality and abrasive management style which from time to time led some of his disgruntled, underpaid, workforce to deliberately sabotage the product.

The final element in the mix was the fact that Goldner was absent from Galatz for considerable periods, leaving his 18 year old nephew in sole charge of the critical preserving process.

The most headline grabbing part of the disaster were the 'filthy substances' found in some of the cans. It is perfectly understandable that they will have provoked feelings of disgust and anger.

Grant estimated that of the meat issued to ships, less than two one hundredth of one percent, or 2 lb in 10,000 lb, matched this description.

The bigger problem was meat which appeared perfectly sound and sweet when accepted into the stores but which spoiled far sooner than had occurred in the past. The fault was far more frequent in the 9 and 12 pound cans introduced in the 1850 contract. The six pound cans were usually satisfactory.

When, prompted by the Admiralty, other manufacturers attempted, at a higher price, to supply preserved meat to this specification they failed too.

The parliamentary inquiry revealed no systemic fault in the system of contracts for supplying the Navy but noted the difficulties with the larger cans. They reported that in the new contracts by then already in force, only 6 lb cans were being used. The report also highlighted the testimony of several witnesses that it would be beneficial to bring the production of preserved meat in-house and this was subsequently done.

Many have assumed that Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition was supplied by Goldner on the basis of lowest cost tender but the report makes clear that this was not the case.

... the arctic ships, "Erebus" and "Terror," were supplied with preserved meats bought specially for the purpose, at a price varying from 7d. to 2s. per lb., and not, as in Mr. Goldner's contracts, at 4 3/4d., 5d., and 5 3/8 d.

That special consideration was given to the preserved meat for the Franklin expedition is entirely consistent with what we know about the other foodstuffs. No effort or expense was spared in providing the best of everything. I do not know whether Franklin's provisions were canned at Galatz or the factory at 137 Houndsditch or a mixture of the two but the fact it was a special purchase makes me suspect it was Houndsditch and that it was probably inspected by the Navy's Victualling Department at the time.

The Parliamentary report clearly shows that the 1852 scandal casts no shadow whatsoever on the integrity of the preserved provisions which Goldner supplied to the Franklin expedition.

Nonetheless, it wouldn't be very long before Goldner would be reviled as a criminal, a traitor, and worse.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

"This Hungarian Jew" - House of Commons, 12 February 1852

The clamour for answers could not be ignored, so in February 1852 experienced parliamentarian and member of the opposition Sir William Jolliffe of the Conservative Party stood up to propose that a select committee be appointed to inquire into issues regarding the problems with the preserved meats. The nub of the matter seems to have been whether the system of procuring these supplies by contract was up to the job.

The matter was important for the efficiency of the Navy which was critical for national defence and maintenance of European peace.

Jolliffe pointed out that he was not one of those so called "disappointed admirals" who criticised the Admiralty at every opportunity. He didn't have an axe to grind but the excitement in the press and the valid concern this had generated warranted a close scrutiny of The Navy's dealings with Goldner between the years 1847 and 1851

Stated in simple terms, the situation looked decidedly extremely dodgy.

Goldner's first contract had been cancelled because the meat had turned out bad. He was then awarded a bigger contract which again was cancelled. Finally a bigger one still which had failed so horribly with the recent explosion of publicity.

It had been alleged that the Admiralty had done nothing until magistrates in Portsmouth had called on them to act because it was feared that the terrible smell was liable to trigger an outbreak of disease.

The government needed to provide answers but a mere ministerial statement would not be enough.
Only the detailed scrutiny of a Parliamentary inquiry would do.

Jolliffe also mentioned he would like to know if Sir John Franklin's expedition had been supplied with Goldner's meats. If that was the case then he feared for their safety.

Jolliffe showed he was familiar with the terms of Goldner's most recent contract by saying:

"They heard sometimes in that house of prejudices affecting the Jews; but it was satisfactory to find that a Jew had power to be what a member of that House could not be  - a Government contractor." (Times)

This was quite a delicious piece of irony. Goldner's contract included a clause, preventing any member of the House of Commons from personally benefitting from it in any way. Presumably this was a standard text intended to combat corruption.
On the other hand Jews were prevented from sitting in the House of Commons because each member had to swear an oath including the wording "and I make this Declaration upon the true Faith of a Christian".

Whig prime minister Lord John Russell had made several attempts to pass a bill allowing the oath to be varied so that Lionel de Rothschild, elected in 1847, could take his seat. The measure was approved by the Commons but repeatedly rejected by the House of Lords until eventually achieved in 1858.

Sir Francis Baring, the First Lord of the Admiralty, replied to Jolliffe's motion from the Government benches.

Baring agreed to the motion with the sincerest pleasure but suggested amendments to extend the date range for the inquiry to cover the period of the Franklin expedition and also extend it to include domestically sources salt meats which had also caused some concern. The motion as it had been initially proposed only included foreign preserved meats which Baring noted were intrinsically mistrusted by the opposition as the Conservative Party was protectionist while the Whigs championed free trade.

Baring stated he thought it could be shown that the Admiralty had acted correctly at all times with regards to the issue.

With respect to the Franklin expedition, Baring noted that "this meat had been supplied early in the time of Goldner's contract, at a period when no complaints whatever had been made of them, and there was every reason to conclude that those supplies had been good and efficient."

Colonel Chatterton, displayed an open hostility towards Goldner, calling the disastrous failure of his 1851 contract as his "coup d'etat". In contrast he praised the manufacturer Gamble who had supplied Parry's expeditions with cans left at Fury Beach still being serviceable after 25 years. Gamble were based in Cork, Ireland, which happened to be Chatterton's constituency. "what could the House think of a Government with such facts before its eyes that would continue to patronize this Hungarian Jew ?". He stated that he greatly feared for the safety of Sir John Franklin's late expedition.

Henry Corry (Conservative) had particularly relevant knowledge regarding the Franklin expedition as he had been First Secretary of the Admiralty at the time of its departure. He noted that in 1845 the rate of condemnations of preserved provisions was actually lower than it was for the best Irish salt beef and additionally that the preserved meat for the expedition had been obtained under a special contract and at a higher price than that normally supplied. He concluded with his opinion that there was no need to worry that Sir John Franklin's expedition might be imperiled by their provisions.

After the serious points had been made Colonel Sibthorpe's contribution was a mixture of ribald comedy, xenophobia, and antisemitism.

Sibthorpe seems to have been a real life prototype Colonel Blimp figure. He vigorously opposed political emancipation of both Jews and Catholics, was against the Reform Act of 1832, the repeal of the Corn Laws, the 1851 Great Exhibition, and the construction of the National Gallery. In fact he seems to have been strongly against any change whatsoever. He didn't like Germans, notably Prince Albert. We may assume he didn't care for Hungarians either. To him, the booming railway network was merely a passing fad. He was a boon to humorists, the magazine Punch depicting him as Don Quixote, tilting at steam locomotives.

Although, during the debate, some statements were made which can be considered to count towards Goldner's defence and others supporting the conduct of the Admiralty, the press remained unmoved in it's condemnation of the scandal.

The parliamentary inquiry having been agreed, with even broader terms than initially proposed, surely it would expose the root cause of the scandal and identify the guilty party or parties?

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Thunderer Thunders

The reports of the condemnation of preserved meats at Portsmouth concluded with the slightly melancholy implication that the Times' mole had been neutralised.
    The examination into the preserved meats at the Royal
Clarence Yard was resumed this morning, we believe with
the same revolting results as already published by us, but
we can furnish no definite report upon the subject, the
Admiralty, ashamed of their responsibility in the matter,
having deprived us and the press generally of obtaining
authentic information. But the horse being now stolen,
their Lordships lock their Augean stable door too late.

Yes, the cat was well and truly out of the bag and the Times was already living up to its nickname the Thunderer having already begun the series of fulminating editorials reproduced below.

The reply printed in the Observer (and reproduced in the Times the next day) clearly derives from an establishment source with privileged access to authoritative information so it may well be an official, although unattributable, statement.

It is worth noting that the Times directs most of its scalding attack towards the Admiralty, not on the contractor, Stephan Goldner.

The Times does make one tiny concession, noting the information that improper contents were found only in a very small proportion of cans may allow the possibility of a slightly reduced level of criminality than originally suggested.

Nothing is made of Goldners background at this stage, although that would change during the parliamentary debate on February 12th 1852.

The newspapers of the day didn't go in for shouty headlines like they do now so, in the interest of my own, and hopefully the readers, amusement, they are my own composition. 

    It is the pleasure of the department of our Go-
vernment which presides over our navy to do all
things for itself. While the less maritime Powers of
Europe are well content to receive vessels of all
descriptions from the yards of our private ship-
builders, the Admiralty has so much confidence in
its skill, economy, and vigilance that it takes upon
itself the duty of building and rigging our fleets.
Undeterred by the uniform experience which has
proved, over and over again, how badly this duty
is discharged, unwarned by the fact that while
one-third of our naval estimates defrays the ex-
penses of the effective service two-thirds are swal-
lowed up in the bottomless sink of dockyard pro-
fusion and corruption, we stick to this losing
trade, and lavish our millions in the con-
tinuance of an experiment which practice and
theory alike condemn. So far do we carry our
desire to do everything for ourselves that we have
turned biscuit manufacturers as well as ship-
builders, not being able to trust the composition
of that most simple edible to any bakers but our
own. With a singular inconsistency, however, we
have not taken upon ourselves the manufacture of
preserved meats for the use of the navy. "One
"must draw a line somewhere," and the line in this
instance has been drawn between the baking of bis-
cuits and the preparation of meat. It possibly
might have been thought that if Government is to
embark in any trade at all, the preparation of meat
would have been the most suitable to which its
energies could have been directed. Hermetical
sealing is required in order to effect the preservation,
and the only test which can be applied is the open-
ing of several cases taken at random. The pur-
chaser of such an article is always liable to be
more or less imposed on - a strong reason for be-
coming the manufacturer oneself. As, however, the
Admiralty has thought fit to trust this de-
partment to contractors, we had a right to ex-
pect that the proceedings of such persons would
be watched with infinite jealousy by a Government
department so little disposed to let anything out of
its own hands. How far this reasonable anticipa-
tion is well-founded what has recently been passing
at Portsmouth will best prove. For several days a
Board of Examination delegated by the authorities
have been engaged in the disgusting task of exa-
mining "preserved" meats intended for the use of
HER MAJESTY'S ships of war. These preserved
meats are contained in canisters holding about ten
pounds each. Out of upwards of three thousand
of these which have been examined up to the pre-
sent time, scarcely one-fifteenth has been found fit
for human use, and even that, we apprehend, cannot
be considered as very excellent, since it has been
distributed among the poor of the town. "If any-
"thing," says JOHN GIRDER, "is totally uneatable,
"let it be given to the poor." The remaining four-
teen parts were not merely uneatable, as consisting
of the refuse parts of animals, intestines, ligaments,
and coagulated blood, but emitted a stench so in-
tolerable that the Board, after availing themselves
copiously of Sir WILLIAM BURNETT'S disinfecting
fluid, were constantly obliged to desist from their
labour, from the well-grounded fear of pestilence,
and did not deem themselves safe from infection
till the noisome cargo was fairly thrown overboard
at Spithead.
    This is an extremely serious business, and must

be fully cleared up and explained. We do not
quarrel with the purchasing of meat for the navy
from Galatz, in Moldavia, or anywhere else where
it can be had cheap and good, though this mis-
carriage will doubtless be a source of immense
triumph to some of our Protectionist contempo-
raries. But we want to know whose duty it was
to examine this meat, and what amount of ex-
amination it actually underwent. This is not
the case of a few defective canisters here and there;
the staple of the purchase was altogether bad. We
bargained for wholesome meat, and we bought
putrid garbage. The slightest examination, the
most superficial scrutiny, would have detected this
at once. It is fifteen to one that any case which
had been opened would have been found not merely
uneatable but absolutely pestilential. The meat has
been supplied for fourteen months, and it is therefore
quite evident that it has been received without any
examination at all. The contractors said it was
good, and the naval authorities who purchase it
took their word for the fact. Does this proceed
from gross negligence or corruption ?
    Possibly the amount of culpability is not much
varied either way. Whether an officer intrusted
with a duty so important to the comfort or even
the existence of so many hundreds of helpless persons
has suffered his vigilance to be put to sleep by a
bribe, or has neglected his duty through callous
and self-indulgent inertness, is but of little moment,
compared with the effects which may arise from
such a breach of duty. Upon these supplies
may depend hundreds of valuable lives, and
the success of the most important operations.
It would be gratifying at any rate, to be in-
formed - and we trust the public will be informed
without loss of time - whether the six thousand
canisters now under examination are the whole
of our unfortunate Moldavian purchase, and if
not, what has become of the remainder. What
guarantee have we that the same infamous negli-
gence may not have loaded the ships of our Arctic
voyagers with tons of hermetically sealed corrup-
tion ? What security is there that these brave
men may not have found from the negligence of
our Government that destruction which they
dreaded only from the adverse powers of terrible
and secluded nature ? It is not probable that
this is the only instance of such neglect, nor the
only case in which officials thus accustomed to
rely on the good faith of contractors have been
deceived. We shudder to think of the shipwrecked
crews who may have perished by a slow and
lingering death, of the wind-bound which may
be enduring all the agonies of famine, simply
because some official is too indolent or too corrupt
to investigate the state of the provisions on the
soundness of which sailors unhesitatingly risked
their lives. Our humane legislation forces
every merchant ship to carry with her the re-
medies against scurvy, and subjects the con-
veyance of the poorest outcast of society to sani-
tary regulation, while nobody can be found to take
the trouble of securing the crews of our ships-of-
war against provisions which carry with them the
double evil of famine and pestilence.
    We have had occasion to remark lately on the
absurdities of our military system, and to point
out how sedulously our soldiers are unfitted for the
discharge of the duties required from them. As
far as we can provide by aimless muskets and scar-
let coats, "they always miss and they are never
"missed." But what an insight does such
an occurrence as this of the provisions afford
into the management of the sister service of
the navy ! Can any one the least acquainted
with human nature believe that this scandalous
neglect is confined to the single case of pre-
served meats? Is it not perfectly clear that the
same carelessness of inspection, the same laxity and
listlesshess which have rendered such a thing possible,
must be daily and hourly rendering possible other
omissions and commissions equally ruinous, if not
equally revolting? Can a department convicted of
the enormous default of providing provisions for
the navy the very sight of which is infection be
reasonably supposed to be administering with the
most common care and diligence the millions
which pass through its hands for the purposes of
building and equipping our navy? What better
proof do we ask of the ruinous extravagance which
we are so constantly told prevails in our dock-
yards than such a case as this? Such a thing
could never have happened in a well-managed
department, and we have a perfect right to
reason from the abuses which we know to those
we cannot trace. The height of negligence,
like the height of vice, is not reached at once.
Such an occurrence is but the natural climax of a
long series of neglect permitted and encouraged.
A sound system of management does not bring
forth such rotten results as those which have
been poisoning the air of Portsmouth. The
case of the soldier is hard enough; he is ex-
pected to fight and conquer with tools unfitted
for the purpose, and of which he is never
thoroughly taught the use. But the case of the
sailor is still harder. He is expected to contend
with the rage of the elements as well as the broad-
sides of the enemy; but in order to conquer he
must live, and those to whom a grateful country
delegates the care of his subsistence are content to
leave that subsistence to blind chance or interested

     If disasters are destined for this country in its
military and naval operations, they will, at least,
not arrive without warning. The visitations of
the last year have been absolutely ominous. As if
to show us the futility of the resources on which
we are relying, our ships have broken down, our
stores have been condemned, our firearms have
proved useless, and our soldiers are found incapaci-
tated by their equipments from encountering half
their number of naked savages. It would be hard
to overlook such tokens of evil, if, with all our
vaunted wealth and skill, we cannot send reinforce-
ments to the Cape without miscarriages, or victual
our vessels without peril of pestilence, what is to
become of us in the face of such hostilities as men
now living can well remember, and may see again?
    The war at the Cape is, or at least was, reputed
to be almost beneath the dignity of so powerful a
State as Great Britain. It was a mere colonial em-
broilment manufactured between Lord GREY, the
settlers, and the Caffres. Even as things are now
going, we have but 10,000 men there, and, though
this is a prodigious force for its presumptive
duties, yet it is not a large army to feed with men and
munitions. The detachments sent to Sir
HARRY SMITH are not above 600 or 700 strong,
and these are only forwarded at intervals of some
months. Certainly such duties ought not to
weigh oppressively on "establishments" like ours.
We have been at a monstrous expense to create
a "steam navy" of the highest character and
power. Year after year, when the estimates pro-
voked the expostulations of even reasonable re-
formers, we were met by the assertion, that the
element of steam was altogether new, and that the
whole work had to be done from the beginning.
We built new steam docks, new steam factories,
and new steam yards. We built steamers of wood
and steamers of iron, and lavished enormous sums
on experimentalising with engines, funnels, swivel
guns, and fuel. At last we were told that the
outlay was approaching its close, and that we had
fairly established a splendid steam marine. We have
now put this marine to a trial, and under circumstances
of the easiest kind. As we are at peace with all
the world except native Africans, our transport
ships are not incumbered with any means of de-
fence or compelled to assemble in convoys. We
want only a single steamer at a time, to carry about
two-thirds of the living load for which she is nomi-
nally constructed, and for this purpose she might
disembark those heavy guns which were invariably
made the scapegoats of Admiralty mishaps. These
are no very arduous duties, but, such as they are,
they cannot be properly performed. It will be
said, perhaps, that we are making rather too much
of an accident. If the Megaera did break
down on Saturday, she was fit for sea
again by Wednesday; and what is there
outrageous in a casualty like this? The remark
might have some force if the failure of the Megaera
was the only failure, or if it had manifestly pro-
ceeded from nothing but the violence of the
weather. But the Vulcan fared no better, and
with such difficulty, after all, did she make her
voyage that, as the reader will remember, rumours
were actually current of her total loss. Moreover
the condition of the Megaera at starting has been
described by eye witnesses as such that what oc-
curred might almost have been matter of predic-
tion. As if, even in this time of peace
our navy were too small for the exigencies of
the service, the steamer in question was made
a store ship as well as a troop ship; and
all the space which should have been devoted
to the accommodation and security of the soldiers
was bespoken for heavy stores despatched by the
Ordnance. The vessel, in consequence, was so
overladen and incumbered as to exhibit a scene of
the most perfect confusion, notwithstanding the
excellent discipline of the corps, and if she en-
counter such weather as seems most probable, it
may be necessary to throw the cargo overboard for
the sake of the crew. Such is our "steam navy."
One steamer is charged with the work of two, and
breaks down under the trial.
    Our "establishments" are even worse - worse
in cost and worse in returns. Some person or persons,
not having the fear of the "First Lord" before
their eyes, have been "indiscreet" enough to cer-
tify that a very large consignment of provisions,
stowed away in our victualling stores, was abso-
lutely unfit for human consumption. Matters
have even proceeded so far that the fact is proved
beyond denial, and 6,000 canisters of "preserved"
meats, Laid up for the sustenance of our sailors in
time of need, are found to be nothing but so
many cases of the most horrible garbage. No
doubt the unlucky officer who made this discovery
will forfeit all "claim to confidence" and be held
incapable of future employment. But after
the Admiralty has pronounced its own sentence
the public at Large will pronounce theirs, and
they will demand an inquiry upon those officials
through whose neglect, incapacity, or corruption
such an abominable fraud was successfully per-
petrated. Who advised or sanctioned the pur-
chase of this "meat ?" Who received it, ex-
amined it, and sent it into the stores ? Is there
any officer whose duty it is to see that biscuit is
biscuit and beef is beef?  Who compared the
consignment with the samples ? and on whose
report did the "contractor" receive good money
for his garbage ? The answer to these questions
must be given without evasion or delay.
    And now that the "indiscretion" of this ex-
posure has been actually committed, we must take
the liberty of suggesting that the warning is too
signal to be lost. Who is to certify that in our
enormous accumulation of stores there are no other
provisions or materials in the same state of "pre-
"servation" as these delectable "meats?"  Who
will stand surety for our flour, our tea, our coffee,
our sugar, our rice, our cocoa, our beef, our pork,
or any of those goods which the "Commissioners
"for executing the office of Lord High Admiral"
periodically lay in by contract? For the value of
these stores we do not see that we have any other
security than that which has just been tested
in the case of "GOLDNER'S preserves," and
we insist, therefore, that an examination of
the most rigorous kind shall be instituted in
the track of that which has now produced such
startling results. This is not a subject on which
we can afford to be tender with official dignitaries.
It may involve the very salvation of the country,
for when the time of need arrives - a time which
by making these very provisions we profess to an-
ticipate - there may be little opportunity of
amending an error or replacing a loss. At the
present moment a stock of 100,000lb. of meat is
not absolutely indispensable to the efficiency of our
fleet, but it might possibly have supplied the only
stores of this kind at hand for a squadron proceeding
to sea. Let us make the best of our warning, and
ascertain forthwith, by unsparing scrutiny, the
actual state of our "establishments" in all par-
ticulars. Nobody can doubt, it will be said, the
merits of our superintendents. Very likely not;
but nobody doubted, till the other day, that Mr.
GOLNER'S canisters contained sweet and wholesome
    Now that the suspicions of the country have
been fairly aroused, they must be met by a prompt
and rigorous investigation. Perhaps it will be no
easy matter to discover why our Government
steamers are often unseaworthy and always
slow; why they always break down, and
invariably are twice as long as they should
be on their voyages; but we may at any rate
assure ourselves that all the articles we have
bought and paid for are what they pretend to be.
Not a day must be lost in extending to every
department of Admiralty and Ordnance stores the
inquiry which has proved so fruitful at the Ports-
mouth Victualling-office during the past week.
Let us know our position without further uncer-
tainty or disguise. If all is as it ought to be, well
and good; if not, let us right ourselves while
there is yet time, let us punish the guilty, and
exercise a greater vigilance for the future.


  The following explanation of the circumstances under which pre-
served meats were issued to sea-going ships, and likewise of the
causes which led to the recent condemnation of those meats, which
had been contracted for by the Admiralty at Portsmouth, demands
attention, as much for the temperate and judicious manner in which
the subject is treated, and for the great information displayed, as
for the authoritative quarter from which it emanates. It will be per-
ceived that in no case are ships at sea or on foreign stations confined to
those preserved meats for more than one day per week; and it does not
appear, since 1850, when they came into extended use, that there have
been any serious complaints made of them. At all events, the wrong
that has been done is the work of the contractor, upon whom, doubtless,
the full penalty of breach of contract will be levied; and it does not seem
that the Admiralty are in the slightest degree to blame in the matter.
  It is well known to every one conversant with the practice of yacht
owners, that noblemen and gentlemen, who have all the means of
luxury at their command, and who are their own masters, never go to
sea without a supply of those provisions.
  The subjoined statement will go far to place the question in a just and
proper light before the public, and to simplify and facilitate those fur-
ther proceedings, which the Government is fully prepared to take.

  Much misunderstanding appears to have arisen respecting the con-
demnation of preserved meat at the Clarence Yard.
  The preserved meat is supplied in tin canisters of a certain dimension
and strength, hermetically sealed. The supply is obtained by contract,
and subject to examination - any canister once opened, becomes unser-
viceable within twenty-four hours - it is, therefore, impossible to examine
every canister, but a certain proportion, about five per cent, is usually
opened. In this examination it can be ascertained, in the canisters
actually opened, whether improper parts of the animal have been
used; but where the proportion of improper meat in the whole supply
is very small, it must happen that on some occasions breaches of the
contract in this respect will escape notice, from the impossibility of
examining every canister; but this is not the usual cause of the meat
becoming unserviceable.
  If the air has penetrated into the canister, or was not originally
entirely exhausted, or if there was a defect in the original curing, meat
which on examination appears perfectly good and is properly passed,
would corrupt and become unserviceable.
  Preserved meat was first issued to the navy as an article of comfort
for the sick in the year 1815.
  It was also supplied in a limited quantity to Captain Parry on his
Arctic voyage in 1819, and again to Captain Trotter's ships in the Niger
expedition in 1840.
  The reports in these instances were favourable; still as the article,
from its comparative scarcity and cost, could only be considered as one
of luxury, its general use in the, navy was not then contemplated.
  In 1840 a patent for preserved meat was taken out by Mr. Goldner,
and from this time considerable improvement was made in the art of
manufacture, and in the cost at, which it could be supplied, and in con-
sequence of this the Board of Admiralty were induced in 1846 to
authorize the issue of preserved meat experimentally on a more ex-
tensive. scale.
  The trial thus made appearing to be successful, the Board of Admiralty,
by a circular of the 29th of April, 1847, directed that preserved meat
should be introduced as an article of victualling into the navy, and issued
to ships on, foreign stations one day in each week, with preserved
potatoes, in lieu of a salt beef ration.
About the end of 1848, or in the beginning of 1849, it was reported
to the Admiralty that, in addition to such occasional condemnations of
preserved meat as are common to salted provisions, parts of the
animal not fit for use had, in a few instances, been found mixed with
the meat, and immediate steps were ait once taken to remedy the evil.
  In the following year (1850) a new contract was entered into with Mr.
Goldner, and in 1851, increased quantities of preserved meat being
required for the navy, a further contract was made with that gentleman
for a large additional supply. It was in the course of examining the
first deliveries under this contract that an improper substance was dis-
covered in one of the canisters, and upon this the whole quantity under
delivery, amounting to 22,325lb., was at once rejected; and complaints
at the same time reached the Admiralty of the nature and quality of the
preserved meat then being served out in ships abroad, orders were
immediately sent to the commanders-in-chief on foreign stations to
stop the issue of such provisions, and to return the supply into store.
  The contract with Mr. Goldner was then immediately cancelled; and,
in order that the exact amount of penalty to which he as contractor is
liable may be ascertained, every canister in store, as well as those
returned from ships abroad, is now being subjected to examination.
  In justice to the contractor, however blameable his conduct, we are
bound to state that a very small proportion of the canisters examined is
objectionable on the ground that improper parts of the animal have
been employed. The principal proportion of those condemned may
have become unserviceable from the other causes before stated.
  It appears, therefore, that the use of preserved meat generally was
adopted after much experience - that on the first complaints immediate
measures were taken to supply a remedy; and that this last extensive
examination and condemnation has been occasioned by the determina-
tion of the Admiralty not to permit improper meat to be supplied for
the use of the navy.
  It is much to be regretted that this failure of the proper supply should
have taken place; and in issuing the preserved meat the Admiralty
were not swayed by any motive of economy, but were desirous of
substituting a change for the salt meat ration - a change which those
only who have served long at sea can sufficiently value.
  The supply was obtained by contract - a mode which is generally pre-
ferred - but such instances as the one now under consideration show
some of the inconveniences to which the system of contract is liable.

    We published yesterday from a weekly contem-
porary a statement, purporting to "emanate
"from an authoritative quarter," respecting the
edifying disclosures at the Gosport Victualling-
yard. This official apology we have perused
with great attention, and we have now to state
our opinion that in the parts where it is not
superfluous it is wholly insufficient. No excuse
was needed for the introduction, under pro-
per circumstances, of "preserved" meat into
the provision-list of the navy. As sailors require
animal food, and cattle cannot be pastured at sea,
it becomes necessary to preserve dead meats by
artificial methods. Salting is only one of those
methods, and has been hitherto adopted exclu-
sively for no other reason than that it seemed
the most reliable. But salt provisions, even
with the corrective of lime-juice, are, as is
well known, unwholesome for a long con-
tinuance, and if therefore any means were dis-
covered of keeping provisions without salt it was
not only optional with the Admiralty, but became
their bounden duty, to give the navy the benefit of
the invention. The simple question is whe-
ther the invention itself was generally practicable, and whe-
ther, in such case, due precautions were used in
laying in supplies.
    In the explanation now, as our neighbours would
term it, "communicated," we are informed that
"preserved meat was introduced as an article of
"naval victualling" in the month of April, 1847,
it being directed that vessels on foreign stations
should be served with a weekly ration of such food
in lieu of salt beef. We are next told that towards
the beginning of 1849 reports were made, not
only of the occasional condemnation of these
meats, but of the discovery of improper substances
in the tins. Immediate steps, it is said, "were
"taken to remedy this evil," but the nature of
the measures remains to be learnt. It is not
stated, otherwise than by implication, of whom
these meats were purchased, but, as we learn that
in 1850 a "new," and in 1851 a " further"
contract, was entered into with Mr. GOLDNER, we
presume "this gentleman" was also the contractor
for the original supplies. "It was in the course,"
proceeds the apology, "of examining the first
"deliveries under this contract (of 1851) that
"an improper substance was first discovered
"in one of the canisters," on which the
whole quantity then under delivery was at
once rejected, and, "complaints at the same time
"reaching home from ships abroad," orders were
given to stop the issue of these provisions, to can-
cel the contract with Mr.GOLDNER, and to examine
every canister in store, that the amount of his
liabilities in the way of penalty might be ascer-
tained. Such is the Admiralty defence.
    Now, we must first remark, that as far as can
be inferred from this not very perspicuous state-
ment, every supply obtained from Mr. GOLDNER,
without exception, appears to have been suspi-
ciously constituted. The "reports" which reached
"the Admiralty" about the end of 1848, or begin-
ning of 1849, must necessarily have referred to
the meats which were issued under the circular of
1847, and these reports distinctly specified the ad-
mixture of "improper substances" - a fact pointing
not to accident or oversight, but to direct and unmis-
takeable fraud. Nevertheless, a "new contract" was
made in 1850, and a "further contract" in 1851;
and while the meats furnished under the latter were
being condemned by the authorities themselves,
complaints arrived at the same moment from abroad
which could only have reference to earlier supplies,
and, as we imagine, those of 1850. Thus all the
dealings on the part of the contractor appear to
have furnished matter for complaint.
    But we have now to ascertain some points which
are not elucidated in the statement before us. Pray,
under what contract or contracts were those
6,000 particular canisters supplied which have
been found so atrociously bad ? The first delivery
of 1851, we learn, was wholly rejected, and the
"contract," meaning, we suppose, that of 1851,
immediately cancelled. None of these meats, there-
fore, found their way into the warehouses. What,
then, were those meats now discovered? They
must have passed the ordeal of Government in-
spection, for they were actually in store - that
is to say, they had been approved and laid
up for use. Now, we desire to know
under what contract these were taken,
when and by whom they were tested,
and what report was made upon the sub-
ject ? Further, the defence of the Admiralty seems
to insinuate that the examination at last instituted
into the quality of the "stores" was the result of
suspicions conceived from the character of the first
delivery of 1851. Was this the case? or were
the authorities roused to action by a somewhat
more forcible appeal ? We seem to recollect a re-
port that the stench issuing from the place in
which these meats were stored became so frightful
as to alarm the whole neighbourhood, and that it
was upon this summons, and not on any prede-
termined resolution, that the investigation took
    The apologist of the Admiralty sums up his case
with remarkable complacency. "It appears,"
says he, "that the use of preserved meats gene-
"rally was adopted after much experience; that on
"the first complaints immediate measures were
"taken to supply a remedy; and that this last
"extensive examination and condemnation has
"been occasioned by the determination of the
"Admiralty not to permit improper meat to be
"supplied for the use of the navy." We humbly
submit to the opinion of the public that no such
conclusions are warranted by the explanation sup-
plied. To us, on the contrary, "it appears"
that the contracts from first to last gave evidence
of improper dealing. By the showing of the Ad-
miralty itself complaints occurred on the very first
issue of these provisions, and continued without
intermission to the present moment. The "mea-
"sures taken to supply a remedy" are left to be
conjectured; but, whatever they were, they were
manifestly of not the slightest effect, for the com-
plaints got worse and worse, and when a thorough
inquiry was at length set on foot the state of
things proved more horrible than it was possible to
conceive. With what face can the Admiralty offi-
cials affirm that they "took immediate measures to
"remedy the evil" in 1849, when the evil is
proved to be more inveterate than ever in
1851 ?  Before 1849 the supplies were "oc-
"casionally" bad; in that year the authorities
"remedied the evil," and since that time they
have been so abominably foul that not 60 cases
out of 6,000 are fit for human consumption. Is
not this a strange sort of defence ?
    All this disclosure, however, it seems, "has
"been occasioned by the determination of the Ad-
"miralty not to permit improper meat to be sup-
"plied for the use of the navy." The navy is infi-
nitely obliged to them for their consideration, but
who permitted improper meat to be put into the
stores, there to be discovered or not, as ac-
cident might determine ? Who lodged in
the victualling-houses 6,000 canisters of meat
supplied by a contractor whose goods had
been previously so complained of ? Was this
stock, in the main, that furnished under the
"new contract" of 1850 ? and if, as we suspect, it
was so, how came such stuff to be passed after the
acknowledged warnings of 1849, and how came a
"further contract" to be made in 1851? No
wonder the "first deliveries" of this contract were
bad, considering what had previously passed
muster. The contractor introduces "improper
"substances" in 1847, in 1850 he supplies the
garbage which is now polluting the sea at
Spithead; and what wonder, then, when such
wares had found a good market, if he furnished a
still cheaper article in 1851 ? There never seems
to have been a period at which "complaints"
were not made of these preserved meats, and yet
the Admiralty continue their dealings with the
same contractor, and enlarge their orders every
successive year.
    The authorities, however, put in a word or two
for their old caterer, and "feel bound to state
"that a very small proportion of the canisters ex-
"amined" (we should like to hear what proportion)
"is objectionable on the ground that improper
"parts of the animal have been employed.
"The principal portion of those condemned may
"have become unserviceable from other causes."
These causes are premised to be defects in the
curing or the canister, by which meat, originally
good, might become corrupt. But these defects
though evincing, perhaps, less positive criminality
than the introduction of the filthy offal described
in our reports, are nevertheless iniquitous viola-
tions of a contract under which meats were to be
furnished consumable for a given number of years.
We do not choose, however, to enter upon the
discrimination suggested. Every person who pe-
ruses the accounts of the investigation now pending
must feel perfectly convinced that the contract was
so executed as to leave not the slightest room for
exculpation on the ground of accident. No casualty
or oversight could have brought about such results
as are now disclosed, and we again demand that a
scrutiny which has proved so unexpectedly fruitful
shall not stop at this point, but be extended,
while there is yet time for amendment, to every
branch of our "establishments."

Three visits to 137 Houndsditch

In January ‎2019 Gina Koellner and I made a pilgrimage to the site of Goldner's preserved provisions manufactory. The site is now partly...