Letter – John Grey to James Graham – 18 Oct 1833

Document Type: Letter
Date: 18 Oct 1833
Correspondent: John Grey
Recipient: James Graham
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Corbridge Oct 18th 1833


	I have the honor of your letter on the subject of the Alston road trust, & am much gratified to think that all which I have done in respect of it, is in strict accordance with the views & suggestions it contained.

	I discovered, soon after entering upon my present office, how deeply the Hospital was interested in that concern, & how enormously the debt upon it had accumulated, which led me to investigate the whole of the transactions of the trust from its commencement, & the result has convinced me of the truth of your supposition, that it had been founded on a system of jobbing throughout. McAdam got into it at first, by stating, upon the face of his estimates, that £26,000 would do, what 60,000 had not been sufficient to complete this proving <.....> extremely incompetent or something much worse. The early correspondence & meetings on the subject, are very curious. McAdam holds Lord Lowther up to the admiration & gratitude of the country for his enlarged & patriotic views of improvements. His Lordship in return magnifies McAdam’s unequalled skill & knowledge in. this important branch of internal communication, & proposes that after his immediate inspection & personal services may be dispensed with, for the purpose of securing a skilful & scientific surveyor, the appointment of such person should be left solely to the said Mr McAdam.   He as was natural, appointed a youth, his grandson, called McConnell, with a salary of £500, with the power of keepings assistant &c and with a provision that he could only be removed by a notice of six months, agreed to by a majority of a general meeting to be called for the purpose three months previously making in all nine months. The great interest which the Hospital possessed & the kind of <dictation> that it practised, indeed may <.eutte…> in the country to decline taking any active hand in the business, & it has been <induced> by Mr McConnell much according to his own policy ever since. I found that he knew hardly any thing of the concerns except by the report of his deputy to whom he paid a salary of £160, he himself living in other parts of the kingdom & coming here to make an annual statement & receive his salary. This deputy too, was left to act in the most uncontrolled <manner> possible. He collected the rents, ordered the work, let it, paid for it, took receipts, often from illiterate people who could not sign their own names & transferred these to a nominal Treasurer, without any check upon his proceedings. None of the ordinary work, such as breaking stones or quarrying them, was subject to competition, but let by this man privately, thus opening a door to all kind of jobbing, if he were so inclined.

	Having qualified as a Trustee, & being appointed one of a committee to enquire into the management of the roads, the finances of the trust &, I immediately moved some resolutions to the effect that McConell’s services were not essential & much over paid – that they should be dispensed with at the earliest period that the stipulation in his appointment admitted of – that a resident surveyor be elected with a salary of £150 – that one clerk with a salary of £50 be substituted for two at £40 each. That certain workmen be employed giving to each a section of the road, to look after the surface, conduits, watercourses etc – but that all work which admitted of being let by the piece, should be submitted & let by public tender – a saving would thus be effected of £300 a year in salaries, & I should anticipate a considerable one also in the expenditure for labor, only that I fear the state of the roads, will for two or three years, require the application of an additional quantity of materials. These resolutions were adopted – notice has been given to Mr McConell that his engagement will terminate in February, not in November as you suppose, and a general meeting is to be held in Alston in November, to adopt the best means of carrying the other measures into effect.

      I hear that our hasty reforms  have produced some effusions of dissatisfaction from the Westmoreland end of the road – but having been in constant communication with Mr Ord, who fully coincides with my opinions, & effecting to meet Mr Scott, & others of the Trustees at Whitfield on the day before the Alston meeting, there is no doubt that we shall carry our field.

	I need hardly assure you, that the importance of the roads in question, to this district, & the interest of the Hospital involved in them, are too great ever to allow of my omitting any opportunity of contributing to their improvement, or the economy with which it may be effected. I have not heard of Mr Hodgson as a candidate for the office of Surveyor, but should recommend that the selection be first advertised, & testimonials & qualifications etc produced, before an election be proceeded to.

	Allow me to express the valification that I feel in hearing that my services so far, have proved satisfactory to you & to the Commissioners of the Hospital. I assure you there is <……> room for energy & exertion in effecting the redress of abuses & in contending with the <...teracy> of prejudice & habit. The system of plunder, arising chiefly from the monopoly in the building department, that had been enjoyed by one set of people, is already broken down, but to restore land from a state of extreme exhaustion, from a long & uninterrupted course of severe cropping, in which every advantage been taken of it, & to raise tenants without capital, to a state of respectability, must be a work of time as well as of an entire chapter of encouragement.

	Allow me also to express my acknowledgements for your kind compliance with the proposed plan of building a house. Seeing no prospect of any thing being obtained, at once convenient in situation & comfortable as a residence, there seemed no alternative between building, & my relinquishing the situation. I shall shrink from no amount of exertion or fatigue, but when added to a life of labor, was the privation (& that to a person of strictly domestic habits & enjoyment) of living as a lonely bachelor <….>, leaving my wife & children, of whom there are five, at the other end of the county, I did feel it to be a sacrifice which I could not continue, & which I was not called upon to make. I trust however that in the end, the plan of building a residence for the Receiver, will give to the arrangement a respectability, independence & <pe…aletice> which could not have been secured by any other.

	Allow me to apologise for the length of this letter, & to assure you of the consideration with which I have the honor to subscribe myself

      Sir Your most obedient & obliged servant

      John Grey
The ‘scientific surveyor’ disparaged by Grey was John McConnell, a nephew rather than grandson of McAdam. Like McAdam he was also involved in many other Turnpike trusts at the same time.

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The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467