Paper Remnants Nᵒ.12: The Town Machine (Snow Hill)

Held at Birmingham Archive.

The Town Machine was the only place where coal could be weighed, as proclaimed by Birmingham's Overseers, and you had to pay to do so, with the profits going to support the poor. 

The Machine from the ticket, above, was the second owned by the Overseers, the first being purchased in 1752.

Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 17 February 1752:
Notice is hereby given That the Machine for Weighing Coal (known by the Name of the Town Machine,) is the only Engine now standing for that purpose; the other Machine being purchased by the Overseers of the Poor and will be taken down. That the Town Machine may answer the Design of its first Institution in as ample a Manner as possible, every House-keeper therefore will receive an Advantage by encouraging this Machine, since the Poor's Levy will annually be reduced in proportion to the Profits arising from it; and in order to prevent the deceitful practices of Coal-Heavers, it is determined to reduce their Number to Twelve; that they shall be Men of known Characters, and be distinguished by a Brass Badge, number'd, and bearing the Letters T. M., but upon any illicit Practice, they shall be deprived of their Badges and Employment, and their Places filled up by the Nomination of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor. And, in order to suppress the Imposition which Purchasers have frequently suffer'd from a large Bottom of small Coal, it is determined that no Payment shall be made for any Coal under one Pound Weight, but all such shall be measured by the Coal-Heaver attending (who will be provided with a Bushel for that Purpose), and for every such Measure, Half a Hundred shall be deducted from the Load; but instead of Half a Hundred in each Ton for Draught, only One Quarter of a Hundred will be allowed.
N.B.—The Coal-Heavers will appear in their Badges on Monday, the 24th instant. All complaints to be exhibited at the Workhouse, before the Overseers of the Poor, on Friday in the Afternoon.

Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 24 Dec 1759:
Whereas a Practice prevails among the People who are concerned in the Coal Trade to this Town, of selling Coals twice or thrice over, both before and after they reach the Machine : This is therefore to give Notice, that the Overseers of the Poor have given Orders to Mr. Dolphin to refuse weighing the Coals of such Persons as shall be detected of such unfair Practices, and 'tis hoped the Interest of the Inhabitants of this Town will excite them to discover such Persons.

The Machine at Snow Hill seems to have been erected in 1766 and it was stated that 'it is therefore earnestly recommended to the Inhabitants of Birmingham, that they will purchase no Coals but what are weighed at the Town Machine, certified by a proper Ticket' [17 Jan 1766], the "ticket" likely being that at the top of this post.

The 'Machine' had been designed by Samuel Wyatt, and was an ingenious design which drew the coal carts onto a platform rather than hoisting them with a chain. Wyatt invented many ingenious machines.

See all Paper Remnants.

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