Caerleon Net
R R Angerstein's Travel Diary 1754
- Passage Across The Severn -
Text and illustrations from the book
R R Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753 - 1755
Industry in England and Wales from a Swedish perspective

Published 2001 by the Science Museum
Translated by Torsten and Peter Berg
ISBN 1 900747 24 3

Reproduced here by permission.

All text and images © copyright

Journey from Bristol via the New Passage
On 24 June, St John's or Midsummer's Day [footnote a], I travelled from Bristol to Wales. I arrived in the afternoon at New Passage, ten miles from Bristol on the River Severn, which in this place ought to be known as a bay of the ocean as it is four miles wide [Fig. 152b].

On the way to New Passage I passed through Clifton Down located on the hill above Hotwells Spa. It has a number of attractive summerhouses, with which the inhabitants of Bristol have embellished this place.

Durdham Common
The road continued across a common called Durdham Down, where there was a magnificent prospect out towards the sea and King Roads, where ships enter the Bristol River from the Severn. Many of the spa visitors promenaded on this common, some in carriages and others on horseback. A masonry wall has just been built at the top of the steep slope down to the river, which makes this promenade safer and more pleasant. Towards autumn a horse race is held upon the common, and it was said that there is a great influx of spectators both from Bristol and from other towns and villages many miles away.

Freemasons Lodge
On my arrival at the Severn, I met a number of travellers who were waiting for passage, but the ship could not sail due to the winds that had lasted for two days and still kept the waves surging. There was also a Lodge of Freemasons from Bristol, who had assembled to celebrate the day in the traditional way. Before long I was introduced into this worthy and amusing company, which made the day short and pleasant in this otherwise dull and lonely place.

Passage across the Severn
On 25 June wind and rain that made themselves heard throughout the night did not hold out any promise of a speedy and safe passage. However, towards dinnertime, when the tide had started to flow out against the wind and the waves, the captain decided to take the risk. More than 20 horses and an even greater number of passengers, as many as there was room for, were crammed into the ship. Another ship, belonging to the opposite side, had to return empty, as it was not allowed to take cargo or passengers from our side.

The horses were so unruly during the crossing that it seemed that the ship would fly apart. This caused her to spring a leak and the waves washed over her. Passengers screamed and wailed, the sailors were hampered by the overcrowding, quite at a loss as to what to do, and complete confusion reigned. We all expected a catastrophe at any moment. This fear continued until we approached land and could with great joy jump onto the rocks to dispel the anxiety that had filled us all with consternation.

Assault of the sea upon terra firma
Having arrived at the other side of the water at the ferry station, which is in Wales, an old man showed me how the waves eat into terra firma, and told me that in his youth he had cut corn in a place that now is a rock 10 feet out in the water.

Remarks about ebb and flood
Ebb and flood are here so strong that the water falls and rises between 50 feet and 60 feet every 12 hours. There are five hours of ebb, when all the water runs out, and another seven hours of flood when it comes streaming back again. These changing movements of the water are longest and strongest when there is a spring tide, which occurs at Full Moon, or when the attractions of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth act together. This happens when they are placed on one each side of the Earth, all three on one straight line. The result is that the united forces pull the water on either side of the Earth which, considering the natural equilibrium that all things created are endowed with, has the same effect on the sea as if the attraction of these bodies, namely the Sun and the Moon, on the Earth were united on one side, which can be demonstrated by experimental physics.


Please note, the footnotes have been renumbered for convenience.

[a] The feast of John the Baptist, six months from Christmas, celebrated as Midsummer's Day in Sweden.


Caerleon Net
R R Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary | Iron Forge At Caerleon | Town of Newport |
Caerleon Net – | Caerleon Forge | Home Page | History Index | Full A - Z Index | Search |