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British Railway Topography and Politics in John Cooke Bourne’s (1839) Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway

Van Laun, John; (2021) British Railway Topography and Politics in John Cooke Bourne’s (1839) Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway. Masters thesis (M.Phil), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis provides an interdisciplinary study of the 1839 book, Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway, authored by John Cooke Bourne. Bourne’s volume depicts, in rich detail, construction of that rail line, the first major railway to reach into London’s metropolis. Drawings also is a landmark in tinted lithography. The first chapter focuses on the project’s origin and development. It places particular emphasis on influences exerted by John Britton, who transformed an artist’s fascination with change into an opportunity to create an overt political argument. I locate Britton’s motives squarely within a campaign to assimilate radical changes of industrialisation into the genteel English landscape (and into the lives of changeresistant landed gentry). I also compare Bourne with other artists in a small coterie attracted to the excavations between Camden Town and Euston, including Thomas Talbot Bury, Robert Biemmel Schnebbelie, and George Scharf. I also link Bourne with engravers and printers in his local community of work. The second chapter follows Bourne as he produced a visual record along the Euston Extension, that part of the London and Birmingham Railway between Camden Town and the line’s terminus in Euston Grove. Bourne had an unusual ability to capture fine engineering detail while working quickly on a site. This chapter considers to what extent accurate engineering information can be extracted from Bourne’s surviving material. The conclusion is that he was a reliable and valuable source. The third chapter considers Bourne’s artistic work from the perspective of aesthetics. He was different from those around him. His work combines an eye for precision with an understanding of composition and admiration of human endeavour. By following, in fine detail, the progression of his visual works - from sketches to field campaigns to studio work to selection of materials and sale – I argue we can identify Britton’s impact on Bourne as these two men worked towards the product that ultimately became Drawings. Bourne’s published work combined the Picturesque and the industrial Sublime to produce, ultimately, a new railway genre in landscape art. The final chapter follows the afterlife of Drawings. As a prestige publication, Drawings stood little chance of becoming a traveller’s companion. Bourne faded as the century moved on. Drawings, and Bourne’s other work, was revived in Britain after World War Two during the rise of industrial archaeology. Bourne’s chief revivalist was Arthur Elton. This movement sought to revive appreciation of the country’s industrial heritage, especially its record of innovation in civil and mechanical engineering. As wall-mounted works of art, Bourne’s tinted lithographed inspired. But on closer inspection, his work added technical knowledge otherwise thought lost. Also in this chapter, I examine Bourne’s later interest in photography, and I speculate on its possible value earlier in his career for transferring images in lithography. This thesis includes extensive appendices that reassemble much of Bourne’s artistic work as it relates to the London and Birmingham Railway: from sketches and notes to wash drawings to final tinted lithographs. Other appendices allow comparison with peer artists developing work using the same subject matter. These appendices will serve as aids for further scholarship and comparison.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil
Title: British Railway Topography and Politics in John Cooke Bourne’s (1839) Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10137517
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