Fact or Fiction?

true tales of the great London Conspiracy

the Subject of Legacy

One of the most important aspects of The Great London Conspiracy is legacy. It's something we all likely struggle with - the idea of being forgotten or poorly regarded for future generations.

Many of the characters in the book have very little legacy to speak of; in fact, many owe what little they have entirely to their connections to Brunel. In a Victorian age, where legacy and the future were such influential parts of life, how would these men and women go on to survive against the sands of time?

In a post-Brunel age, photography became a more common medium - but would not truly hit stride for another twenty years. For many, this new medium was one of speculative interest and fascination - and a luxury few would be guaranteed.

Brunel was a master of the media circus, and, with Robert Howlett, created imagery that would go on to represent the Victorian age with vigour. The iconic photographs and simply monumental scale of I.K.Brunel's work would not only impact his own legacy, but ensured many men would be catapulted beyond expectation; making the little man in the big top hat one of the most recognisable and iconic men of the 1800s.

It was a shock to the author, upon writing the book, to see just how little completely accurate information exists purporting to the early days of the GWR, Daniel Gooch, Robert Brereton and William Jacomb. Of particular shock is the almost forgotten identity of Samuel Lucas, whom, in this modern day focus on equality and duty of care should, by rights, be legendary.

While Daniel Gooch would be immortalised as a railway engineer, little credit is given to his work on the transatlantic cable.

William Jacomb, despite being a CRE of the LSWR and his connections with the Great Eastern, Paddington Station and the Met', doesn't even get his own wikipedia page.

Robert Brereton, the distinctive man in the eyepatch who completed many of the GWR's most iconic infrastructure projects, is almost forgotten despite his enormous role, the hefty compliments from Brunel himself, and his work in Italy.

The most you'll see is the occasional snuff article in local newspapers; with only the vaguest research and slightest implication of importance.

It's a great tragedy that so many influential men have been erased from history. The same, too, must be said for those early, pioneering locomotives that developed into the GWR network. Brunel, through the work of T.E. Harrison, experimented heavily in locomotive styles that surely led to important lessons in matters of locomotive power.

Of course; it could be argued that no matter what they were involved in, a man's importance is difficult to accurately portray over a hundred years later. Perhaps in the age of the internet, we've grown too used to expecting information in ready, easy access.

Perhaps a greater legacy can be inferred from what we don't know; that these men live on in their creations rather than facts and figures.

In any sense, it provides plenty of material for a story...

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