Some threads in history and the last Great Cornish Engineer

Notes and musings for the Friends of Luxulyan Valley William West talk.

This is post is a resource for all those who attended my talk in March 2017 in the Luxulyan Valley, an area rich in William West’s History.  The post follows the order of the presentation, contains links to references within the Navbooks blog, along with a few facts, figures and dates.  

If you did not attend the presentation, then feel free to wander among the links on this page, and perhaps enjoy forming your own conclusions about the significance of the Austen’s engine trial.

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngThread one-The Steam engine Duty race

Steam engine development in Cornwall

  • Newcomen engine first used at Wheal Vor in 1715
  • The first James Watt engines in Cornwall  1777

The Cornish engine

  • 1812 the first high pressure condensing engine

Duty

Number of pounds of water raised one foot by an engine using one bushel of coal.

The Duty race

  • 1811 Lean’s Engine reporter started publication, Maximum duty recorded  22.3 Million
  • 1815 Woolf’s compound 50 Million duty

Click here for a post on Lean’s Reporter and some layers of history>

Samuel Grose

Click here for  more information about Samuel Grose>

  • 1825 Grose erected his engine at the Wheal Hope Mine .  This engine first introducedTowanHeather the concept of insulating the  the cylinders, nozzles, and steam pipes, an introduction that greatly improved the efficiency of the engine.
  • 1827 Grose’s 80″ at Wheal Towan is recorded at 67m.

Thread two- J.T Austen

Click here for some key dates in Austen’s life>

Austen before the engineaustin

  • 1782 Austen is born
  • 1778 His Mother inherited estate from her brother
  • 1803 He came of age, and was managing the family estate, which was not in a good condition
  • 1814 Early evidence of Austen investing in mining ventures.

Fowey Consols is formed

Click here for information about Fowey Consols>

  • 1816 Austen buys shares in Wheal Treasure, this would later develop into Fowey Consols.
  • 1822 Wheal Treasure, Wheal Fortune and Wheal Chance combined as Fowey Consols

Fowey  Consols success

  • The total production of copper from the mines between 1815 and 1836 was 383,359 tons which brought in sales of £2,247,478.

A new engine is required

Thread three- William West

The engineer is born

Click here for some key dates in William West’s life>

  • 1801 William West is born at Dolcoath

Influences

Click here for the story of West and Trevithick>

  • 1808 West holds a candle for Trevithickw6

Dolcoath and engineering

  • 1817 to 1819 West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

West becomes and engineer

  • 1822 West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

Wheal Towan

  • 1828 Grose achieved 87m with his Towan engine, trial is demanded, a trial is run.

Click here for information about West and the engine at Wheal Towan>

  • 1831 West was Engaged by  J. T. Austen at Fowey Consols and Austens Engine was austinpanfirst proposed
  • 1833 The contract for Austen’s engine signed

The threads converge at Austen’s engine

Click here for information on Austen’s engine trial>

Fame and controversy

Click here for a letter from James Sims>Click here for a letter from James Sims>

“I have no doubt that at least all practical engineers will agree with me, that it is perfectly absurd to think of making a fair trial of the duty of a steam engine (working under similar circumstances as the engine in question), in the short time of 24 hours” James Sims

A diverging thread, wealth

West is sought after

Click here for information of William West’s Caradon mines>

Properties

Click here for some maps showing some of William West’s properties near St. Blazey>

  • 1848 St. Blazey foundry built by West
  • 1852 Tredenham House is built

 

Beyond engineering

  • 1864 Liskeard Bank is founded

Click here for information about Liskeard Bank>

Phoenix Unitedwpid-th-5.jpeg

  • 1868 West gains majority shares in Phoenix United Mine

Click here for information about William West and Phoenix United Mine>

Click here for information about Phoenix United Mine>

  • 1898 Phoenix United closes.

A diverging thread-innovation

Steam Capstan

Click here for information about the steam Capstan>

  • 1835 Installed at South Hooe mine

Horizontal whim

  • 1843 Installed at Par Consols

Sims compound

Click here for some information about the Sims compound engine>SimsCoverClose2

  • 1843 The Sims family granted West the licence to build the Sims compound engine, and West installed several large engines of this design in Devon and Cornwall.

Open work beams

Click here for some information about William West’s open work beams>

Click here for information about the President engine ( external link)>

  • 1846-1849 Cruquius engine 144″

 

“In 1869, the company’s engineer, Cornishman John West, was asked to design an engine capable of pumping 12,000 gals/min from a depth of 300 ft. His engine, a condensing, double-acting rotative beam engine weighing 675 tons, was unique, but proved to be as successful as it was gargantuan. With a 110-inch cylinder and two latticework beams, the engine worked pump rods in the shaft and a pair of huge flywheels inside the engine house.”NANCE, R. Damian,

The man engine

Click here for information about the Man engine>

Click here for information about the Loams>

man%20engine

28th July 1851 William West engine at Fowey Consol’s started

  • Powered by a  30 foot diameter water wheel, 12 foot strokes
  • Co-designer John Puckey
  • 1872  South Caradon engine installed
  • 20 October 1919 Levant man engine disaster

 

A final diverging thread- the engine

Austen’s engine performance

  • 1840 Hocking and Loam’s 85″ engine at Taylor’s United mine achieves 107m, the largest figure recorded in Lean’s
  • 1850s onwards-duties decline the battle is over.
  • 1905 The last issue of Lean’s is published.

Click here for some information about the engine reporters>

 

The old Ford engine startsw13

Click here for information about the double beat valve>

 

The double beat valve

Cholera

1866. Cholera’s final onslaught came through water provided by the East London waterworks


Reading list for William West of Tredenham

Click here for some recommended books on Amazon>

wpid-50150fcb361d2756f4bd40336f24004a.jpgIf you are passing through Liskeard then pop into The Book Shop to buy a copy of  The Last Great Engineer in their excellent local history section.

 

NavsBooksStore

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The James Sims Compound Engine- What did it look like?

Sims

James Sim’s had several connections with William West, and their relationship was a mixed one. As seen in an earlier post, he was one of the most vocal of the Austen’s Engine trial critics.   He would became related to West through marriage, when he William married his sister, Grace Sims.

The West-Sims business relationship would in time evolve from  bitter rivalry into a working partnership.  In 1843 the Sims family granted West the licence to build the Sims compound engine, and West installed several large engines of this design in Devon and Cornwall.

Jame’s engine was developed in the late 1830s. It used two cylinders one above the other; the smaller higher pressure cylinder sat on top of the larger lower pressure cylinder. The design was attempt to reduce the ‘kick’ being induced by using higher pressure steam. Unfortunately it required a taller, and therefore more expensive engine house, in addition to being difficult to maintain as a result of steam packing gland located deep within the engine, between the two cylinders. It was not a design that was widely adopted, although it did form the basis of the huge dutch engines at Cruiquis.

I have been hunting the web for a good picture of the design, as SimsCoverCloseso far this is the best I can discover. A cover of a book for sale at Plough books.  Feel free to comment if you have stumbled across others. The Cruquis museum on their excellent website has a diagram and description of its operation.

This is the best I have managed with the book cover, not a good image  I admit. It does show well the overall layout however, and more importantly, the impact its design had on the engine house. Having the high pressure cylinder stacked on top would have demanded a significantly taller building.


If you do know of some better images of this type of compound engines please post a message, I am sure there must be some better ones out there. Meanwhile the preparation for the Luxulyan valley talk continues….jm

 

 

 

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Happy St. Piran’s one and all

A brief pause in the preps for the fast approaching talk to wish all this blog’s followers a Happy St. Piran’s, wherever you are.

As St. P’s flag is flown all over Cornwall today, so is poking around beneath its surface underway. Perhaps this time mining may return to the home of hard rock mining, perhaps this time a real industry may be re-born. And maybe, just maybe, real hope of work for the next generation.  We should not be just a land for property developers, empty holiday homes and boarded up seasonal cafes. 

Not sure how long that flag will last on An Scaff in this wind though! 

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Austen’s Engine- A letter from James Sims

My preparations for the Luxulyan valley talk has now reached the historic event of Austen’s engine trial at Fowey Consols. Before this series of posts moves on to explore the impact the day made on the rest of  William West’s  life, it will take a quick look at some of the controversy that arose from the trial. 

austinpan
The Austin engine’s record breaking 125 million duty did not go unchallenged. Despite of the day being surrounded by all the trappings of an impartial scientific trial, many accusations appeared in the press, raising doubts about the validity of the result.

One such letter is reproduced here, a letter from a well respected engineer, James Sims. In reading this letter it must be taken into consideration that Sims thought that he would be the engineer to build the engine at Austen’s shaft, but lost the contract to the young, and relatively unknown William West.  No doubt this added extra vitriol to Sim’s pen as he compiled his words to the Mechanic’s magazine.

ON THE TRIAL OF AUSTEN’S STEAM ENGINE

“[After the official Report of the trial of Mr Austen’s engine, inserted in a preceding part of this Number, was in the hands of the printer, we received the following copy of a letter which Mr. James Sims of Chacewater, lately addressed on the subject to the Falmouth Packet, with a request that if we inserted the one we should also insert the other. As the request is a very fair one we readily comply with it.” Ed. M.M.]

“Sir-The account given of a steam engine in your paper of last week, and which is stated to be an extraordinary steam-engine, is, in the fullest sense of the word, extraordinary, not only in the duty as recorded, but so in the mode which was adopted for conducting a trial of that kind. I have no doubt that at least all practical engineers will agree with me, that it is perfectly absurd to think of making a fair trial of the duty of a steam engine (working under similar circumstances as the engine in question), in the short time of 24 hours; and on referring to the average duty performed by this engine for the last six months, and comparing it with the duty as recorded to have been performed during this trial, I consider that I am fully justified in making this remark. Duty as recorded at the trial 125,095,713 lifted one foot high by the consumption of one bushel of coal; average duty for the last six months 89,964 183 ;-balance in favour of 24 hours’ trial 35 131,530. The effectual working of this engine for six months, as reported by Mr Lean, gives 89,964,183, and which is the data that any practical man would refer to, in order to ascertain the duty performed.

I find by the monthly reports of steam-engines, that by comparing the average duty

dscf9312

Austen’s engine house

performed by this engine for six months, beginning with April last, and ending with September; and Borlase’s engine at Wheal Vor for six months, beginning with December 1832, and ending with May, 1833 there is a difference in favour of Austen’s engine of 4,816 182; Austen’s engine having performed during that time 89,964,183, and Borlase’s engine 85,148,001. Borlase’s engine never having been subjected to a trial of 24 hours only, there has been no proof of what the duty would amount to for that time, but so far as my opinion goes in matters of this kind, and I have no doubt that I hold it in common with every engineer in this county, there is no reason on earth why the duty should not be in a like proportion, provided it was tried in the same way, and by the same committee; therefore, if Mr Lean have given correct reports of these engines, (of which I hope there is no doubt), I am at a loss to know to which the greatest praise is due-viz. Messrs. Petherick and West the engineers of Austen’s engine, or Captain Richards, engineer of Borlase’s engine. Messrs. Petherick and West’s engine shows the greatest number of millions – but when it is known that an improvement which would enable them to save one bushel of coal, would raise the duty to nearly what it is above Richards’s engine, and taking into consideration the differences under which the two engines are working, ( Richards’s engine having 190

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.png

William West

fathoms of pump-work and four balance-bobs to contend with, and Petherick and West’s engine only 128 fathoms of pump-work and one balance-bob), it ceases to be a matter of surprise why Petherick and West’s engine should for a fair average of duty performed for the last six months do 4,816,182, or a little more than 1-19 more duty than Richards’s engine in the same time. I beg to state, that there is what is termed an advantage which Richards’s engine has that of Petherick and West’s in the number of strokes per minute, the average of Richards’s engine for the six months I have quoted being 6,33 strokes per minute, and the other 3,16 strokes per minute; but even this is of little importance, as I find on referring to different reports, a 50 inch engine working at 19 strokes per minute, and performing  51,740,126 duty; and on the same report a 53 inch engine working 4,66 strokes per minute, and performing 49,405,880 duty; and in another report, which was for April last, a 70 inch engine working 2,3 stokes per minute, and performing 66,845,381; and  a 70 inch engine working 8,54 strokes minute, and performing 64,378,231, plainly showing that whether an engine works three strokes per minute, or six strokes per minute, the difference in duty is of little importance.  Having thus far explained this matter in manner which I hope will enable the country to be undeceived respecting this wonderful engine, I conclude by saying that I deem it unnecessary to point out any other engines which have not been much below this in duty, as this can easily be ascertained by a short perusal of the Monthly Reports.

I am, &c. JAMES SIMS”

Dec 5th 1835

Sim’s key accusation was that a 24 hour trial did not represent a true reflection of an engine’s efficiency. It was the praise being dished out towards West and Petherick that appearedwpid-westcover.jpg to upset Sim’s the most, to him their engine was attracting an accolade that it did not deserve. History is never simple, if it was it would be boring.

The ‘Last Great Cornish Engineer‘ explores  West’s response to such accusations, but this post series must now move on to discover some of the stories surrounding the impact the engine made on William West’s life.

 


For William West book suggestions visit my William West book shelf, a growing collection.

westbookshelf


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Fowey Consols- the original mines

 

Fowey Consols is a mine whose history dominated the fortunes of William West and J.T. Teffry. This was mine in mid-Cornwall was where their lives first crossed, and where they built timg_20170212_135148_kindlephoto-57272580.jpgheir famous Austin’s engine.  

Fowey Consols was an amalgamation of several mines, and this can make following the history of the set confusing. This post therefore combines the information contained in Jim Lewis’s book ‘A Richly Yielding Piece of Ground‘ with excellent National Library of Scotland website to explore the sett. 

The Map from Jim Lewis’s book on which this post is based.

The Fowey Consols Mines

  • Wheal Treasure
  • Wheal Fortune
  • Wheal Chance

These all started work in 1813, they all became Fowey Consols. in 1822.

  • Wheal Hope

This became part of Fowey Consols some time after 1830.

  • Lansecott

This opened about 1817 but did not join Fowey Consols until 1836.

The mines located

Click here to explore the map on NLS website>

Austen and Fowey Consols

Austen’s involvement in the mines started in 1814 when he purchased shares in Treasure, Fortune and Chance. The mines had a slow start, and the early history of the setts is a complex one of debts, closures  and disputes. 
In 1820 Austen gained control of Wheals  Treasure, Fortune, Chance, and Hope.   He was was also buying shares in Lanescott. Fowey Consols was formed in 1822 but Lanescott remained a separate Company until 1836.

The total production of copper from the mines between 1815 and 1836 was 383,359 which brought in sales of £ 2,247,478.

Austen’s style of management favoured returning a large proportion of earnings back into the Company as investment. A strategy that William West, as both engineer and equipment supplier, benefited greatly from. Not all those involved in Fowey Consols appreciated this approach though:

‘Despite of the success being achieved many of the London adventures were unhappy with Austen’s management of the mines.There was a basic conflict of interest- They were looking for the biggest financial returns- but for Austen pqasuccess lay in the magnitude of his achievements and not in the size of his bank balance.’ A Richly Yielding Piece of Ground

Fowey Consols was more than a return on investment, to him it gave him chance to make mark in the world.

 

The steam Engines

A list complied from Annex V of A Richly Yielding Piece of Ground.

The numbers relate to the shaft positions shown in Jim Lewis’s map, the dates refer to the period of the engines operation.

Austin’s (4)

  • Wheal Treasure
  • 8o ” pumping
  •  1834-1836

Bottrall’s (12)

  • Wheal Fortune
  • 22″ Whim
  •  1837- 1867

Hodge’s (20)

  • Lanescott
  • 24′ Whim

Powne’s

  • Wheal Treasure
  • 18″ Whim
  • 1832- 1838
  • 22″ Whim
  • 1838-1867

Ray’s (17)

  • Wheal Fortune
  • 21′ Pumping
  • ?-1832
  • 18′ Whim
  • 1832-1867

Sawle’s (22)

  • Lanescott
  • 24″ Pumping
  • 1832-1838

Trathen’s (10)

  • Wheal Chance
  • 20″ Whim
  • 1832- 1860

Union (9)

  • Wheal Treasure
  • 4o” pumping
  • 1826-1834

Henrietta’s (13)

  • Wheal Fortune
  • 80″ Pumping
  • 1840-1843

Kendall’s North (1)

  • Caruggatt seaction
  • 20″ Whim
  • 1860-1862

     Next post…the aftermath of Austen’s engine trial….

wpid-westcover.jpg

 

J.T.Austen (Treffry)- Some Key Dates

As the talk on William West at Luxulyan approaches, so this blog moves on from his days with Samuel Grose to his involvement with with one of the most influential industrialist of Cornwall. This was an involvement that would lead to the famous  Austen engine trial at Fowey Consol’s 

From 1831 onward, Treffry and West’s success became intertwined, and therefore, to gain an kingmidcornwallunderstanding of how their two lives crossed paths I have dipped  into “The king of Mid Cornwall” by John Keast and pulled out some key dates from Treffy’s life and linked them with  William West’s timeline.

These dates do not represent a full account of Treffry’s life, but  will a give a framework onto which to add other facts.

Joseph Thomas Austin

The King of Mid Cornwall

J.T Austin, later to be named Treffry, was a remarkable figure.  He manaustin
aged to transform a relatively small and financially decaying estate until a large industrial and commercial empire. Treffry created an integrated business whose influence spread outwards from Fowey to dominate mid-Cornwall. It was a business that included transport links, mines, quarries, ships and manufacturing.

 

The Dates

Early Life

1782

He was baptized at St. Andrew’s Church Plymouth. The Austens Came from Great Deviock in St. Germans Parish, but later settled in the Friary Plymouth. Joseph’s Father Jacob was a brewer, his mother was Susanna Treffry of Place Fowey.

1786

His father died.

1778

His Mother inherited estate from her brother.

1891

Austen was sent to Exeter college Oxford.

1800

His sister Sarah died, leaving Joseph as the only child

1801

Matriculated from university

Gifted at mathematics and drawing

William West is Born at Dolcoath

Managing the estate in the early years

1803

He came of age, and was managing the family estate, which was not in a good condition.

1804

Austen left Oxford without taking a degree.

place_castle_fowey_-_south_front_c_1870

Place House (1870)   Wikimedia

 

1808

He obtained the interests from his cousins of the Place Estate.

William West held a candle for Trevithick 

1810

Austen Became involved in an unsuccessful attempt to move post office packet station from Falmouth to Fowey,  he helped boat’s crew to survey harbour.

1811

Austen was speaker at political meeting organised by Colman Rasheigh for political reform

1812

 

He purchased Penventinue farm from the Boconnoc Estate.  With it came the area of Caffa Mill where he built a lime kiln salt cellars. This was the site of Austn’s first commercial ventures. He built first ships here, and in later years built waterwheel to power an incline up to to a field near kiln 360ft above sea level; limestone, manure and sea sand used the  same route.

 

1814

Early evidence of Austen investing in mining ventures.

1815

Active member of Friends of freedom and The Reform Society.

1816

Austen buys shares in Wheal Treasure, this would later develop into Fowey Consols.

1817 West starts work at the Dolcoath fitting shop

1818

Time started to be taken up with parliamentary elections.

1819

Wheal Treasure closed.

1820

  • Austin was running out of cash, farming was going through bad period, but he had put his property in good order. Some building work undertaking himself.
  • Wheal Treasure re-opened along with adjacent mines

1822

  • Large amount of tree planting conducted on his estates, trees from Kelso in Scotland.
  • Wheal Treasure, Wheal Fortune and Wheal Chance combined as Fowey Consols.OS1881FoweyConsols

West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

1824

Route of a tramway surveyed  between Lanescott mine and Fowey.

1828 West assists Samuel Gross achieve 87 Million Duty at Great Towan Mine

1829

Work stated by Austen at  Par Harbour, and its associated Par Canal.

1831

Riots at Lanescott mine.

Engages William West

1833

Contract signed by William Petherick for Austen’s engine.

1834

  • Austen’s engine set to work.
  • Austin proposed a suspension bridge across the River Fowey as part of a new Torpoint to Truro road. William West had previosely visited Sunderland to inspection bridge there as an example of what could be achieved.

1835

Engineer James M. Rendel produces survey of proposed new coast road.


Austen’s engine trial at Fowey Consols achives a record 125 million dutydscf9312


1837

  • Deal signed to extend Fowey Consols at Carrogat.
  • Fowey Consols at its peak of success.

William West became the mine’s sole engineer

The Victorian era starts

A name is changed

1838

  • J.T Austen changes his name to J.T Treffry, the family name.
  • Austen purchases  Newquay Harbour.

West’s East London Engine was started

1839

treffey-viaduct

From Friends of Luxulyan Valley Map

  • The building  of the Luxulyan Viaduct commenced..
  • Par Consols started.

West installed a long stroke engine at Wheal Treasure.

1840

Work started on Carmears incline

West started his long association with the South Caradon Mine.

1841

Work started on building the Par Lead smelting works.

1842

  • Treffry Viaduct completed.dscf0456-bw-light
  • Treffry starts suffering ill health.

1843

Plymouth Breakwater lighthouse completed using granite from Treffy’s quarries.

1844

  • The West Fowey Consols mine opened.
  • The Newquay railway act is passed
  • Treffry is Chairman of newly formed Cornwall Railway. He convinced the committee to use Brunel as its engineer.

1846

  • An 80″ engine set to work at Par Consols by William West.
  • New Cornwall railway bill passed, with the route engineered by Brunel.
  • Treffry is in poor health.wpid-wp-1427407045752.jpeg

1847

Work started on  The Cornwall Railway.

1848 West establishes his St. Blazey foundry.

1849

  • First Cargo from East Wheal Rose to Newquay  harbour along the Newquay railway.
  • Branch opened to Hendra Downs.

Treffry’s era ends

1850

Treffry dies 29th of January age 68W50



1852

William West and Captain Puckey’s mans engine set to work at Fowey Consols

Newquay and Cornwall Junction Railway construction started.

1867

  • Fowey Consols failed

nsols

1864

  • South Fowey Consols founded

1873

Cornwall Minerals Railway’s Act of Parliament was laid

wpid-w2.jpg1879 William West died

Contents of Treffry’s Estate

This list is extracted from his estate act 1853, as reproduced in “The King of mid-Cornwall”. An idea of the range of Treffry’s interests can be gained from this list.

  • Harbours
  • Wharfs
  • Canal
  • Tramway and Branches
  • Mines
  • Quarries
  • Smelting works
  • Candle factory
  • Coal, Iron, Timber, granite, clay and claystone dealer
  • Lime burning
  • Farms
  • Ship owner

 

J.T. Austin (Treffry) had a major influence on the success of William West of Tredenham, and his life story and works is one that deserves further exploration. Among the events listed above are many that tempt me to discover more. Unfortunately distraction will not get the talk researched, so  this blog will therefore return to him in the future. Meanwhile on to the next topic….Fowey Consols I suspect.

Recommended web sitestreffry-bust

 


Some suggested reading 

 51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_wpid-westcover.jpgkingmidcornwall

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Samuel Grose- A great source of family history

ancestorsbanner

Samuel Grose –The most scientific Cornish Engineer

Here is a great resource for researching the history of Samuel Grose:

The Adventurous Ancestors Blog.

A blow well worth following if you wish to learn more about Samuel Grose.

Why is the engineer forgotten in Somerset?

It is a shame that other sources outside of Cornwall fail to recognise the importance of Samuel Grose. So far I have failed to find any reference to him on websites covering the his birth place Nether Stowey.

All sorts of other past residents are listed, but this important engineer appears forgotten. This seems to repeat the pattern found at Norwich, where John Taylor is ignored. Why does this country chose to ignore its engineers ( unless they are called Brunel), whilst reveling in its poets, artists and  priests.  Perhaps I explains why we are struggling in so many sectors, in 21st century UK due to the lack of technical skills.


NavsBooksStore

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A new Cornish Children’s book – The Legend of Tamara

tamara-cover_

A quick detour away from the word  of serious history, to the magic of Cornwall.

Here’s a book with a Cornish-Devon ( or should it be Cornish English theme) from Cheryl Manley. It tells the magical story of how the Rivers Tamar, Taw and Tavy came to be. A traditional tale told in a wonderful way that young children will love.

A Kindle version is on its way.

Click here for more information about the book  on Cheryl’s blog>

 

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Samuel Grose- Some key dates in the Cornish Engineer’s life

The most scientific engineer in Cornwall

robinsonsvalve

William West was given his opportunity to create history at Austen’s engine   as a result of his work for Samuel Grose at Wheal Towan.   This post gathers together some of the key dates in Groses’s life into short potted history .

Samuel Grose (1791-1866) made a major contribution to the development of the Cornish Steam engine. His work on improving the thermal efficiency of steam engines enabled some of the largest increases in performances  achieved in its history.



The Dates

1791

Samuel Grose was born  at Nether Stowey, Somerset . His parents Samuel Grose  and Eleanor Giddy were both from Redruth.  His farther was employed for many years as a ‘Captain’ at the Dodington Copper mine

1802

The Grose family returned to Cornwall in February, where Sam senior took up a position at the Wheal Alfred mine near Hayle. Sam junior became an apprentice under Richard Trevithick until the famous engineer left for London.

1810

Trevithick returned to Cornwall and began a busy period of erecting his pumping machinery at various mines, with his Grose as his overseer.  Grose supervised the  first “plunger pole” engine  to be erected at Wheal Prosper near Gwithian  This engine was completed in 1812 and others were erected by Grose at Beeralston (Devon) and Wheal Treasure (Fowey). He is also reported as working at Wheal Treskerby during this period.

Click here for more information on Wheal Prosper from the engineering timelines website>

1812plungerpolediag

The Wheal Prosper plunger pole completed, others were erected by Gros
e at Beeralston and Wheal Treasure. He is also reported as working at Wheal Treskerby and erecting a high-pressure engine for Wheal Prosper for Richard Trevthick.

Click here for a diagram of the plunger pump on engineering timelines website>

1816

Trevithick left for Peru.

1820sccc

Grose  became  associated with the Cornish Copper Co.

1825

Grose erects his engine at the Wheal Hope Mine 1825.  This engine first introduced the concept of insulating the  the cylinders, nozzles, and steam pipes, an introduction that greatly improved the efficiency of the engine.

1827

Grose erected an  80in. engine at Wheal Lowan mine that incorporated his developments.

He engaged William West as his assistant at Wheal Towan.

Groses  80″ engine at Wheal Towan reached the highest yet duty reported of 62.2m in July, TowanHeatherand 61.7 in August.

1828

1828 In April Grose’s Towan engine returned 87m, following an annual average of 77.3m

1834

He built a steam engine for the Torpoint ferry in 1834.

Grose at this stage was working for many mines all over Cornwall.

1837

building the pump for the Wherry mine at Penzancewherrycover

1840

“They were introduced by Captain Samuel Grose whose experiments upon the generation and preservation of heat led to great improvements and ultimately established a new era in the history of the Cornish engine. In 1826 Captain Grose’s engine at Wheal Hope attained a duty of 62,000,000 Ibs and in July of the following year one of Mr Woolf’s single cylinder engines performed the unprecedented duty of 67 million. From this time Captain Grose’s improvements were appreciated and generally introduced they led to a still greater advance in the duty which this year reached as high as 87 million Ibs” THE CIVIL ENGINEER AND ARCHITECT’S Journal DEc 1840

 

1844

“In 1825 Captain Samuel Grose erected an engine at Wheal Hope upon which he took the opportunity of making many experiments with a view to the further saving of fuel. These led to valuable improvements which considerably raised the duty of the engine.

One of the principal of these was the introduction of a more effectual system of preventing all needless condensation and waste of heat by carefully clothing the boilers pipes cylinder and all parts to which steam had access with a considerable thickness of some substance which was a bad conductor of caloric and thus preventing the radiation and loss of heat formerly dispersed from the metallic surfaces into the surrounding air. Watt Woolf and others had previously used clothing in some degree but Captain Grose carried it much further and made it more perfect and complete than it had ever been before. He also considerably increased the pressure of the steam used and thereby gained much economical advantage.

Having completed his experiments on the Wheal Hope engine and satisfied himself of the advantage of his plans he proceeded to put them in practice in an engine with an 80 inch cylinder which he had manufactured with great care and erected at Wheal Towan in 1827. The result was that it immediately took by far the lead of all others performing a duty of upwards of 60 millions In July 1827 it reached 62 2 millions”

William Pole, On the Cornish Pumping Engine a Treatise, 1844

 

1854

An 80″engine was designed by Grose for Wheal Alfred that after a long career would become the famous Robinson’s engine at South Crofty.

1856

Grose retired to Goneva farm at Wall, Gwithian, although  he was still advising for a number of mines.

1862

An advertisement of one of the many engines built by him described him as “the oldest and most scientific engineer in Cornwall”

1866

Samuel Grose died at his home in Gwinear.

Obituary

“It is with much regret we announce the death of Mr. S. Grose, who is well known for his labours in bringing the Cornish engine to that state of excellence in which it now exists.

He died at his residence at Gwinear, at the age of seventy-five years. Mr. W. Husband, of Hayle, a gentleman who was intimately acquainted with him, and who for a great many years has been brought in frequent contact with him in the execution of his professional duties, speaks of him (in a communication to us) as a man of great ability and sound judgment, very unassuming in his manners, and highly respected as an authority on engineering questions. He was engineer to some of the principal mines in Cornwall up to the time of hie death.

In 1825 Mr. S. Grose first introduced clothing the cylinders, nozzles, steam pipes, &c., in an engine at Wheal Hope mine, and in 1827 he carried out his plans in an 80in. engine at Wheal Lowan mine; he also increased the pressure of steam there, obtaining from this engine a duty of 60,000,000. His engines were always characterised by a strict attention to detail, which displayed a keen discernment on the part of the designer.

We had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and much admired his kind disposition and unpretending manners. He lived not to astonish the world with very brilliant discoveries, but he “Did good by stealth and blushed to find it fame”, and left the world bequeathing to engineering science his improvements in the Cornish engine, which rank first in importance since the time of Trevithick and Wolf.”

The Engineer
June 29 1866

 Click here for original transcript in Grace’s guide>

1901

South Crofty mine started to sink Robinson’s shaftrobinsons

Robinson’s shaft on the heartlands website>

 

Grose’s engine installed at South Crofty, an engine that had worked four other mimes previously. Robinson’s engine was built in 1854 at the Copperhouse Foundry, and has a cylinder replaced by Harvey and Co.

1955

On 1st May 1955, Robinson’s engine stopped pumping. It was the last Cornish beam engine to work a Cornish mine.

2012

Heartlands opens at Robinson’s Shaft, with Grose’s engine as its focus.

Click here for the Heartlands website>heartlandsmap


Sources of information

 

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Austen’s Engine Trial

austens2010The focal point of my talk at Luxulyan has to be the Austen engine at Fowey Consols. This post explains why.

An historic event at Fowey Consols

Overlooking St. Blazey Gate in Cornwall on October 22nd 1835 a crowd of the respectable, skilled and knowledgeable gathered to witness an event that would be a landmark in steam engineering history. It would be an event that  would change the life forever of its engineer, enshrine  the name of a landowner in history, bring wealth to a famous foundry  and have have impact  wherever water needed to be pumped in Britain.

Austen’s 80″ Cornish steam engine at Fowey Consols was at the center of the event.  Expert witnesses watched as coal stores were measures, stores locked, meters read, machinery inspections conducted and measurements taken. The objective of the day was simple to measure the efficiency of the engine in its ability to pump water out from the depths of the mine hundreds of  feet below its foundations.dscf9312

As an activity this was not unique, for since 1811 all over Cornwall engines’ efficiency had been measured, recorded and published. ‘Duty’ was the unit of measurement used, and a publication now refereed to as  ‘Leans Engine Reporter’ publicly shared the results; results that had driven a technology race in Cornish Mines.

What made the measurement of duty at Austen’s engine in 1835  was that this was a trial to prove or disprove the claims of duty being made for this engine. This was an engine whose arrival within the tables of Leans was with figures that outperformed all the existing  famous engines in Cornwall.  In addition its joint engineers, William West and William Petherick were relatively unknown in the public arena. The pair did not have a record of high performing engines, and their arrival straight to the top of the league tables sparked disbelief and accusations of foul play. And so the trial was organised, to prove in controlled conditions that Austen’s engine actually performing as the engineers claimed.

austensengine2016os

Austen’s Engine site 2017 Copyright OS Click here for map>

The mechanics of the trial required all the factors that made up the measurement of duty to be recorded. That is the amount of water lifted, by what distance with how much coal.

And so the coal was measured, the length of pump stroke measured and number of strokes taken by the large beam engine recorded. The resulting figure was a measurement of how much coal was needed to raise water from the depths of a Cornish mine. A figure of great importance to Cornwall, where its mine’s where deep, water was in abundance and coal expensive.

On the 23rd of October 1835 the trial finished. Measurements were taken and calculations complete; the resulting figure was spectacular. Austen’s engine had achieved 125 million duty, a performance that broke the existing records, and a performance that would never be overtaken by any other engine.

austensgoogle2017

Austen’s Engine on Google Maps 2017 Click here for map>

That day on Fowey Consols Cornish Steam engine technology appears to have reached its zenith. I say appears, because history is never as simple as that, disputes, accusations and controversy followed in the wake of the trial, and the duty recording system collapsed soon afterwards.

125 million did have its impact on history, despite of
the controversy. William West became very rich on its reputation, Harvey’s of Hayle would gain large amounts of extra work, and its influence would eventually result in improvements in clean water supply in the rapidly expanding British cities.

For another post about duty from this blog, ‘ Lean’s reporter, John Taylor and some layers of historyClick here>


51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_ If you enjoy reading on Kindle you can read more about William West of Tredenham>

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