In the history of technological advances there are many players. Some who invent, some who develop and those who exploit. John Taylor’s importance is beyond all of these, and this post will explore his role.
Alongside the huge financial success of Consolidated mine was some amazing engineering achievements. Here would be erected some of the most impressive machines of the industrial revolution.
When John Taylor re-opened Consolidated in 1818 he appointed Arthur Woolf has his engineer. This alliance of Woolf’s and Taylor resulted in Consolidated becoming central to high pressure steam engine development.
Woolf introduced many important developments to steam engine design at Consolidated, whilst Taylor used the engines to gather data on Cornish engine performance. One of the most significant developments was the introduction of a design of steam valve to work with high pressure steam. This ‘double beat’ valve was an adaption of a valve invented by another Cornish engineer, Joe Hornblower. Woolf’s new valve played a major role in rapid rise in Cornish engine performance. It also provided the concept for West’s and Harvey’s self acting double beat valve, a valve that would transform the water supply industry.
Woolf’s valve enabled him to build some some impressive engines at Consols, engineering marvels of their day. Two of them at 90″ diameter were the largest, and most powerful steam engines in the world at that time.
Despite of his success with single cylinder Cornish engines Woolf still believed that his twin cylinder compound design was superior.
In 1824 Taylor settled the dispute about which design was more efficient by ordering two engines from Woolf, one of each design. These he installed at Wheal Alfred , and then conducted extended trials on the two engines. The single cylinder 90″ (Taylor’s) proved superior, a result that would secure the dominance of the Cornish Engine concept.
In 1827 Taylor’s engine was moved to Consolidated where it was renamed Woolf’s, in honour of the engineer.
When Woolf retired on 1833 his work was taken up by two engineers that he had trained at Consols, John Hocking and Michael Loam. This partnership would go on to build for Taylor and Sons, one of Cornwall’s most famous engines, Taylor’s 85″ at United Mines.
There are many giants of steam engineering: Newcombe, Watt, Trevithick, Hornblower, Woolf, Grose, West, Sims, Hocking and Loam. Taylor is not amongst those names, but he was closely associated with many of the most important advances. His role was what Roger Burt called a ‘polinator’, or in more modern terminology an ‘enabler.’
Taylor’s influence went beyond his own engineers however, and later posts will explore those influences.
Some additional notes on the engines
One of the 90″ engines at Consolidated was at Bawden’s Shaft on the Wheal Fortune section. Unfortunately, little remains to be seen.Woolf’s shaft is beside the Redruth to Chacewater railway track-bed. Only scanty remains exist of the 1826 engine house.
Davey’s 80″ engine was one of the best engines on Consolidated, and a high performer. It was designed by Hocking. Remains of two walls still stand.
The ruins of Consolidated Taylor’ s 85″ engine house are still impressive, but this is not the site of the famous Hocking and Loam Taylor’s engine. That lies to the south on the Ale and Cake section of United mines.
United Mines Taylor’s 85″- This engine was renowned for high performance. In its first few years of operation it was the highest performer of Duty in Cornwall, and its entries are the highest in Leans reporter.
If the terms Duty and Leans mean nothing, follow this blog as we head towards the Taylor v West Duty battle. Before that however, its a detour down the railway tracks.