The most scientific engineer in Cornwall
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Trevithick left for Peru.
Grose became associated with the Cornish Copper Co.
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.
Grose erected an 80in. engine at Wheal Lowan mine that incorporated his developments.
He engaged William West as his assistant at Wheal Towan.
1828 In April Grose’s Towan engine returned 87m, following an annual average of 77.3m
He built a steam engine for the Torpoint ferry in 1834.
Grose at this stage was working for many mines all over Cornwall.
“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
“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
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.
Grose retired to Goneva farm at Wall, Gwithian, although he was still advising for a number of mines.
An advertisement of one of the many engines built by him described him as “the oldest and most scientific engineer in Cornwall”
Samuel Grose died at his home in Gwinear.
“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.”
June 29 1866
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.
On 1st May 1955, Robinson’s engine stopped pumping. It was the last Cornish beam engine to work a Cornish mine.
Heartlands opens at Robinson’s Shaft, with Grose’s engine as its focus.
Sources of information
- The Last Great Cornish Engineer- William West of Tredenham
- Mr. Lean and the engine reporters
- Grace’s guide
- Peter Garner’s paper on Samuel Grose
- Twelveheads press index of mine names