Now this series of posts on South Caradon Mine starts to dive down into the detail, to look at the individual structures on this amazing piece of Cornish Industrial Heritage.
The first Cornish Engine house of many
South Caradon’s Sump Shaft engine house has great historic importance, for it was here that the South Caradon mine installed its first steam engine, and it was here that the first engine house was built of what would become a major copper mining district of Caradon.
This was also the engine house that started the famous engineer William West’s long standing association with the mine’s steam engines. He would go on to install many engines on the site, and become the dominant engineer of the the district.
This building housed the first engine to be installed at the mine. It was built in 1837, and
different sources place its size at 30″, 35″ or 45″ cylinder diameter. Prior to its construction the pump was powered by flat-rods driven by a water wheel located downslope from the shaft.
As the workings expanded underground, and the original engine could not keep up with the water, a larger 50″ engine was installed (possibly in the late 1840’s), and this engine was still in place when the mine was finally closed.
Sump Shaft engine house in images
The engine house just before closure
This picture is an Enlargement of the 18th Century Picture from the
Neil Parkhouse Collection. The complete picture is contained in my reprint of Webb and Geach’s book. The shaft lies on the right of the picture with the headgear standing above it.
The Engine house in 2010
These images are resurrected from my original South Caradon website. They are images of the engine house before the Caradon Hill Project’s preservation work,
taken at a time when the house was in its gradual decay towards becoming a pile of rubble.
The Bob Wall
This view looks across the blocked shaft towards the ivy clad bob wall.
Bob Wall -The bob wall supported the bob or beam of the engine, and therefore was the strongest wall of an engine house. It would be between four and seven feet thick, and often constructed of dressed granite. In a pumping engine the bob wall was adjacent to the shaft.
The view from the inside looking towards the shaft
The dressed granite arch is that of the Plug doorway. This doorway was at the driver’s floor level and gave him a view of the condenser and pitwork.
The inside of the engine house is in poor condition, and little can be seen of the internal layout.
A view of the boiler house
The layout of the boiler house is clear in this view with the seats of the three Cornish boilers discernible, and the flue openings visible at the far end of the house. Only a stump remains of the stack.
Boiler houses were generally of a far lighter construction than the engine houses they served. Remains are therefore less visible, and often non-existent.
The engine House in 2012
Between the this images and the previous ones a major change had occurred at Sump shaft. The buildings had been cleaned, restored and stabalised. The decay has been paused, natures reclamation has been halted and the remains have been preserved for future generations to explore.
This is another view of the bob wall. The ivy has gone and the stonework re-pointed.
Sump Shaft Pumping Engine House site
The layout of the Pumping engine house is captured in this view. From left to right the remains are: Shaft-Engine house-Boiler house.
The Engine House in 2015
Snow came to South East Cornwall in 2015, bringing with it crystal clear light that brought the buildings into sharp contrast. This view was caught over those rare crisp cold days, and it shows well the extent of the engine house remains. Only two walls now stand; the bob wall to the left, and the partial remains of the wing wall to the right.
Wing Walls-The side walls of an engine house.
Wing walls were about 2’6″ to 3’6″ thick. Being the weakest walls these were often the first parts of the building to collapse.
The History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District
This paperback contains the Victorian Photograph mentioned in this post.
If you are visiting the area then pop into the excellent bookshop in Liskeard for a copy.