The Man Engine at Kitto’s Shaft

The second Man Engine site at South Caradon Mine

This is a bit of a jump in the South Caradon Engine house posts, a jump across the southern slopes of Caradon Hill to the most easterly of the mine’s shafts. This jump has been inspired by my recent visit to the visits to one of Will Coleman’s amazing Man Engine Puppet events.

The man engine’s modern manifestation  is working it way through the UK’s mining districts as this post is being written, its mechanical spectacle enthralling crowds wherever it ‘resurrects’. Meanwhile, up on Caradon Hill, sits hidden away behind waste tips, the remains of the last of the original man engines. This post describes those historic remains at South Caradon Mine.

The man engine moves

This was the second site that this William West designed man engine operated from, its original location being on the western end of the site at Jope’s Shaft. Its move to Kitto’s reflected the movement of production eastwards across this the hill as it chased the riches of the Caunter Lode.

The Man Engine was moved here in 1884. The equipment movement did not include the power supply, because a different engine was used used. The engine was a small 23″ single cylinder horizontal engine.

One closure of the mine this steam engine may have been sold to West Wheal Grenville, an unsuccessful adventure that quickly failed. (Ref Kenneth Brown)

The Man engine loading seen from the South

The Remains

This an interesting  set of remains. The flywheel loading is clearly visible with a prominent semi-circular cut out for the flywheel. and holes for the holding down bolts. This is the remains of the reduction gearing and crank that drove a short length of flat-rod to the shaft.To the east a depression marks the site of a balance bob.

Click here for its location on OS maps>

Kitto’s Man engine seen from the North

The Liskeard Mining District in 1863


Brenton Symons published his map at a time when Cornish mining, its miners, methods, and engineering dominated hard rock mining all over the world. This map reproduces his map of the Liskeard, Menheniot and Ludcott mining districts at the peak of their production, when their output dominated mining in Cornwall.

This publication uses the original Victorian map as a starting point to explore the mines of the district. Each map extract is accompanied by a history of the adventure, and a description of its activities in 1863.

This is a book that uses the Kindle format to bring a fascinating Victorian document back to life; forming an invaluable resource for anyone studying the history of Cornish Mining, or for those wishing to discover more about the amazing landscape of Bodmin Moor.

The maps display best in the Kindle Fires, tablets or phones running a Kindle reader where the colours can be seen to their full advantage. If you intend purchasing the book for an e-ink reader, then I suggest you download a sample first to check the grey scale contrast on your device.

Click here to find on Amazon>


The Man engine returns to Cornwall

The Man Engine drinks

Cornish Mining Heritage inspiring the future

A brief pause in the South Caradon Mine posts; but a pause that is justified, and a pause that is relevant. 

Last weekend I had the chance of sharing the experience of seeing Will Colman’s amazing Man Engine puppet resurrect itself  above a soggy field at the Cornwall Show ground. It was an experience I shared with thousands of other hardy onlookers, one of which was my young grandson. It was an experience he would never forget, and that was surely the aim of all the event.

A reflection on the show

This showmanship, with its mixture of awe, Cornish humor,  facts, and a hint of fear The Man Engine Resurrection Tourforged a link in his memory with the now, and the past. A link that maybe would inspire him to explore the past, and the landscape around him.

Far more importantly though, the razzmatazz on that rain sodden field would give him, and all the other children in the field an alternative view of the future.

Cornwall was in the past was a place of invention, engineering and  industry. Great engineers and engineering came from the land west of the Tamar.  And today, the mineral wealth beneath the feet of the crowds watching the man engine is calling investors, calling skills, calling speculators. Drilling rigs are working across Cornwall, The Man Engine and St.Piran's flagand pumps are about to start removing the water that fill long silent levels and shafts.

So perhaps, just perhaps, some of those younger members of the crowd in that wet field will grow up with more options to find work in their home country than their parents. And perhaps, the man engine would have played a part in inspiring some of them to become engineers- this country needs its engineers back.

The real man engine and William West

William West (The Last Great Cornish Engineer) played an important role in the W50development of the original man engine.  One of my earlier posts in this blog tells that story.

South Caradon Mine was the site of one of his engines, I have some pictures of the site on the page on Jope’s Shaft.

My next post in this series will explore the location of the other shaft associated with a man engine, Kitto’s shaft.



The Last Great Cornish Engineer

To learn more about William West of Tredenham, the inventor of the man engine, have a read of The Last Great Cornish Engineer– a paperback published by the Trevithick Society.

Click here to find a copy on Amazon>

Or ask at your local independent bookstore.