John Taylor- The Mining genius, a talk at Liskeard, 11th April


John Taylor a Mining Genius

A Trevithick Society presentation on the life and works of John Taylor
Monday 21th April, 2016, 7:30pm at Liskeard public hall

By John Manley (Author of ‘The last Great Cornish Engineer‘)

Non-members welcome

John Taylor dominated the British metal mining industry in its heyday. Taylor was an engineer, mine owner, inventor, scientist and financial genius. He owned some of the biggest mines in Cornwall and Devon, he built a Canal, he built a railway, he influenced scientific development, and much more. His story is interlaced into much of the industrial and economic  history of the country, and it is a story worth keeping alive.

Although he was born far from Cornwall, he played a major role in the Cornish and West Devon mining industry. This is reflected in this months talk; a talk that explores his life through his work in the Tavistock area, and throughout Cornwall.

So come along and enjoy an evening with the Trevithick Society at Liskeard. If you cannot come along to the talk then follow this blog to learn more about John Taylor.



Ten facts about John Taylor- the mining genius

Navsbooks>John Taylor>Ten Facts

Before launching into some of the details of Taylor’s life and works I have summarised some of the key facts of his life.


1 John was born in Norwich, Norfolk, far from any mining district.

2.Became a mine manger at the amazingly young age of 19, without any previous mining experience.

3. His spectacular success as manger of Wheal Freindship, near Tavistock, formed the basis of his career.

4. He turned the Consolidated mine into the most  largest copper mine in Cornwall.

5. Taylor built the Tavistock Canal and Redruth and Chacewater Railway.

6.  He owned mines in Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Derbyshire, Ireland, Cumbria, Lancashire, California, Mexico and Spain.

7.  His success was built on introducing the ‘Cornish System’ of management and Cornish Mining technology in his mines.

8.  He played an important role in the formation of several important Associations, including the University College London and The British Association for the Advancement of science.

9. He worked closely with Charles Babbage.

10. The company he founded closed in 1969.

These 10 key  facts will be starting points to explore Taylor’s life story over the next few posts. Along the way I hope to find some links with William West, the last Great Cornish Engineer.

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John Taylor-Mining entrepreneur and Engineer


John Taylor in 1825 by Sir Thomas Lawrence

John Taylor was one of the most remarkable characters involved in the British Mining industry. He is the subject of my next Trevithick Society talk, and the next series of posts on this blog will part of my preparations for that presentation. So if you want to know more about this amazing Victorian, follow along and enjoy the journey.

George Stephenson did not invent the railway!

Navsbooks>William West>George Stephenson did not invent the railway

Ask any group of people ‘who invented the railway’, and a large proportion will say,’George Stephenson’ .

For example, here is what ask Jeeves as to say:

George Stephenson is credited to have invented the railway.

However, this is yet another of those over simplified facts that are a scourge of our mass knowledge of history. George Stephenson’s Stockington and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, by which time Richard Trevithick had run the first steam locomotive (1804), and carried the first fare paying passengers with the Catch-Me-Who-Can locomotive in London (1808), in the vicinity of Euston.

So, whilst George Stephenson may have produced the first successful railway, he does not hold the title of being its inventor. That must lie with Richard Trevithick.


And what does this have to do with William West? The clue is on page 14 of ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer‘.

It is an interesting link between Trevithick and Mr.West, that the latter well remembered holding a candle to the great Cornish Engineer while the Catch-Me-Who-Can was in the process of construction;and was very proud of recalling the incident.

As a young boy West sat on Trevithick’s shoulder, has he worked away, designing the world’s first passenger locomotive.

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West and Darlington’s Hydraulic Machinery

Navsbooks>William West>West and Darlington’s Hydraulic Machinery

The Trevithick Society’s new website has just been launched, and very smart it looks too. The bookshop is not yet live, but when it is I suspect it will be a good source of the Society’s books. Click here to visit the site.

The Sketch of the life of William West devotes several paragraphs to a description of West and Darlington’s hydraulic machinery. This starts at page 89 of the Last Great Cornish Engineer, but without relevant diagrams it makes heavy reading. So here is one of those diagrams….Hope it helps the words make a bit more sense…..

This image illustrates West’s design for an hydraulic counter balance. It appears to be a replacement for the balance bobs in use at that time in pitwork to counterbalance the weight of the pump rods.

West`s Double beat Valve-what did it look like?

Time to delve into some engineering-with a few images that did not reach the pages of The Last Great Engineer. Images that I hope will add to the descriptions within the book. This picture refers to Patent No 8103, reproduced on page 55 of the book.

West and Harvey`s double beat valve

West and Harvey’s valve for raising water and other liquids-Patent No 8103

This valve is a self acting double beat valve. Beats are what Cornish engines called the valve seats. It was a relatively simple design, and one that quickly became adopted by waterworks all over Britain. I have shown this drawing to my engineering colleagues who have stated that it is now called a balanced valve.