Tag Archives: Mining heritage

Sump Shaft Winding Engine House at South Caradon Mine

The South Caradon post series continue with the second of the engine houses at Sump shaft.

A horizontal whim engine house

Sump shaft winding engine house lies up-slope of Sump Shaft, and in addition to winding at Sump shaft this engine provided power by flat-rods to Pearce’s shaft higher up the hill.

A 22 inch horizontal engine was housed in this building (some sources state a 16/30″). The was engine designed by William West, and was probably installed in 1844 (ref CAU) .
Horizontal engines did not require a substantial bob wall and the structure was therefore lighter than a traditional Cornish Engine house.

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The engine house in the 1880s

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The picture clearly shows that the  sump shaft winding engine  house was not a traditional Cornish beam engine structure. The boiler house is sited on this side, and its lean to roof can be seen, the loadings and flywheel are on the opposite hidden face.The headgear of Pearce’s shaft lies to the left of the view and the chimney on the right was believed to have served a steam capstan.

This house now has two partial walls and a partial height chimney still standing. On the left side are the loadings for the winding drum and flat rods crank. On the opposite wall low walls mark the position of a long narrow boiler house with the chimney on its uphill side. The boiler house may have been extended to the south to accommodate a second boiler.

The engine house in 2012

These pictures were taken soon after the Caradon Hill Project had stabilised the structure.

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This view looks up slope towards Pearce’s Shaft. The ruined western and northern walls are closest to the camera, with the best preserved southern wall to the right of the view.

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Looking from the north-east corner, the whim cage loadings are on the right.

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The inside of the winding house, looking up the alignment of flat-rods

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Looking down the loadings towards Sump Shaft and its pumping engine house. The tips in the background are those of West Caradon Mine.

Flat rods, Flatrods, Flat-rods
Horizontal wood or iron rods used for communicating power from one part of a mine to another.  Flat-rods were often used to transfer power from an engine, or waterwheel to a remote shaft. The rods ran on rollers, or pivoted arms.


Books about William West

South Caradon’s Engineer

Cover of the Last Great Cornish Engineer Book cover of the Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

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South Caradon Sump Shaft Pumping Engine House

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

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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.

The engine

This building housed the first engine to be installed at the mine. It was built in 1837, and

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Sump Shaft Pumping Engine in 2010

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

South Caradon Sump Shaft pumping engine house in the 1880s.

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,

Sump Shaft pump engine house bob walltaken 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.

 

Sump Shaft engine house plug doorway

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

Sump Shaft 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

Sump Shaft Pumping engine house bob wall

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.

Sump Shaft Pump Engine house site

The Engine House in 2015

Sump shaft engine houses in the snow

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.


wpid-wp-1438632680446.pngWebb and Geach

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.

Click here to learn more about the book>

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A map of South Caradon Mine in 1863

An extract from Brenton Symon’s  1863 Geological Map of the Caradon and Ludcott Mining District in Cornwall

Brenton Symon’s map is such a rich resource of information on South Caradon Mine that it deserved its own post, and here it is.

Extract of Brenton Symons' 1863 map showing South Caradon Mine

The Map

Brenton Symons’ map coverage includes the Liskeard and Menheniot mining district, and captures the area at the peak of its development, before the financial market crash of 1866.  The geology shown is basic, but what is shown is invaluable in understanding the layout of the Caradon Mines.

Features shown

  • Sett boundaries: Coloured dashed lines
  • Lodes: Red lines
  • Direction of dip: Arrows
  • Cross-Courses: Grey lines
  • Elvans: Red shaded areas
  • Granite Killas Boundary: Blue/pink shading
  • Pumping engines: PE
  • Whim engines: WE
  • Waterwheels: WW
  • Shafts: Circles

More information about the map

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Click here for an earlier series of posts about the map>

These posts include a discussion on the accuracy of the geology shown by Brenton Symons, puts the map in context, some notes on its creator, and delves into detail on some of the features portrayed.

The full map is reproduced in my Kindle Pubication- The Liskeard Mining District in 1863.

 

 

South Caradon Mine as shown by Brenton Symons

Geology

All the important  geological features that shaped the history of the mine are shown on the map; the granite boundary crossing the southern part of the extract, the east-west trending lodes, the long run of the rich caunter lode and the cross-courses associated with the Seaton Valley.

Structures

Within the Seaton Valley there is a cluster of buildings denoting South Caradon’s dressing floors and administration area. This is where the mine commenced its operations, and this is the area so evocatively described by Wilke Collins in ‘Rambles beyond Railways’.

To the south of this is a run of shafts and engine houses that exploited the Caunter lode. Jopes, Rules and Kitto’s mark the progression of the mine eastwards as it chased the copper across the southern slopes of Caradon Hill.

Railways

The Liskeard and Caradon Railway’s 1863 layout is clearly shown. On the west the line runs up the Gonamena incline plane towards Minions, on the south the line contours around Caradon Hill to East Caradon Mine. This was the arrangement before the railway built the extension around the eastern side of the hill to allow steam traction to reach Minions.

The Liskeard Mining District in 1863

wp-1453408124105.jpegThis publication brings  Brenton Symon’s map into the Kindle Format.

Extracts of the map for each of the mines in the area are included, along with descriptions of their history and key features.

Click here for details of the book on Amazon>

The next group of posts in this series will be to recover some of the pages from the old website that describe in more detail the remains at the site.

 

 

 

 

 

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South Caradon Mine- A timeline

The recovery of the ‘Views of South Caradon’ continues with the history theme. In this post I will rescue the timeline from its geocities vault, and along the way add some cross referenced dates from other time lines on this blog. Should be interesting to see how the histories interwine. The photographs on this post come from a series I took in 2015 on a rare occasion when the South Caradon site was covered in snow and bathed in bright sunshine.

1833 to 1890

View across the Seaton Valley across Sump's shaft

Six decades of industrial industry

The mine started in the Seaton Valley but its production moved eastwards in the later part of the history. The richest part of the mine lay in these easterly lodes.

Early working

1662

First record of mineral workings in the area at the Gonamena open works.

Early 19th century

 

A promise of wealth

Experience in the west of the Cornwall suggested that copper deposits probably existed under Caradon Hill. Large deposits of fine gozzen near the surface suggested that workable mineral lodes would exist deeper down. These gozzans may have been worked for tin. Attempts at finding copper had been made by small groups of miners driving adits into the hillside, but with no success prior to the South Caradon find.

Missed chances

On each lease transfer the opportunity of huge wealth was missed by the leaseholder, at one point the sett sold for less than a guinea.


1801
William West was born at Dolcoath

1817 to 1819 William West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

Ennor’s Trial

A miner called Ennor working for a group of Plymouth and Devonport adventurers dug an adit in from the Seaton Valley. This was probably at the location of what became main lode adit.

Some indications of minerals may have been found, but the trial was abandoned on advice of experts. The lease then changes hands several times, often for very small amounts.

The startLooking towards Holman;s and Rule's shafts in the snow

1831 West was Engaged by  J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols

1833

The miner James Clymo and members of the Kittow family started looking for Copper in the area. An adit running eastwards from the Seaton Valley was the starting point of their enterprise.

1834 Austen’s Engine is started

1834-1835

Despite shortage or resources the miners continue to persevere in extending the adit, following promising signs of mineralization deeper into the hill.

1835 Trial of Austen’s engine

1836

The adventurers perseverance and determination is rewarded when the main ore body is discovered, but no investors in London could be found to finance the venture. The original miners therefore financed the mine themselves.

1836 -1838 Cornwall Great United Mining Association worked the mines that would become Phoenix United.

1837

Sump shaft engine houses in the snowFirst returns are made for the mine after just over £327 had been paid out. 130 tons of ore (of 10% metal) is produced. Ref: Shambrock (Allan gives this production as starting in 1838)

The first engine was installed at sump shaft by William West.
Within a few years South Caradon became one of the biggest copper mines in the world.

 

William West started working for South Caradon mine


The story goes…

+That James Clymo offered the shares to a mine adventurer on the coach back from London. The adventurer refused the shares at £5 each. A few months later the shares fetched £2000 each!

Another story is of two maidens who sold some rough land to a lawyer and immediately learnt about the discovery of copper beneath its surface. By the following day they had repurchased the land claiming that they where sentimentally attached to it.
The lawyer heard about the copper the following morning…..just that bit too late
1837 West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer


The Victorian period starts

1839 West patented the double-beat self acting valve

The rise

1840’s

The mines in West Cornwall suffered a decline but South Caradon’s success sparked a mining boom around Caradon Hill. The mine was producing nearly 4,000 tons of ore a year.

1842 Wheal Phoenix was formed

1848 St. Blazey foundry is established by West

1850’s

1850 William West commenced his association with Phoenix United Mine

What is in a name?

The success of the mine sparked a rush of mines being named with the magic word The wast tios of West Caradon Mine in the snow“Caradon” in their title, in the hope of attracting investors. A practice that became far too common after 1850, and earned the term “market mining”. None of these mines ever came near of matching the success of South Caradon.

  • Caradon Consols
  • Caradon Vale
  • East Caradon
  • Caradon Copper
  • Great Caradon
  • New West Caradon
  • Glasgow Caradon Consols
  • New South Caradon
  • The Caradon Mine
  • West Caradon Mine
  • Wheal Caradon Mine

Tredhenam  house is built

1852 West installed his first Man engine at Fowey Consols

The Fall

1863 Brenton Symons publishes his map of the Caradon mining District and Webb and Geach produce their book.

Mid-1860’s

The price of copper drops, despite large amounts of ore being produced profits start to fall.
Nearly 6,000 tons of ore a year was being produced by South Caradon.
The mine became the biggest copper producer in Cornwall. But profits still fell.

1864 The Liskeard and District is Bank formed

 1867 Fowey Consols failed

1868 West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United

1879 William West Dies

1880

Work Stopped at the mine

1883

A limited company was formed to raise more capital, and attempts are made to keep the mine more profitable by extending the eastern part of the workings.

The Death

1885

Work Ceases, despite having copper reserves the mine was too expensive to run with the low price of copper. A picture of the mine prior to closure

1889

Attempts made to re-work the mine, but with no success.
The venture planned to run East Caradon, Glasgow Caradon and South Caradon as one mine.

1890

Final closure.
The site becomes mine history.

View across South Caradon Mine to the borth west

 

The end of an Industry

When the South Caradon Mine pumps stopped the water rose to flood the workings of adjacent mines forcing them to close. Even Railways suffered. 1885 saw the Liskeard and Caradon Railway going into receivership. A railway whose existence was dependent on the wealth produced by the South Caradon Mine.

Other Time lines on  this blog


BookshopLiskeard

A Great Book Shop

To find books about the history of the Caradon Hill area pop in to the excellent book shop at Liskeard. They keep some well stocked shelves on Cornish local history, including my two paperbacks on William West– The Last Great Cornish Engineer, and the Liskeard Mining District .

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The View of South Caradon Mine resurrected

It is over a decade now since I last updated my views of South Caradon Mine website. That expansive and rambling website was the result of many years of exploring the amazing landscape of Caradon Hill, near Liskeard. In 2016 all that work disappeared whilst I was away at sea, when Geocities closed up shop and took their websites with them.

But then, a rather clever company called Oocities stripped down the webpages and published them under their own banner. Seemed like good news, but unfortunately, despite all my attempts I have been unable to gain access to those files to correct, edit or develop what was once my own website. 

So it is now time though to rebuild the South Caradon Mine pages through the words of this blog. So if you are interested in the mines of Liskeard, please follow along. JM

The Views of South Caradon Website

The purpose of the original website was to record and  add to the knowledge of this very important industrial heritage site, and to illustrate Cornish mining terms and technology.

To avoid legal problems arising from right of way issues it was based on the view from the Crow’s Nest to Minions footpath. Since 2016 however, the rights of way act has been passed, and the area is now part of open access land. This change has removed the self imposed original restrictions on the website, but for the time being I will focus on bringing back on line the original material, tweak it a bit, and then look at additional topics

South Caradon Mine

An annotated view of South Caradon Mine

South Caradon Mine was one of the largest copper mines in Cornwall, and one with a fascinating history. It is an enterprise with a rags to riches story and one that had a huge impact on the social, financial and transport history of South East Cornwall. The emigration that resulted from its final closure spread this impact around the world to wherever metal was mined.

It has left an amazing landscape, a landscape rich in tales of Victorian industry. A richness is acknowledged thtough its inclusion within the of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site.

Changes in time

Over the last 20 years there has been some important
developments that have changed the information contained on the original website.

As mentioned  above, the area is now part of a World Heritage site and the moorland is now officially classed as open access land. The Caradon Hill project is no longer with us, but  their good work has left many of the buildings in a far more stable condition then recorded in 2016.

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On closure of the website, I transferred my research into three related publications- The Liskeard Mining Area in 1863, a reprint of Webb and Geach’s account of the Liskeard Mining district, and a biography of the mine’s engineer, William West. Unashamedly, I will plug these publications throughout the posts. If you are tempted to buy one of the paperbacks, pop into Liskeard’s excellent book shop and support their local history section…it is a real gem of a bookshop.

And Next-

I am not sure where to start this challenge, or in which direction to explore the old web pages, but that will be part of the fun; let the exploration commence!

 

An important Note from the original website

On many mine sites in Cornwall dangers may still exist, many hidden.  This web site is published as a resource to those using public rights of way.

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The President Steam Engine- an index of posts so far

screenshot_2017-06-13-12-11-12_kindlephoto-18516640.jpgA Cornish Engine in the USA

“The only two non-William West lattice beams I know of is the Harleem Meer Engines in the Netherlands and the President Engine in the USA. The former was influenced by his Austen’s engine, and the latter designed by his nephew, John West”  From a talk given to the Friends of Luxuylan  Valley

This was my sole knowledge of the President Engine before I started this short series of posts; some throw away lines that I soon discovered greatly undersold this very important piece of Industrial heritage.  Before this blog moves on to new topics, I will gather together the posts in an index. 


The President Engine

The President Engine was claimed to be the largest stationary engine in the world, and is

President2017

The engine house in 2017

the it is the only remaining Cornish Engine house still standing in the USA. It was built by John West from Cornwall, forming an important example of how the Cornish engine concept being developed to meet the needs of North American mining industry.

This is an engine that deserves more recognition; a site that forms not only an important part of the USA’s industrial heritage, but also that of Cornwall’s rich engineering history.

The President Engine posts

Related Posts

External links

 

PresidentPostcardDuring the writing of these posts I discovered that there was a large amount of activity underway in the USA to preserve the President Engine house. I will update this blog with progress of that work, and hopefully will sometime in the future have the pleasure of hosting a post starting with the title “Reasons to visit the President engine house”. Meanwhile, if any readers know of websites or publications relating to the engine please drop me a message and I will gladly pass on the information here.

And finally, many thanks to  Mark Connar for providing much of the information within these recent posts. Good luck over there across the pond in preserving this wonderful piece of mining heritage.


 

To learn more about John West’s famous Uncle

Here are two publications on William West of Tredenham, the last Great Cornish Engineer; one a paperback, one a Kindle publication.

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The Cornish Engine House in Virgin Gorda

EhPan1A little snippet of Cornwall in the British Virgin Islands

My last post on the President Steam Engine in the USA mentioned another remnant of Cornish mining across the Atlantic; the Virgin Gorda engine house. By pure chance that was and engine house that I have had the chance to visit, and so it seemed like a good excuse to locate the files on the laptop, and give them a public airing. 

A Caribbean gem of industrial historyDSCF2367

My visit to this fascinating site in 2009 was a result of one of those rare occasions where my leisure (Cornish mining History) and professional  (Navigation) interests crossed paths. In this case the ship I was navigating anchored off Tortola, and I managed to grab a few hours off in the afternoon to explore.

Whilst my fellow shipmates headed rapidly off in one direction to explore the delights of the Pussers Rum distillery, I headed off in another direction to locate a copper mine.

Copper point- a Surreal Juxtaposition

The scenery that greeted me at Copper Point proved to be ample reward for the

DSCF2363

hike across the Island for forsaking the chance to devour ‘Painkiller; cocktails all afternoon. It seemed so surreal, drystone Cornish walls and Caribbean scenery.  Vegetation from one Continent growing around the iconic architecture of another.

The engine house was partially standing with its bedstone still in place inside.

 

 

Remnants of past industry

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This site has remains that are rare in Cornwall; ironwork.  Sat among the piles of masonry I found the rusting remains of a boiler.  Its survival in this salt laden atmosphere without preservation was remarkable.

The real gem of this site I found after some scrabbling down to the waterline. For there laying partly submerged in the sea lay the engine’s bob.

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Partially encrusted in barnacles, and draped in fishing gear the two halves of a Cornish Engine Beam lay on the sand acting as a reminder on how far the Cornish and their technology traveled around the world, chasing the copper, chasing the tin.DSCF2429.JPG

The nearest source of refreshments to the site was a bar aptly named The Mine Shaft, and there hung from the ceiling I discovered one final  reminder of Cornwall, A St.Piran’s flag. The white on black hung in a wooden shack, in a far off Caribbean Island; a perfect excuse to toast Cousin Jack if there ever was one!

 


The next post in this blog is planned to finish the series on the President Engine. Meanwhile, if you are a professional navigator, then pop across to  have a look at my other blog at Navsregs.

 

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Reasons to preserve the President Steam Engine

I started these posts to discover more about the links between this engine house in Allentown USA and William West. In the process of exploring this distant influence of the last great engineer I learnt that this was no ordinary steam engine, this was a very significant piece of 19th Century engineering that deserves more recognition and preservation.

Why should the President Engine be preserved?

On one basic fact the President Engine in Pennsylvania cries out to be preserved-  it is the only example of a Cornish Engine house still standing in the Americas outside of Mexico. As shown in my last post, Cornwall is rich in engine house remains but in the USA there stands just this one, hidden away from public view.

Mark Connar gives five reasons to preserve the engine house, five reasons that justify keeping this structure for future generations.  I have dipped in to his paper and pulled out these extracts to summarise those reasons.

Reason 1 -It is a National Landmark of Mining History

“The Friedensville pumping engine house held the largest Cornish derivative single-cylinder beam pump ever built for use in a mining application and its’ engine house is the only known existing and extant example of such a structure in the Americas (apart from a few examples in Mexico near El Real and Pachuca).There is a partially

DSCF2369

The Virgin Gorda Engine housed

restored, but fragmented, engine house example in Nova Scotia and one very ruined Cornish engine house structure on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.”

“As we consider the evolution of technology, the Friedensville engine house is an archaic form compared to how the Cornish pumping engine was being adapted in North America and, therefore, represents a unique fulcrum point in the technological acculturation of this equipment in the Americas. In the California gold fields, Cornish engineers passed the baton to American designers who adapted this critical equipment to the North American environment.”

“Given the unique architectural character and its interconnected relationship to the pump design, it is the writer’s opinion that the Friedensville engine house structure is worthy of nomination by the US Department of Interior for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a mining property of significance in America’s development. ”

“The Friedensville engine house is a pure example of a Cornish engine house whose use as such is well documented. In this respect it is unique in the United States. Architecturally, the Friedensville engine house could be transposed on to the Devon or Cornwall landscape and fit perfectly into this renowned UNESCO World Heritage location that includes approximately 200 preserved engine houses that form an iconic part of the cultural heritage.”

Reason 2- It is a historical landmark of mechanical engineering

“The President was not first the Cornish Pump located at the Ueberroth Mine in Friedensville. Prior to the construction of the President, Lehigh Zinc’s engineer, John West from Cornwall, designed and installed a pumping engine that was capable of pumping 5700 gallons of water per minute from a depth of 132 feet. He also brought to the Ueberroth Mine a pumping engine he built before 1853 that some consider the first engine built on Cornish principles in America (this Pump most likely came from the Perkiomen copper mines). Some early mining equipment originated from Cornwall, but clearly John West’s work at Perkiomen and Ueberroth collectively are among the earliest representations of American design and manufacture of Cornish Pumps.”

“The President pump was clearly the largest steam driven stationary single-cylinder pumping engine ever used in any application in the Western Hemisphere and the largest Cornish derivative beam pump ever used in a mining application on a global basis.”

“The President pump was not simply a very large “throw back” to the past. In screenshot_2017-06-13-12-07-40_kindlephoto-18444209.jpgaddition to incorporating a latticework beam design, which is attributed to the West family, the President included an innovative float device that “automatically” adjusted the speed of the engine based on the water level at the bottom of the mine.”

“It has been  argued that without the Cornish Pump, the development of the deep, hard-rock gold mines in California would have been delayed for nearly half a century (until the introduction of electric motor-driven pumps).”
“Given the importance of the Friedensville site in the development of the steam engine technology and the fact that it once was home for the largest stationary single-cylinder pumping engine in the Western Hemisphere and largest Cornish derivative single-cylinder beam pumping engine in the world in a mining application, the pumping engine site deserves consideration as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Site as part of the American Association of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Landmarks program. Also, as noted above, its design was not a technological “dead end”, but rather an important linchpin in the adoption of this technology in the United States. Further, as discussed above, the physical remains of the engine house are more than just stonewalls; as a “house-built” engine much can be learned of the engine’s design, layout and operation from the engine house, even though the engine itself is long gone. The Landmarks program has recognized about 250 landmarks since its inception in 1971.  Such designation would foster the preservation of the physical remains, encourage engineers to become aware of their technological heritage and further inform the public of the heritage site’s contribution.”

Reason 3-It is a heritage site of importance to Cornish American Studies

“While Friedensville was largely a village peopled by those of German descent, the Cornish presence would have been in much  evidence during the zinc mine’s operations. Technicians, engineers and  some of the skilled labor force were Cornishmen.”

“The Cornish are understandably  proud of their contribution to the mining industryDSCN0137 and related technologies, not only as practiced in Great Britain, but also globally given the significant export and migration history emanating from this  small county. The President pump and its engine house are known to The Trevithick Society thanks to the efforts of Professor Nance. The  writer believes that other organizations dedicated to Cornish studies and the history of Cornish contributions to mining and steam  technology would likewise find the site to be of great interest.”.

Reason 4-It is a heritage site of regional importance

“The Ueberroth Zinc Mine Historic District has suffered a large  number of losses in recent years. The extension of Interstate 78  through Saucon Valley, the routing of

PresidentMap

Ueberroth mine map from
Kent Littlefield’s 2014 presentation

Saucon Valley Parkway and the  development of the Stabler Land properties has all served to comprise  this historic area. Among the structures, which have been lost, include  the Correll miner cottages (between Oakhurst Drive and Route 78), the  Methodist Church (on Old Bethlehem Pike) and the secondary  structures around the President pumping engine house. The Mine  Master’s House (1868) on Friedensville Road will soon be lost to the  wreaker’s ball to make room for office suites. With this last loss, the  only significant above ground, visible remnant of 19th century mining  activity will be the water filled quarry pits and the Cornish engine house  that contained the President pump.”

Reason 5- It is in a location of scenic Beauty

“With clearance,  preservation, historic interpretation and development, it is very

president2016lake

The engine house in 2017 Mark Connar

easy to picture the location as being a highly scenic and valued destination. It  would attract historically minded tourists as well as the general public who would find the view “romantic”. The ruined pumping engine house,  even after preservation, overlooking a lake with beautifully colored water, would attract photography buffs and possibly even filmmakers. The location would be perfect for wedding photos and other special occasions. With the medieval character of the pumping house in the  background, the site would be hard to duplicate in the region.”

I will keep this blog updated with news of progress towards preservation of the engine house. Meanwhile Mark’s first reason for preservation has offered me a great excuse to take a quick detour to explore my photograph’s for images of the Virgin Gorda engine house, the topic for my next post.


wpid-image.jpgTo learn more about John West’s Cornish Uncle, visit on this blog’s William West Page.

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A melody of Cornish Engine Houses

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This series of posts on the President Steam Engine in Philadelphia USA now takes a brief DSCF2663diversion that takes it back to Cornwall.  When I started to build this post my idea was a simple one of hunting around the corners of my laptop to discover some photographs of Cornish Engine houses that could be used as a comparison with the images of the President.  However, as I started to copy the images onto this page it dawned on me that here was an opportunity to reflect on the role of the engine houses in our landscape, a reflection that may form an introduction to the final part of the President series.

Cornish Engine Houses a reflection

Cornwall’s landscape is adorned with the iconic shape of disused mine engine houses, DSCF2658and their images are scattered throughout its culture. Book covers, websites, gifts,  postcards, calendars, business logos, and road signs all pull on the strong identity it portrays. Some of its importance in the Cornish physical and cultural landscapes arises from the sheer physical bulk of the structures; apart from castles there are no other historic remains that demand such attention as the empty shells that once housed the large Cornish Steam engines. However, there is more to their importance than just physical size, and this post will reflect on some of those other factors.

Aesthetic value

A combination of dramatic landscapes and dramatic buildings often combined to DSCF4135produce some amazing scenery. Sometimes it is the setting of the engine house, sometimes it is the architecture of the building, sometimes it is nature’s encroachment and occasionally it is a combination of all of these that provides such rich landscape value.

There is a great irony is this, for many of these views started as scenes of industrial chaos. Every square foot of ground around the engine houses would have been taken up with a haphazard mess of tips, buildings, shafts, tramways and debris. The air would have been thick with smoke and fumes, the streams running with toxic waste and the defining sounds of stamps would have drowned out nature.DSCF9727

But time and nature have now softened these grand industrial landscapes, a process that has left just the engine houses standing as isolated remains of the once huge industrial complexes.

Not all engine houses have such value, some are unfortunate to be in locations that hold no visual pleasure, and others are of designs or proportions that simply do not please the eye. But there are a few engine houses whose presence creates some of the most memorable scenery in the world, Wheal Coates and Bottallack fall firmly into that category.

Political value

whimsillThis may a appear an unusual value to place on industrial heritage, however the visual reminder of the engine houses keep within the public consciousness that this once a land alive with industry, a land of mass employment.

The UK has transformed itself into a service industry based society, and Cornwall is perceived from the outside as a holiday destination or bolt hole for second home owners or those seeking lifestyle changes. And yet Cornwall was once one of the biggest industrialised regions in the world. Mining and its associated industries employed tens of thousands or workers, whilst Cornish Technology and engineering lead the world.

PumpviewupWhilst the engine houses still stand, they act as a reminder that this was once a working landscape, that there is more to the economy that property prices, holiday lets and Poldark souvenirs. Such a reminder has a value for the future, especially for future generations wishing to find work west of the Tamar.

Historic Value

Many engine houses remain standing whilst the scenes of industry that once surrounded dscf9312them have long disappeared. In doing so they act as pegs onto which to hang tales of history. Without them there would be little left to mark the existence of the thousands of Huels, Wheals, and Consols that once crammed every corner of Cornwall.

Each mine had a stories worth discovering; sometimes wealth, sometimes losses and sometimes fraud. There are tales of death, tales of innovation and countless tales of hope.  In some cases it is the engine house itself thatW7 provides a stepping stone into history, marking technological advances or famous engineers.

Such an example is Austen’s engine house at Fowey Consols, at which so many threads of history can be followed back and forward in time. Those threads lead to many other engine houses, many of which have fascinating stories to tell.

Amenity Value

We are in an era dominated by the virtual world, a world where the physical holds less and less

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importance. In such a world some of the  Cornish Engine houses have found a small, but important role of providing purpose  to a location.  Such a purpose can attract us into the location to photograph, paint, record, explore, or just look at the building. They can become the reason for a journey, or a ‘croust’ stop along the way. Often such stops may stir up some curiosity to discover more, to ask questions that may lead to more journeys.

I find a walk in Cornwall is rarely historically sterile, every bump, dip, building relic or lump of fallen masonry seems to have the potential for significance. This richness

wpid-wp-1422994037468.jpegof landscape only became truly apparent tome on walks in many other parts of Britain where a footpath was just a footpath; nothing to find, nothing to explore.

A reflection taken forward

After that brief detour into Cornish engine house I will return in the next post to the USA  with some more words about the President Engine.  In doing so I should;  now be able to grasp the significance of its engine house more clearly after reflecting some of our own heritage here in Kernow.

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The President Steam Engine- Key dates

A Cornish Engine in the USA

These dates have been derived from a quick dip into Damian Nance’s article on the engine, and correspondence from Mark Connar; I dived in, grabbed a few dates and sorted them out into an order. Then to add some context I have added a few dates from the life of William West, John West’s famous uncle.

Events leading up to the engine’s creation

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1801 William West is born at Dolcoath

1835 Austen Engine’s Trial

1838 East London Waterworks engine started

1845 A rich zinc ore deposit in the dolomite limestone of Saucon Valley was discovered

1853 A  predecessor company to the Lehigh Zinc Company was formed to extract and smelt this primary material.

1854 Ueberotth mine was opencast operation

1860 Lehigh Zinc Company formed

1866 John West erected a 32″ double acting engine

1868  the Company’s engineer, John West from Cornwall as commissioned to design an engine capable of pumping 12,000 gallons/minute from a depth of 300 feet.

By 1869 three different engines were being used to clear the mines of water

The Engine’s operating years

1872 The President  was erected

1874 the engine’s crank broke and it took a number of days for it to be repaired and there was concern that the mines would fill with water.

1876 Operations were suspended

1879 William West dies

The President’s later life

1881 One of the owners of the Correll Mine in Friedensville purchased the mining assets of Lehigh Zinc and unified them under the name “Friedensville Zinc Company”

1883 New shafts were being dug and that the plan was to move the President to the new shaft location. This equipment move never transpired.

1884, Water was controlled in the mines by using two new steam pumps with the President was being kept in operational condition as a backup pump. Later that year, in May, the President was restarted.

By 1890 The Ueberroth mine was no longer being worked and the President was being used to lower the water in the other, still active, mine works.

1891 The last reported time that the President Pump operated

Events after the engine’s final steaming

1898 Unsuccessful efforts were made to raise capital in Europe to restart the Friedensville mine.

1893 All mining activities in the Friedensville area ceased

1899 The President was for sale

1900 The President was sold to Philadelphia based scrap dealers for $10,000

1901 The sixteen boilers were removed from the site to South Bethlehem by the New Jersey Zinc Company. The plan was to reuse these equipment pieces at other New Jersey Zinc mines.

1940s A new Friedensville mine was opened by the New Jersey Zinc Company which operated until 1983

Other Time Lines on this blog


51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

This publication describes the life and work of John West’s uncle through the eyes of a Victorian biographer.

Available on kindle>

The paperback “Last Great Cornish Engineer” explores the Engineer’s life beyond the words of the sketch.

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