Now that the talk at Luckett is over this post returns to the task of resurrecting more of the South Caradon Mine web pages. Now doubt the mines of Luckett will be the topic of later posts but in the meantime here is a summary of some of the characters at South Caradon.
The Clymo Brothers and Thomas Kittow became wealthy as a result of South Caradon. They re-invested much of the profits into other ventures in the Liskeard area, including the lead mines of Menheniot.
The 1851 Census showed Peter was born in Camborne and was married to Mary who was born in Devonport. They lived in Dean House Liskeard with two servants.
Peter Clymo remained Captain until forced to resign from ill health in 1869 after Overseeing thirty six years of production.In addition to his business interests he had been mayor of Liskeard three times and a JP
Peter became died in 1870 aged 69 after spending three years bed bound.
At his funeral 600 miners lead the cortege and over 1000 spectators looked on. A symbol of the impact the practical skills and vision of the South Caradon adventurers had made to South East Cornwall.
Brother of Peter. He worked underground until 23 obtaining a large amount of practical knowledge that proved of great value in the running of the mine. He died earlier than his brother in 1849.
The Clymo’s father worked at Fowey Consols and a cousin James Budge Clymo emigrated to manage Molong Mining Company New South Wales.
A farmer from Browda in Linkinhorne Parish. Thomas Kittow was secretary of the mine until 1875, over 40 years!He was born 1788 at Trewen and died 31st December 1886 at Browda on his own estate aged a 100. Thomas farmed at Browda and Linkinhorne and never married.
The landowner-The Mineral Lord
This was perhaps the luckiest of all those involved in the mine. For no risk, no investment and no skill the landowner saw his previous rough grazing land turn into a huge source of income. By 1863 alone he had been paid up to £43,000 in dues.
The famous Cornish engineer was involved in the mine from its creation to his death.
Just as in other Cornish mines many of these names are now part of the landscape. Their names have been given to the shafts that now lie un-used and choked. The buildings of Rule’s, Pearce’s and Holman’s shaft
The secretaries and pursers-The account keepers
Fatalities at the mine
A few of the many Cornish mine deaths
“On Tuesday last, a young women called Jane
Husband, about 17 years of age, went to work at this mine a little late in the morning. To escape being seen by the captain dresser, she went into the jigging house instead of going into the tool house, and by some means got her dress caught in the jigging machine, by which she was crushed to death. It is remarkable that there was not a single bone broken.”
28 Feb 1862
West Briton Newspaper
“On Saturday morning at South Caradon mine, a number of men were engaged in putting in a flywheel, when John Oliver, of Tremar Coombe, St. Cleer, slipped his foot and was caught in the wheel. He was taken round, both his legs were broken, and he was placed under medical treatment, but he died almost as soon as he reached his own door. He leaves a wife and eight children. Whilst the unfortunate man was being conveyed home, the people conveying him were observed by a young married women, who, thinking the deceased might be her own husband, also a miner, gave premature birth, in her fright, to a child, still born. The mother was seized with fits and died shortly after.”
My talk at Luckett next month will be rich in Cornish Mining terms, and so it seems like a good idea to create a quick reference for those attending to look through after the evening. So here is a collection of words that I will be explaining on the evening, in the rough order that they will appear.
A collection of some Cornish Mining words and terms
Wheal, Whele, Whild, Huel
A prefix to most Cornish mine name’s.
The word was a corruption of word huel which means hole, a mine pit. Sometimes Wheal was used inside of a mines name, rather than as a prefix, such as in “South Caradon Wheal Hooper”.
An old term for a mine.
The name was derived from Cornish ‘Pal’, the word for a shovel, and hence ‘a digging’, a mine.In its earliest usage it referred to a group of small shallow, or surface tin works.
A shortened form of the word ‘Consolidated’.
This suffix was originally used where a number of mines were brought together and worked under a common management, but it was a word that became misused to inspire confidence in unwary investors. Consolidated Mine at Gwennap and Devon Great Consols are the two most successful mines to include this word in their names.
The legal boundary within which a mine could extract minerals.
The normal period of granting a sett was 21 years.
The owner of the mineral rights, this was not necessarily the landowner.
Royalty, Dish, Dues
The mineral lord’s portion of the produce.
The dish was a portion of the value of ore produced at a mine which was paid to the mineral owner. In deep-expensive to operate mines, the dues did not often exceed 15th, whilst in newer mines it may be a 10th or even a 8th. The payment was based on gross produce, that is before expenses, and therefore could act as a discouragement for the development of mines. The lords had little to loose, but much to gain the wealth underground.
A sedimentary clay-slate rock.
Killas is a Cornish miner’s term for sedimentary rock, often metamorphosed by the granite intrusion,
An intrusive quartz porphyry rock, or an intrusion of that rock.
Elvan is a very hard rock that can add greatly to the cost of driving levels and sinking shafts. Its hardness made it a sought after building material.
A crack in the rock filled with minerals, from which the miners extracted the ore.
Lodes were normally vertical, or near-vertical; often extending for considerable distances. In other parts of Britain, they are known as a veins or seams.
Strike of a lode
The bearing of a lode.
The strike is the horizontal direction of a lode, given as a compass bearing.
The angle of slope of a ;ode.
The underlie is the angle measured from the vertical, whilst the dip is the angle measured from the surface. A shaft following the lode was said to be underlie shaft.
The shareholders of a mine.
A mine’s shareholder who did not hold shares just to enable them to supply it with goods or services.
The selling of mine shares for speculative purposes.
Mines were often formed and promoted to make profits from the shares, rather then the minerals.
Financing the mine
Cost book system
A method of conducting the finances of a Cornish mine.
It was a simple system that had served the industry well for hundreds of years, but had limitations when used for the large capital hungry concerns of the 19th Century. Under the cost book system, adventurers put money into a new venture by buying shares, and then at periodic meetings it would be decided whether they would have to pay a call to provide more money to continue running the mine, or receive a dividend.
Cost book Companies could only raise money from its adventurers or from the sale of ore, the reserves of ore underground therefore had to act as its ‘bank’ and skillful management of reserves would be required for long term success. Development work had to be conducted alongside the extraction of ore to ensure new ore would be available in the future when needed.
One drawback of the system was that investors would become impatient if they had a long wait for dividends, and would refuse to make more calls. The mine would then run short of capital, and close before making a profit. Sometimes a new company would be formed to keep development going, or the mine went into liquidation, selling off its equipment. This explains the frequent starts and stops in Cornish mining history, and how unscrupulous companies could operate.
The book containing the names and addresses of all adventures of a mine, along with all share transfers and expenses.
A mine in operation, but not paying dividends.
Such a mine may be making calls on its adventures.
A demand on the adventures to pay their share of costs.
A system of payment in which groups of miners bid for contracts to work sections of the mine for a percentage of the value of the ore raised.
It was given at so much in a pound, that is a sum per 20 shillings of ore raised. Normally from 3 to 15 shillings in a pound. The tributers account was charged with tools, materials, subsist and the wages of the ore dressers. The payment is based on the amount paid for the ore by the smelters at the sale.
A miner whose pay was a proportion of the ore, or of the value of the ore raised.
The portions of a lode set to pares of tributors.
Those who took up a pitch on tribute
Take an end
To agree to drive an adit or level for so much per fathom.
Work in which a miner earned an amount in proportion to the work completed.
Tutwork was work done by measure, such as sinking shafts, driving levels or stopeing ground. These would be paid by fathoms sunk, fathoms driven, or cubic fathom. Each lot was called a bargain.
The Employment System
Experienced miners who supervised operations at a mine.
There were underground captains, surface captains, and dressing captains. The head captain was the manager.
A public auction of the work at a mine.
Setting generally took place every two months. It was held in the open air before the counthouse of the mine which normally had an elevated stage for the captains to stand on. The auction was normally started about the middle of the day, and conducted on a high to low basis. Bidding was closed by a pebble being thrown into air, when it hit the ground the bidding was closed. A reserve price may be set by the captain to prevent collusion amongst the miners to keep the prices high.
The action at a setting.
A set of rules governing every contract made during a setting.
This was read out before the setting started.
Count house, Account house, Counthouse
The mine office.
This was a commonly used shortened version of the proper name, ‘Account house’.
Often a counthouses was used as a dwelling, and provided a venue for adventurers dinners. Smaller mines sometimes used shanty-type count houses suitable for moving from site to site.
An excavated area produced during the extraction of ore-bearing rock.
Stopes are the most impressive of underground features, the larger ones form massive man-made caverns. Where open to the surface, they form gunnis or coffens.
A miner who extracted the ore in a stope.
A method of stoping by removing ore from the roof.
A method of stoping by working below a level.
A horizontal tunnel in a mine not extending to the open air.
Levels were driven on lodes, usually at a depth spacing of 10 fathoms.
The end of a level, or cross-cut.
Prilling the sample
A clandestine addition of a rich mineral to the sample submitted to the assayer.
Prilling would give a tributer a higher payment for his ore then he would have been entitled.
Selling the Ore
The weekly sale of ore by tender.
The mine agents met around a table at 12 o’clock. Each buyer gave in his ticket offering price per ton. The tickets were read by the chairman, who was the agent having the largest quantity of ore for sale, and the persons present note the prices. The lots were sold to the highest bidder. After the sales the attendees dine together at the expense of their mine. Ticketing was originally used for copper sales, but some ticketings also occurred for tin sales.
Piles of crushed ore, laid out ready for sampling.
Doles were usualy about two three feet high, with flat tops. Six doles make up a parcel of ore for sale. Buyer’s agents took a sample from a dole for assaying before the ticketing.
The map shown in this post is part of Brenton Symons’s map of the Liskeard Mining District. The full map is reproduced in Kindle format in “The Liskeard Mining District in 1863”.
A talk for the East Cornwall Mining History Association at Luckett
A brief pause in the posts this week to promote my talk for the ECMHA at Luckett village, a village rich in miming history and heritage.
On the 24th of November 2018 I will be giving a talk on the dealings that went on behind the scenes of 18th Century Cornish mines. An evening that will bring to life many of the words and phrases that fill the pages of newspapers and mine reports of the day, and a talk that will throw some light of what was called the “Cornish System” . Some come along and enjoy an evening of Tributes and Tuts, Wheals and Winzes. This is local history with great a plot line!
Some of the talk will be based on my latest publication “On the Economy of the Mines of Cornwall and Devon 1814 (Annotated): The Cornish System described” , some of it on my other publications, some of it on publications to come, and some of it on the research behind the posts on this blog.
For those looking for a Christmas present then I will have on sale my range of Cornish Mining paperbacks on the night, and for the younger readers Cheryl will have her range of Cornish Legend themed storybooks.
As I prepare for the up and coming talk at Luckett, a village with its own amazing mining heritage, it seemed apt that I should produce a quick summary on the trading of Cornish Mining shares. I have used a publication written by Roger Burt as the main source of information, “The London Mining Exchange 1850 to 1900”.
Unfortunately the Cornish mining industry of the 19th century was often hindered by the bad reputation it gained as an investment. This reputation was obtained by the actions of the system that was supposed to support it by raising capital.
Cornish mining has always been an industry of extreme fortunes, extremes driven by the unpredictability of the lodes beneath the ground. This was an industry where luck and skill could bring huge wealth of within yards huge losses.
In the 19th century additional factors came into play, the man made factors of share fraud, and share manipulation. Much of these malpractice s was made possible by the manner in which the mining shares were traded.This was compounded by the change is share structure of many mining companies, a change that brought the shares to a growing market of unwary investors.
The buying and selling of Cornish Mining Shares
In the 18th and 19th Centuries most mining companies excluded from stock market instead the shares were traded by direct contact seller and buyer, or sometimes in the case of large sales by public auction.
Dealers did not buy and sell on commission, but Instead bought and sold, and exchanged shares between mines, even buying whole mines. This business was conducted from their own offices, on the pavement outside of the stock market or in Royal Exchange. Share issues and sales were advertised in the of the mining Journal. Richard Hawke of Liskead for example was a common seller through the pages of the Journal.
As time went on Cost book companies divided their shares to attract more capital.In the mid 1840s most had shares of 256 or less, but 20 years later numbers in thousands. Such division made the shares affordable to a wider range of investors, a wider range of investors that where ripe to be relieved of their money by unscrupulous dealers.
The share dealers direct involvement in mines gave opportunity for malpractice, an opportunity that some took advantage of.
As adventures in the mines they could become involved in their management would influence activity to maximize share value, even if it impacted long term working of mines. They often became the mine’s purser or secretary to maximize their ability to direct the activities of the mine.
Some would start a mine at inflated prospects, collect in share capital from hopeful investors and then take a large slice for their services. Their aim was not to extract ore from underground, but to extract money from gullible public’s pockets. Once the mine was formed their influence was still exerted, sometimes they would divert profits to high prestige projects such as grand buildings, and sometimes falsely boost production with the richest parts of lodes at the expense of the longer term fortune of the mine
The Mining Exchanges
But many honest dealers giving good advice, and some of them attempted from the mid 19th Century more reputable attempted to form place to trade shares, These involved creating a ‘Mining Exchange’ where mining shares could be bought and sold under regulated conditions, through accredited dealers. Several attempts were made, but each failed, often amid acquisitions that the exchanges created small cliques that excluded some of the experienced smaller dealers.
The collapse of the Cornish Mining Industry would overtake the attempts to form a widely supported Mining Exchange. This was a collapse hastened by the bad reputation gained by the very malpractices the exchanges were attempting to prevent.
On the Economy of the mines of Cornwall and Devon-1814
There has been a slight pause in the South Caradon posts whilst I divert my attentions to finishing off a little gem of 19th Century mining history. South Caradon is not been pushed completely into the wings however, for it makes an appearance on the book cover.
The Cornish System Described
John Taylor’s pamphlet on the Devon and Cornwall mining industry gives a great introduction to what was known as the ‘Cornish System’, a management and financial system used by mines all over the world that came under the influence of Cornish miners.
A talk I gave on John Taylor (that is the Norwich born mining genius, not the 1980’s guitarist) prompted me to bring some of his words back into print, and so I republished his 1814 book in the Kindle format .
I have had requests by non-Kindle readers to make a hard copy available, and that version is now nearing completion.
Here is the first draft of the cover. The original intention of not following the well trodden route of ‘Cornish Mining Topic= Engine House’ rapidly became overturned as I delved through my image store. Over and over again the images that stood out and the same theme, a Cornish engine house. Despite the thousands of images of shafts, tips, adits, stopes, buddles, and winzes it was only the engine house images that shouted out “Cornish Mining”.
The significance of the engine house
Cornwall has been gifted with structures whose distinctive silhouettes are bold and simple trademarks of its history and identity. There are few other man made landmarks around the world that form such an easily recognizable symbol. It is a feature that can be depicted in dramatic landscapes or simplified to a black and white icon. It can be placed on books, on gifts, in paintings, on road signs, on trade marks, on car stickers, and the message is clear.
And so, the book cover used an engine house, it says far clearer than any other image I could find that this is a book about Cornish Mining. In my defense, I must add that it is not the stereotypical view of a Cornish Engine house; the chimney is not visible, the walls are tumbled and there are no dramatic sea views. Instead snow lies on the ground and waste tips form the background. The engine house is Sump Shaft pumping engine at South Caradon Mine.
Follow this blog for more information about the new book.
“This is an extensive sett, but of a most irregular shape, having a linear distance between its extreme points of two miles, which in no place exceeds 650 fathoms. The Sett so accommodates itself to the lodes, however, that there is a clear course of at least a mile on the most productive of them, decreasing in width as it extends in a triangular shape northward, where the lodes have not yet been sufficiently tried to prove their value.
Commencing at the northern corner, which is close to the Old Wheal Jenkin mines, the eastern boundary (a compact and durable fence, lately built by the present proprietors of both the soil and minerals) runs along close by “The Caradon Mine”, now included in the West Rose Down Sett, whence it extends across Caradon Hill, passing within a few fathoms of East Caradon New Engine shaft. It then has the Launceston and Liskeard road as a boundary as far as Newton around which estate and Bladda it winds (excluding the cultivated land south). It then takes the road from Bladda to Crows nest, from whence, turning sharply to the North, it has first East Agar, and afterwards West Caradon and Gonomena mines as its western boundary, a stream of water which rushes down a deep gully bounding the sett for three quarters of a mile .”
The lodes and shafts
“To form some idea of the extent and position of the mineral wealth of this valuable property, it will be necessary to trouble the reader with a concise description. Commencing, then South: Kitto’s South lode comes first in order. Then Kitto’s North lode and Caunter lode; these two run parallel and close to each other their whole
distance, and it should be noted that although when first cut the direction then seemed to proclaim it a caunter, it soon took a regular course east and west. These two have been, par excellence, the productive lodes not only of this mine, but of the district, and it is mostly from them that the profits of the mine have been made. These lodes are unwatered by a 60 inch engine on Rules shaft, and a 32 inch on kitto’s , the most eastern shaft on these lodes is a distance from East Caradon New Engine shaft (Which works the caunter lode) a little over 200 fathoms. These lodes are worked as deep as 180 fathoms under adit in South Caradon, and still continue as productive as ever, and are worked nearly 600 fathoms in length. Next in rotation is Jope’s Lode, which as engine of 42 inch diameter drains.
Further north are Clymo’s, Pearce’s and Dowding’s lodes. The main lode next in order was first discovered and worked on in the mine, and was very productive. There were several lodes on which little has been done, including Mendue’s which has been so rich in West Caradon. Webb’s and Gerald’s lodes still north, and have been productive. Father still, the whole of Gonomena veins cross a short part of the sett, although they are untried here. It will be seen that the whole of the Caradon lodes traverse the sett, bearing about 8 north of west. These are intersected at right angles by several cross courses, the easternmost, near Jopes shaft, heaving all the lodes to the right hand regularly. There is nothing that can be called an elvan course, although numerous patches occur near the lode and favourably affect it. The junction of killas with granite occurs a little south of Caunter and Kitto’s lode.”
By 1863 it can be seen that the centre of production has moved eastwards and southwards. Caunter and Kitto’s lodes are described as the source of most of the mine’s profits. The mine was still growing in output at the time of this report, and yet it was beginning to feel the impact of a drop in the price of copper.
The lodes are stated as being worked 180 fathoms under adit. That is over 1000 feet under the the level of the valley, or about the same depth down as Caradon Hill is above sea level! The scale of the workings visible above ground pale to insignificance to the invisible workings beneath.
The Mine buildings
“From the top of the western slope of Caradon hill an excellent birds eye view offers itself to the observer: Immediately below all the mine workings and buildings are clearly seen, most of them in the narrow gully before alluded to, where every inch of available space is occupied by railways, ore floors engines, stamps, and the many appliances for the economical conduction of mining enterprise.
Immense masses of granite debris or “deads”, as technically termed, intrude themselves everywhere. In addition to the machinery already adverted to, there is on the old sump a 45 inch pumping engine, the first erected in the district, and which has worked uninterruptedly for twenty six years; a 30 inch engine does the crushing. There is also a 22 inch winding engine at Jope’s shaft, a 24 inch at rules and a 22 inch at kitto’s, and a water winding engine at old sump. The ores are reduced by water-power.
It commenced to work in 1836, when an adit was driven on the main lode. At this time there were no mines working the lodes on the southern slope of the Caradon range, nor was it remotely supposed by any one that such a splendid run of congenial strata existed there.”
This is the “narrow gully” described, formed from the valley of the Seaton River.
By the time of this report, Kitto’s shaft is operation at eastern boundary of the sett.
“The adventurers of this mine have lately presented Mr. and Mrs. Norris, the proprietors of the land, with a handsome piece of plate, as proof of the esteem in which they are held, and of their kind and considerate conduct in the renewal of their lease in May 1862.
The mine is divided into 512 shares, on which 25s. was originally paid: for that small outlay, £365 per share has been returned to the fortunate adventures, amounting to the aggregate of £197,632. It shows the importance such a mine as this must be to the neighbourhood in which it may be placed, when it is mentioned that £600,000 have been paid to labourers and merchants and £43,000 in dues to the Lord. There are engaged in various occupations at this concern 650 persons.
The purser is Mr. T Kitto of Linkinghorne. The manager is Mr. Peter Clymo of Liskeard. The agents, Captains Rule, Pearce, Holman and May. Pay-day, the second Saturday in the month.”
South Caradon’s output was to peak over the following 15 years. This report was written only a couple years before the fall in the value of copper being sold. A fall caused by the drop in copper price, a price which had already dropped from its summit of about £13 in the 1850’s.
The significant impact of South Caradon on the economy of the area is commented on by Webb and Geach. The second Saturday in each month was no doubt an important day in the surrounding towns and villages.
Notes from a General meeting
General meeting held 25th November 1862
I am happy in being able to state that our prospects are still very good, with every probability of a continuance.
The general meetings are held two monthly; the next meeting will be held January 27th 1863.”
An optimistic report, but the decline in mine’s fortunes had already started. It was now having to raise more and more copper to maintain the same profits. The copper price was on its downward trend towards the £3 per ton of ore of the 1880’s, and the mine’s final closure.
As a bit of a break from the string of posts covering the engine houses at South Caradon, I have dipped into the old website and pulled out one of the contemporary reports, given it a bit of a freshen up, and added some new photographs. Hope you enjoy the read.
“The prospects are exceedingly brilliant, and not surpassed by any other mine in Cornwall”
South Caradon Mine was on the up in 1843, a star of the British mining scene. This report from the mining commentator and share dealer J.Y Watson reflects its high status in the eyes of the industry.
A compendium of British Mining, Watson 1843
“In the parish of St Cleer near Liskeard was originally searched for tin, and when the lode was first discovered in Caradon Hill, and found to contain a quantity of gossan, it was considered so favourable to the existence of tin, that it was with difficulty a company was formed to work it; but the messrs. Clymo who has obtained the sett, persevered and three rich copper lodes were soon opened. The original outlay to the adventures before the mine made returns in August 1837 was only £327 8s 5d and from that time to the 31st March 1840 they sold copper ores to the amount of £15,635 10s 7d., paid all costs for machinery, including two steam engines and a whim; from that time to November, 1842 they have divided, altogether, a profit of £19,168 and are now receiving at the rate of £10,000 a year, with every prospect of greatly increasing the returns. Some mine agents have asserted that there is £150,000 worth of ore discovered in this mine; but be that as it may, the prospects are exceedingly brilliant, and not surpassed by any other mine in Cornwall. A great part of the workings are in Caradon Hill, which is 1,298 feet high. The monthly cost of working is about £18600”
This report was written at a time when the mine was growing, but in a period when the mines in the West of Cornwall had started to suffer. It had only been seven years since the Clymo’s had discovered the copper, and yet the figures being stated in this report are huge. It is no wonder the mine was being described in such superlatives as “exceedingly brilliant”.
The success of the mine was putting a strain on the local infrastructure. The roads proved incapable of providing the transport capacity required down to the port of Looe and a survey was commissioned in 1842 by a group of mine owners to build a railway from Caradon down to the Liskeard and Looe Canal. The route was surveyed by Robert Coad and the line was in operation by 1846.
This was a period of mass immigration of miners from the west of the Duchy. Over the next decade the population of many of the villages around was to double causing overcrowding and poor housing conditions. Drinking houses, brothels and makeshift miners camps allegedly grew up to serve the rapidly expanding workforce.
1843 was the year that the Clymo’s had started the lead mining boom in nearby Menheniot, with the launch of Wheal Trelawney.
Other events in 1843
To put the year in perspective.
Queen Victoria was on the throne
Robert Peel was Prime Minister
Marc Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel under the River Thames was opened
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain was launched
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was published
The connection between the great Cornish Beam engines in Cornwall and the greatest of the Cornish engines in the USA is a family one. It is a link that will be explored in this post through a transcript kindly provided by Mark Connar.
John and William West
John G. West was one of the many Cornish miners and engineers who emigrated to the USA. An emigration that included not only the men and their families, but also the skills, knowledge and systems developed in the centuries of hard rock mining in their home country.
John West was the son of another well respected engineer, who was also called John. His father’s brother was the famous engineer, William West of Tredenham, the ‘Last Great Cornish Engineer’. William became famous for building the most efficient Cornish Engine ever built, and John G. West was famous for building the largest Cornish Engine in the USA.
This engine is the subject of this series of posts; it is normally refereed to as the ‘President’ but interestingly in newspaper extract below it is called the ‘General Grant’.
From Reading Times (Reading. Pa), Wednesday, May 10, 1893
Death of John G. West
Sketch of the Well-Known Mechanical Engineer and Inventor – Other Deaths
John Gartrell West, mechanical engineer, passed to his rest Tuesday forenoon. He was born in the village of Crowan, in the Parish of Crowan, Cornwall, England, on the 28th day of May 1822, thus making his length of life 70 years, 11 months and 14 days. He came to the United States forty-four years ago and for a time was engineer on one of the Ohio River steamboats. Afterwards, through his intimate knowledge of the construction, and erection of the Cornish pumping engine, he was engaged to erect one purchased in England for the Perkiomen Cooper Ore Company, at Shannonville, Montgomery county. When his contract expired with the above named company, he entered into partnership with the Messrs. Richard Corson and Samuel Thomas, the firm name being that of Thomas, Corson & West, mechanical engineers of the Norris Works, Norristown, Pa.
He designed and superintended the construction of the pumping engine for the Lehigh Zinc Company, of Bethlehem, Pa, known as the General Grant engine, which is the largest stationary engine ever made in the United States, before or since. This is a high-pressure condensing engine; the diameter of the cylinder is 110 1/4 inches, length of stroke 10 feet and weight of the engine is 1096 tons. Mr. West was engineer and superintendent of the Providence R.I. water works for a year and a half.
He was afterwards engaged in the construction and erection of pumping and mining engines for the Yellow Jacket and other gold mines in Virginia City, Nevada and elsewhere. He came to Reading in January 1878, as the superintendent and manger of the Scott foundry, which position he held until about three years ago, since which time he was employed in the capacity of mechanical engineer of the Reading Iron Company.
He was the son of John G. West, also a famous mechanical engineer. He was married fifty years ago to Miss Jane Henwood, who survives, but has been an invalid for years. Deceased was in good health up to two weeks ago, when he was prostated with an abscess which developed into blood poisoning, causing great agony and unconsciousness for several days. Mr. West was a man of sterling integrity, unusual amount of caution, and absolutely honest, scorning deceit and littleness wherever found. He was a member of Christ Cathedral, a prominent mason, and leaves the follow – children and sisters: Mrs. Sophia Von Hummell, of Indianapolis, Ind.; Barnet H. West, late manager of the Reading Iron Works, but now with the Messrs. Cramp Ship Building Company; Mrs. Henrietta Stephens, of this city; Miss Viola West, also of this city; Wye H. West, with the Phoenix Iron Company, Phoenixville. The sisters are: Mrs. Dr. Rowana, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Lovinia Dalty, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Bethia Chant, of Ridley Park and Mrs. Frances G. Jones, of this city, wife of G.W. Jones, superintendent of the McIlvain & Sons’ rolling mills. Transcript by Mark Connar
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.
The President steam engine described in in the Australian Advertiser
Whilst pondering on how to start this dive into the history of the President steam I stumbled across this real gem of an article, and also an amazing website for historical research. Although written in 1872 the article was perfect to introduce this series of posts- a gift-thanks the National Library of Australia.
On the Trove website of the National Library of Australia is a newspaper article from the South Australian Advertiser, published May 13th, 1872 that describes the President Engine, and also refers to John West and several other Cornish Engineers. The Trove site is a fascinating resource, and whilst there, I was quickly sidetracked into doing my bit by correcting the transcript of the article. I highly recommend a visit to Trove, and having a session at correcting some text for them.
Here is the text of the article-
THE LARGEST STATIONARY ENGINE IN THE WORLD
A recent number of the Mining Journal gives an interesting account of the starting of the Lehigh Zinc Company’s mammoth engine, in America. After describing the progress of fine ore mining generally, the following brief description of the great pumping engine is added:—
The engine was three years building, and was designed by Mr. John West, engineer of the Lehigh Zinc Company, who personally superintended its erection in all its parts, down to the minutest particular. The engine was built by Merries: & Sons, Philadelphia, and the
pumps and boilers by I. P. Morris & Co., Philadelphia. The object for which the engine was built was to concentrate the greatest amount of power on one particular spot in the mines in the most economical manner. These new pumps drain the whole property of the Company, and are erected on the particular spot on which they stand on account of the presence of a firm rock to plant upon. Following is a description of the mammoth engine, as we gathered it from a conversation with Mr.West, which will be found to contain technical facts which Mr. Webster did not give in his remarks.
The engine has a pumping capacity of 15,000 gallons per minute, and may be run to 17,000 in case of emergency, raising water from a depth of 300 feet The engine alone weighs 650 tons, and including the pumps and boilers the total weight of the machinery is 1,000 tons. Size of cylinder, 110 inches in diameter; length of stroke, 10 feet. The heaviest pieces of iron in the engine are the sections of beams, and weigh 24 tons. There are two pieces of wrought-iron -weighing 16 tons each. The fly-wheels weigh 75 tons each; crank pins 1 ton each. The piston rod is 14 inches in diameter. The cross head weighs 8 tons. The connecting rods have 9-inch necks, and are 15 inches in the middle, 41 feet 2 1/2 inches long, and weigh 11 tons each.
There are two air pumps, 50 inches in diameter each.
This is, so far as known, the most powerful stationary engine in the world. Next to it in point of size and capacity is the engine at the Cincinnati Waterworks, cylinder 109 inches in diameter. Next is the engine at the Brooklyn Works, cylinder 90 inches; and next the engines used to drain the Meer at Haarlem, in Holland, There are three of these cylinders, 84 inches steam, with 12 feet Sims’compound, 600 -horse-power each. Next are the large Cornish engines used in the Cornish mines in England, and in the London Waterworks.
The work of the “President” will be to drive four plunger pumps, each 30 inches in diameter by 10-feet stroke ; four lifting pumps, each 31 1/2 inches in diameter by 10-feet stroke—the plunger pumps being uppermost and stationary. The lifting pumps will be used in the bottom of the shaft, and are movable, so as to go down as the shaft is sunk;and the lifting pumps, on account of veins of ore running through the
shaft, are and will continue to be suspended, or the weight of the pumps would force them down into the ore to an indefinite depth. To handle these lifting pumps, hoisting or lowering them at pleasure, a steam capstan, capable of lifting 50 tons vertically, is used. By a series of strong gearing, a drum and a steel wire rope, with this capstan, if anything goes wrong with the pumps they can be taken hold of by the top and pulled out of water, repaired, and put back in a very short time. Everything that past experience could dictate is here applied, or at least, as Mr. West said, so it is thought, so far as known.
Mr. John West, who has brought this massive engine to its present state of perfect working, has been employed by the Lehigh Zinc Company for about five years, and designed and superintended the construction of all the machinery in and about these mines. This engine is certainly a triumph of skill, pluck, and per severance, of which the Company, who backed
up the President, Mr. Webster, who backed up
and sustained Mr. West, the engineer, who conceived
and carried out the only feasible plan for relief from the difficulties under which the
Company labored—too much water—may all feel very proud.
The erector of this mammoth engine, under Mr. West’s supervision, is Simeon Noell, a Cornishman, who has had 21 years’ experience in this kind of work in Cornwall, England.. The engineers who will run the “President” hereafter are William Harry, a Cornishman, age 35 years, with 17 years’ experience; and John Beddington, also a Comishman, age 37 years, 21 years’ experience as engineer. Bothsaw the engine go up from its foundation, and know every piece of it, and will keep a watchful and intelligent eye on the mammoth engine.
The John West refereed to in the article was the son of another Cornish engineer, who was also called John West, and that John West was the brother of William West, the subject of my two publications and many of the post in this blog.
And now I will read through the article again and pick up some threads to explore.