The Last Great Cornish Engineer


Published by the Trevithick Society 2014
ISBN 9780957566026

William West of Tredenhamwpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.png

William West  was part of that generation of engineers who brought the performance of the Cornish engine to its peak. He was reputed to have erected more engines in his career than any man in Cornwall.

Born at Dolcoath Mine, had a poor childhood and even poorer education. Had to go to work at a young age, and after trying unsuccessfully several jobs became recognised has having a natural engineering skill and found work in a fitting shop. From there his skills enabled him to advance rapidly and he worked for the most gifted Cornish engineer of the day, where he learnt much about achieving high performances from Cornish Beam Engines. He built a record breaking engine at Fowey Consols, introduced Cornish engines to London waterworks, produced several inventions and innovations and became very rich. His business empire expanded to include a foundry’s, mines, banks, quarries and a railway. William West died in 1879.

Click here for more William West posts>

The Last Great Cornish Engineer book

190 pages, 25 Illustrations.
The Last Great Cornish Engineer contains a reprint of an account of William West`s life printed shortly after his death, by an anonymous author. This uncritical sketch forms a narrative framework which I have used to explore the engineer’s fascinating life.

The key issues of every decade of West`s life are taken from the sketch and explored further. In doing so, the original Victorian words are enriched, and his history is shown to be not as simple as the sketch implied. In doing so the Book`s title is transformed from statement to question, a question on which the reader can make their own decision.

Despite of its Victorian origins, I was very keen to produce a book in an an easy to read modern layout. Crisp fonts, open spacing and illustrations have been used, supported by a comprehensive index and site gazeteer.

Where to buy the book
For those passing through Cornwall, then pop into the Liskeard Bookshop, King Edward BookshopLiskeardMine or Geevor Mine to buy a copy of my books. To buy the books on line, or download the kindle publications then visit my Amazon store


25 thoughts on “The Last Great Cornish Engineer

  1. […] William West had involvement in the construction of this part of the line as a subcontractor to Brunel. The last great Cornish engineer’s involvement was the construction of the engine houses for the  failed atmospheric railway system. Next HST trip I will see if I can Kindle grab the houses as they whizz by. […]


  2. […] From the Last Great Cornish Engineer- William West of Tredenham. […]


  3. Susan Scott says:

    Thank you, for this wonderful book about my Great great great grandfather, William West. Our Great grandfather, Charles West, son of John Otho West, emigrated to Alberta Canada in the early part of the last century. There are a large number of West descendants in western Canada. We have been aware of Maurice Cook’s research. We have visited Cornwall, and have tried to find some of the sites you mention in your book. Your research and book are a great treasure. Thank you.


    • navsbooks says:

      Thank you very much Susan for your comments about the book, very much appreciated, it is great to know that you have enjoyed it.

      It was amazing to hear from one of William descendants, especially from so far across the water in Canada.

      I was so pleased to have been able to make some of Maurice’s research wider available, and more importantly bringing his passion he felt about the story of William, a story that was starting to get forgotten over here in Cornwall.

      I believe William used to stay at John Otho’s when visiting his Caradon Mines. As of yet I have not visited St. Pinnock Church, but it is is on my long list of West related places to visit.

      Are you happy for me to contact you on the GMail address?


  4. […] The rest of the account can be read in ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer‘. […]


  5. […] Mining District. This longevity was a combination of being blessed with both tin and copper, and William West’s  determination to exploit those […]


  6. […] The Last Great Cornish Engineer […]


  7. […] The Last Great Cornish Engineer […]


  8. […] The Last Great Cornish Engineer […]


  9. […] The Last Great Cornish Engineer […]


  10. […] The Last Great Cornish Engineer […]


  11. […] The NAVSBOOKS blog covers in great detail many of those involved in Cornish mining and engineering, including Samuel Grose, John Taylor and William West. […]


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