Mining Milestones

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The following table gives a brief summary of the main developments in Cornish mining technologies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A PDF of the mining milestones table below is available, which may be better for viewing on mobile devices. The full Wheel Wreck archaeological report is available from CISMAS (PDF, 12.4MB).

This table documents the three successive types of steam engines used in the west country mines ; Newcomen, Boulton & Watt and finally the Cornish Engine– each of which was a development of its precursors. It also outlines the development of the pumping equipment (pitwork) itself – which is what the Wheel Wreck cargo mound mainly comprises.

A bibliography is available at the bottom of this page.

Date

Event

Detail

Source

c.1675

Plunger pump

Samuel Morland patented (175) a plunger pump capable of raising great quantities of water

JTS 7/34

1689

Blasting

Thomas Epsley is said to have introduced blasting with black powder to the Cornish mines – a year later he is recorded in the Breage burial register – apparently a victim of his own invention

Rowe p 9

1698

Savery

Thomas Savery patented an engine for raising water by the impellent force of fire. Patent extended by act of parliament to run until 1733. At a trial of the engine in 1706 ‘the steam was very strong and tore the engine topieces’. There are legends of this engine being used atWheal Vor (Breage) but this is doubted by Barton & Stewart

Stewart p 18

Rowe p 7

1698

Coal tax

Import tax on seaborne coal introduced

Stewart p 39

1709

Coalbrookdale

Abraham Darby made cast iron in a small blast furnace using coke as the fuel (derived from coal) at Coalbrookdale. This allowed mass production of cast iron – continued casting iron (including making of first iron bridge, first railway engine and AGAs) until 2017

JTS3 p 25

1712

page63image5821872Newcomen engine

First documented use for pumping at Dudley Castle colliery, Staffordshire, 21 inch cylinder. Newcomen neverpatented his engine but worked within Savery’s wideranging patent.
X section drawing. Drawing p48 Stewart

Barton p 15 Rolt&Allen p 46 Stewart p 26

Barton p 17

1714

Water driven pumps

Coster and Coster patent in 1714 for a pumping system for mines – used an ingenious water driven chain and ragengine to drive pumps of ‘mettall cilinders and bored elemes’

Stewart p 12

1716

Early engine

The first engine in Cornwall was possibly erected at Wheal Vor (Breage) and worked for about four years. Pole puts this engine at c.1714 and Rolt&Allen at 1710-14. Rowesays Wheal Vor ceased working in 1715 ‘after anapparently unsuccessful attempt to use an early Savery orNewcomen engin’

Stewart p 33 Pole p 12 Rolt&Allen p 44

Rowe p 186

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1720

Newcomen engine

Early use in Cornwall at Wheal Fortune, Ludgvan. 47” cyl, pumping from 30 fathom in 15” pitwork – some have argued this was not built until 1746. Pole claims first ‘fire engine’ at Wheal Vor (Breage) c.1714

Stewart p 35

Stewart p 36 Pole p 12

1720s

Cast iron starts to replace brass for cylinders –Coalbrookdale start casting iron cyls in 1722

Stewart p 158

1723

Water driven pumps

Marquis copper mine (Devon) used a ‘water engine’driven by an overshot waterwheel to drain the mine. Waterwheel-driven pumps mentioned as early as 1480

Stewart p 7 Stewart p 9

1726

Waterworks

In 1726 a Newcomen engine was erected at York Buildings waterworks in London

Rolt & Allen p 80

1727

Newcomen engine

In 1727 fifteen years after the first atmospheric engine only five engines recorded in Cornwall

Barton p 16

1729

Newcomen dies

page64image5805232

London

page64image5803776

(Davey; 12-13)

1730s

Pump pipe

Rise in demand at Coalbrookdale in the 1730s for cast iron pipe probably marks the transition from bored wood to iron. However, in Bjorling ‘In the year 1798, we still found them boring out wood pumps in Cornwall’

Stewart p 158 Stewart p 161

1733

page64image5799616Newcomen engine
page64image5799408

Savery patent expires

1741

Newcomen engines

page64image5795664

Only three Newcomen engines said to be working in Cornwall in 1741

Rowe p 7

1741

Coal import

page64image5792752

Import levy on seaborne coal of 50{2cf2ca4182110f61046fbac911b4517e81c5c1b25b941cdc229f54cc1cb49170} – exemption for Cornish mines after lobbying of parliament (this was by a drawback or reclaiming of the duty) NB Barton says this happened in 1739

Barton p 18 Rowe p 43 Pole p 15

1740s

Manufacture

page64image5789840

Most cylinders made by the Coalbrookdale company who maintained an agent in Truro. Stewart lists 16 cylinders supplied to Cornwall between 1744 and 1768, 40”-70” made by Coalbrookdale. They also made cast iron pipe

Barton p 19

Stewart p 52 JTS3 p 25

1752

Stannary Parliament Stannery Courts

Coinage Towns

The last stannary parliament held in Helston (wiki says Truro). There were also stannary courts which tried miners instead of the usual legal system. In return, duty had to be paid on all tin at designated coinage towns where the tin blocks were stamped to show that the duty had been paid. In medieval times the coinage towns were Liskeard, Lostwithiel, Truro and Helston – Penzance was added in 1663, Calstock and Hayle after this.

Rowe p 46 Guthrie p 88

Rowe p 13

1755

CCC

Cornish Copper Co founded in 1755 in Camborne, moved to Hayle in 1758

Guthrie p122

1758

Timeline

Nelson born

1760

Coal

Coal landed in Cornwall cost 15s ton

Barton p 20

1762

Boiler

Samson Swaine erects a boiler made of stone (granite) at a mine near Wheal Weeth – a block from such a boiler is reputedly on display at East Pool mine

Stewart p 56

1769

Smeaton

Smeaton computed the duty of fifteen engines in the Newcastle-on-Tyne district, and found the average duty to be 5 millions of foot lbs. per bushel or 84 lbs. of coal

(Davey; 12-13)

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1769

Watt

Watt patent (913) granted for 14 years. The patent specifies a separate condenser, evacuated by pump.

Stewart p78

1770

Wheel Wreck

Terminus post quem for the Wheel Wreck

1770

Smeaton observation

Smeaton made note of eighteen large engines in Cornwall, eight of which had cylinders from 60 to 70 in. diameter

(Davey; 12-13)

1770

page65image20463248Boilers

The Haystack boiler (copper then wrought iron) is largely replaced by the wagon boiler (rectangular shape with rounded top) c. 5psi

Barton p115

1774

Cylinder boring

In 1774 John Wilkinson patented a machine for boring iron cannon from solid casting (this technique continued until the end of smooth-bore cannon). Shortly after this he invented a machine for accurately boring cast iron engine cylinders. He made many cylinders for Bolton & Watt at his Bersham works – including the early Cornish engines at Wheal Busy and Ting Tang

Stewart p82

1775

page65image20469072Engine

Smeaton engine at Chacewater 72” built by Carron Co

Barton pp 21-22
page65image20471776

1775

Watt

page65image20473440

Boulton & Watt patent extended to 1800 by act of parliament – covered separate condenser and use of steam as the driving force
B&W charged 1/3 cost of coal saved by their engine

Barton p 22 Stewart p 82

1775

Newcomen engine

One of the last Newcomen engines erected in Cornwall atDolcoath in 1775. 45” cyl. Erected by John Budge. The ironpumps were supplied by John Jones Co Bristol and Dale Co. By the 1770s at least 78 engines had been erected in Cornwall

Stewart p 50 Stewart p72

1775

page65image20477184Depression

In 1775 only 18 of the 40 engines in Cornwall were being worked

Rowe p 72

1776

page65image20480720Watt

First Watt engine in Cornwall ordered by Ting Tang (Gwennap) 52”

Barton p 22

1779

Harvey’s Foundry

Established in Hayle by John Harvey. Woolf wassuperintendent from 1816. By 1880 Harvey’s were the only surviving main engine maker in Cornwall. Closed 1903

Barton p 142

1779

Whim

Newcomen engine adapted for rotative motion but had a‘prodigious appetite for coal’

JTS3 p 27

1780

Pickard rotary

James Pickard patent (1263) on rotary engine using a crank and flywheel

1781

Hornblower

Two cylinder compound engine patent. Steam passed from the first, larger cyl to the second, smaller cyl. Was more successful in rotary engines

Barton p 25 Pole p 30

1781

Watt rotary

Watt patents (1306) planet-and-sun gearing on flywheel for his rotary engine (two revs per engine cycle) to circumvent the Pickard patent of 1780

EB

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1782

Watt rotary

Watt patents (1321) double acting engine (push and pull) this required solid connection to the beam as opposed to chain. Expansive working also included (although at very low pressure)

EB
JTS3 p 27

1783

Newcomen engine

By 1783 only one Newcomen engine left working inCornwall. Coal consumption was said to be ‘massive’. Newcomen engines continued in coal mines where coal was effectively free until the late 19th or even early 20th century

Barton p 23 Stewart p 39

1784

Henry Cort patented ‘puddling’, a process to produce wrought iron from cast iron using coal as the fuel

JTS3 p 26

1784

Whim engine

The first whim engine in Cornwall (a B&W @ Wheal Maid) this had sun-and-planet gearing instead of the simple crank which was usual after 1794 – drawing p 188. Previously horse whim was usual – Wheal Harrier in Camborne was still drawing ore to surface by horse whim in 1858. Round hemp rope until iron chains around 1820; wire rope about 1860

Barton p 185

Barton p 191

1784

Watt rotary

Watt patent (1432) parallel motion (aka 3 bar motion) for cyl to beam connection – also a steam carriage

EB

1785

Watt furnace

Watt patent (1485) for improved furnace

1786

Plunger pump

Boulton & Watt were using plunger pumps on a limited scale in Cornwall from 1786

Stewart p 162

1787

Transport

Harvey’s foundry acquired their first ship Providence for transporting castings and raw materials. 23 ships owned by them are listed up to Frank 1844

Vale pp 333-335

1788

page66image7879504Watt rotary

Watt designs centrifugal governor

EB

1790

page66image7883040Watt

Watt designs pressure guage

EB

1790

Bull

Ex-Watt engineer designed engine with cylinder over shaft – no proper beam. In 1790 court ruled this was piracy and ordered halt to production. Not as efficient as conventional beam and wore more quickly

Barton p 25

Barton p 105

1791

Engine manufacture

First known complete engine built in Cornwall (a Bull atHarvey’s) – previously cylinders were made out of county.By 1830 the Cornish ‘big three the equal of any foundry’.Previously engines were made at: Neath Abbey, Soho Birmingham (B&W), Carron Scotland and Coalbrookdale

Barton p 148 Guthrie p 121

1791

Perran Foundry

The foundry was set up on the site of a tin smelting works (Perran Wharf on the Fal) by Robert Were Fox and John Williams of Scorrier to supply machinery to the Gwennap copper mines.

Wiki
Barton p 153

1792

Neath Abbey Ironworks

In 1792 the Perran owners also leased the Neath Abbey Ironworks in Wales which was founded c.1785

Barton p 153

1792

Hornblower Wherry Mine

In 1792 a Hornblower (2 cyl compound) engine was installed at the Wherry Mine in Penzance

Stewart p 128

1792

Harvey’s

Harvey’s build their first ‘steam pump – probably aNewcomen’

Guthrie p 124

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1790s

Inverted engine

Inverted engine introduced

Barton p 30

1790s

Beam

Cast iron starts to replace log (wood) beam for engines

Barton p 30

1798

Timeline

HMS Colossus wrecked on Scilly

1798

Hornblower rotary

1798 Hornblower takes out a patent for a rotary engine

Stewart p 130

1800

Watt

The Boulton & Watt patent expires

Barton p 27

Engine manufacture

From 1800 the majority of pumping engines in Cornwall were built by the ‘big three’: CCC, Harvey’s & Perran

Guthrie p 122

1801

Foundry

page67image41522752

Holman Bros of Camborne established

Barton p 162

Engines

In 1801 there were about 80 engines at work in Cornwall – all but three were pumping. The majority were B&W

Barton p 252

1801

Locomotive

page67image41525664

Trevithick’s road locomotive built in 1801 with parts made by Harvey’s

Guthrie p 122

1801->

Bucket pump Plunger pump

Replacement of bucket pump by plunger pumps begins (but see 1786). In 1827 Farey published plan of pitwork showing all bucket pumps. Windbore about 7.5ft long, clack pieces also 7.5ft long. Working barrel 2ft longer than bucket stroke. Common pipes (rising main) were always 9ft long with 3” broad flanges. ‘The windbore may be 6 or8ft long’

In 1801 Lean replaced bucket pumps with plunger‘wherever practical’ at Crenver and Oatfield. Pole in 1844describes the pump column at Wheal Vor where there were four bucket pumps and nine plunger pumps in a rise of 219 fathoms

Barton p 30

Farey p 217

Farey p 221 Stewart p 162 Pole p 119

1803

page67image41521712Boiler

Woolf patent on sectional cast-iron boiler – they proved troublesome and disappeared about 1825

Barton p 116

1805

page67image41549168Timeline
page67image43516112

Battle of Trafalgar

>1810

Copper

From 1801 to 1810 Cornwall produced over 65{2cf2ca4182110f61046fbac911b4517e81c5c1b25b941cdc229f54cc1cb49170} of the world’s copper. By 1861-1870 this had fallen to 10{2cf2ca4182110f61046fbac911b4517e81c5c1b25b941cdc229f54cc1cb49170}, and was 3{2cf2ca4182110f61046fbac911b4517e81c5c1b25b941cdc229f54cc1cb49170} in the following decade (see table below)

Rowe p 128

1810

Duty

Reporting of engine performance begins – monthly publication continues for almost a century. Duty measured as pounds of water raised 1ft by a bushel of coal

Barton p 32 Barton p 28

1811

Boiler

Woolf cast iron boiler advertised

Barton p 33

1811

Engine

Two 90” engines for Consols made at Neath Abbey – at the time the largest engines in the world

Barton p 41

1812

Boiler

Wagon boilers largely replaced by cylindrical boilers in Cornwall. Single flue introduced by Trevithick – first built by Holmans in 1812 and became known as the Cornish boiler – in almost universal use in Cornwall by 1830s

Barton p 115 Guthrie p 122

1812

Wheal Vor

Wheal Vor tin mine reopened after long closure. Up to 1812 most pumping engines were in copper rather than tin mines – exceptions were Wherry Mine and Ding Dong.

Rowe p 188

1818

Foundry

In 1818 the Perran Foundry known as Foxes & Perran Foundry Co, and Neath as Foxes & Neath Abbey Co

Barton p 154

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1824

Boilers

Woolf cast iron boilers installed at Wheel Alfred driving his 2 cyl compound engine, alongside Trevithick’s Cornish boiler driving a single 90”. No clear winner in duty butunreliability of Woolf boilers led to their abandonment

Barton p 44

1824 ish

Engine improvement

Groce at Wheel Hope (Gwinear) insulated pipe and cylinders improving duty

Barton p 45

1820

Copperhouse foundry

Copper house foundry begins making engines. Set up by the Cornish Copper Company. In 1841-2 supplied parts for Clifton suspension bridge. Closed 1869

Barton p 151

1820s

Engines

Many 2 cyl compounds altered to singles

Barton p 47

Harvey’s Foundry

Harvey’s so busy they have to share work with Neath Abbey Ironworks in Wales

Barton p 157

page68image7934208

Foundry

1820s St Austell Foundry established

page68image2991104

Barton p 159

1827

Foundry

page68image7938368

Charlestown Foundry established

page68image7939408

Barton p 162

1830

Wheel Wreck

page68image7942528

Terminus ante quem for the Wheel Wreck

1830

Engines

By 1830 single acting engines had largely replaced double acting engines for pumping

Barton p 107

1830

Foundry

page68image7947936

Harveys have 52 draught horses for moving machinery

Barton p 123

1830

Perran

page68image7951680

Perran foundry making complete engines after 1830

Barton p 154

1832?

Engine duty

page68image7954592

The Austen 80” at Fowey Consols provokes controversy by reporting 125m duty (first past 100m) – normal duty for this engine under 100m

Barton p 49

1830s

Waterworks

By the 1830s Cornish engine duty figures were exciting interest upcountry. In 1837 Thomas Wichsteed Engineer to East London Waterworks came to Cornwall to investigate. An 80” pumping engine was purchased.Subsequently many engines were built esp. in period 1860-70 by Harvey’s for London waterworks

Drawing p 260

Barton p 258

1834

Foundry

Nicholas Holman leaves Camborne and sets up foundry at St Just – set up a branch Foundry at Penzance in 1840

Barton p 162

1838

Engines

About 250 engines at work in Cornwall

Barton p 252

1838

Tin coinage

The Tin Duties Act (1838) abolishes the system of duty on refined tin (called tin coinage) payable to the Duchy of Cornwall – this had been in force since at least 1156 – but applied only to tin (not copper)

Wiki Guthrie p 88

1839

Compound engines

Compound (2 cyl) engines reappear

Barton p 52

Engine

Taylors engine drawing in 1870 Perran catalogue – but built 1840

Barton p 55

1840s

Perran

Perran builds a 64” engine for Vauxhall Waterworks

Barton p 154

1841

Engine – compound

Sims patented combined cylinder compound engine about 55 built – few if any after 1849. Required taller engine house

Barton p 108

1842

Man engine

A total of 16 man engines in Cornwall – introduced from overseas starting about 1842 at Tresavean

Barton p 212

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1844

Boiler

Lancashire boiler patented (two fire tubes v one in Cornish). This type popular outside Cornwall – some in Cornwall by 1880 but never displaced the Cornish boiler in Cornwall.

Barton p 117

1846

Pump rods

First recorded use of wrought iron for pump rods (usually pine). Rods 8” diameter – suffers from failure of couplings

Barton p 95

1850

Pumping

page69image9962304

By 1850 double acting engine abandoned – single cylinder with steam acting on top of piston. Pitwork is by now all plunger pumps every 20-30 fathom. Bottom pump only is still the old bucket or lift pump

Diagram of bucket and plunger pumps

Barton p 88

Barton p 91

page69image2988640

Pumps

Usually cast iron 9ft long, diameter 6” to 20”, diameterincreases towards the top of the shaft. Pumps lined with slips of wood or occasionally bronze. Buffalo or rhino hide used for the clacks. Pine used for pump rods is usually imported.

Barton p 92

1850->

Boilers

Boiler explosions occurring periodically. Engine men blamed by owners but enquiry in 1870s concludes that corrosion and operating pressures were the main cause

page69image9967088

Barton p 116

1850->

page69image9968960Engines

Engines and machinery moved frequently from mine to mine especially in the later 19th C

Barton p 118

1850s

page69image9972496Perran

Perran Foundry name changes to William’s & Perran Foundry Co about 1850

Barton p 154

1850s

Copper

The value of copper mined in Cornwall in the 1850s is about twice that of tin. It is estimated that three out of four miners in Cornwall are employed in copper mining

Rowe p 305

1856

page69image9978320Duty
page69image9978944

Bushel replaced by cwt in duty calculation

Barton p 59

1850s

Duty

Decline in reported duty of engines probably to avoid breakages and because of declining coal quality

Barton p 60->

1850s

page69image20520032Boiler pressure

Boilers run at about 40lb in2 experiments with higher pressures not successful

Barton p 63

1856

Mild steel

Invention of the Bessemer process introduces mild steel

JTS3 p 28

1857

Strike

First recorded strike in the Cornish mining industry at Balleswidden due to cuts in wages

Rowe p 311

1858

Foundry

Perran advertises a boiler wagon for sale capable of carrying 40 tons

Barton p 123

1860s

Depression

Depression in Cornish mining. Trade in used engines and exporting engines develops in Cornwall

Barton p 64

1860s

Foundry

Hayle foundry have their own boats for moving engines with strengthened hatches and hold bottoms. Increasing use of the railway to move engines

Barton p 124

Whims

Wire rope first used for winding about 1860

Barton p 195

1862

Inverted engine

Last inverted engine built in Cornwall (continued elsewhere until the end of the century)

Barton p 108

1865

Engines

554 Engines recorded working in Cornwall

Barton p 252

1866

Copper

Copper slump/depression = hard times for Cornish miners

Rowe p 310

 

Date

Event

Detail

Source

1866

Emigration

Estimated that ‘no less than 5000 Cornish miners’ hademigrated in 1866 in search of work

Rowe p 319

1868

Engine

80” engine drawing 1868

Barton p 77

1867

Copperhouse Foundry

Passes into the control of Harvey’s and closed two years later in 1869.

Barton p 157

1870s

Waterworks

90” engine sold for waterworks use

Barton p 71

Steel ropes

From 1870s onwards steel capstan ropes come into use

Barton p 233

1873

Engines

Last big engines 90” & 85” for Cornwall by Perran Foundry

Barton p 71

1870s

Depression

Mines closing and engines idle. Rock bottom prices for second hand engines. Cornish foundries on short time

Barton p 72

1879

Perran

Perran foundry closed

Barton p 159

1880s

Foundry

Increasing use of traction engines to move machinery

Barton p 130

1890s

Depression

Pitwork often left in deeper parts of mine. Buyers forlarger engines but below 50” scrapped wholesale

Barton p 76

1903

Harveys

Harveys foundry at Hayle closed

1906

Pumps

First use of electric pumps at Tywarnhaile Mine near Porthtowan

Barton p 79

1909

Duty

Engine duty reporting ends

Barton p 79

1913

Engine

Last big Cornish engine built in the county – 36” by Charlestown Foundry

Barton p 80

1919

Man engine

Man engine failure at Levant – 31 killed and 11 serious injuries

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