Steam Engines with the National Trust in Cornwall

mine in Cornwall

There are two mining sites with major restoration work done by the National Trust in Cornwall

Cornish Mines and Engines at Pool

2 miles W of Redruth is in the centre of Cornwall's richest mining district. There are two fine Cornish Beam Engines preserved in their imposing engine houses. Richard Trevithick, the famous Cornish engineer used high pressure steam to run his engines, allowing mining to take place at greater depths. The technology was then exported all over the world. These two beam engines could pump water (from a depth of over 550m) and were also used for winding men and ore up and down. Today one is powered by electricity to show you the machine in motion. A pumping engine has a wooden pump rod attached to it's beam, which will run several hundred meters down the shaft, and power the pumps.

A 30in winding engine at Michell's shaft, can be seen working. Michell's 1887 winder, which now operates using electrical power, originally raised ore and miners from 1600ft below surface. A 30-inch cylinder beam winding engine, it was saved from being scrapped in 1941, was taken over by The National Trust in 1967 and ran again under electric motor in 1975

Harvey's 90in pumping engine at Taylors shaft, a giant engine, the largest in Cornwall, last worked in 1954. Taylor's Shaft is part of the same East Pool Mine. The engine site has been refurbished to turn it into the Cornwall Industrial Discovery Centre. The engine survives today as part of a ‘modern’ (1920’s) single-phase complex that also houses a winder house, compressor house, two boiler houses, capstan house, miners’ dry, office and primary crushing and ore-loading stations. The exhibition includes an AV display in the boiler house and a walk through the exposed brick boiler flue and chimney.

Lavant in Steam

Lavant in Steam is 1 mile W of Pendeen, near St Just. You can see the oldest beam engine in the county, restored and working in steam at the picturesque cliff edge Levant mine. Restored by the Trevithick Society The engine is now under the care of the National Trust having been handed over by the society in 1967, along with other engines.

The Lavant mine had rich undersea deposits of copper and tin which ran out under the sea for more than a mile out from land. Its deposits were mined from the end of the eighteenth century to 1930. The engine house with its winding engine intact still stand on the cliff top.

The engine is Cornwall's oldest survivor. Built in 1840 by the West Country's great engine builder, Harvey and Co. of Hayle, it is believed to have been designed by Francis Michell.

In 1935, five years after the mine closed, the Cornish Engine Preservation Society (now the Trevithick Society) was formed to preserve this engine. The Society handed it over to the National Trust in 1967 along with other engines: Taylor's 90-inch and Robinson's 80-inch pumps and Mitchell's 30-inch whim.

The engine house was restored by the National Trust, whilst the engine itself was put back into running order by a group of Trevithick Society members (known as the Greasy Gang) between 1984 to 1992. In 1990 the National Trust and the Trevithick Society raised more money to rebuild the ruined boiler house. An old Cornish boiler was obtained and engine first ran again in steam in 1992, and since then it has been steamed for several months each year for visitors to see how the engine once looked and operated.

The engine’s job was to raise ore from the deep levels via Skip Shaft, just north of the engine house. Skip Shaft was Levant's main hauling shaft and was close to the cliff edge to minimise the underground hauling distance. Even so this was a considerable distance and ponies were used, even an underground steam locomotive was tried.

Like many old Cornish shafts, Skip Shaft is crooked and restricted in width. It is 278 fathoms (508 m) deep below adit level, the adit (mine entrance) was just above high water mark.

A short underground tour takes the visitor from the miners' dry to the man engine shaft via a spiral staircase. You can also see the winding and pumping shafts, and the restored electric winding engine. Half a mile along the cliff is Geevor mine and a mining museum, and in the other direction is the Botallack Count House (National Trust) with information on the mining history of the St Just coastal area.


steam engines with national trust in cornwall

National Trust in Cornwall

Mining in Cornwall

National Trust Mining Site


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