Cornish engine houses conquer the world

According to a Cornish saying, "a mine is a hole anywhere in the world with at least one Cornishman at its bottom!" Why? Because Cornwall's cutting-edge mining industry once lead the way. Richard Trevithick's high-pressure steam engine for instance, first built in 1801, revolutionized drainage and enabled mining at great depths. In Cornwall itself, since the middle of the 19th century, the industry suffered from decline. As a result, thousands and thousands of miners went abroad where they introduced local mining techniques.

This included tower-like engine houses like those found in Levant, Botallack and other Cornish mining sites to this day. Their robust design precisely complied with the technical requirements: the lower front supported the steam engine's beam, with a chimney built-in to a rear corner. These engine houses often came in pairs: one to power the mine’s pumping system, the other to run the hoisting and crushing machinery.

34, the largest collection outside the United Kingdom, are located in the Linares mining district in Spain, a 19th century centre of lead production. In 1849, the first high-pressure engine was installed, and local mines employed so many skilled Cornish workers that Linares even had its own British vice-consul.

This website uses cookies