Newcomen Engine at Austhorpe, site of
Austhorpe Lane, Austhorpe, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
date 1714 - 1715
era Georgian |
category Steam Engine or Locomotive |
The Newcomen stationary atmospheric engine erected at Austhorpe was begun two years after its inventor, Thomas Newcomen, had completed his first known working steam engine, for the Coneygree Coal Works in Staffordshire. The Austhorpe engine also served a coal mine, pumping water from the works, and was erected by Newcomen's business partner John Calley. The engine no longer exists.
Thomas Newcomen (1663/4-1729) was born in Devon and knew all about the problems faced by 18th century miners. His steam engines were very successful at the job of mine dewatering, which enabled miners to go deeper than before. In addition to the Coneygree engine, he had already erected one at Griff colliery in Warwickshire and probably another at Wheal Vor near Breage in Cornwall.
The Austhorpe engine served a coal mine on the Moor (or More) Hall estate, and though engineered by Newcomen was erected by Calley (1663-1717). John More (1655-1702) built the estate's two storey red brick manor house, now known as Austhorpe Hall, in 1694. It is now Grade II* listed.
The engine was located at a pit 43m deep and it pumped water into a drainage adit through a 229mm bore pump in two lifts totalling 33.8m. It worked automatically at 12 strokes per minute but could be speeded up to about 15 strokes per minute if the valves were operated by hand. Working at 12 strokes it was capable of lifting 864 litres of water per minute, expending some 4.8kW.
Newcomen's engines relied on atmospheric pressure pushing down a piston in a vacuum-filled cylinder, or ‘steam barrel’. The cylinder was first filled with steam, which was condensed by injecting cold water, creating a vacuum. The cylinder of the Austhorpe engine had an internal diameter of 584mm and was 1.83m long. The condensing pump had a bore of about 100mm and a 915mm stroke.
The base of the boiler was 810mm above the fire grate, which was perhaps too near as the engine was said to have burned out four boilers during its lifetime. The fire consumed 24 or 25 corves (baskets) of coal every day, heating the boiler water. The quantity of coal in a corf varied between about 200 and 350kg.
At the time, Newcomen’s engines were covered by Thomas Savery’s (c.1650-1715) patent of 1698, which compelled steam engine owners to pay annual premiums. After Savery’s death, the rights passed to a joint stock company, which administered the patent until 1733. The Austhorpe engine’s premium was Ł250.
The engine was erected during 1714-15. Recurrent problems caused Calley to return in September 1717 and he stayed in Austhorpe until his death in December the same year. The engine worked for only four years.
The location of the Austhorpe engine was near the family home of John Smeaton (1724-92), the first ‘civil' engineer. Smeaton lived at Austhorpe Lodge (now demolished), built in 1698 by his grandfather, on land adjoining More’s estate. Smeaton would later improve the efficiency of Newcomen’s engines.
"The Steam Engine of Thomas Newcomen" by L.T.C. Rolt and J.S. Allen, Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, second revised edition 1997
"The Newcomen Engine in the Eighteenth Century" by R.A. Mott, in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, London, 15th May 1963
"A Treatise on the Steam Engine, Historical, Practical and Descriptive" by John Farey, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, London, 1827