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Newcomen Engines at Hawarden, site of
Woods Mine, Ewloe, Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales, UK
associated engineer
Thomas Newcomen
date  1714 - 1716
era  Georgian  |  category  Steam Engine or Locomotive  |  reference  SJ305656
Thomas Newcomen erected the first atmospheric steam engine in Wales, at Ewloe on the Hawarden coalfield. It is one of only seven engines that he is thought to have worked on personally, though no trace of it survives. Newcomen’s first known working engine was completed a couple of years earlier, in 1712, at the Coneygree Coal Works in Staffordshire.
Coal mined at Hawarden supplied the domestic market in Chester, while coal from the north of the Flintshire coalfields was exported to Ireland. From 1684 Deeside colliery used rag and chain pumps powered by water wheels to drain the workings, but a more effective solution was required for the waterlogged deeper pits. And at Hawarden there was no convenient watercourse to power any wheels.
In April 1714, a 41-year lease was granted to William Probert of Hanmer, near Wrexham, and Thomas and Robert Beech (or Beach) of Meaford in Staffordshire to mine coal from under the lands of Thomas Crachley of Broadlane, Flintshire. The land, at Ewloe, was called Woods Mine.
Not long afterwards, Thomas Newcomen (1663/4-1729) agreed with the lessees and Thomas Brewer to erect a stationary steam engine there. The agreement stipulated that Newcomen was entitled to a one-third share of the mine's profits.
The engine and associated preparations were reported to have cost more than Ł1,000. The engine had a brass 'steam barrel', possibly 430mm or 560mm in diameter, and relied on the pressure of the atmosphere to provide the force to move a piston inside a cylinder under vacuum.
In 1715, the remaining two-thirds of the mine were owned by a group of ten investors, who appointed Stonier Parrott as their salaried agent. Engine installation was complete by November or December 1715, by which time Parrott had acquired 23 percent of the shares and George Sparrow of Wolstanton, Staffordshire, had bought 58 percent. Newcomen agreed to waive his share of the profits for two years in favour of Sparrow, who may have undertaken some of the engine building and operation.
The engine was at work by July 1716 when Sparrow took over running the mine from Probert, after buying his 25 percent share in December 1715. Parrott was removed from his position of agent in August 1716 after he argued with the owners but he continued to be a shareholder.
Disputes raged between Parrott and Sparrow for some years, with Parrott accusing Sparrow of deliberate mismanagement of the drainage, causing flooding. Meanwhile Sparrow, in partnership with Richard Beech and others, continued to work at the mine until at least 1735.
An iron cylinder, probably 560mm diameter, was cast at the Coalbrookdale foundry in 1724 and delivered to Hawarden in October that year. It may have been a replacement for Newcomen's original brass cylinder, or it could have been for another engine.
Beech ordered more engine parts from Coalbrookdale in 1727, either for repairs or as part of a new engine. Another iron cylinder was delivered in 1733, believed to be for a new atmospheric engine.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Steam Engine of Thomas Newcomen" by L.T.C. Rolt and J.S. Allen, Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, second revised edition 1997
"Stonier Parrott and the Newcomen Engine” by Marie B. Rowlands, in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1st January 1969
"Early Steam Engines in Flintshire" by J.N. Rhodes, in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1968
"Some early Newcomen Engines and the Legal Disputes surrounding them" by J.S. Allen, in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 1968
"The First Steam Engine in Wales, 1714, and its Staffordshire Owners" by A. Stanley Davies, in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 19th January 1938
Location

Newcomen Engines at Hawarden, site of