What make the past so interesting to me; it is because History propagates. It’s like delving into the past is like delving into a box of toys, belonging to your grandfather.
I was sent an email quite recently that prompted me to do some delving.
The Cornish engine was installed at Sandfields in 1873. There were already three Bolton and Watt rotive beam engines installed when the pumping station was built in c1850.
The email said;
“The Cornish engine was quite “old technology” by 1873 and was probably less efficient than the three 1856 James Watt engines that were already installed at the station. It’s generally believed that one of the main reasons for a Cornish engine being specified at the time was because William Vawdry, the engineer in chief at the time, was himself a Cornishman. He had worked at Harveys in Hayle, Cornwall and was appointed E in C at South Staffs Water in 1865 at the relatively young age of 25.”
I have been told that the Cornish Engine may be ‘evidence to support the low utilisation of the Cornish engine in the SSW archives’.
So what was going on here? I have always believed that Cornish Engines were developed in Cornwall because patenting issues with Bolton and Watt and the fact that there is no coal in Cornwall; efficiency was the order of the day. What was on the mind of the engineer in chief, William Vawdry? Was this “old technology” actually “ tried and tested known to be reliable technology”?