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Newcomen Engine


08 July 2011

The 8 July, 2011 sees the 25th anniversary of the formal opening of the Newcomen engine. The Black Country Living Museum feel that this is a great occasion to announce that the Museum will shortly be starting work on the engine as part of the preparations for the Tercentenary in 2012. The Newcomen engine played an important role in Great Britain’s Industrial development. It‘s technological advancement impacted greatly upon the mining industry and set the stage for the acceleration of the Industrial Revolution. Towards the end of the 17th Century mining was in crisis, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Tyneside were badly hit. Existing pumps could not cope with the volumes of water produced during the mining process and many mines flooded out and were abandoned. What was needed was a more efficient way of removing water from coal. Thomas Newcomen and his assistant John Calley set about inventing an engine that would provide a more efficient way of removing water from coal mines, and as a result designed the world’s first steam engine. Newcomen’s first successful steam engine is recognised as that built in 1712 near Dudley Castle in Tipton, West Midlands. This was the first true steam engine anywhere in the world in which mechanical work was performed by a piston moving in a cylinder. The engine was an overnight success and was soon followed by others in the coalmines of Warwickshire and in the area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with more spreading throughout the country. Steam power became a relentless force for industrial growth. It helped give the Black Country its name and kept it going twenty four hours a day, ‘Black by Day - Red by Night’ as Elihu Burritt, the United States Consul observed in 1868. The World’s First Steam Engine - the Replica In view of the importance of the engine both in the history of engineering and to Black Country coal mining, Black Country Living Museum exhibits the only full sized working replica of Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 engine. The construction of the working replica at the Museum was based upon a print of the 1712 engine, engraved by Thomas Barney, a file-maker of Wolverhampton in 1719. As far as possible the Black Country Living Museum has remained faithful to the materials and details of the original construction. Thus ensuring the Newcomen engine’s irrefutable place in history. David Eveleigh, Director of Collections, Learning and Research stated “Within the field of science and technology, the Museum’s replica has made a considerable contribution to our understanding of early steam technology but it also places the Museum and its collections at the very heart of the rise of the western world.”Carolyn Pugh, Director of Development says “To ensure the Newcomen steam engine is in full working order for its celebrations next year, a programme of renovations will be taking place in the coming months. To find out more or to support this important area of the Museum's work, please contact the Museum on 0121 557 9643 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              0121 557 9643      end_of_the_skype_highlighting”The Museum’s replica of the Newcomen engine regularly works and for the last two years has provided a focus for National Diploma students from across the West Midlands studying the wider impact of industry and technology on society. The engine will also be the be the focal point of a programme to mark its tercentenary next summer, including a Newcomen Society Lecture on 14 July 2012 by the television presenter, Adam Hart-Davies.

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