This mine at Wanlockhead was opened in 1675 by Sir James Stampfield.
Where topography made it possible, a drainage level on similar lines to those designed by the famous Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden in the 1630's, was used to drain underground workings by the use of gravity alone. When mines became so deep that the water could not be removed in this way, powerful pumps were employed.
Hand rag-pumps were employed by Sir James Stampfield at the Straitsteps Mine between 1675 and 1684. In the late 17th century water was used at Wanlockhead to work the drainage pumps and in 1710 two waterwheel-powered pumping engines, known as 'bab-gins' were used at the Straitsteps Mine. As late as 1816 water was being raised by teams of 24 men working round-the-clock with hand pumps on the nearby Lochnell mine.
Beam Engines and waterbucket pumps were introduced in Wanlockhead in 1745. The famous Wanlockhead Beam Engine is a survivor of this technology.
No certain history of the Wanlockhead Beam Engine has been found to date but descriptions of similar engines have survived from 1745 and one is recorded to have been used on a coal mine at Canonbie, Dumfriesshire in the 1790's.
The Wanlockhead Beam Engine was built, it is believed, in the mid 19th century and is the only remaining example of a waterbucket pumping engine to be seen on a mine in the United Kingdom today. The engine is situated on Waygate Shaft.
Waterbucket pumping engines had their origin in an attempt to create a 'perpetual motion' machine. The Wanlockhead Beam Engine allowed miners to continue working in the Straitsteps mine, the engines being known as Bobbin Johns.