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Author Underground Waterwheels
carnkie

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Underground Waterwheels
Posted: 03/01/2009 22:38:42
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Don't know if this is any use. An extract from "The Cornish Miner" by HJ.


"Probably the most effectual engine for mine drainage down to 1777 was still the old water-wheel and bobs, which, by Pryce's time, had reached a high degree of efficiency. The small wheels of twelve and fifteen feet diameter placed one above another had formerly done good service, but such "petit engines" had now nearly all been demolished and a single large wheel of thirty or forty feet diameter substituted in their stead. In Cook's Kitchen Mine a water-wheel forty-eight feet in diameter, working tiers of wooden pumps of nine inches bore, drew water from eighty fathoms under the adit, and Pryce was assured that if the stream of surface water had been sufficient to fill the buckets of the wheel, she would have drawn forty fathoms deeper with the same bore. Several of these old wooden pumps have been found from time to time in the course of unwatering long-abandoned mines. Part of the working barrel and the wind bore of one found in Wheal Castle, St. Just, are preserved in the Penzance Antiquarian Society Museum. Another was found more than thirty years ago in Wheal Reeth, near Godolphin Hill. The most interesting of all, however, on account of the illustration which accompanies it, is the description of one found about 1855 in an ancient mine called Wheal Freedom, near the estate of Craskin, in Wendron parish: "Soon after pumping was begun here a column of old wood pumps were found fixed in the shaft. These were of elm-trees and the bore eleven inches in diameter. The working piece valve and wind bore were very remarkable. With the view no doubt to keeping the valve moist there was a bend made in the wind bore arrangement, which the contracted valve way must have greatly interfered with the operation of pumping. The rods and rodbucket had been removed. Much surmise was excited as to the motive-power used for draining the shaft with these pumps, as there was insufficient water in the valley during the greater part of the year and too small a fall to work pumps of such a size. It was thought that the land, being covered with trees at one time, may have attracted more water than at present."

Allen Buckley also mentions that water-powered pumps appeared to have been employed on the Tamar silver mines during the 15th century and Lewis mentions that a water-wheel and suction pump appears to have been used to dewater the Beer Ferris Mines in 1480.



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ICLOK

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Location: Ripley, Derbyshire up North.

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Posted: 03/01/2009 22:58:43
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Cheers Carn.... Useful stuff that... sounds very like the stuff in De Re Metallica was probably applicable in general terms across Europe....

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toadstone

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Posted: 03/01/2009 23:06:38
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Very interesting Carnkie. The reference to elm wood being used is no surprise. One of elm woods properties is that apart from being very fine grained it is rot resistant when continuously submerged in water. It was used extensively by wooden narrow boat builders for the bottom planks of canal boats. IP: 86.155.76.90
Mr.C

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Posted: 04/01/2009 00:49:23
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toadstone wrote:

ICLOK wrote:

Got to admit guys this is fabulous, I never realised so many had survived... even if a few are now not accessible.
Just how common where they? Where was the heaviest use in the UK underground?
Whilst I understand the technology and construction for pumping / winding and even crushing underground what tended to be the primary use generally?
Smile


I'm sure Mr C & Adam will put me right but they were quite common. The Derbyshire/Staffordshire metal mines had them at any rate.
Peter.

Thank you for the compliment Peter, but I've no great knowledge of this in the Peak - though as you say Ecton had an example, which was later replaced with a (IIRC) flopjack.
Just across the river of course, a water pressure engine was used at the Dale, the chamber for which is still accesable.
Best Wishes
Nigel

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carnkie

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Posted: 04/01/2009 01:03:16
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toadstone wrote:

Very interesting Carnkie. The reference to elm wood being used is no surprise. One of elm woods properties is that apart from being very fine grained it is rot resistant when continuously submerged in water. It was used extensively by wooden narrow boat builders for the bottom planks of canal boats.


Can I assume from what your saying that Oregon Fir has the same properties then toadstone? Another thread of course, Smile

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toadstone

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Posted: 04/01/2009 08:51:20
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carnkie wrote:


Can I assume from what your saying that Oregon Fir has the same properties then toadstone? Another thread of course, Smile


No not really Carnkie, Oregon Fir or Douglas Fir is mainly used for structural framing in buildings and apparently is very tolerant to high humidity conditions. Uses of wood is a very interesting subject and even more so now that traditional sources are becoming limited. The gradual change too in what was previously used as opposed to what is used today. The only reason I know about the elm use is because I used to own and live on an historic wooden canal ice breaker made entirely of oak. Not being flat bottomed like motors and butties it did not have elm bottom planking.

Many such boats have been re bottomed with steel following the decimation of the elm tree stock.

Bringing it back on topic sort of, I see your point over the use of fir though. Good and interesting article on pit props here
[web link]
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sougher

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Posted: 04/01/2009 13:29:41
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Years ago wasn't another important use for elm wood before Dutch Elm disease killed a majority of the country's trees, in the construction of coffins?

My maternal granny who died in 1953 wanted two things (1) to be buried in an elm coffin as it wouldn't rot, and (2) she died before the coal reserves in the country gave out! (We promised to bury her with a lump of coal and a poker).
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AR

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Location: Knot far from Knotlow in the middle of the Peak District

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Posted: 04/01/2009 20:27:37
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Underground waterwheels weren't common in the Peak - off the top of my head, the only places I can think of are Knotlow, Chapeldale, and Ecton (the wheel replaced the flopjack, BTW) although I've a vague recollection of seeing reference to one in Cromford Moor mine.
There were a fair few above ground of course - Lathkill Dale and Alport had a few, and several along the Derwent from Matlock down to Cromford.

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Roy Morton

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Posted: 04/01/2009 21:15:28
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Penberthy Croft Mine 3/4 mile Nth of St Hilary was historicaly festooned with them. One was discovered in-situ during exploratory work during the 40's? (I'll Check) and the shaft subsequently re-sealed. One shaft on the sett at present, still has the slots for the sluices cut into the tunnel walls where it meets the shaft and evidence of a bypass leat around the shaft to the other side possibly to drive the wheel in reverse? or indeed another wheel set next to the first. The shaft has been specially belled out to accomodate whatever set up they had in there. Abseiling in, the entrance shaft is more like a tube and then you drop into the top of the bell and there is lots of space around you. A very uplifting experience!
I think A.K.Hamilton Jenkin mentions the waterwheel in his volume on the mines around Mount's Bay.
Although it may have been someone else Confused

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IP: 81.153.213.49 Edited: 04/01/2009 21:19:03 by Roy Morton
Bill

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Posted: 05/01/2009 10:46:59
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A further note to Carnkie's useful contribution on artefacts connected with pumping. At Geevor Tin Mine the museum holds a section of pump column discovered in 2001 by Geoff Treseder of the St. Just Mines Research Group at Wheal Hermon Mine, St. Just. This has been radio carbon dated to 1510 - 1600 a.d. and suggests a very early attempt to work below sea level.
A couple of yars ago we restored the waterwheel of the Trelocke Stamps from Nancledra which was moved to Geevor. The carpentry work was done by a former Geevor mine carpenter who specified Douglas fir for the wheel and launders.


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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Posted: 05/01/2009 12:33:23
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Brewery Shaft, Nenthead, in the Nentforce Level.


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carnkie

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Posted: 05/01/2009 14:03:49
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Bill wrote:

A further note to Carnkie's useful contribution on artefacts connected with pumping. At Geevor Tin Mine the museum holds a section of pump column discovered in 2001 by Geoff Treseder of the St. Just Mines Research Group at Wheal Hermon Mine, St. Just. This has been radio carbon dated to 1510 - 1600 a.d. and suggests a very early attempt to work below sea level.
A couple of yars ago we restored the waterwheel of the Trelocke Stamps from Nancledra which was moved to Geevor. The carpentry work was done by a former Geevor mine carpenter who specified Douglas fir for the wheel and launders.


Interesting that the carpenter specified Douglas fir because they used Oregon fir to repair the Colorado Flumes in the 20s.
Regarding how early underground wheels were used in the deeper mines in Cornwall I feel is always going to be open to debate. Hatcher touches on it to a certain extent in his fine book “English Tin Production and Trade before 1550”.He considers that the failure to exploit underground tin deposits before the late sixteenth century cannot be explained simply by a failure of technology, since deep underground mining was carried out in the Mendips, and in the royal silver-lead mines of Devon and Cornwall as far back as the late thirteenth century. There is quite a lot of detail in the P.R.O. regarding the Beer Ferrers mine from documents of the late fifteenth century. He went on to expand his points but I’ll settle for his conclusion that lack of exploitation of underground tin lodes in our period was due as much to a failure of effective demand as to a failure of technology.
But as you point out, the discovery at Wheal Hermon certainly suggests some use and one wonders just how widespread it was.
Just as matter of interest a shot of the 48 feet in diameter wheel at Cook’s Kitchen taken from an engraving by W. J. Welch. I believe the water for this came via a leat than ran from Carnkie around the north of Carn Brea. It can be seen on the 1819 Thomas map. But I could be wrong.


(click image to open full size image in new window)

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stuey

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Posted: 05/01/2009 14:08:07
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There is also a chamber for one, minus it's wheel in Bedford United. It's a bit of a crawl to get in there, from what I remember.

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Peter Burgess

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Posted: 05/01/2009 14:37:32
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Likewise Goldscope Mine, Lake District.



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grahami

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Posted: 05/01/2009 15:00:09
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You might like these drawings of reversible water wheels....


(click image to open full size image in new window)


(click image to open full size image in new window)


(click image to open full size image in new window)

Cheers - and Happy New Year to everyone!

Grahami

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ChrisJC

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Posted: 05/01/2009 16:36:32
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stuey wrote:

There is also a chamber for one, minus it's wheel in Bedford United. It's a bit of a crawl to get in there, from what I remember.


There's some very nice chambers in Burtree Pasture that held waterwheels. Not much left though unfortunately.

Chris.
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sbt

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Posted: 06/01/2009 04:47:34
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toadstone wrote:

The only reason I know about the elm use is because I used to own and live on an historic wooden canal ice breaker made entirely of oak. Not being flat bottomed like motors and butties it did not have elm bottom planking.

Many such boats have been re bottomed with steel following the decimation of the elm tree stock.



If I may be permitted to wander briefly off topic...

Which boat, Toadstone? In any case we could do with your boat down here on the Basingstoke ATM – we have an inch plus of ice on the cut and its a tad cool around the toes here on Narrowboat Invincible this morning.

Its not only Elm that is getting rebottomed. The boat next to mine is a pre-1900 Birmingham Day Boat and the Wrought Iron was showing its age by leaking around the rivets so its been clad in steel (we call it 'tanking around these parts). We also have quite a few old Oak/Elm Town Class Butties down here that have been tanked.

I must do a write-up for AN on the (limited) info I have on the Worsley Starvationers and the associated Box Boats.

Wandering tangentially back towards the topic – which I find fascinating..

What were/are the fixings used for these works made of? There are many subtleties in 'old' technology, for example IIRC Iron 'poisons' Oak, forming a locus for rot, due to electrolysis, in mildly acid water, are there similar issues for Elm? Were Trenails used in preference to metal?

Rick
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carnkie

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Posted: 06/01/2009 14:52:03
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I believe the man engine at Cooks Kitchen used an existing 52-ft diameter underground water-wheel before being replaced by a 26-inch horizontal steam engine.

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toadstone

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Posted: 07/01/2009 06:14:07
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sbt wrote:


If I may be permitted to wander briefly off topic...

Which boat, Toadstone? SNIP
Rick


It was the Ice Breaker Shackleton. It now resides somewhere near Middlewich I believe. Happy days.

Like I said the subject of specific uses of wood for work industrial use is a fascinating subject. Iron staining was well known, the oak reacting with the oxidised iron (ferrates) in the presence of moisture either from the wood (green) or water externally. This causes the black staining which I thought caused the metal to corrode and not the wood or perhaps both but more with the metal? For industrial use this was not really a problem as in most cases a creosote tar was used as well as in the case of boats and lock gates. This ability to stain is what has been developed of course to produce different colours using different metals.

Most of the fixings on Shackleton were iron with what appears to be packing of a sisal putty mix. You also have to remember that not only were the skills common place to do this work back then, oak and the likes were also relatively abundant. I learnt much when I had to do some of the work to maintain her. Working green oak blunts tools quickly and as a trivia note; if you cut yourself (which I often did) any blood landing on the oak caused staining too, high iron content.

Getting back on topic the drawings of the water wheel mechanisms are fantastic, grahami.

Sorry for delay in replying ....working has already started to build up!!
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agricola

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Posted: 07/01/2009 18:05:49
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carnkie wrote:

I believe the man engine at Cooks Kitchen used an existing 52-ft diameter underground water-wheel before being replaced by a 26-inch horizontal steam engine.


You are quite correct. The Hackett diary of 1796 mentions the 52ft wheel. I have a fairly good idea of where this wheel was located underground. As part of our research into the adit systems around S. Crofty which is related to the current modern mining that is underway, we have explored part of the old Cooks Kitchen adit system. It is hoped that during this year we will beable to explore and gain access to the section of adit that the wheel was in. The adit system that we have been in is small and heavily timbered and driven close to the Great Crosscourse.

I do hope that the results of our explorations will prove fruitful and that I will beable to post our results, ground depending.
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