The former Elsecar New Colliery, including the Elsecar Newcomen Engine
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- Newcomen Engine House, Distillery Side, Elsecar, Barnsley, S74 8HN
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- Statutory Address:
- Newcomen Engine House, Distillery Side, Elsecar, Barnsley, S74 8HN
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Colliery opened in 1795 for the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam including an atmospheric pumping engine that survives within its original engine house, thought to be the only C18 steam engine in the world to remain in situ.
Reasons for Designation
The former Elsecar New Colliery, opened in 1795, including the Elsecar Newcomen Engine, is included on the Schedule for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: the monument includes the remarkable survival of an atmospheric steam engine still within its original engine house, believed to be the only in situ C18 steam engine in the world; * Documentation: understanding of the monument is considerably heightened by the survival of historical plans, inventories and other documentary records along with more recent archaeological research and historic building investigations; * Potential: for the survival of archaeological remains, particularly of the arrangements around the C18 winding shaft; * Diversity: the Sirocco mine ventilation fan is also a rare surviving feature in a national context; * Group value: with the adjacent scheduled Elsecar Ironworks and the Grade II*-listed Central Workshops.
Elsecar New Colliery represented a significant new investment by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam (1748-1833) who had inherited the estates of the Marquess of Rockingham in 1782. Shaft sinking commenced on 5 July 1794, being completed by the end of the year, with two shafts descending nearly 40m to the Barnsley coal seam – this, for its date, being a very deep mine. The colliery was directly managed as part of the Fitzwilliam Estate and was positioned to benefit from the Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove Canal which opened in 1798. The colliery’s main customer was Elsecar Ironworks which was established at the same time immediately to the south by John Darwin and Company of Sheffield, the first coal being delivered in September 1795. The northern of the two shafts, the ‘engine pit’ was provided with a Newcomen–type steam engine to pump water out of the mine workings, this also helping to drain the Fitzwilliam Estate’s other, longer-established and shallower coal workings around Elsecar. The second shaft, the ‘by-pit’, was for coal winding: raising mined coal to the surface. Initially this was with a horse gin, but from 1796 the shaft was wound by a ‘steam whimsey’, a small steam winding engine. In 1797-98 a third shaft was sunk around 80m to the west (precise location unknown, but shown on a schematic map of 1816 to be west of the canal and thus outside the area of the monument), also for coal winding using another steam engine. In 1798 the annual output was 12,710 tons, which had risen to 48,567 tons by 1825, despite the workforce only rising slightly from 95 to 103 men and boys.
The first practical steam engine in the world was built in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen (1664-1729). Newcomen-type engines were also known as atmospheric steam engines because they used atmospheric pressure in their operation. Their relative simplicity made them easy to maintain, and although very inefficient compared to steam engines developed by James Watt (1736-1819) and others from the mid-1770s onwards, atmospheric engines continued to be installed at collieries into the C19 because they were seen as being reliable and could be fuelled with fragmented coal that was otherwise unsaleable. Although it has a 1787 datestone, archive research has demonstrated that the Newcomen engine with its engine house at Elsecar was built in 1794-1795. The parts for the engine were purchased from a number of suppliers including Longden, Chambers and Newton of the Thorncliffe Ironworks, Chapeltown, near Sheffield and John Darwin and Co of Sheffield. The engine, with a 42 inch (1.07m) diameter cylinder, was built by John Bargh, an engineer from near Chesterfield, the timber for the original huge wooden rocking beam being supplied from the Earl’s woodland at Wentworth. The pumps and pipes came from the Park Iron Works, Sheffield who also supplied the two smaller winding engines later in the 1790s. A calculation made in 1797 recorded that the engine could keep the mine dry by running for 9 hours and 49 minutes per day, raising 386 gallons (1,755 litres) of water per minute. The original cylinder was replaced in 1801 with a larger (48 inch, 1.22m diameter) cylinder supplied by the Butterley Ironworks. By 1812 the engine was operating three pumps to raise 604 gallons (2,746 litres) per minute, running for twelve to sixteen hours a day. In 1836 the pumping engine underwent a major overhaul with parts supplied by the nearby Milton Ironworks. This saw the replacement of the timber rocking beam with the cast iron beam that remains in place. The extant rising main within the pumping shaft is also thought to date to this overhaul.
In the mid-1850s production from Elsecar New Colliery (then known as Elsecar Middle Pit) ceased, with active working moving to the newly opened Low Elsecar (later known as Hemingfield) and Simonwood Collieries: these two collieries both working deeper deposits further down-valley to the north. However the two original shafts were maintained for ventilation and pumping. There appear to have been other structures retained within the area of the monument as shown in a detailed 1859 plan of proposed new railway sidings to the west. The Newcomen engine continued to pump water from the Barnsley seam until 1923 when newly installed electrically powered pumps took over. The Newcomen engine was maintained as an emergency back-up, being used for six months in 1928 following a failure of the electric pumps, however its boiler house and chimney were demolished shortly afterwards. The concrete headgear above the by-pit and the adjacent flat-roofed, brick-built building are thought to have been added by the South Yorkshire Pumping Association, probably in 1928, the building housing switchgear for the electrical pumps along with a small Sirocco ventilation fan. The site was taken over by the National Coal Board in 1947 and continued to operate as a pumping station. It is thought that the Newcomen engine was last successfully steamed in 1951 for a film. An attempt to steam the engine again in 1953, for a visit by the Newcomen Society, was unsuccessful and is thought to have resulted in damage to the cylinder, perhaps because the steam that was piped from a boiler at the Central Workshops was poorly regulated.
The Newcomen engine at Elsecar is the only C18 steam engine in the world to remain in its original location and as a result it was scheduled as a monument in 1973. It was acquired by Barnsley Council in 1988, along with the Central Workshops following the closure of the last local colliery, Elsecar Main, in 1983. In 2014 the engine house was opened to the public following a programme of conservation, including the addition of a hydraulic ram to allow the engine to be animated for public demonstration. In 2019 the site of the adjacent boiler house was investigated archaeologically.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: a Newcomen-type engine set within its engine house with the pumping shaft on its south side and the archaeological remains of its boiler house on its north side. A second C18 mine shaft to the south with an early C20 concrete headframe above. An early C20 pump and fan house.
DESCRIPTION: the engine house is a tall, roughly square-shaped structure of three storeys with a Welsh slated gable roof that has a domestically-scaled chimney stack to each gable. It is built of coursed local sandstone with tooled and margined quoins to the corners, and string courses between each of the floor levels. Ground floor access is via a door in the west wall with a stone lintel bearing the date 1787. A now (2020) blocked arched opening in the north wall would have provided access to the boiler house. The south wall is a thick bob-wall, designed to take the weight of the steam engine’s rocking beam, this now being cast iron, thought to have been the 1836 replacement of an earlier timber beam. This beam extends through a large opening at top floor level which is partly closed with timber doors (added in 2014) that allow access out onto timber staging that is supported by the headframe above the shaft. Suspended from the southern end of the rocking beam are the pump rods that extend down the shaft. A window at ground floor level overlooks the top of the shaft which has a modern protective covering grill. The shaft itself retains its C18 brick lining formed from wedge-shaped bricks that were laid without the use of mortar.
The interior of the engine house is dominated by the engine. The cylinder, thought to be the 1801 replacement, is set central to the ground floor, with a steam admittance valve on its north side and a water injection valve (for cold water to condense the steam) on the south side. Below ground is the pipework and reservoir for collecting the water that condensed from the steam in the cylinder, the water then being recycled to the boilers to the north. Extending upwards from the cylinder is the piston rod that connects to the northern end of the rocking beam at top floor level. There are domestic scale fireplaces set diagonally in the south-east (ground floor) and south-west (first floor) corners of the building. On the top floor there is a manual winch (known as a crab winch) which has been suggested could be the original winch used during the erection of the engine in 1795, subsequently used for maintenance work.
Immediately to the north of the engine house are the standing and buried remains of the boiler house and boiler chimney, partially exposed by archaeological excavation in 2019. Around 20m to the south of the engine house is the second C18 shaft. This shaft lies below a reinforced concrete headframe and is surrounded by concrete surfacing. This surfacing has potential for concealing archaeological remains of the C18 shaft head arrangements such as evidence of the steam winding engine. Further archaeological remains of colliery structures, including buildings shown on historic maps and structures that would not have been mapped, potentially lie beneath concrete and tarmac surfacing across the monument. Across the area of the monument there are also various items of historic metal work including a boiler.
The early C20 pump and fan house is a small, single storey rectangular brick building with a flat, concrete roof. The concrete roof is visible to the external elevations as a string course and has a crenelated brick parapet above and a dentilated cornice below. The building retains internal fittings, signage and equipment including switch gear for pumps and a small Sirocco ventilation fan, some thought to be original, some being additions made during its working life.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: this extends to include the boundary walls and fence lines of the enclosure containing the engine house and the two original C18 shafts. The precise location of the colliery’s third shaft (sunk in 1797-1798 approximately 80m to the west) and its state of survival is not known, consequently this shaft is not included in the scheduling.
EXCLUSIONS: all C21 signage and interpretation boards; features associated with security of the monument such as locks, alarms and security fittings, including the safety grills set at the top of the two shafts as well as the timber doors installed in 2014 on the top floor of the engine house opening out onto the headframe platform; lighting and the equipment installed to animate the engine along with any other electrical installations designed as part of the visitor experience; the temporary timber fencing installed between the boiler house area and the rest of the site: all these features are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath, or the standing structures that they are attached to, are included in the scheduling. As excavation has shown that in situ archaeological remains survive immediately below modern tarmac and concrete surfaces, these surfaces are also included in the scheduling for the support and protection of the monument.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- SY 1146
- Legacy System:
- RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Rimmer, J, Went, D, Jessop, L, The Village of Elsecar, South Yorkshire: Historic Area Assessment. Historic England Research Report 06-2019, (2019)
Wallis, G, 'Restoring the Elsecar Newcomen Engine' in International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology, , Vol. 87, (2017), 154-164
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing