Inventor, Thomas Newcomen installed the first practical steam engine at Tipton, Staffordshire in 1712.  He used the engine to pump water from the workings of the Coneygre Colliery, for the next thirty years.




The Industrial Revolution, steam engines replacing horses



Coneygre colliery 1712




Newcomen’s invention was an ‘atmospheric engine’, using steam as a convenient way of forming a vacuum.  Nevertheless, he was the first man to harness power by means of a piston.  The engine was undoubtedly the forerunner of subsequent steam machines and played a vital part in Britain’s Industrial Revolution.


James Watt made a great many improvements by condensing the steam outside the cylinder itself.  He also closed the cylinder at the top and used low pressure steam to drive the piston down.  Then, came Richard Trevithick, who harnessed high pressure steam to develop the Cornish beam engine.  Yet, the later engine very much resembled Newcomen’s engine.


Over the next 200 years Britain blazed a trail, using steam engines to pump water, to operate looms in textile mills and many other industrial applications.  The main ingredients of this success, were coal, water and engineering skill.  The steam engine was later to be used as the prime mover in the coming of the modern age.




In 1801 Alessandro Volta demonstrated his ‘Pile’ to Napoleon.  The pile was a series of copper and zinc discs interleaved with moist cloth, to form an electric battery.  20 years later in 1821 Michael Faraday invented a simple single-wire electric motor and then in October 1831 Faraday succeeded in generating an electric current mechanically.  He had invented the dynamo using a bar magnet and a coil of copper wire. 


Volta’s ‘Pile’ was a primary cell.  A primary cell is one where the metals are used up in a chemical exchange, which releases energy – generally they cannot be recharged.  A secondary cell, uses a chemical reaction which is reversible.  By putting electricity in, the cell can store energy chemically, which can later be drawn out when needed.  Secondary cells were called accumulators in the early days, because they accumulated a charge.  The Lead-Acid cell is one of the most common accumulators or batteries.  These days we use them in cars for starting the engine.  After starting, the engine turns a generator to recharge the battery for the next time the engine needs starting. From about 1900, a large bank of batteries provided load levelling at Herstmonceux Generating Works in Lime Park, East Sussex.






Herstmonceux Electricity Generating Works Circa. 1900 - 1936   Links:



Introduction  |  Instructions  |  ISBN  |  Batteries  |  Boiler Room   |  Floor Plan  |  Ron Saunders


Industrial Revolution  |   Lime Park  |  Machinery  |  Map  |  Power House  |  Argus 1999


Public Supply  |  Roof Construction  |  Rural SupplySussex Express 1913  |  Conclusion


Archaeology South East   |   East Sussex CC  |  English HeritageSIAS  |  Sx Exp 1999




Herstmonceux Links Page


Wentworth House