THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE HUB
EARLY ENGINE DATABASE
Explanation of the Database Layout
This database is provided as a resource for researchers in any discipline, industrial sector or geographical area.
Anyone is free to use or adapt it to their work, provided the source is acknowledged.
Users are requested to bear in mind that this database is a record of steam engine building (not utilisation) before the end of 1800. It records only the first erection of each engine, not what happened to it afterwards, although where important detail about later use is known this is explained in the comments section.
The database also includes any engine know to have started useful work before the end of 1800, even if it was very short lived.
The database lists the details of each engine under these headings or columns:
- The year in which the engine first started work, not its order date.
- In many cases the year of first operation is not known - this could have been many years earlier
and is designated by the letter "P"
- If the first operation date is approximate this is indicated by "C"
(On the spreadsheet version these appear in a column titled "In or Before")
- The physical location of the engine, where first built. Often this is only the name of the operator or owner of the engine.
- The person, company or organisation who owned it, where known.
- Where several engines were erected at the same location or premises, these are numbered in the chronological sequence, as known / assumed.
- Whether Newcomen pumping, Watt pumping, Watt Rotary, Common Rotary, Savery, or one of the many other configurations of engine used during the century.
- The counties as they were immediately before the Local Government reorganisation of 1974 are used. A few engines are recorded only as "Scotland".
- Fairly self-explanatory, though some difficulties arise. Some engines were located in premises where more than one industrial activity took place.
- What the engine did: Pumping water, recirculating over a water wheel, driving textile machinery, etc.
- Where known who was the designer, principal engineer or other mens rea. (Boulton and Watt dominate this column).
- The recorded nominal or delivered horsepower as recorded by contemporaries or calculated by historians. This is often conjectural and generally not comparable between industrial sectors or individual engines.
- CYLINDER SIZE
- The internal diameter of the cylinder, to the nearest inch. Generally the most relevant comparator of the power of an engine.
- The length of the stroke, to the nearest foot. Not often reliable, except for Boulton and Watt engines.
- If known, whether the engine was moved to another location or scrapped (Abandoned) or constitutes a major rebuild. (On the original spread sheet version these are entered as "m", "a" and "r")
- The existence of the engine is unconfirmed (Possible) or in some cases conjectural (Unlikely). Includes some engines first recorded after 1800. (On the original spread sheet version these are entered as "P", and "Unl.")
- CYLINDER MAKER
- Where known, whether the cylinder was cast by the pre-eminent foundries, Coalbrookdale and the Carron Company, or one of the many small brass foundries.
- The sources and provenance of the installation, in abbreviated form. A complete bibliography of sources is in compilation and will be added to this website in due course.
- Other useful details of context, where this illuminates the entry.
- GRID REFERENCE
- These detailed locational references of most engines (Eastings and Northings) were first compiled and added by Mike Gill, to whom profuse thanks. These are not intended to exactly pinpoint the engine house itself but aim to take you to location sufficiently close that if you had been there at the time it was working you would have seen it.
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