St Agnes: West Kitty Mine

Thomas’ Shaft

Just behind the Pottery on Vicarage Road stands a roofless engine house (the only one of West Kitty’s three engine houses still standing) built in 1892 to house a 40″ (cylinder diameter) beam engine used to pump water out of the southern end of West Kitty Mine at Thomas’ Shaft

Why the different building materials?

Cut granite was always favoured for the cylinder bedstone, the bob wall and corners – the latter known as ‘quoins’. Gable roofs were covered with Cornish slate and bricks were brought to construct the top most section of the chimney stacks and window and arch details. Most surviving engine houses are rectangular in plan with a much thicker wall in the front (the bob wall). This was constructed using massive stones (often cut granite) and was perhaps two-thirds of the height of the other walls. It supported the beam (known in Cornish mining as a bob), which transmitted the reciprocating motion of the piston to the pump rods in the adjacent shaft (in the case of a pumping engine) or to the hoisting or crushing machinery. This wall had to withstand both the weight (that might be over 50 tons for a large pumping engine) and the rocking forces of the bob.

source: Cornish Mining


  1. restlessjo says:

    Your skies don’t look much better than mine, but it’s suitably desolate for this old lady. 🙂 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Bluest of blue today, but you will have a week of blue skies from tomorrow 🙂

      1. restlessjo says:

        And a plague of ants at Wimbledon! 😦

        1. Heyjude says:

          We had our plague a couple of weeks ago, but I am going to have a look around to see if we have been invaded again.

  2. beetleypete says:

    I hadn’t realised that they were still building the mines that late. I had always thought of them as mid-18th century constructions.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      The last engine house to be put up anywhere in the world was at Taylor’s Shaft, East Pool Mine, in 1924, but it was built in 1892 for Carn Brea mines and later moved. Although the mine closed in 1945 the engine continued to pump out water until 1954 from the nearby South Crofty mine which closed in 1998.

      So it looks as though the late 19th century was the latest they were constructed.

      1. beetleypete says:

        Thanks for the info, Jude. x

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I enjoyed how they went with rocks for a while and then with bricks.

  4. Sue Slaght says:

    I too am intrigued by what looks like a change in the materials part way through construction.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’ll add some info to the post, but basically granite was used for the ‘base’ to protect the building from the rocking movement of the heavy engine.

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Oh that makes sense. Thanks for the extra information Jude. Hope you are back to feeling 100% now. Hugs.

  5. Lucid Gypsy says:

    How many engine house remains are there? I’m sure you know Jude.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Gosh Gilly, now you have put me on the spot. I think there may be as many as 200 remaining in various states, but I would have to check.

  6. Tish Farrell says:

    Nothing like an old industrial chimney for atmosphere, and this one is especially fine.

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