The Recovery of Wills Founder Engine and its Pump

In 1976, members of the North Staffordshire Mining Club found a hydraulic type pump engine in Wills Founder Shaft, Winster. It turned out to be a type designed by Richard Trevithick in Cornwall around 1790, and was probably only the third engine of its type installed in Derbyshire. The engine was made at Coalbrookdale in 1819, and was originally installed in the Broadmeadow Shaft, until it was replaced by a larger engine in about 1827. It was then installed in Wills Founder Shaft around 1835, in a chamber excavated 360ft below ground. It is one of the oldest surviving engines in the world.  

A 140 feet high column of cast iron pipes brought water down to the engine from the Winster Sough, with a smaller feeder branch joining the main branch just above the engine. Water was discharged into a branch of the Yatestoop Sough.

When it was found, most of the engine and all its pumps were buried in silt and rubbish tipped down the shaft, but the valve chest, crosshead and balance bob were all visible. 

Preparations to lift the engine began in spring 1976, and work began in the summer. By the end of sixteen days of day and night working, the whole engine had been raised to the surface. Two years later, the Society returned to recover the pumps that were originally under the engine – a much bigger job. The lift of pumps was found 120ft below the engine chamber, sitting in its wooden cistern on a platform into which the second (lower) pump discharged. 

After enduring awful working conditions, six hour shifts spent pumping sand and the collapse of the headgear, one of the two sets of pumps was recovered – the second set still remains in situ – our legacy to future generations.

The engine has been re-erected and can be seen in the Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock Bath.