Power to the people

Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has been busy again trawling the archives and has spotted this snippet possibly relating to the Brownhills collieries on the common during the Harrison tenure.

I think this is probably the proposal for the pump at the Cathederal Pit. which was the drainage pit for other deep workings in the area. 800 horsepower is a huge pump in steam engine terms, being a little short of 600KW. That’s big, even by todays standards: there must have been a huge amount of water to shift.

As usual, thanks to eagle-eyed Peter for the spot and taking the time to email me the relevant stuff.

Hi Bob,

As we have found a deal about the Harrisons I have been looking into articles about Cannock Chase Collieries from as early as possible. The Mercury starts around 1898 and the Tamworth Herald around 1870. I have an interest to see how the Harrisons interacted with their workers.

I found some interesting clips between 1870 and 1873 that show the state of affairs, and thought that it may be best to send them, and then follow up in groups of years as I find them.

I then started a search for all papers and came up with this below from the Staffs Sentinel 22 Apr 1850. This would be, according to Gerald Reece, just after the W Harrison Esq took over the lease. It looks like he is on to a winner!

All the best


An interesting find in the Staffordshire Sentinel of the 22nd April 1850. Wonder if this did come to fruition?

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5 Responses to Power to the people

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Fascinating, as usual, Pedro. I look forward to more.

    I was aware that Cathedral Pit was used to pump water from the nearby mines, but had seen no information about how it worked. Was it a low point in the strata?

    Does anyone know how much water a 600kW engine would shift? My garden pond pump is rated 40W and shifts up to 2,000 litres / hour (lph). If it’s a straightforward arithmetical ratio (though I can see why it might not be, if only related to the depth of the shaft and there must be a relatively simple formula), 600kW should shift about 30 million lph, that’s about the capacity of the basin in the Chasewater overflow every hour! Or about 12 olympic swimming pools.

    Clearly, whatever the capacity of the pump, it would need to cope with peaks after heavy rain or snowmelt, but may not have been needed at other times.

  2. pedro says:

    Hi Andy

    I tried to find info on a 800hp engine but drew a blank. Looking in an old old mining textbook (1892) online I noticed the use of the Cornish Bull engine, I don’t know if this is any help….



  3. pedro says:

    In the book below…Miner’s Guide from 1836 it mention many areas locally.

    “For the service of 2 pits of moderate depth, an engine of 20Hp is required, costing £400 to £500”

    I am beginning to feel the 800 should read 80!


  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Thanks, Pedro. I’ve looked briefly at your first link to Kew. That engine shifts 16.4 million litres (Ml) per 24 hours, but the 100 inch engine (via the menu) shifts 34.2 Ml, which is similar to the apparent capacity of the 800 hp engine (at least that indicates such engines were available). If the engine was housed in the building that remains at Cathedral pit it could have been pretty big, so perhaps that is the right size. It’s still a lot of water, though.

    • Hi chaps

      I’m not an expert, but I think the 800hp/600KW figure is an error.

      600KW is a huge pump in modern electrical and mechanical engineering terms. The pumps which pump drinking water from the tank under Shenstone up to Barr Beacon reservoir are 200KW, and that’s a huge run of friction and head to work against. (only one at once is used, they’re cyclical duty).

      The borehole pump itself transfers water into the holding tank with a 60hp (about 45KW) submersible pump working against a 600 foot head. Much more than this would seem overkill for the Cathedral.

      Imagine the coal and water a 600KW steam engine would consume – it would be a major undertaking to keep it running. If this were an electric machine, it would consume over 1000A per phase. That’s massive.

      My understanding is that in our coalfield, the Cathedral was dug as the lowest pit, and the geology was suitable to drain others into it, into some kind of small underground holding pool, tank or reservoir, from where it was pumped out. I may be wrong, but it seems to make sense.

      It’s always worth remembering that these reports were not written by technically minded people, and often, the source material wasn’t communicated to the reporter by technical folk either, so there may be a tad of inflation there.

      Best wishes


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