The Newcomen Engine

The Engine House, Mayors Avenue, Dartmouth, Devon, TQ6 9YY

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Tel01803 834224

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This is a chance to view the oldest preserved working steam engine in the world.

The Dartmouth Newcomen Engine was built in around 1720 and was first used to pump out the Griff Colliery in Staffordshire.

Dartmouth-born engineer Thomas Newcomen (1664-1729) designed and installed the first practical and successful steam engine, used initially for pumping water out of coal mines. More than 2,000 Newcomen Engines were installed world-wide during the 18th and 19th centuries, more than 600 of them before 1775 when James Watt was able to improve their efficiency.

It was moved and rebuilt several times before ending up in Hawkesbury Junction, Warwickshire pumping water into a canal, where it retired from work in 1913. In 1964, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Newcomen’s birth, it was reassembled in Dartmouth, the home of its inventor, by the Newcomen Society and renamed the Newcomen Memorial Engine.

The Dartmouth engine shows most of the features of the earliest Newcomen engines. It has a simple, untrussed, wooden beam with arch heads, chain connections and wooden spring beams all believed to be original. The valve mechanism is more recent, but is activated automatically by a plug-rod, as in the early engines. However, there is one significant later feature in the shape of a ‘pickle-pot’ condenser, fitted directly beneath the cylinder. The engine can be operated by a hydraulic mechanism, so that the visitor can observe the motion of the engine and the operation of the valves.

The Engine can be viewed working at the Dartmouth Visitor Centre.

Opening Times

Open all year (1 Jan 2020 - 31 Dec 2020)

* See Visitor Centre for opening times

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Map & Directions

Road Directions

A 381 Totnes to Dartmouth .. A 379 Paignton to Dartmouth via Higher Ferry . The Newcomen Engine House is situated next to the Tourist Information Centre in the town centre Mayor’s Avenue Car Park .

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