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British Industrial History

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Adam Heslop

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of Coalbrookdale/Ketley and latterly Workington.

1759 Adam Heslop was born [1]

1763 The Lowca Foundry was established to make cannon for local merchant ships[2]. The Heslop brothers later set up an iron foundry and engineering business on the seashore by the mouth of the Lowca Beck.

c.1790 Whilst working in Shropshire, Heslop invented a form of atmospheric engine which competed with the Watt engine for many years in the North of England. The engine had a "hot" (ie above atmospheric pressure) cylinder at one end of the beam and a condensing cylinder at the other[3]. Several winding engines were built in Northumberland and Cumberland[4] Received support from his employer William Reynolds[5]

1790 Patented the winding engine.

1794 Established Lowca Engine Works to make the 'Heslop' engine.

c.1795 Heslop and Milward built an engine at Seaton Iron Works (Workington), for the Kells Pit[6]

A 1795 winding and pumping beam engine with wooden frame and beam, which ran until 1878, was donated to the London Science Museum, and was put on display[7]. Since removed. Was this the Kells Pit engine?

1795 Patented a two-cylinder engine

1800 Brothers Adam Heslop, Thomas Heslop and Crosby Heslop, formerly associated with the ironworks at Seaton near Workington, established an iron foundry and engineering business on the seashore by the mouth of the Lowca Beck.

1829 Died in Workington

1826 Death Notice: 'On Saturday morning last, at Seaton Iron Works, greatly and deservedly lamented by a large circle of friends, Mr. Adam Heslop, aged 67.'[8]


1826 Advert: 'STEAM ENGINES FOR SALE. TO be SOLD, by PRIVATE CONTRACT,—A Second-hand Fourteen Horse double-powered ATMOSPHERIC ENGINE, originally constructed by Messrs. Heslop, Engineers. Also, Thirty Horse double-powered Engine, constructed upon what is usually called Bolton and Watts’ Principle. Further Particulars may be known on Application to Mr. JOHN PEILE, at the Colliery Office, Whitehaven. 23d October, 1826.'[9]

By the mid-1830s the three brothers were all dead, so the investors in the business sold up, and the works was taken over by local iron mining partnership Tulk and Ley which began a long tradition of locomotive manufacture.

1837 Advertisement: 'ENGINES FOR SALE. TO be DISPOSED OF, in PRIVATE, at the BOLTON COLLIERY, near Wigton, TWO Good ENGINES, separately Six and Eight Horse Power, on Heslop's principle. Also THIRTY-SIX INCH CYLINDER, with Piston and Rod attached. Application to be made to Mr. Joseph Benn, Bolton Colliery, Nov. 1st, 1837.[10]



1868 Mr W. R. Anstice of the Madeley Wood Co wrote to 'Engineering' to point out there were three of Adam Heslop's engines still at work, after more than 70 years, at the company's collieries. He observed that there were two open-topped cylinders, equidistant from the beam's pivot, having diameters of 31" (the 'hot' cylinder) and 24" ('cold' cylinder). The 'cold' cylinder stood nearly fully immersed in a cistern of water. On nearing the top of its piston's stroke, water was injected from the cistern. Steam at 7 psig was admitted under the piston of the 'hot' cylinder until reaching the top of the stroke, when the exhaust valve was opened, passing steam not to an external condenser like Watt's, but through an eduction pipe to the cold cylinder, where the steam partly condensed, but did not fully condense until water was injected. The eduction pipe passed through a trough of water, and was served by a small air pump. There was also a water pump for the trough and cistern. It was stated that by using two cylinders in this way, the working power was distributed pretty equally through the entire up and down stroke, and the engines worked with remarkable steadiness and apprently equal effect in each half of the stroke. The engines were familiarly known as 'Adam's engines', being designed by Heslop when employed by William Reynolds of the company.[11]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Burial records
  2. The Cumbria Coastal Way, by Ian Brodie, Krysia Brodie
  3. The pre-Natal history of the Steam Engine, in Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West by Joseph Needham
  4. The Coal Industry of the Eighteenth Century, by Thomas Southcliffe Ashton, Joseph Sykes
  5. Archaeology and conservation in Ironbridge, by Richard Hayman, Wendy Horton, Shelley White, Council for British Archaeology, 1999
  6. Whitehaven - a short history by Daniel Hay, ‎Whitehaven, 1966
  7. The Sphere - Saturday 31 March 1928
  8. Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser - Tuesday 20 June 1826
  9. Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser - Tuesday 31 October 1826
  10. Carlisle Journal, Saturday 25 November 1837
  11. [1] 'Engineering' 29 May 1868, p.530