The Newcomen Beam Engine at Elsecar - one of the most important inventions of the industrial revolution and a breakthrough in the creation of mechanical power from steam - has been awarded a confirmed grant of £425,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a complete restoration.
The two-year project, to be run by Barnsley Council, will see the world-famous beam engine, shaft, and engine house restored to full working order and conserved within the wider site of the Elsecar village conservation area as a premier tourist attraction in Barnsley.
Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and the Humber, said:
"Currently, Elsecar Heritage Centre attracts 225,000 people a year and the importance of its unique industrial heritage is not as widely understood or as accessible to the public as it could be. This project, in addition to saving the Newcomen engine for future generations, will see greatly improved interpretation at the site and activities for visitors in addition to training and volunteer opportunities for people so they can get involved in protecting this wonderful place."
The engine, which pumped water out of the Elsecar New Colliery from 1795 to 1923 and remained in working order until the 1950s, is one of the top 10 key industrial sites on EH's Heritage at Risk Register due to its 'outstanding importance to England's industrial past'. Newcomen is described within the heritage sector as 'the forefather of the industrial revolution' the Scheduled Ancient Monument is the last to remain in-situ in its original engine house and is amongst the most important heritage sites in the world.
Elsecar was the industrial powerhouse of the successive Earls of Fitzwilliam from nearby Wentworth Woodhouse. The astonishing surroundings remaining today around the Newcomen Engine include ironworks, workshops, a canal, a colliery and the Fitzwilliam's family railway station. The village itself is an excellent example of an industrial model village - perhaps the earliest in England.
Councillor Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council, explains further what the award will mean for the local community and beyond:
''This is fantastic news for Elsecar and for Barnsley. We're proud of our rich industrial heritage, of iron and coal production going back many centuries. Elsecar, with its ironworks, canal, railway and this important beam engine, has the potential to be a first class visitor attraction. Now we have the chance to share its inspiring stories with visitors from across the region, around the world and with future generations, too.''
Finally, Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East, also offers his support:
"The Newcomen Beam Engine in Elsecar is one of Yorkshire's finest surviving legacies of the industrial revolution so it is great news that this money has been awarded for its restoration. And, as well as restoring the engine back to its original state, I think this new project will be an excellent opportunity to showcase our area's proud past''