Water power was used from the very early days of Cornish mining to help run equipment that removed water from mine workings. As the industry developed, so did the innovations for making the most of this natural commodity.
William Pryce, writing around 1760, records horse whims that drew 120 gallon (545 litre) barrels by the power of four horses but noted that: “The water-wheel with bobs is yet a more effectual engine, whose power is answerable to the diameter of the wheel and the sweep of the cranks fixed in the extremities of the axis.”
Water wheels also provided power for winding machinery, stamping mills and a host of other appliances. There were hundreds in the region, often working on a seasonal basis. Some worked through leats (man-made water courses) taken off streams further up the valley, but also through leats taken from reservoirs that would perhaps only allow effective working during the rainy months of winter and spring.
Wealth from water
Water was a valuable commodity and landlords often rented out their streams for considerable sums of money. Mine owners themselves sometimes drove adits in search of water, constructed single leats
Mine owners themselves sometimes constructed leats many kilometres long to secure water for their mines.
many kilometres long to secure water and sited additional large water wheels and water pressure engines underground to maximise the use of this precious energy resource.
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