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The Role of the Potter family in the Industrial Revolution

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution is often traced back to 1712 when Thomas Newcomen built a mechanical pump that was not powered by wind, water, or human/animal power in Dudley. There are, however, many myths and mistakes in this traditional narrative, particularly regarding the role played by a small boy called Humphrey Potter in creating the first truly self-acting machine. The Potter family were from Chaddesley Corbett.

This talk looks at the facts around the earliest Newcomen Engines and what role the family played in changing the world.

About the Speaker

David Hardwick is a Chartered Building Surveyor specialising in historic properties and particularly in industrial archaeology. He is an experienced lecturer at colleges and universities in all aspects of construction and heritage, as well as giving talks to a wide range of local and national history organisations. It is his passion for industrial archaeology and, in particular, mining history and the development of the early Newcomen Engines that results in his latest research. He is the current chairman of the Western Region of the Newcomen Society.

This paper is partly based on one delivered at the Early Steam Engines in Central European Mining Conference in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia on 7-8th October 2022.

David will also be delivering a paper based on the early engine houses in Scotland at the Third International Early Engine House Conference to be hosted at the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life at Coatbridge near Glasgow on 22nd to the 24th of March 2024. More details here.

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