Crofton Pumping Station - Image 2

Welcome to the Newcomen Newsletter – Edition 1


The coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all. In normal times the Newcomen Society meets up regularly around the country.  Instead, this newsletter is to keep you all in touch, to entertain and to hopefully provoke you into writing items on the history of engineering and technology. It is meant to be informal and include news items, features of interest and tips such as web links. Please join in and we will feature your contributions on our website. Thank you Jonathan Aylen – President

Centenary Celebrations Postponed to 2021

Our planned centenary this year included a Picnic at Crofton (see image above), a Gala Dinner at the National Railway Museum, a Summer Tour in Yorkshire and special lectures.  Due to the current situation we have quite simply postponed these special events to the same time next year!  Like the Tokyo Olympics, we’ll simply be a year late.  So firms in South Yorkshire have already said we are welcome to visit in July 2021.  Watch the website for dates and details.

Lecture Programme

At this stage we simply do not know when the regional lecture programme will recommence. Following suggestions from members, we are looking to host them on video conferencing software Zoom.

Newcomen Centenary Graphic

Kenneth Yeomans Award

Access grants up to £2000 to promote publicly accessible displays relating to the history of engineering and technology, thanks to a significant bequest from Kenneth Yeomans.

Runcorn Widnes Bridge

Runcorn To Widnes Bridge Refurbishment

Originally designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson with steelwork by Dorman-Long, the Runcorn to Widnes Bridge has now reopened following a full refurbishment.

1865 - L to R Mary Agnes Elton, Marion (half sister of EHE), Arthur Woolsey (could this be Wolley), Clementina (2nd wife of Mr Edmund Elton), Minna (half sister of EHE), unidentified woman & Dame Rhoda

The Hazards of New Technology

“Rachel [the housemaid] found a smell of gas in my dressing room and poked about with a lighted match to find the leak” – Read the full story of the hazards of new technology from the Elton household in 1870.

Desktop & Mobile Graphic

Time For The Web

A valuable reference site to add to your favourites is the National Library of Scotland online collection of local maps. The site is comprehensive, covers a range of dates allowing you to study the evolution of a particular site, and you can zoom in to examine details including geology and soil types. It covers the whole of the UK and even includes world maps. There is much more besides, including post-war aerial photos of Scotland.

Cement plants and kilns in Britain and Ireland is a labour of love compiled by Dylan Moore, covering everything from plant location to kiln design, raw materials and quarrying, energy use over time and transport with many historic photos.

Forgotten Relics exists to celebrate and commemorate features of the 19th century rail network which, in the words of the site’s curators, ‘were abandoned during the industrial vandalism of the fifties and sixties’. It casts its net wide; the main tabs cover not only Bridges & Viaducts and Tunnels & Cuttings but also recent News Stories and an intriguingly named Bits and Pieces section. The website’s Facebook page, incidentally, is compiling an A-Z of disused tunnels which, at the time of writing, has just reached ‘C’ – Clifton Hall (opened 1850, closed 1953).

A refreshingly opinionated blog about bridges and their design which veers from the historical to the up-to-the-minute. The most recent entry – 1st March 2020 – concerns the final design for a new bridge in Sacramento, California. The previous entry features the Marple Aqueduct. It includes book reviews, reports on conferences and design competitions, plus gives an extensive list of bridge-related links.

If you are on Facebook, you might wish to investigate the Industrial Heritage and Art’s facebook group which can be very diverting and is open to anyone who wishes to join, but do read the ‘Information’ section first!

If you are inclined to use this time for historical-engineering related research, Grace’s Guide may be a useful starting place.

As above, if you’re inclined to use this time for historical-engineering related research Engineering Timelines may also be a useful starting place.

The website Goosey Goo offers an industrial history mapping project, both for exploration and addition of new sites. It also has a ‘preservation hub’ which includes details of projects in progress.

The Yorkshire based website Industrial History Online contains over 8000 entries and 3000 images within their system

If you’re keen on computers or a train geek, you can get a preview of the President’s lecture “Cold War to Cold Trains” presented to the Computer Conservation Society.

The Science & Society Picture Library the official picture library of the Science Museum Group. Representing the visual collections of the Science Museum, the Science & Industry Museum, the Science & Media Museum, the Locomotion and Railway Museum, as well as select contributors. It is a wonderful library to trawl through. Unfortunately, due to the Covid 19, there may be restrictions on downloading and hiring images for the moment.

A big thank you to Dr. Victoria Owens, Dan Hayton, Bob Bowden, Dr.John Suter and Deborah Jaffé for the above sites.


We’re looking for material for future newsletters during the lockdown. Do you have any interesting stories or some great websites that you’d like to show other members? Please send to


Edition 253 (Mar 2020) has been published in hard copy and available for members to download here. Copy date for the June issue is May 1st. Please send contributions to:

The Journal - Vol 88 No2

The Journal and Archive

As usual, we welcome articles and papers for future editions of The Journal. Please don’t forget our own archive of past papers going back to 1920 which members can access here. Please send submissions to: