Cavity Magnetron Detail

Welcome to the Newcomen Newsletter – Edition 2

Newcomen Moves Online . . .

Despite the lock-down, the Newcomen Society continues to work with this being the second of our e-newsletters to members.  The website has been improved and decisions are made via meetings on Zoom. We are also experimenting with online meetings for members and have just completed our first experimental web-cast lecture.  However, we very much look forward to meeting up in person as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Spreading the word

The Newcomen Society are a lively bunch and we welcome visitors to our website – and to our meetings as soon as we can re-convene. On that note we’d appreciate if you could consider forwarding this newsletter to friends and colleagues who might be interested in the content. Also feel free to post a link to the newsletter on your social media feeds, as another way to spread the word.

Jonathan Aylen – President

Sectioned Wartime Magnetron

80 Years Of Cavity Magnetron

Dr Phil Judkins tells us about the high powered transmitting radio valve that helped shape the Second World War and now provides a short-cut to cooking in kitchens all around the world!.

Georges Desire Tetin

Hazards “Mr Tetin Smelt Gas And Lit A Match!”

Following Julia Elton’s account of a gas calamity at Clevedon Court in 1870 from the last Newsletter, the President recalls the rash behaviour of his own great-grandfather before the First World War.

Wilton Jacquard Loom on display at the Museum of Carpet

Museum of Carpet (Yeoman’s Award Choice)

The tremendous noise of power looms weaving carpet fills the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster each time the volunteer weavers run these giant machines. They are not simply weaving a flat cloth, but create a three dimensional product which is velvety and luxurious.

Desktop & Mobile Graphic

Time For The Web

Digitisation of the National Archives’ records is a huge undertaking. So far, just over 5% of have been digitised and TNA are continuing to put records online. Here are some of their most popular online collections.

A niche interest that Newcomen members might well find excessively distracting! Who knew that the co-composer of Pink Floyd’s classic album Atom Heart Mother was an expert on adjustable spanners!

Laurence Scales casts modesty aside and offers us a web page of links to his various articles at his London, Scientific and Technological History web page

Fancy living on a discarded Boeing 727? Here’s your inspiration!

Some people have astonishing technical skills and on that subject Tatiana Joëlle van Vark is a Dutch legend. She has rebuilt the complete Navigation and Bombing Computer for a V-bomber in her bungalow. But her remarkable practical skills and high precision engineering have allowed her to rebuild the Antikythera Mechanism, improve the Enigma Machine and much more besides. So, for a New Age view of technology, consider her remarkable achievements.

A useful source of images with informative captions suggested by Newcomen member Chris Allen:

Running since 2005, this project provides more than 6.4 million geo-located images from around the UK & Ireland. The site has excellent search functionality both from the home page & from its own ‘Browser’. As well as a plethora of countryside & upland area landscapes, there’s also a very rich vein of urban material including many items of industrial archaeology, accompanied by useful captions. It’s also possible to suggest corrections or contact the author of images to open dialogue.

Membership is free via a simple process of registration & the site’s managers endeavour to prevent it from being hijacked by providers of spam.

Another great feature of the site is that all images may be re-used under a Creative Commons licence that just requires images to be appropriately credited. As a consequence, Geograph images appear in news items & published works with some regularity.

Here are a few examples of searches appropriate to Newcomen members:

The site is archived for preservation by the UK Web Archive project, so the hard work of contributors should remain available in the future.

A digital library of academic journals, most of which appear to be of US origin and consequently a US bias regarding content. However there are some that are free to read on line and also have engineering/technology content that may be of interest to members.

After registering, the site gives access to 6 items per month, which is extended to 100 for the Corona Virus lockdown period.

To enter the site: search JSTOR, at the bottom of the home page, with the heading Explore JSTOR – click by title and this leads to an alphabetical list of journals. Those that I (Don Hillman) have found most interesting are: Technology and Culture and IA (the Journal of the Society for Industrial Archaeology)

Zoom in on historic railways and canal maps showing detailed locations with historic & modern maps & features. Rail Map Online is a free website that aims to provide an interactive map of all historic railways for the UK, Ireland and US. The UK map is mostly finished, although there’s always room for improvement. The US map is a work in progress, and will take many years to complete.

Looking for a lost railway station? Here is a good place to start looking. It is still a work in progress and rather limited on the goods side, but it has detailed histories, maps and photos.

Books Graphic


Lockdown also gives us all more time for reading. Below is a suggestion from Deborah Jaffé for your reading list. Do you know of a book that may be of interest to other members? Please send ideas to:

Heath Robinson - How To Live In A Flat

Heath Robinson / How To Live In A Flat

A recent visit to the museum at Heath Robinson’s house in suburban Pinner, revealed he not only had a fascination with his own form of engineering but also with 1930s modernity. This is a lovely book of his fanciful designs, reprinted by the Bodleian Library
– ISBN-10: 1851244352

A big thank you to Phillip Judkin, Ivor Lewis, Don Hillman, Chris Allen, Laurence Scales, Jonathan Aylen and Deborah Jaffé for the above sites and articles


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:

Are you a member of the Newcomen Society?

Having just celebrated its Centenary Year, the society has published over a 1000 papers in The Journal – an invaluable archive of original research material published twice a year, covering all aspects of engineering from ancient times to the present, plus available to browse and download in our FREE TO MEMBERS Archive.

Full Membership includes:

  • Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology (two issues, one volume per year)
  • Printed and/or PDF versions of LINKS, Newcomens’ newsletter (published 4 times a year)
  • Free access and download facilities to the Society’s Archive of past papers back to 1920 (The Journal)
  • Membership of local branches and subject groups
  • Access to the website’s Member Area offering access to research sources & access to other members (subject to privacy permissions)
  • Attendance at summer meetings, conferences, lectures and study days.