RESTORATION plans for the last surviving example of what is recognised as the most important invention of the Industrial Revolution have moved forward, after Lottery chiefs gave their approval to the project.
The Newcomen Beam Engine at Elsecar Heritage Centre near Barnsley was first fired up in 1795 and was used to pump water out of nearby coal mines which were owned by the Fitzwilliam family.
Although a few other examples of similar engine still survive around the world, none remain in the place where they were first used, leading experts to describe the Elsecar machine as “absolutely unique”.
A £400,000 scheme which would see the relic returned to its original working state has been drawn up by Barnsley Council, which owns the site, and a bid has been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Yesterday it was announced that the plan had been given “first-stage” approval and a grant of £40,000, which is designed allow heritage chiefs to continue with preparation work on the project.
Barnsley Council’s museums officer Dr John Tanner said the grant represented a “turning point” for the engine and for the heritage centre, which told “incredible stories” about Britain’s industrial heritage.
He added: “The engine has worldwide significance because without it, the pits would not have worked and the coal would not have been available to power the Industrial Revolution.
“This grant is a major turning point not just for the engine but for the heritage centre, and will help us get the place recognised more widely.”
The grant was also welcomed by David Friesner, Welcome to Yorkshire’s South Yorkshire area director.
He said: “This funding is a huge step forward for plans to restore this iconic engine. It will not only help draw visitors to Elsecar Heritage Centre, but to South Yorkshire and offer tourists another unique attraction.
A final decision on the £400,000 grant is expected this time next year.