Static Steam Engines on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


Fred Peskett


            After seeing the locomotives displayed in Section 5 Machines for Direct Use, including Carriages, Railway and Marine Mechanisms featured in our last edition, we now have a chance to see the Static Steam Engines that were featured in this section.

            Section 5 was situated in a special annex to the main building of the Great Exhibition, it was probably anticipated that the gathering of many working steam engines would create not only a tremendous noise, but no doubt the mechanical smells would not be conducive to the enjoyment of the visitors looking at the other exhibits in the main building. Never-the-less, the aroma of burning coals, acrid smoke, steam and hot oil must have given the visitor quite a thrill, just as it did when .you walked past a lounging steam locomotive in the good old days!

            Just like the engravings of the locomotives, the artists tended to be a little generous with their interpretation, and in some instances the proportions of the item is somewhat exaggerated.



          Figure 1. Tuxford’s Non-condensing                   Figure 2. Tuxfords Slide-Valve Portable           

                 Expansive Table Engine                                                   Steam Engine


            The engineering company, Tuxford of Lincoln exhibited their Non-Condensing Expansive Table Engine, which simply meant that the steam cylinder stood on a cast iron frame table. It was designed to operate other machinery through a belt drive system, this engine was available with various outputs ranging from two horse power to eight horse power and prices from £150 to £300. (see Figure 1)

            Another steam engine by Tuxford was one of a “slide valve” type, this was a portable unit and its main use was to operate a water pump, (see Figure 2)

            It can be seen from the engravings that in both of Tuxford's Steam Engines that were on show at the Great Exhibition, the design of the framework was based on classical forms, “Gothic” in Figure 1, and “Roman” in Figure 2.

            An unusual steam engine was Joyce's Patent Pendulous Steam Engine, operated by an inverted cylinder, this steam engine was in operation throughout the run of the exhibition, and was shown driving textile manufacturing machinery, there was also another one working in the Main Building driving “Master's Ice Making Machine” in the refreshment room. (see Figures 3a and 3b)

At least two of these engines were in operation at the Great Exhibition. This engine was first designed in 1834 and improved by 1851. It is believed that several of these engines were used at the Crystal Palace at Penge Place, for operating the Ice Making Machines for the Refreshment Rooms,


Figures 3a and 3b. Side and end elevations of Joyce's Patent Pendulous Steam Engine,


            Thousands of this type of engine must have been produced and several examples are known to have survived and can be seen at the Science Museum, London, The Industrial Museum, Bradford, The Museum of Hampshire Life at Milestones Museum, Basingstoke and at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. A couple are also known to be in private collections.



             Figure 4. Crosskill’s Oscillating                        Figure 5. Clayton & Shuttleworth’s

                           Steam Engine                                             Eight H. p. Steam Engine


            An oscillating steam engine was displayed by Crosskills of Beverley, Yorkshire, whereby the steam chest was mounted on the side of the cylinder, (see Figure 4)

            Messrs Clayton and Shuttleworth had on show a eight horse power oscillating engine with an unusual curved slide for the eccentric rod. This engine was suitable to power small marine craft, (see Figure 5)



                           Figure 6a                                                       Figure 6b


            Lynch & Inglis of Manchester demonstrated a couple of steam engines, a stationary type for use with agricultural machinery (see Figure 6a) also the same engine mounted on a wheeled platform coupled to a vertical boiler to form a portable steam engine for use around the farm or factory, (see Figure 6b)


Fig 7. F. W. Turner’s Horizontal Steam Engine


            E. F. Turner of Ipswich, exhibited a conventional type of horizontal steam engine with the steam cylinder being lagged with wood. (see Figure 7)


Figure 8


            Another horizontal steam engine of conventional design was by Ransomes and May, this was designed for use as a marine power plant, (see Figure 8)


Figure 9

            A steam pump by Carrett, was not only on show in Section 5 but was also chosen to operate in the Boiler House of the Great Exhibition during 1851. This pump was removed and installed in one of the Boiler Rooms in the re-designed Crystal Palace at Penge, and was in use from 1854 until the destruction of the Palace by fire in 1936! (see Figure 9)


Figure 10a


Figure 10b


            Last but by no means least on show was Simpson & Shipton's Patent Short-Stroke Reciprocating Engine, which could be seen operating a whole section of Cotton-Spinning Machinery during the duration of the exhibition, (see Figures 10a & 10b)

            And so on leaving Section 5 of the Great Exhibition our ears would have to get accustomed to the relative calm of the Main Exhibition Hall, and our nostrils to the aroma of the humanity of the day tempered a little by the scent coming from the “Lavender Water Fountain” in the Nave.


© Exhibition Study Group 2011