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James Banfield 1869 recollections


For many years the principal smith in the engineering works of Harvey and Co, at Hayle, says:—

In 1813 I was rivet-boy at the making of Captain Trevithick's high-pressure boilers at Mellinear Mine. The largest boiler-plates then to be had in Cornwall were 3 feet by 1 foot. My father served his apprenticeship in 1784 with uncle Jan Hosking, a famous smith, on Long-stone Downs in Lelant parish. Father has often told me how the work used to be made when he was a young man. The only wrought iron they could get was Spanish bar, 2 inches square, hammered thin in the middle that it might be bent for the convenience of carriage. It was red-short iron difficult to work; and Swedish or Danish bar, said to come from Siberia, 3.25 inches wide, and 5/8ths of an inch thick. Whatever was wanted in the mine had to be made with such bars.

In 1813 I carried rivets to make Captain Trevithick's boilers in the Mellinear Mine; they were 5 feet in diameter and 30 or 40 feet long, with an internal fire-tube. It took four or five months to build them. In the present day (1869) a fortnight would build them. The largest boiler plates obtainable were 3 feet by 1 foot. We had to hammer them into the proper curve. The rivet-holes were not opposite one another. A light hammer was held against the rivet-head in riveting, in place of the present heavy one, so the rivet used to slip about, and the plates were never hammered home so as to make a tight joint.

Extracted from

The Life of Richard Trevithick – Volume 1; Chapter 1; and Volume 2; Chapter 19.