Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth Castle

Dartmouth Museum

Dartmouth Museum


A classic illustration of the fact that nothing is created in isolation. Thomas Newcomen (1664 - 1729) was a lay preacher and a teaching elder in the local Baptist church. After 1710 he became the pastor of a local group of Baptists. Newcomen's great achievement was his steam engine, developed around 1712, combining the ideas of Thomas Savery and Denis Papin he created a steam engine for the purpose of lifting water out of a tin mine. It is likely that Newcomen was already acquainted with Savery, whose forebears were merchants in south Devon. Savery also had a post with the Commissioners for Sick and Hurt Seamen, which took him to Dartmouth. Savery had devised a "fire engine", a kind of thermic syphon, in which steam was admitted to an empty container and then condensed. The vacuum thus created was used to suck water from the sump at the bottom of the mine. The "fire engine" was not very effective and could not work beyond a limited depth of around thirty feet.


Newcomen replaced the receiving vessel (where the steam was condensed) with a cylinder containing a piston based on Papin's design. Instead of the vacuum drawing in water, it drew down the piston. This was used to work a beam engine, in which a large wooden beam rocked upon a central fulcrum. On the other side of the beam was a chain attached to a pump at the base of the mine. As the steam cylinder was refilled with steam, readying it for the next power stroke, water was drawn into the pump cylinder and expelled into a pipe to the surface by the weight of the machinery. Newcomen and his partner John Calley built the first successful engine of this type at the Conygree Coalworks near Dudley in the West Midlands. This first engine was working by 1715. It had "a copper boiler, a brass steam barrel (cylinder) and piston, two pit barrels of pott metal (cast iron) and other pypes cisterns and appurtenances thereto belonging". The brass cylinder may have been 16 inches (410 mm) in diameter and 9 feet (2.7 m) long. For this engine a patent premium of £7 "payable on Saturday of each week" was due. Seeing how well the engine performed, the mine owners hoped to take over the maintenance of the engine, and its costs, with an option to build other engines under the terms of the patent. This was agreed, and the partners paid £150 for the first six months with further payments of £420 per year for each mine drained.


This engine, the Memorial Engine was probably the third engine built for Griff Colliery near Nuneaton in 1725. Details of the engine's longest period of service, nearly a century, are uncertain. It seems to have been the later engine sold from Griff in 1734 to John Wise, who was the owner of Oakthorpe Colliery at Measham. Joseph Wilkes would later own the colliery, and its engines. The Coventry Canal Company purchased the engine in 1821 and set it to work pumping water from a well to maintain levels in the canal. An engine house, still surviving, was built at the Hawkesbury Junction, Warwickshire in 1837. The engine has sometimes been known as the "Coventry Canal Engine", after this service. The engine stayed in intermittent service here until 1913, a second service of over ninety years. The engine was preserved in 1963 by the Newcomen Society, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Newcomen. It was moved to his birthplace in Dartmouth and re-erected in a new museum there, known as the Newcomen Engine House. This building, originally an electricity substation, also contains the Tourist Information Centre building. The engine is now worked by modern hydraulics and may be seen moving in action.


Dartmouth Castle, one of the most beautifully located fortresses in England. For over 600 years Dartmouth Castle has guarded the narrow entrance to the Dart Estuary and the busy, vibrant port of Dartmouth. It offers stunning views of the estuary and out to sea and offers a great family day out, whatever the weather. This fascinating complex of defences was begun in 1388 by John Hawley, privateering Mayor of Dartmouth and the prototype of the flamboyant 'Shipman' in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. About a century later the townsmen added the imposing and well-preserved 'gun tower', probably the very first fortification in Britain purpose-built to mount 'ship-sinking' heavy cannon. Climb to the top for breathtaking views across the estuary and see how it could be blocked in wartime by a heavy chain. Unusually incorporating the fine church of St Petrox, the castle saw action during the Civil War, and continued in service right up until the Second World War. Successive up-dating included the Victorian 'Old Battery' with its remounted heavy guns, guardrooms and maze of passages to explore. Access is very restricted for wheelchair users due to the many slopes, spiral staircases and steps on the site. A companion is recommended. Assistance Dogs are welcome.


Dartmouth Museum is a small, fascinating and interesting museum housed in an atmospheric old merchant's house, built in approximately 1640. The Museum houses an extensive collection of artefacts, models, paintings and photographs which can help you explore and develop your interests, whether they be in maritime history, the social and economic history of the town of Dartmouth, or the physical changes to the town over the past centuries. The Henley Room or Henley Study, is designed to be interactive and child-friendly, and provides an insight into the world of Victorian and Edwardian Dartmouth. The room has been modelled to represent a gentleman's study of the period, and is used to house the Henley Collection. The King's Room is where King Charles II was entertained in July 1671, when storms forced him to seek shelter in Dartmouth. The unique and beautiful ceiling and wooden panelling are original and just as the King would have seen them! This room contains a fascinating timeline of maritime history, which you can follow clockwise around the room. It begins with Richard the Lionheart's Crusader ship of 1190, and includes such gems as Sir Francis Drake's flagship of 1580, the Golden Hind, the Mayflower in which the Pilgrim Fathers set off from Dartmouth in 1620 hoping to reach the New World, and even a D-Day landing craft used in 1944. The museum is not wheelchair accessible. Guide Dogs are welcome.


Location : The Engine House, Mayors Avenue, Dartmouth TQ6 9YY

Transport: Paignton (National Rail) Then bus or Dartmouth Steam Railway. Bus Routes : 3, 90, 90A, 90B, 90C and X64 stop nearby.

Opening Times Newcomen: Monday to Saturday 10:00 - 17:00; Sunday 10:00 to 14:00

Opening Times Castle: Daily 10:00 to 18:00

Opening Times Museum: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 - 16:00; Sunday/Monday 13:00 to 16:00

Tickets Newcomen: Free

Tickets Castle: Adults £6.80;  Children £4.10

Tickets Museum: Adults £2.00;  Children £0.50;  Concessions £1.50

Tel: 01803 834224