Golden Tree
Apr 28, 2016 · 9 min read

Something BIG is steaming through Kernow this summer…


The largest mechanical puppet every constructed in Britain can only Transform to his full 10m height if… enough people SING!

Learn the Hard Rock Cornish Miner song!


Our mining culture shaped your world…

Kernow: the horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall thrusts itself out into the Atlantic Ocean. We are a tiny 0.02% of the planet’s surface yet beneath our rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified! Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (Copper, Tin, Arsenic, Lead, Zinc, Silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through over 4000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak.

In July 2006 the Cornish mining landscape was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This recognition puts our engine houses, miners’ cottages, grand gardens and miles of labyrinthine underground tunnels on a par with international treasures like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

The Man Engine project celebrates the ‘Tinth’ anniversary of our World Heritage status as well as the successes and the struggles of the real people whose lives shaped the Cornish Mining Story.

So what is the MAN ENGINE?

At a secret (ex-mining) location in Cornwall we are now engineering the largest mechanical puppet ever to be built in Britain: a colossal metal Cornish Miner, part man, part machine. When he crawls down the road, the height of the Man Engine is 4.5m (about the same as a double-decker bus) but when he ‘transforms’ he will stand at over 10m tall (two-and-a-half double-deckers!)

The actual appearance of the behemoth will be kept a closely-guarded secret until the unveiling on Mon July 25th, but here’s a little teazer that shows the puppeteer arriving for some R&D…


  • Largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain
  • Gwrys yn Kernow / Engineered in Cornwall
  • Crawls at 4.5m high
  • ‘Transforms’ to stand over 10m high
  • With vehicle weighs nearly 40 tonnes
  • Unveiled Tavistock Monday 25th July 2016
  • Two weeks 130-mile pilgrimage Tamar to Geevor
  • Visits all 10 Cornish Mining World Heritage Site areas
  • 25+ events along route
  • 50,000+ participants
  • Cornish Mining Heritage workshops with 1200+ school pupils
  • 5 ‘Mining Wagons’, designed by local schools and community
  • Final event at Geevor Sat 6th August 2016

Why the ‘MAN ENGINE?

A Man Engine is a mechanism of moving rods and platforms allowing miners to travel up and down to working levels instead of climbing long ladders.

The first Man Engine in Cornwall was developed by Michael Loam of Liskeard and installed at Tresavean Mine in Lanner in 1842.

The invention halved the miners’ journey time up and down the shaft and the output of the mine immediately increased by one fifth. Although the Man Engine mechanism was intrinsically dangerous miners across Cornwall took to the device without hesitation: after a day’s work it was better to be jump on and off moving platforms than to risk falling from a ladder due to exhaustion.

The words ‘Man Engine’ are inextricably linked in popular imagination with the Levant Mine disaster of 1919 when a metal bracket at the top of the Man Engine broke, the heavy timbers crashed down the shaft and 31 men were killed.

So we thought long and hard about whether to use words ‘Man Engine’. We decide that those words resonate with ingenuity, technical innovation, colossal engineering accomplishment, raw determination, sheer industry, triumph and tragedy — all of which are intrinsic to the story of how Cornish Miners won the precious treasure from deep in the hard rock heart of the Earth.

Our proposal is driven by a genuine and deep-rooted desire to engage the widest possible constituency of people at home and abroad with a real understanding of the mining history of Cornwall and the reasons why our landscape has been designated as having Outstanding Universal Value.

And who or what is LEVANTOSAUR?

Earlier this year, some of the Golden Tree team were taken underground at Levant Mine. National Trust volunteer, Ryan Thomas, discovered a toy dinosaur amidst the fly-tipping at the bottom of Boscregan Shaft.

‘Levantosaurus Rex’ was presented on loan to the Man Engine project and is now our project mascot, an integral part of the team — you can follow his adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

Education Programme

Working with Camborne School of Mines and Geevor Tin Mine we have been delivering Mining Heritage workshops at 5 secondary schools and 25 primary schools across Cornwall. This has involved practical activity such as separating minerals and building working water pumps as well as learning songs and stories of real characters from the rich lode of Cornish Mining history.

Levantosaur couldn’t keep away from all this fun, so from his time underground has been helping us out with some Cornish Mining vocabulary!

“Home to a hundred-inch pumping engine”
“Stops me banging me head”
“Just like Granny used to make”

The Education programme has been led by our Schools & Communities Coordinator — Joe Lewis (who we tempted back from his previous 300 mile commute to London to work a bit closer to home!) Over 1200 children have been inspired by a series of practical workshops from Geevor’s Clint Hoskin, CSM’s Calum Beeson, a STEM workshop from freelance artist & engineer Kate Beesley, Bal Maiden singing with Bec Applebee and storytelling with Joe.

Volunteer ‘Mine Captains’ from the secondary schools have been down Holman’s test mine at Copper Hill to experience what it’s like working (and blowing things up) underground, then taken their new-found knowledge into local primaries to share with classes there.

“Fantastic… the children were fascinated by the mining artefacts, presentations were top class and resources well matched to activities — I think this will be a morning the children will remember for some time” — Treloweth Teacher

The primary school children have then visited their cluster secondary where our talented freelance School’s Practitioner Jo Tyler has led them through a wagon design workshop exploring one of the Cornish Mining themes that is the focus in that cluster.

“It was the best morning ever — I have learnt so much about the history of mining. I can’t wait until the parade!” — Primary School Pupil


To help publicise the Man Engine tour we have created a ‘Trailblazer Wagon’. This is a single-decker donated by Bus Kernow with an exhibition inside and a Tin Stamps contraption in it’s roof. The ‘Trailblazer Wagon’ launched at Camborne Trevithick Day and is popping up at events through the calendar before the Man Engine tour itself starts.

Trailblazer Bus


Thousands will crowd to see the Man Engine at celebratory events all along the route. There is one small technical hitch: we cannot get the Man Engine’s transformation to work unless enough people SING!

At twenty-five places along the route we will be inviting One and All to help us sing the Man Engine into life. Taking inspiration from various old tunes and songs we have created a new anthem: ‘Hard Rock Cornish Miners’. We are also using Jim Carey’s beautiful setting of ‘Chamber to Grave’ as an initial lament and there is also a question-and-answer mining chant in Cornish (or ‘Haka Balweyth’).


PZ Wagon

At specific sites along the route the waiting crew has a gift for the Man Engine: a ‘Mining Wagon’, designed and built by local schools and community.

Each wagon creatively depicts and illuminates one of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site (CMWHS) themes.

Each wagon has also has been designed specifically to incorporate and engage a specific sector of our diverse target audiences.

The PZ Wagon, built by local artist and trader Joe Grey at Shiver Me Timbers was unveiled at Quay Day as part of the Golowan weekend celebrations in Penzance.


At each of our five key locations the Man Engine will also be meeting one of five historical characters

In Liskeard, William Crago, who started mining at nine years old.

In St Austell, Alfie Crowle who introduced the sport of football to Mexico.

In Pool, Telfer Mitchell, who carried on working after losing the use of one leg.

In Hayle, Jane Harvey, power behind the throne of the world’s foremost foundry.

In Penzance, Humphry Davy, inventor and innovator extraordinaire.

Five diverse and extraordinary stories each helping us gain a little insight into the extraordinary continuum of Cornish Mining history.


‘Sing from the Chamber to the Grave’

We’ve learned the words. We’ve prepared the feast. We’ve hung out the bunting.

Thousands of us crowd across the westernmost cliffs at Geevor Tin Mine high above the Atlantic breakers, waiting.

We know that all the way down through Cornwall the Man Engine has been greeted with ancient mine-stacks smoking once again, traction engines in full steam, brass bands, bal maidens and miners, dancing and singing.

Surrounding us are the weird and wonderful Mining Wagons, crazy carnival floats on mining themes designed and built with schools and communities along the length of our land.

Now at last the distant rhythm of the colossus and his entourage can be heard approaching and the cavalcade emerges over the gorse-fired cliff-side into view. Crawling at the height of a double-decker bus the Man Engine is part giant man, part machine. Over a dozen miners and bal-maidens attend and animate the behemoth; they heave on the coal, flames roar, smoke billows, steam belches, the pistons pump and the gigantic contraption inches relentlessly forward, eventually coming to a halt silhouetted against the wide ocean.

Thousands of us crowd closer to sing the transformation.

The Man Engine begins to rise up. Our combined voices swell, we push him higher and impossibly higher. Way over our heads he rears to become a ten-metre tall Cornish Miner.

Cousin Jacks both great and small
Raise your voice, sing One and All
Round this world we send our call
‘Health to the Cornish Miner!’


Over the next five years we would like to see the Man Engine trace the footsteps of the Cornish Mining Diaspora through the UK, Spain, South Australia, South Africa, Mexico, the USA — an epic totem of our Cornish Mining World Heritage.


Golden Tree are grateful to the many individuals, organisations, public and private, large and small, without who this project couldn’t have happened. We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and passion to join together in an incredible partnership to bring the Man Engine to life and celebrate our Cornish Mining heritage.

We still have a little way to go to fully fund the project however, so as our crowdfunder campaign progresses we could be adding your name to the growing list below!

The Man Engine is supported by:

Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, First Kernow, Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Volvo Construction Equipment, Cornwall Council, Cormac, National Trust, Buro Happold, Maen Karne, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Camborne School of Mines, Camborne School of Mines Trust, Exeter University, Kresen Kernow, Mining Searches UK, Imerys, In Steel, TJK Fabrication, Chris Sedgeman Scaffolding, Sir John Fisher Foundation, SJ Andrew & Sons, CVC Haulage, Metalcraft,

West Devon Borough Council, Devon County Council, Cornwall College, Liskeard School & Community College, Penrice Academy, Pool Academy, Hayle Community School, Humphry Davy School, Geevor Tin Mine, Tavistock Town Council, Tavistock Heritage, Camborne Can Do, Penzance BID, Liskeard Town Council, Lostwithiel Business Group, St Austell Bid, St Austell Town Council, Wheal Martyn, Trewithen Estate, Cornwall Community Foundation, Macsalvors, Totally Truro, Truro City Council, Redruth Town Council, Hayle Town Council, Harvey’s Foundry Trust, Heartlands, Cornwall College, Tolgus Tin, Cornish Gold, Fishboy PZ and Dynamite Valley Brewery.

To keep up to date with the Man Engine’s journey, events leading up to it and to dig deeper into our unique Cornish Mining heritage please visit the Man Engine website.



Meur ras dheugh-why oll!

Balweyth | Cornish Mining

Cornish Mining stories from @GoldenTree

Golden Tree

Written by

An termyn a dheu yw splann, an termyn a dheu yw Kernewek!

Balweyth | Cornish Mining

Cornish Mining stories from @GoldenTree

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