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The Man Engine

In July 2006, the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Last year, in celebration of the 10th anniversary, the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership commissioned an exciting memorial to the historic engineering creativity of the region with a 12 metre high mechanical giant called “the Man Engine”.

Part man, part machine, the towering metal ‘Man Engine’ designed by Will Coleman and his team at Golden Tree Productions, Cornwall, had a real fire in its belly, a beating beam-engine in its heart and the heritage of the entire British Industrial Revolution in its head.

The largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain was accompanied by more than a dozen ‘miners’ and ‘bal-maidens’ who animated the metal giant as he toured the historic towns and mine sites of Cornwall and west Devon. From Tavistock in Devon to Geevor Tin Mine in the far west of Cornwall, the Man Engine’s tour spanned the ten World Heritage Site mining areas.

At each of these key Cornish mining locations, the Man Engine and his cavalcade were greeted with ceremonies, events and locally-flavoured celebrations. Ancient mining chimney stacks smoked once again, traction engines were in full steam, choirs sang and brass bands played. Schoolchildren, bal maidens and miners were dressed in 1800’s costumes, as they observed and experienced their own area’s history and significance within the World Heritage Site.

Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Co-ordinator, Deborah Boden, said, “The mining communities of Cornwall and west Devon were industrial pioneers, inventing new technologies and techniques for winning vital metals from deep, hard rock, and becoming internationally recognised for their skill as a result”.

Whichever mine site around the world that you are reading this from, the engineering skills and techniques employed at your mine today almost certainly have connections back to the Cornish engineers of the 1800s, and this Man -Engine is as relevant a tribute to the miners in The Philippines, Ghana or Colombia as it is to the long history of Cornish miners who helped pioneer the industry.

For more information on The Man Engine or the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, please visit:

Pictures courtesy of the Cornish Times newspaper group (Ainsley Cocks & Mike Thomas)