History of the Trevithick Society

Trevithick Society Timeline

António Augusto Sobral built an excellent model of the historic scene in 1804, the Penydarren with Richard Trevithick talking to Samuel Homfray.

The Cornish Engines Preservation Committee was founded in 1935. Its original, specific objective was to acquire the Levant Whim which was in danger of being scrapped as had almost all else at Levant. That achieved, they broadened their remit to compiling records of other surviving engines and structures at risk. A Survey Sub-Committee made a report in 1943.

In 1944 the Cornish Engines Preservation Society was formed with the object of acquiring certain other engines (identified in the Survey) if and when they ceased operation. In 1945 the Survey was published and sold to Non-Members of the Society at 2/-. Also in 1945 were published a set of Transactions of the Cornish Engines Preservation Society. This was clearly intended

to be the first of an annual series but as far as we can ascertain, no further editions ever materialised. They include a fascinating full List of Members and an article by the Joint Secretaries, Messrs Hooper & Michell entitled “The Place of the Cornish Engine in the Development of the Steam Engine.

In 1953 a much expanded and illustrated second edition of the Survey was published at 5/- to Members and 15/- to the general public. This introduced the concept of a “Trevithick Site Museum”, to include Robinson’s 80″, Taylor’s 90″, Michell’s Whim, the Rostowrack engine (by then in Holman’s Museum), parts of an engine from Caudledown Claypit and Trevithick’s Cottage. The 1953 Survey was reprinted in 1985 for our 50th Anniversary year and again, in updated form, in 1998.

By 1945 when the Society was starting and the Survey and Transactions were published, the key players were –

  • President: The Viscount Falmouth
  • Chairman: Arthur Treve Holman & Dr H W Dickinson
  • Secretaries: W Tregoning Hooper & W A Michell
  • Curator: John Hubert Trounson

Also on the Survey Sub-Committee were W Kendall Andrew representing the China Clay industry and T R Harris. Another 13 organisations were represented on Council (list available on request) while in addition to T R Harris, the following were also Ordinary Members of Council, Messrs. D D Belcham, Donald W Thomas, John Rosewarne, Capt B Kelly MC and P T W Remant.

1967 saw the handover to the National Trust of the Society’s collection of engines at Levant, East Pool and South Crofty plus Trevithick’s Cottage at Penponds. This had entailed the raising of a substantial endowment.

The last of these mammoth relics of Cornwall’s engineering achievements in the Victorian age were, at the time, finally being replaced and scrapped. In other parts of the country the preservation of such monuments had, generally, to wait another quarter-century or so.

The Trevithick Society LogoThe far-sighted efforts of this group must now be seen as a pioneering landmark in Industrial Archaeology.

In 1969 the Cornish Engines Preservation Society merged with the Cornish Waterwheel Preservation Society and assuming its current identity of the Trevithick Society. It was chosen in honour of Cornwall’s greatest engineer, Richard Trevithick, a key figure in the development of high pressure steam and its application in engines for mining and transport use.


  • Scrapping of Levant surface plant, saving of whim engine.
  • Formation of the Cornish Engines Preservation Committee.
  • Levant whim engine house boarded up.


  • Society acquires Michell’s 35-inch whim engine at East Pool and Agar Mine (via Treve Holman).


  • Formation of the Cornish Engines Preservation Society. Constitution adopted 18 November 1944 as amended 12 September 1970, 24 September 1983, 19 September 1992, 24 September 1994, 20 September 2002 and 16 May 2009.


  • CEPS becomes a Registered Charity.


  • Society acquires Trevithick’s cottage at Penponds, Camborne.


  • Society acquires Taylor’s 90-inch pumping engine at East Pool and Agar Mine (via Mr Greville Bath of Florida).


  • Society acquires Robinson’s 80-inch pumping engine at South Crofty Mine.


  • Gift of Levant, Robinson’s, Michell’s and Taylor’s engines to the National Trust with Trevithick’s cottage at Penponds and the Wheal Betsy engine house near Tavistock, together with a dowry.


  • Formation of the Cornish Waterwheels Preservation Society.


  • Merger of the CWPS with the CEPS to form the Trevithick Society.


  • First journal of the Trevithick Society published.


  • Idea suggested at council meeting in August that the Levant whim should be refurbished for the Society’s 50th anniversary. Formation of the first Greasy Gang in December under Clive Carter


  • Formation of the second Greasy Gang under Milton Thomas.


  • Levant whim steamed for first time.


  • Levant whim opened to the public.


  • Building of the replica of the Camborne Road Loco replica for the bicentenary of its inaugural run.


  • Re-erection of the Gawns waterwheel at Laxey by the Laxey Mines Research Group. Wheel given on permanent loan to Laxey and Lonan Trust by TS.

2014 –

  • Digitisation of the Trevithick Society Collection, and availability via website and social media.
  • Changed our charity status to become a Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation, number 1159639.

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