Like the former mighty pithead frames that once bejewelled our region, a Very Important Visitor will be towering over the South Yorkshire skyline this June as the magnificent and monumental Man Engine drifts into Elsecar and Wentworth.
A colossal feat of engineering standing proudly at a height of 11.2 metres high – almost as tall as three double decker buses – the Man Engine will be touching base in Yorkshire for just two days as part of its resurrection tour.
On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June, Elsecar and Wentworth will unite for a spectacular two-day event that combines the past with the present; looking back at our incredible mining heritage while glancing into the future of the two interlinking villages.
Who – or what – is the Man Engine?
The largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain, the Man Engine is the brainchild of Cornwall’s Golden Tree Productions who were looking for a gargantuan way to celebrate their ‘tinth’ anniversary –ten years since Cornish tin mining received UNESCO World Heritage Status.
The Man Engine takes its name from the invention used to lift miners in and out of the pits, a development which replaced two-hours of climbing ladders before and after a long shift.
Weighing in at over 40 tonnes, it was constructed by the Golden Tree team from pieces of old mining equipment and infrastructure and won Best Arts Project at the 2017 National Lottery Awards for its celebration of Cornish heritage and culture.
The neck is an old beam engine, similar to the one at Elsecar and was once used to pump water out of the pit. The Man Engine’s shoulders are two great sheave wheels reminiscent of the iconic pulleys which sat above the headgear. Its hands are 20th century excavators, or claw-like diggers, while the entire puppet is powered by a Volvo L220 wheel loader.
Following a year’s pilgrimage across its hometown of Cornwall, travelling the full 130 miles of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape heritage site in just two weeks, the Man Engine set off on an industrial tour of Britain in April, visiting a handful of towns and areas that were pinnacle to the Industrial Revolution.
During these two weeks, the Man Engine was seen by over 150,000 people, far exceeding the original 7,000 estimate.
After seven stops in Wales where coal mining was once prevalent, the Man Engine then travelled up the country to Shropshire where it visited the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Ironbridge, known for its iron smelting. Following its trip to Elsecar and Wentworth this June, the Man Engine will then continue on its path up the country, stopping off at Hillhead quarry exhibition in Buxton before going up to fellow mining town, Durham.
Why Wentworth and Elsecar?
For centuries, mining was the backbone of South Yorkshire and coal dust ran thick through the blood of our people. So what better Yorkshire stop-off than at Elsecar and Wentworth whose combined heritage made up the Earl Fitzwilliam’s industrial empire.
A spectacle of pyrotechnics, fireworks and music, have a blast as the event kicks off at Elsecar with the Afterdarker on Saturday 23rd June from 8pm.
Along with an arena arts space with live music and performances, the Newcomen Engine and heritage steam trains will also be running to celebrate not just what happened underground, but also the associated industries that helped the mines flourish.
Akin to the days when the Earl Fitzwilliam’s ironworks were continuously alive with the buzz and drum of iron casting, there will be an almighty glow over the village as the Man Engine comes to life in a big crescendo at 10.15pm where the once-famous furnaces roared into action. An event not to miss, the late-night experience is one for all the family to make memories at – a treat for little ones to stay up well past their bedtimes.
After getting his bearings of the area, the Man Engine will then make his way up to Wentworth Woodhouse aboard a lorry where Sunday’s event sees the Afternooner kick off in 1940s style.
Greeted by the Earl Fitzwilliam, the Man Engine will then be hoisted up from crouching position to unveil his full glory against the backdrop of the historic house.
Inspired by the former mining galas once hosted by the Earl, the afternoon shindig takes place on the front lawn which makes the perfect spot for a family picnic while dressed in vintage attire.
A big community event with a festival feel, there will be vintage games such as skittles with live music, dancing and street performers.
Wentworth and Elsecar have been selected as one of England’s 16 Great Places by Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England. The Man Engine is the perfect platform to launch Great Place Wentworth and Elsecar which looks to dig deep into the core of communities, bringing heritage to the heart of local happenings through various creative arts projects.
A partnership between Rotherham and Barnsley Councils plus Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, Great Place hopes to animate the area and encourage an interest in local history to recognise the heritage significance of the two villages.
Elsecar – Saturday 23rd June
The Afterdarker at Elsecar Heritage Centre
Gates open at 8pm
Man Engine performance at 10.15pm
Wentworth – Sunday 24th June
The Vintage Afternooner at Wentworth Woodhouse
Gates open at 12pm
Man Engine performance at 2.45pm
Tickets £5 for both children and adults
(Under 3s free)
Bookings essential so visit www.elsecar-heritage.com for more details
To book tickets, visit the Event Brite site