“It’s A Horse Gin, but not as we know it” is the terrible pun I’ve had stuck in my head since I first heard about the model Horse Gin currently being installed in Middleton Park.
I’m sure there are far wittier puns to be had (and do please share your own if you can think of any) – but gosh darn it, that naff Star Trek line just won’t leave my head!
So now I have (thank goodness) exorcised it I can get on with actually telling you something (hopefully) useful about the model, which has got me more excited than most reasonable folk might consider decent – but then again gears, cogs and a spot of artfully beautiful welding will do that you know.
The arrival of the Horse Gin was first announced at the Friends of Middleton Park AGM.
Intrigued, I put my newly-honed hunter gatherer community reporter skills to the test and discovered, through a rather cunning process called ‘asking’, that it is in fact a life-size model of a horse-powered engine that was used in coal mining in the 18th and 19th Century.
The model, commissioned by the Friends of Middleton Park, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and built by Jonathan Davis of Leeds City Council, demonstrates how such an engine would have worked.
One or two horses are attached to an arm that turns the central shaft, which turns the cog that engages with a roller that raises and lowers a rope into the mine. If that’s all rather hard to picture Howard Jackson’s beautiful illustration should hopefully illuminate:
The engine would have lowered people and equipment into the mine and raised coal out of it. Simple and elegant 18th Century innovation in action right here on our doorsteps. Brilliant.
The archaeological survey undertaken by the Friends suggests that this particular type of ‘Cog and Rung’ Horse Gin was unique to Middleton, hence my excitement and I hope, yours too. This peculiar-looking mechanism that you may have noticed taking shape close to the New Lakeside Centre makes the site highly significant, not just locally but for the history of coal mining in the UK and the industrial revolution it supported.
Middleton Park is one of the best preserved and most important historic coal-mining landscapes in West Yorkshire and is well worth a visit.
Thanks to Howard Jackson for the use of the beautiful illustration and Nick Rose and Alan Shaw for their help.
In the meantime, check out the immortal ‘It’s Life Jim’ line from Star Trekkin’:
This article was written by Tree Marshall using our Community Reporters website