Beam Engine


Running large estates required varied machinery including waterwheels and steam sawmills.

In a hollow at the lower end of the Lime Walk is a stone building adjoining a large overtype waterwheel.

Inside is a beam engine, a type central to the development of steam power and the Industrial Revolution. This engine dates from around 1850 and has been restored to working order, in a setting similar to that in which it is thought to have worked when new.

It was used by a large farm in the North-East of England where it was employed to drive a fixed threshing machine in a barn, along with other mills and equipment by means of a line shaft and belts. There are stories that the engine took over the task of driving a threshing machine from an older waterwheel, after augmenting it initially. The beam engine has been restored and is provided with low pressure steam from an adjacent egg-ended boiler, and is demonstrated regularly on open Sundays.

The waterwheel came to Hollycombe from a farm in nearby Bramshott, prior to which it worked in Cornwall.



Waterwheels have been in use to provide power for thousands of years, albeit it a simpler form to those still in use today. There were an early form of ‘green’ energy. Waterwheels were used for all sorts of applications, the most common being to grind corn for flour or animal feed, or flints for pottery.

‘Overshot’ wheels are fed with water at the top, ‘breastshot’ were fed half way
up the back and ‘undershot’ by the wheel running with its lower section in a stream or river.

Little is known about the history of Hollycombe’s ‘overshot’ wheel, other than it came from a farm in nearby Bramshott, having moved there at some time from Cornwall.

The example pictured is an undershot waterwheel as seen at Tewkesbury.


Beam Engine

Beam engines were central to the development of steam power from the early 1700s, the first being developed by Thomas Newcomen, a replica example of which can be seen at the Black Country Museum in the West Midlands (pictured).

James Watt developed the beam engine, and invented the ‘parallel motion’ that ensures the piston rod is always vertical despite the arc transcribed by the up and down movement of the beam.

The example at Hollycombe dates from around 1850 and was used on a farm in the North-East of England to drive machinery in a barn by line-shafting and belts, much as it does now. It is believed the beam engine took over from an older waterwheel. The cast iron beam is 7ft long making this quite a small engine....


Sausage Boiler

The boiler at the end of the shed is a replica of a ‘sausage’ boiler of similar period to the beam engine. It supplies steam at low pressure to the engine and is typical of the type of boiler used in the early days of the development of steam power. They were later replaced in industry by large ‘Cornish’ and ‘Lancashire’ boilers that were much more efficient.