26 August 2020

Trevithick 200 (2016)

Peruvian delegation in Cornwall to mark the 200th anniversary of Richard Trevithick’s journey to the New World

Minister Raul Hidalgo Gallegos of the Republic of Peru Foreign and Diplomatic service visited Cornwall last week to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Richard Trevithick’s pioneering trip to Peru in 1816. The Minister was guest of honour at the launch of a new book “The Cornish in Latin America: ‘Cousin Jack’ and the New World, written by Dr Sharron P Schwartz and sponsored by the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. Minister Hidalgo Gallegos was welcomed to Cornwall by Cllr Mary May, Vice Chairman of Cornwall Council.

Trevithick’s trading venture with Peru triggered the development of Cornwall’s extensive international business links, based on its mining expertise and technology, which subsequently extended across the whole of South America, and ultimately to every continent on the globe. This world-wide impact lies at the heart of Cornwall and west Devon’s World Heritage Site status, which was awarded in 2006.

Trevithick travelled to Peru in 1816 to oversee the installation of his high-pressure steam pumping engines, which had been shipped from Britain to restart mining at the famed silver mines of Cerro de Pasco. Trevithick defied eminent engineering minds of the time, who had asserted that steam engines could not operate at the altitudes of the Peruvian Andes (over 4,000m). The application of high-pressure steam – pioneered by Trevithick – proved that his steam engines could not only function in this rarefied atmosphere but, indeed, successfully pump mines dry. This event constituted the first use of steam technology on the continent and heralded the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in Latin America.

This incredible tale, and much more, is told in mining migration specialist Dr Schwartz’s long-awaited book. It sheds light on a largely neglected chapter of the Cornish mining migration story of the nineteenth century. Dr Schwartz recounts in detail how the mining fields of Peru, Mexico, Chile, Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere in South and Central America and the Caribbean, became established or were reshaped through the application of Cornish skills, technology and  British finance.

The launch on 23rd November was hosted by the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site Partnership, in a venue that was instrumental in the manufacture and export of Cornish steam technology internationally, Harvey’s Foundry in Hayle. Harvey’s was to become a byword for excellence in steam pumping technology in the nineteenth century, with the company producing the largest steam pumping engines ever made.

Guests were also able to experience the Trevithick Society’s ‘Puffing Devil’, a full scale working replica of Trevithick’s road-going steam locomotive of 1801 – the world’s first practical steam road vehicle built 28 years before Stephenson’s Rocket.

2016 also marks the tenth anniversary of inscription of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The new publication is the latest in a series of successful initiatives that have been run throughout the year as part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership’s “Tinth” cultural programme.

The Cornish in Latin America: ‘Cousin Jack’ and the New World” is available in a limited edition of 200, and exclusively online from the Cornubian Press at: http://www.cornubianpress.com. More information on the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, and other aspects of the Cornish mining migration story, can be found at www.cornishmining.org.uk.