1700 - Horse Gin

The horse is harnessed to the wheel. As it walks around, the gears engage and turn the drum, thus raising baskets of coal from the mineshaft. Another version — often powered by donkeys — used a vertical treadmill very like those once used in prisons. Animal-powered machines were once common in mining and agriculture - raising water for instance, or driving simple machines - and even some early factories used horse gins. Why use a horse instead of wind or water power?

These devices - the word ‘gin’ is derived from 'engine' - were often found on farms, where they drove machinery such as threshers or churns, but they could also be used to pump water or, as here, to raise coal in mines, which was brought to the surface in small baskets known as corves. Up to four horses might be hitched up to turn the large crown wheel; by using a low gear ratio, the pinion would revolve fast enough to drive the machinery. A child would be on hand to keep the horses moving at a steady 2mph. Usually the mechanism was housed in a distinctive hexagonal or circular building and, in Scotland and north-east England especially, these can still be seen today, stripped of their machinery so they can be used as storehouses. Horse gins of various kinds continued in occasional use until at least as late as the First World War. If the work was relatively light, they were much cheaper than installing wind, water or steam-powered machinery, and the horses could be used for other tasks when not required to power the gin - something that was especially important in farming, where much of the work was seasonal in nature, and the gin might see only periodic use. A number of horse gins or 'whims' have found their way into museums - the one from Pinxton colliery, for instance, has been re-erected at the industrial museum at Wollaton Park, Nottingham, while the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish has an example that once worked on a Northumberland farm.

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North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish has an example that once worked on a Northumberland farm
Pixton Farm

1600’s – Windmill

1700’s - Tide Mill