Thursday 10 October 1991

Industrial Archaeology Review


We are pleased to have received a copy of the Autumn 1991 issue of the Industrial Archaeology Review (Volume XIV Number 1).

The reason for our delight is not only the variety and quality of its contents, but also that it contains the script of Kenneth Major's Rolt Memorial Lecture 1990, on the subject of Wind Engines, which includes the work of John Wallis Titt of Warminster.

Kenneth Major is a very good friend of ours, and knows more about wind engines than anyone else we can think of, and is no stranger to Warminster. He kindly came all the way from his home in Reading, to give a very interesting lecture on the subject, which we all appreciated and enjoyed.
And when Danny Howell rescued (from what would have been a bonfire) the valuable drawings and plans of Titt's wind engines and other machines like horse gears, when the firm of John Wallis Titt and Co. Ltd. was about to close down its Woodcock Works at Warminster, Danny donated a few of the drawings to Mr Major, with the rest of them (nearly 270) being given by Danny to the safe keeping of the Wiltshire County Record Office.

Kenneth Major's Rolt Memorial Lecture included the following mention of J.W.T.:

". . . . John Wallis Titt of Warminster in Wiltshire. He produced several types of wind engine at his Woodcock Iron Works. Titt had trained as a millwright with Brown and May of Devizes and with Wallis Stevens of Basingstoke before opening an agency of Brown and May in Warminster. From this base he commenced to work on his own account in Woodcock, a hamlet to the east of Warminster."

"He was a manufacturer of a large number of different types of farm machines before venturing into the world of the wind engine. His first wind engines date from the 1880s and were mostly fitted with shuttered annular sails."

"As I have indicated, I first met with one of his wind engines in a wood above the Fair Mile at Henley-on-Thames. This was a 'Simplex' direct drive wind engine with a wooden tail vane. This wind engine had shuttered sails 16 ft in diameter but was quite conventional in other ways. I realised that this engine was different and was fortunate to find the catalogues of this firm (John Wallis Titt of Warminster) at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. The catalogues gave an insight into a new world of wind engines, but perhaps the most important facet of the catalogues related to the pages devoted to customers' references. From these I was able to get the addresses of several engines which I could get to on my scooter."

"I saw the catalogues one Saturday morning, and in the afternoon I found one of the Titt engines at Crux Easton in north Hampshire. This engine was different again in the form of the tower. The Crux Easton wind engine was also a 'Simplex' and had shuttered sails 20 ft in diameter on a 30 ft tower. The tower, however, is hexagonal and stands on a cast-iron base ring. At an appropriate point the reefing stage is mounted on prefabricated brackets and there is no handrail."

"The Crux Easton example is also important because it was turned to face the wind by means of a fan wheel at the rear. It is to be noted that this wind engine both pumped water and ground grain. The fan wheel turned a gear system which rotated the head around a curb ring, and this also carried the gears which drove a rotating shaft to bevel gears at the bottom of the tower to lead the power into an adjacent building."

"Similar Titt engines were used at railway stations to pump water to water cranes for the locomotives. An example of this was the 'Simplex' at Cliddesden on the Basingstoke to Alton Line."

"When John Wallis Titt became ill in 1903 his family carried on the business but tended to concentrate on the fixed bladed type of wind engine. The example above Wylye Station in Wiltshire is one from this period, and it still retains the auxiliary drive connection."

"One of the most important results of the interest which has been generated over the wind engines of John Wallis Titt has been the rescue of 270 original drawings in March of this year. This rescue was carried out by Danny Howell of Warminster, one of the greatest local historians I have the privilege to know."

"The drawings consist of cartridge paper drawings, coloured, or ink drawings on tracing cloth. The drawings fall into three categories: general arrangement drawings; general arrangement drawings of particular wind engines; and detail drawings of the parts. This constitutes a magnificent archive and will prove a basis for further study of this firm."

Industrial Archaeology Review, Volume XIV, Number 1, Autumn 1991, is published by the Association for Industrial Archaeology.