In search of stability: the horizontal engine

Plan of the foudnations for the horizontal steam engine

The mill pond was regularly affected and blocked by silting, which repeatedly caused problems for the flow of water to the mill and put a great deal of pressure onto the water wheel. By 1871, the power of the beam engine had reached capacity and Robert Hyde Greg sought an additional, reliable source of power. The decision was made to purchase a horizontal engine.

Robert Hyde Greg had sought advice from engineers Wren & Hopkinson regarding the required increase of power at the mill and the need for stability from the engine. The water systems were getting old and worn, and the silting up of the mill pond and weir were taking their toll. Their advice was to spread the load to provide sustainable relief for the water wheel. Horizontal engines were increasing in popularity at this time, with their low and high-pressure cylinders working together either in tandem or side by side. These engines proved to be economic and compact compared with their predecessors.


The brief for a contractor to build and install a horizontal engine was sent out to tender in 1871 and both Wren & Hopkinson and a Manchester based firm Martin & Smethurst sent quotes and designs. Martin & Smethurst came out on top with a much cheaper estimate and the engine was erected in that same year. 

A wage book from the time shows mechanics were occupied with engine installation in 1871, showing that Quarry Bank still favoured the use of internal workers to saving on costs.


From its installation in 1871, the engine continued in use until the mill closed, although in the later years it was used intermittently in a supplementary capacity. The beam engine remained in place and was fired up whenever repairs were made to the horizontal engine. There is a different model on display at Quarry Bank today, but an imprint of the original baseplate of the 1871 engine can still be seen in the engine house.