The Man Engine is the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain. It was created entirely in Cornwall, and stands at over 10 meters high when fully erected. Even at its crawling height it is the size of a double decker bus and with its accompanying vehicle weighs over 40 tonnes.
As we arrived at Wentworth Woodhouse we could see the tents and stage below. After having our tickets checked we went straight to the Spitfire that was on display. It was just one of many attractions and food stalls in the grounds.
The performance began at 3pm, starting with a huge bang. It was a complete contrast to the band that had been playing before, and captured the attention of the whole lawn.
During the 45 minute performance the Man Engine was brought to life by its team of miners. Through the narrator we learned of the history behind the puppet and the reason for it being brought to life. The story began with William Cargo climbing the wooden ladder into the mine. We were told of the man engine invention and the disaster that followed. Stories of other mining disasters were recalled, including the Huskar Disaster where 26 children working in the mines near Silkstone were tragically drowned. All this was told while the Man Engine stood in the background, hissing and sparking.
After the performance we were able to get closer to the puppet as it was being put back into crawling state. Seeing it up close was fascinating. There were so many cogs and joints, the team worked incredibly had to get it back into position safely.
The Man Engine takes its name from a device that lifted miners up and down the mining shaft. This invention meant miners no longer had to spend hours climbing long wooden ladders to get to the mines. Just over 100 years ago a Man Engine collapsed in Lavant killing 31 miners.
This new mechanical puppet pays homage to those men, and the 4000 years of mining that has gone before.