A huge mechanical metal puppet stands three stories tall looming over England as men struggle to pull ropes connected to its arms and legs; steam hisses from its chest as the puppet raises its head and prepares to walk.
No, it’s not science fiction it’s the Cornish Man Mining Engine designed and built to celebrate the mining culture in the south-west English cities of Cornwall and West Devon.
The cities became UNESO World Heritage Sites 10 years ago, and now the Man Mining Engine will tour the countryside to celebrate their mining history, artistic director Will Coleman told The Guardian.
“I was brought up on the banks of the river Tamar with the stories and the legacy of Cornish mining all around me. The landscape is deeply rooted in the impacts of that industry, and in the successes and the struggles of the real people whose lives shaped our Cornish mining story.”
The giant mining giant puppet stands 32-feet tall and weighs 40 tons. It’s the largest mechanical puppet ever built in the UK, and its designers plan to tour the mechanical metal marvel through 10 towns, over 130 miles through the heart of England’s mining country.
Golden Tree Productions designed and built the giant mechanical puppet as a tribute to Cornish geology and the area’s rich mining history. As it crawls along, the mechanical puppet is the size of a double-decker bus, but when it stands, the steam powered metal man looms three stories tall towering above the crowd that came to see its unveiling.
The giant puppet’s neck resembles a beam engine, a steam-powered engine first used to pump water out of mines; its shoulders look like the sheave wheels used in mining operations. The Man Engine’s hands were designed to look like the steam powered excavators used in the 20th century, Coleman told The Guardian.
“Our horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall is a tiny 0.002% of the planet’s surface, yet beneath our rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified.”
“This unbelievable geological treasure has powered the Cornish people’s endeavor through 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak.”
The mining culture in Cornwall and Devon stretches back centuries to the Bronze Age when early miners discovered tin and later copper in the English hills. Other valuable minerals have also been found in the area including lead, zinc, and silver. The Romans who invaded early England were initially attracted to the copper mined in the English hills; the precious metal was shipped throughout the empire.
The Cornwall and Devon mining industry thrived for centuries until the closure of South Crofty, the last tin mine in south-west England, in 1998, Julian German, chairman of the Cornish mining world heritage partnership told UPI.
“Special projects like the towering Man Engine show we still share this same gritty ambition and ingenuity with our ancestors.”
Lately, there has been some talk of reopening the tin mines in the area after surveyors discovered 40 new previously undiscovered minerals in the English hills that could be profitable.
For now, the mechanical Man Engine puppet will tour the southwest English countryside and be the focal point of town celebrations. A street mural is being painted in Liskeard, the first mining town to receive the towering puppet, while a brass band will greet the metal man in Bodmin Moor.
During the celebration in Penzance, a 25-foot tall Humphry Davy puppet will meet the Man Engine and offer it a Davy safety lamp, which prevented the spread of flame and helped prevent mining disasters.
What do you think of England’s towering mechanical steam-powered metal puppet?
[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]