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IND-ARCH  February 2004

IND-ARCH February 2004

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Subject:

Saddle-shaped boiler at Oxford Prison.

From:

Brian Durham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Brian Durham <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 8 Feb 2004 20:00:27 +0000

Content-Type:

multipart/signed

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (65 lines) , signature.asc (65 lines)

Paul - Belated thanks for your comments and refs to Bourne (1861 edn) 
and Stephenson, et al (1829) and your second message yesterday 
suggesting the Boulton & Watt Collection (deposited in Birmingham 
Central Library.

I have indeed had several very helpful replies from Ind Arch and am 
copying this back to the list.

a)  Boiler pre-dating the prison?  The boiler is so integrated with the 
1780s structure it cannot reasonably be older, and the historic maps of 
the castle show no building anywhere near this.

b)  Boiler providing steam power for construction?:  I think if the 
boiler had related to construction it would have been installed in a 
more accessible position.

c)  Boiler for a steam powered water pump?  This could be, assuming it 
was a steam generator,  but the obvious water source is at the opposite 
corner of the prison beside the river, with tanks surviving in adjacent 
St George's Tower, and a capstan arrangement designed to use a different 
power source (i.e. the prisoners).

d)  Boiler for a laundry? Jason Lucas was first to suggest this, because 
he felt this was a water boiler rather than steam generator.  He 
referred me to Dr. Eleanor Casella at the University of Manchester, and 
I'm hoping to hear from her.  It looks promising because the later 
laundry is on this side of the range.  John Ferris notes `Water boilers 
didn't start appearing until after c1820, before then they were usually 
steam at low pressure, about 5psi', but this could still give it up to 
50 years operation before abandonment in 1868.

However John Ferris asks `Are we sure it is a boiler and not a warm air 
stove', and I have to say that the bore size of the (?Inlet) pipe seems 
extravagant for water (see photo, use hand-shovel for scale, maybe 
75-100 mm bore).  But the Victorian prison has hot air ducts of massive 
scale (1 m square section), and this pipe looks puny by comparison. 
Perhaps after all it is about right for a water-hearing system using 
convection circulation?

Two questions have been raised which I can't answer from memory, so I 
will need to consult with the site staff.

1)  Pat Achon asks was the "external" tubing made from steel/bronze/ are 
they soldered ?  any more tubing present around the boiler ? 
Provisionally I think a lot of this went as the general contractor was 
digging out upper part of the vault, before the significance of the 
boiler was recognised.

2)  Jason Lucas points out that some indication whether the boiler was 
original may come from how the connecting pipe-work goes through the 
masonry, i.e. if there is evidence of hacking through it is more likely 
to have been a later installation.

Thanks again to all.  Incidentally for those of a stronger constitution 
there is a forthcoming `Meet the Ancestors' programme on a different 
aspect of the Oxford Castle work, which may briefly show the hanging 
cell next door, though filmed before the boiler was discovered.  Said to 
be BBC2 16 Feb, but I can't find confirmation on the Beeb website.  - 
Brian
-- 
Brian Durham ([log in to unmask])
also Oxford City Council ([log in to unmask])


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