This is a book about a little known element in the history of motive power, the animal powered machine. Windmills and watermills survive in most parts of Britain, but animal-powered machines, whether vertical treadwheels or horizontal horse engines, are hardly known, despite the significant contribution they made to the history of mining and agriculture in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. The development of the railways and the availability of coal caused the use of animal power to decline rapidly, but a number of these early machines still survive today. The author identifies the various types of machine, the jobs they performed and how they evolved with the onset of the industrial revolution.
J. Kenneth Major is an architect with a life-long interest in windmills, watermills and animal-powered machines and a former Chairman of the Wind and Watermill Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. As the representative for the western Home Counties on the Council for British Archaeology Industrial Monuments Committee he has been involved in the rescue and restoration of three horse engines, and this led him into the study of that neglected form of prime mover, the animal-powered machine. He had studied these machines in Britain and Europe and, with Hugo Brunner, wrote Water Raising by Animal Power, which was the first comprehensive study of one branch of the subject.