A 220-year-old South Yorkshire steam engine has been given the royal seal of approval following conservation work.
Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, visited Elsecar to mark the conservation of the oldest steam engine still in its original location and was given a whistle-stop tour of the Elsecar Heritage Centre.
The Newcomen Beam Engine has been restored thanks to a £465,500 Heritage Lottery Fund and support from English Heritage and Barnsley Council.
The Earl unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit and met schoolchildren and tourists.
The three-year project has seen a major conservation of the beam engine – which was built in built in 1795 – its engine-house and deep Georgian mineshaft.
Installed by Earl William Fitzwilliam to stop Elsecar’s rapidly growing collieries from flooding, it is estimated to have pumped more than 40,000 million litres of water from deep underground.
In 1972, the engine was classified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Geoff Wallis, lead project engineer and president of the Newcomen Society, who worked on the on the conservation of the engine, said: “There used to be more than 1,000 of these engines all over the country, but this is the only one left in its original state.
“There are a couple more in museums, but that’s it.
“It is of international importance and will bring visitors from all over the world.”
The village has a long history of royal visits, since the 1820s, members of the royal family have gone underground to see the village’s miners at work.
John Tanner, project manager of the conservation work, said: “The Earl’s visit marks the completion of an exciting project. Lots of people came out to meet him.
“The engine tells the story of a remarkable age that is part of Elsecar’s history.
“We get more than 300,000 visitors every year and this a new side to their experience.
“We think we have discovered the site of the shaft and buildings of coal mines that are 200 years old and some iron works too.
“We have enjoyed a lot of support for the project from Heritage Lottery Fund and Barnsley Council and it’s all very exciting.”