Penzance welcomed the “Man Engine”

The Man Engine

Penzance went back in time as the town welcomed the”Man Engine”and the Soap Box Derby with approximately 22,000 locals and visitors celebrating the occasion.

This “Man Engine” was made up with materials used back in the mining days along with bits of new technology to make it stand and walk like a real robot.

Over the past few weeks, the “Man Engine” (which is the UK’s largest ever mechanical puppet) has been visiting towns in Cornwall to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape being added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

I attended the event in Penzance,on August 5th, late on Friday afternoon and was surprised to see the amount of cars parked alongside the roads, even on the back streets.

Walking through Causewayhead to get to Market Jew Street where the “Man Engine” was stationed, I noticed a buzzing atmosphere packed with locals and visitors of all ages. I have never seen the town as busy as this before, not even during the annual Golowen, Mazey Day Festival celebrations.


I arrived in town around 4pm, but felt a bit under-dressed for the occasion as in true Cornish Heritage style, locals and visitors were dressed up as maids, miners and pirates enjoying browsing at the stalls, music, street food and dancing which went on throughout the whole town. I wish I had made the effort to dress up.

Even the back streets were packed full of activities, with the “Mine Cart” Soapbox Derby, which also took place down on Market Jew Street earlier in the day. There was something for everyone both young and old as activities were put on for the children with a Heritage Hub and a creation station.

I arrived on Market Jew Street looking for the perfect place to take some photos without having to barge through the crowds and having to take pictures of peoples heads. There wasn’t much chance of this because everyone was surging forwards and scrambling for a spot to stand towards the covered up “Man Engine “ which was situated down the bottom of Market Jew Street facing upwards.

I was a bit disappointed because even though I managed to take a few pictures, I perched myself behind a black wheelie bin on the edge of a pavement at the top of Market Jew Street. I was thinking this would be a less crowded place to stand. How wrong was I when a few uncooperative holiday makers decided to put their child on top of the bin, blocking both mine and everyone stood behind’s view.


At 5pm, the 10 Metre plus largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain, the “miner” was uncovered. The man puppet is a major feature of Cornish engineering and is the same height as a double decker bus when in its “crawling’ mode. The Man Engine transformed to almost three times its height when it stood up, it reminded me of my younger days when I used to watch transformers on television.
The “Man Engine” was accompanied by animated theatrical shows with music, theatre, and storytelling and was created by a team of more than a dozen miners’ and Bal-maidens who animated the giant throughout his travels.

Once the “Man Engine” was unveiled, the activities didn’t stop there as the first ever event, The Grand Man Engine Ball was hosted at the Jubilee Pool. The town’s iconic swimming pool has recently undergone a £3 million makeover.

This was an event not to be missed as locals and visitors rolled back the years and enjoyed a glimpse of the mining days alongside new technology. This celebration is a day of history, where Penzance was restored to its former busy glory and with an estimated 22,000 visitors, I doubt we will ever see the town as busy as this again, at least, not in my lifetime.

As for the man-puppet? It’s rumoured that it could be going on a tour to Mexico and South Australia. I will keep you posted on this!

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