Collection Blog

Dorset Museum’s largest and heaviest artefact ?

July 25, 2022

Some of the many artefacts in the Dorset Museum’s collections are on display in the galleries and some are held in store, but some are too big and too heavy to go into either. The Dorset Museum’s traction engine, ‘Hayden Princess’, is one of the latter artefacts.

Built in 1901 by Marshalls of Gainsborough, ‘Hayden Princess’ is a general-purpose steam engine weighing about 11 tonnes. The engine was bequeathed to the museum in 1995 by Jack Miles of Hayden Farm in Charminster. Rather than being put on static display or in store, it was the late curator Peter Woodward and member Giles Romanes who ensured that she was kept as a working exhibit.

We know very little about the history of ‘Hayden Princess’ other than she was owned by Hertfordshire County Council at some point. We also know that she worked in Oxfordshire and Sussex where she was employed in logging. In 1964, Jack Miles purchased her from the Harris family of Pikes Farm at Organford near Poole. Since then she has been a regular sight at the steam fairs held in Shaftesbury, Stourpaine Bushes and Tarrant Hinton as well as other local shows and carnivals.

The ‘Hayden Princess’ is financed, maintained and steamed on behalf of the museum by a team of enthusiastic volunteers – The Dorchester Steam Engine Preservation Society. During the last two years, she has had major repair work performed on her boiler by the volunteers, who also hired the help of a number of craftsmen and inspectors for the more specialized and safety-critical tasks. Hayden Princess passed her boiler inspection and pressure test and is now back ‘in steam’ again!

Although she is kept off-site, ‘Hayden Princess’ is, by nature, a mobile exhibit and performs an outreach function for the museum. When she is displayed ‘in steam’ at local steam rallies she is a popular attraction.

If you see her on the rally field, do come and say hello and we will welcome you onto the footplate.

Hayden Princess at Kingston Maurward 1996

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