Water Wheel Restoration Begins

wheal martyns waterwheel st austell

Work is about to start to fully restore the 18’ water wheel at Wheal Martyn which, as a result of decades of exposure to the weather, has deteriorated to a state where it can no longer operate.

The wheel has sadly been out of action for over 12 months while fundraising has taken place and now Wheal Martyn Trust is delighted to announce that the £37,000 needed to carry out the restoration work has been secured from a number of funders which include the Association for Industrial Archaeology, Cornwall Heritage Trust, Historic England, the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation and individual donors.

The 18 foot overshot water wheel is a key feature at Wheal Martyn – not only does it form part of the Scheduled Ancient Monument but it is crucial to telling the story of water power and the movement of china clay within the clay works.  When it is in working order it breathes life and atmosphere into the heart of the site.  The wheel was originally built in about 1902 by John Lovering, along with a slurry pump, connected by flat rods and a steel wire.  Together the two features were used to move clay slurry to settling tanks higher up the site and the pump could lift 26 gallons (120 litres) of clay slurry per stroke.  This working complex of wheel, flat rods and slurry pump is the only working example in Cornwall, with the slurry pump the only surviving pump of its type out of an estimated 200 which were in existence throughout the clay industry in the Duchy.

The work will involve replacement of the wooden buckets and launder chute which are completely rotten and replacement of rusted steel tie bars which hold the water wheel together.  Finally the wheel will receive a much needed coat of paint.  Local contractors, A&T services, will be carrying out the metalwork elements while Keith Cole Carpentry will be replacing the wood.  The work to replace the wooden buckets on site commences on 24 August and is due to be completed by late September.

Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn, said ‘It will be fantastic to see the water wheel back in action again, after so long.  It really is crucial to the stories we tell and the spirit of the special Wheal Martyn site. It has been greatly missed by our volunteers and visitors over the last year and we are extremely grateful to the funders who are generously supporting this work to ensure the wheel starts turning once again’.

Visitors will be able to see the repair work in action and, because tickets to Wheal Martyn are valid for 12 months,  can come back again once the work is complete to see the water wheel in all its glory and hear that special sound of water moving around the site.

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