Restored canal water wheel to be unveiled by minister

The canal waterwheel
The canal waterwheel

ANOTHER important event on the Wey & Arun Canal will take place on Sunday September 11, when the restored Lordings water wheel will be formally unveiled by Nick Herbert, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, whose Arundel and South Downs constituency includes this part of the canal.

The water wheel is situated on the former Arun Navigation section of the canal, south of Wisborough Green. Originally built nearly 200 years ago, the design of the wheel is believed to be unique.

The device was used to raise water from the River Arun to the summit level of the Arun Navigation. It is unusual in that one side of the blades is used in an undershot configuration to turn the wheel using the river flow, while the other sides of the paddles are cupped and used to lift river water into the canal.

About 10 years ago a volunteer work group led by the late Winston Harwood, from Redhill, the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s restoration manager at the time, discovered what appeared to be the foundation of a building at Lordings.

Winston decided to excavate, entirely by hand, exposed the brickwork and revealed what was found to be a water wheel chamber.

Working only from the internal dimensions of the chamber, a design for the reconstruction of the water wheel was drawn up.

A wheel was constructed by Winston with the help of a local fabricator, and this was duly installed in the chamber to test the principle. However, time caught up with Winston’s wheel, and the central shaft, 3 inches (75mm) in diameter, was found earlier this year to have snapped.

The wheel has since undergone investigation and further re-design with the help of a chartered mechanical engineer who is a WACT member.

Some of Winston’s parts could be re-used, while new parts had to be made by local firms.

The rebuilt wheel has now been assembled on site, re-installed and put back to work again transferring water from the River Arun into the canal.

At 14ft (4.2 metres) in diameter the wheel, when rotating at a leisurely 2 rpm, lifts 1,800 gallons per hour (8,100 litres/hour) through a head of about 10ft (3 metres)

For all those involved it has been an incredible achievement, and the new wheel forms a fitting memorial to Winston, who died in 2005 after a long battle with cancer.

The £10,000 cost of restoring the wheel has been met by generous donations from individual members, from a corporate member and by a grant from the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

Alongside the unveiling, a rally of small boats will be held on the canal throughout the day. A barbecue will be provided, while beer and soft drinks will be on sale at the site by the local Hammerpot Brewery.