Sunday September 11th will see another important event on the Wey & Arun Canal, when the restored Lordings water wheel is formally unveiled by the Rt Hon 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, Billingshurst, West Sussex. 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. This in itself was no mean feat, there being no other wheel of this type to copy and no archive drawings to refer to.
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. This installation, too, was impressive for a volunteer project - the site is over half a mile from the nearest road access. 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. Winston carried out much physical restoration work on the Arun Navigation section, often virtually single-handed. The present WACT voluntary working group based on this part of the canal still bears the name of the 'Winston Harwood Working Party'
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.
Further information about the Wey & Arun Canal Trust is available from the Trust's office, on 01403 752403.
Notes for Editors
Information is available from Bill Thomson, email@example.com
, 07777 668928
The Wey & Arun Canal Trust
The Wey & Arun Canal, "London's lost route to the sea" was originally opened in 1816 between the River Wey at Shalford, near Guildford, and Pallingham, near Pulborough, the head of navigation of the River Arun. It closed in 1871, due to railway competition. Since the 1970s the 23-mile waterway has been the subject of a campaign by volunteers led by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust to restore the route to navigation. Work has been undertaken in a number of locations, most notably the stretch near the Sussex/Surrey border at Loxwood. Over two miles in length, this includes five working locks, two public road crossings, an aqueduct, two farm bridges, and numerous minor works, all built or rebuilt through voluntary effort. Boat trips are available on this stretch, onboard several craft, including the 50-seater electrically-powered Wiggonholt.