Laxey Wheel Conservation 2022

Repairing and conserving the largest working waterwheel in the world: A Victorian engineering masterpiece in the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man’s iconic landmark

Starting of the Laxey Wheel in 1854 by unknownManx National Heritage

Laxey Wheel

The Great Laxey Wheel (Queeyl Vooar Laksey) is the largest surviving working wheel of its kind in the world. Designed by the Victorian engineer, Robert Casement, the wheel was built in 1854 to pump water from Glen Mooar part of the ‘Great Laxey Mines’ industrial complex.

Laxey Wheel Works (1949)Manx National Heritage

'The Laxey Wheel Song' sung by Laxey School Year 6

Anatomy of the wheel

The wheel is an impressive 22m (72.5 feet) diameter structure with 168 buckets.

Victorian symphony of moving parts

The Laxey Wheel stopped turning in 2020 to undergo a long and complex renovation process. John-Paul Walker, Historic Buildings Architect for Manx National Heritage says, "it is a remarkable structure to conserve; it has no roof, it moves and we pour water on it all day long".

'Repair and conserve'

John-Paul Walker, Historic Buildings Architect for Manx National Heritage explains the Jan-Sept 2022 Conservation works part-funded by the Isle of Man Government.

Laxey Wheel Log Cutting by unknownManx National Heritage

Timber from Scotland

Working with Forestry and Land Scotland, we located trees of Douglas Fir – one of the most hardy softwoods – suitable for the enormous timbers required. These were felled in the Yarrow Valley near Selkirk, Scotland and sent to the Caledonia Timber sawmill in Lilliesleaf.

Laxey Wheel Log Shaping by unknownManx National Heritage

Shaped in the Isle of Man

The timber was shipped over to Ballanorris in the Isle of Man for final shaping and finishing by Manninwood Carpenters. Test assembly was done before the final journey to Laxey to be craned into place. The largest timber replaced was the Northern Sweep Arm (14.5m long, 2 tonne).

Removal of the Link Arm

The heaviest component repaired was the L-rocker (4.5 tonne).

Laxey Wheel Conservation (2022)Manx National Heritage

Scaffold Rubik's cube

The scaffold (101.4 tonnes, frame 18m x 36m x 26m high) enabled masonry paint (550l), timber & metal paint (595l) to be applied and masonry, repointing and render repairs. Like a giant puzzle, the scaffold had to be constantly altered during the works to enable access.

The Lady Isabella revealed

In September 2022 the scaffolding came down to reveal the Lady Isabella as this time-lapse video shows.

The Great Laxey Wheel Turns Again

The world famous treasured landmark was officially re-opened on 12 October 2022 by Lady Philippa Lorimer, accompanied by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor Sir John Lorimer.

Come Visit this Victorian masterpiece of engineering in the Isle of Man.

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