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Haigh Foundry's Laxey Wheel
Photo: Keith
Views: 2,762
Item #: 30806
The Laxey waterwheel in the Isle of Man, was made in Wigan. It is, according to the Isle of Man guide, the largest working waterwheel in the world.
It was constructed at Haigh Foundry in 1854 and sent to the island as a finished, complete wheel.
An employee of the foundry, Mr William Smith went to Laxey to erect it.
Mr T L Lace, a Manxman who lived in Wigan for many years said that the centre casting of the wheel weighed 15 tons, Haigh Foundry at that time were turning out castings weighing 30 tons, the foundry itself ceased operations in 1884.
Its purpose was to operate pumps which kept the Laxey lead mines free of water, pumping 250 gallons of water a minute from the mines and it was set in motion in 1854, closing in 1925.
Its dimensions are,
DIAMETER: 72 ft 6 inches (22.1 m)
CIRCUMFERENCE: 228 ft. (69 m)
WIDTH: 6 ft (1.8 m) and
DELIVERY: 250 imperial gallons (1,100L) of water a minute from the Laxey mines some 200 yards (180 m) away and 1,500 ft (460 m) below ground.

Comment by: RON HUNT on 31st October 2018 at 16:33

There is a lot of controversy as to the origin of the Laxey Wheel There is no markings on the wheel to connect it with Wigan. The thinking is that only part of it was forged in Wigan. The memories of a large wheel being dragged up the hill from the foundry by a string of horses is thought to have been another wheel. A few years ago I tried to find written information for an I.O.M. historian, but although I searched all the records in the History Shop there was nothing ..

Comment by: Joseph on 31st October 2018 at 18:46

The wheel was constructed by the Vauxhall Foundry, Liverpool and the Mersey Iron Works, Ellesmere Port.

Comment by: Keith on 1st November 2018 at 13:21

There are contradictory versions of how Haigh Foundry was involved in the construction of the Wheel. I have "found" Mr T L Lace, born a Manxman who lived in Wigan, at 5 Kenyon Road in 1911 (b.1861) who was reported as saying in the Liverpool Echo in 1946 that he had "proved" the wheel was made in Wigan and not, as was claimed, in the Isle of Man. He had interviewed sons of the men who worked on the wheel. In 1856 some 880 were employed at the Foundry. Mr Lace was an Ironmonger Dealer and had a shop in Wigan. I believe this was Lace & Co., 25 Market Place, Ironmongers, Cutlers, Tool Merchants and Implement Agents.

Comment by: Keith on 1st November 2018 at 14:04

A little extra.
An advert appeared in this newspaper for the Letting on Lease of the Haigh Foundry Company, this was due to the retirement of the present occupiers who will not be renewing their lease. There follows a considerable description of what was offered and it also contained the following, “The largest Pumping Engines and the most powerful Factory Engines in the Kingdom have been made at the Foundry within the last 10 years.”

Comment by: Joseph on 2nd November 2018 at 10:53

Laxey Wheel, Isle of Man

The Laxey wheel was designed by Robert Casement, and was constructed in 1854 to drain water from the Glen Mooar part of the ‘Great Laxey Mines’. It is now the largest surviving wheel of its kind anywhere in the world. Apparently in 1954 the descendants of those that were involved in the construction of the wheel were traced, and invited to the centenary celebrations on the Isle of Man. Sydney Staveley, a descendant of the Wigan branch of the Aysgarth Staveleys, was invited to these celebrations.

It is thought most likely that it was his grandfather George (b. 1818) in Aysgarth that may have been somehow involved in the wheel's construction.

There is significant debate as to whether or not the Haigh Foundry in Wigan, Lancashire was responsible for casting any part of the wheel or not, despite numerous claims stating that the Foundry was indeed involved. It has even been reported that the wheel is embossed with the words 'Made in Wigan'. However, when an archivist with the Manx National Heritage was contacted in Douglas by us a few years ago, he clearly stated that the wheel was constructed by the "Vauxhall Foundry, Liverpool and the Mersey Iron Works, Ellesmere Port, Lancashire, and transported and erected on the Isle of Man". Realistically it would make more sense to construct the wheel's components in a port city such as Liverpool, rather than inland in an area such as Wigan, thus requiring land transport to the nearest seaport before shipping the components to the Isle of Man.

Around 1851 George and his wife Ellen had just moved to Aspull, Lancashire, in time for the birth of their son George. Despite the early claims that the wheel was manufactured in Wigan, and as there is no concrete evidence that the Haigh Foundry was responsible for constructing any part of the wheel, it is doubtful that George really had involvement with the construction of the wheel proper. There is nothing to suggest that his family ever resided in Liverpool. It is known however that R J & E Coupe of the Worsley Mesnes Ironworks supplied a large stationary steam engine to the mine in 1864 to work the ore dressing machinery. Perhaps George, or one of his sons had some involvement with the manufacture or installation of this engine. It is known that two of George's sons, George (b. 1851) and William (b. 1853) were employed as steam 'Engine Fitters' as shown in the 1871 through 1901 census records, so this might not be as much of a stretch to believe this could be true. It is hoped that someday soon the exact nature of the Staveley's possible involvement in the creation of this magnificent water wheel will be revealed...but for now, this remains a Staveley family myth & legend.

Author: Clare M. Staveley

Comment by: MikeW on 2nd November 2018 at 10:59

Curious to know how a 72foot diameter component was transported in one piece. Even today that would be a huge challenge

Comment by: Keith on 7th November 2018 at 10:59

Thank you for your interesting post Joseph. It all adds further info' and intrigue.

Comment by: Ant on 22nd March 2020 at 17:28

Sadly what’s left of the Workshops are in a bad state of repair

Comment by: Jim on 22nd August 2020 at 14:12

The majority of the Laxey wheel is made of wood. There is a metal axle which was forged on Merseyside and there are metal sections that form braces around the middle section of the wheel and the rim. These were forged on the IOM. There is a newspaper report of a large wheel being transported up Wigan Lane. This was clearly not the Laxey Wheel.

Comment by: Simon Walsh on 29th January 2021 at 11:57

An ancestor of ours Anthony Craston was the manager of Haigh Foundry for 25 years from around 1855. Whilst researching him found newspaper article under title UNDER THE CLOCK referencing Laxey Wheel made at the Haigh Foundry. I know newspaper articles don't make facts but interesting still.

Wigan Observer and District Advertiser - Wednesday 15 October 1902

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