Unique waterwheel undergoes restoration after Billingshurst vandal attack

A unique waterwheel on the Wey and Arun Canal is being restored after being targeted by vandals.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 3:44 pm

The waterwheel - at Lordings Lock and Orfold Aqueduct near Billingshurst - powers water into the canal after being carried over the river by the aqueduct.

Recent vandalism and deterioration rendered the waterwheel unusable - but now volunteers from the Wey and Arun Canal Trust have begun to restore the heritage asset after a grant from a charitable trust.

The waterwheel is thought to be the only one of its kind on the national waterway system.

Lordings waterwheel in previous times

The restoration project, led by former mechanical engineer Brian King, has called for painstaking precision.

A bespoke single stainless steel shaft with associated end flanges had to be commissioned, manufactured to exact size and fixed in place by a specialist engineering contractor.

All the peripheral steelwork had to be removed, then brushed up and rejuvenated with a special underwater paint.

The stainless steel buckets that move the water also needed rewelding, another specialist task.

The chute from which water flows into the aqueduct has been replaced with a Cor-Ten steel equivalent - the previous one made of wood having rotted through - while the current rubber seals used to prevent water loss between the buckets and the stone wall have also been removed and replaced with a unique stainless steel lip.

Brian follows in the footsteps of restoration pioneer Winston Harwood in attempting to bring the special structure back to life.

Back in 1992 Winston and fellow volunteers discovered what appeared to be the foundations of a building.

They decided to excavate - by hand - and eventually uncovered the lock and aqueduct and exposed the waterwheel chamber for the first time in 140 years.

Working from only the internal dimensions of the chamber, Winston constructed a waterwheel - no mean feat with no drawings or other example.

Further improvements have been made to the wheel over the years and work on the wheel will begin again in the spring as the area floods in winter,