WHEAL MARTYN TRUST 18 FOOT WATERWHEEL RESTORATION PROJECT
Wheal Martyn Trust, situated on the edge of St. Austell in Cornwall operates the UK’s only china clay mining museum. Wheal Martyn comprises a unique and important collection of built heritage and working mining infrastructure, which form a Scheduled Ancient Monument including water wheels and flat rods which are of high significance as the only two wheels in the St. Austell china clay area which remain in working order out of an estimated 150.
Wheal Martyn was built on a hillside to help move clay slurry by gravity, however some settling pits are located above the mica drags so the slurry had to be moved by pump. In 1902 John Lovering built an 18 foot overshot water wheel and slurry pump for this purpose. The slurry was lifted by a bucket lift, lifting around 26 gallons (120 litres) per stroke powered by the wheel. The slurry pump is the only surviving pump of its type out of an estimated 200 used throughout the clay industry in Cornwall.
As a result of many years’ exposure to the weather the water wheel and associated launder deteriorated to a stage in early 2016 where the buckets within the wheel had rotten so much so that the wheel could not function properly. A Conservation Management Plan developed for the site a couple years before highlighted the forthcoming needs of the water wheel, noting severe deterioration of the wooden buckets, rusting metal tie bars and rotting wooden launder.
Patching work carried out by the onsite maintenance team over a number of years was no longer a sustainable solution with it becoming increasingly difficult to effect repairs which would keep the wheel in operation. A more comprehensive restoration was needed and the Trust set about raising funds for this as a priority.
By May 2017 the necessary funding had been secured, with a major grant from the Association for Industrial Archaeology along with significant grants from the Cornwall Heritage Trust, Historic England and the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation as well as a number of individual donors. Local contractors A&T Services and Keith Cole Carpentry were appointed to carry out the restoration which commenced in August with the complete replacement of the wooden buckets, launder and supporting structure with prime European Oak and repairs to the steel including replacement tie bars and repainting of the metalwork. Total costs of the work amounted to £38,290.80 (including VAT) and the restoration was completed by October 2017.
The Trustees, staff and volunteers at Wheal Martyn are extremely grateful for the generosity of those who have funded the repairs, enabling such an important historic feature to survive and inspire our visitors and local community into the future.