Laxey, Isle of Man

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


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