£56,000 boost for waterwheel revamp project

The restoration of an 18th century waterwheel and pump at Paxton House is finally set to go ahead now the project has landed a windfall of more than £56,000.

Thursday, 12th January 2017, 3:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th January 2017, 3:47 pm
Paxton House

The foundations of the waterwheel and an ancient stone cistern connected to natural springs were rediscovered near the Berwickshire stately home back in 2007 by trustee John Home Robertson and former Paxton House guide Andrew Fell.

They also found derelict machinery and another waterwheel nearby at Blackadder Mount.

These will now be restored and put in place at Paxton House, thanks to a grant of more than £56,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Paxton House Water Works Proposal

The project also received a grant of £25,000 from Scottish Borders Council’s landfill communities fund in September.

The 4.5m diameter waterwheel, consisting of a single, central set of cast-iron arms supporting wooden buckets, will be the only working one of its kind in the UK.

It is hoped that its installation will provide information about social and engineering history as well as skills for volunteers tasked with maintaining the machinery.

The structure would have been the only way to provide clean water to the house during the 18th century.

Paxton House Water Works Proposal

The house, built between 1758 and 1766, was the family home of Mr Home Robertson, a former Labour MP for Berwick and East Lothian, and he opened it and its 80 acres of grounds to the public in 1993.

The 68-year-old said: “I was already aware of the waterwheel as I recall my mother telling me about it, but it was buried following the flooding in 1948.

“We went digging there through the silt and mud that had formed, and I had heard through the grapevine about the wheel at Blackadder.

“The beginning of the process is in place now, and the application for planning permission is also in just now.

“We are negotiating access, contracts with companies and all the machinery has to be sent away to be assessed.

“It’s going to be a very busy and exciting year.

“It will be great to see a waterwheel driving a beam pump here again, and we are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the other funders for supporting this initiative.”

The restoration is being led by James Mitchell, of Argyll and Bute-based Industrial Heritage Consultants.

Mr Mitchell said: “Many later pumps were fitted at Paxton as technology gradually moved forward, but what we are reinstating is, we believe, very close to the original.

“The installation will certainly be the only working one of its type in the UK.

“By proving its ability to deliver water up to the gardens level at Paxton, we will have saved and demonstrated a unique piece of early water-powered pumping machinery for the long term.

“This is a medium-sized project, and the cost will cover groundworks to the site, including the dam and pipe supplying the wheel, as well as access paths and interpretation. The site itself is actually very challenging.”

Schoolchildren will be given the chance to get involved by helping to record the year-long restoration process, expected to begin in March.

Pupils at Berwickshire High School in Duns and Eyemouth High will carry out their own projects coinciding with the restoration and hold an exhibition.

Paxton House education officer Hermione Hoffmann added: “We will be working with local schools to record the restoration work during 2017, and we are looking for volunteers to help to maintain and operate the waterwheel and pump for the benefit of our visitors.

“The project with the schools will provide pupils with a unique experience of documenting a restoration project and getting to see all the changes as they happen.”

“Their work will form an integral part of the celebration and launch of the waterwheel.

“We also hope they will develop their love of history, especially local history.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, added: “Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund is able to support projects such as the restoration of the waterwheel and beam pump at Paxton House that produce tantalising clues about the past and provide volunteers with new skills.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund also issued grants to Borders Asperger and Autism Group Support and Yetholm Festival Committee.

Paxton House is open to the public for family days out, tours and as a wedding venue.