Works being carried out on the famous Laxey Wheel are behind schedule after it was discovered that additional repairs were needed on the iconic structure.
The wheel, which is believed to be the largest working water wheel in the world with a diameter of 22.1m, is currently in phase one of its renovation.
The entirety of the wheel is covered in scaffolding as work continues, however, the site is currently open to the public and Manx National Heritage (MNH) is offering hard hat tours for people to come and view the current progress and find out more about the repairs.
Phase one involves the old render and defective timbers being replaced and the wheel, housing, railings and viewing platform being re-painted. Despite the original plan being to replace two of the four white timber beams that support the viewing platform at the top, now three will be replaced due to the discovery of significant rot found at the head of the beam.
The emergency repairs began in January of this year, and the full completion date was set for late May, but that has now been pushed back to the end of July.
Manx National Heritage historic building architect John-Paul Walker, formerly of the Historic England organisation, said factors such as; ‘additional repairs being found, weather throughout the winter, loss of staff throughout due to Covid-19, and wanting to make certain sections an improved and more durable repair’ all played a role in the delay.
Funding for the emergency repairs on the wheel, which was constructed in 1854, is being split between Government’s Treasury and Manx National Heritage, and was originally set to cost £750,000 which included both phases one and two.
However Mr Walker says the overall price of the project is now believed to cost around £1,000,000.
‘Since the original budget was agreed the construction world has gone crazy, and although we competitively tendered it to make sure to get the best price possible, the prices were coming back over what we budgeted,’ he said.
‘Despite the pressures to get it done on time and on budget, we hope the public realise that we’re prioritising getting it right.
‘Once completed we’re looking at a 15-year cycle for redecoration and hopeful to get 50 to 60 years out of the replaced timbers’.
Matt Boyd, site manager of Auldyn Construction, which is completing the first phase of the project, said as the scaffold went up it was clear more repairs were required.
‘We put a crash deck below the visiting platform and picked up on things we wouldn’t have known until we could get up there with close access to all areas,’ said Mr Boyd.
He added that the project is ‘essential to the heritage of the island’ and is ‘extremely proud’ to be working on the Victorian engineered wheel as a Manxman.
Despite the push back of completion, MNH hopes that sections of the scaffolding will be removed and the site will be rearranged to allow visitors to get a closer look at the wheel, albeit not turning, by TT race week (June 6).
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