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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989

An Historical Waterwheel

page 39

An Historical Waterwheel .

In the Nelson Historical Society Journal Vol 3, No 6, 1980, we have an article about the early cloth factory in Brook Street, and the progression of the means used to operate the looms. The introduction of a waterwheel, driven by water from the Brook Stream, was a further development in the mechanisation of the factory.

It appears that the all-steel overshot wheel was imported from Sydney, with other plant, in the late 1850's. It was used until the new factory, to be driven by steam power, was set up in Bridge Street about 1870. At various places it has been stated that this was a thirty-foot wheel. After the new plant was in use, the waterwheel was sold to Alexander Drummond. He set it up and used it on his farm in the lower Wangapeka Valley, near where the river of that name joins the Motueka River.

Recently (1988), this writer has followed up the further movements of this remarkable waterwheel. Mr. A.R. Drummond, now in his nineties, remembered the wheel bought by his grandfather, which his father used to cut chaff and saw firewood. In reply to my questions, he said that it could have been twelve to fifteen feet high. It was sold to Joe Price of the Baton Valley, to use in the stream close to his home.

His son, Alan Price, now living in Motueka, suggested that the wheel was set up in this stream about 1917, but that it was not put to use. The concrete blocks, on which it was set, can still be seen near the road there. A smaller pelton wheel was sold to Theo McGaveston of The Gap, Pokororo, and he suggested that, although the farm had changed hands a few times, the wheel might still be there.

The wheel is certainly still at The Gap. The present owners, Ian Davey and his wife, were only too willing to show it to me and tell me what they knew of it. The suggestion was that it was set up there about 1927, and remained in use for house lights until Power Board reticulation took place in 1950. Over the years it had been used to drive milking machines and a shearing plant, as well as providing house lights.

The waterwheel today. J Newport

The waterwheel today. J Newport

page 40

This ten-foot waterwheel is a well built piece of machinery and, as it is bolted together, it could well have been dismantled for transportation. The very heavy steel shaft is five inches in diameter at the hub, where the wheel is attached, and is three and a half inches where the main bearings fit. It is forty-four inches between the bearing centres. The overall width of the wheel, where the buckets fit, is seventeen inches. The buckets are of unusual design, as they overlap, with the mouth being only two and a half inches wide and yet they are thirteen inches deep. No doubt this was a means to exert the greatest possible pressure from a small supply of water.

A photo of the wheel, after it was installed, shows the overshot fluming in a partly finished state, but the wheel was turned about and was being used as an undershot. This was apparently a temporary arrangement, and it would also appear that it was set up with a different axle shaft, with wooden supports or spokes in the wheel. An accompanying note states, "Will Holmwood's waterwheel at The Gap, Motueka Valley, used for cutting chaff, churning butter, etc." The five Holmwood brothers are shown standing beside the wheel, which was then set up on wooden posts. The present permanent concrete blocks would have been put in when the wheel was set up as an overshot