Paxton House is reinventing the wheel

An 18th century waterwheel and beam pump have been restored to their former glory as part of a £109,000 project at Paxton House.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 27 April, 2018, 07:48
Blair Harrower, Blackadder Estate; John Home Robertson, Paxton House; Jim Mitchell, Industrial Heritage Consulting; Jason Struthers, JPS Restorations.

The historic waterwheel will be open to the public from April 29, showcasing one of the oldest domestic water supply systems in the country.

Paxton House was designed by popular Scottish architect John Adam, for Patrick Home, who commissioned the build of Paxton House in 1756.

Special provision had to be made for supplying the house with fresh water from the springs in the Dene. This was far sighted of them both at the time as little was known about waterborne diseases until the mid-19th century. Water quality was generally perceived as ‘fresh’ or ‘foul’.

The River Tweed at Paxton is tidal and sometimes salty so was not a reliable source of potable water. So Paxton became one of the first houses in Scotland to pump water from a local spring up to a storage tank at the top of the house, using cutting edge 18th century technology.

A huge flood in 1948 buried the remnants of the original mechanism but a very similar system was discovered at nearby Blackadder. This last surviving water wheel and pump were kindly donated to the Paxton Trust by Blair Harrower, meaning this historically important machinery could be saved and conserved.

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John Home Robertson, trustee of Paxton House, has been the driving force behind the restoration bringing this fascinating story to life.

In 2017 he secured funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund, BCCF Environmental (Scottish Borders Council) and the Fallago Environment Fund and the project was given the green light. JPS Restoration Services, who specialise in historic metalwork conservation, won the successful tender.

John said: “This is probably one of the oldest pumped domestic water supply systems in Scotland. I’m extremely grateful to our volunteers and contractors for all their hard work. A special thanks to Blair Harrower for the gift of the Blackadder machinery, to Jim Mitchell, our heritage engineering consultant, and above all, to our funders for making the project possible.

“The story of winning clean water is as relevant today as it ever was. After 10 years of research, funding applications and restoration, visitors to Paxton House can now see this historic machinery working just as it did 250 years ago.”

Visitors need to buy a grounds pass from the shop. The waterwheel and pump will be operational daily at 1pm. There will be interpretative material to explain the mechanics of the wheel and pump in full detail.