Set high on the hillside towards the hamlet of Agneash and overlooking Laxey Village is the Great Laxey Wheel. This was built in 1854 to pump water from the workings of the Great Laxey Mining Company. Mining was of considerable importance to the economy of Laxey and the Great Laxey Mine was one of the major producers of lead and zinc in the British Isles.
The Laxey water wheel was designed by the Manx engineer Robert Casement. The wheel's axle was forged by the Mersey Iron Works of Liverpool but the cast iron rims were made on the Island by Gelling's Foundry at Douglas. The timbers of the wheel were shaped by Manx artisans and the whole structure was assembled here on the Island.
The official opening of this huge wheel took place in September 1854 and it was set in motion by the Honourable Charles Hope, the Lieutenant Governor of the Island. The wheel was named "Lady Isabella" in honour of the Governor's wife. The wheel has a diameter of 72 feet 6 inches, (over 22 metres), and a width of 6 feet. It is capable of pumping 250 gallons of water per minute from a depth of almost 1,500 feet. The mine shaft from which the water was pumped was sited about 450 yards from the great wheel. The power from the wheel was transmitted to the pumping mechanism by a series of rods supported by and running along an imposing masonry viaduct.
In 1929 when mining came to an end, the Lady Isabella was acquired by Mr Edwin Kneale of Laxey and it continued as a great tourist attraction. The wheel was as much associated with the Isle of Man as were the cats without tails and the world famous succulent kippers. In 1965 the Manx government bought the water wheel and the restoration work which followed, preserved it for future generations. Since 1989 it has been under the control of Manx National Heritage.
The "Lady Isabella" is claimed to be the largest water wheel in Europe: possibly in the world.
In the meantime, after over a century and a half, and in the words of a popular, modern song -
Architect: Robert Casement
Building Completed: 1854