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Historic water turbine sparks dilemma for Ringwood
A WATER turbine that once supplied Ringwood with about a third of its electricity could be on its way back to the town after a museum shut its doors.
But a major spanner could be thrown into the works, as a site that has been earmarked for it to be put on display is only big enough for part of the giant machinery.
The turbine was installed in the River Avon in the 1920s, and was a feat of engineering for local company Armfield, which managed to generate plenty of power from a relatively small waterfall of 12ft.
It was removed from the Avon in the late 60s or early 70s and rusted quietly away until Southern Electric restored it for its museum in Christchurch in the mid-80s.
The museum shut last year, and employees are busy cataloguing its artefacts and deciding where each piece should go.
“It was in a right state,” said SEC’s heritage manager Rawdon Jones. “Just scrap metal really.”
“We’re taking advice on what the best thing is to do with the exhibit after we’ve catalogued everything. The right thing to do would seem to be to give it back to Ringwood, but we’re not too keen to split it up.
“I’ve been to Jubilee Gardens, where Armfield and the town council want to put it, and it is too small for the whole thing. But we have to work out if an external environment is the best thing for it, and we do feel splitting it would be like just putting the engine of a car on display without the car.
“We don’t think many museums would want it due to size and also, it’s part of Ringwood’s local history.
“We would love to donate that to Ringwood but from a heritage and ethics point of view we don’t think splitting it is right thing to do.”
Councillor Jeremy Heron, who with mayor Steve Rippon Swaine and Armfield MD Chris Addis, is looking into the practicalities of the project, said: “Because I’m slightly sad I like the fact the top bit’s got a self regulator which, whatever the rate of flow keeps it turning at a constant speed, so I think the whole thing is very clever.
“However we haven’t got the room in the gardens to store the whole thing.”
The gardens are owned by the county council but sponsored by Armfield, and the site is near to where the turbine would have been originally.
Mr Addis said: “As a product of Armfield’s history and as a prominent local company we would be very pleased to see that return and put our hands in our pockets towards that.”
The town council has pledged up to £1,000 towards the project, but is also looking at applying for a grant from the Lottery.
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