In 1983, the Isle of Man Post issued a set of two stamps featuring the Laxey Wheel, issued for Europa. In 2004, a miniature sheet was issued to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Laxey Wheel.
The Laxey Wheel is also known as the ‘Lady Isabella’ and is the world’s largest working waterwheel. It was built at Laxey, on the east coast of the Isle of Man between 1850 and 1854, in order to pump water out of the nearby Great Laxey lead mines.
The wheel was named in honour of Lady Isabella Hope, who was the wife of the then Governor of the Isle of Man, at a grand unveiling ceremony on 27th September 1854. It was designed entirely by Manxman Robert Casement, the mining company engineer.
In the 1850’s, as industries needed more power, steam was often used. However as coal is scarce on the Isle of Man, and water is plentiful – it was still effective to use hydropower on a large scale.
At one time over 500 men worked in the mines, yet tourists also flocked to the Isle of Man during the 19th century to see the monster wheel and even paid to climb to the top of the wheel to admire the views. When the mines closed in 1929, the visitors still came. After it was closed, it was purchased by a local builder, who saved it from destruction, and later was acquired by the Manx government. Finally, in 1991, it passed to the care of Manx National Heritage.
For 6 months in the winter of 2003, the wheel was covered in scaffolding, conservation work carried out, timbers replaced, and the whole structure repainted, in preparation for the 150th anniversary year in 2004. In September 2004, the anniversary of the opening ceremony was marked by a series of parades and events in Laxey
The wheel also features today on the reverse side of the £20 notes issued by the Isle of Man Government