A woman has told of her delight after a piece of her family’s history feared lost forever was returned – some 50 years later.
Margaret Brier, 76, of Upperthong , is the granddaughter of inventor and self-confessed “knackler” Harry Bates.
Harry, of Whitley Willows at Lepton , was a man ahead of his time and built his own water-powered electricity generator.
Several years after Harry died his cottage was demolished and the original Pelton wheel, or turbine, disappeared.
Now, around half-a-century later, the heavyweight phosphor bronze wheel has been returned and Margaret said: “It’s wonderful to have it back.
“We thought it had been stolen and never expected to see it again.”
Margaret, who was just 12 when her grandfather died aged 86 in 1951, has always been proud of his achievements.
Harry, who was as an engineer at Whitley Willows Mill for 40 years, made his own gramophone, a circular saw driven by a motorcycle engine, an electric mangle for washday, a drilling machine and lathe, a wireless set and a central heating system.
Margaret published a book about Whitley Willows and her family and when former mill engineer Keith Brook read it he realised he had the Pelton wheel in his workshop.
“He presented it to me as if it was a bowl of flowers,” said Margaret. “I couldn’t believe we’d got it back.”
After Harry died his two daughters, Vera and Lillian, sold the house to the mill next door but continued to live there.
When they eventually had to move into a flat, the cottage was demolished and the wheel – made of phosphor bronze, copper, tin and phosphorus alloy – went missing.
It turns out the boilerman at the mill took the wheel for safe-keeping and later gave it to Keith who was planning his own water power project.
However, the beck he was going to use dried up and the project never got off the ground.
Harry was always having a go at something – or “knackling” – and described himself as a “bit” of a motor engineer, a “bit” of an electrical engineer and a “bit” of a steam engineer.
Margaret would have loved to have followed him into engineering but that wasn’t a job for a girl at the time.
Instead she is just proud of her grandfather’s achievements and is grateful she has another item of his to add to her collection.
Among other items she has is the switch from the electric mangle.
Margaret said: “My grandfather was fed up of arguing over who turned the handle so he electrified it!”
The wheel would be quite valuable as scrap metal but Margaret said: “It might be valuable as scrap but it’s priceless to me.”
Margaret still has copies of her book, called Whitley Willows, available. For more details e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org