In 1986, as part of my carpentry apprenticeship aged 16, I attended Unicorn Training & Technical College on the corner of Unicorn Gate and Market Way in Portsmouth.
It was a great college, catering for most trades including plumbers, bricklayers, engineers, electricians, plasterers and decorators and there were lots of familiar local faces there.
I was saddened to see it is now in a sorry state of disrepair
That year the college had become involved in a project to design and construct an ornamental waterwheel at Langbrook, the small stream running from Havant through to Langstone shore.
It still stands next to the Tesco superstore and is visible on the left as you leave the eastbound A27 slip-road for the Hayling junction (pictured above).
My mum kept a cutting from The News when it covered the story around its completion circa 1987. However, I seemed to have misplaced it.
If my memory serves me correctly, it was a joint project between the council and a sponsor to restore the wheel where one had once stood back in medieval times –the same one mentioned in William The Conqueror’s Doomsday Book survey of 1086 when it was valued at 25 shillings.
My children have grown up telling their friends ‘my dad made that waterwheel,’ though the truth is a whole bunch of wood-machinery and joinery students worked on the project whenever they were on their block-release attending college.
While talking to a fellow scooterist at a recent Isle of Wight rally, we discovered we had both worked on the waterwheel, though we’d never met before.
It was an ambitious project as the wheel was around 2.5 metres tall and weighed around 1.5 tons and was constructed from Iroko, a sandy-coloured hardwood from the tropical coast of West Africa.
Once all the components had been marked out, cut, planed, shaped and jointed, the wheel was assembled inside St Agatha’s Church, itself under restoration.
It was a privilege to work on the waterwheel and I always take a proud glimpse as I drive past.
So when I took a Sunday morning dog walk past it last week, I was saddened to see it is now in a sorry state of disrepair.
I dare say it will cost a bit more than 25 shillings, but I for one definitely think it is worth preserving.