If the title made you think that today’s blog was going to be about the ghost story published by Henry James in 1898 I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s actually about the wooden Archimedes screw found in our superstore (while not as scary as James’ story, this IS just as interesting…I promise!)
The screw takes its name from Archimedes (c.287-212 BC), a scientist and engineer from Syracuse, Sicily, which at this time was part of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). Archimedean screws were originally used to move water from a lower level to a higher level. This was done by basically what is a giant corkscrew entwined around a central cylindrical shaft which was inside a hollow pipe. Once the end of the screw was placed in the ground or water a turning handle was used to push the screw down and scoop up the contents which would be sent back up the screw itself until it poured out the top. These devices were used to help irrigate crops, drain water from mines and from the bilges of ships.
Much later, the artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) worked on improving the Archimedean screw in the hope that he would be able to create devices that had continual motion. He hoped to do this by pouring water in the top of the screw to force it to constantly turn (see picture below).
Da Vinci hoped that this would ultimately help with the running of machinery and the lifting of heavy items. Sadly, in 1500 he stopped his experiments feeling they were unachievable and so he never realised his dream which is in fact in use today! In recent times screws like the one in our Superstore were used for reclaiming waterlogged land in the Netherlands and helping restabilising the Leaning tower of Pisa!
While the screw in our Superstores does not date from the time of Archimedes or Da Vinci it is no less important! Measuring 13ft 6 inches, angled at roughly 30 degrees and driven by a steam engine, it was used for raising water from a pit to the clay beds at Dilham Brick works, near North Walsham, which closed around 1920.
Fact of the Day! The principle used in an Archimedes screw is also used in Chocolate fountains!