Monday, 12 November 2012

Tone Mills, Wellington - November 2012

A weekend away to Dartmoor began for me with a stop at Tone Mills in Wellington, near Dartmoor. After a few hour drive down to the area, then a 30 minute unsuccessful search for an open pub from the Good Beer Guide that was still serving lunch, LJ and I rocked up at Tone Mills for a break from driving.

Some history taken from Seffyboy's report:

Tone Mills is a complete water-powered cloth finishing works, established by the Fox Brothers and Co at the confluence of the River Tone and the Back Stream and dates from 1830. The remains of the water wheel remain in-situ and so too do all the line shafting and gearing. The Mill later had an electric motor installed to supplement the water-wheel during times of drought, although the water wheel continued to be used for many decades after. Put simply the mill comprises of a number of key areas to accommodate the various stages of production: A Fulling area, where wet cloth was dried, scoured, cleaned and milled to the desired finish. A dying room, adjacent to the fulling area which specialised in producing an indigo colouring. Reservoirs and Sluice gates, to manage the flow of water into the wheel chamber. The wheel chamber and a later power house. The associated machinery for all the stages of production are all in-situ, making it an industrial archaeologists paradise. The works finally closed in 2000 and production was moved to a more contemporary location. The buildings and machinery are Grade II* listed. Tone Mill in Wellington is the last woollen mill in the West Country, with a priceless collection of original machinery still in place in the wet finishing works. The site is of European significance.

After LJ left me for an adventure of his own, I made my way in. Access was relatively easy, although I have GAJ and Styru to thank for that.

The first part of the Mill I mooched around was almost pitch black, with only the light from access point lighting affairs before I turned my torch on.

I then made my way into the main room of the complex, which was in great condition and full of original artefacts from the days that the business ran.

Dotted around the mill were several old carts in great condition. The photos don't show it, but the grime made the floor like an ice rink in places, meaning I almost stacked it a few times.

The piece of paper of the clipboard had instructions on how to do a particular type of milling. 

The roof was full of machinery, none of my photos really came out though, which was a shame. 

On my way around I could hear running water coming from somewhere, which I presumed was from the live part of the site. I was proved wrong, and it actually came from the underground river that ran underneath the site. The giant wheel is still intact, although wasn't turning. 

Time was running out at this point, as I knew that LJ and I needed to be back on the road shortly. I sent him a text saying that I'd be five minutes.

At this point obviously I found other areas of the mill that needed investigating, so I was a bit rushed.

In all I was inside the site for about an hour, not as long as I would have liked, but I think I saw the majority of it. Forgot to grab some externals though.

When I got out to LJ, thinking he was going to go for a walk somewhere, it turned out he'd witnessed a major traffic accident, and had been helping out with directing traffic and making sure that the old boy was alright. What an hero.

Thanks for reading.

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