Welcome to the home page of the Wessex Mills Group. The Group was formed in 2003 as a centre for the milling heritage of Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. We meet regularly, often in one of our local mills, and we welcome new members and their guests. For membership and other information please find out more about us.
Wessex Mills Group AGM
Mills on the Teign – new publication from Martin Bodman
Following the success of Mills on the Yeo (2013), Martin has recently published Mills on the Teign, a gazetteer of 125 water-powered sites including mills and mines on the Teign and the Bovey rivers and their tributaries, in and around Dartmoor. A flyer is available here. The publication is distributed by Tor Mark in Redruth (01209 822101). Price £16 including postage.
SPAB Milling Courses
The Traditional Cornmillers Guild have commissioned a documentary on traditional corn milling, which can be watched on their website at www.tcmg.org.uk/mill-films. Also on that page are a set of short videos about their mills.
On 1st August Wessex Mills Group enjoyed a very successful visit to Dawe's twineworks in West Coker, followed by Clapton watermill near Crewkerne. Click on photos for full-size versions.
John Dawe took over a Twineworks business in 1877, and new buildings were completed in 1899 when William Sibley & Son, of the Parrett Works, Martock, built and installed new machinery. The 'mechanised' process of twine manufacture needed more cover than traditional ways, but still required airy conditions, hence an open-sided walk. After closing in 1968 the Twine Works lay vacant. It's listed status was upgraded to II* in 1999 in recognition of its unique level of completeness. Increased publicity from appearing on the BBC's Restoration Village in 2006 attracted more funding, and the Coker Rope and Sail Trust have worked hard to restore the site – a task that is now approaching completion. The Twineworks is open to the public on the fourth Saturday of each month and is really worth a visit. For the latest progress and lots of information see the web pages here.
Clapton Mill is a Grade II* listed watermill and is recognised as one of the most complete and original watermills in Britain. Corn milling has taken place on this site since at least 1257 and probably even earlier. The current building dates from the 18th Century, with the interior remodelled in the 1850s; since then it has change little. It contains four pairs of stones, a 21ft diameter waterwheel fed from two rivers, a complete Armfield roller mill plant and its original Ruston and Hornsby oil engine. The mill worked commercially until 1991. A hydroelectric turbine has been installed adjacent to the mill.
Our sincere thanks go to our hosts: Ross Aitken at Dawe's Twineworks; Craig & Gale Taylor at Clapton; and to Marion Pattison for organising.
Featured Mill ‒ Stembridge Mill, Somerset
Photo © Philip Jeffrey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Stembridge Tower Mill was built in 1822, using some parts from an earlier mill which stood nearby. It is the last survivor of several windmills in the area, and is the last surviving thatched mill in England. The mill is owned by the National Trust and most recently underwent restoration in 2009. The adjacent miller's cottage is let by the Trust, the tenants being responsible for opening the mill to the public on three days of the year. The exterior of the mill can be viewed any day during the summer between certain times; see NT website for opening details.
The mill has four floors, and retains two pairs of French burr stones (having Clark and Dunham 1859 patent balancing pockets) and a flour dresser. Unusually, it has a fireplace on the meal floor, with the chimney running up through the wall of the tower and emerging below the cap (the thatch would have been protected by a metal plate). The rotating cap of the mill became permanently jammed in around 1897 and from this date the mill was operated by a steam engine housed in an adjoining engine house (no longer present); however it is thought that steam power was introduced before the cap became stuck. The mill ceased commercial operations in 1910.