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HER Number:MDV122033
Name:Westcombe Collar Works, Westcombe Lane, Bideford


The works was originally built as a steam powered corn mill in 1827 and was used as such until the 1850s. It was converted to a collar manufactory in the early 1870s and closed in 1934. The adjacent building was built in the late 19th/early 20th century for the collar works and was later used as a coal depot. More recently the buildings have been used as a showroom and for storage.


Grid Reference:SS 450 269
Map Sheet:SS42NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBideford
Ecclesiastical ParishBIDEFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CORN MILL (Built, XIX - 1827 AD to 1827 AD)
  • STEAM MILL (Built, XIX - 1827 AD to 1827 AD)
  • INDUSTRIAL BUILDING (XIX to Mid 20th Century - 1872 AD to 1934 AD (Between))
  • STORAGE DEPOT (Early 20th Century to XXI - 1901 AD to 2017 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1855-1895, First Edition 1:500 Town Map (Cartographic). SDV338879.

Westcombe Collar Works marked.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Westcombe Collar Works marked with an adjoining tannery.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

Collar Works marked. Comparison with earlier mapping shows the works to have been enlarged, in particular with the addition of a large building adjoining the east side, extending across former gardens to front Northam Road.

Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

Modern mapping shows houses to have been built along the southern portion of the site, fronting Westcombe Lane.

Historic England, 2018, The Former Steam Mill and Coal Depot at Westcombe Lane, Bideford, Devon (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361455.

Notification that the former steam mill and coal depot have not been added to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.
The Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings (DCMS, March 2010), state that buildings of the pre-1700 date that contain a significant proportion of their original fabric are listed and that most buildings of pre-1840 date are listed. After 1840, because of the greatly increased number of buildings erected and the much larger numbers that have survived, progressively greater selection is necessary. Further guidance is found within our Listing Selection Guide for Industrial Buildings (2017) which states that when assessing industrial buildings considerations include architectural quality, historical associations, whether it forms part of an integrated site, whether the function of the buildings can be determined from the historic fabric, the level of importance of any surviving machinery, of technological innovation, and the degree and level of interest of any rebuilding and/or repair. Individual buildings must be assessed on their own merits. However, it is important to consider the wider context and where a building forms part of a functional group with one or more listed (or listable) structures this is likely to add to its own interest. Key considerations are the relative dates of the structures, and the degree to which they were functionally inter-dependent when in their original uses. It also notes that some industries are concentrated in particular regions, and designation is a way of capturing representative examples of buildings and complexes which give places their particular character.
The Bideford corn mill was built in 1827 and used as such until the 1850s; it was converted to collar manufactory in the early 1870s. The site also includes an adjacent building to the east which was originally constructed in the late C19/early C20 for the collar works and was later used as a coal depot.
Firstly, in consideration of the mill building as an early-C19 former steam-powered mill it would be expected to still retain legible evidence of its original use to merit listing in a national context. The earliest steam-powered mills appeared in the late C18; Chapel Mills at American Wharf in Southampton (Grade II*) was the third steam mill to be built in the country (1781) and the only known survival of the first generation of steam mills. The Council for British Archaeology: Industrial Archaeology Handbook (Palmer et al, 2012) notes that by the C19, many steam-powered mills were being built in towns or alongside canal and railways. Architectural considerations are unlikely to have played much part in the design of the Bideford former corn mill; however, industrial buildings should normally reflect in their design (plan form and appearance) the specific function they were intended to fulfil.
The late-C19 modifications which occurred when the building was converted are most clearly evident on the front (south) elevation. This does retain some original mill openings, including at least one small window and taking-in doors, however, larger windows have been inserted on the upper floors which most likely relate to its later manufacturing function and the need to increase light coming into the building. More of the original mill windows are visible on the rear elevation; however, many of these have been blocked. Overall the late-C19 modifications have diminished the legibility of the building's original function as a corn mill. Following the closure of the collar works in the 1930s, the building served other functions, including its current use as commercial premises. These later uses have resulted in further external alterations, including to the ground floor of the front elevation which has doors and windows of various styles, sizes and dates, as well as additions to the other elevations. These changes, along with demolition of the connecting ranges which linked the mill to the other collar-factory buildings to the south, have diminished the legibility of its function as a manufacturing premises. While evidence of a building’s adaptation can contribute to its special interest, in this instance the successive late-C19 and C20 modifications have diluted the external appearance so that it can no longer be marked out specifically as a corn mill or manufactory building.
Internally, the former mill retains some original fabric such as the cast-iron columns on the two lower floors. However, the level of the second floor has been raised and the third floor completely removed, as has the original machinery relating to both of its historic functions. The loss of machinery in a mill of this date is not unexpected and does not necessarily preclude listing. However, the combination of this with the internal structural changes represents a significant level of alteration which has further impacted on the legibility of the building's historical functions.
In terms of the building's assessment as a later C19 steam mill, the loss of machinery and changes to the internal configuration, as well as the demolition of its associated chimney and lack of evidence for the boilers, means that it has lost significant tangible evidence which might contribute to it having technological interest. There are other examples of contemporary steam mills which demonstrate better levels of architectural intactness and survival and have been listed, including The Granary, Leatherhead, Surrey (built around 1830, Grade II). Despite the conversation of this building to flats, it retains its chimney and engine house; it also forms a good group with the adjacent mill house (Grade II).
The late-C19/early-C20 collar-works building, now more commonly known as the coal depot on Northam Road, was built to the east of the mill building. Although it has been suggested that this was the early 1880s, purpose-built collar-works building described in Strong’s book of North Devon Industries, the map evidence shows that this part of the site was added after this account was first published in 1889. It is not clear what part of the manufacturing process took place in the Northam Road building. It was lit by a long clerestory and there were brick-arch openings to the north and south (although these may be part of a later phase of use).
There is little evidence that there would have been any original internal subdivision (the timber partitions in the south-east corner were added in the mid-C20) and the internal floor is at a lower level then the base of the southern openings. Its most prominent feature is the wide-span roof with its clerestory; however, the timber and slate-clad structure does not demonstrate any particular technological or structural innovation. Furthermore, it is utilitarian and architecturally plain, and does not display any additional design interest. The incremental interventions relating to its later uses, including the blocking of earlier openings, and the widening and addition of larger openings, have further undermined its architectural coherence and more importantly these changes have further diminished the legibility of its original function.
The later historic phase for consideration in the assessment of both buildings is as part of the local collar manufacturing industry which was established in Bideford. There were at least three collar factories in the town by the end of the C19. Kingsley’s Country: A Guide to Bideford and District (1896), states that 'Chief amongst the subsidiary causes of the new lease of life now being enjoyed in Bideford, ranks the Collar and Cuff Marking Industry'. The association of the former mill and the coal-depot building at Bideford with the collar industry is of clear local interest. However, as has been discussed above, the former mill no longer reads as a textile manufacturing building. While the coal-depot building retains architectural details that denote it as a large-scale industrial building, the later C20 modifications and the loss of the ranges connecting it to the main factory building along Westcombe Lane have undermined its legibility as part of the textile site. Blackmore’s Depository on Ropewalk is a listed former collar factory in Bideford (Grade II) which was built in the late 1890s and was, therefore, established after the Westcombe works. However, this purpose-built factory, later used a furniture store, has a stronger architectural presence, with a multi-window main elevation enlivened by polychromatic brickwork, and it is more legible example of a late-C19 textile manufactory. Other examples of similar factories outside of Bideford which are listed, include the former Barnicotts Limited Shirt and Collar Factory in Taunton, Somerset, also built in the 1890s (Grade II) which is an architecturally-distinguished building of brick with contrasting ashlar detailing.
The former mill building has strong local interest as the remains of an early-C19 steam-powered mill and both buildings have local interest as part of Bideford’s late-C19 collar manufactory industry. However, this association is not of sufficient interest in a national context to compensate for the lack of legibility for their historic functions, alterations and lack of architectural interest. They are, therefore, not recommended for listing.
After examining all the records and other relevant information and having carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of this case, the criteria for listing are not fulfilled. The former steam mill and coal-depot building, on the corner of Westcombe Lane and Northam Road in Bideford are not recommended for listing.
The early-C19 former steam-powered corn mill in Bideford, which was converted to collar manufacturing in the 1870s, is not recommended for listing for the following principal reasons:
Degree of architectural interest:
* the buildings are architecturally modest;
* despite being an early-C19 example of a steam-powered corn mill, the loss of the detached chimney, boilers and associated machinery has undermined its claims to technological interest;
* the successive late-C19 and C20 modifications have diluted the appearance of the building and its exterior is no longer readable as either a corn mill or manufacturing building;
* internally, the loss of machinery and the structural changes have had a detrimental effect on the intactness of the building, making it difficult to understand the processes which took place here.
Degree of historic interest:
* although the importance of the collar industry to Bideford is acknowledged, this is of local rather than national interest.
The late-C19/ early-C20 building known as the coal depot, on Northam Road, Bideford is not recommended for listing for the following principal reasons:
Degree of architectural interest:
* although a large building with an industrial character, its original function as part of the former collar works is unclear;
* the alterations which have occurred as part of its later C20 uses have further diminished its legibility and historic function;
* it is a relatively plain and utilitarian building which does not display any additional architectural design interest.
Degree of historic interest:
* although the association with the collar-manufacturing industry does afford it some interest; this does not raise the overall interest of the building sufficiently.
See report for further details.

Historic England, 2018, The Old Mill and Coal Depot at Westcombe Lane, Bideford (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361173.

Historic England have been asked to consider the former steam mill and collar factory depot building on Northam Road for listing. Both of these buildings are the subject of a Building Preservation Notice. The other buildings along Westcombe Lane which were also part of the former Westcombe Collar Works, including the late-C19 factory buildings and former mill house, are in separate ownership and are not being considered as part of this assessment.
A steam-powered corn mill was built on an area of land at the corner of Northam Road and Westcombe Lane, Bideford in around 1827 by Mr Facey. The mill took advantage of a water supply already exploited by a neighbouring C18 tannery. The steam mill and chimney stack were located in the north-west corner of the plot, with a mill pond in the centre and a mill house to the south-east. The corn mill continued in use until around the mid-C19.
In 1872 the complex was bought by Mr Vincent (later Messrs Vincent and Duncan) who converted it into a collar and shirt factory. In 1881 Westcombe Collar Works was extended to the south, and a new factory building was added along Westcombe Lane. An 1889 account of Bideford describes the layout of the factory, referring to the former mill as ‘the old premises - a single building of three storeys and a tall stack’, and the newer factory building as a ‘well-lighted, oblong airy premises built on approved factory principles’. The former mill remained part of the factory complex although it is unclear what part it played in the production process. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (1889) shows the mill linked to the Westcombe Lane range; this was probably at ground-floor level and there is evidence of paint fragments at the bottom of the mill’s south elevation. By the early C20 the Westcombe Lane range had been extended to the east and a large single-storey depot building abutting Northam Road had been added to the east of the mill building.
Westcombe Collar Works was the first of a series of collar factories to be established in Bideford. The others included Northam Street Works, established in 1883; New Street Works established in around 1886; the late-C19 Torridge Hill Works; Bideford Collar Works on North
View Avenue, established in the 1880s (destroyed by fire); and the Rope Walk Works established in 1898 (listed Grade II). All of these factories closed around the early C20.
Westcombe Collar Works closed in 1934 and the site was sold. Various development schemes for the buildings were proposed and some of the factory buildings along Westcombe Lane were converted into housing. A planning application was submitted to convert the former mill into a bakery; however, it is unclear to what extent this was carried out. By the mid-C20 the tall stack next to the mill had been demolished and the link between the mill and the Westcombe Lane range removed. At around this time the single-storey depot building on Northam Road was bought by a coal merchant. A large vehicular opening was made in its eastern gable end, further vehicular openings were created in the north elevation and two office rooms were inserted into the south-east corner. By the early C21 the former mill and the depot building were under the same ownership and used as a showroom and storage.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV338879Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1855-1895. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. Map (Digital).
SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #111909 Polygonised using this source based on the 1904-1906 map., ]
SDV361173List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. The Old Mill and Coal Depot at Westcombe Lane, Bideford. Application to add Building to the List. Digital.
SDV361455List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. The Former Steam Mill and Coal Depot at Westcombe Lane, Bideford, Devon. Notification of Decision Not to Add Building to List. Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Sep 30 2019 9:57AM