HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV58460
Name:Mill, Commercial Wharf, Bideford


The mill is the largest building on the Commercial Wharf site, and consists of 2 parallel ranges separated by a narrow slip or alley.


Grid Reference:SS 453 261
Map Sheet:SS42NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBideford
Ecclesiastical ParishBIDEFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS42NE/275/2

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MILL (XVIII to XXI - 1751 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

Parker, R. W. + Collings, A. G., 1997, Archaeological Assessment of Wooder Wharf, Bideford, 7 (Report - Assessment). SDV15241.

Buildings 1 and 2. The mill is the largest building on the Commercial Wharf site, and consists of 2 parallel ranges separated by a narrow slip or alley. The 2 ranges are not of equal size, the southern range projecting further into the river that the other. Both are 3 storeys high, one appears to have been used mainly for storage, the other contains complex machinery which is probably of late 19th century or early 20th century date. The site of the boundary between Wooder Wharf and Commercial Wharf is not immediately clear; however it is likely that both ranges were tenanted by the occupant of Commercial Wharf. During the early 20th century the mill was extended across the site of Wooder Wharf by the addition of a large building to the north of the mill. The mill buildings have been truncated at their western ends by road widening in the 1930s. The rebuilt west wall of the northern range incorporates a reused stone plaque bearing the name 'Wooder Wharf', but no date.

The southern range: the south and north elevations of the mill were punctuated at first and second floor level by regularly spaced, small, square windows. Many of these have been blocked, and very few retain their frames or shutters. The north elevation of the southern range has been partly buried by the infilling of the slip, but traces of these widows can clearly be seen on all 3 storeys at the west end of the elevation. The eastern part of the elevation was much plainer and has been much obscured by the construction of structures and openings linking the building with the north range. The original purpose of the slip between the 2 ranges is unknown. It does not appear to have been a leat powering a waterwheel, though the lower storey of the southern range certainly appears to have been an engine house.

The south elevation of the building has regular rows of windows over a plainer basement storey. At the western end, the windows have proper relieving arches of red brick, but those at the eastern end have simple timber lintels. At first-floor level, near the centre of the elevation, is a loading door which is probably primary. This doorway relates to the original first-floor level, which was approx 1.3m higher than at present. A later loading door reflecting the altered floor level has been inserted immediately to the west, within the jambs of a primary window. This loading door cuts through the lintel of a large blocked doorway beneath it. This doorway is probably primary. The room behind it is inaccessible, and has probably been partly infilled with rubble to provide a solid floor at the western end of the building. A blocked window and the remains of an archway associated with these buried rooms can be seen in the fabric to the west of the door. The eastern part of the ground floor is entered through another wide primary opening, and was probably the engine house of the mill.

The ground floor is partly infilled, largely by an enormous hopper which feeds an elevator carrying the grain back up through the building. There are at least 3 of these elevators in this part of the mill, all powered by a small engine located near the north wall. This engine is connected via a belt to a drive shaft which powers the machinery, and also passes through the north wall of the mill into the area of the slop. The shaft appears to be older than the engine, and may be connected with an earlier power source. Given the situation of the building at right angles to the River Torridge, with no obvious leats and little scope for a tidal mill pool, it is difficult to see how power could have been derived from a water wheel. There is no trace of a wheel shaft in the east wall of the mill, and in any case a wheel here would have been rendered useless at low tide. There is likewise no chimney, or any other evidence of a steam engine. The documentary evidence indicates that in the later 19th century the mill was driven by a gas engine, and this may have been the original motive power.

The first floor of the mill has been lowered by approx 1.3m, and the offset for the original floor is clearly visible around the walls. The north wall retains an opening cut through the wall prior to the lowering of the floor to provide a loading door. This has been adapted to serve a gantry over the hopper. A later loading door has been cut through to the west, utilising the head of a primary window, and now forms an exceptionally tall opening. The eastern parts of the upper floors of the mill are crowded with machinery, which is too complex to be described in detail here. There appear to be no original widow frames or shutters in this part of the mill complex.

The western part of the second floor of the southern range is empty, and may originally have been used for grain storage, though no trace of any storage bins now remains. There is also no loading door, though this may conceivably have been in the west gable, which was rebuilt in the 1930s. The roof is a king-post roof without diagonal struts.

The southern range and the northern range are linked by a high level bridge, entered by doorways cut into the north and south walls of the buildings. This bridge contains an elevator, and close by, but not in situ, an early plank door with good strap hinges.

Northern range: northern range is also 3 storeys high, but has not suffered alteration to its internal floor levels. There is no machinery in the upper floors, which may have been used for storage, and this may have helped preserve the original character of the building. It was similar in appearance to the southern range, with regular rows of small, square windows, some of which have been blocked. Traces of the red brick arches over these windows can be seen in the southern elevation, some partly buried by the infilling of the slip. Some openings have been altered; one of the windows at ground floor level now has a segmental arched head and is fitted with bars. This was presumably inserted after the infilling of the slip, which may have taken place in the late 19th century.

The interior on the ground floor is largely obscured by modern cladding and pieces of modern machinery, including an extremely large fan venting through a primary window in the east wall. The north wall has been partly removed to give access to the large building added on the site of Wooder Wharf in the early 20th century. The first and second floors are much better preserved, and retain a number of primary features. The first floor consists of a single large room, with an arcade of 3 timber posts supporting the ceiling. These posts are chamfered at the corners and are octagonal in section. Both the north wall and the south wall have primary window openings, and there is a blocked loading door in the east elevation overlooking the river. A second loading door, probably replacing the blocked one, has been cut into the south wall.

The second floor is approached by a ladder in the northwest corner of the building, and also by the high level bridge from the southern range. This floor retains a number of primary window openings. Two of the windows on the north side preserve their original shutters, and 2 on the south side have an interesting mechanism for opening timber ventilation louvres. The louvres fit into the frames of the widows with dowels, so that they automatically swing closed. The central mullion of the window rotates and is fitted with wooden pegs, so that when the mullion is rotated the pegs project under the louvres and open them. The roof of the northern range is a simple king-post roof with diagonal braces.

Ann Marie Dick, 1998, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV349888.

Approval was granted for conversion into flats in January 1998.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV15241Report - Assessment: Parker, R. W. + Collings, A. G.. 1997. Archaeological Assessment of Wooder Wharf, Bideford. Exeter Archaeology Report. 97.57. A4 Stapled + Digital. 7.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #96078 ]
SDV349888Personal Comment: Ann Marie Dick. 1998. Unknown.

Associated Monuments

MDV43274Parent of: Wooder Wharf, Bideford (Monument)
MDV58455Related to: Commercial Wharf, Bideford (Monument)
MDV43275Related to: Ford Timber Yard, Bideford (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Aug 14 2012 10:22AM