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HER Number:MDV60807
Name:Colebrooke Mill


Colebrooke Mill was described in 1864 as having two pairs of stones driven by an eighteen foot overshot waterwheel. The site also included a 'good dwelling house'.


Grid Reference:SS 772 003
Map Sheet:SS70SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishColebrooke
DistrictMid Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCOLEBROOKE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS70SE/164

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WATERMILL (XVIII to XXI - 1701 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'Colebrooke Mill (Corn)' is shown on the 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map as a group of about six buildings. The largest, northern most, structure is not shown on the modern map and appears to have been replaced by a row of buildings. The site now also includes a number of additional structures.

Bodman, M., 1998, Water-Powered Sites in Devon, 4.18 (Report - non-specific). SDV305931.

Exeter Archaeology, 2000, Archaeological Assessment of SWWL Mid Devon Water Mains Rehabilitation Schemes (Overall Route), 9 (Report - Assessment). SDV321183.

Colebrooke Mill and Mill Bridge shown on 1891 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map, sheet 66NE.

Bodman, M., 2003, Watermills and Other Water-Powered Sites in Devon, 24 (Report - Interim). SDV325576.

Documentary references dating back to 1760. Described in 1864 as comprising a 'good dwelling house' and 'substantial mill house with two pair of stones and machinery complete, driven by an overshot waterwheel eighteen feet in diameter'.

de Villiers, S. + Rainbird, P., 2016, Colebrook Mill, Colebrook, Near Crediton (Report - Watching Brief). SDV360088.

Historic building recording and an archaeological watching brief were carried out by AC archaeology between January and June 2016 prior to and during works associated with the conversion of a redundant mill building into a single dwelling at Colebrooke Mill, Colebrooke, near Crediton, Devon.

The mill comprised several parts forming a complex of buildings; the original structure occupied by the mill (the ‘mill building’) with ranges added to the east and north with a further extension to the north and a store extension to the east with the complex enclosing a yard open to the north (Plate 1). The land to the south and southeast of the mill was at a higher level than that to the north. To the northeast of the mill complex the associated dwelling, comprising a detached brick built house, was located.

Historic mapping shows that a structure was present on the site of the mill building by 1846. It is not possible to say if this is the building which housed the mill when first documented in c.1760 or, indeed, the one described in 1864. This seems unlikely since the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1889 appears to show that the current mill building was not the mill at that time; instead this was probably housed in the building to the north which no longer exists. The current mill building is a conversion from a farm building to a mill at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as map evidence indicates that the leat was not diverted to pass the west end of the mill building until between 1889 and 1905. Prior to this it is most probable that the mill was situated in the larger building to the north, now lost, and that this was the mill described in 1864, containing two millstones, which also explains the name ‘Colebrooke Mills’ (in the plural) as listed in the 1861 census (Watts 2005). Prior to its conversion, which
necessitated the addition of a third storey in brick and timber, the mill building was a farm building, possibly a cow house with hayloft above. In this regard the wall and drain features exposed on the ground floor may be explained as the support for a trough at the rear of the barn and drain allowing for the cleaning out of the barn floor downslope and through the door to the north.

Some historic wooden infrastructure remained showing that the mill operated over three floors. No evidence for a tail race was observed. Except for a brick and stonebuilt launder, overgrown and not examined in detail, nothing remained of the waterwheel or features related to it; it probably had a launder passing the water of the leat from the headrace over an overshot wheel at the west gable. The west elevation of the mill building had been altered by the insertion of a large door following the removal of the wheel during the 20th century. Internally, an adjacent rubble filled pit appears to be the robbed out remains of the internal pit wheel which would have been joined directly to the axle of the waterwheel. The floor above should have supported the millstones, but nothing remained in situ of this or the related machinery. Only part of the hurst frame on the ground floor survived. The north range was constructed at the same time as the conversion of the mill building and housed ancillary facilities, including a vertical grind stone for tool sharpening powered from the mill mechanism by a wooden hub and metal drive shaft. Construction of this extension necessitated the blocking of former openings within the earlier barn, and other openings were also altered at same time.

The east range was constructed with stone walls similar to those of the lower two storeys of the mill building, but this is probably an extension since in the south elevation the walls are only keyed together at ground-floor level. The east extension probably started life as a linhay extension to the mill building when it was in use as a farm building (cf Child 1995, 71). The store extensions to the east range were of modern date and must have replaced buildings in that location constructed between 1846 and 1889; parts of the east wall to the complex undoubtedly relate to the earlier structure, which, by the evidence provided by the buttresses, in-fills and voids was always unstable and requiring regular repair.

The lower two storeys of the mill building were constructed of slate laid in rough courses with lime mortar bonding with the second storey constructed of brick in a Flemish bond. It had a gabled corrugated sheet roof.

West elevation
A large modern opening in the ground floor of the west elevation had a timber lintel and brickwork surround. On the first floor was a two-light window with a brick arch above and a brick sill. To the south of this a small square opening had a metal shaft projecting from it. Below this to the south was a brick blocked opening. The topmost part of the elevation was covered with vegetation which obscured any architectural features (Plate 2).

South elevation
The south elevation was completely obscured by vegetation.

East elevation
On the ground floor this elevation contained a two-pane window under a wooden lintel off-set towards the north side of the wall. An area of brick infill below the frame indicates that the current window has replaced an earlier deeper one. Above this window on the first floor was a loading door, with a brick arched head and brick sill. The second floor was plain brick masonry and the gable above finished with Timber planks surrounding a centrally placed window (Plate 1).

North elevation
The north elevation was largely obscured by the north range. On the east side of the ground floor was a large door with a wooden lintel that was accessed from the yard by a concrete ramp (Plate 3). Above the door, serving the first floor, was a two-light window with an arched brick head and projecting brick sill. Below this window was an area of brick infill indicating that the window replaced a larger loading door at this level. Above this, and positioned slightly further east, was a window on the second floor, also with a projecting brick sill.

Ground floor
The ground floor of the mill building had been divided by a largely removed timber partition consisting of 6 posts of varying size, supplemented by a modern brick pillar, which supported a first floor beam. The partition would have defined an area to the west which formerly would have been the location of the pit wheel for the waterwheel (Plate 4). Some of these timbers formed part of the hurst frame, and attached to one of the one of the posts was an iron lever associated formerly used to engage/disengage the gears.

In the south wall at this end of the building was an opening situated approximately 1m above ground level; this had a stone sill sloping inwards (Plate 5). A similar open was present towards the eastern side of the building. In the upper part of the north wall was a large wooden hub to take a strap for driving a shaft (Plate 6). To the east was a concrete floor and a concrete feeding trough in the southeast corner. A blocked window in the north wall had splayed reveals and had been partially obscured by the timber partition (Plate 7).

First floor
The first floor was supported on two large beams aligned north-south and was accessed from the upper floor of the north range. The first floor was located only on the east side of the ground floor partition leaving the area above the former pit wheel open. Within the floor were seven grain shoots around the outside of the room and a central trap door for moving grain between the floors. On the south side was an opening which may have been where a ladder was formerly located. Towards the west end of the north wall there is a window opening with a brick arched head; this now opens into the north range.

Second floor
The second floor formed a mezzanine on the west side of the building directly above the location for the former pit wheel, but empty sockets in the north and south wall indicate that the second floor once extended across the whole building. Access was via open wooden stairs. In the floor were five further grain shoots and a wooden box for an Archimedes screw for moving grain (Plate 8). The floor also incorporates some iron fittings and displays oil stains associated with former line shafts to this level. There was a grain storage bin on the north side of the second floor (Plate 9) and in the south wall is an opening that could not be seen externally.

The roof was supported on three A frame trusses with bolted tie beams; additional beams had been added to the trusses for support (Plate 10). Wooden planks sit on the back of the trusses, and the roof has a corrugated iron finish.

North range
The north range was constructed of brick laid in Flemish bond. The east elevation incorporated two inserted eight-pane windows with concrete lintels and sills on the ground floor situated either side of a central door with a brick arched head (Plate 11). On the first floor was a central loading door, with two small two-pane windows on either side; all had brick arched heads and brick cills. There were occasional blocks of dressed granite of various sizes set within the brickwork that represent the exterior
faces of corbels exposed internally (see below) In the west elevation there was a window opening with a timber lintel on the ground floor, and two-light windows with brick arched heads on the first floor. The range had a gabled slate roof with decorative terracotta ridge tiles.

Ground floor
On the ground floor the lower half of the walls had been rendered and the floor was concrete. The first floor was supported on closely-set joists that sat on granite corbels set into buttresses projecting from the east and west walls. There was scissor bracing between the floor joists.

First floor
On the first floor a broken stone grinding wheel adjacent to the south wall was connected by a metal shaft to the wooden hub recording in the mill building (Plate 12). The brick buttresses continued upwards from the ground floor to eaves level. The roof was supported on two king post trusses that had bolted joints. The purlins sat on the back of the trusses with the rafters on the back of them, which appeared to be of late 20th-century date.

North range extension
This was a tall, single storey range. The east elevation was open fronted with a central post supporting a timber lintel. The north and west walls were constructed in brick laid in Flemish bond with bullnose bricks utilised to form rounded corners. Three openings were positioned in the west elevation, one to the north and two, one above the other, to the south, all of which had timber lintels. There was a brick buttress to the south of these latter windows. The range had a gabled roof with slate on the east side facing the yard, decorative terracotta ridge tiles, and largely corrugated sheeting on the west side.

Internally the lower half of the walls had been rendered and the floor was concrete. There were scars in the concrete floor indicating that the extension was not originally open fronted but that the front wall had been removed and that it had been divided centrally by a partition wall running east-west. The roof was supported on a king post truss with additional timbers bolted to the top and bottom. These additional timbers had been used to support horizontal timbers indicating that a ceiling had been removed. The purlins sat on the back of the truss with rafters on the back of them.

East range
The lower half of the east elevation was constructed in slate laid in rough courses with lime mortar with the upper half constructed of timber planks. The south elevation was completely obscured by vegetation. The north elevation was partially obscured by the East range extension, with the remainder being constructed of timber planks with a large opening to the west, between the extension and the mill building, with a loading door above at first floor level (Plate 3). It had a gabled corrugated iron roof.

Internally the walls, except on the north side, were constructed of slate stone. It had a cobbled floor which continued for a short distance into the yard. Empty sockets in the west wall indicate that the loading door at first floor level originally served a loft. A round brick pillar to the east of the opening and central to the north side indicates that at some point the ground floor was, apart from a stub of wall on the east side, open fronted. At some point the eastern side gap was filled with planking which continued to the first storey. This planking remained when the East range extension was constructed. The pillar supported a sawn-off timber with empty sockets and pegged oints which was being used to hold the base of one of the roof trusses. The timber appeared to be reused, but may have formed the principal bridging beam supporting the first floor. There were two roof trusses with collars. The purlins sat on the back of the trusses and dated to the 20th century.

East range extension
The east elevation of the extension was constructed of slate stone laid in rough courses bonded with lime mortar. It was failing in several places along the base of the wall with large holes having formed where stonework had fallen away. The north elevation had been rendered and contained an eight-pane window (Plate 1). The northern half of the west elevation was rendered and the southern half constructed in concrete blocks (Plate 3). There were two wooden doors in the northern part and a door opening and a window in the southern part.

The store was divided into three parts accessed via the doors in the west elevation. The partition walls and the walls to the north, south and west were all constructed in concrete block, with the former constructed against the stone east wall. The extension had a corrugated iron roof sloping down towards the yard.

The Archaeological Watching Brief
The archaeological watching brief encompassed three phases of monitoring involving the excavation of test pits, ground reduction within the mill building, and landscaping to the south and east of the former mill building.

The ground reduction within the mill building removed a concrete floor (001) and foundation layer (002) for the concrete floor, and revealed a brick-lined drain (S003), a wall foundation (S005), a possible posthole (F008) and a rubble filled pit (F010) which are described below. Elsewhere, the natural subsoil (011) of dark red sandy-silty-clay was revealed, which in the southwest corner stepped up to create a distinctive platform 0.20m to 0.30m above the natural subsoil exposed elsewhere within the building.

The machine excavation of a 2m wide roughly L-shaped drainage trench against the south elevation of the mill and east range to the rear of the property was observed. The land south of the mill and associated buildings is a relatively steep banked area sloping down towards the mill, where a ditch was located parallel and against the property. Historically this area was utilised as a mill pond, bounded by stone walls to the east and north. The ground level was initially reduced across a width of 4-6m away from the south and east of the mill and east range (Plates 15-16). The soil sequence consisted of a garden topsoil of a dark greyish-brown clayey-loam, measuring 0.28m thick, onto a natural subsoil consisting of mid-purplish-red gravels. Frequent modern building debris was encountered throughout the topsoil. The trench excavated along the south elevation was essentially the removal of modern
rubbish debris and the topsoil from the ditch, with slight widening occurring (Plate 17). The return of the trench along the east elevation of the east range was excavated to a depth of approximately 2m at the south end and 0.10m at the north due to the sloping nature of the ground level (Plate 18). The formation level was the natural subsoil and the base of the wall was not reached; there was no foundation cut for the wall indicating that the building was constructed into a terrace formed by the present yard. The excavation revealed no archaeological finds, features or deposits. However, along the east elevation two buttresses were exposed, paced 3m apart and keyed into the wall (Fig. 6 and Plate 19). The northeastern buttress was at least 2.10m high and the southwestern was at least 1.60m; both were 0.60m wide and 0.50m thick. Directly to the northeast of the northeastern buttress was an area of damaged wall with frequent loose building material.

At the southeast corner of the east range wall, projecting south there was evidence of an additional wall appearing contemporary with the east range. This marks the end of the leat/millpond area and may have acted as a weir/dam wall retaining the water to the west. Also partly exposed at the west end of the south elevation was the location of the sluice and head race leading to the now removed waterwheel on the west elevation of the mill building. The remnants of a wall projecting east from the sluice probably formed a retaining wall for the mill pond.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV305931Report - non-specific: Bodman, M.. 1998. Water-Powered Sites in Devon. A4 Spiral Bound. 4.18.
SDV321183Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 2000. Archaeological Assessment of SWWL Mid Devon Water Mains Rehabilitation Schemes (Overall Route). Exeter Archaeology Report. 00.21. A4 Stapled + Digital. 9.
SDV325576Report - Interim: Bodman, M.. 2003. Watermills and Other Water-Powered Sites in Devon. A4 Spiral Bound. 24.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV360088Report - Watching Brief: de Villiers, S. + Rainbird, P.. 2016. Colebrook Mill, Colebrook, Near Crediton. AC Archaeology. ACD42/2/0. Digital.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7220 - Building Recording and Watching Brief, Colebrook Mill, Colebrook, Near Crediton (Ref: ACD42/2/0)

Date Last Edited:Feb 23 2017 12:10PM