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HER Number:MDV65417
Name:Finch Foundry, Sticklepath


Finch Foundry was initially the site of a grist mill and woollen mill and in the 19th century was a water-powered forge which produced edge tools and agricultural hand tools. Now owned by the National Trust, the forge still retains its hearths, trip hammers, grinding stone and other machinery powered by three waterwheels.


Grid Reference:SX 641 940
Map Sheet:SX69SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishSticklepath
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishSAMPFORD COURTENAY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX 69 SW 33
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: MDV52825
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: MDV6931
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX69SW/353/1
  • Pastscape: 444196 444196

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • TEXTILE MILL (XIX to Unknown - 1805 AD (Post))
  • FOUNDRY (XIX to XX - 1814 AD to 1960 AD (Between))
  • CORN MILL (XIX to Unknown - 1835 AD (Post))

Full description

Barron, R. A., The Finch Foundry Trust and Sticklepath Museum of Rural Industry (Un-published). SDV269420.

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

Building shown on 19th century map.

Fielder, M. E., 1934, Old Time Survivals in Devon, 362 (Article in Serial). SDV336455.

'Edge Tool Mill' supplied by three water wheels which can also be harnessed by a belt to a saw bench.

Minchinton, W. E., 1973, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 21 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Finch Bros. Foundry, Sticklepath; originally known as Manor Mills, it consisted of a corn mill and a cloth mill. In 1814 the cloth mill was taken over by William Finch and converted into an edge tool factory (although called a foundry this was a misnomer). In 1835 the corn mill was also taken over and made into a grinding house. Agricultural tools such as scythes, bill hooks and shovels were made and also special scoops for the Devon and Cornwall china clay industry. The machinery was powered by water from the River Taw. A pair of tilt hammers was driven by one waterwheel. A second water wheel powered a fan and a third drove the grinding mill. In 1960 the factory was bought by Richard Barron, who founded The Finch Foundry Trust which has restored much of the property to form a museum of rural industry open to the public.

Devon County Council, 1974, Survey of Watermills in Devon: Gazetteer (Report - Survey). SDV83967.

Estimated 1973 (Anon). Mill in present use as a museum of rural industry.

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, 1982, Mills Index, September 1982 (Un-published). SDV12998.

Working as a museum.

Department of Environment, 1987, Sampford Courtenay (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV336454.

Finch Foundry and Foundry House. Originally woollen factory and grist mill then tool factory, saw mill, carpenter's and wheelwright's shop now a working museum. The earliest buildings date possibly to the late 18th century with considerable alterations during the 19th century, various additions and infills were made throughout the 19th century. Stone rubble walls with some cob. Gable ended slate roof. The house has rendered brick stack at left gable end. Plan: Foundry House probably dates to the early 19th century when the adjoining premises were taken over as a foundry and has a 2-room central entry plan. In the early 1800s the premises consisted of 2 separate buildings - the larger one to the east a 3-storey woollen factory, with a smaller building a short distance to its west functioning as a grist mill. In 1814 the eastern building was taken over by William Finch to become an edge tool works - used mainly as a forge rather than a foundry. The first and second storey floors were removed and the water wheel inserted at the right-hand side. In a deed of 1835 the building is referred to as a hammer mill and the second water wheel at the rear was probably added at this time to give an air blast to the forges. In the mid 19th century the adjoining westerly grist mill building was leased by Finch and converted to a grinding house also powered by a water wheel at its side. At subsequent stages in the 19th century a stable was built in front of the right side of the forge building with an office on the first floor at its inner end and an open storage area below; to the right of this the area between the 2 original buildings was roofed to form a saw mill. Between the forge and the house a first floor room used as a workshop was built, allowing access below to the Quaker burial ground behind the premises. At the rear of Foundry House a long outbuilding was built to store reed and straw which was used to wrap up the tools before despatch. The Saw Mill was subsequently demolished for road widening. Exterior: Foundry House to left has symmetrical 2-window front of original 16-pane hornless sashes with central 19th century panelled double doors. Between the house and forge to the right is a tall archway with thoroughfare below (to burial ground) and granite steps to its right leading to balcony in front of first floor doorway. To their right is a stone arch now infilled with door and window. Beyond is the forge which is lower and has doorway at its left-hand end. All 3 overshot water wheels survive at rear and side of forge and right side of grinding house. Interior: retains the complete machinery from when the building was working, apart from the saw mill, consisting of tilt hammers, shear and drop hammers, 5 hearths and furnace, a polishing wheel, band saw and grindstone in the grinding house. The machinery is still in working order.

Watts, M., 1994, Finch Foundry, Sticklepath, Devon. Report on the water powered machinery and working parts (Report - Assessment). SDV269422.

Richardson, I. + Watts, M., 1995, Finch Foundry, Devon, 83-95 (Article in Serial). SDV269421.

Stead, P. M., 1996, Archaeological Excavation at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath (Report - Excavation). SDV269418.

Excavation by Exeter Archaeology in December/January 1995/1996 in advance of repairs to hammer frame. Earliest archaeological feature consisted of a compacted clay floor which predates the hammer frame and represents the floor of the woollen mill. This survives at 0.18 metres below present ground level. Directly on top of the woollen mill floor was a thin occupation layer of stratified, compacted ash and scale. This is consistent with a gradual accumulation of forge waste and may be evidence for a period of hand-forging after purchase by French in 1814, and before installation of hammer-mill machinery prior to 1835.
See report for construction and condition of hammer frame.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1997, List of Devon Textile Mill Sites, (31/10/1997), 394 (Unknown). SDV347312.

Passmore, A. J., 2002, Archaeological Recording at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath (Report - Watching Brief). SDV336118.

In 1989 the museum of Dartmoor Life at Okehampton took over the running of the foundry and in 1994 ownership passed to the National Trust.
Archaeological excavation requested by the National Trust was undertaken by Exeter Archaeology in July 2002 in order to remove easternmost of the existing anvils and record the supporting timbers beneath. This was undertaken in order to assess extent of decay and repair work needed to reinstate original anvil. Ovoid, cast iron anvil supported by various heavyweight timbers. Concreted and oxidised layer of forge waste surrounds anvil.

Passmore, A. J., 2002, Archaeological Recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath, Devon, 1 (Report - Watching Brief). SDV336128.

19th century Finch Foundry was a water-powered edge tool works that produced agricultural hand implements and tools for the mining and china clay industries.

Watts, M. A., 2004, Finch Foundry, Sticklepath: Recording of underfloor ducts to the hearths and furnaces for the National Trust (Report - Survey). SDV336456.

The underfloor ducts to the hearths and furnaces in 'Finch Foundry' were recorded during maintenance and repair in 2003. There were six or seven open blacksmiths' hearths of which four remain built of stone and cast iron. The two furnaces are built of firebricks with fuel platforms. The air ducts ran from a fan located outside the south wall.

Passmore, A. J., 2006, Archaeological recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath (Report - Watching Brief). SDV336453.

Finch Foundry is a National Trust property and Foundry House to the east was converted into holiday accommodation in 2005.

Watts, M., 2008, Finch Foundry, Sticklepath, Devon. Replacement of Forge Waterwheel Shaft (Report - non-specific). SDV340713.

19th century water-powered forge whch produced edge tools and agricultural hand tools. The forge ceased operation in 1960 when the rear wall collapsed and the building became derelict. Restoration began in 1967 and the property was acquired by the National Trust in 1994, who have subsequently carried out essential conservation and repair works. The most recent of these repairs was the replacement of the timber shaft of the forge waterwheel. The existing 4.9 metre long shaft, of ayan, a tropical hardwood, was itself a replacement, dating from 1950-1. The new shaft is of oak and reuses one of the gudgeons and two of the rings. A series of photos in the report shows clearly the size of the shafts and the work entailed in the replacement.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Square building shown on modern map.

English Heritage, 2011, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV347072.

Other details: LBS Number 93084.

National Monument Record, 2016, Pastscape, Accessed 05/12/2016 (Website). SDV359354.

Finch Foundry, Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon (175/SX 639 940).
From 1814 until 1960 agricultural tools such as scythes, billhooks and shovels were made at Sticklepath by successive generations of the Finch family. The machinery, most of which is still in place, was
powered by the River Taw, a pair of trip hammers together with some ancillary equipment being driven by one waterwheel whilst a second wheel drove a fan from which air was conducted through underground pipes to the various forges. A third waterwheel drove the grinding mill where the tools were sharpened and finished and where the main object of interest is a large sandstone grinding wheel. The Finch Foundry Trust is currently engaged in the restoration of the machinery, much of which is now in working order, the raising of funds and the acquisition of exhibits which will illustrate the products of the forge. Further details from the Honorary Secretary, Finch Foundry Trust, Tudor Cottage, Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon (citing (ed) Cossons, N., and Hudson, K., Industrial Arch Guide, 1971-73, 71).
Mentioned (citing Burton, A., Industrial Archaeol Sites of Britain, 1977, 21-2).
The find complex is an amalgam of two former mills, a cloth mill operated in 1805 by John Stanbury which became the hammer room, and a corn mill which was incorporated in 1835 as the grinding house. Description and history of the foundry which is now a working museum (citing Fyfield-Shayler, B. A.,& Norton, C. P., Industrial Archaeology, vol 12, 1977, 134-40).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV12998Un-published: Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. 1982. Mills Index. Mills Index. A4 Stapled. September 1982.
SDV269418Report - Excavation: Stead, P. M.. 1996. Archaeological Excavation at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath. Exeter Archaeology. 96.06. A4 Stapled.
SDV269420Un-published: Barron, R. A.. The Finch Foundry Trust and Sticklepath Museum of Rural Industry.
SDV269421Article in Serial: Richardson, I. + Watts, M.. 1995. Finch Foundry, Devon. Industrial Archaeology Review. 18.1. Unknown. 83-95.
SDV269422Report - Assessment: Watts, M.. 1994. Finch Foundry, Sticklepath, Devon. Report on the water powered machinery and working parts. Unknown.
SDV336118Report - Watching Brief: Passmore, A. J.. 2002. Archaeological Recording at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath. Exeter Archaeology Report. 02.74. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV336128Report - Watching Brief: Passmore, A. J.. 2002. Archaeological Recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath, Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. 02.47. A4 Spiral Bound. 1.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336453Report - Watching Brief: Passmore, A. J.. 2006. Archaeological recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath. Exeter Archaeology Report. 06.58. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV336454List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1987. Sampford Courtenay. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV336455Article in Serial: Fielder, M. E.. 1934. Old Time Survivals in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 66. A5 Paperback. 362.
SDV336456Report - Survey: Watts, M. A.. 2004. Finch Foundry, Sticklepath: Recording of underfloor ducts to the hearths and furnaces for the National Trust. 49/D. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV340713Report - non-specific: Watts, M.. 2008. Finch Foundry, Sticklepath, Devon. Replacement of Forge Waterwheel Shaft. 49/2008. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #97812 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV347312Unknown: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1997. List of Devon Textile Mill Sites. Unknown. (31/10/1997), 394.
SDV359354Website: National Monument Record. 2016. Pastscape. http://www.pastscape.org.uk. Website. Accessed 05/12/2016.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1973. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 21.
SDV83967Report - Survey: Devon County Council. 1974. Survey of Watermills in Devon: Gazetteer. Devon County Council Report. Unknown. A4 Bound.

Associated Monuments

MDV80474Related to: Finch Foundry Leat, Sticklepath (Monument)
MDV102804Related to: Finch Foundry Weir, Sticklepath (Monument)
MDV80572Related to: Foundry Cottage, Sticklepath (Building)
MDV80571Related to: Rope Loft at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV3921 - Recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath (Ref: 02.47)
  • EDV3922 - Recording at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath (Ref: 02.74)
  • EDV3923 - Recording at Foundry House, Sticklepath (Ref: 06.58)
  • EDV3924 - Recording at Finch Foundry in Sticklepath
  • EDV4395 - Replacement of Waterwheel Shaft at Finch Foundry
  • EDV7373 - Excavation at Finch Foundry, Sticklepath (Ref: 96.06)

Date Last Edited:Sep 22 2017 2:15PM