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HER Number:MDV7797
Name:Higher Mill, Buckfast


Higher Buckfast Mill at Buckfast Abbey was originally built in the 18th century as a tucking mill. It was destroyed by fire in 1828 and rebuilt circa 1839, presumably as a woollen mill. Buildings converted to office use in around 2016.


Grid Reference:SX 739 673
Map Sheet:SX76NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBuckfastleigh
Ecclesiastical ParishBUCKFASTLEIGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1305852
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX76NW/16
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II): 392295

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FULLING MILL (Built, XVIII - 1701 AD to 1800 AD (Between))
  • WOOLLEN MILL (Built, XIX - 1830 AD to 1840 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'Higher Buckfast Woollen Mill' shown on 19th century map.

Hamlyn, A., 1913, Proceedings at the 52nd Annual Meeting (Article in Serial). SDV348637.

Everett, A. W., 1935, Buckfast Abbey Chronicle (Un-published). SDV348578.

The precinct of the abbey at Buckfast is likely to have extended to the west to include the site of the Higher Buckfast Mill.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 190 (Monograph). SDV149229.

It is believed to have been built on the site of the early woollen mill used by the Cistercian monks of Buckfast Abbey. A conspicuous feature at the back is the wooden launder carrying water brought from the moor by a complex series of leats. The Holne Moor Leat, from which water is still taken is the main source of the supply. The wheel pit at the south end of the building can still be seen but the water now operates turbines instead of the wheel.

Minchinton, W. E., 1973, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 18 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Higher Mill in Higher Mill Lane in Buckfastleigh. Higher Mill is now used by a plate metal company. The building is early 19th century and has a slate hung front; at the rear is the wooden launder which used to convey water to the waterwheel.

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

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

Greeves, T. A. P., 1982, Report on Archaeological Implications (Planning Application). SDV348633.

Site visited in January 1982. Recent proposals to improve visitor facilities at Buckfast Abbey include provision for a car park to the west of abbey farm on an open space which was called Rack Park on the 19th century Tithe Map Apportionment. It was probably used for drying and stretching cloth in the Post Medieval period, and a leat, which is now culverted, runs across this area to Lower Buckfast Mill and it is likely to be of Medieval origin. It is recommended that all these elements form part of an interpretative trail around the abbey. Other details: Planning Application Number 81/2787/32/1D.

Department of Environment, 1983, Buckfastleigh, 17 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV337043.

Late 18th or early 19th century woollen mill. Range to road was formerly dwellings. Stuccoed stone rubble with slate hung front above basement. Two storeys, basement and attic. To the south-east is the mill of rubble with later brick dressings. Chimney with truncated brick stack. External stairs and hoist.

Brown, S., 1983, Medieval Buckfast Abbey (Article in Serial). SDV362848.

Brown, S. W., 1988, Excavations and Building Recording at Buckfast Abbey, 13-89 (Article in Serial). SDV348443.

Bedford, J. B., 1994, Archaeological Observations and Recording at Higher Mill, Buckfast, 1994 (Report - Watching Brief). SDV360388.

The trench cut revealed a ditch on the same alignment as that observed by S. Brown in 1988, although the profile was different. The ditch under discussion here was also on the line of an earthwork bank still visible on the ground today, following the eastern boundary of St Mary's Cemetery and continuing on a north-south alignment.
The ditch was cut through a small colluvial deposit in front of the abbey, which was less than 0.4 metres deep. Flat-bottomed, and terraced into the hillside to the west. Approximately 5 metres wide, but only the east side could be drawn due to sewage works. As the downslope side was so shallow (0.5 metres), a bank had been used to increase the depth and change the profile. Composed of layers of clay mixed with shale, the bank was truncated to a height of 1.2 metres. See report for further details of composition.
No dating evidence from the ditch or bank but appears likely to be associated with that observed in 1982, despite differing profiles. Estimated date is 13th century and features are thought to represent an enlargement of the outer court of the Abbey.

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

Manning, P. T. + Goodwin, N. + Collings, A. G., 2000, Archaeological Recording at Higher Mill Cottages, Buckfast Abbey, 1-3 (Report - Survey). SDV313846.

Earliest reference to the tenement which included Higher Mill is in 1734. In 1795 it was described as a tucking mill. In 1828 the mill was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt until circa 1839. The extent of the woollen mill and machinery was described in a sale notice of 1847. In 1922 it was sold to Buckfastleigh Co-operative Wholesale Society and was used during World War Two as a barracks and theatre. By 1950 it was a plating works and in 1989 was bought by Buckfast Abbey.

Exeter Archaeology, 2005, An Archaeological Survey of Weirs in the River Dart Catchment. Draft Report, No. 15 (Report - Survey). SDV356906.

The site of the Higher Buckfast Mills is within the estate of the former Cistercian foundation of Buckfast Abbey, and it has been customary to assume that fulling mills located on former Cistercian estates would have been constructed by them. However, no documentary evidence has been identified confirming that their Higher or Lower Mills have monastic origins. The earliest reference to the mills being in existence is in 1734 and they are documented as such until 1922 when they were sold.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 1305852 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV348632.

A long three storey range in three phases, probably of early to mid 19th century date. The upper two storeys are slate-hung on the west side. The east elevation built of rubble, has modern sash windows with flat arch-headed openings over the three storeys. The south building of seven bays and three 1/2 storeys, is probably mid to late 19th century in date. It has three dormers to the west and a half-hip at the south end. The south elevation is rendered with central arch-headed windows flanked by sash windows. The north building dates probably to the early 19th century. It is of about five bays with a row of cottages occupying the lower two storeys, and drying loft with some boarded panels on third storey on the west side. The north end of the north building shows long vertical infilled panels, with a weather boarded gable above it. The two buildings are linked by slate-hung front over a wide entrance with a large hoisting dormer above it. There are slate roofs to the ranges. There is housing to the north, which is in line with the mill range. They are of six bays and two storeys in rubble stone, and are rendered to the west. There are remnants of a wooden header box feeding turbine surviving at the south end of the mill. A wooden launder on the east side of the range has been replaced and a modern fibreglass waterwheel has been inserted on the east side of the north building. To the east of the south building is mid to late 19th century warehouse block. Formerly detached it is of two storeys, in rubble stone with a half-hipped slate roof and has a square rubble stone plinth carrying a truncated circular brick chimney. It is now linked to the south building. Other details: SX76NW49.

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

'Higher Buckfast Mill' shown on modern mapping.

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

Higher Mill in Higher Mill Lane in Buckfastleigh was Listed on 6th January 1983. It includes the walls of the leat at the north end and remains of machinery. A woollen mill, later used as a plating factory, disused at time of survey in 1992. Mill probably late 18th century with later alterations. Local grey limestone rubble, upper storeys of front elevation slate-hung, half basement partly rendered. Asbestos slate roof, half hipped at right end, gabled at left end; left end stack with rendered shaft.
Plan: large rectangular building fronting the road with a cartway entrance at the left end. The mill consists of large open rooms on each floor including an attic floor, the first and second floors are well lit with large front and rear windows. Staircase to rear of cartway entrance. Machinery was presumably powered by the leat at the west end, which runs underground, emerging near the south gate of Buckfast Abbey, to the south-east. A (truncated) launder to the rear of the mill, carries a second water supply parallel to the mill with a sluice between the mill and the rear range.
Exterior: Three storeys, the ground floor storey slightly below road level at the front. Asymmetrical seven window range. Roof line rises at left end to left of a gabled dormer which may have been associated with a hoist. Cartway to left with paired plank doors. Ground-floor windows glazed with various 20th century casements. First-floor windows probably most with the original sash frames in original embrasures but mostly reglazed. Seven second floor 20-pane hornless sash windows, probably late 18th century, some in poor state of repair. Three hipped roof attic dormers light the roofspace. The left return has a loft loading door. The right return, overlooking the leat, has three round headed recesses in the centre, one to each storey, the lower opening partly glazed. Boarded rectangular windows in the outer bays, ground and first floor, the ground-floor right opening glazed. The rear elevation is buttressed, most of the windows boarded up at time of survey.
Interior: ground floor has chamfered crossbeams with runout stops and exposed joists. An axial row of cast-iron columns supports the crossbeams. The columns divide into two at the top. The first floor has chamfered cross beams and a row of secondary axial posts. The second floor has chamfered cross beams with metal shoes at either end to which loose metal rods are attached. Attic storey floored.
Roof: Probably 18th century roof construction of large scantling, mortised at the apex with a mortised collar and queen posts which have iron straps tied over the principals; probably secondary high butt collar.
Historical note: the documentation for this building has been researched by Elizabeth Knowling. There was a mill on the site by at least 1730, described as a tucking mill by 1760. In 1800 "Mills" were described as "lately erected on the site previously occupied by the tucking mill". By 1953 the buildings were in use as a plating works. The late 18th/early 19th century owner, Samuel Berry, built himself a house at Buckfast Abbey out of reused material. Physical remains of the wool industry, crucial to the economy of Devon in the 16th to 18th centuries, are rare in the county. This building is certainly one of the earliest and most intact in the county and a significant surviving example. Other details: LBS Number 392295.

Watts, M., 2015, Higher Mill, Buckfast. A report on the use of water-power and turbines, 1-15 (Report - Assessment). SDV362853.

Historical background to the mill examined and assessment of the remains of water turbines in a former waterwheel pit at the south end of the building. See report for full details.

Brown, S., 2016, Higher Mill, Buckfast Abbey Archaeological Watching Brief (Report - Watching Brief). SDV360241.

Watching brief in 2016 during conversion of the mill buildings for office use recorded nothing of archaeological interest; the ground having already been disturbed during works in the early 1990s.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV12998Un-published: Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. 1982. Mills Index. Mills Index. A4 Stapled.
SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 190.
SDV305931Report - non-specific: Bodman, M.. 1998. Water-Powered Sites in Devon. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV313846Report - Survey: Manning, P. T. + Goodwin, N. + Collings, A. G.. 2000. Archaeological Recording at Higher Mill Cottages, Buckfast Abbey. Exeter Archaeology Report. 00.84. A4 Bound + Digital. 1-3.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV337043List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1983. Buckfastleigh. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound. 17.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #104887 ]
SDV347072National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2011. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV348443Article in Serial: Brown, S. W.. 1988. Excavations and Building Recording at Buckfast Abbey. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 46. Paperback Volume. 13-89.
SDV348578Un-published: Everett, A. W.. 1935. Buckfast Abbey Chronicle. Unknown.
SDV348632National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 1305852. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV348633Planning Application: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1982. Report on Archaeological Implications. Devon County Council. Unknown.
SDV348637Article in Serial: Hamlyn, A.. 1913. Proceedings at the 52nd Annual Meeting. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 45. A5 Hardback.
SDV356906Report - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2005. An Archaeological Survey of Weirs in the River Dart Catchment. Draft Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. Digital. No. 15.
SDV360241Report - Watching Brief: Brown, S.. 2016. Higher Mill, Buckfast Abbey Archaeological Watching Brief. Stewart Brown Associates. Digital.
SDV360388Report - Watching Brief: Bedford, J. B.. 1994. Archaeological Observations and Recording at Higher Mill, Buckfast, 1994. Exeter Archaeology. 94.48. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV362848Article in Serial: Brown, S.. 1983. Medieval Buckfast Abbey. Devon Archaeology. 1. Unknown.
SDV362853Report - Assessment: Watts, M.. 2015. Higher Mill, Buckfast. A report on the use of water-power and turbines. Individual. 252/2015. Digital. 1-15.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1973. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 18.
SDV83967Report - Survey: Devon County Council. 1974. Survey of Watermills in Devon: Gazetteer. Devon County Council Report. Unknown. A4 Bound.

Associated Monuments

MDV115330Parent of: Launder on piers at Higher Mill, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV7808Related to: Buckfast Abbey (Building)
MDV65649Related to: Buckfast Abbey Higher Mill Leat (Monument)
MDV45638Related to: Higher Buckfast Mill Leat Bridge (Monument)
MDV22300Related to: Higher Mill Cottages in Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV65650Related to: Higher Town Mills Weir, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV20066Related to: South Gate at Buckfast Abbey (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5135 - Recording at Higher Mill Cottages, Buckfast Abbey
  • EDV7290 - Watching Brief at Higher Mill, Buckfast Abbey

Date Last Edited:Feb 22 2019 10:01AM