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HER Number:MDV7834
Name:Woollen Mill, Buckfastleigh


Town Woollen Mill in Buckfastleigh thought to have been built around 1800 on the site of a tin-stamping mill. This mill was known as 'Sage's' and the Town Mill, before it was bought in 1846 and operated by the Hamlyn family. In 1920, the Cooperative Wholesale Society bought the mill and it was operated until around 1987. Sheepskin working continues on the site of the old mill to this day.


Grid Reference:SX 738 661
Map Sheet:SX76NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBuckfastleigh
Ecclesiastical ParishBUCKFASTLEIGH

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX76NW44
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 1305155
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX76NW/35

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • STAMPING MILL? (Constructed, XIX to Unknown - 1846 AD (Pre))
  • WOOLLEN MILL (Constructed, XIX - 1846 AD (Between) to 1846 AD (Between))

Full description

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

'Town Woollen Mill' indicated on Ordnance Survey First Edition map (approximately 1880). Map object based on this Source.

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

'Town Woollen Mill' indicated on Ordnance Survey Second Edition map (approximately 1905). Further buildings added to the northern area. Map object based on this Source.

Harris, H., 1968, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor, 121-123, 190 (Monograph). SDV149229.

The woollen trade in Buckfastleigh began as early as the mid-12 century and continued in success, surviving the wool trade decline in the 18th century and increasing in importance; in 1838, there were 700 looms at Buckfastleigh. There were also around 18 master-combers, employing around 300 people at this time. However, the introduction of mechanical devices, including a worsted spinning frame which was set up in the town in 1817, led to a decrease in workers in the industry.
This mill was most recently known as the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS) woollen mill (1920-1987), but was also formally known as Hamlyns (1842-1920), ‘Town Mill’ and ‘Sages’.
In 1806, Joseph Hamlyn bought a tannery in Buckfastleigh and with his three sons undertook a successful fellmongering business (buying sheepskins and selling on the wool and pelts separately). In 1842 the family rented the West Mill for the hand-combing branch of their business that had developed and in 1846 the bought the Town Mill beside the River Mardle where they installed a combing machine. They also bought the Higher Buckfast Mill at this time. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hamlyn family were the largest of the four main mills in Buckfastleigh, employing a large percentage of the population of the time, which was around 4000.
In 1920, The Cooperative Wholesale Society bought the mill and continues to operate it to this day. The present factory is mostly modern and straddles the River Mardle with four or five main blocks, part of the original mill built around 1800 remaining. 300 people are employed and the mill is divided into three main sections; fellmongering, wool-combing and textile departments.

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

Timms, S., 1976, Buckfastleigh Mill (Personal Comment). SDV296680.

The woollen industry at Buckfastleigh went into decline in 1960s and most of the mill buildings to the north of Chapel Street were demolished in 1976. The five storey spinning mill and the weaving shed at the north end of the site have been retained in the redevelopment of the site for housing and small industry. An extensive photographic survey of the mill buildings was undertaken by South Devon Technical College in 1976. The buildings appeared to date to late 19th century but one bore datestone of 1825. Large brick stack demolished too.

South Devon Technical College, 1976, Buckfastleigh Textile Mills Photographic Survey (Report - Survey). SDV347313.

Other details: prints in SMR.

Minchinton, W. E., 1976, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 18 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Express & Echo, 1976, Untitled Source (Article in Serial). SDV296682.

Chimney demolished on 19/8/1976.

1979, Untitled Source, 261, 287 (Photograph). SDV296681.

Photographs of town showing mill site after demolition taken around 1979. Other details: In SMR Towns and Villages file.

Coleman, S., 1982, Untitled Source, 11-12 (Monograph). SDV296669.

Buckfast and Buckfastleigh were early centres of the woollen industry and mills were well established prior to the expansion of the industry in the early 19th century. In 1838 there were 700 looms at work in Buckfastleigh, nearly a quarter of the Devon total. The Hamlyn family was responsible for the expansion of the Buckfastleigh woollen mills from the early 19th century until approximately 1920 when they were sold to the Cooperative Wholesale Society.

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

Preserved buildings at north end of site are of local interest only. Other details: Map sheet 2.

Harris, H., 1986, Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor (Revised Edition), 121-2 (Monograph). SDV295019.

The mill, situated by the River Mardle, was brought by the Hamlyn family in 1846. The Hamlyn family installed their first combingg machine at the mill. Prior to this the mill had probably been used as a stamping mill for ores from the nearby mines.

Dartmoor National Park Authority, 1997, Buckfastleigh Conservation Area Partnership Scheme (CAPS) photographs (Photograph). SDV365552.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1997, List of Devon Textile Mill Sites, 352 (Unknown). SDV347312.

Buckfastleigh Woollen Mill.

Bodman, M., 1998, Water-Powered Sites in Devon, 9, 50 (Report - non-specific). SDV305931.

Site of 'Hamlyn's' Mill. Other details: IN SMR.

Devonia Products, 2011, Devonia Products Ltd (Website). SDV347316.

Devonia Sheepskins operates on the location of the old woollen mill at Buckfastleigh on Mardle Way.

Historic England, 2021-2022, NRHE to HER website, Accessed 29/03/2022 (Website). SDV364039.

South West textile Mills project number: 353.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149229Monograph: Harris, H.. 1968. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. A5 Hardback. 121-123, 190.
SDV295019Monograph: Harris, H.. 1986. Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor (Revised Edition). Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 121-2.
SDV296669Monograph: Coleman, S.. 1982. Buckfastleigh: A town in the making. 11-12.
SDV296680Personal Comment: Timms, S.. 1976. Buckfastleigh Mill. Not Applicable.
SDV296681Photograph: 1979. Photograph (Paper). 261, 287.
SDV296682Article in Serial: Express & Echo. 1976.
SDV305931Report - non-specific: Bodman, M.. 1998. Water-Powered Sites in Devon. A4 Spiral Bound. 9, 50.
SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #105224 ]
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.
SDV347312Unknown: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1997. List of Devon Textile Mill Sites. Unknown. 352.
SDV347313Report - Survey: South Devon Technical College. 1976. Buckfastleigh Textile Mills Photographic Survey. South Devon Technical College. Digital.
SDV347316Website: Devonia Products. 2011. Devonia Products Ltd. Website.
SDV364039Website: Historic England. 2021-2022. NRHE to HER website. https://nrhe-to-her.esdm.co.uk/NRHE. Website. Accessed 29/03/2022.
SDV365552Photograph: Dartmoor National Park Authority. 1997. Buckfastleigh Conservation Area Partnership Scheme (CAPS) photographs. Photograph (Paper).
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1976. 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

MDV108658Parent of: Hamlyn House, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV108659Parent of: Mardle House, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV108632Related to: Globe Inn, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV108655Related to: Orchard Terrace, Buckfastleigh (Building)
MDV20869Related to: Site of tin mill, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV108109Related to: Town Woollen Mill Leat, Buckfastleigh (Monument)
MDV108065Related to: Weir at Whitecleave Bridge, Buckfastleigh (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8699 - RCHME South West Textile Mills Project (Ref: RCH01/063)
  • EDV8934 - Condition survey of Buckfastleigh Conservation Area
  • EDV8935 - Buckfastleigh Textile Mills Photographic Survey

Date Last Edited:Oct 31 2023 12:11PM