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HER Number:MDV882
Name:Town Mills, Barnstaple


Formerly the site of the Priory or Port Mills, Town Mills were built in the mid 19th century and had two waterwheels. The mill building was demolished in the 1960s. The Priory Mills are mentioned in the foundation charter for the Priory in 1107.


Grid Reference:SS 556 335
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/26

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CORN MILL (VIII to Late 20th Century - 701 AD to 2000 AD)
  • WATERMILL (VIII to Late 20th Century - 701 AD to 2000 AD)

Full description

Unknown, 12/05/1983, Unknown, 22, Photo (Article in Serial). SDV77244.

Photo of undated painting.

Griffiths, D. M., 13/04/1984, Town Mills, Barnstaple (Ground Photograph). SDV77248.

Devon County Council Conservation Section, 13/04/1984, Town Mills, Barnstaple, 608/14A (Ground Photograph). SDV77254.

Griffiths, D. M., 13/05/1984, Town Mills, Barnstaple (Personal Comment). SDV350559.

Site visit 13th May 1984. Possibly one small portion of a wall remains at SS55693352. The adjacent sluice is still visible.

Wood, J., 1843, Plan of the Town of Barnstaple from Actual Survey (Cartographic). SDV91852.

The mill is depicted with two waterwheels.

Oliver, G., 1846, Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis, 203 (Monograph). SDV57424.

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

Town Mills (Corn) marked on 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map.

Boggis, R. J. E., 1915, History of the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdelene, Barnstaple, 15 (Unknown). SDV78640.

Site of the the medieval priory mills, Port Mills and Town Mills. Joel endowed the Priory of St. Mary Magdelene with Barnstaple Mill in 1107, the townspeople being bound to grind their corn there.

Graham, R., 1948, The Cluniac Priory of St Martin des Champs, Paris, and its dependent Priories in Engalnd and Wales, 37-44 (Article in Serial). SDV339446.

The mill was a source of dispute between the town and priory until 1328 when the town was no longer obliged to use the priory mills.

Bone, M., 1973, Barnstaple's Industrial Archaeology, 17 (Monograph). SDV78228.

Site of Domesday mill and priory mill. There are frequent references to the mills in the 19th century directories when it was owned by the Baker family. The waterwheel is said to have been taken to Orleigh Mill, Buckland Brewer in 1939. The mill was demolished in the 1960s.

Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 66, 70, 73 (Report - Survey). SDV341346.

The townspeople were bound to have their corn ground at the priory mill until 1327.

Griffiths, D. M., 1984, An Archaeological Assessment of the Proposed Route of the Barnstaple Urban Relief Road Stages II and III, 7-8, 13 (Report - Assessment). SDV74017.

Town Mills was situated on what is now an island at the northern end of Boutport Street, just to the east of Mill End Quay. They were rebuilt in 1881 and demolished in the 1960s. According to the title deed of 1881, the mills were previously called Port Mills or Manor Mills. A document of 1608 regarding a grant of priory lands refers to 'those two watermills called Port Mills' which suggests that the site of Town Mills was originally that of the Priory Mills. The site, therefore, is probably that of the 'mill of Barnstaple' referred to in the foundation charter for the Priory of 1107. The mill race is specifically mentioned in 1248. This suggests that the leat, part of which is along the proposed route of the road, was also in existence by 1107.
As the presumed site of the medieval priory mills, this area is considered to be of archaeological interest.
See report for more information.

North Devon Archaeological Society, 1989, North Devon Watermills (Monograph). SDV337776.

There were two breastshot waterwheels in parallel until about 1960. The mill has been demolished but the leat and one sluice were still extant in 1974. The leat may date back to Norman times. An additional note dated 1989 states that the sluicegates which had disintergrated were demolished during the construction of the urban relief road. A watching brief was carried out during road works but only modern fill was noted. A greater length of the leat is now culverted.

Lovatt, A. M. + Lee, E. S., 1990, Excavations at Rackfield Lane, Barnstaple, 1987, 5 (Report - Excavation). SDV76387.

University of the Third Age, 1995, Watermills in North Devon 1994, 101-102 (Monograph). SDV74915.

The site is now under a roundabout and the final section of the leat, which may date back to Norman times, is mainly culverted. The sluice gates, which had disintergrated, were removed during the construction of the urban relief road. Previous mills on the site were known as Priory Mills and Port Mills and were endowed with Barnstaple Mill in 1107. These buildings were demolished in 1850. A document dated 1881 states that John Baker rebuilt the mills at his own expense and that they were renamed Town Mills. Two waterwheels are shown on a plan of 1843. There were two breastshot wheels in parallel until 1966 when the buildings were demolished. A waterwheel is said to have been taken to Orleigh Mill in 1939. An article in the Western Morning News of 19th August 1966 states that the leat powered as many as five mills, its last service being to propel the two large wheels of the Town Flour Mill. The article continued that the mill, with a history dating back nearly 900 years, has at last ceased to function and is due to be demolished.

Bodman, M., 1998, Water-Powered Sites in Devon, 33 No. 27 (Report - non-specific). SDV305931.

Timms, S., 27/06/1983, Town Mills, Barnstaple (Personal Comment). SDV77242.

The former mill site was further affected by Devon County Council road construction in 1978. No archaeological record was made. The site now lies largely under the road. The only visible feature to the west of the A39 being the pond shown on the ordnance Survey map at SS55703353. The mill building is clearly shown on a 1912 special edition of the Ordnance Survey 25 inch map. The leat, to the east of the A39, is still open but is affected by urban relief road proposals.

Unknown, Unknown, 145/4, Plan (Record Office Collection). SDV77250.

Unknown, Unknown, 96M Box 83, 96M Box 83/51 (Record Office Collection). SDV77249.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS53SE28 & SS53SE30 (Old Numeration) (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV77240.

Site visit 15th October 1953. Town Mills was built to replace one demolished circa 1890. A bridge over the mill stream occupies the site of the former mill of which there are no remains.

National Monuments Record, Unknown, Town Mill, Barnstaple (Ground Photograph). SDV77253.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV305931Report - non-specific: Bodman, M.. 1998. Water-Powered Sites in Devon. A4 Spiral Bound. 33 No. 27.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV337776Monograph: North Devon Archaeological Society. 1989. North Devon Watermills. North Devon Watermills. A5 Paperback.
SDV339446Article in Serial: Graham, R.. 1948. The Cluniac Priory of St Martin des Champs, Paris, and its dependent Priories in Engalnd and Wales. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 11. Unknown. 37-44.
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 66, 70, 73.
SDV350559Personal Comment: Griffiths, D. M.. 13/05/1984. Town Mills, Barnstaple. Not Applicable.
SDV57424Monograph: Oliver, G.. 1846. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Unknown. 203.
SDV74017Report - Assessment: Griffiths, D. M.. 1984. An Archaeological Assessment of the Proposed Route of the Barnstaple Urban Relief Road Stages II and III. Devon County Council Report. A4 + Digital. 7-8, 13.
SDV74915Monograph: University of the Third Age. 1995. Watermills in North Devon 1994. Watermills in North Devon 1994. A5 Paperback. 101-102.
SDV76387Report - Excavation: Lovatt, A. M. + Lee, E. S.. 1990. Excavations at Rackfield Lane, Barnstaple, 1987. North Devon District Council Rescue Archaeology Unit Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 5.
SDV77240Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS53SE28 & SS53SE30 (Old Numeration). Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV77242Personal Comment: Timms, S.. 27/06/1983. Town Mills, Barnstaple. Not Applicable.
SDV77244Article in Serial: Unknown. 12/05/1983. Unknown. North Devon Journal Herald. Unknown. 22, Photo.
SDV77248Ground Photograph: Griffiths, D. M.. 13/04/1984. Town Mills, Barnstaple. Slide.
SDV77249Record Office Collection: Unknown. Unknown. 96M Box 83. 96M. Unknown. 96M Box 83/51.
SDV77250Record Office Collection: Unknown. Unknown. 145/4. Barnstaple Castle Records. Plan.
SDV77253Ground Photograph: National Monuments Record. Unknown. Town Mill, Barnstaple. National Monuments Record Collection.
SDV77254Ground Photograph: Devon County Council Conservation Section. 13/04/1984. Town Mills, Barnstaple. Devon County Council Conservation Section Collection. 608/14A.
SDV78228Monograph: Bone, M.. 1973. Barnstaple's Industrial Archaeology. Barnstaple's Industrial Archaeology. A5 Paperback. 17.
SDV78640Unknown: Boggis, R. J. E.. 1915. History of the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdelene, Barnstaple. Unknown. 15.
SDV91852Cartographic: Wood, J.. 1843. Plan of the Town of Barnstaple from Actual Survey. Unknown.
Linked images:1

Associated Monuments

MDV20766Related to: Leat to Barnstaple Town Mill (Monument)
MDV870Related to: Mill End Quay, Barnstaple (Monument)
MDV4488Related to: Priory of St Mary Magdalene, Barnstaple (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV8187 - Archaeological assessment of proposed route of the Barnstaple Relief Road, Stages II and III

Date Last Edited:Aug 26 2022 3:38PM