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Report - Fussells Ironworks, Mells near Frome, Somerset - July 2015

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by Bertrina Bollockbrains, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. Bertrina Bollockbrains

    Bertrina Bollockbrains 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Apr 11, 2015
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    These old ironworks lie just off a public footpath in a deep wooded valley lush with vegetation and nature. It's a pleasant walk that I have known for years. The ironworks have always been open to the public and was always filled with walkers. But very recently Heras fencing has gone up all around the site and public access is no longer allowed. It's obvious why the fencing has gone up, one of the buildings has within the last few weeks collapsed and as nature reclaims it's likely the rest will soon follow.


    In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Fussell family ran a highly successful iron works business producing edge tools such as scythes, sickles, spades, shovels and other agricultural implements. The Fussells were first mentioned in a parish register in 1644, but it wasn't until 1744 that the first iron works were established in Mells by James Fussell III. His two sons, Austin and James IV (1748–1832) continued and expanded the business at Mells while another son, John Fussell opened a second works at Nunney by 1766.

    The company continued to prosper and by the turn of the century the company was exporting their wares to Europe and America. In the early 19th century the Fussells were running six iron works. Three of these were along the Mells River between Mells and Great Elm. Another two were sited in Railford Bottom near Chantry, and one just north of Nunney.


    The company continued under the stewardship of the next generation of Fussells, James V, John III and Thomas, followed later by James VI. By this time the iron making industry was in decline. A reliance on water power, coupled with the collapse of English agriculture in the 1870s forced the company to modernise and diversify their business but too little was done too late. In 1882, a new company was formed to take over the running of the business but by 1894 this too was bankrupt. The company was taken over by Isaac Nash and the business moved to Worcestershire.

    The remains of the six works can still be seen. Two have been restored as private residences, but the others lie in ruins, the most impressive of which are the Upper and Lower works near Mells.

    Upper Works
    This site lies at the upper end of the Wadbury valley, just downstream of Mells. The works were in operation in 1804, and were probably abandoned at the same time as the Lower Works farther down the valley in latter part of the nineteenth century. The site continued to exist as a water-powered sawmill throughout the first half of the 20th century, and possibly as late as the 1960s. Certainly the walls were repaired in 1952. However, little remains today except the outline of some of the walls and the remains of the sluices and water races. There have been at least eight water wheels on the site, powering the tilt hammers and grinding machinery. The water was fed through a complex series of stone-lined tunnels to emerge at a tail race 250 m farther down valley. Mosses, liverworts and small wall ferns now thrive in the ruins, while the stone buildings, and the labyrinth of flues and tunnels are now home to a large roost of greater and lesser horseshoe bats.

    Lower Works
    Further down the valley are the impressive remains of Fussell's Lower iron works, set up in 1744 by James Fussell on the site of an earlier works run by James Naylor. Iron ore was not smelted on site but brought in as scrap or pig iron, although there is some evidence that steel was made on site. During the heyday over 250 people were employed here. An inventory of 1804 lists the following stock held at the works: 1700 dozen scythes, 500 dozen reap hooks, 80 tons of old iron, 25 tons of bar iron, 9 water wheels and forges, hammers and other machinery.


    This fencing has gone up very recently:

    And here's why.... a collapsed building (most likely due to the tree falling)

    And this is the same building in a photo taken by Bertie in February

    Anyways expecting a wall to collapse on me at any moment, I nervously carried on. First the accommodation building:



    An upper floor fireplace now hangs high up on the wall, the flooring having long gone

    And onto the industrial bits.... I assume three smelters

    With steps at the side leading to the top levels

    By the river, the remains of a waterwheel building. Not sure what the remaining long metal pipe is.



    One of several waterwheels

    Finally, railing that runs through the whole site

    Thanks for looking and if you visiting be careful! What's left wont last for much longer.
    AltCoyne and judefire66uk like this.

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  2. Lancashire lad

    Lancashire lad chief taster for costa coffee
    Regular User

    Apr 22, 2015
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    wow such a shame this history is just left to rot away like this , I bet in its day it was a massive part of the local landscape now just forgotten
    judefire66uk likes this.
  3. gigeorge

    gigeorge 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    May 16, 2011
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    Wonder if the fussles mentioned here are the same as fussels the farmers in Rode?
  4. judefire66uk

    judefire66uk 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Feb 1, 2013
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    Very well said, it should be looked after - apart of history that you could almost touch! x
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