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Report - - Fussell's Old Iron Works - Mells, Somerset - July 2020 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Fussell's Old Iron Works - Mells, Somerset - July 2020


Adaminski

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
I visited this site on the same day as my Westdown Quarry jaunt found here:
https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/westdown-quarry-nr-frome-somerset-july-2020.124180/

So I have many of the same issues with the photos which have come out poorly due to a dirty lense. Apologies for that. My phone has had a tough life…

I had been to this site a few years previously and was shocked at how much it had changed.
Below is a link to a great report from when the site was in much better condition:
https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/fussells-ironworks-mells-near-frome-somerset-july-2015.98013/

These two reports serve to document how much it has changed in just a few years.

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As you can see below, nature eventually reclaims its past…

History
These iron works were established by James Fussell in 1744. His three sons continued to expand the business and also opened up another iron works in Nunney in 1766. By the early 1800’s they owned six iron works and were exporting their work (mainly agricultural edge-tools) to Europe & America. Two of these sites have been restored as private residences, the rest are in ruins.

Originally the works relied upon water to power the hammers and grindstones, but in 1860 a steam-powered rolling mill was built. The iron works continues to be passed down the generations of the Fussell family until the late 1800’s by which time the industry was declining. A new company took over the business in 1882 but about 10 years later it became bankrupt. Much of the equipment was sold and the site fell into disrepair.

In 1974 the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society conducted an excavation of the site. This was done in response to plans to build a sewer which was to cut straight across to the site. These excavations uncovered the network of culverts which extend to the lengths of the site…much of which is overgrown nowadays. These excavations continued until permission to excavate was refused in 1981. That sewer was re-routed in the end, I guess due to the bats which nest on site along with other industrial archaeological findings.

The full BIAS journal report can be found here:
https://www.b-i-a-s.org.uk/BIAS_Journal8_FUSSELL.pdf

For me, it is very difficult to imagine what this site would have once looked like due to it being so overgrown now. There are various drops and walls and seemingly random stairwells which now lead to nothing. However this map here has helped me put it into context.

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Explore
This was (mostly) a dead easy explore which I used to ease myself back into the swing of things after a long absence…so I grabbed a coffee from the shop up the road and set off into the woods…

After a few minutes with the river on my right I came across an old outbuilding which there is not much left of now. The most interesting thing here were the sluice gates to control the flow of water.

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I continued on to the Iron Works and was greeted by one of those nadger-catcher fences with signs indicating it was now a construction site. Though I am pretty sure it has been a ‘construction site’ for a long time now…not sure what they have been constructing but it doesn’t appear much. According to the report above one of the buildings fell down - it is in an even worse state now but the bulk of the office building still stands.

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View from the upper end of the site

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The lower end of the site where I found entry

I continued long the way, an old brick wall separates the back of the site to the pedestrian path. Showing that this site perhaps hasn’t been taken care of for a while, there were two upturned fences which would have guarded the low end of the site. With a shimmy and a shuffle I was in at the downstream end of the site. It was at this point I began to realise how badly overgrown it has become here with bramble and nettles u to the waist in places….you never quite knew where your foot was going to land! I remembered from my last visit the amount of culverts and holes in the ground there are here where portions of the site had collapsed so I took it steady.

One of the most interesting things about this place is the arches. After a bit of research it turns out these would have housed the tilt hammers which would have been powered by water…hence the proximity of the site to the river which runs parallel. So there would be a hammer one end, and a water wheel in the river at the other. The running water spun the water wheel which then powered the tilt hammer. In fact there used to be the wreckage of an old water wheel here but there was no sign of it on this visit. A huge shame - I wonder where it is now. A long time was spent by BIAS excavating it. Laterly (late 1800’s) these tilt hammers would have been supplemented or replaced by steam powered drop-hammers.

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The arches which once would have housed the tilt hammers

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Inside one of the arches - note the crumbling walls

Not much remains of what I now know to be the gas retort and coal yard. However it appears some work was done on the tilt forge and coal house…there is an old bucket and a ladder there now, along with a couple of newer looking roof beams overhead. In this room also lies some big metal pipework at ground level, though I am not sure what it would have been used for. It is blanked off at the ends nowadays and looking a little sorry. An impressive reminder of the way things would have looked here.

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Newish roof beams?

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The pipework and archway leading through into the main yard

Heading through the tunnel next to the piping you come up to the grinding shop to the left and up to the head of the site where the offices were. The bulk of this structure continues to stand, though some of it has fallen down since last time I was here…looking at the map I guess the stabling is now the pile of rubble seen in one of the of the photos.

A dumper is left out in the yard and an old digger locked away nn one of the office buildings.. Again, no sign of when they where left here. But it actually looks fairly recent. There is also much scaffolding piled up outside.

What I particularly enjoyed are the old wooden beams that would have once held up the 1st floor. They would have seen a lot over the years. I suspect it is only a matter of time before they come down. A fireplace hangs where the second floor once would have been.

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The office building - last time I was here there were more buildings to the left but they have since collapsed


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Plenty of scaffolding suggesting work could commence soon....or that it has been there for bloody ages


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Inside the office building - openings for the fireplaces


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The front yard and building materials


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Summary
All in all it was an interesting explore but, due to its condition and overgrown state, the only reason I would return is to see what they eventually do with the remains of this site. To me, this site would now be better off being made into something worthwhile. Perhaps somebody with more knowledge of iron works would get more out of the visit than I did.

It is amazing the difference only a few years makes, And perhaps serves as a reminder to all of us urbexers that there is a “sweet spot” in time in which to visit these places.
 
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