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Tonedale Mills, Wellington, April/Aug 22 | Industrial Sites |

Tonedale Mills, Wellington, April/Aug 22

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Another local one for me, knew about it for a long time, even before I got into exploring. Large mills are a rarity down south, so I couldn't not get myself in the biggest in the South West! Would have liked to have done the Tone Works, but short of shimmying across a pipe, there's no way in, and it's covered in scaffolding, so some sort of work is taking place. Anyways, to the interesting part!

The History -

Tonedale Mills, owned by the Fox Brothers, was the largest textiles mill in the South West, specialising in the production of Taunton Serge. This material was renowned for being a lightweight, yet sufficiently thick wool product. Production of Taunton Serge began during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I as a cottage industry ran by John Were of Pinksmoor Mill.

Later, Edward Fox married into the Were family by wedding Anna Were. In 1747 Thomas Fox, who would later go on to build up the Tonedale business, was born.

By 1750, the family had a Fulling Mill on the current site of the Tone Works, and the business thrived over the next 17 years. After training in the Netherlands and Germany, Thomas joined the business in 1768. He became a partner in 1772, and eventually the sole proprietor in 1796.

Tonedale Mills:
In 1796, Thomas Fox purchased an old flour mill at Tonedale in order to centralise the works processes. This venture proved successful, with a marked increase in both quality and quantity of material produced.

The oldest mill on the site isn't fully original. Only the original walls and water power features remain, due to suffering a serious fire in 1820, sustaining severe damage. The staircases, floors and roof all date from the reconstruction, and the mill is probably the second oldest example of 'fireproof' cast iron-framed construction in the South West. The complex was a rare example in the Woollen industry, as it integrated ancillary processes on the same site.

Thomas Fox renamed the company to Fox Brothers in 1826. The business continued to thrive, at its peak employing 3,600 people at Tonedale, producing 6,500 metres of material each day. A further 1,400 people were employed in the wider business, with subsidiary factories at Cullompton, Culmstock, Uffculme, Wiveliscombe and Weston-Super-Mare. A further subsidiary was established with the acquisition of the William Bliss Mill, located in Chipping Norton, in 1900. Annual turnover peaked at £1.5m in 1919 (£61.6m equivalent today).

Dyers working for Fox Brothers were instrumental in developing a khaki dye in 1900. It was first used by British soldiers in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). During WW1, 8000 miles of the material was produced, alongside 70,000 pairs of Puttees (a garment for the lower leg, between the ankle and the knee) per week. Puttee production continued into the 1980s, as some colonial forces still wore them.

The Mills stayed in full production until the 1980s, when operations were scaled back significantly. A small scale operation continues today on part of the site, with the company celebrating its 250th year in business this year.

Tonedale Mills - Wikipedia
Fox Flannel
Report from Tonedale Mills, Site Assessment | Historic England

The Explore -

Explored with a non member, focusing on the 1863-73 Mill. I did a recce and found an access point prior to actually going. Found our way in through an open door, and ended up on a staircase pretty much immediately. Little did we know, Secca had done a sneaky job with a shiny new camera... :gayAs soon as we got up the first flight of steps, we were directly in line with it, opposite us through the window. Didn't bother me too much, but my friend wanted to scarper, so ended up getting the explore done pretty quickly.

I wandered to the top of the stairs, there was very little to be seen on this side of the building, but got a nice view over the rest of the mill complex, although it's in a very poor state, except the buildings that have had renovation started on them.




Headed back down and through the ground floor, there's not much to be seen here, looks to be in use as storage for window frames etc from around the mill.


Got to another staircase and headed up... It would definitely be unwise to stray from the concrete section, as the floor isn't the best, some levels have fallen through around the mill, others have had the flooring removed.



Encountered a section of collapsed brickwork on the 3rd floor, and what I'm assuming to be some old looms... Didn't dare approach the machines though, didn't much fancy the idea of falling through considering the 2nd floor was already missing all it's floorboards...



Went up to the very top and saw a collapsed section of roof as a reward for the effort.


Wanted to have a poke around some of the other buildings, but I was also starting to feel like we had outstayed our welcome, so we proceeded to leave... Lo and behold, Secca had arrived in his van and was just heading through the front gates to look for us... Only took 45 minutes to arrive, reckon we disturbed the poor sod's Sunday Roast :lol

Externals -



I do enjoy seeing a vaulted ceiling -


DSC06797-1 (1).jpg

Oddities -




I had to do a revisit with the drone, Mills are very photogenic after all! Didn't attempt to get inside on this occasion, far too many people around to go unnoticed...

The 1863 Mill -





The Carding and Spinning Shed -


The Chimney -





The Tonedale Complex -


The Tone Works -





View of Tonedale from Tone Works, I believe some of the weaving sheds stood where the housing estate now lies...


Thanks for looking :)
Last edited:


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Great to see this old classic again.
Fab pix and loving the drone shots.

Still looks great very well covered

Great report, but a sad update, it's falling to pieces. Cheers.

Outstanding. Beautiful images, and especially my fav, chimneys. Heaven

Always enjoy seeing pics from tonedale. Loving the drone shots.
Thanks all :thumb

If I can get in again at some point, I'll try and cover the rest of the site and post a further update.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Brillant drone shots. Cool to see the site from that prospective.
We failed here earlier in the year but got in the Dye Works.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Brillant drone shots. Cool to see the site from that prospective.
We failed here earlier in the year but got in the Dye Works.
Thanks :) Not sure what the current state of play is, but there was a lot of new holes when I went in August.

Probably could have tried harder for the dye works, but I recce'd it after a night shift, didn't bother checking the bridge at the rear :hmm

Exploring With Pride 🌈

Exploring with pride in more ways than one
28DL Full Member
Did them both the other day some amazing machinery inside especially the engine shed its like a museum and the tone works beautiful old equipment throughout was a great explore especially as i just happened to find it while browsing google maps on way to the big mill


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thought I'd post a little update on one of my first reports, as I've managed to get back and cover what I missed courtesy of secca making an appearance the first time around! I've yet to get into the Tone Works section, probably try and get on one of the tours that appear to be running on and off, lot less hassle than way 😂

New funding has been secured for regeneration work on both complexes. The council already own the Tone Works, but the mill is currently owned by Mancraft Ltd who have ignored multiple notices to maintain the buildings. The council is working with them to facilitate carrying out the most urgent repairs, including new temporary roofing to protect the buildings. If necessary, a CPO is on the cards, so I can't see it being open for a mooch for much longer in its current form, especially as the funding is supposedly ringfenced and time limited...
Details Here

The Explore

Explored with @ultimateninjaworrier

Access was a bit of a faff, but once inside was mostly a relaxed wander. Checked out the remains of the carding shed that's still standing, although there isn't much to see except for some lovely natural decay as it's empty. We were preparing to move on when we heard noises... Turns out a couple of contractors were in one of the buildings that's in the process of being converted, no idea how they didn't clock us. Waited for them to leave and then cracked on. I knew where to go this time around, so made a beeline for the chimney so we could reach the boiler house.

Brickwork -


After a bit of a squeeze, we were in! As much as the remaining machinery is a brilliant find in the 1863 mill, this stands out as the best part of the site for me by far. Multiple boilers left in situ, generators, vintage fire extinguishers, vintage gauges, what's not to like?!

Boilers -



First time I've come across a boiler of this type, I believe it was fed coal via a conveyor system which travelled through the boiler -


Generator -

Obligatory Gauge Shots -


Fire Extinguishers -

Made our way out the same way and headed over to the mill for the looms. Unfortunately, efforts have been made to stop people getting to them, as the central staircase has been blocked on the bottom floor... A very well thought out plan seeming as there's no floor to walk across from the other staircase... it's not like you can just use the conveniently located scaffolding outside to reach the second floor or anything 🤷🏻‍♂️😂

Schlafhorst Autoconer... It would appear these guys still produce similar machinery today, primarily serving countries that are heavily involved in the textiles industry today -



Oddities -
DSC07890 (1).jpg
Fire Suppression -
Italian Silicone -
Valves -

That's all for now, thanks for looking 👍

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