Woollen and Other Mills

Most of the material on the East India Company has now moved to the page of that name

                                              The Wool Trade

The advantages of fast flowing rivers......

The importance of the wool trade to Ashburton can be seen by the inclusion of a teazel in the Town Arms (below) - used for brushing up the surface of cloth during manufacture.  In 1956, in a lecture on the West Country Woollen Industry,  Mr K G Ponting said that teasel gigs were still used. Another step in the process was fulling, and he described how loose cloth was 'felted together' to make it warm and durable.  From at least Roman times people achieved this by massaging it with their hands, or they walked on it. Then the first machine in the wool trade was invented - water drove a wheel, which in turn drove hammers, and these pounded the cloth. Towns with fast flowing rivers then came into their own: although Mr Ponting was speaking about places in Gloucestershire and Dorset,  Ashburton would have been amongst them. He went on to say that between 1350 and 1400 the wool industry became the major trade of England.

Lecture on 'The special characteristics of the West Country Woollen Industry', K G Ponting, Director Samuel Salter and Co. Ltd, at the Royal Society of Arts February 1956. Publ by the Dept of Education of the International Wool Secretariat, Regent St., London.


For an account of the wool industry in South Devon in the mid 1850s, see the article in the Western Times 26 January 1850 p8 cols 3,4,5

Right: Teasel
From Charles Knight's Pictorial Gallery of Arts: Wool: merino sheep, wool processing machinery, and teazle. 1858, Available via Wikimedia Commons

Left: The Town Arms, above the gates to St Andrews' Church

My own photograph 2012                           

Gifts: '1 sheep the gift of William Denbold besides 1 sheep already in his custody.'

Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press, Torquay 1970, p84

'In 1672, Mr John Ford procured another market, on Tuesdays, chiefly for wool and yarn (spun in Cornwall), but this market has for some years been discontinued'

Ashburton and its Neighbourhood, Charles Worthy, printed and publ by L B Varder, Ashburton 1875 p7 


'In some parts of this county considerable attention is paid to the breeding of sheep. The established breed, reared chiefly on Dartmoor and Exmoor, is the middle-woolled class, bearing a strong resemblance to the Dorsets; but many other kinds are also reared. The total stock is estimated at 630,000, nearly 200,000 of which produce heavy fleeces of long wool.'

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales 1840, A. Fullarton & Co. Glasgow, Edinburgh and London 1841 p587

"The short, or rather middle-wooled sheep of Devonshire.......have white faces and legs, generally horned but some without horns. They are small in the head and neck, and small in the bone everywhere....The fleece is 3 or 4 lbs in weight in the yolk, and the wool is short, but with a coarse and hairy top...

The wool produced in Devonshire used to be manufactured in the same county, not indeed in large factories, but at home and by the family of the principal workman. This old method of working the wool, never very profitable or consistent with the commercial superiority of England, is now laid aside; but it lingered longest in this south-western portion of the kingdom.

 In very few counties in England has so complete an alteration taken place in the character and produce of the sheep as in Devonshire. When Mr Luccock compiled his table in 1800, he stated the number of short-woolled sheep 436,850, and that of the long-woolled sheep 193,750. The number of packs of short wool were 7280, and of long wool 6458 packs. The number of packs of short wool has now diminished to 2275, but no satisfactory account has been obtained in the increase of long wool. The fleece of the Dartmoor sheep, as well as the carcase, has been essentially altered by a cross with the Leicesters....The fleece has...materially improved in fineness and softness of fibre, and is more useful for many important purposes ".

Sheep, their Breeds, Management and Diseases, William Youatt, Orange, Judd and Co., New York, 1867, pp 251,253,254


Right: A Dartmoor sheep. Coloured stipple engraving by James Joshua Neele.

Wellcome Library, London; Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK: England & Wales

'The only material used in the South Devon factories is English wool, and generally that of our own county...'

Western Times 26 January 1850 p8 col5 

Above and above right: Modern Devon and Cornwall long-woolled sheep.

My own photograph 2013. Thanks to N & N Haley, Forder Flock of Longwools

                                                                       Yolk Wool

The yolk is the grease covering the wool - it is produced by the sheep's skin to give the wool water resistance.

The price of yolk wool in 1842 was 6½d to 6¾d a pound.
Western Times 15 October 1842 p3 col5

By 1844 yolk wool was
8½d to 9d a pound.
Exeter Flying Post 1 August 1844 p3 col6

The price of yolk wool in 1851 was 7½d a pound. An agreement had just been reached on the price manufacturers would pay woolcombers in the town. This was not the first time that there had been negotiations - the 1842 report above commented that the workshop doors were opening again after being closed for a long time.

Western Times 25 October1851,p7col3                           

 In 1853 the Western Times reported that the price of yolk wool was high, the paper suspecting that the suppliers were holding on to large stocks. Rather than pay the price demanded, many manufacturers were stopping work.

Western Times 26 November 1853 p6 col6

In 1855 yolk wool was at 8½d a pound, but the price was tending to go lower.

Western Times 28 July 1855 p7 col4

In 1858 1s a pound was considered a good price.

Western Times 25 September 1858 p6 col3

By 1872 the price of wool was 1s 5d a pound

Western Times 21 June 1872 p5 col6

In 1884 the price was 6 to 6½d a pound

Western Times 21 January 1884 p3 col3


William Fabian, clothier, made a will in 1652. He gave ten shillings to the poor people of Ashburton, to be paid within a month of his decease. He gave money to his sister-in-law Mary Jeffery, the daughter of Richard Jeffery - this took the form of a quarterly payment during the lifetime of Elizabeth Vening, wife of Lewis Vening of Broadhempston, the income coming from land (?) which William held during Elizabeth's life.
William gave George Fabian of Torbryan, his brother, his best cloak (?), and there was a bequest to the  daughter of an Alice (?) Whiteway.
The sole executrix of his will was his wife Anne, who received all the rest of the estate.
National Archives ref PROB 11/233/118  http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

A counterpart of a lease in 1683 concerns land at Ashburton from Richard Kelley of Ashburton, gent, Rebecca his wife and Johan Kelley of Ashburton, widow, to Peter Fabian of Ashburton, Devon, clothier.
Deeds and associated papers relating to property at Ashburton and Buckfastleigh, ref MS3101/A/F/1/6, Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography Service, 1641-1761/2 https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/cfa9020a-69ca-43aa-ab19-41d09424cb3f - accessed 18-03-2021
Many thanks to Annie Pomeroy for passing on this reference

In the same year a lease of a close of land called Fosters Park  was from Richard Kelley of Ashburton, Rebecca his wife and Johan Kelley, widow, mother of Richard Kelley, to Stephen Weekes of Ashburton, clothier.


                               An Act for Burying in Woollen, 1677*

'Whereas an Act made in the that now is, intituled, An Act for Burying in Woollen only, was intended for the lessening the Importation of Linen from beyond the Seas, and the Encouragement of the Woollen and Paper Manufactures of this Kingdom, had the same been observed ; (2) but in respect there was not a sufficient Remedy thereby given for the Discovery and Prosecution of Offences against the said Law, the same hath hitherto not had the Effect there by intended :
II. For Remedy whereof..... it is hereby enacted by the Authority aforesaid That from and after the first Day of August one thousand six hundred and seventy-eight, no Corps of any Person or Persons shall be buried in any Shirt, Shift; Sheet or Shroud, or any thing whatsoever made or mingled with Flax, Hemp, Silk, Hair, Gold or Silver, or in any Stuff or Thing, other than what is made of Sheeps Wool only, or be put in any Coffin lined or faced with any sort of Cloth or Stuff, or any other Thing whatsoever, that is made of any Material but Sheeps Wool only: (2) upon pain of the Forfeiture of five Pounds of lawful Money of England, to be recovered and divided as is hereafter in this Act expressed and directed'.

Copyright Guy Etchells © 2001-2006 All rights reserved.

* 30 Car. II. c.3  This replaced an earlier act of 1666: 18 Car. II. c.4.

The 1677 Act was repealed by the 54 Geo. III, c. 108.


Some affidavits made, confirming that the Act had been complied with:
1712. June 6th. Mary Martyn widow buried. Affid: made ye 7th by Joan Metherill
June 8th. Mary Babb widow buried. Affid: made ye 9th by Joan Nosworthy
June 9th Jonathan Christophers buried. Affid: made ye 11th by Magritt Jobb 
June 25th William Ireland buried. Affid: made ye 27th by Elizabeth Pristone
June 26th William Eales buried. Affid: made ye 27th by Elizabeth Pristone



Serge is a durable cloth with diagonal lines or ridges on both sides (twill weave). Often used in making military uniforms, suits and greatcoats.

http://www.collinsdictionary.com and others

It is made from a long fibre wool combined with a yarn made from a shorter fleece - see Exeter Memories for more detail on this. The website also has Celia Fiennes writing about the wool trade in the south west in 1698


'In the ....arming of 1798 Ashburton had formed the 9th Devon Corps, under Captain Walter Palk; they had clothed themselves with local made serge, and so gained the name of Sergebacks'

The Haytor Volunteers, Lieut-Col Amery, publ Mortimer bros, Totnes, 1888, p17

'Formerly about £100,000 worth of serges were made here* yearly.'

*ie Ashburton.

History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White 1850, p462.



Some Ashburton sergemakers and clothiers in the 1700s who had insurance with the Sun Fire Office:
Philip Foott; John Soper; William Sunter; John Tozer; Richard Tozer; John Winsor; John Caunter; Peter Fabyan; Walter Shellabear.

For more on John Caunter see the Individual Families section.

In 1761 John Soper, sergemaker, was the tenant of 'one messuage lying on the North side of the street in Ashburton between the two rivers.'
http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk, ref 3768Z/Z/1, xerox copy held by Devon Archives and Local Studies Service

Jan 27 1790 Thomas Soper, sergemaker of Ashburton, Devon, insured with The Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group.
Ref CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/366/565653 London Metropolitan Archives http://search.lma.gov.uk - Accessed 20-02-2017

Jan 28 1790 Walter Soper,
sergemaker of Ashburton, Devon, insured with the Sun Fire Office.
Ref CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/366/565657 London Metropolitan Archives http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk -Accessed 20-02-2017

Jan 28 1790 John Soper, sergemaker of Ashburton, Devon, insured with The Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group.
Ref CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/366/565658 London Metropolitan Archives http://search.lma.gov.uk - Accessed 20-02-2017

April 12 1792 Richard Soper, sergemaker of Ashburton, Devon, insured with the Sun Fire Office
Ref MS 11936/385/598973

London Metropolitan Archives http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk - Accessed 22-02-2017

All of the above appear to be connected with Messrs Green and Walford's warehouse, Little Winchester Street, late Spencers malt lofts, near Hayes Wharf, Tooley Street.

John Soper, sergemaker, was buried on January 11th 1792
Mrs Soper, widow of John Soper, sergemaker, was buried on February 15th 1795
Parish records

For more on the Soper famliy see the Individual Families section


In 1767 Sarah Halll was apprenticed to Richard Tozer, clothier.
Ref 4289A/PO/3/b/2, Devon Heritage Centre, https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/4289A/PO/3/b/20

In both 1767 and 1770 John Tozer, sergemaker and shopkeeper, had premises insured with the Sun Fire Office. They included a dwelling house and stables, a range of offices, a barn and a shop, and the utensils and stock inside. Some of the buildings were slated, some thatched.
Stanley D Chapman, ed., The Devon Cloth Industry in the Eighteenth Century, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Torquay 1978, p1

1783 John Tozer, sergemaker, was buried on April 27th.
Parish register

In 1783 Richard Tozer, brother of John, was granted administration of John's will. Amongst other legacies John gave a hundred guineas to his wife, money to his brother Solomon Tozer, sister Susanna T______* and her children, sister Dorothy Abraham**, and sister Mary________
*Possibly Tancock. A Susanna Tozer married John Tancock in June 1764. Mary Tozer was one of the witnesses.
**Dorothy Tozer had married Robert Abraham in May 1760. John and Richard Tozer were present.
Parish records

Some had more than one occupation - for instance, William Sunter was a maltster as well as a sergemaker; John Tozer was both a sergemaker and a shopkeeper.
For more details of what was insured see The Devon Cloth Industry in the Eighteenth century, Sun Fire Office Inventories of merchants' and manufacturers' property 1726-1770, Edited by Stanley D Chapman, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 1978, p1ff

In 1766 John Winsor insured stock in 5 warehouses at Hay's Wharf, Bridge Yard, Southwark, with the Sun Fire Office.

Ibid p2

Above: Memorial to  John Winsor, Sergemaker. He died on January 7th, 1772, aged 68. 'Sacred to whose memory and as a testimony of the sincerest affection his disconsolate widow and family have erected this stone.'

The memorial also commemorates his wife Catherine, who died in November 1790, aged 89.

Exterior wall St Andrew's Church. My own photograph 2014


In 1707 ' A petition of the ancient Borough of Ashburton, in the County of Devon, who depend on the Woollen Manufacture, was presented to the House, and read; setting forth that Multitudes of the common People, formerly employed in the Woollen Manufacturies, are now out of Work, which is chiefly occasioned by the Vast quantities of Yarn brought hither from Ireland, which hath deprived them of great Part of their Labour, and, if not speedily prevented of those evil Practices, it will be the utter Ruin of many thousands in the Western parts of England...'
Journals of the House of Commons, vol 15, Oct 1705-April 1708, 1803, p476

'In 1787 295,311 pieces (of woollen cloth) were exported from Exeter. In 1789, the East India trade being then increasing, 121,000 pieces were bought by the East India company alone.
The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales, A Fullarton and Co., Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, 1841,Vol1, A-D, p587,588

The Devon Archives and Local Studies Service has a lease dated 1788 concerning a messuage, orchard and garden in St Lawrence Lane. William Fabyan ('Now of Plymouth...but heretofore of Ashburton, perukemaker') was one of the parties - he was the only son and heir of George Fabyan, woolcomber, deceased.

Ref Z10/2/5a, Devon Record Office, http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Bankrupts from the Gazette. December 7 1790. Edward Laskey, of Ashburton, sergemaker.

Universal Magazine, vol 86, London 1790, p366

                                              Processing Wool

The steps involved:
Shearing the sheep.

Grading and Sorting. This was done by a wool sorter or stapler.
Colin Waters, A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations, Berkshire 1999

Dyeing (a process that can also be done once the fabric is made).

Carding. Raw wool was raked through to untangle it and make the fibres roughly parallel. Woolcombing was a more thorough process, where in addition to raking, short staple wool was removed. Woolcombing was an apprenticed trade.
Family Tree magazine, November 1996, vol13 no 1



Cleaning and Scouring. Fullers, also known as tuckers or walkers, cleaned the cloth of dirt and lanolin. In medieval times this was done by treading the cloth in stale urine. The process also closed up the threads of the cloth.
For an entertaining re-enactment of fulling, see Tony Robinson, The Worst Jobs in History https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb0V5NSgAo0 - Accessed 11-09-2017

Tentering. The cloth shrank during fulling, so was stretched on frames to re-shape it. It was hooked onto hooks on the frames called tenterhooks, and left to dry and bleach in the sun.

Finishing. Knots, loose threads, plant material etc. were then removed from the cloth using tweezers.
Afterwards the cloth was brushed with teasels, often set in a frame, to raise the nap.
A shearman would shear the nap from the cloth to achieve a smooth finish.

James Burnley, The History of Wool and Woolcombing, London, 1889, is available here:
See also

The 3rd February is St Blaise's Day, the patron saint of woolcombers.
In 1841 the woolcombers of Ashburton and Buckfastleigh held their annual dinner to commemorate the day.
http://www.catholicculture.org - Accessed 30-07-2014
Western Times 6 February 1841 p3 col3

Left: The Woolcomber
The book of English trades and library of the useful arts, publ. J. Souter, London 1818


Above: A drying loft, part of the Olde Weavers House, 5 Kingsbridge Lane. This is where wool was dried, or possibly where the serge was stretched on tenterhooks attached to racks - hence the expression 'to be on tenterhooks'. (Red Herrings and White Elephants - The origins of the phrases we use every day, Albert Jack, Metro Publishing Ltd., 2004).

This one can be seen from the carpark - many of the buildings in the Kingsbridge Lane area, some now demolished, were connected to the woollen trade.

Cherry and Pevsner describe No 5 as 'the best surviving example in the town of a c18 wool-weaver's house, with large first-floor windows and weatherboarded top-floor drying loft.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Devon, revised ed 1989, New Haven adn London, p133
My own photograph 2013

Above: Louvres from another building off the carpark. They could be opened to allow air to flow into the building to dry the wool.
My own photograph 2015.

A wooden upright behind the louvres had pegs attached at regular intervals. When the piece of timber was rotated (probably by means of a handle at the back) the pegs pushed open the louvres.
Thanks to Nigel Irens for this information.

 'It is quite unnecessary to distinguish between the silk, the linen, or the Weaver of woollen, etc. The general principles upon which they proceed are the same, and they only differ in the materials they manufacture. The thread is first wound on wooden bobbins, to prepare it for being warped on what is called a mill, by which both the length and breadth of the web is defined, and the threads put in such order that they are in a state to be wrought by the weaver, who shoots the woof across the warp by means of a shuttle, which he throws from right to left, and left to right alternately between the threads, whilst the threads are raised and lowered by the treadles, and every time it is thus thrown, a thread of the wool is inserted in the warp. This he continues to do till the web is finished.'

Artificiana; or a key to the principal trades, Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1819, p 19

Above: Woodcut from Artificiana 


Amongst the bills and accounts of Tucker, solicitor, Ashburton, 1808 to 1817, is a bill to the manufacturers of Ashburton, regarding costs for opposing an increase in wages granted to weavers by the Quarter Sessions.
Ref 924B/TA/1, Devon Heritage Centre

Left: Shears, used for trimming the nap on material. They are the width of the fireplace in Tuckers Hall, Exeter (about a metre)

My own photograph 2017. Many thanks to Tuckers Hall http://www.tuckershall.org.uk/

'The introduction of worsted spinning-frames in the North of England early in the present century revolutionised the trade, and in 1817 Mr Caunter started the first worsted spinning-frames in Ashburton, charging 10d a pound for spinning. For a while he held the monopoly...'
A Book of the West, S Baring-Gould,  vol 1, (Devon), London 1899, p251

Richard Carlile, a grocer and wool dealer, was living in Modbury at the time of the 1871 census, three years before his death. He had been born circa 1793, in Ashburton.
1871 census RG10, piece no 2104, folio 61, p11

He possibly married Mary Codd in 1814
Parish records

A Richard and Mary Codd had the followinig children baptised:
Richard, January 1816. Father's occupation given as blacksmith (an error?)
William, July 1821 Father's occupation given as manufacturer. When William married in 1853, he described his father as a wool dealer.
Thomas [Carlisle], April 1824 Father's occupation given as worsted spinner.
John, February 1826 Father's occupation given as worsted manufacturer.
Catherine Louisa, April 1828 Father's occupation given as woollen manufacturer.
Parish records

Mary Ann Carlile, the daughter of Richard and Mary, was baptised in March 1832 in Buckfastleigh, with her father's occupation given as woollen manufacurer.
Buckfastleigh parish records

The partnership of Carlile and Berry jnr., worsted spinners, Ashburton, was dissolved in 1819. They are named as R Carlile and J Berry jun. in The News (London).
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 27 Sept 1819, p1 col3
The News (London), 3 October 1819, p6 col1

The Devon Heritage Centre has papers relating to debt(s ) of Carlile, wollen manufacturer, in 1826. He was a woollen manufacturer at Higher Lurgecombe Mill, Ashburton. Bankers involved were Brown, Winsor and Cuming.
Ref 924B/B/8/17, https://devon-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/924B/B/8/17 - accessed 19-08-2021

R Carlile, of Ashburton, Devon, serge manufacturer, was listed amongst bankrupts in June 1830.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 26 June 1830, p4 col3

In 1829 Richard, who manufactured serges for the East India Company, had applied to a lawyer, James Terrell, for an advance of money. This was supplied by a Mr Mugford and a Mr Geake, the latter providing £100. Mr Geake managed to retrieve £50, plus the race-horse Violante, 'and was thus pretty nearly drawn out of the nooze' after Richard went bankrupt. In a court case Mr Mugford claimed that Mr Geake should repay him £100 that he had provided, because there was a connection in trade, and an understanding between the parties.
When the lawyer, Mr Terrell, was on the stand, he said of Richard that from what he had seen of him 'he would not believe him on his oath!' With a 'significant smile' he said that Mr Carlile disputed every thing in connection with his bankruptcy, at which point the judge said that this was an improper way of giving evidence. As one of his Majesty's subjects Mr Carlile was 'entitled to the protection of the laws, and was not to have his character smiled away in that manner'.
In his summing up the judge condemned Mr Terrell's conduct: the jury gave a verdict in favour of Mr Geake.
North Devon Journal 9 August 1832, p3 cols1,2

In a court case in 1833, Cousins v Carlile, the plaintiff brought an action to recover the value of various items of furniture, goods and stock that he owned, that had been taken away by Carlile. When Richard had become bankrupt Mr Cousins had negotiated with his creditors a sum of 5s in the pound: his commission was to be all the goods and chattels belonging to Mr Carlile.
In December 1831, whilst Mr Cousins was absent, Carlile took the goods and furniture from Surgecombe* mill, his former residence, to a house in Buckfastleigh, where he was then living. The defence, that the plaintiff had sold the goods to the defendant, completely failed.
Western Times 3 August 1833, p2 col2
*Lurgecombe mill

In the 1851 census William Carlisle, a 30 year old trainer of horses, was living in Fore Street, Buckfastligh, with his three sisters: Martha, born in Ashburton, Mary A, born in Buckfastleigh, and Jane, also born in Buckfastleigh. 58 year old Richard, William's father, a wool factor, was a visitor. Richard was a widower.
1851 census HO107, piece no 1874, folio 292, p16

 Richard Carlile married Ann Flashman in the March quarter of 1854, in the Plymouth registration district.

By 1861 they were living in Modbury, with three young children. Richard was a grocer and wool dealer.
1861 census RG09, piece no. 1426, folio 60, p11


1807 Obituaries. At Ashburton, Devon, aged 99, Mr Hurst, woolstapler.

The Gentleman's Magazine, vol 77, 1807, p1233

In 1817 Solomon Tozer sold his 'substantial' house in West Street. Amongst other rooms it consisted of two parlours and a drawing room, 7 bedrooms, 'an excellent pump', and drying lofts. It could be used as a family residence, a boarding school, or, the advertisement suggested, 'the serge trade'.

Exeter Flying Post 16 October 1817 p1 col5

In 1824 The Exeter Flying Post reported the death of John Berry, 'formerly a respectable serge-maker' of Ashburton.

Exeter Flying Post 26 August 1824 p4 col2

1827 The Rew fulling mills and causeway were amongst a large amount of leasehold property up for auction. The Messrs. Caunter were listed as the tenants or occupiers.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 January 1827 p1 col3

On December 31st of the same year 'Notice is hereby given that the partnership subsisting between us the undersigned, John Caunter and Richard Caunter, of Ashburton, in the County of Devon, Sergemakers and Woollen Manufacturers, under the firm of J and R Caunter, is this day dissolved by mutual consent...' Richard Caunter was to continue the business.
London Gazette 4 January 1828, Issue I8429, p33

'An article in your paper tells us the East India Company have only contracted for 25,000 pieces of serges; and in consequence of which...the inhabitants of Ashburton are thrown into the greatest distress, and hundreds destitute of the common necessaries of life. About seven years ago the purchases of the East India Company were about 350,000 pieces of long ells annually; these are now reduced to 100,000 or 150,000 pieces...'
The Oriental Herald, vol XX, Jan-March 1829, p217

In 1829 Austin Widger had become bankrupt, and his property at the northern end of the town came up for sale. This included a mill, which Mssrs Tozer, Sparke and Co leased to produce worsted. Everything was for sale - 'machinery, mill, gear etc', together with a meadow adjoining the mill.
Exeter Flying Post 19 March 1829 p1 col5

Right: Memorial to members of the Widger family in St Andrew's churchyard.  Austin Widger, woollen manufacturer, is one of them - he died in September 1832.
My own photograph 2020

By 1829 John Berry and Richard Bennett Berry, of Ashburton and Ivy-Bridge, Woollen manufacturers, had become bankrupt. The London Gazette advertised that their 'capital mill' was to be auctioned. Suitable for a corn-mill or paper-mill, as well as its current purpose, it had the advantage of a strong water course, which continued even in the driest summer. The mill contained frames for spinning worsted, and machines for spinning yarn.

London Gazette Issue 18564 3 April 1829, p633

'In 1838 there were still in the county 39 woollen mills and more than 3000 looms employed in weaving serges. Of the latter there were in and around Ashburton 660...'

White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon 1850, p44

By 1839 the Western Times reported that 'The trade of Ashburton is much depressed at present', with high unemployment amongst weavers and woolcombers* (between 2000 and 3000 in the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh district, according to the article). Some went as far as Yorkshire seeking work, but had to return home 'in a very distressed condition'.

Western Times, reported in Palmer's Index to The Times, 3 December 1839, p6 col 3

*Wool combs can be seen in Buckfastleigh Museum, alongside the Valiant Soldier Museum

'The causes of [the wool industry's] decline were complicated; but the immediate cause was the removal of the monopoly of trading in the East from the East India Company....Mill after mill was given up, and now only one firm, that of Messrs. Berry, represent the once numberous body of clothiers, who numbered in their ranks the names of Bennett, Berry, Cater, Caunter, Cranch, Dolbeare, Fabyan, Furnace, Honywill, Jefry, Smerdon, Soper, Sparke, Sunter, Tozer, Widger, Windsor and many others.'
P F S Amery, Sketch of Ashburton and the Woollen Trade, Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 8, Plymouth, 1876, p336,337

In 1852 'the extensive woollen manufactory at Buckfast, the property of S Tozer Esq.,' was acquired by John Berry of Ashburton. The machinery would soon be set to work.
Western Times 22 May 1852, p5 col3

In 1898 Mr J Alsop resigned as Clerk to the Newton Board of Guardians. He was appointed to the post in 1840, and remembered just before that time that 50 men arrived at the workhouse seeking relief, having lost their jobs at the Ashburton Serge Factory.  People's prospects were so poor at the time that many emigrated to America and the colonies.

East and South Devon Advertiser, 15 January 1898, p8 col2


'I visited Crediton, Chulmly, South Molton, Barnstaple, Torrington, Okehampton, Tavistock, Kinsbridge, Ashburton, Buckfast, Totness and Exeter. The weavers of serges at all of these places, are (with very few exceptions) women or girls, and their condition depends, not so much on the profits of the loom as on the industry and labour of the father of the family, who may be an agricultural labourer, mechanic, shopkeeper etc....
...Whenever young women are employed who have no domestic occupations to interrupt their weaving, they finish two pieces, or two and a half pieces in a week, for which they are paid 5s to 6s 3d; some of these being orphans, or too old to be longer a burthen to their parents, are maintained only by the produce of the loom, and these persons are generally kept in constant employ, if the state of the trade will permit.'
The Sessional Papers of the House of Lords, 1840, vol 37, p445

'...it is a remarkable fact that since the East India company opened their contracts to public competition, and diminished the amount of their orders, thus reducing the wages of the weavers; the whole of this still extensive manufacture has...fallen into the hands of women....A woman can, with the power loom, do twice as much as a man can in a power loom (and)...it appears to be a custom, in every trade, to pay women at a lower rate than men for the same article...leave no alternative but the inevitable conclusion that when this generation of weavers has passed away, women only will find employment. There will be no weavers as a class.' 
The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales, A Fullarton and Co., Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, 1841,Vol1, A-D, p588

John Ireland, of the Fulling Mill, near Ashburton, died in January 1841. He was 76.
Western Times 23 January 1841, p2 col2

 In 1841 there was a large amount of serge and wool being stolen in the district. If caught, the offenders faced a hefty penalty - a W MacDowell and W Major had been transported for 14 years after stealing wool from R Caunter. Now W MacDowell's wife, Ann, was giving evidence against four new suspects: Thomas Connibeare, William Westaway, William Harris and John Ayres. William Westaway had escaped custody at one point, but the Town Crier offered £10 reward and he was soon recaptured.

Mischievously, the Western Times reported that the four prisoners had all been supporters of the old political system (ie not reformers), and were stalwarts of the church and state. 'Toryism', the paper said, 'loses in them four good votes'.

Western Times 22 May 1841 p3 col 5

See the Caunter Family under People and Properties for more details of Richard Caunter's premises, which was in the Kingsbridge Lane area.


Solomon Tozer died in April 1844, aged 80. For a long time he 'carried on an extensive trade as a woollen manufacturer'.
North Devon Journal 18 April 1844, p3 col3

Wool had traditionally been shipped from Totnes, but by 1844 this had changed. The river charges had increased enormously after improvements to the river Dart, and consequently the woollen manufacturers started sending consignments to Torquay or Teignmouth. The arrival of the railway was anticipated to be a 'great accommodation for the woollen trade.'
Western Times 11 May 1844 p3 col2


1847. The Western Times complained at the new postal arrangements. Plymouth and Totnes letters sent in the afternoon were carried to Newton Abbot and left there overnight, so that they did not arrive at Ashburton until the next day. Woollen manufacturers, pointed out the newspaper, depended on the post for orders from their London and Northern markets

Western Times 25 September 1847 p7 col1


1848 A woman named Twiggs fell through a trapdoor in one of the wool lofts belonging to Richard Caunter, in Kingsbridge Lane. She fractured her skull and was not expected to recover.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 January 1848 p8 col 2

In 1848 50 men, mainly involved in woollen manufacture, were suffering hardship through unemployment. They petitioned the vicar, the Rev W Marsh, and others, to help alleviate their condition. The wool shops had by this time been closed for some weeks, due to 'stagnation' in the wool trade.

Exeter Flying Post 3 February 1848 p3 col6


In 1849 three poor women were making their way towards Ashburton carrying serges on their backs which they had woven during the week. A Church of England minister travelling in the same direction dismounted and put the serges across the saddle of his horse, which he then led into the town.

Western Times 10 March 1849 p7 col3

The woollen trade that year was dull, but there was a 'fair demand for blankets and serges, principally for the East India and the home markets'.

Exeter Flying Post 7 June 1849 p8 col4


In 1854 the extreme dulness of trade resulted in 40 Buckfastleigh people and a number from Ashburton leaving for Quebec. The ships the Rose and the Lady Peel were leaving from Plymouth.

Western Times i1 April 1854 p7 col5

Two cottages, gardens, storerooms and premises, plus waste land formerly called North Mill was up for auction in 1876. Valuable water power was a selling feature, together with an adjoining pasture field. Messrs Mann and Son were the vendors, who suggested that the land would be ideal for the erection of cottages, 'which are much needed in Ashburton'.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 April 1876 p1 col2

1878 'At Ashburton Messrs Berry alone represent the once numerous body of clothiers, and it is due to their perseverance, and to that of Messrs Hamlyn, of Buckfastleigh, that the branch still exists in the valley of the Dart. Although they have extensive sorting shops etc. within the borough of Ashburton, yet the Messrs Berry do not actually carry on their manufacture within the ancient borough, and a calamitous fire which occurred on the 19th of November 1877, the same that witnessed the similar destruction of Lamerton Church, burnt to the ground their largest mill, which was situated at Buckfast, and which was a very extensive erection of five storeys, and filled with the newest and best machinery.'
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, William White, Sheffield 1878-79, p36

At a meeting of Ashburton Urban District Council in 1909, two schemes were put forward for the stream at Gage's Fulling Mill. One scheme involved fencing the stream with posts and wire fencing, whilst the other involved laying a nine inch pipe.
Western Times 9 July 1909, p10 col1

                                             Trouble at the mill

There were labour troubles in 1891, after some workers in the woollen industry had joined the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers; however, the workers at the Ashburton mill, around 90 in number, 'held aloof'. Messrs Berry and Sons of Ashburton and Buckfast said that they had hesitated to interfere, but that the union members, 'with taunts and jeers' were trying to force non-unionists to join them. Consequently the owners warned that they would not employ union members: people had freedom to join a union, but they had the right to employ whoever they wished.
The dispute was mainly about unionism, but there were other issues. Many workers lived in Ashburton, but worked in Buckfast, and had a two and a half mile walk there and back. This affected the number of hours that a pieceworker could work. The question of wages had also been raised. At the time sorters and wool pickers (young women) eamed 9s a week. Dayworkers aged 14 and over, mainly females, earned 7s - 10s a week. Weavers, mainly females but some young men, earned 9s - 21s. Youths above 17 and men earned 12s - 26s.
The paper pointed out that the work was continual, and the wages regular.
Western Morning News 3 December 1891 p5 col5

'Lockout of 300 hands imminent'
Column heading, Western Morning News 4 December 1891 p3 col2

On December 11th, as the notice period expired, about 70 weavers left the Buckfast premises, leaving around 40 still at work.
The absence of the weavers would affect all the other processes at the mills. It was difficult to estimate the number of other workers who were leaving, but it appeared to be a majority.

Wagonettes were used to transport the non-unionists to and from Ashburton - one evening the wagonettes had to drive through a large crowd of people thronging the Bullring and the streets. 'There was considerable hooting on the part of the crowd.'
Western Times 11 December 1891 p8 col4
Western Morning News 15 December 1891 p3 col3

By March 1892 Messrs Berry and Sons were taking on new workers. During a meeting held by Unionist leaders outside the Buckfast works a fight broke out: one woman fainted, and one man was bleeding profusely. The police were called and the crowd dispersed.
Western Morning News 14 March 1892 p5 col3

There was no sign of settlement in April - the mills were still working, but at a reduced rate. The Western Morning News stated that the Ashburton locked-out workers 'kept excellent order, and have given no trouble.' By May the dispute was said to be on the brink of collapse, and on the 25th May the Western Times reported that an amicable solution had been reached. Messrs Berry and Sons stated that they were willing to take back locked-out workers as non-union members. Mr Gardner, the union representative, left by the afternoon train.
Western Morning News 13 April 1892 p3 col1
Totnes Weekly Times 7 May 1892 p5 col2
Western Times 25 May 1892 p3 col5
Mr J W Gardner giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Labour in August 1892: 'Mr Berry himself has told me in a private conversation on the Ashburton Road: "I must admit that in the past we have not paid the wages that we ought to have done. But," he said, "we have paid the same wages as other people in the trade." He said, " I admit that women walking from Ashburton to Buckfast, two miles and a half each way, that is walking two and a half miles in the morning and two and a half miles at night, for 7s a week is not right - that is not wages enough." ', London 
Minutes of Evidence of the Royal Commission of Labour, London 1893, vol111 p297

                                  Some workers in the 19th and 20th century wool industry

1841 Witnesses in the case where William Barnes was accused of stealing wool from Richard Caunter:

William Burge, woolstapler, worked in the inner sorting room.

James Badcock, a woolcomber

Joseph Mugford, a wool sorter.

Western Times 27 February 1841 p3 col5


The 1841 census shows Samuel Wills, a woolsorter, living with his wife and daughter in North Street. In the same building is James Wills, also a woolsorter.

1841 census HO 107/253/3 11 15, Ashburton, North St. See The Wills and Eales family under Individual families for more on Samuel and his descendants

According to the 1901 census for Ashburton a Bowden family lives at Globe Arch, North Street. Mary E Bowden is employed as a wool carder in a factory.
See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for Sidney Bowden

David Bowden in 1901 is living in North Street and is employed as a mule minder* in a woollen factory.
See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for David John Bowden
The 1901 census shows the German family living in North Street, Ashburton. There are three daughters who work: Thurza born 1880, Bessie born 1883 and Kate born 1885. All three girls are employed in the woollen industry.

See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for Daniel German

The 1911 census for Ashburton records the Baker family living in North Street, with head of house Alfred 41 years old and employed as a wool dyer.

See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for Sidney Baker

The Chivall family have moved to North Street by 1911. Evelyn aged 13 is employed as a wool sorter.

See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for Simon Garfield Chivall

The 1911 census shows Alfred Eales living in Craig's Corner, Kingsbridge Lane, Ashburton, in the residence of William Thorne. Alfred is aged 18 and employed as a woollen mule pieces (sic -  probably piecer). **

See Roll of Honour WW1, entry for Alfred Eales

*Mule minders watched over the spinning mules.
**Mule piecers  leaned over the spinnimg mules to tie broken threads together.
http://www.powerinthelandscape.co.uk/education - Both accessed 3-11-2015



The Spinning Jenny was invented by James Hargreaves in 1764 - a spinner turning a wheel by hand could draw out and twist several threads at once. In 1769 Richard Arkwright invented a water frame, which was driven by water power and squashed and stretched the yarn. Samuel Crompton combined the moving carriage of the Spinning Jenny with the rollers of Arkwright's water frame, and developed the Spinning Mule (called mule because it was a cross between two different 'animals'). This machine allowed greater control of the weaving process, and could produce a variety of yarn. Each carriage carried 1320 spindles and was up to 46m long, and the carriage moved back and forth 1.5m four times a minute. On the early machines yarn had to be wound onto the spindles by hand, but later this was done automatically - a 'self-acting' mule.



http://www.boltonmuseums.org.uk - All accessed 2-11-2015

Right: A spinning mule, invented by Samuel Crompton
By Pezzab (Wikipedia Commons: Spinning-mule.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Above and Right: Interior of the woollen mills at Buckfast, circa 1920
Many thanks to Lerida Arnold for these photographs

Above: Foreground - a monument to the Berry family in St Andrew's churchyard, which includes the following inscription: 'In loving memory of John Berry, woollen manufacturer of this town. Died March 27th 1889, aged 59 years'.


 In his memories of growing up in Ashburton John Satterly, born in 1879, says that by the end of the 19th century most of the operations connected to the wool trade had moved to nearby Buckfast.

 John Berry's mill had moved from North Street, but there were still offices and sorting sheds in the vicinity of Kingsbridge Lane. Buyers would go out to the farms to buy the wool, weighing it on a steel yard to calculate what would be paid. Back in Ashburton the wool was sorted, cleaned and packed into large bags - these were lowered by pulley onto the carts that would then take them on to Buckfast.                   

Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Times, John Satterly, Reports and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1952 p35

In 1928 Samuel Smerdon, a woolman, died after an accident at J Berry and Sons. H M Inspector of Factories attended the inquest.
William Edmonds, a woolcomber of Kingsbridge House, gave evidence, and said that the accident occurred as they were packing wool. A bag was suspended from a beam by two ropes, which the deceased had tied, before getting into the bag to tread down the wool to pack it tighter. A rope slipped, one side of the bag collapsed and Mr Smerdon fell about 4'6" to the stone floor, landing on his head. Although conscious, he had fractured his spine.
Mr C H Baker, foreman of the jury, questioned whether this manner of working was safe, and Mr Edmonds replied that it had always been done this way. Another witness said there had been accidents before, but nothing serious, and he did not know of a safer way of performing the task. There was a safety rope in the centre of the bag, and it was concluded that the deceased must have let go of it.
A verdict of Accidental Death was returned, with no-one to blame.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 31 January 1928, p2 col3


                                                       Other Mills  

                                                   Belford Mill
Devon Heritage Centre holds a fragment of a deed concerning Lurdgcombe Mill in 1638. (Belford Mill is another name for Higher Lurgecombe Mill. The Heritage Centre has a question mark before Lurdgcombe). The document names Ralph Freeman et al to William Stowell.
Devon Heritage Centre, ref 2527M/TUZ/8

The following will details are reproduced from Chris Broadhurst's website on the Broadhurst family http://www.broadhurst-family.co.uk/Private/Leins/ - accessed 10-03-2022
Many thanks to Chris for allowing me to use his material.

William Pope Snr. died aged 67 in September 1823 (68 according to Ashburton Archive)
Parish records

His son, William Pope, who had been baptised in Ashburton in June 1789, was buried on 3rd May 1828, aged 38.
Parish records

William Pope Snr. had appointed Robert Abraham, an Ashburton attorney-at-law and gentleman, as trustee to his will, to ensure that his oldest daughter Mary received £300, and interest out of the rentals from Belford Mill, and that his elder son William Pope Jnr. inherited the freehold mill itself.
William Pope Jnr. was buried in the same grave as his parents and his brother John, and the inscription referring to his death reads as follows:
'Also the remains of William Pope who died 1st May 1828 aged 38 years'.

The abstract to the title of Belford Mill states that William Pope, miller, died intestate (ie without having made a will) 'on or about the___ day of _____ 1829 (it was actually the previous year) having made no appointment under the power given him by his father's will, and thus leaving William Henry Pope, his eldest son, as his heir at law. 
The early death of William Pope and his neglect in making a will, meant that he made no provision for his two younger children, and thus only his eldest son William Henry Pope had any inheritance - and he got the whole property, as stipulated in his grandfather's will.
The Pope family had originally come from Sandford, near Crediton. William Pope Snr. had come with his father and mother from Sandford to Ashburton as a boy or a young man. William Pope Snr. was a miller, and purchased Belford Mills in Ashburton parish in September 1810. An abstract of the title of his grandson William Henry Pope to the freehold title of Belford Mill (otherwise known as Higher Lurgecombe Mill, which is now held in Devon Record Office, indicates that William Pope Senior had purchased the mill from Sir John Lethbridge of Somerset, the great-nephew and heir at law of the deceased owner, John Periam Esquire, for £450. The mill property, which comprised land, mill and dwelling houses, was bounded on the west by the road leading from the town of Ashburton towards Halshanger and Ilsington parish, on the east by the river Yeo, on the north by the lands of John Rowe Bennett Esquire, and on the south by the lands of woollen cloth manufacturers John and Richard Berry, which were eventually bought by John F[abyan] Amery Esquire, another resident of Ashburton parish who attended the Independent Chapel.
The mill, which was originally a water grist mill, stood on land measuring 1 acre, 1 rood and 29 perches or thereabouts.
Abb [?] and Worsted machinery was being sold at Belford Mill in 1832, after the bankrupcy of Richard Carlile. Jennys, carders and  scribblers were amongst the items being auctioned, together with worsted frames, scales, weights, lead pipes, a turning lathe, a copper furnace and other lots.
The mill was to be let at the same time.
Exeter Flying Post, 31 May 1832, p3 col4

In 1847 there was danger of a riot in Ashburton because of the high price of corn. A large number of men (mainly, according to the newspaper report, miners), women and children gathered near the Mr W R Whiteway's Town Mills, which may have been  in West St (see below) or may have been in North St., which were also called the Town Mills*. The mob searched through the mill store-rooms, and then '100' women seized a quantity of wheat that was arriving at the yard. 

Taking the key to the market from Mr S Mann (and allegedly threatening to break his shop windows if he did not give it to them), the women sold the wheat at 8s a bushel.

The town was in 'a state of excitement' all day, and '200 special constables were sworn in'.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 22 May 1847 p8 col3

*On the 1851 census, which is difficult to read, William R Whiteway, his wife Elizabeth and son William R Jnr appear to be living in Kingsbridge Lane. William senior is a land agent, maltster and (?) seedsman. Robert Osmond, and his brother Alexander, are millers at the 'West Street Mills'.


The lease for Lurgecombe Mills, 'Desirable and well accustomed flour and grist mills', was for sale in September 1851. All the going gear and machinery was included, the buildings were in excellent condition, and there was a poweful water suppy. Lord Clinton owned the premises, and the lease was for 99 years, determinable on 3 lives.
Western Times 27 September 1851 p1 col3

A few months later another flour mill, the Town and Manor Mills, was being let, as Stephen Yolland was about to give up the business. Only built a few years before, the mill had a 22 foot high water-wheel driven by the river Yeo, 'working three pair stones, flour rubble and smut machines'. A house and a two meadow acre were included.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 13 December 1851, p1 col1

                  Millers in Ashburton in 1861

Nicholas Addems and family, Iron Mill, North St

John Knapman and family, Belford Mill

Joseph Holland and family, Ledgecombe*

John Churchward and family, Lemonford Mill**

John Maddock and family, Church Lane

Robert R Osmond and family, Town Mills (West St., 2 properties on from London Inn

William Underhill and family, Fursleigh Mill


*More usually spelled Lurgecombe

**2 members of the family are transcribed as Churchmore



1866 John B Metherell was about to give up his business in his flour and grist mills, known as the Town and Manor Mills. Constucted 'a few years since', the property consisted of a house, linhays, stables, outbuildings and a garden. The river drove a 22 foot high wheel, and there were three pairs of working stones plus machines.
Western Times 9 February 1866 p1 col2

Flour and grist mills, called the Town Mills, were advertised for letting in May 1878. It seems likely that these were the West Street ones, as they are advertised as being near the Railway Station. The mills had three pairs of stones powered by an '22 feet water wheel' - so it seems probable that these are the same ones as where advertised in 1866 (see above)

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 31 May 1878 p4 col2

The mill was situated behind the Methodist Church in West St., in the area now known as Mill Path. It can be accessed through the alleyway between nos. 7 and 9 West Street.

In the 1881 census, William Osmond, a twenty four year old miller, is living in the West Street area with his widowed mother Maria.


Above right: The leat to Osmond's Mill, which John Satterly says was sometimes called the Town Mill. The river Ashburn (in the background) and leat, which can be seen from King's Bridge, at the entrance to the present-day carpark. The metal gate on the left, (with greenery in front), could be shut to divert all water down the leat, to power the mills. Conversely, the gate on the right could be shut, diverting all water down the river. In the photograph both are open.

Memories of Ashburton in Late Victorian Times, John Satterly, Reports and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1952 p35
My own photograph 

 John Leaman is the miller at the Town Mill in 1901, in the West Street area.
1901 census RG13, piece no. 2053, folio 10, p11

Left: The former mill behind West Street
Below left and below: The leat leading to the mill. The picture on the left is looking towards the mill, the one on the right is looking towards West Street.
My own photograph 2016
Right: An invoice from R G Robertson, at the Town Mills, Ashburton, telephone number 27. Mr Robertson was a miller, corn, coal, coke and agricultural merchant.
The invoice, from October 1934, is for one ton of coal, which cost £2 5s.
From my own collection.
Reginald G Robertson and Mildred J Robertson were at 7a West St in the 1939 register. Reginald was a miller, corn and coal merchant. Under additional information it states that he was a group organizer, defence ......Ministry of Transport (?)
1939 register
At a meeting in Newton Abbot in 1942 users of commercial vehicles proteted about the 'abominable waste' of petrol by the ARP, the War Department and the WVS. Mr R G Robertson was one of those drawing attention to the alleged waste.
Western Morning News 10 Feb 1942, p5 col2
Above: Entrance to mill as viewed from West Street. Mr Robertson's lorry came through this gap
My own photograph 2023

'The coal was carried in hessian bags. Pieces sometimes fell off as the lorry rounded the corner coming into West Street. More than once as a child I picked it up and took it home for the fire'.
Ashburton resident

November 1948. Mr R G Robertson (the Portreeve), together with the Bailiff, members of the Urban Council and the Leet and Baron Juries attended a service at the parish church on Portreeve's Sunday.
Western Times 26 November 1948, p5 col3

Reginald George Robertson of the Town Mills, West Street, Ashburton, died in November 1955. He left effects to the value of £16439 12s 5d.
England and Wales Government Probate Death Index 1858 - 2019

1935 A case was heard in the Chancery Division where four Ashburton mill owners sued Ashburton Urban Council for damages. They alleged that the council had wrongfully abstracted water from the river Yeo (now called the Ashburn), affecting the efficiency of their mills.
James Stephens, Jas. Wm. Redvers Stephens and Ernest Bryant were the owners and occupiers of the Town Mills, North Street, and Mrs. Annie Violetta Taxworth was the owner of the Town Mills, West Street. Although the hearing was adjourned, Mr. Justice Bennett commented on the 'terrible example' of a public authority.
Western Morning News 5 July 1935 p5 col4


1938. Kenneth Edward James Harris worked at the Ashburton Paper Mills, earning £2 a week.

Mr Harris was charged with grievous bodily harm - see the Crime and punishment section of Ashburton in Peril.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 4 February 1938 p2 col6