Tonedale Mill in Somerset ~ Urbex

Aug 6, 2020 | Location | 8 comments

My friend Len and I visited Tonedale Mill in the heart of Somerset earlier today. We wanted to see what is left of this historic set of buildings. The main site is gradually being converted into housing and judging by the interest of the local councillors that we bumped into, some of the best bits this complex might well get preserved.

I took all these photographs using the Fujifilm X100V, it’s a small, fixed lens camera and is ideal for Urbex (Urban exploration). Processing was done in Adobe Lightroom.

Enjoy,

Damien Lovegrove

Built on an epic scale, the architect of this mill clearly had a Cathedral in mind when he or she laid out the plans.

Old machinery in an abondoned textile mill in Tonedale Somerset

It was a Howard Carter moment when we first glanced the treasure within the mill. “Can you see anything?” “Yes, wonderful things”.

Nothing quite prepares you for the beautiful tones and textures in this palace to an industrial past in Tonedale

Nothing quite prepares you for the beautiful tones and textures in this shrine to an industrial past in Tonedale.

wheels, belts and pullies in the Tonedale Mill

Wheels, belts, chains and pullys at the ready to whir back into action.

So much history to be preserved

This part of the complex is very low lying and liable to flooding. Plus it has the added advantage of being right underneith high voltage pylons. I say advantage, because there is no way this site will get cleared for housing. It would make a fabulous museum as long as it wasn’t cleaned up too much.

the bigger picture of the Mill in Tonedale

Top Left: This fire escape has seen better days. Top Right: The vast open ‘shop floor’ where rows upon rows of textile processing machines once stood. Bottom Left: One of many industrial fans set into the walls of the mill. Bottom Middle: The wire cut, handmade, clay bricks that litter the site are perforated. These holes allow for a better bond with adjasent bricks and they save weight and costs too. Bottom Right: Classic Roman arches adorn the site. These were made using ‘red rubber’ bricks and they add style, strength and a touch of quality to the buildings.

The savanna of Somerset encroaches on this wonderful relic of the past in Tonedale

The savanna of Somerset encroaches on this wonderful relic of the past in Tonedale. The three centered arches above the windows in this building are sublime. Beautiful proportions that still delight dog walkers and passers by.

A mighty fine set of buildings.

The chimney makes a statement and is in surprisingly good condition.

You can read more about the Tonedale Mills here. Including the woollen mill, the dye works and khaki dye production for the British Army.

8 Comments

  1. Dave

    Lovely location & a great set of images. Really looks like a very interesting place to visit, thanks for posting.

    All the best
    Dave

    Reply
  2. Dayve Ward

    What a wonderful architectural delight! I really hope we start to realise the beauty of such bygone buildings and spend the money restoring rather than taking the cheaper demolishing option. We never seem to replace these icons of design with anything near to the beauty they replace.

    Your photography is equally wonderful as always. You’ve seen and captured the detail, texture and gorgeous colours perfectly. And not a model in sight

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Dayve,

      Thank you for the compliments. I love to photograph beauty of all kinds and places like this tick all my boxes.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  3. John Pearson

    I love these images, Damien. How hard is it to get into the site?

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi John,

      Thank you. Access to sites like these changes almost daily. As one window gets boarded up another often becomes accessible. I gain access without the use of tools or by causing any damage. This is crucial to avoid being arrested for breaking and entering ;) I’m not the fittest of guys but I have no problem scrambling up to climb through an open window and dealing with a smallish drop the other side. Some folk might consider this easy entry and others, hard entry. It’s often the forest of brambles and nettles that are the hardest part of the process to overcome. The trick is to be prepared to fail and every now and then magic will happen. I get into about 50% of the places I visit.

      I hope this helps,

      Damien.

      Reply
  4. adam

    Great images and story, I learnt some history tonight
    Listed as grade 2* but not viable to maintain so I guess it will all come down or hopefully just get converted and maintain its look
    Cheers Adam

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Adam,

      Thank you for the compliments. It’s the star rating on the grade 2 listing that really matters. The section of buildings complete with machinery intact will probably be kept as a museum and the larger building will make a fabulous housing development. The low flat open factory building will likely go as it has little architectural significance. The big problem is its location. This mill is in the middle of nowhere and there are no jobs in the neighbourhood. Any housing development will encourage daily vehicle usage for just about every need. There are no amenities like schools, hospitals, supermarkets, bakeries etc. The mill was built here to harness the free power supply of flowing water. It is adjacent to the River Tone and a couple of smaller brooks. I can’t see much happening to the site in the next few years. After all, the mill closed in the 1980s and has been left to decay ever since.

      Kind regards,

      Damien

      Reply
      • adam

        Thanks Damien
        Interesting to hear more about the mill, its great that photos can not only provide visual information but can also expand our knowledge
        Cheers Adam

        Reply

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