History and Sources
Gunns Mill history: Iron making
The furnace sits on a strong tributary of the Westbury Brook in the Abenhall – Flaxley valley, and occupies a site with water power that was used by corn and fulling mills at as early as 1435. The place-name derives from the clothier William Gunn, who leased the mill in 1596, presumably for fulling wool.
Around 1625, a blast furnace was built, almost certainly by Sir John Winter, iron master of Lydney. Sir John was the grandson of Drake’s associate Admiral Winter. In later years Sir John served as secretary to Queen Henrietta Maria. An ardent Royalist, he forfeited his estates in the Civil War but regained them in 1653. The condition of the furnace is unknown. It lay within the Forest and may have been one of the ironworks destroyed in 1650 by order of Parliament. In 1680, it was derelict.
Rebuilding soon began. The oak timbers of the charge house were felled in 1681 and the iron lintels in the furnace structure carry dates of 1682 and 1683. This was undertaken by George Scudamore and a son of the Hall family of Highmeadow near Coleford. Both families owned ironworks and the Halls and Winters were related through marriage. In 1702, Gunns Mill was sold to Thomas Foley and became part of the Foley iron partnerships. In 1705-06, 779 tons of iron were produced. Iron was last made at Gunns Mill in 1730-31. However, iron making with newer methods began elsewhere in Dean long after the furnace was blown out.
Gunns Mill history: Paper Mill
By 1754 a new beating engine constructed in the Dutch way was at work. Paper making was continued by Lloyd’s descendants until 1840. Before 1803 they had built two mills upstream.
After 1842, paper making at Gunns Mill was continued by others, with steam power added in 1851.
Production ceased in 1879 and the buildings were afterwards used by farmers.
The fine mill house was reduced from three storeys to two. The pond was infilled and many of the ancillary buildings were demolished or fell down. Increasing dilapidation continued despite a Building Preservation Order being made in 1968 following pressure for action from Dr Cyril Hart and frequently thereafter by the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology.
Sources for more information
The History of the British Iron and Steel Industry
The industrial history of Dean
Mill sites on the Longhope, Flaxley & Westbury streamswww.gsia.org.uk/reprints
Gunns Mill as a paper mill
Gunns Mill, Abenhall, Gloucestershire, An Interim report. View here
A gazetteer of charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660
The Forest of Dean, new history, 1550-1818
Bashford, Louise. 2000. Archaeological monitoring of scaffolding works at Gunns Mills, Abenhall. For English Heritage. Unpublished. View here
Gunns Mill, Abenhall, Gloucestershire.View here
The site was listed Grade 2* in 1955 and was later Scheduled. The listing can be viewed here.
Reg. Charity No. 114775. A company limited by guarantee No. 6859885.
Registered Office: Security Office, Whitecliff Quarry, Coleford, GL16 8NB
Hart C E. 1971. The industrial history of Dean. David & Charles, Newton Abbott.
Cave 1974. Mill sites on the Longhope, Flaxley & Westbury streams. Jnl Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology for 1974, on line: www.gsia.org.uk/reprints.
Harris F J T. 1974. Gunns Mill as a paper mill. Jnl Glos Soc Ind Arch, 1974. On line: see supra
Riden P. 1993. A gazetteer of charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660. Mertom Priory Press, Cardiff.
Shoesmith, R. 1988. Gunns Mill, Abenhall, Gloucestershire, An Interim report. View here
Demidowicz G & T. 2001. Gunns Mill, Abenhall, Gloucestershire. A history for English Heritage. Unpublished. View here
Cotswold Archaeology. 2015. Gunns Mills, Flaxley, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire: Historic Building Recording. Unpublished. View here
Cotswold Archaeology. 2015. Gunns Mills, Flaxley, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire: Statement of Significance. Unpublished. View here
Howard, RE , Laxton, RR & Litton, CD. 2001. Tree-ring analysis of timbers from Gunns Mills, Spout Lane, Abenhall, near Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire. Unpublished. View here