GUNNS MILL

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.

 

Cast iron fire back made in 1620 for one of Winter's homes (approx 750mm wide). On show at Dean Heritage museum.

 

Gunns Mill history: Paper Mill

The Lloyd family were paper makers at Bills Mills from 1638. In 1738, although still owned by the Foleys, Joseph Lloyd converted Gunns Mill into a paper mill. To make paper, rags were macerated with water powered hammers to release their constituent fibres.The process consumed large amounts of water for cleaning the rags and floating the fibres. The latter were then sieved to form single sheets of wet paper that were hung to dry in the drying loft. This is why the long, half-timbered structure was built on top of the furnace. Its timbers were newly felled in 1738-9. It was an extension of the former furnace charge house the timbers of which were felled in 1681.

For access, a staircase was built inside the shaft of the furnace. This involved making holes in the side and front of the furnace, removing the hearth and breaking the iron lintels. Much of the interior, including the furnace shaft was plastered, presumably to reduce dust and dirt.

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

Schubert H R. 1957. The History of the British Iron and Steel Industry. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

 

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

 

Shoesmith, R. 1988. Gunns Mill, Abenhall, Gloucestershire, An Interim report. View here

 

Riden P. 1993. A gazetteer of charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660. Mertom Priory Press, Cardiff.

 

Hart, C E. 1995. The Forest of Dean, new history, 1550-1818. Alan Sutton, Stroud.

 

Bashford, Louise. 2000. Archaeological monitoring of scaffolding works at Gunns Mills, Abenhall. For English Heritage. Unpublished. 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

 

Listing

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.

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

T

blished. View here

Riden P. 1993. A gazetteer of charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Great Britain in use since 1660. Mertom Priory Press, Cardiff.