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Fussell's Lower Works: an iron edge tool works, 210m south east of Wadbury

A Scheduled Monument in Mells, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.2385 / 51°14'18"N

Longitude: -2.3752 / 2°22'30"W

OS Eastings: 373899.920577

OS Northings: 148878.151252

OS Grid: ST738488

Mapcode National: GBR 0S7.6BD

Mapcode Global: VH97C.S45D

Entry Name: Fussell's Lower Works: an iron edge tool works, 210m south east of Wadbury

Scheduled Date: 2 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019796

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21695

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Mells

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes the buried remains, water control system and the ruins
of the site of a former iron edge tool works, known as Fussell's Lower Works.
The monument is situated within the wooded Wadbury Vale on the north side of
Mells Stream.

Documentary evidence has established that James Fussell III was granted a 99
year lease in 1744 for a plot of land in the Wadbury valley to construct mills
for grinding edge tools and forging iron plates. In 1841 a settlement was
reached and the company was able to purchase the land. The business operated
on two sites in the valley, known as Upper and Lower Works until its closure
in 1894. The earliest development of the Lower Works site is believed to have
occurred between 1779 and 1840, with extensive further development after 1841
when it became feasible for the company to invest in the premises and plant.
By 1871 the two sites were operating as separate companies, with scythes,
bagging and reaping hooks, and hay and chaff knives being produced at the
Lower Works site. Economic difficulties in the agricultural industry
contributed to the bankcruptcy of the business in 1894 and the site was
abandoned the following year.

The site of Fussell's Lower Works occupies a narrow plot of land, bounded by a
substantial rubblestone wall to the north and east, and by Mells Stream to
the south. Within the boundaries of the site is a complex of ruined buildings
and structures, including water-powered grinding shops and forges where the
tool manufacturing occurred. These will retain archaeological evidence for
hearths, bellows, anvils and hammers. A complicated network of culverts
survives beneath the site and these provided the water supply necessary to
drive the waterwheels, sited in many of the buildings, powering bellows to
provide air to the various forges and to power grinding wheels where the tools
were sharpened. A weir, now partly collapsed, enabled the flow of water in the
culverts to be controlled as part of the water management system powering the
works. A small-scale excavation in 1974 and documentary research have
indicated that at least nine waterwheels were operating at the site during the
mid-19th century.

The ruins of a range of ancillary buildings, some retaining the bases of
hearths, are visible in the northern half of the site, built against the
boundary wall. Immediately to the east of this range are the remains of three
vaulted structures which are considered to be water-powered tilt hammer shops,
where scythes, and larger knife and tool blades would have been produced.
Sometime in the 1860s steam power was introduced to replace the water-powered
hammers and a rolling mill, where iron bars from the furnace were rolled, was
erected at the eastern end of the site. The excavation has also revealed the
ruins of a building, adjacent to the north bank of the stream, which retains a
row of small hand forges. These ruins, which are Listed Grade II, and their
associated buried remains will provide further evidence for technological
developments at Lower Works during the 19th century.

A further range of standing, but roofless, former stables and an office block
immediately west of the monument are not included in the scheduling. However,
this range of buildings is Listed Grade II.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry,
spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major
part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance
peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms
across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques,
including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and
underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and
features at extraction sites. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small,
relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced
from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a
higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is
brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be
remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge,
but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to
more sophisticated types of furnaces. A comprehensive survey of the iron and
steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of ten sites of
national importance that represent the industry's chronological range,
technological breadth and regional diversity.

Fussell's Lower Works survives well and is considered to be one of the best
preserved examples of a 19th century iron edge tool works in the country.
Partial excavation has indicated that the site retains an exceptional range of
components relating to this type of manufacturing industry, including the
remains of furnaces, hearths and hand forges. Large quantities of water were
required and typical water supply features are often found in association with
forge buildings. At Lower Works these include an in situ iron waterwheel,
wheelpits and a network of culverts running beneath the site. Taken as a
whole, such features will provide valuable information for the operation of
this industrial site, contributing to our understanding of 18th and 19th
century forge complexes.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Stiles, R, Cornwell, J, 'Bristol Industrial Archaeology Society Journal' in Fussell's Ironworks, Mells, , Vol. 7, (1975), 14-15
Title: Mells Tithe Map
Source Date: 1840

Source: Historic England

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