Our History

Our History

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Coldharbour Mill was originally a mill for corn or grist set in 15 acres of land within the village of Uffculme, Devon.  There has been a mill on this site since medieval times, according to the Domesday book.

The name “Coldharbour” is said to be derived from Anglo Saxon, possibly meaning “Old Shelter”.

The area had plenty of resources, such as an ample supply of sheep, and therefore fleeces, and also easy access to the River Culm for a continuous supply of water.

Seeing an opportunity for developing his woollen textile business, Thomas Fox bought the land, complete with buildings and its own water wheel, in 1797 for 1100 guineas.

Thomas then built a large wool-spinning mill on the site to serve his weaving factories in Somerset and opened it in 1799.  In the 19th century, six of his sons continued their father’s work and the company took the name of Fox Brothers.

Originally the mill was powered by the waterwheel, with a new one installed in 1821, however the Fox Brothers were keen innovators and making use of new technology, they installed the steam engines in 1865 to power the factory’s machines and keep up with production demands.

At this point the Fox Brothers changed their business from woollen to worsted spinning enabling a larger range of products with a higher quality finish more suited to being woven into their iconic textiles.

Coldharbour Mill played a key part in the Industrial Revolution in the South West, as Fox Brothers’ developed a domestic or cottage industry into large scale factory production, distributing textile products throughout the world.

We are proud to be one of the oldest working woollen textile mills in the world. Coldharbour Mill opened as a working museum in 1982 and is a rare surviving example of Georgian architecture, industry and enterprise.