Longfords Mill is found on the Avening road mid way between Avening and Nailsworth. It was converted some years back into flats and houses, but prior to that it was left empty for a number of years. Most of the photos here were taken during its empty stage, probably during the early 1990s.
It’s one of the more interesting old mills in the area as it consisted of a number of different buildings that continued to be in use until fairly recently.
The first photo is the mill as seen from the Avening road. The lake is to the right and out of shot.
I used to look around the site regularly photographing it in its steady state of decay. It was last used to make the cloth used on snooker tables and yarn for tennis balls.
Records show that a mill was on this site as early as c1300. Both fulling and corn grinding were being carried out by 1650. Thomas Playne purchased the mill from a Thomas Pinfold in 1759.
The mill has a large lake known as Gatcombe Water thats since lost some of its original size as it’s silted up at the Avening end of it. It used to occupy 15 acres. You can see the lake from the Avening road on the big hairpin bend but most of it is obscured by trees and the rest of it is surrounded by private land. Below the bend in the road is a fine old boathouse overlooking the lake.
The dam across the valley that holds the lake is 150 yards long and was constructed from clay and earth against a dry stone wall. While the dam was being built it caused a lot of arguments from other mill owners further down the valley as the stream was stopped thus depriving them of water power. To protect it during construction guards patrolled it during the night.
The situation was resolved when the other mill owners agreed that the large lake would provide a head of water to power their mills during the summer months when there was little rain keeping the stream in full flow.
The photo below looks along the dam from the Avening road side of it. The mill is to the left.
The building in the photo isn’t part of the mill and is on the other side of the lake. The lake extends quite a distance to the right. Unfortunately getting a good view of the lake from anywhere is difficult due to it being surrounded by trees and private land. The other photo is of the old boathouse beside the lake.
As some people weren’t convinced of the dams strength, the main mill was built along the side of the valley rather than across it as would have been more normal.
Originally the mill had five water wheels and two beam engines although they have long since gone.
The mill site became quite a large sprawling affair over the years with a hotch potch of buildings built during different time periods. The later buildings were single story red brick built on concrete piles that extended quite a distance into the marshy ground.
As the site was cleared to make way for housing it showed that all the recent buildings were built on a concrete base that rested on long piles. The image below shows this. The lake is to the right. The large black pipe under the girders takes water from the lake to a hydro electric generator. The girders supported a large concrete base that a long single story building sat on which can be seen in the first photo at the lower right.
If you walked towards Nailsworth from beyond the red brick building the area was covered in concrete piles to support further buildings as in the photo below. The valley the mill is built in is narrow and doesn’t get a lot of sun at the best of times so everything is a bit of a bog.
I find abandoned buildings quite interesting and this one was pretty good being a ten minute cycle ride away, so here are some photographs of the inside of the red brick building taken in February 2000. This building has since been demolished and replaced with housing.
It hadn’t been left empty for that many years but nature was starting to take the building over at this point.
There’s a very good video called Rivers of Cloth available from Stroud museum with old film footage of people working at the mill. Someone in the film said so many families worked there you had to be careful what you said about anybody as they might have been related!
Abandoned Electricity Generators
There’s an interesting collection of old electricity generators in one of the mill buildings. You wouldn’t have known they were there unless you’d worked there. I found them by accident as I used to take a lot of photographs of the place when it was empty. They were in a very dark room in the basement of the long building on the right as you enter the site from the Avening road.
I had to buy a roll of fast 800ASA film (digital cameras were pretty useless back then) and take a tripod along to photograph the generators as it was so gloomy. With the dark and the sound of the river under the floor I didn’t like being in there much. There might have been a big hole in the floor I didn’t know about!
It was quite a find though, there was a huge Allen diesel engine, a Bellis and Morcom steam engine and a water turbine. These were all connected to different generators, presumably to power the mill during power cuts.
A couple of photos of the Gordon water turbine and generator.
The turbine from the other end. The water from the lake enters it through the big pipe to the left that goes into the wall. I’m not sure what the red pipe did, it must be important though else it wouldn’t be painted red!
The Bellis & Morcom Steam Engine with Mather & Platt Dynamo. I have no idea if it was fired by coal or oil.
The following photo is of the lethal looking generator. I don’t know if these generators were used all the time or just occasionally during power outages.
Finally a huge Allen diesel engine with oil pot left on the side as if it were just abandoned. This one had a guard to stop you putting your fingers into it. The generator was connected to the engine flywheel with about six big belts. This must have made a lot of noise in this small room.
A further big diesel engine was housed in an out building that I again didn’t realise was there until the engine was pulled out into the open when the outbuilding was demolished. I think that ended up in a museum in Wales called the Internal Fire Museum of Power. Looking at the gallery on their web site they have the same Bellis steam engine seen in these photos.
Externally, the building had a mixture of proper stone mill chimneys and modern diesel engine exhaust pipes bolted to the walls.
There were also a lot of big voltmeters and phase meters etc to control and monitor everything. It looked like a Frankenstein laboratory with all the big fuses and switch gear. Maybe it was!
This is a video on the Stroudie Central YouTube channel of a walk around the engines. It was filmed on a camcorder in very dim lighting. Note all the bird song!
The DVD below is highly recommended if you want to see some old film footage taken inside the building back when people worked there. The video is available from the Stroud museum in Stratford park or Stroud Textile Trust. Currently (December 2020) it’s £10.
What’s the site like now, in 2020? The main mill buildings are still there as they wouldn’t be allowed to pull them down as they’re listed. They’ve been converted into flats and lots of additional housing has been built on the site. It’s all very manicured with private keep out signs everywhere.
Its industrial charm has long gone.
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The Gloucestershire Woollen Mills by Jennifer Tann
Gloucestershire Woollen Industry and its Mills
Labour and the Poor Volume V: The Manufacturing Districts (5) (The Morning Chronicle’s Labour and the Poor)