Stroud Textile Industry



Holcombe Mill Avening

Many old mills can be found in the Nailsworth – Stroud – Chalford valleys (known as The Five Valleys), and I’ve documented a number of the old mills in the area.

Click the ‘Cloth Mills’ link on the main menu for the individual mills.

These old buildings range from little more than a tall chimney to complete buildings, some of which are in the process of being converted into usually expensive flats. The ones converted are Longfords Mill, Dunkirk Mill, Rooksmoor Mills and possibly Kimmings Mill, although that’s currently an empty building.

The woollen trade was once the principle industry in the area, with Gloucestershire being famous for it’s superfine broadcloth. This was normally sold as ‘ white’ or undyed, most of which was intended for the overseas market, but some was sent to Coventry to be finished.

If you go up the Chalford high street, Chalford Hill is known locally as Rack Hill as the cloth used to be hung out on racks to dry.

Many of the mills turned their hands to silk throwing as the woollen trade declined. Later, the Mills would be used for car manufacture, carpet production, walking stick production, pin making and these days electronics.

The mills were originally water powered so they’re located beside a small river or stream which around these parts is the river frome or the Nailsworth stream.

Not seen now, except in one or two examples would have been a large mill pond upstream of the mill to provide sufficient power to turn the mill waterwheels and thus the mill machinery.

Longfords Mill near Avening has a huge lake to the side of it called Gatcombe Water. There’s also some smaller lakes or ponds on the Nailsworth side of Dunkirk Mill that can be seen from the cycle track.

The water wheels would be connected to things called line shafts that were long steel shafts usually running the length or width of the building on each floor. Fitted along the length of the shafts were large wheels that were used to drive the machinery below them via a wide belt.

Most of the old mill ponds are now filled in or much reduced in size to accommodate new building development.

Later steam engines were added, some of which could work in conjunction with the water wheel. The photo below shows one such engine installed at Longfords Mill along the Avening road.

There was (maybe still is) a large collection of engines in Longfords Mill although there’s no public access to view them.

Steam engine installed at Longfords Mill
The Bellis & Morcom Steam Engine installed at Longfords Mill

During the working life of the mills, many of them will have had a change of use as they took on new owners. Where possible, I have documented the different uses, but information on the mills is patchy.

There are a couple of publications that are of interest re the old cloth industry in this area. One is a DVD called Rivers of Cloth available from the Museum in the Park that shows old video footage of the cloth manufacture taken at Longfords Mill along with stories from people that worked there.

Obviously this is more recent material but it’s well worth watching and another is a small book normally available from the bookshop up the Stroud high street opposite Costa that has the history of Ebley Mill, now home to Stroud District Council that moved into it with a lot controversy many years ago that the history books have forgotten about!

Rivers of Cloth DVD available from the Museum in the Park
Cathedral of Cloth. A small but very good book about the history of Ebley Mill.

Please support this site by purchasing books with the buy now links.

The Gloucestershire Woollen Mills by Jennifer Tann

Gloucestershire Wollen Mills book

Gloucestershire wollen mills book

Gloucestershire Woollen Industry and its Mills

gloucestershire woollen industry and its mills