Spinning Tales of the Past
East Devon's long-vanished silk production business has been brought to life for today's youngsters thanks to Clinton Devon Estates.
Children from Newton Poppleford Primary School enjoyed a trip to the archive library at the Estates' office at Bicton, where they learnt about the Victoria Silk Mills.
The old mill stood on ground near their school. Built in the early part of the 19th century, the mill spun silk which was then sent to other factories to be woven into fabric.
Gerald Millington, the Archivist with Clinton Devon Estates, said: "The first records of a mill in that area was in 1790 and it milled flour. It then appeared to move on to spinning wool. In 1826 it was leased to Walter Brind of Coventry for manufacturing silk.
"It appeared to have a very chequered history with many sales and temporary closures. I believe the booming wool industry in Yorkshire and elsewhere made smaller concerns such as this uneconomic, and may have prompted the change to silk. But then of course artificial silk, rayon, was developed in the 1870s and I think this must have sounded the death knell for the mill."
The mill was demolished just before the turn of the century and there is no longer any sign of it ever having existed on what is now farm land.
The story of the mill was introduced to the children during their work with the Parishscapes Project, which is a three year initiative run by the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty aimed at making all the tithe maps for the East Devon AONB parishes available for public use.
Ten children enjoyed a visit to the Clinton Devon archives to look through original maps and documents relating to the mill.
Teacher Becky Turner said: "The children have taken on this research project with great enthusiasm, because it is so real and close to them. They thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Clinton Devon Estates, carrying out some interviews with Gerald to take back to the school and present to other pupils. It was a particular thrill to see the actual tithe map from 1840 rather than the copies they have previously studied."