The project considered the feasibility of the acquisition, restoration and management of the site by a community-based charitable trust. In doing so it is hoped that the future of a significant local industry will be secured, therefore retaining and creating employment, by providing access to the wet finishing machinery. It also investigated opportunities for other complementary business activities, in particular the potential to establish a creative industries hub on the site, and the creation of an education/heritage facility.
About the Project
Tone Mill Regeneration Partnership (TMRP), commissioned a feasibility study to identify and evaluate options for the re-use and regeneration of Tone Mill, Wellington, Somerset. The TMRP ambition is to see the buildings and machinery restored and brought back into a useable condition. Hannah Reynolds Associates (HRA) were appointed to undertake the consultancy.
Tone Mill is an unusually well preserved cloth dyeing and finishing works. The site was established in the early to mid-18th century and operated by Fox Brothers and Co. of nearby Tonedale Mills. It retains intact buildings ranging in date from the 1830s, or earlier, to the 1920s, although most of the buildings are thought to date from the 1880s to the 1920s. The buildings and their contents have been listed Grade II and Grade II* in 1976 and 2000.
The site remained in use for its original purpose until the late 1990s and was still in occasional use until July 2000. Consequently, the site retains most of the traditional machinery and fittings associated with the dyeing and finishing of woolen and worsted cloths.
Tone Mills housed the dye-works, greaseworks and wet finishing plant of Fox Brothers and Co Ltd, which went into receivership in May 2000 after an existence of some 225 years but has been rescued and is once again operating from premises in Wellington.
There are aspirations to retain most of the existing machinery and for Fox Brothers to return to the Mill as part of a “Fox Brothers Experience” In addition to this there are proposals to develop other parts of the site for commercial and residential use. A Development Company currently owns the site and all buildings and machinery thereon.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT) has been assisting in the development of a beneficial and sustainable re-use strategy for Tone Mill. It was the PRT that first alerted everybody to the heritage value of this site and the great risk that it could all be lost.
On the initiative of PRT an open day was held in 2003 and a partnership was established, broadly representative of the local community and key stakeholders that has been meeting regularly to develop re-use proposal for the site. The Partnership has been established to protect and enhance the historical and environmental fabric of Tone Mill; to restore the Works to production; to provide visitor access and information, create appropriate new business opportunities and jobs; and to assist sustainable regeneration of the entire area.
HRA carried out an extensive study engaging a range of specialist consultants. Their study findings concluded that, with the co-operation and in a partnership venture with the owner, an opportunity does exist to create a mixed development which will ensure the future of this unique example of England’s industrial heritage.
To facilitate this a Tone Mill Trust has been registered as a Company limited by Guarantee and the Partnership is appointing trustees. The Trust aims to be a registered charity before the end of 2007. This demonstrates significant commitment to community ownership of this project and ensuring that this important industrial heritage site will be developed in the most sensitive and sustainable way.