The collection

26th February 1999 at 00:00
Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display

WEEK 8. THE ENGINE HOUSE. Coldharbour Mill. Working Wool Museum.

Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum is one of Britain'sJbest-preserved industrialJheritageJsites, housing an impressive array of workingJVictorianJspinning and weaving machines.

Situated in the heart of rural Devon, Coldharbour Mill has been spinning yarn for the weaving industry for 200 years. Originally it was owned by Quaker woollen manufacturers,JtheJFoxJBrothersJof Wellington, Somerset, who produced a worsted spun yarn on the site from 1799 to 1981. The mill was opened as a museum with independent charitable status in 1982, and has continued the spinning tradition of both the worsted and woollen processes.

The mill plays an important role in education, especially in areas concerned with the Industrial Revolution. Of particular interest are the different forms of power used to drive the mill's machinery.

The "power trail" begins with a water wheel which was turned by water from the River Culm. The trail then leads to the boiler house, where the 30ft 1888 Lancashire boiler supplies steam for the mill's two giant engines. The boiler holds a staggering 5,000 gallons of water, needed to provide enough steam for the 1910 300hp, Pollit and Wigzell, drop-valve, horizontal, cross-compound steam engine.

The engine house also contains a newly-restored 1867 Kittoe and Brotherhood Beam Engine, which completes the story of motive power at Coldharbour Mill. An original rope race converts the steam power intoJenergyJdrivingJthe machinery on all five floors of the factory.

Today visitors can take a guided tour of the mill and watch demonstrations of its machinery, turning raw wool into yarn and cloth. Regular "steam-ups" of the engines, which are lovingly cared for by a team of volunteer engineers, are guaranteed to draw an enthusiasticJcrowd.JThe machinery, working conditions and environment remain much as they were at the end of the 19th century when the mill was in full production.

Julie Dent is marketing officer at Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum, Uffculme, Cullompton, Devon EX15 3EE. Tel: 01884 840960

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