MEM21911 - Mill Leat, Dulverton (Monument)


A mill leat is marked on historic mapping, leading from the River Barle to a number of mills.

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Type and Period (1)

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Full Description

A 'Mill Leat' is shown on the First and Second Edition Ordnance Survey maps, passing Higher Mill and Lower Mill. [1] The leat used to drive four mills in Dulverton; the Paper Mill, Town Mills, the mill that is now Dulverton Laundry, and Lower Mill. [3] Several mills were served by the mill leat that leaves the River Barle at the weir (MEM21943). This included Town Mill, which may have been Dulverton's main mill in the medieval period. [4] The leat was included in the Dulverton Conservation Area in December 1994. [5] The weir was surveyed in October 2015. An accompanying assessment of the structures which make up the weir, together with research into its history, has shown that there was a weir on the site since at least as early as the mid 16th Century. This also highlighted the history of the mill buildings at Dulverton and suggests several areas where further research and survey is needed. [7] A report and archaeological survey were carried out in March 2016 of the wear and leat system in Dulverton. The weir is 65 metres in length and several metres wide, diverting some of the water from the River Barle into the leat north of the town. The leat is over half a kilometre long and channels water through the town before returning it to the river. During the medieval period and up to the 19th Century it provided the energy to drive several mills, the buildings of which (largely rebuilt in the post-medieval period) survive as standing structures. The aims of the survey were tightly focused on measuring water levels along the leat relative to water levels in the river, and to see what the results might reveal about why the weir and leat were laid out the way they were, perhaps shedding light on the rationales of the original builders of these structures. The total fall from inlet to outlet of the leat is 6.40 metres. It was noted that the system allowed gravitational pull on the flow of water at certain vertical 'falls' or 'drops' into wheel pits to be used to drive mill wheels. This was achieved by carrying the water (at height) through the town and it is the latter part of the structure where the levels drop steeply and most of the water mills are placed. The lay-out of such a highly functional weir-and-leat system must have been surveyed in prior to construction, albeit using more basic techniques than GPS. Those who built it had a deep practical understanding of how water moves in relation to gravity, and how the energy of the river can be effectively channelled, tapped into and utilised. The report also states that the leat must have been constructed prior to the buildings in this area of the town, as attention needed to be paid to contours and slope of land, and it would have been impossible to do this while working round obstacles or following the course of streets. [8] A report of the Dulverton Weir project appeared in the Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society bulletin in 2017. [9] A discussion of the wool industry on Exmoor includes information on the mills relating to the leat in Dulverton. [10]

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Monograph: Binding, H. + Bonham-Carter, V.. 1986. Old Dulverton and Around: Dulverton - Bury - Brushford - Exebridge. The Exmoor Press. P.28, 35, 38, Photo of outflow.
  • <4> Article in monograph: Gathercole, C.. 2003. English Heritage Extensive Urban Survey: An Archaeological Assessment of Dulverton. The Somerset Urban Archaeological Survey. English Heritage. P.9.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Fisher, J.. c.2003. Dulverton Conservation Area Appraisal. p5, 7, 17, 20, 21, 25.
  • <6> Monograph: Dulverton and District Civic Society. 2002. The Book of Dulverton, Brushford, Bury and Exebridge. Halsgrove. P.19, 27.
  • <7> Report: Riley, H.. 2015. Dulverton Town Weir, Exmoor: Historical research, recording and assessment.
  • <8> Report: Edgeworth, M.. 2016. Archaeological survey of the weir and leat system at Dulverton, West Somerset.
  • <9> Serial: Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society. 1975-. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society Bulletin. (Anon.) "Dulverton's ancient urban watermill landscape", 11-14.
  • <10> Report: Head, L.. Wool and Water - an enduring partnership in Exmoor and the surrounding area. Dulverton Weir & Leat Conservation Trust.



Grid reference Centred SS 9130 2796 (118m by 605m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS92NW

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Record last edited

Sep 1 2021 10:07AM


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