MSO7075 - Simonsbath Sawmill (Building)


An estate sawmill at Simonsbath. It was converted from water power to turbine power at the beginning of the 20th Century, and continued in use until 1952.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

An estate sawmill at Simonsbath. It was converted from a water wheel to turbine powered mill at the turn of the 19th Century and continued in use until 1952, when it suffered extensive flood damage. [1] Simonsbath Sawmill was purchased by Exmoor National Park Authority, and detailed surveys have been undertaken. [2] The sawmill was first mentioned in 1845 on the Estate of Frederic Knight. [3] A record was created before and during repair works to the water turbine at Simonsbath Sawmill in December 2001 to December 2002. The machine had been substantially the same as when it was built in 1896, with main components such as the runner and shaft found to be redeemable and the cast iron casings and covers requiring no more than blast cleaning and painting. The bearings in which the main shaft runs had to be replaced completely, using more modern materials and technology, to allow for switching power supply between the turbine and stationary engine, to redeem the runner and shaft in situ and to reduce servicing issues. The draft tube was also replaced, as it was badly corroded and had been welded together in place in 1947. [4] The sawmill has been restored through the Restoration of the Simonsbath Sawmill Project which won recognition for the work. [5-8, 10] The sawmill is now used to mill timber for use by Exmoor National Park Authority. [7-9] In the 1890s a new sawmill was built, which was was used for cutting chaff and crushing feed as well as sawing wood. The later conversion to a turbine allowed the sawmill to also provide electricity for lighting the hotel and some of the houses. [10] A survey of the area to the north of the sawmill buildings and a watching brief in advance of groundwork for an access track and storage area were carried out in May 2016. The survey recorded the 19th Century leat which powered the original waterwheel at the sawmill; a section of gearing found during the groundwork is probably part of the rim gear of this waterwheel. It was suggested that the whole of the north wing of the sawmill was constructed when the sawmill was first built and a waterwheel was sited in a gap in the centre, driving sawbenches in the eastern portion and carpentry machines in the west. A stone lined pit below floor level, between the carpenter's shop and sawmill, now forms the tailrace for the turbine and is thought to have formed the wheel pit for the water wheel. [13] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [14] A collection of photographs shows the interior and exterior of the sawmill, together with asoociated features around the site. They likely date to before 1997. [15] A survey of the building was undertaken in January 2007 for management purposes. [16] Additional bibliography. [17,18] The building is mentioned in a publication on the industrial archaeology of Somerset. [19] A survey was made in 1994 to assist ENPA in decision making for potential acquisition, including history of the building, description of the building and leat, condition of the building, proposals for use of the building, and essential repair required. [20]

Sources/Archives (21)

  • --- Unpublished document: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2024. Exmoor Local Heritage List assessed by the Panel on 21 February 2024.
  • <1> Monograph: Burton, R.A.. 1989. The Heritage of Exmoor. Roger A. Burton. 170.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 28 October 1994.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Somerset County Council. Unknown. Notes on Simonsbath Sawmill.
  • <4> Report: Gannon, A.. 2003. Simonsbath Sawmill: Repairs and rebuilding of water turbine and associated machinery.
  • <5> Article in serial: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2004. Restoration of Simonsbath Sawmill. Exmoor Park Life. 15.
  • <6> Article in serial: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2005/2006. Restoration. Exmoor Visitor.
  • <7> Article in serial: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2004. Historic Sawmill Re-opens. Exmoor Visitor.
  • <8> Article in serial: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2004. Restoration of Simonsbath Sawmill. Exmoor Park Life. 15.
  • <9> Article in serial: Jones, M.. 1998. Simonsbath Sawmill. Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society Bulletin. 77.
  • <10> Monograph: Siraut, M.. 2013. A Field Guide to The Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 12, 25.
  • <11> Leaflet: Wills, G.. 2015. Three Simonsbath Carpenters.
  • <12> Report: Unknown. 2015. Simonsbath Conservation Statement.
  • <13> Report: Riley, H.. 2016. Survey and watching brief, Simonsbath Sawmill, Exmoor: Project report.
  • <14> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1029803, Extant 17 November 2021.
  • <15> Photograph: [Wills, G.]. Pre 1997. Sawmill photographs. Unknown. Colour. Print.
  • <16> Report: Viner, D.. 2007. Simonsbath Sawmill, Somerset: An assessment of presentation - constraints, possibilites, potential. David Viner.
  • <17> Article in serial: Hobbs, J.. 1995. Exmoor Experience. Old Glory. 69. pp 44-48.
  • <18> Article in serial: Hobbs, J.. 2003. Sawing again at Simonsbath. Old Glory. 159. pp 41-44.
  • <19> Monograph: Daniel, P. (Ed.). 2019. A guide to the industrial archaeology of Somerset. Association for Industrial Archaeology. 2nd Edition. p 70, W19.1.
  • <20> Report: Jones, M.H.. 1994. Simonsbath Sawmill Survey Summary Report.

External Links (3)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local Heritage List Status (Proposed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NE65
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1029803
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35749



Grid reference Centred SS 2772 1392 (32m by 22m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (1)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Mar 4 2024 5:14PM


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