Region: South West

Disabled Facilities: Yes

Category: Day Trip Destinations

Address: Coldharbour Mill, Uffculme, Cullompton, Devon EX15 3EE

Contact: 01884 840960



Coldharbour Mill is one of the oldest woollen mills in the UK having been in continuous production since 1797. Originally owned by world-renown textile producers Fox Brothers the Mill took fleece from all over world and transformed it into yarn, cloth and textiles. Today the rich heritage lives on as one of the finest working wool museums where visitors are not just able to relive the sights and sounds of the industrial revolution but also see crafts people making traditional textiles, beautiful knitting yarn and hand woven rugs.

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Exactly what does your venue offer to educational visits?
Coldharbour Mill is an 18th century woollen mill, run by the Fox family from the 1790s-1980s as part of one of the largest textile businesses in the south west. Set in its own grounds in the Culm Valley, we are on an extensive site, with mill pond and leats that still power our working water wheel.

We combine a mixture of exhibitions on the textile industry, with working machinery in action to give a real flavour of the sights, smells and sounds of a working woollen mill. We give our visitors an overview of the whole process of the woollen industry, from sheep through to the finished fabrics.

We have steam engines which operate regularly throughout the year. Our staff and volunteers have a huge amount of experience and are great at communicating this to our visitors. We have exhibitions on such themes as Britain at War, and the involvement of the Mill in manufacturing specialist items of uniform such as puttees in WW1.

We provide an excellent resource on a number of educational levels. We look at traditional tales involving spinning and weaving in KS1, local history; Victorian drama role-play to support an understanding of specific eras of national history in KS2; documentary research skills in KS3 history.

We also exploit our local geography and provide superb working examples of gears, levers and technology in action through our spinning and weaving machinery, of which we have working examples from 19th century machines to some from the latter half of the 20th century. Needless to say, the Mill is a great inspiration for art and creative writing too.

Why you are you a great place for educational visits?
Our current visitors return to us because we provide a unique museum experience that they and their students value. We are always open to tailoring our work to specific requests. Because we are a working museum, we can give particular insight into the past. We can explain, for instance, how sayings such as ‘cloth-eared’ came out of the textile industry...and demonstrate with our machinery why that was the case! Our drama sessions involve the children in hands on experiences with wooden bobbins, with wool in all its stages of production; and hands on experience of our vast boilers to power our steam engines. To visit Coldharbour Mill is to literally step back in time as soon as you cross the leat to enter our site.

Do you have the LOtC Quality Badge or any other accreditation such as AALA?
We are a member of the Kids in Museums accreditation scheme.

What does a typical educational visit include?
A typical visit will start with a short session with our educational coordinator to give a background. Depending on what the group might have requested will depend on how the rest unfolds. We cater for a wide range of educational visitors from primary schools through every stage to undergraduate textiles students and U3A attendees. We have an educational space within the museum that we use for active teaching sessions.

For example, if a school has brought KS2 classes to take part in our drama work, half of the students will take part in a tour whilst the other half do a drama session, each taking around 1-1.5hrs. Students would then have a break and typically lunch, before alternating. A tour gives the chance to learn about the processes involved in spinning and weaving, and sets this in a national context. It also deals with the social history of mill-work and factory conditions- as Quakers, the Fox family were considered good employers. The drama gives students the chance to be in role as Victorian children who meet the Mill foreman and one of his employees. We deal with such things as gender inequality, punishment, expectations of long days and hard work. We pose the children with moral dilemmas about working conditions. In our debrief, we ask them to reflect on how this might or might not be relevant in today’s world. Throughout all of our sessions, questions are encouraged.

What group sizes do you cater for?
Normally up to 60 maximum per day, in exceptional circumstances 90.
We have a lower limit of 20 per group.

Do you provide projects, teacher’s packs, work sheets or any useful information?
We have a Teachers Pack and a range of resource sheets, but typically, schools visit us as part of a topic of study that they are already following, so have their own agenda and resources. We have KS3 documentary resources developed by our education co-ordinator (a trained history teacher) in conjunction with a local school. We can do outreach work for KS1 in traditional tales, which involves a practical element of weaving too. Students who visit do so for a wide variety of curricular reasons, so we prefer to be prepared to address those on an individual basis rather than having a set resource pack available in most instances.

Are you happy for children to take photos, video or audio?
No restrictions.

What is your process for booking pre arranged risk assessments?
Recent risk assessment is available on request from Mill office, and teachers are encouraged to make a free visit beforehand to assess the site for their own groups.

Does your venue have an education officer?
Please contact us on 01884 840960 or e-mail below: or

What is the cost of the visit?
Student prices range from £4.00 per student for a Mill Tour, to £6.50 for a combined Tour and Victorian Drama session. We allow one adult free per 10 students, after that we charge £3.50 per adult.

Is specific clothing required for the trip?
In the winter, the Mill can be very chilly, and as part of the visit can be outside, warm clothing is advised.
Students can dress in costume for Victorian Drama and Britain at War visits. Groups intending to visit the Country Park will need stout footwear.

Do you have first aid on site or will the group need to bring a qualified first aider?
First aid is available on site, all staff & some volunteers are trained first aiders, but schools are advised to bring their own first aid kit as regulations may prevent our personnel from administering dressings etc.

Please list facilities available.
We have a shop selling a variety of gifts, some aimed specifically at children. Up to £5 should be ample to spend. We have a café on site, but not big enough to take large groups. There is both inside and outside space for packed lunches to be eaten. There are toilet facilities on site for both able bodied and disabled visitors. There is ample car and coach parking.

What are your disabled facilities?
Venue is suitable for mobility impaired adults and children - all floors of the museum are accessible by lift, though some outside surfaces are a little uneven as this is a former industrial site. Disabled toilets.
Some of our machinery is very noisy when in operation; although it is only working for short lengths of time within the visit, some children can find it a challenge.

What are your opening days and hours?
School visits can be any day of the week in term time, 10am-4pm

Do you have any testimonials from previous schools we can include?
“Fabulous – best educational visit I have ever been on.”
North Petherton Primary School.

“I really enjoyed Coldharbour Mill! I liked it when we stacked the bobbins and polished the boilers. Mr Robson was really strict. And I liked the chimney too!”
Imogen, Burrington Primary School.

Is there anything else that you feel is important and want to include in your information?
Although we have lengthy experience in supporting the history curriculum, Coldharbour Mill offers strong cross-curricular elements. We aspire to being a creative resource, and offer excellent stimulus for art and design through our machinery. This also gives practical sense to many aspects of physics, design technology and maths. We can, for instance, run a course which combines making music alongside the sounds of the mill machines. Our site, chosen for its geographical significance and location on the River Culm is also a good case study in geography and changing landscape use. Not to mention historical trading links throughout Europe and with the developing world through the East India Company.

Age of Children / Pupils: Pre-school 5 – 7 years 8 – 10 years 11 – 13 years 14 – 16 years College University

Type of Visit: Crafts Historic Buildings Historical Heritage Walking Tours

Curriculum Topics Covered: Art and Design English Geography History Science

Months Open: All Year Round January February March April May June July August September October November December