Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum Devon

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01884 840960

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South West

Coldharbour Mill Uffculme, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 3EE

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PreSchool, 5 to 7 years, 8 to 10 years, 11 to 13 years, 14 to 16 years, College, University

We provide a mixture of workshops on the textile industry, with working machinery in action to give a flavour of sights, smells & sounds of a working woollen mill. We give an overview of the whole process of the industry, from sheep to finished fabrics.

Listed under: Curriculum Subject / Activity Type | Museums | Historical Heritage | Historic Buildings | Crafts | Educational Tours | Day Trip Destinations | Textiles | Science | History | Geography | English | Art and Design | Walking Tours

What we offer

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.


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.

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.

What makes us a great choice?

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.

Accreditation and Awards

We are a member of the Kids in Museums accreditation scheme.

What is typically included?

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.

Group Sizes Catered For

Normally up to 60 maximum per day, in exceptional circumstances 90.
We have a lower limit of 20 per group.

Materials, Resources & Information Provided

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.

Photography, Filming & Audio Restrictions

No restrictions.

Risk Assessment Details

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.

Education Officer Information

Please contact us on 01884 840960 or e-mail:info@coldharbourmill.org.uk or adamnewson@coldharbourmill.org.uk

Pricing Information

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.

Clothing Requirements

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.

First Aid Information

First aid is available on site, all staff and 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.

Available Facilities

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 cafe 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.

Accessibility & 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.

Opening Hours & Information

School visits can be any day of the week in term time, 10am-4pm


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.

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