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Russian Hemp Bale Seals from

Exeter Museum and District


       EXETER  Thomas Carter and Co., Flax and Wool Mill in 1861.

The Flax Mill
In early 1859, Maunder leased the mill to Thomas Carter and John Richard Treble, who traded under the name of Thomas Carter and Co. as flax dressers and manufacturers of woollen goods. The manager was 27 year old Joseph Corr, a Northern Irishman, who was married with a small child and baby. A series of six adverts were placed in the Flying Post addressed to farmers, to purchase their fields of flax. It seemed like the new wonder crop, but a court case, in 1860, over the ownership of a field of flax destined for the mill must have caused problems and soon after, on the 10th August, Carter and Treble dissolved their partnership, with John Richard Treble continuing alone in the business.
A marked change was evident in the workers at the mill in the 1861 census, when compared with ten years before. The number of workers had dropped from one hundred and twenty in 1851 to forty-one workers including the manager. The introduction of flax production required new skills and eleven flax workers were imported from Ireland. There were only eleven weavers working the machines, three wool combers and four spinners; for the first time for many years there were no fullers working the stocks. A few of the workers from 1851 still worked for Treble in 1861.

The first fire.

"About four o'clock yesterday (Tuesday) morning a destructive fire occurred at the serge and flax mills situated at Exwick, the property of Mr Maunder, in the occupation of Messrs. Treble and Co. The brigades belonging to the fire engines in the city were soon in readiness with the engines but some delay occurred in getting the horses, and the engines were consequently not so quickly on the spot as they otherwise might have been. The West of England brigade was followed by those of the Sun and Norwich Union Offices; water was abundant, and by their united exertions the flames were confined to the mill, which is entirely destroyed. Two ricks of flax, valued at 150, and adjoining the scene of conflagration, were thus prevented from igniting; as also some house property belonging to Mr. Moore, builder, and others. The fire originated in the boiler or "skimps' room. A large quantity of machinery, to the value of from 2,000 to 8,000, was destroyed. Mr. Maunder is partially insured in the West of England Fire Office, and Mr. Treble in that of the State Office. In consequence of this disastrous fire, nearly two hundred hands are thrown out of employment." The newspaper computed that two hundred lost their jobs, but as already mentioned, the census puts the figure at a much lower number.
In September 1862 a notice to let appeared in the Flying Post "Exwick Mills, Exeter... extensive range of mill property... for many years occupied by Messrs Maunder as a woollen factory and Messrs Harris as paper mills, and are now to be let in consequence of the recent destruction of the former by fire..." The advert went on "The late woollen mills are situate about fifty yards lower down the same stream, and command the same volume of water as the paper mill."
James Wentworth Buller purchased the site of the former woollen mill along with the paper mill in 1862. The ruins of the mill also included an intact brickbuilt warehouse of three stories, one hundred and thirty feet long by twenty feet wide, which was later used as a store for Mr Kempe and others.

List of employees.
Benjamin Butley, 18 Serge weaver - Cullompton
Elizabeth Colly, 50 flax labourer - Stockland
Elizabeth Colly, 19 flax labourer - Stockland - daughter
Jane Colly, 13 flax labourer - Stockland
Joseph Corr, 29 Manager of flax works - Ireland
John Corr, 25 flax dresser - Armagh, Ireland
John Davis, 27 flax dresser - Armagh, Ireland
Ann Down, 35 Weaver - Cullompton
Ellen Mary Down, 16 wool sorter - Crediton
Humfrey Down, 31 wool spinner - Cullompton
Mary Goff, 17 flax labourer - Stockland
Ann Hannaford, 26 wool spinner - Chagford
Mary Ann Hannaford, 53 serge weaver - Chagford
Mary Hannaford, 21 wool spinner - Chagford
Charles Hayman, 71 weaver - Ottery St Mary
John Hill, 26 flax dresser - Sligo, Ireland
Charles Hornsey, 33 wool sizer - Cullompton
Mary Hornsey, 45 - wool weaver Buckfastleigh
Anne Kent, 13 worker at worsted mill - Dublin, Ireland
George Lee, 33 woolcomber - Buckfastleigh
Bernard McGenuis, 27 flax dresser - Ireland
James McGivern, 30 flax dresser - Ireland
? McGough, ? flax dresser - Ireland
James McParlin, 24 flax dresser - Armagh, Ireland
Elizabeth Miffling, 14 worker at woollen factory - St Thomas
Samuel Milford, 40 wool comber - St Thomas
Sarah Milford, 42 wool sorter - South Molton
George Mordel, 61 serge weaver - Somerset
John Morningham, 29 flax dresser - Ireland
Joseph Nintec, 23 serge weaver - Cullompton
Harriott Nintec, 27 serge weaver - Cullompton
Anne Osborn, 52 burler - Exeter
Susan Pavey, 27 flax worker - Stockland
? Pavey, 17 flax labourer - Stockland
Tommy Pope, 47 Weaver - Crediton
Mary Spence, 19 flax labourer - Armagh, Ireland
George Squire, 48 wool comber - Crediton
John Waterman, 60 spinner - Devon
Mary Waterman, 58 Weaver - Culmstock


The second fire.
The mill was never rebuilt, but Mr Kempe's warehouse of the 'Old Flax Mill' also fell victim, when it was destroyed by a huge blaze on Saturday 17th April 1869.
"The old Flax Mill at Exwick, near Exeter, was destroyed by fire on Saturday night. The premises stood apart from any other building; and as the wind was blowing from Exwick village to the St David's Railway Station there was no apprehension that the fire would do any other damage than to the premises wherein it was raging. No very great efforts were, therefore, made to extinguish the flames; and the fire was allowed to "burn itself out." Nothing now remains save the outer walls and a chimney or two. The premises belonged to Mr. J. H. Buller, of Downes, and it is believed they were insured. The fire is attributed to an incendiary."
The fire continued to burn until six or seven in the morning, leaving the remaining walls of the building in a dangerous state. This was the last act in a story that commenced in 1786 with a dream of Antony Gibbs for a woollen mill and factory to rival those that were flourishing in the north.
By 1878, a map drawn up to show some new fencing for the Buller estate shows a small bridge straddling the leat where the mill had been positioned; the leat has since been filled, but where the narrow road turns sharp left before Exe View Cottages, is the site of the mill. Exe View Cottages are marked on the map on the site of the warehouse that burnt down in 1869, dating their construction to between 1869 and 1878.

Sources: Flying Post,Times, Western Times, Sherbourne Mercury, records from the Buller estate in the Devon Record Office, Fragile Fortune by Liz Neill, Road Transport Before the Railways by Dorian Gerhold and various trade directories. see


  Royal Albert Memorial Museum - Exeter


OBVERSE  click thumbnail

REVERSE click thumbnail



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1 EXEMS: 69.2001.4


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2 EXEMS: 69.2001.5


A.П. (Archangel Port)
ДECЯHK (inspector)
MП  (MP)



owner Nizhnosu Khonskoi


3 EXEMS: 99.1932
IDS 692


А.П. (Archangel Port)
ДЕСЯЦК (Inspector)
ИП (I.P)


IDS 1394

   EXE004. Sukhona is a river in the Vologda Province from where the Ustyug Region produced high quality flax.
  found in Crediton by Michael Patrick - now in Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter. 99/1932





Copyright 2022 Ged Dodd

 aka PeaceHavens Project
Click here for the terms
of free copy & share &
supporting your Project