Fulling was sometimes called ‘walking’ – and, in Yorkshire, ‘tucking’. A fulling mill was a simple mechanism: a tappet wheel, turned by the waterwheel, which raised two large and heavy hammers alternately, letting them drop by their own weight onto the cloth – replacing the action of human feet. Sometimes fulling stocks were installed in an existing corn mill building, at other times the fulling mill was newly built. Where a watermill was utilised for both corn grinding and cloth fulling, the owner had two sources of income, though they were likely to be in different tenancies.
Gig mill This consisted of a drum on the circumference of which teasels were slotted in rows. The gig mill replaced hand raising and, despite its prohibition, the number of gig mills increased in Gloucestershire. By the end of the 18th century Wiltshire clothiers were sending their cloth to Gloucestershire to be raised by gig mills on account of the opposition to these machines in Wiltshire.
Spanish cloth By 1630 12,000 pieces of Spanish cloth were being exported from London a year.
Double mills All the fulling mills along the Ewelme were double mills for part of the 17th century, some having adjoining dyehouses. 13 of 21 sites along the Little Avon were double mills, while, along the R. Frome, Stanley, Dudbridge, Fromehall and Brimscombe mills were double mills at some stage in the 17th or early to mid-18th centuries. Stanley Mill had three fulling mills, one gig mill one Gristmill with a warping room in an adjacent building, together with shear shops and a dyehouse.
King and State In the 17th and early to mid-18th centuries the woollen industry was regulated by King and Parliament; looking back to mediaeval and Tudor times, rather than recognising the needs of entrepreneurial clothiers. In 1614 the English broadcloth industry was brought to its knees by Alderman Cockayne, a leading member of a new London-based company called the Kings Merchant Adventurers. The export of unfinished cloth was prohibited, and it was required to be dyed and dressed in London. The project met with great hostility in Gloucestershire as well as in overseas markets. The Kings Merchant Adventurers were ordered by the Council of State to buy up the Gloucestershire cloth and, in 1616, the King remonstrated with Cockayne on his failure to ensure that the cloth produced was purchased. He and his fellow merchants were ordered to buy up all ‘such as shall weekly be brought in’ but, by September 1616, there was still large quantities of cloth remaining in Gloucestershire. The entire Cockayne project collapsed in 1617, when the old Merchant Adventurers had their former privileges reinstated. But the cloth trade had been badly knocked and, in the following year, the 30 Years War broke out and the German market was badly affected. While the wealthier clothiers could survive for a while, the small clothiers were particularly badly hit and many textile craftspeople lacked work. There were reports of assemblies and riots and each parish overseer was requested to ensure that the poor had some form of work or parish relief. In 1622 the Gloucestershire JPs called clothiers together and ordered them to employ their workpeople one month longer to prevent mutinies. As if this was not enough, in 1625, London was considered unsafe on account of the plague and Gloucestershire clothiers asked the Merchant Adventurers to move the main market either to Reading or Southampton, while the plague raged. A Commission of Inquiry into the entire woollen industry of England was set up in 1638 and reported in 1640, but with the Civil War imminent, King and Parliament were concerned with other matters.
There was much military activity in the county during the Civil War, the King’s headquarters being at Oxford, and Gloucester and Bristol (until 1643) being held for Parliament. Samuel Webb of Ham Mill received letters of protection from both Prince Maurice and Prince Rupert. The King told clothiers that arrangements would be made for them to send their cloth out through Bristol and other Western ports in his hands and that they could collect their money from London. In the event it was only possible to do the latter, since Parliamentary forces captured the West. Cloth manufacture continued to be interrupted until the end of the Civil War.
Clothiers’ houses The gabled Salmons Mill house was rebuilt in 1593 by George Fletcher, who added a porch in 1607 with his initials and cloth mark. Egypt Mill house at Nailsworth, with its two gables on each of the four faces of the building together with the date 1698, are examples of houses near to mills. Clothiers became collectors of works of art, good furniture and silver. The sale of the effects of Thomas Tippetts of Dursley in 1789, took 13 days. Sir Onesiphorous Paul , of Southfield Mill, Woodchester entertained the Prince of Wales, became high Sheriff of the County and after presenting a loyal address to George III on his accession to the throne was rewarded with a baronetcy. He built Hillhouse, Rodborough described as “a superb residence”. Stanley House, the “Mansion house,” which belonged to Jasper Clutterbuck in the mid-17th century, passed successively into the hands of the Holbrow, Peach, Cooper, Davis and Harris families, all clothiers.
Waterpower Earlier mill builders had the pick of the best sites for waterpower – where two streams joined, or where there was a sudden steepness in the gradient. Later mill builders had to take their pick of what was left. An overshot wheel needed the least volume of water and, on the whole, generated more power, but it required a greater fall and it didn’t work well in a crowded valley where tail water could rise in the wheel pits. It was the skill of local mill rights who applied their practical know-how in devising solutions of wheel design and watercourse design appropriate to different sites.
When the new Ebley Mill was built in 1818, the large part of an adjoining meadow was flooded to provide a reservoir. Longford’s new lake covered approximately 15 acres and the dam, cost £945. But in the crowded middle sections of valleys few mill owners had enough land for a reservoir. Water rights were a tender subject and mill owners quite frequently ended up in the courts over disputes.
Millwrighting The Hayden brothers, of Trowbridge, were waterwheel builders as well as steam engine erectors and, in 1820, they installed a 16 foot diameter wheel for Hicks of Eastington. The west wheel at Egypt Mill is 14 ft.6 in. diameter and has 40 wooden floats set at right angles into cast-iron rims, the East waterwheel has the same dimensions. Three waterwheels survive at Dunkirk Mill, two forming a pair. They are 10 ft. diameter and may have been made by Daniels of Stroud. The third overshot waterwheel, 13 ft. diameter, is of the type made by John Ferrabee. These relatively late waterwheels illustrate Gloucestershire mill owners’ continuing dependence on waterpower. When Stanley mill was rebuilt in 1813, it was, despite its innovative structural design, designed for waterpower and was driven by five wheels. Ebley Mill, too, depended on water power from its new reservoir.
Relatively little is known of Gloucestershire millwrights. Richard Remington of Woodchester installed a napping mill in Stanley mill in 1735 and “the famous Mr Chinn” of Tewkesbury installed a wheel at Stanley. More sophisticated millwright engineers emerged in the 1790s and the Hayden brothers of Trowbridge moved into machinery repair, besides other lines of business, and introduced iron cloth racks into the region.
Steam power Samuel Clutterbuck of St Mary’s mill told factory inspectors in 1834, that steam was used in very dry seasons to supply the deficiency of waterpower. Barnard of Nailsworth used waterpower for about half the year and steam for the other half. William Lewis, of Brimscombe estimated his waterpower as equal to 60 to 80hp. and his steam power as 18hp. of which he only used about 40. Mills in the main Frome Valley could be supplied by with coal by canal from the late 18th century, prices of coal rising the further a mill was located away from it. While coal prices remained higher than in Yorkshire and Lancashire throughout the 19th century it has been suggested that this was only a very marginal additional expense for manufacturers.
Strike Things were fairly calm, despite the 1825 strike, until a weaver who had taken a chain from Ham Mill agreed to weave it under the agreed price and violence ensued. There was worse violence at Vatch Mill on a tributary of the Slad stream, when 3000 men gathered. To restore order, a squadron of military arrived in Stroud in June and was stationed between Bliss and Tayloe’s mills in Chalford. A number of strikers were committed to Gloucester jail. There were riots in Stroud and Chalford, but violence waned with the onset of depression in 1826.