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Harberton Ch
Harbertonford ch

Harberton & Harbertonford 

History Society

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Oral History



Memories of the Mill  -  Betty Baldwin


Betty, now in her 90s, lives in Harberton. She worked as a weaver in the Woollen Mill in her 20s for three years until she married. She remembers it being terrifically noisy and described the machines constantly breaking down.


The Mill Chimney  -  Mr Soper


John is in his 90s and now lives in Somerset. He bought the Mill from Churchwards in 1958 and used part of the building as an agricultural engineering workshop. He sold off the eight cottages in Factory Row and sold the main part of the Mill to Gerald Glanville Agricultural Merchants. He oversaw the demolition of the chimney in 1959 and built the nearby house, Mill Court, using the 37,000 bricks, every one of which his wife cleaned!


The Mill as a child  -  Pam Briggs


Pam grew up in Harbertonford and remembers taking tea to two of her aunts and other family members who worked in the Woollen Mill. She enjoyed playing with the wool and was intrigued by the machines and also how the colour of the river changed on a daily basis according to which product was being dyed: yellow for blankets; indigo for the navy serge; and green baize for billiard tables.

A Living History of Harbertonford Woollen Mill’


The story begins in 2017 when Geoff our previous Joint Chair, suggested we started an Oral History Project. Oral History, although in some ways the oldest kind of recorded history, is an increasingly popular way of creating a record for now and for the future. By recording stories now, we have the opportunity to learn about the past from first hand experiences, creating a unique resource for use in the future.


Following some initial investigations and advice, we decided that the focus of this, our first project of this kind, would be the Woollen Mill in Harbertonford. The Mill, which has had many lives in terms of the generations of workers, owners, and products created, has played a vital role in village life since the 1600s. At its zenith in the 19th century it employed over 100 people from the village and surrounding area. The Mill continues as a feature in the village, following recent conversion into housing.


To date we have interviewed 19 people, most of whom had a connection with the Mill, either through working there or having family members who did. Although our focus has been the Mill, we have been interested to hear about other aspects of village life.


Our aim is to create a series of short accessible films hopefully of interest both locally and to the wider public. We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Dr Will Barrett from Exeter University who, along with a colleague of his, will create with us a film depicting the history of Harbertonford Mill through the lives of those who worked there and their families.


We have been very fortunate to receive grant funding towards the cost of this project from the Harberton Parish Community Fund and The Elmgrant Trust.


Although Covid-19 has presented some obstacles, we are edging forward and hope to start filming in the spring.


We are very grateful to those who have taken part in this project and for those who have helped with the lengthy process of transcribing the interviews. We have made some very intriguing discoveries along the way and look forward to being able to share the fruits of our labours with you.


To offer a taste of the work undertaken to date we have added some photos and short examples of some of the recorded interviews.

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