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Copyright 2020 © Ged Dodd
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Russian Hemp Bale Seals from
Crediton & Topsham, Devon
The river Culm flows from the Blackdown Hills into the Exe and out to sea through the ports of Exeter and Topsham. There is a long history of cloth and clothing production in settlements and mills using water power along the Culm, with some exports from Exeter and Topsham. The production and distribution of cloth in the Culm Valley is situated within a wider area, with links to clothiers, manufacturers and financiers in Wellington, Tiverton, Crediton and Exeter
Crediton is said to have held the only South West cloth market up to 1538. Kerseys and later serges and flax were produced up to the 18th century with export to Holland, Germany and Portugal through the port of Exeter. Despite two major fires and strong competition from the industrialised north, in 1841 there were still 280 weavers, then leather making, boot and shoe making came to the fore.
Serge, mainly from Exeter, Crediton, Tiverton, Cullompton, Wellington and Uffculme, was exported from Topsham to the continent with merchants’ houses and former warehouses along the Strand, and Topsham Quay. Topsham Museum has displays of local maritime history and other items related to the cloth trade including a tillett wrapper used by Fox brothers at Coldharbour Mill, to identify cloth exported through the East India Company. Several cloth merchants had houses in Topsham and the Topsham Quaker community had kinship links to the Were and Fox families of Uffculme and Wellington.
Tiverton's time came in 1815 when industrialist John Heathcoat bought an old woollen mill on the River Exe. It followed the destruction of his factory and machinery in Loughborough by Luddites thought to have been in the pay of the Lacemakers of Nottingham. As a result he moved his entire lace-making operation to Tiverton and such was his reputation for looking after his workforce that 500 people – workers and families – walked the 190 miles from Loughborough to come and live and work for him in Tiverton. The factory turned round the fortunes of the town and once again it became a significant industrial centre in the south west.
Bradfield Mill A cloth factory built by Cullompton men Brown and Fowler of Cullompton in the 1790s with Joseph Davy later becoming a partner. Brown and Davy produced worleys for the East India Company. After bankruptcy the mill was acquired by William Upcott and worked as a wool factory until 1870.
Uffculme, Coldharbour Mill. The last 18th century working woollen mill in the West Country. Founded 1797 by Quaker Thomas Fox who built on the serge making business of his forebears, the Were family of Uffculme and Wellington. Production continued into the late 1970s after which the Mill re-opened as a Working Wool Museum. The pictures are modern day Coldharbour Mill.
Bradninch. 3 generations of Cullompton Upcotts ran Northdown Mill from 1795: the mill was used as a woollen factory and 6 cottages occupied by spinners (women) and carders (men). In 1824 the Mill was destroyed by fire.
Culmstock had a long tradition of cloth making. In 1394 a Culmstock man was the fourth largest wool merchant in Devon. Fox Brothers built a mill here in 1822 to spin yarn; William Upcott later took over the mill and operated it until 1870. Fox Brothers reopened Culmstock Mill for spinning and darning.
Wellington. The Were family were active woollen manufacturers in Wellington from around 1730 and built the original Tone Mills in 1754. Thomas Fox, grandson of Thomas Were, became involved and when his grandfather retired in 1770 he was part of the new partnership established. Tonedale Mill complex was developed in several stages. Other woollen mills in Wellington - Westford and Prowses - were run by the Elworthy family, and Egerton Burnett cloth manufacturers were active from about 1835.
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Finder & Location
А.П. (Archangel Port)
LOWER SUKHONA RIVER (flax)
IDS 1384 .. HИЖHOCУXOHCKOИ = Lower Sukhona River .. Sukhona is a river in the Vologda Province from where the Ustyug Region produced high quality flax. .. "found in R. Yeo, Crediton - now in Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter (Acc.No.99/1932)"
Flax Mill in Crediton, Devon by Mike Patrick
Crediton in Devon has a long history of the manufacture of woollen cloth. What is less-known is that in the early nineteenth century a factory was developed for the manufacture of flax yarn.
John Cadlick Davy was a successful Devon clothier who had a serge manufactory at Crediton. Following his death in 1783, a partnership was formed between two of his older sons, William and Samuel who carried on business under the Firm of J. C. Davy and Sons. This partnership was, by mutual consent dissolved on the 24th Day of June 1795, after which date the business was carried on by Samuel Davy and Isaac Davy, under, the same Firm of J. C. Davy and Sons, on their sole Account. The eldest son, William Davy, had married Susanna Broom, in 1780, and fathered several children before moving to the U.S.A. He arrived, with his family, in Philadelphia and was naturalized in 1796. He became a merchant in Philadelphia, where he remained until about 1812. In 1807, he was appointed Principal Agent of the Indian Department in the Jefferson government. Later, in 1816, he was appointed Consul of the U.S.A. in Leeds, England, where he stayed until his death in 1827. On a June day at the end of 1805, between two and three o'clock in the morning, a fire broke out at Messrs Davy and Co.'s woollen manufactory, at Fordton, near Crediton, which burnt with great fury for two hours, and entirely consumed the machinery and mills. Interestingly, Samuel Davy became a Director of the West of England Fire Insurance Company in December 1807. By 1811 a guide to Devon announced that, "At Fordton, near Crediton, a considerable woollen factory has been converted into a mill for spinning flax, where this process is carried on in a very extensive and complete manner; and some of the thread is made into linen cloth, and bleached at the same place." A decade later, the Lysons wrote that “At Fordton, near Crediton, in the extensive buildings formerly occupied by the woollen manufacture of Messrs. Davy, dowlas, and other coarse linens, are now made”.
The location of the factory can be seen on the 1839 Tithe Map of Crediton, but by the time of the Ordnance Survey map of 1890-1891, the factory has been demolished and is shown as the “Four-Mills (ruins).” Four Mills had been the name of the original mill used for fulling serge (a pair of “twin” fulling stocks).
It is known that in the early part of the 19th century, the adjacent port of Topsham, 12 miles away, received a number of shipments each year of naval stores from the Baltic (hemp, flax, pitch, tar and tallow). Hemp was used in the rope manufactory at Topsham and although a little flax was grown in East Devon, it is quite possible that some of this imported flax was used to make sail-cloth at Crediton.
A challenge remains for Devon metal-detectorists. Are there unexplored fields near Crediton which may be hiding Lead Flax Seals from the Baltic?
Some Hemp seals have been found at Topsham not far from the old Rope-Walk.
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Topsham was once the second busiest port in England.
Trade with the Baltic by Mike Patrick
Please note this article is primarily about the HEMP trade at Topsham near Exeter and references in this article do NOT necessarily apply to the country as a whole. The book “Around Topsham in Old Photographs” produced by Topsham Museum Society in 1990, included photographs of inscribed stones found at Rivers-meet, Topsham. One of them, located on the north shore of the River Clyst immediately outside the high wall, which encloses Rivers-meet, commemorates trade with the Baltic. It reads “1852 to 1861 SEVERAL CARGOES OF HEMP &c. FROM THE BALTIC DISCHARGED HERE F.D.” Inscribed stone found at Riversmeet.
The initials F.D. refer to Francis Davy (1810-96), the youngest son of Robert Davy, shipbuilder of Countess Wear, who like his father, was also an iron and hemp merchant. Francis Davy built Rivers-meet House having enclosed the marshy ground on which it was built. This brief article examines the extent of the Baltic Trade with the Exe estuary. In the second half of the seventeenth century development of a trade in plantation products saw the sending of Barbados sugar to Gothenburg while in the early 1700s, two shipments of serge to Drammen and mixed cloths to Gothenburg represented attempts to provide return cargoes for vessels bringing naval supplies from the Baltic. The development of a regular trade was discouraged by high Scandinavian duties on English cloth. Baltic ports are 1,000 miles or more from Exeter, and contacts only developed because of their virtual monopoly of European supplies of naval stores and coniferous timber. Trade was almost entirely one way. A few unsuccessful attempts were made to establish woollen markets in Danzig, Drammen, Gothenburg, Archangel and St. Petersburg, but normally ships from Scandinavia and the Baltic cleared from the Exe in ballast. The Baltic timber trade was well established by 1660, four vessels entering from Norway in 1663. Trade continued on this scale in the eighteenth century, with Drammen as the principal market. There were occasional imports of linen from Archangel and hemp from St Petersburg. An important element of the import trade was represented by raw materials for the building and fitting out of vessels. In the seventeenth century pitch and tar were received from Scandinavia and hemp and flax from the Low Countries. Direct contacts with Russia for the import of hemp and flax were established by 1715 and at the end of the century Topsham was receiving two shipments annually from St Petersburg. Russian hemp and tallow were re-exported to south coast ports including Portsmouth and Falmouth. The hemp import reached 5964 hundredweights in 1827 but later fell off with the decline in shipbuilding. After 1815 Topsham began to import pitch and tar from Archangel, Riga, Stockholm and Gothenburg. During the eighteenth century bars of iron were occasionally received from Gothenburg, St Petersburg and other Baltic ports. Tallow came from St Petersburg and Archangel.
Another inscribed stone from the north shore of the River Clyst, situated within the high wall, which encloses Riversmeet. The stone specifically commemorates trade with Russia. It reads “SEVERAL CARGOES OF HEMP & C FROM ST. PETERSBURG DISCHARGED HERE 1850 TO 1861”. At the time of the Napoleonic wars many overseas contacts were lost and the entrepot trade was reduced in scale. Important items at Topsham were naval stores from the Baltic (hemp, flax, pitch, tar and tallow) and the goods were distributed only to neighbouring ports. After 1815 the Baltic entrepot trade became for a time more prosperous. Messrs. Milford of Exeter could be described in 1823 as “the most considerable Importers of Russian produce between Portsmouth and Lands End”. Bonding privileges were extended to Topsham in 1842 and it became no longer necessary to send goods up to the bonded warehouses in Exeter. As the eighteenth century progressed the timber trade changed in character and Norway emerged as the chief source of supply. 1792 witnessed the receipt in Topsham of eight timber shipments from Christiana, Frederickstad, Langesund and Porsgrunn, the ship Carhas making three voyages from Langesund in the year. The William brought two timber cargoes from Memel, and there were two shipments of hemp, linen, tallow and timber from St Petersburg, and one of timber from Narva. The Baltic trade was maintained in the early years of the Napoleonic Wars, but with the development of the Continental System a decline occurred, the number of shipments falling from 14 in 1806 to one in 1808 and none in 1809. Trade was on a small scale until the end of the war but, by 1815, contacts with Norway were again established, when ten timber shipments were received.
Between 1817 and 1827 nine to sixteen vessels entered annually at Topsham. In the 1820s trade with the Baltic was dominated by Memel, Gothenburg and St Petersburg. In 1815 contacts were also established with Riga, which sent one or two annual shipments of flax, hemp, pitch, tar and timber.
Similar cargoes came from Archangel. After 1850 a considerable expansion in the timber trade took place. Twenty-five vessels entered from Norway and Sweden in 1872, and these two countries contributed a major share of the large timber import of this period. 1876 saw the import of 12,716 loads#, mainly of fir timber, more than four times as much as in 1840. The trade was now controlled by Russia, Norway and Sweden. Close commercial connections were maintained with the Baltic until the end of the nineteenth century. The overseas timber trade used vessels of over 100 tons. Even in the seventeenth century vessels of over 150 tons were employed in the Norwegian trade and by the nineteenth century it became common to see vessels of 300-700 tons. The majority of timber cargoes were discharged in the Bight and carried up to Topsham or the canal entrance by raft or lighter. In 1838, 19 out of 20 visiting timber vessels discharged in the lower waters of the estuary. The estuary’s timber trade was now controlled by Topsham which handled 1599 loads out of the 1995 loads received in 1849. By 1849, while Exeter dominated the overseas trade of the estuary, Topsham continued to handle the major part of the timber and hemp imports from the Baltic, which was mainly for its own shipyards. Some small import of foodstuffs from the Baltic took place in the 1870s, when wheat and Barley arrived from Russia. It is unlikely that the inscribed stones pictured above were positioned to commemorate goods landed at Rivers-meet and it is interesting to speculate on their original or intended location.
[The material in this brief summary is largely drawn from the excellent book “The Ports of the Exe Estuary” by E.A.G. Clark, published by The University of Exeter (1960 and reprinted 1968).]
Additionally, Mike did some research on the 18th-19th century woollen cloth trade in the vicinity and while looking at the letters of a Lisbon merchant who imported Devon cloth, Mike noted that he was also involved in the importation of hemp from St. Petersburg to Lisbon in October 1835, using the ship WOLGA, under the command of Captain Tuleff. Morning Advertiser - Thursday 26 November 1835 - ARRIVALS: LISBON - Oct. 10, Wolga, Tuleff, from St Petersburg].About PeaceHavens - This database is an ongoing project involving the daily finding and identification of Russian Lead Flax Bale Seals from the old disused 18th/19th century Flax Mills of the Industrial Revolution in the UK. For many decades in the 18th & 19th centuries, Russia was by far the world's greatest exporter of these flax stems via Archangel, Konigsberg, Kronstadt, Libnau, Memel, Narva, Pernau, Revel, Riga, St Petersburg, Tilsit, Windau and Great Britain was Russia's major customer. Every bale of flax stems was fastened together with a lead seal by a quality control inspector. The discarded stems of the flax with seals still attached were prized as fertilizer by local farmers and were spread onto the land mixed with night soil manure.
Devon : Claims for Bounties for Raising and Dressing Hemp and Flax 1784
|George Buck||Daddon||Bideford||175 stone||1782|
|William Hole||Venton||Bishopstawton||400 stone||1782|
|Lower Mullycott||Ilfordcombe||190 stone||1782|
|Long Closes||Pilton||210 stone||1782|
|Jeremiah Alford||Cotton||Bishopstawton||210 stone||1782|
|William Snow||Deans||Braunton||100 stone||1782|
|Josiah Braughton||Penny Changes||Axminster||34 stone||1782|
|Benjamine White||Umburn||Shute||61 stone||1782|
|William Studley||Hust||Shute||128 stone||1782|
|John Stower||Copse Close||Shute||32 1/2 stone||1782|
|William Newton||Helverstead||Broadclist||64 stone||1782|
|Richard How||Higher Sainthill||Kentisbeare||42 stone||1782|
|Simon Kelly||Gorill||Hemiok||68 stone||1782|
|Faithfull Cleal||Franks||Woodbury||90 stone||1782|
|Faithfull Cleal||Weeks||Aylesbeare||50 stone||1782|
|John Baker||Summers Mill||Willand||150 stone||1782|
|Ann Wood||Park||Willand||64 stone||1782|
|John Binford||Burnrey||Willand||51 stone||1782|
|John Collins||Coomes||Willand||48 1/2 stone||1782|
|Matthew Manley||Braddocks||Cullompton||325 stone||1782|
|Little Poor Close||Cullompton|
|Abraham Hooper||Selgons||Halberton||32 1/2 stone||1782|
|Thomas Pulman||Taw||Halberton||129 stone||1782|
|Henry Wilkinson||Huish||Instow||448 stone||1782|
|Faithfull Cleal||Bass'||Withycombe||60 stone||1782|
|Robert Ball||Barn||Broadhembury||117 stone||1782|
|Richard Coles||Stockland Head||Plymptree||120 stone||1782|
|Joel orchard||Lindridge||Bishopsteignton||300 stone||1782|
|John Tamlin||Bridgetown||Tawstock||25 stone||1782|
|John Tamlin||Little Eastacombe||Atherington||40 stone||1782|
|Richard Herring||Bidwell Barton||Newton St Cyres||129 stone||1782|
|Nicholas Churley||Bartletts||Uffculm||29 stone||1782|
|John Gilman||Oxenhams||Uffculm||197 stone||1782|
|Elisha Bennett||Mersons||Uffculm||128 stone||1782|
|Henry Broom||Twogoods||Uffculm||550 stone||1782|
|Philip Wright||Corsecoombe||Ffeniton||280 stone||1782|
|Henry Havill||Ducks||Heavitree||99 stone||1782|
|John Otton||Benbow||Farringdon||319 stone||1782|
|William Mortimore||Dartnes||Silverton||143 stone||1782|
|Henry Chapman||Rickstall||Heavitree||149 stone||1782|
|Edward Lee||Blackhalls||Pinhoe||28 stone||1782|
|Daniel Sanders||Monkerton||Pinhie||166 stone||1782|
|Thomas Trood||Wotton||Pinhoe||142 stone||1782|
|William Godfrey||Withybridge||Pinhoe||43 stone||1782|
|Osmand Chave (and)||Bishops||Kentisbeare||90 stone||1782|
|William Middleton||Butsons||Kentisbeare||121 stone||1782|
|John Coles||Kingsford||Kentisbeare||145 stone||1782|
|John Coles||Shepheards||Cullompton||42 stone||1782|
|Edmond Frost||Challices||Kentisbeare||279 stone||1782|
|William Broom||Sanfield||Kentisbeare||279 stone||1782|
|John Ffrost||Halsbeer||Kentisbeare||197 stone||1782|
|Francis Ffouraker||Away farm||Kentisbeare||134 stone||1782|
|Thomas Ffouraker||Allhallows||Kentisbeare||140 stone||1782|
|John Westcott (and)||Glebe||Kentisbeare||127 stone||1782|
|John Westcott||Averils||Kentisbeare||20 stone||1782|
|Charles Copp||Berry||Clist St Lawrence||39 stone||1782|
|Gilbert Hitt||Eveleigh||Clisthydon||185 stone||1782|
|John Weeks||Summerbridge||Clist St Lawrence||95 stone||1782|
|Gilbert Hitt||Upton Hitt||Clist St Lawrence||61 stone||1782|
|Joshua May||Burlands||Halberton||87 stone||1782|
|Robert Collins||Great Stones||Cullompton||61 1/2 stone||1782|
|Robert Collins||Great Sladecross||Halberton||163 1/2 stone||1782|
|Robert Collins||Four Acres||Uffculme||111 stone||1782|
|John Tutcher||Bullen Quarter||Luppitt||66 stone||1782|
|John Tutcher||Parks||Upottery||54 stone||1782|
|John Ffortescue||Clist William||Plymptree||195 stone||1782|
|Richard Weston||Bradley and||Halberton||68 1/2 stone||1782|
|Richard Weston||Shebbear||Sampford Peverill||29 stone||1782|
|Richard Weston||Pains||Uplowman||73 1/2 stone||1782|
|John Tanner||Gaddon||Uffculme||156 stone||1782|
|James Matthews||Mersons||Kentisbeare||45 stone||1782|
|James Matthews||Locks and||Uffculme||596 stone||1782|
|James Matthews||Nicholas Hayne||Culmstock||25 stone||1782|
|John Ffrost||Poole Farm and||Kentisbeare||298 stone||1782|
|William Hole||Mullycott Pill and||Ilfordcombe and||180 stone||1782|
|Pollington and||Bishops Tawton and|
|William Hole||Mullycott Pill and||Ilfordcombe and||36 stone||1782|
|William Hole||Pill||Bishopstawton||6 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Pill||Bishopstawton||11 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Crownley||Bovey Tracey||8 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Crownley||Bovey Tracey||17 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Crownley||Bovey Tracey||297 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Crownley and||Bovey Tracey||228 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Mullycott Pill and||Ilfordcombe and||306 stone||1783|
|William Hole||Vinton||Monkley and||232 stone||1783|
|George Buck esq||Daddon||Pilton||108 stone||1782|
|William Snow||Deans||Braunton||87 stone||1782|
|John Gillham||Oxenhams and||Uffculme and||274 stone||1784|
|Elisha Bennett||Andrewes||Uffculme||222 stone||1784|
|James Tozer snr and||Averys and||Kentisbeare||68 stone||1782|
|Thomas Stone||Shallicies||Kentisbeare||8 pounds|
|Simon Kelly||Andrewes||Uffculme||153 stone||1783|
|Thomas Bond||Cleave Hays and||Churchstaunton||224 stone||1782|
|Thomas Adams||Antens and||Churchstaunton||27 stone||1782|
|Faithfull Cleall||Iceland||Withicombe||110 stone||1783|
|Faithfull Cleall||Higher Buley and||Woodbury||65 stone||1783|
|Thomas Adams||Monkey||Churchstaunton||29 stone||1782|
|John Baker||Mays Beers and||Halberton||150 stone||1783|
|Matthew Manley||Padbrouk Head||Cullompton||180 stone||1783|
|John Collins||Stone and||Halberton||28 stone||1783|
|Higher Ash Cross||Halberton|
|Joseph Corse||Girson||Willand||130 stone||1783|
|Richard Bridle||Murrin and||Tallaton||120 stone||1783|
|Robert Collings||Tuckers and||Halberton||416 stone||1783|
|Great Nine Acres||Halberton|
|Joseph May||Palmers and||Halberton||50 stone||1783|
|Joel Orchard||Lindridge and||Bishopsteignton||200 stone||1783|
|Henry Wilkinson||Huish||Instow||120 stone||1783|
|John Manley||Sprys Moiety of||Halberton||71 1/2 stone||1783|
|Edmund Ffrost||Halls and||Kentisbeare and||520 stone|
|Henry Brown jun||The Home and||Uffculme||540 stone||1783|
|John Gilham||Oxenhams||Uffculme||291 stone||1783|
|Henry Broom jun||Twogoods and||Uffculme||945 stone||1783|
|Miller Barns and||Uffculme|
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Director of The PeaceHavens Project.
Copyright 2020 © Ged Dodd
aka PeaceHavens Project