Tone Dale Mill’s long and winding story is entering a new phase with developers beginning work on turning one of the main buildings into flats, and planners warning of prosecution if builders continue to strip the interior of a Grade II listed house on the site.
Earlier this year the heritage charity SAVE rated Tonedale as the most at-risk historical/industrial site in England. Taunton council is working with Historic England to stop any further unauthorised work being done at the former mill.
The interior of the house has already been stripped out and the council has had a tip-off leading it to fear that the former boiler room at the mill could be torn down and the hugely important historic machinery ripped out and sold.
The huge complex, which has planning consent for conversion into 232 flats, forms part of the historic Fox Bros woollen mills.
Leader of the Taunton council, Cllr John Williams, said: “I am horrified at what’s taken place. Wellington’s industrial heritage is nationally significant and needs to be properly protected. I sincerely hope that we do not have to resort to legal action – but we will not hesitate to do so if circumstances demand that we do.”
John Ette, Principal Advisor for Historic England in the South West, said: “Grade II* listed Tonedale Mill is one of the most important mill complexes in the South West and Historic England has been working with Taunton Deane Borough Council to secure the preservation of the site. We are very concerned about the unauthorised works and support the actions of the council in safeguarding the mill and its contents.”
Officials are investigating if any works have been carried out to the boiler room and machinery. It has formally warned the owners of possible prosecution for unauthorised works carried out to date and the serving of an injunction to prevent any further loss of historic significance to the buildings.