Drying house at The Coach House, Willow Vale


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Drying house at The Coach House, Willow Vale
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 77896 48142

Reasons for Designation

Cloth drying houses associated with dye works of the post-medieval period often take the form of circular towers of stone construction with internal fittings of timber which usually do not survive. The woolen cloth, after being soaked in dye, was hung in lengths from wooden beams to dry after dipping, with a carefully controlled fire being lit in a stove at the base of the tower to speed the process. Some drying houses have evidence of a first floor which perhaps allowed cloth to hang at different heights within the tower. Such drying houses represent an advance on the medieval wooden drying racks which were set in open areas and relied on the wind and sun, but are relatively primitive when compared with the much larger, mechanised drying houses of the 19th century which are more closely associated with the factories of the north of England. The drying house at The Coach House, Willow Vale is one of only two drying houses in Frome which survive from a greater number which were once part of an extensive area of dye works which are recorded in documentary sources in this part of the town. Despite the loss of its roofing, and some dilapidation due to age, it survives almost to its full height with no evidence of any extensive renovation or alteration and it possesses a plasterwork crosskeys symbol which is probably contemporary with its use, and which may be unique. The monument is a rare survival of a once strong local cloth industry in Frome and it will retain archaeological evidence for the way in which cloth was treated and processed as part of the production of dyed cloth during the 18th and 19th centuries.


The monument includes a circular drying house within the garden of The Coach House at Willow Vale just north of the River Frome. The drying house, which is Listed Grade II, is considered to be late 18th or 19th century in date and it is located within an area of recorded 18th and 19th century dye works; it was probably used for the drying of dyed woollen cloth. The structure consists of a roofless, rubble stone-built circular tower about 5m in diameter with walls 0.5m thick and standing to a height of 5.5m. It has a single entrance on the north side which has a substantial timber lintel and a timber door frame but there are further openings above floor level in the interior. The stone work of the interior was rendered with plaster, at least at the lower levels, and some of this survives. Opposite the door at about head height is a decorative stucco plasterwork crosskeys symbol which is believed to be contemporary with the use of the building. Some brickwork at the roof line suggests later repairs. The Sheppard family are known to have made cloth in Frome in the 17th century and are said to have occupied buildings and used a dye-house at Willow Vale. By 1808 Edward Olive had vats and furnaces for dying cloth in Willow Vale and in 1880 a firm called Sheppard and Watson continued the cloth trade in the same area.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Belham, P, The Making of Frome, (1973), 74
Rogers, K, Wiltshire and Somerset Woolen Mills, (1976), 202-3


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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