This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Fussell's Lower Works: an iron edge tool works, 210m south east of Wadbury

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Fussell's Lower Works: an iron edge tool works, 210m south east of Wadbury

List entry Number: 1019796


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Mells

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 02-Jan-2001

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 21695

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Iron has been produced in England from at least 500 BC. The iron industry, spurred on by a succession of technological developments, has played a major part in the history of the country, its production and overall importance peaking with the Industrial Revolution. Iron ores occur in a variety of forms across England, giving rise to several different extraction techniques, including open casting, seam-based mining similar to coal mining, and underground quarrying, and resulting in a range of different structures and features at extraction sites. Ore was originally smelted into iron in small, relatively low-temperature furnaces known as bloomeries. These were replaced from the 16th century by blast furnaces which were larger and operated at a higher temperature to produce molten metal for cast iron. Cast iron is brittle, and to convert it into malleable wrought iron or steel it needs to be remelted. This was originally conducted in an open hearth in a finery forge, but technological developments, especially with steel production, gave rise to more sophisticated types of furnaces. A comprehensive survey of the iron and steel industry has been conducted to identify a sample of ten sites of national importance that represent the industry's chronological range, technological breadth and regional diversity.

Fussell's Lower Works survives well and is considered to be one of the best preserved examples of a 19th century iron edge tool works in the country. Partial excavation has indicated that the site retains an exceptional range of components relating to this type of manufacturing industry, including the remains of furnaces, hearths and hand forges. Large quantities of water were required and typical water supply features are often found in association with forge buildings. At Lower Works these include an in situ iron waterwheel, wheelpits and a network of culverts running beneath the site. Taken as a whole, such features will provide valuable information for the operation of this industrial site, contributing to our understanding of 18th and 19th century forge complexes.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the buried remains, water control system and the ruins of the site of a former iron edge tool works, known as Fussell's Lower Works. The monument is situated within the wooded Wadbury Vale on the north side of Mells Stream.

Documentary evidence has established that James Fussell III was granted a 99 year lease in 1744 for a plot of land in the Wadbury valley to construct mills for grinding edge tools and forging iron plates. In 1841 a settlement was reached and the company was able to purchase the land. The business operated on two sites in the valley, known as Upper and Lower Works until its closure in 1894. The earliest development of the Lower Works site is believed to have occurred between 1779 and 1840, with extensive further development after 1841 when it became feasible for the company to invest in the premises and plant. By 1871 the two sites were operating as separate companies, with scythes, bagging and reaping hooks, and hay and chaff knives being produced at the Lower Works site. Economic difficulties in the agricultural industry contributed to the bankcruptcy of the business in 1894 and the site was abandoned the following year.

The site of Fussell's Lower Works occupies a narrow plot of land, bounded by a substantial rubblestone wall to the north and east, and by Mells Stream to the south. Within the boundaries of the site is a complex of ruined buildings and structures, including water-powered grinding shops and forges where the tool manufacturing occurred. These will retain archaeological evidence for hearths, bellows, anvils and hammers. A complicated network of culverts survives beneath the site and these provided the water supply necessary to drive the waterwheels, sited in many of the buildings, powering bellows to provide air to the various forges and to power grinding wheels where the tools were sharpened. A weir, now partly collapsed, enabled the flow of water in the culverts to be controlled as part of the water management system powering the works. A small-scale excavation in 1974 and documentary research have indicated that at least nine waterwheels were operating at the site during the mid-19th century.

The ruins of a range of ancillary buildings, some retaining the bases of hearths, are visible in the northern half of the site, built against the boundary wall. Immediately to the east of this range are the remains of three vaulted structures which are considered to be water-powered tilt hammer shops, where scythes, and larger knife and tool blades would have been produced. Sometime in the 1860s steam power was introduced to replace the water-powered hammers and a rolling mill, where iron bars from the furnace were rolled, was erected at the eastern end of the site. The excavation has also revealed the ruins of a building, adjacent to the north bank of the stream, which retains a row of small hand forges. These ruins, which are Listed Grade II, and their associated buried remains will provide further evidence for technological developments at Lower Works during the 19th century.

A further range of standing, but roofless, former stables and an office block immediately west of the monument are not included in the scheduling. However, this range of buildings is Listed Grade II.

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

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Stiles, R, Cornwell, J, 'Bristol Industrial Archaeology Society Journal' in Fussell's Ironworks, Mells, , Vol. 7, (1975), 14-15
Title: Mells Tithe Map Source Date: 1840 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

National Grid Reference: ST 73903 48879


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019796 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 26-Sep-2018 at 12:44:01.

End of official listing