Tucking Mill and the famous father of geology

Tucking Mill area

tucking mill to let bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 27 august 1868
Tucking Mill to let – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 27 August 1868

The Tucking Mill area is named after a process in the woollen industry known as tucking or fulling in which cloth is cleaned and thickened.

Pairs of massive wooden blocks pounded Fuller’s earth (a clay like material) into the wool to produce a heavy felted cloth.

It’s possible that one of the two mills mentioned for Monkton Combe in the Domesday book was here. As well as being used for fulling it seems that it was also a flour mill.

Finding out about occupants of Tucking Mill House (other than William ‘Strata’ Smith, the famous father of geology) and Tucking Mill Cottage has proven to be something of a challenge as the census records for Tucking Mill House and Tucking Mill Cottage are really not very clear.

This is compounded by the fact that the woollen mill became a Fuller’s earth factory in the later 19th century.

Then the construction of the Somerset & Dorset railway, the viaduct and Combe Down tunnel and then the Combe Down and District Waterworks ensured that the whole area of William Smith‘s small country estate by the canal became a less salubrious place to live – it went downmarket in the 19th century.

tucking mill about 1905 1024x513
Tucking Mill about 1905 showing the Fuller’s earth factory beside the cottage
tucking mill about 1907 1024x619
Tucking Mill about 1907. Tucking Mill House can be seen centre left.
somerset coal canal and tucking mill house early 1900s 707x1024
Somerset Coal Canal and Tucking Mill House early 1900s
tucking mill area from wiltshire xxxise xxxviiiane revised 1899 published 1904 1024x420
Tucking Mill area from Wiltshire XXXI.SE & XXXVIIIA.NE, Revised 1899, Published 1904

Tucking Mill House

tucking mill house
Tucking Mill House

We know that William ‘Strata’ Smith, the father of English geology, purchased Tucking Mill house and its associated estate in 1798 from Captain Edward Candler.

Edward Candler became Edward Candler Brown and lived at Combe Hill House and at Prior Park. The purchase is confirmed byPapers regarding the purchase and mortgage of the lands and cottage at Tucking Mill, Midford, near Monkton Combe, Somerset in March 1798 from Captain Edward Candler, and the division of these lands between Smith and the Somerset Coal Canal Company” held at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

He lost the house and land in 1819 after his quarry venture.

Smith opened a stone quarry at Kingham Field, by Summer Lane, and transported the stone by a railway down to Tucking Mill where it would be sawn by machinery and then loaded on to canal barges. Smith also reconstructed Tucking Mill and created the original pond.

Kingham Field was part of the Midford Castle estate of Charles Conolly and Conolly owned the upper end of the railway and leased it to Smith who owned the Tucking Mill end.

He had to sell to sell Tucking Mill Meadows to Conolly for £1,330 to help finance the scheme. In April 1814, Smith mortgaged the remainder of his estate to Charles Conolly including Tucking Mill Wood.

Unfortunately the venture failed perhaps due to the quality of the stone, perhaps due to Smith’s poor business sense and, by June 1819, Conolly had Smith committed to the King’s Bench Prison for debt and by 1820 Tucking Mill belonged to Conolly and the Midford castle estate.[1] The mill went back to being a woollen mill.

By 1841 and until at least 1861 the house was occupied by James Hooker (1794 – 1863) and his wife Anne Evett (b. 1796). James was a gardener, possibly for the Connolly family.

By 1891 Thomas Ellis (b. 1844), a general labourer and his wife Amelia Slade (1852 – 1928) were living there.

From 1901 until at least 1911 Albert J Palmer (b. 1868) who was foreman at the Fuller’s earth works and his wife Annie Emma Drew Dando Morris (1873 – 1952) were living there.

Tucking Mill Cottage

tucking mill cottage
null© Brian Robert Marshall cc-by-sa/2.0
Tucking Mill Cottage
james sutton tucking mill cottage bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 3 december 1807
James Sutton, Tucking Mill cottage, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 3 December 1807

In 1807 a James Sutton lived at Tucking Mill Cottage.

In 1841 Benjamin Baker (b. 1801) and his wife Mary (b. ) lived there.

In 1851 it is likely that George Lansdown (b. 1815), a carpenter and his wife Sara Ann Moger (b. 1811) lived at the cottage.

In 1861 Thomas Lusty (1815 – 1897), a woollen manufacturer and his wife Lydia Adams (1818 – 1879) lived there.

From 1862 – 1865 it was occupied by a Mr W Dunn.

In 1891 Elisha Menear (1862 – 1910), foreman of the Fuller’s earth works and his wife Elizabeth Ann Webb (b. 1866) lived at Tucking Mill Cottage.

hill v dunn mentioning lusty bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 26 january 1865
Hill v Dunn mentioning Lusty – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 26 January 1865
tucking mill for sale bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 11 june 1868
Tucking Mill for sale – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 11 June 1868


[1] A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers edited by A. W. Skempton (2002), The Map That Changed the World: A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption by Simon Winchester (2002), The Philosophical Magazine: A Journal of Theoretical, Experimental and Applied Physics, Volume 9 (1831), Principles of Geology: Or, The Modern Changes of the Earth and Its Inhabitants Considered as Illustrative of Geology by Sir Charles Lyell (1872), William Smith’s Tucking Mill to Kingham Quarry Tramway, William Smith and his Venture into ‘Stone Manufacture’ by Richard T. A. Irving

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