Timber & Sawmills

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Limpley Stoke Mill

Limpley Stoke Mill was a sawmill between other uses

Bradford on Avon lay at the northern edge of the great medieval Selwood Forest and woodland belonging to the Abbey of Shaftesbury may have provided the large oak timbers that were used to build the spectacular roofs of the buildings at Barton Farm in Bradford and of the churches and chapels. Woods on manorial lands may have provided the timber of the roofs of the great halls of of Westwood, Chalfield, Wraxall manor houses and of the Hall and Priory in the town, as well as its barn.

Shaftesbury Abbey’s manor of Bradford supplied timber to the abbey and to its other possessions.  In 1376 an entire two-storey timber porch was sent, in flat-pack form presumably, along with 600 feet of fencing to Shaftesbury and in 1392 new barn doors were sent to Kilmington.

Late 19th century maps show the position of saw pits, where men -one on top and one in the pit (showered with sawdust)- cut timber into rafters, joists and floorboards. After oak, the main wood for building purposes was from the elm trees, just a memory now.

Sawmills, powered by horse-gins, steam engines or, as at Limpley Stoke Mill, by water came in during the 19th century as machinery and steel developed.

There have been sawmills at Broughton Gifford, Wingfield and at Frome Road and Rowden Lane in Bradford.

Locally grown timber would include oak for roofs of prestige buildings, furniture, outside doors and fencing; elm for joists and floorboards; ash for carts and handles and beech for tools and furniture. Softwoods like pine, spruce and fir were imported, from Scandinavia and Canada, before the development of commercial forestry. Exotic hardwoods, especially mahogany, teak and rosewood were imported from tropical areas.