Touchscreens tell the story of the Cloth and Clothing Trade in Cullompton and the Culm Valley

Posted on: 11 February 2015

Four linked touchscreens telling the story of Cullompton and the Culm Valley’s Cloth and Clothing Trade will be officially launched on Thursday 19th February by Simon Timms, Chairman of the South West Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), at the Walronds, where one of the touchscreens is installed; the other screens are at the Cullompton Community Centre, The Hayridge and Coldharbour Mill. HLF was the major funder of the project, awarding a grant of £53,400, alongside a partnership of Devon County Council, Mid Devon District Council, Cullompton Town Council, the Cullompton Walronds Preservation Trust, The Community Centre and Coldharbour Mill.

Cullompton’s use of the cloth trade touchscreens has been praised as “a terrific job” by the Department for Communities and Local Government in its good practice guide “Celebrating the Great British High Street 2014”. DCLG notes that the touchscreens, alongside other initiatives, are helping shape an identity and brand to re-engage the community and bring footfall back into the town.

The touchscreens provide access to a rich collection of history, films, maps, aerial and other photographs, oral histories and manuscripts and will be a resource for the public and organised groups to use for years to come.

Cloth and clothing have been made in the area since at least the Middle Ages. John Lane endowed Lane’s Aisle of St Andrew’s Church and covered it in sculptures that reflect his role as a cloth merchant. These are hard to see with the naked eye but can be viewed in minute detail on the touchscreens through high quality filming and the zoom facility. William Upcott was an important cloth merchant who traded with Europe: aerial photographs on the touchscreens allow you to see the Upcott factory buildings before they were demolished to make way for the flats in Shortlands Lane. They also show old photos of Sellwood’s Tannery and have oral histories both from Daniell Sellwood and from tannery workers.

Fox Brothers ran factories at Coldharbour and in Cullompton town centre. The touchscreens have oral histories from Cullompton workers and detailed films of machinery working at Coldharbour Mill, including SteamUp days.

The touchscreens provide a permanent record for the town of the Walronds during its recent HLF funded renovation; look out for the witches’ marks. Two cloth merchants lived at the Walronds in the 18th century.

Over 60 volunteers have been involved in the project, on the Steering Group, as researchers, giving and recording oral histories, in schools work, and in weaving and spinning demonstrations and exhibitions.

The launch provides a thank you to all the volunteers who took part. In addition, at the launch representatives of the partner organisations will explain the value of the touchscreens; and cloth, clothing and leather made in Cullompton and the Culm Valley will be displayed, and possibly worn. A small selection of items related to the cloth trade from the collections of Coldharbour Mill and the Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life will be displayed. Look out also for people in Elizabethan dress – the type usual in middling sort of homes in 1605 (when the Walronds was rebuilt). The costumes were made by the Walronds Costume Group and Tiverton Drama Group.

After the launch Dr Mike Patrick, one of the project’s skilled researchers, will talk about the significance of the Ahrends/Upcott manuscript which was purchased during the project by public donations and grant aid. The manuscript documents William Upcott’s extensive trade in cloth with Luis Ahrends of Portugal, who then distributed the cloth in Europe. Cloth was sent out to Portugal and port wine was returned. A wine bottle bearing William Upcott’s name has been discovered in the Sandeman Port Museum in Oporto.

As well as production of the touchscreens, a Cullompton and the Culm Valley Cloth Trade Trail has been created linking places in the Culm Valley and offering a 20-stop walk around Cullompton Town Centre.

Commenting on the project, Nerys Watts, HLF’s Head of South West, said: “We were delighted to be able to support Cullompton’s exciting Cloth and Clothing Trade project. It has not only enabled local people to become more aware of and involved in a key part of their community’s past, but is also, alongside the restoration of the Walronds, playing an important part in the rejuvenation of the town and its locality.”

For more information contact:

Penny Bayer, Project Officer, Tel: 0781 454 2704. E-mail:

Customer Services, Mid Devon District Council, 01884 255255 or

Jane Campbell, Project Chairman, Cullompton Town Councillor and Chairman of the Cullompton Walronds Preservation Trust 01884 839071

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