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East Walk, West Range, Chimney and Weighbridge

A Grade II* Listed Building in West Coker, Somerset

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Latitude: 50.9172 / 50°55'1"N

Longitude: -2.6837 / 2°41'1"W

OS Eastings: 352038

OS Northings: 113306

OS Grid: ST520133

Mapcode National: GBR ML.QKX5

Mapcode Global: FRA 568P.89X

Plus Code: 9C2VW888+VG

Entry Name: East Walk, West Range, Chimney and Weighbridge

Listing Date: 3 July 1980

Last Amended: 26 September 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1057116

English Heritage Legacy ID: 263826

Location: West Coker, South Somerset, Somerset, BA22

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: West Coker

Built-Up Area: West Coker

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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West Coker


Former twine works, including east walk, west range, chimney and weighbridge. Late C19, with C20 additions and alterations.


Former twine works, including east walk, west range, chimney and weighbridge. Late C19, with C20 additions and alterations.

MATERIALS: the twine walk has a timber-framed construction with oak posts held together with iron bolts. There is some weatherboarding to the side elevations, replaced in parts with profiled metal sheeting. The roof is covered with double Roman tiles. The west range is built of brick and stone rubble, with some rebuilding in late-C20 blockwork, the roof is slate, except over the Crossley engine where it has been replaced with profiled metal sheeting and glazed panels. The chimney is also built of brick.

PLAN: the principal building is the east twine walk, orientated north to south, with the balling house built against its north gable end. A narrow attached range to the west, which housed the engines (originally steam, and later oil and diesel) and the boiler, extends southwards and was built in two phases. A former lean-to addition which was built after 1929 against the northern end of the east elevation of the walk has collapsed and been removed. To the north of the walk is a detached chimney.

EXTERIOR: the twine walk has been built within a narrow gully and its southern third cuts into the hillslope. It is 37 bays (some 97m) in length and has two storeys and an attic floor, though this does not extend across the full width of the building. The gabled north elevation of the two-storey balling house is timber framed with weatherboarding to the ground floor and thin scantling and panels of infill to the floor above. The ground floor has a pair of timber doors, each containing a small window, to the left-hand bay and is flanked by brick piers. To the right are two further casement windows and a pedestrian entrance door to the far right. There is a half-glazed taking-in door with flanking lights to the first floor. The east return is divided into bays by buttressed brick piers, each containing from left to right: a round-headed window, a window and door with a fanlight, and a pair of later doors with a fanlight. The upper part of the north gable wall of the east walk is visible behind the balling house and is built of brick with timber framing and infill panels above. It has a two-light casement window to the apex of the gable. Much of the ground floor of the west and east side elevations of the walk is open-sided, although the northern end is enclosed and contains some continuous glazing. Towards the northern end of the building the sides have been reclad in places using profiled metal sheeting and a garage door, and a variety of windows have been introduced during the second half of the C20. The first floor is enclosed with weatherboarding, though some areas have been replaced with metal sheeting, and incorporates a continuous run of fixed glazing, although there are some inserted later windows in places. The south gable end has a retaining wall of squared stone rubble with two brick piers (one collapsed) at ground-floor level. Above this, the gable wall appears to have been weatherboarded but this has largely come away from the frame, leaving the timbers exposed.

The attached west range (power house) was probably constructed at the same time as the walk, and was subsequently extended southwards in the early C20. It is a single-storey building which breaks forward of the east walk and is divided into three parts: boiler house, engine house and a second, later engine house at its north end. The east elevation of the former boiler house has three casement (one a late-C20 replacement) windows set high in the wall, with an entrance under a stone lintel towards the north end and a pair of timber doors beneath the left-hand window. There was originally a small clerestory to the ridge but this has been removed. The adjacent engine house rises up the slope and has a higher roof-line. Its northernmost bay has timber double doors under a timber lintel; the remainder of its east elevation is obscured by the balling house. The north and west elevations of the west range have no openings, except for an inserted small window towards the northern end of the west side.

INTERIOR: the balling house is situated at the north end of the walk and has extant line shafting. An entrance passage on the west side has a small room on the left which was used as a drying room for the twine before balling. There is a single room above which was probably used for bringing raw materials into the building. The ground floor of the walk was used for finishing the twine. The frame’s uprights support the deep cross beams and joists of the floors above; some of the outer posts now rest on inserted concrete pads and Acro-props have also been added in attempt to stabilise the building. The space is divided into three aisles along the length of the building, though some mid- to late-C20 partitions have been introduced to subdivide the northern end of the walk, and much of the floor is earthen. The northernmost two bays of the ground floor are separated from the rest of the building by a partition wall, and this area retains overhead transverse line shafting and a number of plaiting machines. The first floor, which was used for twisting, is also divided into three aisles. It has overhead transverse line shafting at its northern end and a floor of tongue and groove boards. A narrow timber staircase leads up to the attic which has two twisting walks. A row of central posts runs the length of the building, although some are missing at the south end, and these have a twine support or ‘skirder’ fixed to either side. Each skirder has upright wire loops or guides along its upper surface which kept the threads of yarn off the ground ready for twisting. The roof, which is unlined and uninsulated, consists of a narrow plank ridge piece, principal rafters, and only slightly smaller common rafter, some of which are later replacements. The inside of the tiles and battens have been lime-washed at some stage.

The northernmost three bays of the west range served as the boiler house, which has been partly converted to lavatories. The attached engine house to the south was latterly used as an engineering workshop, but the main bearing shaft with its two flywheels is extant. A 72 hp Petter Atomic twin cylinder diesel engine (originally delivered new to GEC in 1937) was installed here in about 1957 as a back-up for the main Crossley engine. The roof is of common rafter construction with tie beams. The south gable wall of the engine house has a casement window and an opening through to the later engine house. This building was added in 1928 to house a single cylinder Crossley diesel, previously used in a cinema, which replaced the steam engine. It was also used to generate electricity for lighting the works and the room contains a mid-C20 electric switchboard. The roof was replaced in 2012.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the chimney is built of brick with a dressed and chamfered stone coping to the plinth; it carries a date stone of 1898. It is a tapering structure which originally had a moulded top, but has been reduced in height and strengthened with iron straps. To the north of the chimney, set into the access road to the site, is a steel weighbridge, manufactured by Avery of Birmingham.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the following are not of special architectural or historic interest:
The various mid- to late-C20 workshops to the north-east of the east walk.
The former building containing the works office, former stables and accommodation to the north-west of the east walk.
The garage located immediately to the north of the chimney.
The remains of the former west walk.


Rope and twine making were significant industries in Somerset throughout the C19, with between 30 and 40 manufacturers recorded in trade directories. Twine was originally produced in the open, with possibly only the twisting heads under cover, until the introduction of steam power and covered walks from the mid-C19. There are two surviving twine works in West Coker, the West of England Works on the eastern edge of the village and the former W.J. Dawe & Co. (listed at Grade II*) to the west.

The West of England Twine Works, formerly known as Gould’s Twine Works and latterly, Job Gould & Son Ltd, was established in West Coker in circa 1837 by George Gould, and was relocated to its present site by his son Job in about 1880. A single walk is shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map (published in 1887), and by 1903 the works were substantially expanded with the addition of two further walks, one to the east and one to the west of the earlier walk. Flax was grown close to the twine works and was retted in pits; it was then hackled (combed) before being sent to spinners at Bridport and elsewhere, being then returned for twisting and finishing. The company produced sewing twines and cords for use in the mattress and upholstery industries; it also made loom cords, masons lines, and packing twines.

The east walk dates probably from the late C19. Its first floor and attic were used for laying out cords and twisting the twine; with two walks on each floor. Its ground floor, which was open-sided to facilitate the drying of the twine, was used for finishing including sizing and polishing. The twine was then formed into a ball in a separate process within the balling house which is attached to the north gable end of the walk. The machinery was powered initially by a steam engine, installed in circa 1900, and latterly by two diesel engines which were introduced in the first half of the C20, using an inter-connected system of line shafts and belt drives driven from the main shaft bearing in the original engine house located in the west range. After the Second World War the finishing process was moved to the other two walks and the north end of the east walk was converted to a plaiting shop in 1956 to house the plaiting machinery from G H Smith & Co. of the Parrett Works at Martock; this business then traded as G H Smith & Co. (Cordage) Ltd.

Job Gould & Son Ltd and G H Smith & Co. (Cordage) Ltd ceased trading in the late 1970s, but manufacture of plaited cordage has continued on a smaller scale in a building on the site.The middle walk was demolished in the 1970s, and the southern half of the west walk collapsed in the late C20 with the surviving half being converted to business units. Following closure much of the machinery which was used for twisting and finishing was dismantled by Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society and transferred to the Somerset Museum; a second-hand boiler (by Wm Colton & Sons), installed in 1963, was donated to the Westonzoyland Trust in 1980.

Reasons for Listing

The east walk, west range, chimney and weighbridge at the West of England Twine Works, erected in the late C19 with some C20 additions and alterations, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: an increasingly rare survival nationally of a substantially intact late-C19 rural twine works;
* Regional distinctiveness: the walk defines the very essence of what was a significant regional industry during the late C19 and is one of the industries key buildings;
* Historic interest: the buildings are strongly representative of the technologies employed at a rural twine works and all are fundamental to understanding its development and operation;
* Intactness: despite the loss of some machinery and plant, and some changes to the external cladding, this is a well-preserved group of buildings which retain many fixtures and fittings;
* Group value: each individual element: the walk, engine houses, boiler house, chimney and weigh plate, represents an essential component of a twine works of this period.

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