The Aberdulais mills

A painting of Aberdulais Mill from the 18th century © National Trust / Aderdulais Archive

A painting of Aberdulais Mill from the 18th century

In the second chapter of our story, despite the failure of earlier copper-smelting operations, the power of water, and its commercial potential, is not forgotten.

So it wasn't long before new industries took advantage and by 1635 records show that a fulling or tucking mill had been established here, with local women (mostly) employed to clean and thicken cloth made from wool supplied by neighbouring farmers.

The woven material would have been placed in vats of water containing Fuller's Earth (hence the name), a malleable clay-like substance which absorbed the natural oils in the raw fabric. The cloth was then pounded repeatedly with water-powered hammers (which is where the waterfall and the wheels come in).

By 1667, there was also a dyeing house operating on the site, another process requiring a plentiful supply of running water.

Change of use

In the 18th century, cloth gave way to corn. We know that some time around 1715 a flour or 'grist' mill was added to the complex and by 1764 there were three mills working, each with its own waterwheel.  And a report in The Cambrian newspaper dated 1807 confirms that these enterprises survived into the 19th century.

Sadly, we have found almost no artefacts from these early industries, other than a pair of millstones.  As one industry succeeded another, the new entrepreneurs simply built on top of the old ones.  Conservation was not a priority in those days.