There has been a mill in Saltford Mill since the Great Survey of 1086 (The Domesday Book). Saltford Mill was leased by the Bristol Brass Company in 1721 and modified for the manufacture of brass hollow-ware. Many additions and alterations have taken place since that time, as seen in the collection of photographs on display in the mill, showing that in the late C19th the building stretched from the road almost to the river.
At its height, Saltford Mill housed five undershot waterwheels: two driving battery hammers; two driving rolls; and a fifth driving a grinding wheel in an auxiliary workshop. One of these wheels remains functional, driving a dynamo installed in 1928 after the mill ceased operation as a brass mill.
The brass was worked 'cold' but repeated hammering caused the metal to become brittle, requiring annealing to restore its malleability. Annealing furnaces would have been a feature of the brass mills at Keynsham, Weston, Woodborough, Bitton and Kelston, as well as at Saltford. The remains of these once common structures can be seen at Saltford and Kelston, with Saltford being the only one open to the public.
The brass Mill produced a range of products ranging from brass sheet to all types of hollow-ware vessels, including bowls, pans, kettles and vats.
The mill was adapted to house a squash court in 1928. The squash court was constructed in a workshop that had formerly housed a set of battery hammers. The court was lit by electric light generated by a dynamo coupled to one of the waterwheels. The dynamo is mounted on a concrete plinth above the highest recorded flood level.
In the early C18th, brass hollow-ware was produced by the hammering of slabs of cast brass using water-driven battery hammers. An eye-witness account of 1754 records there being 12 hammers at Saltford in three workshops. This was later reduced to 6 hammers, two of the waterwheels being converted to drive rolls for the manufacture of copper and brass sheet.
Although initially a Battery Mill, two of the waterwheels were adapted to drive a Rolling Mill for the production of sheet copper and brass. The rolls continued in use until the mills closure as a brass mill in 1925.
Saltford Brass Mill Project
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Grade II* Listed Building
Display of Brass Hollow-Ware