Article Index

9. Covering the sawmill

Shortly after Frederic Knight took over there were plans to convert the Carpenters Shop and “lumber rooms” to farmhouses.  In  1845 among the items to be sold at an auction of some of John Knight’s  implements was “A circular sawmill with jaws, etc., complete.”   This is clearly a piece of equipment but it is often  difficult to tell whether a reference to a “sawmill” is to a machine or to a building.  For example, in 1846 the Agent, John Mogridge, reported that:  “We have commenced covering the sawmill and part of the new stable is roofed.  I trust most of the present building will be covered in a fortnight.”

It is not really clear whether “sawmill” in this context is referring to a building or a piece of equipment.  If it is referring to a building, why does Mr Mogridge talk about “covering” the sawmill but “roofing” the stable or did he use these terms synonymously and interchangeably as is implied by the second sentence: “I trust most of the present building will be covered in a fortnight.”  (And why would they have “commenced covering” the sawmill if it was simply putting a cover over a piece of equipment?) . 

Furthermore, it is not clear whether he is referring to a single building (sawmill and new stable), adjoining buildings or perhaps even separate sawmill and new stables on different sites?  We may never know for certain but perhaps a reasonable interpretation of these two sentences is that he is informing John Knight about progress with putting a roofs on two separate buildings, one of which was to be used as a sawmill (and may have been an existing sawmill that had perhaps been open to the elements previously) and a second building to provide a new stables (perhaps even for working horses that were used to bring timber to the mill and other estate tasks).

Listed in the particulars for a sale held by Frederic Knight in 1851 (following the death of his father) is a “Circular saw with iron frame, bench grabs and driving pulleys.”    Roger Burton believes that this was the same sawbench as that offered for sale in 1845 and that it was not sold on either occasion.  (The oldest comparible sawbench at Simonsbath Sawmill today was manufactured by Sam Worssam and Co at the Oakley Woods in Chelsea.  The firm did not move to these works until the 1860s).