Solva Mill in the 1920s
Moved to its present site from St. Davids in 1907 by Tom Griffiths, the new purpose built factory was powered by a 10 foot overshot water-wheel. With a number of small powered looms and a hand loom for weaving stair carpet, cropping machine and flannel press, it produced tweeds, flannel, blankets, hand woven stair carpets and wool for knitting. Warping was carried out on a peg frame. The finishing of the cloth was initially carried out at a local fulling mill before the mill invested in its own fulling machine.
In 1944 Betty, Tom's daughter married Eric Hemmingway, a colour matcher trained in a Cleckheaton worsted spinning firm. When Tom retired in 1950 Betty and Eric took over the running of the Mill. Eric soon recognised the market for weaving and fitting carpets and transferred carpet production to the powered looms. They expanded the factory re-equipping with larger looms and a more modern warper. The water-wheel was replaced with a 'Ruston' oil fired engine.
The introduction of mains electricity in the early 60's saw another weaving shed being built, the looms again being replaced.
More stringent health and safety regulations saw the scrapping of all the carding and spinning plant, it being more economical to buy in ready spun and dyed yarn. The finishing was once again done off site.
By the 70's most of the mills production was carpeting and the Mill had a shop in St.Davids catering to the evermore important tourist trade. In 1986 Betty and Eric decided it was time to retire, and the Mill was sold to the Grime family. Eric stayed on as a consultant passing on his many years of experience to the new owners.
Cynthia, Robert and their son Tom were determined to maintain the reputation that the mill had for quality woven goods. More looms were purchased, and parts of the old mill converted; where once the carding engines were sited the building has been turned into a Tea Room, where the old drive wheel from the water wheel and overhead line shafts can still be seen. The engine shed and small weaving shed are now a shop for the many visitors.
Solva Mill in 2007
2007 saw the refurbishment of the 10ft overshot water wheel which returned to its place at Solva Mill to celebrate the mill's centenary anniversary . Silent since 1949 when it was last used to power the looms, before being abandoned for preference of a more modern source of power, Tom Grime, the present owner has given it a new lease of life.
The cast iron frame has been sand blasted and the spokes remade. The oak timber for the buckets is out of storage and new bearings have been fitted. Stone work supporting the wooden trough that carries the water over the wheel has been reconstructed. It is planned to attach a leather belt from the drive wheel to the overhead line shafts in the tea room, for visitors to be able to fully appreciate how the mill once used water to power the looms.
Conscious of tradition and the importance of the mill's heritage, Tom has seen it as a labour of love - hundreds of hours of hard work have gone into renovating the wheel, relocating it to its original position and making it work. Tom has photographed and recorded the progress from day one to completion of the waterwheel restoration, and it is hoped that this can be seen as a slide show when visiting the mill.
We are the only woollen mill in Wales today specialising in the production of flat weave carpets and rugs using traditional skills of the past to continue weaving our future.
To celebrate the centenary we designed a new rug inspired by the honeycomb throws we also weave. It is woven from 100% pure cabled wool and has hand knotted fringes. During the centenary year further colours were added to the centenary collection.
We have designed the Island collection of stair carpets and runners and also have the Preseli and Welsh check rugs as part of our pure wool range. These products are usually in stock and are dyed to our own colour specifications.
Caldey from the Island Collection
We work closely with several designers to weave bespoke flooring and have woven carpets for several stately homes including a property in America. This opportunity can be utilised by anyone visiting the woollen mill, who desires flooring that reflects their individual style and combines both tradition and contemporary design.
We also have a mill range of floor rugs. These are rugs woven using carpet yarn sourced from carpet manufacturers. The colours are not stock items and run for a limited time.
All entry to the Solva Woollen Mill is free.
We are open to visitors all year, 9.30-5.30 Monday - Friday.
Also, from July to end September, 9.30-5.30 on Saturday and 2.00-5.30 on Sunday.
Access: the mill is accessible to wheelchair users.
Facilities available: Shop, Textile sales, Refreshments, Toilets, and Car parking.
Visitors can watch the carpets and rugs being woven on the looms when orders are at this stage in production. They can learn about the weaving process from information boards in the weaving shed and leaflets are available – "Cones to Carpets".
The mill shop sells carpets and floor rugs as mentioned above. Information leaflets and brochures are available regarding the flooring woven at the mill. Customers can contact us directly to discuss their individual requirements and orders can be delivered (we also have a website, with a web shop to be launched later this summer). Jewellery, wood turning and other quality woollen products are also available.
The mill itself is situated next to the River Solfach and is a delightful place to visit, 1 mile from Solva. Beside the waterwheel is an area to sit, relax and enjoy refreshments from the waterwheel tearoom and listen to the sound of water gently flowing by.
Getting to the Mill:
Follow the brown Tourist Information signs from the A487 between Solva and St Davids, or Croesgoch and St Davids; or take the turning up the valley at the bridge in Lower Solva: the Mill is one mile up the valley. A map is available on the Mills' own website (see below).
The postal address of the mill is:
Solva Woollen Mill, Middle Mill, Solva, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. SA62 6XD
Phone: 01437 721112 International: (+44) 1437 721112
(Monday to Friday 9.30a.m. to 5.30p.m)
The Ordnance Survey Grid Reference for Solva Mill is SM 80 25
(Landranger Sheet 157).
For further information, contact and product details see the Mill's own website -
http://www.solvawoollenmill.co.uk/ - which includes an online shop.