REPAIR work has started today (Monday, February 21) on a historic factory site in Wellington deemed to be at risk.

Sections of the Grade II* listed Tonedale Mills had already collapsed before further damage was caused by Storm Eunice on Friday.

Somerset West and Taunton Council is undertaking the repairs 'in default' with the aid of a Historic England grant after the owners ignored an Urgent Works Notice to protect the premises.

Mancraft failed to take action to start repair works in Block H in the East Complex of the mill and will be billed for the work.

Tonedale Mill, which is regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of its kind, was the largest textile manufacturing site in the South West, producing twill fabrics such as ‘serge’, and later khaki cloth and puttees used by the British Army in the First World War.

A significant proportion of the early 19th century mill remains, although many of the privately-owned buildings have fallen into disrepair and are on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register.

Many of the requirements of statutory notices served by SWT have not been fully complied with by Mancraft.

Previous actions have included an Urgent Works Notice in spring 2018 in respect of Tonedale House; a Section 215 Notice (Town and Country Planning Act 1990) in early 2020; an Enforcement Notice in summer 2018 in respect of unauthorised caravans; and three Repairs Notices in June 2020 as the first step in a potential compulsory purchase of the site.

SWT executive member for planning and transport Cllr Mike Rigby said: “Given that Mancraft Ltd have failed to comply with the Urgent Works Notice we issued last month, we must intervene to ensure the preservation of Block H which is a prominent and historically important building within the larger Tonedale Mills site.

“Once we've completed the necessary works to make the building weather-proof, stable and safe from collapse, we'll reclaim the costs from Mancraft Ltd retrospectively.

“I’d like to extend my thanks to Historic England for their support in helping to fund the protective works.”

With financial support from Historic England, SWT-appointed contractors began work on site from today, of which the subsequent costs will be reclaimed from Mancraft Ltd.

The protective works are expected to last for approximately eight weeks.