Visit to Tolson Mills in Fazeley

Members will recall the excellent and unexpectedly revealing talk given by John Colburn in January this year about Fazeley, including the history and development of Heritage projects. In response to enthusiastic demand Stephen King, the District Council's Conservation Officer, arranged for the Society to visit Tolson's Mills on the afternoon of Thursday 13th August.

The party of 26 were given a warm and informative welcome by Mr Gausdon, the Chairman of Tolson Holdings, his son Simon and Mr Daley, the Managing Director. We were then taken on a guided tour of the impressive five storey Victorian building overlooking the Fazeley Canal.

The building is used for the making of tapes, of many sizes, colours and patterns which are used for a multitude of purposes ranging from straps for aprons, labels on trainers, pieces for curtains and carpets, to the trimming on the top of tennis court nets. Members were able to see the manufacturing process through the stages from the storage of the raw materials to the packaging of the final product. It was fascinating to hear and see all the weaving, drying and sealing machines in operation and to appreciate the changing face of technology as more and more complex computer controlled equipment is introduced. Not all is new. Within the massive high ceilinged old building with its brick and wooden floors and cast iron columns there remains a place for a venerable functional lift and for the dexterity of the workers who hand sew and cut the products.

The interest of members as we walked between the ranks of machinery and talked to those working them was such that little time was left to do anything else except to pay a brief visit to look at the renovation work on the listed 1790s three storey old mill and the adjacent cottages on the other side of the canal. Then it was back to the main mill for refreshments in the boardroom which has interesting pictures of those who were part of the history of this industrial complex.

This was a wonderful afternoon made especially enjoyable by the hospitality, generosity and forbearance of our hosts and by the solicitude and efforts made on our behalf by Steven King.

Mike Tole
August 1998