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Bawdrip History Group Nov 2015

Industry in Dunball


The well attended November history group meeting in Bawdrip featured a talk by Peter Russ from Puriton on the industry in Dunball and Puriton. Peter was born in Puriton explained that the old industrial areas of the area was his playground as a child which gave many opportunities as a youngster to have the ultimate adventure playground.


With the coming of the railway in the 1840’s Dunball developed into the major port for the import of coal for the South West from Wales and provided a convenient route for the John Board Lime and Cement Works which was founded in 1844. They were eventually make a range of materials and products: bricks, cement, lime, manure and salt. The various works were connected together by a rail network of standard and narrow gauge lines. The supplies were transported originally by horse drawn narrow gauge tracks which also included a lengthy tunnel to overcome the hillside into Puriton.


In 1876 the Dunball Steam Pottery, Brick and Tile Company was established. Clay was transported westwards by tramway from the pits to be processed and the products fired in kilns alongside sidings to the main line.

The works were bought by Colthurst Symons and Co Ltd, brick makers of Bridgwater. At its peak the works were producing 30,000 handmade tiles per week and employed between 70 and 80 people in 1947, were the last of the kind in the area when they closed in 1970.

The mainline station at Dunball was never profitable for passenger traffic especially the access to Puriton involved a steep hill narrow path. In 1903 the station employed six staff but was eventually closed under the Beeching axe.


In 1940, the Royal Ordinance Factory was built between Puriton and Woolavington. It was largely self-supporting with material being transport by rail. A large explosion occurred at the factory in the early 1950s, with several workers dying or being injured. It closed in 2008.

The village's many stone quarries began to go out of use during World War II. The cement and lime works, next to both the King's Sedgemoor Drain and the Bristol and Exeter Railway line, became run down by the early 1960s and was demolished when the M5 motorway was built through part of the site. The church, and the boundary walls, in the old part of the village, are built of blue lias blocks.

Many of the features were destroyed with the building of the M5 motorway when large amounts of the hill side were removed. Puriton Park was built over part of the site of an in-filled blue lias quarry, at the eastern end of the village.


Peter is clearly dedicated to preserving the history of the area and was thanked for such an interesting and informative insight into the area for those present and rekindling many memories for others.

The next meeting will be on Thursday 21st  January 2016