Leri Mills Talybont Wales
We visited the Leri Mills Talybont Wales during the Autumn of 2015. Rainfall had been low the previous months and the river Leri water levels seemed quite low. We had heard the stories from other explorers of the fallen tree which had made a makeshift bridge across the water, but stupidly decided to try and jump the river itself. We under estimated how deep it was and ended up pretty wet. We also bumped into Simon, who had inherited the mills from his family. A kind old boy, he offered us in for a chat, gave us a run down of the history of the place and explained why the mills were now in the state that they are now in due to him not being able to cover the costs of maintaining them. He gave us a CD full of images and information, due to being pretty soaking wet we declined his offer of tea and toast, but he really was a highlight of the day for us. I found the mills and interesting location to explore and photograph and got the feeling Simon was happy for the visitors.
Please note I recently has this request from Simon’s daughter: “I wondered if you could add a note that we don’t mind the occasional visitor, but to request people don’t sneak down? This morning I jumped out of my skin when a stranger with a camera appeared while I was drinking my tea. He was a lovely chap but didn’t half give me a fright haha! And as you said, my dad is welcoming of those who pop their heads round the door.
A brief history of Leri Mills.
Without doubt, the oldest woolen factory in the district was “Factory Forge” near Glanfraed, two miles downstream of Talybont, which appears to have operated from about 1780 to 1930. A great effort was made to preserve this mill and to retrieve some of the archaic machinery but the owner bulldozed the site in the late 1960s to make way for a caravan park. Woolen manufacturing within Talybont village was founded in 1809 by Thomas Morgans of Caersws on a site, alongside the river Leri, on land owned by the Gogerddan Estate but previously used for corn milling, since about 1730, and for smelting lead before that. Sarn Helen crosses the Leri a little upstream and there is a mill recorded at Talybont in the “Bishops Transcripts” of 1300. There is no doubt that it lies in a particularly advantageous place, just below the junction of the rivers Leri and Ceulan, and has been attractive to those needing water power for centuries. The Leri Mills were founded in a collection of six buildings and a row of six houses.
These mills ran through a particularly prosperous period in the late 1960s and early ‘70s just before Sir Freddie Laker introduced cheap overseas holidays, particularly to Spain and Majorca. At Lerry Mills, a busy July / August day could draw 1000 visitors and necessitate a car park attendant. The numbers attending seriously affected the output of the mill during the summer months but this was a seasonal delay which was compensated for by buying in produce such as Welsh tapestry from Rock Mills, Llandysul, Caerwys clothes, Abtex of Pontypool and Gordon Bagnall of Bristol.
Jack Pickering, founder of the Lerry Tweed Mills business, my maternal grandfather, died at Shrewsbury in 1975. His daughter, Elizabeth Hughes, died at Aberystwyth in the winter of 1983 and the business was continued by the family through 1984 but the trade was by now so diminished that it closed in the autumn of that year. John Hughes, my father, then became a coastal mariner once again, later the skipper of a charter boat moored in Aberystwyth harbour. (firstly “Sunic” – a 28’ Dory, and then “Keep Smiling” – a 32’ Mitchell).
A documentary film of the mill was made by “Anglia TV” in 1975, a copy of which is now available through the film & sound archive of the National Library of Wales. Much of the machinery was taken to the Stroud Textile Museum in 1988 and ’89. In the late 1990s, the mill photographs were scanned to allow a CD of 222 JPEG images to be produced for distribution. I have retained the originals. A further 133 JPEG images of various maps and documents were also assembled into another file to be given to those undertaing research into the premises – this is a selection from various publications and those papers now deposited in the archive. Most of the paperwork and correspondence, dating between 1900 and 1980, was later packed into boxes and deposited at the Ceredigion Archives in the spring of 2012. Documents and press cuttings relating to the property, and legal opinions thereon, have also been retained.