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Branscombe - Old Bakery, Manor Mill And Forge, Devon

Branscombe Forge

Branscombe is a village in east Devon. The Celtic derivation of the village name probably indicates that a fishing settlement was established here between four or five thousand years ago. Branscombe isolated on the Devon coast, has working examples of an old village economy. Branscombe Forge is a working blacksmiths, selling a range of ironwork from a showroom next to the workshop. The Forge has been a blacksmiths for two hundred years, and is the last thatched forge in the country.

Just across the road from the Forge is the Old Bakery. The Old Bakery was the last traditional bakery in Devon. Dough was kneaded by hand here until 1946. Then a kneading machine was used, up until the bakery finally closed in 1987. Today the old baking equipment has been preserved in a small museum area. The rest of the building, now owned by the National Trust, is run as a tearoom.






The Old Bakery


A mill stream runs past the bakery. Follow the stream through a small fruit orchard and across a field, and you come to Manor Mill. This mill probably provided flour for the bakery. The mill has now been restored to full working order.

Visiting the Forge on a hot day, the blacksmith was taking a break from the heat of his fire, having a cup of tea outside. In the bakery I looked around a room where many back breaking hours had gone into hand kneading bread. Heavy sacks of flour had probaby been carried along the peaceful path between the bakery and Manor Mill. This was an economy before the division of labour. Branscombe's blacksmith was required to be versatile. This is reflected in the wide range of products on view in the small show room next to the forge. But specialisation was the future. Adam Smith's 's classic book of economics Wealth of Nations opens by describing a blacksmith working in a small village. This blacksmith might only be able to make twenty pins a day. For a small place like Branscombe, twenty pins a day would be plenty. But as communications improved opening up bigger markets, twenty pins a day would not do. Adam Smith describes the process of pin making being broken down into its constituent parts, each worker becoming an expert in their own little part of the process, allowing productivity to increase massively. We are told of the author's experience of a pin factory where ten men working together, dividing the work between them can produce a staggering 48,000 pins a day. Not surprisingly enterprises such as Branscombe's blacksmith shop are now few and far between.

Branscombe is also worth visiting for its local coastline, which is part of the Jurassic Heritage Coast. The South West coast path passes close by the village.


Approaching Manor Mill along the mill stream


Opening Times: Opening hours for National Trust properties can be complex. Please use contact details below.

Address: Branscombe, Seaton, Devon EX12 3DB

Directions: Branscombe is off the A3052. Roads are very narrow. Click here for an interactive map centred on Branscombe Forge and Old Bakery.

Access: There is wheelchair access to the Forge, the Information Centre, and the lower floor of the Old Bakery. Manor Mill would be difficult for anyone with mobility problems.







telephone: 01297 680333


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©2008InfoBritain (updated 11/12)