Over the past 18 months, Contains Art, an arts project in Somerset, has been working together with organisations across Watchet and Somerset on a heritage and creative project to celebrate and commemorate Wansbrough Paper Mill, which closed at the end of 2015, ending more than a quarter of a millennium of papermaking in this small coastal town . The project has been made possible by National Lottery players through a £26,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
In the months before the closure in December 2015, artists, photographers and filmmakers began capturing images and memories from the Paper Mill, resulting in a large body of work. A creative exhibition took place last year at Contains Art and the Wansbrough project culminates this September with a Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition displayed along the Esplanade for the whole month. The exhibition includes history, photos, images, memories and more. It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the history of the Mill, its importance to the town and area, its people and its legacy.
The exhibition will be displayed outdoors so it can be viewed at any time during September. Saturday 23 September sees a free Community Event from 2pm-5pm on Watchet Esplanade with papermaking, paper craft, paper bunting – fun for all the family.
The Wansbrough project has included, alongside creative and heritage exhibitions, a comprehensive photographic and measured recording of the buildings on the site with a laser drone survey and laser surveys of special hard-to-access parts of the site.
The project team, supported by dozens of volunteers, have also compiled an archive of documents found at the Mill. This will be deposited at Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton as a permanent resource for the future. Contains Art also invited members of the community to bring along their own documents relating to the Mill. These included an amazing number of wonderful photographs, press cuttings, samples and documents, which have all been scanned and logged and will be deposited with the rest of the work from the project at the Heritage Centre.
In partnership with Watchet Market House Museum, the project has recorded oral histories from former mill workers, capturing their memories and stories from the Mill. A CD of these oral histories has been created alongside a listening station in the Museum where you can hear extracts.
As well as the temporary exhibition, the project will culminate in a booklet detailing much of the history, stories and memories as well as the photos and documents we have discovered. The final piece of work is a permanent Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) website, which will be launched later in the autumn, where you will be able to explore the site in 360 images, and view lots of the photos, films, oral histories and images we have collected during this project. The QTVR will provide a permanent legacy for Watchet Paper Mill and a unique opportunity to view the Paper Mill for years to come – a modern conclusion to a heritage project.