yeovil people

The collins Family

Glove Manufacturers of Court Ash

 

The Collins family were established in Yeovil certainly from the middle of the eighteenth century. Although the father's name is unknown to us, the matriarch's name was Mary and she had at least five children; Elizabeth, Henry (1752-1827), Philip (d1790), Mary and William.

Little is known of Elizabeth; from her brother Philip's will she married a Mr Woolmington and had a daughter Sarah to whom Philip bequeathed twenty pounds (worth about £40,000 at today's value). Another daughter, Mary, married Giles Hodges.

Similarly, Philip's will makes the only mention of his brother William to whom he left his grey mare with the request that "he never dispose of or part with her on any Account whatever."

Philip Collins, who died in 1790, was a Yeovil butcher with substantial wealth and left most of his estate to his wife Martha. However it would appear that Philip and Martha had no surviving children since he left, on the death or remarriage of his wife, ".... the Messuage or dwellinghouse within which I now live with the Outhouses coach house and Garden" to his nephew Philip and he left a "close called Furze Hedge lying near Brick Yard Lane" (today's St Michael's Avenue) to his nephew Henry - Philip and Henry being the sons of his brother Henry.

Henry Collins was born in Yeovil in 1752 and married Elizabeth Winter. Henry and Elizabeth were to have seven children; Martha (1777- pre 1835), Mary (d post 1835), Susanna 1783-1840). Henry Jnr (1787-1841), Philip (1788-1835), Sarah (1790-1840) and Elizabeth (1793-1868).

In 1784 Henry, 'Glover of Yeovil', was listed in the UK register of duties paid for apprentices' indentures when he took on as an apprentice William Thring. This same year Henry Collins was listed in Bailey's British Directory as a manufacturer of fine leather gloves. He was noted as a glove manufacturer in deeds of both 1786 and 1787 as well as in a 'Survey of the County of Somerset' of 1789. He was listed as a 'Glover, Lamb & Kid Leather Dresser' in the Universal British Directory of 1790. His glove factory was in Court Ash and he and his family lived in Court Ash House after 1800, when the then owner Francis Boucher (the fifth generation of the Boucher to have lived in Court Ash House) died and his estate sold.

From 1804 until 1807 Henry served as a Churchwarden of St John's church. In 1818, together co-former Churchwardens George Watts and William Willmington (Henry Collins' son-in-law), Henry gave evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons as to his role in the Yeovil Charities Scandal.

Henry Collins lived in the large nine-bedroom residence Court Ash House shown on the map below. Next to it, to the north of the sheep pens, was his glove factory. Both the house and glove factory were later occupied by his sons, glove manufacturers Henry and Philip, then by his son-in-law glove manufacturer William Willmington and his son Edwin Willmington in the early 1850s and by glove manufacturer Elias Lyndall Whitby from the mid-1860s.

Henry Collins, accorded the rank of Gentleman, died on 11 January 1827, aged 75, and Elizabeth died on 18 January 1821, aged 67. They are buried in a vault in the centre aisle of St John's church together with their two sons, Henry and Philip.

 

Of the children of Henry Collins

Martha married glove manufacturer William Willmington in 1795. Together they would have nine children; William Edward (b1798), Mary (b1800), Elizabeth (b1802), Henry (b1804), Amelia Collins (b1806), Emma Matilda Collins (b1808), Sophia Collins (b1810), Philip Collins (b1812), Edwin Collins (b1815) and Mary Ann Collins (b1817). Martha died before 1835.

Nothing is known of Mary, other than she died after 1835.

Similarly only Elizabeth's year of birth (1783) and death (1840) are known.

In 1824 the company of Henry & Philip Collins, glove manufacturers of Court Ash, were listed in Pigot's Directory of that year. Henry and Philip were the sons of Henry Snr. and clearly took over their father's business on his retirement. Neither this company nor either of the Collins boys as an individual glove manufacturers were listed in any trade directories after this date.

Henry Jnr, born in 1786 and baptised at St John's church on 28 September, the older brother by a year, married Mary Ann Merewether in St Michael's church, Mere, Wiltshire on 29 February 1808. She was the youngest daughter of John Merewether (1753-1828), Gentleman, of Mere Park, Wiltshire. It is not known if Henry and Mary had children but she died in 1814. A sketch map by E Watts, dated 1829, recorded Court Ash House as "Mr Collins' Premises". Henry Collins (Jnr) was listed in the Yeovil poll books of both 1832 and 1834 as living in Court Ash and was in the poll books by virtue of owning freehold land at "Brittol's Hill, etc." in Yeovil. He was also a member of the Vestry. Henry Jnr died on 11 September 1841, aged 54. His brother Philip was listed in both poll books by virtue of owning freehold land in Brickyard Lane - this was the field called Furze Hedge that Philip had inherited from his uncle Philip.

 

Henry Collins Jnr's signature against the Vestry minutes of 3 March 1831.  

 

On the Collins' monument in St John's church, illustrated below, it reads somewhat ambiguously "Also of Ann Collins wife of the above Henry, and Philip Collins; who died 10 March 1869 aged 75 years." Since Henry's wife Mary Ann née Merewether died in 1814 it is likely that Henry remarried. Perhaps somewhat more perplexing is the inference that Ann was also married to Philip (?). Certainly Philip's wife was named Ann in his will of 1827 so perhaps after Philip's death in 1835 his widow Ann married widower Henry.

In any event in the 1846 Tithe Apportionment Ann Collins was listed as the owner of several houses, parcels of land, etc. including being the owner and occupier of 'House, Garden & Orchard' (Parcel 50) - which was Court Ash House. Ann Collins' land holdings, inherited via her husband, are tabulated below.

It appears that Philip and Ann (possibly the Miss Hayward of Mudford who married Mr Philip Collins of Yeovil in 1810) did not have children since in the event of her death or remarriage Philip left everything to the care of his brother Henry, which included lands in both Mudford and Marston Magna, apart from a thousand pounds (in excess of £1.3 million at today's value) left to his sister Elizabeth. He also stipulated that after the death or remarriage of his wife, his estate be divided "unto my three sisters Mary, Sarah and Elizabeth. There is no mention of his sister Susanna. Philip Collins died on 9 June 1835 aged 57.  The Bristol Mercury reported "Philip Collins, Esq. of Court Ash, Yeovil. He had been unwell for some time past, and while taking air in the garden, he suddenly fell down in a fit of apoplexy and expired."

Sarah Collins married Edward Merewether, Gentleman, of Mere Park, Wiltshire, in 1820. It appears that Edward was already Sarah's brother-in-law as his older sister Mary Ann had married Sarah's brother Henry in 1808. Sarah died in 1840, aged 50.

Finally, Henry and Elizabeth's youngest daughter, Elizabeth, married Yeovil glove manufacturer Samuel Duffett in 1821. They were to have six children; Anna (b1826), Henry (bc1827), Emily (b1828), Louisa (b1830), Matilda (b1832) and Flora (b1835). The family lived next door but one to the Pall Tavern in Silver Street. Elizabeth died in Yeovil in 1868 aged 75.

 

See the Collins Family Tree

 

map

 

This map, based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey, shows Henry Collins' large residence, Court Ash House at top centre left. Next to it, to the north of the sheep pens, is his glove factory. The site of the house is now the Odeon cinema and factory site is today built up with offices.

 

land holdings of ann collins, 1846

 

Below are the holdings of Ann Collins as recorded in the 1846 Tithe Apportionment. Parcel 50 is Court Ash House and its orchard, in total measuring 1a 2r 9p and it is, perhaps, surprising to see Frogg Mill amongst her holdings. Much of the rest were in the Bucklers Mead area. The total acreage owned by Ann Collins in 1846 amounted to 43a 0r 32p (for details on historic land measurement - ie acres, roods and perches - click here).

 

Owner Occupier No Name
Collins, Ann Collins, Ann 50 House, Garden & Orchard
Collins, Ann Allen, Robert Jnr 472 Mill Orchard
Collins, Ann Allen, Robert Jnr 473 Frogg Mill & Premises
Collins, Ann Hawkins, John 475 Stars Lane House & Orchard
Collins, Ann Marten, James 932 Bucklers Mead
Collins, Ann Marten, James 933 Furzey Close
Collins, Ann Marten, James 934 Daniell's Close
Collins, Ann Marten, James 935 Young Orchard
Collins, Ann Marten, James 946 Briseham Hill
Collins, Ann Marten, James 947 Spring Close
Collins, Ann Marten, James 949 Cribhouse Ground
Collins, Ann Marten, James 980 Goarh Nap
Collins, Ann Squire, James 996 Lower Ryalls
Collins, Ann Squire, James 1005 Higher Ryalls
Collins, Ann Marten, James 1035 Gilland's Close

 

gallery

 

An aerial view of St John's church taken in 1924. At top left is Court Ash House set within its extensive grounds (now the site of the Odeon cinema building) and directly above the church roof are seen Henry Collins' glove factory buildings, enlarged in the photograph below.

 

An enlargement of the previous photographs showing Henry Collins' glove factory complex at centre and centre left. At right Nos 1 & 2 Court Ash, not part of Collins' complex, remains today.

 

The Collins' memorial in St John's church. 

 

 

The Will of Philip Collins, 1790

 

This is the last Will and Testament of me Philip Collins of Yeovil in the County of Somerset Butcher I give and devise all my Messuages Lands and Tenements situate and being in Yeovil aforesaid unto my Wife Martha Collins for and during the term of her natural life in case she shall so long remain my Widow and from and after her death or marriage again I dispose thereof as follows that is to say I give the Messuage or dwellinghouse wherein I now live with the Outhouses court yard and Garden to the same belonging unto my Nephew Philip Collins Son of my Brother Henry his Heirs and Assigns forever I give my close called Furze Hedge lying near Brick Yard Lane in Yeovil aforesaid unto my Nephew Henry Collins another son of my said Brother Henry his heirs and Assigns forever I give my two closes of pasture Ground called Winterhay and Lilswell which I purchased of Mr William Cayme unto my three Neices Martha Mary and Susanna daughters of my said Brother Henry Collins their heirs and assigns forever as Tenants in common And not as joint tenants I give unto my sister Mary Wife of Giles Hodges the sum of five pounds to be paid her in one month next after my death Also I Give unto the said Mary Hodges the weekly sum of two shillings for and during the term of her natural life and I direct the same to be paid into her own hands for her sole use and benefit so as the same be not liable to the controul Debts or Engagements of her husband I give unto my Neice Charlotte Bowen daughter of Mr Benjamin Bowen the sum of five pounds to be paid in twelve Months next after my decease I Give unto my Brother William Collins my Gray mare with this request that he never dispose of or part with her on any Account whatever And as for and concerning all the rest and residue of my Monies Goods Stock Land all other my personal Estate whatsoever to my said Wife for her life in case she shall so long continue my widow and from and after her death or marriage again Dispose thereof as follows (that is to say) I give unto such child as Elizabeth the Wife of my Brother Henry is now ensient of the Sum of two hundred pounds I give unto my Neice Sarah Woolmonton Daughter of my Sister Elizabeth Woolmonton the sum of twenty pounds And I give all the rest and residue of my said monies Goods and all other my personal Estate whatsoever unto and amongst all and every the Child and Children of my Brother Henry which shall be living at the time of the death or marriage again of my said Wife equally to be divided between them share and share alike I appoint my said Wife Martha Collins and Brother Henry Collins joint Executors of this my lat will and testament In witness whereof I the said Philip Collins the Testator have to this my last Will and Testament set my hand and Seal this eighteenth day of February in the year of Our Lord One thousand seven hundred and ninety

Philip Collins

Signed sealed published and declared to the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who at his request have subscribed our names as Witnesses thereto in the presence of the said Testator and of each other

Tho[ma]s Martin Edm[un]d Batten Solomon Tozer Junr


This Will was proved at London on the twenty seventh Day of May in the Year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety before the Right Honourable Sir William Wynne [word illegible] Doctor of Laws and [word illegible] Keeper [two words illegible] of the prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by the Oaths of Martha Collins Widow the relict of the deceased and Henry Collins the Brother of the deceased and the Executors named in the said Will to whom adm[inistrati]on was granted of all and singular the Goods Chattels and Credits of the said deceased having been first sworn by Commission only to Administer

 

Transcribed by Bob Osborn

 

The Will of Henry Collins, 1827

 

This is the last Will and testament of me Henry Collins of Yeovil in the County of Somerset Gentleman I give and devise unto my son in law William Willmington all that my messuage or dwellinghouse now in my occupation called Court Ash together with the workshope barn stable outbuildings yard garden Orchard and premises thereto adjoining and belonging late Mr William Collins's situate lying and being in the parish of Yeovil aforesaid (except the walle between the [word illegible] Garden and Orchard and the Garden and Orchard late [Jeanse's ?] which it is my will shall not pass by the devise) To hold unto the said William Willmington his heirs and assigns upon trust for all and every the children and child of the said William Willmington who shall be living at the time of my decease and their respective heirs and assigns for ever equally to be divided between them if more than one share and share alike as tenants in common and not as joint tenants And if but one then upon trust for such one child his or her heirs and assigns for ever I give and bequeath to the said Children of the said William Willmington begotten as aforesaid on the body of my late daughter the sum of eight hundred and twenty pounds to be equally divided between them share and share alike the shares of such of them as shall be under the age or twenty one years at the time of my decease (if any) to be paid to the said William Willmington In trust for them and I direct that the receipt shall be a sufficient discharge to my Executors hereinafter named for the same I also give and bequeath to the said Children of the said William Willmington begotten as aforesaid on the body of my said late Daughter the further sum of five hundred pounds now due and owing to me from the said William Willmington together with all Interest that may be due for the same at the time of my decease for securing the payment whereof he hath deposited in my hands the title the deeds of certain Lands in the parish of Yeovil aforesaid the rents and profits of which I receive and retain as a satisfaction for the Interest of the said last mentioned sum of five hundred pounds And I direct that such last mentioned sum of five hundred pounds with the interest due thereon at the time of my decease as aforesaid be equally divided between such children in equal shares and proportions if more than one shall be living at the time of my decease and if but one then to such only one and to be paid such of them as shall of the age of twenty one years at the time of my decease immediately after my decease and such of them as shall be under that age at the time of my decease as and when they shall respectively attain that age And I further direct that such Deeds as well as the Lands comprised therein be delivered up to the said William Willmington immediately after my decease I give and devise to my daughter Mary Phelps Widow all that my close of pasture Land called [Sinswell ?] and also all that my close of pasture land called the Three Cornered Ground near Brimsmore Tree both late Caymess and situate lying and being in the parish of Yeovil aforesaid

 

Transcribed by Bob Osborn