MAGNOLIA HOUSE, Princes Street
An Eighteenth Century Town House
Magnolia House (named after the comparatively modern Magnolia tree in its front garden) on the corner of North Lane was originally the first house on the eastern side of Kingston, before the road improvement works of the 1970s and 1980s destroyed most of Kingston and this remaining part, south of the new roundabout, became renamed Princes Street, with Magnolia House being re-numbered to 54.
Built in the late eighteenth century, Magnolia House was the home and medical practice of surgeon William Tomkins Snr during the 1820s until his death in 1855. During the Yeovil Reform Riot of 1831 the house was attacked by the mob and the Royal Cornwall Gazette, in its edition of 5 November 1831 reported "Mr William Tomkins, surgeon, of this town, with the assistance of a workman, made an effort, in the early part of the attack, to clear the room first broken into by the rioters, and they had partially succeeded in driving them out, and would have maintained their ground, had not the attempt been made to set fire to the house."
Magnolia House was the home of Yeovil glove manufacturer Robert Phelps for most of his adult life and certainly from around 1855 until his death in 1890.
The following description is from the Somerset Historic Environment Record -
Town House, now offices, late C18. Local stone cut and squared, with Ham stone dressings; shallow pitched Welsh slated roof behind parapet. 2-storey facade of 5-bays, the left-hand bay being angled to the remainder: 6-panel door (top 4-panels glazed) set in simple surround with flat stone hood and 12-pane sashes set in architraves, the glazing bars missing from top casement of bay 3, and the windows to bay 5 blocked up within the architrave. Matching 1st floor windows with square panes: that to bay 5 blocked. Simple cornice with parapet. Return to North Lane in ashlar (possibly later re-front) to match, with 4 windows and a blocked doorway. Now linked to Mansion House, this house may have served as a wing to that house for many years.
This photograph taken from Bide's Gardens of the northern end of Princes Street / southern end of Kingston most likely dates to the early 1920s, yet is probably one of the earliest of this location as witnessed by the building at far left, next to Mansion House and enlarged below, which pre-dates the later Vincent's (now Batten's) building on the corner of Court Ash (running off to the left) we are all so familiar with. At right is the shop-front of the sales rooms of Hill & Boll's carriage works.
An enlargement of part of the above photograph showing, right of centre, the ivy-covered Magnolia House, sans Magnolia.
A photograph of the 1950s showing ivy-covered Magnolia House, on the eastern side of Princes Street, to the north of North Lane, at extreme left. The Magnolia was considerably smaller in those days!
Photograph by Trevor Hussey, courtesy of Mrs Anne Hussey
Mansion House and Magnolia House, photographed in 1990.
Magnolia House, Kingston (now Princes Street), somewhat dwarfed by the Magnolia tree from which the house derives its modern name. Photographed in 2013.