An old tannery converted to flour mills
Originally West Field was one of the great Medieval fields of the Manor of Kingston that covered the area between Larkhill Road in the east, Preston Road in the south, Ilchester Road to the east and Combe Street Lane to the north. However, by the early nineteenth century this great field had been subdivided into a myriad of small fields. One retained the name West Field
By the time of the 1846 Tithe Apportionment this smaller West Field had itself been further divided into several smaller parcels. One of these parcels, a long, thin strip of land on the north side of Preston Lane (today's Preston Road) also called West Field (Parcel 1464) contained one of the only houses in the area. The 1846 Tithe Apportionment described this parcel of West Field as 'House & Land' and noted that it measured 0a 3r 25p and was arable land. The Apportionment recorded that the owner was Betty Bengefield who lived in the house. This house was known as Providence Cottage which was shown on Madeley's 1831 map of Yeovil and was one of only four houses in Preston Road between Larkhill Road and Ilchester Road (the others being Ivy Cottage on the corner of Larkhill Lane, Grove House just to the west and a small house roughly where the Somerset Inn stood).
At some time in the middle of the nineteenth century a glove factory and tannery was built on this parcel, complete with tanning pits, consisting of two nearly parallel ranges of buildings on a north-south axis. The complex was probably built by, but certainly operated by John Barber, a fellmonger, glove and gaiter manufacturer. Barber probably operated the tannery in the 1850s but certainly by 1861 when he was living with his large family in the adjacent Providence Cottage. After Barber's retirement, the 1886 Ordnance Survey showed the range of buildings as 'Tannery (Disused)'.
John Barber died on 15 September 1894, aged 80, and after the failed sale of the factory property in 1895 but certainly by 1897 James Henry Newis, a corn merchant, was living at Providence Cottage. He converted the adjoining former tannery into a flour mill, known as Newis' Mills. There appears to be no water supply for driving a wheel on the site and any milling would have been powered by steam or oil engines. Having said that, it is apparent from the 1842 Tithe Map that a water course possibly originates at the mill site, perhaps from a spring, which then continues south along the rear gardens of the houses on the east side of Gove Avenue (the stream forms the boundary with Preston Plucknett). However, whether or not the water supply would have been sufficient at this point to run a mill....
In 1914 his business was known as JH Newis and Sons and 'Newis Mills (Corn)' is marked on the 1928 Ordnance Survey map located within the existing buildings. The firm appears to have continued beyond 1945 and is still named on maps in 1965 albeit with different proprietors.
Up until the time he left the district in 1930 Newis' Mills were run by Mr AC Short (see notice of sale below). Several newspaper advertisements, especially in the 1930s, indicate that the mills were being run by a Mr Rowland from this time.
Providence Cottage and the former Newis' Mills were demolished in the late 1960s and replaced with housing on the junction of Preston Road and Willow Road (see Gallery).
Map based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey showing Providence Cottage and Newis' Mills. On this map the mills were marked as 'Tannery (Disused)' indicating that Newis had yet to make the conversion to a flour mill.
Map based on the 1901 Ordnance Survey showing Parcels 1463 and 1464 of West Field containing Providence Cottage and Newis' Mills next to Preston Road. Parcel 1465 is noted as 'Allotment Gardens'.
Notice of the sale by auction of Providence Cottage and the adjoining tannery after the death of John Barber, placed in the 8 March 1895 edition of the Western Gazette.
The failure of Providence Cottage and the adjoining tannery to sell at auction as reported in the 5 April 1895 edition of the Western Gazette.
The notice of sale by auction of the stock of Newis' Mills (albeit not the mill buildings themselves) due to Mr AC Short leaving the district, in the 28 February 1930 edition of the Western Gazette.
After the above auction "the auctioneers proceeded to offer the freehold property known as "Newis Mills", Preston, Yeovil, but no offer being received the property was withdrawn".
This photograph was taken in the 1960s and looks west along Preston Road and the road running off to the right is Willow Road. The three-bay house end-on to Preston Road with a corner shop in its left-hand side is Providence Cottage. The building at right was originally a leather tannery but converted into a flour mill known as Newis' Mills. Both cottage and mills were demolished shortly after this photograph was taken.
An enlargement of the previous photograph showing Newis' Mills.
The three houses at left were built after 1901 to the west of Providence Cottage, which itself was replaced by the houses at right on the corner of Preston Road (where the photograph was taken from) and Willow Road off to the right.