Glove Manufacturer of South Street and Higher Kingston
Robert Phelps was born about 1819 at Tylney Hall, Rotherwick, Hampshire. He was the son of John Isaac Phelps (1777-1841) and Mary née Ingram (1782-1872) and was the younger brother of Yeovil glove manufacturer Henry Bryant Phelps.
Robert remained a bachelor all his life and, from his location in various census returns, he spent most of his adult life living at Magnolia House, Kingston (now Princes Street), immediately next to North Lane, with his mother and sister. His glove factory, however, was in South Street and Robert Phelps was listed as a glove manufacturer of South Street in the Somerset Gazette Directory of 1840, Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850 and Slater's Directory of 1852-3.
In the 1841 census Robert was living with his mother Mary and his sister Susan. His mother was listed as of independent means while Robert was listed as a glove manufacturer. In the 1851 census he was listed living with his mother and his aunt Susan, both of whom were listed as landed proprietors, while 32-year-old Robert was listed as a 'Glove Manufacturer employing 14 men, 4 boys & 200 women'. By the time of the 1861 census his aunt had left and his sister had returned. His mother Mary, now aged 79, was listed as a landed proprietor and Robert, now aged 44 was listed as a 'Glove Manufacturer employing 30 men & 10 boys'. There were also two live-in domestic servants.
His brother Henry retired in the late 1850s or early 1860s and his glove manufactory was taken over by Robert's company. The company was listed as Robert Phelps & Co of Higher Kingston in the 1866 Post Office Directory, as Phelps & Co of Higher Kingston in the Post Office Directory of 1875 and once again as Robert Phelps & Co of Higher Kingston in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1882.
In the 1871 census Robert, together with his mother and sister, a cook and a housemaid were still at Magnolia house. Roberts listed his occupation as 'Glove Manufacturer employing 35 men and 8 boys'. By the time of the following census Robert's mother had died and he was living with his sister and two servants. He listed his occupation as 'Glove Manufacturer employing 12 men & 2 boys'.
Robert Phelps died in Yeovil in the winter of 1890, aged 72. By 1903 his glove factory had been taken over by Hawkins, Jesty & Ricketts.
This map, based on the 1901 Ordnance Survey, shows Henry Phelps' glove factory with his house to its side. After Henry retired, the factory was taken over by his brother Robert's company, Robert Phelps & Co, although Henry remained living at the house until his death in 1888.
This photograph of about 1965 shows Robert Phelps' glove factory in Back Kingston (today's Higher Kingston). It was previously his brother Henry's factory and stood on the north side of the road opposite Kingston Manor House. The hedge and wall seen at right was the garden wall of his brother's house, which was set back from the road.
Magnolia House, Kingston (now Princes Street), home to Robert Phelps for most of his life.