1 & 3 Princes Street
1 & 3 princes street
(West Side) - a Bank, Lambe's Surgery, later Porter's Bookshop
Much of the earlier history of this site, on the corner of today's Princes Street and Westminster Street, is taken from E Watts' maps of Yeovil dating to 1806 and 1831 (shown below) and indentures of 1815, 1816 and 1825 in my collection. There is also some conjecturing on my part, which I acknowledge within the text.
Although there has undoubtedly been a building on this site for centuries, the date of the present building is difficult to ascertain. The earliest known occupier of the site (see below) was a saddler, John Reeks (died pre 1764) and his family during the early eighteenth century.
Very little is known of John Reeks, or Ricks, the Elder. It is known that in 1716 John Ricks, 'Sadler of Yeovil' took on Jos. son of Samuel Lester, as an apprentice and in 1729 he took John Bunn of Dorchester as an apprentice. The Poor Rate of 1729 recorded that John Reeks paid 1½d Poor Rate on property in the Manor of Hendford. At this time 1½d was ‘average’ so unlikely that it would have been such a large building as the present 1&3 Princes Street. Between 1737 and 1739 he served as a Churchwarden at St John's church. A lease dated 1764 refers to "John Rooks, Saddler, Deceased" and noted he had purchased cottages for £40 but not conveyed them (Daniell Deeds – the cottages were presumably in Frogg Street).
John Reeks the Younger (1713-1770) was presumably the eldest son of the above John. He was baptised at St John's church on 31 December 1713. John the Younger attended Pembroke College, Oxford, and matriculated in 1731 aged 18. He was awarded a BA from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1734 aged 21, an MA in 1737-8 aged 24, a Bachelor of Divinity in 1745 aged 32 and a Doctorate of Divinity in 1756 aged 43. He was Rector of Stratford St Anthony cum Hanny, Berkshire, in 1769 but died the following year, aged 57. Although he would probably have inherited his father's property, the saddlery would most likely have been taken on by John Reeks the Elder's younger son Thomas, who was also a saddler, presumably serving an apprenticeship with his father, then working alongside him and finally assuming the business after his father's death.
The Reeks family were followed by Samuel Toms (a deed of 1770 notes that a farrier by the name of Samuel Tomes was active at this time). Nothing else is known of Samuel Toms. In turn he was succeeded by solicitor and banker Samuel Watts the Elder (1734-1820).
Yeovil Bank, probably founded around 1810, was a private bank established by Samuel Watts the Elder (when aged about 76) and it is possible that his bank was located here - certainly, as shown below, his sons' bank was later located here. It is surely not unreasonable to speculate that the bank of the sons was a continuation of the bank of the father, albeit under different names.
A reference in the London Gazette in 1812 refers to the bank as Watts Marsh & Co (run by Samuel the Elder's sons Samuel and Joseph Watts and Thomas Marsh). The John Nossiter bankruptcy of 1815 has as one of his creditors Messrs Watts Marsh & Bullock & Co. Later in 1815 it was announced that this banking partnership was dissolved by mutual consent under the signatures of Samuel Watts the Younger, Thomas Marsh, Thomas Bullock, and James Glyde. Daniel Vickery, writing in 1856, referred to Yeovil's third bank as Samuel Joseph Watts and Cayme, noting ".... In the premises [that is, today's 1 & 3 Princes Street] now occupied by Mr Wilmott, confectioner, was the Bank of Messrs. Samuel [and] Joseph Watts and Cayme." (See below regarding George Willmott as occupier in 1851 and 1861). By 1822 (Pigot's Directory) the bank had become Samuel Watts & Co. It would then have gone out of business on 8 November 1823, when Samuel Watts the Younger, scrivener and banker, was declared bankrupt.
The first of my indentures, a lease dated 9 November 1815, was made between Thomas Bullock, Gentleman, James Glyde, Gentleman and Samuel Watts the Younger, Gentleman, (all of Yeovil) of the one part and Markes Lambe, Surgeon of Yeovil, of the other part. James Glyde and Samuel Watts were brothers-in-law (Glyde married Watts' sister Mary) and Thomas Bullock was likely the brother of Watts' mother, Mary née Bullock.
The lease is
also of interest
since it names
owners of the
John Reeks Snr, John Reeks Jnr, Thomas Reeks, Samuel Toms, Samuel Watts the Elder, Joseph Watts and Samuel Watts the Younger (Joseph and Samuel being two of the sons of Samuel Watts the Elder) up to 1815.
The parcel of land and its buildings leased by Markes Lambe was described in the lease as -
"All that Messuage or Dwellinghouse situate at Hendford [as this part of today's Princes Street was known at the time] in the Town of Yeovil aforesaid together with the Underground Kitchen Cellars and several Offices adjoining and attached thereto And also All that Hall now used as a Kitchen lying behind the said Dwellinghouse with Offices Hall Garden and premises are bounded on the North by the Dwellinghouse and Premises late in the occupation of Charles Geald but now of Joseph Male and by a Malthouse late in the occupation of the said Samuel Watts or his Tenant On the East by Hendford Street in Yeovil aforesaid On the South by the Lane leading from Yeovil aforesaid to Hewish Common field and on the West by a newly erected wall extending from the side of the said Malthouse and forming a right Angle therewith until it meets the boundary wall on the South against the Lane leading to Hewish common field aforesaid and by the partition wall dividing the said Hall or Kitchen from the said Malthouse which said Partition Wall formed part of the premises hereby bargained and sold which said Messuage or Dwellinghouse Garden Plot and Premises were formerly in the possession or occupation of one John Reeks Sadler deceased and John Reeks Clerk his Son or one of them afterwards of Thomas Reeks Sadler another Son of the said John Reeks deceased since of Samuel Toms then of Samuel Watts the Elder late of Joseph Watts who considerably altered and improved the same and now in the tenure possession or occupation of the said Samuel Watts (party hereto) or his tenants .... "
To see the full transcription of the 1815 indenture click here.
It seems to me
referring to the
from the side of
Watts family had
plot by this
time in order to
the rest of the
use of the
malthouse - see
below for an
into at least
two premises at
the time Joseph
to his leaving
Yeovil in 1812.
My rationale further suggests that the building was also sub-divided into at least two premises at the time Joseph Watts considerably altered and improved the building prior to his leaving Yeovil in 1812.
The malthouse was originally clearly contiguous with the Hall (Kitchen) as shown on the map below, and was deliberately partitioned off from the main building. I believe this was segregated so that the Watts family could keep the malthouse for their own use. Samuel Watts, and later his sons, were the owners of at least one alehouse - the Chequers in Huish - and probably other alehouses in the town, so it seems logical to own a malthouse and brew your own ale. Moreover, until 1821 Thomas Bullock Watts (another son of Samuel Watts the Elder), James Cayme the Younger (married to Samuel Watts the Elder's daughter Grace) and James Hilbourne had operated as a firm of maltsters under the name Hilbourne & Co. No prizes for guessing where I think they operated from. After this partnership was dissolved in 1821, the malting business was carried on by James Cayme the Younger on his own account. In Pigots Directory 1822 this firm was listed as Cayme & Glyde (James Glyde was married to Mary Watts, another daughter of Samuel Watts the Elder). As something of a sidenote, Thomas Cave started his brewery at the rear of his property in today's Princes Street in 1824. What is rarely known, however, is that from the lease of 1825 in my collection Thomas Cave rented the malthouse referred to here (see maps below).
To return to the origins of the present fabric, the phrase in the lease "Joseph Watts who considerably altered and improved the same" is enlightening and suggests that the present building was possibly a re-modelling rather than a rebuilding. Joseph Watts was the fourth son of Samuel Watts the Elder. Joseph was a solicitor and aged just 26, with a wife and four children, when he left Yeovil in 1812 - his alterations and improvements must therefore have been carried out prior to his departure from Yeovil (he died in Calcutta, India, in 1828).
The building was probably re-fronted by Joseph Watts in the then-fashionable Regency style and most likely had a new low pitch roof with wide eaves at the same time (another example of a Yeovil property re-fronted around the same period is Court Ash House).
The Regency style is, strictly, the late phase of Georgian architecture and whereas the British Regency lasted only from 1811 to 1820, the term is applied to architecture more widely, both before 1811 and after 1820. Regency architecture was typified by the low-pitch roofs with wide eaves, as here, and the use of stucco in preference to exposed brickwork. Stucco is a general term used for various kinds of cement coating applied to the external wall of a building. Its use dated from around the time of the Building Act of 1774 when various patent stuccos were introduced.
The building itself is a three storey, three bay stucco corner block with wide eaves and paired brackets. Fenestration is mostly two-light sashes with stone architraves and keystones. The central first floor 'Venetian' window is of note although it has been ruined by the removal of the glazing bars. Two small round-headed windows on the first floor face Westminster Street were inserted between 1875 and 1904, while the small rectangular window was inserted after 1960. The ground floor has modern shop fronts. When re-modelled the ground floor would have had a central doorway onto today's Princes Street, probably with a projecting stone flat-roof porch with Ionic columns and full entablature (see 68 Hendford for an idea of what this may have looked like), flanked by windows mirroring those of the first floor above but perhaps a little taller. It is also possible that the building was split into two premises at this time, if not earlier, but access to each arrived at after passing through the main entrance. (Architectural design at the time would not have permitted two separate entrances to spoil the harmonious design of the building's façade, especially below the Venetian window - only during the twentieth century did we think nothing of destroying the elegant façades of our buildings with ghastly shop-fronts. Rant over).
Pigot's Directory of 1822 listed Markes Lambe as "Mark Lamb, Surgeon of Henford" and he undoubtedly resided and had his medical practice here. Another lease in my collection, dated 14 August 1816 in which Markes Lambe sub-let to Thomas Phelps and Robert Fitchett, both of Crewkerne, reinforces the suggestion that the property was internally subdivided into at least two separate premises by this time. I know that Markes Lambe continued to rent and retain the use of at least half of the building while continuing to sub-let part of it year by year, as I have seen later leases in which he sub-lets to other tenants.
A lease dated 1825 in my collection indicates that, after renting the property for some ten years, Markes finally bought his own property in Yeovil (at an undisclosed location), paying £1,850 (roughly £1.3 million at 2017's value) for it.
By 1829 today's 1&3 Princes Street was occupied by William Porter.
William Porter was in partnership with John Totterdell Boucher as booksellers, stationers, printers and bookbinders in Hendford - in premises next door to the Three Choughs Hotel. Their premises became Yeovil's first Savings Bank and Boucher was its first Actuary. However the partnership was dissolved in November 1826 and Boucher moved to Burnham, Somerset. William Porter became the bank's second Actuary. In 1829 he sold his premises and moved further along Hendford to today's 1&3 (well, 1 at least) Princes Street on the corner of what was known as Porter's Lane (later to be widened and to become Westminster Street in the 1930's). This building then became the second home of the savings bank until 1839 when the bank's new premises were opened in High Street.
By 1839 Porter was in partnership with Henry Marsh Custard and Porter & Custard, printers, remained in the premises at least until 1853.
From the description in the census returns of both 1851 and 1861, George Willmott occupied 1&3 Princes Street (well, 1, at least). The description on the first page of this district, describing the area covered, reads “…. Commencing at the house of Mr George Willmott Pastry Cook, in Princes Street through Huish Lane (it then wanders off down Huish) …. returning again to Mr Willmotts and taking both sides of Princes Street from his house to Mr John Mayo’s on the left”.
In the 1851 census George Willmott was described as a 'Master Confectioner Employing 1 boy'. Living with him were his wife Ann, their two daughters Ann and Mary, a house servant and a journeyman baker William Bartlett. In the 1861 census, George was listed as a confectioner, living there with his wife Ann, their three children and two servants.
run by William
During the 1950s
and early 1960s
No1 was occupied
by Genges' dress
shop and then
shop. In the
1970s No1 was
dress shop and
Dikes was in No3.
More recently, 1
& 3 was returned
to a single unit
and occupied by
the Birmingham & Midshires
when it has been
The following description is from the Somerset Historic Environment Record -
House, now shop and offices, C18 (with C19 roof). Stucco colour-washed, with painted stonework dressings, hipped Welsh slate roof with wide eaves soffites supported by pairs of timber corbel brackets, no chimneys. 3-storey 3-bay facade to Princes Street, with return along Westminster Street. Ground floor has C20 shops to both elevations; first floor (main facade) has central Venetian windows flanked by paired 12-pane sashes in simple architraves with plain dividing mullion and keystone to each window - the glazing bars of all lower casements removed: to second floor a central double sash of 12-pane windows (possibly altered to accommodate later roof) flanked by two pairs of 9-pane sashes: Rusticated stone quoins. On side elevation two round-headed sash window, possibly early C20.
E Watts' map of Yeovil of 1806. To put its location into context, today's 1 & 2 Princes Street is seen here at centre, to the immediate left of the "l" in "Cattle" (see enlargement below). Cattle Market is today's Princes Street, while Borough is today's High Street. The lane leading to Hewish Common Field, today's Huish, is at bottom left with Waterloo Lane leading down to centre bottom and what would later become Clarence Street running up to top left of centre, between Mr Goodford's garden and the Congregational Chapel. The very narrow lane that would become known as Porter's Lane, eventually widening to become today's Westminster Street runs left from Cattle Market.
Of interest - towards centre top, opposite Church Lane (today's Church Street) and to the left and above the "t" of "Market" is John Old's House, later to become Thomas Cave's house (today's 23 & 25 Princes Street), behind which Cave started his brewery in 1824. From a lease of 1825 it is known that Cave rented the malthouse shown on the map below.
This enlargement of the previous map shows the site in question which I have outlined in red. The house is shown in pink and the kitchen and malthouse are shaded grey. My presumption is that the plot was divided at this time to allow the Watts family to retain control of the malthouse.
E Watts' map of Yeovil of 1831 shows buildings having been constructed along the southern boundary of the site, including a large building in the southwest corner of the site (also shown in Day's map of the same year).
Notes on early occupiers of 1&3 Princes Street (or its site)
Following is a timeline and some notes suggesting the earlier occupants and/or owners of today's 1&3 Princes Street or the building that preceded it.
Owner or Occupier
Pre 1764 to ?
John Reeks the Younger, clerk (1713-1770) (Source: 1815 indenture)
? - c1770
Thomas Reeks, saddler (Source: 1815 indenture)
Samuel Toms – no further information (Source: 1815 indenture)
Samuel Watts the Elder (1734-1820) (Source: 1815 indenture)
c1810 to c1812
This is only a hypothesis. Since Watts owned the building it seems a possibility that his bank was located here.
but he left Yeovil in 1812. My rationale suggests that the plot was divided (to isolate the malthouse) and the building sub-divided at the time of these alterations.
(Source: 1816 indenture)
. Other sub-tenants to at least 1820.
c1822 to Nov 1823
(Pigot's Directory) ??
William Porter, printer, book seller, etc
Savings Bank (Porter was the bank's actuary)
by 1839 to c1850
Porter & Custard, printers
1851 to 1861
Reeks the Elder
(b c1685?, fl
1716, died pre
Occupier of premises at today’s 1&3 Princes Street (Ref: 1815 indenture) – date unknown
1716 - John Ricks, Sadler of Yeovil took Jos. son of Samuel Lester, as an apprentice
1729 - John Reeks, Sadler of Yeovil took John Bunn of Dorchester as an apprentice
1729 – John Reeks paid 1½d Poor Rate on property in Manor of Hendford. At this time 1½d was ‘average’ so unlikely that it would have been such a large building as present 1&3.
1764 – John Rooks, Saddler, Deceased, Noted had purchased cottages for £40 but not conveyed (Daniell Deeds – cottages presumably in Frogg Street)
Pembroke College, Oxford – matriculated 1731 aged 18, therefore born 1713
BA from Corpus Christi College, Oxford 1734 aged 21, MA 1737-8 aged 24, BD 1745 aged 32, DD 1756 aged 43
Rector of Stratford St Anthony cum Hanny, Berkshire 1769-1770, aged 57
Saddler, son of John
Presumably occupant after death of father (pre 1764) and inherited after death of brother John the Younger (1770)
No further information
Toms / Tomes
Farrier, flourished 1770
Watts the Elder
Founded Yeovil Bank c1810
Yeovil Bank was a private bank established by Yeovil attorney Samuel Watts the Elder. The bank was probably founded around 1810 and was certainly active (in a range of guises and under the control of his sons) during the early 1820s. A reference in the London Gazette in 1812 has it Watts Marsh & Co. (Samuel the elder's sons Samuel and Joseph Watts and Thomas Marsh).
1812-1815 Bank of Samuel Watts the Younger, Joseph Watts and Cayme - see above.
1824 – ‘of Kingstone’ (Pigot’s Directory) - presumably his residence, not his business address
1827 – moved to Bath
1815 – tenant (Ref: 1815 indenture)
1816 – sub-letting to Thomas Phelps and Robert Fitchett of Crekerne (Ref: 1816 indenture)
1825 – bought his own property elsewhere in Yeovil (Ref: 1825 indenture)
A confectioner & pastrycook.
Daniel Vickery, writing in 1856, referred to Yeovil's third bank as Samuel Joseph Watts and Cayme ".... In the premises now occupied by Mr Wilmott, confectioner, was the Bank of Messrs. Samuel [and] Joseph Watts and Cayme." Both the 1851 & 61 census returns recorded that George Willmott occupied No 1 (at least) Princes Street.
From my collection
The top section of the lease of 1815 referred to above.
This photograph of Princes Street dates to around 1875 and is one half of a stereoscopic pair. It was taken at the time Henry Marsh Custard was running his bookshop / printer's / stationers which was situated in the three-storey building to the left of the cart in the photograph. The narrow lane seen between Custard's building and the building at extreme left was colloquially known as Custard's Lane and later widened to become Westminster Street. Notice the absence of the round-headed window on the side of 1 Princes Street.
This photograph of Princes Street was taken in 1904. At left is Linsey Denner's "gentleman's and juvenile ready-made and outfitting establishment" at 79 Hendford, immediately next to the narrow entrance to Porter's Lane. On the opposite corner 1 & 3 Princes Street, the building that had been Porter's printing works and bookshop, is still there today and bears a blue plaque celebrating Porter's shop. Notice the insertion of the round-headed window on the side of 1 Princes Street by this date.
A photograph of the mid-1950s when the building was a dress shop. Princes Street at this time had two-way traffic. Note the traffic lights on the corner outside the shop.
A photograph of Princes Street taken during the early 1960s. At this time Nos 1 and 3 were occupied by Genges' dress shop, hosiers and milliners - who weren't afraid to advertise!
Photographed here in the 1960s, the building is now occupied by Henning & Tudor's dress shop. Notice the absence of the square-headed window on the side of 1 Princes Street.
Courtesy of Jack Sweet
.... and photographed in the 1970s, when it was Peter Robinson's shop.
The Princes Street elevation of this lovely building with the usual unsympathetic twentieth century ground floor shop fronts and the inappropriate removal of lower glazing bars to the first floor fenestration. Photographed in 2013.
The building seen from High Street with Westminster Street to the left and Princes Street to the right. Photographed in 2013.
The Westminster Street elevation. Until the 1930s this faced a blank wall of a shop (seen in the first photograph above), just some twelve feet away, that was demolished for road widening. Photographed in 2013.