yeovil people

William Henry Powney

Retail and Wholesale Grocer


William Henry Powney was born in 1846 in Cuckfield, Sussex, fourth of the six children of gardener Benjamin Powney (1808 - pre 1869) and his wife Ann (b1812). Benjamin and Ann's children were; Jane (b1840), John (b1842), James (b1845), William, Elizabeth (b1848) and Joseph (1850-1897). In the 1851 census, the family were recorded living in Fennell Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire.

In the 1861 census, 14-year-old William was listed as an apprentice carpenter, and was living with his master carpenter William Green and his family in Calne, Wiltshire.

In 1868, William established his grocery at 96 Middle Street, which he called the 'John Bull' Tea Warehouse.

On 25 December 1869, at Holy Trinity church, Weymouth, 23-year-old William married Annie Elizabeth née Barrett (1849-1932) of Weymouth. She was the daughter of merchant ship's captain, George Barrett. They set up home in Yeovil, where their eight children were born, although sadly half of them died in infancy; Benjamin John (1870-1878), George Barrett (1872-1941), Annie Jessie (1873-1874), Florence (1878-1878), Beatrice Ellen (1881-1881), William Benjamin (1882-1955), Agnes Jessie (1884-1977) and Joseph James Barrett (1887-1918). The 1871 census recorded William and Annie, together with their son Benjamin and William's brother John, living in Huish. William gave his occupation as a grocer and agent.

The Post Office Directory of 1875 listed him as a grocer of Middle Street. William advertised his business regularly in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser between 1879 and 1898. By the time of the 1881 census, William and his family were living in the accommodation above his shop premises. This was repeated in the 1891 census. William had just built a bakery onto his premises and in the census William gave his occupation as a grocer, while his 19-year-old don George gave his occupation as a baker.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' William Powney's business was given the following description -

Mr W H Powney
Wholesale and Retail Grocer, and Provision Merchant,
The "John Bull" Tea Warehouse, 96, Middle Street

"John Bull" is a name that has come to signify straightforward integrity and fair dealing; and, in this sense, the "John Bull" Tea Warehouse of Mr W H Powney, wholesale and retail grocer and provision merchant, of 96. Middle Street, fully justifies its title. Throughout the whole of this business the utmost care is taken to supply goods of a superior quality, and to offer to the public provisions and groceries of every description at prices which can compare with those of the best co-operative stores. The business has been established since 1868, and year by year new departments have been added, so that at the present time it holds a leading position in the town. The premises are well situated in the main business street, and are therefore convenient for both town and district customers. The house is well managed, and the large show-rooms are replete with the choicest goods. Teas are a special feature, and the utmost attention is given to the selection of the best growths and the judicious blendings of the choicest varieties, so as to produce blends of uniform and reliable excellence. Bacon, ham, English and foreign cheese, canned goods, and every kind of provisions, are on hand, as well as a large stock of superior beers and invalid porters and stout, Mr Powney being sole agent in the district for J & T Bailey's beverages, brewed on the Burton system. A good modern bakery forms an important department of the business, having been added about three years since, and is fitted up with all the latest improvements. Only the purest flours and ingredients are used, and as none but experienced workmen are employed, the breads turned out are of the most reliable quality. Throughout every branch of the business the most careful supervision is apparent. The convenience of the public is consulted in every way, and a large and growing connection has thereby been secured.



By the time of the 1901 census, only William, Annie and their 14-year-old son Joseph were living above the grocery premises. William gave his occupation as a grocer.

The 1911 census recorded 64-year-old William as a retired grocer, together with 26-year-old Agnes (a dressmaker) and 24-year-old Joseph (a commercial clerk) living at 'Methven', Grove Avenue - Annie was not listed at home this night.

William died in Yeovil on 28 August 1924, aged 78. His will was proved at Taunton in the October and his estate was valued at £3,268 17s 6d (around £185,000 at today's value). Annie died in Yeovil in 1932, aged 82. 




William Powney's advertisement for tea in the 8 August 1873 edition of the Western Gazette. The ad ran for several months.


An advertisement from the 1879 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser for William Powney's 'John Bull Tea Warehouse'.


Grove Avenue seen in a postcard of 1905. The view is the northern end of the road and looks towards Preston Road (at the tree-line in the distance). William and Annie lived in the house named 'Methven' at this time.