Westbury: Mills

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.

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, 'Westbury: Mills', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965) pp. 172-175. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp172-175 [accessed 24 May 2024].

. "Westbury: Mills", in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965) 172-175. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp172-175.

. "Westbury: Mills", A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965). 172-175. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp172-175.


At the time of the Domesday Survey there were six mills on the capital manor of Westbury. (fn. 1) In 1226-7 the grant of a mill, formerly belonging to Alric at Brook, then part of the capital manor, was confirmed to the priory of Monkton Farleigh. (fn. 2) It was probably this mill which Walter Pavely acquired from Monkton Farleigh in 1320, (fn. 3) and formed part of his estate at Brook on his death in 1323. (fn. 4) A fulling mill at Brook was leased by Henry Long, a Westbury clothier, in c. 1539. (fn. 5) When the manor of Brook was divided up into a number of small estates in 1599, three fulling mills and a grain mill were included in the Brook Farm estate conveyed by Lord Mountjoy to Sir Edward Hungerford. (fn. 6) One of these mills was presumably Brook Mill, which at this date was leased by Anthony Wilkins, a clothier. (fn. 7) In 1624 the occupier was Anthony's son, William, (fn. 8) and in 1653 it was Richard Wilkins, fuller of Westbury. (fn. 9) On a map of 1773 the mill at Brook is called Roses Mill. (fn. 10) In 1785 the lessee was Thomas Phipps of Chalford, who that year bought the mill together with Brook Farm. The mill was then said to be a grist and fulling mill. (fn. 11) By 1890 the mill was disused, but its pond beside the Biss Brook, and adjoining Brook Mill Farm, was shown on a map of that date. (fn. 12)

In 1323, besides the mill at Brook, there were two water mills on the capital manor of Westbury, (fn. 13) and there were still two when the manor was divided between the heirs of Sir John Pavely in 1361. (fn. 14) A grain mill and a fulling mill belonging to the manor of Westbury Arundell were sold with the manor in 1549-50 by Sir John Arundell to Thomas Long, and passed with the manor to Sir James Ley in 1613. (fn. 15) Two water mills were attached to the manor of Westbury Seymour in 1607, and presumably also passed to Sir James Ley with that manor in 1621. (fn. 16)

Bitham Mill attached to the manor of Westbury Stourton belonged in 1573 to William Whitaker, grandson of Stephen Whitaker, who had acquired the manor in 1570. (fn. 17) It was then described as a large fulling mill, with loft above, and all things fitted for the dressing of cloth. When William Whitaker sold the manor in 1619-20 to Sir James Ley, he expressly reserved Bitham Mill and the adjoining Bitham House. (fn. 18) By 1772 the mill had passed to Granville Wheler, (fn. 19) and was sold that year to the clothier Thomas Gaisford, who was already the lessee. (fn. 20) Power for the mill was supplied from the adjacent pond, through which the Bitham Brook runs. (fn. 21) Thomas Gaisford died in 1774 (fn. 22) and his son, John, sold the mill to John Deane, clothier of Trowbridge, James Cole of Trowbridge, and two Westbury clothiers, Thomas Matravers and John Crosby. In 1795 Deane relinquished his share in the mill to Cole, Crosby, and John Matravers, probably a son of Thomas Matravers. Six years later the share of Thomas Matravers passed to his daughter Elizabeth, on her marriage to Thomas White, and the firm operating the mill became known as Crosby & White. James Cole relinquished his share in the concern in 1811, and John Matravers made over his share in the following year. In 1820 John Crosby left his share in the mill to his two daughters, his son, Thomas, his brother-in-law, Thomas Finnemore Evans, and to Thomas White, and William Matravers. In 1824 Thomas Crosby, White, and Evans conveyed the mill in trust for Benjamin Overbury. By this date spinning shops had been added to the fulling mill. The next year the mill was mortgaged to secure a loan of £4,000 to Overbury, to William Matravers of Melksham, who was probably the owner of Angel Mill about ¼ mile to the south, and in 1842 also owned mills at Hawkeridge and Chalford. (fn. 23)

Angel Mill, or its site at the junction of Church and Maristow Streets, was purchased in 1784 from the Earl of Abingdon by John Matravers, then described as a 'shopkeeper'. A partnership between Matravers and Overbury had been formed by 1818, and probably operated Angel Mill, while the firm at Bitham Mill was still Crosby & White. In 1828 Nathaniel Overbury leased Angel Mill from William Matravers, and by 1833 both mills were operated by the firm of Matravers & Overbury. By this date a 20 H.P. engine at Angel Mill, and a 60 H.P. engine at Bitham Mill, had been installed, and a new block built at Bitham Mill. The 60 H.P. engine at Bitham Mill was the most powerful one in the county in 1838. In the 1840's both mills were mortgaged, and for a time Angel Mill ceased to be used for cloth, and became the flour mill of a firm called Cave & Price. In 1849, however, Angel Mill was leased by Abraham Laverton from the trustees of William Matravers, and reconverted for the production of cloth. In 1852 Laverton bought Angel Mill, and in the same year Bitham Mill was bought by James Wilson, M.P. for Westbury 1847-57, and his brother, William. In 1856 the Wilsons sold Bitham Mill to Abraham Laverton, who thus became owner of both mills, and the firm which he founded, A. Laverton & Co. Ltd., still operated them both in 1960. (fn. 24)

The buildings at both mills were extended during the life-time of Abraham Laverton. At Bitham Mill a storehouse was built for Laverton's speculative purchases of wool and yarn. In 1930 Pond Farm which adjoined the mill was bought and the site used for additional factory premises. Conversion from steam-power to electric-drive took place at Angel Mill in the middle of the 1930's and at Bitham Mill in 1939. In 1952 the upper stories of the tall early-19thcentury building at Bitham Mill were removed to allow for operations on the spatial and horizontal system employed by modern industry. The oldest part of the Angel Mill buildings appears to be a four-storied red-brick range of 10 bays, the 4 central bays projecting and being surmounted by a pediment. The two-light windows have unmoulded stone frames and segmental heads, typical of early19th-century mill building in Trowbridge and elsewhere. An 8-bay range at right angles to the north end of the above building has similar windows but appears to be of later brickwork.

A corn mill at Westbury was conveyed in 1428 by Sir John Chidiock, Sir Walter Sandes, and Margery, his wife, to John Curteys, Agnes, his wife, and their son, John, for their lives. (fn. 25) This may have been the corn mill on the Bitham Brook, about ½ mile north from Bitham Mill, marked on a map of 1890 (fn. 26) and disused by 1882. (fn. 27) In 1959 the former mill buildings were used by the Gas Company on whose premises they stood.

William of Westbury acquired a mill from John Durnell and Alice, his wife, in 1408-9. (fn. 28) It was then occupied by John Dyer and his wife, Joan, and the conveyance to William was confirmed in 1413 by Richard Pavely. (fn. 29) This mill may have been included in the property which passed from William of Westbury to Agnes, wife of Robert Leversage. (fn. 30) In 1628 when the Leversage property passed to Sir James Ley there was a mill included called Tomars Mill. (fn. 31) This may have been in Hawkeridge where much of the Leversage property lay. (fn. 32) Jacob Weeks was leasing Hawkeridge Mill from William Matravers in 1842. (fn. 33) In 1859 William Dowding was manufacturing cloth at Hawkeridge, (fn. 34) presumably at the mill marked on the map in 1890, but shortly afterwards said to be disused. (fn. 35) In 1908 this mill was used by the firm of A. L. Jefferies Ltd., of Westbury, for leather-dyeing and dressing. (fn. 36) It is a large building of 4 stories and 7 bays and in 1960 was partly derelict. About ½ mile south-east there is another mill on the Bitham Brook in the parish of Heywood. This is Blenches Mill, a corn mill at the end of the 19th century, but disused early in the 20th. (fn. 37)

There was a fulling mill attached to the manor of Leigh Priors when this was acquired by the clothier, John Adlam, in 1545. At this date it was leased to John Whitaker, alias Bathe. (fn. 38) A fulling mill at Westbury Leigh was conveyed in 1550 by John Stanshall and Anne, his wife, to Christopher Stanshall. (fn. 39) This may have been the mill, which Adlam Stanshall sold in 1594 to John Lambe, (fn. 40) and John Lambe sold to Sir James Ley in 1616. (fn. 41) Another fulling mill in Westbury Leigh was conveyed in 1584 by George, Lord Audley, lord of the manor of Westbury Mauduits, (fn. 42) to the clothier Thomas Lawrence, or Saunders, (fn. 43) who died seised of it in 1602. (fn. 44) His son Thomas sold the mill in 1605-6 to Sir James Ley, (fn. 45) and it presumably later became annexed to Sir James's manor of Brook cum Mauduits. (fn. 46) Henry and Nicholas Phipps, who acquired the manor of Westbury Mauduits in 1585, purchased a fulling mill in Westbury Leigh from Charles, Lord Mountjoy, in 1599. (fn. 47) The fulling mill attached to Westbury Mauduits in 1620 was said to be in a field called Highesfield. (fn. 48) Henry and Nicholas Phipps also had a mill at Chalford, presumably on the stream called Wellhead Stream. On his death in 1600 Henry Phipps devised this mill to his nephew Henry. (fn. 49) In 1668 two water mills called Chalford Mills were conveyed by Thomas Phipps, clothier, of Westbury, to Samuel Ash, clothier, of Chalcot, then lord of the manor of Westbury Mauduits. (fn. 50) A corn and fulling mill called Ludborne Mills, and two similar mills called Leigh Mills, were included in the conveyance of the manor of Westbury Leigh and Ludborne to James Powton in 1592. (fn. 51) Leigh fulling mill had been leased in 1551 to Geoffrey Whitaker for 61 years, (fn. 52) and in 1599 one of the Leigh mills was leased by John Adlam, and Ludborne Mills were leased by Thomas Raymond. (fn. 53)

It is impossible to identify with certainty any of these mills at Westbury Leigh and Chalford with the mills in those places in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1773 there was a mill called Wellhead Mill on Wellhead Stream, east of the Westbury-Warminster road, which was probably one of the mills at Chalford belonging to the Phippses in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 54) In 1839 it belonged to the firm of England & Son, cassimere manufacturers. (fn. 55) In 1842 William England was leasing this mill, and Samuel Dowding was leasing a mill called Chalford Mill from William Matravers, who owned Bitham and Angel Mills. (fn. 56) In 1960 Well-head Mill was derelict. There was another mill marked on the map of 1773 further to the west along the same stream and at the end of Westbury Leigh nearest Westbury. (fn. 57) This was called Ball's Mill in the 1880's, and was then a corn mill. (fn. 58) In 1901 it was bought by Boulton Bros. (Glovers) Ltd. and converted into a gloving factory. (fn. 59) In 1773 there was also a mill at the other end of Westbury Leigh on the Biss Brook called Woollers Mill. (fn. 60) In about 1800 two new buildings were erected on or near this site for the manufacture of cloth, and the mill became known as Boyer's. (fn. 61) In 1830 it was the premises of the clothier James Cockell, (fn. 62) but by 1834 it was in the hands of Benjamin Overbury, (fn. 63) who, in partnership with William Matravers, was also operating Bitham and Angel Mills. There was water power only at Boyer's Mill at this date, and the supply was irregular according to the amount of water available in the Biss Brook. (fn. 64) For a time in the middle of the century Boyer's Mill belonged to Abraham Laverton, but in c. 1855 it was leased from a Doctor Gibbs by the cloth manufacturer, Joseph Harrop. (fn. 65) In 1872 this mill had 3 steam engines producing together 90 H.P. It was proposed that year to install a new water wheel of 16 h.p., but lack of sufficient water in the Biss was causing concern. (fn. 66) In 1875 the mill was occupied by the firm of Wilkins and Cogswell, woolspinners and carders. (fn. 67) In 1900 it was acquired by the tanning and leather-dressing firm of Case & Sons, and in 1960, under the name of Leigh Works, was the factory of that firm. A brick range of 4 stories and 6 bays at the southern end of the site is probably one of the buildings erected c. 1800 (see above). (fn. 68) Further north the former manager's house, used in 1960 as laboratories, is of about the same period.

A corn mill at Westbury Leigh, also on the Biss Brook, just south of Boyer's Mill, was called Leigh Mill in 1773. (fn. 69) This ceased to be used in c. 1930. (fn. 70)

A mill at Penleigh on the Biss was devised by Thomas Knight, tucker, of Westbury Leigh, to his son Edmund in 1497. (fn. 71) In 1569 Penleigh Mill was leased to Stephen Whitaker and his sons, Henry and Stephen, for their lives. (fn. 72) The lessees of the mill were bound to provide the steward of the manor of Bremeridge and his horses with food and lodging for two days and nights twice yearly, and to collect rents on the manor. (fn. 73) This mill was undoubtedly one of the group of grist mills at Penleigh belonging to the manor of Bremeridge, which, with other lands at Penleigh, was granted in 1609-10 to Edward Ferrers and Francis Phillipps. (fn. 74) This property, including the mills, was purchased from Ferrers and Phillips by Sir James Ley, and he held it at the time of this death in 1629. (fn. 75) At the end of the 19th century Penleigh Mill was a corn mill. By 1922, and probably considerably earlier, it was disused. (fn. 76)

There was a mill at Melbourne (Bratton) in 1221. (fn. 77) A mill at Bratton was given to the Bonhommes of Edington in 1427 by John Frank and others. (fn. 78) A grist mill at the same place was sold by the brothers Christopher and William Whitaker in c. 1585. (fn. 79) In 1594-5 four water mills were attached to the manor of Bratton, (fn. 80) and it was presumably one of these, which was in the possession of Jeffery Whitaker, of Tinhead, in 1599. From Jeffery it descended to his son Nash, and from Nash Whitaker to his son Geoffrey. (fn. 81) Only one mill at Bratton is marked on the map of 1773. This is at Stradbrook and is called Bratton Mill. (fn. 82) In 1838, however, there were three cloth, or woollen, mills, all working. (fn. 83) Just north of the bridge at the bottom of Melbourne Street was Bridge Mill where wool was prepared for manufacture elsewhere. (fn. 84) In 1898 the buildings were being used by the Bratton Dairy Co. Ltd., but this concern had closed by the beginning of the First World War. (fn. 85) In 1960 the mill and adjoining wool store were used by a building contractor. The wool store has stone windows with segmental heads and a central stone mullion which are typical of early-19th-century mills in this area. South of the bridge was Stradbrook Mill. In 1858 when this was advertised for sale it was said to have power and equipment to produce about 35 cassimeres a week. (fn. 86) It was, however, closed before 1890, (fn. 87) and has since been converted into a number of dwellings. Luccombe Mill to the south of Stradbrook Mill was occupied by Isaac Brent in 1823. (fn. 88) In 1842 he had been succeeded by Samuel Brent, (fn. 89) and in the later 19th century the mill was operated by George Brent, woolspinner and carder. By 1895 it had closed, (fn. 90) and has since been converted into a single residence. There was also a grist mill on the same stream to the north of Bridge Mill. This still stood in 1960, although derelict.

In 1086 there were two mills on the estate belonging to William Scudet, which was probably the estate held by the Dauntseys in Bratton and Dilton in the 13th and 14th centuries. (fn. 91) In 1315 there was a water mill on the Dauntsey manor of Dilton, and in 1348, (fn. 92) when some land in Bratton was included within the manor, there were two water mills, and a fulling mill. (fn. 93) The mills, with the rest of the manor of Dilton, passed to the Bonhommes at Edington in 1388. (fn. 94) When in 1540 the manor was granted to John Bush there was a corn mill and a fulling mill attached to it. (fn. 95) Three years later another fulling mill at Dilton was granted to Nicholas Temple and Richard Andrews. (fn. 96) According to Hoare a mill called Dilton Mill was bought by John Waldron of Trowbridge, who built a cloth factory on Tun, or Town, Mead, which formed part of the property belonging to the mill. (fn. 97) No trace of this factory survives. At the end of the 19th century there was a corn mill on the Biss Brook, just north of Dilton church, but it ceased to be worked some time during the first quarter of the 20th century. (fn. 98)


  • 1. V.C.H. Wilts. ii, p. 118.
  • 2. Dugdale, Mon. v. 27.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1317-21, 535.
  • 4. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242-49 (Index Libr.), 435.
  • 5. Req. 2/101/39.
  • 6. See p. 151.
  • 7. W.N. & Q. viii. 541.
  • 8. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1625-49 (Index Libr.), 32.
  • 9. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 23.
  • 10. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 11. See p. 151.
  • 12. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Wilts. XLIV (1st edn.).
  • 13. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242-1326 (Index Libr.), 434.
  • 14. See p. 149.
  • 15. See p. 150.
  • 16. C 142/396/132, and see p. 150.
  • 17. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 42-3, and see p. 149.
  • 18. See p. 149.
  • 19. See p. 159.
  • 20. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 43; unpublished history of firm of A. Laverton & Co. Ltd. by B. Little, TS. penes the firm.
  • 21. Unless otherwise stated, information about Bitham and Angel Mills comes from unpublished history, see n. 81, above.
  • 22. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 34 gives 1744 as date of death of Thomas Gaisford, but this is an error for 1774: Phillipps, Monumental Inscriptions, 83.
  • 23. W.R.O. Tithe Award.
  • 24. See p. 170.
  • 25. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 84.
  • 26. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Wilts. XLIV (1st edn.).
  • 27. Ex inf. Mr. R. Tuffin.
  • 28. C.P. 25(1)/256/59/17.
  • 29. C.P. 25(1)/256/60/2.
  • 30. See p. 157.
  • 31. E 134/4 Chas. I East./27.
  • 32. See p. 157.
  • 33. W.R.O. Tithe Award.
  • 34. P.O. Dir. 1859.
  • 35. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Wilts. XLIV (1st and 2nd edns.).
  • 36. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 239, and see p. 170.
  • 37. See n. 96 above.
  • 38. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xx (1), p. 420, and see p. 157.
  • 39. C.P. 25(2)/65/532/4 Edw. VI Hil.
  • 40. C.P. 25(2)/242/37 Eliz. East.
  • 41. C.P. 25(2)/371/14 Jas. I Mich.
  • 42. See p. 155.
  • 43. C.P. 25(2)/241/14 Jas. I; C.P. 25(2)/241/26-7 Eliz. Mich.
  • 44. C 142/267/84.
  • 45. C.P. 25(2)/369/3 Jas. I Hil.
  • 46. See p. 155.
  • 47. See p. 155.
  • 48. C 142/380/116.
  • 49. P.C.C. 32 Wallopp.
  • 50. W.R.O. 212 B/We. 2, and see p. 155.
  • 51. C 54/1408/Powton and Horton, and see p. 158.
  • 52. W.A.M. xxiv. 29.
  • 53. Ibid. xli. 244.
  • 54. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 55. Robson's Commercial Dir. (1839).
  • 56. W.R.O. Tithe Award.
  • 57. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 58. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Wilts. XLIV (1st edn.)
  • 59. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 238, and see p. 170.
  • 60. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 61. Factory Com. Rep. 1834, H.C. 167 B1, p. 106 (1834), xx.
  • 62. Pigot's Nat. Com. Dir. (1830).
  • 63. Factory Com. Rep. 1834, B 1, p. 106.
  • 64. Ibid.
  • 65. Unpublished hist. of A. Laverton & Co. Ltd. pp. 12, 14 (see n. 81 above); Rep. Trowbridge and Westbury Water Bill, 58.
  • 66. Rep. Trowbridge and Westbury Water Bill, 59.
  • 67. P.O. Dir. (1875).
  • 68. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 236, and see pl. facing p. 175.
  • 69. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 70. Ex inf. Mr. R. Tuffin.
  • 71. P.C.C. 14 Horne.
  • 72. L.R. 2/86/97.
  • 73. Ibid.
  • 74. C 66/1821 Edw. Ferrers and Francis Phillipps.
  • 75. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1625-49 (Index Libr.), 233.
  • 76. O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Wilts XLIV (1st and 3rd. edns.).
  • 77. W.N. & Q. ii. 271.
  • 78. Cal. Pat. 1422-29. 398.
  • 79. Req. 2/43/5.
  • 80. C.P. 25(2)/242/37 Eliz. Trin.
  • 81. W.N. & Q. iv. 108, 112.
  • 82. Andrews and Dury, Map (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), pl. 7.
  • 83. Ret. of Mills and Factories, H.C. 41, p. 157 (1839), xlii.
  • 84. Bratton, W.I. Scrap Bk.
  • 85. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1898-1915).
  • 86. Wilts. Times, 17 July 1858.
  • 87. It does not occur in the late 19th-century Directories.
  • 88. W.A.S. Libr., Devizes, Allenson's Abstract of Edington Ch. Rate Bk.
  • 89. W.R.O. Tithe Award.
  • 90. Kelly's Dirs. Wilts. (1880-95).
  • 91. V.C.H. Wilts ii, p. 167, and see p. 164.
  • 92. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242-1326 (Index Libr.), 394-5.
  • 93. Ibid. 174.
  • 94. See p. 153.
  • 95. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xv, p. 299.
  • 96. Ibid. xviii (1), p. 529.
  • 97. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 50.
  • 98. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Wilts. XLIV (1st and 3rd edns.). See pl. opposite.