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Article by John Meads, 2005, amended 2017

The Mills of Burton Latimer

The location of the four mills in Burton Latimer, as seen on the Bryant map of 1826
The Mills of Burton Latimer on the Bryant Map of 1826

Numbers refer to sections in the text below


The Priory of Bradenstoke (Wilts) had property in Burton Latimer by 1222, including a mill called “Byggemull” (big mill?). A pre-1234 document at the National Archives records a grant of 40 shillings rent owed by Aubrey de Burtoun from the mill of Burtoun (Burton Latimer) but it is unclear to which of the two water mills these refer.

1. North Water Mill

Burton Latimer's north water mill in about 1920.  It was known as Wallis' Mill and later became the home of Weetabix
The North water mill c.1920
At this time it was mostly known as Wallis' Mill
Situated on the River Ise just north of the road between Burton Latimer and the A509 north of Isham. It is marked on Bryant’s 1826 map as ‘silk mill’ and as ‘woollen mill’ on the 1867 Ordnance Survey map. It appears to have been used for various types of textile manufacture until the 1860s. According to a list of estates in Mr. Harpur’s manor, in 1733 John Belcher occupied a fulling mill, which in 1752 was taken over by Joseph Wallis. In the late 1700s the mill was being used for cotton manufacture and in fact, a newspaper report of a robbery in 1812 refers to it taking place in Cotton Mill Lane. When the Burton Latimer Inclosure Award was made in 1803, the map shows the water mill with land alongside belonging to Martha Wallis. Silk was manufactured there from 1818 to 1827 and the manufacture of worsted cloth and carpets took place in the mid-1800s. By 1866 J & T Wallis were described as having flour and mustard mills there. During the 1870s John and Thomas Wallis operated flour, chicory and mustard mills there with an office in Newland Street, Kettering. In 1877 there was conveyed to Thomas Wallis a meadow near the Isham road on which was a tramway connecting Wallis’s Mill to the Midland Railway (To read a letter about mill improvements in 1877 click here). From then onwards there were numerous references to T. & J. Wallis's Flour Mills right up to the late1920s.

In 1928 both T & J Wallis Ltd. and Whitworth Bros. were shown as millers at Burton Latimer but soon afterwards the mill was disused. About 1932 four businessmen, Bennison Osborne, an Australian; Malcolm Macfarlane, a New Zealander; Arthur Scrutton and Alfred Upton set up the British & South Africa Cereal Company Ltd, to market a product they called Weetabix and which they had been selling in South Africa as Weet-bix They rented the disused buildings from Whitworth Bros., buying the wheat for the ‘biscuits’ from the same source. Frank George of Whitworths was eventually given a seat on the Board and when, in 1936, Bennison Osborne emigrated to the U.S.A. he took over the business. The George family owned the business until 2012 when it was bought by Chinese state-run company Bright Food. In 2017, the American company Post Holdings bought the company for £1.4 billion.

Click here to read more in detail about Weetabix

2. South Water Mill

Burton Latimer’s southern mill, located on the River Ise near the junction of the Finedon and Harrowden roads, was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 together with the north mill: “Guy of Raimbeaucourt holds 8½ hides from the King in Burton (Latimer).  Before 1066, 14 ploughs. In lordship 3 hides of this land; 3 ploughs there, with 1 slave. 21 villagers and 18 smallholders have 9 ploughs. 2 mills at 16s; meadow, 20 acres; woodland, ½. acre. The value was- 40s; now £6.”

Little is known of its history after this until 1638 when it was mentioned, together with a windmill, in Mary Maydwell’s marriage settlement with John Ekins. In 1734 both mills were conveyed to Thomas Garratt except that the Lord of the Manor, John Harpur, had the fishery and right of fishing in the mill dam, mill tail etc. The mill continued to be known as Garratt’s Mill until shortly after 1842. By 1847, H Walpole was at the mill to be succeeded by William Abbott until at least 1854. A change of miller is indicated by a letter from J Walker of Burton Mill in 1863 about his right to fish in the Ise as a tenant to the Dolbens (Lords of the Manor at Finedon) and Walker appeared in the directories until the end of the 1860s. James and Samuel Burr, farmers at Westfield Lodge, Finedon were named as corn millers at Burton Mill and another owner or tenant listed in directories is Joshua Craven, miller and corn dealer. The mill appears to have been bought by J L Wright, it was described as Minett & Wright’s Flour Mill on the 1881 census schedule and Wright was listed as a miller here in 1885. In 1881, Mr Wright offered the property for sale with a residence adjoining the mill together with yard and stables, however he continued to be shown as miller there until at least 1898 when George Cave was listed.

In the 1901 Census Joseph Robinson is listed at the mill as “working on his own account at home” - he had been employed there by various tenants since 1877.  In 1902 the mill was offered for sale or lease by Charles Barlow, which may seem to indicate a change of ownership and in 1910 the mill was offered to let “at very low rent”. It was referred to as H. Boulton’s Mill during a murder trial in 1894 and then, in 1911, a fire was reported at "H Boulton’s mill, near Finedon Station". This was "caused by a spark from an engine situated outside the mill which supplied power when the water was low".

After this it is thought that its use as a corn mill ceased and in a 1914 directory it is shown as being occupied by “Webb & Co., Sausage skin manufacturers.” In a recorded interview in 1974, an elderly Burton Latimer lady recalled there being an anti-German demonstration there in about 1914 because the factory employed Germans.  

It was after this that it was converted and used by leather dressers and curriers, W. J. Ward and Co. until 1923 when it was bought by C. E. & H. B. Groome Ltd. This company suffered a disastrous fire in 1936 and afterwards moved away from Burton Latimer. Although the premises were offered to be let or sold for commercial uses they became mainly domestic from the 1930s.

From the details above it can be seen that it has sometimes been difficult to determine who were owners and who were tenants and more work needs to carried out.

Groome's Mill before the fire Left: the mill in the early 1930s when it was occupied by C E & H B Groome Ltd. who were leather dressers. It was during this latter use that it was largely destroyed by fire in April 1936. Demolition of the large mill building itself swiftly followed, on the grounds of public safety. Despite the fire the firm continued in business and purchased a factory in Rock Street, Wellingborough.

Until comparitively recently there was some use by small businesses in the adjacent buildings but the mill is now known as "Mill Cottage" and is domestic dwelling.

Groome's Mill before the fire

For a "Down Memory Lane" view, click here

For a full account and pictures of the 1936 fire, click here

3. North Windmill

The north windmillin Burton Latimer in about 1906.  Hodson family in the foreground
The North Windmill in about 1906
Mrs Hodson and her children are seen in the photo.
She was the wife of an engine driver who worked
for The Burton Ironstone Company, and lived in
one of the cottages seen in the background.
This was situated on the east side of the Cranford Road, about ¼ mile south of Black Bridge, at the junction with the old Kettering – Thrapston road. This is not shown on Eyre’s 1779 map but is shown on Bryant’s map of 1826. On the 1867 Ordnance Survey map it is marked ‘Burton Mill’ (whereas the south windmill and the nearby water mill are marked Burton Mills).

On the 1803 Inclosure map George Robinson is shown as its owner but, by the 1841 census, Moses Eady is recorded as living at the Windmill. In 1847, Whelan’s directory list M Eady and C Eady as millers at Burton Latimer. In 1852 a thunderstorm destroyed the sails of the windmill belonging to Moses Eady. The damage caused by the lightning was estimated at about £40. The following year, Mr J Eady of Burton Mill was advertising for a youth to work in a wind and steam mill. Mr M Eady is named as a miller in a directory for 1854. In 1865 Thomas Eady (Moses Eady's father and owner of the windmill) was involved in a court action to claim compensation from the Kettering, Thrapston & Huntingdon Railway Co. following the building of a nearby railway bridge (later to be known as Black Bridge) The procedings revealed the names of various tenants of the windmill as well as giving an insight into its workings.

In 1884, Mr Eady of ‘The Laurels’, Burton Latimer was advertising that the windmill he owned was to let. It is possible that William Thomas Seaton succeeded the Eadys at this windmill as in 1889 he was served with a receiving order and in 1891 was published his first and final dividend of 2s 7½d in the pound to his debtors. Subsequently, in 1890, Walter B Bell seems to have taken over the mill and was there in 1898 when wind power was abandoned and the milling done entirely by steam power. From an advertisement in ‘The Miller’ for August 1884, the windmill was built of brick and timber. It had three pairs of stones, a dressing machine and smut machines. It was bought by the Burton Ironstone Co. and demolished around the time of the First World War.

4. South Windmill

This windmill stood in the fields north-east of the back road to Finedon, about half a mile east of Burton Latimer south water mill. It was at the end of a lane starting from the road junction. A windmill is shown in this vicinity on Eyre’s 1779 map but some distance from the location given on Bryant’s 1826 map and the 1867 Ordnance Survey map where, together with the water mill it is marked ‘Burton Mills’. The 1803 Inclosure map indicates that at that time the windmill belonged to Thomas Garratt who owned the nearby water mill. In a report about a windmill fire in the Essex Herald dated 8 May 1838 it was stated "A windmill at Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, insured by the Suffolk Fire Office, was set on fire by the friction of the machinery in a storm, about 10 days ago, and was destroyed." Which of the two Burton Latimer windmills this was is not known. Other owners listed in directories are Joshua Craven, miller and corn dealer in 1874, and John George Cave in 1898, however he continued to be shown as miller there until at least 1898. It is thought that the windmill was demolished a few years later. No photos of the mill have thus far been located.

As with the adjacent south watermill, because it was "twinned" with the water mill and referred to as Burton Mills it has sometimes been difficult to determine who were owners and who were tenants and more work needs to carried out.


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