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The Story of the Mill on Derby Street, Beeston

The mill that stands on the west side of Derby Street is still remembered by older Beeston folk as the the home of the Shaftesbury Laundry which served Beeston well for over 70 years, through three generations of the Treece family. I knew little about its earlier history so, when I was conracted by someone who was interested in its history, I took a look to see if I could find more. It proved a lot more difficult than I imagined, but what I found is set out below - David Hallam, November 2023

Derby St Mill

The mill as it is today (January 2024)
The remains of the demolished chimney, once the tallest in Beeston, can clearly be seen

The mill building that now stands on the western side of Derby Street, was erected in the early 1860s, certainly by 1864, on land that then fronted on The Turnpike (now the High Road), before Derby Street was opened up in its present form. It was then operated as a flour mill by Peter Kirkby, born in Hucknall Torkard, Notts in about 18111, the son of Samuel, a lace maker, and Mary (née Cutts) Kirkby. Peter had followed his father into the lace making trade and, in 1831, married Rebecca Allen at Hucknall Parish Church. Their first two children were born in Hucknall, but in 1844, they moved to Beeston where, at first, they lived on Chapel Street2, a narrow lane, between Church Street and Middle Street, that was eventually demolished when The Square shopping centre was built. It then had a concentration of lace trade workers, many working for Henry Kirkland who had a lace factory there but others – probably including Peter - working for or associated with Samuel Berryman (1805-1886) who was then living and trading there and, in 1851, is recorded as employing three men3. By 1858, Peter and his family had moved to Market Street (now Middle Street) and Peter was still working as a lace maker4. It was probably significant that, by then, Samuel Berryman had moved to the High Road and soon after this, as we have seen, Peter started in business as a corn miller5 at the large building that now survives on the west side of Derby Street. As the street had then not yet been laid out, the mill was still considered to be situated on the High Road – or Turnpike, its earlier name, as it was still called by many.

For about 17 years, it seems that building was the home to both milling and lace manufacture, involving Peter Kirkby and, based on strong circumstantial evidence, it seems likely that Berryman operated his continuing lace manufacturing business from the mill, alongside or in conjunction with Kirkby6. As there is no obvious indication that Kirkby had previous experience or exposure to milling and neither man displayed evidence of possessing the sort of funds that would be needed for initiating such ventures and, indeed, neither man left an estate that was sufficiently large to require probate, there remains much that needs to be explained about their respective involvement. It seems appropriate to look first to the wider family for evidence of involvement and support. For their part, Peter and Rebecca had four children, three of whom lived beyond childhood. Two of the boys were particularly well known and commercially active locally. Samuel, the youngest (1849-1915), held the post of Clerk to the local gas company locally. In 1875, he married Annie Thornhill, the eldest daughter of William Thornhill, the well-respected tailor who traded prominently on the High Road, and his wife Eliza. Samuel and his father-in-law became very involved in the development of the Imperial Park and Bellevue Park housing developments7 and they would have been their focus, so it is unlikely that Samuel would have been directly involved with the mill. Frederick, their eldest (c1832-1925), was a music teacher who, for a time, also ran a music shop at 53 (which later became 1038) High Road, close by what is now Derby Street, and was very well respected as the organist at the Parish Church for 44 years as well as choirmaster for several years before the organ was installed. However, in 1872, he married Sarah Ann Swift (c1838-1915), the eldest daughter of Thomas Swift (c1810- c1880) and his wife Agnes Sarah (née Eminson) of Linby, Notts, where Thomas farmed and operated Castle Mill where they lived9. The wider Swift family appears to have kept close and some lived for a time at Beeston, next door to Frederick and Sarah10. One of these was Alfred Swift (1852-1909) who operated Castle Mill where he eventually lived, up to his death, still single, in 1909. Based on this evidence, it therefore seems that a possible earler connection of Peter Kirkby and/or his father with the Swift family may well have been the reason behind his seemingly out-of-the-blue venture into corn milling.

King notice It is also worth mentioning another of Peter Kirkby’s important connections. In 1875, his wife Rebecca died and, just over a year later he married Ann Thums (née Day) who had six children by her first marriage to William Tomlinson Thums (c1831-1868). This meant that Kirkby then became the step-father of William Thums, Ann’s eldest child, who, probably with Kirkby’s encouragement, went on to become a well-known and long-time butcher - as well a local councillor of long-standing – who lived and traded at what was 38 High Road (which became 72 High Road after the 1908 renumbering), on the corner of Willoughby Street11.

In 1881, the firm of William & George King which traded as provision merchants based on Wheeler Gate and Lister Gate in Nottingham, took over the occupation of the mill building (which they are said to have called ‘Lawn Mills’12) and are known to have been still there in 1887. However, it appears that Peter Kirkby had retained ownership as he is listed in the 1885 Voters Roll, living on High Road, Beeston and eligible by reason of his ownership of a freehold home and factory (likely the mill) on High Road. During this time and afterwards, up to his death in 1886, Berryman continued to live close-by and appears to have continued lace manufacture13, possibly with Kirkby.

In 1896, John Treece opened the Shaftesbury Laundry at the mill, a business that was to trade there successfully through three generations of the Treece family. John Treece, the founder, was born in Radford, Nottingham in 1846, the youngest son of Thomas Treece (c1810-1906) and his wife Harriett (née Dyson, 1808-c1890) who, as family legend has it, met while they both were in the service of Duke of Newcastle at Nottingham Castle until it was burnt down by the Reform Bill rioters in 1831 after which they married in 1833 and settled in Radford – it is said, in a house gifted by the Duke although this seems highly improbable14. Clearly an enterprising man, Thomas was able to leave behind his early work as a framework knitter, then a failing industry, and develop a livelihood as a grocer and provision dealer in Radford and even acquired a portfolio of 24 leasehold houses on Mitchell Street and Alfred Street Radford that he rented and were to become the major feature of his estate. When he died in 1906, he left personal estate valued at £870 and this, together with the continued rents from the houses, was left in trust for four surviving children, one being John Treece, and, after their death, to their children15.

John Treece had no previous experience of the laundry business when he and his wife Mary Ann (née Phipps), whom he had married in 1870, moved to Beeston with their then eight surviving children to start up the business – although the family believed that he had been inspired by a small laundry that he had seen operating on Ilkeston Road, near their previous home. What he did have, however, were the engineering skills to get the laundry underway – based around an old boiler that he was able to obtain from Manlove & Elliott where he had previously worked. This egg-ended boiler, which was used in the steam-driven mill to store returned hot water and to feed it to two other boilers, is now on display in Nottingham Industrial Museum and may be seen here. The business clearly provided a useful and popular service to Beeston and its surrounding areas. It would have been hard work, but it prospered and with most, if not all, of the family involved in the early days. John, following his father’s principles, was able to invest the profits in property around Beeston and, in 1910, he was able to purchase the mill premises itself.

Shaftesbury advert2 In 1924, Shaftesbury Laundry Company Limited was formed to take over the laundry business assets and goodwill. For the time being, it rented the building itself from John but was given the option to purchase the mill after 10 years, for £1,600. Ownership of the company was shared between John and his sons, Edwin Percy Treece and Wilfred Gordon Treece. John’s wife, Mary Ann, died in 1921, so that, when John died in 1928, his estate was focussed entirely on their children. He split his shares in the company between two of their daughters, Mabel Harriett Flint (née Treece) and Nellie Alison Adams (née Treece). Fourteen houses that he had invested in over the years were shared between all of their remaining children and four properties on the High Road adjacent to the mill (nos 91,92,95 and 101) were to be retained for ten years for the benefit of these six children and then sold along with the factory. All children shared the residue of his estate16. Mary Ann and John are buried together in Beeston Cemetery, where their memorial survives and may be seen here.

Laundry shop So it was, that the next generation of the Treece family took over control of Shaftesbury Laundry, led by brothers Edwin Percy and Wilford Gordon Treece, again assisted by other members of the Treece family. These included Edwin’s daughter Winifred (1907-1982)17 who managed the laundry workers and John Gordon Treece (1912-2008) - always known as ‘Gordon’ – who started working there when he was 15, took charge of the factory machinery in the 1930s. One of the stories from that era was that the company kept a parrot in a cage inside the customer entrance. This would announce ‘Shop!’ whenever anyone entered and, of course the customer would then receive swift attention.

Happily, it does appear that the Company was able to acquire the mill and some, if not all, of the High Road shops, when they were sold in 1934 as was agreed when the company was formed. Certainly, that included 95 High Road, on the corner of Derby Street, that was then occupied by Gordon and his wife, Winifred Alice (née Simpkins) and the first of what were to be their two children18. By 1960, as shown in the image (right), No.95 had been transformed into was then a modern shop, as the public-facing part of the laundry business.

In 1968, it fell to Gordon Treece, who was still there after 41 years service, to manage the closedown of the laundry business which had served the people of Beeston and district for 72 years. It was then that the factory chimney was demolished – the last and tallest of a total of ten that had once been a feature of Beeston as a whole.

As we have seen, there have been various occupants in the years since the laundry closed and, today (2023), the majority of the space in the mill building is taken up by the Fresh Asia, an Asian grocery shop and also includes The Pigeon Loft Studio offering photographic studio facilities.

1He was baptised at St Marys Church, Hucknall Torkard, Notts on 7 April 1811.
21851 Census : Piece 2127 Folio 7 - Chapel Street, Beeston, Notts - Peter Kirkby, lace maker, with wife and family + widowed mother and sister.
31851 Census : Piece 2127 Folio 6 - Chapel Street, Beeston, Notts - Samuel Berryman, 45, lace master employing 3 men. With wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law.
4Wright's Directory of Nottingham, 1858 - Peter Kirkby listed at Market Street, Beeston, as a fancy net maker
5Wright's Directory of Nottingham, 1864 - Peter Kirkby listed at Turnpike, Beeston, as a miller
6Morris & Co.'s Commercial Directory and Gazetteer of Nottingham and District, 1877 - Peter Kirkby listed at High Road, Beeston, as a lacemaker and miller.
7More on Samuel Kirkby's involvement, with William Thornhill, in the development of Imperial Park, etc may be found here
8A full renumbering of the High Road, Beeston was made in 1908 - see deails here
9By 1851, Thomas Swift was well established as a farmer of 20 acres and operating Castle Mill at Linby Notts (Census 1851 - Linby, Notts : Pirce 2128 Folio 11)
10In 1891, Alfred Swift, aged 39, unmarried, described as a farmer and miller, and his sister Cassandra, were living at 37 High Road, Beeston, next door to Frederick Kirkby. (Census 1891 - Beeston. Notts : Piece 3671 Folio 13)
11More about William Thums may be found here
12The name 'Lawn Mills' has been found only in the change of partnership notice dated 5 April 1996, shown right.
13In the 1881 Census, Peter, Samuel, William and Frederick Kirkby with their respective families as well as Samuel Berryman and Agnes Swift, Thomas' widow, and her daughter are all living in a adjacent houses on High Road, Beeston. Samuel Berryman, then aged 75, was then described as a retired lace manufacturer and was living with his second wife and a niece. (1881 Census : Piece 3331 Folio 33)
14This story, that had come down through the family, was told to David Hallam by Gordon Treece when he was interviewed in 2002 and when much of the family family background that is described here, was also discussed.
15Details of the division of Thomas Treece's estate are contained in his will, probate of which was granted to his executors, William Treece (Gentleman), John Treece (laundry proprietor) and Anthomy Bush (accountant). His efeccts were valued at £870 and his estate was proved at Nottingham Probate Registry on 22 April 1929, 1907.
16Details of the division of John Treece's estate are contained in his will, probate of which was granted to his executors, Henry Bernard Treece, John Rowland Treece and Nellie Allison Adams (subject to special executors for his property interests under the estate of his father). The Estate was valued at £8466 and was proved at Nottingham Probate Registry on 12 April 1929.
17Winifred married Stuart Sutherland Cooper (1908-196-) in 1934. At the time of the Registration in September 1039, they were living with her parents at 'Newlands', First Avenue, Beeston Fields Drive, Beeston.They later retired to live in Eastbourne.
18Registration - September 1939 - 95 High Road, Beeston. Gordon was described as a laundry engineer.