The house now known as number 1a has only been in existence since about 1988 when the owner, Tony Johnson applied for its registration as a separate property. Prior to that it went through several major changes in use and layout. The history of 1a is tied in with that of the properties on either side and the land behind these properties.
We believe that there was a very old building covering what is now the three houses, 1a, 1 and 3 St John Street. This building was on a large plot of land which covered what is now The Georgian House. Then around 1759 we think that the building was converted into a Must Mill and Toft. We have copies of indentures which refer to this Mill. A plan showing the Must Mill and adjacent buildings can be seen clearly on an indenture dated 1839 which is shown on The Georgian House page. This clearly shows that the Mill covered the site of 1a, 1 and 3 St John Street.
The image on the left shows houses in St John Street. The stone faced house is number 1a, the pink house further away is number 1, and the next number 3. It is easy to imagine that they were all part of a single property.
The Must Mill appears to have been attached to an large ancient walled-garden which is mentioned in the deeds of number 5 St John Street. A must mill is usually concerned with the pressing of fruit. In this case we feel it is most likely to have been for the pressing of cider apples from the nearby orchard.
We know that in 1767 the property was purchased by George Rolph from Thomas Clark. Following George Rolph’s death the property was inherited by his son, Thomas Rolph. When Thomas died in 1814 his widow Frances conveyed the property to her son, also called George Rolph. We assume that it was he who built a smart new town house, now known as The Georgian House, overlooking The Plain. We believe that George may have closed the Must Mill around that time, although at the present time we don’t know what he used the buildings for. Click here to read about the Rolph family
In 1839 when William Knapp acquired the property, he converted the old must mill buildings into his blacksmith’s forge and workshop.
It would appear from the census records that when William Knapp died in 1862, the buildings were re-developed, creating the two dwellings which became known as numbers 1 and 3 St John Street. The remaining section (the part where 1a now stands) was retained as part of the ‘Georgian House’. When Charles Symes acquired the property in 1898 he used this part of the building as a cart house for the storage of the cart which he used to deliver garden supplies around the district. There was a set of double doors allowing access for the cart from St John Street, and another door allowing the horse to be taken through to the garden in the rear of the house where there was a stable. A set of rickety wooden steps with a rope banister led up from the cart house to the tallot (a loft) above. This was used by Charles for the storage of hay for the horse.
When the car replaced the horse and cart, Charles and later his son-in-law, Albert Pridham, used the area upstairs (the tallot) as a workshop, and downstairs there was a ‘copper’ in the corner for laundry.
When the ‘Georgian House’ house was acquired by Tony Johnson in 1988 he converted the ‘cart house’ into a house, and it was registered as 1A and he gave it the name of Bells Cottage to reflect its position on the junction of roads which was called Bells Cross. Tony used it first as living quarters for his nursing home staff. When he closed the nursing home a few years later, he was able to sell the property as a separate dwelling in 1997/8.