From gingerbread to the railways

Words by:
Graham Magee, Maggie Ashcroft, Caroline Desbrulais and Liz Parkinson
Featured in:
May 2017

The history of the Molecey family 1733-1917
This story of a south Lincolnshire family tells of their rise and demise as the owners and operators of Molecey watermill, at its peak the thriving hub of local trade and commerce.

The young John Molecey of Market Deeping was 14 when he was apprenticed to Gentell Chapell of Pinchbeck to become a baker. John became a successful gingerbread maker and baker and by 1756 he took on Robert Lawford as an apprentice.

John married his wife Eleanor Rowse at Hose near Melton Mowbray on 21st June 1756. She would probably have been visiting her aunt, Mary at Market Deeping mill. The Rowse family became connected to the Deepings when Mary married the Miller John Thorpe in April 1719.

The young couple went on to start a family; a daughter Sarah came first followed by a son John in 1760. Around this time the mill on the Morcott-Deeping turnpike road which had been in the Sharpe family’s ownership become available. The running of a mill came naturally to this baker, perhaps encouraged by Aunt Mary to take the mill on. The Rowse ladies became neighbours, their mills being connected by the water from the Welland passing between them.

John and Eleanor extended their mill, adding a Granary for flour and grain storage and adding a date stone in 1773 with their initials. This new addition to the mill gave them access to the Stamford Canal where Fenland lighters could now moor alongside and load and unload. The ground floor of the Granary provided space to store and record the grain arriving and flour leaving the mill.

Eleanor died aged 47 in 1779 and was buried in the churchyard of St Guthlac’s, Market Deeping. Despite losing his wife, it was the year her husband completed the Granary at Maxey Mill in West Deeping.

John died in 1790 and was buried with Eleanor in St Guthlac’s. His will dated 9th February 1780 left ‘messuages, cottages, mills and osiers’ in Market, West Deeping and Stowe to his son John and daughters Sarah, Eleanor, Elizabeth, Ann and Charlotte.

His son John continued to manage and run the mill developing his father’s business. He ensured that after the Enclosure Act 1773 the mill secured the land around it under his own control. By 1812 he was being assessed for land tax of £1/12/3 on the West Deeping property. Some of these were the ‘ancient enclosures’ and some the land around the canal and turnpike road.

In 1826 his acquisitions continued and extended to the surrounding Crown lands including those ‘in front of my house’. The Molecey mill land holding of freehold and copyhold fields and farms on the eve of Queen Victoria’s accession was now approaching a sizeable estate.

John would die in 1835, unmarried, and so the continuation of the family story passes to his sisters.

On 7th December 1794 sister Charlotte Molecey, spinster of West Deeping, married John Twigge, a surgeon and apothecary in Market Deeping. Charlotte’s marriage would be the one to change the family surname for future Molecey heirs. On 19th October 1810 she gave birth to her son John, who would on the death of his Uncle John in 1835 by a codicil of his will and an Act of Parliament, take Molecey onto his surname thus making him John Molecey Twigge Molecey.

On 28th December 1809 Eliza Simpson of Home Farm, Market Deeping was born and she would go on to marry John and become Eliza Molecey Twigge Molecey.

John and Eliza’s children grasped fully the developing British Empire and the opportunities it offered for exploration, travel and adventure. Their fourth son Octavius had followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and qualified as a surgeon in 1862. He took to the high seas bound for Australia as a ship’s doctor. Sadly he was to die at sea in August of that year of an aneurysm of the aorta aged 25 and was buried in Melbourne cemetery. A piece of Stamford stone was sent by his ‘sorrowing mother, brothers and sisters’ to mark his resting place.

George Twigge Molecey trained as an architect and was to practice in India from 1869 to 1874 working as a City architect to Edwin Lutyens in Bombay.

The eldest brother John was running Molecey Mill following their father’s death of apoplexy at 54 in 1864. One of his first concerns was the condition of the former Stamford canal (Welland Navigation) which ran in front of his house and complained to the Stamford Corporation that not even a duck would swim across it. The canal was parcelled up in lots to be auctioned off. The auction didn’t take place but in 1868 the Corporation met with landowners to discuss their purchase price for the lots. John was to spend £34. 16s 10d on lot 18 ‘A further part of the canal extending from the east end of lot 17 to the west end of lot 19 including the Lock pen and gates in length 676 yards or thereabouts bounded on the north by Crown land and property of J M T Molecey Esq. and the said Deeping and Morcott Turnpike Road and on the south by the land of J M T Molecey Esq.’

The auction of the Manor of East and Manor on 22nd June 1875 presented John with further opportunity to increase the mill’s landholding. He secured lots 7-11 which included the Manor Farm and Fishery in the Welland of 188 acres and a further four plots of land adjoining the road from West Deeping to Market Deeping which totalled a further 132 acres. At the end of that year his younger sister Eleanor Simpson Twigge Molecey married John Thorpe, a bachelor Miller of Market Deeping.

John’s speculative mind had ensured control of production in the local area and supply of grain for milling and he now turned to how the produce from the land could be rapidly transported and supplied to other areas. In December 1878 he was elected director of Market Deeping Railway. The prospectus for this proposed line of three miles to the Market Deeping mill sought to raise £15,000.

The 1881 census noted just how successful John had become and at 42 he was noted as a farmer and landowner occupying 1,060 acres, employing thirty-eight men and sixteen boys plus a range of domestic staff. In three more years, however, all this was to be over. In 1883 the proposed Market Deeping railway had floundered. An Abandonment Act was sought from Parliament and as one of the directors he was liable for repayment of shares due to the railway not going ahead. Dramatically from 10th April to 8th May 1884 all his interests in farms, livestock, equipment, animals and crops were sold off; the contents of the Mill House, its furniture and effects being the last sale. Following this, the only part he retained, ‘the mill, residence, garden and stables to be let with immediate possession’. The auction advertisements record the auctions began on 10th April at Glinton ‘20 cart horses; 12 short-horned heifers 18 yearling heifers, steers and 20 pigs, wagons, carts, drills, reaping machine, grass mower, haymaker, horse drags, rolls, ploughs and harrows’. On a further three days all John’s assets of equipment, land, livestock and properties were auctioned.

The final sale on 8th May must have been the most poignant: the contents of the house of his parents and grandparents and where he grew up with his brothers and sisters. The furniture, paintings, silver and tapestries, contents of the dairy, stables, brewhouse and mill all sold. John moved to Home Farm, Market Deeping with his trusted housekeeper Ruth Maddock. He continued to farm there on a small scale, the Mill being rented out. On 11th September 1896, the decision to dispose of the mill was taken and the auction of the ‘Family Residence and (disused) Water Flour Mill, Cottage and land, and parcels of pasture land, was formerly a portion of the estate of J. T. Molecey’ was put up for auction which noted that ‘the property has for some time been unoccupied’.

The Grantham Journal recorded on September 26th, ‘on Saturday last, at the Angel Hotel, Peterborough, Messrs Kingston offered for sale a freehold stone and slated family residence, situated about one mile from Market Deeping, together with the water corn mill adjoining and other buildings, orchard, garden, paddock etc. containing altogether about 3 acres and known as the Mill House; also a cottage and garden known as the Toll Bar House with a strip of pasture land adjoining including the site of the old River Welland containing about 3a 2r formerly the estate of Mr J M T Molecey. The bidding started at £200 and after very slow progress the property was knocked down to Mr Fullard of Thorney at £410.’

John and Ruth departed the Deepings for 75 College Road, Deal in Kent where they both lived until John’s death on 7th April 1917, his estate effects being £139 8s 10d and probate granted to Ruth.

Had the Market Deeping railway speculation seen the demise of his families fortunes in the Deepings?

The Fullard family retained Molecey Mill until 1950 when they put it on the market. A further sale was completed in 1958 when the Van Geest family began their ownership, which lasted until 1986. After this sale the mill was divided into two residences; the Regency house still known as Molecey Mill, while the warehousing and storage became The Granary. The waterwheel, milling mechanism and dovecote have remained intact and unmodernised in the buildings central to the two properties.

Heritage buildings with a fascinating history have always been featured in Lincolnshire Life.

Molecey Mill, a historic landmark in the village of West Deeping, first appeared in our pages in 1966, photographed as the idyllic, former watermill home of Mr and Mrs John Van Geest. After they sold the property in the 1980s it was divided into two dwellings, with the former warehouse floors of the mill becoming The Granary.

In this first of a series of two articles, we tell of the history of Molecey Mill. Next month we shall feature the recent renovations which have been completed at The Granary.

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