Horsham Mill gained world-wide reputation

A view of Prewett's Mill in the 1950s.
A view of Prewett's Mill in the 1950s.

Proposals to redevelop the Prewett’s Mill site in Worthing Road, Horsham, have been put forward by McCarthy and Stone, the retirement housebuilder. This article, from volume 3 of Horsham’s History, charts the history of the mills. Copies of Horsham’s History are available from Horsham Museum and Art Gallery in the Causeway.

Henry Albery bought Worthing Road Steam Mill, also known as Prewett’s Mill, on 27th March 1855 and then invested in modernising it for the present building has an 1861 date stone.

Albery was also a director of the Horsham Corn Exchange Company in which he had ten £10 shares. By late 1872, or early 1873 William Prewett who served his apprenticeship with George Sharp at Warnham Mill owned the mill.

George had left Warnham Mill, leaving it to Prewett to run, moved to the Town Mill in 1871, so it would seem that his apprentice William took over the next door mill as soon as the opportunity arose and they worked the mills together, especially as both had become steam mills.

When in 1883 the Town Mill came up for sale William bought it and so now owned both mills. However this was the period of agricultural depression and changes in production especialy after World War One.

In Horsham this was reflected in the number of mills in the Horsham area that closed down around this time. The most notable mills in Horsham were the Town Mill and the Worthing Road Steam Mill. Both were in the ownership of William Prewett who employed a manager of the Steam and manager of the Town Mill.

In the early years of the 20th century the Town Mill cottage and remaining parts of the old mill were pulled down, leaving the Town Mill for production of animal feed stuffs with Worthing Road Mill being used by Prewetts for grinding flour and oatmeal for humans, thus becoming known as Prewetts Mill. William Prewett had bought the Town Mill premises around 1890, having bought Worthing Road Mill earlier.

When he died in 1913 the business was carried on by his son Fred and later when he died in 1934 by another son, Charles, who was also running an engineering company, known as Worthing Road Motor, Electrical and Engineering Works.

Charles formed a limited company W. Prewett Ltd. The company consisted of three elements which took different paths.

The Town Mill premises was used as a provender mill until the 1960s, when employees took it over and formed Arun Feeds Ltd.

They moved out in the 1970s and the building rapidly became derelict but then in 1982 they were converted into a private home and some 12 years later converted into offices.

Worthing or Prewetts Mill continued to produce flour gaining a world-wide reputation. In 1951 the mill ground 1,289 tons of flour, delivered in the fleet of two lorries and six vans throughout Surrey, Sussex and London, or by train throughout the country. Some of the flour was used at the Prewetts own West Street bakery shop where 7,600 two pound loaves were baked every week supplying Christ’s Hospital and 1,000 loaves for the London retailers. They also produced 80-90 eight pound tins of wholemeal biscuits a week.

In the 1970s they were taken over by Allison’s Ltd who in 1978 closed the mill down transferring the machinery to Yorkshire. Five years later the buildings were converted into offices.

The engineering works and iron foundry were sited in Mill Bay Lane, between the two mills. They made manhole covers and when it changed its name to Arun Engineering Company it became well known for the ‘Arun’ sawbench during World War Two. In 1948 the company was sold to Walter A. Wood & Co who was also based in Mill Bay Lane.

Prewett’s Mill site in 1914-18

Horsham, although seen as a rural town, was still involved with making armaments, and at Prewett’s some 30 married women were employed in two four-hour shifts turning out shell cases.

Mrs Richardson, one of Prewett’s workers, considered she had been called up. In fact, there was no conscription for women in WWI, although they did go through a form of ‘enlistment’ by committing themselves by contract to a certain period. Mrs. Richardson’s employment lasted 18 months until a week or two after the Armistice, when she returned to her trade of dressmaking.”

When the end of the war came it occurred quite suddenly. In October the women working at Prewett’s engineering works held an evening for the soldiers stationed at Roffey Camp.

Munition girls happy evening

(WSCT 12.10.1918)

It was a happy idea that prompted Miss Maud Redford ,forewoman at Prewett’s Engineering Works, now on Munition making, to invite the boys in Khaki stationed at Roffey to meet the girls who are helping so earnestly to win the war in Horsham to a social evening at the Albion Hall on Saturday evening.

A most enjoyable time was spent. Not only was there a continual round of dances and games of the ‘musical chairs’ character taken part in by all those present, numbering over 200,but an excellent programme of music etc.