Thursday 21 January 2016

 ...actually, we have lots of really moving stories about the children and young people in our care, but just this once, we’re talking about another kind of moving. 

This time, it’s our office move and for anyone with an interest in local history, it’s an interesting story. Blue Sky’s involvement with its new home at Broadwater House, the former mill owner’s house in the pretty market town of Romsey, in Hampshire, began back in 2014. Blue Sky was growing fast and as more staff joined, we were rapidly outgrowing our offices, just around the corner in Eastwood Court.  

 “Broadwater House, became available and I knew it would be an ideal base for our head office”

explains our CEO, Simon Lockyer.

“It needed a fair amount of renovation, and as a Grade II listed building, there was a great deal of input from conservation officers and Test Valley Borough Council, but with the help of a dedicated team of builders from New Forest based ‘Dimensions Building Services’, we got there and we were delighted to move in towards the end of 2015.”

With the renovations complete, we decided to delve into the history of this beautiful 18thcentury building with its traditional Georgian symmetry and many original features such as the sash windows and original internal shutters. Sadly, little information is available about the house itself, but we did gather some information about the mill that sat behind it.

Duke’s Mill, named after the mill owner (also known as Town Mill) burnt down in 1970, but it had a lengthy history stretching back to 1444, when the original building was known as Aorn Mill and took its power from Fishlake stream which still runs beside Broadwater House and is a tributary of the River Test. We found little mention of it until 1855, when a J G Frankum was named as ‘baker and miller of Town Mills’ but by 1859 Joseph Mayes had become the miller and shared the building with Alfred Custin, ‘Mop, Yarn and Whiting Manufacturer’. In 1878, Mr Mayes and Mr Custin passed their respective roles on to a J Allsop and a W Croker.  

By 1911, the mill was used solely as a corn mill, and in 1935, Mr Jas Duke, the mill’s namesake in its latter years, took over as miller until 1968. The fire in 1970 resulted in the building being knocked down to make way for flats and shops which remain today.  

“Now everyone’s settled in, we’re enjoying showing around our foster children, foster carers and colleagues from our other offices across the south of England.  We have lots of visitors and are so pleased to have played a part in helping Broadwater House to continue to enjoy its prominent position in this lovely setting for many years to come.”  

Our grateful thanks to Christopher Levy of  woodleynet.co.uk for helping us with this article and for giving us permission to print his photographs of Duke’s Mill.  Also, to the men of Bradbeer’s Removals for their cheerful help, their hard work and their care and respect of this wonderful, old, building. If you would like to know more about Blue Sky Fostering, about the amazing difference our foster carers make to the lives of vulnerable children and young people and how you could join them as one of our valued team, please get in touch.

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