Aynho – Powder Mills

AYNHO – Old Powder Mills

‘Aynho’ is the Powder Mills house nearest to what used to be the main entrance to the original gunpowder works (and later SmithKline and finally GSK).  It was originally two cottages built in 1862 by the Curtis Brothers, Charles and Thomas, soon after their firm had bought the business from William Burton in 1859.  The Curtis brothers expanded the firm considerably in the following 10-20 years and one of the consequences was that they needed more housing for the workers.  (See ‘The Lost Powder Mills of Leigh’ by Chris Rowley.

‘Aynho’ – already converted – was bought in 1961 by Mr Frank and Mrs Hazel Coppins.  They modernized it, taking out many original features, including fireplaces, etc.  In 1961, the house was already called ‘Aynho’ which the Coppins retained.  They guessed that the name came from the village of Aynho between Oxford and Banbury.  They were right – it was named by the East family who lived there – David and Bessie East – who moved their in 1942.   Thoroton George East, MD of the Eastlight and MillFloss companies had moved to the factory site next to ‘Old Powder Mill House’ in the 1940s.  Paul East, David and Bessie’s son, said that Aynho was a small picturesque village in Northamptonshire, about 8 miles from Banbury and his parents stayed overnight there on the first night of their honeymoon, 29th April 1939, having been married at Mill Hill in north-west London.  Therefore, when they moved from London to the Powder Mills in 1942, they chose to give their new home a name – hence ‘Aynho’.  Before then, the cottage did not have a name.

Frank Coppins used to commute every day to London, bicycling to Tonbridge station by the ‘black path’.  He was a keen amateur photographer with his own dark room and took many pictures of the Leigh area.   Hazel was for many years a hugely well-informed Leigh Parish Councillor.  Frank died in the early 1990s. Hazel died at the end of September – surrounded by the new ‘1811’ development, rather than the industrial hotch-potch of GSK.

Chris Rowley (Oct 2018)