The existence of corn mills in Ivybridge can be traced back centuries but here we focus on what locals knew as Lee’s Mill, a flour and later provender mill, located just off Fore Street.
By the early nineteenth century, the old manor corn mill in the centre of Ivybridge, which for centuries had been operated by a local miller, was leased to the Devonport Union Mill Society. Established by dock workers in 1814, it was set up initially as a wholesale bread supply society. Operating as a cooperative it was able to provide flour more cheaply, with each shareholder permitted to take a weekly allowance of flour relevant to their shareholding. It was documented that the society had 650 members and by 1817 it established its own bakehouses to supply the members with bread. The continuing success of the society led to the acquisition of the manor mills at Ivybridge in 1821, naming the site “Union Mills” in recognition of its cooperative status.
Sharing the same location at this time was Ivybridge Paper Mills, belonging to Benjamin Holman and later his sons, Francis and Henry Holman, However, unlike Stowford Paper Mills, this mill produced ‘thin browns’. These wrapping papers would have been made from poor quality rags, old ropes, netting and canvas.