Prior to the 1800’s this area was part of the lands of Delapre Abbey, founded by Anglo-Norman Earl Simon de Senlis in around 1145. Delapre means ‘in or of the meadow’ in English, and gives a clue to what the land was like at the time. The Engine Shed sits on what was called Hardingstone Meadow, part of 10 acres of marsh meadow next to the river used to graze cattle.
The only major structures in the area were a set of flour mills located on the island in the Nene River. The mills were gifted to Joan of Navarre when she became second wife of Henry IV in 1403 and they became known as “Queen Joan’s Mills”, “Quengions” or “Quingeons Mills.” Queen Joan presented the mills to the Cluniac nuns of Delapre Abbey, hence the name still used for the area today, Nunn Mills.
When Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church and dissolved its religious houses in 1538, the land reverted to the crown. In 1550 the estate, including the mills, was sold to the Tate family. The Tate’s were staunch Puritans and Parliamentarians, with several generations of the family representing Northamptonshire in the House of Commons. They owned the estate until 1756, when it was sold to Edward Bouverie for £20,000 pounds. Bouverie also represented Northampton in Parliament. The Mills were leased out to a series of tenants, including Joseph Westley & Sons of Blistworth a company founded in 1847. In 1864 the mill was modernised with the instillation of a steam engine and, later, roller mill equipment.
Finally, in 1945 the Mills became part of Hovis and ground wholemeal flour until 1961 when they switched to the production of animal feedstuffs. The mills were demolished in 1968 when Avon Cosmetics bought the land.