Mills & Millers

Mills in Mulbarton

Mulbarton has two houses named 'Mill House', clues to the location of the two mills that were working at the beginning of the 20th Century. Now only the derelict remains of the tower mill can be seen. But records suggest there was a mill here long before these substantial mills were built.

Early Post Mills

The earliest windmills were Post Mills with the whole body of the mill that houses the machinery mounted on a single, central, vertical post supported by struts to keep it steady. An arm at the back of the mill, reaching almost to the ground, was used to turn the whole mill to face the sails into the wind. One advantage of such mills was that they were portable: they could be dismantled and moved to another site. But gradually the base of the mill was enclosed by a 'roundhouse' to provide storage and protect the base of the post. One of the best-documented Norfolk post mills is Sprowston Mill, which was sketched by the artist John Crome in 1810.

Records show that Mulbarton had a mill as far back as the 1300s. In 1373, a certain William de Hoo and his father, Thomas, owed £300 to William Gunthorpe. To retrieve this debt, an Inquisition was made which claimed that in Mulbarton the pair possessed only 'poor wheat worth 40 shillings' and 'a broken-down windmill worth nothing and lacking millstones', Surely, looking at names and dates, this was Sir Thomas de Hoo (1342 - 1410) who married the daughter and heiress of Thomas de St Omer and so became Lord of the Manor of Mulbarton! However that story ends, it show that Mulbarton had had a windmill as early as the 1300s.

Move on 400 years and there is mention of another windmill. On 19th April 1756, Thomas Murrell of Mulbarton swore an affidavit that 'about February 1754 he purchased a windmill in Dickleburgh belonging to Amos Potter of Tibenham for £40. In August 1754 he removed mill to Mulbarton and eventually moved from Great Moulton to there with his family.' According to the Norwich Mercury, 12th July 1755, it was advertised for sale by auction. This illustrates how post mills were bought, sold, transported considerable distances and re-erected by a miller.

Read on about the Smock Mill and the Tower Mill....

The Smock Mill

The windmill on the common was a smock mill. It had a tall wooden tower with 10 sides. On top was a cap which moved round so that the sails faced the wind. Inside there were 6 floors. The mill was used to grind grain into flour.

A house is marked at this location on the 1724 map of Mulbarton, but no hint of a mill. The only mention of a mill beside a track that is now The Rosary. The mill of Mill House by the Common is marked on Faden's map of 1797. William Toll appears as 'miller' at Mulbarton in the Poll Books for 1796, 1799 and 1802. Some time after that, Andrew Spratt worked the mill in conjunction with Saxlingham water mill. He died in February 1824, and both mills were put up for sale by auction in 1825. An advert in the Norfolk Chronicle of 9th April 1825 states:

To be sold by Auction by WM. BUTCHER
At the Bolwing Green Inn, Chapel Field, Norwich
On Saturday 30 April 1825 at 5 o'clock in 3 Lots

Lot 1. Water mill....Saxlingham

Lot 2. All that much admired well built Tower Wind Mill, with patent sails, brick and tiled dwelling house, baking office, granaries, outbuildings, garden and productive orchard adjoining, delightfully situate in the pleasant village of Mulbarton by the side of the valuable Common in that parish and over which it has a right of depasturing and is now in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Spratt.

The Mill is certainly not surpassed by any other Windmill in the county of Norfolk, it stands exceedingly well for Trade and is in the best possible state of repair, drives three pair of stones, has two flour mills, horse mill etc. etc. The orchard contains nearly 2 acres and there are about 100 fruit trees of the best quality planted therein.

Lot 3. Three roods of Arable land...

Possession of the whole of the above Property will be given on the 6th day of July next.
Apply to Mr. Robert Spratt, Shottisham, Messrs. Sewell, Blake & Keith, Solicitors, or to Wm. Butcher, Auctioneer, Estate Agent, Norwich at whose office Plans of the different estates may be seen.

The business seems to have been continued by William and Thomas Spratt - Thomas signing a notice in the Norfolk Chronicle, 24th Dec. 1825 undertaking to use the 'New Imperial Bushell' of 2218.192 cubic inches from the beginning of 1826. William and Thomas dissolved their partnership in 1828 "by mutual consent" with a notice in the Norfolk Chronicle, 29th March 1828, and the following year it was for sale again.

Mill bill, 1835, signed by Charles Cremer
Mill bill, 1835, signed by Charles Cremer

At the time of the 1841 Tithe Award, it was owned by Miss Elizabeth Spratt and occupied by Charles Cremer, who is mentioned in a report in the Norwich Mercury in August 1843 when the sails were ripped off in a gale:

Norwich Mercury, August 1843
(re. Storm of 9th August 1843)
Mr. Cremer's mill had its sails torn off and then falling on the warehouse adjoining injured it considerably. Mr. Cremer's loss is estimated at £300.

From his will, Charles Cremer was evidently related by marriage to the Spratt family.

In 1847, an item in the Norfolk Chronicle announced that the same Mr. Cremer had taken over the maltster's business at the southern end of the common.

Norfolk Chronicle, 16th October 1847
C. Cremer, Miller and Maltster, Mulbarton
Having engaged the old established Malting Business at Mulbarton (many years in the occupation of Mr. Robert Mantes) begs to solicit the favour of a continuance of such Customers who have hitherto dealt there and of the public in general, who will oblige him with their Orders, assuring them that they may rely upon having Malt and Hops of the first rate quality.

He stayed at the mill until 1858, and probably retired to be 'a farmer of Bracon Ash' - although he took over the other Mulbarton tower mill in 1863, and continued to own and rent out both the Mulbarton mills!

He was followed by David Blomfield in 1859. William Howes, miller from 1863, died 11th August 1867 intestate, and his widow, Elizabeth, was administratix of his estate. Horace Candler then took on the mill and worked it till it was offered for sale or to let in 1875:

Norfolk Chronicle, 22nd May 1875
To be SOLD or LET, a first class situation as a WINDMILL with patent sails, 4 pairs of stones, 1 Flour Mill, with Warehouse attached with 2 Flour Mills, Meal, Corn and Pollard Bins and stowage for a large quantity of goods. A comfortable Dwelling House, Bake office, Granary, 2 Stables and Outbuildings, 2 Gardens, productive Orchard and right of common. The Mill is doing a good business. Possession can be had by next Michaelmas. Apply to C. Cremer, Bracon Ash.

With four pairs of millstones, so it must have been a busy mill!

In the Poor Rate Assessment book for 1875-6 the owner is given as Miss Spratt, that is Emma Spratt, niece of Charles Cremer's wife. George William Thompson, farmer, appears as the tenant and the mill remained with that family for many years. The rate book entries indicate that land with the mill amounted to 25 acres, 1 rood, 26 perches - a large area, with a total rental value of £80 and rateable value of £4. 17s 6d. And yet Mr. G. Thompson also rented 3 roods of land in The Rosery from the Trustees of the Poor!

A steam engine was added in 1883 - to keep the mill working when there was no wind. The chimney shows up clearly on the old photos (see above). By 1884, Alfred Thompson was running the mill by - a bill for Mr. James Turner for 1884 shows the bill-heading changed by hand from G. W. Thompson to A. Thompson. One of two employees in 1893 was William Lant Duffield, who later moved to Mattishall and then to Saxlingham Mill where Duffield's milling business still exists.

Miller and family, 1892
Miller and family, 1892

In 1894 the mill was up for sale again - this time by auction by the executors of Emma Spratt.

Norfolk Chronicle, 1st September 1894
The Valuable Property known as Mulbarton Mill, with neat Residence, Gardens, Orchard and Farm Buildings, standing in a good position, with long frontage to the High Road and the Common, with Common Rights of Pasturage.
Messrs. SPELMAN have received instructions from the Executors of the late Miss Emma Spratt to Sell by Auction on Saturday 15 at 3 o'clock at the Royal Hotel, Norwich, the above Estate, now in the occupation of Mr. A. Thompson. The Mill stands well for wind, and with the other buildings is in thorough substantial repair and the total content is about two acres.

It seems strange that there is no mention of the steam facility in the advert.... Alfred Thompson seems to have bought the property as the sitting tenant.

Mill bill dated 31st Jan 1885 - note change to bill heading
Mill bill dated 31st Jan 1885 - note change to bill heading

In 1894 the mill was up for sale again - this time by auction by the executors of Emma Spratt.

In 1910, the mill was struck by lightning, and the following report in the Dereham & Fakenham Times of 9th July 1910 describes:

On Thursday 30th ult. a severe storm passed over Mulbarton and district. The mill at Mulbarton had one of the sails struck and the vanes were shattered, pieces of wood being thrown to a considerable distance. The owner, Mr. A Thompson and his employee, Mr. A. Middleton, were working in the mill at the time and were thrown to the ground when the lightning struck the chain which is used inside the mill to pull up the sacks. This is said to be the third time this mill has been struck.

The Mr. A. Middleton mentioned must have been a relative of Mr. Middleton, postmaster, who moved to Mulbarton in 1899 and had a substantial house built next to Mill House as his home and the village Post Office.

Alfred Thompson is given as just 'miller' in 1912, indicating that he was using auxiliary power only. He is listed again in Kelly's 1922 directory. By 1931 the mill machinery had been dismantled, and a conical roof fitted to seal the mill - as can be seen in the photo taken from the village pond (which also shows the chimney still standing, far left). The second photo, taken in 1934 shows its derelict condition. 

In the early days of World War II, when there was some paranoia about a possible enemy invasion, the mill tower and church tower were considered ideal landmarks to guide aircraft to land on Mulbarton Common, so all or part of the mill was demolished, but the chimney remained.

Only the Mill House remains today. Sadly the foundations of the chimney (photo 3, above, taken in 2004) were demolished a few years ago. In a very dry year, the outline of the foundation of the windmill reappears in the parched lawn, and one of the French millstones is on the patio (above right). The back part of the house was a simple cottage, whose floor was lowered when the building was underpinned recently. The elegant front of the house is an addition, probably form the early part of the 19th century. The old bake-house survives as an additional room, but the ovens were removed in the late 1970s. A small building on the southern boundary is a former forge, still with its fireplace and chimney.

In the early days of World War II, when there was some paranoia about a possible enemy invasion, the mill tower and church tower were considered ideal landmarks to guide aircraft to land on Mulbarton Common, so all or part of the mill was demolished, but the chimney remained.

Rear of the Mill House. Low building left is former bakery. Side wall, right, was adjacent to mill
Rear of the Mill House. Low building left is former bakery. Side wall, right, was adjacent to mill

Mill details:

White 10-sided smock mill.
2-storey brick base with vertical, stepped walls
4 double-shuttered sails, 9 bays of 3
Conical cap with ball finial and extension over fan stage
6-bladed fan
Stage at 2nd floor, strutted below to base wall
6 floors
Chain pole
3 pairs of French burr stones and 1 pair of Peak
Dressing machine
Oat crusher

Painting (artist unknown) of Common with derelict mill left background, dated 1933
Painting (artist unknown) of Common with derelict mill left background, dated 1933

The Tower Mill

Mulbarton had another mill, east of the Norwich Road on the border with Swardeston parish. It is shown on Bryant's Map of Norfolk, surveyed in 1824 - 6, and the main brick part is still standing.

The Mulbarton tower mill was a small mill, 27 feet high with only three floors. It had two doors on the ground floor as a safety precaution as the sails came to within a few feet of the ground. They had to be set by hand.

The mill when worked:
4 double-shuttered sails, 8 bays of 3, striking by rack and pinion
Boat-shaped cap. Petticoat
6-bladed fan
3 doors: 2 doors to ground floor.
Tower about 27 feet high
2 pairs of stones
Flour mill

Title deeds to the Mill House indicate that land was once part of a large area owned by 'John Steward of the City of Norwich Esq.'. One strip amounting to 3 roods 19 perches was transferred to 'Mr. John Tann of that said City, Bricklayer' in August 1822 ....upon which he is erecting a Corn Wind Mill.' John Tann's name is wrongly transcribed as 'Cann' on some copies of deeds. Later in 1822 it seems to have been leased by John Tann to John Skipper, Gentleman of Norwich for 1 year - possibly mortgaged to raise money for building the mill. The following year the land and Mulbarton Mill seems to have been leased to Augustus Adolphus Hamilton Beckwith, Gentleman (and solicitor) of Norwich, for 1 year, so the mill was probably built in 1822-3. John Tann must have been a good bricklayer if he built it himself - the tower stands firm today! He also owned property elsewhere: four cottages and land at Ludham (where William Tann had died the previous year of the undated record); six tenements in St. Paul's; and a number of houses and shops in St. Peter Mountergate, Norwich.

An advert for an auction sale in 1827 gives details of the windmill recently built:

Norfolk Chronicle, 22nd September 1827
Desirable Situation for a Miller, Baker and Confectioner
By Mr. JOHN CULLEY At the Bell Inn, Orford Hill on
Saturday October 6, 1827 at 5 o'clock.

Lot 1. A Capital Brick TOWER WINDMILL lately erected, with two pair of stones, flour mill and going geers complete in excellent repair, also a substantial Dwelling house and 3 roods and 19 perches of Land. All the above premises are situate in Mulbarton in Norfolk, are Freehold, land tax redeemed and are now in the occupation of Mr. Samuel Burrell. The greater part of the purchase money may remain on Mortgage of the several lots if required. Apply to Mr. Beckwith, Solicitor, Norwich.

The occupant's name is incorrectly given - it was Samuel Barrell, described as 'Mulbarton Miller' on later title deed. He seems to have bought the 'cottage with the barn, granary, stables and outbuildings and also that Wind Corn Mill with the apparatus thereto belonging and the parcel of freehold land' from John Tann in April 1833, and paid further money to Edward Steward to keep the freehold. At the same time, John Tann also sold two cottages in Mulbarton with 'one acre of land (more or less) occupied by Robert Daines and William Barrell'.

In the 1841 Tithe Award, Samuel Barrell is shown as owner and occupier, who worked the mill until about 1846 and remained the owner until he died in 1862 or '63. William Barrell was miller 1853 - 59 or later.

In May 1863, the documents for the house suggest that everything was sold to 'Charles Cremer of Bracon Ash, farmer': the 'cottage, barn, granaries....Wind Corn Mill with the sails, cloths, wheels, stones, running and going gears, scales, weights, goods and chattels, appendages and appurtenants thereto belong. And the piece or parcel of freehold land formerly of John Cann and then late of the said Samuel Barrell deceased in Mulbarton....3 roods and 19 perches.' Charles Cremer had owned and worked the smock mill by the Common, and presumably rented both mills and their houses to millers.

William Crane, was miller 1863-64, who advertised for someone to take over the mill:

Norfolk News, 24th September 1864 - and again in October:
Situations Vacant
WANTED, a Single Man to take charge of a TOWER MILL. Good reference required. Apply to William Crane, Mulbarton.

In January 1865, and again in March, it was advertised to let, but quite where Samuel Barrell of Little Melton tower mill fits in is uncertain - unless he was a son who was going to vet the applicants!

Norfolk News, 21st January 1865
To Let at MULBARTON near Norwich
A BRICK TOWER WINDMILL driving two pair of stones, flour mill etc. with comfortable Dwelling House, Granaries and Outbuildings now in Full Trade. Possession at Lady Day or Michaelmas.
For rent and particulars apply to Samuel Barrell, Little Melton.

The mill was taken on by Robert Ellis 1865-68, who was followed by William Smith 1872-83 (who seems to have used steam power also). But there is no mention of William Smith, or of the Mill House or windmill in the Mulbarton Poor Rate book for 1875-6.

Old Mill House on the Mulbarton/Swardeston boundary and track to mill (at far end of hedge)
Old Mill House on the Mulbarton/Swardeston boundary and track to mill (at far end of hedge)

The owner, Charles Cremer, died at Bracon Ash on 21st January 1886, and his will was proved two months later. His executors and beneficiaries were Frederick Myhill of Bracon Ash, farmer and harness maker; Sarah Cremer, Spinster, daughter of his late brother Robert Cremer, deceased; and Emma Spratt, Spinster, niece of Charles' late wife.

Sarah Cremer elected to take the Mulbarton property as real estate rather than selling it for the proceeds, and Frederick Myhill seems to have retained some interest in it. She had 'exclusive enjoyment of the rents and profits thereof since the death of Charles Cremer'.

How much income she enjoyed is uncertain, for George Kent took on the mill from 1888 until he became bankrupt:

Norfolk Chronicle, 16th July 1890
KENT, George, Mulbarton, Miller and corn merchant

Huggins and Hart are listed as millers in 1892 (with William George Huggins as a corn merchant as well from 1896-1900) and Henry Hart on his own from 1904 to at least 1911. He is listed as 'miller (wind & steam)' in Kelly's Directory, 1908.

In January 1904, Sarah Cremer and Frederick Charles Myhill jointly sold the property to William Spurgeon of 9 Mill Close, Lakenham for £225. The 'house, barn, stable, outbuildings, Windmill, machinery, fixtures and gears' are all part of the sale and given as 'in the occupation of Henry Hart'.

One of the Bobbin family of Swardeston with a fine horse - and the Tower Mill in the background
One of the Bobbin family of Swardeston with a fine horse - and the Tower Mill in the background

In November 1911, William Spurgeon sold the property - still occupied by Henry Hart - to Alfred Thompson, owner fo the other Mulbarton windmill by the Common. Alfred Thompson, seems to have worked both mills for a time. In October 1922 he sold it to Mrs. H. Carver, who seems to have been more interested in the house and land than the mill, which was almost certainly out of use. It was derelict by 1926, and gets little mention when Mr. H H Carver sold the house and land:

MULBARTON (About 4½ miles from Norwich)

Particulars and Conditions of Sale of the very pleasantly and conveniently situated Freehold Small Occupation known as "The Mill House" Mulbarton, fronting the main road from Norwich to New Buckenham, comprising Comfortable Dwelling-House and Gardens, Agricultural Premises, Arable Land, Orchard and Windmill, total area 0a. 3r. 19p., as in the occupation of the Owner, who will give vacant possession on completion which S. MEALING MILLS & CO. Are instructed by Mr. H. H. CARVER, who is giving up housekeeping, to Sell by Auction, At the ROYAL HOTEL, NORWICH, On Tuesday, 18th May, 1926, At 7 p.m. precisely, IN ONE LOT.

....The property, which is approached by a private roadway....comprises: A brick, cement faced and in small part clay lump and tiled DWELLING HOUSE containing....Entrance Hall..... Dining Room.... Sitting Room.... Kitchen.... Back staircase.... Four Bedrooms.... Dressing Room. Outside - Large Garden.... Greenhouse.... Washhouse with copper.... Barn and stabling.... Cart shed.... Piggeries.... An enclosure of Arable Land.... Orchard..... BRICK WINDMILL....

The sale was completed in June 1926, when the property passed to H E Philpot, when the mill still had its fantail and four sails without shutters. It was sold again in June 1934 to J V A Long; in May 1936 to Mrs. M A D H L Fisher-Rowe; in December 1944 to W M Jewson. Mr. Jewson died, and the house and land was bought from his executors by the present owners in May 1952.

Tower Mill in 2004
Tower Mill in 2004