Antingham Bone Mill - Lower
River Ant /
North Walsham & Dilham Canal


c.1920
c.1920


Antingham unsually had two watermills within a couple of hundred yards of each other - Antingham Lower and Antingham Upper. Both were bone mills and were under the same ownership.


c.1946
c.1946

The lower and larger mill was built on the canal that opened in 1826. The mill was built of brick with a slate roof, it was 65 yards long and two storeys high.

Bones were brought in from local butchers, slaughterhouses, knacker's yards and travelling traders and the local rag and bone man also traded there. The bones were crushed along with phosphates from ocean islands that arrived in the form of ships' ballast, which was then transported by rail to North Walsham station or by wherry up the canal. The resulting fertilizing compounds were then sold to Fisons. A staithe was built nearby as the canal terminated here in a basin 80 feet wide and 150 feet long. This section of the canal remained navigable until 1893 when Swafield staithe became the terminus. The mills ceased operation around 1935-1936 and the buildings were demolished in 1958.


1946
1946


I set off to the mill that grinds bones with a cart full.
Wednesday 18th May 1842 - Larry Banville - The Banville Diaries


October 1967
The mill site October 1967

The census of 1861 records John Hall of Bradfield as being a bone miller but by the census of 1871 he had changed jobs and was recorded as an agricultural labourer.



Men were busy in the mills from January until the end of May, sometimes working until midnight. They then maintained the mill and went on to work on local farms.

Antingham_Upper mill was connected to the main canal by a short waterway allowing a small fleet of boats to be used to transport goods between the two mills until the channel was filled in c.1905.



According to one Michael Dixon, whose father knew the mill between 1913 and 1915, the mill at that time was a single brick building with a leanto extension. There was an office within the main building and the leanto housed a portable coal fired engine that used its own chimney rather than a brick built one.

Mr. Dixon maintained that at that time the function of the building was to act as a reception point for incoming wherries bringing coal and taking away corn. James Swann was employed there along with another man possibly by the name of Howard and they filled in their spare time between the infrequent wherries with bone crushing. He also maintained that the mill was on a cut leading off the River Ant and that the mill was never driven by water and always by an engine. At the end off the cut was a cement sided turning area for the wherries.
This account seems at odds with some of the other evidence including that of the map below. There was certainly an axle carrying a waterwheel and the cross tailed gudgeon bearing end is shown in a photo below. However, it is probable that water power was never used after the cut to Antingham_Upper mill was filled in as it was the channel that
brought the water supply from Antingham pond that would have powered the mill.



O.S. Map 1888 - 1890
O.S. Map 1888 - 1890
Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey

In the early days the mill was water driven but in later years a Crossley gas engine was used that was fired by anthracite and coke, some of which was apparently made on the premises. James Swan was the last foreman engineer in charge and he had been preceded by a Mr. Mobbs. A Mr. Dunning was another of the four or five workers at the time and a Mr. Hurn drove a lorry for the mill during the war.


Wheel arch c.1979
Wheel arch c.1979

Vitrol was carted from North Walsham station to the mill where there was large tank and a monkey was used to mix up the artificial manure.


12th Jan 2003
Part of the mill site 12th January 2003

The North Walsham & Dilham Canal

This was the only official canal in Norfolk and was really the canalisation of the River Ant. It was made wider than most other canals in order to accommodate Norfolk wherries. The main cargoes were offal to the two Antingham Bone mills with return loads of fertiliser. Corn and flour moved in and out of Bacton_Wood and Swafield mills with other commodities such as timber, farm produce and coal making up the majority of the remainder of trade. It was hoped that coal would be the mainstay cargo but this never materialised. The canal was just over 8¾ miles long, ran from Smallburgh to Antingham and contained 6 locks: Honing, Briggate mill, Ebridge mill, Bacton Wood mill, Swafield lower and Swafield Upper.

1812: Act of Parliament passed authorising construction of the canal

29th August 1826: Canal opened to Antingham having cost £32,000 to build

1885: Ailing canal sold for £600 but the company's London solicitor absconded with the money

1886: Scheme introduced to encourage tourist traffic

c.1893: Antingham - Swafield section abandoned because of lack of traffic

1934: The wherry Ella, sailed from Bacton Wood Staithe for the last time

2003: Canal navigable for the first 2 miles as far as Honing Lock


Wheel gudgeon - axle end c.1979 Wheel gudgeon - axle end 10th August 2003
Wheel gudgeon - axle end c.1979
Wheel gudgeon - axle end 10th August 2003

30Jun2004 alt
Antingham Lower site in foreground and Antingham Upper
at the foot of the pond 30th June 2004
Antingham Lower site after sinking of new North Sea gas main
30th June 2004

O.S. Map 2005
O.S. Map 2005
Image reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey


29th August 1826: Canal opened to Antingham

White's 1836: Benson Smith, bone crusher

White's 1845: James Allison, bone crusher (Antingham)

White's 1845: John Allison, bone crusher (Bradfield)

Census 1861: John Hall (45) b.Thurgarton, bone miller (employee)
Mary Hall (43) b.Antingham
Charlotte Hall (21) b.North Walsham
William Hall (15) b.Bradfield, agricultural labourer
Rosetta Hall (12) b.Bradfield
Thomas C. Hall (10) b.Bradfield, agricultural labourer
Jane Hall (7) b.Bradfield
Edward Hall (2) b.Bradfield

Robert Silvey (23) b.Knapton, bone miller (employee)

Henry Smith (62) widower b.Middleton, Lancashire, land agent and bone crusher
Gertrude Smith (24) daughter b.Gunton, farmer of 393 acres
Agnes H. Smith (18) daughter b.Gunton

Census 1871: William Gibbons (33) b.Coleby, bone miller (employee)
Hannah Gibbons (27) b.St Faiths
Alfred Gibbons (6) b.Catton
Samuel Gibbons (3) b.Bradfield
Agnes Gibbons (1) b.Bradfield

Kelly's 1879:
James Horsfield, farmer, bone crusher & artificial manure manufacturer, Antingham & North Walsingham bone mills

White's 1883:
Edward Darby Horsfield, artificial manure manufacturer, bone crusher, guano and salt merchant and farmer. The Hall; Antingham Bone Mills and North Walsham

Census 1891:

John Mobbs (54) b.Wingfield, foreman at bone mills
Emma Mobbs (42) b.Ha*land, Herts
Harry Mobbs (6) b.Suffolk, labourer in bone mills
Frederick Mobbs (19) b.Saxtead, Suffolk, harness maker
William Mobbs (18) b.Ha*land, Herts, jeweller's assistant
John Mobbs (9) b.Fritton, Suffolk, scholar
Rachel Mobbs (7) b.Bradfield , scholar

Robert Mobbs (5) b.Bradfield, scholar
Charlie Mobbs (1) b.Bradfield

Kelly's 1892: Mrs Charlotte Horsfield, bone crusher

Kelly's 1896: Edward Darby Horsfield, farmer, bone crusher and artificial manure manufacturer

By this time Edward Darby Horsfield was living in Antingham Hall

Kelly's 1900: Edward Darby Horsfield, bone crusher

Census 1901:

John Mobbs (64) b.Wingfield, foreman at bone mills
Emma Mobbs (52) b.Ha*land, Herts
Robert Mobbs (5) b.Bradfield, grocer apprentice
Charles Mobbs (11) b.Bradfield


Kelly's 1904:

Edward Darby Horsfield, farmer, bone crusher and artificial manure manufacturer Antingham bone mills; & at Bradfield


Kelly's 1912:

Edward Darby Horsfield, farmer, bone crusher and artificial manure manufacturer Antingham bone mills; & at Bradfield

Kelly's 1922: Edward Darby Horsfield, bone crusher

Kelly's 1922: Edward Darby Horsfield, manure manufacturer


Kelly's 1922: Edward Darby Horsfield, manure manufacturer

c.1935-1936: Mill closed

Kelly's 1937: Edward Darby Horsfield, manure manufacturer


RAF aerial photo 1946: Mill complex clearly visible

1958: Mill demolished



If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 01263 713658 or

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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004