Blickling Mill
River Bure



c.1910
c.1910

Blickling Mill belonged to the Blickling Estate, which in 2007 is owned by the National Trust. The north west chimney in the mill house is inscribed IS 1779. This would have been James Savory and it could well also be the date the mill was rebuilt for the final time. The house was extended in the 1820s, possibly coinciding with the accession of John Savory to the family Business in 1827. The house was extended again in 1860.

When rebuilt, the mill was 3 storeys high, consisting of two weather boarded storeys over a brick ground floor base with a roof of Norfolk pantiles. Two lucums were set into the roof. The two upper storeys were removed c.1930 after the building had become derelict and dangerous. In 2004 the building consisted of red brick, weatherboard and a corrugated iron roof.


26th October 2002
26th October 2002

Records show that in the late 1700s Blickling watermill was worked in conjunction with Oulton_postmill, almost certainly by James Savory. Oulton_postmill stood on the common land just on the Oulton side of the parish boundary with Itteringham and was built c.1780. All three mills are shown on Faden's map of 1797.


Blickling Mill 1559

A document in The National Archives at Kew shows that Blickling mill burnt down at some time before the summer of 1559 - the first year of Queen Elizabeth’s long reign. The fire may even have been that year - a mill was an important and valuable resource which would not have been left in disrepair for long. That summer it was rebuilt, apparently from the ground up, by Sir James Boleyn, then lord of Blickling manor and resident in the old Blickling Hall. To do work on the new mill foundations, the course of the river had to be diverted away from the mill temporarily. This was achieved by digging out the silted up old course of the river.

The document makes clear that ‘in old times’ the river Bure had been the parish boundary between Itteringham and Blickling all the way along the stretch upstream from the mill until the sharp turn at its closest point to the back entrance now to Blickling Woods. Nowadays though, a part of Blickling parish appears to lie on the Itteringham side of the river, bounded by what seems to be merely a drainage ditch. That ditch had been the river; diverted probably in early medieval times to its new course to create a stronger flow and more continuous supply of water through the mill. The old river course could be used as a run-off route at times of flood.

Perhaps when diverting the stream, they had wanted to create a large mill pool or dam all on Blickling manor lands. More practically, the lie of the land lent itself best to a long thin and deep dam gaining some height relative to the position of the wheel rather than an enlargement of the original river itself. This would have achieved greater water force through the wheel. Perhaps also, wanting to build a much larger mill, they needed to set it on firmer and slightly drier ground just a short distance away from the original course of the river. The mill does sit just at the end of a long section of meadows naturally set above even the winter water levels. Downstream the land on either bank is very low and boggy. No better site for a mill could be envisaged along this long stretch of the river.

The two water courses and meadow in between can be seen clearly on the 1823 enclosure map. The extract from the Itteringham map held at the Norfolk Record Office shows White House Farm at top left and the back entrance to Blickling woods just off the map bottom left. The red line (original to the 1823 map) marks the parish boundary where it differs from the winding course of the river. The mill pool or dam is straight, long and wide. The 1881 Ordnance Survey map, available online from www.old-maps.com, also shows the mill pool, but the old river course simply looks like a field boundary. The red line on the enclosure map really helps us to understand what had happened.

Enclosure Map 1823
Enclosure Map 1823

On the ground one can see why the new river course was chosen. The meadows on the Blickling side of the river are noticeably higher than the land on the Itteringham side. The straight mill dam was created simply by building a long bank on that side, relying on the natural lie of the land on the Blickling side to contain sufficient volume of water. Although the dam has been narrowed by the growth of reeds, the high northern bank is still visible and intact.


Looking Towards the Mill
Looking towards the Mill along the Narrowed Dam with the Overgrown High Bank on the left

The bank is particularly noticeable at the bend where the dam diverges from the old course of the river. Today the old river course still just about flows along its again overgrown and silted ditch.

Cutting Off the Old River Course
The River Bure looking North at the Bank Cutting off the Old River Course

As a parting note, it is interesting to see on the enclosure map that the whole loop of the nearby oxbow was taken as the parish boundary, with the land within it being in Blickling parish. This implies that this was a very ancient loop in the river, predating the emergence of parish boundaries perhaps in late Anglo-Saxon times. It could not have been a medieval or later creation, even if then it was used as a fish trap. Today one can walk along the Blickling bank of the complete oxbow. Silted up ditches at either end show some evidence that there had at one time been a ditch across the neck of the bow enabling a fish trap there.
William Vaughan-Lewis - October 2007

Copyright © William Vaughan-Lewis 2007

Ayton & Bell marriages
Ayton & Bell marriages

Headrace March 1967 Headrace 6th November 2002
Headrace March 1967
Headrace 6th November 2002

Unusually, the two sluices are housed in leanto section at the back of the mill that was probably a late addition to protect the sluice operator and the sluice gates from the elements. One gable end is of brick but the majority of the structure is dark stained weatherboard with a corrugated iron roof. The sluice system itself is fairly basic and of an early design that would have allowed for repairs and maintenance by estate workers.


Remaining waterwheel paddles 6 November 2002 Waterwheel 6 November 2002
Remaining waterwheel paddles 6 November 2002
Waterwheel 6 November 2002

Wheelrace 6 November 2002 Pitwheel 6 November 2002
Wheelrace 6 November 2002
Pitwheel 6 November 2002

After milling production ceased in about 1914, the wheel axle was direct connected via flywheel pit to a three cylinder horizontal water pump that was used to pump water for cattle troughs in Blickling Park and this possibly continued until the 1950s when the pump was given away for scrap. The pump was housed in a weather boarded leanto shed built against the wheel house gable end. After pumping ceased the shed was used as a garage for a time before being demolished due to being unsafe. One of the mill stones was later found in poor condition in the garden of Mill Farm.


By 1977 the lower paddles of the waterwheel had been removed in order to facilitate the flow of the river and prevent blockages in times of flood. The wheel had six cast iron bolted spokes on a wooden axle. The pit wheel remained intact and one of the stone nuts was partially buried in the floor. The building was not in a very safe condition and was being used as a junk store.


In 1979 the Anglian Water Authority put forward a propsal for a water gauging station that would have involved reconstrucion of the rear of the mill and the removal of the old sluice gear. Although plans were drawn up, it appears the project was eventually abandoned.

By 2002 very little has changed except the building had been made safe.


18th April 2007 30th June 2004
18th April 2007
30th June 2004

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

1559: Mill destroyed by fire but rebuilt in the same year

1779: James Savory

1797: James Savory, also Oulton postmill

1827: John Savory

Pigot's 1830: Frederick Copeman, miller also Itteringham Mill

White's 1845: Frederick Copeman, corn miller also Itteringham Mill

Census 1851: Isriel Heymer (25) journeyman miller

1855: Frederick Copeman, miller

Kelly's 1858: Frederick Copeman, merchant & farmer also Aylsham & Itteringham Mill

White's 1864: Benjamin Cook, corn miller & merchant

Itteringham Parish Register 28th June 1879: James Ayton aged 35 single of Blickling, miller
married
Mary Bell aged 35 single of Itteringham

Census 1881: Benjamin Cook (44) b. St. Faith's unmarried, miller, merchant & farmer employing 10 men,
2 boys and 5 men and 2 boys
Sarah Glisters (56) servant, widow b. Itteringham, housekeeper
Alice Ray (15) servant b, Burnham Deepdale
Address: Mill Farm, Blickling

James Ayton (36) b. Blickling, miller
Mary Ayton (37) b. Itteringham
Address: Woodgate

Charles Frostick (29) b. Lammas, miller
Phebe Frostick (34) b. Itteringham;
Walter Frostick (3) b. Blickling
Frederick Frostick (2) b. Blickling
Addres: Woodgate

Kelly's 1883: Benjamin Cook, also Itteringham Mill

Kelly's 1896: Walter Bell, miller (water) & farmer

Kelly's 1900: Walter Bell, miller (water) & farmer

Kelly's 1904: Walter Bell, miller (water) & farmer

c.1912: Mill ceased production

Kelly's 1912: James Nelson Edwards, farmer, Mill Farm

c.1930: Upper two weatherboarded storeys removed

1979: Anglian Water Authority proposed a water gauging station but it was not built

2004: National Trust holiday cottage and junk store


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

Nat Grid Ref TG1632 3040
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004