Briggate Mill
River Ant /
North Walsham & Dilham Canal

A wherry in front of the mill c.1912
A wherry in front of the mill c.1912

Briggate watermill was actually at Worstead and some knew it as Worstead Mill. The name Briggate appears to have come about via the Norfolk pronunciation of Bridgegate. The last version of the mill was three storeys high and originally consisted of weatherboarding set onto the wooden frame that was in turn built into the brick base of the ground floor. Sadly, the deteriorating weatherboarding was replaced by grey painted corrugated iron cladding. The foundations, however, were from an older era. There were three lucums, one of which was set over the water to take advantage of wherry transport. An eight foot six inches head of water (advertised as nine feet in 1793) drove a breastshot wheel that was 14 feet in diameter and 6 feet wide.
In 1793 the mill was advertised as grinding 100 quarters of wheat per week.

The site was quite large and the mill once employed 12 people but at the time of closure in 1969 there was only one employee left. The current owners Cubitt & Walker, then moved the milling activities to Ebridge.


Painting of mill c.1926
Painting of mill c.1926

Rear of mill c.1926
Rear of mill c.1926

Briggate watermill was worked in conjunction with two windmills - first with Worstead Old Mill, which was also known as Briggate postmill then later with Cubitt & Walker's Briggate towermill at Bengate.

To be Sold (21 June only:- By Order of the Court of Chancery) by Auction. Peretemporily
At the Kings Head, Norwich on Saturday 28 June instant between the hours of 12 & 2 o'c.

The unexpired Term of all those Water Corn Mills etc. Also a Capital Tower_WINDMILL situate within 200 yards of the Water Mill, with a capital Mansion house to each mill, coachhouses, stables, granaries ... The windmill is substantial and strong built, has six regular floors, supposed to be as large as any Mill in the Kingdom, capable of manufacturing 80 quarters of wheat weekly the year through.
The above premises are contiguous to each other and is well known to be the most eligibly situated in the County for the buying and delivery of corn.
N.B. The Purchaser may have have immediate possession and further particulars may be had of Mr. John Houchen of Wereham, Norfolk, Mr. Daniel Bloom, Trowse, Norwich or Mr. Wm. Dearn, Attorney at Law, North Walsham, Norfolk and at the place of sale.

Norfolk Chronicle - 14th & 21st June 1794

To be Sold
All those valuable CORNMILLS, Granaries, Stables and other convenient Buildings, with some land and an exceeding good Dwelling house, situate in Worstead, the finest part of the county of Norfolk for Wheat, distant two miles from Northwalsham, a market town and within two miles of a navigable river to Yarmouth.
Possession may be had at Midsummer next.
Enquire of Mr. Daniel Bloom at Trowse or Mr. Wm. Forster at the Dukes Palace Yard, Norwich.
N.B. If not Sold, they will be Let.

Norfolk Chronicle - 14th March 1795

Mill dam c.1920 Mill dam clearance under way 12th October 2008
Mill dam c.1920
Mill dam clearance under way 12th October 2008

1928 15th April 1983
Wherries on the canal at Briggate in 1928
15th April 1983

Violet Brakenbury near the mill dam c.1932
Violet Brakenbury near the mill dam c.1932

1938 - 1942
1938 - 1942

Mill site 1959

c.1950 1967
April 1967 with corrugated iron cladding


Briggate Water Mill burnt down
Norfolk News - 21st May 1870

Briggate lock 1928 Briggate lock April 1967
Briggate lock 1928
Briggate lock April 1967

Briggate lock 6th April 2003 Briggate lock gates and bridge April 2003
Briggate lock 6th April 2003
Briggate lock gates and bridge April 2003

Briggate lock 12th October 2008
Briggate lock 12th October 2008


Take notice. Ten Pounds Reward. Whereas some rascallion or monster of vice or more than one of the accursed race of Cain, did a short time since, steal from my premises a very handsome and well bred cockerel, also a number of hens of the same valuable stock and in excellent condition for the knife. Again on Friday night or Saturday morning, the 19th of June 1830, one or more of the fiends of Hell or enemies of our peace, forcibly entered my mill and stole therefrom a quantity of flour in two sacks marked with my name.
If anyone should be so fortunate as to apprehend the villain or villains, so as he or they shall be justly expelled by our good laws from his happy isle, where such are not worthy to exist, to some uninhabited or desolate wilderness where it never will be possible for such to propagate their abhorrent progeny and consequently must weary out their wretched lives without further injuring their fellow mortals, but it is hoped in sincere penitence. The above reward will be given by John Balls, Worstead Mill.
Statement issued by John Balls in June 1830

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

July 1826: Canal opened 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

Loading in April 1967
Billy Baird passing sacks out of the mill in April 1967

Inhabitants of White Horse Street

The North Walsham & Dilham Canal opened in 1826 and was one of the main traffic routes used to bring goods to and from the mill. By 1890 the navigation was in a poor state although it was still possible to reach Antingham Basin. In that same year P. A. Emerson wrote of his voyage "On English Lakes" describing locks in a disgraceful condition, shallow water and excessive weed. When describing Antingham he wrote: "All around there were signs of decaying trade. A deserted granary with rotting doors and rusted hinges, a decaying landing-stage and desolate roads..." Navigation ceased completely in 1935.

John Roper, lived in a cottage in Whitehorse Lane, Lyngate.

Grandfather Roper had worked all his life at Briggate Mill, he was a roller man, more like a snowman! Grandma used to meet him from the mill at lunchtime. He came home from work covered in flour and had to be dusted down and wash in a bowl of water outside the back door before he was allowed to enter the house! Any water needed in the house had to be pumped up in buckets as there were no taps in those days. Working at the mill was hard work and it had it's fair share of nastiness, like the time a rat ran up his trouser leg and he only just managed to stop it and kill it before I don't know what could have happened!

There was a fire at the mill, someone set light to it so there is very little standing now of that once busy and important building. There were lorries running up to it all day, you could hardly get near it. The waterways were always busy, a far cry from what is left today in a sleepy corner of rural Norfolk.

Old Lew Roper

Wherries were close to the hearts of that side of Grandmas family because her great grandfather, Old Lew Roper, had been a wherryman. He was one of a fleet of fourteen moored on the Barton Broad belonging to Hewitts of Wayford Bridge. He sailed on his wherry every Monday from Yarmouth Docks arriving home on Saturday with a load of corn for Briggate and Ebridge Mills.

He would have to take with him a week's supply of food, this meant he left very little in his larder for his wife and eight children. Grandma's grandfather used to go with him in the school holidays. He remembered pork and butter being kept in corner of the tiny cabin of the wherry which used to get "pretty strong" by the end of the week. In another corner was the stove and a large iron saucepan in which all the cooking was done, always kept scrupulously clean.

Old Lew live in a pair of cottages at Meeting Hill, about a mile from Briggate. The children slept four in a bed and her grandfather remembered lying there in winter looking up at bare tiles with the frost glistening white in their edges.

Great Grandmother would make two stone of flour into bread each week and they only ever had skim milk. Sometimes a kindly farmer would give them the runt pig from a litter, which they would carefully nurture in a corner of the garden. This must have been a great comfort in the long winters, when there was often no work for thirteen weeks as the rivers froze up.

Sunday was spent mainly at the Baptist chapel at Meeting Hill starting with Sunday school at 9a.m. Since the boys had no Sunday boots they had to laboriously polish their weekday pair with the aid of a rabbits foot and plenty of rubbing.

Old Lew was a hard husband and father, he was very strong and he worked hard. He met his death like several wherrymen, coming on board one pitch dark night at Yarmouth, he slipped off the gang plank and was sucked under the wherry by the tide. This was in 1888 when my grandfather was twenty and most of the children still at school. All his widow had to feed and clothe them was two shillings and sixpence per week and a store of flour from the relieving office.

Of Old Lew's brothers, John kept the shop at Meeting Hill, he was also a wherryman. George survived to enjoy a peaceful old age in the almshouses at Meeting Hill. His favourite story was of a couple living in a lovely cottage on the river bank.

One wild winter night the wife was in labour while her husband lay calmly sleeping. She woke him to say that a baby was born and she was fine. He went off to sleep till she woke him again with the same message. Then when a third baby arrived he finally woke up properly saying "I'd better get up afore you have any more of them!"
Brenda Thorpe née Brenda Watts, daughter of Stanley Watts

Approach to the mill 1969 1969
Approach to the mill 1969

In 1890 a steam roller mill was installed and used for many years before being replaced by electricity.
A new granary was also built c.1890 to replace one destroyed by fire in that same year.

The waterwheel had been removed by 1955.

In the summer of 1890 the granary was destroyed by fire.
On that occasion, the fire started on a Friday night and burned until the Sunday afternoon, causing £4,000 worth of damage.
Fighting the blaze was such thirsty work for the fire fighters that 59 gallons of beer were drunk and further supplies had to be rushed from Norwich to the nearby White Horse public-house, long since closed for business.
Re-reported in The Journal - 14th January 1977

Briggate Mill - a 220 year institution

As far as it can be ascertained, there has been a mill at Briggate for at least 200 years. White’s Directory of Norfolk, dated 1845, makes mention of a mill and wharf at Bridgegate in the parish of Worstead. Bridgegate or Briggate as it is now called, is one of a number of hamlets which make up the village of Worstead – a place with important associations with the weaving trade. Although the weaving has long since departed from the village, the name “worstead” is still used to describe good woollen cloth.
My own recollections of the mill go back to the period before the 1914-18 war. It was a very imposing building, with a wide frontage to the road. On the further side of this road was the mill pool – a placid sheet of water, which was sufficiently large to permit the easy turn-round of wherries. When the water in the canal was at a high level it could (by opening a sluice) be drawn through a culvert under the road and turn a water wheel which supplied the driving power for the mill.
The entire installation consisted of two main buildings. The larger was of wooden frame construction, covered externally with sheets of corrugated iron. This was the flour milling section. The other building was of brick - a few yards from the flour mill and at right angles to it. It was originally used as a granary, but after suitable machinery had been installed in 1903, it became a grist mill. Up to that time, grist milling had been carried out by a windmill about half a mile away. This mill was shorn of its sails in a severe gale and after standing in a derelict condition for several years, was eventually converted into a dwelling house. In the space between the two mills was housed a steam engine and boilers. In addition there were a few outbuildings – stables, cart sheds and a foreman’s office.
Grinding was originally carried out by the old fashioned method of crushing the grain between millstones. Roller grinding was introduced in the 1890s, about the same time that the mill was wired for electricity. Apart from Norwich, there were very few electrical installations in any part of Norfolk at this time.
A generator was supplied by Crompton Parkinson, which was driven by the water wheel or the steam engine at times of low water supply. The electricity was solely for lighting.
The mill employees were a team of specialists each one carrying out an essential task in the conversion of wheat into flour or oats and barley into animal foods. The engine driver was Mr. Scott. His domain was the boiler house and the engine room. On cold, wintry days when the mill pool was coated in ice and the muddy ruts in the roadways frozen into ankle twisting ridges, the boiler house was a very desirable place. In contrast to the frigid conditions outside, the space was filled with comforting warmth. When the furnace door was opened for refuelling, great waves of almost unbearable heat emerged until the door was safely shut once more.
Sometimes we would be permitted to ascend the short iron stairway to the engine room. The engine was Mr. Scott’s pride and joy. The paint and brass work gleamed from almost constant polishing. The enormous pistons and connecting rods rotated the huge flywheel, which had a number of grooves in its circumference. About 8 wire ropes were fed through holes in the wall and fitted snugly into the grooves on the flywheel. This operated the mill’s machinery and although the engine worked almost silently a mechanical hum could be heard through the dividing wall.
Quite a lot of the mill’s basic materials arrived by water. Wherries would often be moored at the edge of the millpool, and the wherryman would have a strenuous time loading or unloading his cargo. Local farmers would take their grain to the mill in sacks carried in horse drawn wagons. From the topmost storey of the mill a box-like structure projected over the roadway. In the centre of the floor was a double trapdoor whose doors would only open in an upwards direction. There was a gap between the doors which was wide enough for a fine linked chain to pass through. The wagon would be positioned below the trap doors and the chain (which was silvery bright through constant use) would be lowered. The carter would loop it round a sack which would be drawn upwards through the which would fall back into position with a crash. This process would be repeated until the wagon was emptied. Employment at the mill was almost a family tradition. Father and son names occurred frequently. Brackenbury, Dowe, Fisher, Plummer, Roper, Scott and Willis. I remember very vividly, old ‘lisha Smith. He spent his days in an upstairs room, which was reached by climbing a ladder. The grime encrusted windows excluded most of the daylight and ‘lisher’s job was – mending sacks. His tools were a huge ball of string and an enormous needle, with an eye so big that even his gnarled old hands could thread it. He managed to execute surprisingly neat darns.
After the last war, when electricity from the mains became available to quite remote localities, Briggate mill was converted to all electric working. The engine room boiler house and boiler chimney were dismantled, but already there were disquieting signs that it might not be possible to operate the mill for very much longer as a profitable concern. Wherries had vanished into oblivion and farm wagons no longer arrived at the mill loaded with grain. Motorised road transport made it possible to carry out flour milling in other mills at a much cheaper rate, so eventually all production came to an end. Several suggestions were made regarding it’s future use but no definite decisions were reached.
One night in August 1975, all the arguments and discussions were settled, when the wailing of fire engine sirens announced that an institution which had been in existence for more than two centuries had ended in flames. Once before, the mill had been destroyed by fire but it arose again from the ashes. This time it is unlikely to happen a second time.

R. J. Roper - 1977

Report on Lew Roper's death
Eastern Daily Press - Tuesday 10th January 1888

The steam chimney 1918
Steam chimney repairs 1918

In 1918 a German Zepplin came over the mill in trouble and to reduce weight, dropped its load of bombs, some of which landed in the meadow at the rear of the Mill. The explosion shook the ground and as the whole area is on peat, transmitted the shake to the Mill. This put the chimney out of plumb. The workmen in the photo are knocking out every other brick on three sides of the chimney. Wedges were then knocked in until the chimney came upright again and the whole bricked back up!  A simply solution eh?
Chris Walker (Cubitt & Walker Ltd) - 22nd November 2006

October 1972
October 1972

Six appliances were sent to Briggate Mill, near North Walsham, late last night. The disused mill was well alight when firemen arrived with Assistant Divisional Officer Cummings in charge. The three storey building was badly damaged.
Eastern Daily Press - 8th August 1975

... Mr. William Partridge Cubitt and Mr. George Walker, then co-partners in the business bought it with about four acres of land from Mr. Thomas Balls, who was living at North Walsham at the time after moving from Worstead, in 1871 for £500. It is understood the property, no longer operational as a mill, was bought by Mr. P. D. Taylor, who was living at Dilham. Then, in July 1972, Mr. J. P. Browne, of Sheriff house, Beech Road Wroxham, in a letter published in the Eastern Daily Press, wrote that he had recently bought the property and surrounding four acres with the intention of ensuring it’s survival by adaptation to changing circumstances as at Buxton Lammas”
The Journal - 14th January 1977

Briggate Mill Planning Issues of 1972 - 1975

On 2nd March 1973 a report was published in The Journal, a local newspaper regarding the future of Briggate Mill.
The report was prior to the results of an inquiry by a planning inspector from the Secretary of State for the Environment.
In 1972, Norfolk’s County Planning officer recommended that the plans to convert the ruined mill into homes be approved. Smallburgh Rural District Council were in agreement. At the time the plans caused controversy locally and amongst members of the Smallburgh R.D.C. The R.D.C. committee councillors then changed their minds, rejecting the plans by a majority of 9 - 8 votes.
Mr. J. P. Browne from Wroxham had bought the property and the four acres surrounding it with the intention of “… ensuring it’s survival by adaptation to changing circumstances as at Buxton Lammas”. Plans had been prepared by a local architect with experience of restoration and conversion of old water mills. These plans were to convert the mill, which abutted the narrow road between Worstead and Honing, into three town houses and the large detached three-floored granary into a block of six flats. It was planned to use the existing walls of the lower part of the mill as the ‘casing’ of the town houses. After submitting the plans he proceeded to demolish the timber and corrugated iron cladding upper parts of the building. The work stopped when the R.D.C rejected the plans.
According to Mr. Charles Addison, a county councillor and a Worstead representative on the R.D.C, Mr. Browne started the demolition because he was told by planning officials that they would recommend the approval of his application. Mr. Addison, who was amongst those who opposed the redevelopment, also said that as it was registered as industrial site, he would like Mr. Browne to consider the building for a warehouse.
Several concerns were voiced about the development being well outside the village development area. The chairman of the Worstead parish council, Mr. Bernard Amies explained to the newspaper that as the buildings were on very low lying land, the disposal of sewerage would be difficult and costly and any attempts to cut costs could expose the village to effluent. Mr. Browne disputed this and showed plans to deal with the highways and sewerage disposal issues. He also intended to restore the overgrown mill pond and retain the mill race to run under one of the houses.
In an interview, Mr. Browne confirmed he lodged an appeal against the R.D.C’s decision. He was confident about a favourable outcome particularly as the County Planning Officer had originally favoured the development of the site. He also made it clear that in the event of the appeal failing then he would leave the site as it was. He had offered to tidy the site but was advised that this would prejudice his appeal.
Further information was revealed surrounding the planning issues of 1973 when on 14th January 1977 a subsequent article was printed in The Journal. This was a result of the reporting of the Briggate Mill Fire Conspiracy Case in which the Mill was burnt in a attempt to defraud the insurance company. At the time of the fire Mr. Browne was no longer the owner of Briggate mill.
It was reported that in 1973, Mr. Addison showed a reporter a copy of a letter referring to subsidence of part of the granary, cracking of parts of walls and piling work carried out several years previously. Mr. Browne said he had a full report on the safety of the granary.
Mr. Brown then appealed against the refusal of planning consent and a local inquiry was held in January 1975. At this hearing, a chartered surveyor said that he  "... was extremely impressed with the plans and that the flats and maisonettes, ranging in price from £11,000 to £16,000 would be an asset to the village."
Eventually, in March 1975 it was announced that Mr. Browne had won his appeal. The inspector had noted that the old Victorian mill had been built mainly for water-borne traffic on the now disused North Walsham-Dilham Canal and now, because of the nature and location of the mill, it seemed that any further commercial or industrial use of the buildings was unlikely. The inspector Mr. K. R. Fennell who conducted the appeal decided "... the buildings were worthy of retention and the proposals provided for a sensitive treatment to retain and enhance their distinctive character’. It was considered that there was a very real possibility of the buildings and site would ‘become derelict and an eyesore which would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the locality if residential use was not permitted."

However, in January 1975, Mr. Browne had sold the Mill to Mr. Michael Howard only for it to be destroyed by fire on 7th August 1975.
Anne Grand - 8th January 2008

The granary 1974
The granary 1974

The Briggate Mill Fire Conspiracy Case

The fire that lit the dark skies of the quiet Norfolk village of Briggate, close to Worstead on the night of the 7th August 1975 culminated in one of the longest running court cases in East Anglia lasting 83 days.
The case became known as the Briggate Mill case, cost around £750,000 involved investigations by the Scotland Yard Serious Crimes Squad, conspiracy, arson and fraud and even had connections with the notorious Kray twins and their elder brother Charlie.
Michael Howard bought Briggate mill in January 1975 for £10,500. Three months later the mill was insured for £175,00 with the Royal Insurance Company. In August of the same year it was burnt down.
Nine people, eight men and one woman stood in the dock at the Norwich Shire hall faced with conspiracy charges in connection with the fire at Briggate Mill.
Mr John Browne of Deopham, near Wymondham had bought Briggate mill in about February 1972 and the four acres of land on which it stood for £6,000. His intention was to convert the three storeys in to six flats. Planning permission was refused and he lodged an appeal. It was during this time he decided to sell the mill. Howard approached Mr. Browne with the view to purchase of Briggate mill. The planning appeal was going well and likely to be allowed. Mr. Browne was under the impression that Howard was interested in turning the mill in to a restaurant. A price of £10,500 was negotiated and agreed. Terence Robinson accompanied Howard during the negotiations.
Mr James Crespi, for the prosecution said that Howard had bought the mill with money given to him by Robinson, Geoffrey Allen’s right-hand man. This money had been paid into Robinson’s bank account with a cheque from Allen himself. Counsel alleged that Howard was a ‘front’ for Allen who had masterminded the whole plan.
On July 3rd, Mr. McGeorge, a director of a timber preservation company, on Howard’s instruction, inspected the mill for signs of beetle infestation. Work was carried out on the mill’s timber during July and ten gallons of a highly inflammable liquid de-infestant were left at Mr Howard’s request for his men to treat some more timbers. Mr McGeorge noticed bundles of straw lying about the mill.
The gangs plan nearly suffered a set back when Robinson and Stace were arrested for an unrelated offence and were due to appear before the Magistrates Court at Clacton on July 29th. At this point Alistair Strachan, a solicitor from Colchester, was hired on behalf of both men. Stace did not appear and the court was told by Strachan that he had injuries due to falling off scaffolding. Strachan asked for an adjournment, which was granted. It was believed that Stace’s role was to start the blaze in the mill so receiving a custodial sentence prior to the intended date of the fire would have serious implications for the gang.
Detectives, who were already watching the men, saw Allen and Terence Stace drive to Wroxham on July 30th, in separate vehicles, meet and get into a van and drive together to Briggate Mill. Waiting for them there was Howard, the mill owner, where it is believed they discussed final arrangements for destroying the mill. Howard left the country with Paul Root on August 2nd for a holiday in Jersey.
Julia Cook, a travel consultant from Ipswich, booked the hotel for Howard and Root. She had dinner at the Doric Restaurant with Robinson who told her “Not to mention the police because it might upset his friends, they are friends of the Kray brothers.” It was here that she met Allen. Unbeknown to Howard and Roots, whilst they were in Jersey they met and talked with a female detective inspector who over heard several subsequent conversations between them.
On August 7th, the day of the fire, Stace and Robinson went to Allen’s Pullham Market home. On August 8th, the day following the fire, Howard, still in Jersey, rang North Walsham Police station to tell the Police sergeant that he’d heard of the damage to the mill and that he was the owner. Mr Crespi, in court, asked “It might be significant to know how Howard heard of the fire in Jersey.”
The Scotland Yard Serious Crimes squad soon became involved. Howard and Root returned from Jersey on August 10 th and were seen talking to Allen in a pub car park on the A140. Counsel said that Howard was heard to say ”I hear everything went well” with Allen alleged to reply, “Like a …….. house on fire.” Howard telephoned Mr Woodhouse, the insurance inspector for the Royal Insurance who had originally seen Briggate mill and after listening to Howard’s plans for flats and possibly a restaurant, drew up the insurance policy. Mr Woodhouse filled in the claim form for the fire from the information supplied by Howard.
Howard asked for a firm of insurance assessors to examine the fire damaged mill. An insurance assessor, William Elmer assessed the fire damaged mill remains and fixed an insurance claim in excess of £150,000.
The men were still under observation and Stace was seen coming out of Allen’s house at Pullham Market and driving to riding stables in Essex owed by Herbert Jarvis where Stace gave Jarvis a package. Jarvis later gave Stace a package back. In court Jarvis, a former insurance assessor, stated that Allen had asked him to "Look at papers" connected with Briggate mill.
The men were arrested in September. In a police statement Jarvis said that Allen had said "I’m in charge of the gang now and we have ways and means of dealing with people." While Allen was speaking he was adjusting a photograph of the Kray brothers.
Stace originally wouldn’t answer questions when interviewed by the police. Mr Crespi told the court that Stace had said to a detective "Do you want me to get my cars knocked off? Allen is not known as the Godfather for nothing you know. He has got some very tasty friends in London."
When Strachan was arrested he was told he was involved because it was he who was responsible for Stace being at liberty at the time the fire was started at Briggate Mill. Strachan is alleged to have replied “I knew they were a bad lot, but I didn’t know they would go to these lengths.” He didn’t know whether Stace was actually injured at the time he’d asked for the adjournment of the case at the magistrate’s court, he only said what Allen had told him to.
At the time of Allen’s arrest in September, the police pointed out his history of fires in properties owned by him. It was alleged during the court proceedings that Allen had found a way to make big profits by burning properties and making inflated insurance claims. He had bought and sold lots of properties in East Anglia over a 20 year period, several of which had been damaged by fire. The most notorious being Shortgrove Hall, near Saffron Walden in Essex. This property was purchased by Allen, and his then wife Marion Knox Tucker, for £47,000 in April 1968, insured for £150,000. The hall was destroyed by fire on June 5th 1968. It was not suggested that Allen started the fire but was involved in a plot to burn it down and claim £150,000 insurance money. The money was never paid.
Geoffrey Allen, described as a property tycoon dubbed ‘The Godfather’ whose name had been linked with the Krays left the court still smiling after being branded a ‘very dangerous criminal’.
Allen was given a seven year concurrent sentence on each charge: conspiring to defraud Royal Insurance of £153,000 with a fire claim for Briggate mill, Worstead, and attempting to defraud the county Fire Office Ltd. of £150,00 by false pretences in respect of a claim for Shortgrove Hall, Essex.
Allen, dubbed 'The Godfather' during the 83 day trial, was told by the judge, Mr Justice MacKenna: "Your villainy has at long last been exposed. The time taken in exposing it, though very long, has been well spent. Your conviction for these serious offences enables me to pass sentences which will give the public a measure of protection against a man I consider to be a very dangerous criminal.”
Mrs Knox-Tucker was found not guilty of the Shortgrove Hall attempted fraud - the only charge against her.
Stace, the man alleged to have set fire to Briggate mill, went to prison for three years after being found guilty of conspiracy to fiddle Royal Insurance.
Two Ipswich men, Michael Howard and Terence Robinson, who was said to be Allen’s right-hand man, were sent to prison for four years for their part in the Briggate mill conspiracy.
A fire assessor, Herbert Jarvis, found guilty with them, was given a 12 month suspended gaol sentence and ordered to pay a total of £7,000 costs.
Acquitted on the conspiracy charge was Paul Christopher Root, a 25 year old company director from Ipswich.
The Journal - Friday 14th January 1977

During the trial, the name Kray had cropped up repeatedly. Allen’s Q.C. Mr William Denny told the jury the name had “Hung like a dark shadow,” over the case. Allen had admitted he was friendly with the Kray twins elder brother Charles and had met the twins, serving sentences for double murder. Allen had planned to bring Charles Kray in to business in East Anglia after Kray was released from prison for being an accessory after one of the murders. That never happened.
Anne Grand - 2nd January 2008

Steam mill 1977 Steam mill 6th April 2003
Granary mill in 1977
Granary 6th April 2003

The canalside section 1974 The canalside section April 2003
The canalside granary mill 1974
The canalside granary April 2003

Tailrace arch 15th April 1983 Wheel arch 15th April 1983
Tailrace arch 15th April 1983
Wheelhouse arch 15th April 1983

Road frontage in 1977 Road frontage 6th Aril 2003
Road frontage in 1977
Road frontage 6th April 2003

Some of the upright wooden posts or columns within the mill were masts from ships that had been wrecked on Happisburgh Sands before being washed up at Bacton and Sea Palling.

I have taken the following from my mothers notes:-
Alfred Brakenbury was a wherryman until there were 3 or 4 children. His wife used to sometimes go in the wherry with him however one time the wherry gibed and swamped on Breydon. Grandmother got ashore at Mutford and got herself home somehow and would not go on the wherry anymore. He then worked for Cubitt and Walker at Briggate Mill for the rest of his working life and lived at the mill house which he owned and had a small shop in the front room.
Father's (Victor Brakenbury) Great Grandfather (John) built a house down the lane at Briggate with about 4 acres and a barn. He used to keep a horse and 2 or 3 cows. He used to be away a lot with the wherry and had a gang working under him and he helped to build the North Walsham and Dilham Canal.
Victor used to trap otters by the mill and Elisha Smith (lived in one of the mill cottages) used to skin and hulk them and they used to be sold to a man who lived at Westwick Hall to feed to his lions.
Elisha Smith used to take the liver. He used to say it was for his ferrets but he always had to have some lard so father thinks now that he cooked it and ate it himself. Father's brother Eddy was groom at Horning Hall and then at Westwick Hall.
Brother Ernest had some chickens across the road at Briggate and one was killed and one wounded. They moved the chickens away and trapped a female otter. Father says that early on morning he was taking the goat down the river and came across an otter and two young on the path. They often saw bream on the bank with their heads bitten off by otters."
" Father says his father (Alfred Brakenbury) bought the property at Briggate Mill for about £60. There were originally 4 cottages.
When father was about 9 they put a new front on it and he can remember barrowing rubble down to make a path to the stream. They had a tilt to shut off their bedrooms from the road whilst the wall was down. He can remember that his mother had barrels for beer making and a ladder and she had a little skep that she put the yeast in(?) They used to make a good drink by putting boiling water and a bottle of Guinness and some yeast to ferment. They used to cart sand from Yarmouth Harbour to Antingham Bone mills."
Tale tells that Victor once saved the life of one of his brothers by diving into the mill pond to save him.
My grandfather - Victor was born in 1897
My great grandfather - Alfred born 1857
My great great Grandfather John  born 1812
My great great great grandfather also John born 1786
Sally Nunn - 6th January

Mill House - 1995
Mill House - 1995

Alfred Brakenbury bought the Mill House in about 1906.
Sally Nunn - 8th January

October 1988 Dredging near the lock 8th May 1993
The old buildings becoming overgrown in October 1988
Dredging near the lock 8th May 1993

On 15th April 1983, plans were discussed that involved redigging the filled in mill dam, rebuilding the remaining structure and opening it as a papermill. The mill wheel or a turbine would be reinstated to generate electricity.

1st January 2007 1st January 2007
Granary from the canal side 1st January 2007
Granary from the road 1st January 2007

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Briggate watermill to the southeast and Briggate towermill to the northwest
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

Mill plans - November 1954

Memories of Briggate Mill
Taken from a conversation between Anne Grand and Michael Willis - 31st January 2008

Michael Willis was born in 1939 at Briggate. He worked full-time at Briggate mill for a few years around 1958/9 but his memories of the mill go back to when he was 3. His Mother worked as a school teacher and Michael was looked after by Hilda Hall (Jo) who would often push him in his pram down to the mill where his father worked and the men at the mill made a fuss of him. As he got older he played there and helped his father Leonard Willis, who was a miller at Briggate, as was his grandfather Charles Willis before him. Before long Michael started working there on Saturdays and whenever his father needed additional help.

Briggate mill
Between the watermill and granary there was a tramway elevated to the 3rd floor of the granary, down to the second floor of the mill. It was covered with corrugated iron. We wheeled 100’s tons of meal down that track.
Between the two mills was an engine room. On the left was Reggie Hales' room, a separate place with different machines including one for cutting the maize. Below it, was the engine room with all the electric motors & switchgear. There was a big petrol engine, I think a Gardner, which used to run the generator if the power was off during the war. Father started up the engine occasionally but it wasn’t used much.
The building to the right of the mill was the workshop, the carpenter's shop and below that, the office. Lorries had to back down past the office to reach the yard, it had a large block set into the corner - the wheels of the lorry would just slide off. That building has gone now.
Behind that is a substation, built for running the mill.
Behind the office was another back room that the Home Guard used. It was also used to charge up the accumulator. Chickens were always kept in the mill garden at the back.

Inside the mill were about 5 large wooden hoppers. There were two grist mills to the left and central areas of the upper floor of the mill and a corn dresser on the right had side of the 3rd floor. The grist mill on the left was a bit bigger and quicker. I worked with that some of the time. There were also 2 hoists inside the mill. The mill was grinding corn, mixing corn or mixing meal. Each of the grist mills had their own electrics. The dresser ran off main shafts. The corn cutter ran off shafts also. The mixers had own push button start they were modern. The hoists all ran from main drive wheels. The dresser was used to clean corn before it was taken down to the middle of mill near the engine room where it was powdered, a pink powder, harvest plus. Everything else was ground up, bagged and barrowed on sack barrows down the trolley way to the granary. When it reached the granary each sack was hooked up and someone hoisted it up to top to the mixers where it was mixed in to poultry and pig food.

Harvest time was the busiest. There were often big queues of lorries at harvest time waiting to unload. It was 12 ton at a time with only 4 or 5 of us
When the corn came in, Father used to look at it, examine it, put his hand in, even bite it to measure how damp it was and to decide which hopper it should go in. If the moisture in the corn was too high and stored in the silo, it would heat up, hang up and rot or maybe cause a fire. It had to be stored in sacks and used quickly.
Some was even turned away. It might come back later but much cheaper - that was the way it was.
Damper corn was ground straight away but after a couple of days, we had to get in the hoppers with a shovel and trim away the corn got stuck around the edges. It was bad on your chests - Bertie Ellis had very bad asthma he used to go down and do it. Father avoided taking damp corn for that reason.
Corn threshed straight from stack was of a much better quality than corn from a combine as it would have had a chance to dry out a bit.
Coombs or sacks of corn were unloaded from the lorries below, hoisted through fulcrums to be emptied into the corn hoppers.
The whole of the bottom granary and the bottom of the mill was used to store corn sacks. Generally coombs of oats weighed 12st, wheat 18st and barley 15st. There was not much oats, mainly wheat and barley and some beans. Beans were really heavy 20st. The heaviest I carried was 23st 9lbs. All stored in bottom of mill - 100s of tons stacked 3 high. Every sack was carried in on our backs!
Briggate mill or Cubitt Walkers, was one of the first mills to have a contract to supply broiler feed, to the then new broiler industry. The mill had one of the mixers set to take a fat spray, a big wet water bath, a big 40 gallon tub of tallow sprayed in at a regulated rate into the bags. This was the first time we used half hundred weight bags, little tiny bags they were, especially after what we’d been used to. The tallow, used to fatten the chickens, was collected in barrels from the Stratford glue factory in London. Maize collected from Ipswich docks was also cut and ground for meal.
At one point we were mixing bone meal in calf food. That was particularly bad as it was so fine you couldn’t see across the room. No masks, no health and safety! Grass meal was also mixed into some feeds. That would make everything green - even if you sneezed.
There were various different mix formulas, which would constantly change - minerals in cattle food and several antibiotics in broiler feed.
Lorries distributed the meal. It was sold directly from the mill to farm, each sack was carried on our backs to a hoist and with only one wooden chute to load the lorries, often the lorries had to wait to be loaded up.
Late 50’s was the peak of business the mill was kept very busy with 12-13 people working at the mill all together.
Grinding for human consumption ended around the 1930’s when the most modern rollers went to Ebridge. Briggate mill then concentrated on animal feed.

Cats, Rats, Fish & Poaching
The mill had lots of cats, that was one of my jobs as a child to feed the cats. One of the cats could jump out of the lucum into the river and swim chasing after the rats, I’ve seen others jump from the lucum to the concrete below, get up and run away. The cats had a hole in the door to get in and out of but they often used to mess on the top of the sacks. George (Cookie) Bullimore used to go absolutely spare if he put his hand on the top of a sack and there was cats mess on it. If he found it, we heard it! One of the nicest old boys there was. He’d been working there from before the war.
When we cleared the corn stored in the granary, once we got down to about 4-5 tons, everybody helped to clear the rest. Hundreds of rats, and that wouldn’t be an understatement, were caught. We used sticks, hands, even a dog was brought in and the cats were standing around waiting, they knew.
When the sack tops were turned down the rats would jump out, they’d nested there as some of the corn had been there from harvest time till the spring.
The rats were in there all the while. Whilst I was there I used to do a lot of the trapping with gin traps. Poison couldn’t be used. The dead rats were just slung away in the river or to the cats. The cats loved it. I’ve also seen a rat thrown into the back river taken by a pike, a huge pike!
My father was a bit of a poacher and at the top of the granary was a window overlooking the fields. He used to have a little .22 rifle.
Sid Blyth used to shout down from the top of the mill to father in the office below, “Thas an ol’ burd down thar on the midder.” Father would take off his glasses, climb up all the mill stairs and get his rifle, put just one bullet in and shot the pheasant across on the marshes. He’d then tell me to go over and collect it. Father also used his .22 rifle to shoot pike in the tail water, big old pike. Some got eaten. Mrs Fisher would eat them, they had to be soaked in salt water for at least 24 hours or they’d taste muddy.
The mill pond, which used to take two wherries, is now completely filled in and grown over, it even has trees on it, but I can remember fishing in mill pond as a boy. I learned to fish as soon as I could hold the rod. Lots of fish - tench, bream, roach and rudd where in the river. The eels we caught we’d keep to eat - a great delicacy!
In about 1954 or 1955, a large area of the water by the mill was covered by dead fish, including huge bream. This was caused by pollution from the North Walsham canning factory. All the fish in the river died. Nobody was ever prosecuted.

Water Wheel & Water Control
Going back to about 1942, the waterwheel was there but I can’t ever remember it turning. Water would run under the wheel but not through it. From inside the bottom of mill you could see the wheel. That piece of building still remains. When the water wheel came out it was taken for scrap
On the other side of road by the water inlet, there was a huge metal handle to wind up the slaker. Father did this regularly and I used to help, to let the water through the tail water to control locks. When the water was high in front of the mill, he’d let the water through.
Father opened the lock doors and filled up the lock to clear a load of old rubbish. There were slakers on either side and he used a ‘chrome’ to pull out debris from where the water goes in. On one occasion there was an old dead cow dead stinking in the water. He’d let the water flow through and flush it out.
During the war, the lock gates were mined. I can remember the army came and fitted a bar across to stop the bottom doors from opening, then slid big tubes of explosives in to the bottom of the gates - and after the war they removed them again.

Although the chimney had gone when I worked there, in those days it was Mr. Scott who was in charge of the steam room - Mr. Scott’s steam engine. No-one went near his engine room, you wouldn’t touch anything in there. My father told me about him, that was when my grandfather was foreman. Him and Mr. Scott used to go for a drink down the pub, the White Horse - you definitely didn’t upset Mr. Scott. The chimney went when it was converted to electricity.
Billy Fuller, a little old man with a white moustache, always covered in dust used to look after the centre grist mill. Whilst waiting for the sacks to fill he used to always look through a 1st floor window fronting on to the road.
Later this same grist mill was looked after by Sid Blyth. It was here Sid Blyth also looked out of the same window, the sill was worn into a curve by his chin (and probably Billy Fuller before him) as he turned his head from side to side watching people pass by, whilst he waited for the corn to go down and fill the sack. When not doing that, Sid Blyth’s job was on the lorry that used to go out to the farms in the Honing, Briggate area to collect the farmers corn, bring it to the mill, grind it and deliver it back out to the same farmers.
Same bag, same corn that was one of Sid Blyth’s’ jobs - did all the farmers' grinding.
There were two women working in the mill during the war. They were supposed to be repairing sacks. Nellie Lindsey from Honing was there all during war and well after. She’d wheel coombs around the mill as well as mending the thick hessian sacks as well as making tea. Ursula Watts and then Queenie Watts mended the sacks. Cookie Bullimore could also make a good drop of tea.

Many employees left to serve in the war but came back especially the lorry drivers. George (Cookie) Bullimore used to drive a lorry, don’t think he’d ever held a licence. Many father and sons, worked there it was very much a family run place.

I worked at Ebridge for a while, it was shift work. I didn’t like it very much. 6 till 2 wasn’t too bad. It was boring just watching the chute, waiting for the bags to fill and tying it up - it didn’t run that quick. The corn goes in and goes through the 1st break, 2nd break, 3rd break, 4th break and comes out as flour. In between you tie up supers, which is the rough offal, bran which is even rougher offal, semolina which was hardly anything and the rest goes as flour to fill 10st bags, which were then tied up.
All the supers and the bran were thrown out on to a lorry that stood there all the time. Roly Belson, who was the foreman there, came up to me and said “You can drive a lorry can’t you, you goin’ Briggate aren’t you, when you knock off at two you can take the ole lorry, put yer bike on top.” I went outside, it was a terrible load as all the sacks were just slung on there. I roped it down as best I could with my bike on the top. I drove the old Ford 4 D series through Corner Common to Briggate, reversed in the yard like all the other drivers, never hit the wall or nothing. My ole chap in the office looked up over his glasses surprised, and said “ What you doin’ driving thar bloody thing? Well - you’d better unload the bloody thing.”
I liked the driving, I’d never driven a lorry on the road before. I’d got a car licence but not a lorry one. I’d driven old lorries on a farm since I was 12 but that wasn’t the same, they were ex army trucks.
That next week Sid Blyth, who usually did the deliveries at Briggate was off sick and as I knew the round, I did the deliveries. I never looked back and from then on became the full-time driver at Briggate.

Charlie Willis (grandfather) - a miller at Briggate, he died towards the end of the war in the 1940’s by then he was in his 80’s
He had three sisters Margaret (Polly), died about 1955 in 80’s / 90’s
Sally (Sarah) who died around the same time at around the same age and Mary all of whom were in service at one time.
There is a Mary Willis recorded on the Census 1851 as:
Mary Willis (19) b. Mautby. House servant, West end Ormesby St Margaret
It is possible that she is the sister Mary but this has not been confirmed.
Leonard Willis (father) born 1901 White Horse Lane, Briggate
Father left school at 12 became a gardener’s boy, not for long before working at the mill for 51 years. He was made redundant just before he was 64 when operations went to Ebridge.
He always used to say “Food was pasteurised, sterilised or buggered up.”

5th April 2007
5th April 2007

It was reported that a new resident, David Turner, moved into the village during the summer of 2007 and susequently allegedly 'land grabbed' the mill and an area on the opposite side of the road that used to be the mill dam. A security fence was then erected around the mill. On 5th January 2008 a digger moved in to start clearing the undergrowth and the mill surrounds, much to the consternation of the local residents.

Security fence surrounding the mil site 5th January 2008 Site clearance in progress 5th January 2008
Security fence surrounding the mill site 5th January 2008
Site clearance in progress 5th January 2008

The canal cut next to mill site was apparently the only known habitat in England of the Black Water Vole and the clearance of the mill site threatened its existance as it was reported that a considerable amount of debris ended up in the canal.

Site clearance around the granary in progress 5th January 2008 Site clearance around the granary in progress 5th January 2008
Site clearance around the granary in progress 5th January 2008

Villagers fear mill ‘land grab'

A disused mill near North Walsham is at the centre of a row which has involved the police, the district council, villagers and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.
Villagers living near Briggate Mill, which has been empty for decades, claim it is about to be “land grabbed” by someone who does not own the site.
Police have been called to the site to investigate claims of damage to the land and North Norfolk District Council has been asked to look into a raft of issues, including high fencing, the presence of a polythene tunnel and if there are any tree-preservation orders on the site.
The damage claims come after a digger was used to clear part of the site at the weekend.
It is not clear who is behind what has been happening and the ownership of the site is uncertain, although villagers believe they know who is responsible.
District councillor Cath Wilkins said: “This is not the first time someone has tried to claim ownership of Briggate Mill but in this case it has gone further than ever before with the damage that occurred to the land at the weekend.
“It is an environmentally sensitive area, with otters, voles and many other species present. People are very upset, something has to be done.”
Mexeena Carlos, who was born and brought up in the tiny hamlet of Briggate, said she and the other villagers were “devastated” at what had happened.
“We are putting together a petition and getting help from as many people as possible.”
Mr. Lamb said he felt his constituents appeared to have legitimate and serious concerns about a “sensitive and valuable site”.

Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday 9th January 2008

Interior of watermill 13th January 2008 Site cleared around remains of watermill 13th January 2008
Interior of watermill 13th January 2008
Site cleared around remains of watermill 13th January 2008

Remains of security fence 13th January 2008 Norman Lamb MP and Cath Wilkins of NNDC - 13th January 2008
Remains of security fence 13th January 2008
Norman Lamb MP and Cath Wilkins of NNDC - 13th January 2008

Site wildlife regeneration 12th October 2008
Site wildlife regeneration 12th October 2008

Planners will probe use for polytunnel

A controversial application to allow a polytunnel to remain on land close to a disused mill has been deferred so planning officers can investigate what it is to be used for.
The tunnel has been put up on land next to Briggate Mill in the small hamlet near North Walsham.
David Turner, whose garden adjoins the site, applied for permission for the tunnel after it was reported by district councillor Cath Wilkins. Having remained empty for decades, villagers living nearby claim the Briggate Mill site is being land-grabbed by someone who does not own it.
In recent months, police have been called to investigate claims of damage to the land and North Norfolk District Council has been asked to look into a raft of issues.
But at a meeting of the district council’s planning committee, legal enforcement officer Roger Howe said none of the controversy over ownership could be taken into consideration. He said: “Issues of land ownership and civil disputes are not relevant to the application and we should not get involved in adverse possession claims.”
Joanne Gardner, clerk of Worstead Parish Council, said the tunnel was an eyesore and was obtrusive and asked the council to consider an environmental impact assessment on the site.
Speaking as local member for Worstead, Cath Wilkins said the tunnel was ugly and “brought the whole area down”.
With questions being raised by several councillors on whether the polytunnel was being used to store filing cabinets, it was decided to defer any decision until officers could establish the intended use.
If the tunnel is not intended for horticultural purposes, a change-of-use application will be required.

Eastern Daily Press - 4th April 2008

9th February 2008
9th February 2008

Brickwork apparently bellieved to be safe by North Norfolk DC in January 2008
Brickwork apparently believed to be safe by North Norfolk DC in January 2008

The North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust has today Sunday 19th starting to remove trees from the mill pond. with a view to open it up again. A tree surgeon will take the big ones down  for Honing Estate as they are part of the Canal company.   Also, on 8th August, on the other side of the road the wall between the Mill Cottage and sub station was hit by a drink/drive 5 times over the limit knocking part of it down.
Diana Howes - 17th August 2008

Blocked inlet from filled in dam to wheelrace 2nd January 2009
Blocked inlet from filled in dam to wheelrace 2nd January 2009

Eastern Daily Press - 16th September 2009
Eastern Daily Press - 16th September 2009

A long-running dispute which could see an area of land around a disused Norfolk mill recognised as a public open space and protected from development will be assessed at a public inquiry in July.
But the location of the “village green” inquiry has angered people living close to Briggate Mill, which is near North Walsham and in the parish of Worstead.
The two-day hearing will be heard at Norfolk County Council’s County Hall headquarters in Norwich, instead of Worstead Village Hall as expected.
Previous village green application inquiries around Norfolk have been held locally rather than at the council’s headquarters and the change in the established practice has been put down to the need to save council costs and staff time.
But the end result is a 40-mile round trip which the often elderly residents of Briggate will not want to make, campaigners claim.
The hearing will assess claims that the land in question has been used by the public for more than 20 years, with first-hand evidence from people attending playing a key part alongside written submissions.
Campaigner Diana Howes said: “We are very angry and concerned that people will not want to, or be able to, make the trip to Norwich.
“The majority of people interested in this matter are elderly and they don’t want to drive to Norwich for two days; the trip is not an easy one for everyone and it will be very timeconsuming.
Nearly everyone in the village has submitted written evidence and we have around 300 supporters, but the application could really suffer if people are put in this difficult position.”
Mrs Howes said if the hearing had been in Worstead as expected, they could have packed the hall with supporters.
Paul Morse, county councillor for the area, said he was very disappointed by the council’s decision and he had tried to fight it.
“I have argued it is going to reduce the number of residents prepared to go and that it’s not fair on them,” said Mr Morse. “I know how much hard work has gone into this application and how important it is for the local community. We need it to be heard properly and I believe that is much
more likely to happen if it is heard in Worstead.”
Villagers claim they have used the land for dog walking, blackberry picking, picnicking and kite flying, among other uses, since former owners abandoned it in 1974.
Council spokesman John Birchall said: “We do appreciate that it is less convenient for people from the area, but using County Hall limits the cost and demands on staff time.”
The inquiry will be held on July 12 and 13 and be led by inspector Vivian Chapman.
Ed Foss, Eastern Daily Press - 15th April 2010

Briggate Mill was destroyed by fire on 7th August 1975, since then residents of Briggate and many visitors have had free access to the open land around the mill. Activities over the years included children playing, pond dipping in the watercourse and mill race, dog walking,blackberry and elderberry picking and lots more.
It was a regular meeting place for the teenagers of Briggate and their local village friends to "hang out". One or two have grazed animals on there too. We have witnessed artists on the site painting the old ruin and the mill pond across the road. Visitors walk around the mill site and the nearby North Walsham and Dilham canal which is now being restored by The Canal Trust. In all this time no one was challenged or asked to leave the mill site by the owner or any other person.
On the 4th and 5th January 2008 the land on the mill site was cleared in which we in Briggate believed was a "land grab". In June 2008 we delivered to Norfolk County Council our application for Briggate Mill to become a village green. Over the last two years lots of paperwork and collecting of evidence has been undertaken and we are now going to Public Inquiry.
The Public Inquiry is to be held on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th July 2010,  in Worstead Village Hall. The times on the first day will be 11am to 5pm and 6pm to 8pm. Day two will be 10am to 5pm. There will be an hours break for lunch at about 1pm and maybe a short break in the morning and afternoon.
This is an open Inquiry and anyone can come and listen to the evidence or just come and give us support for the Village Green. You can come and go as you wish. We in Briggate would appreciate any time you can spare.
Many thanks to those who have supported us over the last 2
½ years and to those who will continue to help.
For more information please ring 01692 536205.
Diana Howes - 8th June 2010

Briggate Mill inquiry location victory

The location of a public inquiry which will decide whether an area of land around a disused Norfolk mill will be recognised as a public open space and protected from development has been changed - to the delight of campaigners.
The “village green” inquiry for the land around Briggate Mill was originally to be held at Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich, a decision which angered villagers.
It also led them to claim it would impact on their efforts because most witnesses and supporters, many of them elderly, would not be able or prepared to make a time consuming and sometimes difficult 40 mile round trip to give their evidence.
But that decision has been reversed and the hearing will be held at Worstead Village Hall, half a mile from Briggate, instead.
Previous village green application inquiries around Norfolk have been held locally rather than at the council's headquarters and the change in the established practice had been put down to the need to save council costs and staff time.
The two-day hearing will be held on the same dates as originally announced, July 12 and 13.
The hearing will assess claims that the land in question has been used by the public for more than 20 years, with first-hand evidence from people attending playing a key part alongside written submissions.
Campaigner Diana Howes said: “We are delighted by the change in venue, it is a brilliant result. “We have been supported enormously by our local county councillor Paul Morse and Worstead Parish Council, and we are very grateful to them.
“We know we will get many more people to attend now it is on the doorstep rather than a lengthy journey away.”
Mr Morse said: “To me Worstead is the right place to have the inquiry, things like this should not be in remote, formal buildings.”
Villagers claim they have used the land for dog walking, blackberry picking, picnicking and kite flying, among other uses, since former owners abandoned it in 1974.
County council spokesman John Birchall said they had decided the extra cost “was reasonable for the convenience of local people” and thanked the village hall's booking clerk for taking the booking.
Ed Foss, North Norfolk News - 13th June 2010

Briggate's village green bid fails

A bid by hamlet residents to have land around a ruined north Norfolk water mill registered as a village green has ended in failure, after a three-year battle and a public inquiry.
Residents in Briggate, near North Walsham, learned this week that inquiry inspector Vivian Chapman has rejected their application because he felt they had not proved locals had been using the site for sports and pastimes throughout a 20-year period.
The tiny community, of just 36 homes, had mounted the bid after alleged attempts at land grabbing around the mill whose ownership is unclear.
Diana Howes, who made the village green application, backed by dozens of other villagers, has pledged to keep fighting to ensure the site is protected from possible future land-grabbers.
“I'm very disappointed but I half expected it. It's very difficult to get this sort of thing passed,” said Mrs Howes.
She added: “There are alternatives however and I will be exploring ‘Plan B' with county councillor Paul Morse who has been supporting us.”
In July Mr Chapman took evidence from 13 villagers who attended the inquiry in Worstead, held under the auspices of Norfolk County Council.
They sought to prove that the land had been used for a range of leisure activities between 1984 and 2004.
But Mr Chapman decided that by about 1994 only a rough track was reasonably accessible which meant the community could only have been using the land as a right of way rather than a village green.
Mr Morse praised the efforts of Mrs Howe and her supporters. He said: “It was a huge community effort to try and get this registration and the outcome is a great shame, but not unexpected, because the legislation is very complex and relies a lot on case law. There is no reason why, given that the owner is nowhere to be found, local people can't keep trying to preserve it as an amenity. All is not lost. We need to move forward and look at other possibilities.”
Application objector Yvonne Bullimore, who used to own a home in Briggate with her partner David Turner, did not attend the inquiry but submitted written information.

Alex Hurrell, North Norfolk News - Saturday 30th October 2010

Breakthrough at troubled mill

Water is once again running into the millpond at Briggate after its link to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal was restored following three years of effort to clear the area.
The development marks a new and positive chapter in the eventful history of the mill, near North Walsham, which was at the centre of a famous court case and, more recently, an unsuccessful community campaign.
Volunteers working with the East Anglian Waterways Association and North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, hope their restoration efforts will attract wildlife back to the pond.
They also aim to preserve Norfolk's only canal, which stretched nine miles from Antingham, near North Walsham, to the Smallburgh River near Wayford Bridge when it was opened in 1826. The last wherry sailed the water in 1934.
Briggate millpond dried up in the 1970s and its boundary became hidden under thick shrubbery and trees, according to work party organiser David Revill. In its heydey, wherries visited the millpond carrying goods to and from Briggate and Worstead.
Water began running again after a final sod was removed from a newly-dredged channel linking the canal to the partially-cleared millpond.
Volunteers are back at Briggate this week trying to dredge and re-water as much of the original pond as possible before the nesting season begins. The mill, which closed in 1969, lies over the road from its pond and volunteers hope their work will eventually allow the water to flow through the linking mill race once again.
In 1975, the mill was burnt down in an insurance fraud, which saw four men jailed after an 83-day trial. During the trial it was revealed that one of the defendants had links with notorious criminals, the Kray twins.
After years of uncertainty over ownership and alleged land-grabs, Briggate residents learned last summer that their application to have land around the mill registered as a village green had not been granted. An inspector decided, following a three-year battle and public inquiry, that the community had not proved its use for sport and pastimes throughout a 20-year period. But residents are continuing to look after the site and have been helping the work parties, according to leading campaigner Diana Howes.
They hope to preserve the area as a nature reserve, but are waiting for advice from North Norfolk District Council about the state of the granary building which has developed large cracks over the winter.
The site is one of six along the canal where volunteers have been working to stabilise deteriorating locks and clear choked waterways.
Clearance has also helped alleviate flooding problems in North Walsham, which relied on the canal as a major drain, said Mr Revill.
Last year, work parties started dredging the pond at Ebridge_Mill and soon afterwards watched a duck dive into the water followed by her six ducklings. Mr Revill said: “It makes it all worthwhile when you see that what you're doing is reaping those sort of benefits.”
To join work parties, ring 01603 738648.

Alex Hurrell, North Norfolk News - Thursday 10th February 2011

Newly reflooded mill dam 7th march 2011
Newly reflooded mill dam 7th March 2011

Since November 2010 the hamlet has been working with the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust and have taken over the mill land, (but not the granary building). We hope some day to have the land registered with the  Land Registry. With the Mill pond now dug out and the mill race being worked on, the whole area begins to look interested again.  As no owner can be found for the granary building, it is up to the District Council to do something about it. They have been out here 3 or 4 times to have a look, we are  now waiting for them to say what they will do. The weather got into the building this winter and a lot more bricks have be coming down at the far end. We have been working with the new owners of Millbeck (after Bullimore/Turner left the hamlet in Dec 2009) and the new owners are very nice.
Diana Howes - 11th March 2011

Site fence erected 6th July 2011
Site fence erected 6th July 2011

Eastern Daily Press - 24th August 2011
Eastern Daily Press - 24th August 2011

Eastern Daily Press - 31st October 2011
Eastern Daily Press - 31st October 2011

Fresh hope in hunt for long-missing owner of Briggate Mill, near North Walsham

The long-missing owner of a north Norfolk mill with a colourful history may have been traced, it has been revealed.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) officers believe they may know the whereabouts of the man thought to own Briggate Mill, near North Walsham, who hasn't been heard of for some 30 years.
NNDC is anxious to find the owner, believed to be Michael Howard, because he is responsible for the upkeep of the site, including the granary building which officers have ruled is in a dangerous state and must either be repaired or demolished.
Mr Howard served a prison sentence for his part in an insurance fraud which saw the mill torched one night in August 1975.
The council is due to serve an order in Norwich Magistrates' Court on January 19, requiring the owner to carry out safety works.
But an NNDC spokesman said that date, already postponed once, could be put back again.
He added: “We do think we have possibly traced the owner. We have to go through a Requisition for Information process to clarify whether this person is the owner and the relationship between this person and the property. This process might mean that the January 19 date will be deferred until a bit later.”
The latest twist has caused further concern for local residents who are trying to claim the mill as a community asset following an attempted land-grab nearly four years ago.
Diana Howes, who has been at the forefront of the residents' campaign, said: “If he can prove ownership I would love him to come forward and do something about the mill which would save the building,” she said. “I would rather see it converted into housing than have the council pull it down to the ground. It's been a local landmark for over 200 years.”
County councillor Paul Morse, who has been supporting the residents' campaign, said: “My concern remains that we need to get to a stage where that bit of land becomes the community's.”

Norwich Evening News24 - Tuesday 27th December 2011

Court application is made by North Norfolk District Council to find owners of “dangerous” Briggate Mill

The application was formally made by North Norfolk District Council at Norwich Magistrates Court this morning as enquiries have not been able to ascertain the owner of Briggate Mill, near Honing.
The granary structure, originally built in 1869 on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, has fallen into a state of disrepair and is now considered dangerous.
Cara Jordan, representing the district council, made the application to district judge, Peter Veits, under the Building Act 1984.
She said: “If the order is not successful and the owner doesn't do the work then the council can carry out the work in default.
“The council has made extensive enquiries to try and locate the owner without success, which has meant we have needed to make a complaint and serve this summons.”
The case will resume on Tuesday, May 15, to determine if the owner of the mill has come forward.

David Freezer, Norwich Evening News24 - Thursday 8th March 2012

Briggate Mill pond, on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal,
restored for wildlife

Egrets, kingfishers, frogs, mallards and fish are among the wildlife now able to enjoy a restored section of Norfolk's only canal.
Volunteers have spent the past three-and-a-half years clearing Briggate Mill Pond which had become completely choked with trees, shrubs and weeds, according to David Revill, work party organiser with the East Anglian Waterways Association.
The pond is part of the near nine-mile North Walsham and Dilham Canal, which has been neglected since 1934 when the last wherry sailed there.
Locals remembered swimming and canoeing around Briggate Mill pond some 20-30 years ago but it had been overgrown and without water for several years, said Mr Revill, who is also a trustee of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, formed in 2008.
The trust hopes to restore about eight miles of the canal, including four locks, between Swafield Bridge to a point about 400 yards from Wayford Bridge.
CHOKED UP: A photo taken of Briggate Mill Pond in September 2008, before the volunteer work parties began their clearance. Picture: IVAN CANE.
“We want it to be the proper, full-width canal it was designed to be - instead of a muddy ditch - with controlled water once again,” said Mr Revill.
He and other trustees have been working with the three canal owners along the stretch and work is already well advanced on the restoration of the lock at Bacton Wood, and the overgrown pond at Ebridge Mill has also been cleared.
Mr Revill defended the clearances, which have involved removing a number of mature trees.
“Wildlife needs water and there was no water here. What we've done has attracted back all sorts of flora and fauna,” he said.
Reeds would be left to establish themselves around the water margins, providing wildlife habitats.
Restoring the waterway would also alleviate flooding in problem areas of North Walsham because it acted as a drain for surface water.
During the clearance work at Briggate, a second world war pillbox re-emerged from the undergrowth. Research has revealed that it was built inside an old coal shed on the site.
“Wherries would carry the coal from Great Yarmouth to this shed at Briggate for transportation to all and sundry in the local area,” said Mr Revill. “We have had some samples checked, which were found at the site, and it proves that the coal came from the Northumberland pits.” He added: “When I see what we've achieved so far, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
On May 5 and 6 the trust plans a two-day celebration, with displays and stalls, at Ebridge Mill Pond to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Parliament which allowed the canal to be built. It was opened 14 years later, in 1826.

Alex Hurrell, EDP24 - Saturday 24th March 2012

Legal bid fails to find owner of Briggate Mill, near North Walsham

Work to ensure the safety of a historic mill will be carried out by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) after the failure of a legal bid to find the derelict building's owner.
Briggate Mill, near North Walsham, was fenced off by NNDC a year ago after a structural survey revealed that it was unsafe.
In May the council applied to the courts for an order requiring the site's owner to make the building safe, or demolish the dangerous part.
He or she was given 28 days to respond but no-one came forward. “As the order has not been complied with, the council is permitted to undertake works in default to make the structure safe,” said Mark Whitmore, NNDC environmental protection team leader.
“We are currently organising the necessary works.”
County councillor Paul Morse, who has been supporting Briggate residents' efforts to safeguard the site for the community, said he was pressing to find out what measures would be taken, and when.
“My concern has always been that residents must be kept informed and consulted,” he said. “They want to be given access to the site again so that they can care for it and keep it tidy which will support their ownership bid.”
In October 2010 residents lost their fight to register the mill area as a village green, sparked by an alleged land-grabbing attempt in 2008.
But Mr Morse said they had been caring for the site for about three years as part of a seven-year project to try and persuade the Land Registry to approve community ownership.
Their inability to gain access for a year meant they would have to start the bid from scratch once access was restored.
“The building is part of the landscape. Briggate wouldn't be Briggate without Briggate Mill,” Mr Morse added.

Norwich Evening News - Wednesday 4th July 2012

N.B. The structure in question is not the mill. which burnt down in August 1975, it's the granary. JJN

Briggate granary Tuesday 30th October 2012 reparing for demolition Tuesday 30th October 2012
Briggate granary Tuesday 30th October 2012
Preparing for demolition Tuesday 30th October 2012

BBC Radio Norfolk's radio car Tuesday 30th October 2012 Honing PC chairman, Diana Howes being interviewed
BBC Radio Norfolk's radio car Tuesday 30th October 2012
Honing PC chairman, Diana Howes being interviewed
by Wally Webb of Radio Norfolk, Tuesday 30th October 2012

Demolition underway Tuesday 30th October 2012 Nibbler unit Tuesday 30th October 2012
Demolition underway Tuesday 30th October 2012
Nibbler unit Tuesday 30th October 2012

Pause in demolition Tuesday 30th October 2012 Demolition almost complete Tuesday 30th October 2012
Pause in demolition Tuesday 30th October 2012
Demolition almost complete Tuesday 30th October 2012

Demolition under way at Briggate Mill

An historic north Norfolk landmark is rapidly disappearing this week as a demolition crew sets about flattening Briggate Mill.
A mechanical claw this morning began nibbling away at the wobbling walls of the mill's 120-year-old granary in a delicate operation which is expected to last several weeks.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) took the demolition decision after a year-long, unsuccessful legal quest to track down the owner of the crumbling building, which sits beside the North Walsham and Dilham Canal in the parish of Honing, south of North Walsham.
Mark Whitmore, environmental protection team leader with NNDC, said they had hoped to reduce the height to a safe level, retaining some of the structure, but a recent inspection had revealed that it had deteriorated so much that it would probably all need to come down to ensure public safety.
The council had set aside a £20,000 budget but that would increase because of the extra work now needed.
Diana Howes, chairman of Honing Parish Council and a leading light in a campaign to have the mill site recognised as a community asset, said she understood that the work needed to be done.
“It's a sad day because it's part of our heritage but there are a lot of very big cracks in it, more and more bricks have been falling from it, and it's dangerous,” she added.
The mill, which closed in 1969, has been in a state of decline since at least 1975 when it caught fire.
The drama led to a headline-hitting court case ending in the imprisonment of two men, including its owner Michael Howard, for their part in an insurance-fraud conspiracy.
Following an alleged land-grabbing bid in 2008, local campaigners unsuccessfully tried to register the site as a village green.
Despite their failure, they still hoped to have it recognised as a wildlife area for community use. Many villagers would like the cleared site to be planted with trees in memory of members of the community, according to Mrs Howes.
But Mr Whitmore said the site's future would be discussed by NNDC members who would need to consider ways of recovering the cost to the authority. One option could be an application to court to force the sale of the land.

Alex Hurrell, EDP24 - Tuesday 30th October 2012

12th December 2012
12th December 2012

Worstead index of wills 1720: James Broune

c.1790: Daniel Bloom of Trowse watermill and Trowse postmill had an interest in Briggate watermill and also Briggate postmill

August 1793: Mill advertised for sale along with towermill due to bankruptcy of Robert Colls

June 1794: Mill advertised for sale along with towermill

March 1795: Mill advertised for sale along with towermill

Faden's map 1797: Worstead Wind & Water Mill

Pigot's 1830: John Balls

White's 1836: John Balls, miller

1839: John Balls

27th February 1839: John Balls died aged 77 and was buried in Meeting Hill Baptist chapel

Census 1841:

Christopher Sadler (25) miller
Elizabeth Sadler (25)
Harriot Sadler (13) servant; William Sadler(19) journeyman miller;
Samuel Sadler (15) servant; Henry Ladell (20) journeyman miller

White's 1845: Christopher Sadler, miller, Bridgegate

Hunt's 1850: Christopher Sadler

Census 1851: Briggade Mills
Rebekah Sadler (36) b.Ingham; Emily Sadler (15) b.Ingham;
Christopher Sadler (14) b.Ingham, scholar; Sarah Ann Sadler (11) b.Ingham, scholar;
Caroline Sadler (7) b.East Ruston, scholar; William Sadler (5) b.East Ruston, scholar;
William Croxton (40) b.Ingham, servant
All at 17 Brigate, Worstead

Census 1851: Benjamin Ramm (26) miller (employee)

White's 1854: John Roe, corn miller, Bridgegate

Craven's 1856: John Roe, miller

Harrod's 1863: Benjamin Howard Press, Bridgegate

White's 1864: Benjamin Howard Press, corn miller, maltster, and merchant, Bridgegate Mills

Harrod's 1868: Press Bros.

20th May 1870: Mill burnt down

1871: William Partridge Cubitt & George Walker bought mill from Thomas Balls for £500

1881: Cubitt & Walker, millers

Census 1881: Alfred B. Smith (36) b. Fordham, Cambs, stone dresser miller
Susan Smith (33) b.Wilby
Julia M. Smith (10) b.Old Buckenham, scholar
Benjamin S. Smith (5) b.Worstead
Alfred E. Smith (2) b.Worstead
Elisha Smith (32) b.Old Buckenham, journeyman miller artisan
Address: Bridge Gate

White's 1883: Cubitt & Walker, millers & c., and at North Walsham

Summer 1890: Granary destroyed by fire and new, larger structure built as replacement

1890: Steam roller mill installed and mill wired for its own electricity generation

White's 1890: Cubbit & Walker, millers & merchants; and at North Walsham

Kelly's 1892: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam & water) &c. & at Cromer ; Swafield & North Walsham

Kelly's 1896: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam & water) &c. & at Cromer ; Swafield & North Walsham

Kelly's 1900:
Cubbitt & Walker, coal & corn, cake, seed & manure merchants & millers (steam & water); at Briggate mills, Worstead, Swafield & M.&G.N. station; & at Cromer

1903: Granary converted to grist mill to take over from the windmill after it lost its sails in a gale.

Kelly's 1904: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam, wind & water) & c

Kelly's 1908: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam, wind & water) & c

Kelly's 1912: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam, wind & water) & c

Kelly's 1916: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam, wind & water) & c

Kelly's 1922: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam, wind & water) & c

Kelly's 1925: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam & water) &c. Briggate mills

Kelly's 1929: Cubbit & Walker, millers (steam & water) &c. Briggate mills

Kelly's 1937: Cubitt & Walker Ltd, electric & water. Tel. North Walsham 24

c.1943: Waterwheel removed with electricity already haven taken over for motive power

1969: Mill closed down and the business moved to Ebridge Mill

c.1970: P. D. Taylor of Dilham

c.February 1972: Mill bought by John P. Brown, Sheriff House, Beech Rd., Wroxham for £6,000

July 1975: Mill described as a wooden structure with corrugated iron cladding

January 1975: John P. Browne sold mill to Michael Howard for £10,500

7th August 1975: Mill burnt down

April 1983: Plans discussed for producing electricity and conversion to a papermill

2001: Mrs. Allen, owner

Worstead Parish Council 22nd February 2005: Announced that NNDC
now knows who and where the owner is.

November 2007:
Mill site securely fenced off and allegedly claimed by David Turner, new village resident as true owners not found

5th January 2008: Mill site around existing buildings levelled

11th January 2008: Security fencing demolished

13th January 2008: Site clearance protestors met with Norman Lamb M.P. at the mill site

3rd June 2008: Briggate Village applied to Norfolk CC to convert the mill site into a Village Green

8th August 2008: Drunk driver came over Briggate Bridge and partially demolished the wall next to the Mill

October 2008: Clearance of mill dam by Nth Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust well under way

12th & 13th July 2010: Public Inquiry in Worstead Village Hall re turning mill site into a Village Green

July 2010: Appeal for Village green turned down

6th July 2011: NNDC fenced off site as granary in danger of collapse

October 2011: NNDC investigating demolition of the granary on safety grounds

30th October 2012: Mill granary demolished by North Norfolk DC

January 2015: Briggate residents receive letter from Land Registry confirming Michael Howard is mill owner

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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Bridget Neville