Edgefield Mill
River Glaven



Smokers Hole 11th May 1852
Smokers Hole 11th May 1852
Drawing by Frederick Sandys now held in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

This watermill is one of the lost mills of Norfolk and has completely disappeared except for some traces of brickwork and no one appears to even remember the building. However, it was there in a place known as Smokers Hole and the two semi-detached single storey cottages next to it were called Mill Cottages, which were inhabited during the war by a legendary character known as Long Sal. Sadly, the cottages have also disappeared save for some low walls of brick and flintwork. Earlier maps show the cottages as Mill House, which could easily have been split into two cottages at a later date.

For the record the site is on a public footpath and the co-ordinates are N. 52º 53' 229" E. 001º 06' 122"


In the 12th century Simon de Hempstede, who became Lord of the Manor in 1182, granted additional water rights to the monks of Binham Priory, in the form of the water between Hempstead and Edgefield in order..." to better the monks' mill."


It is quite likely that the original watercourse was altered for several hundred yards in the vicinity of the mill, in order to favour the mill. Parish boundaries frequently follow the exact paths of ancient watercourses and it will be noted that Hempstead's boundary with Edgefield bypasses the mill on the west side, whereas the Glaven takes a much more direct easterly route.


Smokers Hole, according to local historian Jane Hales, referred to a depot or rendezvous used by smugglers in the process of moving their contraband inland as fast as possible. In William Newman's book of 1728, three buildings are shown on the site, one of which could well have been a barn.


29th September 2002
29th September 2002

The road from Hempstead to Edgefield passes through Pond Hills. It is partly a field road and as it winds through the wood is one of the most picturesque in the county. In the wood is a pond from which a stream flows into the Glaven forming the second tributary. Just below the junction there was until recently a mill house, which was the site of a watermill. The causeway which formed the mill dam still exists. This is probably the mill referred to in a grant by Simon of Hemsted to the monks of Binham Priory of the water between Hempstead and Edgefield to better the monks' mill...
Basil Cozens-Hardy


29th September 2002 The old brickwork is on the left
29th September 2002
The old brickwork is on the left

Prior to moving to Hempstead Mill in 1911, a Mrs. Newall was living at the Mill Cottages. When required, the miller at Hempstead would carry a large bag of flour down through the woods to where Mrs. Newall and her family lived. He had a resting post on the side of the track about half way down. An outside toilet was adjacent to the cottages and water was fetched from a well some 400 yards away to the east.


During the early part of the second world war, the cottages were inhabited by the legendary character known as Long Sal. The army then used the area for practising working with incendiary bombs and the site became unsafe due unexploded devices, one of which was found in 2008. After the war the cottages gradually became derelict and eventually collapsed.


29th September 2002 More old brickwork on the nearside bank
29th September 2002
More old brickwork on the nearside bank

Recent surface scraping with farm machinery revealed brick foundations of the mill next to the watercourse.

The site and most of the village once belonged to the Gurney family, who then sold the estate to George Knight in 1945, who later sold the area around the mill to Henry Mack on 6th April 1946.


One remaining wall of the Mill Cottages 29th Sept 2002
One remaining wall of the Mill Cottages
29th Sept 2002

I was fascinated to find your web site! My mother (92) and I have just returned to Cornwall from Norfolk. Our main reason for the visit was to visit Edgefield and Hempstead, where her father's family came from. On the 1871 and 1881 census returns her 2x Gt Grandfather, James Wright, was listed as living at Smoakers Hole. Earlier census returns list the family, but no dwelling place. We found the ruins, she was very moved to stand in them, it is a beautiful place. John Wright married a Mary Bacon, from Edgefield. I attach a piece of doggerel verse writen by Mary's brother in law which might amuse you. I don't know when it was written. I spent too few hours in the Norfolk Record Office, sadly I live in Cornwall, so don't know when I'll be able to visit it again, but I will! I would be very interested in any more information you could give me about Smoakers Hole and the families that lived there.
Frances Impey


Good Friday

Dear Mother
I hope you sometimes remember
The happy week we spent with you last September
We arranged to leave the street called Great Titchfield
For a short time, and pay you a visit at Edgefield
Jenny Harriet Jack and I left London that wondrous City
Strange mixture of wealth and objects of pity.
We travelled to Norwich by the Great Eastern Rail
Very fast travelling compared with the old Mail.
We arrived at Norwich met Sarah at the Station
But missing our carpet bag put us in a consternation
We went back at 9.P.M. to see if they had recovered it
And were gratified to find that at Wymondham they had discovered it.
We found a lodging comfortable and clean
Near the Market Place at a house kept by Mr. Dean
Harriet slept at Mrs. Bennetts who kept a dairy
And she was very kindly treated her with the children of Mary.
An ancient City is Norwich and famous for manufacture of shawl
From London Street Norwich to London St Pauls
We went to see the Castle a building of great antiquity
From castle Hill you have a good view of the City
In days of yore the Castle height
Was the scene of many a gallant fight
We saw the statue of Nelson non more famed in English History
He was born at Thorpe and fell at Trafalgar board the Victory.
I saw Mr.Wyndham start for Cromer with Coach and Team
Some think him mad others that he is very green
But mad or green a good coachman is Wyndham
And the Coach and Team was a credit to the proprietor Mr. Bingham.
We visited the Cathedral and took tea with Sarah on Sunday
And got ready to start the first thing on the Monday.
When Gent had got his goods safe carted
We mounted inside all very light hearted.
At Nine we started in the cart of the carrier
Determined in Norwich no longer to tarry here
An odd collection there was in that three-horse van
With Gent the driver he was such a noisy man
How he shouted come you back to anyone ahead
And we had many a laugh at the funny things he said
Jack sat in the front with the driver close together
On the other side was a man with lots of leather
The rest of us inside on boxes quite snug
To soften the seat I used a railway rug.
An odder lot together one very seldom sees
Bacon and boxes and parcels of groceries
There were three youngsters without any cares
Three men three women on the top were some chairs

When Gent delivered his parcels we had some fun
For we whipped up his horses and made him run.
A pleasant ride we had there were lots to be seen
The country around looked beautiful and green
Comfortable farm houses meadows dotted with cows
And fine Norfolk horses drawing the ploughs
Fruit trees and hawthorn and fields of clover
While old oaks and elms the road arched over
In the corn stubble we heard the report of the gun
The September shooting had just begun
Some with the gun acquire great fame
But those gentlemen were only shooting for game
Dividing Copstone from Saxthorpe as a clear running brook
I guess the horses were pleased when the water they took
We stopped at Saxthorpe Castle to have some ale
And to do justice to the Governors hospitality we did not fail
The Carrier had brought us eighteen miles from Norwich
So he took his horses in the stable to give them some forage
When the horses were sated for home we were bent
So we bade aunt farewell and away we went
Oh well I remember when set down by Gent
And Harriet and Jack for the cart were sent
The rest of us stopped with our luggage at the top of the lane
And the first to meet us came Emma and Jane
Next Father who gave us a welcome so warm and so hearty
I felt happy that I was one of the party
Then back came Jack the young monkey
Up in the cart whipping up the poor donkey
We soon arrived at the home of Farmer Bacon
If it is not a happy one I am much mistaken
We reached the cottage about half past three
And Jenny soon got us a nice cup of tea
Tis a neat little Cottage with a blue tiled roof
From hail rain and snow may it long be proof
We had got over the journey so quick and so well
And the joy of the meeting is more than I can tell
As soon as I entered I began to look round
There was something to eat I very soon found
When I saw the table how I opened my eyes
Hungry we were so we soon eat up the pies
For me it was surprise and delight
To see the stairs so clean and so white
The cool little dairy so neat and so trim
And the pans with new milk filled to the brim
We had the run of the garden which did me just suit
For apples were plentiful and they are my favourite fruit
Tis pleasant in the morning to hear the song of the lark
Or form a circle round the fire after dark
Father looked happy as opposite you he sat
And mother you looked contented and fat

Then Sarah the little one nursing the baby so good
She looked quite motherly as she gave it some food
Next Harriet making us laugh with her double share of clack
The Jane and Emma of course between them sat Jack
Then Jenny a dutiful daughter the same
Although at Church she had altered her name
With my beloved wife at my side
Down the stream of life I hope smoothly to glide
What happiness once more to visit childhood's home
When destined so far from you to roam
Tired I was so I retired to rest soon
Up the white stairs to my little bedroom
For remember the proverb, Early to bed early to rise
Makes a man healthy wealthy and wise
On Tuesday I was woke up at early morn
By the steam engine thrashing Mr. Stratten's corn
Mr. Stratten is a fine specimen of an English Yeoman
With an army like him we could thrash any foeman
We went into see it for an engine is always an attraction
I hope the produce turned out to Mr. S's satisfaction
In the afternoon we went to see Cousin Hutton
And we had some fun bringing home the mutton
Cousin made us tea and with good things spread the table
We were all very merry for they made us comfortable
On Wednesday we went to Holt over the Hill
The remembrance of it is with me still
When we looked back how Harriet and I halloed
As up the hill she with you followed
On our return we called at Alcock's had a warm by the fire
It wa so cold out of doors I was loath to retire
Corner of Holt Heath we found Wright waiting in the fog
To guide us to Smokers Hole without getting in a bog
Mrs. Wright made us tea and gave us some mead
I wish I had some just now I do indeed
Thursday Morning I went in the backhouse to see you churning
When Mrs. Williamson called I kept the machine turning
We went for a ramble across the Green and through the Wood
Where Jenny had passed many days of childhood
We sat down for a rest upon a stile
And I from my love won many a smile
We talked of the well known Norfolk so sad
Of the Children so good and the Uncle so bad
Whe to get them their money wanted them assassinated
I cannot vouch for the truth but so it is stated
Two ruffians took them to a wood one slew the other then the children did forsake
He promised to return and bring each a slice of cake
But he never went back but left them to their fate and so
They died in the wood and were buried by Robins and Co.
Back to dinner we had Norfolk dumplings so nice
And for breakfast next Morn we each had a slice

After did we went to Church with its Chancel so quaint
Can you tell me Mother if it's dedicated to a saint
The interior looked pretty with the floral decoration
To Mrs Marcon and Sister it must have been a gratification
To Mr Marcon the Rector we all did look
As he read the prayers from the Good Book
The Sermon was preached by the Vicar of Briston
While the congregation with attention did listen
He said the bountiful harvest was a source of congratulation
And if we put faith in the Lord we should ne'er be forsaken
After Church I walked to the Green with Jenny and Sarah
Tis a pretty Village Green I have seldom seen fairer
There was a pond for the ducks and a school in the centre
With a small Gothic door for the children to enter
We had a gossip with some of the old folk
And gathered in the evening round the fire to have a joke
About Jimmy the fat boy eating till no more he could cram
For his Granny had helped him so plentifully to bread and jam
And jack riding the donkey till he could ride no more
A(t) the absence of a saddle he had got rather sore
We all ran away from the supper table
To see Jenny milk the cow in the stable
On Friday I went to the Sea-side at Cley
Avery pleasant walk it was all the way
Tis refreshing to rmble on the sand
To any one fresh from Cockney land I bought home some starfish I found on the beach
But not a vessel was there to be seen as far as the eye could reach
On my return I overtook Father and Jack
He looked a young keeper with the rabbits on his back
When we reached home he talked as we sat round the fire
About going out shooting with Alcock and the Squire
His tongue ran on and he seemed so merry
The Squire he told us had given him some sherry
Jane and Jack went to Broughtons who kept the White Horse
For at supper we wanted some ale of course
As they came back they thought they saw a phantom
For in the middle of the road Harriet had put a lantern
After supper I thought to set you all wondering
But the sharp eyes of Emma baffled my conjuring
Too soon came the time to return so we departed
One and all great and small very down hearted
We bade adieu to Norfolk famous for turkeys and punch
Meat and drink fit for a Prince for dinner and lunch
With sincere thanks to all friends for their kind hospitality
So agreeable because it was devoid of formality
I never enjoyed a trip in my life
As the one down home with my dear wife
For a trip down home if we have fine weather
Is a jolly sort of thing when we be all together
I finish by telling you we are all well in London
And with our united loves I remain your
Affectionate Son John

Jenny has just reminded me to say
We wish you many happy returns of the day


Hempstead Hall estate map c.1750
Hempstead Hall estate map c.1750
Edgefield mill bottom left

Edgefield mill c.1750
Edgefield mill c.1750

O. S. Map 1886

O. S. Map 1886
Mill House Lane leading from Hempstead Hall to the mill
Courtesy of NLS map images


O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images


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

Hempstead Hall Estate map c.1750: Mill and cottages

Faden's map 1797: Holt Mill

Bryant's map 1826: Smoakers Hole

O.S. map 1838: Mill House

Frederick Sandys drawing 1852: Smokers Hole

Census 1871: James Wright, Smoakers Hole

Census 1881: James Wright, Smoakers Hole

1910: Mrs. Newall & family, Smokers Hole

c.1939 - c.1945: Long Sal, Smokers Hole

1945: Gurney family sold the surrounding land and site to George Knight

6th April 1946 George Knight sold the surrounding land and site to Henry Mack


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 TG08823671
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003

Old brickwork here