Fakenham Mill
River Wensum


c.1890
c.1890


Fakenham Mill was built c.1720 on the site of an older mill dating from 1620. A wall plaque bears the date 1885, which presumably relates to a later alteration. The watercourse of the old river was significantly altered in order to accommodate the mill's position and to enable a sufficient size of dam to work the mill. At some points the river is higher than the road running beside it. This new cut along with the original river course are both shown on a 1650 map. Fakenham Mill had to run in conjunction with Sculthorpe_Mill and Hempton_Mill as they both had control of the water further upstream.


The wheel had a cast iron frame and was 10 feet in diameter and 18 feet wide, providing sufficient power to drive 4 pairs of stones and ancilliary machinery.


The main structure of the mill is built of red and yellow brick, whilst the back of the mill, facing upstream, had a section that was primarily cream weatherboard standing in front of the all brick mill. The roof on all the dections is of slate. There were two lucums, one on the front of the mill and the other on a gable end, which became redundant when a warehouse was erected underneath it as the mill expanded. Towards the end of its working life the original mill was almost hidden by surrounding larger buildings and warehouses.


Mill dam c.1904
Mill dam c.1904

c.1904 Waterloo Bridge with the mill behind c.1904
c.1904
Waterloo Bridge with the mill behind c.1904

Early in the 20th century steam was being used to supplement water and a tall chimney was built on the end of the steam shed that could be seen for some considerable distance.


Chimney and locum c.1910 Smoking chimney and the bridge c.1908
Chimney and lucum c.1910
Smoking chimney and the bridge c.1908

Postcard c.1913 Postcard c.1913
Postcard c.1913
c.1913 showing how colours were printed out of register

When William Green died on 8th January 1841, he died intestate and letters of administration were prepared for his wife Pleasance. The Gentlemen bound and bounded to carry out this administration were Joseph Fyson and George Watson, both Gentlemen of Fakenham. Effects were shown as under £1600.0s.0d in the Consistorial court of Norwich.

However in this administration of 1841 it states:-
"Whereas Pleasance Green, widow and relict of William Green, Flour Merchant, deceased, intestate hath in due form of law, reviewed the letters of Administration, goods, rights, chattels and credits of the said deceased - bounded Joseph Fyson, lawful daughter Pleasance Fyson only…….."
The administration was then signed by the Vicar and by Pleasance Fyson not Pleasance Green.

Genealogical data shows the reason for the reference to daughter and hence how the watermill owned by William Green came into the Fyson family.

William Green had married Pleasance Case in Fakenham on 23rd June 1801 and he owned both the Heath postmill in Fakenham and the watermill. A Pleasance Green (daughter) had married an Edmond Heagren Gibbs in Fakenham on 4th September 1820 and then a Pleasance Heagren Gibbs married Joseph Fyson on 20th June 1837. It is understood that the daughter of William & Pleasance Green had married one Edmond Heagren Gibbs and subsequently as a widow, had married Joseph Fyson.

Hence, Pleasance Green had passed on her daughter's inheritance when the administration was done on her husband's death in 1841. And Pleasance Fyson née Gibbs, formerly Green had signed in her own married name on the letters of Administration. The mill was actually owned by her and not her husband.
Honor Jones - Canada, 9th February 2007


William Green was almost certainly a relation of John Green who was running Hempton postmill.


c.1915
After the gable end lucum was removed c.1915

By an inquisition, in the 38th of Edward III., it was found that they were not obliged to repair the causeway called the Brig-mill-dam, then broken down. In the 17th of James I., Fakenham-mill, and a parcel of land called Hulmore, with a warren, &c., were granted to Edmund Ferrers and Fras. Philips, subject to the annual rent of £5. 10s. This extensive corn-mill, which has lately been rebuilt, is now the property of Mr. Joseph Foyson, and is situated below the town, on the River Wensum, which is crossed by a handsome bridge of three arches, built in 1883, of white brick, with stone parapets and iron palisades.
White's 1845


The 3 arch bridge of white brick with stone parapets and iron palisades was built by pauper labour in 1833.


27th August 1912 27th August 1912
River overflowing its bank 27th August 1912
Water flooding around the mill 27th August 1912

27th August 1912 27th August 1912
Section of wall demolished to help the flow coming around the mill 27th August 1912
River level has almost reached the height of the water coming around the mill 27th August 1912

Fakenham Mill was about one mile downstream from Hempton Mill, which in turn was about two miles downstream from Sculthorpe Mill This meant that except in times of maximum river flow, the three mills would have had to have been worked in conjunction. When Sculthorpe opened its wheel sluice and started to use its stored head of water, the outflow would head towards Hempton's dam, ready for use before being passed downstream to Fakenham. In order to maximise the efficient use of the available water supply the millers at each of the mills used a system of smoke signals to warn their colleagues whenever the sluices were operated.


1918
Staff outside the mill in 1918

The wooden guarding covering the belt drive from the steam engine can clearly be seen


1920 c.1950
The steam shed and the gable end lucum gone in 1920
The truncated chimney stack c.1950

14th December 1975 1920
Base of chimney bottom right 14th December 1975
Tailrace in 1920

During the 1960s Dewing & Kersley were cleaning wheat for Vitawheat as well as producing animal feed.


Royal Norfolk Show in 1949
Dewing & Kersley's stand at the
Royal Norfolk Show in 1949

Shaker unit 14th December 1975 Chutes & sacks 14th December 1975
Shaker unit 14th December 1975
Chutes & sacks 14th December 1975

April 1967
April 1967

1951 April 1967
1951
April 1967

Mill sold for £50,000

Two businessmen have bought the old corn mill in Bridge Street, Fakenham, which has planning permission for conversion into a restaurant and nine flats.
The sale was conducted by the Norich office of estate agents Watsons on behalf of Picken Poultry Producers. Mr. Alan Cole, partner at Watsons, would reveal only that two local businessmen had bought the mill for about £50,000.
He added the businessmen had not said what their intentions were for the property.
Eastern Daily Press - 21st September 1982

c.1983   c.1983
Weatherboard section demolished c.1983
 
Internal water channels c.1983

When I was a child at Fakenham, we would often walk down to the river via a road flanked with poplar trees, locally known (then) as the 'Unter den Linden'. Before they altered the road, there used to be a bridge and a ford, as well as an extra stream with a footbridge, where we used to stand and catch tadpoles (though I never used to know what to do with the wretched things once I'd got them in the jar).

The river, the Wensum, was a pale shadow of its former self. One old great-uncle, who had lived in Fakenham all his life, once told me that pleasure craft used to go along the river as far as Gogg's Mill. Though where from, and how big, I have no idea (at the time I imagined something like the Golden Galleon!!).
Linda Steward - 1st September 2005

1981 After conversion March 2003
After closure in 1981
After conversion March 2003

Mill dam 14th December 1975 Mill dam 9th March 2003
Mill dam 14th December 1975
Mill dam 9th March 2003

Reflections on living at Fakenham Mill

2nd January 2006
2nd January 2006

Natural England
River Wensum Restoration Strategy
Full Report

PDF 1
PDF 2

Mills

6.16 The mill structures have a profound influence on the river system in the Wensum catchment. If high retained water levels continue upstream of the mills, they would form a significant constraint on the effectiveness of river restoration. Physical modifications at mill sites should aim to restore a more natural longitudinal profile to the river and to remove or reduce physical barriers to the movement of fish and wildlife. Whilst historically a number of mills have been in existence for centuries these have always very actively stored and released water and the cessation of working of the mills in combination with dredging has had a significant impact.
6.17 The recommended actions at mill structures are shown in Table 9. At a number of sites there is no mill building and removal of water level control structures would be the desired course of action. However, often there are multiple channels at a mill site and it is likely that some hydraulic controls would be needed to maintain a split of flows to all channels. These would probably take the form of a fixed crest and a natural chute that would allow the passage of fish and woody debris. At locations where the water level control structures are part of the historic mill building, there is often a variety of passageways and the best way to lower levels will need to be identified using more detailed survey. Initial action can be taken at low cost by merely adjusting operating levels using the available gates and stop boards. The reduction in head that could be achieved at a typical dry weather flow is also summarised in Table 9. The estimated maximum reduction in backwater length through changing the operational level of the sluices (that is, without the need for major engineering works) is 18km. This would reduce the length of the River Wensum SSSI affected by backwater from mills from 67% to 40%. To achieve this it would be necessary to ensure that no channels downstream of gates or fixed weirs are affected, but this could be a cost effective start to the Wensum restoration.
6.18 It is likely that at some locations, where the channel course has been altered and the mill channel is significantly higher than the natural channel, the main flow could be diverted upstream of the current mill location. Maintaining some flow to the original mill weir is likely to be preferable for aesthetic and heritage reasons, so by-passing is likely to be required in conjunction with lowering of the mill weir. Sites where such a solution is envisaged are at Great Ryburgh and Lyng.
6.19 The control structures at Costessey, Swanton Morley and Fakenham are used for flow gauging by the Environment Agency. Lowering these weirs may mean that the existing gauging arrangements will need to be replaced by other methods, such as ultrasonic techniques. The weir on the main channel at Swanton Morley has a two stage drop and a significant reduction in water level could be achieved there without affecting flow gauging through the bridge.
6.20 A former mill known as Gogg's Mill near to Fakenham was removed as part of the drainage improvement works of the 1950s. The channel upstream of the mill has narrowed significantly through the accretion of silt berms, and provides a good case study of the extent to which natural recovery can help restore natural river form and function.
6.21 As part of the River Wensum Water Level Management Plan being prepared by Entec (2007) the views of some private owners on changes in operating level have been canvassed. In broad terms this is not opposed, but there is concern to maintain an attractive setting incorporating some mill pond in line with the historical context particularly at:
1) Elsing
2) Great Ryburgh
3) Bintree
4) North Elmham
5) Lenwade.

6.22 A reduction in the retained water level at mills may constrain the ability to direct water through all the existing channels at mill sites, should this still be required, there may be a need to carry out physical modifications to some of the subsidiary water level control structures.
River Wensum Restoration Strategy - Natural England, 26th June 2009

WRS 2009
WRS 2009
River Wensum Restoration Strategy - Natural England, 26th June 2009
O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Fakenham watermill bottom right, Hempton watermill top centre,Hempton towermill bottom left
Courtesy of NLS map images


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

1620: Earlier mill built and granted to Edmund Ferrers and Fras. Philips for annual rent of £5.10s.

Faden's map 1797: Mill

Index of Wills 1718: Richard Chambers

1801: William Green, miller, also Fakenham Heath postmill

Poll Book 1802: Henry Green, William Green

Pigot's 1830: William Green

White's 1836: William Green corn miller, also Fakenham Heath postmill

Pigot's 1839: William Sainter

8th January 1841: William Green, miller & flour merchant, died intestate

c.1841: Joseph Fyson took over the running of the mill, which had been inherited by his wife

c.1844: Mill rebuilt by Joseph Fyson

White's 1845: Joseph Foyson, corn miller & Sculthorpe

Census 1851:

Pleasance Green (75) b.Tofts, annuitant (widow)
Jane Nicholson (31) b.Sculthorp, servamt
Elizabeth Mair (29) b.Elmham, family servant
Martin Meek (26) b.Hempton, groom
William Girling (46) b.Foulsham, millers man
Address: The Mill

White's 1854: Joseph Foyson, corn miller Water Mill

White's 1864: Joseph Fyson, corn miller

Kelly's 1879:

Charles Horsley & Son, millers & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills & Railway station. Also Sculthorpe & Wendling

Kelly's 1883: Charles Horsley & Son, also Hempton, Sculthorpe & Wendling

White's 1883: Charles Horsley & Son, corn millers & merchants, Hempton road; and Sculthorpe and Wendling

Kelly's 1892:

Charles Horsley & Son, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills & Railway station; & at Hempton, Sculthorpe & Wendling


Kelly's 1908:

Charles Horsley & Son, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills & Railway station; & at Hempton & Wendling


Kelly's 1912:

Dewing & Kersley Limited, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills & Railway station; & at Hempton & Wells-next-the-sea


Kelly's 1916:

Dewing & Kersley Limited, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills & Railway station; & at Hempton & Wells-next-the-sea


Kelly's 1922:

Dewing & Kersley Limited, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills (T N 11) & Railway station; & Wells-next-the-sea


Kelly's 1925:

Dewing & Kersley Limited, millers (steam, wind & water) & corn & seed merchants, Fakenham mills (T N 11) & Railway station; & Wells-next-the-sea

Kelly's 1937: Dewing & Kersley Ltd.

1959: All machinery electrically powered and the mill having a storage capacity of 1,200 tons

1960s: Dewing & Kersley who were cleaning wheat for Vitawheat as well as producing animal feed

Tel. directory 1970: Dewing & Kersley, also at Wells

6th January 1977: Fire at mill put out using river water - damage mainly in offices

1980: Mill ceased operation

1982: Mill sold for £50,000 to two businessmen

1982: Mill bought by Derrick Easter, builder and converted into 22 homes


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

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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003