Hellesdon Mill
River Wensum


c.1905
c.1905


In Saxon times there were two mills at Hellesdon but by the mid 16th century only the mill dam of one mill remained. Operations having ceased, possibly due to a feud between the Paston family and the Duke of Suffolk. In those days mills were sometimes dual purpose, grinding corn and carrying out the fulling process to assist local weavers. Hellesdon was then without a watermill for about 200 years until in 1683, William Gostlin from Woolverston Park, Suffolk persuaded the Bishop of Norwich to allow him to rebuild a mill. This was mainly due to ancient papers proving that previous mills stood on the site being identified by Augustine Lowe, Gostlin's bailiff at Hellesdon. It was built using mainly Hellesdon grown timber and tarras. Tarras was a type of mortar that was to used to cover or lay with plaster and Lowe contended that it was very hard wearing and the more tarras was used the less wood would be required. The mill and mill house, under the same roof, were actually built on foundations consisting of wood frames set below the river level. By 1719 these foundations had deteriorated badly and considerable renovation was required. A new mill house was built away from the mill at a cost of £140 and the mill carried on from where the previous one had left off, grinding corn and undertaking fulling work although it later went into oil production, possibly colza (rapeseed) oil, used in oil lamps before petroleum products were discovered, or linseed oil.


Hellesdon Mill History

There were two watermills at Hellesdon in Saxon times, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, 1042-1066 and some of the villagers must have been employed in them either for themselves or for the lord. Throughout the medieval period mills continued to operate on the river at Hellesdon. In 1228, Reginald, the Abbot of St. Benets at Holm, had the "New Mill" and the use of the mill pool and island. The last known reference to the mills in operation appeared in a letter, dated October 21st, 1460, from Margaret Paston to her husband John - "Item your myllys in Heylysdon be late (let) for xij marke and the myller to fynde the reparacion."

By the middle of the 16th century only the mill dam remained. A Charter of Philip and Mary, dated July 2nd 1566, stated that the county and city boundary led from Hellesdon bridge to the old mill dam of the late watermill of "Heilesdon". It is possible that the mills ceased to operate as a result of the feud between the Paston family and the Duke of Suffolk, which lasted for several years. Estate documents show that these early mills were corn fulling mills. This meant that apart from grinding corn they; were used to carry out the fulling process necessary in the manufacture of woollen goods. Cloth straight from the loom was washed and cleansed of dirt and grease. This process thickened the fibres and induced them to felt. Many town weavers sent their cloths to country mills to escape both gild and borough control.

Gostlin's Mill
Hellesdon was without a watermill for about two hundred years. Then in 1683, William Gostlin of Woolverstone Park, Suffolk, leased an estate in Hellesdon from the lord of the manor, the Bishop of Norwich. Gostlin sought permission from the Bishop to build a mill at Hellesdon. At first the Bishop was reluctant to give permission because he thought that a mill at Hellesdon would hinder the Norwich mills. However, Augustine Lowe, Gostlin's bailiff at Hellesdon, informed that old papers existed relating to mills that had formerly stood on the river at Hellesdon. The Bishop then gave permission for a watermill to be built. Eventually Gostlin appointed a man to build the mill for him. It was decided to build it with timber and tarras. Tarras was a mortar or cement which was used to cover or lay with plaster. According to Lowe, tarras was very hard-wearing and the more they used the less timber would be necessary. It was estimated that it would take forty or more bushels of tarras to build the mill at a cost of four shillings a bushel and two shillings and sixpence for its carriage.

Some timber was cut in Hellesdon to build the mill, the remainder was purchased elsewhere. In May 1683, Lowe bought twenty jambs of timber at a cost one pound each. The mill took nearly a year to build and began operating in June 1684. It was built over the river on the site once occupied by the ancient mills. The mill and mill house were built under the same roof, and the foundations consisted of wooden frames which were situated below the water level. In 1719 when a millwright was employed by Charles Gostlin to carry out renovations on the mill, these frames were in such a bad state of repair, that all the timber which had been felled locally to complete the renovations had to be used to support the biggest frame. Additional timber had to be purchased to complete the work. At this time a new mill house was built apart from the mill itself at the cost of £140. At first the mill ground corn and did some fulling work, but later it produced oil.

Fire at the Mill
Early on Sunday morning, April 28th 1805, a fire broke out at the mill. It was first discovered about one o'clock and in one and a half hours the mill was destroyed except for a small part of the west end which was under repair. This part contained a quantity of oil and the flames were prevented from reaching it by cutting away the timbers. The mill, which was occupied by William Parkinson, sustained damage estimated at three to four thousand pounds of which only twelve hundred pounds was insured with the Norwich fire Office. The mill was eventually rebuilt for all its different branches of business.

In January 1848 William Wells, a miller, purchased the mill at Hellesdon from the Rev. Henry Berners of Woolverstone Park. By June 1851, Wells had reconstructed and refitted the mill and mill house. In addition he had erected dwelling houses, cottages, warehouses, stables, drying kilns, blacksmith's and carpenter's shops, offices and other buildings for the purpose of his business as miller. Hellesdon mill was now one of the most impressive mills in Norfolk. It was built on a timber frame let into brick foundations. The frame was covered externally with weather-boarding, and the roof had slate tiles. The mill was four storeys high and set in the south side were 66 windows. There were four waterways beneath it.

Pulled Down
The mill at Hellesdon was pulled down in 1920. The reason for this was shown by the following statement made at the meeting of Norwich City Council on May 18th on that year.
"A commencement has been made in taking down Hellesdon Mill which consists chiefly of thoroughly good timber which will be used for housing at Angel Estate." Today all that remains of the mill at Hellesdon are the brick foundations with the four waterways and a small part of the eastern end of the mill. By the 1950's this building had had much of its weather boarding replaced by corrugated asbestos and was in a general state of disrepair. However, in recent years it has been thoroughly renovated and is now used as a dwelling house. At the south eastern end of the mill pool a large mill-stone, about six feet in diameter with a hole approximately a foot square through the centre, protrudes from the mud, a relic of former days. The malthouse and granary building exist, but are no longer used for the purposes for which they were built. A very different scene to that which was familiar to Hellesdon people at the turn of the century.


Hellefdon Mills, Norwich, Sept. 20, 1783
To be SOLD

By AMES and SONS, for ready Money, TWENTY Thoufand capital double-twill Flour Busfhel SACKS, at 1s. 9d. each; also Twenty Thoufand capital double-twill Five Bufhel Sacks, at 2s. each, Samples of which may be feen at the King's Head, in the Market-place, Norwich, every Saturday, and at Hellefdon Mills every Day.
N.B. Fine old Rape Oil on the very loweft Terms; Rape Oil Dregs, without Adulteration, for Cart Greafe, at Three Shillings and Sixpence per Stone.
Best Ready-money Price given for fine Linen Rags.

Norfolk Chronicle - 27th September 1783

Thomas Jarvis aged 79 of the Parish of Paston fell into the Mill at Hellesdon & was crushed to death, was buried at Hellesdon 10th Septr 1797
Hellesdon Parish Registers - 1797

Joseph Ames and later his son Daniel Ames ran the mill from at least 1788 - 1784. Daniel's son Edward Ames went on to run Stoke Holy Cross mill. The Ames family were also involved with Oxnead mill.
Joseph Ames' daughter Mary, married William Parkinson who was in partnership with Joseph Ames at Hellesdon by 1779. William and Mary Parkinson had a son Joseph Ames Parkinson, who went on to run Keswick postmill.


Joseph Ames was executor to the will of Thomas Spurrell who owned Aylsham_Mill. The will was signed on 26th March 1770 and Thomas Spurrell died shortly afterwards; he was buried in Aylsham on 23rd June 1770. Joseph Ames, described as Gentleman, had possibly met Thomas Spurrell as a near neighbour - Aylsham and Oxnead mills were only a few miles apart on the River Bure.


Dr. Alfred Shorter notes that Joseph Ames and Sons of Hellesdon (and also of the Oxnead paper-mill) took an apprentice named Richard Gibson in 1778. Joseph and Daniel Ames and William Parkinson, millers, paper and oil makers, cutters of wood and flock, and fullers, insured the water wheels in the mill in 1779. He also notes that Joseph Ames died in 1784 and the remaining partnership finished in 1804. After this date there appears to have been a long gap before the mill was once again used for the manufacture of paper. In the mid 1850s and 1860s Norfolk directories show that paper was once again made at the mill by the firm of
W. Delane & Co. who were also connected with the mill at Taverham.
David Stoker


c.1910
c.1910

c.1910
Detail from the photo above - c.1910
Cedric Pickett at far left smoking a pipe b.4th March 1877, Shefford Woodlands, Berkshire.
 He lived in the mill cottages and his job was stated as Waterman at the mill


c.1950
Cedric Pickett in his garden of one of the old flint mill cottages c.1950
Cedric Pickett was employed at the mill as waterman and it is said that he had a voltmeter in his kitchen. Part of his job was to keep a watch on this as it told him the electricity voltage that was being supplied to Hellesdon House. He had to keep the electricity on until 10 O'clock at night, unless the owners had a late party in which case he had to stay up. If the volts started to get to high Cedric would need to slow the water feeding the dynamo. If the volts started to fall below (110 volts I think ) he had to increase the flow.
Richard Nudds (Cedric Pickett's great granson) - 30th March 2005

Hellesdon Mill House c.1910
Hellesdon Mill House c.1910
Probably taken on the same day as the above photo of the mill,
as the same folk appear in both

Hellesdon Mill was run by Joseph Ames, he later went into partnership with his son Daniel and his son-in-law William Parkinson. The first mention we have of Joseph Ames as being of Hellesdon Mills was in 1753 when the Church Inventory for Hellesdon included: "a black herse cloth for burials the gift of Mr Joseph Ames of Hellesdon Mills". Joseph Ames was around in Hellesdon before that and a Joseph Ames was mentioned in the Hellesdon tax records as being the collector in 1716 when he would have been five so it was probably his father.

He was obviously a successful businessman as when he died the Norwich Mercury on 31 January 1784 page 2 stated: "Last Saturday... same day died Mr Joseph Ames a considerable miller and flour merchant at Hellesdon near this city".

In directories he was listed as trading from the Kings Head in Norwich on Market days.

Listed in The British book trades 1775-1787 an index to insurance policies: Ames, Joseph,1779 policy to the value of £ 400, Hellesdon near Norwich, with an unnamed partner who was probably William Parkinson.

According to David Stoker's web site on Papermaking he was carrying out that activity at his mill in Hellesdon and the one in Oxnead which he ran with his son Daniel and son-in-law William Parkinson, certainly in his will he mentions having property at Brampton near Oxnead.

Stoker mentions that the partnership between Daniel Ames and William Parkinson ended in 1804, Daniel's sons Daniel and Edward went into the same business at Stoke_Holy_Cross but they were not successful, Daniel went bankrupt and Edward drifted in and out of the business.

The Parkinsons were non conformists and baptisms took place in Octagon Chapel in Norwich, Joseph Ames was C of E but his son Daniel appears to have been a Methodist, there is a suggestion that Edward was a Quaker (Norfolk Records Society book on the Ames Letters) but apart from being buried in the Guildencroft Burial Ground we have no evidence of this. William Parkinson made a bequest to Edward (of £200) and revoked it with a codicil written the same day!

Edward Ames was in partnership with his brother Daniel Ames working the mill at Stoke_Holy_Cross in the Mustard trade, he sold the lease of Stoke Mills to Jeremiah Colman in 1814 and an announcement appeared in the press stating that Jeremiah Colman had taken the Stock and Trade and intended continuing the manufacturing of mustard.

The mills at Stoke Holy Cross had certainly been producing paper by around 1767. According to the book about the Colmans Edward Ames made flour at Stoke Mills but the loss of a child by drowning in the river Tass which runs through Stoke upset him so much that he closed the mill. After a time he again opened it, this time for the manufacture of paper but a visit of inspection by the revenue officer, paper being taxed in those days, so annoyed Mr Ames that he closed the mill again.

His brother-in-law Mr John Wright persuaded Mr Edward Ames to reopen the mill by finding him a man who knew how to make mustard and agents to sell it. Apparently Mr Edward Ames didn't take it seriously and treated the matter as a joke, however mustard was made at Stoke mills. At the time of the takeover by Colman he was apparently dealing with flour, mustard and paper.

The Ames and Colman families were believed to have been well known to each other. Edward Ames had a daughter called Sarah who was believed to have been engaged to Jeremiah Colman but she died before the marriage. The family remained in contact with the Colmans even after they had moved to Great Yarmouth.
Dr. Quentin Fontana


c.1890 c.1908
c.1890
Hand coloured postcard c.1908

c.1910
Hand coloured postcard c.1910
The M&GN railway bridge was just downstream from the mill

Early in the morning on Sunday 28th April 1805 the mill caught fire. The fire was noticed at about 1.00am and within an hour and a half the mill was almost totally destroyed. The miller, William Parkinson was faced with fire damage amounting to between three and four thousand pounds of which, only just over one thousand pounds was insured with the Norwich Fire Office. However, the mill was eventually totally rebuilt.

c.1895 Dredging at the rear of the mill in 1896
c.1895
Dredging at the rear of the mill in 1896

c.1900
c.1900

In January 1848 William Wells bought the mill from Revd. Henry Berners of Woolverston Park, Suffolk. By June 1851 the mill and the mill house had been reconstructed and refitted over four water channels.
It was 4 storeys high and built on a timber frame let into a brick base and foundations. It had 2 lucums and on the south side there were a total of 66 windows. The frame was cladded out with weatherboarding under a slate roof. William Wells also built a whole complex on the site consisting of houses, cottages, warehouses, stables, drying kilns, blacksmith's shops, carpenter's shops and offices. Hellesdon Mill now was almost as large as Costessey mill and was thus one of the largest and most impressive mills in the county.

The mill was said to have 16 pairs of stones powered by the waterwheels and a further 6 pairs run by a steam engine.


c.1910
c.1910

1951 1969
1951
1969

Hellesdon mill was bought by the Norwich Corporation in 1920, partly because they wished to control the city water supply and partly because they wished to use the timber to build houses on the Angel Estate that were required in accordance with Prime Minister Lloyd George's promise to servicemen that ...homes fit for heroes would be built after the war. At the City Council meeting of 18th May 1920, it was stated that:
A commencement has been made in taking down Hellesdon Mill, which consists chiefly of thoroughly good timber, which will be used for housing at Angel Estate.


MIGHTY MILL WAS GIVEN THE CHOP
(Picture at top of page)
If Hellesdon Mill was standing today, no one would dream of pulling it down. But that was the fate of the mighty watermill, pictured here in its Edwardian heyday.
The reason? Timber from the superstructure was needed for building work as Norwich faced up to a housing shortage in the wake of the first world war.
During the war,Britain's Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George, promised millions of serviceman that "homes fit for heroes" would be built after the end of hostilities. And, sure enough, housing legislation was introduced, leading to a dramatic increase in housing activity.
However, it seems that post-war scarcities forced local authorities to look closely at all available building materials.
And so it was that housing chiefs at Norwich City Council decided to make use of Hellesdon Mill's timber. The following statement was made at a council meeting of May 18th, 1920: "A commencement has been made in taking down Hellesdon Mill, which consists chiefly of thoroughly good timber, which will be used for housing at Angel Estate."
Demolition was a sad end for a mill which had been working since the 17th century. It was rebuilt in the form seen after a fire in the early 19th century.
Its four storeys , 66 windows and slate tile roof were imposing and beautiful, as can be seen from this week's picture, from the references of Elm Hill Stamps and Coins, of Norwich. Quite simply, it was one of Norfolk's finest mills.
Notice how the surrounds of the mill pool are lovingly cultivated with flower beds. To the side of the mill was a malthouse, and there were also cottages, warehouses, stables, kilns, blacksmith's and carpenter's shops, offices and a mill house.
Who remembers this hive of industry?
Eastern Evening News - Saturday 9th February 1985

All that then remained was a small section of the eastern end. By the 1950s the decaying weatherboard had been replaced by corrugated asbestos and the building was in a severe state of disrepair. It was eventually saved and converted into a dwelling.


c.1960 30th September 2002
c.1960
30th September 2002

For many years one of the stones lay in the mud near the bank at the southern end of the millpool. The stone appeared to be an edge runner stone, which means it was left over from the days when vegetable based oil was produced at the mill.


Mill foundations June 1968
Mill foundations June 1968

On 26th May 1999 the EDP reported that local residents had mounted a campaign to prevent the mill granary and malthouse being developed into 11 flats.


Mill site June 1968 18th May 1999
Mill site June 1968
The granary with the maltings behind 18th May 1999

October 1982
October 1982

Wensum in flood 31st December 2002 15th February 2003
Wensum in flood 31st December 2002
15th February 2003

In 1959 Frank Larkman stated in the East Anglian magazine that after milling ceased the mill was converted and run as a brewery by Bullard & Sons.


Watson's artist's impression of the 20003 conversion
Watson's artist's impression of the 20003 conversion

O.S. map c.1880
O.S. Map c.1880
Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey

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

Residents living close to an old city landmark have mounted a campaign against a plan to redevelop it.
The scheme to turn Hellesdon Mill into 11 flats will bring traffic which will ruin a safe haven for their children, they claim.
And they are concerned about sewage disposal and the destruction of the historic character of the area.
Campaigner Tony Godin said: 'It's on a single track road with no pavement. Children use it to get to Hellesdon High and in summer you get a lot of picnickers down there. Both exits are blind corners.'
The plan for the mill, which stands on the River Wensum at Lower Hellesdon, will see the disused mill granary and malthouse turned into flats and maisonettes.
Eastern Daily Press - 26th May 1999


17th September 2008 17th September 2008
17th September 2008

Natural England
River Wensum Restoration Strategy
Full Report

PDF 1
PDF 2


River Wensum Restoration Strategy - Natural England, 26th June 2009

1042 - 1066: First mention of mill in Hellesdon

1228: Mill owned by Reginald, the Abbot of St. Benets at Holm

1460: Mill owned by Paston family

2nd July 1566: Charter of Philip and Mary confirms that mill no longer existed

1683: Mill rebuilt by William Gostlin

June 1684: Gostlin's mill began to operate

1719: Mill renovated

1788: Joseph Ames & Sons (also of Oxnead mill) took on Richard Gibson as an apprentice

1779: Joseph and Daniel Ames and William Parkinson insured the wheels. Parkinson family also at Mousehold Black postmill , Keswick watermill and Keswick postmill

31st Jan 1784: Joseph Ames died

Faden's map 1797: Mill

September 1797: Thomas Jarvis of Paston aged 79 fell into the mill and was crushed to death

1804: Ames & Parkinson partnership ended - William Parkinson probably retained control

Sun 28th April 1805: Mill destroyed by fire

Pigot's 1830: Pratt & Culley

White's 1836: Culley & Pratt

White's 1845: Samuel Culley

January 1848: William Harrison Wells, formerly of Dilham watermill, bought the mill from Rev. Henry Berners

June 1851: William Harrison Wells reopened the reconstructed and extremely large mill

1850s - 1860s: Papermaking commenced again under Delane & Co (also of Taverham mill)

c.1864: Mill ceased working

1868: William Harrison Wells running New Mills and Crook's Place towermill, Heigham but bankrupt by 1870

May 1920: Mill demolished by Norwich City Council

1959: Mill buildings in use as a garage, a repair shop and a furniture depository

December 2003: Watsons Estate Agents advertising 10 new homes in the granary and other buildings

April 2005: Last 2 bedroomed apartment in the granary advertised for sale by Fine & Country for £165,000



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