Hempstead Mill
River Glaven


c.1900
c.1900


Hempstead watermill and the adjoining mill house are built of local flint and brick under a Norfolk pantiled roof. The present building was built by Richard John Gurney in 1830 and at that time was known as Holt Mill. The original watercourse, along which the parish boundary runs, was moved southwards some 40 yards slightly up the hill towards Holt in order to better accommodate the mill. The Glaven, which used to be called Hempstead Beck, was effectively dammed by the mill thereby forming the large lake that is still above the mill today.

At the time locals used to say,
"Mr. Gurney, he built a barn where there weren't enough corn to put in it and a mill where there weren't enough water to turn the wheel."

c.1902
c.1902

The River Glaven had 16 mills throughout its length at the time of Domesday.

In Domesday Holt is said to have had five watermills and this is not surprising as the parish is bounded by the river for a long distance. I can trace four of them. One of them is what is called Hempstead Mill, which is actually in the parish of Holt and is a rebuilding early last century.
Basil Cozens-Hardy


In about 1905 the wheel was removed and replaced by a turbine, this being a more efficient way of using the limited amount of available water. The wheel house was split into two sections lengthways by a new wall, each section with its own exit arch and then another wall was built across the section nearer to the mill to provide a sluice control for the turbine.



Turbine tailrace 6th January 2004 Marks on the wall left by the wheel 6th January 2004
Turbine tailrace 6th January 2004
Marks on the wall left by the wheel 6th January 2004

At the beginning of 20th century, when the turbine was fitted, there were 5 sources of water - mill dam, upper pond (swept away in the 1912 floods) Old Decoy (Selbrigg Pond), New Decoy and Horsepit Pond.

Horsepit was originally the farm horse pond for Red House Farm, fed by runoff water from the farm and its buildings but the Gurney's added a sluice in order to supplement the mill dam. The mill could only run at full power for a maximum of 5 hours a day without emptying the dam above. Thus in later times a traction engine ran the mill via a pulley wheel on the outside of the building (see below). There were two pairs of stones by W. Tinsley of Ipswich, often only one would be worked due to lack of water. Maximum output was 4 coombs per hour.


J. Tuck Coal Merchant sign 1907 14th April 1983
J. Tuck Coal Merchant sign 1907
14th April 1983

John Tuck was both a miller and a coal merchant. He took over from George Bird and was running both businesses from the mill when the above left picture was taken in 1907.


16th March 2003
16th March 2003

Rear of mill 30th June 2004 4th September 2004
Rear of mill 30th June 2004
4th September 2004

August 1912

The road on the Holt side of the mill was washed away to a depth of several feet on 26th August 1912. Reggie Preston inspects damage with his sister Mary and friend Miss Gooch in the background. The name of the workman is not known.

 

May 1967 16th March 2003
May 1967
16th March 2003


1968
c.1968

Prior to moving to Hempstead Mill in 1912, Mrs. Newell 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 Frank lived. He had a resting post on the side of the track about half way down.


Rear January 2004 Frontage March 2003
Rear January 2004
Frontage March 2003

In 1911 a bakery was built within the complex of cartsheds, haylofts, stables, pig sties and cowsheds. The oven built by T. Collins & Co. of Bristol, was coke fired and the boiler also heated the contents of a twenty gallon water tank above it that then used the heat of from hot water pipes to regulate the oven temperature. Coke was brought in from Holt gasworks or by train to Holt from Sheffield and then horse and cart to the mill. In those days transport cost exceeded the material cost.

The oven had a capacity of 208 1lb loves and was fired up twice before deliveries went out to the surrounding area. Water for the bread making was carried by bucket from a spring on the opposite side of the road.


Bread oven 12th July 1981
Bread oven 12th July 1981


The turbine powered circular saw May 1967 The turbine powered circular saw 12th July 1981
The turbine powered circular saw May 1967
The turbine powered circular saw 12th July 1981

The turbine powered circular saw January 2004
The turbine powered circular saw January 2004

The turbine also used to run a circular saw blade set in a steel bench made by Robinson & Son Ltd of Rochdale. It was used to cut timber for the Gurney Estate. The shed that sheltered the bench has long disappeared.

The turbine was also used to power a generator that was in use until about 1953.





Governor for the stone tentering gear January 2004 Driveshaft, crownwheel and tuns 6th January 2004
Governor for the stone tentering gear January 2004
Driveshaft, crownwheel and tuns 6th January 2004

Drive pulley
Drive pulley
The right hand photo above shows the drive shaft and gear which meshed into the crownwheel that was driven from the pulley on the outside of the mill in times of water shortage, when a traction engine would provide a belt drive.

6th April 2008 6th April 2008
6th April 2008
Overgrown drive pulley 6th April 2008

The Newell brothers (Donald, Frank and William) rented the mill from the Gurneys in 1912. It only came with one field but after one year they were allowed to rent two more fields provided they took the bad fields along with the good fields.

In 1914, Frank (b. 1896) and Donald left William, who was disabled, to run the mill while they fought in the war. Donald had 6 beehives that he left in a nearby pit for the duration of the war, sadly only one survived. Donald appears to have survived the war unscathed but Frank, who was in the cavalry, was shot in the leg and spent several months convalescing before returning to the fray. After the war Frank moved to Kelling and managed the Deterding Estate.


Grain hopper feeding the stones 6th January 2004 Oatcrusher 6th January 2004
Grain hopper feeding the stones 6th January 2004
Oatcrusher 6th January 2004

By 1920 Donald's bakery at the mill was supplying much of the locality. As a boy, John Clarke started work at the mill by feeding the livestock going on to become master baker. When the demand for bread was high he would often work for 30 hours without sleep. Having undertaken the morning baking starting at 4.00a.m., he would return in the afternoon. "I suppose looking back, I worked long hours but one didn't think about it in those days. In my spare time I was the village barber."

Donald died in 1947 and Frank then returned to take over the business. Baking ceased in September 1953, when the Norwich firm of Sunblest moved into the area and started a delivery service. New hygiene regulations were also preventing the use of the spring water for bread making.


Ledgers written between 1915 and 1929 indicate that some 90%of all sales related to crushing or grinding corn brought in by customers and from the sale of the resulting bran. Some flour was produced but mostly it was animal feed from oats, barley, wheat and maize. On occasions linseed, peas and beans were also processed.


Prices 1839-1841:

Wheat -
Barley -
Oats -
7s
3s
2s
0¼d
11½d
9d
per bushel
per bushel
per bushel

Sackhoist pulley and shaft 6th January 2004 Redundant wallower 6th January 2004
Sackhoist pulley and shaft 6th January 2004
Redundant wallower 6th January 2004

When the wheel was removed and the turbine installed, the pitwheel was also taken out as the turbine provided drive in the same plane as the upright shaft. Although redundant, the wallower was left on the upright shaft. The turbine then drove the spur wheel directly by means of a cast iron gear.


Turbine pit 6th January 2004 Belt and crownwheel drive January 2004
Turbine pit 6th January 2004
Belt and crownwheel drive January 2004

The mill machinery is now incapable of operating as one corner of the shaft support beam has sunk, preventing the turbine from disengaging.


Mill dam May 1967
Mill dam May 1967

W.H. Auden used to stay in the house next to the mill and would often visit the mill.


Rear of mill 30th June 2004
Rear of mill 30th June 2004

The pond originally came right up to the back of the mill and the above photograph clearly shows the filled in area. The stream draining from the pond originally ran to the left of the mill until it was diverted when the mill was built.


As a boy 1935 - 1945 I stayed with my grandparents at a cottage on the Norwich road about a mile out of Holt. 
Across Holt Heath, through the trees, I was able to see the light coloured lucum of  a mill, which my grandfather said was Hempstead Mill.

Basil Kybird Drayton - 3rd March 2007

I am researching my family history.
My wife's great, grandfather was a man called John William Elsy and he had a sister called Harriet Elizabeth.
In 1875, Harriet married James Tuck, and, at the 1901 census, he is described as the "millers manager" at Watermill, Hempstead Road ,HOLT.
In 1911 he is "miller corn and coal merchant" at The Watermill.

Brian Bartle - 14th February 2014

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

The dotted old boundary line clearly shows how the River Glaven was diverted to the west in order to accommodate the mill.


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

c.1810: Mill built and Selbrigg Pond dug by hand to provide a water supply from the River Glaven

Bryant's map 1826: New Mill

White's 1836: Isaac Everitt, corn miller residing Hempstead (possibly Hempstead postmill)

Tithe map 1837: Owned by Richard Hanbury Gurney, Daniel Jex, miller

1839: Daniel Jex, miller

1872: Frederick W. Harris, miller

Post Office Directory 1875: F.W. Harris

Kelly's 1879: Frederick William Harris, miller, Hempstead Water mill

White's 1883: Frederick William Harris, miller

Kelly's 1892: George Bird (tenant to the Gurney family) also at Holt towermill, Fairstead Road, Holt

Kellys 1896: George Bird (tenant to the Gurney family) also at Holt towermill, Fairstead Road, Holt

Kellys 1900: George Bird (tenant to the Gurney family)

Kelly's 1904: James Tuck, miller

Census 1901: James Tuck, millers manger

1907: John Tuck - last miller to grind flour for bread made on the premises and also coal merchant

Census 1911: James Tuck, miller, corn and coal merchant

c.1911 - 1912: Thomas John Preston - gave up shortly after the 1912 flood that swept away the upper pond

1912: Newell Bros took over - Donald, Frank & William

Kellys 1922: Newell Bros.

Kellys 1937: Newell Bros.

1925-1953: John Clarke, mill worker and then master baker until closure

1953: Baking ceased as Sunblest Bread started a delivery round

1960s: All milling ceased, with animal feed being the final commodity produced

1970s: A water powered circular saw was still running as late as 1977

2004: Mill occupied by Pat Newell, son of Frank Newell

Mill currently owned by the Harmer family who bought it from George Knight of the Stody Estate who in turn had bought it from the Gurney family



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 TG09473804
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003
Reggie Preston Mary Preston Miss Gooch