Kings Lynn
Millfleet
Town Mill



c.1868
Millfleet c.1868

Town Mill probably stood at the top of the Millfleet near the almshouses shown in the distance at the centre of the above photograph. The mill was a single storey stone building with the two storey miller's house adjacent and probably stood on the same site as the earlier Swagges Mill.


The first reference to a mill in this area mentions Sewoldsfled in 1101. It is unclear whether the later name Sunolf's Fleet c.1250, is a corruption of this or associated with the family of Robert fitz Sunolf, first mayor of Lynn. At this time the fleet was known as Mayorsfleet, while the bridge crossing it was called both Mayor's bridge and Sunolf's bridge. Later it was known as Swaggesfleet, after the mill owner and eventally as Millfleet.


The first mill known on this site was Scales Mill, built by the lord of South Lynn, Lord Scales. It was later known as Swagges Mill but was derelict by the late 1300s. The borough of Lynn acquired the site in 1392 and built a new mill, although it was not a commercial success and the Merchant Gild took it over in 1448. Prior to this, in 1425, a defensive channel connecting Fisherfleet and Purfleet, just outside the town's main defences, was extended to Millfleet to bring more water in to the mill dam from the River Gay.


Millfleet was strongly tidal and had a relatively small flow of its own water, which meant that the mill was constantly running out of water. A series of new cuts were made to try and provide additional water but when these also failed windmills were built to take over the work. The mill was probably demolished to make way for the London Road in the 1800s.


A new mill was built on the Gannock, possibly a windmill, occasioned through an insufficiency of water to work the town mill for about this time the "great mill dyke" was recast (1596).
History of King's Lynn - Henry J. Hillen


c.1875
Millfleet c.1875

The building in the right foreground of the above photo was St Margaret' school in 1880 and in 2006 was known as St Margaret's Social Club.


Inquest held before the coroners of Lynn on 22 May 1296 into the death of Roger fitz Claricia miller [...] the jurors say that around the middle of the day on 19 May, Roger arose from his midday nap and went down to the water next to the lesser water-wheel of the mill in Lynn called Swargermelne [millfleet] to wash his hands, when he tripped over himself and fell onto the beam called briggetre. Of which [injury] he languished from that hour until vespers on the following Monday.
Kings Lynn Coroner's Roll 1291-1300


The first mill known on this site was Scales Mill, built by the lord of South Lynn, Lord Scales. It was later known as Swagges Mill but was derelict by the late 1300s. The borough of Lynn acquired the site in 1392 and built a new mill, although it was not a commercial success and the Merchant Gild took it over in 1448. Prior to this, in 1425, a defensive channel connecting Fisherfleet and Purfleet, just outside the town's main defences, was extended to Millfleet to bring more water in to the mill dam from the River Gay.


Millfleet c.1880
Millfleet from Bridge Street c.1880

John Wynch miller for a mill leased him with 2 cottages and gardens opposite St. James chapel. (Of the rent, 20s. belongs to the Bishop and 20s. to the Prior of Lynn.) [This would have been the grain mill, whose site was acquired by the town from the Bishop, for an annual farm of 20s., in August 1392. The king’s ratification of this agreement, the following month, indicated the site (to be selected by the burgesses) was to be on Millfleet where Swagges Mill had once stood, or between that site and the Gannock gate (one of the lesser gates on the east boundary of the town). The burgesses were admonished: not to damage the fleet when excavating for the new mill; not to block the fleet’s course, which ran eastwards to the Bishop’s demesne at Mintling; not to allow the mill to back up water so that floods resulted, as had happened with Swagges Mill; and to ensure the causeway (raised road) on the north side of the fleet was maintained. Robert Perch miller had leased the mill for three years in July 1424, but he later complained that bakers and others were not bringing corn to him to have it ground; in November the borough released him from the arrangement and leased the mill to Wynch for seven years. Wynch probably encountered the same problem for, in March 1426 the borough issued an order for all bakers to grind their grain at the town mill; but the problem persisted and, shortly after the end of Wynch’s term, the borough passed an ordinance obliging townsmen to take their grain to the town mill. The cottages and gardens had been associated with the farm of the mill since at least 1399.]
Medieval English urban history - Lynn rental


All residents of Lynn, whatever their status, shall have their grain ground at the common mill if the mill is able to handle their demands. Henceforth if anyone has his grain ground at any mill outside of town when the common mill could have ground it, he shall forfeit the grain or the flour produced outside town, which may be confiscated by the common sergeant or someone else and put to the use of the community.
26th March 1432


Millfleet c.1895 Millfleet c.1898
Millfleet c.1895
Millfleet c.1898

The above pair of photographs were taken from the same location, looking upstream towards what later became known as the London Road (note the same tree) with the Almshouses on the far side of the road. The left hand photo shows the Millfleet at high tide; a few hours later at low tide the Fleet would largely consist of smelly mud with virtually no water flow.


Kings Lynn Corporation was constantly receiving complaints about the sewer-like appearance of the Millfleet and so in 1896, the Corporation borrowed £12,846 to fund the filling in of the Fleet.


...the Town Corn Mill, which stood near the entrance of the Walks, and was driven by the waters of the "Mill" fleet.


Map of Kings Lynn in 1240
Map of Kings Lynn in 1240

1/.VOLll Page768-768
Subject: THE MILL FLEET
Mayor's Fleet formerly SUNOLF's FLEET (a person of some import) in the time of Edward lst. Robert probably the earliest Lynn Mayor was a son of SUNOLF (from the ancient bede roll of the merchants gild-substantiated by the leet roll c.1310).
The Mill situated almost on the current site of Framingham's Almshouses passed into various hands i.e. SWAGGS Mill Fleet and later SCALES Mill Fleet. Richard ll granted Letters Patent, whereby the Gild of the Holy Trinity in Lenne Bishop received this Mill at the hands of Thomas de Scales Knight, Marmaduke, Bishop of Carlisle and William GODERED. A new Mill was built on the GUANOCK possibly a windmill because of insufficient water flow to work the Town Mill, for about this time the "Great mill dyke" was recast c.1596. From this source the Old Miln Lane (Stonegate Street) (Anglo Saxon - Mylen a Mill) and our modern Millfleet Terrace derive their names.
A Mill perhaps attached to the adjacent Monastery once occupied a spot near St Margarets School (now a Club) Probably converted into a Windmill when the supply of water became inadequate. Subsequently it became an Oyle Mill and the Tar office erected on site. (see:4/.)
2/. Vol l Page 22
Subject "MOATED MOUNDS"
The burg on the foreshore of the LIN was near a freshwater stream which was diverted to form not only a moat on the East and North but moreover a Mill Leat on the South which drove the Town Mill until a recent date. The Water Mill appears on RASTRICK'S Plan c.1725 and was in line with the St James Workhouse. Parts of the oak frame (22 in by 20 in by 9 ft and 16 in by 16 in by 5 ft) in which the overshot wheel worked were discovered during the sewage undertaking c.1901
3/. Vol.l Page 71-72
Subject "THE DUALISTIC BURG
At the close of the 12th Century the Town was made up of two parts each being owned by different Religious Factions. THE NEWLAND (NEWLONDE) formed part of the Bishop's personal estate and the original or "OLDLAND" belonged to the Monks of Norwich. Between the Bishop and the Prior there was a rivalry and estrangement, for, as owners, each endeavoured to reap the greatest pecuniary advantage from his possession. For our Mills interest the Water Mill in the Oldland was driven by Sunolf's Fleet subsequently termed the Mayors Mill Fleet to distinguish it from Bishop's Mill Fleet where in the vicinity of Littleport Street, in the Newland, once stood the Bishops Mill. To the owners, the Monks and the Bishop, these mills were valuable "paying concerns". Mills were necessary adjuncts to Manorial Residences, hence they were, as a rule, erected by the Lord of the Manor for his own use and for those living on his estate. To compensate him for his outlay the tenants were bound to bring their corn to his Mill to be ground. They did not however pay in cash for the grinding, but were under an obligation termed Mill Service (seeta debita molendini); in other words they were compelled to leave a portion of their meal with the bailiff or the miller to recoup their patron for services rendered.
4/. Vol.ll Page 738

Lynn Mills from H .J. Hillens' History of King's Lynn


Mill Fleet June 1969
Mill Fleet June 1969

Mill Fleet June 1969
Mill Fleet June 1969

Thomas Shearman was born in Stowmarket, Suffolk in 1637 and was baptised on 16th July 1637. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Shearman. Thomas married Ann and they had several children including a son, Thomas jnr. In 1667 Thomas Shearing snr was paying 1s hearth tax in Bridgegate, Thetford as he was the owner of two hearths. Thomas Shearing snr was made a Freeman of Kings Lynn in 1691 and died in Thetford in March 1705. Thomas Shearman snr's will signed in 1704, stated that he had a mortgage on a watermill and windmills in Kings Lynn and a watermill in Stowmarket, Suffolk.


Congregation held on Friday 17 October 1690

Lease to Thomas Shearman. The Common seale is likewise affixed to an Indenture of Lease to Thomas Shearman of the Water Corne Mills & Lands adjoining pursueant to Articles of Agreement lately made. And it is ordered It be tendered to him with the Counterpart to be sealed by him.
King's Lynn Hall book - 1684-1731

Congregation held on Friday 20 March 1660/1

Thomas Shearman to be sued. Ordered that Thomas Shearman Miller be forthwith prosecuted at Law & otherwise to inforce his sealing the Counterpart of his Lease and to pay in such moneys as are in his hands.
King's Lynn Hall book - 1684-1731

Congregation held on Monday 4 April 1692

Shearman to be sued at Law for repaire of Cornemills. Ordered that Thomas Shearman Towne Tenant of the Corne Mills and lands be sued at Law to inforce performance of his Covenants as to the Repaires of the Siad Mills & Walls.
King's Lynn Hall book - 1684-1731

Congregation held on Friday 19 May 1693

Committee about the Corne Mills. It is referred to Mr Maior Sir John Turner Mr Sparrow
Mr Anderson Mr Frammingham The Chamberlins Mr Harvey and the Towne Clerke or any 3 or more of them to inspect the Covenants in Thomas Shearman's Lease of the Cornemills etc. and to examin how farr hee hath performed the same What has been done at the Town Charge what by the Tenant And what money hath beene or ought to be lent him or allowed him on any Accompt And to certifie theire Opinions therein at next Hall.

King's Lynn Hall book - 1684-1731

Congregation held on Monday 12 June 1693

Sherman's Petition answered. Ordered that twelve pounds be allowed to Thomas Sherman Miller towards his Timber and the Charges of suite mencioned in his Peticion. That £25 formerly lent him be continued in his hand for 6 months on his owne bond, if longer to find other security. And that if hee shall set up & furnish a Windmill hee shall be allowed for the same at the End of his Terme as it shall be indifferently valued. If he shall not longer continue Tenant.
King's Lynn Hall book 1684-1731

August 1392: Kings Lynn town acquired the site from the Bishop of Lynn at 20s per annum

July 1424: Robert Perch, miller leased the mill for three years

November 1424: Robert Perch released from tenancy

November 1424: John Wynch, miller took on a seven year lease

17th October 1690: Lease issued to Thomas Shearman

1702: Thomas Shearman, 43 Mill Lane (later Millfleet and Stonegate Street), was paying £12 tax per annum

1704: Thomas Shearman's will signed

March 1705: Thomas Shearman snr died

Raistrick's map 1725: Town Mill

25th March 1727: Nicholas Young took on a 7 year lease

c,1896: Mill demolished to make way for the new London Road


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