Oxnead Mill
River Bure



c.1905
c.1905

Oxnead Mill was another Domesday mill. From at least 1716 and up until 1822, Oxnead was a paper mill. In 1822 it was converted to make blankets before once again being rebuilt as a flour mill. A stone plaque indicates that this took place in 1850-1 using white painted brick with a Norfolk pantiled roof. The design was slightly unusual, consisting of 3 adjoining gabled sections. Being on the Aylsham Navigation there were two lucums, one on land and one above the water. In 1940 the mill was once more turned over to paper production.

The wheel, one of the largest in the county, was 18' 6" in diameter and 12' wide. Unusually for a Norfolk mill, it was housed in a single storey structure built against west side of the mill.


c.1900
c.1900

Oxnead lock c.1910 before the flood Oxnead lock in 1912 after the flood
Oxnead lock c.1910 before the flood
Oxnead lock in 1912 after the flood

Oxnead lock 7th September 2008
Oxnead lock 7th September 2008

WATER MILLS
To be LET on lease for a Term of Years,
SITUATE AT
OXNEAD, NEAR AYLSHAM,
In the County of Norfolk,
Upon the never-failing River BURE, navigable to Yarmouth,
THEY were formerly Paper Mills, and for the last 28 years have been in the occupation of Robert and Page Bleakley, as Woollen Manufacturers, whose lease expires at Michaelmas next, and their machinery (if required) can be taken in the usual way.
These Mills are in a fine and highly-cultivated agricultural district, and are well adapted to any trade requiring power and warehouse room, as they cover a large space, and can be hired without any payment for machinery.
There is a capital Residence, Stabling, Farming Buildings, and Piggery for upwards of 100 Pigs. About 20 Acres of Land can be had if required.
For further particulars, apply to Mr. J. Warnes, Bolwick Hall, near Aylsham; Mr. G. E. Simpson, Solicitor, or Mr. W. Thorold, Engineer, both of Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle - 9th June 1849

Sir E. Stracey, Bart. Oxneade.
I beg to lay before you an Estimate for Machinery for a new Water Mill at Oxneade, viz, New Water Wheel 18ft. 6in. high, 12ft.wide, 4 cast iron rings put together in halves with good strong bolts, cast iron brackets, round rings to carry the floats, well bolted to the rings, memel fir floats and back boards, new breast, two good oak staple posts 10x14in oak, mud cill 10x14, Cap cill 8x10in oak, live breast made of good 4in oak plank well bolted together. 2 cast iron racks, 2 pinions, iron guide rolls, carriages, bolts &c. ham'd, iron laying shaft, worm and worm wheel, carriages & bolts &c. to draw breast with. Cast iron steadfast breast, new backshut, 2 staple posts 8x12. Cap cill 8x12in. mudcill 8x10, oak gate 4in. thick with good oak struts 6x3in. 2 Cast iron racks, 2 pinions, rolls, carriages, laying shaft, worm & worm wheel, bolts &c. Cast iron Water Wheel Shaft, with 3 bearings, 3 cast iron carriages, 3 bell metal brasses, bolts &c. Cast iron pit wheel 12ft. 6in. high put together in halves with good strong bolts. English oak bridgen post with step brass, regulating screw, bolts &c. Cast iron Wallower, 3ft. 6in. diameter, pitched, trimmed & hung upon shaft, with 16 good screws. Cast iron spur wheel with iron teeth, turned, pitched, trimmed & hung with good ham'd iron keys, 6 cast iron stone nuts, geared with wood cogs, bored and hung upon cones, Turned all over, 6 cast iron bridgen posts with round brasses and raising screws. 6 sets of ham'd iron standards to raise the nuts out of work, with 6 sets of lighter screws, stilyard irons &c., one set of regulators with brasses, levers, &c. 4 pairs of French stones 4ft. 2in. diameter, 4 patent stone boxes with brass rings, screws, &c. 4 cast steel damsels, 4 steel springs, 4 cast iron rings, 4 maces, 4 sets of vats, 4 hoppers, 4 shoes, 4 bearers, brasses &c. 4 corn screens, 7 cast iron bridgen posts, 6 cast iron bridgetrees, 6 cast iron plates for stones to bridge upon. Two long iron plates at back of hurst to tie the iron frame together, chipped, filed and fitted together with strong bolts, two ham'd iron upright shafts as shown in the Drawing and four mitre wheels, 2 to drive the flourmill &c. & 2 to sack tackle. Cast iron carriages, plumblocks &c. bolts & brasses, one wheel pinion on cross shaft to drive flour machine with long cross shaft. Cast iron carriage bearings, bolts, &c. Two bevil wheels and nuts at the head of the machine to reverse the machine, new patent flour machine, fitted up complete, new patent flourmill and new sifter.
The above work made and fixed in a workmanlike manner will amount to the Sum of Nine Hundred and Fifty pounds, Ten Shillings.

£950.10.0

March 1850.
I remain.
Your Obedt. & Hble. Servt.
John S. Buttifant.
Millwright

Millwright's plate from 1850-1 rebuild
Millwright's plate from 1850-1 rebuild

The wheel that John Buttifant built and installed was still in situ in 2004 - 154 years later.


There was a paper-mill at Oxnead several years before 1716; in that year one of the early paper-makers, William Seaman, died. It is not known whether or not Seaman was the first occupant, or if this mill pre-dates either of those already mentioned. An inventory of the goods of Seaman survives in the Norwich Archdeaconry series, but this had been badly damaged, and that section reading 'in the mill' has been almost totally destroyed. The only lines legible being; 'All the paper - - - work House wad - - - . . .£12 00 00.' and 'All the paper s - - - zing in the loft . . .£9 00 00.' It appears that the mill passed to Seaman's son because Shorter notes that in 1717 William Seamen of Oxnead, paper-maker, took an apprentice named James Dey.

It is not clear who owned the mill until 1748, when John Pollings the papermaker buried his daughter, and 1762 when he died. If Pollings was the master, he must have retired in 1758 when Oxnead mills were advertised to be let in the Norwich Mercury of 9th December. The terms of the advertisement throw some light on how the mill obtained its raw materials and transported the finished product.

'Oxnead Mills, are now to be Let for any Term of Years not exceeding Fifty, (the Tenant to do all Repairs and have Liberty to Assign) being an old established and well accustomed Paperwork, commodiously situate on a constant regular stream. Nine miles from Norwich, five from Northwalsham, three from Aylsham, and four from Coltishall, to which last Place, Junk and Materials may be brought up by Water from Yarmouth, and Manufactured Goods carried down at the very least Expense; and from whence they may also be conveyed by Navigable Rivers to Norwich, Beccles, Bungay and several Places of Note . . .'

Transportation costs of both goods and raw materials were an important consideration to anyone contemplating opening a manufacturing business in the countryside at this time.

The next references to paper-making at Oxnead are in 1779 when the mill was insured by Joseph and Daniel Ames, and William Parkinson, a partnership who also operated the mill at Hellesdon. In 1802 a man named John Threadwell is listed on a Norwich poll as a paper-maker at Oxnead, and around 1822 the mill was converted to the manufacture of 'duffield blankets'.
David Stoker


While Joseph Ames and his son Daniel Ames were running the mill in 1779, Daniel's son Edward Ames, went on to run Stoke Holy Cross mill.

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.


Workers outside the mill in 1910
Workers outside the mill in 1910
John William Grix (later to become owner) is in the centre

During the first quarter of the 20th century, the Grix family, who also ran the next mill upstream at Burgh, converted the flour production machinery from stone grinding to the more efficient steel roller system. This probably involved the removal of much of the older machinery and gearing.

When the Grix family sold the mill, it was with a caveat that the mill could not be used for corn milling.


c.1970
The river lucum missing in the 1970s

In 1940 John Moseley and Pitt Rivers formed the Agricola Paper Mill Co. It was probably at this time that the remaining milling machinery was removed. Two large concrete vats were built on the ground floor and were used for bleaching pulp. One was built over the area where the pit wheel would have been.

A shed with a large chimney was built to the rear of the wheelhouse. This was where the pulp was boiled prior to being processed in the mill. Several Polish men used to work and apparently generally live in this area.

John Moseley tended to replace worn wheel paddles with any available material, consequently many of the remaining paddles have sheet metal sections.

Oxnead wheel 9th January 2003   Oxnead wheel 9th January 2003
Oxnead wheel 9th January 2003
 
The wheel with sheet metal paddle sections

When parts of the building were found to be unsafe, repair work was carried out. However, this proved to be insufficient and the mill was finally closed down in the 1950s.

May 1962
May 1962

Over the years the whitened bricks started to revert to their natural colour and during the 1960s first the pitched roof on the house side gable went followed in later years by both lucums.

A new brick bridge had also been built just downriver of the old lock replacing the wooden structure further below.

January 1963 Tailrace August 1967
January 1963
Tailrace August 1967

9th January 2003 9th January 2003
Mill and wheelhouse January 2003
9th January 2003

Jim & Barbara Crampton owned the mill from 1957 and used it to store 3 large organs. One originally came from the Carlton Cinema in Norwich and another from Norwich Haymarket. The third came from outside the county. At one point, for a short time, deep litter chickens were kept on one floor of the mill.

By the 1970s the pulp boiling shed was becoming derelict, although for a time it was used to store an aircraft fuselage. One night the chimney collapsed. The shed remains were then removed.


Seeing Oxnead Mill on the website reminded of two events in my life. I was born in 1937. Aged 15 I went to Blackpool on a week's holiday with a friend and his family. John and I couldn't wait to get ourselves over to Squires Gate airfield. We were to fly for the very first time. We paid ten bob apiece (50p) and were thrilled to climb aboard an 8-seater twin-engined De Haviland Rapide for a ten minute flight taking us around Blackpool's famous tower. All passengers got a nice certificate stating the type of aircraft and the fact that they had flown at a height of over 500 feet. Blackpool Tower stands at 518 feet! The certificate was signed by 'Captain Jim Crampton'. Several years ago, I learned of Oxnead Mill and its collection of organs. I was surprised to learn the name of the mill's owner and wondered if it was the same 'Capt. Jim Crampton'. Needless to say, Jim wrote a very pleasing letter in return and invited me to Oxnead Mill at anytime. He went on to mention that his business of flying progressed to where he owned and piloted an airliner in conjuction with a travel business.
Geoffrey Lloyd - 13th July 2004


1970s before the chimney collapse
The derelict sheds in the 1970s before the chimney collapse

In 1959 a turbine costing £800 was installed to provide electrical power for both the organs and the rest of the property. In order to provide an unrestricted flow of water to the turbine, the lower paddles of the wheel were removed. The dynamo was housed outside the main structure in order to prevent the mill being classed and rated as a power station. The turbine was bought from Sir Michael Peter of Iford Manor who is related to the builder that constructed Norwich Thorpe railway station.


I was born at Oxnead at Lime Kiln Farm whose meadows led down to the mill and my cousin Susan Crane now lives in the new large house adjacent to the mill! What a co-incidence. Our farmhouse was demolished after we left in about 1960 and replaced by a modern house on the same site. We all remember Jim and Barbara Crampton who also owned the Travel Centre in Norwich although I remember him most for giving me my first trip in a small plane from Oxnead and seeing my own house from the air. Quite a treat in those days. The mill was out of bounds in those days apart from the area where the organs were as I think it was deemed unsafe.
Wendy Levy - 30th January 2006


Part of the organ January 2003
Part of the organ
2nd floor January 2003

27th December 2007 27th December 2007
Bypass 27th December 2007
Wheelhouse 27th December 2007

Bypass sluice 27th December 2007
Bypass sluice 27th December 2007

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

18th April 2007
18th April 2007

1716: First mention of the mill as a papermill on death of William Seaman - papermaker

1714: William Seaman jnr took on James Dey as apprentice

1748: John Pollings buried his daughter

1758: John Pollings retired and mill advertised to be let

1762: John Pollings died

1779: Mill insured by partnership of Joseph & Daniel Ames and William Parkinson (also at Hellesdon mill)

1802: John Threadwell - papermaker

c.1822: Mill converted to manufacture 'duffield blankets'

White's 1836: Robert & Page Bleakley, Duffield & blanket manufacturers

Census 1845: Robert & Page Bleakley, manufacturers

White's 1845: Robert & Page Bleakley, Duffield blanket manufacturers

Census 1851: James Key (20), millers carter

1851: Rebuilt as a cornmill

Kelly's 1853: Cooke & Gambling

Kelly's 1865: William Browne

Census 1881: Charles Edward Browne - merchant & miller, employing 10 men, also 10 men & 2 boys on 235 acre North Farm
John Ludbrooke (41) - miller's labourer foreman, Mill House, Oxnead
Samuel Gotts (37) - miller, No. 3, The Row, Oxnead
Edward Bircham (28) - agricultural labourer & miller, No 1, Hardy's Cottages, Oxnead
Arthur J. Heuse (20) - merchant's clerk, lodging with John Ludbrooke, Mill House, Oxnead + 5 others

Kelly's 1883: William Browne & Son, millers

Kelly's 1892: Charles Edward Browne - farmer & miller (water) - firm of W. Browne & Son, North Farm

Kelly's 1896: Charles Edward Browne - farmer & miller (water), North Farm - firm of W. Browne & Son,
The Mill, Oxnead (also at Burgh-next-Aylsham)
Frederick Charles Matthews Browne - miller, The Mill House - firm of W. Browne & Son, The Mill, Oxnead (also at Burgh-next-Aylsham)

Kelly's 1904: William Browne & Son - millers (water) & merchants - Stand 15, Corn Exchange, Norwich. Head Office, The Grange, Marsham

Kelly's 1912: William Browne & Son, millers

Kelly's 1916: John William Grix

Kelly's 1922: John William Grix - miller (water) & corn merchant, Oxnead Roller Mills

Kelly's 1937: John William Grix - flour miller, corn & cake merchant, also farmer, Oxnead Roller Mills,
North Farm. Tel. Buxton 21

1940: Converted back to a papermill by John Moseley & Pitt Rivers - Agricola Paper Mill Co

c.1941: Pulp boiling shed and chimney built

1957: Jim & Barbara Crampton

1959: Turbine installed for electricity production

1986: lucums and east gable roof rebuilt

2003: Mill used a store



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 TG2278 2398
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003