Sculthorpe Mill
River Wensum


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Mill and ford c.1900
Mill and ford c.1900

At the time of Domesday, three watermills were listed in Sculthorpe. By 1225 the mills belonged to Richard Botte and the de Hasseneye or de Hasseneia family with the latterday Sculthorpe watermill, along with ten acres of land becoming known as Hasseneia Mill.

The final structure of Hasseneia mill was built on a large strip of gravel and silt above an ancient ford that was once the river crossing point for the Romans. The building was made up of flint rubble with brick dressings that probably came from an earlier mill with a new Norfolk pantiled roof. According to a plaque on its rear wall, this new mill was built in 1757, possibly just after alterations of the river course.

Having ground corn for many years, the mill probably ceased working c.1947 and was becoming derelict by the 1950s.

In 1478 the Manor Court Rolls for Skullthorppe, Valerianus Shragger and Johannes Barsham confirm in their deed of 25 acres, the freedom of one water-mill with staith and fishpond pertaining to the same mill formerly once called Bottemylle.

Bottemylle, once owned by and named after the family of Richard Botte, disappeared along with the third mill over time and eventually only one mill survived - Hasseneia Mill.

c.1900 c.1907

Mill and fenced ford c.1925
Mill and fenced ford c.1925

The Sculthorpe Field Book of 1766 lists Sculthorpe mill as belonging to George Townshend next the Mill Dam ... one Watermill called Hastney Mill otherwise Sculthorp Mill... The name Hastney is doubtless a derivation of the earlier Hasseneia.

Osman Lowder, miller in 1766, died on 21st April 1771 at the age of 74 and was buried in Sculthorpe alongside his wife Elizabeth.

The inscription on his gravestone reads:

Weep not for me my children dear
I am not dead but just rest here.
My debt is paid
My grave you see
Wait but awhile
You will follow me.

Dam c.1935 Millpond c.1925
Dam c.1935
Millpond c.1925

Sculthorpe Mill was the first mill on the River Wensum. An old map section of West Rudham shows a spring that is listed as the sourse of the Wensum. However, it would appear from modern maps that the source is in fact just to the north of Horningtoft.

O.S. Map 1885
O.S. Map 1885
Springs shown bottom centre right
East Rudham postmill top right
Courtesy of NLS map images

Sculthorpe Mill was about two miles upstream from Hempton_Mill, which in turn was about one mile upstream from Fakenham_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 to be operated.

Headrace in 1951 Tailrace and ford in 1951
Headrace in 1951
Tailrace and ford in 1951

Whereas I, JOHN LOWDER of Sculthorpe in the county of Norfolk, Miller, have at various Times spoken disrespectfully of the character and credit of Mr. William Banyard of Little_Walsingham in the said county, Miller ....
Now I, the said John Lowder do hereby beg Pardon ...
Witness my Hand this 19th Day of June 1777

The Mark of John Lowder
Witness B. Mallett
John Pye
Norfolk Chronicle - 28th June 1777

Sale of Household Furniture of Thomas Savory of Sculthorpe Mills ...
Deed of Assignment ...
Debts to Benjamin Carter of Rainham or Mr. John Jarrett, of Hempton.

Norfolk Chronicle - 25th April 1812

Notice re:-
William SANTY late of Sculthorpe, miller, deceased.
Lynn Advertiser - 29th September 1866

William Handcock ran the mill from 1902 to 1903 when he died, although it is probable that he was working at the mill prior to taking it over, possibly from as far back as 1875. He married Patience Harriet Anne (née Wright) Handcock (b.Filby 1850) in 1868 at Walsingham and went on to have 10 children. The eldest was their son William followed by Blanche Matilda Hazell who was born in Horstead in 1871. While living at Sculthorpe Mill in the early 1880s, she would walk the 3 miles to Fakenham each day in order to attend school, pushing the younger children in a pram. They paid a penny a week in school fees.

Blanche remembered the mill as a lonely place and the children would get very excited if they spotted another human being by the river.

William Handcock thought the fish in the River Wensum were beautiful and the Lord's work. He refused to catch them. His wife Patience thought the Lord would not have "Given a bugger" if a few fed their children!
Ivy Lillian Hazell (daughter of Blanche)

William Handcock must have suffered from lung complaints and fell ill. He eventually died of pneumonia.
When William became infirmed his young son Alfred took on the mill work but was soon died in an accident at the mill at the age of 14.

"Alfred was showing his best friend the mill machinery and for some reason put his foot on the millstone. He was dragged into the workings and instantly died. His mother, Patience, knew something dreadful had happened because she heard the mill stop. Her hair turned from black to white overnight from the shock."
Ivy Lillian Hazell (daughter of Blanche)

William or Alfred Handcock

The figure in the doorway of the c.1900 photograph at the top of the page is probably either William or Alfred Handcock.

Lynn Advertiser - 26th June 1903
Lynn Advertiser - 26th June 1903

Before the accident some of the elder children, including Blanche, had left the Mill. Most probably entered into service - three went to work at the Grosvenor Hotel, Victoria, London. Blanche ended up in Middlesex where she met and married William Hazell. Bill Hazell was an engineer by trade and when Alfred Handcock was killed, Bill was keen to take over the Mill, which he had visited in 1902 during his engagement to Blanche. However, Blanche absolutely refused to go back to Sculthorpe - she much preferred the bright lights of West London, so when William Handcock died the family left the Mill and moved out to live with the older children.
Blanche nursed her mother Patience until her death in Isleworth, Middlesex in the 1920s.

Blanche Handcock aged 16 in 1888 Bill Hazell & Blanche 1921
Blanche Handcock aged 16 in 1888
Bill Hazell & Blanche 1921

Around 1916 the mill was being rented by William Harris. It appears he persuaded one of his employees, George Gostling Gray to buy the mill from the Townshends of Raynham through a trust in 1923. Gray obtained the necessary money through his marriage to Caroline Fairburn, thereby eventually acquiring the money from her family. Caroline's father then appointed two trustees whose assent would have to be obtained before the mill could be sold. The trustees were a Mr. Rackburn and "Rat" Ratcliffe Pope.

Mill and fenced ford c.1958
Mill and fenced ford c.1958

c.1958 Other buildings within the mill complex c.1958
Other buildings within the mill complex c.1958

At the time of the left hand picture above in 1958 the house attached to the right of the mill was still inhabited by the last miller to work the mill. The mill buildings in the right hand picture were subsequently converted to housing accommodation.

During the 1950s the original round watercourse arches and bridge were reinforced by rather ugly square arches with concrete lintels.


I cannot find any photographs of the interior although I remember it clearly. There was no mains water or electricity - drinking water was drawn from the well in the cottages opposite and it was very good too. All lighting was by paraffin lamps.  Mains were not brought down to the Mill until after my Grandmother sold out.
Richard Plank - 5th June 2003

The buried axle in October 1969 April 1967 with the waterwheel axle in the foreground
The buried axle in October 1969
April 1967 with the waterwheel axle in the foreground

The wheel axle c.1968
The wheel axle c.1968

At Easter 1965, William Patrick Collins, the new owner opened the mill and mill house as a Country Club, although some of the original beams still remained as features.

Part of the waterwheel axle was sunk into the riverbed and became a fencepost and a mooring post for boats.

Newspaper advert May 1973
Newspaper advert May 1973

Sculthorpe Country Club membership card Sculthorpe Country Club membership card
Sculthorpe Country Club membership card

August 1983 August 1983
Sculthorpe mill ford August 1983
Wheel axle in the background August 1983

The children in the above photo are from left to right:
Jennifer Butler, Amanda Fisher, Ronnie Butler, Brad Fisher and Brian Fisher

Sculthorpe Country Club bar 31st December 1983 Sculthorpe Country Club entrance 31st December 1983
Sculthorpe Country Club bar 31st December 1983
Sculthorpe Country Club entrance 31st December 1983

Eastern Daily Press advert - 2nd June 1984
Eastern Daily Press advert - 2nd June 1984

Headrace 23rd March 2003 Tailrace 23rd March 2003
Headrace 23rd March 2003
Tailrace 23rd March 2003

March 2003
March 2003

After a £400,000 restoration program, following the fire in July 2002, the mill was officially reopened for business on 30th January 2003 by the fire crews from Fakenham and Great Massingham who had helped save the building from total destruction. Local actress Liza Goddard and her husband David Cobham also took part along with Greene King's senior business manager, Richard Cobb. Leaseholders Justine Manning and Steven Smith run the restaurant that also has six bedroom accommodation.

Natural England
River Wensum Restoration Strategy
Full Report



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

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

I am the great niece of George Gostling Gray who owned Sculthorpe Mill in 1923.
According to the 1911 census George and his family lived and worked at Ingworth_mill where his profession was noted as '' Miller and farmer.''
Secondly, as I read  the notes on Sculthorpe Mill I wondered how his wife had managed to raise enough money to buy the mill. A friend trawled the censuses for me and found that Caroline Fairbairn's father (George and Caroline were married in 1870 in Alysham) was in the 1891 census Postmaster, Draper and Grocer in Oulton, having 'risen' from being a ticket collector on the 1881 census. Her mother was Abagail Kiddell from Stodey near Holt. I have not yet explored further to see if she too ''had money''.
Thirdly George's father, also George Gray, is, on the 1881 census as a miller at South Repps the address being, Lower Street, The Mill, and his occupation Miller. This George Gray born in 1846 was my great grand father. My father escaped the land and went to sea when he was 15 and he never spoke of his family to me.
From being a large family, the Grays have dwindled and in my generation there only 3 of us left all with no issue!!! So I am happy to get us on record whilst I can.
Angela Gray - 1st October 2010

Mill from Sedgeford Road - 24th July 2011
Mill from Sedgeford Road - 24th July 2011

Headrace 22nd February 2015 Tailrace 22nd February 2015
Headrace 2nd February 2015
Tailrace 22nd February 2015

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

White's 1854: Joseph Fyson, corn miller and maltster

White's 1864: Joseph Fyson, corn miller

c.1225: Lemarin or Lennard the miller. Mill owned by the de Hasseneia family

c.1225: Simon the miller

1257: John Earle Warenne (fought William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297) owned the manor

1375: Sir John De Norwich died and the watermill in the Manor of Sculethorp was valued at 28s. 6d.

28th September 1757: Lease from Mary Chaplin of Tattersett to Hon. (General) George Townshend of Sculthorpe, tenant of Cranmer Hall

1757: New mill built

Sculthorpe Field Book 1766: Osman Lowder, miller

21st April 1771: Osman Lowder, miller, died at the age of 74

1777: John Lowder, miller

Faden's map 1797: Mill

1812: Thomas Savory, miller

April 1812: Notice re sale of Household furniture of Thomas Savory, miller due to Deed of Assignment

Enclosure 1829: William Santy, miller

Pigot's 1839: William Sainter, miller

White's 1836: William Santy, corn miller

White's 1845: William Santy, corn miller

Census 1851:

William Santy (63) b.Beeston, farmer 137 of 137 acres employing 4 labourers & a boy; miller employing 2 journeyman
Judith Santy (37) b.Elm, Cambs
Hannah Wright (33) b.Tattersett, house servant
James March (24) b.Sculthorpe, carter & groom
Address: Santy's Mill

Kelly's 1854: William Santy, miller

White's 1854: Charles Horsley, corn miller & merchant b.1827. Also Wendling towermill

White's 1864: Charles Horsley, corn miller & merchant. Also Wendling towermill

Census 1871: Walter King, journeyman miller (previously at Keswick_watermill)

c.1873: Charles Horsley, miller & tenant of Grove Farm, took on lease of Sculthorpe towermill

Kelly's 1879: Charles Horsley & Son, millers, corn & seed merchants & farmers; & at Fakenham Mills & Wendling

Census 1881: William Handcock (36) b.Shotesham, miller - employed by Charles Horsley
Patience Handcock, (32) b.Filby, wife
William Nathaniel Handcock (11) b.Horstead, scholar
Blanche Matilda Handcock (10) scholar
Gertrude Elizabeth Handcock (5) b.Sculthorpe, scholar
Lilian Kate Hannah Handcock (3) b.Sculthorpe, scholar
May Jessie Leah Handcock (10mnths)

White's 1883: Charles Horsley, miller & farmer, and Fakenham (also Sculthorpe towermill)

White's 1890: Charles Horsley, miller & farmer, The Grove

Kelly's 1896: Charles Horsley & Son, millers

1902: William Handcock

17th March 1903: William Handcock died (b.16th August 1844 Shotesham)

23rd June 1903: Alfred Ernest Handcock (son) caught and crushed to death in the machinery aged 14

1904: Philip Goulder

24th July 1905: Nellie (E.) Goulder (daughter of Philip & Susanna) drowned at the mill aged 25

c.1906: Richard Harris, farmer - The Grange

28th May 1911: Charles Horsley died

Kellys 1922: George Gray, miller (water)

1923: George Gostling Gray bought the mill from the Townshends of Raynham (previously at Ingworth)

Kellys 1925: George Gray, miller (water)

Kellys 1933: George Gostling Gray, miller (water)

22nd June 1934: George Gostling Gray (b. 1877) died aged 57

Kellys 1937: Mrs. Caroline Gray, miller (water) Tel. Fakenham 171

1946: Mill ceased working

1959: Mill lying derelict but adjoining Mill House still occupied by the last miller

1964: Bought by William Patrick Collins

Easter 1965: William Patrick Collins - opened as a Country Club

June 1965: Expanded to residential restaurant and club

11th April 1966: Caroline Gray died aged 88

1969: William Collins sold the Mill Hotel and Country Club to Ken & Jean Parrish

May 1973: Mill advertised as Sculthorpe Mill Country Club, restaurant with accommodation

2nd June 1984: Country Club & Hotel advertised as being under new management

1985: Ken & Jean Parrish retired

1985 - 2000: Owners included Thornham Lifeboats and Old English Inns

12th July 2002: Serious fire caused by electrical fault in mill owned by Greene King

30th January 2003: Mill reopened as restaurant with accommodation

June 2007: Mill business taken over by licensees Steve, Elaine and Beccy Barnett

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 TF 89243029
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003