Thetford
Bishop's Mill

River Little Ouse



Mill and mill dam c.1924
Mill and mill dam c.1924

Thetford Bishop's Mill stood on or near an ancient site where a mill had worked since before Domesday. In later years the flour mill was converted to a papermill that was built of Thetford grey brick under a tile and slate roof. In the 1700s - 1800s it was known as St Audrey's or Bishop's Mill. In 1879 the site was taken over by Thetford Pulpware, which went on to become a large concern with the factory covering several acres.


January 2003
January 2003

...and of two mills the king hath two parts and the earl a third. The king has two parts of a third mill, and of those two parts the earl has third.
...besides this, two burgesses have one mill.
And the bishop hath there twenty houses free, one mill, and half a church.
Roger
(Bigot) hath in demsne, quit from all custom, to which belonged, in the time of King Edward, two curacates of land, and now the same; always two carucates in demesne, twenty bordars, two servants, one mill, thirteen acres of meadow, thirty acres of land. There is one mill, and five acres of meadow...
In the burgh, Roger hath also thirty-three men under his protection, as his predessor had, on whom he has no other claims but protection, and he has now one mill, which Sturstin, a burgess holds. He claims it as a royal gift, but the hundred knows not how; that mill is worth thirty-two shillings.
Translation from Domesday - 1080


...and two water mills, value £5.

The water-mills let for £2, 10s. per annum, which, according to the value of money at that time compared with the present, would be adequate to something like £85 per annum for each mill, showing that they were of considerable working power and usefulness.
Inquisition on the death of the Earl of Leicester - 1327

The Mighty City in the East - A. Leigh Hunt 1870


...shall make, kepe, and repare oon of the saide breges lyeing on the king's water and ryver runinge from the Castell mille toward the Pytmell, in the said towne...
The Order for Repayer of the Bridges called the None's Bridges in Thettforde - 1539


The town has several good inns, many well stocked shops, an old established brewery, several malt-kilns and corn mills, a tannery a foundry, and an extensive paper mill, the latter employing about 50 hands in the manufacture of the finer sorts of paper.
White's History of Thetford - 1864


Re. ancient maps:
Spanish Close
was that piece of meadow ground east of the
Paper Mill, enclosed by a wall, and on the south bank of the Little Ouse River.

Bellman's Close adjoins St. Audrey's churchyard, near the Paper Mill, St Mary's parish.

Butler's Common and Lammas Meadow are situated between the two streams, west of the
Water Mill of Messrs. Cronshey and Jillings, and north-west of the small bridges.

Small Bridge Common is situated on the east side of these bridges, adjoining the Paper Mill
The Mighty City in the East - A. Leigh Hunt 1870


Part of the site c.1890 Headrace January 2003
Part of the site c.1890
Headrace January 2003

1737
Another sturgeon, nearly as large as the first, killed in the river by the paper mill, April 15th.
The Mighty City in the East - A. Leigh Hunt 1870


The original sturgeon referred to above was killed in the Mill Pool of nearby Thetford_Mill on 7th April 1715 and apparently was found to be measuring 7 ft. 8 in. in length, and 3 ft. 2 in. in circumference, and weighing 192 lbs.
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd stone plaque PPMC logo
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd stone plaque
PPMC logo

The earliest reference to a paper-mill at Thetford is in 1735, among the correspondence of the antiquary Francis Blomefield. St Audry's or Bishop's Mill in Thetford had but recently been converted to the manufacture of paper, so Blomefield was not sure that the local papermaker could meet his requirements. In January 1735/6 he therefore journeyed to Thetford to see for himself. The standard Thetford product was inferior to that generally on sale in London, but the papermaker, Thomas Russell, nevertheless undertook to produce a superfine English crown paper especially for Blomefield at six shillings per ream. The historian therefore agreed to have eight reams or more of it delivered to Fersfield within a month.

The Thetford superfine paper was significantly cheaper than that available from the better established paper mills in the home counties, but was also of a noticeably poorer quality. Blomefield later received criticisms from subscribers and booksellers about the colour and general quality of his paper, and he also received more than one enquiry about the possibility of a deluxe edition printed on finer paper. These comments were dismissed with the argument that he had made a deal from which he would not withdraw, and was therefore determined to carry on as he had begun. There was however one major fault which did not become apparent until the first two numbers had been printed, when a number of pages were found to have cracked and split. Russell explained that the paper had been sized in a frost and so was too brittle, and undertook to replace all the faulty sheets. But this was only a small comfort to Blomefield who was thereby forced to reprint his first number, as well as suffer from a loss of reputation with his subscribers.

The mill is next noticed in April 1737, when Blomefield notes that a 13 stone 10lb sturgeon, seven feet long was caught in the mill pool. in 1753 when the papermaker, William Holmes insured his goods and stock. Shorter also notes that in 1756 he took an apprentice named John Hinson. The next and most informative references come, surprisingly, from the Howard family archive of Castle_Rising. Thomas Martin briefly refers to the mill in his History of Thetford, written before his death in 1772. He claimed
"the reason why Thetford has not been improved in its buildings may be ascribed to its not having any considerable manufactory besides a paper mill".

In 1785 when Richard Howard was considering the future of the mill at Castle_Rising (above) he asked his friend Lewis Bagot to find any information about the condition of the paper trade and the operation of other mills. Bishop Bagot in turn wrote to an acquaintance, H. Manning in Thetford, who therefore visited the local mill in the same year; his reply to Bagot is of great interest to the history of the Thetford mill and of early paper-making in general. Manning was struck most of all by the lack of information that he could obtain, 'The proprietor of our mills is at present in London, where he will make some stay, and on applying to the head work-men and millwrights employ'd by Him, I found a degree of shyness and jealousy that prevented much communication, and render'd the certainty of the little I could acquire by no means equal to my wishes.' From the information that he could obtain it appeared that the purity of the water, although a desirable asset, was not thought to be the overriding consideration in the siting of a mill. Pure water was not essential
as they have methods of remedying any defects in the water by leaving it to settle in cisterns, and then by refining it by means of woollen strainers; or otherwise by supplying the machine, or "washing engines" where the linnen rags are very carefully and repeatedly cleans'd previous to being used for white paper, from wells or springs near the premises. (Other contemporary paper-makers did not share this opinion; in Bagot's reply to Richard Howard this statement is contradicted by a mill owner near Norwich who claimed that the purity of the water is of considerable consequence.)

It was the opinion of the workmen at Thetford that the main consideration for the site of any mill was that there should be a 'a good head of water' where the stream would always be strong enough to work the machinery and not subject to flooding or drought. The amount of machinery and the number of vats that could be employed was the main factor determining the mill rent. Manning was given to understand (although he dared not vouch for the authenticity of the statement) that the mill rent averaged between fifty and seventy pounds a year for each vat. There were four vats constantly employed at Thetford manufacturing different grades of paper. Manning was unable to obtain further information but offered to try again for the Bishop when the owner returned from his stay in London.

Bagot, when replying to Howard, (see above) stated that Thetford was 'the only place in this part of the world where white paper is made'; however it seems most unlikely that this was the case, although many of the Norfolk mills may have been engaged only in the manufacture of brown and other wrapping papers. John Pendred's directory of the book trade in 1785 lists mills at Thetford and Stoke_Holy_Cross both of which presumably were making white paper.

Although Thetford mill is not marked on Faden's map of Norfolk in 1797, Shorter notes that Holmes went into partnership with Richard. Pawson around 1791, and Pawson continued at the mill until at least 1802. Norfolk directories between 1845 and 1858 show that paper was being made at 'Bishop's mill' Thetford by Richard Munn & Co. who also operated the mills at Kings Lynn and Castle_Rising. In the 1865 directory the proprietors were given as the firm of Mackay & Watson.
David Stoker



Pulpmill site January 2003
The Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co occupied a large site in its heyday
The same site in January 2003

The British Industries Fair 1936
The British Industries Fair 1936

Jute sacking was pulped in the mill before being moulded into a variety of artifacts and then baked.


Pulpware platter Pulpware bowl
A pulpware platter
A pulpware bowl

The bowl above was handed down to the present owner by her grandmother. The diameter of the top of the bowl is 9¾ inches, it was probably made c.1920 and was hand painted.

Written underneath the bowl:
Thetford Norfolk Pulpware
130 Useful articles made in England


Pulpware miners helmet
A pulpware child's miner helmet, in Germany Sept 2005

The Ancient House Museum in Thetford provided information that the helmet in the above photo was produced in the early 1900s and is helmet no. 106.


1942 World War II tank helmet 1942 World War II tank helmet
1942 World War II tank helmet 1942 World War II tank helmet
Pulpware 1942 World War II tank crew helmet

Pulpware crash helmet Pulpware crash helmet Pulpware crash helmet
Pulpware crash helmet with hand painted Sunbeam logo c.1942

A pulpware bowl A baby bath
A pulpware bowl
A baby bath

Pulpware bowl used as a sewing bowl in New Zealand Pulpware bowl used as a sewing bowl in New Zealand Pulpware bowl used as a sewing bowl in New Zealand
Pulpware bowl used as a sewing bowl in New Zealand

Mill turbine 26th January 2003 Turbine and drive shafts
Mill turbine 26th January 2003
Turbine and drive shafts

Lying derelict prior to conversion in 2000 Lying derelict prior to conversion in 2000
Lying derelict prior to conversion in 2000
Renovation and conversion in 2000 26th January 2003
Renovation and conversion in 2000
26th January 2003

After conversion 2002 15th April 2007
After conversion 2002
15th April 2007

O. S. Map 1882

O. S. Map 1882
Thetford corn mill to the north and the pulp mill to the south
Courtesy of NLS map images


O. S. Map 1882

O. S. Map 1882
Courtesy of NLS map images


Map c.2005
Map c.2005

A mill bedstone sunk into the lawn near the road is etched with the date 1913.


1735: Paper mill first mentioned by Francis Blomefield. Thomas Russell - papermaker

1737: Blomefield noted 7 foot sturgeon caught in millpool

1753: William Holmes - papermaker - took on John Hinson as apprentice

1772: Thomas Martin mentions the paper mill in his History of Thetford

1785: H. Manning made fact finding visit to the mill on behalf of Bishop Bagot re Howards at Castle Rising

1797: William Holmes enters partnership with Richard Pawson

1802: Richard Pawson

White's 1836: Richard Munn & Co., paper manufacturers,
Ouse mill

White's 1845: Richard Munn & Co - Ouse Mill - (also Kings Lynn and Castle Rising)

White's 1854: Richard Munn & Co - Bishop's Mill

1858: Richard Munn & Co (also Kings Lynn and Castle Rising)

White's 1864: G. Mackay & J. Watson, paper mfrs.

1865: Mackay & Watson

1879: Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd. (according to reproduction of seal on heritage sign)

Kelly's 1883: Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Papier mâche mfrs., Mill Lane

Not known if the following entries were actually at the mill:
Kellys 1896: Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - papier mache goods manufacturers
F.H. Millington, manager

1897: Enlargement of mill (denoted by stone plaque)

Kellys 1900:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Mill Lane - papier mache goods manufacturers F. H. Millington, M. I. Mech.E. manager. prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887

Kellys 1922:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - pulp ware goods manufacturers
W. J. Jolly, manager. prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887. Trading as Pulp Co. Thetford

Kellys 1925:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - pulp ware goods manufacturers
W.J. Jolly, manager. prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887. Trading as Pulp Co. Thetford

Kellys 1929:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - pulp ware goods manufacturers
(W. J. Jolly, manager); prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887, Mill lane. Trading as "Pulp Co. Thetford," T N 77

Kellys 1933:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - pulp ware goods manufacturers
W.J. Jolly, manager. prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887. Trading as Pulp Co. Thetford

Kellys 1937:
Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Limited, pulp ware goods manufacturers
(C. J. Sear, manager); prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887, Mill lane. Trading as "Pulpco, Thetford;" TN 77

Kellys 1933: Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co Ltd., Mill Lane - pulp ware goods manufacturers
C.J. Sear, manager. prize medals Calcutta 1884, London 1884, Adelaide 1887. Trading as Pulpco. Thetford

c.1955: Mill closed

2000: Mill sympathetically converted to residential use with turbine, gearing and pullies retained


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 TL 87028270
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003