West Newton Mill
River Babingley



c. 1935
c. 1935

West Newton watermill has throughout history, often been mistaken for or referred to as Castle_Rising watermill, whereas they are separate mills, although they are in the same parish. At some point the river course was altered in order to provide the necessary head of water to power the mill and the parish boundary line almost certainly indicates the original course.

The mill was constructed of brick under a Norfolk pantiled roof, although some materails almost certainly came from Castle Acre Priory. Although the first known mention of the mill in 1588 relates to a fulling mill, West Newton was best known after the fulling mill had been converted to a paper mill and was actually the subject of the first reference to a paper mill in Norfolk. For many years the mill was in the estate of the Viscount of Andover - the Howard family.

When papermaking ceased in 1845, the machinery was converted to corn milling and its 14' 6" wheel ran 3 pairs of stones.


Claude Messent's drawing of July 1938
Claude Messent's drawing of July 1938

Mill dam June 1946 Mill dam 18th January 2004
Mill dam June 1946
Mill dam 18th January 2004

1950s June 1968
1950s
June 1968

A deed in the archive of the Howard family of Castle Rising dated 11th May 1695 refers to a fulling mill converted to a paper-mill. Then in 1707 there is mention of Herbedge for ground at ye paper Mill. In 1711 it was recorded that William Goodale, a journeyman papermaker had died. Another deed from the Howard archive states that from 20th November 1713 John Holdsworth of Castle Rising, paper-maker, rented 'all the paper mill situate lying and being in (Castle Rising with all gardens, waters, streams of water passages, ways and appurtenances' for £14 10s. per annum.


June 1968 June 1983
June 1968
June 1983

The mill was at work until 1722, when the paper-maker had a serious dispute with the neighbouring corn-miller on the estate. The Norwich Gazette for 21st July of this year reported 'Yesterday were committed to the Castel one Jeremy Holmes of Castlerising and Richard Gibson his servant, both millers for firing a Paper-mill in the said Borough'. Apparently the cause of the dispute was that the paper-mill had been used for grinding corn. No more details were given and the fate of the millers is unknown, except that five years later the paper-mill was still in ruins and Holmes was no longer the corn-miller. In 1727 Thomas Stirke of Perio Paper Mill in the parish of Southwick, Northamptonshire leased both Holmes' corn mill and the adjoining ruined paper-mill together with all rights and privileges for an annual rent of £21.
Stirke rebuilt the paper-mill by 1727 but once again it enjoyed a very short productive life; by 1746 it was once more in need of rebuilding. John Parrott, the paper-maker, leased in this year
'the house and piece of land where a fulling mill formerly stood' together with two small pieces of land, for twenty-one years at an annual rent of £3. By the same articles the estate agreed to pay up to £300 to 'erect and make the said mill a fit and proper Paper mill'', for which Parrott agreed to pay an additional rent of £8 a year for each £100 spent by the estate. There was an extra obligation that Parrott should keep the premises in good repair, whilst the estate would provide timber towards the materials needed for this repair. The full £300 was spent in the years 1749 and 1750.
This arrangement between Parrott and the Howard estate worked quite well until 1756 when a disagreement developed between the paper-maker and Richard Fawsett, the steward on the estate; this came to a head in 1760. Fawsett's account of the affair (which may only be half of the full story) is recorded in a letter to his master, dated 21st October 1760. (See next item below) Apparently the dispute began in 1756 when Parrott tried to claim reimbursement of some workmen's bills as well as for timber used for the repair of the mill, these claims being refused. The miller then requested a new lease extending the period of operation of the first agreement, but when this was drawn up he refused to sign unless the conditions were altered to make the estate responsible for the supply of all materials needed for the repair of the mill. This request was also rejected. From this date Parrott is said to have become an awkward tenant falling into arrears with his rent and letting the mill fall into disrepair. Fawsett blamed the change in the man on an illness of 1756 which had left him '
ill affected in the head'. Parrott's son, 'a sober and industrious young man', is reputed to have complained to the steward that the Mill 'was so much out of repair that they could not do half the work they might', and that the family would be ruined. At the same time he claimed that if his father would only let him manage the business he could maintain the family and save money. Once again the result of this dispute is not recorded, although Fawsett continued to be employed as the steward to the estate for several years.

Castle Rising mill must have been repaired, for twenty five years later it was once again in need of attention, for modernisation and extension. The papermaker at this time, John Lewis, wrote to Richard Howard, the owner of the estate, three times suggesting extensions to the mill and the renewal of his lease. One letter of 1786, one of 1787 and a third undated document of the same period give detailed improvements and offer to pay a rent of 5% of the capital cost on top of the existing rent of £27 a year. At about the same time Richard Howard was making his own enquiries into the condition of paper-manufacturing in the country, and had written to his friend Lewis Bagot, then Bishop of Norwich, on the subject. The Bishop's reply to this letter is dated 18th December 1785 which together with another letter enclosed, throws some light on the paper-mill at Thetford and another in the vicinity of Norwich. Bagot mentions that the expense extraordinary of preparing a mill to make the finest paper was about one hundred pounds. Apparently the Castle Rising mill had not been making the finest grades, and Richard Howard was forming plans that it should.

There is no other lease concerning John Lewis in the Howard papers, but it is nevertheless quite likely that his scheme was adopted. Shorter notes that Lewis insured the mill against fire in 1788, and Lewis's name appears in Norwich polls as a paper-maker at Castle Rising from 1776 until 1806. Lewis's son John Edward became a Freeman of Norwich as a paper-maker in 1805 and his vote is therefore recorded along with his father's in 1806. The family remained at the mill until at least 1830 when James and William Lewis are described as the proprietors. By 1836 the mill was being worked by Richard Munn & Co. also of the Thetford paper-mill, who continued there until after 1845. After this date Castle Rising mill appears to have closed and is not recorded in the Norfolk directories of 1854 or later.
David Stoker


The Mad and Frantick Miller of Castle Rising
It appears that in 1746 the agent Richard Fawssett was sorely tried by one John Parrott who was the tenant at the Fulling Mill. This was the mill upstream of the old corn mill, whose ruins are still there today. In most beautiful copper plate writing the agent, Richard Fawsett, on 21st October 1760 wrote to his master a defence of all his actions in his dealings with the tenant of the mill whereon, he says, a Fulling Mill formerly stood. He had advanced some £300 to John Parrott to reconstruct the mill as a Paper Mill, and this mill went into production, but alas with recriminations on either side as to the performance of the repayment of moneys advanced. Having made what appears to be a very fair case in support of his point of view, he then includes a paragraph describing Parrott as the "mad and frantick Miller" which shows that the job of being agent to the estate was not always a bed of roses!

And upon the occasion I must beg leave to tell your Lordship that I have very great reason to complain of this man's behaviour and ill treatment not only in propagating these false and scandalous Aspertions and abusing me wherever he goes But also in the Great trouble he gives me to pay their rents. But he did not come near me, and whenever I go ask him for the rent he is full of complaints but will hear no reason. His son a Paper maker a sober and industrious young man told me that if his father would let him manage the business could maintain the family well and save money, but he believed they should all be ruined by his father for the Mill was so out of repair that they could not do half the work they otherwise should. But he is so much altered since the Fit of Illness that he has become the worst tenant upon your Lordship's Estate, But in consideration of his Distemper, And in pity for his family, I have always hitherto born with his ill treatment and for Fear of adding to the Poor Wretch's Affliction which is as inconsistent with my Disposition as possible. His poor wife has told me several Times crying that she is weary of her life he is so mad and frantick in the family and his son lately went away from him for the same reason.

Alas there is no conclusion to the story of the Mad and Frantick Miller of Castle Rising, for there is no record of the reply of William Howard Viscount Andover. As Richard Fawsett continued in the office of agent, it is reasonable to suppose that he worked out a solution to his problem of his mad and frantick tenant - or perhaps death mercifully removed him from the paper mill.

Excerpt from Portrait of a Village: Castle Rising by Colin S. Dence, 1980


The 1795-1832 Howard family archives records - Leases of paper mill on site of fulling mill, water corn mill, and farm at Castle Rising. The Mill was leased to John Lewis for 21 years at £30 p.a ‘late in the occupation of Richard Newman.'


In 1832 the mill was leased to Richad Munn for 15 years at a rent of £100 p.a. The inventory included
1 water wheel, 1 pit wheel, 1 fly wheel.


Millstone steps June 1968 Mill gate June 1983
Millstone steps June 1968
Mill gate June 1983

INSURANCE POLICY FOR CASTLE RISING MILLS 1868

Between Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society and the Hon Mary G Howard (widow)
From 12th May 1868 to 24th June 1869, payable annually at midsummer.
Sum insured £1790.0.0 Premium £10.10 2 + £1.10.6 (duty) = £12.0.8

... £300 on a Water Corn Mill called the Upper Mill, four stories high containing not more than six pairs of stones. No kiln therein or adjoining or communicating and no oats shelled there. An Arnott stove well secured in the said mill occupied by Ed Wolsey.
£100 on a double cottage adj. the said mill at present unoccupied.
£50 on a Waggon Shed and Stable near.
£50 on a Storehouse near.
All situate at Castle Rising, Norfolk and all in brick and tile except where specified.
Norfolk Record Office - Ref. HOW 601


One of the garden paths consists of 5 old millstones.

It is extimated that about 8 million gallons of water pass the mill every day.


Wheel remains 18th January 2004 Wheel paddles 18th January 2004
Wheel remains 18th January 2004
Wheel paddles 18th January 2004

Wheelrace 18th January 2004 Wheel bearing 18th January 2004
Wheelrace 18th January 2004
Wheel bearing 18th January 2004

The remaining wheel sluice configuration along with a pair of empty wall slots appears to indicate that the wheel could be either breastshot or undershot in a similar way to Letheringsett mill. A dual irrigation system was of good use in times of water shortage and West Newton mill site was relatively close to the spring fed river source.


Mill dam 18th January 2004
Mill dam 18th January 2004

When Mr. & Mrs. G. V. Whitehouse bought the mill in 1965 the structure contained considerable amounts of dry and wet rot along with much beetle damage.

The new owners decided that converting and renovating the building as it stood would leave a house larger than they needed and as a consequence they dismantled the upper storey and the northeast wing thus totally altering the ancient landmark. All the machinery was also removed, apart from the wheel and two small bevel gears. Initially, the living quarters were confined to the first floor and the ground floor was left as an open plan storeroom running the entire length of the building apart from the wheelhouse. Later owners converted the ground floor into a holiday let apartment before finally incorporating it into their living quarters.

The water supply to the house was obtained by extracting water from the river and then filtering it before use, a system that remained in use until the 1980s.


24th August 2003 Tailrace arches 18th January 2004
24th August 2003
Tailrace arches 18th January 2004

Wheelhouse door 11th June 2007
Wheelhouse door 11th June 2007

Evidence of an earlier attached building can clearly be seen on the gable end of the mill.


O. S. Map 1884

O. S. Map 1884
Courtesy of NLS map images

The above map clearly shows the dotted line of the parish boundaries that traced the original path of the river, which was altered in order to to accommodate the mill and the mill dam. A now completely dried up southern meander on the upstream side was bypassed by a new and straight cut leading to what became the mill dam.

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

c.1954: Mr. Snelling, a forage dealer moved to the mill with his wife, sons David and Michael and daughter Barbara.


Map 1588: Map of Rising Chase shows two mills, Rising Corn Mill (Castle Rising) and Rysinge Fulling Mill

1691 Fulling mill converted to Paper Mill. William Goodall took a 21 year lease

Howard family archive 11th May 1695: Refers to a fulling mill converted to a paper-mill

1707: Mention of Herbedge for ground at ye paper Mill

1711: William Goodale - journeyman papermaker died

20th November 1713 John Holdsworth of Castle Rising, paper-maker, rented from the Howard Estate 'all the paper mill situate lying and being in (Castle Rising with all gardens, waters, streams of water passages, ways and appurtenances' for £14 10s. per annum.

20th July 1722: Mill destroyed by fire ...were committed to the Castel one Jeremy Holmes of Castlerising and Richard Gibson his servant, both millers for firing a Paper-mill in the said Borough

1727: Thomas Stirke from Perio paper mill, Southwick, Northamptonshire leased the mill for a rent of £2 16s per annum and he then rebuilt the mill. He also leased Castle_Rising watermill. Lease agreement and unexecuted lease for term of 40 years to Thomas Stirk, paper maker, of water corn mill called Rising Mill and decayed paper mill adjacent

1729: Counterpart lease (unexecuted) from Lady Diana Fielding to Edward, Lord Dudley and Ward, of the castle and manor of Rising, the manor of Roydon, North Wootton rectory, fulling mill lately converted into a paper mill at Castle Rising...Rising Mill...

1732: John Chapman

1746: Mill once more in need of rebuilding (another fire?). John Parrott, the paper-maker, leased the house and piece of land where a fulling mill formerly stood along with two small pieces of land for £3 per annum

1749: Mill rebuilt at a cost of £300 necessitating a rent increase

1756: Dispute between John Parrott and Richard Fawsett, estate steward regarding repairs

21st October 1760: Richard Fawsett wrote to his master Richard Howard regarding the conduct of John Parott

1767 - 1776: Richard Newman

1776 - 1806: John Lewis rents dilapidated mill

1785: John Lewis pressing for mill to be repaired. New mill house planned

1786: Mill rebuilt. John Lewis pressing for a lease

1788: Mill insured against fire

1795-1832: Mill leased to John Lewis for 21 years at £30 p.a. late in the occupation of Richard Newman

Faden's map 1797: Rising Paper Mill

1799: Thomas Stratton, papermaker; William Ayres, papermaker

1806 - 1830: John Edward Lewis (jnr) then James and William Lewis

24th April 1807: Indenture for William Dye (14) to become papermaker apprentice to John Lewis

Bryant's map 1826: Rising Paper Mills

1832: Mill leased to Richard Munn & Co for 15 years - also of Thetford Bishop's mill. William Dye - manager

Tithe map 1838: Richard Munn - paper mill, gardens and 2 meadows

White's 1845: William Gunton, miller

c.1845: Mill ceased as a paper mill. William Dye, manager

Census 1851: No millers shown

1854: Mill converted to corn milling

White's 1854: William Fisher Gunton, corn miller, baker and farmer

Craven's 1856: William Gunton, corn miller & baker

White's 1864: Samuel Twaits, miller, baker and farmer

Harrod's 1868: Samuel Twaits

Insurance Policy 1868: Edward Wolsey, miller. Mill valued at £300 with not more than six pairs of stones

1868: Edward Wolsey, owner but mill unoccupied

1872 - 1875 - 1878: Edward Wolsey - also at Wereham post mill

1879 - 1883: Frederick Wolsey - also at Wereham post mill

1883: William Wolsey

Census 1891: William Rye (30), employee. Married to Elizabeth (29) with 2 sons and 1 daughter

Kelly's 1892: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water), Lodge

Kelly's 1896: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water), Lodge

Kelly's 1896: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water), Lodge

Kelly's 1904: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water) Lodge

Kelly's 1908: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water) Lodge

Kelly's 1912: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water) Lodge

Kelly's 1916: Fernley Knight, farmer & miller (water) Lodge

Kelly's 1922: William Rye, miller

Kelly's 1925: William Rye, miller (letters through West Newton)

Kelly's 1929: William Rye, millers (letters through West Newton)

1933: William Rye, millers (letters through West Newton, Lynn)

1937: William Rye, millers (letters through West Newton, King's Lynn)

c.1940: Jimmy Rye (son of Wiliam Rye)

c.1952-3: Mill ceased working with Jimmy Rye as the last miller to run the mill

c.1954: Mr. Snelling, forage dealer

1965: Mill and cottages bought as derelict from the Howard family's Castle Rising Estate by
Mr & Mrs G. V. Whitehouse

1965: Mill converted to dwelling and upper floor removed by Sid George for Whitehouse family

1968: Mill with 7½ acres bought by Bill Setchell

1980s: Domestic water supply switched from river water to mains water

1985: Mill bought by Mr & Mrs Young


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

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