Caston towermill


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Norfolk Windmills


c.1910
c.1910

Caston tower mill was built for Edward Wyer in 1864. The six storey tarred brick tower was 55 feet high to the curb. The 30 inch thick walls were 26 feet outside diameter at the base and 17 feet outside diameter at the curb. The 6 bladed left handed fan and its frame were attached by wire stays to the Norfolk boat shaped cap with its gallery and petticoat. The stage was set around the second floor. The four patent sails each had 8 bays of 3 shutters and 2 bays of 2 shutters, struck by lever and these powered the right handed 4ft underdriven stones, comprising of two pairs of Derby Peak stones and one pair of French burr stones.


Edward Wyer's father John Wyer, had previously been miller and baker at Caston, running the postmill that was later demolished by Edward to make way for the towermill built on the same site.

 

A two storey brick Granary was built on to the southeast side of the mill. A first section was probably built at the same time as the mill with a further section being added to the southwest at a later date. Etched into the bricks on the outside of the south wall:

JAS A
189.
G. GREEN
GILBERT
FW
1897
 
1930
GILBERT
 
 
1930
 

On the internal ground floor wall of the mill and the east wall of the granary were the initials RW
These were probably the initials of Robert Martin, millwright of Barsham near Beccles.
Cut into,the granary east wall near to the position of the Ruston Hornsby engine was B. FISHER

A datestone above a first floor window inside the mill bears the inscription EW 1864.
A second stone near the top of the tower on the southwest side is inscribed R. SHARMAN / L this being the only known record of the name in association with the mill.
Cast on the bridging box at the base of the upright shaft:
R. HAMBLING
DEREHAM

Cast on the cast iron bridge for the left set of stones:
W. H. WIGG & CO. EAST DEREHAM
Kelly's 1879: W. H. Wigg & Co., engineers, millwrights etc. iron & brass founders, South Green Iron Works, Dereham. By 1883 the firm was known as John Roots thus the bridge was cast prior to that date.
Cast on the cast iron bridge tree to centre set of stones:
C. RIX. DEREHAM
Kelly's 1892: C. Rix, engineer & machinist, 25 Norwich Street , Dereham.
Ted Knott was recorded as saying the bridge tree came from Saham Toney towermill in c.1902.
On the stone floor the cast section of the horse is inscribed W. H. WIGG & CO. EAST DEREHAM
The French burr runner stone has four cast iron plates inscribed
W. TINSLEY
MAKER
IPSWICH
Notes pencilled on a bin read:
This mill is 102 feet high from top sail to the ground.
Wheat stone furred Sept. 1st 1866.
Chronicle office
bills 13 sent
11 in 9 more wanted

A hammered stamp on the bin reads 1892

On the Third Floor a cast on the crown wheel driving the sack hoist reads:
R. HAMBLING DEREHAM
The wooden screen to the drive of what was probably the flour dresser near the south window was inscribed::
JACK WYER
G. TUTTLE whitewashed the Mill
Sept. 8th 1879

facing this in black paint: FW
On the front of the grain spout more notes read:
J. Anderson painted this Mill Aug 1915
J. Anderson & R. Bowles put up a new stock to this Mill Aug 1915
J. Anderson repaired sails fitting in new bolts May 1919
J. Anderson repaired sails & painted Fly July 1920
New barley
bedstone 1904
Side girts splice & lined New inside sail & mill pain
ted Sept 1922 by R. Martin & Son
Dick Hazell had 2d to pay 23 February .
. .
Pencilled on the left hand side of the spout:
Ground out July 25th 1920
Ground out July 8th 1909

Pencilled on the wooden screen of the sack hoist:
Jack Wyer and William Green cleaned up this mill 10th April 1912
The bin on the Bin Floor had notes inside it in white paint:

RW
AW
RKM
FN
HF
AW
HF
INC
B
RRM
NRM
36

and in pencil:
Edward Banham
George Green
Tared this MILL
March 5th 1900

Scratched on glass on the Top Floor:
F. Wyer
1904
John Wyer
Caston
Nfk

On the inside of the mill door above the latch:
EDWARD KNOTT
A History of Caston Norfolk - John S. Barnes, 1974


Besides the name of Robert Hambling on original castings, the names of other ironfounders give a rough date of alterations and various pencilled notes on the woodwork the date of other items of interest. On the two remaining bridge trees, the name, W. H. WIGG & CO. EAST DEREHAM on one shows it to have been a replacement of about 1880. This firm also cast the iron part of the remaining horse. On the other bridge tree C. RIX. DEREHAM indicates its casting between 1892 and 1904, though its fitting here was later, as it came from Saham Toney towermill. The French burr runnerstone has four cast iron balance box covers with,
W. TINSLEY, MAKER, IPSWICH also dating from around 1880.
Pencilled notes also include the following:
Wheat stone furred Sept. 1st 1866
G. Tuttle whitewashed the mill Sept. 8th 1879

Edward Banham. Gorge Green Tared this Mill March 5th 1900
New barley bedstone 1904
Ground out July 8th 1909. This also happened July 25th 1920
J. Anderson & R. Bowles put up a new stock to this mill Aug. 1915
New inside sail and mill painted Sep. 1922 by R. Martin & Son

Norfolk Corn Windmills - Harry Apling 1984


John (Jack) Thomas Wyer was the son of Edward Wyer and Frederick Wyer was Jack's brother.


James Anderson, son of Golding Anderson was born c.1880 and died 23rd December 1962 at the age of 82. He was buried in Grimston churchyard.
Jas. Anderson, also James Anderson, was born c.1819 and died 19th October 1907 aged 88 and was buried in Caston churchyard.


The initials RRM and NRM listed above on the Bin Floor, referred to employees of Martins of Beccles who carried out work at the mill in 1936. Edward Banham was the father of Charles Banham and Nelson Banham. Nelson was born on 10th May 1877 and died on 8th March 1949. He apparently had the habit of carrying on a conversation with himself in a normal voice as he walked.


George Green died on 1st October 1967.


William Wright, a builder of Caston constructed the mill and millwright Robert Hambling of Dereham, whose name appeared on several of the castings, installed the machinery. Jacob Canham was employed as the bricklayer and was paid 2d. per hour. William Wright 's young son John also worked on the project.


The mill had five floors above the ground floor:
Ground floor
Access to the granary
First (meal) floor
Access to the granary. Cast iron spur wheel supported by cross beams. 3 x stone nuts for under driven stones on floor above.
Second (stone) floor
Two pairs of Derby Peak stones and one pair of French burr stones. Controls for sail brake and sake hoist. Access to the stage.
Third floor
Drive to sack hoist via crown wheel set on the upright shaft
Fourth (bin) floor
Bins containing grain to be fed to the stone floor.
Fifth (dust) floor
Containing wallower set on the upright shaft and receiving drive from the brake wheel set on the windshaft in the cap above.


... brake wheels ... The smallest is at Caston, which is 6ft. 9ins. in diameter and built on top of another wheel.
Newcomen Society Vol XXVI - 1947-48

This is obviously another mistake. Caston brake wheel is 10ft. 4ins. in diameter, clasp arm and one complete wheel. It is not built on another wheel.
Rex Wailes


Drive from fan spindle to rack on curb. Worm drive with rack at the side outside.
Striking gear:- Lever. Twin push rods from the rear of the striking rod moved forward to two rocking arms supported on A frames & operating the rocking lever.
Windshaft:- 9ins. diam. at neck, 6ins. at brake wheel.

Rex Wailes


1932
1932

THE HURRICANE OF SUNDAY
WATTON

While the storm was at its highest the fears and consternation of the inhabitants were greatly intensified by the alarm of fire being raised and the ringing of the fire bell. People ran about almost panic stricken. It was found upon enquiry that a message had just been received from Caston stating that Mr Wyre's flour mill was on fire.
Dereham & Fakenham Times - 30th March 1895


Edward Wyer remained running the mill, baking and farming business until he died on 5th July 1897 aged 76.

The business was then put up for auction although Edward Wyer's name was misprinted in the advertisement.


12th September 1934
12th September 1934

CASTON

On Thursday October 7
ALEXANDER BANHAM is favoured with instructions from the Executors of the late Mr. James Wyre to Sell by Auction at the Duke's Head, the Tower WINDMILL, DWELLING HOUSE, FARM PREMISES and about 12 Acres of excellent Arable LAND.
Particulars of Messrs. Grigson & Robinson, Solicitors, Watton and the Auctioneer.

Lynn Advertiser - 17th September 1897


The mill was not sold at auction in 1897 and Edward Wyer's second eldest son James, took the business over. Edward's youngest child was Catherine Maud Wyer and she eventually married Benjamin Knott, who in turn took over the business in 1910 when James Wyer retired. Benjamin Knott ran the mill until 1940, although he was in partnership with his son Edward, for the last few years. In 1940 the mill and farm business were bought by James Bilham.


James Wyer eventually became bankrupt and later paid 20/- in the pound.


Benjamin and Ted Knott acquired a Ruston Hornsby oil engine, which was used to power a pair of stones on the upper floor. The mill had long ceased to mill flour and was grinding for animal feed during the 1930s. James Bilham discontinued grinding in the mill and removed the centre pair of Derby Peak stones that had come from Saham_Toney, along with the right hand pair. However, Ted Knott persuaded him to retain the pair of French burr stones.
James Bilham also removed a pair of stones from the granary and eventually scrapped the Ruston-Hornsby oil engine that powered them.


O.S. Map 1888
O.S. Map 1888
Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey

c.1970 1st September 1970
c.1970
1st September 1970

Edward Charles Knott was born on 12th January 1911 and died on 26th June 2003 at the age of 92. Mr. Knott, Ted or Teddy was born in Mill House, Caston in 1911, the only child of Benjamin and Catherine Knott and grandson of Edward Wyer who built Caston towermill in 1864. On leaving school, he worked at the mill with his father. He used to deliver animal meal, going round with a horse and cart and when storms came in the winter he recalled the "noise of the sails" and that he used to have to go out and lock them. When the mill was working, every two hours, he had to go to the top to oil the brass bearings around the windshaft. Maybe this explains why he had trouble with his knees later in life!
Waylander - August 2003


Ted Knott, who was also the church organist for well over 25 years, lived in a bungalow at Northacre in Caston. He lived opposite the clay-lump cottage Everleigh that was the home of the Wyer family during their latter years in the village. Ted Knott was the last of the Knott family from Caston.


Fred Wyer had a large family but none of his sons had sons of their own so the family name ended.


Edward Wyer started business in Caston as a baker, his premises being probably the house which until recently was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Thacker immediately west of Willow Farm, Northacre. (The baker's oven there was removed by Mr. John Bullen and the space made into a room). At some stage he farmed Home Farm and probably lived in the farmhouse. In 1864 he had the mill built and at about the same time the smaller part of the Mill House was built. At first he employed a miller who lived in this house but later Edward Wyer himself moved to Mill House at which time he enlarged it.
The day's work began by greasing the cogs on the head wheel and wallower. Normally the cap would be facing into the wind but if during the night the wind had dropped to nothing and there was by morning only a slight breeze from a different direction, insufficient to activate the fly and rotate the cap, I would have to climb out on the fly staging and turn the cap into the wind manually by using the worm and pinion mechanism. It might be necessary to give the fly a start by hand.
Once a fortnight the flywheel (which was called simply the fly) would have to be greased.

While at rest the vanes (which is what e called the shuttering) would be open, thus allowing the wind to blow straight through the sails. Before releasing the brake the vanes would have to be closed so as to present the maximum sail surface to the wind, especially to a light wind. To do this we would hang a number of weights on the chain from the shuttering rod. On windy days the vanes would be partially opened by the wind and sometimes in very high winds they would go with the vanes open. Mind you, one never dare let her work with the brake on because the friction would have caused a fire.
Once the mill had started I would help in any possible way but the main jobs were moving corn and meal to and from waggons and lifting heavy sacks of corn by pulley up to the dust floor from which the corn would be fed into the bins below. The meal had to be shovelled into sacks and wheeled to the granary for storage. Sometimes we would buy corn, mill it and sell it later and at other times we ground corn belonging to farmers. About every two hours I would go to the top of the mill to oil the brass bearings around the upper end of the windshaft, because they tended to run hot. I had also to make sure that there was always a free flow of grain from the hoppers to the stones. Sometimes part of an ear of corn would produce a blockage.
There was always book-keeping to be done. Elsewhere my Uncle John would often be dressing a pair of stones, that is, re-cutting the grooves on the grinding surfaces. he needed my help to lift and turn the running stone with the aid of pulleys, and while he spent about two days in dressing a pair of stones I would help in sharpening the steel bills used for dressing. A pair of stones would last about a week. If there was a change of grain different stones would be used. For example you would not use the same stones for wheat as for barley. Wheat stones were of French burr while barley stones were Derbyshire peak stones. You needed a good wind to use wheat stones. A wheel adjustment could be made to change the distance between stones and thus alter the fineness of grinding.
In stormy weather the wind might change too quickly for the fly to turn the cap and sails. One had then to be on guard against the mill becoming "tail-winded" with the wind directly behind the sails instead of in front of them. Then she would run backwards until stopped and altered and the vanes would fly shut of their own accord. (Remember that the curved surface of the sails was always presented to the wind).
If the corn was on the damp side it would tend to "paste up" the stones. In this case we would add a little maize to clear the grooves. Of course, it would not do to store grain which was too damp and which tended to "heat up".

I can just remember milling for flour in in the days before the 1914-1918 war, but since then and until we ceased milling in about 1940 we were producing animal foods because there was so much imported flour. Besides wheat and barley there was maize ground for ducks (Caston was well known for Mr. James Bilham's flocks of ducks) and beans which were mixed with barley meal. we would grind all the year round, all through the night sometimes when there was a good wind and plenty of grinding to be done. In the end it was the uncertainty of the wind as against the reliability of the internal combustion engine which put the windmill out of business. We had installed an oil-driven mill in the granary so as to keep working on windless days.
From time to time there was maintenance work carried out by millwrights and in particular replacement of the two sails. On of these suddenly snapped off one day while I was working in the mill. Apart from the loss of the sail (and loss of the mill until repairs were carry out) there was no other damage. Minor maintenance work including replacing broken apple-wood cogs on the head wheel.

Ted Knott - as quoted in
A History of Caston Norfolk - John S. Barnes, 1974

Norfolk millwright John Lawn bought the mill in October 1969 from James Bilham's widow, with the intention of restoring it. However, although he was involved with the restoration of other mills in conjunction with the Norfolk Windmills Trust, he never succeeded in restoring his own mill. A link to John Lawn's obituary and the memorial plaque dedicated to him at Old Buckenham towermill can be found on the Links page.


When John Lawn bought the mill the sails had lost their shutters, the fantail had mostly disintegrated and the tower had not been retarred since 1936. However, the mill machinery was still in working order.
John Lawn retarred the tower, replaced much of the fantail staging and apparently removed two tractor loads of pigeon droppings.


By 1975 the adjoining granary had been converted to residential use and the mill was housing the business of Lennard & Lawn (Millwrights) Ltd., the last firm of millwrights in Norfolk. The sails were intact but without shutters, the fantail had been dismantled but the single pair of French burr stones stones remained.


On 17th August 1977, Lennard & Lawn removed the cap frame from Gt Bircham towermill and brought it back to Caston mill. On 6th December 1977, Lennard & Lawn removed the cap frame and windshaft from Dereham towermill and brought the windshaft back to Caston mill.


Caston mill was featured in the December 1970 edition of Norfolk Fair.


10th September 1978 1984
10th September 1978
1984

c.1980
c.1980

1982
1982

Besides the name of Robert Hambling on original castings, the names of other ironfounders give a rough date of alterations and various pencilled notes on the woodwork the date of other items of interest. On the two remaining bridge trees, the name, W. H. WIGG & CO. EAST DEREHAM on one shows it to have been a replacement of about 1880. This firm also cast the iron part of the remaining horse. On the other bridge tree C. RIX. DEREHAM indicates its casting between 1892 and 1904, though its fitting here was later, as it came from Saham Toney towermill. The French burr runnerstone has four cast iron balance box covers with,
W. TINSLEY, MAKER, IPSWICH also dating from around 1880.
Pencilled notes also include the following:
Wheat stone furred Sept. 1st 1866
G. Tuttle whitewashed the mill Sept. 8th 1879

Edward Banham. Gorge Green Tared this Mill March 5th 1900
New barley bedstone 1904
Ground out July 8th 1909. This also happened July 25th 1920
J. Anderson & R. Bowles put up a new stock to this mill Aug. 1915
New inside sail and mill painted Sep. 1922 by R. Martin & Son

Norfolk Corn Windmills - Harry Apling 1984


Mrs. M. E. Hepple of Old Coulsdon in Surrey wrote a letter to Philip Unwin to say she was the granddaughter of Frederick Wyer, who was a journeyman miller. He had a shed in the field to the north of the mill that contained an engine he used for grinding corn. A bungalow was later built on the site of the shed.


Stones and tun on the 2nd floor c.1982 Main shaft and wallower on the 5th floor c.1982
Stones and tun on the 2nd floor c.1982
Main shaft and wallower on the 5th floor c.1982

Windshaft bearing c.1982
Windshaft bearing c.1982

On 23rd November 1983 the cap and sails were removed for replacement and a temporary roof was fitted. Timber for two new sheers had been delivered by 14th February 1984.


Eastern Daily Press advert for Savills - 2nd July 2010
Eastern Daily Press advert for Savills - 2nd July 2010

My great aunt Mabel Chapman lived in the mill house, this would be around the early 50s. Her two sons who live with her Clifford and Stanley Chapman worked for Jim Bilham as he was known.
The mill housed grain as far as I can remember as was stored on all floors. I remember the trap doors and the chain pulley system.

Paul Cooper - 21st July 2011


Unallocated Caston miller:
Kelly's 1892: Daniel Bullen, miller (wind) & farmer
Kelly's 1896: Daniel Bullen, miller (wind) & farmer
Kelly's 1900: Daniel Bullen, miller (wind) & farmer


1864: Tower mill built by William Wright for Edward Wyer

December 1864: William Wright died

Census 1871: Edward Wyer (48) b.Caston, miller & farmer
Elizabeth Wyer (39) b.Thompson
John Thomas Wyer (4)
James Wyer (3) b.Caston
George Wyer (2 ) b.Caston
Frederick Wyer (4 mths) b.Caston
Charlotte Cator, general servant
Address: Walton Road

David Reeve (16) b.Hevingham, apprentice miller living with his father David Reeve

Kelly's 1879: Edward Wyer, miller & farmer

Census 1881: Samuel Ruffels (59) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, corn miller (employee)
Sarah Ruffels (49) b.Thelentham, Suffolk
Henry Ruffels (16) b.Lakenheath, Suffolk, boot maker's apprentice
Jane Ruffels (10) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, scholar
Ebenezer Ruffels (8) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, scholar
Hepzibah Ruffels (6) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, scholar
William Ruffels (6) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, scholar (grandson)
Cornelias Ruffels (5) b.Bardwell, Suffolk, scholar
George Ruffels (1) b.Stanton, Suffolk (grandson)
Address: Mill House, Caston

White's 1883: Edward Wyer, miller & farmer

Kelly's 1892: Edward Wyer, miller (wind) & farmer

24th March 1895: Mill caught fire during a heavy gale

Kelly's 1896: Edward Wyer, miller (wind) & farmer

5th July 1897: Edward Wyer died aged 76

September 1897: Mill advertised for sale by auction

1897: James Wyer, miller

Kelly's 1900: James Wyer, miller (wind) & farmer

5th March 1900: Mill tarred by Edward Banham & George Green

Kelly's 1904: James Wyer, miller (wind) farmer & corn merchant, Caston mills

1908: James Wyer, miller

1910: James Wyer retired

1910: Benjamin Knott (married to James Wyer's sister Catherine Wyer)

Kelly's 1912: Benjamin Knott, miller (wind)

c.1913: Flour milling ceased and was replaced by grinding for animal feed

August 1915: New stock fitted by James Anderson & R. Bowles

Kelly's 1916: Benjamin Knott, miller (wind)

Kelly's 1922: Benjamin Knott, miller (wind)

Kelly's 1925: Benjamin Knott, miller (wind)

Kelly's 1929: B. Knott & Son, millers (wind & steam)

1930: New sail bought for c.£70

1931: New stock purchased

Kelly's 1933: B. Knott & Son, millers (wind & steam)

1936: Mill tower retarred

Kelly's 1937: B. Knott & Son, millers (wind & steam)

1940: Benjamin Knott & Ted Knott (son)

1940: Mill and land sold to James Bilham

1940: Mill ceased working by wind but continued via power from a Ruston Hornsby oil engine purchased earlier

April 1957: Mill listed within 20 cornmills and windpumps for preservation, later shortlisted to 1 of 8

1959: James Bilham asked Smithdales of Acle to remove the cap

1965: Milling still continuing powered by electricity

1967: James Bilham died and Mill house left to Clifford Chapman of Caston

1969: Mill sold by Mrs. Bilham to John Lawn

October 1969: Mill bought by millwright John Lawn

June 1970: Renovated sails first set in motion

23rd November 1983: Cap and sails removed for replacement as part of restoration work

2000: John Lawn died but mill cap restored and replaced as a memorial

June 2010: Mill & granary advertised for sale at a guide price of £350,000

February 2011: Mill, granary, cottage & 1.24 acres advertised for sale for £310,000



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 TL95109816
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2005