drainage mill


Drainage Windpumps
Steam Mills


Horsey drainage mill was built in the mid 1800s and rebuilt by millwrights England of Ludham in 1897 as a 4 storey, red brick tower wind pump with a Norfolk boat shaped cap, petticoat, gallery and 4 patent sails and stood near the road beside a dyke.

c.1955 24th May 1958
24th May 1958

Of smuggling...
Once contraband had been landed on the Norfolk shore, the Broads provided an elaborate and intricate system of distribution. Barges plying a perfectly legitimate trade were happy to take on board a little extra cargo that provided a higher return than a hold full of coals. The wherrymen who plied the Broads evolved an ingenious semaphore system to warn of the approach of the customs authorities:
Smugglers Britain website - see links page

If a search was suspected by those on the watch...warning was sent by a runner to the nearest marshman. If his mill was turning he would stop it at the St Andrew's (diagonal) cross, then wait until those at the next mill had seen him and done the same. Then he would let the mill turn again. If there was no wind the boy would be sent up to climb on the sail, and his weight used to turn the mill to the required position...The clear signal would be telegraphed using the St George (square) cross on the mill sail.
Eastern Daily Press - 18th October 1963

Horsey Mill was reputedly used in this way: a message could travel from Yarmouth to Horsey in a quarter of an hour — much faster than a customs man could ride.
National Trust

When a wherryman saw the sails stop turning, he would sink his tubs in the broad, marking the spot with a float made of reads. The marshman at the mill would pick up the contraband later, and share in the proceeds. There was a risk attached to this procedure - sometimes the kegs would drift free and be lost. This possibility was avoided by lobbing the tubs into a drainage ditch: the mill gradually pumped the water along the ditch, so that the tubs were delivered directly to the marshman.
Mills were useful for other purposes beside signalling: in communities where no-one ever locked their doors (if the doors had locks at all) mills were among the few places that could be secured without arousing suspicion. Close to Stalham Dyke a mill was used as a storage place in this way: the contraband hidden there came into the country between Horsey and Happisburgh. When space ran out at the mill kegs were sunk in nearby Sutton Broad.
Suffling - History and legends of the Broad District


The mill was restored in 1961 by the Norfolk Windmills Trust and SPAB but lost its fantail once again in the October 1987 hurricane.


During restoration, the mill was given new sails without shutters or a spider. The white painted fantail had red striped blades and tailpole. The complete wind powered gearing remained in situ along with the turbine pump in the adjacent pumphouse.

26th January 2004 10th September 2006
26th January 2004
10th September 2006

18th November 2012 7th June 2013
18th November 2012
7th June 2013

c,1850: Mill built

1897: Mill rebuilt

1912: Mill rebuilt

1938: Floods surround the mill

1943: Mill ceased operation after being struck by lightning

1948: Mill ownership taken over by the National Trust

15th April 1955: Mill given a Grade ll listing

1961: Restored by Norfolk Windmills Trust and SPAB

October 1987: Fantail destroyed in gale

2004: Mill recorded as fully restored  

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 TG 45732215
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2006