Upper Hellesdon
Press Lane towermill


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Norfolk Windmills


c.1906
Sail repairing c.1906

The towermill in Press Lane, Upper Hellesdon was built in 1875 and was the third mill to be constructed on the same site. The two previous mills were both postmills, with the latter mill being known as St_Clement's_mill. The new towermill, often known as Witard's Mill, had an imposing nine storey tower with adjoining granaries, ancilliary buildings and a steam engine house.

The mill was built by Ephraim Witard who then ran the mill and lived nearby with his wife Maria.

The mill was to become the highest in Norfolk after the demise of Press's High Mill in Gt Yarmouth, which was 102 feet high, Hellesdon Mill became the highest mill in the county. The mill was 88 feet high, the tower being 72 feet and the cap a further 16 feet.

The mill was originally fitted with a cast iron windshaft and the rollers of the bearing used cut through the neck every six weeks. A cast mild steel windshaft was later substituted, having been designed with an eighteen inch neck journal running on three rollers mounted on gudgeons in the neck bearing. The mill tower was 95' to the curb.

DIED.
WITARD. - On the 4th inst., Harry Lewis, youngest and dearly-beloved son of Ephraim and Maria Witard, of Hellesdon, aged 9 weeks.
Norfolk Chronicle - 19th May 1877

Ephraim Witard was listed in Hamilton's Directory of 1879 as a miller at the Tower Mill, Upper Hellesdon Road.

Another member of the family died in August 1880.

DIED.
WITARD. - On the 13th inst., at Upper Hellesdon Mill, William, the dearly beloved husband of Susannah Witard, aged 46, leaving ten children to mourn their loss.
Norfolk Chronicle - August 1880

In 1881, Ephraim Witard was given as a miller aged 42 living at Prospect Place, Hellesdon with wife Maria, (43), sons Arthur (18) and Albert (17) along with daughter Emma (5). Also given as a miller was William Witard who was born in Worstead c.1858. He was given as living in Press Lane, St. Clement Without with his wife Margaret (23) and daughter Alice (9 months). Ephraim Witard was listed in Eyre's Directory of 1883 as a miller & corn merchant in Aylsham road. The mill was marked of the 1884 map. In 1885 Ephraim Witard was elected one of the overseers for Hellesdon. Ephraim Witard was listed in White's Directory of 1887 as a miller & corn and cake merchant, Upper Hellesdon Road and Corn Exchange. In 1887 another child of the Witard family died.

In 1887, the Royal Show was held at Crown Point and Ephraim Witard had a stand, where he erected a roller sytem from the mill, which he ran all week. The Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII, visited the stand and was so impressed that he bought a bag of flour to be delivered to Sandringham.

DEATHS.
WITARD. - on the 3rd inst., of consumption, George William, the beloved son of W. and M. Witard, of Upper Hellesdon Post-office, aged five years.
Norfolk Chronicle - 10th September 1887

c.1890
View from Heigham c.1890

Ephraim Witard was listed in Kelly's Directory of 1900 as a miller (wind & steam) & corn & cake merchant, Aylsham Road. William Witard was listed as a corn & flour dealer, 109 Aylsham Road. In July 1900, William Witard was fatally injured whilst driving back with a load of corn.

...inquest at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital by Mr. Coroner Ladell, on Monday 9th July, on death of Mr. William Witard, 43, miller. Albert William Witard, miller, gave evidence of identification. Deceased left the mill at 2.30 with the horse and cart. At 4 o'clock, whilst riding on top of a load of sacks he fell off at the bottom of Ketts Hill and a wheel went over his chest. He died in hospital on Saturday morning. 140 stone on cart and cart itself weighed 13 or 14 stone.
Dereham and Fakenham Times - 14th July 1900
The 140 stone would appear to have been 5 coombs of barley at 16 stone each and 5 coombs of oats at 12 stone each.
Albert William Witard was listed in Kelly's Directory of 1904 as a householder, Mill House, Presses Lane, Hellesdon. Ephraim Witard was listed as a miller (wind & steam) & corn & cake merchant, 94 Aylsham Road.

1906
Shattered sail 1906

The last surviving windmill at Norwich, the Commanding Structure at Hellesdon, owned by that veteran miller, Mr. E. Witard, suffered damage in one of last months thunderstorms, a sail being struck.
The Miller - 3rd September 1906


Sail repairing c.1906   c.1906
Sail repairing c.1906
 
Closeup from photo on left
The mill was struck by lightning in 1906 and ran for a time with only two sails before full repairs could be carried out.

Only two sails working c.1907
Only two sails working c.1907

1910
1910

Ephraim Witard was listed in Kelly's Directory of 1908 as a miller (wind & steam) & corn & cake merchant, Hellesdon & Felthorpe roller mills, 94 Aylsham Road. He was also listed in Jarrold's Directory of 1911 as Miller, Upper Hellesdon Mills, Aylsham Road.

Mill on fire 4th May 1913   Fireman trying to save the mill 4th May 1913
Mill on fire 4th May 1913
 
Fireman trying to save the mill 4th May 1913

On the 4th May 1913 the mill caught fire. The fire was discovered by P.C. Ephraim Dann at 7.15am. The fire brigade managed to save the upper part of the mill but the bottom of the tower and the adjoining roller mill were burnt out. The cause of the fire was an electrical fault in the roller mill. The mill did not work again.

4th May 1913 Firemen with miller Ephraim Witard providing drink
Fireman hosing down 4th May 1913
Firemen with miller Ephraim Witard providing drink

Fire aftermath May 1913 Fire aftermath May 1913
Fire aftermath May 1913

Harry Pointer took over the mill yard for his lorries. The mill was demolished in 1920 and the bricks were used to build council houses in Angel Road. Two sails from the mill went to Stow_towermill, Paston, where they had to be shortened by two bays to fit. Sutton mill then took over the mantle as being the tallest mill in both the county and the country.

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 TG22251027
 
1875 to 1920
Historical material within this page © Jonathan Nevilkle & Michael Roots
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