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Norfolk Millwrights

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Admiration for the craft of the millwright


On April 21 last, during the freak storm, one of Norfolk’s few remaining fine old flour mills was struck by lightning, that at Sutton, Norfolk. After the war, when our visitors return to the rivers and Broads, many will regret the fact that fewer still of the mills are still in running order. East Anglia, like Holland, has always been noted for its windmills. Dotted all over the marshes, they added a unique charm to the scenery. Unfortunately they are fast becoming a thing of the past.
At one time nearly every village had its flour mill, where local grown wheat was made into flour and most of us who can remember bread made from“stone-ground” flour must appreciate its infinite superiority of flavour compared with the present bread. The old type of miller was very conservative and independent, and farmers had to go to him for grist work. They took great pride in their mills and were particular, to a degree, that everything was spick and span. During my apprenticeship I well remember it was almost a crime to leave chips lying about. If we were wheel-gearing, sacks had to be spread on the floors and, when working outside, my last job before leaving was to see that all chips and shavings were cleared away.
The riverside mills were, of course, used for marsh drainage, although one was used for grinding mud for the manufacture of cement and one was fitted with a saw bench. (Perhaps this is the origin of the term “sawmill”?) Fourteen of these mills stood on the banks of the River Bure between Yarmouth and Acle bridge. These, alas, are now all out of action.
I wonder if any of the present generation ever give a thought to the amount of work entailed in the building of a windmill?
How much weight there is at the top? The distance from tip to tip of the sails and the “drift” of the sails to give them pulling power?
Nearly all gear-wheels are wooden cogged, but the conscientious work put into them by the millwright and his selection of wood gave them a life equal to iron.
I know of wooden-cogged wheels that have not been renewed for 50 years. The woods used were apple, hornbeam and beech.
In some of the older mills, up to a few years ago, there were wheels known as“whole and half-lantern”, one wheel fitted with spokes and the other with trunnels.
The modern engineer would be amazed at these wheels and probably ridicule them, but they are their own testimony to efficiency and endurance.
The millwrights put all they knew into their jobs, as witness the old“smock” mill, owned by Lord
Somerleyton, and standing on Herringfleet Marshes. This mill is worthy of more than a passing glance, and its caretaker will proudly boast that it can still hold its own against any of the “new fangled pumps”.
Mautby Mill had brickwork at its base three feet thick, while at Oby, just above Acle Bridge, stands a mill that bears the date of its erection, 1797.
There were several types of mills known professionally as cloth sail, patent sail, and skeleton. Lord Somerleyton’s mentioned above is a cloth sail, ie the sails are fitted with a framework on one edge and a canvas is stretched across the sail when ready to run.
This particular mill was erected before the innovation of winding gears, or “curbills”, and has to be pulled round by hand so that the sails are face on to the wind.
With the passing of the windmills those super craftsmen, the millwrights, are also becoming extinct– Smithdale, Martin, England (of Ludham), England (of Yarmouth, with whom I served my apprenticeship), Rust, Barnes and others - but the few mills still turning are worthy memorials to their conscientious and efficient craftsmanship.
The work of a millwright could be very risky at times, and most of us have taken a fall at one time or another.
On one occasion, while removing a striking rod, I fell from the “fly-stage”, struck a forked wheel at the start, cutting my eyebrow, but landed, on my feet and was back on the fly-stage within 10 minutes with nothing worse than a cut eyebrow and a severe“choking off” from the guv’nor for being careless.
This fly-stage was a matter of 30 feet from the ground. A fellow worker fell the same distance and landed in the mill dyke. His only complaint was that he didn’t like the taste of the water.
Apart from the disappearance of these picturesque landmarks, it appears that a new system of drainage is being established which is, obviously, more effective.
Most of the windmills had water wheels which would start lifting as soon as the sails were in motion, and except for the cost of upkeep the costs of running were negligible.
Seven pounds of grease and half a gallon of oil would keep a mill running smoothly for 12 months. Turbines are a comparatively recent innovation, the first being installed by Messrs. Whitmore and Binnon.
I am still on marsh drainage work, but my interest in the mills with which I have been intimately associated for nearly 50 years is undiminished.

A. J. Thrower, millwright, Belton - Eastern Daily Press - June 1945

Norfolk County
England's_of_Acle

Norwich
Small firms & self employed millwrights
1 John Courteney to 1687
2 Thomas Bateman -1706 to 1710
3 Thomas Nickless -1718 to 1726+
4 Robert Briggs snr -1723 to 1760
5 John Rayner -1726+
6 Francis Gooch -1731+
7 Richard Kittle -1760 to -1793
8 Robert Prick -1761+
9 Robert Briggs jnr -1761 to 1768.
10 William Wade to 1761
11 Joshua Hutchin to 1764
12 John Wooton to 1764
13 Henry Nixon -1768+
14 Benjamin Clark -1769+
15 Robert Peters to 1776
16 Nathaniel Lock -1779 to 1819
17 John Brown or Browne (1) -1782 to 1821+
18 Edward Cork -1783 to 1786+
19 John Stranglement -1783 to 1790
20 Benjamin Royall -1783 to 1803+
21 Cornelius Briggs Sr. -1786 to 1809
22 Munton -1793 to 1794+
23 James Lawter -1802+
24 William Mason. -1802+
25 James Banham -1806+
26 George Shafto -1808 to 1822
27 Cornelius Briggs Jr. -1809 to 1815
28 William Balls -1810 to 1833
29 James Fitt (1) -1810 to 1841+
30 James Palmer -1813+
31 John Wiseman -1818 to 1866
32 John Browne (2). -1819 to 1861+
33 Henry Lock 1819 to 1849+
34 John Fisher Gurling -1822 to 1827
35 William Thorold -1827 to 1851
36 John Stolworthy Buttifant -1827 to 1850
37 Christopher Southgate -1829 to 1848
38 William Ball -1830+
39 Robert Murry -1830 to 1832
40 William Cudbard -1830 to 1841
41 Charles Brett -1831 to 1848+
42 Samuel Gaze - 1832 to 1833
43 John Francis 1834 to 1843
44 Thomas Blyth 1834 to 1854+
45 Roger Hunt. -1836+
46 Thomas Howard -1836 to 1854
47 William Gaze Sr. -1836 to 1859
48 Daws -1839+
49 Richard Cudbard to 1840
50 John Cudbard 1840 to 1858
51 Charles Cudbard 1840 to 1879+
52 William Blyth -1841+
53 John Buckle jnr. -1841+
54 William Duffield -1841+
55 William Horrocks -1841+
56 John Partridge, Sr. -1841+
57 John Partridge, Jr. -1841+
58 Edward Riches -1841+
59 William Russell (1) -1841+
60 William Russell (2) -1841+
61 John Wiseman Jr. -1841+
62 Anthony Blyth -1841 to 1851+
63 John Buckle snr. -1841 to 1851+
64 Samuel Gowen -1841 to 1851+
65 Richard Pratt sr -1841 to 1851+
66 Thomas William Wiseman -1841 to 1851+
67 Stephen Fulcher -1841 to 1854
68 William Fulcher (1) -1841 to 1856+
69 James Fitt (2) -1841 to 1861+
70 James Dobson -1841 to 1871+
71 Alfred Nobbs 1841+ to 1851+
72 Robert John Blyth -1842 to 1868+
73 Alfred Sparke -1842 to 1872
74 John Ferra Watson -1843 to 1848
75 James Campling -1843 to 1859
76 William Gaze Jr. 1843 to 1865
77 Richard Parkinson -1845+
78 Henry Cudbard to -1846
79 John Stamford -1848 to 1851+
80 Frederick Gregory Dann -1849 to 1881+
81 Francis Buttifant -1850+
82 John Gregory Buttifant -1850 to 1853
83 Phillip Keymer -1849 to 1871+
84 William Royall to -1851
85 John Aggus -1851+
86 Robert Browes -1851+
87 John Browne (3) -1851+
88 William Buttifant (1) -1851+
89 William Buttifant (2) -1851+
90 Robert Cobb -1851+
91 Robert Everson -1851+
92 John Fitt -1851+
93 Abraham Lansdelle Gaze -1851+
94 Sam Genings -1851+
95 James King -1851+
96 James Marton -1851+
97 Thomas Nunn -1851+
98 George Pickett -1851+
99 David F. Say -1851+
100 Michael Shaw -1851+
101 Thomas Steward -1851+
102 James Watts -1851+
103 Thomas Whiteman to -1851
104 David Thomas Buttifant -1851 to 1852+
105 Edward Brister -1851 to 1861+
106 Henry Tuttell or Tuttle -1851 to 1861+
107 Allison Wialdman or Wildman -1851 to 1861+
108 John Wright -1851 to 1862
109 John Norton Browne -1851 to 1871+
110 Nathaniel Eastaugh -1851 to 1871+
111 William Fulcher (2) -1851 to 1871+
112 George Harrison -1854+
113 Robert Tidman -1854 to 1878
114 Thomas Slack -1856+
115 Robert Wright -1856+
116 James Joseph Campling 1859 to 1879-
117 Richard Lansdelle Gaze 1860 to 1868
118 John Bean -1860 to 1871+
119 Robert Culling -1861+
120 Robert Greens -1861+
121 Samuel Gowing -1861+
122 Charles King -1861+
123 George Poynts or Points -1861+
124 Richard Pratt jnr. -1861+
125 Frederick Spurdens -1861+
126 Joseph S. Walker -1861 to 1881+
127 Edward Johnson -1861 to 1871+
128 Robert Johnson -1861 to 1881+
129 Robert King -1861 to 1881+
130 Thomas F. Brown -1862 to 1883+
131 William Buxton -1867 to 1871+
132 Jonathon Chamberlain -1868+
133 William Brooks -1871 to 1881+
134 Robert Campbell -1871+
135 Alfred W. Cook -1871+
136 William England -1871+
137 Walter Everett -1871+
138 James Fitt (3) -1871 to 1881+
139 Edward Howard -1871+
140 William King -1871+
141 Robert Meers -1871+
142 Charles Rust -1871+
143 Charles Statham -1871+
144 Isaac Youngman Ward -1871 to 1881+
145 George Kerrison -1871 to 1881+
146 Dennis Davy or Davey -1871 to 1883+
147 Christopher Rooks 1872+
148 Henry Cotman 1879 to 1887
149 James Langham 1879 to 1887+
150 George Dye -1881 to 1882
151 Edward Crow -1881 to 1884+
152 John Weston Jordan -1881 to 1886+
153 John T. Brockliss -1883 to 1887+
154 John T. Archer -1881+
155 John Atherton -1881+
156 John W. Churlaw -1881+
157 James King -1881+
158 Frank Knott -1881+
159 William Godbold -1881+
160 William Matthews -1881+
161 Jeremiah Keymer -1881+
162 Lambert Weir -1881+
163 Thomas Browne -1881+
164 John Buck -1881+
165 Thomas John Booth -1881+
166 John Barnes -1881+
167 Moses Manwaring -1881+
168 George Manwaring -1881+
Numbers in brackets denote different millwrights with the same name
A minus (-) indicates the first known reference and a plus (+) indicates the last known reference

Norwich
Large firms
1 Holmes & Sons 1827 to 1902
2 Riches & Watts 1829 to 1896+
3 Sabberton Bros 1847 to 1914+
4 Sturgess & Towlson -1868 to 1888+
5 Smithdale's of Norwich 1854 to 1887+
A minus (-) indicates the first known reference and a plus (+) indicates the last known reference

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

All historical material within this page © Michael Roots
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