Dilham Mill
River Ant /
North Walsham & Dilham Canal


Dilham watermill built of weatherboard over a brick base with a Norfolk pantile roof. A substantial two floored weatherboarded storage building was attached to one gable end.
In 1900 the mill was described as having 4 floors of engine and boiler houses. The breastshot waterwheel had a fall of 8 feet that drove 2 pairs of stones and its water was taken from the 25 acre Dilham Lake.
In later years, water power was supplemented by a steam engine and the nearby Dilham_smockmill was under the same ownership. The watermill almost certainly stopped working before the first World War c.1910.

Dilham c.1905

Watermill and house, Scottish Close (4a) with house (described as newly-built in 1597) meadow (4a), all in Dilham, with piece of moorland in Honing, leased by Thomas Windham to Thomas Hill and others for 21 yrs in 1578; to Thomas Hill for 21 years in 1597; to John Willyson for 11 yrs in 1621; to Francis Calfe and others for 21 yrs in 1636, with bond to observe covenants, 1641.
Norfolk Record Office

To be Sold
TWO WINDMILLS with their going Geers, one being near St._Giles_Gates, Norwich and the other at North_Walsham in Norfolk.
Also the Remainder of a Term for sixty years which commenced in 1747 of a good water mill with a Dwelling House and small farm adjoining, being in Dilham, late occupied by Mr. Joseph Cole.
For further Particulars enquire of Mr. Marker at Dilham aforesaid, Mr. Gaze of Paston, or Mr. Gay of North Walsham.
All such Persons as are indebted to the said Joseph Cole are desired to discharge the same immediately to some of the abovesaid Persons or they may be sued.
Norwich Mercury - 7th November 1761

Dilham c.1911

Jno. Withers of North Walsham in the County of Norfolk. On a Water Corn Millhouse brick built weatherboarded and tiled and on the Mills therein together with the Running Tackle and other parts of the Machinery belonging thereunto situate in Dilham in the County aforesaid in his own Occupation, £400. On a House brick built and thatch'd situate on Eastgate Common near North Walsham aforesaid Tent. ----- Victualler and known by the Sign of the White House, £200. On a Brewhouse brick built and tiled situate in ye Yard belonging, £50. On a Granary near brick, stud & plaister built and thatch'd, £50.
Royal Exchange Fire Insurance - 6th December 1773

Jonathan Cobb, flour dresser
1770 (aged 19) Jonathan Cobb bound "himself" apprentice to John Withers of North Walsham flour dresser by indenture for 6 years and served three."  [Settlement Examination of Jonathan Cobb 1783 by Magistrate in North Walsham.]

1773 Jonathan left John Withers to finish his apprenticeship in Great Yarmouth, thereby losing his right to Settlement at North Walsham.

1773-75 Jonathan served the remainder of his 5 year apprenticeship in Great Yarmouth [Settlement Examination of Jonathan Cobb 1783 by Magistrate in North Walsham]  R. H. Clarke Ltd, millers of Great Yarmouth have records at NRO GB/NNAF/C181322    (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/B33452)

1775 (aged 24) Jonathan managed to move back to North Walsham when he "Let himself to William Colls, then of North Walsham, flour dresser and served a term with him."   William Colls, a Quaker Miller in North Walsham, also bought a wind grist mill at Letheringsett in 1757 (erected around 1764 and possibly still running) from the  bankruptcy trustees of John Priest a Sheringham miller.  Around that time William Colls took two apprentices; Thomas Siely in 1775, and John Chertney in 1778 (duty was paid for their indentures)

1781 Jonathan (aged 30) seems to have been living at Gorleston

1782 Feb 12 (aged 31) Jonathan Cobb single man married Elizabeth Lacey single woman (both of North Walsham at the time)  at St Nicholas, North Walsham, Co Norfolk.  By banns, witnesses Samuel Cobb & Richard Scott.

1783 Jan 26 John Lacey Cobb [surprisingly?] baptised at Yarmouth

1784 Susannah Cobb baptised at North Walsham

1787 Jonathan Cobb Junior baptised at Yarmouth

1791 Jonathan aged 40 living in North Walsham

1794 Mary baptised at North Walsham

1796 John, son of Jonathan Cobb of North Walsham, Miller, apprenticed to Bakers in Great Yarmouth.  Yarmouth Borough Freeholders list for 1802 includes Thomas King Baker  [Eldest son not a Miller, but no doubt Thomas King bought flour from Jonathan]

1798 Daughter Diana baptised and buried at Mundham

1799 Son Samuel baptised at North Walsham and 1800 buried at North Walsham
Wife Elizabeth died around this time.  No burial found for her yet in any local parish.

On 20 Oct 1800 [aged 50] at Loddon Parish Church (Holy Trinity) Jonathan Cobb (widower) married Anne Clarke (single) by banns.  Witnesses Robert Stone and Robert Ward.  (from Brian Forder, Cobb rootsweb) 

More children baptised in Loddon, and Ashby near Loddon

1808 Jul 19 TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION by Mr Athow on Tuesday 19 July at 5 pm at the Swan Inn, Loddon, Norfolk.  Several contiguous freehold cottages ...  situate in the Mill Street of that town, now in the distinct occupations of George Leggett, Elizabeth Ellis, William White, Elizabeth Bales, Samuel Kerrison and Jonathan Cobb.  Subject to such conditions of sale as will then and there be produced. For further particulars apply to Mr Wm Utting, Thurlton, Norfolk

c.1814 Family returned to North Walsham where Jonathan was at various times described as a husbandman.

1820 Charlotte, daughter of Jonathan and Ann Cobb, miller of North Walsham, born 18th Nov, baptised 7th December

1829 Jonathan Cobb died and was buried at North Walsham aged 79

Judy Buckley - 24th June 2014

William Harrison Wells was born on 24th September 1805 in Martham, the son of William and Sarah Wells. William Wells snr, who was born c.1781 in Lound, Suffolk, married Sarah Harrison in Gt Yarmouth on 29th January 1804. William snr was almost certainly a miller by profession but it's not known where. He died at some time between the census in 1841 and 1851 and the 1851 census lists Sarah Wells as the widow of a miller. William jnr was given his mother's maiden name as a middle name and obviously learnt milling at an early age. He married Harriet Howes at West Somerton on 9th May 1832.

Dilham painting 1834 Dilham painting 1837
1834 watercolour painting by Edmund Girling
1837 watercolour painting by Edmund Girling
The above painting was subject to a degree of artistic licence as the windmill was not as close to the watermill or in the position shown.

The wherry sail bears the letters WHW - William Harrison Wells of Dilham mill.

The 1834 painting depicts the artist, Edmund Girling, sitting on a log in the foreground and the 1837 painting shows him rowing across the mill dam. A certain amount of artistic licence appears to have been deployed. The adjacent windmill is the smockmill, also owned by William Harrison Wells
that was moved to Wymondham in 1858 via the Great Eastern Railway.

William Harrison Wells was a good friend of Edmund Girling jnr (1796-1871), who along with William Stannard jnr, were London corn and flour merchants trading under the name of Girling & Stannard. They operated from Jack's Coffee House in Mark Lane, London.

While Harrison was running Dilham mill he was occasionally visited by his friend and business aquaintance Girling, who was also an artist of the Norwich School and WHW commissioned him to paint two watercolours of Dilham watermill.

William Harrison moved to Norwich between 1851 and 1854 and by 1864 was running New_Mills. When Girling died in 1871 he bequeathed William Harrison £300 in his will, which gives Harrison's address as New Mills and St George's.

John Stammers, born 1822, second son of Robert Stammers of Magdalen_Gates_post_mill, Pockthorpe, Norwich.
At Wymondham 1850 - 1858.
Went to Dilham watermill by 1861 and to Mendham watermill 1864.

Letter from David Cubitt, Norwich, to Harry Apling - December 1982
N.B. John's brother Joseph Stammers, was miller at Mendham

Dilham c.1911

The North Walsham & Dilham Canal
This was the only official canal in Norfolk and was really the canalisation of the River Ant. It was made wider than most other canals in order to accommodate Norfolk wherries. The main cargoes were offal to the two Antingham_Bone mills with return loads of fertiliser. Corn and flour moved in and out of Bacton_Wood and Swafield mills with other commodities such as timber, farm produce and coal making up the majority of the remainder of trade. It was hoped that coal would be the mainstay cargo but this never materialised. The canal was just over 8¾ miles long, ran from Smallburgh to Antingham and contained 6 locks: Honing, Briggate mill, Ebridge mill, Bacton Wood mill, Swafield lower and Swafield Upper.

1812: Act of Parliament passed authorising construction of the canal

July 1826: Canal opened having cost £32,000 to build

1885: Ailing canal sold for £600 but the company's London solicitor absconded with the money

1886: Scheme introduced to encourage tourist traffic

c.1893: Antingham - Swafield section abandoned because of lack of traffic

1934: The wherry Ella, sailed from Bacton Wood Staithe for the last time

2003: Canal navigable for the first 2 miles as far as Honing Lock

Dilham c.1935
c.1935 watercolour

Dilham mill originally stood across the river Ant but the river was diverted to form the North Walsham & Dilham Canal, which was completed in 1826.
There is little doubt that prior to the canal being built the mill was effectively at the head of the historically navigable River Ant and was served by wherries accessing up the tail stream. This section of the Ant was, and still is to some extent, subject to tidal influence giving the right of free navigation, but the canal company could well have expected the right to charge craft using its much more direct channel up to the mill. This, however, the company was specifically prevented from doing by a special clause in the Act preserving the right of free navigation up to the mill.
Despite this, it would appear that when Honing Lock was constructed fairly close to the site of the mill, steps were taken to construct a dam near the mill to create what was known as Dilham Broad or Dilham Lake and an entrance to this broad was created from the canal upstream of Honing Lock. Thereafter wherry access to the mill appears to have been southwards across the broad to the mill head and the former access via the mill tail seems to have fallen into disuse.
Alan Faulkner - 16th April 2003

At one time the mill dam covered 25 acres and it is said that the cause was an accidental breach of the river bank in 1868. The story goes that this was the time of a disastrous drought and when a local farmer attempted to dig a tunnel to gain water, the resulting inflow quickly got out of hand and resulted in the flooding of Dilham beds.

The level of the mill dam has dropped and is now below the level of the old wheel sluice.

Dilham staithe & windmill
Dilham staithe and towermill in 1929

Dilham wheel pit 11Dec1977
The wheelpit 11th December 1977

TO BE LET With Possession at Michaelmas next.
A Capital BRICK
With good Dwelling house, requisite Outbuildings and an acre of Land adjoining and now in the occupation of Thomas FRARY.
The Mill drives two pair of French Stones and two Flour Mills.
Apply to SEWELL, BLAKE & CO. Solrs. Norwich or to Mr. Warnes at Mr. Wells' Dilham Mills.

Norfolk Chronicle - 19th September 1835

At one time the mill dam covered 25 acres and it is said that the cause was an accidental breach of the river bank in 1868. The story goes that this was the time of a disastrous drought and when a local farmer attempted to dig a tunnel to gain water, the resulting inflow quickly got out of hand and resulted in the flooding of Dilham beds.

The level of the mill dam has dropped and is now below the level of the old wheel sluice.

Tithe map 1840
Tithe map 1840 - as redrawn by Harry Apling

Dilham wheelhouse 15Apr1983 Dilham wheelhouse 19Oct2003
Wheelhouse 15th April 1983
Wheelhouse 19th October 2003

Dilham headrace 15Apr1983
The headrace 15th April 1983

Dilham tailrace 15Apr1983 Dilham tailrace arch 19Oct2003
Tailrace arch 15th April 1983
Tailrace arch 19th October 2003

Dilham Wind & Water Mills - Tithe Award 1841
Owner William Howe Whindham & Occupier William Harrison Wells

No. 5: Water Mill etc. Water 16a. 0r. 11p.
No. 6: Mill Rand. Pasture 0a. 1r. 30p.
No. 7: Windmill Meadow. Pasture 5a. 2r. 2p.
No. 8: Mill Pightle. 1a. 0r. 7p.
No. 11: Little Mill Meadow  
No. 12: Great Mill Meadow  
No. 16: Windmill Pightle. Arable 1a. 3r. 29p.
No. 56: House, Farm Premises & Garden 1a. 0r. 8p.
53a. 3r. 38p.
£3. 13s to Vicar
£6 17s to Appropriators

4 floors of engine and boiler houses
undershot waterwheel driving 2 pairs of stones
mill with fall of 8 feet
Let to Mr. W. Stackwood yearly tenant at £25 pa

Dilham Sale Particulars - 1900

Dilham plan 11Dec1977
NIAS plan December 1977

All that remains now is the brick wheelpit, 1.8 metres wide and 6.6 metres long, with the remains of gearing for adjusting the breast sluice. On the north and east sides the walls of the mill survive to a height of about one metre but the south and west walls have disappeared entirely.
NIAS Report - 11th December 1977

Dilham dam lake 19Oct2003
Dilham Broad bed 19th October 2003
William Harrison Wells was born on 24th September 1805, the son of William and Sarah Wells.
Sarah's maiden name was Harrison.

William Stackwood snr moved from Bolwick_watermill in the 1880s, where he had been working as a journeyman miller along with his son William jnr. who temporarily remained at Bolwick.
By 1891 William Stackwood snr had moved to Cawston and taken over Sygate Black Mill and White Mill.
William Stackwood snr had at least 14 children during his two marriages and 9 of them were known to have married in Norfolk.

When I purchased Dilham House in 1968, I also had the opportunity to purchase Dilham Broad which was part of the deeds of Dilham House. It was sold to the Patterson family who converted it to pasture.
I no longer have access to the Deeds etc. of Dilham House, but from memory they included an apparent "obligation" to maintain a channel of a certain width from the Canal to Dilham Water Mill to enable wherry passage and an affidavit by a lady who had rowed across the Broad in the early twentieth century.

David Adler

'Forgotten' Norfolk broad could be re-flooded and restored

A Norfolk farmer hopes to recreate a long-lost "forgotten broad" - an idea which he says could benefit a heritage waterway, tourism and agriculture.
Dilham Lake used to be connected to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal before it was drained and turned into grassland in the late 1970s.
Prior to that, it had been used for decades for fishing and sailing, and its water drove Dilham water mill at its southern edge.
Now, the grassy former lake bed is grazed by sheep, and all that remains of the mill is the ruins of its brick wheelpit.
But landowner Luke Paterson is exploring ways to flood the land, and bring the lake back to life.

He said this could restore a piece of Broadland heritage, create a watersports asset for his farm's growing tourism and camping enterprise, and act as a winter storage reservoir for his farming operations. 
"I've seen it referenced as the secret or forgotten broad, " said Mr Paterson. "It is a long-term ambition to restore it. It is not something that is going to happen overnight, but it would be quite nice to put back something that was there before.
"It could be used for paddle-boarding, canoeing, maybe sailing. It could also work as a winter storage reservoir for me as well, so if we get lots of flood water coming down the canal we could store it to use in the summer time on our crops.
"It could be a win-win on the farming, a win-win on the tourism, and a win-win on heritage restoration."
Mr Paterson is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Dilham Hall, near North Walsham. 
Dilham Lake appears on a 1906 map hanging on the wall of the farm office, which shows the mill, lakeside boathouses and the 14-acre water body - although earlier references suggest it was 25 acres.
Mr Paterson said his family were previously dairy farmers, which prompted the decision to drain the lake to create grazing land for the cows.
"Now the direction of travel for our business is very much tourism, so having 14 acres of water and an old mill would be a lovely story to put some heritage back," he said.
He is now exploring the necessary permissions and licences that would be needed to reconnect the lake to the canal.
A Broads Authority spokesperson said although no planning applications had been received relating to Dilham Lake, the authority "welcomes applications and will work with the applicant to provide them with information and guidance relating to the planning process."

Chris Hill, Eastern Daily Press - 14th August 2021

O. S. 6" Map 1885

O. S. 6" Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. 25" Map 1885

O. S. 25" Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

1542: Mill and manor house conveyed by Sir Edmund Windham to Robert Townshend

1578: Mill leased by
Thomas Windham to Thomas Hill and others for 21 years

1597: Mill newly built - probably on older site

1597: Mill leased to Thomas Hill for 21 years

1621: Mill leased to John Willyson, miller, for 11 years

Dilham Index of Wills 1633: John Willison, miller

1636: Mill leased to Francis Calfe and others for 21 years

1641: Francis Calfe with a bond to observe covenants

1747: Sixty year lease taken out on the mill

1761: Joseph Cole, miller, left the mill

November 1761: Mill advertised for sale along with Heigham Mill Hill & North Walsham Yarmouth Rd postmills

1768: John Withers, miller

1773: John Withers, miller (later at Gt. Yarmouth)

1773: Mill insure with Royal Exchange Fire Insurance for £400

Faden's map 1797: Mill

Dilham & Norwich Poll Book 1802: Thomas Boulter, miller

Edmund Girling watercolour 1834: Depicts mill and wherry bearing initials
WHW - William Harrison Wells

1835: Owner William Harrison Wells; occupier Henry Warnes having let his own towermill at Sea Palling

White's 1836: William Harrison Wells - wind & water; also Bacton Wood

Tithe Award 1841: William Howe Whindham, owner; William Harrison Wells, occupier

White's 1845: William Harrison Wells, corn miller, The Mills; also Bacton Wood

Hunt's 1850: William Harrison Wells

Census 1851: William Harrison Wells (45), Harriette Wells (39) wife + 7 children, Sarah Wells (73) mother

White's 1854: William D. Gardiner - Water Mill; also Aylsham Cawston Road towermill

Craven's 1856: William Drake Gardiner, miller

21st August 1858: To Let notice in the Norfolk Chronicle

Craven's 1858: William Drake Gardiner, also Wymondham smockmill

White's 1864: John Stammers, farmer & corn miller Water Mill

Kelly's 1879: George Shreeve, miller & merchant

Census 1881: George Shreeve (31) b.Marsham, miller
Ann E Shreeve (37) b.Marshams
Sidney Shreeve (5mnths) b.Dilham
Mary Blackburn (20) b.Aylsham, sister

White's 1883: George Holland Shreeve, miller, corn merchant & farmer

1891: George Shreeve had moved to Buxton Mill

Census 1891: William Stackwood snr (54) b.Carbrooke, miller & engine driver (portable)
Jimimia Stackwood (48) b.Horsham St Faith's
Beatrice Stackwood (13) b.Marsham
Sydney Stackwood (10) b.Marsham
Louisa Stackwood (7) b.Marsham
Ethel Maude Stackwood (5) b.Booton
Samuel Bayfield (24) b.Itringham, miller (boarder)

Kelly's 1892: William Stackwood, miller (water & steam)

Kelly's 1896: William Stackwood, miller (water) & at Cawston

Sale particulars 1900: William Stackwood, yearly tenant at £25

Kelly's 1900: Sydney Stackwood, miller (water)

Kelly's 1904: William Stackwood, miller (water)

Kelly's 1908: Charles Christopher Goose (wind) - incorrect listing?

1968: David Adler, Dilham House

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 07836 675369 or

Nat Grid Ref TG3309 2672
Top of Page
Copyright© Jonathan Neville 2003