Mendham Mill
River Waveney


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Mendham Mill and house c.1910
Mendham Mill and house c.1910

Mendham Mill was rebuilt and greatly enlarged in 1820 of weatherboard with a pantiled roof. The adjoining mill house did not appear to line up with the mill's window configuration, which was quite unusual and almost certainly because the house was older than the rebuilt mill - the house was described as new-built in 1813.

The wheel was believed to have been the largest of all the mills in the Waveney valley and in 1813, before the rebuild, was 14 feet in diameter and 8 feet wide.

The mill ceased production in 1938 and was eventually turned into a showpiece residence and by 2000 the building had been Grade ll listed.

The abbot and convent of Sibton, in Suffolk, had a fifhery, and water-mill, called Fryer's-mill, in this place, (Mendham) which was lett with their grainge and manor of Weybrede, in Suffolk, which in 1611 belonged to George Herring of Norwich.
History and antiquities of the county of Norfolk

The earlier mill had run two pairs of French burr stones and ground up to 5 lasts of corn per week.
A bunching mill was operated via a second waterwheel but had been removed by the time of the sale in 1813.

Stephen Spratt ceased to run the mill in 1807 but it is not known if he died or became insolvent.

When advertised for sale in 1808, the mill was using French burr stones to grind wheat for flour.
When advertised for sale in 1813, the machinery had been converted to spin Worstead yarn, probably at considerable expense.

Ipswich Journal advert - 9th January 1808
Ipswich Journal - 9th January 1808

Mill dam c.1904
Mill dam c.1904

Ipswich Journal - 11th September 1813
Ipswich Journal - 11th September 1813

Ipswich Journal - 1st January 1814
Ipswich Journal - 1st January 1814

A new iron waterwheel was installed in 1861 having been cast at Harleston Foundry and replaced the 1820 one that at one time had driven 9 pairs of stones.
At one point a 25hp compound Holmes & Sons steam engine was used.

A 3 sack/hour roller plant was installed in 1905.
Flour was taken by cart to Bungay where it was loaded onto wherries bound for Yarmouth.

c.1914 c.1915

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

Joseph Stammers was the miller in 1861, he was also a farmer owning 260 acres and employing 10 men. His daughter Rosa married Thomas Pratt, a well known Harleston Solicitor and they lived at The Beeches in London Road. In 1881 Rosa's mother, Harriett, then a widow lived with her son in law and daughter. 

Suffolk Chronicle - 25th March 1865
Suffolk Chronicle - 25th March 1865

c.1871 a grasshopper beam engine, manufactured and installed by Holmes & Sons of Norwich was in constant use. The engine ran continuously for 50 years, mostly day and night and was operated exclusively by James Souter and no one else was allowed to interfere. When the engine was dismantled in 1851, the old man died of a broken heart, it had been his life.

My grandfather came here into partnership with George Chase in 1872, having served his apprenticeship with his cousin James Stannard at Nayland in 1854, and was there for 18 years. Chase and Munnings also had Weybread_Mill. Chase was killed in 1887, when he was thrown out of his dog-cart in Harleston. My grandfather kept Mendham Mill on and fitted a partial roller plant, keeping 4 of the 8 pairs of millstones for under-runners, and a complete Turner 3 sack roller plant in 1905. Flour was carted to Bungay staithe, wher it was taken to Yarmouth by wherry, and shipped from there to London and Newcastle. My late famous uncle Sir Alfred Munnings K.V.C.O. P.P.R.A. was born here in 1878, to join Constable and Rembrandt as famous millers sons who became great artists. My father carried on the mill, flour milling ceased in 1932, and provender milling was carried on until 1938 when the mill was turned into a private residence.
John Munnings

The mill dam c.1910 May 1972
The mill dam c.1910
May 1972

The artist Alfred Munnings, son of the miller was born in the Mill House in 1878 and was brought up in the village.

Norfolk News - 11th November 1882
Norfolk News - 11th November 1882

Mill and house May 1972 May 1972
Mill and house May 1972
May 1972

On 22nd November 2002 the Eastern Daily Press reported that the mill was on the market for £1.2 million.

Race far away from the daily grind

Equestrian and war artist Sir Alfred Munnings was born at Mendham Watermill, Norfolk, in 1878 and drew inspiration from the setting for many of his early paintings. The present building, surrounded by the water meadows of the Waveney valley, dates from 1807, although a mill is recorded on this site in the Domesday Book.

The mill is split into four parts. The casually elegant main home is over the top two floors in the centre of the building, with fabulous views. The first floor includes a sitting room, large drawing room and dining room, all with panelled walls and elm flooring. Upstairs there are four bedrooms and two bathrooms, one en suite.

Munnings' family lived in the Miller's House on the eastern end of the mill, which is now run as one of four possible holiday lets attached to the property. This has four bedrooms, a sitting room and two shower rooms.

The Mill Race Cottage, with two bedrooms, is at the other end of the building, and the one-bedroom Miller's Nest is on the ground floor of the main mill. A holiday let - the detached Miller's Lodge - has french doors opening from the sitting room on to a terrace and walled garden.

Anyone who fancies embellishing the Munnings theme by reintroducing horses could fence off some of the seven acres that come with the property to form paddocks.

In 1938 the mill sold for £1,600. Agents Jackson-Stops & Staff (01473 218218) is now asking for £1.2 million.
Jill Insley - The Observer - Sunday 26th October 2003

I lived in Mendham Mill in 1953 when I was six years old.

My Mother worked as a cook for Brigadier Scott and Mrs Scott who owned the Mill (I presumed) and farmed in the area.

We had moved from London after my Mother’s previous employer, a doctor, was one of the 4000 people who had died in the 1952 December smog.

Obviously, moving from Knightsbridge (alright Brompton!) literally just round the corner from Harrods, to Mendham with one shop was a bit of a change, but for a young boy playing games undetected alongside the river Waveney was preferable to the Serpentine, where even in those days, some busybody was telling you to go and play somewhere else.

I must admit that 51 years later I remember the dogs of the mill better than the people who worked or lived there.

The Brigadier had a black labrador gun dog called Sailor, the was spaniel called Prue. Mrs Scott had a nasty black poodle - Lady and my favourite was Jess a greyhound.

David Halliwell or I would hold her back while the other would run up the lane from the mill to the house by the stream where he lived and then gasp as she shot off when set free.

There were two families on the farm; the Halliwell’s and the Seamen’s. David, Jennifer Seamen and I were in the same class at school.

If you want a picture of them and the others in our class of nine!–go to Friends Reunited - Mendham School and look at the photograph.

The farm was a mixed farm with cattle, pigs, and poultry and, at Christmas, geese.

I collected eggs from the battery houses to the right and opposite the mill; I helped feed the dozens of cats who lived under the sheds. The area under the mill was where the poultry and the geese were killed and had their feathers stripped. It was busy at Christmas with extra ladies from the village taken on to help.

There was a large electrically powered watermill that could on the press of a button be sent into reverse.  This created a counter flow to the water flowing through the mill (as you know the main current goes past the boathouse and round the mill) and drove the accumulated debris that blocked the grating under the road back upstream.  The debris was then pulled onto the bank.  This did two things, it stopped a build up of water level in front of the mill and reduced the risk of bits of wood and flotsam getting into the waterworks - so to speak.
We lived in the part of the mill facing up the lane.

I was passing Mendham, coming back from holiday with my family a few years ago and dropped by. Luckily the new owners were there and invited me in to have a look around.

The watermill that shook the place when running was rusted away, and the stone steps that ran up to the kitchen from the walled garden had gone.

The chicken houses were I think a holiday home! I wonder if the residents know!

It was obviously in need of renovation, but although it seemed smaller than when I was a lad I wasn’t sorry I had gone back, so often fond memories are trick of the mind and you are disappointed… but no so with Mendham Mill

I had no idea then that Alfred Munnings had been born there and I do not recall it ever being mentioned.

My Mother had Saturdays off and we would go into Harleston to the pictures.

I was in Harleston with a friend from my office (who had holidays there with his Grandparents) en route to a meeting a few years ago. We stopped for a quick look around and called in at the ‘museum’ I asked where the cinema was-or used to be. Can you believe neither of the two worthies there knew!?

Perhaps it just dates me.

I said we moved to Mendham following the death of my Mother’s previous employer.

Unfortunately, we had to move again when Brigadier Scott developed cancer and died.

I have real affection for Mendham Mill.
Tom Sedman-Smith, Kidderminster - 17th March 2005

Charlotte, my wife, remembered her step-father telling her that Grace Philcox, from whom he bought the mill, had run off with her chauffeur. Apparently he paid £14,000 for it and, given the amount of money that she spent refurbishing it, was a bargain. Charlotte thinks that he sold it for £18,000, four years later.

My wife’s mother was Jane Carr, star of stage, screen and radio. Robert Stent, who she married in 1955, was MD of Trust House Hotels. Shortly before the wedding Jane was diagnosed with a terminal illness and Robert bought the mill as a weekend and holiday home. My wife loved spending time there and she and her best friend, Nina Campbell, now the celebrity interior designer, painted the punt red and white. I noticed in Sir Alfred Munnings’ book, that he writes about the one that he and his brother used.

Many of Jane’s show-biz friends spent time there, although we can only find one picture of Michael Denison and Dulci Grey. Jane had sponsored their application to study at the Central School of Language and Drama, and they in turn, ten years later did the same for Charlotte.

As I also mentioned, Jane died in London in 1957, but had insisted on being buried at Mendham. For some reason, best known to himself, Robert Stent had the grave identified by a marker, rather than a gravestone. Maybe, as Charlotte thinks, that was why he was so wealthy.

Apparently there was a large eel, affectionately called Ernie, that lived below the wheel and was fed on soft shelled eggs, through a trap door. Charlotte was also able to carry on the Munnings’ tradition by having her own horse. It was named Marcus and had been retired from service with the army, in London. We still have one of his hooves, mounted in silver and used as a doorstep.
Derek Southon - 6th March 2007

Jane Carr c.1955 Robert Stent & Jane Carr c.1955
Actress Jane Carr c.1955
Robert Stent & Jane Carr c.1955

Jane Carr died in September 1957 after a two year illness.

Dulcie Gray & Michael Dennison 1955 Charlotte Southon 1990
Dulcie Gray & Michael Dennison 1955
Charlotte Southon 1990

Rear of mill 1956
Rear of mill 1956

Aerial 5th April 2007
5th April 2007

Robert Stammers (1818-1885) born Norwich and died at Gressenhall as a miller, seems to have occupied the mill from sometime after 1845 - previous tenant or owner John Hannent. Third son Herbert Chapman Stammers (1859-1928) took over the mill and at some date built a large steam mill near Dereham railway station which was later run by John Chapman Stammers (1897-1947).  Robert Stammers' younger brother William (1820-1869) became a grocer and draper at Hempnall from whom I have descended. There were two other brothers John (1832 -?) and Joseph (1823-1862) both became millers. John probably at Wymondham,_Browick_Road_mill and Joseph at Mendham.
Mike Stammers - 12th June 2008

Apparently there used to be a paper mill in the village on the left side of the bridge near the church but no trace has so far been found.

My father John Moody was born at the mill cottage in 1919 - I believe my great grandfather whose name was Sillette was the miller at the time he had two daughter s Henrietta Ernestina and Ada - Henrietta married Sam Moody who was a printer in Mexborough Yorkshire and Ada married Albert Adams who was a printer in London .
Unfortunately my father is now dead and I never really asked him much about his grandfather - I remember my grandmother telling me that at some point there was a fire at Mendham Church and a lot of records were destroyed including the records related to her birth.

Eric Moody - 14th February 2009

Years ago when a Navigating Officer with Trinity House Harwich I was tinkering  with my 1930 Morris Oxford car when a lady approached me, carrying a stuffed black pekinese dog. She called  out to a gentleman and said "Alfred I am giving your car away." She said I should call this car "Black night."  On towing this 1920 Buick away I  understand  it was their honeymoon car and cost one thousand pounds at that time. It  was yellow and black. I spent some time renovating it and drove it around. I dont have it any more and the last I heard it was parked in London, England.  Also have the book "Black Night" written by the dog.
John Burrough - 19th May 2010

3rd January 2010 3rd January 2010
3rd January 2010
3rd January 2010 showing the channel cut from the main river

Will Saxby of Mendham
Will Saxby of Mendham
painted and signed by
A. J. Munnings 1896

Memo written by John Munnings 4th March 190
Memo written by John Munnings 4th March 1903
The script reads:
William Saxby is the son of my groom who has been in my employment 20 years they are a respectable family, and I believe the boy to be honest and sober.
John Munnings
(father of Sir John Munnings)

My Saxby family all lived in or around Mendham in the 18th century until the upset in the agriculture mechanisation when they moved to seek other employment. My grand father went to Bethnal Green in London and eventually became a brewer at Trumans where he remained for forty years.
I joined the Royal Navy in 1949 and was fortunate to serve 10 years on the Royal yacht Britannia before my retirement from the R.N. Wills father was my grandads brother
Charles Saxby - 16th June 2014

Diss Express - 29th April 1949
Diss Express - 29th April 1949

My parents (Tim and Veronica Ellis) bought the Mill, 4 cottages and about 20 acres from the Stents in 1961.  At that time there were about 8 old large white sows on the farm and a couple of empty battery houses.  With the help of Fred Seaman the herd was built up to c. 120 sows and the battery houses had about 5,000 laying chickens.  My parents also acquired a further 10 acres or so and we grew “cricket bat” willows along the river banks.
At that stage there was just the one residential unit: the extension to the north end of the house being a food store and the ground floor of the Mill was used for storage and workshop, with an office and boiler room below the Millers House.  There was nothing in the kitchen garden other than a potting shed and greenhouse.  The buildings in front of the house formed two sides of a rose garden: one was a pig unit and the other a garden room overlooking the pool below the sluice gates.
In those early days we still had red squirrels on the place and a large population of coypu until they were eventually eradicated: I think our record was catching 140 in one year on what was a comparatively short stretch of river.  We also kept ornamental pheasants of a variety of breeds.
I think the difference in ceiling heights in the Mill had little to do with the age of construction.  The height of the rooms in what was the Mill would have been determined by the height one could stack sacks of corn.  In our day the house had 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a dressing room, etc.  On a hot summers day we would try and shoot the pike in the river with a .22 rifle, as they basked in the sun: not as easy as it sounds due to the refraction of light in the water.
I spent an idyllic time there as a child and then teenager and then used it as base when training in Norwich.  There was a punt and a canoe on the river, and shooting and fishing including trying to catch some very large eels through the wooden trap door on the ground floor.
I had a Riley Elf and I do not recognise the mini in the 1972 photo!
I moved out in 1975 and my parents eventually sold the house about 10 years later before moving to Trinity Hall in Bungay.

Jonathan Ellis - 23rd August 2021

I believe this mill was my first home. My parents lived at a watermill in 1951/52 (rented, short term, whilst their house was being built in Yarmouth) I was born in November 1951, at Candler’s Nursing Home in Harleston and that is what is on my birth certificate. My birth registration just says ‘Depwade’,  but I don’t think that there was another watermill at that time in the Depwade Hundred. My father was acting Major in the Royal East Anglian Regiment. My mother had been a Wren, based at Bletchley Park for 2 years during the war. They had an enormous Golden Retriever called Sandy and my brother Mike, before I was born. My mother mention 2 idyllic summers at ‘the mill’.
I think that Mendham Mill is probably the place. My mother mentioned her mortification, upon learning that their neighbour, ‘lovely old chap’, was catching eels through the trap (trap door) where he lived One of your correspondents also mentions doing this at Mendham. The reason for her angst was that my father had been rinsing my soiled nappies in the water upstream from the ‘eel trap’ Needless to say, the practice stopped immediately. My mother used to call the ‘lovely old chap’ in for coffee (Camp coffee essence with evaporated milk) in the morning and tea in the afternoon, with whatever biscuits and cakes she had baked.
I have always been charmed by these romantic stories of being taken home to the mill.

Julie Edwards - 24th October 2021

In that summer before I was born, my mother used to go for walks with the dog and my brother, then a toddler, to a railway. The train drivers of the steam trains saw him waving to them most days and would obligingly blow the whistle for him. Many lines were taken up following Dr Beeching’s cuts to public expenditure, so it may be gone now.
[Probably the GER Waveney Valley Branch - JJN]
My mother spoke of walking over cornfields to the railway, but she might have meant ‘by’ the fields. My brother was a sturdy little chap and he started walking exceptionally early – 8 months. He may have managed this distance. We always walked and cycled great distances as children.

I can now tell you a family anecdote which is a bit soppy. As Mum and Mike walked through the fields (or by the fields) during the summer when she was pregnant, she was imagining what I would look like.
She was then in her late 30s and I was her only natural child. My black haired / brown eyed brother was actually my half brother. His mother died when he was born.
My mother mused that I might have, ’hair the colour of corn and eyes the colour of the summer skies (sic)’  Only one brother in her own family of 8 children had these characteristics.  My father, like my brother, had dark hair and brown eyes. My mum had light brown hair and green eyes. It was unlikely, but I was born with white blonde hair and blue eyes.

Julie Edwards - 27th October 2021

Another little one my mother told me: my father had Sandy, the oversized Golden Retriever before he met my mum. Sandy was very much was a one man dog, although he was protective towards my mum and my brother.
Dad was Adjutant to the Regiment and he occasionally had to go away on business, leaving my mother, at ‘the mill’, in charge of a very resentful Sandy. The dog would go off and not return for several hours, so Mum had to keep him tethered. unless she could directly supervise him.
One day, he chewed through his tether and was gone. She was frantic with worry when he was missing for several hours, but, being pregnant and having my brother to look after, she just got on with cooking the meal. My father was due home that night and would have to try and find the absconder.
Whilst she was outside playing with my brother, she heard noises coming from the kitchen. She went to investigate and found utter mayhem! Sandy had come home,  bringing a dead duck (unmarked, he used to pull them under and drown them)  He had shaken filthy, smelly mud over the floor and splattered every wall from top to bottom. It was running down the window and all over the table. It had ruined most of the food. He had never done anything like that before. He was obviously angry at being sidelined.
My mother said that she sat down and cried. She began to try and wipe off the mud, but the walls were impossible to clean, because they were lime-washed. That evening my father came home. He and my mum were up most of the night, cleaning and he then had to lime wash the room,  several times before it was restored to a reasonable state.
After that, Sandy went with Dad whenever he had to stay away from home!

Julie Edwards - 27th October 2021

O. S. Map 1946

O. S. Map 1946
Mendham mill to the southeast - GER line to the northwest
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1884

O. S. Map 1884
Courtesy of NLS map images

1611: George Herring of Norwich renting Fryer's Mill from the Abbot of Sibton, Suffolk

c.1807: Stephen Spratt, miller, ceased to run the mill

January 1808: Corn mill advertised for sale by auction as were the effects of Stephen Spratt

c.1810: Second wheel that had been driving a bunching mill was taken out of service and removed

1813: J. & J. Sabberton & Co., yarn spinners

September 1813: Mill advertised for sale by auction as a Worstead spinning mill

December 1813: Parnership of J. & J. Sabberton dissolved and the business discontinued

1820: Mill rebuilt and worked as a corn mill

Pigot's 1839: Christopher Johnson

1861: New iron wheel and gearing from the Harleston Foundry installed

Census 1861: Joseph Stammers (37) b.Starston, miller & farmer of 260 acres employing 10 men

1864: Joseph Stammers, miller

4th April 1865: Effects of John Stammers, deceased, sold at auction

1871: George Chase, owner

1871: Mill enlarged

1872: John Munnings took over the mill in partnership with George Chase, they also ran Weybread Mill

1878: Sir Alfred Munnings born in the mill house

1882: Chase & Munnings, millers

George Chase was killed when he was thrown out of his dog-cart in Harleston

Census 1891: Frank Arthur Crisp b.Norwich, maltster, miller, corn & coal merchant
Mrs Crisp, b.Bradford, Yorks
son, b.Redenhall
servant, b.E. Dereham
servant b. Woodbridge, Suffolk
Address: The Gables, Mendham Lane

1905: 3 sack/hour roller plant installed

1919: ? Sillette, miller

1921: Holmes & Sons grasshopper beam engine exclusively operated by James Souter ceased working

1938: Mill ceased production

1938: Mill sold for £1,600

April 1949: Mill advertised for sale by auction

4th May 1949: Mill sold by auction

1951-52: Alfred 'Pat' & Irene Tranah family renting

c.1985: Tim & Veronica Ellis sold the mill

2002: Mill on the market for £1.2 million

2004: Mill and cottages used for residential and holiday accommodation

April 2006: Mill with 2 cottages and 7 acres advertised for sale by Strutt & Parker c.£1,500,000

2008: James Johnston

Saturday 19th September 2015: Mill Open Day in aid of the Munnings Art Museum

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 TM 27108334
Top of Page
Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003