Swanton Morley Mill
River Wensum

September 1968
Mill site September 1968

Swanton Morley Mill started out as a flour mill but finished its working life as a paper mill. It was newly built in 1776, probably as a result of a fire, only to be destroyed by fire once more in 1802. By 1812 it had been rebuilt as a paper mill measuring 40ft by 150ft and was operating using two wheels. No mention has been found after 1840 and it is assumed that it was demolished around that time.

31st December 2002 31st December 2002
Mill site 31st December 2002

On Monday last one Bacon Hibgame, (when a baker in Norwich) of St. Margaret's, Baker, was convicted before the Right Worshipful Mr. Mayor of selling one Loaf of Bread deficient in weight five ounces and a half and paid the Penalty of 17s 6d.
Norwich Mercury - 12th February 1757

Manors of Swanton Morley and Worthing; messuage; two water corn mills; a fulling mill and 24a.; dilapidated tenement; 3a. called Bradbury's tenement; the Lizard, 153a.; 104a. of meadow and pasture; 80a. of land; 40a. of other land; foldcourse of 800a.
Title Deeds: Swanton Morley, Hoe, and Worthing 1662 - 1881 - Norfolk Record Office

Conveyed by Thomas Bedingfield to William Small in 1663; conveyed by Laurence Whitwell and his sister Anne, devisees under Small's will, to Sir George Walker in 1676. Mortgaged by Walker to Joseph Bertham in 1679, and conveyed by Walker to Daniel Farrington in 1679. With deeds relating to mortgages on the property.
Title Deeds: Swanton Morley, Hoe, and Worthing 1662 - 1881 - Norfolk Record Office

Manors of Swanton Morley, Hoe Harfords, and Ingworth; capital messuage in Swanton Morley, messuage, messuage with water mill, messuage called New Castle House, and a decayed tenement, all in Swanton Morley, messuage in Worthing; messuage in Hoe, called Hoe Malthouse Farm,; messuage in Scarning; messuage in Ingworth; several closes of land in Oulton; messuage and land in Burnham; a moiety of the rectory and vicarage of Scarning.
Undated - Norfolk Record Office

4th October 2003
Wheelrace 4th October 2003

Whereas the Co-partnership between Mr. Peter HALL and Mr. John WHITBY of this Town, Millers and Flour Merchants, in this day dissolved by mutual consent...
All debts to Peter HALL...

N.B. A sober Man of good character who understands buying wheat and manufacturing it into flour, and is capable of managing the Business of the Mill and keeping regular accounts, may have Employment and Encouragement suitable to his merit by applying to the said Peter HALL...
Norwich Mercury - 23rd July 1768

Bacon Hibgame of the City of Norwich, Flour Merchant & Baker. On a House & Water Corn Millhouse adjoining brick built & tiled with the Mills in the sd. Millhouse together with the Running Tackle & other parts of the Machinery belonging thereto situate in Swanton Morley in the County of Norfolk in his own Occupation, £500. On Goods in Trade therein, £500.
Royal Exchange Fire Insurance - 1775

Norfolk Chronicle - 16th March 1776
Norfolk Chronicle - 16th March 1776

To be disposed of immediately, the Lease of SWANTON MILL with the going Geers, Stock etc. being the most capital Mill in the County, Lately new built with every Convenience & is now in a large & extensive Trade. If required part of the Purchase Money may remain.
For Further particulars enquire of BACON HIBGAME of Norwich or on the Premises. The best Price will be continued to be given for Wheat & the Trade continued as usual till disposed of.
N.B. This will be advertised no more.

Norfolk Chronicle - 28th October 1780

Lease of Mills to be Sold
And entered upon immediately
The Lease of those very desirable MILLS situate in Swanton Morley, Norfolk, now used in the Manufactory of Paper upon a very extensive Scale with upwards of 70 acres of very good Land adjoining.
Apply to FOSTER, Son & Attornies, Norwich.

Norfolk Chronicle - 11th August 1787

Mills to be Sold by Auction at the Blue Bell on Hog Hill, Norwich 3rd September 1787

Norfolk Chronicle - 18th August 1787

All Persons indebted to MACKLASHAM & EDWARDS of Swanton, Norfolk, Paper Makers...
Debts to FOSTERS...

Norfolk Chronicle - 25th August 1787


Norfolk Chronicle - 15th September 1787

A fire occurred at Swanton paper mill, a great part of which was destroyed with all the paper.
The damage was estimated at £4000.

Norfolk Chronicle - 31st May 1802 (Per Charles MACKIE's NORFOLK ANNALS, 1901)

4th October 2003
Wheelrace, millpool and bridge 4th October 2003

Plan redrawn from original by Barré Funnell
Plan redrawn from original by Barré Funnell

In 1783 Ralph Buck of Stoke Holy Cross mill and Robert Macglashan of Norwich insured a paper-mill at Swanton Morley (Shorter). Buck died the following year and Mackglashan joined in partnership with John Edwards. Unfortunately they were very soon bankrupt and their stock was advertised in the Norfolk Chronicle of 28th April 1788 as to be peremptorily sold by auction.

At this time Swanton mill seems to have produced mainly glazed paper for the use of hotpressers to the wool trade. This is shown by the fact that a fire was reported in the glazing mill at the paper-mill in 1784, and the vast majority of the paper advertised in 1788 was Hotpress paper. After the bankruptcy of Mackglashan and Edwards, Swanton mill was taken over by a partnership between William Tooke Robberds, a Norwich bookseller, and Joshua Furness a paper-maker. Robberds advertised to this effect in 1790, whilst Shorter notes that Furness was at the mill in 1791 and he illustrates the watermark 'Furness & Robberds' as used in 1798. This firm continued into the nineteenth century, later with the addition of a third partner George Furness. The partnership was finally dissolved in 1809, an announcement being made in the London Gazette for the 18th November.

The next known paper-maker at Swanton was James Rump, who was earlier in partnership with Dusautoy at Lyng. He is listed as the proprietor of the mill in the 1830 and 1836 Norfolk directories, but neither he nor the mill are mentioned in 1845. Fortunately there is a great deal of information available on the size and siting of this mill, in the form of two plans, both of which were drawn up in the 1830s. The first of these shows the mill in relation to the river Wensum and the ownership of surrounding lands. The second is on a much larger scale and shows the ground plan of the mill. The plans make it clear that the mill was the property of Edward Lombe Esq., but Rump owned nearby buildings and land, and was undoubtedly the tenant there.

Swanton mill can be very briefly described as a building of about 150ft by 40ft sited on a dam across the Wensum. In addition to this main building there was an attached drying house on the east bank of the river, and an attached building called 'the Sall' on the west bank. This appears to have had a furnace. The mill itself was divided into a bleach house, a sizing house, a white mill, and largest of all a brown mill. There were two water-wheels, the larger serving an 'engine house' situated in the brown mill, and the smaller serving a separate small engine in the white mill. There are also several unmarked and separate buildings that may well have been warehouse and office accommodation.
David Stoker

J. Rump 1824 watermark
J. Rump 1824 watermark
on document found at Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire and written c.1825

William Tooley Robberds lived from 1763 to 1849. He was the second son of John Robberds and Mary Anne Tooley. In his will he bequeathed all his arable and meadow lands situate at Swanton Morley.
The lands were valued and offered for sale to his grandson, Thomas Robberds Woodrow.

Swanton Morley pub sign in 1968
Swanton Morley pub sign in 1968

O.S. Map 2005
O.S. Map 2005
Image reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey

22nd November 2008
22nd November 2008

I always thought there must have been something there - we know the people who live beside the river there.
One of our builders went swimming two summers ago when it was very hot and dived into the river where you have shown there to have once been a mill and scalped himself neatly and cleanly. It was a round steel post on the bottom of the river.

Stephen Vince, Bylaugh Hall - 23rd June 2007

Natural England
River Wensum Restoration Strategy
Full Report



6.16 The mill structures have a profound influence on the river system in the Wensum catchment. If high retained water levels continue upstream of the mills, they would form a significant constraint on the effectiveness of river restoration. Physical modifications at mill sites should aim to restore a more natural longitudinal profile to the river and to remove or reduce physical barriers to the movement of fish and wildlife. Whilst historically a number of mills have been in existence for centuries these have always very actively stored and released water and the cessation of working of the mills in combination with dredging has had a significant impact.
6.17 The recommended actions at mill structures are shown in Table 9. At a number of sites there is no mill building and removal of water level control structures would be the desired course of action. However, often there are multiple channels at a mill site and it is likely that some hydraulic controls would be needed to maintain a split of flows to all channels. These would probably take the form of a fixed crest and a natural chute that would allow the passage of fish and woody debris. At locations where the water level control structures are part of the historic mill building, there is often a variety of passageways and the best way to lower levels will need to be identified using more detailed survey. Initial action can be taken at low cost by merely adjusting operating levels using the available gates and stop boards. The reduction in head that could be achieved at a typical dry weather flow is also summarised in Table 9. The estimated maximum reduction in backwater length through changing the operational level of the sluices (that is, without the need for major engineering works) is 18km. This would reduce the length of the River Wensum SSSI affected by backwater from mills from 67% to 40%. To achieve this it would be necessary to ensure that no channels downstream of gates or fixed weirs are affected, but this could be a cost effective start to the Wensum restoration.
6.18 It is likely that at some locations, where the channel course has been altered and the mill channel is significantly higher than the natural channel, the main flow could be diverted upstream of the current mill location. Maintaining some flow to the original mill weir is likely to be preferable for aesthetic and heritage reasons, so by-passing is likely to be required in conjunction with lowering of the mill weir. Sites where such a solution is envisaged are at Great Ryburgh and Lyng.
6.19 The control structures at Costessey, Swanton Morley and Fakenham are used for flow gauging by the Environment Agency. Lowering these weirs may mean that the existing gauging arrangements will need to be replaced by other methods, such as ultrasonic techniques. The weir on the main channel at Swanton Morley has a two stage drop and a significant reduction in water level could be achieved there without affecting flow gauging through the bridge.
6.20 A former mill known as Gogg‟s Mill near to Fakenham was removed as part of the drainage improvement works of the 1950s. The channel upstream of the mill has narrowed significantly through the accretion of silt berms, and provides a good case study of the extent to which natural recovery can help restore natural river form and function.
6.21 As part of the River Wensum Water Level Management Plan being prepared by Entec (2007) the views of some private owners on changes in operating level have been canvassed. In broad terms this is not opposed, but there is concern to maintain an attractive setting incorporating some mill pond in line with the historical context particularly at:
1) Elsing
2) Great Ryburgh
3) Bintree
4) North Elmham
5) Lenwade.

6.22 A reduction in the retained water level at mills may constrain the ability to direct water through all the existing channels at mill sites, should this still be required, there may be a need to carry out physical modifications to some of the subsidiary water level control structures.
River Wensum Restoration Strategy - Natural England, 26th June 2009

River Wensum Restoration StrategyRiver Wensum Restoration Strategy
River Wensum Restoration Strategy - Natural England, 26th June 2009

A little story about the Weir at Swanton Morley. My parents Edna and Frank Smith lived opposite in Swanton Morley Lodge and I was born there in 1942 and lived there until bomber command moved us out. When the heavy woollen grey blankets needed freshening, my father used to put a stake each side of the weir and a thick rope across and these blankets would be hung over and left all night for the weir to cleanse them and apparently it worked a treat. Some washing machine!!!
Maureen Martin (née Smith) - 8th February 2012

O. S. Map 1881

O. S. Map 1881
The Weir is the site of the mill
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1882

O. S. Map 1882
The Weir is the site of the mill
Courtesy of NLS map images

O.S. Map 2005
O.S. Map 2005
Image reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey

Index of wills 1670: John Roote

14th July 1768: Dissolution of partnership of Peter Hall & John Whitby, millers & flour merchants

1775: Bacon Hibgame, flour miller

1775: Mill insured for £500 with Royal Exchange Fire Insurance

1776: 'New built' as Flour Mill

1776: Bacon Hibgame, flour miller

1780: Bacon Hibgame, flour miller

1783: Insured as paper mill by Ralph Buck & Robert Macglashan

1784: Fire in the glazing mill section

1784: Ralph Buck died

1787: Mackglasham & Edwards, paper makers

September 1787: Robert Mackglasham & John Edwards - bankrupt

1790: William Tooley Robberds & Joshua Furness

Faden's map 1797: Swanton Paper Mill

1798: Furness & Robberds watermark in use

May 1802: Destroyed by fire

London Gazette 18th November 1809: Notice re dissolution of partnership of William Tooley Robberds, Joshua Furness & George Furness

1812: Rebuilt by this time

Bryant's map 1826: Swanton Paper Mill

1830: James Rump

White's 1836: Edward Lombe Esq. (owner), On the Wensum is a large paper mill.
James Rump, paper manufacturer

c.1840: Mill demolished for reasons unknown

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 TG 02041850
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003