Victoria Road towermill


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Hand coloured postcard c.1907
Hand coloured postcard c.1907

Diss tower mill in Victoria Road was built on common land by Thomas Jay around 1817.In later years the mill was known as Button's Mill. The six storey mill was one of the largest in the area and was probably first built with eight sails (as was Old_Buckenham_towermill). The sails powered 2 pairs of 5ft and 1 pair of 4ft French burr stones, a flour mill and jumper but by 1880 this had increased to four pairs of stones that were powered by 4 double shuttered sails, each with 8 bays of 3 shutters that were struck by rack and pinion via a tail pole. The tower was 33 feet in diameter at the base and had a domed cap with a ball finial. The cap held an 8 bladed fan was vertically boarded to form its own petticoat.

Vertical boarded domed cap with ball finial. 4 double shuttered a/c sails. 8-bladed fan.
Ground floor 1 pr. under-driven stones driven by power. 2nf floor 4 prs. 4 ft. overdriven stones. Floor diam. 19 ft. Brake wheel wood with iron segment, 11 ft pitch circle, 3 ins, pitch. Iron windshaft. Cap 21 ft. 6 ins. diam. between framing.
Rex Wailes - 1926

Pepper pot cap 22 ft. diam. wqith vertical boarding.
"Differenetial" fan drive with a double bevel reduction gear driving a horizontal spindle which terminates in a cluster of three bevel gears near the centre line of the cap, the final drive being by twin spur pinions to a rack on top of the curb.
Largest wooden brake wheel seen, 11 ft. 6 ins. diam.
Stones, 4 pairs.
Rex Wailes - 1926

Land bought by Thmas Jay from George Eaton
Diss Enclosure Award. Diss Moor. 1817.

An entry in the diary of Thomas King, who owned Thelnetham Mill in Suffolk, read Strong wind Nov 24th 1836 Jays 8 sailed mill down Diss...

Thomas Jay also owned Stuston Road postmill on the common that had been damaged a week earlier.

Mr. Jay's small mill on the Common, used for the purpose of dressing flour etc. was blown off the brick foundations... and is now lying on the ground in a shattered state.
Suffolk Chronicle - 26th November 1836

Postcard c.1907
B&W postcard c.1907

Diss Parish Records
Made 26 September at 1s. in the pound
No. 72

No. 73

No. 74

No. 75
Assessed at
Rate at 1s.

Assessed at
Rate at 1s.

Lands, 9 acres
Assessed at
Rate at 1s.

New Mill
Assessed at
Rate at 1s.
Thomas Jay
The Common

Thomas Jay
The Common

Thomas Jay

£3. 10s.
3s. 6d.

Thomas Jay


Diss Parish Records
Made 26 September at 2s. in the pound
No. 73

No. 73

Assessed at
Assessed at
Land 6½ a.
Assessed at
Thomas Jay
The Common


£3. 10s.

Total £3. 7s.

On Monday afternoon & Tuesday, the gale was more severe than that of the preceding week - on Diss Common, Mr. Jay's large tower-mill was damaged.
Suffolk Chronicle - 2nd December 1836

Tithe map 1838
Tithe map 1838 - as redrawn by Harry Apling

Tithe Award 1837
Map 1838
Owner: Thomas Jay
Occupier: do

No. 1070

Mill yard


3a. 1r. 18p.

Part of £2

Diss Parish Records
Made 10 May 1845 at 19d. in the pound
No. 85

No. 86

No. 87
House & Garden
Gross Estimated Rental
Rateable Value
Rate at 1s. 7d.

Mill & 0a. 3r. 25p.
Gross Estimated Rental
Rateable Value
Rate at 1s. 7d.

Gross Estimated Rental
Rateable Value
Rate at 1s. 7d.
Thomas Jay

£1. 11. 8

£1. 11. 8

£8. 10s
£8. 5s.
13s. 0

Thomas Jay died on 3rd April 1847 aged 78 and was buried north side of Diss churchyard. Sarah Jay died on 28th December 18?? and was buried alongside her husband.

Excellent sash-fronted Residence …
Messrs. Elliott & Sons are instructed to Sell by Auction at the Kings Head Inn, Diss on Monday 5 September 1853 at 3 o’c
Lot 13. A most substantial & powerful brick TOWER WINDMILL with six floors, four patent sails, wind tackle, three pairs of French stones (2 pairs 5 ft. & 1 pair 4 ft.) flour machine, flour mill, jumper & other requisite going gears.
Substantial Brick & Tiled Miller’s cottage, board & slated Granary, Stable, Gig house, Cart lodge, Piggery, Garden & Mill Yard containing altogether 0a.3r.22p.
There is an excellent retain trade attached to this lot.
Above lots in the occupation of Mrs. Jay & Possession may be had at Michaelmas next.
Particulars of Mr. Browne, Solr. Diss & Messrs. Elliott & Sons Estate Agents & Auctioneers, Thelton & Diss.

Norfolk Chronicle - 20th & 27th August 1853

Capital Windmill with Residence and Gardens, Cottage and valuable Building Ground situate next the high road to Scole, near the Railway Station. Messrs. Butcher have received instructions to sell by Auction at the Royal Hotel, Norwich, on Saturday, 18th October 1856, at 4 o’c.

Lot 1. A Powerful and substantial BRICK TOWER WINDMILL with six floors, four patent sails, three pairs of French stones, etc. etc. Miller’s Cottage, Granary, Stable, Gig House, Cart Lodge, Piggery, Gardens and Mill Yard.

An Excellent … Residence … pleasure garden, kitchen garden, Pasture Land … 3a. 2r. 1p.
All Freehold and is admirably situate within a short distance of the Railway Station, possessing a frontage of about 232 feet next the high road from Diss to Scole. Immediate possession.
Apply to Mr. Browne, Solr., Diss, or Messrs. Butcher, Land Agents and Auctioneers, Norwich.

Norfolk Chronicle - 27th September & 11th October 1856

John Button bought the mill at auction in 1880 having previously worked Billingford Mill.

An Enclosure of Accommodation Land, highly valuable for building purposes; a powerful brick-built freehold Tower Wind and Steam Mill, driving five pairs of French stones, a substantial Miller’s Cottage, spacious Yard and suitable outbuildings, with a convenient freehold family residence, all well situated at the entrance to the town of Diss, and within a few minutes’ walk of the Railway Station; which will be sold by Auction, by Mr. Edward Smith, of Colchester, at the King’s Head Hotel, Diss, on Thursday, July 8th 1830, at four for five o’clock in the Afternoon, in two lots, by direction of the Proprietor.

Lot 1. An exceedingly valuable enclosure of Building or Accommodation Meadow Land, admirably adapted for Building Purposes, having a capital frontage of about 270 ft. to the Victoria Road, at the entrance to the Town of Diss from the Railway, from which station it is about three minutes’ walk. It contains 3a. 0r. 5p. It is Freehold, except a small portion, which is Copyhold of the manor of Heywood Hall, 1r. 14p., and Diss Rectory, 16p., this Enclosure of Land is of great value to Building Societies or private speculators, a sit may be easily laid out into numerous Building Plots; and Houses are much required in this immediate neighbourhood.

Lot 2. A valuable and desirable Freehold Estate, comprising a capital powerful brick-built freehold Tower Wind and Steam Mill, very conveniently situated with Six Floors, Four Patent Sails, Wind Tackle, Five Pairs of French stones, Flour Mill, Jumper, and other Requisite Going Gear, with Steam Engine and machinery. A substantial Brick-and-tiled Freehold Miller’s cottage, Granary, Stable, Gighouse, Cart Lodge, Piggery, Gardens, and Spacious Mill Yard. Together with the superior and well-arranged Freehold Family Residence, pleasantly situated, with neatly laid-out grounds (and separated from the High road by iron palisades), with capital walled-in kitchen garden in the rear, containing about half an acre. The Residence comprises:- Entrance Hall, Parlour, Sitting Room, Kitchen, Back Kitchen (in which is a pump well supplied with excellent water) a good Room now used as an Office, Larder, Capital Underground Cellar, Pantry, Storeroom.
Newspaper advert - 1880

William Michael Hawes bought the mill at auction in October 1856. His brother, Robert Hawes later worked Fersfield open trestle postmill.

Diss Parish Records
Made 24 November 1864 at 9d. in the pound
No. 157

No. 158

House, Mill, Cottages, Garden
1a. 1r. 37p.
Gross Estimated Rental
Rateable Value
Rate at 9d. in the pound

Land 3a. 0r. 5p.
Gross extimated Rental
Rateable Value
Rate at 9d. in the pound
William Michael Howes
Victoria Road

£1. 10s.

£6. 10s
4. 6d.

In the 1870s, William Hawes' brother Robert ran Fersfield postmill.

Sale particulars.
Edward Smith, Auctioneer, Colchester.
At King’s Head Hotel, Diss, Thursday 8 July 1880.
Sale of mill & land in 2 lots.
Mill. Tower mill
8 floors
4 patent sails
wind tackle
8 pairs French Stones
Flour Mill
Jumper & other going gear.
Steam engine & machinery
Miller’s Cottage, Granary etc. & Family Residence.
Lot 1. Land. 3a.0r.5p.
Lot 2. Mill & Yard etc.
Cottage, House

Diss Antiquarian Society News Sheet - Autumn 1973

Victoria Mills, Diss.
John Button, Miller & Merchant, in thanking the inhabitants of Diss and its neighbourhood for the extensive support received during the last 24 years, begs to inform them that he has enlarged his Business by Purchasing the Tower and Steam Mills late in the occupation of Mr. Hawes, where every description of

Flour, Corn, Meal, Pollards etc., etc.,
of the Best Quality, will be supplied Wholesale and Retail at the Lowest Market Prices, and solicits continued and increasing support.
Diss Express - 20th August 1880

East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892

East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892
East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892
East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892

Diss mills c.1915
3 mills on Stuston Common c.1915
The above photograph shows the army from Diss Camp 51 about to give a demonstration with Maxim machine guns on Stuston Common with several civilians looking on. Diss smockmill is to the right, the steam chimney and Rose_Lane_composite_mill to the left of centre and the sails of Victoria Road towermill are just visible on the left horizon above the back of the horse.

John Button bought the mill at auction in July 1880 and his family continued running it to the end of its working life. A steam engine for auxiliary power had been installed some time before 1880 and this was later replaced by an oil engine and roller mills had been added by 1892. John Button also ran Weybread watermill, which was destroyed by fire in 1921. Two years later in 1923, due to financial constraints, the family were obliged to move back into the mill cottage at Diss and John Button then ran the mill himself. At approx 8.45am one morning in 1928, during a heavy gale, one of the sails fell off. It was not replaced and the opposing sail was removed not long afterwards to retain the balance. After a short time of running with just one pair of sails the mill finally ceased working in 1929.

The last pair of sails had come from John Button's uncle, when in August 1921, he demolished his Framlingham Mount Pleasant postmill in Suffolk. Although the sails were quite small for such a large towermill, they were doubtless acquired at a very favourable cost. When the Diss towermill ceased working, the two remaining sails were removed once more and taken to Terling in Essex where they were installed on a smock mill.

Re Terling smockmill, Essex.
Two of the present sails were bought some years ago off a disused mill at Diss in Norfolk, taken by rail to the nearest station & transported thence slung under two horse-drawn carts ...
The patent sails span sixty-six feet & are nine feet wide.

British windmills & Watermills - 1947

According to Mrs. Joan Edwards of Bressingham, J. & W. E. Button had the business from 1883 - 1926 and John Button jnr from 1926 - 1936.

John Button died in 1902 aged 72.

Mill working c.1926 Mill working c.1926
Mill working c.1926
Mill working c.1926

DISS. Tower mill, now has only two sails on & is in generally weather worn condition. The fly has gone. The sails on the mill came from the post mill at Framlingham when the latter was pulled down in 1921 ...
Suffolk Institute of Archaeology & Natural History - 1929

Diss ... big black towermill, with two sails & huge white dome-shaped cap. The mill was working complete with four sails until 1927 or 1928, but the owner fell upon bad times & the mill fell into disrepair, & is probably inactive for the time being.
In Search of English Windmills - Cecil Palmer, 1931

8th September 1937
8th September 1937

With so many mills in the town itself, it is somewhat surprising to find an equal number on Diss Common, which at one time stretched for well over a mile from the Picture House towards Frenze Hall in one direction and Stuston Common in the other. To travel down Victoria Road today one would never imagine that scattered over this common were at one time no less than five windmills, of which the most imposing must without doubt have been what came to be known as “Button’s Mill”. The massive tower, which is of very substantial construction, still stands off Victoria Road, converted into an enviable residence for Mr. Robert Manning. The land on which it stands was purchased by one Thomas Jay from George Eaton about 1817, and by 1822 this large brick tower-mill was in full working order with no less than eight sails, one of only seven similar mills in the whole country. On November 24 th 1836, however, a strong wind brought down sails and cap, damaging the tower (Diary of Thos. King, B.R.O, Ac. 491); It was rebuilt with six floors, four sails and a large domed cap with an interesting framing. Four pairs of 4 ft. diameter millstones were driven on the second floor. About 1890 the mill came into the possession of the Buttons, a milling family who owned or rented windmills in several places in Norfolk and Suffolk, finally passing into the hands of one John Button, who had a reputation for other things besides milling. In 1921 four new rather short sails came off Framlingham post-mill when the latter was dismantled in the same year. After two of these sails blew off in a gale in 1929 the owner continued with the remaining two and one pair of engine-driven stones, doing a little wholemeal flour trade. Falling upon bad times, he was unable to keep the mill in repair, and when he died it was already derelict. It was later used as a saw-mill, and then purchased for conversion into a house, as it stands today.
Diss Antiquarian Society News Sheet. - Spring 1973

When the last two sails were finally removed, some time after 1936, they were installed on Terling smockmill in Essex.

During the conversion process, the mill was cement rendered and painted white, leaving just a black base. The accommodation included:
Ground floor: Entrance hall with central staircase and cloakroom
First floor: Kitchen etc.
Second floor: Main bedroom and bathroom
Third floor: Two spare bedrooms
Fourth floor: Sunlounge with all round glaxing

Diss Victoria Rd towermill 1st June 1971
1st June 1971

The sails blew off in 1929/30 & since then the top was lowered, the cap removed & it was converted into part of the premises of a Timber Saw Mill.
R. Manning, Diss - letter to Philip Unwin, 1st January 1973

For a time the lower floors were used as part of the premises for a sawmill but the building became derelict over the years until it was bought by Mr. Robert Manning in 1968 and had been converted into residential accommodation by 1972, leaving the remainder of the tower 40 feet high.

Conversion of mill to residence by Mr. Robert Manning.
Eastern Daily Press - 18th April 1973

Rating application by Robert Manning.
Eastern Daily Press - 20th August 1975


AN historic windmill and adjoining cottage in Diss have been the target of a number of break-ins over recent weeks.
The properties, which are on land in Waveney Road owned by 80-year-old Robert Manning, have been robbed of items of sentimental value, including a First World War service dress belonging to Mr Manning’s father, which is worth only about £20.
Military belts were also stolen from the cottage three weeks ago, while on Sunday night, a barometer was stolen from the cottage.
The night before that, a small white cuckoo clock was stolen from the windmill, which Mr Manning lived in for a quarter of a century, along with 12 individual items of Doulton pottery, all with the Windmill Harvest motif on.
However, like the cottage, the windmill is now a derelict home - closed off by fences as Mr Manning is in negotiations to sell both buildings.
He said: “It’s so upsetting to see what’s happening to these properties, and those who are doing it
must be mentally deficient.
“I have feared squatters, but neither building has any electricity or water.”
Mr Manning, a former lawyer, bought the land on which the sail-less windmill and cottage stand in 1966.
He moved into the latter two years later, before moving into the 189-year-old windmill - which stopped working in 1931 - in 1973.
A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “Police received reports of two burglaries at a location on Waveney Road in Diss over the weekend. The first took place at some point between Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 9am when a disused windmill was broken into.
“The second took place at some point between Sunday 27 November at 6pm and Monday 28 November at 9am when the mill was broken into again, as was a neighbouring cottage by smashing a large pane of glass in the door.
“House to house and forensic enquiries have been made, and if anyone witnessed any suspicious activity in the area during the times stated or has knowledge of the burglary, they should contact PC Jonathan Phillips at Diss Police Station on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”

Diss Express - Monday 5th December 2011

By October this year, the mill had been renovated and presumably had new owners. The tower had been stripped of most of its render, showing attractive red brick, but had small new surrounds of render round the windows.
Sue Burden - 1st December 2016

O.S. Map 1885

O.S. Map 1885
Victoria Rd towermill - lower left
Sandy Lane postmill - centre right
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1903
O. S. Map 1903
Victoria Road towermill - centre left
Rose Lane Composite mill - in malthouse yard, lower centre right
Stuston Rd Smockmill - lower right
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

Census 1861:

Richard Easto (61) b.Weybread, Suffolk, baker
Sarah Easto (60) b.Oakley, Suffolk
Robert Easto (24) b.Diss, millwright

Address: Norwich Road, Diss

Census 1871:

Robert Easto (34) b.Diss, millwright
Selina Easto (20) b.Shelfanger
Kate Easto (6) b.Palgrave, Suffolk
Flonders Easto (4) b.Diss

Address: Fair Green, Diss

c.1817: Mill built by Thomas Jay on land bought from George Eaton

1822: Thomas Jay, miller

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

Pigot's 1830: Thos. Jay, miller, TOWER MILL, Common

White's 1836: Thomas Jay, corn miller, Scole Road

Poor Rate 1836: Thomas Jay, owner & occupier

November 1836: Mill damaged by a strong gale twice in two weeks and probably lost its sails

Tithe Award 1837: Thomas Jay, owner & occupier

White's 1845: Thomas Jay, corn miller, Scole Road

Poor Rate 1845: Thomas Jay, owner & occupier

3rd April 1847: Thomas Jay died aged 78, buried north side of Diss churchyard

1850: Sarah Jay, miller

Census 1851:

Sarah Jay (63) b.Purleigh, Essex, miller (widow)
Jacob Andrews (30) b.Ipswich, Suffolk, assistant miller
Mary Ann Townsend (23) b.Norton, Essex, assistant miller (relative)
Betsy Avis (20) b.Eye, Suffolk, house servant
Josiah Brooks (11) b.Burgh, Lincolnshire (relative)
Charles Jay Cathers (5) b.Diss (relative)
Address: Norwich Road

John Jarrett (48) b.Burston, retired miller
Mary Jarrett (34) b.Bottesdale, Suffolk
Eliza Sarah Jarrett (11) b.Burston, scholar
Address: Norwich Road

August 1853: Mill advertised for sale by auction

White's 1854: Sarah Jay, corn miller, Norwich Road (Mere St in 1864)

September 1856:
Mill advertised for sale by auction

Poor Rate 1864: William Michael Howes, owner & occupier

Kelly's 1879:
William M. Hawes, miller, corn, ale & stout merchant, Victoria Rd.; & chemical manure works, Thrandeston, Suffolk

Thursday 8th July 1880: John Button bought the mill at auction including steam machinery

Census 1881:

John Button (49) b.Wymonham, miller & merchant
Emma Button (47) b.Palgrave, Suffolk
William E. Button (28) b.Palgrave, Suffolk
Thomas C. Button (14) b.Diss
Jane Martin (26) b.Palgrave, Suffolk (neice)
Rosa Jeffries (15) b.Gt. Yarmouth, domestic servant
Address: Victoria Road

White's 1883:
John & William Edward Button, millers, corn & coal merchants, & thrashing machine owners, Victoria Rd. & Weybread

Kelly's 1892:
J. & W. E. Button, roller millers & corn, cake & manure merchants. Victoria Road & at Weyland (Suffolk) & Needham

1892: Roller mills in use

Kelly's 1896: John Button, miller (wind) Victoria Road

Kelly's 1900:
J. & W. E. Button, roller millers & corn, cake & manure merchants. Victoria Road;
& at Weybread, (Suffolk)

1902: John Button died at the age of 82

Kelly's 1904:
J. & W. E. Button, millers (wind & steam) & corn merchants, Victoria Road;
& at Weybread, (Suffolk)

Kelly's 1912:
J. & W. E. Button, roller millers & corn & coal merchants, Victoria Road;
& roller mills, Weybread, (Suffolk)

Kelly's 1916:
J. & W. E. Button, roller millers & corn & coal merchants, Victoria Road;
& roller mills, Weybread, Suffolk

1921: Sails from Framlingham postmill in Suffolk installed, supplied by the owner, an uncle of John Button

Kelly's 1922:
J. & W. E. Button, roller millers & corn & coal merchants, Victoria Road

1923: Button family moved back into the mill cottage

1928: One sail broke off during a storm and its opposte sail removed shortly afterwards

1929: John B. Button, miller (wind & oil)

1929: Mill ceased working after fan system broke down

c.1930: Cap and dust floor removed when mill converted to run as a sawmill

1936: Mill still had one pair of sails but no fan

1937: Mill tower with single set of sails, no fan and large holes appearing in the cap

1949: Mill derelict

1966: Mill bought by Robert Manning for conversion to residential use

1972: Mill converted to residential use

1973: Robert Manning moved into mill

December 2011: Mill unoccupied and Robert Manning selling mill and Mill House

2016: Mill under renovation with render removed

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

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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004