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Technical descriptions of English windmills




Stracey Arms, tower windpump


This handsome red brick mill with its fine late nineteenth century machinery was built in 1883 and last worked in 1946. It is now in the care of the County Council; major repairs are currently under way.

 The mill has the usual Norfolk boat-shaped cap, patent sails (with guide pole for the striking chain) and fantail. The cap frame consists of sheers, tailbeam, sprattle beam, and the lateral timber in front of the brakewheel. I counted seven rollers: one on the tailbeam, one each on the sheers near their rear ends, one each on the undersides of blocks tenoned into the sides of the sheers in line with the sprattle beam, and two on the underside of a timber fixed below the weatherbeam. There are seven truck wheels: two on the tailbeam, with the roller between them, one each near the rear ends of the sheers just forward of the rollers mounted there, one each at the ends of the weatherbeam, and one beneath a block fixed to the undersides of the short beams connecting the weatherbeam with the timber in front of the brakewheel. The wheels are carried in cone-shaped iron trunnions.

On the iron windshaft is mounted an 8-armed iron mortice brakewheel.


There are windows on the east and west sides. The stairwell is on the north side. The wall is stepped inwards about halfway up. The curb is fastened in place by four iron rods going down into the brickwork on the northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest sides. They are visible through vertical slits which permit access to be gained to them.

 The bevelled iron wallower has eight arms. In three places, on this floor, the second floor down and the ground floor (where it is for some reason partly illegible), the iron upright shaft bears the cast inscription “R BARNES ENGINEER GREAT YARMOUTH 1883”. The shaft is in two sections with a coupling on the second floor down.


There are windows on the north and south sides. The ladder to the floor above is on the northeast side and the stairwell on the east.


There are no windows. Entrance doors are provided on the north and south sides, the northern one being now bricked up. The ladder to the floor above is on the southeast side between the pump shaft and the wall. The upright shaft is footed in a bridging box on an iron plate on a stepped rectangular brick plinth positioned north-south. The plate carries the bearing for the pump shaft, and also the maker’s inscription referred to above although here it is only partly legible as on the upright shaft.

 A bevelled 8-arm iron mortice crownwheel, its wooden teeth secured in place with nails, meshes with a four-armed iron bevel gear on the iron pump shaft, the latter passing through a square aperture in the wall to drive the external Appold turbine pump in its cylindrical casing positioned against the tower.

The main ceiling beams run east-west; a steady bearing for the upright shaft is bolted to a lateral beam between them, at approximately mid-point.

Description based on visit made 9th July 2011


Tower mill, standing today


A handsome, fair-sized red brick tower mill of five storeys, Billingford was the last windmill to operate commercially in Norfolk, stopping in 1956 (although it carried on by engine for a further three years). It was later acquired for preservation by the Norfolk Windmills Trust. In recent years it was restored to working order, but subsequently closed for repairs, which should commence shortly.

 During the mill’s working life the Norfolk boat-shaped cap was of the “square” kind, and tarred black; it was later replaced by one of different (and arguably more aesthetically pleasing) design, painted white, but the intention is to revert to the original version as part of the works currently planned. There were four double-shuttered patent sails, with the Y-wheel for the striking chain mounted on a timber projecting at a downward angle from beneath the fanstage. The fan gearing was not examined in detail, but the final stage is a spur pinion meshing with the rack which is on top of the curb(1).

 I did not have time to count the number of truck wheels or rollers, or note the construction of the cap frame. The iron windshaft carries a clasp-arm wood brakewheel with an iron cog ring. The brake is iron. One of the truck wheels is in a cone-shaped mounting.


There is a single window on the west side.

 The main gearing and upright shaft are of iron and, as is common in Norfolk, of relatively light construction, although here the gearwheels, the bevelled six-armed wallower and the five foot four-and-a-half inch great spur wheel, are of unusually small diameter and the shaft (3in diameter) exceptionally slender. Altogether this ironwork is of fine quality and the wooden components seem clumsy and inelegant by comparison.


There are windows on the north and south sides. The stairwell is on the northwest side, the ladder to the dust floor on the southwest. The eastern half of the floor, from just to the right of the windows, is taken up by a single large bin. As on a number of East Anglian mills the sack hoist is on this floor rather than the dust floor. A very long wooden bollard spanning almost its entire width ends on the south side in a four-armed flanged iron pulley receiving the drive chain from the stone floor. The bearing at this end is located in an adjustable wooden timber mounted in the usual support frame. On one of the vertical posts of the latter, beside the chain pulley, is another pulley, a small flanged wooden one around which a cord is passed; I did not see where the latter went but pulling on it would have tightened the chain and engaged the drive from the great spur wheel.


There are windows at the four compass points. The stairwell is on the east side and the ladder to the bin floor on the northwest.

 The upright shaft terminates in the floor; it is square and  tapering slightly beneath the great spur wheel, from which the two pairs of stones in their octagonal wooden tuns are overdriven via four-armed all-iron stone nuts. There are in effect two great spur wheels, one above the other and of roughly equal diameter. The upper drives the sack hoist on the bin floor through an iron mortice bevel nut on an iron layshaft carrying at the other end a four-armed flanged iron pulley from which the chain passes up. To the pulley on the inside is bolted a solid wood flanged disc from which a belt would have driven the auxiliary machinery, now missing. Pulley and disc protrude fractionally onto the stone floor through an opening in the boarding. Both spur wheels have six arms, those of the upper being bevelled along with the rim.  

 The upper bearings of the quants are mounted in castings bolted to the side faces of the main north-south ceiling beams. The southern pair of stones bear a maker’s nameplate by W R Dell of Mark Lane, Romford.

 The engine drive was formerly on this floor, its external pulley being visible in old photographs, and no doubt driven off one of the great spur wheels, but has now disappeared.


There are windows on the north and south sides and loading doors on the east and west. The stairwell is on the northwest side, the ladder to the stone floor on the northeast. What appear to be two sack hoists were observed, one on the north side between the northern bridgetree and the window, and one in the centre of the floor between the northern and southern bridgetree. Mounted just above floor level in front of the eastern loading door are the pulley and layshaft, the former resembling a beer barrel in shape, which drove the stones on the ground floor by belt; this apparatus was engine-driven but it is not clear where the power take-off came from.

 The main ceiling beams run north-south and the wooden bridge trees are mounted between them on hangers. There are no brayers. The lower bearings of the governor spindles are mounted on a common wooden spar on the inside of and parallel to the eastern main ceiling beam and attached at its ends to the bridgetrees, the steelyards being short. The upper bearings of the spindles depend from lateral timbers between the ceiling beams. The belts from the governors go to wooden flanged discs on the stone spindle extensions. At the eastern end of each bridgetree a vertical rod from the steelyard link descends through it to terminate in a hand tentering screw.


The sail shutters are stored here. The door is on the west side and the ladder to the spout floor on the southwest.

 On this floor are a pair of engine-driven stones, mounted on a hurst frame, with their associated mechanism. This equipment was installed in 1956 when the mill ceased work by wind and used until it finally closed in 1959.

Based on survey carried out by G Blythman 26th July 2009

(1) RW 13/4/1949

BLAKENEY, Friary Farm

Tower mill, standing today


Blakeney mill is said to have been built c1753, and indeed is probably one of the oldest tower mills remaining in the country, and the oldest windmill in Norfolk. It is a small affair, but its squat proportions enable three pairs of stones to be accommodated. The tower is attractively built of brick and flint, with quoins, this being the most distinctive feature of the mill along with the windows which are set deep within pointed arches in something similar to a Gothic style. The largely wooden machinery is “primitive” in character, and may well date from the mid-eighteenth century; later modifications included (probably) the replacement of a wooden windshaft by the present (though not on site) iron one, and the fitting of patent sails and fantail.

 The mill ceased work in 1912. By 1978 the cap roof and fantail had gone and the brakewheel, a wooden clasp-arm, had rotted away above the curb. One stock remained in place. Sadly in the early 1980s someone deliberately started a fire which destroyed the cap frame, the remains of the brakewheel, and the wallower. This prompted the National Trust, who by now had acquired the property, on which they have established their headquarters for the region, to carry out work to conserve the mill. These repairs have preserved the building and its contents for posterity and form the basis for a complete restoration sometime in the future. The site is presently a caravan park (and has been for many years).  

 The windshaft was removed, presumably to be stored somewhere, and the tower roofed over and new windows and doors put in. At the moment it is not possible to ascend higher than the spout/ground floor as the timbers are in a dangerous state, but one can look up into the mill and see most of what survives above that level. The upright shaft is presumably damaged at the top from the fire. The wallower was solid wood.


The upright shaft is wooden and chamfered in such a way as to make it effectively 12-sided. It carries an almost solid wooden crownwheel with four short compass arms and an iron cog ring. There are two layshafts off this crownwheel, one running north-south and the other east-west, and each having an iron mortice bevel pinion meshing with the cog ring. It is not clear what the east-west layshaft, passing above the eastern stones, was for exactly but it carries a large spoked iron pulley which is probably part of the machine drive. There appears to be some kind of framework around it, which may be shoring put in as part of the conservation work. On the north-south layshaft, of iron and square, is mounted at the wall end a large flanged solid wood pulley from which, at a guess, a belt drove the sack hoist.

The stones, their tuns and other furniture missing, are located on the northwest, northeast and east sides.


The long timbers of the upright shaft support frame (dummy floor) run east-west. They are supported at mid-point, where the bridge beam is tenoned into them, and on the western side near the wall by wooden posts which are nicely chamfered like the upright shaft. An additional pair of supports has been inserted on the east side to prevent collapse of the weakened timbers. The long timbers are connected by short vertical timbers to the main ceiling beams.

 The all-wood compass arm great spur wheel has four short arms like the crownwheel but is of a slightly different design, the arms extending to the rim. The stone nuts are solid all-wood, iron-bound. That for the northwest stones is missing, along with the bridgetree, governor and steelyard. The other two governors are mounted quite close together on cheek pieces on the side faces of the northern long timber of the dummy floor, near its eastern end. Part of the steelyard for the northeast stones remains. The eastern one is intact and runs diagonally to the link beside the stone nut. It operates directly on the bridge tree; there are no brayers. The northeast bridgetree runs at an angle to a hanger to the left of the door as one comes in. It is not clear how the governors were driven. The Y-wheel of the striking gear, the fan hub and spindle, and a couple of the centring wheels lie on the ground floor along with a number of other items which I did not have time to inspect.


Tower mill, standing today


Old Buckenham mill is one of the country’s finest, most impressive, and most interesting windmills. However it owes perhaps its most noticeable feature, its distinctive shape, from which all its other unusual attributes stem, to a mistake. It is believed it was originally intended to be much taller, but the money for the project began to run out before it had reached its desired height, besides which the builders may have had qualms about erecting such a tall tower with as little batter as the mill possesses, since a cylindrical or near-cylindrical one is more prone to structural defects as, indeed, we will see here, unless the batter was intended to increase markedly at some point. At any rate they decided to leave the tower at its present height and to make do with what they had. The result is a mill which is not especially tall (42ft from ground to curb, 52ft to the cap roof ridge) but of broader diameter (26ft 6in at the base, 23ft at the curb) than any other in the country – thereby giving an exaggerated impression of size – as well as having a very steep batter (3ft 6”). The walls are 2ft thick. The completed tower was fitted out, the machinery being in proportion to its huge girth which explains why the mill has the largest driving wheels – the wallower and enormous great spur wheel – encountered among English windmills. Any new plant put in as part of later refitting would be made to match too. It made sense to make maximum use of the available space, the consequence being a “supermill”, as it has been described, where everything is on a larger scale than usual. The lack of batter was probably intended in the first place to allow greater space for storage and for powerful machinery. The standard of millwrighting throughout is very high, making this altogether a rare and valuable survivor even if something of a freak.

 It was built in 1818, the date being cast on the wall washer on the tie bar above the north ground floor door. It is rumoured to have originally had eight common sails; by 1860(1) these had been replaced with patents, the number probably being reduced to four at the same time although this is not certain. {The mill is thought to have had eight sails at one point, although this may have been an annular sail like those at Haverhill and Boxford in Suffolk and Feltwell in Norfolk(2). It seems to have been a short-lived experiment which did not work out.} The change may have been precipitated by damage in the storm of 24th November 1836, in which two sails were lost(3). As part of repairs after the mill was considerably damaged in a storm in 1879 the present iron machinery was installed and a new cap, curb and winding gear fitted; the whole of the equipment and timberwork bearing in Harry Apling’s view signs of a massive reconstruction at and above spout floor level. The Gilbert portable steam engine may have been installed around 1890, replacing an earlier model; in that year an advert was placed in the New Buckenham Almanack to the effect that “William Beales wishes to call the attention of farmers, horse-keepers & graziers to the above mills & to inform them that he, through having steam power is in a position to execute all orders & keep consumers well supplied with meal at the shortest notice. Flour, meal, supers, barley, oats, maize, beans, peas, bran etc. always on hand at prices which will bear comparison with any house in the trade.”(4)   The engine had been replaced with an oil one by 1912.

 The millwrights Smithdales fitted new sails in 1904. The mill ceased work in 1926 and was then derelict until first-aid repairs, involving the removal of the remains of the cap and sails and the roofing-over of the tower, were carried out in 1976. A more comprehensive restoration was undertaken in the 1990s, as a result of which the mill now has sails (currently missing, awaiting replacement), cap and fantail again, though it is not in working order. A plaque commemorates the millwright John Lawn, who was responsible for much of the work; this was his last major project before his death in 1999. The mill was taken over by the Norfolk Windmills Trust in 1989, with local volunteers taking responsibility for its day-to-day wellbeing. 

 The red brick tower has six floors, the topmost (the dust floor) being very shallow. As noted above an almost cylindrical shape can be structurally weakening, and in addition poor quality bricks were used near the top as a cost-cutting measure when funds became depleted. Despite the three iron bands which are fitted around the tower the brickwork became distorted throwing the curb out of level, which may have been an additional factor causing the mill to cease work. There is a bulge in the wall near the bottom which the reinforcements mentioned have not prevented and which is not static. In many places the brickwork is cracked or appears slightly distorted, particularly near the south-eastern door. An inspection is being carried out into these defects in order to find a way of remedying them. It doesn’t help that the windows are in a vertical line, another structurally debilitating feature.

 There are two doors on the ground floor, one of which has been filled in with concrete blocks, plus a loading door on the first floor on the north side. On the west side of the tower may be seen the rectangular opening through which the layshaft off the great spur wheel for the engine drive passed; this has now gone, but the bearing which supported it at the point where it entered the mill survives.

 The cap, with its noticeable rearward extension, is a larger version of the usual Norfolk boat shape: 24ft (Wailes in The English Windmill says 23ft) long, 21ft wide and 14ft high, and weighing fourteen tons(5). It is the biggest to be found on an English windmill after that of Wendover mill in Buckinghamshire. Its shape has been altered slightly in the present restoration. Rather flat in appearance (especially so when viewed side-on), it formerly had a hatch in it giving access to the exterior for maintenance. The roof tapers downward at the rear to an almost straight-pitched gable. Altogether this cap is one of the largest on any English windmill, second in its dimensions only to that of Wendover mill in Buckinghamshire. It is provided with a gallery, extending to the vertical timbers of the fantail cradle, which has iron rails and supports.

 A number of vertical timbers brace the roof to the base frame. The latter, which is partly boarded over to form a floor, consists of sheers, breast beam, a lateral beam in front of the brakewheel for rigidity, sprattle beam, tail beam and rear lateral beam. The huge size of the cap necessitates fifteen rollers, including five under the breast beam, and no less than seventeen centering wheels, and winding by a combination of spur and worm drive. The curb is live and set on a wooden ring. The rollers, other than those at the head, are arranged in pairs in pallets, each adjacent to one of the solid iron truck wheels which are themselves mounted in iron brackets. I was not able to note the positions of all the truck wheels but there is one towards the front end of each sheer between the breast beam and first lateral timber; at the end of each of the projecting timbers on either side on a line with the sprattle beam; and at the rear end of each sheer. A single truck wheel is mounted centrally beneath the rear lateral timber of the cap frame.

 As in this mill everything is on a large scale in comparison with others, there is a tendency to brace things to other things; the hugeness of the structure and machinery, perhaps inducing in the millwrights a fear of what they had created, resulted in a mindset where stability was an overriding concern, enabling one to tame the monster. In addition to the posts connecting the cap roof with the sheers, the casting containing the top bearing of the upright shaft is stayed to the tailbeam by twin diagonal rods. The casting is bolted to the underside, not the side, of the sprattle beam, centrality being associated with strength and solidity and thus reliability.

 Winding is by a six-bladed fantail, 12ft in diameter, with the hub in the form of two circular flanges and two pairs of concentric stiffening rings bolted to the spokes instead of the usual one. The inwards-inclined vertical posts of the support frame are cross-braced with a pair of horizontal timbers providing additional strengthening and stayed to the cap roof by diagonals. Beneath the fanstage is a small hanging platform which probably served as a guide for the striking chain as well as giving access to same. 

 The actual winding mechanism is a curious hybrid, operating via a pair of bevel gears through both spur gearing and a worm. This is thought not to have been the original arrangement, the worm being added later. The idea was that if one system broke down or wore out the other could take over from it. The initial drive from the fantail was via a pair of bevel gears.

 The four double-shuttered patent sails, with a span of approximately 75ft and struck by rocking lever, were each 10ft 4” wide, broader than on any other recorded English windmill,  and had ten bays of three shutters with wood backing to iron frames and canvas covers. The stocks are 60ft long.(6) The jointed striking rod passes under the shaft of the worm gear and emerges from the rear of the cap beneath the fan platform, where it is connected to a further, lateral rod which in turn is linked to a rocking lever at the side of the platform.  

 The 15ft long iron windshaft, tapering down from 11” diameter at the neck, weighs two-and-a-half tons. It would have been cast roughly between 1872 and 1883 and bears the inscription “T Smithdale and Son, Engineers, Norwich”. The 10ft diameter wood clasp-arm brakewheel has a ring of iron cogs in five segments. The previous wheel, a cost-cutting measure at a time when a lot of expensive modifications were being made, was a combination of two second-hand ones, probably from the nearby post mills, fitted together with the cog ring bolted on. It was described by Harry Apling as a “remarkable concoction”. The mounting was 24” x 24” by 24”. The wheel had approximately 120 3” pitch cogs that were 4½” wide x 2½” deep and set in segments with two sets of previous cogs cut off. There were about 88 to the rear and and about 88 forward, of which six were numbered I, II, III, IIII, IIIII & IIIIII in one 2ft centre segment between the clasp arms. These were possibly designed as “knock out” cogs to put out of gear a brakewheel driving the stone nut directly. The clasp arms were in two portions that did not exactly match; the rear portion was 9½” wide and the rear portion 13½” wide and made up from odd pieces. It was possibly a compass arm wheel.(7) There was a wooden ring on the front face of the combined wheel for a sack hoist drive.

 Unfortunately this composite brakewheel rotted away after many years exposed to the elements. Though it had been surveyed, making a detailed reconstruction of what was in the first place an improvised hotch-potch was thought excessive, and the present wheel, though likewise a wood clasp-arm, was not based on it and is in one single piece. The curved wooden brake lever, hinged in a stub timber on the right-hand sheer, appears to be original. It has iron notches for the hook which holds it in the “off” position.

The mill’s girth makes it throughout a pleasant one to move around, just as it must have been pleasant to work, in, since it is not in any way cramped.

 The dust floor is lined with vertical wooden planks to a height of four or five feet, above which courses of vertical and sloping brickwork, separated by mortar lines, alternate until the curb. The dominant feature of interest here is the nice 8-armed all-iron wallower, 5ft 3in diameter and thus the largest in country. Mounted on a cylindrical iron upright shaft, it has an octagonal hub and a wooden friction rim for the sack hoist, which is a solid unbevelled wood disc on a square iron spindle whence is mounted the octagonal wooden bollard. The latter is supported at the wallower end by the usual wooden frame, here with a very long curved timber for raising or lowering the beam in which the bearing is located.

The circular iron upright shaft is 25ft long, 8ft in diameter(8) and in two sections with a dog coupling just above floor level on the secondary bin floor.  


There are windows on the north-east and south-west sides. The ladder to the dust floor is on the north-east side by the window. The stairwell is on the south side and the sack traps on the south-west. The bins have gone, but there are three boarded-in squares in the floor, two on the north-west side and one on the south-east, which may indicate their former positions. Also the two principal lateral beams mounted between the main longitudinal timbers in the ceiling, one on the west side and the other on the east side of the mill, are braced to the floor by diagonals at each end; the south-eastern diagonal passes through a wooden partition screen which was most likely part of a bin structure.

According to H E S Simmons, the upright shaft was formerly cased in on this floor.


This floor is wood-lined up to the ceiling. There are windows on the east and southwest sides; the stairwell is on the latter side as is the ladder to the bin floor. The main ceiling beams run north-east to south-west and are supported by large cheek pieces with a pair of vertical iron tie rods, one from each beam, going to the floor towards each end. On the north side are three more of the boarded-over squares as well as a large spout from one of the former bins above, with another on the south. On the north-east suspended from the ceiling joists is a wooden cupboard-like structure which may be the housing for a now vanished dresser or other machine.


Here there are windows on the north-east, east and south-west sides; the stairwell and the ladder to the floor above are on the south-west. The joists in the ceiling are old and probably original. A lateral timber positioned roughly at mid-point between the main ceiling beams, which run northwest-southeast and again are supported at the ends by cheek pieces, has a steady bearing bolted to it for the upright shaft.

 The mill’s unusual girth creates room for five pairs of stones – few other mills, if any, had as many as these on the same floor. In fact there is room altogether for ten pairs, and bearing boxes may be seen for additional ones that were never fitted(9). All the stones are French burrs, emphasising that this was a ”de luxe” mill intended from the start to produce only flour. Today the runners are missing along with the furniture. Four pairs of stones are arranged in a semicircle, going clockwise from northeast to south, with the fifth separate from the others on the southwest side. The tuns and horses were of wood. The damsels were of an unusual kind, consisting of two iron rods between a pair of flanges on each spindle(10).

 There are three secondary upright shafts on this floor, all iron and located on the north, east and southwest sides. The eastern and southwestern ones are the governor spindles and are flanged for belt drives; where these were from is unclear, due to items having disappeared, but it was not the upright shaft as there is no evidence on the latter for a former crownwheel or belt drum. The third vertical shaft, driven from the great spur wheel, and the detachable top section of which is missing is described as being for the auxiliary machinery; it would have driven the flour dresser, which was mounted under the ceiling. Both the machine and any intermediate gearing have now gone. The governor drives could also have been from this shaft but holes in ceiling joists suggest the former presence of a fourth, intermediary one.

 Along with the ironwork on the spout floor the whole arrangement has a modern, in windmill terms, feel about it and must date from major refitting in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.


Like many spout floors in an underdrift windmill this is another Heath Robinson jungle, made more so by the number of stones with their associated tentering gear etc. and by the fact that some parts are missing or displaced (several of the steelyards being in the latter category). The dominant feature is obviously the great spur wheel, of light construction but huge – thirteen feet in diameter – with twelve ribbed arms (eight arms usually being the maximum) and in as many sections, each incorporating one arm. The sections were bolted together on site and attached to the upright shaft with cast-iron angles on flanges.(11) The foot of the upright shaft rests on an iron bridge beam between the two main timbers of the supporting H-frame, which run northeast-southwest and are connected by four iron columns, one on each timber towards its end, to those in the ceiling to give the whole assembly extra rigidity. In addition the H-frame is supported from the floor by further iron columns. The bridge beam is braced to the left-hand main H-frame timber by diagonal iron ties.    

 On the north side a fixed iron girder, with two iron tentering bars beneath, mounted between the long timbers of the H-frame supports the nut for the vertical auxiliary upright shaft located at this point on the floor above plus that for the north-east stones. On the west side a beam running off the left-hand timber of the H-frame to the wall supports the governors and nut for the fifth pair of stones. The nuts for the remaining stones are mounted on a curved iron girder, bolted to the right hand H-frame timber, which follows the circumference of the great spur wheel. On the east side two girders are fixed between this and the wall; on the first going clockwise is mounted the large governor which controls the tentering for the four stones on this side through two long steelyards, each in several stages with links where necessary. It was not clear what the second girder was for. The governor for the fifth pair of stones works through a short steelyard with a link to a hand tentering screw. Manual adjustment for the other stones is by wheel. The auxiliary drive nut was taken out of gear entirely manually, with a handle and screw(12).

 The nuts are of large diameter, and iron mortice type. The stone nuts each have an iron tentering bar and a handwheel linked to a short (except for that for the southeast stone nut which is very long) forked iron bar for lifting the nut out of gear, apart from the fifth (southwestern) pair where this is accomplished by a ratchet and crank. The tentering bars for the east, southeast and southern stones are mounted beneath the curved girder with connecting bars going to vertical rods mounted in and passing through the right-hand beam of the H-frame to end in hand tentering wheels; the latter have now gone.

 The engine drive could be connected either to a nut or directly to the great spur wheel. Though the external pulley is clearly visible in several old photographs of the mill all traces of it have as noted disappeared, along with the engine itself.

The stairwell is on the south-east side, the ladder on the south, and the windows on the south and east. There is a chute from the stone floor on the west.


The doors are on the north-east and south-west sides. The ladder to the spout floor is on the south side and the windows on the east and west sides. Four iron columns, two to each timber, support the main ceiling beams from the floor.

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman 13th May 2012

Despite its freakish nature, the mill never gave any trouble, though it was problems with the fantail – encountered at a good many other tower-type mills – which eventually forced it to close, and is said to have been a good worker. It is one which really ought to have been preserved long before it was, though its unique character may have been its undoing here; faced with financial shortages in the war and post-war years, and having plenty of other matters to concern themselves with anyway, local authorities understandably confined themselves to saving representative examples of more typical specimens.

(1)  Norfolk News 8-15/9/1860

(2)  A Mr Duffield, in HESS

(3)  Suffolk Chronicle 26/11/1836; Diary of Thomas King of Thelnetham, 1804-38

(4)  Norfolk Mills website

(5)  Ibid

(6)  Ibid

(7)  Ibid

(8)  Ibid

(9)  G Hughes, “Windmill Hoppers” website 13/5/2016

(10) Photograph in Mills Archive

(11) Norfolk Mills website

(12) RW and RH in HESS


Tower mill, standing today


This is a fine, large impressive mill, more or less complete, and among those representing today the millwright’s art at its best. Although there is little that is particularly unusual inside, the ironwork in the machinery is of especial quality. Last worked in 1940, the mill retained its cap and sails into the 1970s when it was purchased, appropriately, by millwright John Lawn. Unfortunately, since most of his time was inevitably spent repairing other people’s mills, he was unable to complete its restoration to working order before his death, although a new cap and fantail were fitted. Recently planning permission was given for the conversion of the lower two floors and the two-storey granary built onto the tower to living accommodation, which work was under way at the time of my visit. It is hoped that the rest of the mill will remain untouched and that it will eventually be reconditioned as a windmill and set to work again, which seems its most appropriate fate. My thanks to the owners for allowing access.

  The tarred brick tower has six storeys with a part wood, part iron stage at third-floor level. It sports an 1864 datestone with the initials “EW” for Edward Wyer, the builder. There are two loading doors on the second floor. A fine galleried boat-shaped cap in the usual fashion was winded by a six-bladed fan of which only the spokes survive today. There were four double-shuttered patent sails, now missing, of the long type with ten bays in each. No guide pole was provided for the striking chain. The iron windshaft carries a very large (measured at 10ft diameter by Rex Wailes(1)) all-wood brakewheel whose clasp arms are very deep, interrupting the shanks of the cogs. The brake is also of wood. The cap frame, part of which is boarded over to form a floor, is of conventional construction with breast beam, sheers, lateral timber in front of the brakewheel, sprattle beam and tailbeam, plus the short timbers off the sheers to which the cap circle is attached. An iron live curb turns on ten rollers, each adjacent to one of the truck wheels of which the same number are present. The wheels/rollers are positioned two at the front, close together with one on either side of a short longitudinal timber bracing the breast beam to the first lateral timber; one on each sheer towards the front; one on the end of each of the two short projecting timbers just aft of the sprattle beam; one on each sheer towards the rear; and two on the tailbeam flanking the iron framework carrying the rocking lever, which has been cut off short. The truck wheels are solid iron; those at the front and on the projecting timbers and that on the rear end of the right sheer are stayed to the sheers with iron ties. What may be a spare truck wheel lies on the dust floor.

 I could not fathom the purpose of the shaped wooden block, a bracket from which holds an iron pulley, which is suspended from the tailbeam. Nor, due to its position, did I examine the fan gearing in detail, although it remains intact. It is in three stages, involving a clutch(2), with a worm gear engaging with an outside rack. Concerning the striking gear, the rod is connected by twin push rods to two rocker arms supported on A-frames and operating the rocking lever; the same arrangement could formerly be seen at Ingleborough mill near King’s Lynn(3).  


There are windows on the east and south sides. The stairwell is on the southeast.

  The upright shaft is of wood and 16-sided throughout its length, apart from where it changes to octagonal at the top for the wallower mounting. This gear is all-iron and bevelled with eight short arms.

There are a number of odd timbers, small pulleys etc lying around.  


There are windows on the south and east sides. The stairwell is on the east side, the ladder to the dust floor on the southeast. A large bin, divided into two compartments, takes up most of the western half of the floor and part of the eastern, leaving very little room to move about in; the upright shaft is within it. On the north-east side, running west-east, is the sack hoist, a very large four-spoked iron pulley on an iron-straked wooden spindle. The spindle seems to pass through into the northern compartment of the bin, where there is presumably a nut meshing with a gear on the upright shaft. Latterly the hoist was operated by a small electric motor on the floor below, which is now missing(4). The present apparatus must date from its  installation as it does not quite line up with the drive from the crown wheel on the floor below.


There are windows at the four compass points, as on a stone floor. The stairwell and the ladder to the bin floor are on the southeast side.

  On the south side the upright shaft carries a bevelled eight-armed iron mortice crown wheel whose teeth engage with an all-iron bevel nut on an iron layshaft running north-south to terminate at the wall in a large six-spoked iron pulley which seems to have been enclosed within a wooden partition, a section of which is now missing. This was probably the machine drive. On the north side another bevel nut and layshaft travel north-west, again passing through the remains of a wood partition, to a cast bearing within an aperture in the wall. At a guess, this was either the engine or the original sack hoist drive. The “necks” of the layshafts are located in bearings on iron hangers depending from the ceiling beams.

There is a coupling in the upright shaft above the crown wheel.

 On the southern side is a large square wooden chute from above, descending the depth of this floor, with pencilled notes on it by former millers. One reads “Side girts spliced off and lined{?} new inside sail to mill painted Sept 1922 by R Martin”.

Lying on the floor are a couple of leather belts, a wooden chute which may be part of a sifter, and a wooden frame in which is mounted a flanged iron pulley. 


There is a window at all four compass points. The stairwell is on the northwest side, the ladder to above on the southeast. On the southwest is a very large spout, really a bin, and on the east a door onto the stage with, oddly, no corresponding one on the opposite side.

 There were originally three pairs of underdriven stones on the north, northeast and southeast sides. The southeast stones are now missing, their former position indicated by a boarded-over circular opening. Above and adjacent to it are a spout and a large chute in the form of a wooden box suspended from the ceiling; these presumably discharged into the hopper. The north-east stones are not quite in their correct position, which again is now boarded over; the bedstone rests on wooden blocks on the floor with the runner, its furniture gone, placed on top of it. The northern stones are complete with their original furniture, which is wooden apart from the iron supports for the horse.


This has a very high headroom. Again I did not precisely note down the orientations. I was also hampered by lack of light, so some details may have been missed. The windows are on the north and south sides, the two loading doors on the west and east. The ladder to the stone floor is on the southwest. The main beams of the dummy floor supporting the upright shaft run north-south. The iron mortice great spur wheel, which like other gearwheels in the mill is rather large, has a stiffening ring – whose purpose may have been purely ornamental – cast integrally with its eight arms. The huge stone nuts were all-iron, with five arms; one remains, its spindle mounted on a lateral timber going from the western main dummy floor beam to the wall, in line with the bridge beam. From a governor mounted in a frame at mid-point on a lateral timber between the main dummy floor beams a steelyard runs diagonally to a link on the lateral timber to the left (depending on where one is standing) of the stone nut. The governor controlled all three pairs of stones and was belt-driven from a flange on the upright shaft below the great spur wheel(5). There is a further lateral timber between the main dummy floor beams to the “north” of the one supporting the governor spindle, which may have served the same purpose. Below the surviving stone nut the spindle extension goes through the supporting timber to an iron tentering bar mounted beneath and parallel to the latter; between the two it is fitted with a large spoked wheel for manual adjustment, with at the other end a second, smaller handwheel beneath the bar on a rod passing from the timber down through it. The jack ring for the northwest stone nut remains to indicate its position, which was on the western main dummy floor beam. Here too the tentering gear remains in place, with the exception of the steelyard; the arrangement is the same as for the other set, with a screw substituted for the smaller handwheel. The large handwheels have ornately carved and forked spokes. The tentering gear for the third pair of stones seems to have completely disappeared, although I could have missed it in the gloom. Simmons in 1947 reported that two stone nuts were in place.

The tentering bars bear the cast inscriptions “W H Wigg & Co East Dereham”(6).

 To the east, running west-east to the wall from the eastern main dummy floor beam and in line with the bridge beam is a lateral timber above and parallel to which is mounted, between two vertical posts, a layshaft with a double pulley at its western end and a single pulley on the other. The purpose of this apparatus was not clear to me although it may have driven the agitator beneath the large flour dresser mounted high up on this floor and observed by R Hawksley on his visit to the mill; I could not see whether this machine was still in place. Hawksley noted that the agitator had “gears from a pulley wheel” and worked off a countershaft. The apparatus may also have been part of the drive to the flour machine itself, receiving a belt from the pulley on the machine drive layshaft on the third floor(7). 

 On this floor is stored one half of a large five-spoked iron pulley; this may be from the 18 h.p. Hornsby steam engine which latterly drove one pair of stones(8). There was also at one time a small electric-powered mill(9).  


This was not inspected due to the presence of a workman engaged on the conversion. A pillar from floor level supports the foot of the upright shaft(10).

The following measurements were taken by H E S Simmons (4/9/1947):

Windshaft 10in diameter, tapering to 8in

Wallower 3ft 6in diameter

Upright shaft 17in

Crown wheel 5ft 6in diameter

Great spur wheel 9ft diameter

Bridge beam 11in by 12in

Stone spindles octagonal, 2¾in diameter

Simmons added six inches to the brakewheel. Wailes measured the arms of the latter at 20in deep and 18½ inches wide and the rim at 14 inches wide.

Based on survey carried out by G Blythman 10th August 2013

(1)  13/4/1949

(2)  HSRH (R Hawksley)

(3)  Wailes 13/4/1949

(4)  HSRH; HESS 4/9/1947

(5)  ditto

(6)  HESS 4/9/1947

(7)  ditto

(8)  HESS 4/9/1947; Harry Apling, Norfolk Corn Windmills

(9)  HSRH in HESS

(10) Ibid


Tower mill (combined wind- and watermill, standing today)


One of three such mills in England to survive in a reasonably complete mechanical state, this rare specimen is believed to date from c1821(1). There had already been a watermill, standing by 1780, on the site; this was in the same ownership as a smock mill recorded in 1795. It seems that the windmill and watermill were combined in the tower mill which replaced the smock mill. It is probable that the largely wooden and comparatively primitive wind-driven machinery was salvaged from the smock mill, along with the floors; in contrast the water gear is iron and of the latest, for its time, make. The mill ceased work by wind after being tailwinded in 1916, but the watermill part remained in use for a while, a Victoria single-cylinder paraffin engine being used to drive the machinery whenever there was a shortage of water. At one time a portable steam engine in the yard outside drove a Blackstone mill with vertical stones in an outbuilding(2).

 In 1940 the cap, curb, windshaft, brakewheel, and the top section of the upright shaft including the wallower were removed and a concrete roof put on the tower.(3) In 1981 the mill in its idyllic location was acquired by the Norfolk Windmills Trust who have maintained it ever since, although financial restrictions have so far prevented its restoration to full working order. Relatively little of the wind machinery has survived.

 The six-storey tower is basically of red brick, although those on the outside, which are said to have been made on the estate to which the mill belonged, are paler and tinged with yellow(4). The stage, which is braced to the tower by diagonal members, has what appears to be a small viewing or loading platform. It is positioned relatively high, at third-floor level approximately halfway up the tower. It was reconstructed during initial restoration carried out by the Trust, having been removed along with the items mentioned above. In its working days the windmill had the usual Norfolk boat-shaped cap, here with gallery, four double-shuttered patent sails with eight bays of three shutters either side of the stock and a guide pole for the striking chain, and a six-bladed fantail. The curb was of shot type with a large number of rollers, the top or load ones, which ran in grooves, acting as centring wheels(5). The wallower had 26 teeth, the smallest number recorded in Norfolk, of 4in pitch(6).

 The eighteenth-century wooden machinery and flooring from the smock mill are of very fine quality and beautifully fashioned in places, the main floor beams resting for the most part on curved wooden brackets.


This was combined with the bin floor for the windmill.

There are windows at the four main compass points. The stairwell is on the northeast side. As noted above the wallower and the top section of the upright shaft, both of which would have been iron if the usual Norfolk practice was followed, are missing.

 The main beams of a part floor supporting the sack hoist mechanism run east-west. Between them are four lateral timbers carrying bearings for a long iron layshaft which spans most of the floor. At its western end the hoist is driven by water via an extension to the upright shaft of the watermill, whose top bearing is located in the westernmost lateral timber, and a pair of bevel gears, the first of iron mortice type and the second all-iron with eight arms. The upright shaft extension is encased in protective trunking as it is on the floor below. To the right of the bevel gear on the layshaft are the remains of a wooden drum which probably received a belt drive. Between the second and third lateral timbers the shaft carries a large iron cone pulley and on the far (eastern) end is a small flanged solid iron pulley for the chain. Above the latter within the concrete roof is a further, double-flanged iron pulley on a short iron layshaft. The cone pulley is stated(7) to have been a clutch by which the mechanism was engaged, but the exact nature of the drive was unclear to me. It would appear however that the apparatus was put in, or alterations made to the layout, after the windmill ceased to operate and the wallower etc were removed, as the layshaft runs where the latter would have been. The sack hoist was originally  driven by both wind and water, the wind drive being off the great spur wheel through a wooden pinion and (dis)engaged using a cone clutch(8).


This is unusually high up, perhaps merely because the lower floors are given over to the water-driven machinery. The windows are located at the four main compass points, and the stairwell and ladder on the northeast side. The sack trap is on the east. The main ceiling beams run north-south and between them on mid-point, tenoned into cheek pieces on their side faces, is a lateral timber carrying a steady bearing for the lower wooden section of the upright shaft, which on this floor is sixteen-sided. Above the bearing is the dog clutch which united the wood and iron sections.

 The underdriven stones are on the north and south sides. The northern pair remain without furniture; the southern pair are missing, the floor at this point being boarded over, but an empty tun marks their place. The waterwheel was breast shot, which meant that the water-driven stones were left-handed; the wind stones were right-handed so that when one was requisitioned to replace one of the water stones it had to be completely recut in the opposite direction(9).

On the west side is the water upright shaft, in trunking for most of its height on this floor, with a steady bearing bolted to a timber fixed across the joists.  


Here there are windows on the north, south and west sides and a door onto the stage on the east. The ladder is on the northeast with the stairwell on the southeast. The main ceiling beams run east-west. 

 The upright shaft is thickened at the great spur wheel where it becomes square; the square section is very neatly chamfered, giving pleasing chevron shapes. Below it the shaft narrows, at the same time changing to sixteen-sided again. The shaft is footed in a north-south timber set in the floor and raised slightly above it, with a bridging box provided. The all-wood great spur wheel, almost solid with six substantial cants is another fine piece of work, the deep clasp arms being nicely shaped. The bridgetrees are hinged in vertical posts footed in the floor and fixed at their upper ends to cheek pieces on the outer side faces of the main ceiling beams. Not only is this a combined wind- and watermill but the arrangement of the machinery of the former is patterned on that of the latter.

 The northern stone nut is of iron mortice type; the cogs are missing. The southern stone nut with its quant is missing but a jack ring remains. The nuts are on square tapers. The northern governor is mounted on a bracket on the wall; the steelyard goes diagonally to a link with a vertical iron rod, parallel to the eastern vertical post, which passes through that end of the bridgetree to terminate in a hand tentering screw. There is a corresponding arrangement for the southern stones, though the northern are provided with a second hand screw on an extension of the stone spindle.

 On the west side the great spur wheel meshes with a large solid all-wood nut on a secondary upright shaft which is encased in trunking below it. The nut is mounted on a square taper and is taken in/out of gear by a jack ring with twin handle and screw arrangement. Two cogs of the great spur wheel are missing, presumably taken out so that the machinery could be driven by engine.


There are windows on the north, south, east and west sides. The ladder and stairwell are to the southeast. The walls are lined with vertical boards for about two-thirds of the height of the floor. There are wooden partitions running north-south from the wall on the north and southeast sides to roughly the centre of the floor. On the west side a timber runs from the northern partition to the wall; it supports the secondary upright shaft from the floor above and also carries a steady bearing for the upright shaft of the watermill. It is at this point that the wind and water drives engage so that all four pairs of stones could be driven from the waterwheel, if desired, after the use of wind was discontinued here. On the water upright shaft is a large six-armed iron gearwheel which meshes with an all-iron nut, fitted with a jack ring and hand screw for taking it out of gear, on the other upright shaft. There was formerly an oat crusher on this floor, driven from below(10).


There are windows on the north, south and west sides and a loading door on the east above the main entrance. The stones, which are missing their furniture, are on the northwest and southwest sides and mounted on plinths which are higher than usual. One plinth is round, the other octagonal. Just below the ceiling the upright shaft carries a bevelled iron mortice crownwheel with six T-section arms. This meshes with an iron nut on a short iron layshaft running south-north to the wall; a bearing at the neck of the shaft rests on a lateral timber carried on hangers from the ceiling. On the shaft are mounted, going south-north, a flanged wooden disc on four iron arms, a wooden pulley and a second, larger wooden pulley on two sets of six iron arms, which received the belt from the oil engine on the ground floor and also drove the oat crusher plus an “outside roller”(11) on the floor above. The other pulleys drove a kibbler on the second floor and a wheat cleaner on this one, both via the same intermediary countershaft according to R Hawksley’s notes.(12) There was also at one point a dynamo, and according to Harry Apling a Tattersall half-sack roller plant. All this equipment has now gone.


The windows are on the north and south sides, the entrance door on the east. The main ceiling beams run north-south.

 Below ground level on the west is the pit in which the pit wheel turns. It, the wheel shaft, and the crown wheel are of iron. The great spur wheel is iron with six arms and double-shanked wooden cogs. Below it on the iron upright shaft is a belt drum for the governor; the latter now lies on the floor. The stone nuts are iron mortice. The spindles rest on timbers running east-west and morticed at their ends into vertical posts which form a hurst frame around the spur wheel and tentering gear. This is boarded in with an excrescence where the spur wheel overlaps the western main ceiling beam; hatches give access to the equipment when necessary. The boarding appears to be detachable and that at the front has been removed. The stone spindles pass through their support timbers to end in iron tentering bars parallel to the latter. Beneath the nuts on the spindles are threaded and carry large spoked handwheels for taking the nuts in/out of gear with the spur. The nuts are stayed to the spindles by short diagonal ties. Sections of the steelyards remain.

 On the wall on the west side is a handle on the end of a horizontal shaft passing through into the wheel shed which is part of what appears to be a clutch mechanism, involving bevel gears and an angled worm shaft, for (dis)engaging the water drive.

 The pit wheel, crown wheel and wheel shaft are all of iron. A now empty bracket on the wall of the wheel pit above where the axle passes through it may have supported the base of a vertical shaft of some kind.

 The wheel along with the clutch mechanism mentioned above is housed within a small brick building built onto the base of the mill tower on the west. It is an iron breastshot 12ft in diameter by 6ft wide(13) with curved floats. A second wheel, also breastshot and 8ft diameter by 3ft wide(14), is housed in another small brick building, with high iron-framed arched windows like some of the Methodist chapels in the region and vaguely reminiscent of a Chinese pagoda. It drove a three-throw Bramah pump, still in situ, which supplied water to nearby Clermont Lodge. It had no connection with the mill and annoyed the miller by using a lot of his water. It was later superseded by hydraulic rams.

 On the north side of the windmill tower just above ground level is opening in brickwork, iron-lined and containing a bearing for the layshaft of the engine drive.

In his description of the internal workings of the mill before restoration, Apling states: “final shaft of drive from oil engine coupling up with water-driven stones. Sack hoist drive water/oil and wind”.

Based on survey by Guy Blythman 27th September 2015

(1)       H Apling, Norfolk Corn Windmills Vol.1 (Norfolk Windmills Trust 1984)

(2-4)    Ibid

(5)       HRH in HESS; RW 13/4/1949

(6)       RW 13/4/1949

(7)       HRH in HESS

(8)       RW 13/4/1949

(9-10)  Apling, as above

(11)     HRH in HESS

(12)     HRH in HESS; Apling

(13)     HRH in HESS

(14)     Ibid