Little Cressingham Mill


The mill today

The mill today

Little Cressingham wind and water-mill is genuinely unique. It was built in about 1821 on the Watton Brook and was on the Clermont Estate. Prior to 1821 there was a water-mill only on the site but it was one of two mills in the Parish.  A smock windmill had been built opposite the White Horse Inn shortly before.  Please note that early smock mills were often described as ‘tower mills’.

The Norfolk Chronicle 16th Feb 1782:

To be sold or lett [sic], and entered upon immediately, a Water-Mill and Wind-Mill with six Acres of Land, in Little Cressingham, in Norfolk, within two Miles of Watton, and six of Swaffham. For Particulars enquire of Mr Brown, Millwright, in Ber-street, Norwich, or of Mr William TRUNDLE, at the Mill, in Little Cressingham aforesaid.

The mill in 1901

The mill in 1901

The Norfolk Chronicle announced on the 31st October 1795 an auction in three lots on November 4th 1795 at 3 o’clock at the Crown Inn, Watton. 3 separate lots including a Water Corn Mill at Little Cressingham in the occupation of Mr J Pearson, a Tower Windmill and about half an acre near the Water Corn Mill water and a Cottage.  All were for sale with immediate possession as the owner ‘wishes to retire’.

The present mill is or was unique in that the lower half of the tower and two pairs of stones were driven by a waterwheel alongside and in the upper half two more pairs of stones were driven by the sails of the windmill. From 1908 a portable steam engine was used in the yard to drive a Blackstone mill with vertical stones in the cart shed in the range of outbuildings.  This later made way for a Victoria single cylinder paraffin engine as auxiliary power to drive the water-driven stones. Besides the waterwheel for the mill there is another smaller wheel alongside which operated a Bramah pump for raising water up the Clermont Lodge (Hall) where it was used for the water gardens and as a source of water to the fish ponds.  This was later superseded by a hydraulic ram made by Green & Carter of Winchester.

The mill in 1925 - capped

The mill in 1925 – capped

The Mill lost one pair of sails in 1911 but these were replaced for the mill to be tail-winded in 1916. In 1940 the stage, cap and machinery down to the top section were removed and a flat concrete cover fitted. The clay lump out-buildings were demolished in 1975 and the mill pond had been filled in during the early 1970’s.

Samuel Goddard from Carbrooke hired Little Cressingham Mill in 1890 but his tenancy ended in tragedy on Christmas day 1890.  There is gravestone in the churchyard inscribed:

‘In loving memory of Samuel and Elizabeth Goddard who died from suffocation Decbr 25th 1890 aged 36 and 37 years’

It appears that on Christmas Day that year it being a very cold day the couple took up to their bedroom a bucketful of hot coals to keep themselves warm.  They were found the next morning by Jacob Macrow when he went to feed the horses.  The local police constable and innkeeper, John Tolman, with his brother Fred Tolman broke in and found the couple dead in bed. Later millers were John Dowe, John Goldson and Frederick Rodwell.  In 1907 the mill was taken on by Horace Freestone.  On his death in 1924 his widow continued running the mill until she died in 1928.  One of her sons George worked thee mill for a while by water and oil. It was run by A E Freestone until the 1940’s as tickets of goods supplied by him in 1941 still exist. A detailed and very comprehensive record of the Mill was compiled by Harry Apling of Swanton Grove in Dereham in 1971 and his account is in the Public Record.

The millstream

The millstream

The mill was bought by John Davies in 1980.  He had been the resident land agent to Sir Richard Prince Smith Bt who had owned the Estate from 1966 until 1976.  In 1981 John Davies leased the Mill to Norfolk County Council for restoration by the Norfolk Windmills Trust at a peppercorn rent and a commitment to restore the Mill to as near full working order as possible including fitting new sails.  It was to be a ten year project.

The Trust has not been able to meet its original covenants; some 26 years later modest repairs have been carried out but the main work of restoration has not yet started whereas the estimated cost has more than doubled. There is a move within the Parish Council to take responsibility for the Mill back into local hands.