Aldborough Mill
Scarrow Beck


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Aldborough 1907

Aldborough mill was on a site that had been in use since before Domesday and every few hundred years a new mill would be built to replace an earlier one.
The photographs show that the final structure to be worked consisted of 3 definite sections. The oldest and smaller section was about 150 years old and consisted of mainly white weather board, the newer sections being in brick and then stone. There were 3 lucums, although when the older one went out of use a leanto was built under it. The water wheel was removed c.1930.

Mill running on diesel power c.1935

Aldborough dam c.Oct1907 Aldborough dam 25Jan2003
Mill dam c.1907
Mill dam January 2003

The mill dam was cleaned and dug out by prisoners of war just after the first World War. In the middle of the dam, in an area that only be reached by boat, was an island planted with a myriad of flowers. The nearby watercourses and streams were crossed by bridges.

In the 1950s, the area where the mill dam used to be was bulldozed over and Scarrow Beck was diverted, leaving very little trace of the mill's old watercourse. The section where it went under the mill was bricked up although in 1977 the arch outlines still showed. Some of the machinery was buried in an old gravel pit at the back of the mill.

c.1958 1958

August 1967
August 1967

Indenture: Declaration of the Uses of a Fine. Between Gilbert Parker of Alborough, gent. and Clement Palgrave of the Inner Temple, Esq.
Water mill in Aldborough. Seal tag.
8th December 1638

30Apr1977 30Apr1977
30 April 1977
Mill frontage 30 April 1977 - older section on the left

30Apr1977 30Apr1977
Rear of both buildings 30 April 1977- no water
Rear of the old weatherboarded section 30 April 1977
When the above photographs was taken an old French burr stone was still leaning up near the door on the old section - it can just be seen on the right hand side of the left hand photo above.

William Cooke snr 1895 Robins Cooke 1909 Henry Carter Cooke 1909 Thomas Carter Cooke1909
William Cooke snr 1895
Robins Cooke 1909
Henry Carter Cooke 1909
Thomas Carter Cooke 1909

Thomas William Cooke on day of wedding to Hilda Thirza Tom Cooke c.1960
Thomas William Cooke on day of his wedding to Hilda Thirza
Tom Cooke c.1960

Thomas William Cooke was born on 19th June 1897 at Thwaite. He married Hilda Thirze.
Hilda Cooke died on 9th February 1989. Thomas Cooke died on 2nd June 1989.

Much of the information herein was gleaned from Thomas William Cooke, whose brother, father and grandfather were millers here. The mill came into their family in 1809 and they later went on to own 4 others. The mill stands on the joint parish boundaries of Aldborough, Alby and Thwaite but is known as Aldborough as it is closest to that village.

The Cooke's relations with Col. Barclay (of Barclays Bank fame) became strained around 1903. Col. Barclay was an ardent Tory and the Cookes were Liberals. Col. Barclay was in control of a set of sluice gates upstream of the mill and was prone to indiscriminately open or close the gates thus flooding or starving the mill of water!

In about 1910 a new water wheel was installed. It was made by Thomas Cooke from elm and was 15 feet in diameter. Mr. Cooke was adamant that one applewood cogwheel would outlast 3 cast iron ones. The waterwheel was finally taken out in about 1930 to make way for steam. The first Crossley diesel (57hp) was installed in 1935 - eventually there were five!

At this time the mill was running 3 pairs of stones - one for flour and two for grist. The grist stones were too sharp to grind wheat, which needs to be rubbed rather than cut. Towards the end carborundum stones were used as the original French buhrs were worn too badly.

c.1944-45 a Mr. Green was the miller working for Thomas Cooke and many of the staff took after their employer, who was extremely religeous. One such worker was Spring Heel Jack McComb who lived in a caravan behind the mill and was so named as he had an affliction causing him to walk in an unusual manner.

2nd March 1997
2nd March 1997

15Apr1983 2009
Rear of mill just after conversion 15th April 1983

Just above the mill is the junction of 2 streams, one from Aylmerton and one from West Beckham, these flowed into what was once a large mill dam. However the water drop was not very great and the mill frequently suffered from a chronic shortage of water, thus a steam engine was brought in to supplement the power while the water was collecting and this actually provided twice as much power.

By 1957 Scarrow Beck had been returned to its original course bypassing the mill.

The waterworks at Metton used a lot of water from the area - Mr. Cooke said there were 3 tunnels forming a triangle in the clay, they were 200 feet down and each was 100 feet long.

 25Jan2003 25Jan2003
25th January 2003
25th January 2003

Insolvent Debtor. Prisoner for Debt.
Stephen Storey
formerly of Hempstead, Farmer
afterwards of Aldborough, Miller
afterwards at Edgefield, Journeyman Miller
afterwards of Briston, Labourer
afterwards of Holt, Miller
& late of Briston, all in Norfolk, out of business.
Norfolk Chronicle - 20th October 1827

In 1977 the mill was still being worked occasionally by its Kenyan owner Mr. Patak, grinding oriental spices such as coriander and cumin seed, which came in directly from the docks. The seeds were crushed using a hammer and stone arrangement powered by the Crossley diesel engines.

The Cooke family ended up buying the site in the 1800's and went on to run other mills in the area, with my grandfather inheriting the Aldborough Mill operation when he was 21 in 1920 - pulling him back from service in the first world war as milling was a reserved occupation.
The business as he knew it was founded by his father, Thomas Carter Cooke, who assumed control as the last surviving brother of the Cooke dynasty. My grandfathers younger brother, Oliver lived in the village till his death a few years ago, and representatives of the Cooke clan live there still.
As to the mill, it was a fully operational watermill complete with a big millpool till it was filled in by prisoners of war during the First World War, after which the power was obtained from a steam engine, which was both more powerful and reliable. This steam engine gave way to early gas engines and then huge slow running Crossland diesel units. 
As the mill expanded it consumed the mill house and additional levels were added to the top, all clad in beautiful asbestos. In the end the place used no less than five diesel engines each of which was heavy enough to sink a narrowboat.  Whilst milling and associated activities ceased at Aldborough Mill in the late 1950's, with production moved to Coltishall, I remember being taken round the silent building by my grandfather and smelling the engines and seeing the bricked up arch of the mill race which had stood beneath a sucession of mills for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Captain Ahab - 1st January 2010

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1905

O. S. Map 1905
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1956

O. S. Map 1956
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

8th December 1638: Indenture between Gilbert Parker and Clement Palgrave

Faden's map 1797: Mill

15th December 1824: Richard Clarke's, wife Emma Ann died aged 29, buried at Aldborough with 3 infants

c.1825: Stephen Storey, miller (possibly employee)

White's 1836: Richard Clarke, miller

Census 1841: Richard Clarke (51) b.Hoxne, Suffolk, miller;
Ann Clarke (45) b.Hanworth;
Hannah Clarke (13) b.Norfolk;
Elizabeth Clarke (10) b.Aldborough;
Sarah Page, (20) b.Hanworth, servant;
Thomas Brown (17) b.outside Norfolk, journeyman miller
Sarah Terry Clarke (40) b.Norfolk, Independent;
Matilda Clarke (17) - both living 3 doors from Richard Clarke

White's 1845: Richard Clarke & Mrs. S.T. Clarke

Census 1851: William Cooke (33) b.Glandford,  master miller employing 2 men;
Elizabeth Cooke (31) b. E. Dereham;
Anna Cooke (7) b.Aldborough;
William Cooke (3) b.Aldborough;
Henry Cooke (3) b.Aldborough;
Maria Cooke (1) b.Aldborough;
Ann Long (24) b.Glandford, house servant;
Sarah Everett (16) b.Matlask, house servant;
William Vaeden (30) b.Alby, carter;
George Newstead (16) b.Barningham, miller's apprentice

Richard Clarke (61) retired miller living in The Crescent , St Stephens, Norwich

White's 1854: William Cooke, corn miller

White's 1864: William Cooke, corn miller

Electors' List 1874: William Cooke -
Aldborough Mill - £50 occupier

Kelly's 1879: William Cooke, miller (& at Thurgarton postmill)

Kelly's 1883: William Cooke, miller & farmer & surveyor (& at Thurgarton postmill)

Kelly's 1892: William Cooke, miller (water & steam)

28th April 1895: William Cooke died

Kelly's 1896: William Cooke, miller (water & steam) & seed merchant

Kelly's 1900: Henry Carter Cooke

Kelly's 1904: Henry Carter Cooke

Kelly's 1908: Henry Carter Cooke

1910: New elm waterwheel installed

Kelly's 1912: Thomas Carter Cooke

Kelly's 1916: Thomas Carter Cooke

13th Janmuary 1917: Thomas Carter Cooke died

Kelly's 1922: Thomas Carter Cooke

Kelly's 1925: Thomas William Cooke

c.1930: Wheel removed and mill converted to steam

Kelly's 1929: Thomas William Cooke

1935: Mill converted to diesel power

Kelly's 1937: Thomas William Cooke

1957: Animal feed milled with a hammer mill powered by a 57 h.p. diesel engine

Yates 1966: Aldborough Mill. NOR 40Y. Ph. Hanworth 244

1977: Mr. Patak, spice merchant

2nd June 1989: Thomas William Cooke died

2003: Residential use

April 2005: Southern residential unit of mill for sale at a guide price of £350,000

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 TG1860 3393
Top of Page
Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003