Buxton Mill
River Bure


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


Buxton watermilll was recorded in Domesday in 1085. It was last rebuilt as a mill in 1754 by William Pepper, a merchant living in Buxton. The building was constructed of white painted brick and weatherboard with a pantile roof and has been a prominent landmark in the village for many years.

It finally ceased as a working mill one sad Saturday in August 1970 when Duffields finally closed the complex in order to concentrate their business at the larger site at Saxlingham Thorpe.

c.1906 with one wherry in the lock and one moored

Mill dam c.1910 - the lock is to the left

Buxton lock in 1928 Buxton lock exit in 1928
Buxton lock in 1928
Buxton lock exit in 1928

William Pepper's mill was a clever design, using two wheels, the larger being breastshot. The smaller wheel was overshot using water that formed part of the Aylsham Navigation and gained its head by the lock system at Buxton. The only other mills to use overshot wheels in Norfolk that I have found so far were at Brandiston, Congham, Foulden, Hingham, Mundesley, Tharston and Weybourne. The building was constructed of white painted brick and weatherboard with a pantile roof.

Probable original river course on right 12th October 2008
Probable original river course on right 12th October 2008

The Bure has become quite large and powerful by the time it reaches Buxton and with a fall of 6 to 7 feet thanks to the river being diverted, a considerable amount of power is available. The conventional breastshot waterwheel was changed to a Victor turbine in the 1902 in order to improve efficiency. The turbine, being quite small, revolved at a much faster pace. This avoided the need to introduce several gear wheels, which on larger, slow moving wheels waste considerable power in overcoming friction. In 1965 this turbine was still producing 25% of the mill's power requirements. It had undergone a minor overhaul in 1930 and a major overhaul in the 1960s that would have left it capable of running for the next 40 years.

Water power was used to drive two and sometimes three pairs of millstones, which were in regular use for grinding animal food stuffs. Flour for household use was also produced and biscuit flour was milled using electrically powered roller milling machines.

October 1963
October 1963

1967 1967
Mill dam September 1967
March 1967 - the lock was near the white gate

Assignment from Sir Thomas Frankland knight to Stephen Ashby (Thomas, Lord Londonderry also a party) of mortgage originally raised in 1698 by William, Earl of Yarmouth, and Charles, Lord Paston, by Common Recovery, on the manors of Sparham, Buxton and Skeyton, Buxton Park, watermills in Buxton and Lammas called Buxton Mills, and lands etc. in Buxton, Hevingham, Lammas, Stratton Strawless, Brampton, Sparham, Bawdeswell and Great_Witchingham.

November 4th

As an Opinion has lately prevailed that the MILLERS have always refused to grind Corn for the Poor or other Persons in small Quantities or if they did, that Abuses were made use of to damage the same; To remove such Prejudices for the future, we whose Names are hereunder subscribed, residing in the several Parishes mentioned with our Names, have engaged for the Time to come or until the Prices of Corn shall be very considerably reduced, to grind (at Threepence per Bushel) Corn in small Quantities for the Poor and other Persons in the speediest, best and most proper Manner and deliver the same without and Adulteration.
John Withers, Northwalsham
Robert Colls, Worstead
Wm. Pepper & Co. Buxton
Robert Parmeter, Aylsham
N.B. MEAL will be sold by us in small Quantities as cheap as the Prices of Corn, which we shall be oblig'd to give, will possibly admit of.
Norwich Mercury - 15th November 1766
N.B. The average price of wheat in 1766 was £2. 3s. 1d. per quarter.

Water Mills.
To be Sold by Private Contract,
and entered upon immediately.

The Remainder of the Lease of Buxton Water-Mills, in the  County of Norfolk, in the Centre of a fine and plentiful Corn Country, within eight Miles of the City of Norwich, situated upon the River Bure, navigable from Aylsham (by the said Mills) to Coltishall and Yarmouth.
These very extensive and valuable Premisses are chiefly Brick and Tile, and consist of a good Dwelling-house, Water Corn Mills, Kiln for drying of Wheat, large Granaries, Stable, and other Appurtenances adapted to and compleating the Conveniency of the said Premisses.
The said Mills are capable of performing more Work than any in this Part of the Kingdom, and are excellently well situated for a Foreign Trade from their Communication by Water with the Port of Great Yarmouth.
There is also a pleasant Garden, Meadow Land, etc consisting in the whole of about 10 Acres.
For further Particulars enquire of Mr George Watson, the Proprietor, on the said Premisses, of Mr John Barnard, Merchant, at Norwich, or of Mr William Durrant, at Saxlingham Mills.

Norfolk Chronicle - 21st September 1782

Benjamin Richmond, b.1796 at Scratby and son of Edward and Mary Richmond, was employed at the mill c.1820 - c.1825. He married Elizabeth Braddock on 9th June 1818 at Buxton and they had two children William in 1820 and Mary Ann in 1825, before moving to Yarmouth where they had 4 more children.


Capital and well-built WATER CORN MILL, at Buxton, in Norfolk, capable of manufacturing at least forty lasts a week, with a convenient modern-built Messuage attached to the Mill: also two Cottages, Stables, Chaise-house, Granaries, Drying Kiln, and other requisite Out-buildings, in excellent repair, and twelve Acres of Land adjoining the Premises, divided into Gardens, Pleasure Grounds, and Meadows. The Mill is situate on the river Bure, which is navigable to Yarmouth, and is a very fine stream of water.
These Premises are 8 miles distant from Norwich, 6 from North Walsham, and 4 from Aylsham, (three of the best corn markets in the county,) and are situate in a very fine corn country.
For further particulars apply Messrs Sewell and Blake, solicitors, Norwich.

Norwich Mercury - 8th December 1821

To Millers
To be Sold
A Capital pair of 4 ft. FRENCH BURR STONES
nine inch joint, built to order and quite new.
They will be delivered free of expence by water carriage to any part of the county.
Enquire of Mr. Cooke, Stalham_Mills or Cooke & Gambling, Buxton Mills and Corn Exchange, Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle - 24th October 1829

Cooke & Gambling invoice 1833
Cooke & Gambling invoice to Mrs. Heland - 1833

In August 1860 a new axle was required for one of the waterwheels:
St. Ann's Iron Works,
King Street, Norwich, Aug. 18/60.
Mr. Howlett,
Dear Sir,
Agreeable to your request I beg to hand you price for one New Cast Iron Water Wheel Shaft, with 2 Gun Metal Neck Bearings, 2 bridgin Pots, fitted with Wrought Iron Wedges and Screws. to be same size and length as present one at the Buxton end of the Mill. The above to be Turned and fitted ready for fixing in the Mill for the sum of forty-nine pounds, ten shillings. £49.10. -.
The whole to be done in a Workman-like Manner.
Waiting your reply
I am, Dear Sir,
Your Obt. Servt,
Thos. Smithdale.

The Frankling and Pratt families were related by marriage and both were connected with the milling trade.

John Pratt and his brother James were both millers and were possibly working at Buxton. John Pratt married Maria Thaxter in November 1812.

Charles Frankling married Ann Pratt in 1854, who was probably the daughter of James Pratt but Charles died in 1860 at the age of 26. In 1871, their son, Charles Frankling jnr was recorded as working at Buxton mill and living with his grandmother, Ann Pratt in Buxton. However, by 1881 he had moved to work at Costessey_mill and was lodging with William Futter and his family

Thomas Shreeve (1833 -1909) came from Bolwick_watermill and Marsham_postmill and had moved to Buxton. by 1890. Thomas' nephew Charles Robert Shreeve (1854-1932) took over at Bolwick_mill and Marsham_postmill and was possibly still there when his farming business became insolvent in 1897. Thomas' nephew George Holland Shreeve moved from Dilham Mill to join Thomas at Buxton by 1891.

George Holland Shreeve - c.1920
George Holland Shreeve - c.1920

Many extensions were made to the mill and its outbuildings were often added to when extensive silos and storage facilities were added to help cope with the higher throughput of the modern mill. The first of these was a 125 ton silo that was added in 1930, followed by a dryer in 1947.

The mill at this time was milling both flour and animal feeds. Later this policy was changed and Buxton was used only for flour milling. The use of lorries to bring in grain by bulk (as opposed to sacks) was significant advance in efficiency and allowed the mill to effectively double its output. In its final years Buxton Mill was producing flour at the rate of 1 ton per hour.

98% of wheat milled was locally grown and Duffields were handling 500 tons of local grain (wheat, barley and oats) between their 3 mills - Buxton, Tharston and Saxlingham Thorpe.

Roller mill invitation November 1906 Roller mill reply November 1906
Roller mill invitation November 1906
Roller mill reply November 1906

c.1910 The old canal cut 12th October 2008
The lock beside the mill c.1910
The old canal cut 12th October 2008

The great floods of 1912 wreaked havoc in Buxton and the surrounding countryside. The flood came at the end of a dismal August. The rain began at 3.00am on Monday 26th August and continued until mid morning on 27th. Brundall recorded the highest total of 8.06" but 7" appears to have fallen in the Buxton area. The Bure overflowed its banks and people had to be rescued from upstairs windows by boat. Animals were drowned, the road to Lammas became a roaring flood and the meadows were one big lake.

The 1912 flood with the mill in the distance

1912 1912
Buxton dam after the 1912 flood
Buxton dam looking upstream August 1912

Many hay cocks were swept down from the Lammas & Hautbois meadows causing a damming of the river by the narrow Coltishall Bridge. When this gave way the water levels dropped in Buxton.

Coltishall bridge 1912

The wherry Zulu, was trapped in the river Bure while unloading cargo at Aylsham and as the locks were destroyed it was unable to get back down the river and it had to be manhandled across the road near Buxton Mill.

Zulu being moved across the road near Buxton 1912

RP - Was 'Zulu' the one that was trapped when the floods came?
CS -"No"
RP - Which one was that? It got caught between here and Buxton, didn't it?
CS - "Yes, - that's right, and I went as a boy, and greased the slides what that keel was on - we took her out of one river, crossed the road into another river, and I was the boy, I had to grease these slides where that keel slide in, you see - she was crossed up, you know, kept upright, and put her out of one river into another 'cause the lock was washed away. And I went there as a boy, and that's the hardest day's work I ever done in my life - carrying them great long pieces of wood, you know,"

CYRIL ("SAM") SPINKS - Aylsham Mill worker for 55 years interviewed by Lynette Rust and
Ron Peabody. Date unknown

In June 1933 the old lock from the Aylsham Navigation, which had been disused since the 1912 flood was filled up and a good road finally opened from Buxton to Lammas.

A Miller's Poem

In the possession of Mr. William Duffield.
Mill described in Conventio Number of 'Milling' for 1931.
Has a capacity of 2 sacks per hour with an extensive grist and provender trade. Wholly water powered.
Duffield took over mill in 1924 - almost derelict, had to fit it, start it up and make his own good-will. In 1926 was running full time with grist and flour. Mill dates back to 1754. It was purely a stone mill. Converted to roller system in the 1890s - original plans bearing the date 14th May 1890. Not known when it stopped working until Mr. Duffield took it.
At 1931 visit, Mr. Duffield had re-flowed the mill and re-designed the power distribution. He then tackled the dressing and scalping, having a Turner sextuple plansifter installed. Shortly after this the Wheat Act was passed, which gave an impulse to home agriculture.
Mr. Duffield prepared for increase in trade by increasing bin space - which was very short. In August 1933 he decided to build a new silo. He found a second hand 10 - bin silo in the North, had it dismantled and brought to Buxton where it arrived in November. The bins are 5ft. square and 22ft high. Local builder employed to erect it on site next to the mill near the bend in the road on a reinforced concrete foundation. Chestnut and spruce trees were felled and trimmed into piles 22ft. long and 11ins. Square. Eleven driven and on them the basement was built beside an unloading platform with a concrete hopper. The bin hoppers were put into position on new steel stanchions and the laminated wood sides erected upon them. The whole was capped with a roof, the sides were covered with Robinson's patent corrugated sheeting, heat-proof and damp-proof, so was the roof; then the interior was equipped with hollow spiral worm conveyors, five double feeders and spouting. Also new Lawrence Scott motors were installed, giving an intake capacity of 60 qtrs. per hour.
The elevator was a problem because of the disparity between the elasticity of it and the silo. This was solved by the use of a flexible coupling. The silo was commissioned in March 1934. It took 5 months to erect a silo capable of holding 4,500 bushels of wheat.
Last year's drought caused problems with the water supply for the mill. Accordingly, in August 1934 a 25h.p. Crossley oil engine was purchased and installed in a separate building alongside the waterway; and here a provender plant was erected. This is now used whenever the water power has to be conserved for the flour mill and for certain other products which necessitate high speeds being used for reduction.
At the 1931 visit transport for short journeys, was by means of horse drawn vehicles, but they have been replaced by another lorry. The stables have been converted to the auxiliary provender mill plant.

Milling magazine - 15th June 1935

Letter to Capt. William C. Duffield - 11th November 1942
Letter to Capt. William C. Duffield - 11th November 1942

Turbine Repaired

The 60-year old American water turbine that operates the mill at Buxton has just been given a new lease of life by an unusual welding repair.
"Siftips," the organ of the Suffolk Iron Foundry, Stowmarket, tells the story.
The Victor turbine cylinder gate was installed in 1902 in W.C. Duffield's flour mill at Buxton - a familiar landmark on the Bure - and had worked continuously apart from a minor overhaul I the 1930s, until it seized up recently. This was thought to be due to corrosion, the turbine being mounted under water.
Closer inspection at the Norwich works of Panks (Castle Hill) Ltd. showed that this was not so but parts of the turbine had suffered excessive and abnormal wear.
The metal was in reasonable condition but had to be built up where the damage had been done to the pedestal mounting plate. After welding repairs the parts had to be machined for retapping and drilling.
The result is that the turbine's life is reckoned to have been extended by 40 years.
Eastern Daily Press - 1960s

20th September 1957 December 1958
20th September 1957
December 1958

Locum removed - c.1963

Eastern Daily Press advert - c.1965
Eastern Daily Press advert - c.1965

September 1967

On 22nd May 1970, due to expansion at Saxlingham, Duffields announced closure of Buxton and Tharston mills As a result Buxton and Tharston Mills were both closed in 1970 enabling production to be undertaken by 9 staff rather than 18. 10 staff at Buxton and 1 at Tharston to be made redundant.

On 3rd July 1970, the Mill, along with the Mill House, an adjoining cottage, modernised house and six acres of pasture beside the Tas were sold at auction in Norwich for £14,000 on the instructions of Duffields. It was bought by David and Joan Langridge of Coltishall who used builder J.N. Howard of Sprowston to convert the mill into a five bedroom house and the adjoining granary into a three bedroom house.

Some years later the modernised mill was advertised by Alan Ebbage & Partners for sale with offers expected to be in excess of £30,000. It came with 4 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, full central heating, double garage and car ports along with 4 acres of land and a long river frontage.

The granary was sold at the Central Hall, Wymondham by auctioneers Alan Ebbage & Partners in May 1976 to a Mr. Brock for £13,800.

Duffields' Milling History

1891-1892: W.I. Duffield started milling at the Black Tower Mill, Mattishall, making stone ground flour. The mill developed up to 20h.p.

1896: Tasburgh Mill was hired - Duffields' first steam-driven roller flour mill, producing two sacks per hour

1910: Saxlingham Mill was acquired

1919: Tharston Mill was acquired; Tasburgh and Saxlingham Mills were relinquished, but not for long

1924: William C. Duffield took over the mill at Buxton, remodelling it into a 2½ sacks per hour roller mill

1928: Saxlingham Mill was reacquired

1936: W.L. Duffield & Sons Ltd. was formed

1940: Animal feedstuff compound was first produced at Saxlingham

1950: Duffields acquired the tenancy of Hautbois Hall Farms (176 acres)

1951: Buxton flour mill was remodelled and capacity doubled

1952: Tharston flour mill was remodelled and capacity doubled

1953: Lamas Rectory and and 46 acres of glebeland adjacent to the farm were purchased

1960: The warehouse at Buxton was built

1962: The Duffield Group was formed with Duffield Mills Ltd. as the holding company

1963: A further 123 acres of land adjacent to the farm were purchased

1964: Buxton flour mill capacity was again doubled to ten sacks per hour

1965: The feed capacity at Saxlingham was doubled

1970: Modernisation at Saxlingham, doubling capacity for flour production despite the closure of Tharston and Buxton Mills. The group today employs a staff of 109.

Eastern Daily Press 19th September, 1970

1970 1970
Seed dressers June 1970
Pulley shaft June 1970

c.1935 with the lucum still in situ

Dreaming of unique arts centre for old mill

A YEAR AGO last summer Buxton Mill, standing massively over the River Bure at Buxton Lammas, was still producing flour, as it had been doing for two centuries past.
But by this time next year, if the dream of the new owners materialises, the mill could be established as a unique arts centre in Norfolk.
The transformation is already well in hand. Last August, 12 months after the mill wheels finally ground to a halt, a restaurant and an area containing craftware, books and a few pictures were opened on the ground floor.
The first floor has now been converted into a large art gallery - the inaugural exhibition was unveiled earlier this month - and by next April a rural industries centre is due to be running on the second floor.
As these 3 enterprises develop so Buxton Mill Galleries (Norfolk), the company which has been formed to run the project as a whole, would like to see other activities flourishing at the mill.
The company consists of Roger Ferris and his wife, Anne, who bought the building 14 months ago, and Tony Duffield, son of the previous owner, and his wife Julia.
Mr. Ferris, who retired from the R.A.F. as a squadron leader only in September, said "My wife and I have always collected pictures, wherever we have been. We knew we wanted to go into picture dealing, but when it came to buying the mill the concept of an arts centre was really imposed on us by the size of the building rather than the4 other way round."
Now, however, they are excited by the possibilities which the magnificently preserved mill, built in 1754 offers . . . Concerts in the main gallery, beneath the great pine rafters; perhaps the creation of an arts association of some kind which could organise lectures, poetry readings and similar activities; the presentation of top-class art exhibitions which are normally only seen in London but which Mr. Ferris - who maintains contact with the London scene during his countrywide travels dealing with pictures - feels could be brought to Norfolk.
But the immediate task is to complete phase three of the conversion, the creation of the rural crafts section above the main gallery. Mr. Ferris envisages the public being able to watch individuals such as potter and a weaver at work here and is keen to contact local craftsmen.
Art remains his great interest, despite an extraordinarily varied career to date, which has included spells as a soldier and teacher before his 16 years in the R.A.F., part of it served as a physical fitness officer and part of it served at Coltishall.
He would love to see a revival of a contemporary Norfolk school of painting - "This building is such a superb one and so large that I would love top see a revival centred around this place.
We have enough room here to show pictures of the great majority of artists working in Norfolk at any one time, and I'd like to see us carrying one or two examples of the work of each of them."
The present exhibition is a mixed one, with works from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as more contemporary items and with local as well as outside artists represented Three drawings by Augustus John are included in the show.
An unusual feature of the exhibition is the careful choice of frames. Mr. Ferris has made a particular point of having authentic period ones to match the pictures concerned, employing a frame maker who formerly worked for the National Gallery to achieve the right results.
It is by paying attention to this sort of detail, and by mixing idealism with hard headed business practices (the company's first avowed priority is to make the whole venture commercially viable) that the new owners' dreams are likely to be given much more substance than such ventures usually achieve.
Mr. Ferris has also given notice of his own determination to make the project succeed by doing most of the conversion of the mill by himself, assisted by his father-in-law and three other helpers.
Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday, 29th December 1971

Craft Centre c.1973
Craft Centre c.1973

The first part of the Craft Centre opened in December 1971 and the second floor opened in April 1972.
The above photographs show (bottom left in clockwise order) Picture Framing, The Picture Gallery, The Craft Centre and the Restaurant.

c.1974 23rd April 1977
23rd April 1977

'This is a new 1750s' mill . . .'

Businessman John McDonnell woke up to a nightmare one winter's morning last year.
North Walsham police telephoned Mr. McDonnell at his Oxfordshire home at 7.00 am on January 10 to tell him that his 250-year-old mill in Norfolk - a striking landmark on the River Bure - was ablaze.
"It was a terrible moment," said Mr McDonnell, who bought Buxton Mill in 1986. "I dropped everything and drove straight to Norfolk. The mill was completely burnt out - two storeys had disappeared and the rest was a brick shell."
Now, 15 months - and almost £1 million - later Buxton Mill is fully restored and ready to open for business again on Friday.
Paying tribute to main contractor T Gill and Son (Norwich) and architects Purcell, Miller, Tritton and Partners, a delighted Mr McDonnell said: "What we have is a brand new 1750s' mill.
"Some of the techniques in use here have not been seen in the lifetime of the builders, and will probably not be used again," said Mr McDonnell, a management consultant.
"Bringing back these wonderful old skills has been the highspot of some of these craftsmen's working lives. And the co-operation of everyone involved has been marvellous.
"They don't make buildings like this any more - today, it's all steel frames, which are much quicker and cheaper."
The restoration is also believed to be the biggest timber-frame building project undertaken in |Britain this century.
But, like any large undertaking, it has not all been plain sailing, as architect Keith Wreay explained . . .
"Crucial to the whole job were the massive pitch pine beams which run across the mill. The old ones were too badly burnt to salvage, so we had to get some more.
"One day, I went over to North Wales to look at the beams which the timber supplier had bought for us - only to find half of them had been sold to someone else, and it's not easy to find one-ton beams.
"We finally ended up in Nottinghamshire where we found what we wanted, except for two more which came from an old distillery in Glasgow."
On another occasion, scaffolders were about to set to work on the north side of the mill when a Norfolk County Council works team arrived to dig up the road.
"It was a delay in an extremely tight schedule, but we managed to negotiate with the county to reduce the time lost," said Mr Wreay, who made 130 works drawings during the Buxton Mill project.
Time was not only in short supply for the builders, however.
When Buxton Mill went up in smoke last year, the hopes and finances of half a dozen small local businessmen seemed to have gone the same way. The tenants of Buxton Mill watched their investments burn and wondered if they would ever be able to regain their livelihoods.
On Friday, all will be back in business at the mill in a variety of trades, including pine and antique furniture, furnishings and a bar and restaurant. Only one unit, on the prestige top floor, is vacant.
Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday 8th April 1992

1991 1991
The fire of January 1991

1991 1991
Aftermath of the fire January 1991
Damping down January 1991
Damping down January 1991

Damping down January 1991 Damping down January 1991
Damping down January 1991

A 14-month rebuilding programme followed the fire of 1991, using 19th century North American pitched pine salvaged from across Britain. The largest beams, often more than a metric tonne each, came from as far afield as Scotland and Wales.
It was the largest timber-framed reconstruction ever to take place in the UK and enabled architect Keith Reay the opportunity to restore it to its traditional 18th century glory leaving out some of the more recent alterations.

Mill back in business after blaze

Gleaming white, and once more a proud village landmark - Buxton Mill has risen from the ashes of a disastrous fire just 15 months ago.
The 250 year old mill near Norwich was virtually destroyed in the blaze in January 1991 but has been carefully restored to its former glory and will reopen on April 10.
Materials salvaged from mills demolished around Britain have been used wherever possible said architect Keith Reay, of Purcill, Miller, Tritton and Partners, Norwich.
"I think the builders have done a fantastic job and the village has got a landmark back that it reallty could not have done without," he said.
Owner John McDonnell, of Oxford, is said to be delighted.
Eastern Daily Press - Friday 27th March 1992


Millstones set to grind flour again

Restauranteur Bob Branford plans to bring back the ancient art of milling to Buxton Mill.
A mill at Buxton is first recorded in the Domesday Book, although the present structure, dominating the attractive village split by the River Bure, dates from 1754.
At that time it was a fully operational watermill, driven by a giant waterwheel which ground the wheat to flour. The mill was extended upwards and outwards in the 19th century.
Despite considerable alterations since the first world war, the building was still producing flour up to 1970 when the milling family Duffield moved premises to Saxlingham, south of Norwich.
But Mr. Branford plans to revive the milling art for the benefit of visitors to the mill now restored after a devastating fire last year.
A feature of the restoration has been the faithful attempts to copy the original - in this case down to hiring one of Britain's few remaining millwrights to get the old water turbine back in action.
The addition of a small pair of millstones will provide the finishing touch to tenant Mr. Branford's bid for home-baked bread.
Mill owner John McDonnell said: "If I know Bob, he'll soon be baking up some delicious rolls for the restaurant."
Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday 8th April 1992

The above dream project never materialised, possibly due to the inordinate expense involved.

Eastern Daily Press advert - Wednesday 8th April 1992
Eastern Daily Press advert - Wednesday 8th April 1992

Watercolour by John Watson in 1999
Watercolour by John Watson in 1999

Hotel Scheme Gives Historic Mill New Role

£350,000 project will turn mill into a 19-bedroom hotel and conference centre.
One of Norfolk's best known historic landmarks which was gutted by fire seven years ago is to be given a new lease of life after a £350,000 revamp.
Buxton Mill, which can be traced back to the time of the Norman Conquest, underwent a £1m restoration after the blaze in January 1991 and was subsequently put up for sale at £400,000.
Now the mill, 10 miles north of Norwich, is to be converted into a 19-bedroom hotel complete with conference and function room by business partners Bob Branford and Richard Draycott.
Mr. Branford said: "We identified a need for a local quality conference and function facility that had character, was well managed and friendly. We are confident that the Buxton Mill Hotel will attract both leisure and business users across all our planned facilities.
"The new business will create local employment, both full and part time within the hotel and ensure the building, a well-known and important part of Norfolk's architectural heritage, will thrive and continue to be enjoyed by future generations."
Work is expected to start this month with a view to finishing it in October.The country free house and restaurant operation will stay open for most of the conversion period and will be extended by a conservatory over the River Bure increasing dining capacity to 70 people.
The work will highlight the mill's historical industrial features such as the early 19th century turbine and the huge Hirst metal frame, now incorporated in the bar area.
All public areas will have displays of the history of Buxton Mill and the village of Buxton, creating a heritage centre for locals and tourists.
The development includes a lift to all floors housed in a shaft designed in the style of the original grain silos which previously occupied the same exterior position.
A new car park will be available across from the hotel and architecturally the mill will look much like it did in the 1750s.

Eastern Daily Press - 14th April 1998

Royal date for revamped mill

Historic Buxton Mill, which was gutted by fire in 1991, will be reborn as a hotel next month after a £350,000 conversion and opened by a "royal personage".
The 18th century mill now has a first-floor function suite, a restaurant extension over the River Bure and 14 twin or double bedrooms with river views.
A lift to all floors has been concealed in a shaft designed to look like one of the original grain silos.
Director Bob Branford said: "We still have a little exterior work to do when the weather improves but the Mill is now looking better than it did prior to the disastrous fire of 1991.
"We have designed our facilities to attract both leisure and business users looking for somewhere unique and different. The Mill now offers a range of facilities and services from a quiet drink in the bar to banquets and conferences for up to 100 people.
Mr. Branford was tight-lipped about the identity of the "royal personage" saying all would be revealed closer to the opening.
Eastern Daily Press - 19th February 1999

Mill Hotel c.1999 c.1999
Mill Hotel - c.1999
Mill Hotel entrance - c.1999

Buxton Memories

As a bored 10 year old boy in 1967 during school holidays, I accompanied my late father (Tom Peck) to work at Buxton mill. No health & safety in those days!

I can vividly remember lots of things from those days like the replacement of drive cogs on the turbine wheel. The vertical shaft from the turbine had a helical gear made of steel around 3 feet in diameter which in turn drove a horizontal gear which in turn drove all the pulley shafts in the mill. The horizontal gear teeth I believe, were made of seasoned apple wood which had to be specially made. The old teeth had practically worn through before replacement.

There are three water 'tunnels' running under the mill. One Saturday afternoon during summer, when the mill was stopped and the river was low, my father wound all the sluice gates down at the back of the mill to stop the water flowing altogether (I'm sure the rivers authority would have gone nuts had they have known!) we then donned wellies and walked up the tunnels from the front to see what was up there. Looking from the front of the mill, in the left hand tunnel you could easily see where the old wooden water wheel had marked the wall on each side. At the time I was scared witless, thinking someone would open the sluice gates up. I was assured this would not happen because all the handles were with us at the riverbank! We couldn't see much up the turbine tunnel because the water was too deep. Incidentally, the turbine tunnel looking from the front of the mill is on the right.

To control the speed of the whole mill, a vertical regulator shaft ran from the roller floor down to the turbine itself. The speed would be regulated by turning the wheel clockwise/anticlockwise to regulate the water flow. The shaft speed would be checked by hand held RPM counter. There was an adjuster wheel on the roller floor and also at the turbine unit. There were always spare rollers lying on the floor wrapped in waxed paper ready to be fitted as required. The rollers were very heavy and were lifted up by a special lifting device which winched them up to the correct height.

The mill was adapted to load flour into bulk flour tank trailers during 1967/68/69. The flour was milled and blown into the tank trailer by pneumatic blower. Because production was slow, the haulier had to stand the trailer hooked up for days while being loaded. Crane Fruehauf built the prototype flour tanker for this work and was hauled by Pointer transport of Norwich at first, then Bartrums carried this on later. These lorries were the very first 32 tonners at the time. Bagged flour and 'midds' would be loaded in the covered loading bay at the rear of the mill near the mill house. 'Bran' would be loaded onto flat lorries parked on the bridge at the front of the mill - busses and other lorries could only just squeeze through the gap between the parked lorry and the bridge wall. Bulk wheat was stored in the first half of the warehouse at the back and transported to the grain intake by an old 4 wheel Seddon bulker - pensioned off from the mill at Saxlingham.

The second half of the warehouse was occupied by a Duffield subsidiary called 'Buxton Distributors' - this firm distributed pet foods wholesale throughout east anglia. The old stables which backed onto the river was used as a rest room and toilets when I was there. In the loading bay at the back, a hand crank petrol pump was situated on the right for filling up company vehicles.

The staff comprised of only 3 men and a foreman at the time. The only person's name I can remember from then was a man called Keith Mack from Buxton. The phone number in 1967 was
Buxton 337. I used to spend days/weeks exploring every part of the mill then, walking up to the shop to buy fruit pies and crisps at lunchtime etc. I never knew if Duffields management knew or cared if I spent all my spare time there - nothing was ever said to me. It was a part of Duffields that was distanced from the main milling activity and while everything ran OK, they appeared to have left it alone.

Sadly when the mill closed in 1970, everyone was made redundant and my father, due to an accident in 1971, passed away so, this information I've given you is purely from memory.
Stephen Peck - 16th October 2005

2005 2005
Converted with apartments for sale 7th May 2005

My grandfather was always talking about Buxton Mill, because of the family connection and because he worked for Steward & Patteson's Brewery, which was also in the grain business one way or another.
One day as a small child I persuaded him to take us all to see the mill. Off we went his is Series E Morris 8, and as usual he went "the pretty way" via all the little back roads. It took hours to get any- where with him at the wheel! Especially as it was a rainy day. Unfortunately just as we were approaching the back end of Lammas we ran into some flooded lanes and hit water every way we tried, except the way we had come. So it wasn't until I had a car of my own that I actually got to see the mill.
Local descendant of the Pratt family - 2nd September 2006

I have recently been going through our family papers, and have come across information from the time my Great Grandfather Joseph Parker owned the Mill.
In 1906 my Great Grandparents held a celebration to mark the refurbishment of the mill, it was combined with the coming of age of my grandmother, Francis Muriel Parker. I have a letter written by the station master congratulating them on the refurbishments. There are some interesting comments in a letter about the quality of the flour and some other details.
There is one postcard from around 1906, and we also have paintings of the Mill and canal done by Bernard Wiles (a cousin) from the period my Great Grandparents were there. According to a letter from my Great Grandmother, Fanny Parker, written in 1925, she had sold the Mill due to my Great Grandfather's death.
Sue Travers, Victoria, Australia - 9th June 2008

24th August 2008 7th September 2008
24th August 2008
7th September 2008

18th April 2007
18th April 2007

13th September 2008
13th September 2008

Buxton Lamas mill was part of the Duffield empire until sold in 1970. This was originally bought and run by W.L.D's son,William C. on his return from South Africa in the early 1920's. I started as manager there in 1969. It was an 8 sack mill (1 ton flour per hour) powered by a water turbine and electricity, all very primitive by today's standards. I can remember the notice under Fire Alarm precautions -- some wit had added "Pray for rain and run like hell"
Simon Cauthery, Australia - 29th September 2011

The Tharston_mill was run by Harry (HTS) Duffield and was a little gem, 4 sacks/hour beautifully maintained and run by a water turbine and 40 HP Ruston oil engine. These days it would have been kept as a working museum, it was sold for very little money about £7000 comes to mind and Buxton didn't make much. Some of the Tharston machinery went to the Strangers Museum in Norwich. I still have the large wooden pulley wheel from the Buxton turbine shaft,mounted on its side with a glass top makes an excellent coffee table,and an old wooden sack trolley.
Simon Cauthery, Australia - 29th September 2011

I'm researching my Bean, Beane, Bane, Baine ancestors originating to date from the village of Thorpe Market c.1757. Having a subscription to the British Libraries Newspapers online I've found an article in the 'Norfolk Chronicle' newspaper copy of Saturday 02.03.1833 relating to Mr John Cook Bean of Itteringham, Miller. The article report was of his Deed of Assignment, Indenture dated 26.02.1833 where he Assigned his estate to a John Windett of Plumstead and John Gambling of Buxton, miller. The 'Deed of Assignment' was deposited at the Office of William Repton, Solicitor of Aylsham, to date I'm unsure as to how or if it's possible to obtain a copy of this record of part of his life.
Ken Maidens, Lincolnshire - 7th May 2013

O. S. Map 1880

O. S. Map 1880
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

1654: Date described as being found on a stone above a doorway in 1960

c.1720: ? Secker moved in from Swafield mill, which the Secker family still owned

1754: Mill rebuilt by William Pepper

1766: William Pepper & Co., millers

1778: William Pepper, miller

1780: William Pepper, miller (1753-1759 at Bawburgh Mill)

1782: William Durrant (at Saxlingham Thorpe Mill in 1778)

September 1782: Remainder of mill lease advertised for sale by George Watson, proprietor

1820: Benjamin Richmond, miller (employee)

White's 1836: Cooke & Gambling

1838: John Gambling laid claim to machinery at Itteringham Mill

Census 1841: John Gambling (aged 50), miller

White's 1845: Cooke & Gambling - millers and corn merchants (also at Horstead Mill)

Census 1851: John Gambling (59), miller, employing 8 men, Mill Street, Buxton
William Andrews (52), journeyman miller, Heath, Buxton
John Bartrum (50), journeyman miller, Lammas
James Thurgood, journeyman miller, Mill Street, Buxton
James Pratt (48) (59 more likely) journeyman miller, Mill Street, Buxton
James Bower (41), journeyman miller, Lammas
James Pratt (19) journeyman miller, Mill Street, Buxton
John Durrell (16), miller, Lammas
Samuel Pratt (15) miller, Mill Street, Buxton
William Pratt (13) errand boy, Mill Street, Buxton

1854: Cooke & Gambling, millers

Census 1861: Horace H. Gambling (37), miller (probably John's son), Mill House, Buxton
William Andrews (62), journeyman miller, Heath, Buxton
James Pratt (29) miller, Mill Street, Buxton
James Lane (19) miller, son living with Ann Lane (55), Lammas

28th September 1867 - Norfolk Chronicle -
Notice re: Sale of Stock... Mr. Gambling giving up mills at Michaelmas

Census 1871: John Cook Gambling (49), corn merchant, Bure Cottage, Mill Street, Buxton
John Towler Gambling (18) miller, Mill House, Buxton
John Bartrum (70) miller, Lammas
James Clarke (38), miller, Lammas
James Lane (29), miller, Lammas
Lawson Adams (24), miller, Lammas
Josiah Andrews (21), miller, lodger at Frosdick's butchers, Lammas
Charles Frankling (17), apprentice miller, grandson living with Ann Pratt (71), Buxton
Herbert Sutton (16), apprentice miller, son living with James Sutton (51), Lammas
Henry Trory (15), miller, Lammas
Barnabas Davies (14), miller's boy, lodging with Elizabeth Woodhouse (73), Lammas
Henry J. Deacon (13), miller, Lammas

Census 1881: John Towler Gambling (28), miller employing 5 men and 4 boys, Lodge Farm House (Mill House sold)
James Everitt (62) journeyman miller, Cottages, Buxton + 8 others

White's 1890: Thomas Shreeve, corn miller & merchant; and Aylsham

1891: George Holland Shreeve moved from Dilham Mill to work with uncle Thomas Shreeve

Kelly's 1892: Thomas Shreeve, miller (water & roller), also coal & general merchant and at Aylsham

Kelly's 1896: Thomas Shreeve, miller (water & roller), also coal & general merchant and at Aylsham

Kelly's 1900: Ling & Co (Benjamin)

1902: 30 h.p. Victor turbine installed to generate electricity

Kelly's 1904: Ling & Co - Buxton Roller Mills, also corn, coal, cake, seed & salt merchants and at Horstead

Kelly's 1912: Ling & Co

August 1912: Lock along with the Aylsham Navigation destroyed by the flood

Kelly's 1916: J. Parker & Son (Joseph)

Kelly's 1922: J. Parker & Son (Joseph)

1924: William Charles Duffield took over the mill, which had been derelict for 2 years

1930: 125 ton silo erected

1933: Old lock beside the mill filled in

Kelly's 1937: Duffield's. Tel. Buxton 8

1947: Drier unit installed

1953: Water milling ceased

1957: Grain silos erected on opposite side of the river from the road

May 1964: Mill production moved exclusively to flour

1965: Mill producing 1 ton of flour per hour

1965: 63 year old 30 h.p. Victor turbine producing 25% of mill's electricity

22nd May 1970: Due to expansion at Saxlingham, Duffields announced closure of Buxton and Tharston mills

On a Saturday in August 1970: Production ceased and the mill was sold soon after

August 1971: Roger Ferris opened first tea rooms

December 1971: First floor art gallery and craft centre opened

April 1972: Second floor gallery opened

1988: Mill converted into a restaurant called Boleyns

January 1991: Mill destroyed by fire. However, it's owner promised to rebuild it and it was duly restored to its original 18th century design.

August 1991: Builders T. Gill & Sons commenced work in and the mill was reconstructed within 2 years using reclaimed North American pitch pine from around the UK.

1992: John McDonnell, owner; Bob Branford, tenant and hoping to restore milling function on the premises

Friday 10th April 1992: Grand reopening of mill - Mill Tavern restaurant and Dovetail Home Furnishings

May 1994: Robert Dawson Smith opens Boleyn's Restaurant at the mill

1998: Further £350,000 spent in converting the mill into a hotel

Eastern Daily Press, December 6th 2002: Owner, Richard Draycott, applying for planning permission to turn the hotel, valued at £750,000 into 8 two bedroomed flats and 1 one bedroom flat

February 2005: Bidwells offering 9 apartments for sale with prices starting from £155,000

September 2008: Ground floor 2 bed flat advertised for sale by Sowerbys for £248,950

September 2022: Ground floor 1 bed flat advertised for sale by Stobart & Hurrell for c.£200,000

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

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