Hilborough Mill
River Wissey


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


Hilborough watermill originally belonged to the Hilborough Estate. It was quite a long building constructed of yellow brick with a slate roof. The mill house was under the same roofline but was only interconnected to the mill by a door at roof level. The undershot wheel was 13' in diameter and 5' 3" wide and ran three sets of stones. There is one lucum on the front of the mill and another on the gable end.

The mill was reconstructed in 1819, a date that is recorded on a stone tablet along with the initials R.C.

16th October 1977 16th October 1977
Front & rear of the mill 16th October 1977

Francis Chandler of Hilborough in the County of Norfolk, Miller & Baker. On his Dwelling House, Stable & Water Corn Mill house adjoining & on the Mills together with the Running Tackle & other Parts of the Machinery belonging to the same Water Corn Millhouse situate in Hilborough aforesaid, £270. On Household Furniture therein, £100. On Utensils & Goods in Trade in the same, £100. On 5 Horses in the said Stables not exceeding £10 on any 1 Horse, £40. On a Bakehouse adjoining the said House but having no Communication brick & stone built & tiled, £80. On Utensils & Goods in Trade therein, £5. On the New Stable in the Yard belonging, £10. On three Horses therein not exceeding £10 on any one Horse, £10. On Cartshed adjoining together in the same Yard, £10. On Utensils & Goods in Trade therein, £10. On Tub House & Offices adjoining brick built & tiled situate in the Yard aforesaid, £15. All the said Buildings except those otherwise mentioned being brick & timber built & thatch'd.
Royal Exchange Fire Insurance - 1774

Jacob Mason Bird was running the mill in the 1840s and in 1848 he had a son, Frederick Augustus Bird, who went on to found Bird's_mill at Downham Market. Jacob Mason Bird's father was also called Jacob Bird and he was the miller at Fincham_postmill for at least 20 years.

Mr. Leeds, Hillborough.
I beg leave to lay before you an Estimate to take out the old wood spur wheel at Hillbro' Mill and to Make a new cast iron one in halves, chipped, filled and put together with good strong bolts and fixed in the place of the old one. - hamm'd iron plates let into upright shaft and make the four pairs of folden wedges of dry oak to hang the wheel, to gear the wheel with good hornbeam or appletree cogs, to be dovetailed and pin'd into wheel, to fix the stones in the proper place so that the nuts gear properly. - To pitch, trim and turn one of the stone nuts and make it the same pitch as the wheel and other nuts.
The above work made and fixed in a workmanlike manner and delivered at the Brandon Station for the Sum of Thirty Pounds, Five Shillings and Ninepence.

£30. 5. 9.
March 1st, 1850.
Yours &c.
John S. Buttifant.

April 1967
April 1967

The mill had ceased working by the 1960s. When I went there in the 1960s and 1970s it seemed to be a magical place with a strong atmosphere. Everything appeared to be just as it was on the day the last worker left years before, even an old brown coat was hanging on its hook by one of the grain chutes. All the machinery lay ghostly and still. The only alteration was that the water authority had removed the wheel paddles in order to allow the river to flow freely.

16th October 1977 Two stone tuns 1977
Grain chutes and tuns in 16th October 1977
Two stone tuns 1977

16th October 1977
The paddless wheel 16th October 1977

The mill was surveyed by NIAS in November 1977. Most of the machinery was intact and included all the wheel gearing, 3 sets of stones, flour screens, a chaffcutter, bucket conveyors, sack hoists, chutes and bins.

In 1977 the hydraulic ram made by John Blake Ltd of Accrington, situated in a shed to the front of the mill was still in use pumping water to Hilborough Hall.

April 1967 October 1971
Mill dam April 1967
The gable end lucum in October 1971

The building was grade 2 listed on 5th September 1991. By this time the complex was owned by Bowes of Watton. Bowes wished to make the necessary building repairs themselves and were in dispute with the Department of the Environment who wished to carry out a compulsory purchase.

The mill was on the market again in the 1990s.

c.1995 c.1995
Rear renovation c.1995
Front renovation c.1995

On 30th August 1972 Horace Freestone of Hilborough wrote to Harry Apling to say that he had formerly been at Little Cressingham Mill and also Hilborough Watermill.
His father Horace Freestone left Poringland_High_Mill and went to the Star Public House for a year before moving on to a postmill at Kenninghall, possibly Mill_Lane_postmill. He did not work the mill and in 1907 moved on to Little Cressingham Mill and Hilborough Mill.

9th March 2003
9th March 2003

My name is Peter Bird and I am the son of the late Algy Bird who was the last of the Birds to mill flour in Norfolk. I have been endebted to your website for some early history of my forbears and where they lived, and I would like to express my gratitude for the efforts you have made.
My father's father was Frederick Augustus Bird (the F.A. Bird of the Downham_Mill) and he was born in 1848 in the Hilborough Mill which was run by his father, Jacob Mason Bird.
Jacob Mason's father was another Jacob and he ran the Fincham_Post_Mill. I had no idea of this until I looked at your website. This Jacob was born in 1789 and I have not managed to go any further back.
What I do not know, at time of writing, is whether Jacob Bird senior had any more sons that Jacob Mason, and if so, were they flour millers too?

Peter Bird, Cambridge - 16th May 2007

Just browsing the site looking for a picture of something else, when the watermill caught my eye. Remember my dad showing me pics of this as a child and also taking me but it had fallen to ruin and was unsafe to enter, and telling me my great grandfather used to run it. My dad is Adrian Rodwell Joel, his mother was Sybil Emma Rodwell, so assuming Frederick Rodwell is my great grandfather.
Alex Horne - 7th October 2009

9th October 2008
9th October 2008

HILBOROUGH MILL has, over recent years, undergone a meticulous programme of modernization and refurbishment, cleverly combining the Grade II listed former watermill and miller's house into a superb home of approximately 8000 sq ft which provides both flexible family accommodation and enviable entertainment space and facilities. It stands in approximately 7.5 acres (STS) of extensively landscaped grounds, centred round a river and mill pond, with hard tennis and petanque courts and a detached summer dining room with professionally fitted wine cellar. The combination is split between the miller's house and water mill, connected at first-floor level and providing both formal and informal living accommodation and sympathetically retaining much of the original integrity and machinery of a working mill. Hilborough Mill is at the end of a long tree-lined driveway which passes All Saints Church.
Bedfords Sale Brochure - May 2012

O. S. Map 1883

O. S. Map 1883
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

1774: Francis Chandler, miller & baker

1774: Mill insured with Royal Exchange Fire Insurance for £270

Faden's map 1797: Mill

1819: Mill and house rebuilt

White's 1836: Edward Scott

Tithe map 1845: Enclosure No. 112, house mill & premises. Pasture 1.0.19 acres. Owner Henry Berney Caldwell; occupier Jacob Mason Bird

White's 1845: Jacob M. Bird, corn miller

1848: Jacob Mason Bird, miller - also Northwold Manby's Turret postmill

1850: Edward Leeds

Kelly's 1853: Edward Leeds, miller (formerly at Pockthorpe towermill)

White's 1864: Edward Leeds, farmer & miller

Census 1881: Edward Leeds, (66) b. Kelling, miller & farmer employing 7 men & 2 boys; Sarah Lampprey Leeds (60) b. Honingham, wife; Emma Louisa Leeds (30) b. Hilborough, miller's daughter; Francis Leeds (29)
b. Hilborough, miller's son; Emily Wyer (18) b. Carbrooke, domestic servant; George Field (18)
b. Gooderstone, miller's assistant

Kelly's 1883: Eli Chapman

Kelly's 1892: Frederick Rodwell

Kelly's 1896: Frederick Rodwell, miller (water)

Kelly's 1900: Hilborough Hall, at present unoccupied, is the property of Joseph Trueman Mills, Esq., J.P., D.L., of Clermont, Little Cressingham, who is Lord of the Manor & sole landowner. Frederick Rodwell, miller (water), baker & farmer

Kelly's 1904: Frederick Rodwell

Kelly's 1908: Frank Percy Ward

Kelly's 1912: Ernest Edward Cross

Kelly's 1922: Horace Freestone snr

Kelly's 1925: Hilborough Hall, is the property & residence of Henry Trueman Mills, Esq., J.P., who is Lord of the Manor & sole landowner. Horace Freestone, miller (water)

Kelly's 1929: Executors of Mrs. A.E. Freestone

Kelly's 1937: Executors of Mrs. A.E. Freestone

1937: Horace Freestone jnr

Norfolk C.C. report 1969: Mill disused

1990: Bowes & Co

5th September 1991: Mill grade ll listed

1990s: Mill on the market

August 1999: Mill along with 6.33 acres advertised for sale by FPD Savills at a guide price of £325,000

2003: Residential

May 2012: Mill advertised for sale by Bedfords for £1,650,000

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 TL82729995
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003