Itteringham Mill
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Itteringham Mill

60 Years in the Long Life of Itteringham Mill
By William Vaughan-Lewis

Probably since Domesday, if not earlier, Itteringham has had a large water mill at its present location near the bridge on the main road through the village.

We know that in 1742 Robert Colls was renting the mill from Mannington estate and also held with it a small farm of 17 acres in 9 different pieces or fields. Fortunately a deed and associated working papers (WAL 367) has survived in the Walpole papers held in The Norfolk Archive Centre in Norwich which tells us quite a bit about the nature of the mill between 1783, at the start of a new lease, and 1838-39 when it was extensively repaired. This article summarises the facts but, being written by a non-expert, makes no attempt at interpreting precisely what sort of mill it was and its capability and efficiency relative to others of its time.

The 1783 Lease

The December 1783 lease is for a period of 50 years at £40 per year rent. It refers in passing to the surrender of the previous lease to Robert Colls of September 1751 and covers the water mill and the associated dwelling, stables, outhouses, yards and the small farm holding then known as Itteringham Mill Farm. Various clauses cover the respective rights of landlord (Lord Walpole of Wolterton and his son Horatio Walpole) and tenant (William Colls of Itteringham, miller) relating to land use and farming practice – eg, game rights, timber rights and even prescriptions on crop rotation and the use of hay and corn straw.

In amongst these clauses are two paragraphs relating specifically to the mill. They tell us that it had very recently been completely rebuilt – probably during the year or two prior to the new lease – and that it contained two pairs of millstones.

William Colls shall as often as need shall require repair uphold support maintain and keep in good and tenantable repair the new mill lately erected and built by William Colls on the premises hereby demised [leased] upon the scite [site] or situation of the old mill that was lately standing upon the demised premises and every part thereof…

William’s father Robert had died in September 1777 and subsequent to taking over the family milling business William had taken the big decision to do a complete rebuild of the mill. Did he increase its capacity or had it for a long time been a large mill with two pairs of stones, one for wheat and one for rye?

And William Colls at the end of the lease shall yield up or leave the Upper and Lower stones called the pair of Cullins now standing in the Wheat Mill 9 inches thick, and the upper stone called the Peake now standing in the Rye mill 7 inches thick…and pay to the landlord ten shillings for every inch of these Cullins and Peake as they shall want of that thickness. And also the lower stone now standing in the Rye Mill called the French stone of the thickness of three and a half inches and pay twenty shillings per inch. But if the stones are worn out the tenant shall buy new millstones…

As we shall see, this clause is later invoked.

The 1831 Inventory

William Colls did not seem to have a totally lucky few years as miller in Itteringham. The parish burials register shows that he and his wife Mary suffered the loss of their daughter Mary in 1788 and the loss of twins George and John on the same day in 1789, presumably in childbirth. Until and indeed for some time after the 1800 burial of Hannah Colls aged 87 (no doubt the wife of Robert) there are no more Colls burials in the village. It seems William moved away. By early 1791 John Shelton had taken his place in the mill, as we know from the poor rate accounts.

In turn by early 1800 Thomas Roberts had taken over as miller and remained there at least until the end of 1811 when the poor rates book ends. He was still in the village and presumably the mill in 1825, since in October of that year he was a witness at his daughter’s wedding in the parish church. He died aged 68 in March 1830 and was buried in Itteringham churchyard. At the moment we do not know precisely the occupancy sequence from then until the late 1830s. But we do know that an inventory of the mill mechanism was done in 1831, presumably at the time of a change of tenant.

The inventory gives a good description of what has now become a water mill driving three pairs of stones:

An inventory of Tenants’ going gears at Itteringham Mills in the County of Norfolk, taken the 14 th day of January 1831.

On the Grinding Floor and Log Pit
A wood spar wheel 9 ft diameter – three wood stone pinions with wrought iron spindles. Brays [brace?] lightening-irons and brasses, two bridging-pots, five bray posts, casing in front of log-pit, and three meal troughs.

On the Stone Floor
The upstream runner stone 4 ft 6 diameter
The upstream bed stone 4 ft 3 diameter
Centre runner stone 3 ft 9 diameter
Centre bed stone 3 ft 9 diameter
Downstream runner stone 4 ft 3 diameter
Downstream bed stone 4 ft 3 diameter

Three sets of vats, hoppers, shoes, bearers, damsels, maces, ram-boxes, rings, stone-curbs, and joists. Two full sized flour mills with hoppers, shoes, driving-pullies, bags and jiggers. Dumper with three tiers of wire, hoppers, spout, bags, rigger, crank-shaft, bearing studs and jigger. Crown wheel 7 ft diameter, sack-tackle, nut with pulley, shaft, poppets and brays.
Upstream flour-mill-nut with shaft, drum [and] two pullies, puppets, brays, strap and rope.
Downstream flour-mill-nut with shaft, pulley, rope, brays and puppets. Grindstone 3 ft 6 in diameter with spindle, pulley, rope and frame. 9 feet step ladder.

Corn Floor
Sack tackle with pulley, shaft, brays, striking-lever and lines. Stripping-mill hopper, mealbinn, partition, round sack tackles, middlings-bag and 7 feet step ladder.

Sack tackle, pullies and bearers.

The ladders, say belong to landlord, the upwrite [upright] shaft wallower and spar wheel to ditto. Stones and vats – to value and allow difference according to agreement in old lease.

From the 1838 documents it looks likely that this inventory was done for the use of the mill by John Gambling, but we cannot be sure since there are no names mentioned on the inventory.

The 1838 Repairs

On then to the repairs of 1838; which, from the details in the various tradesmens’ bills, was clearly a major rebuild of the water conduits, the mill works and the adjacent buildings.

As an introduction to the work described and bills submitted, we have an agreement drawn up between William Lemmon, Lord Walpole now the Earl of Orford’s steward or agent at Wolterton, and John Cook Beane now the miller. This commits to some contributions to costs by Orford which apparently supersedes the old lease obligation on the tenant to do repairs. By the absence of any other lease deed in these papers it seems likely that the 1783 lease deed, although more than four years over its term, was still effectively the basis for tenancy and rental arrangements. A commitment is also made to begin a new lease.

Memorandum May 30th 1838. The undersigned will engage with Mr John Cook Beane as to the repair of the Itteringham water mill, first condition is that Mr John Gambling of the parish of Buxton who claim[s] the machinery of the above mill which he it appears paid for the greater part thereof to a Mr. Pinckard [or Pinskard?] as by an inventory, do appear, now if the said John Gambling do by his hand in writing give up the said machinery to the Earl of Orford without any remuneration, the following conditions are then agreed to by the undersigned on the behalf of the Earl of Orford.

In first to find all timber required for the repair of the water mill and premises, and to pay the greater part of the sawing to the water wheel, also to pay one half of the wages of the mill-wright required at this time. Signed: W. Lemmon

It is further agreed, by the undersigned W. Lemmon, with the consent of the Earl of Orford, that the said John Cook Beane to have a lease of the water mill, premises and land, which are now occupied by J. C. Beane, for the term of fourteen years at the yearly rent of ninety pounds, to be paid half yearly, he performing such covenants as are usual between landlord and tenants.

Signed: W. Lemmon and J. C. Beane and witnessed by John Warnes

White’s 1845 Norfolk Directory tells us that in Buxton there was a corn millers and merchants called Cooke and Gambling (John). So John Cook Beane and John Gambling were in business together and W. Lemmon could readily assume that in signing the agreement Beane would deliver Gambling’s written disclaimer to the machinery.

There then follow a dozen or more bills, receipts and scraps of paper with calculations on the division of costs between landlord and tenant. These tell us what was done in the repairs by millwright, carpenter, blacksmith and bricklayer.

James Winterborn the Millwright

Winterborn of Aylsham submitted a bill in two parts for £50 11s 7½d for the period 21 June to 11 August 1838 and for £8 19s 4½d in September 1838. The major items include:

The labour in making a new water [wheel] and shaft and putting to work. The same putting sleepers and pullers blocks down to carry the water wheel and repairing the breast and hanging the pit wheel

800 feet board 1 in thick for the water wheel at 3d per foot

[Various iron plates, bolts, shackles, hoops and carriages]

2 new gudgeons to water wheel shaft [of more than 4 cwt weight]

2 new brasses to water wheel shaft [weighing over 1 cwt]

The labour in making new vats and bearers to stones and making new flour mill

Nathaniel Brett the Carpenter/Wheelwright
After the millwright’s work the timber and carpentry bills were the most significant. Itteringham’s wheelwright Nathaniel Brett did the work, assisted by one man. His bill covers the period July to November 1838 and he charged Orford £6 14s 7d for more or less a month’s worth of time at 2/6d per day each for himself and his man.

Timber bills, over and above the sum charged by Winterborn, amounted to well over £10 in total; but not all purchases are itemised, with anonymous cash sums making up quite a large part of the total. At least some of the timber was bought from Isaac Preston and Son of Yarmouth.

Henry Hall the Blacksmith
The local strongman played his part with a bill covering his work from late July to early August 1838. Most of the items in his bill refer to hoops and bolts and nails. He also charged for hoops and spikons to the water gates and for new chains for them.

He also worked with Edward and Samuel Slipper from the village in 1839 to take down part of the ‘masheen in the mill’.

Thomas Ward the Bricklayer
It is clear from the main bricklayer’s receipt that substantial work had been done on the water courses. The receipt itemises work done between June and October 1838:

Building walls to water lanes and bye water ditto. Putting up archers and repairing breaches. Repairing tilings. Build fence walls and hog and tye. Repairing walls in stable, barn and leantoos, etc

He charged himself and his labourer out at the less substantial sum of 3/4d per day for the two of them.


A handful of scraps of paper show various attempts to total the cost of work and to allocate costs between landlord and tenant. No single one of them appears to show a definitive total, but one shows a total of £124 ‘paid by Mr Beane’ and another allocates Mr Cook Beane £91. The total probably came to around £124 to £150.

A nice footnote brings us back to ‘dilapidations’ of the grinding stones. A copy of a note from W Lemmon, presumably to John Cook Beane, of October 1839 says that he is sending him ‘the copy of the lease of Itteringham Mill in which you will see Lord Orford’s claim for the mill stones’. It goes on to claim £16 for the full 9 inches of wear on the pair of stones called Cullens, 7 inches of wear on the Peak and 3½ inches on the French stone.
William Vaughan-Lewis - 31st May 2005
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