Needham Mill
River Waveney


Needham Mill was built as a small 4 storey red brick building laid with Flemish bond and roofed with blue tiles, that actually stood in the parish of Weybread. The mill was rebuilt after the fire of 1838 and again c.1870 after a fire destroyed the earlier timber framed weatherboarded building. In 1918 the wheel was running 4 pairs of French burr stones, three pairs were 4' and the fourth pair was 4' 6" and was used for grinding wheat into flour. Milling ceased c.1934 and the wheel and machinery were removed during the second world war and sold towards the war effort.

People identified in the photo at the top of the page - left to right: Mrs. Sydney Denny; Mrs. George Denny (mother-in-law); Miss Grace Denny (daughter) then Hubert Bush (under main mill window); Arthur Bush (in other boat); Albert Bush (standing at end of mill).

The mill dam c.1900 The mill dam July 1949
The mill dam c.1900
The mill dam July 1949

The mill cottage is probably of a similar age to the mill destroyed in the fire of c.1870. Some of the beams on the side nearest to the mill still bear charred marks as a reminder of that fire.

1958 newspaper cutting 29th August 1959
1958 newspaper cutting - see text below
29th August 1959

August 1987
August 1987

Sibton Abbey was founded in 1150 by William FitzRobert for monks of the Cistercian Order. Prior to the Dissolution, the Abbey was offered to Thomas, Duke of Northumberland. It was held by his family until 1611 when it was purchased by John Scrivener....the abbot and convent of Sibton in Suffolk had a fishery and a watermill called Fryer's mill, in this place which was let with their grange an manor of Weybrede in Suffolk.

11th April 2004
11th April 2004

Samuel Field, miller, and his wife Eliza, née Gooderham, had a son George, born on 25th February 1829 and baptised on 22nd May 1829. It is not known if Samuel Field was the proprietor or an employee.

Auction Notice - August 1835
Auction Notice - August 1835
The mills failed to sell

A fire was discovered at Needham, near Harleston, on Tuesday morning week about five o'clock, at the Watermill, which was totally destroyed fire; also, about 40 coombs grist.
Suffolk Chronicle & Weekly General Advertiser & County Express - 6th October 1838

TO Millers. - Wanted, GENERAL MILLER, must be good Stoneman, capable of taking charge of a Water Mill.
Apply, C. Denny, Needham Mill, Harleston.
Norfolk News - 3rd July 1880

The Denny and Coleby families later came to be related by marriage.

East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892

East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892
East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892
East Anglian Daily Times - 9th April 1892

23rd February 1895
23rd February 1895

A water mill has stood on this site on the River Waveney at Weybread for over 300 years, but this mill, which had been out of action since 1935, was rebuilt in 1938. This is called Needham Mill, but in fact it stands in the parish of Weybread. It was so named to distinguish if from a former mill at Weybread, burnt down in 1919, and which was owned by J.W. & E. Button, of Diss and Weybread.
The Journal - Friday 9th May 1958
N.B. Text incorrect, the mill ceased operation in 1934 and was never reused - see time line at bottom of page.

Tailrace June 1969 Headrace August 1967
Tailrace June 1969
Headrace August 1967

French burr stone August 1967
French burr stone August 1967

In July 1880 John Button bought Diss_towermill in Victoria Road, which was worked with other post mills as well as Needham and Weybread watermills.

Early morning mist in June 1985 11th April 2004
Early morning mist in June 1985
11th April 2004

Arthur Bush, a millwright who learnt his trade at E.J. Knights of Harleston, took over the running of the mill in 1898 as tenant before leasing the mill, buildings and 14 acres of land from the executors of Henry Drane on 11th October 1914 at an annual rent of £45. On 5th June 1918 he succeeded in buying the mill at auction for £450 when the owners decided to sell the property. Luckily his wife had recently been left some money by one of her relatives.

Arthur Bush continued to run his business as miller & merchant, employing 4 men. Two helped him run the mill, the other two acted as carters, collecting and delivering grain and flour over an area of some eight miles.
3lbs of grist were taken as a toll for every coomb ground.

The granary 11th April 2004
The granary 11th April 2004

When the river level dropped during the dry summer months Arthur Bush supplemented water power with a portable engine. A hammer mill was also installed "which never ground corn as fine as the stones."

During the flood of August 1912 the water level reached the height of the 5th stair in the house, which meant the the Bush family were confined to the first floor of the mill house. Eventually the family decided to evacuate the house.
"The boat we had was lodged against a wooden bridge 200 yards from the mill, so as father and I were the only ones able to swim, we managed to get to the mill. From the first floor we opened the door where the carts used to be loaded up, and we slid into the water, swam to the boat which was half submerged, got it floating and took it round to the house, loaded my mother, sister Rose and brother Fred into it and rowed them across to my Uncle Fred's at Irstead Hall Farm. We had to stay three weeks as the house was in such a filthy state."
Albert Bush

Diss Express 15Jan1943
Diss Express 15Jan1943
Diss Express - 15th January 1943

Mill house and mill 11th April 2004 11th April 2004
Mill house and mill 11th April 2004
11th April 2004

In 1963 the mill waterways were converted to a water gauging station with the wheel race becoming a 10' wide flow measurement weir. The bypass channel upstream of the mill was also dramatically altered with the derelict weir and flood sluice being replaced by a 3' wide weir for low water flow measurement and a 25' wide weir for high water flows. The scheme was apparently also designed to produce and drainage benefits and to reduce flooding by increasing the flood discharge capacity from 450 to 750 cubic feet per second. The cost of all the alterations was £12,714.00.

John Braybrooks (1964-1970) was an ex engineer of the East Suffolk & Norfolk River Authority and during his time at the mill, he installed a water pipe and a sewer system. The generator was taken out of service and the properties were connected to mains electricity.

Needham Notes
excerpt from
Albert Bush's Memoirs

5th April 2007
5th April 2007

4th November 2007 3rd January 2010
4th November 2007
3rd January 2010

O. S. Map 1884

O. S. Map 1884
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

1611: Fryer's Mill - owned by George Hering of Norwich

1611: Mill bought by John Scrivenor

Kirby's map 1736: Mill

Bowen's map 1760: Mill

Faden's map of Suffolk 1797: Mill

Faden's map of Norfolk 1797: Sparrow's Mill

1829: Samuel Field, miller (possibly employee)

c.1830: John Neale - also postmill approx 400 yds to the northwest

12th August 1835: Mill and postmill auctioned on instructions of executors of John Neale (not sold)

May 1836: Mill advertised to be let in Suffolk Chronicle

May 1837: Mill and postmill auctioned on instructions of executors of John Neale

25th September 1838: Mill destroyed by fire

Pigot's 1839: Henry Drane

1858: George Chase, butcher, miller and farmer

1863: George Chase, butcher, miller and farmer

1868: Mr. G.H. Prentice, farmer and miller

c.1870: Mill damaged by fire and rebuilt in brick

1871 census: John Blackmore, journeyman miller

1880: C. Denny, miller

1888: Thomas William Coleby, miller

Kelly's 1892: John & William Edmund Button, also Weybread Mill and Diss towermill

Kelly's 1896: James Robert Kemp

January 1898: Arthur Henry Bush rented the mill

Kelly's Suffolk 1908: Arthur Henry Bush

11th October 1914: Arthur Henry Bush took out a lease for £45 per annum. The owners were John Anthony Everson, Harleston, Merchant and John Farrow Betts, Norwich, Gentleman, executors of Henry Drane. They agreed to '
demise and let to the tenant all that the messuage or dwellinghouse with the water corn mill adjoining commonly called Needham Mill...' As leasee, Arthur Bush covenanted 'to keep the inside of the said dwellinghouse, mill and good and tenantable repair.'

5th June 1918: Mill sold by auction at the Magpie Hotel, Harleston along with Weybread Mill by Messrs. George Durrant & Sons. Bought by Arthur Bush for £450

Kelly's Suffolk 1922: Arthur Henry Bush

Kelly's Suffolk 1929: Arthur Henry Bush

1934: Mill sold by Arthur Bush to Sqd. Ldr. H. Brown from Pulham for £500 and milling ceased

1940: Waterwheel and machinery sold for scrap to help the war effort leaving only the sack hoist gear

1963: Mill converted to a water gauging station

1964: Sqd. Ldr. H. Brown sold mill and mill house to John Braybrooks

September 1968: Heavy flood rising to two feet within the mill house. Chest freezer floated and capsised

1970: John Braybrooks emigrated to Canada

1970: Mill bought by Mr. & Jean Morriati who converted the mill to a house

Mill next sold to Mrs. Jenny Collyer, a widow from London

1988: Mill Cottage sold for c. £175,000

June 1990: Strutt & Parker, Norwich offered the sale of the mill for £245,000. Not sold

October 1990: Partridge & Lucas, Eye offered the sale of the mill for £215,000

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 TM22908115
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2003