Ditchingham towermill


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


Ditchingham tower mill was probably built with 5 floors and a further two storeys were added later. This can be confirmed by the shape of the tower where the batter flattens out to almost vertical, known as waisted. The boat shaped cap held 4 patent sails and a six bladed fan. The sails, each had 6 bays of 3 shutters and the innermost had 2 shutters, drove 3 pairs of French burr stones. The windshaft was octagonal at the point where the brakewheel was mounted. In later years a steam engine was used for auxiliary power.

In 1810 at a general meeting held at the King's Head in Bungay it was ordered that the mill, house & land should be sold by auction.

Robert Smith died on 9th September 1858 and was buried in Ditchingham churchyard. The following is an extract from his will for which probate was granted on 27th January 1859:
This is the last Will and Testament of me Robert Smith of Ditchingham in the County of Norfolk Miller First I nominate and appoint my two sons Robert Rogers Smith and Thomas Smith as executors hereof And I give and devise unto the said Robert Rogers my son all that my Brick Tower Windmill with the going gears and appurtenances belonging And also my messuage or Dwellinghouse outbuildings garden ground land hereditaments and premises near or adjourning thereto as the same are situate in Ditchingham aforesaid or parishes adjourning and occupied by myself To hold the same Windmill messuage and premises unto the said Robert Rogers my son his heirs and assigns forever subject nevertheless to the payment thereout of one hundred pounds to my daughter Elizabeth within six months next after my decease And I hereby give the said legacy of one hundred pounds payable out of the said premises to my said daughter accordingly And I give and devise unto the said Thomas my son All that my Tower Mill with the going gears and appurtenances belonging And also the Dwellinghouse outhouses land hereditaments and premises near or adjourning situate in Ellingham in the County of Norfolk..

c.1926 with Ditchingham Heath in the foreground
c.1926 with Ditchingham Heath in the foreground

A Few Practical Rules on Grinding and Dressing Wheat
The result of many years experience in the Trade
by R R Smith, Ditchingham Mill, Bungay, July 1876

This work is only published as a set of practical rules to guide the workman, and is intended as a book of reference; it can never be old or out of date as long as wheat is ground by millstones. Eight pages (Grinding Department) are also published on a sheet, price 3d, post free, to be posted up in the mill, so that no workman can plead ignorance of the wishes of him employer where he has these printed rules for reference.
R. R. Smith

George Durrant is instructed by Mr. R. R. Smith, the proprietor (who is about to emigrate) to Sell by Auction at the Kings Head Hotel, Bungay on Thursday 10 September 1885 at 5 for 6 o'c in One Lot, the following very desirable PROPERTY IN DITCHINGHAM, NORFOLK. About 500 yards from the Railway Station & One Mile from Bungay. The neat and very pleasantly situated Brick & Tiled RESIDENCE of Mr. Smith with the well arranged Business Premises attached consisting of Flour Warehouse, Granaries, Bake Office, Cart Lodges, Coal Stores, Engine House & Stables. Also a superior built Brick Tower WINDMILL with 7 Floors, 4 Patent Sails, 3 Pairs French Burr Stones & going gears of the best description. A neat Garden, Orchard & LAND which is entirely walled-in & contains 2r. 29p.
Particulars of E. P. Norton, Solr. Bungay & of the Auctioneer, Redenhall Grange, Harleston.
Norfolk Chronicle - 29th August 1885

A type-written sheet prepared by O.N. Martin, solicitor, listing a "Bundle of old documents" relating to Ditchingham Mill. The note is addressed to John Pigney and rehearses conveyances of the mill as follows:
1 October 1887 from Fred Fox to Sarah Barber; 2 May 1917 from Sarah Barber to H.G. Rose; 4 June 1919 from H.G. Rose to Lawrence C. Chapman; 15 July 1921 from L.C. Chapman to H.J. Vout; 21 November 1925 from H.J. Vout to W.W. Vout; 16 May 1931 Personal Representatives of W.W. Vout to A.G. Pigney; 18 May 1931 Mortgage by A.G. Pigney to John Pigney

June 1932
June 1932

Demolished Nov./Dec.1955 by owner William Packman, builder & contractor.
The Journal - 2nd December 1955

13th September 1934 24th August 1937
13th September 1934
24th August 1937

Herbert Vout, son of William Vout of Wicklewood, my grandfather. Mill owned by by Walter Vout of Hardwick & Hempnall mills.
Mrs. Stanley A. Mann - Wicklewood 1972

Walter Vout owned the mill in 1919 and in November of that year his son Ernest, who had been working for Huggins the baker in Wendling, came to Ditchingham to help his father run the mill.

Mill demolition 1957
Mill demolition 1957

... the mill, a lofty circuitous structure that carreid enormous sails that when revolving seemed almost to touch the ground at the downward swing, in the act of crushing wheat into flour between those enormous stones. When there was no wind to power the sails, a steam engine was there as an alternative means of power ... flour taken across the yard to the bakery adjoining the house ...
The business was owned by Wilfred Barber, who, like is father, Charles, who had retired ...
The Ditchingham That I Knew - Albert E. Fairhead, undated. - Watton Library - 1975

Robert Smith was born in St Cross in 1784; his parents were William Smith and Elizabeth Lines, and it is likely they were also millers.  Robert married Fanny Rogers at Palgrave in 1811 and they had three children at Ellingham: Fanny b.1812 (m. Thomas Comyn - Hacheston), Robert Rogers b.1814 and Anna b.1815 (m. William Revell - Hacheston?).  Two further children were born in Ditchingham: Elizabeth b.1817 and Thomas b.1818.  These match the directory listings for Ditchingham and Ellingham mills.
Census records suggest that the Thomas Smith at Ellingham and Bungay (merchant maltster and miller employing some 5 millers and 7 other staff) matches the son born 1818 in Ditchingham.  There seems also to have been a close inter-relationship between Robert, Robert Rogers and both Ellingham and Ditchingham up until 1880-90.
Robert Rogers Smith married Anna Stanton, at Pulham St Mary in 1837.  The Stantons appear to have been millers also around the Pulham, Yaxley area and Robert Rogers possibly had an apprenticeship with the Stantons.  Two children were born at Ellingham, with subsequent children being baptised at Balyham and later Stowmarket.  Around 1871 the family was split between Stowmarket and Ditchingham (eldest daughter and several younger children), possibly to isolate from consumption of which a number of the girls died. 
Robert Rogers Smith's sons later moved to New Zealand, Thomas Smith as a baker in Wellington, Robert Stanton Smith (married but no known children) as a miller in Dunedin, Frederick to Christchurch and John to Wellington, we know little about the last three.  A daughter died in Wellington and another in Melbourne, Australia.  From the 11 children Thomas and Mary Ellen (Stockdale - England) are the only ones to have children themselves.
It appears the mills in both Ditchingham and Ellingham were within the family for some years.  It seems likely that Robert Rogers had similar interests in Baylham and Stowmarket. 
There is no indication that Robert Rogers Smith emigrated (possibly he did visit overseas); his burial was recorded at Ditchingham November 1896.  I have not yet been able to find a record of his father Robert's death (no trace after about 1858) although his wife was buried Ditchingham in 1843.  Later census record 'The Heath' as residence.
Some notes from one of Thomas's daughters remain along with an album with two photos from Stowmarket showing some of Robert Rogers Smith's daughters and their mother, Anna.
Ross Thompson - 14th April 2007

Smith ladies An Eliza Smith
Top left: Maria Mitchell née Jeffrey & Ann Eliza Smith.
Bottom left: Margaret Taylor née Jeffrey & Mum, Eliza Ann (Jeffrey) Smith née Petrie
Ann Eliza Smith née Petrie

My x3 Great Grandmother Eliza Ann Petrie married Robert Stanton Smith in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1881. I wanted to share what I have, which may be useful to others.
Ross Thompson's write up says that Eliza & Robert Stanton had no known children, but they did indeed have two children that I know of, Ann Eliza Smith in 1881 and Frederick Robert Smith in 1883. I have photos of the two Smith children and their mother Eliza. Sadly I have no photos of Robert Stanton Smith himself.
Sandra Dellow, Christchurch, New Zealand - 21st October 2021

Robert & Eliza Smith's gravestone
Robert & Eliza Smith's gravestone

Re. Robert & Eliza's headstone - Note they are buried with Eliza's first husband! I have read that it could have been accidental that Robert was placed in this plot.
Sandra Dellow, Christchurch, New Zealand - 27th October 2021

One sheet of vellum measuring 44 cm x 27 cm and folded in two comprising a conveyance of, "all that brick built tower windmill with the going gear and appurtenances thereto situate in Ditchingham" together with an adjoining house, land and gardens being the same tower windmill, "erected and built by Robert Smith deceased upon a piece of land allotted to him by the Commissioners of Earsham Ditchingham and Hedenham Inclosure Act" and marked plot 108 on the associated plan. The conveyance was made in consideration for £360 and includes, "all buildings millstones tackles sails gears implements and fixtures to the said mill". The vendor is Henry George Rose, merchant, of Beccles, Suffolk and the purchaser is Lawrence Christmas Chapman, farmer, of Ellingham, Norfolk.
O.S. Map 1884
O.S. Map 1884
Courtesy of NLS map images

1810: A general meeting decreed the mill, house & land to be sold by auction

1811: Mill & cottage sold for £325

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

White's 1836: Robert Smith, corn miller

White's 1845: Robert Smith, corn miller

White's 1854: Robert Smith, corn miller

c.1855: Robert Smith experimented with a steel roller mill

1858: Robert Smith, miller

9th September 1858: Robert Smith died and was buried in Ditchingham churchyard

White's 1864: Robert Roger Smith, corn miller

July 1876: R. R. Smith published The Millers Guide

Kelly's 1879: Smith & Sons, millers

1885: Robert Roger Smith, miller

White's 1883: Robert Rogers Smith & Sons, millers & bakers

August 1885: Mill advertised for sale by auction

1st October 1887: Fred Fox sold the mill to Sarah Barber

1888: William Barber, miller

Kelly's 1892: William Barber, baker, miller (wind & steam) & corn merchant

Kelly's 1896: William Barber, baker, miller (wind & steam) & corn merchant & farmer

November 1896: Robert Rogers Smith buried at Ditchingham

Kelly's 1900: William Barber, baker, miller (wind & steam) & corn merchant & farmer

Kelly's 1904: William Barber, baker & miller (wind & steam)

Kelly's 1908: William Barber, baker & miller (wind)

Kelly's 1912: Welcome Charles Frost Barber, baker & miller (wind)

Kelly's 1916: Welcome Charles Frost Barber, baker & miller (wind)

2nd May 1917: Sarah Barber sold the mill to H. G. Rose

4th June 1919: H. G. Rose sold the mill to Lawrence C. Chapman

15th July 1921: Lawrence C. Chapman sold the mill to Herbert James Vout

Kelly's 1922: Herbert James Vout, miller

Kelly's 1925: Herbert James Vout, miller (wind)

21st November 1925: Herbert James Vout sold the mill to W. W. Vout

c. 1925: Sails removed in 3 hours at a cost of £75

Kelly's 1929: Herbert James Vout, miller (wind)

16th May 1931: Personal Representatives of W.W. Vout sold the mill to A.G. Pigney

18th May 1931: Mortgage by A.G. Pigney to John Pigney

Karl Wood painting 1937: Mill tower derelict with cap but no sails or fantail

November - December 1955: Mill demolished by owner, William Packman, builder & contractor

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 TM34169126
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2006