East Runton towermill


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


East Runton towermill on Drake's Hill was first shown on Bryant's map in 1826. The 5 storey mill tower was around 38 feet high and was built of cement rendered brick, having originally been built to 4 storeys. The mill used 4 double shuttered sails set on an iron windshaft to power three pairs of stones, a flour mill and jumper. The boat shaped cap had a six bladed fan, gallery and a chain pole.

c.1891 c.1893

Joseph Baker married Susan Dawson in Holt on 1st May 1804. Susan Dawson's family owned the brickworks in Runton, which is probably where Joseph was working when he took over the mill. It is possible that he actually built the mill.

Painting by Eva Lethbridge 18th July 1896
Painting by Eva Lethbridge 18th July 1896

It would appear that in 1841 William Reynolds jnr who was then 17, and from Thurning_watermill, was learning the trade of milling from Joseph Baker, as the 1841 census shows him living with the Baker family in the mill house.

To Millers To be let

A brick TOWER WINDMILL with patent sails and winding tackle complete driving three pair of French Stones, Flour Mill and Jumper and all other Machinery, capable of doing an extensive business. Also a respectable Dwelling House... cottage, store house, drying kiln, bake office, two stables, gig house, cart lodge and other outbuildings situate at Runton within ¾ mile of Cromer and at a convenient distance from several market and seaport towns.
Apply to Joseph Baker, the proprietor, Runton or Mr. W. Baker, High Street, Lynn.
Norfolk Chronicle - 1st, 15th & 29th July 1843

To Millers.
To be Let with immediate possession.
A BRICK TOWER WINDMILL driving three pairs of Stones and going gears complete, with Granaries, Stables, Cottage, Dwelling House, Garden etc. either together or separately, situated at east Runton within a mile of the fashionable place of Cromer, Norfolk.
Apply to Mr. Baker, Runton or Mr. William Baker, High Street, Lynn.

Norfolk Chronicle - 6th December 1851

To be let. A Powerful BRICK TOWER WINDMILL driving three pair of Stones, Flour Mill etc.
A Messuage and Garden and a Dwelling House, Granary, Stable, Gighouse, Cart Lodge, Drying Kiln, Oven house etc.
The Messuage and Garden attached are now occupied.
Possession of the Mill, Dwelling House and premises can be had immediately and of the Messuage and garden at Michaelmas 1857.
Apply to Mr. Johnson, Solr. or Mr. Sandford, Land Agent, Cromer or to view the premises to Mr. Burton at Runton
Norfolk Chronicle - 30th August 1856

To Journeymen Millers.
WANTED, a Young Man to board and lodge in the house.
Apply to S. Millett, Runton Mills near Cromer or at the Angel Inn, North Walsham on Thursdays.

Norfolk News - 30th April 1859

RUNTON near Cromer.
To be let from Michaelmas next.
A very substantial Brick TOWER WINDMILL with iron shaft and patent sails driving three pairs of stones, flour mill and jumper with a capital Messuage and garden, a good cottage, granary, stable and other requisite buildings.
The Mill is well situated and affords an opportunity to an active man of business of doing an extensive and general trade.
Apply to Herbert J. Johnson, Solr. Cromer
Norfolk Chronicle - 13th August & 1st October 1859

RUNTON near Cromer.
To be let from Michaelmas next.
A VERY SUBSTANTIAL Brick Tower WINDMILL with Iron Shaft and Patent Sails, driving three pairs of Stones, Flour Mill and Jumper, with a capital Messuage, Garden, a good Cottage, Granary, Stable and other requisite Outbuildings. The Mill is well situated and affords an opportunity to an active man of business of doing an extensive and general Trade.
Apply to Herbert J. Johnson, Solr. Cromer
Norfolk News - 27th August & 1st October 1859


On Thursday 1st instant a girl named Martha Holman of this place went up to the mill with a donkey and cart and was in the act of getting out of the cart when one of the sails of the mill caught her on the head so that she turned completely over in falling and alighted flat on her back. She was taken up by Mr. Kemp apparently dead and conveyed home. Mr. Buck of Cromer is attending her, but she lies in a very precarious state.
Norfolk News - 10th November 1860

Martha Holman was the daughter of local shoemaker John Holman and his wife Elizabeth Holman (née Bird) and she was baptised in Runton on 23rd November 1845. It would appear that Martha did indeed survive the accident as she is found in the 1861 census with her parents and no burial of a Martha Holman appears in the registers during that period.

In 1860 James Kemp was miller and also school attendance officer. In later years he became a local preacher at Cromer Methodist Church, Circuit Steward, Society Steward, Choir Master and for a short time, Organist.

c.1861: James Kemp b. Gt. Poringland in 1838, married Elizabeth B. Bainbridge of Gt. Massingham in 1832

Ellen Spurgeon b.1864 in East Runton, married Sir Arthur Spurgeon
Anna Kemp b. 1864 in East Runton married Herbert Spurgeon (brother of Sir Arthur)
Russell Spurgeon b.1889 in Lowestoft
Percival Spurgeon b.1891 in Lowestoft, died 1918

Situations Vacant
WANTED, a Strong Active Youth as APPRENTICE to the MILLING Business.
Enquire J. Kemp, RUNTON MILL, near Cromer.

Norfolk News - 16th & 23rd September 1865

Anna Kemp c.1890 James Kemp c.1890
Anna Kemp c.1890
James Kemp c.1890

Mill & house c.1900 c.1900
Mill & house c.1900

1904 Painting by F. Willett Armitage 1904
Painting by F. Willett Armitage 1904

c.1909 c.1909

James & Anna Kemp c.1910 James & Anna Kemp c.1914
James & Anna Kemp c.1910
James & Anna Kemp c.1911

The death took place on September 23 at East Runton, of Mr. James Kemp who for many years had carried on Runton Mill, near Cromer, at the age of 75.
The Miller - 7th October 1912


c.1915 c.1915

Stuart Alexander Donaldson (born 4 December 1854 in Sydney, Australia, died 29 October 1915) was a schoolmaster, clergyman and Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Donaldson was born in Sydney, the oldest son of Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson, the first Premier of the Colony of New South Wales.
After education at Eton College Donaldson went up to Trinity College, Cambridge as a scholar in 1873, graduating with first class honours in Classics in 1877. From 1878 to 1904 he served as a master at Eton, during this time being ordained as deacon in 1884 and priest in 1885. While a schoolmaster he published, with Edward Lyttelton, Pontes , a book of elementary Latin exercises.
In 1904 he was elected as the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, a position he held until his death in 1915, and was awarded the degrees of Bachelor of Divinity in 1905 and Doctor of Divinity in 1910. He served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1912-13. [ Donaldson married Lady Albinia Frederica Hobart-Hampden, granddaughter of Augustus Edward Hobart-Hampden, the 6th Earl of Buckinghamshire in 1900.
Maggie Vaughan-Lewis - 11th December 2019

4th June 1939 4th June 1939
4th June 1939
4th June 1939


North Walsham, Estate Agent, Auctioneers, Surveyors, Valuers
Particulars of Property for Sale by Private Treaty

Sale brochure April 1976
Sale brochure April 1976
Sale brochure - April 1976

21st May 1980
21st May 1980

Empty tower shell - 1990

Sale brochure - c.1995

1999 Oct 1999
October 1999

2nd May 2000
2nd May 2000

Conversion plans - c.2001
Conversion plans - c.2001

In September 2001 the mill renovation project won the Graham Allen Award. Design was by Jerry Raven of David Stead Associates of Sheringham. Bbuilding work was carried out by Trevor Ward of Heritage Building Services, Cromer and managed by John Perks.


12th October 2003
12th October 2003

14th February 2009
14th February 2009

I have been researching my mother's family history (she and her parents, grandparents and g-g-parents were from Runton and Sheringham) and was interested to see your article about Runton Mill. It mentions Martha Holman's accident at the Mill in 1860.   Martha's mother Elizabeth Bird was a sister of my great-great-grandfather William Bird, and as far as I can find, Martha was a cook in Leeds in the 1871 census (living near her brother William and his family) and in 1877 married a cordwainer named John Perfect, originating from Norwich. Martha and John Perfect had at least 2 sons (John and Jabez), and were in Runton in the 1881 census.   In 1891 John was listed as widower, Martha having died sometime between 1881-1891 but I don't yet know when.
Annabel Thomas - 11th January 2011

I am sure East Runton tower mill is the same mill house I lived in. I bought it in the late 1970's and only sold it due to a divorce. I have an identical photograph showing the front of the mill house (which used to be a guest house). I also owned the five acres of land leading down to the main Cromer road. The kids loved the place, plenty of hiding places and every year the fair would pitch in the bottom field (usually used for Jacob sheep) and the kids had free rides for stay of the fair. I hope it is the same place. I can't remember any other windmills like that in East Runton.
Sara Lindley - 2nd August 2011

My great great grandfather was James Kemp! I remember Anna their daughter (my great grandmother) well.
I have a few photos, no new ones of the mill I think, but some of James and his wife. I do have a lovely painting of the mill.
I visited the mill in 2008 (I think) and was welcomed by the new owners.
My other great great grandparents were also millers. William Spurgeon and Sarah Fulcher.
Their 2 sons married James Kemp's 2 daughters.
But I do not know which mill was their's. I think it was in the Lakenham area of Norwich but cannot find any reference to them.

Penny Finn, Dorset - 3rd July 2012

I've just found your website and I see that a miller by the name of James Kemp rented/owned Runton, Norfolk, mill. What has piqued my interest is that it was said in our family, that one of my relatives owned a mill. We have a very strong connection with Norfolk (my granddad was born in Great Yarmouth) and Essex. My great grandmother was a Lagdon, daughter of the owner of the pub, The Lamb at Ashdon in Essex, and married Alfred Kemp, son of Isaac Kemp, who would have been about the same age as James, who I reckon, may be my great-great-uncle.
Paul Kemp - 31st January 2017

30th May 2015
30th May 2015

My name is James. I live in Hertfordshire and I shall be 90 years old this July. A friend who lives in Norfolk has sent me the history and up to date information on the Old Mill at EAST RUNTON near CROMER. I was  fascinated to learn that not only has the mill not been demolished but has been restored to its early glory days. You see, I lived in the house from 1958 to 1960 with my family and the adjacent mill was our coal house. I was in the Royal Air Force at the time stationed at Coltishall and as there were no vacancies in married quarters on the camp at that time the OLD MILL HOUSE, as it was known, was provided for my family use. No doubt it was a grand house, far superior to normal service married accommodation, with an open plan lounge, stairs up to the four bedrooms with washbasins in each and a good-sized kitchen separated from the lounge by two steps. A fine garden mainly grassed at the rear where one of my young daughters lost a bracelet, which may be there to this day!. The entrance to the property was via a single narrow lane which led through to Cromer. The rear was wide open and you could walk downhill through a field to the coast road and the beach. The only drawback for me for me was the journey back and forth to Coltishall. I could not drive in those days and there was no direct connection by train or coach. It was essential to be on the airfield for daily operational duties. My only option was to ride a bicycle to Cromer railway station, put my bike in the goods carriage, alight at North Walsham and then cycle the remaining four miles or so to the airbase. It was quite an ordeal on a daily basis and even more so when l was required until late at night.
I note from your historical records of the East Runton Mill that nothing was shown for the 1950s/1960s. I left Cromer in 1962 when the Squadron was redirected to Scotland and then Singapore. I presume that the house was handed back to estate agents or civilian owners who had collected the rental income from the RAF.

James Tait - 16th April 2020

I regret that I have been unable to finding personal photos taken at the old Mill or the house when I was living there with my family, though no doubt a few were  taken at the time. I have moved house three times since entering civilian life so they may have been lost during transit. I do have photos of my old Squadron No.74 (known as the Flying Tigers!) at Horsham St Faith, now Norwich civil airport, and at Coltishall. I included them in my autobiography published a decade ago together with the family experience at the Old Mill house. l recorded that the house had a spacious lounge with a highly polished woodblock floor and an open tread staircase which led to three double bedrooms equipped with washbasins. The square kitchen had whitewashed walls and a red quarry tiled floor. The immediate observation was though the rest of the house was bright and airy the kitchen felt cold and cheerless because the large conical shape of the mill overshadowed it. ln fact we had arrived to take over the house on a wet and dismal day in November and the whole area surrounding the property was in deep gloom. Having inspected the house my wife had given her general approval but seemed nervous of its isolated position while the ruined mill added to her disquiet. l tried to reassure her that it would all look different in better weather and in the summer months she and the children would enjoy the garden and the nearby beach. We discovered that an elderly couple named Griffiths lived in a small stone cottage a couple of hundred yards away, half hidden in undergrowth, and once we had introduced ourselves to them my wife felt much happier.  
You expressed surprise that I was given accommodation so far away from the base but it was at my instigation because l had constantly harassed the housing officer for family accommodation since being posted from West Malling in Kent where I had lived in married quarters with my wife and two very young children. There were no vacancies at Coltishall,and the house near Cromer was the only one available to the RAF at the time. I could not turn it down despite the travel difficulties involved in the daily journeys back and forth to the base. It was intended as a short temporary stop gap until a house at Coltishall became available.

James Tait - 19th April 2020

O. S. Map 1885
O. S. Map 1885
Courtesy of NLS map images

Kelly's 1908: James Kemp, rate collector

Kelly's 1912: James Kemp, rate collector & clerk to the Parish Council

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

White's 1836: Joseph Baker, miller & brickmaker (mill owner)

O.S. map 1838: Windmill

Census 1841: Joseph Baker (60) miller
Susanna Baker (60)
Betsy Baker (20)
Ann Dawson (20);
William Reynolds (15) journeyman miller
Sarah Abbs (14)  female servant
John Tyball (12) agricultural lab.

1843: Joseph Baker, miller

July 1843: Mill advertised to be let

White's 1845: George Waterson, corn miller

1846: George Waterson, miller

December 1851: Mill advertised to be let

Census 1851: Joseph Baker (68) b.Burgh, miller
Susanna Baker (75) b.Swanton
Elizabeth Baker (34) b.Runton; Arthur Steward (6) b. Roughton, grandson;
Ellen Comer (42) b.Wood Dalling, widow & house servant

John Mayes (48) b. Letheringsett, journeyman miller
Jane Mayes (57); David Mayes (15)
John Mayes (13); Ann Mayes (11)

Robert Abbs (24) b.Runton, miller's servant

White's 1854: Joseph Baker, corn miller

1856: Joseph Baker, owner and miller

August 1856: Mill advertised to be let

1858 - 1859: Joseph Baker, owner and miller and Stephen Millett, miller

c. November 1860: James Kemp b.1838, miller and school attendance officer

November 1860: Martha Holman, hit by one of the mill's sails

Census 1861: James Kemp (23) b.Gt Poringland, master miller
Susan Kemp (45) b.Framlingham Earl, housekeeper (mother)
Palina Needham (21) b.Cromer, journeyman miller

1865: James Kemp. miller

Census 1871: James Kemp (33) b.Gt. Poringland, miller master employing 1 man
Elizabeth B. Kemp (39) b.Gt. Massingham
Ellen Kemp (9) b.Runton, scholar
Anna Kemp (9) b.Runton, scholar
Margaret Kemp (5) b.Runton, scholar
Bessie Kemp (4) b.Runton, scholar
James Kemp (2) b.Runton
William Kemp (10 mnths) b.Runton
Susan Kemp (55) b.Framingham Earl, mother
Mary A Tuck (20) b. Mildenhall. Suffolk, general domestic servant
James Thirtle (16) b.Runton, apprentice

Kelly's 1879: James Kemp, miller

Census 1881:

James Kemp (43) b.Gt. Poringland, miller, master employing 1 man
Elizabeth B. Kemp (49) b.Gt Massingham, wife
William Kemp (12) b.Runton, scholar
Bessie Kemp (9) b.Runton, scholar
Harry Kemp (6) b.Runton, scholar
Frank Kemp (3) b.Runton
Mary A. Tuck (30) b. Mildenhall, general servant (domestic)

White's 1883: James Kemp, miller, overseer & tax collector

White's 1890:
James Kemp, miller, assistant overseer and tax collector, school attendance officer for Aylmerton School Board district, and clerk and attendance officer for West Beckham School Board district

Census 1891: James Kemp (53) b.Gt. Poringland, corn miller (master)
Elizabeth B. Kemp (59) b.Gt. Massingham
James Kemp (22) b.Runton, miller
William Kemp (20) b.Runton, assist. master schoolteacher
Bessie Kemp (18) b.Runton
Harry Kemp (16) b.Runton,
grocer's apprentice; Frank Kemp (13) b. Runton, scholar;
Mary A Tuck (39) b. Mildenhall. Suffolk, general domestic servant
Elizabeth C. Swail (36) b.Middlesex, boarder, living on own means
Martha Swail (35) b.Middlesex, boarder, living on own means
Ellen Spurgeon (29) b.Runton, daughter;
Russell Spurgeon (2) b.Lowestoft, grandson
Percival Spurgeon (4 mnths) b.Lowestoft, grandson

Kelly's 1892:
James Kemp, miller (wind), school attendance officer for Aylmerton school board district & clerk & attendance officer for West Beckham school board district; highway surveyor for Felbrigg & Runton & assistant overseer

1893: James Kemp, miller

Kelly's 1896:
James Kemp, miller (wind), school attendance officer for Aylmerton school board district & clerk & attendance officer for West Beckham school district & assistant overseer

Kelly's 1900:
James Kemp, miller (wind), school attendance officer for Aylmerton school board district & clerk & attendance officer for West Beckham school district & assistant overseer

Census 1901:

James Kemp (63) b.1838 Gt. Poringland, Corn Miller
Elizabeth B. Kemp (69) b.1832 Gt Massingham, wife
Francis E. Cooper (26) b.1875 Salhouse, dressmaker (visitor)
Rachel L. Burton (20) b.1881 Cley Next The Sea, General Domestic Servant

Kelly's 1904: James Kemp, miller (wind) & assistant overseer

Kelly's 1908: Ronald Hall, miller (wind) & farmer, Runton mill

23rd September 1912: James Kemp died aged 75

Rate Book 1914: Stuart Alexander Donaldson, Mill House. Rate of £7 12s. on a gross rateable value of £65

29th October 1915: Stuart Alexander Donaldson died

1926: Mill lying derelict

Rate Book 1929: Lady Albinia Donaldson, Mill House and grounds with a gross rateable value of £60

Karl Wood painting 1937: Tower remaining with cap and fanstage only

1939: Mill tower with cap, gallery and fanstage

1949: Mill tower remaining as a shell

1958-1960: James Tait, provided with mill house as married quarters by RAF Coltishall with mill as a coal store

April 1976: Mill advertised for sale for £27,000

1984: Tower remaining along with sections of the cap frame and fanstage

1990: Mill tower remaining as an empty shell

May 2000: Restored cap lifted onto mill

September 2001: Mill renovation won the Graham Allen Award

2004: Tower renovated with new cap and fantail

May 2015: Mill advertised for sale via Arnolds Keys for £795,000

October 2015: Mill taken off the market

March 2023: Mill advertised for sale by Sowerbys for a guide price of £850,000

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 TG 20054229
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2004