Mill Hill


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

c.1650 sketch by Andrew Bryan
Artist's impression of c.1650 by Andrew Bryan

Felthorpe Mill Hill postmill had a roundhouse and powered 2 pairs of French burr stones and a flour mill.
A large horse mill used for dressing flour was also on the site along with various outbuildings and a house that was almost certainly Mill Farmhouse that was only a few yards to the east.

Christopher West was almost certainly running Felthorpe Mill Hill post mill along with Felthorpe watermill prior to building the new Mill Farm postmill in the field opposite his farmhouse. The older Mill Hill postmill would have had common sails and an older design, whereas the new mill was built using up-to-date technology.

To be Lett
And entered upon at Michaelmas next in Felthorpe in the county of Norfolk.
A Good accustomed WINDMILL in good Repair with two Pair of French Stones, a Flour Mill & Roundhouse & likewise a Dwelling House with 12 Acres of Arable Land all inclosed & entire together, with a Barn & Stable, a Cow house & also a large Horse Mill to dress Flour, situated on a good Common with a good Right of Commonage.
For Particulars enquire of Robert Critoph.
Norfolk Chronicle - 6th & 30th May 1775

Indenture - Bill of Sale
Land and Windmill
(and conveyance by feoffment of an allotment of waste land added thereto and release of annuity charge upon the same)

1. John Howlett of Brandisaton, farmer
2. Elizabeth Howlett of Brandiston, widow
3. Christopher West of Haverland Farm, farmer
21st October 1793

A plaque on Mill Farm farmhouse is inscribed JS 1793

Sale of Farm at Felthorpe.
... Mr. Christopher West of Felthorpe, Miller will shew the premises.
Norfolk Chronicle - 6th May 1809

Notice to Debtors & Creditors of
Christopher West late of Gunthorpe, Farmer, deceased request to pay debts to Christopher West of Felthorpe, Miller one of the Executors.

Norfolk Chronicle - 27th February 1819

I have a detailed map of Felthorpe printed in 1797, Mill Farm (built 1793) should be on that map but it’s not, the windmill on Mill Hill is shown very clearly, as it took several years from starting a survey to printing a map, I’m guessing that the survey was carried out before 1793. I know Elizabeth Springall married Christopher West in 1797 and then lived in Mill Farmhouse, Christopher West then became the miller at Felthorpe. It’s likely that Christopher West was using the Mill Hill windmill until the windmill on Mill Farm was built. I can’t find a date for the Mill Farm windmill being built but I would guess about 1820. I do know that the postmill was built at the peak of windmilling technology, it would have been a fine mill indeed but time was running out and the last date I can find for the windmill still working is 1908. That’s a very short working life for a windmill, it’s possible that it carried on in a limited way until the early 1900s.
Andrew Bryan - September 2005

The son of Christopher (d.1847) emigrated to the US in 1833. He established himself in Baltimore, lived his entire life there, and never returned to England. Many of his family also stayed in Baltimore, as did mine. That is where I grew up.
Our family progressively moved south from Wells-next-the-Sea, where they had resided in the 1600s. I presume - but do not know for sure - that they fished there, as did much of the coastal population. I can understand how they might move thence into farming. But to buy (or build) and operate a mill must have taken some capital to begin with, and it is hard to imagine how a farmer might have accumulated such in the 1700s. Perhaps there were other means of entry of which I am unaware.
I do note from your website that in 1775 Robert Critoph advertised to "lett" the Felthorpe Mill Hill mill. It is possible that Christopher took upon this lease with the prospect that milling revenue would cover his lease costs. This seems a likely explanation.
Most of the descendants of Christopher (d.1847) moved to northern Pennsylvania and farmed there. Christopher was a successful farmer and miller himself, with much to pass on to his children. So, again, it is curious why these children would trade one lifestyle and assured livelihood for another of substantially similar nature of a riskier nature in an area of the world that was largely still wilderness (log cabin versus brick home, lean-to open air kitchen on a back porch, etc.). We have some evidence from preserved diaries that this next generation yearned for greater political freedom than they felt existed at the time in England.
The son Christopher (d. 1890), however, moved to the big city and involved himself very successfully in the oil lamp business and then later in the oil refining business. Quite a leap from the farm life in Felthorpe! Clearly, he was not particularly taken with farming as his life's path.

Page West - 29th April 2022

Faden's map 1797
Faden's map 1797
Mill Hill postmill upper centre right, marked
Felthorpe Mill
Felthorpe Watermill just to the west

O. S. Map 1882
O. S. Map 1882
Mill position marked by red dot, lower left
Courtesy of NLS map images

May 1775: Mill advertised to be let

Faden's map 1797: Felthorpe Mill

1809: Christopher West snr, miller

May 1809: Mill Farm advertised for sale

c.1819: Christopher West snr, miller - died

1819: Christopher West jnr, miller

c.1820: Mill demolished

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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2005