Gissing postmill


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Gissing postmill c.1915

Gissing post mill stood in Rectory Road, Hall Green. The mill had a dressed flint roundhouse that was plastered inside, a full width balcony porch with a leanto roof and an eight bladed fan set on a tailpole with a two wheeled carriage. The four double shuttered sails had 7 bays of 3 shutters and 7 bays of 2 shutters and drove 3 pairs of French burr stones. However, only one pair of 5 ft stones were listed in 1811.

Rex Wailes reported the following structural facts:
Body had full width balcolny porch
Roundhouse plastered inside
Crosstrees 16 ins. by 13 ins. deep
Fantail drive by bevel to two cart wheels 5 ft in diameter
Sails had clamps 22 ft by 10 ft 6 ins
Wooden windshaft 16 ins diameter with cast iron poll end to carry sails
Tail wheel driving stones in rear of mill; had been recogged in 1886 & cogs still sound in 1926
One pair of 5 ft diameter overdriven stones in breast of mill with glut box
Two pairs of underdriven stones in tail of mill
Bell alarm mounted on pivoted lever & operated by the wallower cogs
Sack hoist from tail wheel & then by a single slack chain
Dated W.F. 1778

Gissing Manorial Rolls hold a record that on 14th March 1800, John Harrison, a carpenter of Gissing was granted permission to enclose and build on a section of waste land, 7 rods by 10 rods.

By 1873 a steam powered mill was also working on the same site powering an additional two pairs of stones. At some point between 1904 and 1922 the steam engine was replaced by an oil engine.

To Farmers, Millers etc.

A Farm & Windmill at Gissing, Norfolk

(With possession at Michaelmas next)

To be Sold by Auction By Thos. Calver On Thursday 15 August 1811

At the Ram Inn, Tivetshall, Norfolk, at 3 o’c

Unless sooner disposed of by private contract, of which due notice will be given.

All that desirable little FARM in the occupation of Mr. Wm. Womack the proprietor at Gissing aforesaid who has purchased a larger farm & which is the cause of his changing his residence), consisting of a convenient dwelling house, barn, stable, cow house & other outbuildings in good repair & about 30 acres of rich arable & pasture land. Also a capital post windmill with a pair of 5 foot French Stones, flour mill & going gears at a short distance from the farm, which will be sold together or separately as may be agreed upon at the place of sale. The purchaser may have immediate possession of the mill.

The above estate is situated within seven miles of Harleston & seven from Diss, two good corn markets & one mile from the turnpike road leading from Norwich to Ipswich.

Apply to Mr. Wm. Brooke, Attorney, Kenninghall, to Mr. Wm. Womack on the premises or to the Auctioneer, Shimpling, Norfolk.
Norfolk Chronicle - 10th August 1811

Mill working c.1920

Situations Vacant
Wanted, a Married Man as MILLER. Wind & Steam.

Apply John Brooke, Gissing, Diss.
Norfolk News - 14th September 1872

Gissing postmill 1923 Gissing postmill fantail 1923


Gissing near Diss
Valuable Wind & Steam Mills, Land, Dwelling house & Three Cottages
Gaze & Symonds have received instructions from the Proprietor, Mr. John Read Brooke to Sell by Auction on Friday 7 March 1879 at the Crown Hotel, Diss at 4 for 5 o’c, in two Lots, the following Property
Lot 1. A capital POST WIND MILL (with Round House) driving three pairs of French Stones. STEAM MILL with excellent Machinery & Fittings driving two pairs of French Stones, convenient Foreman’s Cottage, Garden, well arranged Granaries, Stables, cart sheds, Outhouses & Piggeries & about 5a.1r.0p. of deep soil Arable LAND.
Lot 2. A capital DWELLING HOUSE with Bake house, Granary, Piggeries & Outhouses. Also three COTTAGES with Sheds & Offices, Yard, & Garden.
The above Properties are in the occupation of Mr. J.R. Brooke & others & immediate possession may be had except of the Cottages.

Particulars of T.W. Salmon, Esq. Solr. Diss & of the Auctioneers, Thornham Parva near Eye & Bottesdale.
Norfolk Chronicle - 22nd February & 1st March 1879

It (Diss_Heywood_towermill) was run by the Ellis family of Holly Farm until about 1875, when Mr. John Brooke, whose father had the post-mill at Gissing, married into the family and moved into Holly Farm. He ran the mill for Mrs. Sarah Ellis for several years until it finished work, & continued to farm there afterwards.
Diss Antiquarian Society News Sheet - Autumn 1973

Occupier John Brooke
Owner do
House & Land
Rateable Value £11
Rate 1s. 9d. = 19s. 3d.

Occupier John Brooke
Owner do
Rateable Value £10
Rate 1s. 9d. = 17s. 6d.
Rate Book - 16th May 1839

Situations Vacant
To Journeymen Millers
Wanted, a respectable married Man to work a windmill.
Apply personally to Mr. J. Brook, Gissing near Diss.

Norfolk News - 3rd October 1857

Situations Vacant
Wanted, a Married Man who well understands the trade.
Apply to Mr. Brooke.

Norfolk News - 13th August 1864

Melancholy Accident
On Friday afternoon Arthur, a little boy 6 years of age & son of Mr. J. Brooke, Miller & baker, Gissing, met with a fatal accident.
(Pulled down a cup of boiling water scalding face & chest)
Norfolk News - 23rd January 1869

William Samuel Barber, b.1837 worked as a miller or journeyman miller at several mills:
1861 at Eye, Suffolk;
1871 at Gissing;
1878-79 at Carlton Rode towermill;
1881-83 at Rockland St Andrew postmill;
1891-1904 and at Hingham_Deopham_Rd towermill and Hingham watermill.
William's father Samuel Barber worked at Scole towermill from 1845 - 1864.

To be Sold by Private Contract
A SEVEN HORSE POWER Portable STEAM ENGINE, with Barn Works, Straw Elevator ... All in good working order.
Enquire of John
Brooke, Miller, Gissing.
Norfolk News - 1st June 1872

Situations Vacant
To Millers
WANTED, Married MAN who understands his Business. Wind & Steam.
Apply to
Brooke, Gissing, Diss.
Norfolk News - 6th Setember 1873


An inquest was held yesterday, before Mr R T Culley, Deputy County Coroner, on the body of Mr Thomas Garrod, a miller residing in the parish, aged thirty seven years, who was found dead on Wednesday last, suspended by the neck to a beam in the chaff-house, and on being cut down life was found to be extinct. The deceased appeared to have been upset lately in consequence of business matters, and he had expressed a fear that he should lose what money he was possessed of. After hearing the evidence of Mr Farringdon of Diss, Surgeon, and the several other witnesses, the jury were satisfied the deceased was not in his right mind at the time he committed the act, and they returned a verdict of "Suicide whilst of unsound mind".
Eastern Daily Press - 17th February 1877

On 29th April 1881, the Diss Express reported that at the Diss Petty Assizes, John Read Brooke, late overseer for the parish of Gissing was charged by the District Auditor for not paying £33.11.5d to the treasurer of Depwade Union. Brooke admitted the charge but said he has no money ...having given over everything to Trustees for benefit of creditors. He was told to pay plus interest of £1.6.6d or go to Norwich Castle for two months.

Occupier Henry W. Harris, Senior
Owner Henry W. Harris, Junior
House & Mill, Hall Green
Rateable Value £14
Rate 1s. 8d. for half year = £1. 3s. 4d.
Collected 11s. 8d. November 1899 & February 1900

Rate Book - 8th November 1899

Occupier Henry W. Harris, Senior
Owner Henry W. Harris, Junior
House & Mill, Hall Green
Rateable Value £14
Rate 1s. 1d. per quarter = £1. 10s. 4d. for half year
Collected 15s. 2d. May & August 1901

Rate Book - 8th May 1901

The Court Record of 24th September 1886 states that on 13th August 1886, John Norman of Gissing and his wife Hannah Lydia (née Hannah Lydia Brooke – daughter of John Read Brooke) came before Deputy Steward and
Did out of court surrender out of their hands into the hands of the Lords of the Manor and did also …release and forever quit claim unto & use of John Read Brooke, late of Gisssing and now of Fakenham of the said county; miller. All estate right interest of the said Hannah Lydia Norman and John Norman of all the lands, tenements etc to which John Read Brooke had been admitted copyholder on 4th August 1871.
States JN and HLN can never lay claim.

However, another entry also dated 24th September1886 records receipt of a conditional surrender. It states On 22nd September 1886 John Read Brooke came before the Deputy Steward in relation to a covenant included in an indenture dated 7/1/1880 between Thomas William Salmon of Diss, John Read Brooke and John Norman of Gissing (farmer) in consideration of £500 paid to John Norman by Thomas William Salmon in respect of an indenture dated 11th October 1885 between John Norman and his wife Hannah Lydia and William Salmon.
This seems to say that the £500 now belongs to Thomas Melford Bidwell. The Normans seem to surrender to the Lords of the Manor all the property of John Read Brooke. These lands seem to be designated to Thomas Melford Bidwell. John Salmon is ordered to pay Bidwell £500 plus interest on 11th April 1887. However seems to have been suggested that surrender would be avoided if John Norman paid £500 plus interest back to Bidwell.

I don’t really understand this, unless Brooke and Norman had mortgaged the copyhold to Salmon who then passed it on to Bidwell. The date of the indenture mentioned (7/1/1880) coincides with when Brooke was going bankrupt and selling off goods and chattels as advertised in the Diss Express. Could be something to do with “Cash Flow“. Not clear what happened but from what follows, Brooke does not seem to have lost the copyhold.

Manorial Rolls. Court of 7th November 1892:

John Simpson Brooke, farmer, Diss, comes forward as the son of John Read Brooke deceased seeking copyhold of the land to which his father had been admitted on 10th August 1871 (was actually the 18th August but dates are commonly muddled up).

Said to be a parcel of the waste, 7 roods by 10 roods and a certain windmill thereon lately erected and built (late of William Birch Womack). He seems to have been given the copyhold. His father would have been 67 at this time.

New undated entry in Rolls:

John Simpson Brooke produces a Deed of Enfranchisement. It goes on to say This indenture made on 7th December 1892 between William Pinder Evasley (Barrister, Norwich) and the Rev Lewis Evans of Truro House, St Germains Place, Blackheath of the first part, Sir Kenneth Hanger Kemp of the second part and John Simpson Brooke of the third part …..

There then follows a very long entry (Pages 41 to 48) discussing the will of the late Sir Wm Kemp and quotes Section 11.8 of the Copyhold Act of 1852. What it seems to boil down to is that Brooke pays £28.16.8d to get the freehold.

Checking up on the Copyhold Act of 1852 in the British Library, it is an amendment of three previous Acts but clearly says a Tenant has the legal right to seek from the Lord of the Manor enfranchisement of his copyhold, which, on payment of an agreed sum, would become freehold.

(Evasley and Evans are Trustees of the Lord of the Manor).

Bill Cattell - 20th March 2006

Death of Mr. H. W. Harris

Much regret will be felt at the death of Mr Harris, of the Mill, Gissing, who passed away on Wednesday morning last, some time since developed heart trouble and was obliged to retire from active life. He was a familiar figure at Diss Market and by his strict integrity and upright dealings won the esteem of a large circle. In addition to carrying on the milling business, Mr Harris held the offices of assistant overseer, collector of taxes and clerk to the Parish Council. He was a life long member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and was devoted to all sections of it’s work being for a long period a most acceptable local preacher; his sound common sense, united with a shrewd and keen observation and a deep and sincere Christianity, always made a lasting impression on those who heard him. He will be greatly missed in the work of the Diss Wesleyan Circuit. While deeply attached to the church to which he belonged, he was very broad minded and took a sincere interest in anything which would help or serve others and by his kind and practical advice he has helped many. Mr Harris married a daughter of the late Mr J Flogdell and leaves three sons and two daughters to all of whom much sympathy will be extended. The funeral will take place at the Wesleyan Chapel, Gissing tomorrow (Saturday) at 2.30
Diss Express & Norfolk & Suffolk Journal - 9th November 1923

It was noted that 4 of Henry Harris' sons actually attended his funeral.

c.1928 c.1928

Windshaft, sack hoist and stone tuns - c.1920
Windshaft, sack hoist and stone tuns - c.1928

Fantail trolley - c.1928 Fantail trolley - c.1928
Fantail trolley - c.1928

Steps trolley - c.1928
Steps trolley - c.1928

Gissing ... on the Tivetshall side of the village, is a derelict postmill, the steps of which have a pair of small carrier wheels to themselves, the fantail being mounted on a separate framework with two large wheels, one of which is driven through a toothring on the side of its periferary, whilst the other runs free ...
In Search of English Windmills - Hopkins & Freese, 1931

Demolition in 1930

On 19th April 1924 Esther Ann Harris and Henry Adolph Harris obtained a mortgage from the Waveney Valley Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society.

Esther Ann Harris was the widow of William Whitaker Harris jnr and would have been aged 63 at this time but went on to live until she was at least 80. Henry Adolph Harris was her son. It is said that Henry Adolph Harris died of miller’s lung.

Kathleen McKinnon came to see us in July 1993 to have a look around the Mill House. She was a free-lance writer, mostly of poetry, but also of prose. Her interest was that she had lived at the Mill some 70 years before when aged between 3 and 5 years old. The last miller, Henry Harris, was her grandfather. This means she must have been there in the early 20s when the mill was still functional.

Mrs McKinnon has written two books - Quiet Ways in 1991 and The Inner Garden in 1992. These are mostly verse but also have articles about Gissing and the Mill. She also expanded on her memories when she visited and in later correspondence.

Why she was staying with her grandparents is unclear, but she did go to the local school for a time so it must have been more than just a short visit. In “Sails in the Wind,“ her first book, she describes the activity at the mill and their dependence on the wind. In fact, by then there was an engine in the outbuildings with a huge chimney to supplement wind power.

She recollects sitting in the kitchen, which we agreed is now the bathroom, with an adjacent pantry. She describes a “red uneven floor,“ and , interestingly, the entrance hall still has a red tile floor. Each morning, the day began with prayers in the kitchen. Her grandparents were Chapel folk, and Mrs McKinnon recalls visiting ministers/preachers being entertained for Sunday lunch or tea in the Mill House.

She described a pond with watercress which is marked on maps, but now filled in. There is still a heavy iron ring where it was, to tether horses brought to drink. Watercress needs clear running water, so there must have been a decent stream there where there is now a muddy ditch. Near the pond was a kitchen garden and in between the two, an outside loo.

There is description of bantam hens, tethered goats and milking cows on the property but this may be artistic licence as she later spoke of going each day to collect milk from a local farm. Her grandfather had a pony and trap on which she would go to the weekly Diss Market. Most social activity was based on Gissing with frequent visits to the village shop – still there but no longer a shop. On Christmas Eve, her grandfather had a party for the village children with a proper Christmas tree. Occasionally there were trips to Norwich. This meant cycling on the back of her aunt’s bike to Tivetshall Station (long gone) and then train to Norwich.

In The Inner Garden she describes visiting what she calls the Snowdrop Island, but which we call the Snowdrop Wood, sited where the original Hall was. Her description of “crawling across a slimy, lichen covered tree trunk“ to get there is as true today as it was 70 years ago, as indeed is her description of the wood. She tells of collecting bunches of snowdrops enhanced by sprigs of box wood to distribute around the village. Her description in this article of gathering flowers in season to decorate the church is really charming and floral decoration of the church is still as active today.

What she could not, or would not talk about was the demise of the Mill about which I have still not got details. She said her grandfather died of “Miller’s lung”, but I am not too sure when. The last dated photos I have seen of the Mill were taken in 1923.

Bill Cattell - 21st March 2006

O. S. Map 1904
O. S. Map 1904
Courtesy of NLS map images

1800: Mill built on land enclosed by John Harrison of Gissing

1802: Charles (or Samuel) Sewell, miller

March 1804: William Womack , miller (or William Burch or Birch Wormack or Wm Beauchamp Womack)

1811: William Womack, miller

August 1811: Mill advertised for sale by auction

April 1815: John Brooke, miller

December 1821: John Brooke acquired waste land east of Long Row

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

Greenwood's map 1834: Windmill

White's 1836: John Brook, corn miller & baker

Tithe Agreement 29th July 1839: Mill and yard occupied by Sir William Kemp - Lord of the Manor (owner)

Census 1841:

John Brooke snr (50), miller & baker
William Brooke (18) miller
John Brooke (16) miller
Address: Upper Street

David Stubbs, journeyman miller
Address: Hall Green

White's 1845: John Brook, miller & baker

Census 1851:

John Brooke jnr (25) b.Gissing, miller
Elizabeth Brooke (24) b.Diss
Ruth Ellis (18) b.Diss, dressmaker (visitor)
Thomas Brooke (17) b.Hopton, Suffolk, apprentice millere
Henery Saunders (22) b.Aslacton, millers servant
Harriott Balls (18) b.Gissing, house servant
Address: Upper Street

James C. Crofford (29) b.Laxfield, Suffolk, journeyman miller
Eliza Crofford (32) b.Withersdale, Suffolk
Address: Hall Green

Kelly's 1854: John Brooke, baker, farmer & miller

White's 1854: John Brooke jnr, miller & baker

Census 1861:

John Read Brooke jnr (36), miller & baker
John Simpson Brooke (son)
Address: Upper Street

Henry Whitaker Harris (32) journeyman miller
Address: Hall Green

White's 1864: John Read Brooke, corn miller & baker

Diss Express 28th August 1867: John Brooke advertised for a miller or baker

January 1869: John Brooke jnr's son Arthur died in an accident with boiling water

28th August 1870: John Brooke snr died

Census 1871:

John Brooke jnr (46), miller & baker
John Simpson Brooke, miller
Address: Upper Street

William Barber (33) journeyman miller
Address: Mill House

1871: William Samuel Barber, miller (journeyman miller employee)

Manorial Roll Court 18th August 1871: John Read Brooke obtains copyhold of mill and land east of Long Row

June 1872: Portable steam engine advertised for sale

30th September 1873: John Brooke jnr jnr married Elizabeth Pugsey

1875: John Stimpson Brooke, miller

Manorial Roll Court 12th October 1876: John Read Brooke surrenders land east of Long Row for £10

February 1877: Thomas Garrod, a miller was found hanged in the chaff house

1878: John Stimpson Brooke, miller

Kelly's 1879: John Read Brooke, miller

February 1879: Postmill and steam mill advertised for sale by auction

Diss Express 16th January 1880:
Notice stating John Read Brooke to sell Horse, miller’s carts, trade utensils, mill fittings etc….
Also all household furniture on 22nd January 1880

Diss Express 16th April 1880:
Notice stating Deed of Assignment of John Read Brooke of his estate and effects to creditors. Meeting of creditors planned for 23 rd April 1880.

Census 1881:

Henry Whitaker Harris snr (52) miller
Henry Whitaker Harris jnr (21)
Address: Mill House

Diss Express 29th April 1881:
John Read Brooke, charged by the District Auditor for not paying £33.11.5d to the treasurer of Depwade Union

White's 1883: Henry Harrison, miller

Census 1891:

Henry Whitaker Harris snr (62) miller
Address: Hall Green

Manorial Roll Court 7th November 1892: John Simpson Brooke applies for copyhold of the mill and land

Kelly's 1892: Henry Whitaker Harris, miller (wind & steam)

Kelly's 1896: Henry Whitaker Harris snr, miller (wind & steam)

Rate Book 8th November 1899: Owner: Henry W. Harris jnr; Occupier: Henry W. Harris snr

Kelly's 1900: Henry Whitaker Harris snr, miller (wind & steam)

Rate Book 8th May 1901: Owner: Henry W. Harris jnr; Occupier: Henry W. Harris snr

Census 1901:

Henry Whitaker Harris snr (73) miller
Address: Mill Green

Henry Whitaker Harris jnr (41) farmer & miller
Esther Ann Harris (40)
Kathleen Harris; Henry Adolph Harris; Raymond Harris
Address: The Harrolds

Kelly's 1904: Henry Whitaker Harris jnr, miller (wind & steam), assistant overseer & clerk to Parish Council

Kelly's 1908: Henry Whitaker Harris jnr, miller (wind & oil), assistant overseer & clerk to Parish Council

Valuation Book 11th August 1910: Henry Whitaker Harris of the Mills, Gissing, owner

Kelly's 1912:

Henry Whitaker Harris jnr, miller (wind & oil), assistant overseer, collector of taxes & clerk to Parish Council

Kelly's 1916:

Henry Whitaker Harris jnr, miller (wind & oil), assistant overseer, collector of taxes & clerk to Parish Council

Kelly's 1922:

Henry Whitaker Harris jnr, miller (wind & oil), assistant overseer, collector of taxes & clerk to Parish Council

7th November 1923: Henry Whitaker Harris died

c.1924: Mill ceased working with wind

19th April 1924:

Mortgage between Esther Ann Harris and Henry Adolph Harris with Waveney Valley Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society.

Kelly's 1925: Henry Adolph Harris, miller (oil) & collector of taxes

1926: Mill ceased working

11th January 1929:

Conveyance by the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society to Joel Woods
(The Friendly Society had presumably repossessed)

1930: Mill dismantled

11th August 1936: Conveyance from Mary Woods and Bessie Woods to Etta Pope

November 1963: Etta Pope given planning permission for bungalow known as Millfield

1964: Millfield built for Etta Pope by the late Leslie Chamberlain

5th August 1964: Conveyance from Etta Pope to Felix G. and Freda H. Catchpole

1971: Felix & Freda Catchpole, Old Mill House

3rd September 1975: Conveyance from Felix G. and Freda H. Catchpole to Peter M. and Edna G. Kenyatta

1st September 1986: Conveyance from Peter M. and Edna G. Kenyatta to W. R. and P. M. Cattell

2020: A mature tree stands on the mill site

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 TM15068545
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2006