North Walsham
Swafield Road


Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills


North Walsham Swafield Road post windmill stood in a field beside the Mundesley Road on the east side of the town. The mill had a roundhouse

The mill's main support beams were still standing in a field beside the Mundesley road in the 1960s.

To be Lett
Those desirable MILLS called SWAFIELD MILLS (being a Water_Mill and a Wind Mill). Also a capital new-built DWELLING HOUSE with Yard and Garden Ground. Granary, Stables & convenient Outhouses to the same belonging and 14 Acres, more or less, of good Meadow and Arable Land lying contiguous, situate and being in Swafield and North Walsham in the county of Norfolk, now in the occupation of Mr. George SHREEVE on Lease which expires on the 1st February 1788. These Mills are in good Trade and conveniently situated for a more extensive Trade, being within a Mile of North Walsham Market which is esteemed the best Corn Market in the County & within 5 miles of Dilham, from whence the River is navigable to Great Yarmouth. Possession may be had at Michaelmas next, the present Tenant having purchased an Estate in the Neighbourhood, which he intends entering upon at Michaelmas.
Particulars may be had by applying to Mr. William SACHER or Mr. George SHREEVE of Swafield; Mr. Richard ALLEN, Flour Merchant, Great Yarmouth or Mr. William DEARN, Attorney, North Walsham.

Norfolk Chronicle - 1st & 8th September 1787

To Millers
To be Let and Entered upon Immediately
A most desirable situation for a Miller, comprising an excellent
WATER_MILL, Windmill, cottage part of a Dwelling house and 20 acres of arable and meadow Land, situate at Swafield, within one mile of North Walsham, a good corn market, late in the occupation of Mr. John Woollsey and now in the occupation of Mr. Edward Press.
Apply to Mr. Press on the Premises, Mr. Thomas Press, Loddon or Messrs. Woollsey, Yarmouth.
Norfolk Chronicle - 14th & 21st December 1816

To be SOLD by Private Contract
A Desirable Situation comprising a Water_Mill ... with a most substantial POST WINDMILL built principally with oak. Attached to the Water_Mill is a neat and convenient Dwelling house with a good barn, stable, hayhouse and various other offices, with about eight acres of capital meadow and arable Land, all Freehold.
Apply to Mr. Dyball, Engineer, North Walsham.
The above will be Sold either together or separately; if sold separately, the Windmill is to be removed.

Norfolk Chronicle - 16th June & 7th July 1827

To be Let With Possession at Old Michaelmas next
A Water_Corn_Mill and Post Wind Mill with an excellent House, garden, stables etc. and about 16 acres of Arable and Pasture Land, situate at Swafield near North Walsham, Norfolk.
The New Canal from Yarmouth to Antingham runs directly alongside the land adjoining the Water_Mill.
Apply to Mr. Woollsey, Yarmouth or on a Thursday to him at the Kings Arms Inn, North Walsham.
27 August 1828.
Norfolk Chronicle - 30th August & 6th September 1828


To be Premptorily SOLD by AUCTION
Pursuant to Certain Orders of the Commissioners under a Commission of Bankrupt awarded and issued against JOHN WOOLSEY & JOHN SECKER of Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk, Wine & Spirit Merchants, Dealers & Chapmen and on the application of the Mortgagees the following ESTATES at the respective places aforementioned.
At the Bear Inn Bridge Foot, Great Yarmouth, on Thursday 8th September next at 11 o'c, by WALTER C. PETTINGILL
Lot 1.
All the capital new built WINDMILL situate in Southtown next Great Yarmouth, having a Brick Tower containing eleven floors, the lowest being 34 feet diameter, working four pair of stones, three flour mills and two jumpers, capable of manufacturing upon an average 120 quarters of wheat per week; also a convenient new built Dwelling house with stable, suitable offices and two acres of capital pasture land situate in Southtown aforesaid where the parochial charges are trifling and within 200 yards of Yarmouth Bridge and the Corn Market.
The Mill is in full trade with good country and town connections.
The above Estate is Leasehold for a term of 80 years of which 61 will be unexpired at Christmas next and is subject only to an annual rent of £20.
Lot 2.
All the capital Freehold Messuage with shop . . .
And also at the King's Arms Inn, North Walsham
On the aforesaid 8th day of September, at Six o'clock in the Evening,
Lot 3.
All that capital Dwelling-house, with convenient outbuildings, yard and garden, together with the Water-mill, Cottage, and Granaries adjoining, and about 16 acres of Arable and Meadow Land of the best quality, in the highest state of cultivation. And also a Wind-mill and about two roods and 30 perches of Arable Land.
The above Premises are situate in Swafield and North Walsham, and are in full trade, and now in the occupation of Mr. Benjamin Postle Woollsey, as tenant from year to year.
The Water_Mill, Cottage, Granaries, and about nine acres of the Land are Leasehold of the Bishop of Norwich, for a term of 21 years, commencing the 10th October, 1827, at an annual rent of 3l. 13s. 4d. The Mill commands a good head of water, and drives two pair of stones and two flour mills.
The Dwelling-house, Out-buildings, Yard and Garden, and about five acres, three roods, and 22 perches of the Land are Freehold and pleasantly situated.
The Wind-mill, which is in excellent repair, and two roods and 30 perches of Land are Copy-hold of the Manor of North Walsham about half a mile.
This Estate offers either a desirable Investment for Money, or a good situation for an active Man of Business, having water carriage to the Port of Yarmouth, is within 16 miles of Norwich, one of North Walsham, and 26 of Yarmouth.
And at the same time and place last mentioned, will be Sold by order of the Assignees of the said Bankrupt.
A Place of Freehold Arable Land, situate in Swafield, near Swafield Bridge, leading over the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, containing about one acre and one rood, and is well calculated for Warehouses, Granaries, Coal and Timber Yards - Also one Share in the North Walsham and Dilham Canal.
Further particulars may be had in London of Messrs. Amory and Coles, Solicitors, Throgmorton Street; Messrs. Swaine and C. Solicitors, Frederick's Place, Old Jewry; Mr. Lythgoe, Essex Street, Strand; and in the County, of Mr. Clowes, and Messrs. Sayers and Glasspool, Solicitors, Great Yarmouth.
Norfolk Chronicle - 13th, 20th & 27th August 1831

Norfolk Chronicle - 13th, 20th & 27th August 1831
Norfolk Chronicle - 13th, 20th & 27th August 1831

Yarmouth Windmill, H. B. Johnson, Mercury - 1831
Yarmouth Windmill, H. B. Johnson, Mercury - 1831


c.1962 c.1962

To be Sold by Auction under a Commission of Bankrupt awarded against John Woollsey and John Secker of Great Yarmouth, wine and spirit merchants, dealers and chapmen, and on the application of the Mortgagees, at the Bear Inn, Bridge Foot, Great Yarmouth, on 8 September.
Lot 1. The 11 floor mill at Southtown

Lot 3. To be Sold by Auction at the King's Arms Inn, North Walsham 8 September. All that capital dwelling house, outbuildings, yard etc. together with the Water_Mill, cottage and granaries adjoining, and also a Wind Mill. The premises are situated in Swafield and North Walsham, and are now in the occupation of Mr. Benjamin Postle Woollsey, as tenant from year to year.
The Watermill and cottages etc. are leasehold of the Bishop of Norwich for a term of 21 years commencing 10 October 1827, at an annual rent of £3-13-4d. The Mill commands a good head of water, and drives two pairs of stones and two flour mills.
The Windmill, which is in excellent repair, is copyhold of the Manor of North Walsham.

London Gazette - 16th August 1831

To Millers, Merchants and others
SWAFIELD MILLS, Dwelling house, Granaries and several Inclosures of Arable and Pasture eLand will be Sold by Auction in separate Lots sometime in the month of October next of which due notice will be given in future papers unless sooner disposed of by Private Contract.
Particulars on application to James Wright, Land Surveyor, North Walsham.
North Walsham, 22 September 1831.
Norfolk Chronicle - 24th September 1831

Tithe map 1843 - as redrawn by Harry Apling
Tithe map 1843 - as redrawn by Harry Apling

Tithe Award 1843
Map, James Wright, Land Surveyor, Aylsham
Benjamin Postle Woollsey
Occupier: do

No. 987
No. 994

Windmill, Yard & Pightle


0a. 2r. 30p.


Robert Page married Benjamin Postle Woollsey's daughter Charlotte and took over the mill on the death of Benjamin Woollsey on 1st October 1860 after allegedly having fallen into the lock. In 1858 Robert Page was running Swanton_Abbott_towermill.

FATAL ACCIDENT - On Monday afternoon Mr. Benjamin Postle Woollsey of Swafield, miller and farmer, on crossing the upper lock of the canal at Swafield (which he had been accustomed very frequently to do) for the purpose of seeing after his workmen, that being much the nearer route, it is supposed that he was taken with giddiness in the head, from which he had lately suffered considerably and falling into the river was unfortunately drowned. Mr. Woollsey had been cautioned by his medical man against crossing this dangerous place, which few other persons but himself ventured to do. As his business required him to be frequently from home, no particular account was taken of his absence till a very late hour, when on search being made, his body was found in the river quite close to the lock.

Norfolk News - Saturday 6th October 1860


All Persons to whom Benjamin Postle Woollsey late of Swafield in the County of Norfolk was indebted at the time of his decease, are requested to send an account of their several demands to me or to my Co-Executor, John Woollsey of Swafield aforesaid, Miller and all persons who stand indebted to the said Benjamin Postle Woollsey at the time of his death are requested to pay the amount of their respective debts to me or to the said John Woollsey within one month of this date.

H. P. Woollsey, Executrix
Norfolk Chronicle - 2nd March 1861

Auction by W. Pope, 6 March 1861
Household furniture etc.
of B. P. Woollsey decd.

Norfolk Chronicle - 2nd March 1861

O.S. Map 1906 - as redrawn by Harry Apling
O.S. Map 1906 - as redrawn by Harry Apling

Tithe map - 1843

Tithe map - 1843
Mill in plot 987

The Swafield mills have been sold by auction this week

In the 18th century, they belonged to the Seckers, that interesting family of Norfolk Quakers, whose most distinguished member was John Secker the seaman (1716-1795). (The transcript of his journal in Norwich Public Library has already been the subject of an article on this page.) John was born in the water-mill at Swafield; his father soon moved to a mill at Buxton_Lamas, but the Swafield mill remained in the family, for John's brother and widowed mother were living there in 1755. The Seckers touched the corn trade at many points - John's cousin, William Palmer, grew corn; Uncle John Sparshall at Southrepps was a maltster and dealer; Cousin Thomas Parson at Wells was the master of a sloop engaged in the export trade; while Cousin Joseph Sparshall, of Wells, found the cargo. The Seckers themselves concentrated on milling; they had mills at Swafield, Buxton and Southrepps. Quaker business enterprises were interlocked, just as Quaker families were, and a high standard of honesty was insisted on by the Meeting, debtors were rebuked, bankrupts expelled. No longer regarded as dangerous religious fanatics, the 18th century Quakers prospered in business; they were industrious, and they were trusted.

At the end of the 18th century the corn business was booming. The population was growing, the standard of life rising, the labouring classes had abandoned the black bread of their forefathers and would eat nothing but wheat flour. Then came the long war with France - nothing could be imported to feed the growing the manufacturing towns. Wheat reached famine prices. The Seckers shared in the boom. In 1768 John Ransome, of North Walsham, had bought a small piece of land and build a windmill on it - a post mill. His neighbour undertook not to plant trees or place any obstruction "so as in any manner to incommode or prevent the wind or air from coming to the piece of land." If he broke the agreement John Ransome could enter his land and remove the obstruction. This is the mill whose remains, just outside North Walsham on the Mundesley road, are so often mistaken for a gibbet.

In 1779 Isaac Secker bought this mill, the mill house, and the land that went with it. At that time he was probably working the water-mill in partnership with his father, William Secker; in 1783 William retired, and leased the mill to his son. By then Isaac had built a handsome Georgian front to the mill house (his initials still adorn the side wall). It was a severe and dignified house, as befitted a respectable Quaker, but its size and little elegancies - the pelasters at the corners, a scroll-like curve on the bottom step - show that there was money to spare. Yet the Seckers were still simple people. In 1797 William married again, and his wife, Esther Barber, was illiterate, as were four of the relatives who signed the marriage certificate.

Until a few weeks ago Isaac Secker's portrait hung in the old house. It shows a well-set up man, with a long face and a long nose, and a commanding, but slightly anxious, expression. He may well have looked anxious; he had paid out a lot of money between 1779 and 1783; the property was mortgaged, and in 1785 the mortgage was increased. The war-time boom could not last for ever, and in 1831 his grandson John, to whom he had left the mill, was bankrupt.

The estate passed to the Seckers' relatives, the Woollseys. The water-mill was worked until about 1912; the post mill was used occasionally up to 1880. But by then the bottom had fallen out of country milling. Huge new steam mills stood at the ports to grind the imported corn on which the country was now fed; the Swafield mills were reduced to grinding feed for stock and selling offal. Now the mills, which have been for the past two centuries at least in the hands of these two related families, have been in the market.

The documents on which this account is based were brought to my notice by Mr. Stanley Watts, of North Walsham. Such records are particularly valuable. It is comparatively easy to reconstruct the lives of the gentry in past times, but the equally significant lives of less exalted persons are shrouded in obscurity. We know almost nothing about the rural middle-class who played such an important part in 18th century village life. It may be that there is still more to be discovered about the Secker family. Where are the records of the Swafield Quaker Meeting House? Who has got the Secker family Bible? Where is the original MS of John Secker's journal? I wish I knew.
Rachel Young, Eastern Daily Press - 4th October 1947

In 1962 a series of letters appeared in the Eastern Anglian Magazine concerning the original use of the woodwork with one writer claiming that the mill structure was in fact a double gibbet in the style of Caxton gibbet. The record was eventually put straight by a letter from Harry Apling.

East Anglian Magazine - May 1962 East Anglian Magazine - July 1962
East Anglian Magazine - May 1962

East Anglian Magazine - July 1962

East Anglian Magazine - September 1962
East Anglian Magazine - September 1962

East Anglian Magazine - November 1962
East Anglian Magazine - November 1962


In 1977 the post was re-erected in Swafield to hold the village sign of a Norfolk Wherry, such as used to bring coal from Great Yarmouth to Swafield Staithe via the North Walsham & Dilham Canal.
Harry Apling - c.1980

O. S. Map 1885

O. S. Map 1885
Swafield postmill to the south and Swafield watermill to the north
Courtesy of NLS map images

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

Kelly's 1879: John Woollsey, farmer

White's 1893: John Woollsey, farmer

1768: John Ransome of North Walsham built the postmill on Quaker Hill

c.1774: William Seckar built Southrepps postmill

1787: George Shreeve, miller - also at Swafield watermill

September 1787: Mill advertised to be let along with Swafield watermill

1779: Isaac Secker, son of William Seckar, bought the mill

Faden's map 1797: Windmill

c.1810: John Woollsey, miller

1816: Edward Press, miller - also at Swafield watermill

December 1816: Mill advertised to be let along with Swafield watermill

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

June 1827: Mill advertised for sale by private contract along with Swafield watermill

August 1828: Mill advertised to be let along with Swafield watermill

1830: John Postle Woollsey, miller

1831: John Secker (son of Isaac) and John Woollsey bankrupt

1831: Mill copyhold of the Manor of North Walsham

August 1831: Mill advertised to be sold by auction along with Swafield watermill and Southtown windmill

c.1831: Estate sold to Woollsey family - relatives of Seckers

Greenwood's map 1834: Windmill

White's 1836: Benjamin Postle Woollsey, miller & merchant

Pigot's 1839: Thomas Benjamin Woollsey, miller

Census 1841:

Benjamin Woolsey (40) miller & merchant
Charlotte Woolsey (40)
John Woolsey (11)
Fanny Woolsey (3)
Hanah ? Woolsey (2)
Thomas Jay (20) apprentice to miller
Ann Steward (50)
Charlotte Lark ? (15) Female Servant
William Norgate (14) Male Servant - all household born in Norfolk

White's 1845: Benjamin Postle Woollsey, corn miller & merchant

Hunt's 1850: Benjamin Postle Woollsey, miller

Census 1851:

Benjamin Woollsey (52) b.Gt Yarmouth, miller & farmer 7 acres empl 4 labs
Benjamin Woollsey (23) b.Gt Yarmouth
Charlotte Woollsey (21) b.Gt Yarmouth
John Woollsey (21) b.Gt Yarmouth, miller
Ann Steward (18) b.Swafield, housemaid
Eliza Claxton (15) b.North Walsham, housemaid
John Steward (16) b.Swafield, farming servant

White's 1854: Benjamin Postle Woollsey, corn miller & merchant

Monday 1st October 1860: Benjamin Postle Woollsey died aged 61 after falling into Swafield lock

March 1861: Household furniture etc. of Benjamin Postle Woollsey advertised for auction

c.1864 Robert Page married Charlotte Woollsey, daughter of Benjamin Postle Woollsey

White's 1864: Robert Page, corn miller

Kelly's 1879: Robert Page, miller

c.1880: Mill ceased working

White's 1883: Robert Page, miller and farmer; and North Walsham

O.S. map 1885: Old Windmill

White's 1890: Mrs. Charlotte Page, farmer and cornmiller; and North Walsham
White's 1890: John Robert Page, corn miller

Philip Unwin photo 16th August 1932: Mill substructure only with the crowntree

c.1955: Remains of mill buck still in situ on mill post

1962: Mill centre post still standing

January 1971: Roundhouse and remaining woodwork removed

1977: Mill post rerected in Swafield to hold the village sign

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 TG28453160
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2006