Drainage Mills (Windpumps)
Steam Mills

Stalham smock mill stood on the Sutton Road and was often known as Cooke's Mill. The 6 storey, mill had a ten sided tower with a 4ft thick brick base reaching to the top of the second floor where a stage was set. At 70 feet to the top of the cap, the mill was reported to be the largest smockmill in the county. The Norfolk boat shaped cap had a horizontally boarded petticoat, a tailpole and a left handed 6 bladed fantail. Three pairs of French burr stones and one pair of peak stones were powered by two pairs of patent sails that were struck by rack and pinion. One pair of sails had 4 rows of shutters, each with 9 bays of 2 shutters and the other pair also had 4 rows but with 9 bays of 3 shutters.

Horning_Mill_Loke_postmill was probably the first postmill and possibly even the first windmill to be fitted with William Cubitt's patent sails some time after 1807. This type of sail would eventually be used by nearly all Norfolk windmills.
Stalham smockmill was the only other known contender for the honour of being the first mill to be fitted with this type of sail.
Pockthorpe smockmill had been fitted with a fantail to automatically turn it to wind by 1803.

Rex Wailes reported that:
The sail frames were 28ft long by 13ft 10ins wide, with four rows of 27 vanes made of canvas covered wooden frames, totaling 432 vanes.
Friction driven governors from the windshaft controlled the striking gear.
Auxiliary power was supplied via drive through a coarse pitch ratchet and two pawls when a steam engine was installed in 1848 allowing the stones to be driven by wind and steam at the same time.
The cast iron windshaft was said to have weighed 7 tons.
The property was insured for £800 and the contents for £200.


To Journeymen Millers
At Michaelmas next in a Windmill with Patent Sails
An UNMARRIED MAN who can be recommended for Honesty, Sobriety and Activity. He must be a good Stone dresser and will have to Board himself.
Apply personally to Samuel Cooke, Stalham or on a Saturday at the Bull Inn, Magdalen Street, Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle - 30th September 1826

To Millers
To be Sold
A Capital pair of 4 ft. FRENCH BURR STONES
nine inch joint, built to order and quite new.
They will be delivered free of expence by water carriage to any part of the county.
Enquire of Mr. Cooke, Stalham Mills or Cooke & Gambling, Buxton_Mills and Corn Exchange, Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle - 24th October 1829

The 1841 census shows Sophia Cooke as an independent, her husband having died. Her son, William Cooke was then the miller, presumably having taken over from his father. James Quadling was living next door to the Cooke's and was probably responsible for running the mill on Sophia Cooke's behalf whilst training William Cooke to eventually take over. Between 1841 and 1851, William Cooke had taken over the running of the mill, had married and become the father of two children but had lost his wife.


Wind & Steam Mills.
To be Let with possession at Michaelmas next.
The WINDMILL driving three pairs of Stones for Wheat and one pair for Barley; and the Steam Mill adjoining driving three pairs of stones. Situate at Stalham in the County of Norfolk.
Apply to Messrs. Clowes & Flowerdew, Norwich or to Mr. Samuel Cooke, Horstead Mills.
Norfolk Chronicle - 17th September 1859

TO BE LET with possession at Michaelmas next, the WINDMILL driving three pair of stones for Wheat and one pair for Barley and the Steam Mill adjoining driving three pair of stones. Situate at Stalham in the County of Norfolk.
For particulars apply to Messrs. Clowes & Flowerdew, Norwich or Mr. Samuel Cooke, Horstead Mills.
Norfolk News - 17th September 1859

Houses etc.
Immediate possession.
Enquire of Mr. Cooke, Stalham.
Norfolk News - 13th November 1859

St. Ann's Iron Works,
King Street, Norwich, Feby 25/60.
Mr. R. Cooke,
Dear Sir, Having duly considered the Alterations required to be done to your Engine at Stalham Mill I beg to say I will undertake to make a New Internal Cylinder and Metallic Piston for do. to be turned, bored fitted & fixed complete for the sum of twenty one pounds ten shillings.
£21.10. 0.
I am,
Your Obt. Servt,
Thos. Smithdale.

Situations Vacant
a Young MAN who understands Stone and Flour Dressing and make himself useful.
Apply H. Cooke, Stalham or Stand, Corn Hall Norwich.
Norfolk News - 14th December 1872

Returns his sincere thanks to his Friends and the Public at large for the kind support rendered to him and other members of this Family for many years and he begs to inform them that the MILLING BUSINESS will still be carried on by himself and his Son, Robert, who will trade as the Firm of R. & R. Cooke.

Respectfully solicit a continuance of that support and hope by strict attention to merit a share of the favors which have been long continued to the various members of the Cooke Family.
Norfolk News - 23rd October 1875

Important Estate situate in the Parish of STALHAM ...
Messrs. Spelman have received instructions from the Executors of the late Mr. Robert Cooke to Sell the above by Auction on Saturday 29 July 1882 at the Royal Hotel, Norwich at 12 for 1 o'c ... in 47 Lots which will include ...
Wind and Steam Mills ...
Further particulars in future papers and may be had of Messrs. Keith, Blake & Co. Solrs. Norwich, Messrs. Cooper & Davies, Solrs. Norwich and of Messrs. Spelman, Norwich & Yarmouth and at the Estate Exchange, Tokenhouse Yard, E. C.
Norfolk Chronicle - 24th June 1882

STALHAM ... Norfolk
Messrs. Spelman have received instructions from the Executors of the late Mr. Robert Cooke to Sell by Auction on Saturday July 29, 1882 at 12 o'c at noon, at the Royal Hotel, Norwich, the ESTATES of the deceased situate in the above Parishes in the following Lots.
Lot 29.
STALHAM WIND & STEAM MILLS let with Lot 31 to Mr. Bristow at £105 per annum.
Lot 31.
A Ground floor COTTAGE, let with the Mill.
Particulars of Messrs. Spelman, Auctioneers & Estate Agents at Norwich & Yarmouth, of Messrs. Keith, Blake & Co. Solrs. the Chantry, Norwich, Messrs. Cooper & Davies, Solrs. London Street, Norwich and at the Estate Exchange, Tokenhouse Yard, E. C.
Norfolk Chronicle - 8th, 15th & 22nd July 1882


A familiar landmark has been removed by the destruction by fire yesterday of Stalham Old Mill, the property of Mr. Bristow.
The fire broke out about four o'clock in the morning and Mr. John Bristow on waking noticed a smell of fire. He at once alarmed the family and proceeded to the street and gave the alarm. Mr. A. Hensman and others immediately dragged the engine to the scene of the fire. It was at once discovered that a supply of water was a difficulty. Messrs. E. & H. Cooke and others promptly supplied men, horses and water-carts. Water was fetched from the Staithe and the Hall. The fire originated in the bake office which abuts on the centre of the building and spreading to the left the tower mill was instantly ablaze. The scene baffles description. The flames broke through the platform, the tailpole caught fire and the flames ascended to the flyers. The cap then ignited, the sails following. The building consists of a brick roundhouse, the walls of which are over 2
½ feet in thickness. Above it was a "smock tower" built entirely of wood. This burnt like a matchbox and seemed to melt away. The sails fell crushing the walls. The base is now a mass of red-hot machinery. One pair of stones in falling crushed the outer walls of the roundhouse. Not a vestige remains. In the other portion , the steam mill, nothing is left but the bare walls. Here the machinery was all new and costly, but electric plant and roller apparatus are totally destroyed. This portion was erected in 1848. A new engine put up a short time ago costing some hundreds of pounds was saved, that is the boiler part. In this part the machinery and corn were in a white heat. By cutting through the roof and pouring the water on the old engine house, the stables and other buildings were saved. Owing to the high wind the dwelling house was threatened, Fortunately this did not catch fire, but so great was the risk that all the furniture was removed into a field across the road. The damage is estimated to be not far short of £3000. Mr. Bristow is insured with the Norwich Union and their Agent, Mr. T. A. Daniel was quickly on the scene. There was a very large crowd but perfect order was maintained by Sergeant Collier and his staff.

Such a fire in this district has not occurred since 1861 when Mr. T. Wort's mill at Sutton was totally destroyed. When day broke yesterday the scene was one of utter desolation. It seemed impossible to realise that the familiar old mill was numbered with the things of the past.

The total destruction of Stalham Old Mill, apart from the heavy loss to its owner is a matter of regret. It was built by the late Samuel Cooke in 1797. At this period it was customary to retail flour on Sundays, but in 1800 through the influence of his wife the practice was discontinued. In 1812 at the time when incendiary fires were so rife, it was Mr. Cooke's practice the last thing at night to go to the top of the mill to look out. On one occasion no fewer than thirteen fires were raging. The Old Mill was famous for having the first set of sails with canvas vanes. These were jointly invented by Mr. Cooke and the late Sir William Cubitt, who married Miss Sparkhall a cousin of Mrs. Cooke. Sir William was first apprenticed to Mr. Hindle, a cabinet maker of Stalham, whose shop and house still exist in the rear of Mrs. Cattermoule's shop.
Eastern Daily Press - 7th January 1903

January 1903 1903
Stalham fire engine at the mill - January 1903
After the fire of 1903


Shortly after 4 o'c Tuesday morning (6th) inhabitants of the long main street of Stalham were awakened by the clattering of the horses hoofs and the shouts of "Fire!" A great number of people at once turned out to find that a well-known landmark, Bristow's Mills were ablaze. The Mills which were situated about 100 yards from the highway at the eastern end of the town consist of a large steam-mill, built of wood and brick and a tower mill in close proximity also built chiefly of wood, with engine house, stables and dwelling house adjoining. The tower mill built in 1797 was a well-known landmark for miles around and the steam mill was erected in 1848.

Four years ago Mr. Alfred Bristow installed a new and costly roller plant and fitted the mills throughout with electric light. The whole of these with the two mills have been completely destroyed. The fire originated in the bake office in the centre of the buildings and was discovered by one of Mr. Bristow's sons who was awakened by the sounds of crackling and smoke. The new Coronation fire engine which was used for the first time was on the scene within five minutes of the alarm being raised and was instrumental in saving the stables and the dwelling house. P.C. Collyer and P.C. Capps were quickly on the scene. A strong south west wind was blowing at the time which rendered the operations of the fireman and other helpers arduous and difficult. Owing to the scarcity on the premises, water had to be fetched from the Staithe and the Hall. Messrs. Edward Cooke, William Durrell and Henry Cooke sent horses and water carts for that purpose.
The amount of damage is estimated at nearly £5000. The buildings etc. were insured in the Norwich Union Office.
At four o'clock yesterday afternoon, the ruins were still smouldering and the fire brigade in attendance watching and guarding against further outbreak. Hundreds of persons visited the spot during the day.
Norfolk Chronicle - 10th January 1903

Damage at Stalham
... The roof of Mr. Bristow's steam mill was stripped of tiles ...
Dereham & Fakenham Times - 29th February 1908

Stalham Moor - 19th July 1908
Stalham Moor - 19th July 1908
Left to right:
Norman Goffin, later to be miller at Ingham Mill Farm towermill;
'Moi' - probably Lucy Bristow, sister of Thirza Bristow, daughters of Alfred Bristow
George Baker; Thirza Bristow, Reggie March, Rosa Daniels

Billhead c.1910
Billhead c.1910

Mill yard c.1912
Mill yard c.1912
The photo of the two girls in the mill yard: my grandmother, Thirza Bristow, is sitting down, definitely, on the right.  The girl on the left with her hand on the door is probably Lucy Bristow (both daughters of miller Alfred)   The two chaps in the background we can't make out.
Sue Malleson - 7th September 2008

Traction engine entering mill yard c.1912
Traction engine entering mill yard c.1912
Written on the other side of the above postcard:
With best wishes for a Happy Birthday
Do you recognise any one on this card.  It was taken Tuesday evening up the mill.   
Fred brought this load from East Ruston so we all got on the load + had our Photo taken just for fun.

Emma Bristow - standing to left of wheel with child
Alfred Bristow - standing behind Emma Bristow
Thirza Bristow - standing on the front of the cart to the left of Alfred Bristow
George Bristow (eldest son) - driving the engine
Fred Bristow - standing immediately behind George Bristow

The traction engine:  the vehicle is entering the mill yard - the garden wall is on the left.
My grandmother Thirza was born in 1891 and she looks in her early 20s in the photo so it's Edwardian, around 1910 I think - note my greatgrandmother's dress is Victorian - the girls however are moving towards the new fashions, and the shirtwaister was in around 1909.  Fashion travelled much slower to the country of course - but if you want to be accurate then between 1910 and 1915. Hemlines rose in 1915 apparently to mid calf.

Sue Malleson - 7th September 2008

Steam mill engine c.1915 Steam mill c.1915
Steam mill engine c.1915
Steam mill c.1915


Alfred Bristow's lorry 1921

Alfred Bristow's lorry 1923
Alfred Bristow's lorry at Salthouse in August 1921
Alfred Bristow's lorry at Salthouse in 1923

George Bristow and family at Seaton House c.1912 Mill house c.1925
George Bristow and family at Seaton House c.1912
Alfred Bristow and family at Mill House c.1925

O.S. Map 1884
O.S. Map 1884
Courtesy of NLS map images

Kelly's 1879: Robert Cooke, farmer & & brick & tile maker

Kelly's 1912: Alfred Bristow, Mill house
Kelly's 1912: John Bristow, The Hollies

Kelly's 1916: Alfred Bristow, Mill house
Kelly's 1916: George Bristow, Seaton house
Kelly's 1916: John Bristow, baker & confectioner, Bush house

Kelly's 1922: Alfred Bristow, Mill house
Kelly's 1922: George Bristow, Seaton house
Kelly's 1922: John Bristow, Bush house
Kelly's 1922: John Bristow, baker & confectioner

Kelly's 1925: Alfred Bristow, Mill house
Kelly's 1925: George Bristow, Seaton house, Brumstead road
Kelly's 1925: John Bristow, Bush house

Kelly's 1929: Alfred Bristow, Mill house
Kelly's 1929: George Bristow, Seaton house, Brumstead road
Kelly's 1929: John Bristow, Bush house

1797: Mill built for Samuel Cooke

Poll Book 1802: Samuel Cooke, miller

c.1807: William Cox, miller

1807: Mill first mill to be fitted with William Cubbit's Patent Sails

Bryant's map 1826: Windmill

1826: Samuel Cooke, miller

1829: Samuel Cooke, miller

12th March 1833: Samuel Cooke, miller & farmer, wrote his will

Index of Wills 1834: Samuel Cooke, miller

31st May 1835: Samuel Cooke, miller & farmer, died

White's 1836: Mrs. Sophia Cooke, corn miller

O.S. map 1838: Windmill

Census 1841:

William Cooke (20) miller
Sophia Cooke, independent

Census 1841:

James Quadling (50) miller
Margarette Quadling (45)

White's 1845: William Cook, corn merchant, miller and compound manufacturer

1848: Steam engine installed allowing the stones to be driven by wind and steam at the same time.

Census 1851:

William Cooke (36) b.Stalham, miller employing 4 men
William F. Cooke (5) b.Stalham, school at home
Frank P. Cooke (3) b.Stalham, school at home
Sophia Cooke (72) b.Neatishead, annuitant (mother)
Elizabeth Foulger (18) b.Pringle domestic servant
Mary Gage (15) b.Stalham, house servant

Edward Nurse (50) b.Weybourne, journeyman miller
Benjamin Nurse (13) b.Jesterton
Deborah Nurse (11) b.Weybourne, scholar
Martha A. Nurse (9) b.Weybourne, scholar
Roseamint Nurse (6) b.Kelling, scholar

Cubitt Johnson (34) b.Blakeney, journeyman miller
Mary Johnson (34) b.Fulmodestone
Mary E. Johnson (11) b.Ryburgh, scholar
William Johnson (9) b.Ryburgh, scholar
Robert Oldfield (22) b.Saham, painter's apprentice (lodger)

White's 1854: William Cook, corn miller & corn merchant

September 1859: Mill advertised to be let

Census 1861:

Robert Cooke (48) miller, employing 5 men, 1 boy, farmer of 480 ? acres employing 16 labs and 8 boys, brickmaker employing 6 men, 2 boys; merchant employing 2 journeymen, 1 Granary Man, & 1 Carpenter.
Elizabeth Cooke (47) b.Hoveton St. Peter.
Robert Cooke (17) b.Stalham
Edward Cooke (16) b.Stalham
Susanna Mary Wells (52) b.Hoveton St. Peter (sister in law)
Susan Willson ? (19) b.Catfield, house servant
Harriet Foulger (17) b.Horstead, dairy maid
Address: Road to Sutton

Samuel Mayes (32) b.Stalham, miller’s carter (living with family)

Henry Cooke (46) b.Stalham, miller
Ann Cooke (46) b.Happisburgh
Charles C. Cooke (15) b.Catfield
Emma Cooke (10) b.Catfield
George J. Cooke (9) b.Worstead
Cubitt Cooke (7) b.Worstead
Plus an un-named Lodger
Address: Road to Sutton (3 doors from Robert Cooke)

William Catte (24) b.Ingham, journeyman miller
Frances Catte (23) b.Edingthorpe
Address: Road to Sutton

Robert Pike (88) b.Ranworth, miller
Charlotte Pike (73) b.Ridlington
Mary Amiss Pike (34) b.Ridlington
Address: Next to the Public House in the Street, Stalham

Census 1861: Thomas Farrow (34) b.Westwick, journeyman miller (living with family)

1863: William Cook, miller

White's 1864: Robert Cooke, miller & farmer (owner)

1865: Robert Cooke, miller & farmer

1868: Henry Cooke, miller (wind & steam) & merchant

1872: Henry Cooke, miller

October 1875: Robert Cooke and his son Robert commence trading as R. & R. Cooke

1878: Robert Cooke, miller & merchant

Kelly's 1879: Thomas Henry Gray, miller

White's 1883: Alfred Bristow, miller, corn merchant & farmer; and East Ruston

O.S. map 1884: Windmill (Corn)

White's 1890: Alfred Bristow, miller, corn merchant & farmer; and East Ruston

Kelly's 1892: Alfred Bristow, miller (wind & steam)

Kelly's 1896: Alfred Bristow, baker, miller (wind & steam) & farmer at East Ruston

Kelly's 1900: Alfred Bristow, baker, miller (wind & steam) & farmer at East Ruston; & at Ridlington (steam)

8th January 1903: Mill destroyed by fire

Kelly's 1904: Alfred Bristow, baker, miller (wind & steam), Stalham hygiene flour mills; & at Ridlington (steam)

2nd February 1908: Hurricane stripped the steam mill roof of tiles

Kelly's 1912: George & John Bristow, millers (steam)

Kelly's 1916: George & John Bristow, millers (steam)

Kelly's 1922: Alfred & John Bristow, millers (steam)

Kelly's 1925: Alfred & John Bristow, millers (steam)

Kelly's 1929: Alfred & John Bristow, millers (steam)

1930: Alfred Bristow died

1938: Emma Bristow died

1938: Steam mill still working with Jack Bristow in the office and Fred Bristow in the engine room

1980: Norfolk Millers Ltd.

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

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