Potter Heigham
drainage pump
River Thurne


Potter Heigham High's drainage mill was built on the north side of the River Thurne. The mill used four patent sails to power its pump. The sails and the Norfolk boat shaped cap with its tailpole were turned to wind by a 6 bladed fantail.
The mill was named after two brothers who ran the mill - Harold from 1922 and then Bertie from the early 1940s.

The mill was built by Stalham millwright, William Rust (originally from Martham) c.1875. William Rust also built Hunsett and Turf Fen mills.

c.1900 c.1900


c.1920 c.1925


This c.1920 photo of High's Mill was sent to my grandmother here in Australia by her cousin from Norfolk, Georgina Starling, who can be seen in the photo. Georgina's father was Alpheus Starling (b 1854), brother of the Austic Wallace Starling who took over running the Winterton_postmill from his father (George Davey Starling senior).
Greg, Melbourne, Australia - 7th May 2013

1871 Plate
Riches & Watts manufacturer's plate from steam engine - 1871

I have just seen the photographs on the Auction House website of High’s Mill in Potter Heigham following its recent sale, and this prompted me to look further online to see if there was more information relating to it. This is how I came to your comprehensive ‘Norfolk Mills’ website and the entry relating to High’s drainage mill. One thing I can add to the information regarding High’s mill is how it acquired its name – it was run consecutively by brothers with that surname. 
My late grandparents, Harold and Olive High, took over operation of the mill late in 1922, shortly after the birth of their daughter, my mother, Edna. My mother, now 93, remembers the mill well and lived with her parents in the cottage adjacent to it, the red brick cottage with the dormers in the roof situated to the right of the mill in the 2008 photograph on your website. She cannot remember the exact date that my grandparents moved out, but she thinks it was in the 1940s during the Second World War, as she remembers that she and her husband Harry Ewen (my late father, who was on leave from the RAF at the time) helped her parents move to their next home, Abbey Farm, Thurne. The operation of the mill was then taken over by my grandfather’s youngest brother, my great uncle, Bertie High (now also deceased).
My grandfather operated the drainage windmill as well as a steam-powered drainage pump. The steam-powered pump was essential to maintain the drainage of the marshes during times when there was insufficient wind to drive the windmill sails. At some time during my grandparents’ stewardship of the mill the steam pump was replaced by an electrically-powered pump. My mother thinks this occurred in the thirties as she remembers regretting that she had to go to school while the steam boiler chimney was demolished – a sight that she had hoped to observe. I still have the brass manufacturer’s plate (Riches & Watts, Duke’s Palace Ironworks, Norwich, 1871) that was removed from the steam pump when it was dismantled (photo attached). 
My mother also remembers living at the mill through the floods of 1938 when she was about 15 years old. The mill and cottage were built on land slightly higher than the surrounding land. The marshes surrounding the mill were all flooded, and the flood water rose steadily up their garden towards the mill and their house. Her father told her that if the water level increased further that they would have to move out. Fortunately the breach in the sea defences at Horsey was repaired, after which the water level slowly receded.

Dr. Richard J. Ewen - 1st October 2015

September 1971 c.1985
September 1971

22nd January 2008
22nd January 2008

24th September 2016 1st October 2016
Richard Seago - 24th September 2016
1st October 2016

12th October 2017 12th October 2017
Brakewheel - 12th October 2017
Richards Seago - 12th October 2017

We purchased the mill at auction in 2015 and since then have embarked on a scheme of restoration as it had started to deteriorate significantly. The biggest task was the replacement of the cap, including some significant structural timbers. This was undertaken by local millwright Richard Seago. Unfortunately we could not replace the sails due to the lean that the mill has developed over the years. We have also replaced all of the windows, and refitted the whole of the interior. The pump house has also been rebuilt and the millpond wall reinforced as it was beginning to leak. The final stage is the landscaping of the grounds which is currently underway.
I had spent all my childhood holidays on the Norfolk Broads and developed a real love for the area. I studied at Norwich School of Art and actually met Bertie High when I took photos of him ploughing a field in the mid '80's. I obviously didn't realise the significance of this until we had bought the mill and discovered his connection to it. I have found out little snippets of information and anecdotal evidence from passers by and local residents about the history of the mill after it ceased working. Apparently an old lady (who I believe was quite a character!) lived there from the mid 60's until her death in the 1980's. It then became a holiday home but slowly fell into disrepair.

Gavin Swain - 31st December 2018

2nd November 2017 7th July 2018
2nd November 2017
7th July 2018

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

1871: Steam engine plate date of Riches & Watts steam engine used to supplement wind power

c.1875: Mill built by millwright William Rust for the Drainage Board

1891-c.1916: Charles Grapes

1922-c.1942: Harold High

1938: Steam engine replaced by an electric pump

1942: Bertie High

1971: Mill with fan frame and two stocks

1990s: Mill sold at auction - new owners to keep the mill private - possibly a holiday home

2008: Mill with cap

May 2015: Mill advertised for sale by Auction House for a guide price of £150,000

2015: Mill bought at auction by Gavin Swain

2016: Mill renovations by Richard Seago in progress

2017: Mill renovations by Richard Seago in progress

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 42951902
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2007