Mill Dyke Drainage Mill

The following extract taken from John Yaxley’s A Jam Round Barton Turf describes the drainage mill that was located north of Barton Staithe:There can at times of low water still be seen, in line with the pipe the course of the Mill Dyke, now almost overgrown, leading through the bushes and trees to where the mill used to stand. An early map of the 1800s shows a mill or wind pump as some insist, on this site. Early photos show a smock mill of wooden construction and the sails were those that had to be covered with canvas as required. This was burned down in the early 1900s and replaced by a skeleton mill in 1903, where the wooden framework was supported on four brick pillars. The sails were of the modern adjustable vane type powering a turbine pump which ceased working when this mill was set on fire by holidaymakers prior to WWII. The mill wall itself was breached in the ’60s, so there is no control over the water level in the marshes around us.

Early photograph of Mill Dyke Drainage Mill.

Early photograph of Mill Dyke Drainage Mill.

The mill does not appear on Faden’s map of 1798 or on the enclosure map of 1809, but it can be seen on the gis ordnance survey dated 1838.   It is still shown on the 1945-46 New Popular Edition, although it was destroyed before then.

A newspaper article dated April 1903 contains the following account of the history of “the old Black Mill”:

In 1810 the common lands here were enclosed, when the then landowners, Sir Thomas Preston, the Rev. William Gunn, the Rev. Thomas Wiggett, and the Corporation of Norwich, directed their attention to the drainage of their properties. In 1811 Mr. Benjamin Perowne of Stalham, who had considerable experience in such matters and who possessed marshes adjoining and separated by a cut still known as “Perowne’s Dyke,” went into Lincolnshire and bought a drainage mill, the machinery of which is still in use in the old mill at Barton, a quaint old structure with a hexagonal tower, and is one of the few having four “cloth” sails. The cap is without flyers, and the mill is put into the direction of the wind by the tail pole. The water wheel is worked by the old-fashioned system of staves and trundles – one of the very few now extant. The old mill is stated to be on its last legs, but means are to be taken for its repair or replacement. It is to hope the former will be practicable, as it would be a matter of much regret should this ancient landmark disappear.

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