Blue Flower

Norfolk’s Industrial Mills workshop

On Wednesday 21 October we had a talk by Alison Yardy and Amanda Rix about the many industrial processes that mills were used for in Norfolk. We learned that as well as corn and bone grinding, mill power was also used for powering sawmills to make fish boxes, barrels, roof shingles and toys, Reedham mill had upto 7 saws at one time. Other uses included grinding colza seeds for oil, the mush by-product being used as cattle feed, seeds were also ground into oil for lighting.
Mills also ground Roman cement – there was a cement works at Reedham - and paper was made by grinding pulp from old sails, rope and clothes. Blotting paper was discovered by accident at Lyng mill, and paper from Taverham was used to print The Bible, Oxford English Dictionary and newspapers.
Mills were also used as pumps for drainage of land and for water supply to higher ground. There were mustard mills, and threshing was also carried out using mill power.
There were also snuff mills, textile mills, and spinning, weaving and fulling of cloth. Mills also powered grindstones for sharpening tools.
Wood bark, coffee and starch was also milled in Norfolk.


As there was heavy rain it was decided to change the planned walk to the bone mill for a presentation about our mill, fortunately volunteers had brought finds and pictures with them and they gave a brief talk about the work done:-
David Turner explained the history of the bone mill which he has done a lot of research on. He showed the coprolite he found and explained this was fossilised animal dung. He has sent a sample for analysis and we are waiting for confirmation from an expert. David also brought along the human skull found on site and put this on display and told the story of how it was found and the Police were involved in dating it to over 70 years ago, and analysing it, finding that it is probably female. We may be able to get more analysis done to find out where the person lived. A bottle top found on site was shown and its significance was explained as fertiliser samples found at the mill showed that sulphuric acid was used in the process and the bottle tops are the type used on jars of sulphuric acid. David also showed the sketched plan of the bone mill which he made from the survey he carried out, this shows all the significant areas of the site.
John Atkinson said bones had been found with saw marks that show they were sawn up small enough for grinding and showed a picture of the elevator from the manufacturers catalogue which clearly shows the bottom section found at the bone mill. John also said the brick base was probably a hammer mill, and that we think a steam engine was present as the water wheel alone would not have had enough power to supply the site when it was expanded. He also said he measured the capacity of the paddle buckets by filling one with water and calculated that about ¾ of a ton of water would have driven the wheel.
Graham Bartlett said the Lottery grant was used to replace the rusted steel buckets of the water wheel, a good original one was used as a pattern to make replacements which have now been fitted to the wheel which was gradually turned in order to fit them. Also funded was the new brickwork on the walls and pier which was completed by contractors using the Roman cement mentioned earlier, with special bricks. Graham also described the work the volunteers had done including exposing floors and features of the site and finding many iron objects such as lots of nails, some door hinges, latches and bolts, also nuts, washers and threaded bolts. The current work will mainly be covering up the site to protect from frost, and exploring the blacksmiths shop area where the river will be searched in hope of finding scrapped parts discarded in the water.
Dennis Greeno showed pictures he had taken of the site, including his discovery of the elevator, and also printouts of the catalogues he found online from the original manufacturers of the elevator and chains. Dennis also showed pictures of the promotional mugs and T shirts his grandson Adam has made and said Adam had enjoyed helping the volunteers during the summer holidays and showed some pictures of them both working at the mill.

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