Dr Tony Palmer tracks down Salthouse's forgotten other windmill

 

The Mill that used to stand on the marsh is well recorded in old prints and postcards, but
a mill that once stood on high near the church had almost passed out of memory and legend until Tony Palmer started his investigat
ions . . .

Most people know of the mill that once stood on Mill Drift the remains of which can still be seen as a mound. Allegedly it was destroyed during the first World War when it was used for target practice by the artillery. Not so many people, however, are aware that there was an earlier mill at the top of Grout’s Lane built around 1826.
Although as a boy I was brought up in Norwich, and moved to Taverham in 1936, I knew very little about the North West Norfolk coast. I can recall driving through Cley with my father in 1945. To me, it was a dreary, war-worn place, lacking paint and people, but the coastal countryside was wooded, extremely attractive and relatively hilly in comparison with the coast further south.
Anxious to explore the area, my wife Shirley and I spent our first summer holiday in 1956 camping on Salthouse Heath. The site was on the left hand side of the road approaching Bard Hill. We went across the road for water to the R.A.F. radar station on the heath which was still in operation.
A year or two later, when we had a family, we found bed and breakfast, provided by Mrs F. Radley in Heath View (The Old Almshouse), in Cross Street where we spent a number of happy holidays, with our sons Mark and Simon. Mrs Radley was a great raconteur and told of privations of her early life, such as the necessity of collecting firewood from the Heath. The family pig was kept in an adjoining stye and there was frantic activity when it was slaughtered, to prepare the meat for winter provision. When later we stayed at Church Cottage we became friendly with Mr and Mrs Lee who lived in the bungalow beside the Church, called ‘Myngs’ (now Mill Ridge). In about 1971 the Lees decided to move inland to Coltishall and the bungalow came on the market; we became the owners in December 1971.
Over the years I have been able to assemble the previous history of the site and building. This information has been acquired from various sources, including a number of past inhabitants who have known the place from earlier times. Among these were Mr K. Brown and his sister Mrs Phyllis Jackson who as children lived in Church Cottage (later called ‘the Nest’, now St. Nicholas Cottage).

 


The top of Grouts Lane

'The Nest', where Ken Brown and Phyllis were born, is the little house central in the picture and 'Church House', where the Matthews lived, is the house on the right.

The first owners of the bungalow were the three Harrison sisters (school teachers) who were relatives of the Matthews who lived in Church House (now Church Cottage). The bungalow was prefabricated, they had seen it exhibited at the 1933 Ideal Home Exhibition. The manufacturers’ guarantee was for 15 years, which the sisters considered would be long enough, although one lived to the age of 90.
The sectional building was delivered by rail to Wells station, from where it came to Salthouse as one load towed by a steam tractor. Access via Grout's Lane was impossible and so it 'came up the meadow in one huge load', as described by Mr Sidney Craske, who was about 16 at the time when his father assembled it. I presume it was manhandled for the rest of the way, through a ‘gap’ in the west hedge.
The first owners named the bungalow ‘Windy Ridge’. The second owners were Admiral and Mrs. Ashley Waller who renamed it ‘Myngs’, which had a suitable Naval connotation.
Over the years we have met a number of people who suggested that at one time there had been a windmill in the garden. Mrs Jackson told us that as a child, she remembered playing in the flint ruins of a windmill at the bottom of the garden (the west end). In a letter dated March 1981, her brother Mr K. L. Brown, told me ‘I was born at the Nest in 1922 and returned to live there when married in 1949, so I do know just a little about the place.
'The Harrisons gave me a vegetable garden and I remember in the 1950s coming across terrific foundations which I could only conclude belonged to the mill. I exposed a few yards and then covered it up. It was not too deep, about 18" only'. Mr Brown enclosed a plan which indicates a semicircle of foundations at the west end of the garden, next to the present vegetable patch.
On 3 Sept ‘83 Shirley and I revisited Mrs Radley (then aged 93) who said that her mother had told her that there used to be a post mill on our plot (the 'Pightle'). Later that year I met Sidney Craske who recounted that Gerald Cubitt (whose family lived in Salthouse for many years) told him that one day the post mill at Mill Ridge ‘ran away with itself’ in a strong wind, and he had heard that they had thrown coarse sand between the mill wheels in an attempt to slow it down which had done it no good at all. Later I was told by the late Harry Apling that a very strong wind could result in the mill turning so that the sails backed on to the wind leading to their destruction—'tail winded'.

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Val Fiddian 2005