Although to date we are having a very mild winter here in the UK we have just had the wettest January for 250 years along with some very destructive high winds and tides. This as made me recall the many windmills and wind pumps that were in use in this country in the past and that are no longer in use today. One of the areas where there are many preserved windmills and wind pumps which are unique is the Norfolk Broads.
The Norfolk Broads is one of England’s ten National Parks and is Britain’s magical waterland, a uniquely beautiful environment shaped by people working hand in hand with nature over thousands of years. The windmills of Norfolk are perhaps the most iconic of all the county’s landscape features. Scattered across the county they stand as sentinels to a distant industrial past in which they provided wind-driven power for milling and for draining the marshland. In the nineteenth century at their peak there were around 700 working windmills in Norfolk and those that survive are important for having played their part in how the Norfolk landscape looks today. The best known of these survivors are the windmills of the Norfolk Broads.
We are going to take a look at four mills the first being in Thurne, a small riverside Broadland village that either gives or takes its name from the River Thurne that flows directly by the village located at the end of a dyke with the famous Thurne drainage mill at its head. The mill was built in 1820, but the sails and cap were blown off in 1919 and it needed repair. At some stage, the mill has been highered and this gives the “waist”, as the new section was made round to allow the cap to be re-used.
Moving on we now visit Brograve Mill, a windpump located on Brograve level in the parish of Sea Palling. The mill is a protected grade II listed building of red brick construction, now lying in an extremely dilapidated and unsafe state. Built in 1771 it is thought to have last worked around 1930. Its purpose was to drain the Brograve levels into the man-made Waxham New Cut.
Now we’ll take a look at the rather unusual looking Boardman’s Drainage Windmill which is located at How Hill on the east bank of the River Ant. Built in 1897 by a local millwright Daniel England of Ludham. Trestle mills or skeleton mills as they are sometimes described, were a later and less expensive alternative to a brick built windmill. As a result of their mainly timber construction very few have survived the ravages of the weather and of time. Boardman’s Mill is one of only three Trestle mills left on the Broads.
Last but not least we call at Turf Fen drainage mill which was built by Yarmouth millwright, William Rust c.1875 to drain Horning marshes into the River Ant. The water levels around the mill are now kept very high and there is no footpath or land access to the mill which ceased working around the 1920s when cattle no longer grazed the marshes.
I hope you have enjoyed our short tour of some of the windmills and I am certain, that like myself there are many people who are thinking how big a part these iconic structures could still be playing in today’s changing weather conditions.