Billingford tower mill was five storeys high and built of red brick by W. Skinner in 1859-60 at a cost of £1,300 on the site of a postmill that was destroyed in a gale shortly before. White’s directory of 1845 and 1864 lists Billingford as alias Pyrleston. The west door had white bricks either sides of the door jambs some 5 feet from the ground that were carved Mr. G. Goddard March 1860
The boat-shaped cap with a petticoat was tarred in the latter years of its working life but was painted white during restoration. An unusual 6 bladed fantail replaced one of a more traditional design in the 1930s. Drive from the fan spindle to the rack on the curb was via a spur pinion.
After restoration the mill had four wide double-shuttered sails each with 8 bays of 3 shutters that were operated by rack and pinion striking gear. The wooden clasp-arm brake wheel has iron section teeth and bears a tablet W. SKINNER 1860.
The cast iron upright shaft was 4½ ins in diameter and the 5ft 4½ ins diameter spur wheel was the smallest recorded by Rex Wailes.The stones were on the second floor and overdriven via wooden cogged iron stone nuts. The mill originally drove two pairs of stones, one of which was restored to working order.
A hurst frame supported a pair of composition stones that were sickle dressed and driven via an outside pulley on the second floor by an oil engine that was installed in 1928. The tower had two doors on the ground floor.
George Goddard who had been working the postmill at the time of its destruction, became the first tenant miller in March 1860 after William Chaplyn of Diss Rose Lane mill built the new towermill.
Edward Woodrow took over the mill c.1869 and brought with him his one year old son Charles Edward, who became the owner and miller at Lakenham Peafield towermill. Edward Woodrow moved to Scole towermill in 1875 and then to Horsford towermill in 1883.
The last miller was Arthur Daines who used windpower until 1956. By this time the mill was down to two sails and following further wind damage he reverted to auxiliary power before ceasing to work the mill in 1959.
Billingford towermill was the last wind powered windmill to commercially work in Norfolk using wind power and after milling ceased it was sold to Mr. Valiant who restored the mill for future preservation that curiously included demolishing the surrounding mill buildings.
On completion of the restoration work, with the help of donations from Norfolk County Council, SPAB and the Historic Buildings Council, Mr. Valiant donated it to Norfolk County Council and thus the mill became first to be acquired by the Norfolk Windmills Trust for preservation.
‘Repairs are planned to one of Norfolk’s historic windmills so that it can be returned to full working order.
Billingford Mill, near Diss, was given a new lease of life in 1999 when major restoration was carried out as part of a European project – having fallen into disuse 50 years earlier when it stopped producing flour.
Built in 1860, it had been the last windmill still operating in Norfolk on a commercial basis, and was gifted to the county council in 1965.
Now the windmill has stopped turning again because all four sails have been damaged by rot.
Norfolk Windmills Trust, which looks after the redbrick tower mill, is seeking listed building consent to remove the sails, repair and repaint them with white linseed paint.
The sails will be taken down and sent for repair to a workshop at either Oby or Ludham.
Michael Knights, the county’s mills adviser, said: “Rot is a constant problem for all mills and there is a bit more rot at Billingford than we would like, and it is easier to remove the sails and take them away from the site.
“People can still visit,” he added, “and we are hoping to get the repairs done in time for the summer, but obviously we are in the hands of the millwright.”
Billingford Mill was at the centre of long-running wrangle involving former mill “custodian” Linda Joslin who was “locked out of the building” in 2002, and subsequently given notice to quit her neighbouring cottage.
Mill volunteers now hold a series of open days during the summer months, and also give conducted tours by arrangement.
The application to carry out the repairs has been submitted to South Norfolk Council.’
– Diss Mercury 2 Feb 2008
News from the past . . .
WINDMILL TO LET at Billingford near Scole.
Brick tower with Patent Sails, driving two Pairs of Stones, Flour Mill etc. A small Bake House attached.
Possession at Michaelmas.
Apply to W. Chaplyn, Diss.
Norfolk News – 5th August 1871
Diss County Court Wednesday
(Before J. Worlledge Esq., Judge)
A Curious Mixture
Henry Pike, miller of Billingford sued George Jukes of Brome for £4.17s. for flour & meal supplied.
Summary:- Defence – some barley meal not fit to eat, a quantity of whiting mixed with the meal. Plaintiff admitted some starch fibre mixed in.
Judgement for plaintiff, but less 30s. because of adulteration. “Plaintiff ought to be ashamed of himself”. Not allowed costs.
Norfolk News – 17th August 1872
For more history about these mills and many others, please visit – www.norfolkmills.co.uk