Ditchingham watermill was known to many as Rider Haggard’s Mill. Although a mill on this site was documented as far back as 1240, the last structure disappeared c.1850. The story goes that part of the waterwheel was found near to where the mill used to be and was made into “something” for Lilias Rider Haggard.
Back in the 1960s it was documented that the Oak timbered plates that supported the mill wheel still remain in the bank.
Baldry brought down to me a slab of oak which he is going to make into a stool. He had taken it out of the river bank by the old mill-race. There has been a mill on the spot for centuries, but the earliest mention I have found is in the Parliament Rolls as follows:
“William de Pirnhow in the 24th of Henry III released to Roger, Earl of Norfolk his right of fishery from the Mill of Cliff to the bridge of Bungay, and the Earl granted him a fishery from Bungay bridge to the Earl’s Vineyard.”
This would have been about the year 1250, and the mill was destroyed by fire about 1780 and never re-built. The plank formed the bed-plate of the mill wheel, and must have been under water for hundreds of years. There was some erosion of the wood on the surface, but when planed off it proved to be perfectly sound, completely black oak, as hard as iron. Norfolk Notebook – Alan Sutton, 1946
News from the past . . .
Situation for a watermill – to be sold – a piece of meadow – whereon a watermill stood which was lately burnt down. There is a good stream and it is a very desirable situation to erect another mill upon, as the river is navigable thence to Yarmouth.
Ipswich Journal – 13th July 1778
Another story goes…
An old miller called Lock was grinding grist for the farmers around. His poor old pony could scarcely pull a coombe of corn, so this strong man humped one sack and helped push the cart up the hills. He was a very honest man and his share was peck for a coombe.
George Baldry once lived in the mill cottage and it was possibly he that found the section of waterwheel mentioned above. His grandfather took over the mill cottage tenancy in the early 19th century but by then the mill had already ceased working. His son, George’s father, took over the cottage in 1869.
Index of Wills 1705: Francis Barnes, miller (possibly windmiller)
Index of Wills 1718: John Beaumont, miller (possibly windmiller)
c.1778: Mill burnt down
Bryant’s map 1826: Mill house
1869: George Baldry aged 4 and his parents moved to Mill House
1955: George Baldry, Mill House, aged 89
For more history about these mills and many others, please visit – www.norfolkmills.co.uk