Ellingham watermill was built of white weatherboard over a brick base with a pantiled roof. As can be seen from the photographs below, it changed dramatically over the years as it was enlarged and developed. Along with Earsham, it was one of the only two Norfolk watermills on the Waveney.
The mill was built on an artificial semicircular cut made to the north of the River Waveney. This allowed the mill to retain its head of water while the nearby lock on the main river controlled the levels for the Bungay Navigation.
At one time the mill had 3 locums, as can be seen on the photographs below. The Waveney was fully navigable for many years using a series of locks, one of which was next to Ellingham mill, thus grain and flour were both transported to and from the mill via wherry as well as road.
The last waterwheel to be fitted was 17h.p. and made of iron. John Munnings (1916-1987), grandson of the artist Alfred Munnings and great grandson John Munnings, miller of Mendham Mill related that the wheel was supplemented by a 8-10h.p. German turbine c.1895 and the wheel was then eventually removed and replaced by a much larger Armfield 90h.p. turbine. (This possibly happened around 1908 after the Walker brothers had taken over).
John Munnings also mentioned that apparently the Armfield turbine proved to be too large for the river and could only be used to full capacity when the river had a good head of water and the tail water in the millpool was low. However, he was complimentary of the mill stating that it was Once one of the most up-to-date mills on the River until flour milling ceased (in 1949) and that it was one of the few country mills using plansifters instead of centrifugals – i.e. flour sieves as opposed to flour dressers.
News from the past . . .
The first known reference to the mill was c.1200 in an agreement between Alexander de Kerkeby and William de Hales that Alexander should pledge to William his part of the mill along with easements in water and fishing rights in return for 80 marks of silver.
On 7th September 1672, an indenture assessing the Lockage on the Bungay Navigation cites the mill in an order from the Commissioners where it appears there is a difference between the Exors. And the Heirs-in-law of Mr. Hammond late of Ellingham in the Co. of Norfolk as to which of them the estate in a Water Mill in Ellingham aforesaid should belong. Dat 1676.
On 1st January 1772, Lincoln Matchett, the miller took out insurance on the mill:
Water Corn Mills under one Roof with the going geers belonging situate as aforesaid, brick timber and tiled not exceeding £1200. Utensils and stock therein £300.
During the American War of Independence 1775-1783 Bungay, Ellingham and Wainford mills produced flour for export to America.
MYSTERIOUS TRAGEDY AT METTINGHAM
HUSBAND AND WIFE FOUND DROWNED
On Saturday morning at ten o’clock one of the millers employed at Ellingham watermlll made a horrible discovery. Observing something in a dyke leading into the river Waveney in the two mile he made investigations and found the bodies of a man and woman in the water. Both were quite dead, and he obtained assistance and conveyed the bodies to Mettingham Tally Ho. Inquiries revealed the identities of the deceased as Mr and Mrs Harlev of Beccles, the man having been lately employed at the Tan Yard. It is said that he had a short time since attempted to commit suicide. During the last few days he and his wife had been staying with his daughter at Shipmeadow. The deceased were ending their visit on Saturday, intending to take the train at Ellingham Station, and it is conjectured that on the way Harley jumped into the dyke. It is thought that his wife went to the rescue and that a struggle ensued ending fatally for both. A cut or bruise is visible on the womans temple. The whole affair must have happened very quickly as some persons went past the spot only a short time previously, and nothing was seen of the deceased who left their daughters home at just before nine.
On Saturday evening Mr Coroner Chaston opened the inquest upon the bodies at Mettingham Tally Ho, Mr E. Brock being foreman of the jury. The first witness called was Mrs Mary Mayes, a labourers wife, residing in Shipmeadow, who identified the bodies as those of Samuel Harley aged 49 late a workman at the Tannery in Beccles, and Jane Harley, his wife aged 48. Harley had been staying with his daughter Mrs Robert Mayes, of Shipmeadow since Monday. Mr. A. Sheldon, locum tenens, to Dr. Betenson of Bungay was the next witness. He said that he had made an examination of the bodies and attributed the death of both to suffocation by drowning. The womans left eye was swollen and black and there was an abrasion on the left eyebrow, probably caused before death. Owing to short notice all the witnesses were not present and the Coroner adjourned the court until Saturday next. An order for burial was given.
Eastern Daily Press – Monday 4th September 1899
For more history about this mill and many others, please visit – www.norfolkmills.co.uk