Sprowston Post Mill.

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Sprowston Mill

Over the last one hundred years, Sprowston has seen many changes, farming land turned to housing development, and industries have come and gone. Brickmaking, Aircraft Manufacturing by Boulton & Paul Ltd, the engineering skills of Barnards Ltd, who produced Wire netting, Trains, Ovens and many other items, Tom Smith Crackers, Dixons Milk Bottling Plant and Dairy Farm (Stonehouse Farm), Start-rite and Florida Shoemakers, Icecream makers and Maclarens Handbags.

However the one thing the people of Sprowston are not able to enjoy is the glorious sight and sounds of Sprowston Post Mill, which unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 1933.

The Mill had been handed over to a Trust, by the Harrison family, and had been fully restored.

The Mill is not forgotten as it appears on our Parish Sign and is also on the school badge of the local Community High School. Also the mill shop on Sprowston Road is still there, so at least people can get an idea of where it used to be. I hope this article, will give you the reader, an insight to the family that owned and ran the Mill, and Sprowston Heritage is most grateful to the granddaughter of Horace Harrison, Judith A Howman for donating the family archive, this is now kept in the Norfolk Records, we have kept copies of these documents.

Sprowston Mill was a well-known subject for artists, situated as it was, on the edge of Mousehold, after the fire some reclamation took place.

The locally made bricks (Norfolk Reds) from the Round House, at the base of the Mill, were used to build garden walls, for properties off Wroxham Road, and the Oak timbers that were recovered were turned into small artefacts,

Sprowston Heritage has two of these items, an ashtray and a fruit dish, both have a small brass plaque engraved with a picture of the Mill.

The following comments come from Post Mill archive material donated to Sprowston Heritage by Judith Howman (his Granddaughter).

Horace John Harrison (the last miller) & Judith Howman.

Memories of the Mill.

I cannot remember the year 1891, the year I was born at Mill House, Sprowston, Norfolk, but I will give some idea of the changes that took place in Sprowston and Norwich, during my lifetime. The Post Mill at Sprowston was in my family since 1780, and was built about 1702; it was burnt down on the 23rd March 1933. The Post Mill was opposite the Shipfields site on Sprowston Road.

These mills were at one time imported from Holland, and were much smaller than the family mill, because years after they were imported; the British improved them and made them larger. At the time of writing only one Post Mill remains in Norfolk, this is in Garboldisham, which is being restored to working order, at a cost of several thousand Pounds, the present owner is Mr. Adrian Colman, Isworth, Suffolk.

There are two books written by my late brother Herbert Clifford Harrison, “The Windmill”, and “The Mill House and Whereabouts”. There is also a scale model in South Kensington Museum, London, of the mill, made by H. O. Clark, I helped him with measurements, nearly every Sunday morning for years, it is well worth a visit.

Note: The wheel cogs that were handmade by Millwrights, using Apple wood, Hornbeam, Boxwood and Pear wood. I took over the Mill from my father, William Albert Harrison, in 1919, and what fun we boys had, while he was at the Norwich Corn Exchange, unbeknown to him of course, we would crawl out from a Wicket, (a very small opening with two doors) onto the sails, which was very unwise.

Then with one of us at the brake, the sails would turn, and let our weight carry us down to the bottom, near the ground.

Sometimes we would hoist one another up five floors, by the Sack Hoist, in those days we found our own fun, not knowing of the danger, but today many youths must be stealing or breaking something.

In the family there were four boys and two girls, and a maid to help with running the house, she lived in and had one Sunday a month off, she received £11.00 per year. She had her meals in the kitchen; she served in our dining room and had to wear print dresses in the mornings and black dresses after dinner. But with this experience, maids made good wives with few exceptions. At the tender years I can remember the great March gale of 1895. March 29th, I would then have been 4 years old and can remember standing on the lawn of the Mill House, holding on to father’s trousers, otherwise I would have been blown over. The Mill had been put out of gear, leaving the sails free to turn; we were watching the Mill swaying from side to side. Father said to his Miller, a Walter Osborne, I’m not (and turned his back) going to see my Mill fall, but to his surprise the Mill withstood the Gale. The gale also cleared a strip about 100 yards wide, through a plantation on Mousehold Lane, without leaving a tree standing; this is where the Royal Norfolk Regiment’s Memorial Cottages are now. I can also remember several incidents at between 3 to 4 years old, (clearing snow), one`s brain must be wonderful to remember from such a young age.

Education, we boys and girls at the age of six went to a private school in a cottage front room, situated on Beaconsfield Road, Sprowston, run by two sisters, (Miss Vincents), and cannot remember the fee, but only a few pence weekly.

My father’s father had twin brothers living at Lingwood and the school fee, per boy, was 2 pence (old money) per week, so one went to school one week and the other the next, they could not afford 4 pence for each. After leaving the private school I went to the higher grade in Duke Street, boys on the ground floor, and girls below, both two separate schools, this was two miles from Mill House and there was no transport of any kind, so we walked.

The fee there was a few shillings per term, we took our own lunch, which we had in a classroom and for drinks we had tap water. As a treat once a week we were given 4 pence (old money) to get a hot lunch at a workman’s Café (where the Electricity Offices are now, in Harmers/Hammers?), for that we had Roast Beef, Batter Pudding, two veg and a Sweet. Sometimes we went without the Sweet so had one penny to buy an ice. There were always four Italian Ice-cream Barrows outside the school. Ices were then 1/2 penny each and quite a battle these Italians had to fetch trade. They would give us a dab of ice on a piece of white paper and called it a Taster. Of course we had a Taster from each of them! (In Winter some Italians had Chestnuts Hot).

After getting home from school we had high tea, taken inside but if the weather was suitable, it was taken in the garden. We worked in the Mill from 6am to 6pm each day, six days a week, and if the wind blew at nights the Miller and I took half the night each working and then worked the usual times next day, and no overtime pay for this. I got 10 shillings weekly, and the Miller 21 shillings and the cottage found. The Carter got 17 shillings per week. After taking over and becoming the Miller, I bought from Bussey & Sabberton a Ford ---- Truck, for the sum of £145.00. All on, my father said, as a Miller I was setting a very poor example, as trucks did not eat Fodder! How things have changed. Top meadow, was extensively used by the whole family and their animals, horses, goats, a donkey plus numerous dogs and cats. At about the turn of the century they made a tennis court and grassed it using turfs from the better parts of the meadow. This became the centre of the many youngsters social life and saw many hours of fun and laughter. It was used all the year round. Eileen my mother spoke of sweeping away the snow for a game in the Christmas holidays. The children were completely free to roam here being adjacent to the Mill and the garden. They were also free to play in the granary, and the Mill too (as long as no real damage such as spilling the precious corn occurred). They all had a very strong sense of responsibility towards their Mill. In 1927 the Mill was no longer financially viable and it closed down, the Mill was to have been formally handed over to the Norfolk Archaeological Trust for restoration as an Ancient building, but on the day before, 24th March 1933, a spark from a bonfire on Mousehold Heath set fire to the sails and the Mill was destroyed. William A Harrison had always said he would not leave Mill House whilst his Mill was standing, but after the fire he felt he could no longer stay there. He celebrated his Golden Wedding there in 1934 and then moved to Lowestoft with his wife. Their Diamond Anniversary 11th December 1944 was spent there, aged 88 and 84 years. William A Harrison died in the winter aged 89 years, and his wife Rachel soon after.

Horace (John) Harrison moved across the road and became Publican of the newly refurbished Brickmakers Arms in 1927, he subsequently bought 215 Wroxham Road, Sprowston, as his family home and that remained in the family until November 1956, his first grandchildren Judith and Michael were born there in 1949 and 1951. Where the Mill and the Mill House once stood has now been developed for housing and it is said that the ghost of the Miller still walk’s the ground, no doubt looking for the famous Post Mill. The mill had been erected in the early part of the 18th century, it was one of five mills that was situated on Mousehold adjacent to Sprowston Road. One of those, was the mill that a Mr. Colman owned when he started making Mustard Powder, but that as we say, is another story.