Stow Mill - History

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Origins - The Gaze Family

Stow Mill - circa 1910The tarred brick tower mill at Stow Hill situated on the west side of the coast road from Mundesley to Paston was built as a flour mill between 1825 and 1827 by James Gaze.

The land on which the mill was built had been acquired by Thomas Gaze (1), gentleman of Paston Hall from a John Taylor, yeoman, under an Indenture of Ffeofment dated 28th January 1778 – a method of conveyance abolished in 1845.

Thomas Gaze died in 1805 and the land passed to his son, Thomas Gaze (2), and then to his son James. In 1827 James Gaze, “being desirous of making provision for his said son in order to advance and prefer him in the world” conveyed to his eldest son, Thomas Pleasants Gaze for the nominal consideration of ten shillings of lawful British money….

ALL THAT messuage tenement or dwellinghouse with the yard and garden containing by admeasurement thirty perches or thereabouts…AND ALSO all that pightle of land called the oat pightle otherwise the oak close thereto adjoining…one acre one road and six perches or thereabouts TOGETHER with the tower windmill lately erected and built by the said Thomas Gaze on the same piece or parcel of land with the consent of the said James Gaze his Father…in Paston aforesaid and in Mundesley…

Along with the Lease and Release dated 12th and 13th October 1827 from which the above script is taken, a mortgage was prepared and taken out by Thomas Gaze for £900 to Mr. Christopher Shephard of Heigham, for the house, land and mill and also…

ALL AND SINGULAR the sails, sail cloths, going gears, stones, tackle, apparel, furniture, materials, implements and appurtance whatsoever to the said windmill…belonging or used therewith…

The house, mill and other outbuildings were to be insured against fire for at least £800. The mortgage was evidently to pay for the cost of the erection of the windmill but it is worth noting from the first text above that son Thomas must have been instrumental in the building of the mill itself, albeit with the consent of his father and at his initial expense.

In the Lease, Thomas is described as a Miller of Paston.

Ted Lee, village postman delivering mail circa 1920The Granary

On the 6th November 1828, one year later and with the mill now in operation, a further mortgage to Mr. Christopher Shephard was taken for £150 to pay for the building of a granary. This building is now transformed and is part of the mill owner’s home and the souvenir shop.

An older mill in Paston

There had been another mill in Paston, a smock mill about one and three quarter miles to the south of here, in the occupation of Thomas Sadler, but this was not demolished until 1840, when its material and equipment were sold piecemeal by auction. It seems doubtful, therefore, whether any of these items were installed at Stow Mill but with the loss of the mill in Paston, it appears the local populace adopted the name of Paston Mill for Stow and it remained so for many years, and continues to be rumoured. The writer, without conclusive proof of either, can only refer the reader to consult Ordnance Survey maps on which it appears as ‘Stow”.

The death of Thomas Gaze and the sale of the mill

Thomas Gaze worked as the miller of Stow Mill for 45 years until his death in 1872.

The windmill and a steam mill which had been installed in the granary were offered for sale by auction :

Norfolk Chronicle – 14th June 1873


To be sold by Auction by order of the Executors of Thomas Gaze deceased by Mr. Thomas Barcham on Thursday 3 July 1873 at the King’s Arms Hotel, North Walsham at 6 o’clock. Lot 1 A BRICK TOWER WINDMILL in Paston in capital repair driving two pairs of Stones, with Flour Mill, Jumper and all necessary tackle and gear. Also a STEAM MILL erected a few years since, driving two pairs of Stones with the five-horse power engine and apparatus thereto belonging. Also a comfortable Brick and Tile RESIDENCE with Granaries, Stable, Cart Lodge and Outhouses thereto belonging. FREEHOLD.

The Mill is now doing a flourishing business. Possession at Michaelmas next.

Apply to Mr.Wilkinson, Solicitor, North Walsham or the Auctioneer, Mundesley.

Earliest photograph of Stow MillWilliam Gaze

However, the property was not sold and the business was carried on by the son of Thomas Gaze, William, who worked on behalf of himself and the co-executors until the estate was wound up in 1875 when the properties were conveyed to him. William continued milling at Stow until he died in 1906.

The early 1900's

The property was then bought from William Gaze’s estate by Mrs. Mary Ann Harper on 15th December 1906 and her cousin, Thomas Livermore took a yearly tenancy of the mill in 1907. Mrs. Harper died in January 1928 and left the mill to Mr.Livermore who worked it until 1930.

Stow Mill - circa 19101930 - Milling comes to an end

Milling had come to an end at Stow Mill. The property was then purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Bell who renovated and greatly enlarged the miller’s house whilst the mill, like others on the North Norfolk coast, had her machinery removed and was converted into an annex for extra living accommodation. At this time, for some reason, a “bolter” from the mill was sent to the Science Museum by Rex Wailes, a windmill historian. Unfortunately though it disintegrated from it’s infestation of woodworm.

1938 - The mill is sold to Douglas McDougall

By 1938 a new holiday camp had been built along the road opposite the mill, the first of its kind in Britain. Mr. and Mrs. Bell, fearful that their peace and tranquillity had been spoilt forever, sold on to a certain Mr. Douglas Sydney Arundel McDougall, the flour producing magnate, who used it as a holiday home.

Stow Mill - Mrs Bell and RockThe property then passed to a Miss F. M. Noble but was again purchased in 1960 by a Northampton businessman, Mr. C. M. Newton. In 1961 the windmill was selected by the Norfolk County Council amongst others in the county “as worthy of financial assistance towards preservation”. Four new sails and a skeleton fantail were fitted by Messrs. Thompsons, millwrights of Alford, and the remains of the 1930 kitchen sink unit and bath were removed. The mill was then opened to the Public for the first time.

The 1970's

In 1971 the mill was conveyed to Mr. Newton’s grandson, Mr. C. M. B. Newton who enlarged the old granary barn behind the mill and converted it to his home. With the help of admission fees at the door of the mill, he undertook its maintenance.

Stow MillIn 1977 the mill was leased to Norfolk County Council by Mr. Newton, for the nominal sum of one peppercorn per annum and further restoration work began. However, this lease was terminated on 1st December 1981.

It was Mike Newton’s hope to see the mill working again and it was he who organised replacement of the two Columbian pine stocks for galvanised steel; the second of which with the help of a fund raising appeal in the local area. In 1980 some repair work was carried out to the curb castings which enabled the cap to be turned for the first time in 50 years. In 1986, he installed an upright shaft with a wallower taken from Houghton Mill, and also collected two pairs of millstones from Nedging Tye in Suffolk, plus a great spur wheel from Gooderstone Mill in Norfolk. Unfortunately though, these were never put into place.

1999 - Roger and Andrea Hough purchase the mill

In January 1999 Stow Mill together with the adjacent cottage was sold to the present owners, Roger and Andrea Hough. With no experience whatsoever of windmills their first job was to ascertain the condition of the mill and its future.

Since their occupation a thorough investigation has been made as to the viability of the mill actually working again. It is not a question of being impossible. It is merely a question of not being financially sensible. It is probable that Stow Mill ceased working in 1930 for just such a reason and it is likely that the same reason still exists today.

For the windmill to work the sails must face into the wind and for this to happen the cap must turn efficiently. Although Mr. Newton made some repairs to the curb the problem is not resolved and huge expense would be incurred just to solve this problem even before any of the other machinery was put back into place. The present owners decided this to be unrealistic and since becoming the owners have undertaken substantial refurbishment to the building itself. View Works and Restorations.

The Origin of the name “Stow”

In 1113 William de Glanville founded the Bromholm Priory at Bacton a distance of 3 miles from here.

In 1223 a chaplain of the Emperor of Constantinople, who was killed in battle, came to England with important relics which had been owned by the deceased. Most of these relics were sold to St. Alban’s Abbey but a piece reputedly of “The Cross of Our Lord” was rejected.

The piece was eventually taken to Bromholm where it was well received. After its acquisition divine miracles began to happen at Bromholm and the priory became a centre for holy pilgrimage. Bromholm was destroyed during the “dissolution of the monasteries” and only ruins can be seen today.

Here, on this site, was a medieval chapel where pilgrims travelling between Bromholm and Walsingham rested. This became known as Stow Chapel, “Stow” meaning resting place in old English.

Stay awhile and rest

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