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Gravel Pit Cottages
aka Mill Cottages
aka Hawksmere

Mill - Gravel Pit Cottages

The two cottages to the east of Hempstead Mill, that overlook the mill pond were built to house workers at the gravel pit a few yards to their east and were occupied by 1841. The 1911 census records tham as Gravel Pit Cottages.
They later housed workers employed by the Newall family at Hempstead_Mill and Mill_Farm and became known as Mill Cottages.
After the sale of the Hempstead Estate in 1945, when ownership of the village effectively passed from the Gurney family to George Knight, the estate was split into component parts and sold off, mainly to tenants.
Mill Cottages were sold to Mr. I. J. Coussells and were converted to a single dwelling, now known as Hawksmere.

The above photograph has the mill in the foreground and Gravel Pit Cottages aka Hawksmere to the right of the mill pond - 4th September 2004.
More details of the cottages' history is detailed below.

In about 1916 the Newall family arrived and have been there ever since. The family came from Muswell Hill where the Mr Newall of the day had married a Miss Hannant from North Norfolk by whom he had had five children before (apparently) departing for Canada. The former Miss Hannant (whose family still live in Baconsthorpe) took the traditional step of bringing her family back to Norfolk where the eldest son Donald, helped by his brother William, took on the tenancy of the mill. The youngest brother Frank lived at Beck House Kelling, having taken on the position of managing several farms recently bought by the Deterding family.

By 1920 Mr Donald Newall was carrying on a baking business at the mill. He and William had been able to persuade the Gurneys to add additional land to their tenancy so they also extended their activities to farming “Mill Farm''. This was an odd shaped farm including the Glaven meadows, higher land towards Holt (later to be built upon by Kongskilde), and land adjoining Hall_Farm. The combined enterprise employed seven people between the wars.

The Hempstead Estate was advertised to be sold by Francis Hornor & Son at the Royal Hotel, Norwich on Saturday, June 16th 1945 not much more than a month after the end of the war. The Gurney sisters were selling not only the Hempstead Estate but also land at Earlham and other land on the Wiveton marshes plus the Manor Farm, Baconsthorpe.

The estate was bought as a whole (with a single high bid) by Mr George Knight.

The 408 acres of woodland (mostly let to the Forestry Commission) were sold to Mr John Watson, Mill_Farm, including Hempstead_Mill and land adjoining Green_Farm, to Mr R D H Harmer, and Church_Farm and Hole_Farm to Mr Richard Johnson. The Mill Pool and cottages were sold to Mr I J Coussells.

Meanwhile in 1945 Donald had fallen out with Mr George Knight who, having bought the Gurneys' estate, had offered to sell on to any tenants who wanted to buy at an enhanced price. The Newall family had thought that it had been agreed that they should buy at the price which Mr George Knight paid - so they refused to buy and stayed put as tenants.

In 1947 Donald died and Frank (who had retired from working for the Deterdings) took over the mill.

By 1948 Mr Walter Platford and his family lived in one half of what became Hawksmere. The other half was occupied by the Yarham family. Both worked for the Newalls,

In 1953 the baking enterprise ceased as a result of Sunblest Bread starting its own bread round. ln the same year the generator ceased to work.

The most romantic property in Hempstead, now known as Hawksmere, has an interesting history of its own. It is first shown on the 1841 Tithe Map and probably consisted originally of a pair of cottages overlooking the mill pool referred to in the 1945 sale as the Mill Cottages. The cottages abutted an estate road - bordered by lime trees - laid out by the Gurneys when they built the Mill and its very considerable supporting water supplies. Unlike many mills on the upper water of small rivers, which in the Summer months often only had enough water to work a few hours a day, the Hempstead Mill worked a regular twelve hour shift, its water supply being topped up at the main mill pond by releases from Selbrigg Pond, the upper mill pond (until it was swept away in 1912), from Horsepit Pond and occasionally from the Small Decoy. This arrangement meant that the miller had to walk or ride to operate the sluices of these other ponds at regular intervals. The roadway past Hawksmere, turning up hill to Horsepit Pond and the Red_House, leading on to Selbrigg, would have been built for this purpose.

Other mills were operated by the miller and his family alone. 'Why were there a pair of cottages as well? The occupiers of the Mill Cottages in the thirties worked both in the mill and on Mill_Farm. But before that the answer may lie in the very large sand and gravel pits which existed on the east side. Mr Hunt, the owner since a 1982, has dug up a variety of gravel-working equipment showing this was a major pit. Would it not, when worked by the Gurney estate, have required the presence of two cottages alongside to house its workers? The gravel pit existed by 1841.

In 1965, when the executors of Mr George Knight sold much of his Hempstead property, they were in something of a predicament as to how best to maximise their returns in regard to Mill_Farm Hempstead which was a tenanted farming property with, presumably, no chance of vacant possession and yet every likelihood of involving expense to the Landlord in the maintenance of the Mill. Mr George Knight's executors were in the course of selling Green_Farm to the Harmer family, who had expressed interest in all the adjoining land also being offered for sale.

Seemingly the executors entered into an asset stripping enterprise by selling off separately the two cottages, together with the millpond and such of the adjoining land as was not subject to the agricultural tenancy. They maximised value by selling the millpond with the cottages - even the ground up to the north wall of the Mill House itself - and the sluiceways under the mill so that the owners of the Mill Cottages (Hawksmere) could control the levels of their millpond.

Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver - 2000

The Newell family rented the mill house (the east section of the mill building) to Walter Platford and his wife Dot, from c.1946 to c.1960, after which, Walter moved to Stalham.
Walter’s parents, Mark and Bessie Platford, lived next door, in the northwerstern of the two Mill Cottages, the one overlooking the millpool. They were there from c.1946 to c.1958, when Bessie moved to Baconsthorpe due to illness, where the family took turns to look after her.

Mark & Bessie Platford, (my grandparents) had six children - May, Sarah, Walter, Herbert, Rose and Cyril. May was the oldest and married Reggie they lived all their lives in Hempnall, two children. I’m not sure but I think Sarah or Walter were next (Sarah married another Walter. They were the first squatters as they moved into a nissen hut and refused to leave until the council housed them, which they did in Lakenham. They brought up three boys there. Dot and Walter couldn’t have children. My mother married a soldier who was “ Terry” Jardine my dad.
Ann Burrell - 7th November 2023

Mark & Bessie Platford Mark Platford
Mark & Bessie Platford with daughter May
Mark Platford with millpond behind - c.1952

Mrs Platford - c.1958
Bessie Platford - c.1958

Grandad used to walk behind the horse pulling the plough and we had to take his bottle of tea to him mid morning. I could never understand how he liked cold tea as it took us ages to get it to him. He always parked the plough in the barn by the road and told anyone off who left it the wrong way round as it always had to be “handles to Holt”.
Ann Burrell - 7th November 2023

Dot & Walter Platford
Dot and Walter Platford

Mark Platford
Mark Platford with l-r Alan, Ann, Janet and Linda in front - c.1964
My mother was Rose Platford. May was the oldest child, Sarah, Walter, Herbert (who died in an accident when much younger) and Cyril were her siblings. My mother had Roger, then me and then Linda. Our father died in 1953 when we were all under school age. Later mother remarried and had Alan and Janet who are the youngest in the photo with me in the back and Linda in the front.
Ann Burrell
- 7th November 2023

We went to stay in the holidays and we were put on the train in Norwich and then met by grandad at Holt station and taken to granny in the pony and trap.  Grandad Mark Platford and granny Bessie lived in the mill house (Hawksmere) on the half nearest to the pond. The Yarhams lived next door and had daughters around my age , we think one was called Jean. We used to play with them in an old black car in the woods between the house and the road.
Ann Burrell
- 7th November 2023

Uncle Walter and Auntie Dot lived in the Mill house on the Hempstead road and we used to turn left out of the front door and walk along the path that ran along side the pond and bullrushes. (My brother Roger fell in there one night in the dark, he was probably about 10, on the way to Granny’s.) On the right of the path, before the road was Uncle Walters vegetable plot. At the end of the path we turned left onto the road that went up to Hawksmere. Many a time we walked up and down that hill with a bucket to collect the water from the well on the other side of Hempstead road, we used to kneel down to fill the bucket and often had to throw frogs out. We then carried the bucket (always called a pail in those days) up to the house and poured it into a large earthen pot as the house / cottage had no water or even a sink.
Granny had to do everything in a pail or bowl and then the water (potato peelings and all,) was thrown out into the chicken run. She took in the village washing and it was hard work in those days.
There was also no electricity and we took Wee Willy Winkee candle holders with white candles in, plus our hot water bottles, from water poured from the black kettle that was always on the fire, when we went up to bed.
The Christmas tree was always decorated with little candles in little holders that pegged onto the branches. The door to the stairs was in the front room and they curved round into our room and then you carried on through ours to Granny’s room. We used to look out of the window on the side of the house to the lake and often the horse was standing below it.
Outside the back door we turned right to the toilet. There was a wonderful shiny piece of wood with a big hole and a smaller one with buckets underneath. We always ‘went’ in there with granny beside us to save her so many trips.
Grandad had pigs and goats too, he called animals beasts. One day the cockerel chased Linda and pecked her, as she cried grandad said “never mind my beauty we will have him for dinner tomorrow“ so when Roger annoyed the goat and it chased and butted her she told grandad it was me and not the goat as she was afraid we would have him for dinner too.

Ann Burrell
- 7th November 2023

Mark & Walter Platford c.1958
Mark and Walter Platford - c.1958
children l-r - Betty Clarke, Lillian Doy, Michael Burrell, Andrew Green

I was browsing the Hempstead site recently and came across the photo in the Gravel Pit Cottages section of Mark and Walter Platford on a horse and cart. I believe that the two small boys on the right are myself, Andrew Green and Michael Burrell. I am the taller one in a dark jacket. I think the photo was taken as a field next to Court Green was being harvested, the first one on the right hand side at the end of Court Green as you head towards Holt after the road heading to Selbrigg pond and would have been around 1957 or 1958. The harvesting was done by a horse pulled harvesting machine. The children there were having fun catching field mice. They held annual ploughing competitions on that field too when tractors started to be used. 
Andrew Green
- 20th November 2023

We used to play in the hay barn with the Yarham girls and had wonderful times at Hempstead. Sometimes we stayed with Dot and Walter and they were wonderful with all us children. Granny obviously had a bad heart as they had to move to  Baconsthorpe and she died when I was 16. She didn’t move in with a daughter, they took turns going and looking after her and Cyril moved in with Sarah and her husband and three sons. I remember the old mangleworzle outside that house where we used to grind the beet. Grandad then came and lived with us in Norwich. Uncle Cyril was a batchelor until his mid 60s when he met and married Pat who was a widow quite a bit younger than him.
Ann Burrell
- 7th November 2023

We then spent our holidays with Uncle Walter and Auntie Dot near Happisburgh, and still visited for many many years (until he was killed in a car crash when I his early 80s by a young girl who was driving on the wrong side of the road,) where he still worked as a farm hand and he taught me how to grow vegetables. He had a farm shop in his barn and we helped shell the peas and always went home with a sack of spuds.
Grandad and his children all lived into their 90s and he had 8 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.

Ann Burrell
- 7th November 2023

Cyril Platford
Cyril Platford with millpond behind - c.1955

Walter Platford's brother Cyril, as a teenager, also lived at the cottage on the Hawksmere site.

Dot, Walter & Cyril Platford Platfords
Dot, Walter, Cyril and Pat Platford
Dot, Mark and Walter Platford

Bessie & Mark Platford's gravestone

Planning Permission 3Jan1966
Planning Permission to convert the cottages granted 3rd January 1966

J. E. Russell applied for and received Planning Permission to convert the two cottages into a single dwelling on 3rd January 1966. The adjacent gravel pit was landscaped at around this time.

1905 map

O. S. 25" Map 1905
Gravel Pit Cottages are indicated in red

Courtesy of NLS map images

Tithe Map 1841: Two cottages

Census 1851:

Sarah Grand (42) b.Hempstead
James Grand (16) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Robert Grand (11) b.Hempstead, Scholar
Charles Grand (8) b.Hempstead, Scholar
John Grand (6) b.Hempstead, Scholar
Alfred Grand (3) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer's Son
Gravel Pit House

Census 1851:
Elizabeth Grimes (73) b.Hempstead, Farm Bailiff's Wife
Witham Grimes (35) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Robert Bassett (56) b.Ryburgh, Carpenter (employing ?)
Gravel Pit House

Census 1871:
Charles Money (34) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Elizabeth Money (32) b.Hempstead
William Money (7) b.Hempstead, Scholar
Thomas Money (5) b.Hempstead. Scholar
Charles Money (3) b.Hempstead
Samuel Money (1) b.Hempstead
Mill Houses
Census 1871:
Robert Grand (64) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Sarah Grand (63) b.Hempstead
Alfred Grand (23) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Mill Houses

O.S. Map 1885: One cottage (possibly incorrect)

Census 1901:
Arthur Henry Smith (35) b.Poringland, Game Keeper
Ellen Smith (43) b.Aldeby
Ellen E Smith (9) b.Hempstead
Marion Smith (6) b.Hempstead
Alice Smith (2) b.Hempstead
Gravel Pit Cottage
Census 1901:
John Mann (26) b.Holt, Game Keeper
Mary Mann (31) b.Hempstead
Donald L Pells (7) b.Norwich, Step Son
Edith M Mann (1) b.Hempstead
Thomas Pells (29) b.Norwich, Brother in Law, Railway Fitter
Gravel Pit Cottage

O.S. Map 1905: Two cottages

Census 1911:
Edward Buntings (29) b.Gimingham, Horseman on Farm
Mildred Buntings (26) b.Ingworth
William Buntings (6) b.Aylsham
Gravel Pit Cottages
Census 1911:
Samuel Craske (35) b.Bodham, Farm Labourer
Rosina Craske (33) b.Hempstead
Nellie Mary Craske (2) b.Hempstead
John William Craske (1) b.Hempstead
Gravel Pit Cottages

16th June 1945: Cottages sold by Gurney family to George Knight along with Hempstead Estate

c.1946 to c.1960: Newell family rented the mill house to Walter & Dot Platford

1966: Cottages sold to J. E. Russell along with mill pond and internal mill sluices

3rd January1966: Planning granted to convert the cottages into to one house

1976: House sold by J. E. Russelll to Peter & Margaret Sayer of Lenwade mill

October 1982: House sold to by Peter & Margaret Sayer to Richard Hunt

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. Please or telephone 07836 675369

Website copyright © Jonathan Neville 2023
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