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Smokers Hole
aka Hempstead Hall Watermill or Wademill
what3words location - ///lizards.beginning.intro

Smokers Hole 11th May 1852
Smokers Hole - 11th May 1852
Drawing by Frederick Sandys now held in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

Hempstead Hall watermill is one of the lost mills of Norfolk and has completely disappeared except for some traces of brickwork. However, it was once there in a place known as Smokers Hole, a smugglers' haunt and the two semi-detached single storey cottages next to it were called Mill Cottages. One was inhabited during the 1930s and early 1940s by the legendary character known as Long_Sal. Sadly, the cottages have also disappeared save for some low walls of brick and flintwork. Earlier maps show the cottages as Mill House, which was split into two cottages at a later date.

The original watercourse was altered to the east for several hundred yards above the mill, in order to provide a deeper dam and a better head of water for the mill. Parish boundaries frequently follow the exact paths of ancient watercourses and it can be seen that Hempstead's boundary with Edgefield follows the original Glaven watercourse on the west side of the mill.

A family, who took their name from this town, were early enfeoft of it. In the 29th of Hen. II. (1183) Simon de Hempstede and Hamo his son quit claimed to Henry de Marisco and his heirs, the advowson of this church for 6 marks of silver, at Northampton, before Ralph Glaunvile, justiciary of the King, Roger, son of Reynfr. William Basset, and William Mald, Camerar. Regis. This Hamon, called also de Empstede, gave lands to Castleacre priory, lying near Holt mill.

In the said year (1303) Sir Robert de Hengham bought of William de Ormesby, and Agnes his wife, a_mill, with the pool in Hemstede, with several villains, rents and services, William and Agnes, and the heirs of Agnes, to have the liberty of first grinding therein, but not to erect any mill here.

William de Ormesby , by his deed, dated at Ouby, on Thursday after the feast of St. Paul, confirmed to Sir Robert the grant of the watermill, called Wademill, with the pool in Henstede and Holt, with all the fishing, in as ample a manner as Agnes his mother and her ancestors ever had, paying 40s. per ann. and Sir John de Ormesby was lord in the 20th (1347) and 24th of Edward III (1351). and is said to hold it of the Earl of Albemarle.
An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 9
Originally published by W Miller, London, 1808

In the 12th century Simon de Hempstede, who became Lord of the Manor in 1182, granted additional water rights to the monks of Binham Priory, in the form of the water between Hempstead and Edgefield in order...
to better the monks' mill.

Sarah_Ann_Dagless or Long_Sal, as she became known, due to being very tall (unproven rumour of 6ft 2ins) became somewhat of a legend thanks to the account of her time at Smokers Hole in Hempstead related by Jane Hales in 1971.
A separate page on this website is dedicated to life and times of Long Sal.

Glaven original bed 2017 Glaven original bed 2020
Original course of the river just downstream from the mill site
11th November 2017
Original course of the river opposite the mill site - 21st March 2020

Smokers Hole, according to local historian Jane Hales, referred to a depot or rendezvous used by smugglers in the process of moving their contraband inland as fast as possible. In William Newman's book of 1728, three buildings are shown on the site, one of which could well have been a barn.

29th September 2002
29th September 2002

The road from Hempstead to Edgefield passes through Pond Hills. It is partly a field road and as it winds through the wood is one of the most picturesque in the county. In the wood is a pond from which a stream flows into the Glaven forming the second tributary. Just below the junction there was until recently a mill house, which was the site of a watermill. The causeway which formed the mill dam still exists. This is probably the mill referred to in a grant by Simon of Hemsted to the monks of Binham Priory of the water between Hempstead and Edgefield to better the monks' mill...
Basil Cozens-Hardy


29th September 2002

29th September 2002
29th September 2002
The old brickwork is on the left

Prior to moving to Hempstead_Mill in 1911, a Mrs. Newall was living at the Hempstead Hall Mill Cottages (Smokers Hole). When required, the miller at Hempstead would carry a large bag of flour down through the woods to where Mrs. Newall and her family lived. He had a resting post on the side of the track about half way down.
An outside toilet was adjacent to the cottages and water was fetched from a well some 400 yards away to the east.

During the 1930s and up until the early part of the second world war, the cottages were inhabited by the legendary character known as Long Sal. The army then used the area for practising working with incendiary bombs and the site became unsafe due unexploded devices, one of which was found in 2008. After the war the cottages gradually became derelict and eventually collapsed.

29th September 2002 More old brickwork on the nearside bank
29th September 2002
More old brickwork on the nearside bank

Recent surface scraping with farm machinery revealed brick foundations of the mill next to the watercourse.

The site and most of the village once belonged to the Gurney family, who then sold the estate to George Knight in 1945, who later sold Hempstead Hall Farm, including the mill site and surrounding area to Richard Henry Mack and his son Henry Mack on 6th April 1946.

29th Sept 2002 21st March 2020
One remaining wall of the Mill Cottages
29th Sept 2002
21st March 2020

21st March 2020 21st March 2020
Cottages wall with river beyond - 21st March 2020
Mill House - later two cottages, interior - 21st March 2020

21st March 2020 21st March 2020
Mill race - 21st March 2020
Mill remains - 21st March 2020

Pottery remains found on site - 29th March 2020
Pottery remains found on site - 29th March 2020

Smokers Hole - River Glaven and gable end of Mill Cottage - 24th July 2020
Smokers Hole - River Glaven and gable end of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020

Gable end remains of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020 Mill Cottage south wall remains - 24th July 2020

Gable end remains of Mill Cottages - 24th July 2020

Mill Cottage south wall remains - 24th July 2020

I was fascinated to find your web site! My mother (92) and I have just returned to Cornwall from Norfolk. Our main reason for the visit was to visit Edgefield and Hempstead, where her father's family came from. On the 1871 and 1881 census returns her 2x Gt Grandfather, James Wright, was listed as living at Smoakers Hole. Earlier census returns list the family, but no dwelling place. We found the ruins, she was very moved to stand in them, it is a beautiful place. John Wright married a Mary Bacon, from Edgefield. I attach a piece of doggerel verse writen by Mary's brother in law which might amuse you. I don't know when it was written. I spent too few hours in the Norfolk Record Office, sadly I live in Cornwall, so don't know when I'll be able to visit it again, but I will! I would be very interested in any more information you could give me about Smoakers Hole and the families that lived there.
Frances Impey

Good Friday

Dear Mother
I hope you sometimes remember
The happy week we spent with you last September
We arranged to leave the street called Great Titchfield
For a short time, and pay you a visit at Edgefield
Jenny Harriet Jack and I left London that wondrous City
Strange mixture of wealth and objects of pity.
We travelled to Norwich by the Great Eastern Rail
Very fast travelling compared with the old Mail.
We arrived at Norwich met Sarah at the Station
But missing our carpet bag put us in a consternation
We went back at 9.P.M. to see if they had recovered it
And were gratified to find that at Wymondham they had discovered it.
We found a lodging comfortable and clean
Near the Market Place at a house kept by Mr. Dean
Harriet slept at Mrs. Bennetts who kept a dairy
And she was very kindly treated her with the children of Mary.
An ancient City is Norwich and famous for manufacture of shawl
From London Street Norwich to London St Pauls
We went to see the Castle a building of great antiquity
From castle Hill you have a good view of the City
In days of yore the Castle height
Was the scene of many a gallant fight
We saw the statue of Nelson non more famed in English History
He was born at Thorpe and fell at Trafalgar board the Victory.
I saw Mr.Wyndham start for Cromer with Coach and Team
Some think him mad others that he is very green
But mad or green a good coachman is Wyndham
And the Coach and Team was a credit to the proprietor Mr. Bingham.
We visited the Cathedral and took tea with Sarah on Sunday
And got ready to start the first thing on the Monday.
When Gent had got his goods safe carted
We mounted inside all very light hearted.
At Nine we started in the cart of the carrier
Determined in Norwich no longer to tarry here
An odd collection there was in that three-horse van
With Gent the driver he was such a noisy man
How he shouted come you back to anyone ahead
And we had many a laugh at the funny things he said
Jack sat in the front with the driver close together
On the other side was a man with lots of leather
The rest of us inside on boxes quite snug
To soften the seat I used a railway rug.
An odder lot together one very seldom sees
Bacon and boxes and parcels of groceries
There were three youngsters without any cares
Three men three women on the top were some chairs

When Gent delivered his parcels we had some fun
For we whipped up his horses and made him run.
A pleasant ride we had there were lots to be seen
The country around looked beautiful and green
Comfortable farm houses meadows dotted with cows
And fine Norfolk horses drawing the ploughs
Fruit trees and hawthorn and fields of clover
While old oaks and elms the road arched over
In the corn stubble we heard the report of the gun
The September shooting had just begun
Some with the gun acquire great fame
But those gentlemen were only shooting for game
Dividing Copstone from Saxthorpe as a clear running brook
I guess the horses were pleased when the water they took
We stopped at Saxthorpe Castle to have some ale
And to do justice to the Governors hospitality we did not fail
The Carrier had brought us eighteen miles from Norwich
So he took his horses in the stable to give them some forage
When the horses were sated for home we were bent
So we bade aunt farewell and away we went
Oh well I remember when set down by Gent
And Harriet and Jack for the cart were sent
The rest of us stopped with our luggage at the top of the lane
And the first to meet us came Emma and Jane
Next Father who gave us a welcome so warm and so hearty
I felt happy that I was one of the party
Then back came Jack the young monkey
Up in the cart whipping up the poor donkey
We soon arrived at the home of Farmer Bacon
If it is not a happy one I am much mistaken
We reached the cottage about half past three
And Jenny soon got us a nice cup of tea
Tis a neat little Cottage with a blue tiled roof
From hail rain and snow may it long be proof
We had got over the journey so quick and so well
And the joy of the meeting is more than I can tell
As soon as I entered I began to look round
There was something to eat I very soon found
When I saw the table how I opened my eyes
Hungry we were so we soon eat up the pies
For me it was surprise and delight
To see the stairs so clean and so white
The cool little dairy so neat and so trim
And the pans with new milk filled to the brim
We had the run of the garden which did me just suit
For apples were plentiful and they are my favourite fruit
Tis pleasant in the morning to hear the song of the lark
Or form a circle round the fire after dark
Father looked happy as opposite you he sat
And mother you looked contented and fat

Then Sarah the little one nursing the baby so good
She looked quite motherly as she gave it some food
Next Harriet making us laugh with her double share of clack
The Jane and Emma of course between them sat Jack
Then Jenny a dutiful daughter the same
Although at Church she had altered her name
With my beloved wife at my side
Down the stream of life I hope smoothly to glide
What happiness once more to visit childhood's home
When destined so far from you to roam
Tired I was so I retired to rest soon
Up the white stairs to my little bedroom
For remember the proverb, Early to bed early to rise
Makes a man healthy wealthy and wise
On Tuesday I was woke up at early morn
By the steam engine thrashing Mr. Stratten's corn
Mr. Stratten is a fine specimen of an English Yeoman
With an army like him we could thrash any foeman
We went into see it for an engine is always an attraction
I hope the produce turned out to Mr. S's satisfaction
In the afternoon we went to see Cousin Hutton
And we had some fun bringing home the mutton
Cousin made us tea and with good things spread the table
We were all very merry for they made us comfortable
On Wednesday we went to Holt over the Hill
The remembrance of it is with me still
When we looked back how Harriet and I halloed
As up the hill she with you followed
On our return we called at Alcock's had a warm by the fire
It wa so cold out of doors I was loath to retire
Corner of Holt Heath we found Wright waiting in the fog
To guide us to Smokers Hole without getting in a bog
Mrs. Wright made us tea and gave us some mead
I wish I had some just now I do indeed
Thursday Morning I went in the backhouse to see you churning
When Mrs. Williamson called I kept the machine turning
We went for a ramble across the Green and through the Wood
Where Jenny had passed many days of childhood
We sat down for a rest upon a stile
And I from my love won many a smile
We talked of the well known Norfolk so sad
Of the Children so good and the Uncle so bad
Who to get them their money wanted them assassinated
I cannot vouch for the truth but so it is stated
Two ruffians took them to a wood one slew the other then the children did forsake
He promised to return and bring each a slice of cake
But he never went back but left them to their fate and so
They died in the wood and were buried by Robins and Co.
Back to dinner we had Norfolk dumplings so nice
And for breakfast next Morn we each had a slice

After did we went to Church with its Chancel so quaint
Can you tell me Mother if it's dedicated to a saint
The interior looked pretty with the floral decoration
To Mrs Marcon and Sister it must have been a gratification
To Mr Marcon the Rector we all did look
As he read the prayers from the Good Book
The Sermon was preached by the Vicar of Briston
While the congregation with attention did listen
He said the bountiful harvest was a source of congratulation
And if we put faith in the Lord we should ne'er be forsaken
After Church I walked to the Green with Jenny and Sarah
Tis a pretty Village Green I have seldom seen fairer
There was a pond for the ducks and a school in the centre
With a small Gothic door for the children to enter
We had a gossip with some of the old folk
And gathered in the evening round the fire to have a joke
About Jimmy the fat boy eating till no more he could cram
For his Granny had helped him so plentifully to bread and jam
And Jack riding the donkey till he could ride no more
A(t) the absence of a saddle he had got rather sore
We all ran away from the supper table
To see Jenny milk the cow in the stable
On Friday I went to the Sea-side at Cley
Avery pleasant walk it was all the way
Tis refreshing to ramble on the sand
To any one fresh from Cockney land I bought home some starfish I found on the beach
But not a vessel was there to be seen as far as the eye could reach
On my return I overtook Father and Jack
He looked a young keeper with the rabbits on his back
When we reached home he talked as we sat round the fire
About going out shooting with Alcock and the Squire
His tongue ran on and he seemed so merry
The Squire he told us had given him some sherry
Jane and Jack went to Broughtons who kept the White Horse
For at supper we wanted some ale of course
As they came back they thought they saw a phantom
For in the middle of the road Harriet had put a lantern
After supper I thought to set you all wondering
But the sharp eyes of Emma baffled my conjuring
Too soon came the time to return so we departed
One and all great and small very down hearted
We bade adieu to Norfolk famous for turkeys and punch
Meat and drink fit for a Prince for dinner and lunch
With sincere thanks to all friends for their kind hospitality
So agreeable because it was devoid of formality
I never enjoyed a trip in my life
As the one down home with my dear wife
For a trip down home if we have fine weather
Is a jolly sort of thing when we be all together
I finish by telling you we are all well in London
And with our united loves I remain your
Affectionate Son John

Jenny has just reminded me to say
We wish you many happy returns of the day

There was a medieval mill at Dam Hills on the Glaven which Faden called “Hempstead Beck'', but which does not appear on his 1797 map, (Curiously he does show a pond on the river to the north of Red House Farm which does not relate to any of the subsequently created bodies of water). In the l2th Century Simon de Hempstede had granted additional water rights to the monks of Binham Priory. The 1837 OS map showed the “Mill house”. The dam wall can still be seen. The remains of the Mill House remained until recent times and were referred to as “Smokers Hole'' where lived a legendary character up to the 1939/45 war called Long_Sal (see Jane Hales: “Looking at Norfolk''). It seems certain that what is now sometimes wrongly called “Hempstead_Mill'' on the Holt road is of no great age. Indeed Basil Cozens-Hardy confirms that it was the much earlier mill at Smokers Hole which is “the mill referred to in a grant by Simon of Hempstede to the monks of Binham Priory of the water between Hempstead and Edgefield “to better the monks' mill”. (Simon had become Lord of the Manor in 1182).

The name Smokers Hole according to Jane Hales referred to a depot or rendezvous used by smugglers whose first task was to get a contraband cargo safely inland and away from the coastal based excise men. There is another “Smokers Hole'' two or three miles to the west at Saxlingham, and Hole Farm may have been another one. Certainly smuggling was entered into enthusiastically by the men of the inland villages. ln the Banville Diaries the author records a pitched battle between excise officers and men of Norfolk. On February 28th 1833 a cargo was landed at Kelling Hard. In the shooting that followed they ''broke a mans leg in the name of Ward of Hempstead - whose leg was subsequently ''cut off” in Cley. The excise men captured a man called Pigle of Baconsthorpe who had to go to prison for a year in default of meeting a fine of £100.

In a 1796 sale of Brownwood by Mary Woods to William Johnson of Cley there is in the description of the land being sold a reference to “a way leading from Plumstead towards Brent Mill”. (Why was it called Brent Mill?) The nearest watermill to Brownwood seems likely to have been the one at Smokers Hole. In 1726 the plan of Hempstead Hall Farm shows the remains of a mill at Smokers Hole. Moreover there is no indication of any mill on the site of the present “Hempstead_Mill''. Nor was the mill shown in Faden's 1797 map.

Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver - 2000

In February 1777, two riding officers, assisted by some dragoons, seized 70 half-ankers of brandy and geneva in Hempstead Field.
Smugglers All, Kenneth Hipper- 2001

I have recently moved from Essex to Gissing, abour 5 miles north of Diss in Norfolk, having taken a job in Long Stratton.  It prompted me to research my ancestry further back than my Great Grandmother, Ida May Jackson (B: 13 Nov 1886 Hunworth) . Her mother was Juile Anna Jackson, who was working as a servant in Hunworth in 1886 and married James Gotts a couple of years later.  I have now traced my roots back to Samuel Jackson and Hannah Jacobs (my great, great, great grandparents).  Samuel was a shepherd and they lived at Smokers Hole in Hempstead in 1891, according to the census.  All three generations spent their entire lives around the Erpingham area.  They also ran the White Horse Public House in Ramsgate Street, Edgefield, in 1871.
I was delighted to find your site and discover that the location of Smokers Hole hasn't vanished without a trace.

Amanda Ashley-Smith - 21st November 2019

The area around Smokers Hole is effectively part of the River Glaven flood plain and becomes very wet at times, this was especially true when the mill dam was full in winter. It was quite possibly the monks during the 1100s or thereabouts who were responsible for building the substantial and stone paved track that connected their mill to the Holt - Baconsthorpe Road. Twenty Acre Hill is quite steep and the track was cut into its lower side as it ran parallel to the Glaven before turning to the northeast and up the slope to join the road. A flint wall was also constructed on the western side along part of the length, presumably as a barrier in times of flood and also to contain cattle in drier times. Twenty Acre Hill was later planted with trees and the track is now just inside the wooded area but still clearly visible.

Mill track - 3rd Aug2020 Mill track - 3rd Aug2020
The track wall with the later barbed wire fence line is in the forground with
the paved track running parallel and a drainage area between - 3rd August 2020
The substantial track cut into the hill clearly visible - 3rd August 2020

In order to access Hempstead Hall Farm, which probably supplied the mill with corn, another track was constructed that cut through the hill leaving a small southern hill area that became known as Split Hills. The track through what is now the wooded area is steep and any horse with a cart would have had a difficult time in either direction. Once up the hill and onto Mill House Lane, the track immediately levelled out before going down the more gentle slope to the Hall.

The footpath that connects Mill House Lane and Clamp Lane that leads directly into Hempstead was also used by horses and carts to access the village. Indeed, Long Sal would travel that way on occasions.

22nd August 2020 Clamp Lane
Mill House Lane running through the wood just above and looking towards Smokers Hole track
22nd August
Clamp Lane running beside Church Farm, looking towards Smokers Hole - 31st July 2020

It is the Selbrigg_Pond that is the main source of the Glaven. It was made as a decoy in the opening years of the last century. Nearby, the great Hempstead woods were felled in the last war, and replanted by the Forestry Commission with dark conifers. They stretch along the Glaven valley to the first_mill by the Hempstead-Holt road. Below the mill, the stream flows through wet meadows, the boundary between Hempstead and Holt, to Smokers Hole, where there are the ruins of another very old mill house. In it lived Long_Sall, all alone. She had to leave during the war because the explosions, made by the soldiers on the adjoining common of Holt Lows, threatened to tumble down her house.
Jane Hales, Looking at Norfolk - October 1971

My Mum said the house wasn't destroyed by the army - it just fell down soon after the war. It was a wonder Long_Sally wasn't killed though as she just drove her pony very close to the firing. Teddy Jones lived there after Long Sally.
Sarah Hurry - 10th July 2020

Hempstead Hall estate map by James Corbridge - 1726
Hempstead Hall estate map by James Corbridge - 1726
Hempstead Hall watermill site bottom left

Enlarged section of above map - 1726
Enlarged section of above map - 1726
Hempstead Hall watermill site - Mill Farm

Tithe Map - 10th September 1839
Tithe Map - 10th September 1839
Two semi-detached single storey cottages with gardens

O. S. Map 1886
O. S. Map 1886
Mill House Lane leading from Hempstead Hall to the mill
The original course of the Glaven following the parish boundary can be seen to the west of the present and straighter course

Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1885
O. S. Map 1885
showing the track leading from Smokers Hole, (Mill House) up the steep hill to the Holt - Norwich Road

Courtesy of NLS map images

Tracks map 1905
O. S. Map 1905
showing the tracks leading from Smokers Hole, up to the Baconsthorpe Road and also across to Hempstead village

Courtesy of NLS map images

O.S. Map 2005
O.S. Map 2005
Image reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey

1182: Simon de Hempstede, granted additional water rights to Binham Priory
to better the monks' mill

Hempstead Hall Estate map 1726: Mill Farm - house, cottage and barn

Bryant's map 1826: Smoakers Hole

O.S. map 1838: Mill House

Tithe map 10th Sept 1839: Two cottages and gardens - James Wright & John Painter

Frederick Sandys drawing 11th May 1852: Smokers Hole

Census 1871: James Wright (63) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Mary A Wright (65) b.Corpusty
Address: Smokers Hole
Census 1871: Thomas Risebro (25) b.Hempstead, Agricultural Labourer
Elizabeth Risebro (22) b.Hempstead
Mary E Risebro (1) b.Hempstead
Address: Smokers Hole

Census 1881: James Wright (72) b.Hempstead, Widower, Agricultural Labourer
Address: Smokers Hole
Census 1881: Robert Pells (73) b.Langham, Agricultural Labourer
Susan Pells, (67) b.Bromley, Essex
Address: Smokers Hole

Census 1891: Samuel Jackson (54) b.Barningham, shepherd
Hannah Jackson (50) b.Edgefield
Beatrice Jackson (18) b.Edgefield, general servant, domestic
Anne Maria Jackson (16) b.Edgefield, dressmaker
George Edward Jackson (3) b.Hempstead
Address: Smokers Hole; number of rooms occupied - 4

Census 1901: Thomas Riseborough (55) b.Hempstead, Shepherd on Farm
Mary A Riseborough (55) b.Sharrington
Ellen Riseborough (29) b.Hempstead, Housemaid (Domestic)
Stephen Riseborough (22) b.Northrepps, Shepherd on Farm
Willie Riseborough (16) b.Northrepps, Old Agricultural Labourer
Smokers Hole - 4 rooms

1910: Mrs. Newall & family, Smokers Hole

Census 1921: James Dagless (60) b.Saxthorpe, woodman for J H Gurney
Sarah Ann Dagless (54) b.Salhouse, home duties
Henry James Dagless (21) b.Edgefield, grocer's assistant, J Tea Stores
Arthur Clifford Dagless (16) b.Edgefield, grocer's assistant, J Tea Stores
Alfred William Dagless (14) b.Edgefield, farm labourer for C G Tatum
Emily Annie Chilton (10) b.Northwood, Middlesex, neice, scholar
Address: Smokers Hole; number of rooms occupied - 4

1932: James & Sarah (Long Sal) Dagless
1932: Thugarton family

26th April 1939: James Dagless died

c.1943: Sarah (Long Sal) Dagless left Smokers Hole

c.1944: Teddy Jones

1945: Gurney family sold the surrounding land and site to George Knight

6th April 1946 George Knight sold the surrounding land and site to Henry Mack

O.S. map 1950: Mill House recorded and Mill House Lane leading back to Hempstead Hall

20th Jan 1956: Sarah Ann Dagless (Long Sal) died and was buried in Edgefield churchyard

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

Nat Grid Ref TG 08793669
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