sign Hempstead


Village History

Hempstead Watermills

Hempstead had two watermills within the parish, both on the River Glaven - see below.

Hempstead Hall Watermill

aka Wademill at Smokers Hole
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Hempstead Hall watermill or Wademill was by far the oldest of the two Hempstead watermills and had probably ceased working by the early 1800s.
The site became known locally as Smokers Hole and was well used by smugglers en route inland from the coast.

The two Mill Cottages built beside the mill were lived in by several families over the years, including the legendary Long Sal - Sarah Ann Dagless.

In 1796 Mary Woods sold Brownwood Farm to William Johnson of Cley and the sale description of the land includes the phrase 'a way leading from Plumstead towards Brent Mill.' However, that is the only known reference to Brent Mill.

The full history is also recorded on the Norfolkmills website.

Hempstead Watermill
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16th March 2003
16th March 2003

Hempstead watermill and the adjoining mill house are built of local flint and brick under a Norfolk pantiled roof and are Grade II listed. The present building was built by Richard John Gurney in 1830 and at that time was known as Holt Mill, undoubtably because the mill is actually within the parish of Holt. The original watercourse, along which the parish boundary still runs, was moved northwestwards some 40 yards slightly towards Holt in order to better accommodate the mill machinery layout. The River Glaven, which used to be called Hempstead Beck, was effectively dammed by the mill thereby forming the large lake that is still above the mill today.

At the time locals used to say,
 "Mr. Gurney, he built a barn where there weren't enough corn to put in it and a mill where there weren't enough water to turn the wheel."

On one of our school summer holidays the sluice gate at Hempstead Mill broke, the pit gang got there as soon as possible after hearing the news, it took three days for the mill pond to empty,
There were every fish imaginable, many fish escaped by swimming down river with the water flow, we threw a 25 pound pike out of the river with our bare hands. Many fish died, we collected the dead fish and they became chicken feed.
The next day the river authority came, they netted the river and stunned the fish enabling them to sort the fish and take them away in tanks and relocate them.
After the sluice was repaired many of the fish were returned to the mill pond.
When the Mill Pond emptied it separated into lots of little ponds, these were full of small fish unable to escape or be rescued because of the mud. All of the pit gang were naturally on site wanting to help. We at this stage were banned from the area as it was unsafe.
We walked about two miles along the river to Long Sally’s, the river was alive with fish escaping.
This was a sight never to be forgotten and seen only once in a lifetime.
Chiffy the story teller - June 2023

During WW2, my brother Victor known to most as Mickey and his good friend Kenny Goldsmith, were given work cutting down trees from Long Sallys to Hempstead water mill, the wood was sawn, at the saw mill at the top of Holt Hill toward Hempstead.
They also worked cutting trees in Holt Hall woods, the wood going to the same saw mill. There was a large sand pit at the bottom of Hempstead hill, opposite Hempstead water mill, at some time during WW2 the American soldiers made a camp there, and a dummy airfield at the top of Hempstead Hill.
My brother Mickey and his friend Kenny cut down the trees around the side of Hempstead mill pond, they didn’t work at the weekends, when they went back to continue cutting trees on the Monday the American soldiers had used all the cut down trees to make rafts to use on the Mill Pond.
My brother reported this to the American in charge, and was sent six helpers and two chain saws, something the hadn’t seen before. Needless to say the work became much easier, Mickey and Kenny just issued the work orders and watched the soldiers saw the trees down, two weeks work was achieved in two days. For the rest of the two weeks allocated to do the work, they spent most of the time in the naffi teaching the soldiers how to play darts.
As children we used to go and see my brother working, the soldiers used to feed us, often they gave us a lift home, my brother Peter kept chickens and ducks and used to give the soldiers fresh eggs, in return they gave large tins of powered eggs, and sometimes butter which my mum used for cooking.
But best all they gave us boys chocolate and chewing gum.

Chiffy the story teller
- June 2023

The full history of Hempstead watermill is on the Norfolkmills website

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 2020
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