Norton Marsh Drainage Mill


There are few images in my head more stimulating than being marooned out on the Norfolk Broads, trapped in the clutches of a twirling time machine and finding oneself in the ilk of a 40s-cum-1840s horror, veiled in chilling black-and-white and the rumble of the wind as it surfs the empty landscape… everywhere and yet nowhere to go, we are no doubt fleeing from some hideous creation and in panic setting eyes upon and seeking solace in the embrace of the most haunting place of all: the creaky old windmill in the distance, whose door is conveniently left ajar.

That’s why I love to draw them. They’re such effortless, inspirational subjects, and indeed they must be some of the most popular. I have long been enamoured with them; they were some of the earliest things I remember trying to draw, amounting to a triangle with a cross at its head. When I was a little boy, I knew the names of all in the locality (and there were loads) off-by-heart – though I wouldn’t fancy being tested today! – and it soon became such that the photographs weren’t enough; I’d get overexcited at the prospect of visiting them up close, taking in the details so that I could then come home and draw one that was a little more accurate than the last.

If we’re to be technical, of course, this drawing isn’t actually a windmill at all. It’s Norton Marsh drainage mill, or windpump. The majority of mills on the Norfolk Broads were of innards this way, for they once played a pivotal role in making sure the land nearby was suitable for farming upon. Almost all of these are long since retired, replaced by electrical pumps, and as such many of the mills themselves have just been left behind, standing as derelict shadows of the past, and even scarier than before… though some have been restored to resplendent glory and look quite lovely, though it’s incredibly rare for them to be restored to working order. Seeing one turn on the landscape today is a rare and real treat.

The source image only gives ‘before 1918’, so I don’t know any more than that about the context of the drawing. I do know that Norton Marsh still stands, though without any sails. It appears it’s now privately owned and used as holiday accommodation by some who are very fortunate.

One day I’ll have my own mill, provided it’s not too scary.

I’m pleased with the drawing, though it’s a little vanilla for what I was hoping to get from the exercise. Probably a bit too controlled and so not as ominous as it could be. I’m going to try and do some more windmill stuff with a view to capturing a bit more of that spirit and inspiration with which I opened, a bit later on.

  1. Geke Hop-Wassink said:

    Very detailled drawing, and it might be the weather, but it’s a bit dark. Dark can also mean you want it to look a bit scary, but well done 🙂


    • Jacob said:

      Thanks as ever, Geke! These time-consuming, detailed drawings always strike when I want to go for an early night’s sleep!

      I did try to make the sky look more sinister than it appears in the source. It’s a very simple way of changing the mood.


  2. Rebecca said:

    Hi Jacob, could you please tell me what are you drawing with? Is it graphite or charcoal? I really like the soft effects you’re getting on the foliage and skies. The whole picture works very well, I think. Very Norfolk, and yes, quite sinister too!


    • Jacob said:

      Thanks again!

      The drawings I’ve presented so far are actually all digital, made with some custom-made brushes in Photoshop, using the mouse and a graphic tablet… it’s an interesting and fun way of working which I’ve been practicing for a couple of years now. Sometimes when drawing digitally I do a quick outline sketch with graphite or fine-liner, and take that into the program, but not so much these days; this one was 100% digital.

      I’m pleased they have a manual look about them; it was the sort of ‘masquerade’ I was going for when developing the brushes. Didn’t want it to look too pixel and electronic. I hope you don’t think me a trickster now! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rebecca said:

        Not at all – a very natural result, and sointeresting to hear how you did it. Thanks for fessing up! There is so much power in the digital apps to make great art; it’s always nice to see when it’s done well, as you’ve achieved here.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Geke Hop-Wassink said:

    I was reading your answer to Rebecca, I apoligise for reding other comments, but wow, I wish I could draw like that digital or by pencil. Don’t feel tricked at all, these are the days of electronic and App’s, so use them as supposed to, and you did a amazing job!!! 🙂


    • Jacob said:

      You’re right – thanks Geke! And no need apologise; comments are in the public domain, for everyone to read and react to if they wish.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Geke Hop-Wassink said:

        Thank you, and wish you a lot of inspiration, specially about a certain Legend 🙂 lol
        Good Night for now, talk again later. Have a nice evening.


      • Jacob said:

        Ha! I was working on one only a little while ago as a matter of fact! 😉 But there’s a little while before I post that one.

        And you Geke. Toodle pip!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I hadn’t seen this one- wow! Loving the reflection on the water…..and your drawing style in general!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      Merci, madame! I must say, it’s held up better than I was expecting. Admittedly, I did cheat with the reflection: I just duplicated the layer on which I drew the mill, flipped it and agitated/distorted it slightly to sit in the water. Or at least, I think that’s what I did; this feels like an absolute lifetime ago!

      Liked by 1 person

      • well that’s ok; what’s the use of employing digital mediums if we can’t use them for such things, eh? 😉 The artistic eye is evident, and it all works as an image, and that’s the important thing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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