Today’s leg of this ever-growing tour is a little different to what has come before. We’ve gone back in time to nineteenth century Yarmouth for this one, and gravitated straight toward this gargantuan windmill dominating the view.
Known as ‘The High Mill’, or more specifically Press’s Mill after the long-standing owners of the site, this giant’s eleven floors soared some one-hundred-and-twenty feet into the Yarmouth sky – that’s almost twice the size of Berney Arms Mill, which boasts the ‘High Mill’ moniker today – and some accounts suggest another ten or twenty feet on top of that. Indeed, these anecdotal measurements have caused some to label the mill the tallest ever built in Norfolk, England, even the entire world. Perhaps there was truth in one or more of these claims upon its completion in 1812 – nobody knows for sure, but such accolades are a pleasing thought!
Another stand-out feature of the mill is just what tops the enormous ensemble; the cap is not in the locally traditional ‘boat’ form but the fancier ogee, with, curiously, a large cabin complete with weather vane. Taking advantage of its loftiness, it was apparently intended to double up as a lighthouse, but this was a plan hastily dropped due to the very real risk of fire.
The High Mill worked virtually flat out grinding corn until 1894, when it was brought to a grinding halt with a lightning strike. It never worked again – sold for just £100 a decade later, the mill was demolished soon after. The sails were fitted to another windmill, while the hundreds of thousands of bricks were also reused – they built a whole row of houses in the mill’s footprint. Some of the innards and the weather vane were kept for preservation, but didn’t survive the Second World War.
To think what might have been were it not for that strike of lightning – might it still be standing today? Along with the various others which bit the dust in similar fashion, it’s quite a shame to ponder that it might, and to think of the delight its presence could inject into the skyline. I can’t help but feel a little hard done by here, as it would have been right on my doorstep, and I’d doubtless have been ever enchanted by the thing – indeed, I always used to wonder why there was a pub near the site called The Windmill. It’s clear now!
With very few reference images – and even those that do exist being of, obviously, not the best quality – this was something of an improvisation. I’m sure there are plenty of inaccuracies, but it’s getting there, and if nothing else it’s to scale compared to the (very basic) terraced housing, at almost six times higher. In my attempts to capture the atmosphere of the time and vicinity, I do wonder if I should perhaps not have choked the mill with other buildings quite so much – looking back, most of the photos seem to suggest a more spacious immediate area and this might have been beneficial for emphasising the sheer enormity of the building. Of course, this could be down to my now-trademark lack of camera skill. Hmm! Hey ho – still a fun history lesson, even if I’ve once again left myself miffed by its demise!
With this somewhat special edition, I might (he says might) give the windmill tour a break for a little while and move onto other charming buildings. We’ll have to see what takes my fancy!