Wednesday 7 November 2012

The End Of Briggate Mill.

The remains of the old mill at Briggate have now faded into history and another small chunk of Norfolk heritage has been lost.  A variety of plans to convert and use the mill were put forward over the years but sadly none of them came to fruition and no reprieve for Briggate mill was forthcoming.   On October 30th this year the granary was demolished.

The End For Briggate Mill
Corn was first ground at Briggate mill in 1793, the early mill was powered by a breast shot water wheel (the wheel was removed in 1943). 
In it's two-hundred year history the mill was modified and altered many times, the original granary was destroyed by fire in 1890 and was replaced by the building which was recently demolished.  In the same year steam became the motive power which was eventually superseded by electricity.
Production ceased in 1969 and the mill changed hands a few times until it was purchased for redevelopment in 1975.   Six months after the purchase Briggate mill was destroyed by a suspicious fire.

As recently as 1983 it was proposed to redevelop the mill to generate electricity and produce paper.  But the project never got beyond the planning stage. 

Since the new millennium the mill site has survived an an attempted "land grab" and it has also been rejected as the site for a village green.   Conversion to a village green would have been a fitting memorial for the old mill instead of simply reducing it to rubble.

Falling Masonry
An early morning phone call on the 30th of October (2012) tipped me off that the old granary was being demolished.  This was confirmed on the local radio station by sounds of falling masonry.   My toast was abandoned in the toaster and a mug of tea was left steaming on the kitchen table.  Cameras and equipment were loaded in a matter of minutes and I was on my way to Briggate.  Since following the activities of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, Briggate mill has formed an imposing  backdrop to that section of the canal.  To watch it being slowly erased from the landscape in the morning mist was quite a sad spectacle.  The entire sorry episode was captured on film.

The End Of The Granary
These type of events need to be viewed with perspective - and to do this it is necessary to remove the "rose tinted" spectacles.  The granary building had become, without doubt, an unsafe structure and needed some urgent attention.  The granary was, in fact, only built in 1890 after the original granary was burned down.  A mere one-hundred-and-twenty years, which is not a great age for a building.  It was, however, a link to the ruins of the original mill, parts of which still survive - for the moment.

To learn more about the very colourful and intriguing history of Briggate mill visit the excellent "Norfolk Mills" site.

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