|Sun, 10 May 2009 12:53
Almost 600 watermills are recorded in the 11th century Domesday book. Windmills arrived much later, with the earliest identified site, dating from the 14th century, probably having existed at Barton Bendish. In the early 19th century only about 80 - 90 watermills still existed and there still were 300 - 400 windmills. By 2004 only 50 watermills remained, with only about 20 still containing remnants of machinery. Traditional mills are a historical feature of Norfolk, they greatly enhance the landscape and are living witnesses of the craftsmanship of millwrights and building tradesmen.
Watermills milled corn to provide flour for village bakeries, and animal feed. Some were later converted to be used for papermaking, fulling, sawmilling and water pumping. The low-lying marshes were drained by a variety of drainage mills in order to lower water levels to a level suitable for growing agricultural crops and also to prevent flood damage. These windmills were a widely used natural power source for milling as well as drainage purposes.
Many mills have already succumbed to decay and dereliction followed by demolition whilst some have been restored and converted into private dwellings. The Norfolk Windmills Trust has conserved many wind and several corn mills (at Billingford and Denver) and the waterwheel-powered sawmill at Gunton Park to full working order.
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