A mill is mentioned in the Domesday record (1086), possibly at a similar site. Flordon Mill stood on the small tributary of the River Tas that rises in Hethel and Wreningham and flows through Flordon Common and village. It was one of the few in Norfolk to have an overshot wheel - 16 ft in diameter and 5 ft wide, so the water drop was about 17 ft. To achieve this, the water was channelled about 1 km upstream by a dam on the Common and there is a low flood weir near the bridge that of the drive to Hapton Hall. The millstream became a long millpond ('The Broadwater') in which water could accumulate overnight and give a constant supply during the day.
Michael Duffield believes the mill dated from the 1600s - if so it replaced an earlier mill mentioned in land transactions of 1539 and 1542 held in the Record Office. Besides the watermill the miller usually had a windmill too (often a postmill), so that when there wasn't enough water power the wind could take over. A tower mill is mentioned in some sale advertisement (see below).
William Lant Duffield (1869-1962) rented Tasburgh mill in 1896 and Flordon mill in 1897 from the Rainthorpe Estate. The mills were linked by a path and he lived at the Tasburgh mill. He went bankrupt, having lost his stock in the 1912 floods. He moved to Tharston mill in 1917 and leased Saxlingham Thorpe mill as well, which he bought in 1936. Here, Duffields animal feed business continues to thrive and celebrated 125 years of trading in 2015.
There is an excellent Timeline at the Duffield website
Over the years Flordon mill has had many different owners and tenants:
Norfolk Chronicle 26 April & 3
Flordon Mills. With immediate Possession. To be Sold by Auction by Wm. Burt on Saturday 3 May 1806 at 4 o'c at the Rose in St Augustines, Norwich.
All that valuable WATER-MILL at Flordon in Norfolk, with the Dwelling-House, stables & other out buildings, garden, & about 5 acres of excellent arable and pasture Land adjoining, in the occupation of Mr. Robert Buck, held under a lease for a term of which 31 years were unexpired at Christmas last, at £25 per ann.
Also a capital Tower Wind-mill standing on the above premises - the whole most desirably situate in a good wheat country.
Apply to Mr. George Watson, Saxlingham or Mr. Grand, attorney, Norwich.
Norfolk Chronicle 23 May & 4 June
To Millers. To be LET for a term with occupation at Michaelmas next. All that WATER MILL & WIND MILL at Flordon near Saxlingham, 7 miles from Norwich, with a comfortable Dwelling house & upwards of 100 acres of most excellent Arable & Pasture Land, adjoining the Mill, in a high state of cultivation.
The Mills are now in the occupation of Mr. Miles Blomfield and late in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Edwards. The Mill & Farm united form one of the most eligible & desirable occupations of the size in the county of Norfolk.
Apply to Mr. John Culey of Cossey or Mr. Brightwell, Solr. Surry Street, Norwich.
Norwich Mercury 22 & 29 June 1844
Flordon Mills near Norwich
TO BE LET
with vacant possession at Michaelmas next,
The WATER MILL, Wind Mill, Cottages and about 25 acres of capital Land, at Flordon, now occupied by Mssrs. Wilson & Fielding....
Norwich Mercury, 27 Nov 1847
To be Let with Immediate Possession.
The WATER-MILL and WIND-MILL at Flordon, with comfortable Dwelling-house and out-buildings, and also from 20 to 100 Acres of Excellent Land, at the option of the Tenant. These Mills adjoin the Railroad now making from Norwich to Ipswich....
In 1869 Flordon Mill was sold as part of the Brightwell estate, when it formed part of Lot I: '....mills, dwelling house, cottages, stables, outbuildings and 13 acres, 1 rod, 25 perches, freehold.' The advert in the Norwich Gazette, 29 May 1869 specified, 'The water mills with steam power, windmill, dwelling house, two labourers and several small enclosures of arable and meadow land'. The accompanying map is the only one showing the location of a windmill.
Norfolk Chronicle, 15 June 1878
FLORDON MILL, With a capital House and Ten Acres of Meadow Land, now occupied by Mr. Dennis Blomfield, as yearly Tenant...... forms a separate Lot in the Sale of the Rainthorpe Estate....
Known millers (from NRO documents, sale advertisements and Directories) are:
John Howard (before 1669 when his Will was made and proved)
John Spencer (lease for 1 year dated 1696)
Robert Buck (1806 advert)
Thomas Edwards (pre-1836)
Miles Blomfield (1836 advert & White's directory)
Mr Wilson & Mr Fielding (1844 advert - listed as farmers in White's 1845 Directory)
Barham Brightwell (White's Directory, 1845 - should be 'Barron')
Barron Brightwell (White's Directory, 1854 & 1864 - also listed as a farmer)
Dennis Blomfield (1878 advert; Kelly's Directory 1883, which states that he also ran Tasburgh mill, and that Baron Brightwell was 'Resident' in Flordon Mill House)
Mrs Louisa Blomfield (White's 1890 - and at Tasburgh mill)
William Duffied (from 1896; Kelly's Directory, 1900 - and at Tasburgh mill)
William Duffield (Kelly's Directory 1908 - and at Saxlingham mill)
Kelly's Directory 1916 has no mention of a mill at Flordon but lists Ezra Clethero at 'Mill and Station Farms'.
Flordon Mill was pulled down in 1925. For more on Flordon Mill go to the Norfolk Mills website
After Mr Duffield left, the mill fell into disrepair. It was pulled down in 1925, but the house and farm continued as MILL FARM.
The Nicholson's lived in Mill Farm before Jean Leithall and her husband bought it in 1961. There were three Nicholson sons - Bob, Tom and Arthur. It was a fruit farm in those days and Alan Moore could remember going currant picking there (black currants).
Jean Leithall says that when they moved into Mill Farm in 1961 there was still a lot of bits of the old mill around. In one of their bedrooms they can still see where there was a connecting door between the mill and the house. There is still a draught coming through where it wasn't properly filled in! There was no proper kitchen and when they were altering things to make one, they found a coin dated 1801. The house has a coal cellar.
By the time they arrived the wheel had gone and the millstream no longer ran. The shaft where the wheel had been was a danger to her children and after a pig fell into it they decided to fill it in and make it part of the garden. She rebuilt the wall over the old stream, using recycled bricks from Hapton.
With thanks to Jean Leithall, Michael Duffield, Tim Webster, the Norfolk Mills website and FindMyPast newspapers.