Pakenham History : Pakenham-Village of Two Mills - NR Whitwell

"Pakenham -Village of Two Mills"
A book written by N.R. Whitwell
with permission kindly given by S. Whitwell to publish on
the Pakenham -Village web site.

Chapter 9 - The Mills and Other Features

The Tower Mill
This mill is situated in Thieves Lane and is best seen from the main A143 road just before entering the village of Ixworth. The mill stands proudly on top of a hill to catch the smallest breeze and is truly a magnificent sight when going full speed in a stiff breeze, or standing

This old 18/19th Century brick tower mill was restored to full working order in the 1950's, when the gallery was added to the cap. There are five floors and it is one of the few remaining working windmills kept going by grants of money from various associations, ministry departments and local government. Since complete restoration, it has featured as an interlude in BBC TV programmes and is used for trade and exhibition

The Tower is eighty feet tall and needs forty gallons of tar to cover the walls. Fourteen gallons of white paint are used on the cap and sails. It is listed a Grade II building of Architectural and Historical Interest by the Department of the environment and after the major overhaul of 1963 the Parish had a most beautiful windmill which stood high above the river and a watermill, shining in its new livery of white cap and sails, sitting serenely on top of the newly tarred brickwork and showing a white window at each floor. As he progressed to the top, the visitor would emerge onto the gangway to see the huge white sails groan and swish, as they bowed to the wind.

The Windmill at Sunset

The Windmill at Sunset

Windmills are no longer a commercial proposition and so behind every working mill is an enthusiastic owner. Here in Pakenham there is just such a family, for several generations of Bryants have kept the mill working. Upon opening the windmill in 1963, Sir George Falconer referred to this familiar landmark and remarked that John Bryant would now be able to Raise the Wind for the cost of the repairs after the £4000 grant. He wished the family of John Bryant & Sons "Good Winds and Plain Sailing".

Mr. Michael Bryant has in his possession an interesting indenture setting out the terms and conditions under which Clement Goodrich, a miller of Pakenham, took the apprentice James Rumball of Kings Lynn to learn the Art of a Miller from the 6th November 1846, for a term of four years.

"The apprentice to faithfully serve his master, his secrets keep, do no damage to his said master, not to waste the goods nor lend them unlawfully to any. He shall not contract matrimony during the said term, not to play unlawful games and not to haunt inns or alehouses, not to absent himself from his master's services day or night unlawfully but shall behave himself towards the said master, Clement Goodrich. In consideration of the sum of ninety pounds and ten shillings to be paid to him by George Rumball in two instalments, shall teach and instruct in the best manner the said apprentice finding him with good and sufficient board and lodgings, to attend markets in his last year with the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of buying and selling.
George Rumball shall find and provide the said apprentice sufficient clothes, linen, washing and mending, medical care in case of sickness and pay to the said Clement Goodrich the sum of forty nine pounds and ten shillings on the said 6th November 1848, provided the said apprentice shall so long live and for the true performance of all and every covenants made and agreed."

We have been round the Parish boundary and down the main Street and though there are other important features of the Parish worth recording, Pakenham is quite unique in that it is the only village to have both a windmill and a watermill in working order.

The River

The River Blackbourne

The river Blackbourne meanders through Pakenham Fen.

Pakenham has a tremendous natural asset which is hardly known or seen, although its source is near the Street. The word asset might be challenged in close proximity to the Street, where the stream coming from Nether Hall collects effluent from the Great Barton/Thurston/Pakenham Sewage Works, around the Fox Public House, flows under the road and after cleansing the roadside ditch rejoins the main stream behind Bridge House. Here the flow gathers speed, picks up springs at the bottom of gardens and then winds its way through areas of thicket, scrub woodland and wild reed beds with dense vegetation coming close to the water's edge.

Before the bank clearance and subsequent dredging in 1975, the stream looked lifeless and unattractive and indeed at times smelt very offensive. Only two eels were seen throughout this operation. The river bed was devoid of aquatic plants, being choked with black mud which caused a stoppage of the cleansing water flow and deprived the river of oxygen.

Now, however, the river has been improved for much of its length, and the fallen trees which bridged the river have been removed, although with the trees also disappeared unofficial public access to this extremely attractive area. At a point approximately half way between Pakenham and Grimstone End the river emerges into open grazing land, the water now clean and the area well maintained. Fish once again proliferate and the whole area is of considerable interest to the ornithologists and nature conservationists. Life has returned.

Although the river may be reached at several points, public access is strictly limited and it is not possible to walk along either bank because of physical barriers in the form of reed beds, trees and unbridged drainage channels.

There does exist, however, a public footpath which leaves the Fen Road adjacent to the former County Highway Depot and although this is poorly defined because of the vigorous profusion of willow herb, it is used to cross the river by a bridge that was originally washed away and then replaced by a footbridge without handrails. The path continued up to the Owell Estate, originally the old allotments. This last footbridge was removed when the river was dredged and not replaced. So, despite restricted access, the recent work of clearing the river has enhanced the beauty of a part of our Parish which, for the present, remains as a "hidden gem".

The Watermill
Beyond the open grazing land the river still bends northwards through very pleasant wild fen country, passing under Fulmer bridge to Grimstone End. Just before it meets the River Blackbourne, which rises near Hessett and Beyton, there is the working watermill of Pakenham, nestling on low ground but within sight of the better known Pakenham Tower windmill. The front elevation immediately adjoins a minor road which links the villages of Ixworth and Pakenham, whilst the rear elevation overlooks the River Blackbourne as it flows on to Ixworth, Sapiston and Honington, to adjoin the Little Ouse at Barnham. It stands at the north eastern corner of an elongated area of riverside land which widens out at the road. The mill is attached on the north side to a house which forms part of a group of buildings in separate ownership and is partly used for commercial purposes. Mr. Marriage, who until his retirement had regularly used the mill for the production of cattle foods, expressed his desire to retire from business. Considerable speculation took place regarding the future of the mill. His desire to sell as a going concern attracted no buyers. Various applications for planning permission to convert to residential use and similar ideas were not acceptable to the local Planning Authority. At an appeal against a decision, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings put forward evidence which stated that Pakenham Watermill was now the sole surviving watermill in Britain in the same Parish as a working windmill and was therefore unique. Whilst many watermills are scarcely distinguishable from farm buildings in outward appearance, this does not apply to the majority of East Anglian mills, of which Pakenham Watermill is an excellent example. It is also unusual in that it is located at the head of a stream instead of being fed by a brook or by a leat from the main stream. They went on to say that the exterior was aesthetically pleasing and the interior was interesting technically. Other points were made to try and impress the inspector. They stated they wished to preserve good examples of such history of technology and considered Pakenham Watermill of the greatest importance to East Anglia. Therefore they recommended that consent for change of use be refused. Externally the mill has a dilapidated and neglected appearance, standing as it does on unsure ground of a valley bottom and straddling a water course. Any building will decay, but with added enemies of rats, rot and subsidence, the evidence is clearly shown. The timber framed structure shows considerable signs of deterioration and beetle infestation, with the lucarne being in particularly poor condition.

Pakenham Watermill

Pakenham Watermill

"Why on earth the whole thing didn't fall into the road, I just can't understand" said an SPS director, surveying one of the main beams which supported the floor and helped hold the building together. He found it had been gnawed away by rats until hollow. The rodents then used the hollow beam as a covered way to get from one wall to the other and chewed away the base of all the wall posts. The southern end of the buildings had sunk until the roofline showed a distinct dip and the brick walls cracked as a consequence, letting in the rain over so long a period of time as to reduce the timbers to a rotten pulp. Only a very thin strip of sound wood supported the roof from the floors. Nevertheless, Pakenham is one of the Suffolk Parishes recorded in the Domesday Book as having a watermill at the time of the Norman conquest. Corn must have been around there for over 900 years. Of the many mills in Suffolk they have been reduced to a mere handful in the last half century. Some of these have been neglected, so they are in a ruinous condition, whilst others have been gutted of machinery and converted into houses. Not so Pakenham, which retains much of its original wooded machinery. The water wheel itself is a cast iron, late 19th Century replacement. The lucarne is in a bad state but the earlier sack hoist machinery is complete. The cost of conversion to domestic use, to comply with Planning and Building byelaws, would have been so high, when added to the purchase price, that this was virtually ruled out, whereas if the building were retained as a working mill, the repairs (and payments) could be phased - a procedure not possible in the case of conversion. As the time dragged on, without any conclusions being reached, the applicant for planning permission appealed to the Secretary of State against the failure of the Planning Authority to determine the application. In reply the Planning Authority indicated it would refuse application, on the grounds that:-

"Pakenham Watermill is included in the Department of the Environment's list of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest, which being an 18th Century Watermill had until recently been in regular use. To incorporate living accommodation within the existing structure and fabric would prejudice the fabric of the fine working internal machinery and would result in some of the machinery being removed from the building, thus detracting from the historic interest of the building."

They were not satisfied that the structure of the mill was sufficiently sound to permit its conversion to a dwelling without such structural alterations which would to all intents and purposes amount to h=the erection of a new building; so the opinion expressed that there was a strong case for preserving the watermill as an entity of being worked in accordance with its original design, prevailed. There appeared a genuine desire to preserve the mill on the part of the local authorities and the Suffolk Preservation Society, backed by firm offers of financial assistance. They launched an appeal which brought an anonymous gift of £20,000 straight-away. With this encouragement, the Society no longer hesitated.

So in April 1978, the mill was formally handed over to the Suffolk Preservation Society, who immediately began the work of restoration. The mill was opened to the public on Easter Saturday, April 18th 1981, when His Grace the Duke of Grafton performed the official opening.

The building, which dates back to medieval times, is exceptional in containing its original machinery. So far £80,000 has been spent on the extensive restoration work. And a further £9,000 is needed yet.

The Manor
Little has been said of the Manor and in fact there is little to say about the present house because the original Manor stood alongside the Roman road at Upper Town. In 1914 the present Manor was built behind the old house and is therefore comparatively speaking modern, a very nice red brick family house. In place of the old house is now a metalled forecourt with circular raised flower bed. Soon after the old house was demolished, a carriage was seen to almost disappear into what was the cellar of the old house. So at Upper Town we have this lovely red brick family Manor house, with rosemary tiled roof, extensive pleasure grounds and beautiful gardens, but around it the cottages and many spacious farm buildings are very old. Of the cottages, numbers 1 and 2 are late 17th Century and possibly originally single-storey, timber framed with Roman tiles laid over thatch. Number 3 is late 16th Century and was completely modernised in 1980. The cottages known as Well and Penn were possibly one house but divided into two cottages in the 17th Century. The plaque on the front says Restored 1980 by N.R.

The Manor

The Manor

Whits Cottage is 16th Century - modernised in 1980 but still showing original ships' timber construction. The original roof has been replaced by pink pantiles from the massive barn that stood for hundreds of years. All that is left of the barn is various pieces of furniture, the tiles and a very special oil painting of the interior which Mr. Ernest Payne of Great Barton took many afternoons to transpose to canvas. At the conclusion Nathan Stone who lived in one of the cottages, was introduced to the picture to add perspective and realism. There is one other feature worth noting, because earlier the family of Spring was mentioned and the connections these families had with Pakenham.

In the garden wall there is an old gateway, leading into a paddock. In 1928 the late H.C. Wolton of Bury St. Edmunds wrote:

Monogram Oak Archway"I have now had an opportunity of looking into the matter of the oak archway in the garden and have definitely come to the opinion that the monogram represents T.S. which stands for Thomas Spring. I find that in 1545, Robert Spring and Thomas his son purchased the Manor of Pakenham Hall and evidently, during some alterations, the archway was then made."

Oak Archway and Monogram

The Pakenham Manor Estate stretches over some 1200 acres of very good fertile land, from Upper Town along the river meadows to Old Hall, thence westwards across the old turnpike (now the A143), to include The Plains, The Queach House and farmlands to Puttocks Hill, then turning northwards in the direction of Ixworth Priory, to include Hungry Hall and Brewster's farms.

There have of course been many changes over the years to meet the mechanical advance, scientific research and increased efficiency demanded of agriculture. The old rabbit warrens have gone, the woodlands have been reduced to manageable sizes in keeping with sporting amenities, the cottages and farm buildings modernised, the fields made larger, roads improved and hedges kept trimmed, neat and tidy.

A large dairy herd was based on the Manor Farm and many of the fields were put down to grass to enhance the very old, fine oak trees that are still standing. Many prize winning horses, cattle, pigs and sheep have grazed the Pakenham meadows, whilst excellent crops have also been produced on reclaimed land, with ever increasing fertility.

In 1975, a crop of peas won the World Championship at the International World Fair in Toronto and many other successes are recorded. But what has also been preserved are the names of the fields and original names of farms and the surnames of workers, handed down generation after generation.

There is still the Nursery Field, whose produce had to maintain and keep the nursery. Ladies Piece was similarly required to maintain supplies for the Lady of the Manor. Earlier, the word Owell was instanced as relating to several fields adjoining the meadows and perpetuated in the housing estate of that name.

The Plains, towards Ixworth on the left hand side, is a very old cottage of single storey, Regency Gothic style, built in red brick and pantiles laid over thatch. The wide eaves overhang a full hipped roof, there is a central semi-circular bay with two light windows having pointed heads and commanding a splendid panorama southwards towards the main A143 road. This is a regular breeding place for kestrels, hawks and owls. In the mid 19th Century an extension was added at the rear, but the whole is used only on shooting days for luncheon and a game store. It was possibly built as a gamekeeper's cottage.

As the very old Pakenham brickfield and works adjoin the Plains Cottage, it was very likely built with Pakenham bricks made less than two hundred and fifty yards away.

'The Prince of Wales In Suffolk'

"The Prince Of Wales In Suffolk"

The local story goes thus:-

"This used to be a halfway house for the monks from Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, en route or being pursued to Ixworth Abbey. There are supposed to be tunnels leading in both directions, down which disappeared very quickly all heavy rainwater running down the roads in all directions."

Although there are large cellars beneath, no trace of the tunnels has been found. But what is perfectly true - and there is evidence both from Buckingham Palace and photographs - is that H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII , had numerous shooting parties over the estate in about 1900 and erected his luncheon tent in a large hollow at the road end of Shortbreaks Plantation. The late Stanley Cross of Ixworth was born at the Queach House and as a boy was given a silver half-crown by the Prince on one such occasion, as the newspaper cutting (kindly loaned by his son John Cross CBE, of Dairy Farm, Ixworth) testifies. The large photograph which hangs on the wall in the Plains dining room creates enormous interest. It shows the tent in the background whilst in two rows are the guns, guests and their ladies. The back row includes Mr. Eagle who farmed the estate at the time.

The Royal Luncheon Party

The Royal Luncheon Party

The line-up is as follows:
Back Row

Front Row
Grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch of Russia, Hon. Mrs. George Keppel, King Edward VII, Countess Torby, _,
Lady Randolph Churchill (became Mrs. George Cornwallis-West in 1900).

Considerable amusement is caused in the dress of the day!
In 1950, the area including the large pit, which used to house the Royal luncheon tent, was replanted with larch, pine and Norway spruce. The bracken beneath the trees still makes good cover for game birds and so the plantation was names The Royal Wood.

It was through the kindness of H.R.H. Prince Charles, the present Prince of Wales, who took an unusual interest in the picture, that the identity of the group was named from the Royal archives, in 1980.

Letter from M.M. Colborne

Letter from M.M. Colborne