Repps Road Smock Mill

With thanks to Paul Hooper and Jonathan Neville for their help with some of the following information. Also see Jonathan’s excellent website at

The Repps Road smock mill was believed to have been built in about 1850 and stood on the north side of Repps Road about halfway between the Methodist Church and Cess Road. It was a four-storey mill with a brick base to the top of the first floor and wood above that. Smock mills were a cheaper version of a tower mill which had brick walls whereas smock mills had wooden walls built on a brick base that usually encompassed the ground floor. Repps Road mill was powered by four double shuttered sails.

This is believed to be the Smock Mill at Repps Road but is not 100% certain

1850 to 1875

There is no listing for a mill or a miller in the Martham 1851 census but in 1854 White’s Directory listed Joseph Ware as a corn miller at Martham and the 1861 census confirms this. Joseph was 55; born in Nottingham and was married to Rebecca, nee Hales. He employed local boy James Futter, aged 16, as an apprentice miller. He was well qualified to be the new miller having had the same role at nearby Ormesby St Margaret (Great Ormesby) in 1841 and 1851. He may have been involved with the Repps Road smock mill from its very beginnings.  He was also included in every Register of Electors list from 1858 to 1875, inclusive, as the owner of a freehold house, mill and land in Repps Lane (Repps Road), Martham. He also appears as a miller at Martham in the 1854 & 1864 editions of White’s Directory as well as the 1869 Post Office Directory.  By 1871 Joseph would have been 66 and apparently in declining health according to the following advert that appeared in the Norfolk News on 12th August 1871:

MARTHAM To Millers
FOR SALE by Private Contract, a self-winding TOWER CORN MILL with four floors, brick base to first floor, the rest wood, the mill new geared, four new sails, everything in good order with convenient outbuildings, good dwelling house, greenhouse and large garden attached well planted with fruit trees. Also 7 acres, 20 roods of productive arable land near the Mill. All freehold.
The owner obliged to retire through ill health.
Apply J. Ware, Miller, Martham, Yarmouth.

Joseph died in 1875 and his widow, Rebecca, placed the following advert in the Norfolk News on 26th June & 10th July that year.

For Sale by Private Contract in consequence of the death of the owner.
A SELF-WINDING TOWER CORN MILL in good repair, new geared throughout , four new sails, good retail trade, nice Dwelling house, with Greenhouse, Warehouse and other Buildings convenient for business, large Garden well stocked with good fruit trees.
Apply Mrs. Ware, Miller, Martham, Norfolk.

1876 – 1898

Courtesy of NLS map images

The mill was taken over by George Nichols as a young man of only 26 from Repps. He was listed in Kelly’s Directories of 1877, 1879 and 1892 & White’s in 1883 & 1890 as the miller and a market gardener at the Smock Tower Mill.  He can also be found in the Register of Electors for the years 1877 to 1881 inclusive, 1885/86 and 1888 listed as the owner of a  freehold house and land at Repps Road.

George’s main listing as a miller at Repps Road was with his wife Happy and their (then) three children in the 1881 census. He was still living there with his family in 1891 but the census describes him as a market gardener (not a miller) and the advert below probably explains why. His health was failing and the mill was let to a tenant called Edward Arthur Dyball who was the miller but lived with his parents on the south side of The Green in Martham. This is the advert that appeared in the Yarmouth Independent on 24th February 1894.

James Woolterton will Sell by Auction by direction of Mr. George Nichols who is declining business owing to ill health, at the Star Hotel, Great Yarmouth on 7 March 1894.
All that valuable property situate close to the
Railway Station, Martham, comprising a substantially erected tower windmill residence, four large cucumber houses and small market garden, now in the occupation of Mr. G. Nichols and his undertenant, E. A. Dyball.
Tenure Freehold.

Sadly, George Nichols must have been seriously ill for some while and he died in April 1895 aged just 48.

The following advert then appeared in the Yarmouth Independent newspaper from 18th July to 15th August 1896 from which it seems ownership of the mill had passed into the hands of James Arthur Balls.

MARTHAM, Norfolk
Windmill, Granary and cart shed situate at Martham, near the Station, to be let, in thorough good order.
Apply to Arthur Balls, Martham.

On 2nd April 1898 disaster struct the smock mill when it caught fire. This is a copy of the report of the incident in the Yarmouth Independent.

The newspaper report does not say the mill was destroyed and even mentions that the Fire Brigade were not needed as the flames had been brought under control by the time they arrived. Perhaps it was damaged beyond economic repair and the insurance company would not pay out sufficient to re-build it, whatever it was there are no further records of it operating again.

James Arthur Balls had become a fruit grower by 1904 & 1911 according to Kelly’s Directories for those years. In 1911 he was a market gardener still living at Repps Road in the house at the same place as the mill but which is situated nearer the road – see above map (we know this from the order of the census and the names of his neighbours). His wife Annie died in 1925 and he died in 1936 and they are buried together at St Mary’s.

c2017. The modern house that stands on the site of the former smock mill.

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