Dunkirk, Aylsham

This week we did some more fieldwork with the Aylsham Navigation research group – this time investigating the remains of the industrial complex which grew up around the head of the Navigation in Aylsham itself.

Aylsham Mill was rebuilt in 1796 on the site of an earlier mill – some of the building has now been restored and converted into flats, whilst this section awaits further restoration.

We were able to explore the remains of a bone mill, originally built in the 1860s alongside the Navigation. The mill was operated by a steam engine, which also powered the adjacent flour mill (now a garage).

The atmospheric interior was mostly empty, but still contained a number of drive shafts and wheels which drove the machinery.

By leaning precariously out of one of the doors on the first floor we got a good view of the Navigation itself – at this point a straight channel dug out by hand in the 1770s parallel to the River Bure.

The 1880s 25 inch OS map shows the mill complex with the bone mill and corn mill clearly marked. The buildings were once much larger, and included an engine house with a large chimney, now gone.

By the 1900s ranges of stables had been added to the mill complex next to the road, which are still standing on site and which are now used as offices.

Presiding over the mills was the owner’s house, a neat example of Victorian ‘Jacobethan’ domestic architecture.

The site is now surrounded by modern housing and industry, but represents one of the most complete sections of the Navigation with the cut and the associated industrial buildings surviving almost intact, side by side.


Author: UEA Landscape History

Landscape historians based in the School of History at the University of East Anglia.

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