Norfolk’s only working watermill has been given a new lease of life, and is really on a roll, thanks to the specialist help of Credo Asset Finance.
Credo played a major role in making the dream of the current owners come true by helping them finance the restoration and install a roller mill and flour separator. Now, flour production has doubled, the range of flours in the shop has expanded, and the owners are working with local farmers to get Norfolk its own oat de-hulling machine to reduce food miles.
The current Letheringsett Watermill was built in red brick with a black pantile roof in 1802.
There had been other mills, going back at least to the Domesday Book of 1086, on the River Glaven site but all burned down.
Although the mill was part of the Letheringsett estate, its grandeur meant that it was regarded as a separate property.
Richard Rouse built the present mill so large so it could house four sets of mill stones. One day it is hoped the mill will house four sets of stones so that it can run at full capacity again.
Michael Thurlow came across the mill in 1987 when delivering animal feed there as, at the time, it was used to store animal feed.
He had served 20 years in the Royal Navy before being discharged for medical reasons after metal poles fell on his legs while at sea. It had been thought he would never walk again but he was nursed back to health by Marion, who became his wife.
They moved to Winterton in Norfolk and, while driving delivery lorries, Michael came across the mill. He was talking with the then owner, the late Mrs Beryl Cozens-Hardy, who said “I just need someone stupid enough to take this mill on and restore it to its former glory”.
Michael, having travelled the world, had seen many countries restoring and maintaining their heritage but, on returning to England, felt part of his heritage had been left to ruin.
He wanted to help keep his heritage alive and took on the task of lovingly restoring Norfolk’s only working watermill. This labour of love brought Marion and Michael to Thornage, a small village a mile from Letheringsett.
The restoration began in 1987 with the mill undergoing a full refurb and brought back to life producing stoneground flours to be supplied to local bakeries and farm shops.
Marion and Michael adopted their two children, William and Michelle, in 1991 and they grew up learning about the mill and enjoying its beauty.
Unfortunately, Michael passed away unexpectedly six years ago leaving the mill in the capable hands of Marion and Michelle. They ran the business together for two years before Marion lost a four-year battle to cancer.
Michelle still runs the mill which is now expanding, bringing it forward and restoring further machinery to ensure it is self-sustaining. Both sets of mill stones are in regular use and the mill can now make its own traditionally separated white flour and roll its own oats and wheat flakes.
Credo Asset Finance had a key role in the mill’s makeover and modernisation by helping it to finance the restoration and installation of the Bamford roller mill and flour separator.
Due to the nature of the specialist equipment needed, it was very difficult for Michelle to get the finance she required. After searching online she was delighted to hear that Credo was able to help.
“The whole process of setting up the finance was so easy. Donna at Credo, who looked after our bespoke finance needs, was so approachable and friendly. She attended for a site visit to see the machinery in action and the whole process was set up and ready to go within a week – no difficult, lengthy paperwork, straightforward terms and conditions and a friendly face to speak with in person rather than just on the phone”.
Following the installation, the mill’s production of flour has doubled, the range of flours within the shop has expanded and the owners are currently working with local farmers to get Norfolk its own oat de-hulling machine so they can the roll Norfolk oats, making the carbon footprint less than 10 miles.
Find out more about this historic and beautiful Watermill by visiting the website at www.letheringsettwatermill.co.uk