Suffolk Mills Group

This page was established as a interim page until the Group got its own pages together.

Please see the official site of The Suffolk Mills Group for the most up to date information.


Suffolk Mills Group is a Voluntary Association for those helping to care for Suffolk's Heritage of old windmills and watermills. Founded in 1977 at an inaugural meeting held in Woodbridge Tide Mill, our aims are:

The Group is run by an honorary executive committee, elected annually at the AGM, which discusses policy and fixes the programme of events. Close links are maintained with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, other mills groups around the country and local organisations with similar interests.

From Spring to Autumn there are visits to mills, often those not open to the public and there are also opportunities to see mills at work, such as the preserved drainage mill at Herringfleet, which is frequently demonstrated by the Group on public open days.

During the winter there is an informal members' evening when members can get together to chat about mills and show their pictures or films to others in a relaxed atmosphere over a glass of wine. Each year a formal public meeting is held at which guest speakers talk on a theme related to mills; past events have covered topics as diverse as modern wind power and old fashioned millwrighting. The families and friends of members are welcome at group events, which are all free of charge.

Our regular illustrated newsletter contains articles on a wide range of mill topics as well as mill news and details of events.

Suffolk Mills Group comments on planning applicalions where they are felt to prejudice the proper conservation of a mill and its machinery. Our membership includes people with wide experience of restoring, maintaining and working old mills who can offer free advice to mill owners about repairs. We can recommend suitable specialist firms for mill repairs.

Several members actively involved in restoring or conserving mills welcome assistance and this work allows other members hands-on experience of mill restoration. In this way Suffolk Mills Group members have restored the windmills at Thelnetham and Stanton, as well as carrying out holding operations on a number of other mills where full restoration is not possible.

Suffolk Mills Group has probably the largest collection of historical, technical information and illustrations of Suffolk mills in the Country which is freely made available to other researchers. Several members continue the recording and research work, adding to the Suffolk Mills Archive.

Suffolk is fortunate to possess some of the Country's finest mills. By joining Suffolk Mills Group and supporting our work you will be making a contribution to the survival of these beautiful buildings for future generations to enjoy.

How to Join

Please complete the Membership form.

Suffolk's Heritage of Mills

Drinkstone At one time nearly every Suffolk parish possessed a windmill and their turning sails were a familiar part of the rural scene. In the early 19th. century over 500 were at work, mostly used for corn grinding, but from then on their numbers declined, slowly at first but rapidly after 1900, in the face of competition from large steam powered flour mills and smaller farm mills. Today just 37 are left and of these only half retain their machinery. Suffolk was known for its post mills and these have suffered particularly badly, only 7 remaining from a total of over 300 at one time, the oldest being at Drinkstone which is dated 1689.
Suffolk watermills were much scarcer than the windmills due to lack of suitable rivers, only about 100 standing during the 19th. century, but because they were larger than many of the windmills a higher proportion has survived. Most watermills are very attractive, with their characteristic white weatherboarding and lucamn (overhanging gabled hoist). They are often the centrepiece of a whole group of riverside buildings, nearly always including a fine mill house. Over 50 watermills remain, of which about a third are complete with their machinery.

Baylham watermill Ixworth watermill

In recent years some mills have been preserved and a few returned to working order. For these few the future is secure but sadly others are not maintained and their condition slowly deteriorates. The weather is still one the windmill's greatest enemies, the great storm in 1987 destroying the mill at Syleham and severely damaging others.

Suffolk Mills Group opposes the house conversion of complete mills or those which could be made so again and actively campaigns for the preservation of those few specimens which remain. Part of the beauty of an old mill and its house is the division of use, a contrast and harmony which comes from their original function and is lost when both become houses. Empty watermill buildings, gutted windmill towers and roundhouses may on the other hand benefit from conversion to other uses.

Thelnetham Thelnetham Windmill.

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Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -