History of Trickers Mill


There is nothing like an official notice in the paper to make one suddenly aware that decisions are about to be made on the future of a mill. Notice of proposed demolition by a local council of a listed building in a Conservation Area is enough to spoil breakfast, but when the building is a mill it is worse. Without sails to tell people it was a windmill and standing between the Tide Mill and Buttrum’s Mill, both proving very expensive, there was little chance for Tricker’s. The tower, in splendid condition with its fine machinery, good curb and cap frame, was the ideal starting-point for a restoration to full working order. The authorities, while sympathetic, obviously could not restore the mill in this way. They also felt there was not sufficient space on the site to allow full restoration without compromise to their scheme for old peoples’ housing close to the town centre. It soon became very clear that my idea to restore the mill using a second-hand windshaft would have to be scrapped, and a way found just to keep the tower standing. Thus like so many situations a compromise was reached: it was decided to use the ground floor of the mill as a T.V. and common room with adjoining kitchen and toilet, and to provide a small bedroom for overnight visitors on the meal floor above.

The first plans, while keeping the stone floor and above intact, cut a vast new opening into the tower, removed the fine tentering gear and were ambiguous and unsatisfactory in many ways. After several letters and phone calls, the chief architect of the London-based Design team decided to come to Woodbridge one Sunday and sort it out once and for all. It was a crisp clear January (1974) day and we were able to climb out onto the flat roof that had been built over the cap frame after the sails, cap roof, windshaft and brake wheel had been removed 25 years or so previously. The view was magnificent, with the old streets of Woodbridge, the church and the Tide Mill appearing model like beside the Deben estuary. The good condition and quality of the tower and the interest of the machinery soon had architect Michael Willis re-thinking his plans. These were modified to conserve all that was there including the cap frame and tentering gear while the new opening in the meal floor was cut to a safe size and the new layout of common room and bedroom above was .an improvement from every point of view.

The only machinery that had to be removed were a late nineteenth century cleaner and a sifter, both slung beneath the meal floor. It seems that in the late nineteenth century there had been a thorough modernisation, representing a last attempt to keep Tricker’s Mill in the flour trade. Little sign of wear can be seen on the machinery, wooden cogs of the spur wheel being in perfect condition. A clue to the date of this work was found in a fragment of calendar (reproduced on the opposite page) printed on a thick card used as a packer when fitting the sifter. It told us that Boxing Day was a Friday, and with the help of a computer we found dates when this occurred, i.e. 1913, 1902, 1890, 1884, 1879, 1873, 1862, 1856, etc.. Also, pencilled very clearly on a new bin, is: ‘W.J. Friend, Hewitt & Co, Nov 2nd 1886’. I imagine the millwrights asked the miller for a piece of card about as thick as a thumbnail for packing. The miller, rummaging through his desk, found an old calendar just the right thickness. So the likely date for the calendar is 1884, but we will never know for sure.

More recent history came to light when meal spouts were found to contain (among other things) coal, acorns and chicken manure! With a good yard and buildings together with transport, coal distribution became a side line for many millers. The spacious interior of the mill made high rise accommodation for hens, whilst during the last war I believe acorns were ground for pig food and even as a coffee substitute!

A lot of money was spent on the tower – a set of new windows, a new roof over the cap frame, re-pointing the brickwork and treatment of the interior with Protim – as well as the actual conversion of the ground and meal floors. We cleaned, repaired and painted the tentering gear, re-fitting it with concealed Allen headed grub screws to lock the moving parts for safety. Above the meal floor the mill remains as it was and one day when there is time we hope to carry out more work to the machinery and floors and to fit some unobtrusive labels. I’m glad we stayed with the scheme. The housing is superb in design and quality of materials used. It is splendid to provide homes for old people at the same time enabling them to retain their independence so close to the centre of the town they know and love. The tower still dominates but I wish it did so as a working mill. Whenever I am there I think of the letter from Woodbridge Council telling me of their decision to keep the tower but leave it at that.

“It is with regret that they cannot accept, in this instance, your offer”. The moving finger writes and having writ moves on …. So must I.

Chris Hullcoop

Tricker ‘s Mill (grid Ref. TM2687649163) is dated externally “W. Mower Feb. 2 1835” but is shown on an engraving§ made before 1819. The first map to show it is the 1835-7 Ordnance Survey; it seems odd that both Bryant and Greenwood should miss it off their maps of 1823-5 – still, Greenwood manages to miss all four ‘Mill Hill’ mills in the town (the ones that were moved in the 1840’s). He must have had an off day whjen he ‘did’ Woodbridge.’ In the Tithe map of 1841, Saunder Orsborn is named as owner, also being joint occupant with John Avis. 0rsborn was still there in 1854. William Benns was miller in 1868, and Alfred Read in 1885 arid 1892. J.S Tricker was the last miller, work ceasing c.1920. The mill stood disused in good order until after the Second World War, when the windshaft and cap were scrapped. A flat roof was put over the cap frame, which has survived in good condition.

The tower is of red brick, 19 inches thick, and is 23 ft. internal diameter at the base and 14 ft.6 ins. diameter at dust floor level. The floor to floor heights are as follows: ground – first: 8′ 0″; first – second (stone floor): 10′ 11″; second third (bin floor): 8′ 3″; third – fourth (dust floor): 7′ 2”; dust floor – curb. 8′ 4”. The total height of the tower is 42′ 8″.

The original cap was domed and was blown off in 1881 (probably on ‘Black Tuesday’ i.e. January 18th.). It was rebuilt as a strange hybrid of circular base, petticoat and gallery, with boat-shaped roof. The cap frame runs on truck wheels and the centring wheels bear on the outside face of the curb. There was a six bladed fantail which drove via a worm onto the curb. Power came from four anti-clockwise double-shuttered patent sails of nine bays with external striking wheel and tailpole chain guide.

The windshaft was cast iron, as was the brake wheel, which had eight spokes and wooden teeth. The brake was iron. Most of the machinery has survived; the dust floor contains a pulley for the sack hoist chain and the all iron wallower of 40″ diameter. The upright shaft is of iron, 6 ¼” square, with concave surfaces. The spur wheel is of iron with 113 wooden teeth of 71″ pitch diameter. There is a mortice bevel ring immediately above the spur wheel. This formerly could be driven via an external steam drive pulley. A layshaft takes a slack belt drive to the sack hoist bollard on the bin floor above, the end of the bollard being raised to tighten the belt. Another larger pulley formerly drove to auxiliary machines below. The stones were overdrift, with cast iron stone nuts, all with 24 teeth on iron quants.

There were three pairs of Burr stones; one pair of 4′ 4″ diameter were removed to a farm at Saxtead in 1937. The remaining pairs are 4′ 3″ and 4′ 4″, the latter having Clarke and Dunham Balances dated 1859. There is a constant feed device fitted to one pair of stones. The tentering gear (see accompanying drawings) is very neat and compact, all cast iron, although the governors and steelyards are missing. The bridge trees and the remaining hand-tentering gear now form an attractive feature on the converted first floor. There were formerly two reciprocating machines on the ground floor, one a cleaner the other a dresser. These had to be removed on conversion and were therefore taken to the Tide Mill granary. A pair of beam scales from the mill has been set up in the Tide Mill as an exhibit. The present machinery and bin layout appear to be an 1880’s replacement of earlier, probably wooden machinery. Although there is no conclusive evidence it was probably done by Collins of Melton as it is unlike the usual Whitmore pattern found, for example, at Buttrum’s mill.

Since 1975 the ground and first floors have been used as a guest bedroom and common room for an old persons’ home ( ‘Mussidan Place ‘) , into which the tower has been incorporated. In the course of the conversion, an ugly spiral staircase was appended to the outside to give access to the guest room. However unfortunate the conversion is from the enthusiast’s view, we must be grateful that the mill has survived with most of its machinery intact.

2011 Flagship Housing who run the sheltered housing decide to sell the Mill.
W & T Catchpole having bought the Mill commission architect Tim Buxbaum and J P Chick & Sons Structural Engineers to liase with Mark Barnard from Suffolk Coastal on emergency restoration work. Paul Rust commences work to repair and stabilise the mill in January 2012. By March 2016 the work has been completed and the mill is available to rent as holiday accommodation. 

Footnote: There may have been a post mill in the same yard as the tower mill for a time. The 1839 Tithe map shows no second mill, but the 1884 Ordnance Survey map shows a second circle about 80 ft. to the north west (at Grid Ref.TM2686 4918). This circle has a diameter of about 22 ft.. Photographs of the 1920’s show what appears to be a single storey roundhouse, which had gone by the early 1950’s. This could have been a second mill which proved unsuccessful, or may have merely been a circular building. We may never know the full story.

The following correspondence has been received from Brian Flint, of 15, St. Mary’ Close, Bramford, Ipswich:
I read, with interest, the articles on Tricker’s Mill, Woodbridge, in Newsletter No. 4. An advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 3 April 1819 seems to relate to this and reads as follows:

“To be sold by auction …. A very Capital and Substantial erected Brick Tower Wind Mill 23 feet by 23, with stowage for upwards of 1000 coombs of wheat, 5 stories high, 2 pair best French stones, 4 feet 3 inches diameter, a flour dressing machine and boulting mill …. This Mill has been built within these last 9 months … fitted with Cubitt’s patent sails, working herself to the wind, stands upon an elevated and commanding site, at the West end of WOODBRIDGE …. and by the side of a turnpike road. Also a convenient Dwelling House … the whole in the occupation of the proprietor Mr. Elless Sharman”.

An advertisement of sale of mill contents and household furniture “under an assignment for the Benefit of Creditors” follows.

There certainly was a post mill roundhouse in the same yard but references to it are very scanty. Stanley Freese stated that the foundations of the walls and pier bases were visible around 1935 and remarked that they could be photographed but unfortunately seems not to have done so.

Following on from our feature on Tricker’s Mill in Newsletter 4 and Brian Flint’s interesting letter in Newsletter 5, I have received a letter from Tony Austin in Kent enclosing a small oil painting of Tricker’s Mill. He tells me the picture was given to him in 1959, before he had become interested in mills. The artist was an elderly man by the name of Frederick Therouf, who said the picture was painted in 1957.While not particularly accurate, it does show cap and two sails still in place. In the December 1957 issue of the ‘East Anglian Magazine’ there is a photograph of the mill with cap and two sails (p.105) captioned ‘Tricker’s Mill before the cap was removed’. If the date of the painting is correct this would seem to indicate that the top came off the mill sometime during 1957. Can any Member confirm this?

Another point about the painting is that it depicts the mill as being white, not red brick as it now is. Although on the face of it this would seem to be artistic licence a couple of months ago I visited an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Leonard Squirrel, a distinguished local artist. Among several mill pictures there was a superbly detailed small print called ‘White Mill, Woodbridge’, dated 1914. It was obviously Tricker’s Mill, with boat cap, fantail and four patent sails in working order. It was definitely drawn as a white mill – perhaps it was whitewashed in earlier times?

Historic image of Trickers Mill with man standing outside.

Historic Image of Trickers Mill with sails on.