Sunday, 13 December 2009

Aylsham Mill and Staithe

Aylsham Mill and Staithe
River Bure / Aylsham Navigation
December 2009

Aylsham Mill represents the ultimate head of navigation on the River Bure and the associated Aylsham Navigation, with wherries covering the last couple of miles from Burgh via a long canal section to the east of the river itself.

Aylsham Staithe 1928

The Aylsham Navigation was a success and caused the town to grow wealthy, with a sizeable terminus springing up in the vicinity of the mill. Whilst wherries could make their way alongside the downstream side of the mill itself, most would have been loaded and unloaded at Aylsham Staithe at the end of the man made cut. The cut  remains in water and the staithe buildings have been converted into houses. Sadly the side arms and basin were all filled in in the 1970's, so one has to rely on old maps and a bit of imagination to picture how it all looked in its heyday.

Auction Map 1914

Curiously, the navigation appears to reach beyond the main road, passing under crumbling red brick bridge built in 1846 before turning sharply into Dunkirk. This stretch of water appears to be on a level with the millpool and I am not aware of a further lock to lift boats any higher, so this must have been the absolute head of navigation.

Alysham Mill with Whery 1902

Aylsham Mill seems to have been in the process of conversion for decades, and the task continues. I last visited the mill on a frosty day in late October 1981 when I was completing a canoeing certificate. I remember draging my  craft through a light frost and then having to capsize in the freezing waters, waiting for a fellow student to come and rescue me - probably the longest 30 seconds of my life.

Upstream of Aylsham Mill 1907

A fine old mill for a classic North Norfolk market town.

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