Saturday 28 November 2009

Coltishall Granaries, Norfolk

Coltishall Granaries, Norfolk
November 2009

In my last post about Coltishall Common I mentioned a stream which crosses the northern end of the open space, and how it led on to Coltishall Granaries.

Access cut to the Old Maltings in White Lion Street from Wrioxham Road

There is more to this unusually wide stream than meets the eye. Although the course of the stream is soon blocked by a piped bridge carrying Wroxham Road, this was not always present. At one time the stream was widened and deepened to three feet, sufficient to allow a loaded wherry to be hauled up to the back of the old maltings to load and onload goods.

Silted remains of turning point behind Coltishall Granaries

I know all this from the "old boys" who worked at Coltishall Granaries in the late 1960's and  who led me out to the back of my family's mill and pointed out the enlarged winding hole (not that they called it that in Norfolk) and offered to demonstrate its considerable depth by throwing me in if I didn't behave!

The maltings were converted to serve the function of a grain mill in the late 1950's, intially powered by huge diesel engines and later by electric motors, all turning antique driveshafts running the length of the mill using leather and canvas belts. I still can't go into a restored watermill without hearing and smelling the Granaries operating at full bore. Health and Safety would have a field day at all that unguarded machinery, but no one gave it much thought and I was regularly dispatched to pour some oil into "number two bearing" which always ran hot, no matter how much they fiddled with it.

Milling side of Coltishall Granaries Ltd

The Granaries became economically unviable in the early 1970's and by 1976 the place was silent and in danger of being torn down. It nearly suffered a mortal blow in 1977 when a high winter storm stripped large sections of tiles off the roof, leaving yours truly (aged 16) to clamber up and replace as much as I could.

Truncated tower of maltings

That was so nearly the end of the place till my father, always an ennthusiastic designer, had this idea that it could be divided into fourteen dwellings. A property development company was established with shareholdings taken by my father, the builder and the architect and by 1980 the conversions were complete, winning the second ever Broadland Enhancement Award in the process.

The Old Granaries still stands as 14 dwellings, complete with a pretty central courtyard and now with extensive grounds to the rear, purchased to compensate for the paucity of land / gardens.

Too wide to be just a stream..

At the time of my recent visit a new house was being built on the banks of the stream which gave me extensive access to the watercourse.

One thing has always troubled me about the conversion of the Granaries. The big unit, the one at the bottom left includes as it's basement the bit that was generally regarded as haunted. When I found myself in the building one evening during a power failure I was scared out of my wits. Maybe the converstion process drove away the spooks, but I am not convinced....

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