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Sutton Windmill and Broads Museum (Sutton)
Member Name: The Operator
Sutton Windmill and Broads Museum (Sutton)
Date: 08/10/01, updated on 08/10/01 (110 review reads)
I'd never been in all my 40 years until earlier this year. Now I've been twice. I do want to come again, I do. Honest. Next time I'll make more of it, though. A lot more. I won't leave all the touristy bits until the last few days for a start. Oh, and there's a little pub in Ingham...
From our bedroom window, one could see a windmill. It was about 3 miles away, maybe bit more. A windmill is not unknown in Norfolk. There are loads of them. They were drainage mills, windpumps they call them and many are owned by restoration trusts and the National Trust. Some are smock mills in the traditional sense with weatherboarded cladding, others are trestle mills, basically a frame supporting the sails and the drive shaft.
This one wasn't a drainage mill, anyone (ha!) could see that. For a start it wasn't near water and it was huge. Massive, stood well above the treetops and had a blue cowl. Oh, and it was made of brick. Dead giveaway that. A bit of research and a fortuitous wrong turn one day revealed it to be Sutton Mill, a bit down the road from Stalham on the A149, halfway between Cromer and Great Yarmouth.
Right, I'll get this bit out of the way first. Go there. You can't go yet,though, it's just closed for the year. It will re-open on the 1st of April next year though. It's not just a windmill you see, at something like 88ft, it's Britain's tallest windmill. 88ft? That's not tall, it's only one third again the length of a cricket pitch. More about that later.
Sutton Windmill also houses a museum in the 6 outbuildings surrounding the tower itself. It's called The Broads Museum but I can't really go along with that. Sure there's local stuff and it's on the edge of the Broads, just along from
the River Ant at Stalham but I've not really seen a museum like it. It's more a series of private collections of personal and social interests. Highly diverse but interesting nonetheless.
Join here for a short tour.
Building one houses a collection of domestic implements as well as the entrance and shop. There are displays of irons, kitchen tools and utensils, banknotes, some old gaming machines and a what the butler saw machine. All gaming machines are playable too, which pleased Daniel immensely as he was able to win real money. Didn't please me though, do you think he gave me the stake money back? I know some people, Dan. Big people.
To try and reinforce the point, I showed him the collection of razors. These aren't dusty, rusty old bits and pieces thrown in boxes, they are mounted, clean and even annotated in some cases and there was even the one my grandad had with the built in strop in the steel case.
There's also a display about coopering - barrel making to thee and me and some interesting stuff about the last cooper's apprentice from the Guinness brewery.
In building 2 there is a full size Victorian pharmacists shop. Complete with pills packets, potions and pongs. Fascinating. I mean it, really fascinating although Dan didn't like the smells so I couldn't dwell. It's housed in an environmentally controlled atmosphere and is apart from the rest of building 2 which houses a display of dentistry apparatus (oohh!), marsh and dyke tools, soaps and cleaners and a display of trade tricycles. These displays are in a two level galleried hall and some displays, such as the leather workers shop, are designed to resemble working premises.
Building 3 - aha, 5 rooms dedicated to the history of tobacco. Having recently given up I thought this was going to be hard. Dan thought it was fascinating. So did I but as there wasn't much of a smell, the temptation despite the thousands of packets of
cigarettes and cigars on show, wasn't there. Phew.
Buildings 4 and 5 contain a collection of large engines. This is where, if you have an interest in all things oily and technical, you can get lost. I mean, in building 4 is a Ruston 220HP Twin O/C engine. In full running order. Yadda yadda. All red and greasy and massive . Well it wouldn't fit in my living room. It's not connected to anything but to see the size of the pistons sitting motionless, ready to throb powerfully into life at a moment's notice was one of the highlights of the visit for me. That kind of thing doesn't usually get me going but for some reason I found it quite impressive.
Building 6 is the mill itself. I'm coming back to that.
Finally building 7. This is a strange juxtaposition of the brutal and prosaic. You enter alongside a collection of veterinary implemements (get this lot ) twitches, sweat strops, probangs, fleams, tail dockers, horse bailing guns and bottles of evil potions. Then there's a quite unbelievable display of traps; from leg severing man traps 6 feet across to traps designed to catch kingfishers. Why? Man's brutal ingenuity really knows no bounds.
The far end houses a collection of electrical entertainment delivery systems. TVs and stuff. There's even a couple of early video machines and nearly everyone can remember having something from there be it an old valve radio or early colour TV. Museums are about memories as well as inspiration. If the memories are good, such as listening to The Navy Lark or Round the Horn on the warm valve tones of an old Philips after Sunday lunch, then so be it.
The Windmill then.
It's big. Nine floors. Built in 1789 or thereabouts and finally stopped working in 1940. The derelict mill was bought by the Nunn family in the 80s and they have laboured tirelessly to try and restore it to its former glories. They are by no means finished, only two out of the four sails ar
e in place, the shutters from the other sails and the two massive spars are lying about the site ready for reassembly and a lot of the drive gear looks as though it may fall apart if even minimal torque is applied.
You can go right to the top, looking at the sack hoist, the hoppers, the four sets of millstones and the rest of the milling machinery which is actually considered to be amongst the finest around.
The stairs to reach the top do get a little steep at times and aren't really for the faint hearted but when you finally do get there - well, those of a nervous disposition stop here, the view is incredible. DON'T look down at what you're standing on though. You walk out of the cowl onto a timber platform which is surrounded by a waist high fence. Timber platform - that's wooden planks with gaps between them. Sort of big gaps - the kind you could imagine falling through if it wasn't actually a physical impossibility. I said you walk out; not strictly true. Dan walked out, I stood in the door holdng onto the frame. Well, more like trying to meld with the frame - Dan's 7, he has no fear. "It's OK Dan, I'll just make sure you're OK from here. I can see fine." It is a fine view, it is said you can see twenty church towers from there and it does seem rather higher than the credited 88 feet. I did finally gain the courage to creep out and I'm really sorry I'm a coward, I don't like letting people down. I've done paragliding, y'know. I felt my vertigo attack, because cowardice is such a wimpish word, was justified when, on the ground, I looked up at the tissue paper and papier mache structure that we had been standing on.
It's well worth it. I could have spent far more than the three or so hours that we were there, but then I love that kind of thing. I can't remember the price we paid, it was very good value for money, about £3 and £!.50 or thereabouts but you can 'phone
on 01692 581195 to check.
It's open from 1st April until 30th September , 10am until 5.30pm every day.
A lot of websites claim that the Sutton Windmill Pottery is on the same site. Not true, it's down the other end of the lane and then some. That's worth a visit too.
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- Gustav Klimt - Liverpool Tate Exhibition 2008 (Liverpool)
- Cawthorne Victoria Museum (South Yorkshire)
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