The Mill at Norton

t12963I’ve seen lots of photographs of Norton Mill on Picture Stockton, is this the same one? It dates from 1914 and shows the mill complete, it was damaged by a German bomber in 1940. The buildings were demolished in recent years for the Billingham A19 by-pass, I think this was followed by an archaeological excavation in 1978.

Photograph and details courtesy of Derek Buttle.

17 thoughts on “The Mill at Norton

  1. Apologies for sending a second comment so soon but I’ve just realised that Francis Dixon, born at Billingham Mill in 1815 and eldest son of James Dixon, went on to become the miller there after James moved to Middlesbrough, possibly after the death of his wife Jane. Francis was a miller in Norton in 1841 so I’m assuming, I hope correctly, that this means Billingham Mill. In 1851 he was a Master Millwright at Norton with one man working with him, also in 1861 and 1871. His wife Ann, died at the mill in 1873 and his daughter, Elizabeth, also died there in 1874. All three are buried together in Norton churchyard. In 1881 Francis was living with his remaining daughter and her family at Grange Terrace, Norton where he was making agricultural machinery. He was still there in 1891 but listed as a retired Millwright. He died in 1900. So not the miller that led to the ghost story!
    In 1881 I’ve found Robert Swalwell, corn miller living at Mill House, Billingham with his wife and seven children. In 1891 he’d moved to be a miller in Castle Eden.
    Was Gossack, whose daughter had the fright, the miller in the late 1870s, between Francis Dixon and Robert Swalwell?
    I couldn’t find any mention of a Mr Gossack in the Middlesbrough papers; Dr Blandford is mentioned reporting on public health.

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  2. My 4x great-grandfather, James Dixon, was the, or a, miller here from 1815 to the late-1830s. He and his wife Jane produced nine children at the mill, between 1815 and 1832, of which at least four survived to adulthood. I have birth details for the other five but haven’t been able to find them beyond this – yet! Jane died at the mill in 1835. James Dixon was a Quaker and all of his children were registered as Quakers at birth; Jane was buried as a Quaker in the “Friends’ Burial Ground at or near Norton” but was listed as “Not in membership” on all the children’s birth records and on her death and burial records. The gravedigger was apparently Joseph Gill.
    By 1841 James had moved to Suffield Street in Middlesbrough and was a flour dealer.
    It’s a great surprise and a real joy to have found these photos.

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    • If, and in the benefit of much 50-50 hindsight, this Mill Lane flour mill had been saved and restored as a heritage site for the area what a tremendous historical attraction it would be today.

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      • Anon I knew the old Mill well, Mr and Mrs Skelton with his two daughters were friends of my Parents, played in and around for years. The house was in good repair the Mill a wreck even then.
        When it was Bombed the old section was blasted almost to bits, the house untenable, the Skelton’s had to move out, the main damage was done by the Bomb that hit the Mill Race take off point where the water was diverted from the old Canal to drive the Mill wheel, Solid stone work caused the blast to travel.
        Left to rot for something like ten years not a lot was left, the bypass road had been dotted in on maps years before the war so we all knew it would happen in time. The line of the A19 had to be up the bank as the bottoms were flood plains and Marsh so it took the path of the old Canal and the Mill.
        The bricks were cleaned and used to build the Scout hut so it still exists in a way, this area was once covered in mills. Look at your maps and now none exist. We cannot save everything and what is saved has to pay for its self and rarely does. Rock and the hard place comes to mind.
        Frank.

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        • Frank,
          I wasn’t writing to give Stockton Borough Council or the developers a slating as many have done in the past for demolishing the East side of the High Street. I would have loved to have that old mill on our doorstep as an education facility, an historical treasure and just for nostalgic purposes. From what you have written I understand that it was in a terrible state after the bombing etc, and couldn’t be realistically saved or preserved, but it would have been a real asset if events had turned out differently.

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          • Anon I knew what you meant and would also have liked the Old Norton Mill to be saved, it could well have become what you call an education facility though for how long? I remember William Newton School being built, danced in the Hall in my early years did the Cadet training there and Pensioners cookery when I retired now gone as so many of the good solid old places have gone. The war damaged the Mill but the worst damage was done in the ten years of austerity after the war, open to the elements there was nothing left to save.
            I read the other day Thompson scrap yard is closing the site of the old Stockton Mill, know for a fact Jack Woods Son Marty built a house on the founds of the old Wolverston Mill, Mount Pleasant windmill just vanished along with so many mills once in this area.
            So much now gone including lots of the pubs I got thrown out of for being under age, nothing lasts forever does it.
            Frank

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            • Frank. thinking of what can be done if thought carefully, there would be photos and maybe some plans somewhere to have rebuilt the Mill similar to the original. I know that there were plenty of bricks that could have been cleaned up and others brought in from other sauces. The interior wall could have used anything and then plastered. When you think they moved Cpt. Cook’s cottage from Great Ayton over to Australia. They just didn’t have those thoughts in those days.

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              • Bob, it was money, what little was available for many years after the war was needed to build new not rejuvenate ancient monuments. The attitude differed as well, having lived through poverty war and austerity for something like 25-30 years people wanted change indeed demanded change. Although some deplored the knocking down of parts of the Town others thought it the best thing ever happened, you could visit shops in a warm enclosed Mall, not all saw it as a blasphemy.
                Captain Cooks Cottage was paid for by Australia otherwise it would not have happened.
                Frank.

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                • We know about Cpt Cooks cottage, I was saying how it was done and could have been done to the Mill. I lived through 2 parts of that time being born in 1937. I don’t think as you will Frank that it was ever thought of to rebuild and make it a museum even though it could have been. Thinking of hindsight.

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  3. It was rebuilt as a scout hut for 1st Norton Scouts from the rubble and served as such until the building of the A19 – I have a photograph somewhere but I’m not sure where.
    We dug a well and many other things around there eventually filling the well up with an American electricity generator and an old motorbike we could not get working.

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  4. Billingham Mill:
    Ralph Hedley R.B.A. woodcarver and painter of the North East, had an uncle Jackson Hedley (1813-1864) who appears on the 1861 census as Master Miller, Billingham Mill. His son William Hedley (then aged 19) was born at Norton, County Durham and was also described as a miller. The previous entry on the census return is for North Field House Farm, naming Anthony Harrison as the farmer.
    Has anyone any idea if there was another Mill at Billingham, or could this it? If it is, it fills in a few mysteries, and I would be very grateful for any further information.

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  5. Paula, I heard many stories but in my snogging trips into the ruined mill barn never saw anything but ruby lips under my nose which would be well wiped before the girls went home to Mum.
    The house I lived in 5 Mill Lane was reputedly haunted, apart from the little old Lady in the corner rocking chair I talked to, there was nothing though Mother would say “what little old lady” I knew there was nothing to harm me in that house so I never worried.
    I do not knock those beliefs although taking some of my young soldiers on trips through Belsen some could not get out quickly enough, often shaking and white faced, I was sure it was the things they had heard or seen on film, as for me I was working my way through all the names on the wall, never did make to the end.
    Saying all that I always took note when the hairs on my neck started to rise and often proved right.

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    • Frank, what about the so called apparition at Billingham Beck did you ever hear about that or like myself and pals go down late at night to see if we could see it. The boys gave us more frights than any ghost. Oh, the simple fun days. By the way I don’t think it was my ruby lips!

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      • Fun days Paula The Mill was unlit and more so in wartime although we would all come together after Army Cadet parade and wander down the mill as some of the girls came from Billingham. I can name all those girls as we grew up together and the experimentation was only a snatched kiss as Fathers with shot guns were far more fearsome than apperations. I used to wonder why as those little makeup compacts came out and make up applied, the Ruby red lipstick seemed favourite and at the cadet and Scout dances held in the William Newton Hall took precedence over other shades.. Mother, “why have you got lipstick on your collar”? well Tansy was messing about to then be warned, “dont you dare bring any trouble here”!!! I guess we did not have the advance knowledge kids of today have.
        There were many stories of ghostly sightings, one of Mr Skeltons Daughters swore she had seen things down the lane to the Mill and that was the reason they came to our house and Dad walked them down the lane as they went home from the Town. When you think about the battles fought and other troubles, the Plague Pit in Bradbury Road still there and marked with the large tree. The bones dug up when the Soldiers were digging trenches at the top end of Bradbury Road facing out over the bottoms, I saw some of that as it was all exciting to us young lads. I can tell you my Cap Pistol was always ready and loaded when we had the fear of invasion and Mother with her trusty pitch Fork, it would have been a sorry German who landed in our garden.

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  6. The Old Mill was down the lane from where I lived on Mill Lane, it was bombed during a very long raid 19th June 1940, during that raid three people were killed and others injured as ICI, Haverton Hill and Hartlepool were all bombed that night.
    We had got a bit laid back about the Sirens going and then the rush to the shelter and nothing happening. When my Mother yelled they were going to Mrs Piersons shelter at 8 Mill lane round the corner from us I was not in a hurry to get out of bed then the guns started.
    Flying out of bed into some clothes and off out into Mill lane I heard the scream of the bombs coming so fell on the road and waited, thinking the Germans had me in their sights. Each explosion seemed to lift me up and drop me and after the last I took off, the marks must still be in the road where I dug fingers and toes in to get a flying start.
    One bomb hit the mill stream funnel at the top of the bank alongside the the tree on the left of the picture wrecking the Mill the second fell just down the bank but into soft ground causing some damage a third fell near the beck and did not explode, I always said there were four bombs, three explosions and a dud, feeling the shock waves through the ground.
    Mr and Mrs Skelton with their two Daughters escaped injury though they had to move out of the Mill which was never repaired or rebuilt. The Scout hut is on the grounds of the Mill and yes it was a promenade for the Sunday night strollers on fine nights. Down to the Mill turn left along side the Roman Canal turned into the mill stream, over the railway and along to the Cement works Calfallow Lane then up Station Road to the Green.
    The young lovers would cross the mill stream into the fields now part of Crooksbarn Estate and into Cowboy Valley for their trysts, all now gone and forgotten apart from a few of us ancient Brits.

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  7. I remember it so well going to see it after it had been bombed. Also lots of stories about the mill. It was one of our Sunday walks.

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