Well it did. After all, Norbreck is a part of the Fylde and therefore, it stands to reason, that it has its own mill.
Or rather, ‘had’ its own mill -- past tense.
It doesn’t nowadays, of course, but reference to it can be found in Alan Stott’s excellent ‘History of Norbreck and Little Bispham’, which informs us that: “John Allen in 1538 took a seventy year lease on more abbey lands, which included the windmill at Norbreck.”
Unfortunately that’s the mill’s only mention in legal documents for more than a century afterwards.
When it finally does reappear in an exchequer deposition of 1657 relating to the Fleetwood family, it was claimed to have been built only sixteen years previously, which raises the question as to whether or not it was the same mill. Let’s assume that it was for now, and that Edmund Fleetwood (mentioned as the previous owner in the deposition) ‘rebuilt’ it circa 1641.
By the time of the deposition itself (1657 in case you’d forgotten) Edmund Fleetwood was long since dead and the mill had passed into the ownership of his widow, Everill Heber.
Why do we mention all this when we’re usually the sort of people to steer as clear of genealogical lists as we would of Channel Five American made-for-television-movies? Because we’re trying to work out where the mill was located, that’s why, and, unfortunately, we’ll need this sort of information to accomplish the task.
Bear with us.
Suggestion has been made that the mill originally stood at the southern end of Norbreck Road, which back in those days probably ran a few hundreds yards further to the west than it does today (i.e. out over the beach where, four hundred years ago, the cliff tops would have reached.)
Let’s have a photograph of said location (albeit off the edge of the cliffs in the foreground, and suspended in mid-air as the temporal crow flies):
It’s a reasonable theory under the circumstances, but we’d like put forward an alternative. (Well, we have to be different just for the sake of it.)
Unfortunately Norbreck Mill wasn’t the only thing that passed into Everill Herber’s hands. Six hundred quid’s worth of debt was passed along with it, so, along with other sections of the Rossall Estate, the mill was sold off (in true Fylde coast nepotistic fashion) and ended up in the ownership of Reginald Heber.
None of which, worse luck, brings us any closer to discovering the mill’s whereabouts. However, one helpful clue appears in Norman Cunliffe’s ‘A journey through Bispham, Norbreck and Little Bispham’: “The Norbreck Mill has been described as being situated on a mound whilst elsewhere there is another reference to Norbreck Mill Hill.”
'Situated on a mound’ suggests a peg mill.
For those not fully conversant with ancient windmills, peg mills were generally wooden affairs based on an early mediaeval Dutch design, the entire building being pivoted on a central post, or ‘peg’, around which it could revolve in order to face the wind. These mounds, circular embankments around the base of the mill, generally housed the mill’s machinery.
Norbreck Mill Hill, of course, suggests a hilltop.
Right, back to our history lesson.
Reginald Heber, as mentioned above, put his manservant (watch it), Robert Gaulter (a sixty year old Norbreckonian husbandman) in charge of said mill. Robert Gaulter died in 1672, leaving the mill in the capable hands of his son Richard who, unfortunately, also shuffled off this mortal coil one year later in 1673. Another year later still and Norbreck Mill found its way into the possession of Robert Brodbelt, or rather was in the process of finding its way out of Robert Brodbelt’s possession, because that was the year he kicked the bucket. The mill now, along with ‘Haybers Tenements’, was bequeathed to Robert Brodbelt’s son-in-law Richard Smithson.
Pay close attention to the ‘Haybers Tenements’ bit. Haybers Tenements were obviously named after the previously mentioned Everill Herber/Reginald Heber etc. In the Victorian period, the area of the cliffs between Bispham tram station and Norbreck Castle was known as ‘Eagburg’ (as mentioned by William Thornber, the Victorian antiquarian). The same stretch was also mentioned in the Blackburn Mail of 1795 as ‘the cliffs of Egbert’.
Was this a corruption of the Haybers Tenements?
It might have been.
It’s a bit tenuous, perhaps, but who can say?
Regardless of this, somewhere around the same time the mill finally seems to have run out of wind and given up the ghost. Of the two known millers in the Norbreck area in the 17th century (John Anyon of Great Bispham who died in 1681 and William Brodbelt) neither appeared to be connected to Norbreck Mill (or were even working as millers) in 1676, the time of the census, suggesting that the mill was well and truly out of business by this point.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, Alexander Singleton (somewhat confusingly of Poulton) inherited most of the former Brodbelt estate, which included the windmill site, from his brother Edmund Singleton. Haybers Fields were described in deeds pertaining to the Brodbelt estate as being situated in the southwest of Norbreck.
Right, that’s the important bit. You almost missed it, didn’t you? (I can’t say as I blame you. Even I’m having difficulty staying awake.)
The southwest of Norbreck! That’s the end of Norbreck Road, next to the castle, right?
Well, no…that’s wrong actually. That’s the extent of Norbreck nowadays, but originally the southwest corner of Norbreck was designated as Hesketh Avenue, a boundary that, despite being well and truly planted in Bispham today, was agreed upon by the Ordnance Survey back in Victorian times.
Let’s have a Victorian photograph of Hesketh Avenue then, just to get our bearings. (I know Hesketh Avenue well, having lived there many years ago, although I probably knew the Highlands pub better.)
Just to add to the confirmation of Norbreck’s extent back in those days, Alexander’s son Edmund inherited the estate in 1768 and bought up the rest of the Brodbelt lands, including Cradley Slack Farm (now opposite Sainsbury’s on the other side of Red Bank Road) and a field called Whinny at the end of Beaufort Avenue, all described as being at the southern end of Norbreck.
A quick photograph of Beaufort Avenue for you, and then we’ll move on:
So, now that we’ve established that the southern extremity of the Brodbelt Estate was Redbank Road, this suggests that Norbreck Mill originally stood on the cliffs, where the Haybers Tenements had originally stood, somewhere close to where the Bispham Tram shelter now stands. As far as we know Bispham never actually had its own mill, probably because this particular location was ideally situated to serve both communities.
Mystery solved (in our opinion at least).
Of course, if anybody out there believes they know different...