Mautby Church and Thrigby Mill: a summer outing
Approaching 40 members arrived in the small parish church of St. Peter & St. Paul, Mautby, on a warm July evening. The doors north of the Nave and south of the Chancel are examples of early English style (1200-1275). The first rector was presented in 1307 by Sir Robert de Mauteby. Margaret was the daughter and heir of John de Mauteby a prosperous land owner who died in 1433. Her marriage and life with John Paston and the Paston letters which they wrote to each other have become an invaluable insight into the history of their time. Margaret was born in 1423.
Margaret was chosen by William & Agnes Paston to be the wife of their eldest Son, John. They married in 1441 and although being arranged, they were very much in love enjoying 25 years of marriage, Margaret and John had 5 sons and 2 daughters. John passed away in 1466. Margaret lived on and in her sixties became very ill making her will in 1482, stating that she wished to be buried at Mautby church beside other members of her family. The aisle in which Margaret was buried no longer exists.
The Pastons owned great swathes of land and rose from peasantry to aristocracy within 2 generations. Clement Paston was a yeoman and took advantage of the Black Death to gain substantial lands around Paston, Clement died in 1419 and is buried at Paston.
We left Mautby and drove the small distance up a slight incline to Thrigby Mill, where we were greeted by Peter and Tricia Gillett with cups of tea and cake. Peter gave us a history of this Post Mill built in 1792, by Robert Woolmer to grind wheat for his Thrigby Hall estate. Alfred Hood and his family were farmers and were the last owners of the mill until 1889. In 1892 the mill was dismantled due to death watch beetle, and rebuilt by N. Prior a hundred years later in 1981. Darby Brothers, timber merchants of Beccles were tasked with cutting the 19ft oak post. My question was, what is a Post Mill? Post Mills are made almost entirely of wood coated in resin and paint to protect from the weather. The round house at the base is of brick, inside there are four brick piers which support the wooden structure above. The upper part of the Mill was turned on the centre post to bring the sails to wind, using horse power.
Some of our members climbed the wooden stairs to the top. I decided to take a stroll to look up at the mighty sails, tethered to the ground, at rest, no longer turning, no longer grinding wheat for the local folk.
Was there a mill here in Margaret Paston’s time? As a girl did she walk up to this high point? I looked up at the sails. The mill owns this place, looking out over the ancient Norfolk countryside. It sits quietly now, a job well done. I looked to the ripening crops in the field and to the big Norfolk sky. Quietly like the mill the sun starting to set, throwing shafts of light through the clouds. How lucky we are to live in this part of Norfolk, surrounded by history and unanswered questions buried in the mists of time.
Photographs by Stephen Johnson
For more about Thrigby Mill see here.
Above: Thrigby Windmill
Right: Mautby Church.