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18 Oct: The centre of Norfolk

The Hoe Watermill Stone is a glacial erratic boulder which stands on the triangle outside the site of Gressenhall Mill, which was based in the village of Hoe, next door.

The centre(ish) of Norfolk. CREDIT: Siofra Connor

Known either as Chapel Mill or Gressenhall Mill, this flour mill was owned by Robert Stammers whose successors continued the milling and feed business in Dereham into the 1980s. The mill was both water and steam powered. In December 1914 a fire started in the boiler room and destroyed the whole building. Newspaper reports estimated the value at £6000 or £7000 and it was said that the flames could be seen from Norwich.

Mill House still stands, and the stone is outside. The folklore that is linked to the stone says that it marks the very centre of Norfolk.

It’s close to Hoe common, which used to be an allotment for the poor where gorse was cut for fuel and bracken for animal bedding. In the First World War, practice trenches were dug there and these were used by the Home Guard in the Second World War. The boulder may have been acquired by an antiquarian who lived at the mill house in the 1890s.

Slightly boringly, the very centre of Norfolk is actually 8.6 miles away in the middle of Dereham Tesco’s car park. The Norfolk Pole, as it were.

On another ‘Tesco car park’ note, Norwich’s largest plague pit from medieval times is believed to be underneath Tesco Harford Bridges’ car park. There’s a Norfolk Folklore Society field trip right there: Tesco Car Parks of Norfolk and the Oddness Beneath Them.


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