Grant to restore rare Narborough Bone Mill

Fred Munford, Emma Fendley, Beryl Munford (owner) and Elaine Munford.
Fred Munford, Emma Fendley, Beryl Munford (owner) and Elaine Munford.
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The remains of a rare water powered bone mill are going to be restored thanks to a £92,200 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In its heyday Narborough Mill ground up human bones exhumed from German cemeteries and possibly whale bones to make agricultural fertiliser.

Narborough Bone Mill in the 1890s. Picture is owned by David Turner

Narborough Bone Mill in the 1890s. Picture is owned by David Turner

But the wheel stopped turning in the late 19th century and the site, which sits on a bank of the River Nar, has stood empty ever since.

While the mill houses have long since gone, the wheel and its workings still remain, and these are going to be preserved for future generations thanks to the HLF grant.

Once the work has been completed, the mill will be open to the public. Its interpretation programme will allow visitors to get a better understanding of this interesting historic site.

Site owner Beryl Munford is delighted the mill will be preserved.

Mrs Munford bought the site in the 1970s with her late husband Robin. Mr Munford had an ambition to restore the wheel.

Mrs Munford said: “We are really pleased. If we didn’t do anything it would have disappeared.”

Up to 70 volunteers will help clear the site and be trained to assist in conservation work. They will also carry out research into the mill’s history and surveys of the area’s wildlife.

Narborough History Society, schools, colleges, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and the University of East Anglia will be involved in the project.

History society chairman David Turner said: “The mill is an important part of Narborough’s industrial history and I am very pleased it is going to be restored.”

The mill, believed to date back to the early 19th century and was once owned by the Marriott brothers from Lynn, received bones from slaughterhouses, farms and barges from Lynn.

It is believed to have ground up whale bones from Lynn’s blubber factory along with human bodies exhumed from cemeteries in Hamburg. A quote from the time states: “one ton of German bone-dust saves the importation of ten tons of German corn.”

It is not exactly known how the bones were processed but they are believed to have been boiled, chopped into small pieces before being ground up by the mill stones.

Bonemeal was shipped to Lynn, Cambridge and beyond.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF in the East of England, said:“This fascinating site played a significant role in the region’s past and it’s a story just waiting to be told.”