About the River Wensum in Norwich
New Mills Yard in Norwich is a former watermill complex across the River Wensum, a tributary of the River Yare, forming the head of navigation.
The development of the mills at New Mills Yard started in earnest with the construction of a corn mill in 1430 on the site of even older mills. The mill was funded by the mayor and other citizens keen to avoid the high milling charges levied by the Abbot of St Benet’s on the River Bure. By the 1780s New Mills had developed into a complex which over the years housed flour mills, a fulling mill, a saw mill, a silk mill and waterworks; pumping drinking water into the city. This was all under a single roof with waterwheels at each end of the mill structure. This was large-scale milling. In 1836 seven water pumps were driven by a waterwheel 15’ wide and 18’ in diameter.
In 1897 New Mills were again rebuilt, this time as a single-storey red brick pumping station across the Wensum forming part of the city sewerage system. It supplied compressed air to drive Shone Ejectors which pumped sewage out of the city. This system was used until 1972.
Bishops Bridge is Norwich’s only surviving medieval bridge, built about 1340 in stone with three arches and a gatehouse as part of the city walls. Downstream of Bishops Bridge is Pulls Ferry where a river ferry operated until the 1950s. It was however the site of a canal, dug by the monks in the early 1100s, used to deliver Caen limestone from France directly to site for the facing of Norwich Cathedral. Many hire boats are not allowed beyond Bishops Bridge.