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Historical biographies

Sarah Rockhill, Miller of Sprowston, Norfolk 1793-1885 Part 1

(Credit: Jennie Butler, volunteer for the Mills Archive)

Sarah was born 23 Feb 1793 to Thomas and Sarah Rockhill in the small coastal village of Pakefield, Suffolk, south of Lowestoft; she was privately baptised the following day. A private baptism may have been performed at home rather than in church and often indicated that the newborn was sickly. However, all the baptism entries in the parish record for Pakefield are marked as private, some followed by ‘received into the church’ at a later date. It is unlikely that all babies in the parish were baptised in a hurry, perhaps it was just the incumbent’s style. There is no comment after Sarah’s name regarding being received into the church.

Tax records show that her father owned and occupied the corn post mill and house at Pakefield in 1798 so it is fair to assume that Sarah grew up within the milling business. Judging from the numerous reports in 18th century newspapers of shipwrecks off the coast at Pakefield there seems to have been no shortage of wind to drive the sails.

Aged 27, Sarah married Robert Robertson 2 Oct 1820 in St Nicholas church, Great Yarmouth. Their first daughter Elizabeth Sarah was born here two years later and her baptism record shows her father’s occupation as miller. Records suggest that Robert was working Market Hill mill in Great Yarmouth. A son, Robert William, was born in 1823 but in the following year the mill at Sprowston, a parish two miles north east of Norwich, was advertised for sale and the family took up residence there. Five more children Julianna (1824), Susanna (1827), George Rockhill (1830), Hannah Rachel (1831) and William Alfred (1834) were all born here; her second son carrying on her maiden name. Sprowston mill was also known as Mousehold mill as it stood on the edge of Mousehold Heath together with several other mills in the locality, one of which was later owned by a Mr Colman who branched out into producing mustard powder.


Sarah Rockhill, Miller of Sprowston, Norfolk 1793-1885 Part 1

Pakefield Mill (Source: Mills Archive Trust DOLM-11735).

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