The Early Years
Before the canal was completed in 1772 the area around Corn Hill was open farmland on the edge of town.

During the 1790s a five storey steam-powered corn mill was built on the site of the existing mill building.

The original mill is not listed in the Wolverhampton rate books from 1792, but is listed in 1802, as a ‘committee’ occupying the ‘Old Steam Mill’.

In the 1818 ‘Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory’ the occupier is listed as Joseph Norton, but by the 1830s the entry had changed to Joseph and James Norton, James being Joseph’s younger brother.

Based on the 1842 Tithe map, with the canal diversion added.

The site also included the Norton family’s house, a yard, and two large gardens. In the 1820s, on the opposite side of Corn Hill, on the site now occupied by the sack warehouse, was Danks & Company's Wharf. In the early 1840s it was used by coal merchant Richard Evans.

In the 1790s and early 1800s wheat was in short supply due to a series of bad harvests in most of Europe. Bread was an important part of the diet, and prices rocketed due to the shortage of flour. As a result many of the poorer people could not afford to buy bread. It seems that Joseph Norton decided to do what he could to help them out. The National Library of Australia has a copy of an advertisement dated 29th January, 1800 which advertises the facilities offered by the mill, and states that 'a consignment of rice purchased by the proprietor is to be sold in small quantities to the poor'.

In 1851 the mill had two steam engines, one of which was installed in 1845. So during the early years the mill must have been powered by a single engine.

On 14th January, 1846 the Wolverhampton Chronicle included the following report:

"…we have the pleasure to record an entertainment given by the Messrs’ Norton to their workmen and others, on the occasion of the completion of their new engine, by Mr. Fairbairn of Manchester. We wish such meetings were of more frequent occurrence; as, while they promote mutual good feeling, they at the same time create in the employed an interest in the success of the employer conducive to the advancement of the interest of each. The repast now noticed took place in the mill, and the liberality of Messrs. Norton was so amply evinced as fully to confirm their reputation of doing whatever they undertake in the best possible style."

The building on the southern side of Corn Hill, opposite the mill was the sack warehouse. It’s the oldest surviving building on the site, and was used as a warehouse for sacks of unprocessed and processed grain. The building is not shown on the 1842 Tithe map, but is marked on a map from 1852.

In Kelly’s 1842 Directory of Staffordshire it suggests that part of the business was gambled away by a family member in the gaming rooms at St. James Club in London.

In 1849 to 1850 when the railway was being built from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, the canal was diverted, and the railway acquired the land containing the Norton family's two large gardens, on the northern side of the site. The line of the original canal that ran along the eastern side of the site was filled-in, except for the first 100 yards or so which remained as a basin serving the mill.

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