23 July 2017, Holt Festival Fringe: Margaret Bird’s talk at the Kings Head, Letheringsett, Holt on the architect William Mindham

Would you like to know more about the very fine architect, William Mindham (1771–1843), who practised in the Holt area for almost the whole of his working life?

His houses, industrial buildings, chapels and one of his bridges are seen by thousands every day, yet their designer and builder goes unrecognised. It is unusual to be able to trace the career of a creator of industrial premises in the countryside in this early period. Thanks to the archives held by his patron’s descendants we can get to know this talented individual.

Holt Festival Fringe poster Letheringsett event

Join us on Sunday evening 23 July 2017 in the delightful garden of a pub designed by Mindham in 1808

A ticket-only talk over a drink and buffet supper

Do come to the Kings Head at Letheringsett and hear about William Mindham. The popular north Norfolk venue was designed by him in 1808 and bears some of his stylistic hallmarks. Located on the A148 just west of Holt (NR25 7AR) it is easy to find.

The event, part of the Holt Festival Fringe, will be held on Sunday 23 July 2017, starting at 7 pm.

Margaret Bird, editor of Mary Hardy’s long diary published in full for the first time in 2013, will pay tribute to Mindham’s life and work. Mary Hardy’s son William was his patron for nearly 40 years.

Tickets are available direct from the Kings Head, at £28.00 each. Included in the price are a glass of wine, Norfolk beer or a soft drink and a canapé on arrival, a printed handout to accompany the talk illustrating Mindham’s work, and a two-course buffet supper in the garden marquee.

To book your place and obtain your ticket please telephone the Kings Head on 01263 712691.

There is ample parking, and the pub is only a mile from Holt. Details on how to find the venue appear at the end of this news item.

William Mindham’s buildings

Mindham’s genius lay in his handling of light and shade and the texture he created in his surfaces. His style was loosely classical, but with what art historians call plasticity: a mix of raised and recessed features throwing shadows and patterns across walls and roofs. This effect is shown in the illustrations. His buildings are a joy to study and photograph.

Mindham designed and built the first Foundry Bridge (near today’s railway station) over the River Wensum in Norwich in 1810. His first commission for the Letheringsett brewer William Hardy junior was The Crown at Sheringham. It was a replacement for William’s outlet which had fallen into the sea in a storm in October 1800.

Letheringsett brewery tun room 1814

Mindham reclad this huge tun room for his patron’s brewery in 1814. The massive flint walls kept the beer at an even temperature

Letheringsett contains some magnificent examples of Mindham’s work. The malt-kilns beside the bridge are his, as also the recladding of the tun room (seen here), this large building by the inn sign marking the turnoff to the venue for the event. The malthouse and brewery underwent a sensitive conversion to housing 2013–15.

You can see the malt-kilns and Mindham’s bridge over the Glaven at the top of the Wikipedia page for Letheringsett Brewery Watermill.

He also remodelled Letheringsett Hall, with a new south front of 1809 complete with its brooding and controversial Greek Doric portico. It did not appeal to Pevsner. Mindham’s more tranquil east front of 1832–34 is seen halfway down the Wikipedia page for Mary Hardy, who lived at the Hall.

The talk will also cover the two Wesleyan chapels he designed at Holt and some other works. He was a polymath, beginning his career as a wallpaper-hanger from Wells-next-the-Sea yet branching out into organ-building. The organs formerly in the parish churches at Holt and Edgefield were his creations, and he was a concert organist.

Holt grammar school register 1810, detail

Part of the long list of 30 free boys ahead of the paying pupils at Holt Free Grammar School 1810; young Mindham is no. 22 [courtesy Gresham’s School Archive: 2012.7.1]

Almost all that is known about him is contained in the diaries of Mary Hardy and her son William, and in occasional news items in the Norwich weekly newspapers of the time. He endured many sorrows, including bankruptcy.

As a result his young son William was granted a free place at Holt’s grammar school—the present-day Gresham’s. He is listed aged 8½ among the sons of innkeepers and other traders from the Holt area, some of whom too had suffered bankruptcy and other difficulties.

William Mindham lies in Holt Churchyard, as does his Wells-born wife Mary, née Woodrow (1774–1828) and their son, who died in the workhouse in 1844 aged about 43; the young man had lost his job as Holt organist through being drunk on duty.

Finding the Kings Head, Letheringsett

The pub stands in the centre of this small village on the A148 between Holt and Fakenham. Its inn sign against the main road marks the southern turnoff leading to the pub and its large car park.

If coming from Holt turn left immediately after crossing the cast-iron bridge over the Glaven—designed and built by Mindham in 1818 and seen on the poster.

If coming from Blakeney or Fakenham, drive towards the parish church facing the road on your left and then turn right immediately after a large meadow on your right.

A map and directions can be found on The Kings Head website:


The evening is featured under Events on the pub’s webpages.

You can read more about William Mindham on the website for the publishers of Mary Hardy’s diary, Burnham Press.