Hemel Hempstead


Subject Index

Paper Making

thepapertrail web site

A Visit to the Paper Trail

Apsley, Hemel Hempstead

January 2009


Paper making has been a major local source of employment in the Gade Valley from the late 18th century until the late 20th century, but in recent years most of the factories have been demolished and replaced with housing and other commercial developments (the Sainbury's supermarket occupies part of the former John Dickinson's works). The industry is therefore important for anyone researching their family history in the area, but is also internationally important because of the development of the Fourdrinier paper making machine in the early 19th century.

One of the huge Victorian Fourdrinier machines is still in full working condition and a few years ago work started to include it as part of a working museum called the Paper Trail. It is now open, thanks to a large Heritage Lottery grant, which also covers other community related activities in the historic buildings that still survive. However there has recently been newspaper reports of funding difficulties caused by the current economic depression and while I had visited the site some years ago I decided to visit it again to seen how the work towards developing the museum had progressed.

The Web site (  includes the following description:

Frogmore Mill is the very heart of The Paper Trail project and the 'jewel in its crown'. So why is this site so unique? - It was at Frogmore that the world's first machine for making a continuous roll of paper was built (the birth of paper's industrial revolution) and Frogmore Mill is still producing paper today.

The primary objective of The Paper Trail is to conserve, restore and maintain Frogmore as a working paper mill using a 'Fourdrinier' paper machine which dates back to 1895 (and is driven by steam!) and to make this unique industrial heritage accessible to the public.

A tour round Frogmore Mill is fascinating. Not only can you see paper actually being made on the machine (unlike most modern machines which are fully enclosed) but it is almost like walking back in time to the Victorian era.

I found the visit very interesting - and particularly the tour round the mill. The is an initial exhibition area, with some interesting exhibits, including a large bust of John Dickinson, and a case containing a selection of paper products produced by John Dickinson & Co. There is also a video to watch while waiting for a tour around the mill, and a work area where children can be shown the principles of making paper. You then come to a window which allows you to see a large letterpress shop - which is still used to print some House of Commons documents. It may be one of the last working letterpress shop in the UK as the technology has almost totally been replaced by computer typesetting world wide. On the way to the working mill you pass the pre-war works Dennis fire engine before coming the the working machinery.

The mill currently recycles paper and the visit starts with a view of where the original undershoot water mill was - and it is planned to re-install a water wheel. The visit continues with a series of machines which shred the paper and convert it first into a crumb and finally into a very watery suspension ready to be fed to the paper making machine. As you will see from the following diagram of a similar machine, which shows human figures to scale, the machine is huge - the model at Frogmore mill having eighteen drying cylinders.

Diagrammatic representation of a Fourdrinier Machine (from exhibition booklet Watermark 74)

When I visited the machine was in operation making a red-coloured paper - which was then being cut into sheets from the huge rolls than come off the machine. It is currently has a full order book for speciality papers. I understand that school parties regularly visit the mill and I am sure it provides them with memories that they will never forget. I remember, as a child, being very impressed on a school visit, to the scale of the machinery in our local gas works.

After your visit there is a pleasant little cafe and a shop which sells copies of the useful booklet The Early History of Machine Paper-Making (which was printed on paper made in the mill) and the book The Endless Web: John Dickinson & Co Ltd. I was perhaps a little disappointed that I could not see a poster (possibly on a long narrow strip) illustrating the Fourdrinier machine - such as shown above. I am sure that such would be wow with school children who have visited the museum - particularly if they were required to write an account of their visit when they returned to school. A booklet on the letterpress office, printed in the office, with illustrations and including various type sizes and type faces, would be a useful addition.

All in all a very satisfactory visit which I can strongly recommend for anyone whose ancestors were involved in paper making, especially if they lived and worked in the area.

The Paper Mills, Apsley End
Valentine Card 54390 JV, posted 1911

However the visit raised the whole problem of preserving our industrial heritage. In almost every town and village you can visit the old parish church, and even those which are no longer in regular use are often preserved and protected. However there are few surviving relics of the industrial revolution which played such an important part in the life of many of our ancestors. In some cases the mill buildings still stand, but have long been stripped of the machinery and are used as small industrial units (such as the silk mill in Tring) or converted to flats. Factories of all types have been stripped of machinery and while a few samples have ended up as static displays in museums there are very few places where large fixed Victorian machines have survived and are still being used and every effort needs to be made to keep these running to help people learn to understand the past - and the great advances in manufacturing technology that became possible with the coming of steam power.

However there are many difficulties - and it is important that all interested in our history keep the machines, such as the Fourdrinier machine in Frogmore Mill, running for future generations to see, in the area which pioneered their use. For most people the only working 19th century equipment which they can see are railway engines and there are now many preserved lines. But railways are a special case. The steam railway engines were very visible, used by everyone, and glamorised by children's toys and books - and are still  in books like Thomas the Tank engine. Railway engines are portable - so they can be moved to suitable locations - and most restored lines with working engines run through attractive countryside in tourist areas.

Specialised industrial machines are much harder to preserve - and I don't think there is a single town gas works surviving anywhere in England - much less with its machinery in working condition - despite the fact that 50 years ago there must have been thousands of them in operation. Machines such as the one in Frogmore Mill are far too big to move, are located in unglamorous industrial buildings, and are often far from the regular tourist haunts. When such machines were constructed they were hidden from the eyes of the public and it is possible that many of the people who worked in the paper mills at Apsley never saw the paper being made. There was never a market for children's books about "Foury the Paper Making Machine" although there were simple printing sets for children which could make the letterpress shop attractive. Any project trying to preserve such machines has difficulties in generating public interest - however historically important the machinery is.

For such reasons the museum has had problems in attracting enough individual visitors and needs more support. It is a must for school visits to allow them to get a feel for large scale Victorian technology at work - and would appeal as an outing for societies with an interest in history - or the printing industry - which made use of the paper. It is equally important that people whose ancestors worked with paper support the project - and I urge you all to give the museum a visit if you want to see (and your children and grandchildren to be able to see) one of the marvels of 19th century engineering skills at work.

5.30 P.M. at Apsley Mills
"Art Series" card, photo by H. W. Flatt, Boxmoor - circa 1910

To illustrate how important the paper industry is to people whose ancestors come from the Hemel Hempstead area I have added an extract from the 1851 census of people who lived in the Two Water/ Apsley area whose occupations suggest that they worked in one of the paper mills. This is clearly incomplete as I have excluded people who worked on the canal or canal wharfs - some of whom would undoubtedly worked at the paper mills. I have also excluded people such as carpenters (although it is known that the mills employed some) and those whose occupation is simply described as labourer, errand boy, etc. I have also not included people from Boxmoor and the rest of Hemel Hempstead who might have had to walk a mile or more to work.

Name Age Occupation Address
George ALLCOCK 17 Millwright & Engineer Two Waters
George ALLSOP 40 Engine Fitter Frogmore End
Sarah AMBROSE 57 Paper Sorter at Mill 7 White Lion Street
William AMBROSE 55 Labourer at Paper Mill 7 White Lion Street
Robert BALDERSON 21 Paper Maker Two Waters
William BALDWIN 16 Type Founder Boxmoor
Maria BARRON 21 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Frogmore Lane
Charles BASS 39 Paper Maker 13 Weymouth Street
Henry BASS 18 Paper Maker 13 Weymouth Street
John BECKETT 64 Mill Labourer Frogmore Lane
Joseph BECKETT 25 Letter Founder Two Waters
Mary BECKLEY 15 Work in Paper Mills Two Waters
Thomas BEDFORD 13 Typefounder Two Waters
William BEDFORD 15 Typefounder Two Waters
Anna BLOYS 12 Card Sorter in Paper Mill Snatchups End
Benjamin BLOYS 40 Mechanics Labourer Snatchups End
Elizabeth BLOYS 40 Card Sorter in Paper Mill Snatchups End
Elizabeth BONNETT 15 Paper Sorter at Paper Mill 1 White Lion Street
Sarah BONNETT 17 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill 1 White Lion Street
Maria Ann BRADSHAW 18 Envelope Maker Two Waters
Elizabeth BRETT 17 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Frogmore Lane
Ellen BROWN 19 Rag Sorter at Paper Mills Two Waters
John BULLERING 9 Errand Boy at Type Foundry Snatchups End
John CARY 39 Paper Maker Two Waters
Eliza CHATER 33 Paper Sorter at Mill Two Waters
George CHATER 31 Labourer at Paper Mill Two Waters
Henry CHATER 14 Works in Type Foundry Two Waters
John CHILD 28 Mill Labourer Two Waters
Jonathan CHILD 51 Mill Labourer Two Waters
Joseph CHILD 16 Mill Labourer Two Waters
Thomas CHILD 22 Mill Labourer Two Waters
George CHILDS 25 Labourer at Paper Mill 1 White Lion Street
Ann COKER 17 Rag Cutter Two Waters
Edwin COKER 14 Typefounders Labourer Two Waters
Sarah COKER 20 Rag Cutter Two Waters
Ann COOPER 37 Carder at Paper Mill Two Waters
George COOPER 10 Employed Envelope Room Papermill Two Waters
Edwin CROMACK 17 Machine Maker 18 Weymouth Street
Joseph DAVIS 23 Labourer (At Type Foundry) Featherbed Lane
Mary DUNHAM 41 Paper Mill Woman Boxmoor
John DUNLOP 42 Millwright Frogmore End
Henry DURRANT 38 Paper Maker Two Waters
Mary Ann DURRANT 15 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Frogmore Lane
Edwin EAST 13 Envelope Maker Frogmore End
James EAST 16 Type Founder Two Waters
Jane EAST 24 Paper Stainer Two Waters
William EAST 48 Paper Maker Two Waters
William EAST 37 Card Maker Frogmore End
George FLOYD 11 Boy at Paper Mill Two Waters
George FORTNUM 37 Pasteboard Maker Snatchups End
George FORTNUM 16 Pasteboard Cutter Snatchups End
Hannah FORTNUM 13 Pasteboard Sorter Snatchups End
John FORTNUM 34 Card Maker Frogmore End
John FRANCIS 31 Typefounder Two Waters
Thomas FRANCIS 55 Paper Maker Two Waters
William FRANCIS 12 Paper Sorter at Mill Two Waters
Alfred FRANKLIN 11 Mill Boy 14 Weymouth Street
William FRANKLIN 15 Mill Labourer 14 Weymouth Street
Joseph FREEMAN 24 Paper Maker Two Waters
James GLAISTER 40 Engineer Two Waters
Dinah GOLDING 22 Paper Sorter at Mill Snatchups End
Mary GOLDING 25 Paper Sorter at Mill Snatchups End
Benjamin GRIFFIN 57 Engineer Frogmore End
Henry GRISTWOOD 20 Paper Mill Labourer Two Waters
Matilda HALE 28 Paper Sorter at Mill Frogmore Mill Lane
Samuel HALE 69 Paper Maker Frogmore Mill Lane
Frederick HARBOURN 9 Sorter in Paper Mill 5 White Lion Street
John HARDING 67 Rag Collector Two Waters
Sally HARRIS 50 Paper Sorter Two Waters
Daniel HARROWELL 58 Mill Labourer Two Waters
James HARROWELL 26 Mill Labourer Two Waters
Henry HERNE 36 Paper Maker Two Waters
Sarah HOARE 29 Rag Chopper at Paper Mill Two Waters
Ursula HOARE 27 Rag Chopper at Paper Mill Two Waters
Frederick HOBBS 27 Engineer Frogmore End
Cecil HOOKHAM 39 Paper Maker 15 White Lion Street
Robert HOUSE 38 Labourer at Paper Mill Featherbed Lane
George HOWETT 46 Millwright 1 White Lion Street
Hannah HUNT 60 Sorter in Paper Mill Two Waters
Joseph HUNT 41 Mill Labourer 12 White Lion Street
Sarah HUNT 36 Sorter in Paper Mill Two Waters
Hannah HUTCHINSON 18 Sorter in Paper Mill Two Waters
William HUTCHINSON 24 Labourer in Paper Mill Two Waters
William JOHNSON 45 Paper Maker Frogmore Mill Lane
William JOHNSON 16 Paper Maker Frogmore Mill Lane
William G. KINGHAM 18 Paper Maker Two Waters
Edward LACEY 10 Works at Paper Mill Snatchups End
John LACEY 8 Works at Paper Mill Snatchups End
James LANE 30 Labourer at Paper Mill 3 White Lion Street
Joseph LANE 25 Type Founder Two Waters
John LARKIN 13 Envelope Maker Two Waters
William LARKIN 9 Envelope Maker Two Waters
Caroline LATCHFORD 27 Rag Cutter at Paper Mill Two Waters
Jemima LATCHFORD 58 Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
William LATCHFORD 28 Mill Labourer Featherbed Lane
John William LEE 21 Letter Founder Featherbed Lane
Louisa LOVETT 25 Paper Sorter at Mills Two Waters
William LOVETT 29 Mill Labourer Two Waters
John MacKENSIE 35 Type Founder Two Waters
Silvester MANSFIELD 56 Card Cutter Two Waters
Alex McKECHNIE 20 Typefounder Frogmore End
Daniel McKECHNIE 17 Typefounder Frogmore End
Elizabeth MORRIS 17 Work in Mills Two Waters
Charles MORTON 10 Breaker Off (At Type Foundry) Featherbed Lane
Rebecca MUNN 29 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill 1 White Lion Street
Edmund MUTTON 30 Paper Mill Labourer Two Waters
Eliza MUTTON 28 Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
Eliza PADDICK 21 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
Emma PADDICK 19 Paper Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
Mary PADDICK 23 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
Samuel PADDICK 41 Card Maker Two Waters
Samuel PADDICK 14 Labourer at Paper Mill Two Waters
George PALMER 26 Paper Maker Snatchups End
Alexander Willson PAUL 16 Typefounder Two Waters
William PAUL 37 Typefounders Smith Two Waters
James PHILIPS 19 Type Founder Two Waters
James POWELL 40 Labourer at Paper Mill Two Waters
John F. PROUD 9 Sorter at Paper Mill 6 White Lion Street
Daniel PUDDEFOOT 27 Labourer at Paper Mill Two Waters
William PUTMAN 28 Paper Finisher Snatchups End
Charles RICKETT 13 Paper Sorter at Mill Two Waters
William RICKETT 36 Paper Maker Two Waters
Alfred ROBINSON 10 Paper Maker Two Waters
Charles ROLPH 27 Mill Labourer Frogmore Lane
Mary ROLPH 16 Paper Sorter at Mill Snatchups End
Thomas ROLPH 19 Castor in Type Foundry Snatchups End
Augustus SAUNDERS 22 Paper Maker Frogmore End
William F. SAVAGE 41 Engine Fitter 1 Weymouth Street
Elizabeth SEABROOK 18 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Two Waters
George SEXTON 14 Mill Boy Frogmore Lane
John SEXTON 21 Paper Maker Frogmore Lane
William SEXTON 45 Mill Labourer Frogmore Lane
Anna SHRIMPTON 53 Rag Sorter at Paper Mill Frogmore Lane
William SHRIMPTON 57 Labourer at Paper Mill Frogmore Lane
Fanny SLADE 17 Paper Maker Two Waters
William SMITH 25 Typefounder Frogmore Mill Lane
Charles STEVENS 48 Paper Manufacturer Two Waters
Isaac SUTTON 30 Engine Fitter Frogmore End
Elizabeth TERRY 26 Paper Stainer Two Waters
Thomas TIMS 45 Paper Maker 6 Weymouth Street
Job TOMLIN 10 Works at Paper Mill Two Waters
William TOMLIN 36 Mill Labourer Two Waters
William TRIPP 10 Employed at Type Foundry Frogmore Lane
Francis TYERS 14 Boy at Paper Mill Snatchups End
William TYERS 9 Boy at Paper Mill Snatchups End
Sarah WALLER 38 Rag Sorter Two Waters
Henry WHITE 28 Mill Labourer Two Waters
Joseph WHITE 21 Type Founder Two Waters
William WHITE 55 Paper Mill Labourer Two Waters
Isaac WINTER 29 Millwright Two Waters
Richard WOOD 25 Castor in Type Foundry 3 Weymouth Street
Stephen WOOD 22 Paper Maker 3 Weymouth Street
Charles WORRELL 31 Paper Maker Two Waters
Sarah WORRELL 73 Pauper (Paper Sorter) Two Waters
William WORRELL 42 Mill Labourer 7 Weymouth Street
William WORRELL 16 Mill Boy 7 Weymouth Street
Alexander YUILE 10 Letter Founder Frogmore End
Andrew YUILE 23 Typefounder Frogmore End
James YUILE 34 Letter Founder Frogmore End

If your ancestor is listed above make a date to visit the Mill and see how and where the paper was made.