Buckland Mill

Dover, Kent, UK


The six paper mills which made up the group, all located. on the banks of the Dour, are listed below in order from the river’s source.

The Dour, with a flow of little more than that of a brook in its upper reaches, seems barely worthy to be classified as a river and yet its importance to the Dover area in the past cannot be doubted.  A parish was named River because of its passage through the area and this parish, according to an old Charter dated 1472 in the reign of Edward IV, is referred. to in the lease of two corn mills belonging to the Maison Dieu to a certain Robert Miller.  There is also a reference to "Mill land lying in Buckland" in an old Charter dated 1451 and in 1530 it is recorded that Buckland Mill was leased by one John Parker "who payeth yearly li.x".  At the time Julius Caesar invaded Britain the Dour boasted of an estuary at Charlton which even in later years was spoken of as a parish and which, in about 1830, was the site of a paper mill.  The Roman vessels may well have sailed up the river as far as Charlton where traces of ancient seabed have been disclosed in excavations. And to-day, although the Dour now terminates its course with ignominy through a drain pipe at the sea, it has played its part in the life of Dover from the days of Julius Caesar through to the industrial age when the steam engine replaced the simplicity of the water wheel in providing power to the paper mills and flour mills on its banks. But up to 1930 a water driven turbine was in regular use at Buckland Mill coupled through a dog-clutch to add to the output of the old Halls steam engine of No. 1 Mill driving the beater line shaft.  A water wheel continued to drive the paper- making machine at Crabble Mill until 1894 when the mill was closed down and water provided some power at the River Mill until its closure in 1918.

The date of the introduction of papermaking to the Dour valley cannot be established with certainty, but it is known that water power for the grinding of corn on the river was taking place as early as 1227 and as throughout the land the step from the utilisation of water power for grinding corn to providing power for papermaking was but a brief one the transition could have taken place earlier than old records indicate.   Water power in the paper mill was first employed to operate the ‘stampers’ in the early 18th century and in the early part of the 19th century to drive both the Hollander beaters and the papermaking machine.  It is known that some mixed, mills producing both paper and flour existed with Hollanders and grindstones driven from a common crown wheel.  The earliest reference to papermaking in the area comes from a record of the marriage of a papermaker "of Buckland" in 1638 and in 1705 the marriage of another papermaker "of Buckland" is on record.

River Paper Mill dates back to the 17th century in a record of the sale by John Smith, mariner, to Susanna Williams "of the moytie..... of one messuage..... and water mill now used for a paper mill..... in the parish of River" in 1689. In 1719 the "Apprentices of Great Britain" records the apprenticeship of Thomas Langley to John Walter of River and in 1733 "Reeds Weekly Journal or British Gazette" mentions one Thomas Bannister, a papermaker of River. In 1750 the writer’s great, great, great grandfather, Francis Ash, born in 1740 at River, went to work at the mill as a boy.

Buckland Paper Mill was inherited by Ingram and Thomas Horn from their father Thomas Horn in 1746 and in 1777 the mill was occupied by Ingram Horn.  It is not known when Thomas Horn Senior first occupied Buckland Mill, but as he died in 1746 it may be assumed that he may well have been making paper at Buckland at the turn of the century.  Paper was first made at Lower Buckland Mill by Henry Pain in about 1775.  The records of the Folkestone Overseers of the Poor show that a boy, Isaac Crump, was apprenticed to Thomas and Ingram Horn in 1746 which confirms the inheritance referred to above.  One of the two brothers appears to have had a son named Thomas who took over the control of Buckland Mill in the early 1800s.  With a leaning to the romantic and by the exercise of a little imagination one can reach back even further into the past by accepting the record that "Thomas Chapman, of Buckland, near Dover, a papermaker aged 23, was married." in 1638. As Thomas Chapman was "of Buckland" and a papermaker it may be assumed that the industry may have been established in Buckland at that time but there is no positive proof of the actual location of the mill.  An old Dover Charter, No. 72, dated 1451, mentions "Mill Land lying in Buckland" being "released" to "Sir (Rev) Thomas Moys, Master of the House of God, Dover". This was probably land upon which a corn mill operated and may well have been the original site of Buckland Paper Mill. Sir Thomas Moys, Master of the House of God, surely represents the Church as owner of the property and in the Will of Thomas Horn dated 1746 Buckland Mill is referred to as being "holden by lease from His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for a certain of years". Thomas and Ingram Horn continued to lease the mill from the Archbishop unti1 1799 when they bought the property, together with Charlton Corn Mill for £822. 10s.

The conclusions to be drawn from the above survey of evidence points to there being a possibility that paper was being made at Buckland as early as 1638, a premise accepted by A.H. Shorter.  More positive evidence establishes the fact that paper was being produced at River in 1689 and at Buckland by the Horn family before 1746. Crabble Mill is first mentioned in the "Universal British Directory" in 1791 while the Bushey Ruff Mill is shown on "Greenwoods Map of Kent" published in 1821 although there is some evidence that it may have existed in 1799. Charlton Mill, the last of the six mills to come into operation and the first to close down, was operating in 1832.  Of the six mills only Buckland Mill remains in operation, with a history of a possible 362 years, (in 2000), and a positive history in excess of 253 years.

The pattern of change and economic life during the 18th and 19th centuries may be traced in the development of the paper industry in the Dover area.  Before the introduction of the Hollander in the industry positive proof of the existence of individual mills in the area is sparse but at about the time it was introduced into England, probably in the early 1700s, papermaking on the Dour began to develop.  The Hollander was invented as a replacement of the high power consuming Stamping mill used for the disintegration of rags.  As the name suggests, it was developed in Holland where power resources were mainly limited to windmills in 1680.  Its use is said to have spread to Germany and France in about 1720 and probably came into use in England at about the same time.  Before the use of the Hollander the disintegration of the rags was assisted by subjecting them to a process of fermentation or rotting before passing to the stamping mill.  The next leap forward was the development of the papermaking machine in 1805 with Crabble Mill under the Phipps family having one of the first batch of machines to be built followed a few years later by one at River, also operated by the Phipps family.  George Dickinson installed a machine at Buckland in 1823 when he rented the mill from the Horns and in 1833 he installed a machine at Charlton Paper Mill.

The invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1769 had little Impact on the papermaking industry until well into the 19th century by which time the capital costs involved in operating a (then) modern paper mill was bringing about a rapid decline of the handmade paper maker.  A book of trades published in 1747 indicates that a papermaker "minded to be a master" would require a capital of £100 for the mill and £200 for the stock of rags etc.  It is not made clear it the initial £100 covered the cost of the equipment and building but it probably did as the latter was so often his home as well as his place of work.  George Dickinson is believed to have installed a 10 HP steam engine at the Charlton mill when he rebuilt it in 1833.  Crabble Mill, when it was closed down in 1894, had a beam engine but the papermaking machine was still operated by water power while River Mill, when offered for sale in 1894, had a 6 H.P. horizontal engine on a Loco type boiler, a vertical engine and a beam engine.  There were two other engines in the mill in addition to four water wheels.

If it is accepted that people alone make history it is desirable to examine something of the conditions which prevailed in England in the 18th century so that there can be a partial understanding of the papermaker life.  But first a brief look back to 1839, a year after Thomas Chapman of Buckland, a papermaker aged 23, got married, when a Dover stonemason named Trendall upset Archbishop Laud and King Charles 1st by declaring that the Anglican’ s hierarchy was unpleasing to God.  He could not read but on Sundays he would expound the Scriptures from seven in the morning until six at night with only one hour interval for dinner.  His audience of cobblers, fishermen and shipwrights, and maybe papermakers, with then wives and daughters are said to have found great comfort in all he said.  This was at a time when English heretics were burnt alive but Trendall was fortunately spared this punishment.

The population of Great Britain in 1700 was only six millions and economic progress during the first half of the century was limited.  Internal trade was crippled by primitive communications for though main thoroughfares and turnpike roads were rapidly growing their maintenance was bad resulting in just mud tracks in the winter, bogs.  A great mass of trade, even grain and coal, was carried by packhorse and the fastest coach travelling from London to Manchester took three days.  Although deep coal mining, up to 600 feet, started in the early 1700s there was no proper pumping machinery, no science against damp and gas and, in some cases, women carried coal to the surface in baskets up long ladders.  It was on age of cheap gin, to be bought from any grocer, and typhus was rife in the City of London due to lack of sanitation sad night soil dumped in the streets.  The working man’s amusements were often brutal such as cock-fighting, kicking matches in Lancashire, pitched battles between sailors and coal-heavers on the Thames, the storming of Wesleyan preachers and riots over food prices.  Elementary education had not advanced since Stuart times being restricted to charity schools inspired by religious societies and that provided in large parishes by the workhouse.  In the first half of the 18th century the population rose by only half a million but during the latter half it rose rapidly by about five and a half millions to eleven millions, from 1730 to 1749 the London infantile mortality averaged 74%.  During the early part of the 18th century a vatman was paid from fifteen to eighteen shillings a week, a relatively high wage compared with other trades, a book-binder receiving about twelve shillings a week working from 6 am until 9 pm.  An agricultural worker’s basic rate was from ten to twelve pence a day with possible pickings, a London labourer was paid. ten shillings a week while a Lancashire woman spinner was paid five to six pence a day.

The increase in the population during the latter half of the 18th century, reached its peak in 1780-1790, an increase brought about principally to an astonishing fall in the death rate due to the provision of hospitals, better and more food available and better drainage.  In the first half of the 19th century industrial wages rose by about 40% well above the corresponding rate in the cost of living.  Some thought was being given to education with the formation of mechanics institutes and workingmen’s colleges and the publication of text books commenced.  Trade Unions came into being during this period including the "Legal Society of Papermakers" in 1800, later renamed the "Original Society".  Trade Unions pressed for reforms in factories and the Factory Act of 1844 did something to relieve the overworking of children.  It also introduced the fencing of machinery.  In the second halt of the 19th century those who worked with their hands possessed an increasing share in the new wealth of the country.  Both money and real wages rose with fast falling prices in the seventies.  The Factory Acts were extended to almost establishing a 56 hour week with a Saturday half holiday, trade unionism became a recognised part of the State and won a 54 hour week for some of it’s members.  Most children left school at the age of eleven and some two millions did not attend school at all.  The Education Act of 1870 was introduced to promote education followed by another in 1876 to make it more effective.  The two Labour Acts of 1875 put master and man on an equal level as regards breaches or contract end allowed peaceful picketing.

The object in presenting this brief review of industrial, educational and social affairs over two centuries is intended to provide a background to the examination of the labour, of the papermakers in the country.  It should provide some idea of the handicaps which faced them in building up an industry in spite of but a limited education and little or no knowledge of technical or scientific matters.  The outcome or their efforts cannot fail to leave one with a high opinion of their qualities to succeed in life against considerable odds.  It is of interest to note the progress of the papermaking industry during the 19th century with the development of the papermaking machine, the improved conditions of life generally, the advancement in education and the increase of the population.  These conditions called for an increase in the demand for paper and the papermakers on the Dour appear to have met the challenge along with papermakers throughout the country.

The development of the Papermaking Industry

During the 19th Century.

  Number Total Annual Production Annual Production per machine/vat Daily Production per machine/vat Population Paper Consumption per capita











































































N0te. week for a fifty week year.

2/ The figures given for Paper Consumption per Capita should be accepted as an indication of probable consumption only as exports and imports of paper have been ignored.

It is not easy to picture in the mind, the appearance and the layout of the several paper mills on the Dour but the watercolour of Buckland, Paper Mill painted by Forest in 1770 provides a basis on which to build up an idea in the mind, of this old mill.  The mill site was located on the left bank of the river (facing the source) probably on land where subsequently No 3. Beater House was built.  The mill comprised two buildings one of which appears to have been the dwelling house and mill working area and.  The other a barn...like structure which may have served as a stock room and/or drying loft.   The main building appears to have covered an area of about 3Oft x 2Oft with three cottage...like dormer windows set in the roof. 

On the ground floor about half the area appears to have been living quarters and the other half the working area, with the shaft of a breast water wheel, having an estimated diameter of seven feet entering the building through the end wall. There were two small extensions to the building adjacent to the water wheel, one of which appears to have had two floors as the water colour shows an entrance in the upper half served by an. external ladder, and a window, (perhaps the apprentice was quartered here!).  The other extension was smaller and may have been the privy. In the 18th Century papermaking was often a cottage industry operated, in some cases, by two or three workers only.  These conditions prevailed during the early part of the 19th century, before the introduction of the papermaking machine in substantial numbers. Of these two or three workers one was probably an apprentice.

In 1796 the Master Papermakers on the Dour appear to have experienced labour trouble with their skilled journeymen for the Kentish Gazette, published in that year, printed the following statement: "We find that the opposition which the master papermakers have experienced from their journey-men, with respect to their enormous demand for wages, has determined the masters to work their mills with apprentices and articled men only".  At the same time Messrs Phipps, Stace and Wakefield of River inserted the following in the Gazette: "From fifteen to twenty stout, active and able men, from eighteen to twenty years of age to be articled as circumstances may require, from three to five years, to learn the papermaking business". Of these three papermakers only Phipps has left records of his activities.  He had built Crabble Mill four years previously and, at the same time, was operating River Mill and Lower Buckland Mill.  There are no records of the activities of Stace and, Wakefield.  The enlistment of labour to be articled at the age of eighteen and twenty and the period of indenture of from three to five years appear to be exceptional.  It is little wonder that the working papermakers formed themselves into a Union in 1800, the Legal Society of Papermakers.  It was not until 1856 that the master papermakers banded together to form the Paper Makers Association prompted by John Evans, the son-in-law of John Dickinson.  The main object of this move was the abolition of the duty on paper, then levied at 1 pence per pound.

During the mid l800s the employment of apprentices was regulated by the Legal Society, their number at any one mill being related to the total number of trained papermakers employed but during the cottage industry period the small size of the mills probably limited the employment of apprentices.  Many of the lessees of paper mills were journeymen papermakers starting in business on their own account probably with members of their family providing some labour.  John Norwood served an apprenticeship at River mill and worked there and at Lower Buckland under Phipps as a journeyman before starting on his own account at Home Street, Cheriton, at the age of 39.  While it is believed that a brother at some time worked for him there is no recorded evidence of his having other help other than his apprentice, Daniel Hobday. At the Horne Street Mill, according to Daniel, intermittent operation was a frequent occurrence.  John Norwood would wait until he had a good head of water in the pond above the water wheel and then ram his beater(s) with the stuff chest full and the pond low John and his apprentice would start to make paper. From the manner in which the tale has been handed down to the writer it is believed that they were often the only two working at the mill.  As the vat crew employed on handmade papermaking was usually three it must have been very hard work.  As one writer put it ever two hundred years ago, an apprentice papermaker "ought not to be a very tender lad".

It is known that Buckland Mill and Charlton Corn mill were occupied by Thomas Horn at the time of his death in about 1746 and it seems probable that he had occupied the former for a number of years, bringing up a family of two sons, Thomas and Ingram in the Mill house.  Events after his death indicate that of these two Sons Thomas looked after the corn milling side of the inheritance while Ingram occupied himself with the paper mill.  The mode of life of the Horn family living at, and indeed in, Buckland Mill probably resembled to some extent that practiced by John Norwood.  With the mill area next to the living room one can imagine Mrs Horn taking the family washing into the mill next door and recruiting the assistance of the hapless apprentice in the same way that Daniel Hobday was called upon to help his master’s wife.  (There may be some truth in the story that a papermaker’s a wife discovered the beneficial result of adding blue dye to her wash). Daniel lived with his master’s family, was clothed and fed by them and eventually married his master’s daughter.  Did Isaac Crump, apprenticed to the Horns in 1746 by the Folkestone Overseers of the Poor, lead a similar life with his master.  We do not know as his name fades from our records but at least he was fortunate in being apprenticed to a trade rather than being handed over to the navy or militia in exchange for a bounty as was the practice at the time.

Buckland Mill suffered a fire in 1750 and was "much enlarged".  Another fire occurred in 1814 and the mill was rebuilt.  Between 1790 and 1814 the Horns built a compact Georgian type house, Buckland (Bridge) House, on the site of the present stock room which indicates that they moved to a new residence separate from, but near to, the mill after one of these fires.  The move probably came after the first of the two fires for in 1823 Thomas III Horn built Buckland House, a large and spacious building standing in some eight acres of ground.  Seventy seven years after the death of our original Thomas Horn who once lived in a cottage mill, his grandson enjoyed gracious living in a modest mansion.

The advent of the papermaking machine brought about the decline in the production of hand-made paper and of papermaking practiced as a cottage industry.  The first practical machine was installed at the Two Waters Mill in Herts in 1804 and so great was its success that a total of six machines were operating by the end of the following year. During 1805 these six machines produced a total of 577 tons of paper, the equal in output of 26 hand-made vats.  Two years later, 1807, William Phipps installed a machine at their Crabble Mill, the first mill on the Dour to take this progressive step. This machine ran for 87 years and, from observations made by Lewis Hobday who saw it in operation, it appeared to have remained unaltered throughout the whole period, at about this time William Phipps and his two sons had an interest in three mills, River, Crabble and Lower Buckland.  He lived in a house directly opposite River Mill across the road as shown on a drawing dated 1821 by John Smith when he carried out a survey and prepared a simple outline plan of the mill.  On this plan one building approximately 70ft x 30ft is described as "Machine Room and Vat Room and Drying Loft over".  This drawing suggests that River Mill had a papermaking machine in operation in 1821 while retaining facilities for making hand-made paper.  William Phipps is recorded as having rebuilt River Mill in 1807 ‘out it is not known if the machine was installed at the tine of the rebuilding.  Radford Evans, who was the author of a pamphlet published in 1907 entitled, "Recollections of River", worked at both River and Crabble mills, latterly as a Foreman, wrote of the installation of the machine at Crabble as a great achievement of local historical interest, which indeed it was, but makes no mention of the machine at River.  One may deduce from this that the River machine was installed at a later date than that at Crabble at a time when the papermaking machine was no longer a novelty, but before 1821.  The fact that a "vatt" was retained at the time of the survey may indicate that the machine may have been recently installed and had not completely replaced the production of hand-made paper in the mill.

A line drawing in plan of Crabble Mill was also made by John Smith in 1821 showing the layout and this, together with recollections of Lewis Hobday and a drawing of a Donkin machine dated 1808 enables a fair picture of the mill to be presented.  Unfortunately John Smith did not put a scale on his drawings and, in the case of Crabble Mill he gave only one measurement, an omission which has presented difficulties in arriving at the size of the mill.  The papermaking area as shown as one building approximately 138 ft x 40 ft of which an area 26 ft x 40 ft is partitioned off and described as a "Logwood Mill".  The remaining area bears the description "Machine House and Engine House Drying..... Loft over all this". The Engine House quite clearly refers to beater engines.  Two extensions at one end of this building are described on the drawing as "Dye house", which includes a "copper" and "Shed over Guillotine" respectively.  This building is sited on the corner of River Road and the road to Dover.  Two large "Store Rooms" with "Loft over" are shown, both having an area equal to the mill working area and one of which housed a boiler and the other contained a "Stuff Vatt", presumably a chest, which, working to a scale based on the only measurement given on the drawing, had a diameter of 22 ft. A water wheel is shown at the side of one end of the main building.  The beaters at Crabble according to Lewis Hobday, were very small holding from 60 to 90 pounds of stuff.  The beater rolls were so light in weight they were lowered on to the plates and allowed to dance until the stuff was of the required length.  This practice was followed at Stoneywood Mill in the 1920s by the writer when working there as a beaterman when using strong unbleached cotton cuttings.

The machine was driven by a water wheel and the back or white water was returned to the head box by a wheel lifter.  Screens were not employed at the time the machine was installed.  The overall length of the machine was probably about 30 ft comprising a (head) "vat with revolving agitators" delivering stuff through a sliding gate on to an inclined copper plate and thence to the wire. The machine operated without a top couch roll, (Angle couch rolls were introduced in 1811).  The paper was delivered on to the press felt, the press rolls being of brass, and reeled wet on a flat expanding reeler adjusted to the size of the sheet of paper being made, end out off by hand with a knife.  The paper was loft dried in the waterleaf, sized, loft dried a second time and, then guillotined to size.

There is no indication on the plan of any provision for sizing the paper and as tub sizing is believed to have been the only known way of paper sizing in 1821 some such provision must have existed,  (A form of engine sizing was being experimented with in the middle of the century) One of the so called store rooms however had a copper in addition to that in the dye house and also a stove and it is thought possible that this copper may have been a part of the size preparation equipment.  The preparation of animal size must have been a difficult task during the period under review when tools were in so many respects elementary and science almost unexplored at the papermaker’s level According to C.T. Davis in his text book on papermaking published in 1886 the principal sources of supply of materials used in the preparation of animal size were "hide and skin trimmings, Cartilages and membranes from slaughtered animals, hog, hare and rabbit skins, the hoofs and ears of oxen, sheep and goats, parchment refuse, eel skins etc".  The writer can recall the use of pigs ears at Buckland when he was a boy with the free run of the mill and the manner in which they swelled up after soaking in water.  Joynsons paper mill was using picker waste from the spinning mills of the North for size making right up to the time the mill was closed down in the early 1950s, the stocks held there being sent to Buckland for use.  The move was not popular at Buckland but the old methods of size making had not been forgotten.  Five dumps of rags and ropes are shown on the plan as if standing in the open unprotected while two open spaces, described as yards, are shown as having a stock of ropes and rags. In contrast with the survey taken by John Smith, also in 1821, of the Bushey Ruff and River mills his drawings show a sizing room in both.  The former mill had a "Brown" and a "White Workhouse" with vats, a "parting Salle" and separate salles for brown and white papers. The Bushey Ruff mill described by John Smith as being boated in Alkham was owned by William Knocker, a Dover solicitor who at one time was Mayor of Dover, had a relatively short life, the River and Crabble mills with papermakers in control of the operation prospered until they fell into the hands of Filmar Phipps by inheritance who did not appear to have any interest in them other than as a means of providing him with expensive luxury.  Buckland Mill was owned and operated by working paper- makers for possibly 200 years before being sold to Wiggins, Teape & Co. Ltd, surviving difficulties and even near disasters.

Of the six paper mills on the Dour

Buckland Mill would appear to have had the longest history with papermakers frequenting the parish as early as 1638 and for over 300 years it continued to play its part in the industry until closure in 2000. 

River Mill is known to have existed in 1689 and when it closed down in 1918 it had operated for over 200 years. 

Lower Buckland Mill commenced operation as a paper mill in 1775 and continued as such for about seventy years when it became a brewery. 

Crabble Mill was built in about 1790 and continued to operate for just over 100 years.  

Bushey Ruff Mill is believed to have been erected in, about 1795 and to have operated for about fifty five years.

Charlton Mill, referred to by C.P. Davies, as Spring Garden Mill, is first mentioned in official records in 1832 and appears to have gone out of production about 22 years later.

The most outstanding of the six mills in undoubtedly Buckland which started as a cottage industry, probably in the early part of the 17th century, and developed through the years under the guidance of practical Papermakers in a manner which enabled it to face the transition from hand made paper produced with little technical knowledge to the age of machines, technology and science and specialisation.  From the early part of the 18th. century three generations of the Horn family operated the mill and after a period of some uncertainty during the first half of the 19th century it was launched on a new spell of life by Charles Ashdown and later by his son in partnership with Henry Hobday.  In 1890 Buckland Mill was purchased by Wiggins Teape and co. Ltd. and. with the financial backing they provided grew to become an important unit in the Company.

Crabble Mill was the creation of William Phipps, papermaker from River Mill, where he learnt his craft. The family acquired River Mill, built Crabble Mill and leased Lower Buckland Mill.  In 1790 John Phipps patented a method for producing watermarked lines in paper and in 1825 John and Christopher Phipps patented the Dandy Roll.  Two years after the first papermaking machine was perfected the Phipps installed one at Crabble.  The family prospered until about 1870 when the mill fell into the hands of a nephew who enjoyed the good life to work and went bankrupt. Crabble Mill was sold and River Mill was run by the Receiver until it closed down in 1918.

Of the remaining three mills Bushey Ruff was owned by a solicitor and Lower Buckland. by a miller and both had a short life. Charlton Mill was taken over by George Dickinson who for a time leased Buckland from the horn family but he appears to have lacked the sagacity of his brother John Dickinson of Croxley and ended up bankrupt within a few years.  Something of the lives of these papermakers, and many others who had. some connection with the mills on the flour, is told overleaf together with details of the mills in which they worked or had some connection The whole attempts to present a picture, in vignette form, of the life of those engaged in papermaking over a period on 300 years based on records, hearsay and memories.