From the Archives

Posted 4 March 2021

Tyvek in Tough Test

Extracted from Gateway No.97 – February 1983

The pulling power of Tyvek continues to grow.

Emerson Envelopes Ltd., who purchase Tyvek from Wiggins Teape to make airmail envelopes, decided to make the world’s longest envelope 90 feet long by nine and a half inches wide.

To show the strength of the product they used it to tow a 7½ ton London double-decker bus.

Posted 4 March 2021

Giant Tyvek Mural

Exracted from Gateway Issue 98: May 1983

When the Graphic Trade Union in Norway’s National Federation of Labour celebrated their Centenary they decided to create the country’s biggest painting.

They covered the whole of the front of the Labour headquarters in Oslo with a giant mural.

They achieved this effect by silk-screen printing huge strips of Tyvek, 90 feet long and 3 feet wide and then suspending them from a seventh-floor balcony.

The finished result was very effective and the idea provided a nice order for Wiggins Teape Norway.

Posted 4 March 2021

Butler’s Court

The earliest records show the manor of Beaconsfield owned by a family called Windsor shortly after the Norman Conquest. By 1622 it had come into the possession of the Waller family. Edmund Waller was a renowned poet, who lived to the age of 82, a prodigious age in those times. It is interesting to recall that from 1627 to 1645 Waller also held a lease of ‘the Glory Paper Mills’ at Woodburn Green so the link between the two properties was established more than 300 years previously. Perhaps Waller wrote his poetry on the hand-crafted papers of Glory Mill?

In 1768 manor was purchased by Edmund Burke, the great statesman and writer. Could he have written his speeches or letters on the fine papers of Wiggins Teape? His house was regularly filled with the great and the gifted but also the needy and gifted. Joshua Reynolds was a constant visitor and on a visit to Butler’s Court, with a commission in mind from the Empress Catherine of Russia, he painted the baby of Burke’s bailiff, who was said to be ‘of great size and beauty’. The child featured in the painting of the ‘Infant Hercules’ strangling serpents in his cradle.

Hall and staircase at Butler's Court

The house was destroyed by fire in 1813 and not rebuilt for 80 years. In the war years, Butler’s Court was used as a hospital for the men of the Free French Navy. In 1956 it was purchased by Wiggins Teape as their headquarters for Group Research. It seems appropriate that such an historic manor which, over the centuries has been the home of famous men of letters, should have come into the hands of a papermaking company. The making of paper is a service which has been indispensable to them.

Posted May 2020

Stowford Mill

Extracted from Gateway Issue 101, February 1984

William Dunsterville of Plymouth began building a papermill on land adjoining Stowford Corn Mills – the site of the present mill – in 1787.

Henry Rivers bought the mill from him 19 years later and leased it to Francis Fincher, who made small quantities of high-quality paper by hand. Francis Fincher’s son, William, installed the very first paper machine, a 48-inch wide Fourdrinier in 1837.

The sum of £10,000 secured the mill for John Allen in 1849. The number employed then was 160 men, women and children. In the 30 years before he died, John Allen installed two 72-inch Fourdrinier machines, together with two rag boilers and other preparation equipment, built Stowford Lodge, now the Mill Manager’s house, and also built the Methodist Church for the people of Ivybridge.

William Fincher’s no.1 paper machine was shut down and sold in 1910. Four years later a major fire broke out in the mill’s rag loft, causing £14,000 worth of damage. War was declared in the same year and Stowford Lodge was turned into a convalescent home for injured servicemen.

In 1923 Portals Limited purchased the mill and made security papers on the site for the first time. This remains one of the mill’s important areas of production.

Seven years later, in 1930, the mill was sold again to Wiggins Teape.

Now, in 1984, 150 people work at the mill, 10 less than in John Allen had on his payroll over a century ago. The two paper machines have been extensively rebuilt during the last decade

In years past, the River Erme was the supplier of power, turning water wheels to drive machinery. Today the river is still important as the source of water for papermaking. An Act of Parliament allows the mill to divert 2.3 million gallons each year. Of that, less than a quarter million is used.

Stowford’s output is small but specialised. Printings and Writings account for roughly two-thirds of production, with Security Papers taking up the remaining third.

Apart from Conqueror and airmail grades, many special watermarks are produced for companies who want the prestige of personalised stationery. Company logos and name watermarks are created using a dandy roll or sleeve.

Some papers are made to commemorate special events, such as the 400th anniversary of Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe.

Ivybridge continues the tradition, which began at Devon Valley Mill, of sending primroses to Wiggins Teape customers. Now a highly organised operation, it involves registered pickers, some of whom are past employees, who despatch about 15,000 packs of blooms to destinations around the UK in Spring.

Security paper customers need sophisticated protection against forgery and counterfeits. Each product made at Ivybridge is likely to have its own ‘recipe’ of pulps and chemicals to which other security features may be added.

One of Ivybridge’s strengths is the ability to produce a wide range of complicated watermarks. A watermark is probably the most obvious and commonly recognised security feature in use today.

An embossed dandy roll, which gives a two-tone watermark, is thought to be the most secure as it is the most difficult for a counterfeiter to reproduce. Producing a good watermark requires a great deal of skill on behalf of the machine-man who has to check and adjust the machine’s running speed and the stock refining, consistency and flow. The setting and speed of the dandy on the wire is also crucial to the quality and clarity of the watermark in the finished sheet.

Other features may be introduced into security base papers, such as sensitive chemicals, to deter criminal interference. These will react if ink eradicators or solvents are used in any forgery attempts.


posted 7 April 2020

Fire Engine’s Vintage Run

Extracted from Gateway Issue 67, June 1977

Glory Mill is very proud of its fire brigade and two fire engines – a 1937 Dennis and a 1953 Commer. Both vehicles are maintained in perfect working condition and are ready for action in the mill or, if necessary, with the local fire brigades.

The 1937 engine took part in the London to Brighton Veteran/Vintage Vehicle Run and for some weeks previously a team of enthusiasts, led by the Assistant Chief Fire Officer, had been busy preparing the engine which completed the course in great style and was unfortunate not to be among the winners.

The photograph above shows the brigade in their new uniforms, issued in 1967.

(Editor’s note: Does anyone know where these vehicles are now?)

Posted 4 March 2020

The Way We Were

Extracted from Gateway No.100 – July 1987

The 100th issue of Gateway marked the time in 1936 when the decision was taken to produce a house magazine for Wiggins Teape and “Associated Companies”.

Although the style, format and quality changed over the years, the purpose for which it was launched remained very much the same.

The editorial of the day explained: “It was felt that for so great an organisation as ours, with many mills at home and branches up and down the world the most effective link would be the printed word.

In our pages we shall deal with every aspect of our great organisation and, since we play as well as work, athletics and sports will have their proper place. “On the social side, the Gateway will function as a medium of exchange for all.

In these pages all may learn of the ramifications of the company, of the men who control its activities and of the vast organisation which maintains and improves its services to customers the world over.”

The first issue of Gateway carried a wide range of articles, some to inform and others merely to entertain.

The opening feature gave readers a colourful picture of the company’s headquarters at Aldgate House – “the building is 95 feet, 3 inches high and covers an area of 11,170 square feet. The first four floors are in line with the ground floor, but the remainder are set back at varying distances from the frontage. The whole gives an impression of strength and massiveness.

The article went on to say: “Nearly one thousand tons of paper are stored in the building. The daily incoming tonnage averages 20 to 25 tons, and a similar quantity is despatched daily – some 455 deliveries alone keep employed nine large motor lorries and four tricycles.

An imaginative map gives an illustration of the Company’s position in the British Isles in 1936.

As well as features, the magazine carried a number of news items. There was a report on the company’s participation in the British Industries Fair and the Printing, Stationery and Allied Trades Exhibition at Olympia.

In the Sports Notes round-up it was reported that the new pavilion for the Chadwell Heath Sports Club was officially opened; Stoneywood Football Club had been revived; and the Ladies’ Hockey Club was entering the 4th Division of the London Business House League.

Other features included an article on typography, a synopsis of the Company’s history plus an interesting look at some of the machinery in use around the Group.

Energy conservation was just as important in 1936 as it is today and moves were being made to cut the energy bill. “Since the price of coal has risen, and may do so again, economical steam production and efficient utilisation are essential if the costs of manufacture are to be kept within reasonable limits.”

Last, but by no means least, the first issue of Gateway carried a good prescription unearthed from the archives. If there are any modern-day sufferers, the cure might still hold good. “Take 4oz of the dried root Meadow Saffron, chip it fine, put in a jug, pour on it ¾ pint of boiling water. Let it stand for three days, stirring twice a day then add rather more than half a pint of water and let it be covered ten days longer, after which strain it off through flannel and it will be fit for use.”

A footnote in the article included a Head Office wine bill for 20 dozen bottles of Port and 19 bottles of Claret!

posted January 2020

Making the Most of the Message

With extracts from Gateway No.97 - February 1983

Greetings cards continue to be big business around the world, although to most of the younger generation Messaging has a completely different connotation.

Once upon a time, sent only on birthdays, at Christmas and Valentine’s Day, the selection has exploded to include anniversary cards, cards for retirement, leaving work, sympathy cards, birth congratulations, driving test passes, new homes, as well as general message-less cards to cover any other occasion.

Wiggins Teape historically supplied paper and board to the greetings cards industry for many years from Fort William (lighter weights) and Stoneywood (heavier board weights). Special embossed finishes were required for some ranges and the patterns would be embossed onto the surface of the sheet.

King Henry VIII would have been a happy man to see the vast sales of Valentine’s cards for it was he who declared Valentine’s Day official, establishing the anniversary by Royal Charter in 1537 and, with it, the growth of celebrations. Its legend is unknown but the most popular theory dates back to a third century Christian martyr, Valentine. He was executed on February 14th, AD270, for his faith and, when in prison, is said to have restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter.

The young Roman maidens who played their part in the originations of the celebrated festival for lovers would no doubt be staggered by the wealth of designs, sentiments and expressions available today.

The first printed Valentine was possibly in a book of verse in the early 16th Century that offered literary ideas to the love-smitten for writing their own love notes. One of the earliest known Valentine messages was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife when he was a prisoner in the Tower of London.

Valentine cards as we know them appeared around 1820, when hand-painted copperplates by such artists as Francesco Bartolozzi were much in demand, as the occasion’s popularity spread throughout Western Europe.

Valentine’s Day is now probably the largest single card-sending occasion apart from Christmas.

posted October 2019

World War II Bombing

In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, an RAF Spitfire crashed into the roof of the No.3 Machine House, in Dover, causing considerable damage. This, combined with the ever-present danger of shelling, forced the temporary closure of the mill. Production of Conqueror was transferred to St. Neots, a small mill that had been closed down but re-opened for this purpose. Production came back to Dover in August 1946.

Also affected by extreme bombing following the Battle of Britain, were the historic London headquarters of Wiggins Teape from 1961 to 1933 – 10/11 Aldgate – and the nearby warehouse. The headquarters had moved to Aldgate House in Mansell Street, where most of the departments and the executives were housed, but some departments were still based in 10/11. This one night of blitz caused both the loss of an iconic building for Wiggins Teape, plus the loss of several hundred tons of precious paper supplies

posted September 2019

Wiggins Teape in World War II

Paper at War:

Many papers including Natural Tracing Paper, Admiralty Chart Paper, Photographic Base, Airgraph Base, Map Paper and Punch Card System Paper were essential to the War effort during World War II.

In addition, Wiggins Teape produced the highest percentage of Real Greaseproof and Glassine, Telegraph Parchment, Abrasive Base Papers, papers for the Plastic Industry and papers to secret formulae.

Re-pulped waste paper was converted into containers and packages of all kind, waterproofed and reinforced, to replace heavy wooden and metal cases and particularly to combat the destructive forces of pests and the corroding effects of humidity in the tropics.

Conversion into articles of military equipment became a major industry involving Chadwell Heath, Essex and Aberdeen. Aircraft fuel tanks were made from paper and were attached to iconic Spitfires.

In the decisive stages of the war, there was a requirement from the RAF aircrew for a perfect flare for use by their Pathfinders to mark targets for the main force bombers; those that they were using burned too quickly and they needed an alternative as soon as possible. In response, Wiggins Teape manufactured a paper with an extremely low combustion factor, which was wound under high tension into a laminated tube of great strength and flinty hardness.

Around 730,000 of these tubes were manufactured by a subsidiary of Wiggins Teape and proved a great success.

posted July 2019

Extracted from Gateway Issue 67: June 1977

Those Royal Occasions for Wiggins Teape

It’s interesting to look back on events special to Wiggins Teape because of their association with the Royal Family.

1959: Princess Margaret visited the WT stand at the British Trade Fair in Lisbon in June 1959. She was particularly interested in the large photograph of her sister, the Queen, on horseback for Trooping the Colour which was printed on Glory Mill’s base photographic paper

1960: Prince Philip journeyed to Monmouthshire on March 11, 1960 to see the Sudbrook Pulp Mill, it being the first Royal visit to any unit within the Group since the end of the Second World War. The mill was officially opened in October 1958 but in January 1967 it was sold to Ashton Containers Ltd, a subsidiary company of Mardon International Limited.

1960: The Queen Mother visited Packaging Division’s stand at the Royal Show at Cambridge in 1960 and was introduced to a number of Sales and Marketing staff members.

1964: In May 1964 Prince Philip visited the new £250,000 Butler’s Court Research Centre at Beaconsfield – the day before it was officially opened by the Chairman of the Group, Lesley Farrow. The Duke’s visit was a private one and he was flown to Butler’s Court in a helicopter. The tour of the buildings lasted two hours and before he left the Duke received NCR pigskin bound notepads for Prince Charles and Princess Anne from the Chairman.

1965: Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon were visitors to the Mill at Fort William in April 1965. The official opening took place in September 1966 – formally by Leslie Farrow, Honorary President of the Wiggins Teape Group, although the production of pulp and paper began earlier in the year.

1966: Princess Margaret visited the WT stand at the Hong Kong Exhibition in March 1966 and was shown photo film by A W Benzing, the then Director and Manager of WT (Hong Kong) Limited. The Princess was accompanied by Lord Snowdon at the exhibition, which was sponsored by the Board of Trade to encourage British imports to Hong Kong. The royal couple showed interest in the WT stand display which was staged in conjunction with the Monotype Corporation in the British Engineering section.

Reported in Gateway Magazine Issue 32: September 1967.

1967: The Queen paid an official visit to Fort William

The Queen Charms all at Fort William and so does Prince Andrew

Her Majesty the Queen’s visit to Scottish Pulp and Paper Mills on 11 August is an occasion to be remembered not only for her own gracious presence but for the added joy she gave everyone by bringing along seven-year-old Prince Andrew.

The Royal Tour was a truly magnificent gesture towards the work achieved in industrial development in the Highlands of Scotland, and it gave a feeling of great pride to the Wiggins Teape Group.

The Queen was on her way to Balmoral in the Royal Yacht, Britannia. She was met by the Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire and introduced to Mr Mark Norman, OBE, Chairman of the Wiggins Teape Group, A Royal marquee was set up in the courtyard in the Woodyard at Corpach where Her Majesty was presented to various members of management prior to her tour of the Mills.

Her Majesty showed great interest in everything and asked questions about particular aspects of the production and equipment.

Prince Andrew also showed a keen interest and posed many questions to Mr Merrick Baggallay, General Manager, along the tour, showing an intelligence far exceeding his seven years. On seeing a sample of unbleached pulp, he remarked “It’s just like porridge!”. He then asked if he could have some of the paper to take away with him and was given a small parcel, with a larger supply being sent to the Royal Yacht for his further use.

1974: When Princess Alexandra officially opened the British Industrial Exhibition at Sao Paolo in Brazil in 1974, she visited the WT stand, as she had done in 1970 when the exhibition was held in Buenos Aires.

Extracted from Gateway No.67 – June 1977

A Great Day Inspired by Lord Mountbatten

As guest of honour at the official opening on 3rd May of Gateway House, Wiggins Teape’s £10 million headquarters in Basingstoke, Earl Mountbatten of Burma paid this compliment to the Group: “As a Hampshire man I would like to welcome this two-centuries-old company and commend their choice of Basingstoke.”

He said the Company had a reputation for forward thinking and recalled that in the late Thirties it had pioneered the manufacture of tracing paper in the United Kingdom. This was especially significant because such paper was then produced in Germany and it became vital in the war effort by its use in the Whitehall drawing offices.

Still recalling the war years, Lord Mountbatten said that jettison petrol tanks for aircraft had been made from paper produced by Wiggins Teape.

He spoke of the Company’s development and progress since the war: “You have got a very advanced research centre in Buckinghamshire where they explore the potential of paper machinery and manufacturing techniques”.

Lord Mountbatten commented that he was interested to see that the mill at Fort William was the first integrated pulp and paper mill in the UK.

During a lunch, hosted by Maurice Bennett, Chairman and Managing Director of the Group, Lord Mountbatten entertained everyone with a series of anecdotes during his speech. There followed a tour of the building, chats with various members of staff, and Lord Mountbatten was then invited onto the garden terrace adjoining level 3 where he planted a commemorative flowering cherry tree.

A cheque was presented to Lord Mountbatten by Mrs Jeanne Fox, Directors’ Receptionist, on behalf of the Company, to provide 130 trees for a United World College of the Atlantic at St Donat’s Castle South Wales.

Extracted from Gateway No.97 – February 1983

1983: The Dream and the Princess

John Chumrow, chief executive of WT European Paper and Print Operations, and his wife Margaret, were presented to HRH the Prince and Princess of Wales at a gala concert at the Royal Festival Halls in December 1982.

The Philharmonia Chorus, of which John was then chairman, performed Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius and proceeds from the highly success evening were given to the Elgar Foundation.

Reported in Gateway Magazine July 1987:

1987: Royal Opening in Portugal,

Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales lingered to talk to Group staff manning the Wiggins Teape stand at the British Trade Exhibition held in Oporto, Portugal, in February. The Royal Couple, who had opened the five-day show (part of the celebrations marking the 600th anniversary of links between the two countries), expressed interest in the Group’s products on display. These included fine papers, carbonless papers, casting papers, drawing office papers and adhesive papers and labels from Samuel Jones and Hovat.

During the Exhibition the Group was able to draw attention to the investment it had made in Soporcel, the Portuguese pulp mill operation and the considerable trade lnks developed between Portugal and the UK.

Posted 19th April 2019

Extract from Gatefold Issue 89 June 2013

The Beginnings of the Wiggins Teape Empire

Part 1: 1881-1918

By Davan Chamberlain


The history of the company that ultimately became Wiggins Teape stretches back to the early 18th Century. It is fair to say that, at this stage, neither the Wiggins nor the Teape family were involved, and indeed, it would be several partnerships hence before either family became associated with the company that would ultimately bear their names. Furthermore, at this early stage the company were solely stationers and had no pretensions to follow the cause of manufacturing. Nevertheless, the roots of the firm show a long and distinguished pedigree.

Much has been written on these early partnerships and undoubtedly more will appear in years to come as the various relationships involved are unravelled and described. However, that is not the purpose of this article. Instead it will describe the UK manufacturers owned by WT, their associated companies and subsidiaries, following their decision to branch into manufacturing that occurred in the late 19th Century.

Overall, what follows is not purely a history of the mills, but rather a brief summary of the manufacturing history of the company, with which the mills were inextricably linked.

Commencement of manufacturing

The partnership of Wiggins, Teape, Carter and Barlow made two changes in 1881: they altered the capitalisation of the firm into a private company, Wiggins, Teape & Co., and they entered the manufacturing arena in a very small way with the purchase of Downton Mill near Salisbury, Wiltshire. This was a small hand mill, having but two vats. Quite why the firm should go for such a mill is still a mystery. They were certainly making quality papers, which fitted the portfolio of the company yet, at a time when hand mills were diminishing it seems a strange purchase to make.There are no papers in the company archive describing the early years when WT ran the mill, nor have any balance sheets been found to outline the first decade of ownership. However, later balance sheets show a mill that was not overly successful or profitable. It is likely that this was the situation from the beginning and, if this supposition is correct, it would suggest a lack of understanding of the manufacturing business, which might help to indicate why the next purchase was a more modern machine mill with a pedigree of only 50 years. In turn this might explain why, with the purchase of Chorley Mill in 1889, the founder’s son, H T Parke, who ran the works, was allocated a seat on the WT board.

Chorley (or Withnel Fold) Mill was an altogether different entity from Downton. Built in 1843, it had never been a hand mill. Three machines operated, producing a variety of fine papers that fitted the portfolio of the company; indeed, WT (as stationers) had been customers of the mill for many years previously. The accounts for the year after purchase show immediately this was a fine investment as it recorded an operating profit of over £12,000, which was easily more than half of the total profit made by the company. (Accounts for this year do not show explicitly the numbers for the Downton Mill, which gives further circumstantial evidence of its relative unimportance).

Only a year after the entry of Chorley to the company, another factory was purchased: Buckland Mill near Dover, which housed one machine. This mill had a history dating back to the 17th Century but, unlike Chorley, it was not a thriving success. It was, however, destined to play a central part in the fortunes of the company over the succeeding years. At the time of purchase, it was owned by the Hobday family, who had a contract to manufacture a new watermarked paper, Conqueror, just two years earlier, in an attempt to rebuild their fortunes after a destructive fire in 1887. As with the Chorley purchase, Mr Henry Hobday, proprietor of the mill, was retained as both adviser and mill manager, so strengthening the expertise in manufacturing within the company. In passing it is worth noting that in this year the company converted to a limited concern: Wiggins, Teape & Co. Ltd.

In 1892 a second paper machine was purchased at a cost of £3222 and installed at Buckland. In this same year we also get a brief feel for Downton Mill, when the balance sheet shows the erection of a new water wheel, at a cost of £300. Two years further on and we get a better picture of this mill, with the first entry proper in the accounts, which showed Downton Mill made a very significant loss whilst all other sites showed a profit. The writing was on the wall for this site and in these same accounts mention is made of it being leased from the end of the year.

Letters in the WT archive show the company was highly acquisitive at the time. Chafford Mill near Penshurst in Kent elicited interest but it was not possible to buy cheaply enough at auction. They had to wait until 1894 to make another purchase; Glory Mill near Wooburn Green, in Buckinghamshire, followed one year later by Crabble Mill, adjacent to the Buckland site in Dover.

The Wooburn Green site was bought cheaply from Mr A Reed, who had previously purchased it from the liquidator following financial collapse. Henry Hobday was assigned temporarily to the mill and was so successful that by the end of the year it turned a small profit, which nearly offset the loss from Downton. However, just four years later a disastrous fire closed the mill, after which it was re-built and had a new paper machine installed.

By contrast, Crabble Mill was a very run-down establishment that housed outdated machinery. The premises were bought by the company, but the machinery was not. Papermaking was never to be practised again at Crabble after the purchase, since the company turned it into a rag sorting depot to feed the more important site of Buckland. Downton Mill continued to be leased by Mark Palmer and Sons, until 1899 when the company decided to sell the property and the lessee made the purchase. The sale took place late that year and WT never again owned a mill devoted entirely to handmade paper manufacture. Also, during this year, they again reorganised the capital of the firm, forming Wiggins Teape & Co (1899) Ltd.

By the turn of the new century WT had diversified successfully from stationers into manufacturers. In less than twenty years the firm had purchased five mills, disposed of one and transformed another, rather dilapidated property, into a rag processing plant. They controlled six machines on three sites, making a range of fine papers almost exclusively from rags. There can be no doubt that the success of this transformation must be associated in part, with the decision to place men from a manufacturing background at the head of the company.

The first years of the new century saw little change, save the increasing profit made at Glory Mill. Then, in 1905, the next purchase was announced when the firm successfully treated for Chafford Mill, again after it failed to sell at auction. This was another strange purchase; it housed two very old paper machines and also two vats and, from a financial viewpoint, cannot have been considered a success. For the nine years it was held by WT it hovered between profit and loss. Ultimately it was closed and sold in 1914.

Just one year after the purchase of Chafford, another small mill housing a single machine, Millholm, near Cathcart, Glasgow, joined the fold. Also, in 1906, Crabble Mill burnt down during renovation work; however, it was rebuilt soon after and a social club was added and dedicated to the women who helped fight the blaze. Then, in 1910, the successful Buckland Mill, home of Conqueror, was expanded when a new machine house was built, which became known as the Conqueror Mill to differentiate it from the original Buckland machines. In the period leading to WW1 the single biggest change seen in the company was the introduction of photographic paper manufacture to Glory Mill, something that is believed to have been pioneered at Chafford. So, at the end of this first period we find the company owning four mills, making a range of fine papers, almost exclusively from rags, with house watermarks such as ‘W T & Co / Extra Strong / 3009’; ‘Conqueror / London’; ‘W T & Co’, ‘1011’ and ‘Hercules’.

Extract from Gatefold, Issue 90, September 2013

A Brief History of Wiggins Teape UK Manufactories

Part 2: The Age of Acquisition 1919-1939

By Davan Chamberlain

WT survived the Great War in a strong position and looked to embark upon a period of major acquisition in the slump that followed, when a large number of companies went to the wall. The first move they made was to raise capital with a rights issue, forming the publicly-quoted company Wiggins Teape & Co (1919) Ltd. Then with the ready finances they went looking for new purchases.

The first, in 1920, was Devon Valley Mill, also called Hele Mill, situated near Exeter. This two-machine manufactory had been updated just prior to WW1 and made a variety of blotting, printing and fine papers, including the watermarked ‘Devon Valley’ series.

Following the successful implementation of photographic grades at Glory prior to WW1, a new machine was installed at this mill in 1921, dedicated to the manufacture of photo-base, in what became known as No.1 Mill. For a limited period, Glory Mill ran two machines, but, some time in the 1920s, the old fine paper machine was stopped and the site became dedicated solely to photographic products.

Continuing the theme of mill purchases, in 1922 a new target was sighted. Alex Pirie & Sons Ltd., owners of the large Stoneywood Paper Works at Bucksburn near Aberdeen, the site of which comprised Stoneywood and Waterton Paper Mills and the Woodside Mill rag-processing plant; the stationery manufacturing plants of Pirie, Appleton & Co Ltd at the Union Works, in Aberdeen, and London, also formed part of the deal. This purchase expanded the range of papers made, in addition to consolidating the WT position in photographic paper manufacture; it also provided a major expansion of sales activities, as Pirie also ran a large merchant operation.

Obviously, the purchase of Pirie was a major drain on resources and a period of consolidation would have been expected. Indeed, no further manufacturing sites were purchased over the next decade, though a very significant number of merchants were bought to consolidate the distribution of Wiggins Teape papers, particularly in the home market, and some plant in the mills was updated during this period, for example, the new wet end installed on PM2 at Buckland in 1927; PM8 was installed at Waterton Mill in Aberdeen in 1928; and four new coaters were installed at Waterton between 1929-1932.

In fact, it was not until 1930 that new production capacity was sought, around the time of the Great Depression when again it could be bought cheaply. In this single year WT merged with Portals (John Allen & Sons) Ltd, which brought with it William Howard & Sons Ltd. The deal introduced Stowford Mill in Devon, which housed two small fine paper machines of 70” and 72”; Turkey Mill near Keithley, with one machine; and St Neots Mill with two small machines of 59” and 69”. The William Howard mills were Chartham with one paper machine of 69” and Roughway near Tonbridge, with a paper machine of 60”. Separate independent negotiations brought Annandale and Sons, whose Polton Mill had a single 63” machine and Basted Paper Mills Ltd of Kent which housed two small machines.

The East Malling Mill of Busbridge & Co Ltd also appeared on the WT books in this period, but quite how is not at present known to the author.

Also, in 1930 a joint venture with the Belgian firm of S A Papeteries Delcroix saw the purchase of Wm Joynson & Son, with a single mill in St Mary Cray, Kent. This joint venture involved manufacture of vegetable parchment for food wrappings: a product that had hitherto been imported exclusively from continental mills but which was obviously in vogue at the time because another British firm had also just commenced manufacture at Northfleet in Kent. New machinery was installed with the continental practise of metrication being employed throughout. In addition to food wrappings, other speciality parchments were made including telegraphic tape, hair-waving, greeting card and softened parchments.

Unfortunately, this year also saw the early death of chairman Keith Barlow; he was succeeded by Colonel Wyndham Portal, who joined after the John Allen & Sons merger. Soon after this time the company instigated a central purchasing policy with a view to reducing raw material purchase prices by bulk buying for both WT mills and those solely under the control of Portals (Laverstoke and Overton).

The next year another acquisition was made in the form of The Dartford Paper Mills Ltd, also known as The Daily Telegraph Paper Mills, which made general news and printing grades and a selection of fine papers, mainly banks, on five machines.

This was run by Philip T Goldney, who was instrumental in changing the mill towards the fine paper market prior to the purchase by WT and who eventually became a director of the company.

Alongside the Dartford Mill site, the company purchased a vacant area of land. On this they set about building a completely new mill, which was opened two years later. The Greaseproof Paper Mills Co Ltd was the name of this WT subsidiary; the mill housed two new paper machines to make paper of 147” and 120” finished widths respectively. A contemporary article in The Daily Telegraph gives copious details of the development, showing the kollergangs and refiners used to make the greaseproof and glassine grades, and includes a discussion of the various uses for products, which, like vegetable parchment, had hitherto only been imported. So, the mid-1930s saw WT expand into food packaging grades in a significant way.

Another area of expansion was envelope manufacture. Alex Pirie & Sons were already leaders in this field, with the Union Works at Aberdeen and a smaller site in London. Purchase of the merchant Charles Morgan and Co. brought with it another manufacturing firm, Bennett Wood, who had a stationery factory at Chadwell Heath, Essex. At this point Pirie decided to close their small London manufacturing site and transfer equipment to Essex. Then, in 1934, it was decided that the Chadwell Heath site was still too small, so it was expanded by a new factory being built on land opposite, which was completed in 1938.

It is evident that not all of the extra paper manufacturing capacity that came with the purchases and mergers was needed. References in the WT archive show three of the smaller mills, Turkey, St Neots and East Malling, were all operating in 1931 and mid-1932 but by late 1932 it had been decided to close them all, leaving sufficient machine clothing to allow start-up of any should the need arise. In addition, Millholm Mill, which had remained idle since 1922, was sold in the 1930s. Also, in this period PM9, the only twin-wire machine in the group, was installed at Stoneywood in 1935, after which PM3 was re-established and PM1 retired. The final mill to be added came near the end of this period, when in 1938 the Ford Paper Works Ltd near Sunderland joined the company. Immediately a modernisation project got underway, with installation of new power plant, electrification of the entire mill and installation of variable speed motors to the four paper machines.

This twenty-year period ends with development of a new product, natural tracing paper, at Chartham Mill, and WW2; obviously a time for consolation and reflection, the story of which will be taken up in the next part. The company had changed out of all recognition in this twenty-year period. It now owned 15 mills where paper was manufactured; two rag processing plants; a further three mills which were not operational, but which could be revived should the need occur; and a very large merchanting operation and envelope manufacturing organisation.

Extract from Gatefold, Issue 91, December 2013

A Brief History of Wiggins Teape UK Manufactories

Part 3: The Age of Construction 1940-1959

By Davan Chamberlain

Although this article is predominantly about UK sites, it is important to note that from this period onwards Wiggins Teape started to make significant investments abroad. For the sake of continuity, and to help highlight the reason for some changes in the UK, it is necessary to mention the foreign sites involved; however, a detailed listing of these is not included, nor is their history described in any depth.

Wartime Austerity (1940-1945)

The war years were not a time for expansion; survival was the order of the day. However, during this period WT did their part for the war effort in a number of significant ways, both with paper and by allowing their facilities to be used to enhance the war effort.Paper manufacture was obviously their primary concern. In particular, they were the sole manufacturers of three grades of high importance to the war effort: natural tracing paper (Chartham and Stoneywood); photographic base (Glory) and Admiralty Chart paper (Buckland and Stoneywood), the latter being a wet-strengthened product designed to withstand the rigours of life in a humid and moist environment. Tracing manufacture in particular was a major advance since prior to the war WT held only a 10% market share in the UK, the

Tracing manufacture in particular was a major advance since prior to the war WT held only a 10% market share in the UK, thebalance being dominated by imported product from Germany.

WT also made all the paper for punched card systems and airgraph base, in addition to large quantities of security, map, greaseproof, glassine and various special parchment grades, such as Telegraph Parchment, which was produced in coils for use in telegraph perforators for automated transmission on telegraph lines.

The company also introduced two new grades at this time: Parchmentised Abrasive Base and base papers for plastic applications for use on belt or disc sanding machines; prior to the war they were all imported.

Meanwhile plastic laminates were gaining prominence due to their combination of high strength but light weight, which made them ideal for incorporation into various aeroplane components. Base papers were needed into which the various plastic resins could be absorbed, and WT were at the forefront of this innovation; something that was to stand them in good stead after the war.

On the commercial front WT were well placed to survive the war. Their mills were spread throughout the country so that when Buckland had to be closed in 1940 after a Spitfire crashed through the roof of PM3 machine house, grades were transferred around the group.

St Neots Mill, closed in 1932, was reopened around June 1940 to provide necessary production facilities due to the enforced closure of Buckland. Various other premises were bombed, most notably the headquarters at Aldgate, London, and Chadwell Heath was hit by an incendiary device, but overall damage was minimal such that, when hostilities ceased, the company was able to continue its operations in good order.

Post-War Optimism (1946-1959)

Following the war WT once again embarked on a strategy of expansion, although this time the emphasis was rather different from that pursued during the inter-war period, where the company bought or merged with competitors. The post-war period saw some mill purchases, and obviously new equipment was installed in pre-existing sites, with older equipment being scrapped or re-dedicated to specific grades but the main emphasis was more on construction of entire new mills.

Mill Construction

With the cessation of hostilities in Europe, WT announced its intention to create a new mill dedicated to high grade tissues that, prior to the war, had all been imported, mainly from Germany. Five years later the mill, sited at Bridgend, South Wales, was operational. It started production with three machines named Jack, Jill and Baby, with steam and electricity supplied from the adjoining Llynfi Power Station.

The next construction initiatives were aimed at overseas markets. First in 1948, the company announced its intention to expand manufacture of envelopes by building a new plant in the Union of South Africa, which came on line in 1949. Two years later they were in negotiations with SAPPI about opening a fine paper mill, again in the Union of South Africa, using a paper machine that had been adapted from the Basted and St Neots machines by the Stoneywood engineering department. Eventually this was installed at Springs Mill, Johannesburg. Then the company shifted its gaze to Australia, where it eventually opened a two-machine mill at Shoalhaven in 1956, in partnership with William Nash.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the company waited five years from the opening of the Bridgend site before undertaking the next big project, which would see it invest in wood pulp production, something that must have been forced upon it as a result of war and post-war experiences where rationing and reliance upon sub-standard raw material impinged upon product quality. The result was a new pulp mill sited at Sudbrook, near Chepstow, adjacent to the River Severn and Forest of Dean, which became operational in April 1958, producing hardwood pulp by a neutral sulphite process.

Finally, the largest project yet was under discussion, though its culmination would have to wait until the next decade; an integrated pulp and paper mill to be built in Scotland, fed with local wood. All three UK projects were the ‘brain child’ of Dr Theodore Herzberg Frankel, a visionary and dynamic member of the board in this period.

Site Purchases and Closures

No changes were made for the first few post-war years, except for the re-opening of Buckland in 1945 and a small straw pulping operation was started in a disused Ministry of Supply factory in Caton Road, Lancaster, in 1947. Then, with the major capital projects under way at the end of the 1940s, painful decisions about some of the smaller manufacturing units had to be made. In 1949 Basted and Polton Mills were closed; since the war Basted had ben engaged in servicing abnormal orders for special grades from foreign customers, which had all but dried up, whilst Polton had been earmarked for closure around the time that hostilities broke out, and was probably saved because it gave the company a more diversified manufacturing base during the war.

Meanwhile, in 1950 St Neots was sold to the Samuel Jones group, who transformed it into a paper finishing factory. Also, the Lancaster pulp mill, which had transferred from straw pulping to cotton waste sorting by 1949, was closed in June 1950.

The situation then stabilised until 1954 when new production facilities were obtained by the purchase of Thomas Owen & Co, which brought with it the Ely Mills in Cardiff, that housed ten machines, and New Bury Mill in Lancashire, with four machines. Ely was a rather run-down establishment that made a variety of grades, including vegetable parchment; New Bury made a wide range of papers including MG sulphites, krafts and poster grades, fine printings, ledger, cream laids and woves, and tinted banks and bonds, along with toilet tissue. In both cases the board set about a modernisation programme that stretched over many years.

The next year WT entered into an agreement with the National Cash Register Co to manufacture carbonless copy paper.

This specialist grade requires two types of coatings to be applied, yet the company had insufficient coating capacity to produce the material, so in 1956 they purchased the British Coated Board and Paper mills coating facilities at Treforest, near Cardiff. The close proximity to Ely Mill meant that this became the focus for production of base to feed the Treforest coaters.

Machinery and Grade Changes

Machinery and Grade Changes

The war period saw major opportunities that WT sought to exploit in the post-war era, chief among which were tracing and photographic papers. Initially the company planned new machines at Chartham, Glory, Hylton and Stoneywood. Very soon the Stoneywood and Hylton machines were cancelled but Chartham Mill was granted a new paper machine designed specifically for tracing manufacture in 1949, at which point its old machine was dismantled and Glory Mill got its second paper machine dedicated to photo-base a year later, followed by a third in 1956. In the period of austerity directly following the war special mention should also be made of the engineering department at Stoneywood Mill, which was busy reconditioning machinery for other parts of the group; most notable here is the new PM1 adapted from other machines that was installed into Hylton Mill following the decision not to purchase a completely new machine.A grade which WT were at the forefront of development during the war was base paper for impregnation with plastic. In 1953 the small machine at Buckland, which incidentally was also the oldest machine in the group (having been installed in 1876) was dismantled and reassembled specifically for manufacture of this grade.

It was not until the late 1950s that both capital and availability of new machinery became easier to obtain, which explains the clutch of machines installed in 1958-59. The first was a design put forward for the largest and fastest fine-paper machine to be installed in the group, in Dartford: PM6 was 180” wide, made by Millspaugh Ltd and was planned for manufacture of woodfrees, GIP, tissues and specialities. A fourth PM, named David, was added to the Bridgend Mill in 1958 to meet the growing demand for hygienic tissue. And finally, the decade ended with a new high-speed air knife coater being installed at Treforest to increase NCR production to over 100 tons per week; at the time it was reportedly the fastest air knife coater in Europe.

Extract from Gatefold, Issue 92, March 2014

A Brief History of Wiggins Teape UK Manufactories

Part 4: The Age of Construction 1960-1979

By Davan Chamberlain

This instalment in the story of Wiggins Teape (WT) deals with the period where the firm lost its independence and was eventually taken over by a large multinational corporation, only to be released many years later as the multinational went through a periodic review of operations and returned to ‘core values’. It is, without doubt, the most complicated instalment of the sage, as it deals with relationships between various parent and subsidiary groupings, and involves a large amount of investment, with associated mill or machine closures, all in rather rapid succession. Indeed, more than any other instalment, this brings in a larger number of international mills than ever before, reflecting how the paper industry generally had started to become globalised.

BAT Merger (1960-1969)

On the business front the most significant factor during this period was the formation of a joint holding company between the multinational British American Tobacco (BAT) and WT in 1961.The result was The Millbank Paper Co into which BAT transferred three mills they owned that manufactured mainly cigarette tissue: Tribeni, in India; Pirahy, in Brazil; and Crompton-Stubbins in Lancashire. The WT contribution was its foreign mills (Shoalhaven, Australia and Witcel, Argentina, the investment in SAAPI, various sales concerns in India, and Glory Mill).

The following year the Millbank company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of WT, whilst BAT acquired 25% of the shares in WT. The remaining stock of the Nivelles Mill in Belgium, held by Delcroix, which was acquired by WT in late 1961, was also transferred into the Millbank company; at the time it was said this would give the company a tentative toehold in Europe should Britain enter the Common Market.

Another business venture from the early part of this decade was the formation of a joint holding company, Associated Tissues Ltd, between WT and Smith and Nephew Co Ltd, following the joint acquisition of a small toilet tissue converter. Into this company, Smith and Nephew transferred their holding of Velvet Crepe Paper Co and WT reciprocated with the Bridgend Mill.

As yet the BAT influence was not considerable, so in this early period there was still a great deal of room for WT to operate independently. It is therefore significant that during this time, by far the biggest building project undertaken by the company was set in motion: the construction of an integrated pulp at paper mill at Corpach, near Fort William. Initially a consortium of Bowaters, Reeds, Thames Board Mills and WT proposed the project, but eventually the initial partners all withdrew, leaving WT, who opened Fort William Mill in March 1966. After this, Dr Frankel, the main proponent on the WT Board of this and the earlier two projects at Bridgend and Sudbrook, left the company.

Although this was to be the last major civil engineering project undertaken by WT, there were still numerous purchases and upgrades to plant announced throughout the decade. Starting first with sites, in 1960 the converting operation called ‘Keighley Paper Mills’ was moved across the border to Nelson, Lancashire, into a larger building to house more conversion machinery. Meanwhile, in the same year, Roughway Mill, which had been downgraded to making wrappers for the rest of the WT group, was closed. Two years later WT purchased a controlling interest in Jointine Products Co Ltd, manufacturers of specialist industrial grades, whilst in 1964 they purchased the Samuel Jones conversion company, which brought the St Neots site back into the group.

The added capacity of the new large machine at Fort William, coupled with obvious financial considerations following such a large venture, caused the company to undergo rationalisation, which resulted in closure of three small mills in 1967: Withnel Fold, St Mary Cray and Stubbins. The parchment tonnage was transferred to Ely following closure of St Mary Cray, while Hylton Mill modified an existing machine to make speciality lightweight grades, including those previously made at Stubbins.

Then in 1964 the Sudbrook Pulp Mill was sold to a BAT associate company, Ashton Containers Ltd, who installed a paper machine to make packaging grades. Meanwhile, competition in the tissue business forced WT to transfer Associated Tissues Ltd into a new company, British Tissues Ltd.

The new partners in this venture were Peter Dixon & Son (Holdings) Ltd and the Inveresk Paper Company Ltd – this brought Oughtibridge Mill into the group. Finally, in the last year of this period there was an announcement that WT were to go into partnership with Mead, buying a 50% share in the Virginal Mill, near Brussels, which would be expanded to make base and CF carbonless papers – a grade exerting an ever greater hold on the company.

To finalise the summary of this busy decade, I will give a short description of the machinery changes and upgrades, of which there were plenty. The first involved Hele Mill, which received the old machine from Roughway, where it was put to work making industrial papers. Next there was a new machine, named Jonathan, constructed at Bridgend; another was installed at Chartham, which came on line in 1962; and new coaters were erected at Ely and Stoneywood

The following three years were reasonably quiet by comparison, with the exception of a new paper machine at Witcel during 1964. In 1966 a new solvent coater was added at Jointine, and a rebuilt machine was brought into production at Witcel. Stoneywood received considerable money in 1967 which allowed them to install a new coater to replace four old machines, and to re-build PM8. To cap a productive decade, in 1969 new emulsion coating lines were installed at Treforest and Nivelles.BAT Consolidation (1970-1979)

The new decade started with BAT deciding to consolidate their holding in WT by purchasing the remaining share capital – henceforth WT was a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAT. This change also signalled the end of the ‘big’ projects that had been a feature of the company in the post-war period. There would be no more grand schemes on the scale of Bridgend, Sudbrook or Fort William. However, there would still be investment, some of it quite significant, as will be seen, but compared to the frenetic activity of the previous decade, things in general were more subdued.

Starting with business news, the WT (Australia) holding was merged with Associated Pulp & Paper Mills (APPM) in August 1970. A year later, closure of the Hylton Mill was announced. This was followed in 1972 by the opening of a new stationery factory at Dyce, near Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen, after which the Union Works site was closed. Next, in 1974, the remaining 50% interest in Virginal was purchased from Mead, and the new PM3 in this mill was commissioned. Finally, in 1978, BAT acquired the Appleton Papers Division of NCR in the USA, and an emulsion plant in Germany.

Turning now to the smaller scale investment in machinery, in 1970 plans for a third paper machine, the biggest of its kind in the world, were unveiled at Chartham; PM3 eventually came on line in 1972. 1971 saw an investment at Treforest, with a new coater, and a new paper machine with on-line CF coater (called Phoenix) was installed at Ely. A year later another new MG machine named Jupiter was installed at Bridgend, as was a new extruder at Glory Mill, and the Belgian enterprise was also fostered, with a new coater at Nivelles. With the new paper machine at Virginal, carbonless paper was very much in the ascendancy. Stoneywood received money first to lay down a new machine (PM10) which replaced PM6, then to upgrade the only twin-wire machine in the group, PM9. Tribeni got their third paper machine in 1978 and, finally PM6 at Dartford Mill, which had already been transferred to making carbonless base in addition to find paper grades, had an in-line coater installed in 1979 to allow manufacture of CF.

Extract from Gatefold, Issue 93, June 2014

A Brief History of Wiggins Teape UK Manufactories

Part 5: BAT: Decline and De-merger 1980-1990

By Davan Chamberlain

The new decade started with the sale of the 25% holding in British Tissues Ltd; Bridgend and Oughtibridge then transferred out of the group. Next the pulp mill at Fort William was closed, leaving the single paper machine reliant on imported pulp. The only bright point in this year was the purchase of a small speciality mill that produced a highly unusual grade of carbonless paper (Action) in Subiaco, Italy.

In 1981, the Cassio Photographic Paper Co Ltd, which coated base paper from Glory Mill and Baryta, closed. This signalled the start of a very difficult period for the company and over the next few years closure followed closure. In 1982, sale of the interest in APPM Ltd, Australia, resulted in Shoalhaven Mill transferring out of the group, while 1983 saw New Bury and Dartford Greaseproof Mills shut, and Treforest followed in 1984. Also, in this year, the Brazilian mill Paper Pirahy was transferred to another BAT subsidiary in Brazil.

Following these several years of contraction, 1985 saw a surprise investment abroad, with purchase of a 43% stake in a copy paper producer in Portugal, Soporcel*, and two years later, acquisition of a Spanish pulp producer, Ceasa. However, 1987 also saw the sale of three of the older WT mills when Hele went to J Bibby and Glory and Chartham to James River Corporation.

The general pattern of mill closures was mirrored at the machinery level, in what was an incredibly difficult decade for the company. Things starters well, when in 1981, coating plant was transferred from the Cassio works to Glory Mill and Pirahy obtained a new super-calender and investment into their paper machines. Then, in 1982, the closure was announced of two machines at Dartford, and a year later a coater was closed at Treforest, because a second emulsion coater was installed at Ely Mill. At the end of 1984 the Phoenix paper machine at Ely shut, followed by the parchmentiser a year later, after which the Cardiff Mill became focused solely on carbonless base production. One late bright point was the installation of an on-line coater at Fort William, enhancing its capability to make both base and coated products in the same was as happened at Dartford a decade earlier.To cap the end of a difficult decade, in 1989 BAT was subject to a hostile takeover bid from Sir James Goldsmith’s Hoylake company, who looked to asset strip the multi-national conglomerate. BAT fought the bid successfully, but then decided to concentrate on core products. This meant demerging those businesses not necessary for their core speciality - tobacco growth and cigarette manufacture. Wiggins Teape, a subsidiary of BAT Investments, and Appleton Papers, a subsidiary of BAT US, were merged to form a new company, Wiggins Teape Appleton, which signalled the end of the manufacturing history of Wiggins Teape.

* Postscript re Part 5 by David Craigen, taken from Gatefold, Issue 94, September 2014

“Pulp Fiction”?

A doubtless pedantic reaction to a reference in the recent “History of Wiggins Teape” by Davan Chamberlain in the June issue of Gatefold, but as I had a minor involvement with the Iberian venture into pulp production during the latter half of the 1980s, I felt the need to just gently correct Mr Chamberlain’s excellent resumé, and fill in one or two gaps.

He said “1985 saw a surprise investment abroad, with purchase of a 43% stake in a copy paper producer in Portugal, Soporcel”.

First point: the original WT investment was in Soporcel’s wood pulp plant (not copy paper) in Figuera da Foz, midway between Lisbon and Oporto, on the Atlantic coast. The background to the decision to build the plant was fascinating, and I expect not widely known. My understanding is that the intention originally had been for the Portuguese to build a pulp mill in its Angolan territory in the early 1970s. All the main pieces of the plant had been ordered and were sitting on wharves, ready to be shipped, when in 1974 the military coup (known as the Carnation Revolution) in Portugal overthrew the dictatorship and led to the decolonisation and withdrawal from its African territories, including Angola. So suddenly the pulp mill had no home to go to! The crates with the kit sat awaiting their fate in various parts of the world. After four years (!) of deliberation, the decision was eventually made to site the new mill in Portugal, with the longer term grand plan to make it an integrated factory by constructing a paper mill on the end of the new pulpline.

Agro-forestry was an essential part of the comprehensive investment vision, and so eucalyptus plantations started to appear in Iberia, thus assuring local raw material supply. Now the Portuguese Government wanted an industrial partner with expertise in papermaking, in order to support the overall strategy. Enter Wiggins Teape…..

Second point: the deal was struck in 1984, not 1985. In 1984 the negotiations accelerated (the then Group Company Secretary, Robin Davies, and I spent 7 weeks in Lisbon trudging the corridors of various Government departments and banks to this end) and finally a deal was signed for a Joint Venture between the Portuguese Government, the numerous finance institutions and WT (with a 43% share). My memories from that era are dominated by the need to create repeated forward financial forecasts, built on the discouraging prevailing economic conditions, specifically annual inflation rates of 25% and interest rates of 15% (or was it the other way around?!...) anyway, not exactly propitious.

Once the investment was in place, my day-to-day involvement with Soporcel fell away, but the pulp mill start-up was impressively successful and went into swift and profitable production, despite the testing market conditions. Subsequently, the paper mill part of the plan came to fruition, with WT taking the lead role in this part of the development, key senior names including Alex Halliday and John Goodall, who resided in Figuera da Foz during the construction period. The inauguration of the new integrated mill (86.6 metres wide, as far as I recall) in 1991 was to much acclaim and the plant was considered the state-of-the-art example of European copy paper production. So why did WT pull out of such a flagship site in Europe? Again, I was not involved in this strategic decision, but it brings to mind an old after-dinner story supposedly told by the former CEO of BMW:

“A chicken and a pig were discussing the drudgery of their lives, when suddenly the chicken said to the pig “I know, why don’t we start a Joint Venture making ham omelettes? I can supply the eggs and you can supply the ham.” The pig thought about this idea for a while and then, with some concern, responded: “Yes, but, just a minute, if I’ve got this right, with your proposal …. I end up dead!” To which the hen replied “Well, there you go, that’s the way with Joint Ventures!”

posted 11th March 2019

Chorley Mill:

Chorley was one of Wiggins Teape’s original three mills, together with Glory and Dover, on which the reputation of Fine Papermakers was founded. It was a happy place to work. There was a strong sense of security when you worked at the mill. It was not a case of one member of the family working there but the whole family could eventually be employed. Children leaving school reported to the Mill Manager and a job was automatically found for them. Children of 12 were found part-time jobs, if their parents wished.

As the village cottages had no bathrooms, the mill provided bath nights on Thursdays and Fridays, with a charge of 3d payable to the man in charge of the coal boiler.

If mill employees attended church services on special days, they were sometimes given a bonus, maybe event a half a day’s pay, much to the chagrin on those who didn’t attend.

The 1st of May was a special celebration when those in charge of horses and carts made sure their carriages were spick and span and their horses well groomed ready to take colleagues on a tour of 5/6 miles in the locality of the mill. A hat was passed around and the carters received a tip, which was spent on strong ale at three or four public houses along the route. It’s not clear if the carters brought back the horses and carts or vice versa!

The company’s oldest photograph is a photo of the Chorley Group from 1850. Note the impressive ‘mutton chop’ beards.

posted 11th March 2019

Glory Mill Skirt Dancers:

In 1904 the staff of Glory Mill took part in their annual social event – a trip to the seaside. Weston-Super-Mare was chosen and a free train ticket was given to all.

It was reported “When Bristol was reached, a stop of some minutes was made and some of the young ladies from the rag sorting department made use of this opportunity to get out onto the platform and very ably executed some skirt dances to the delight of all onlookers.

In fact, so enchanting was the dancing – or the dancers – that several members of staff were missed from their places in the special saloon afterwards!”.

(ref: ‘a skirt dance is a form of dance popular in Europe and America, particularly in burlesque and vaudeville theatre of the 1890s, in which women dancers would manipulate long, layered skirts with their arms to create a motion of flowing fabric).

posted 20th February 2019

Editor’s note: To put the following article in context, it first appeared in the June 2009 edition of the quarterly pensioners’ magazine called Gatefold, and was written by the late Joe Tate. Joe was a popular engineer who worked for virtually all of his career with WT, starting in 1948, and rising through the ranks (including General Manager of Dartford Mill) to the heady position of Group Director of Production and Engineering. He died in 2014.

Dartford Paper Mills: Tribute by Joe Tate

The closure in April of Dartford No. 6 paper machine not only marks the end of papermaking on the site but it also ends 420 years of fine papermaking in Dartford.

It was one John Spilman, a German from Landau, who started papermaking in the town. He was a jeweller and goldsmith to Queen Elizabeth 1st and in 1588 the Queen leased to Spilman for 24 years two water mills on the river Darent, which Spilman converted for the making of fine paper.

Until this time white paper had not been made in England and the Queen not only gave to Spilman the sole right to manufacture white paper in England, but also the right to be the only collector of the raw materials (rags etc) in the kingdom. Prior to this time white paper had only been made on the continent and rags and other raw materials had been exported from England for the purpose.

Spilman now found himself in the happy position of the sole rights to fine paper manufacture, the site to do it, the materials to use and a ready market only 18 miles away in London. Furthermore, the export of rags etc for papermaking was prohibited at the same time.

Spilman's monopoly ran beyond the reign of Elizabeth, who died in 1603, and James 1st visited Spilman's mill in 1605 and dubbed him Knight Bachelor.

Whilst Sir John Spilman lost his monopoly after 1611, he was granted the licence to be the sole manufacturer of playing cards in 1617, the invention of which was credited to him. Indeed he was allowed to seal the cards with the arms of the Crown of England and stamp them with the initials 'JS' to prevent counterfeits.

The site of Dartford Paper Mills was first started in 1862 when a mill with two 80 inch fourdrinier paper machines was installed at the 'Dartford Creek Paper Mills' producing 35 tons a week of printing and writing papers. Much of the equipment was produced at Hall and Son subsequently to become J and E Hall, the engineering company next door. Incidentally, it is thought that Halls produced the original fourdrinier paper former to be made in the British Isles.

The mill must have run into financial difficulties in a short time as it was sold by the mortgagees in 1867 to the Kennet Paper Company, who sold it to the Daily Telegraph in 1869. They made their newsprint there and expanded the mill over the years to 5 paper machines.

With the development of large newsprint manufacturers in Newfoundland and elsewhere such small machines became unprofitable and the mill was sold to the Inveresk Group in 1929; the latter then sold it on to Wiggins Teape in 1931. It was a very fine site for manufacturing paper as it had large unused areas at both ends of the mill with plenty of room for expansion. lt sat alongside the Dartford creek which provided the highway for coal, pulp and clay supplies. lt also had good wells on site giving ample water supplies and the creek into which to dump the effluent!!

Wiggins had the idea of building the first British Greaseproof Paper Mill on the site and this was completed in 1933 together with a state-of-the-art power station and complete electrification of the existing mill. Dartford Mill became world famous for its Banks and Bonds - commercial stationery which was produced in 21 colours!

Many grades of specialised wrapping papers were also made including bread wrap, biscuit wrap, imitation cork tipping for cigarettes and tabulating card - the medium used for data processing before computers took over.

No.6 Machine, built in 1958, was required in order to meet the demand for Dartford Banks and Bonds, which were then being made for WT in several competitive mills in the UK in order to meet the extended order book. This 180-inch machine was designed also to produce toilet tissue and bread wrap and had two major rebuilds during its 50-year life, finally producing coated carbonless paper. In the mid-60s it was the first fine paper machine in Britain to become computer controlled.

During the 1960s the mill was becoming strained with its independent power and steam supply and the coal fired plant was replaced with an oil-fired high-pressure boiler and Stal radial steam turbine. lt then became one of the first mills to have a link with the National Grid and to be able to export electricity to the public supply network.

Meanwhile, greaseproof paper became unprofitable because of Scandinavian competition and post war the Greaseproof Mill was developed to make Glassine exclusively (a glazed, translucent form of greaseproof material for crisp bags, cereal inner liners, chocolate and sweet wraps).

Many of the 2 mills' products for food wrapping became redundant as a result of the food industry's move to plastic film wraps, but as all these are based on oil, one wonders whether they may yet return, as wood pulp is from a renewable source as well as being recyclable.

Footnote: Did you know that the name Spilman (or Spielman) means Jester in German, dating back to the High Middle Ages. John chose a "fool's cap" as his watermark and Foolscap became a recognised size of paper.