Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Buckland Paper Mill

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Buckland Mill in the 1960s
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Image: Buckland Mill in the late 1940s.
Buckland Mill in the late 1940s.

About the year 1777, a man called Ingram Horne took over or established a paper mill at Buckland. Within the next 20 years the mill was burnt down and rebuilt, and Edward Hasted, writing in 1790, reported that the mill had been recently much enlarged. The mill had a number of different owners until 1846, when it was closed down.

In 1849, Charles Ashdown bought and re-opened the mill. With his two sons, Charles and Henry, he carried on the business until September 1879, when ownership passed to a partnership of Charles Ashdown Jnr and Henry Hobday. The new partners greatly improved the machinery but in September 1887, the mill was totally destroyed by fire. The rebuilding that followed altered the character of the mill greatly. The early days of the mill were on a comparatively small scale, and prior 1879 the output never exceeded two tons per week but within a year of the fire the mill was producing twelve tons per week.

To help the mill get back on its feet after the fire, Henry Hobday secured the order to make ‘Conqueror’, watermarked business stationery, from London paper merchants Wiggins Teape, in 1888. ‘Conqueror’ was an immediate success, being perceived as much superior to existing business stationery. So, to ensure continuity of supply, Wiggins Teape bought Buckland Mill in 1890. Henry Hobday became the manager of the factory.

Almost immediately the new owners started to invest in the mill’s expansion. No.2 paper machine, capable of making paper up to 70 inches wide, was installed in 1893 and increased weekly capacity to around 40 tons. By 1895 the mill’s annual output was 800 tons and rose steadily to 2,300 tons in 1910. The demand for ‘Conqueror’ papers was increasing and in 1910 No.3 machine was built, bringing production up to around 70 tons per week. 90 years later No3 machine was producing paper at the rate of over 2 tons per hour.


Image: Buckland Mill c.1770.
Buckland Mill c.1770.
Image: Buckland Mill c.1910.
Buckland Mill c.1910.


Between the two World Wars was a period of consolidation and improvement, No. 2 machine was rebuilt and the mill was completely electrified. In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, an RAF Spitfire crashed into the roof of no. 3 Machine House causing considerable damage. This, and the ever present danger from shelling, forced the temporary closure of the mill until 1945.

After the Second World War, the demand for ‘Conqueror’ paper remained high and the investment in Buckland Mill continued. Click here for a picture of the mill in the 1960s. By the time the mill celebrated the 100th Anniversary of ‘Conqueror’ in 1988, the mill’s two fine paper machines had a capacity of over 20,000 tonnes per year and operated 24 hours a day seven days a week. 10 years later, the story was different, Arjo Wiggins Appleton announced that the mill was to cease continuous operation and move to semi-continuous running, with the loss 46 jobs from the workforce of 196. The company blamed a number of external factors including the strong pound, weakening of orders in the UK and the economic crisis in the Far East. In June 1999 the company gave one years notice of closure, stating that a business analysis of production requirements showed over capacity and that there was no alternative. On 30th June 2000 Buckland Mill finally closed with the loss of the remaining 109 jobs, some employees having already been made redundant in March 2000.


Image: Buckland Mill 23rd March 2003
Image: Buckland Mill 23rd March 2003
Image: Buckland Mill 23rd March 2003
Image: Buckland Mill 23rd March 2003

The site was cleared for redevelopment and above are some photographs of the site taken on 23rd March 2003. In November 2004 it was announced in the local press that the contract for the redevelopment had been awarded. The redevelopment which will include both residential and business use has yet to start (March 2010).


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