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Prior to the invention of the papermaking machine in the late-eighteenth century, all paper was manufactured by hand using relatively unchanged processes and techniques that originated in China more than 2000 years ago. Machines led to the closure of hundreds of handmade paper mills in the United Kingdom alone, but a few mills continued making paper by hand and against economic logic not only survived but flourished. The Green family’s Hayle Mill in Maidstone, Kent, is one English mill that defied all the odds and continued to produce paper by hand, sheet by sheet, until production ceased in 1987. That it outlasted its competitors at a time of rapid industrial change and how it survived decades of political upheaval, economic collapse, and successive wars makes for a fascinating story.
Chronicling six generations of the Green family of papermakers, who faced bankruptcy, amongst other trials and tribulations, before making a success of their business, this book also covers the history of British papermaking, the growth of the industry in and around Maidstone, once referred to as the country’s “Paper City,” as well as nineteenth-century production materials and techniques. Other subjects include the impact of the Crimean War and the call for unimaginable amounts of ammunition (cartridge) paper, the repeal of the “Tax on Knowledge,” the exploitation of alternative fibers, such as straw and esparto grass, and the complicated security requirements of currency papers.
As the nineteenth century drew to a close, a renewed interest in hand-crafted artifacts resulted in a growth in the market for artists papers made in the traditional manner. By the end of the First World War, the production of artists papers comprised 25% of Hayle Mill’s business. Over the twentieth century, Hayle Mill steadily gained a reputation for its range of fine handmade papers for use by watercolorists, fine printers, calligraphers, and book and paper conservators.
This book is based on Maureen Green’s doctoral dissertation “Hayle Mill: How a Small Papermaking Company Thrived in the Nineteenth Century Using Traditional Techniques which Were Being Superseded by New Technology in the Mainstream Paper Industry,” which in 2013 won the coveted Hasted Prize awarded by the Kent Archaeological Society.
292 pages • 44 images • hardcover • 10 x 7 • 2018
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