Taverham Mill
River Wensum


c.1890
c.1890


Taverham Mill was in Domesday with the village being listed as Taursham. It started life as a corn mill and later went on to grind bone for fertiliser and furze for animal fodder. For a time it was also a sawmill but it is best known as a paper mill. The earliest record of paper manufacture at Taverham was in 1701, when a leading printer in Norwich, Francis Burgess, published a pamphlet entitled Some observations on the Use and Origin of the Noble Art and Mystery of Printing. In it he stated that "Paper for printing may be bought cheap at the paper-mills at Tabram within 4 miles of Norwich."

At that time it was quite usual for small local mills to switch from grinding various varieties of grain and feed to paper pulp and vice-versa but Taverham stayed with paper for the last 200 years of its working life.


Oil painting by Alfred Priest 1836
Oil painting by Alfred Priest 1836

c.1905
c.1905

Maid of Taverham Mill

In the earlier of its paper making days, Taverham helped to break the near monopoly held by the White Paper Maker's Co., which tried to put through an Act of Parliament to stop the use of white rags to make brown paper in order to keep the price down.

Rags were collected by women in the Taverham district and brought to the mill to be stripped into shreds. The material was then soaked, cleaned and left to ferment to different colours. This process was then accelerated by the addition of lime obtained from the pit in Costessey Lane. It was then mechanically pummelled by hammers driven by cams operated by the waterwheel. The resulting pulp was then run off into large flat screens and trays to settle, dry and be pressed.


c.1910
c.1910

Early in the 19th century there were two separate plants, one for making brown paper and the other white. It also had its own plant for making the oil gas which it used for lighting the works, which usually ran night and day. The total area covered by the buildings was over 4 acres.

In the latter half of the 19th century the mill had 3 waterwheels, one of which was described as being 15 feet in diameter, 25 feet wide and capable of producing 40h.p. These wheels worked with 11 steam engines to produce about 25 tons of paper per day employing 150 workers, the majority being women but it was only men that staffed the night shift. Rags were collected from the surrounding area and brought the mill where women removed all the buttons and hooks and then stripped the rags into into shreds. Water came from the river and lime came from the pits in Costessey Lane. The finished paper was then taken by cart or lorry to Norwich railway station.


1907 Post Card
1907 Post Card

Taverham produced good quantities of high quality paper, which is the main reason it survived for so long.

Taverham paper was used for the 1st revised edition of the Bible, the Oxford Dictionary, bank notes produced by the Bank of England along with several daily newspapers, including The Times, with Taverham producing as much as 50% of its requirements.


Lyng and Taverham Paper Mills

The Partnership of HAMERTON and ANSTED expired on the tenth Day of October last, they therefore take this Opportunity of resuming their joint Thanks to their Friends for the Favours conferred on them, and beg Leave to inform them, that the Trade of the above Mills will in future be carried on for their separate Accounts by John HAMERTON, at Lyng, and John ANSTED and Son, at Taverham, where the Favours of their Friends will be very thankfully received. -- Any Person who has any Demand on the said Partnership Account are desired to send in their Bills, that they may be discharged.  They have by them a regular Assortment of every Kind of Paper (that is to say) Writing and Printing Imperial, Writing and Printing Royal, Writing and Printing Medium, Writing and Printing Demy, Writing and Printing Post, Writing and Printing Copy, Writing and Printing Fools-cap, Writing and Printing Pot, Crowns of every Sort, and every Sort of Packing Paper for the Manufactory, particularly of Atlas, large and small; Elephant, large and small; Royal, large and small; Demy, large and small; Brown and Hand Elephant, Brown and Hand Royal, Shop Paper, Bonnet Paper that will fence Water, and every Article whatsoever in the Paper Trade. The best Price is also continued for fine Rags, and every kind of Paper Stuff.

N.B. To be Lett, and entered upon immediately, or at Lady-day next, a handsome well built House, Brick and Tile, situated in Lyng aforesaid, with Garden and Orchard, well-planted with all Sorts of Fruit Trees; also a four-stalled Stable and six Acres of rich Pasture Land thereunto belonging, and Right of Commonage on two very extensive Commons. Lyng is a small pleasant village and in a very good Neighbourhood, five Miles from East Dereham; four from Reepham, and eleven from the City of Norwich. The said House is very convenient for  a small Gentleman's Family, or for a Gentleman who is fond of sporting, being an exceeding good Country for Game of all Kinds. - A Pack of Hounds are kept within two Miles of the Said House. -- For Rent and further Particulars enquire of John HAMERTON, at Lyng Paper Mills.

Norfolk Chronicle - 1st February 1783

In 1809 one of the first Fourdrinier paper making machines was installed at the mill. Previously paper had been made by hand in single sheets wheras the new machine produced a continuous web of paper, a process still in use today.


In 1830 the Fourdrinier machine was badly damaged in one of the Captain Swing machine breaking riots. For his part in the riot, Robert West, a gardener, was transported to New South Wales, where he died in 1837.


Taverham Mill papermakers - from Taverham Parish Register

9th May 1813: James Bourns & wife Catherine - son Frederick baptised

25th December 1813: James Cummins & wife Elizabeth late Wakefield who married 23 Oct 1809 in
Taverham - daughter Ellen baptised

25th February 1816: James Cummins & wife Elizabeth - daughter Sophia baptised

30th Marsh 1817: James Kennedy, married to Maria late Bayliss - son William baptised

18th January 1818: Richard Clarke married to Mary late Skipper - son Charles baptised

16th August 1818: James Cummins & wife Elizabeth - son James baptised

8th February 1829: Richard Clarke married to Elizabeth - son Levi baptised

8th January 1832: Richard Clarke married to Elizabeth - daughter Sarah Jan baptised

23rd November 1834: Richard Clarke married to Elizabeth - daughter Rose Avis baptised (died later?)

26th February 1837: Richard Clarke married to Elizabeth - daughter Rose Avis baptised

13th February 1820: Robert Page married to Marianne late Porter of Costessey - son Thomas baptised

6th March 1825: James Mould married to Mary Anne late Beckham, - son William Frederick baptised

11th December 1825: George Burgess, who married Hannah Hewitt 11 March 1823 - son John baptised


23rd March 1828: George Burgess, married to Hannah Hewitt - daughter Ann Lavinia baptised

15th April 1832: George Burgess, married to Hannah Hewitt
- daughter Elizabeth baptised

27th August 1820: Charles Burgess, Clerk to the Mills, married to Hannah late Hastings - daughter Caroline baptised

29th August 1822: Charles Burgess, papermaker, married to Hannah - daughter Elizabeth baptised

16th January 1825: Charles Burgess, papermaker, married to Hannah - daughter Christiana Eve baptised

20th August 1826: Mentor Browne married to Mary Ann late Lovick - son Lewis Anstead baptised

19th August 1827: Charles Burgess, papermaker, married to Hannah - daughter Agnes Mary baptised

27th June 1828: Mentor Browne married to Mary Ann - son Lovick Anstead baptised

7th March 1830: Charles Burgess, papermaker, married to Hannah - son John Ball baptised


A melancholy accident happened at Taverham Paper Mill, on Wednesday morning last, by the falling in of the floor of a rag loft.  There were at the time sixteen persons at work in the room underneath cutting and weighing rags, and it was at first feared that many of them had perished, and it was soon found that a man (the overseer) and a woman had been killed, the remainder of the persons were taken from the ruins, and had providentially received no serious injury.  A Coroner's Inquest was held on the bodies of the deceased man and woman, when a verdict of Accidental Death was returned.
Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 18th May 1839

Thomas Skipper was on Monday last brought before Saml. Bignold, Esq. on the charge of stealing a brass cock or syphon, weighing 160 lbs. the property of Messrs. Robberds and Day, paper manufacturers, at Taverham in this county, in whose employ the prisoner has lately been at Lyng.  He was apprehended in London, by Sergeant Peck, A., of the Norwich Police force, and was by Mr. Bignold remanded for further examination.
Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 29th June 1839

Thomas Skipper, aged 28, was convicted of having, in the month of Oct. last, stolen from a cottage at Taverham, one metal cock and plug, the property of Henry Robberds and Star??ing Day. - The prisoner was found guilty and was sentenced to 7 years' transportation. 
Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 6th July 1839

Thomas (my g-g-g-grandfather) was captured following an advertisement in the Police Gazette on 1st April 1839 and sent to the Prison Hulk York at Gosport where he served four of his seven years.  
Although not named in the newspaper report, the man killed was Richard Clarke, whose name appears several times in the Parish Register (above) on your site.  The manner of his death is mentioned in a petition document requesting Thomas's early release from prison.
Clare Daley - 20th January 2008

Petition to obtain the freedom of Thomas Skipper - 1841

Taverham. - This quiet sequestered village has been for some time past in a very depressed state in consequence of the stoppage of the Paper Mills. We understand that Mr. Bligh, of Ipswich, has taken the mills, and that in this rural retreat the hum of busy industry will soon again be heard. Mr._Thorold, of this city, has engaged to remove the whole of the old works for the assignees. The new proprietor intends to fill the building with entirely new apparatus and machinery of the most improved kind, and he expects to manufacture some kinds of paper much cheaper than they can be produced at present. From the practical knowledge of the business possessed by Mr. Bligh, there is every prospect that these mills will in future be worked with more success than they have hitherto been.
Norfolk Chronicle - 30th April 1842

William Thorold, millwright, engineer and founder refitted the mill and the old machinery was later sold.

WATER WHEEL and Steam Boiler
TO BE SOLD CHEAP.
Enquire of Mr. Thorold, Foundry Bridge.
Norfolk Chronicle - 29th October 1842

To Paper Makers
Steam Boiler, eight horse power, Force Pump, with Pipes and Apparatus, Water Pump, Iron Pipes, Water Wheel, Head Frame, Gate Tackle, Bars of Foreign Iron, Pit Wheel and Pinions, Iron Screws and Presses, Indigo Mill. Donkin's Patent Paper Machine, with Rollers, Rule Carriages and Apparatus, removed from the Paper Mills, at Taverham.
Mr. SPELMAN
Respectfully informs the Public, he is Instructed to
SELL by PUBLIC AUCTION,
On Wednesday, the 5th of April, 1843,
At the Foundry Bridge Wharf, and Jay's Wharf, St. Margaret's, Norwich.
THE FOLLOWING VALUABLE
MACHINERY,
AT THE FOUNDRY WHARF
Beginning at Eleven o'clock,
A Capital STEAM ENGINE, eight horse power, Force Pump with pipes and apparatus, Steam Cage, two Safety Valves, Steam Pipe and Cock, Iron Pipes and Brass Cocks, eight Iron Screws with nuts and plates, Machine Water Wheel, nine feet nine inches diameter, Water Wheel Shafts, two Plimmer Blocks and Brasses, splendid Iron Press, with Iron Screw of very great Power, Pit Wheel, in two parts, new Pit Wheel and Pinions, two Spur Wheels, an Indigo Mill complete, quantity of Foreign Iron, and a variety of Screws, Bolts, Water Pump and Pipes, &c. &c.
Immediately after the Sale of the above will be Sold
AT JAY'S WHARF, ST. MARGARET'S,
Donkin's Patent Paper Machine, with all the rollers and apparatus thereto belonging, two large Felts, Brass and Iron Rollers, a large Vat lined with lead, brass cock, &c. with sundry parts of Machinery, &c. &c.
Further particulars may be had on applying at Mr. Spelman's Offices, St. Giles' Street, Norwich.

Norfolk Chronicle - 1st April 1843

In 1846 the mill was taken over by Messrs. Delane Magnay & Co. and then in 1890 by Mr. & Mrs. John Walter.


Taverham Mill Suicide

St. Ann's Iron Works, King St. Norwich,
June ..th 1858.
Messrs. Delane, Magnay & Co.
Gentlemen,
I will undertake to deliver & fix on your Works at Taverham one Gas Holder, 13ft. Diameter, 8ft. Deep. made from sheet iron of 14 Gauge with all necessary stays and angle iron.
Cast iron Tank 14ft, Dia., 8ft. deep, ½. thick with columns, Chain pulleys, counterbalance weights with inlet & outlet pipes. The whole to be completed to your satisfaction for the Sum of one hundred & twenty pounds. £120.
I remain,
Yr. Obedt. Servant,
Thos. Smithdale.
P. S. Sir, I think you mentioned to have the New Gas Holder 1ft. longer than the old one which you will perceive I have given in the Sketch forward with the first tender.

St. Ann's Iron Works, King St. Norwich,
Aug 11th 1858.
Messrs Delane, Magnay & Co.
Gentlemen,
I will undertake to complete and Deliver one Bolt Screwing Machine to turn from 3/8in. to 1¼ inches Diameter, with 8 Taps, 8 pair Dies, Nut, Tap & Die holder, Driving Apparatus with reversing Motion & Master Taps & turn key for the Sum of Fifty five Pounds.
£55. 0. 0.
Trusting you will favour me with your order,
I remain,
Your Obedient Servant,
Thos. Smithdale.

St. Ann's Iron Works,
King Street, Norwich, 5 April 1864.

Messrs. Delane, Magnay, & Co.,
Gentlemen, Agreeable to your request I beg to hand you price for one Cast Iron Engine as per plan produced (without the Knives and Washing Bundle) will be eighty five pounds delivered at Norwich.
£85. -. -.
Waiting your reply,
I have the honor to be,
Gentlemen,
Your Obt. Servt,
Thos. Smithdale.

King Street, Norwich,
June 10th 1865.

Messrs. Delane, Magnay & Co,
Gentlemen,
Agreeably to your request I beg to say that I have carefully gone through the matter relative to the cost of the Hydraulic Hoist and find it will be about £70 with Pump and driving Wheel fixed.
£70. 0. 0.
I remain, Gentn.
Your Obedt. Servt,
Thomas Smithdale.

With the growth of population following the industrial revolution it was realised that logistically, Taverham was not ideal for paper manufacturing. In the days of horse drawn traffic, mills were dotted all over the country so that no long journey was required to the nearest town, printer or customer. With the coming of the railways everything changed and more centralised mills were established beside railway lines.

The vast increase in paper consumption during the 19th century meant that in order to compete, it would be be necessary to install expensive, sophisticated and faster machinery. Transport costs were also rising, both for outgoing products and incoming raw materials, especially the coal used by the steam engines and the heating units.

J. H. Walter & Co were only tenants of the Taverham Hall Estate and it was doubtful that the landlord would sanction further expansion and industrialisation of the village.


c.1924
c.1924

Ordnance Survey Map c.1884-1891
Ordnance Survey Map c.1884-1891
Image produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey

Messrs. J. H. Walter & Co., proprietors of Taverham Mills, the last remaining of the old paper mills in Norfolk, have issued a circular stating: "Early in the year we had to submit to a very heavy reduction in the price of paper. We felt that we could only carry on the mills at a serious loss, and the balance sheet, which we have just got out, fully confirms our impression. We have, therefore, decided to shut down as soon as possible.
Norfolk Chronicle - 9th September 1899


30th April 1977 30th April 1977 Marks made by a waterwheel
30th April 1977
30th April 1977 - note marks made by one of the old waterwheels to the right of the lower falls

Wheelrace May 1967 May 1969
Wheelrace May 1967
Wheelmarks and remains of axle (bottom left) May 1969

When it closed in 1899, Taverham Mill was the last of a dozen or more papermills in the county and by far the biggest.


When the mill closed, one of the old scrapped boilers was used at a blacksmiths shop in Drayton.


History of Taverham Mill

Taverham paper-mill, which was later to become the most important mill in the county, probably started life in the closing years of the seventeenth century. The earliest reference to the mill is in a small booklet by Francis Burges, published by way of the justification of his introduction of the craft of printing to Norwich in 1701. Answering the criticism that paper was more expensive in Norwich than in London, Burges stated that 'paper fit for printing' could be obtained from 'Tabram' cheaply. In all probability the paper-maker to whom Burges was referring was William Paultlock who was there until 1711 when his death was announced in the Norwich Gazette of 25th August. The advertisement containing this announcement shows that Paultlock also worked a corn-mill; all persons indebted to him were required to pay their debts to his executor, 'or else they will be sued'.

The succeeding ownership of the mill remains a mystery until 1758 when John Hamerton & Co. the paper-manufacturer at that time is recorded as having an apprentice named John Golden.' Hamerton insured the mill in 1768 and shortly afterwards took a man named John Anstead as his partner in the operation of both the Taverham and the Lyng paper-mills. The partnership expired in 1783
(see newspaper article near top of this page) and the two men parted on friendly terms, Hamerton taking the Lyng mill, and Anstead that at Taverham. A paper-maker named Isaac Brown from Taverham is also known to have died in 1776, he appears to have been illiterate (his will being signed only with a cross); he was perhaps one of the journeymen.

Anstead continued as the proprietor of the mill until 1786, when his furniture, stock and trade (including dairying and brewing utensils, horses, cows wagons carts and ploughs) were advertised to be sold in the Norfolk Chronicle for the 29th April. He was buried at Taverham 14 September 1803, aged 77 (parish register). The next owner of the mill is not known, but it is marked on a map of Norfolk published by Faden in 1797.
The mill attained its fame and importance in the early years of the nineteenth century when it was taken over by a partnership of two Norwich businessmen Francis Noverre and John Gilbert, and the famous Norwich printer Richard Mackenzie Bacon. The three partners invested large sums in the modernisation, and on 1st July 1807 Taverham was one of the first paper-mills in the country to be supplied with the newly patented Fourdrinier paper-making machines.' In this case the machine cost more than £1,000 and served four vats. It worked on the basis of producing a continuous roll of paper on a belt of wire moulds, rather than the old hand-method of producing individual sheets. It was only during the drying process that early machine-made paper was cut into sheets.

Despite the large sums of money invested in Taverham mill the whole project was a disaster and the partnership was dissolved in 1812. The exact reason for the failure is not clear but may have been caused by teething troubles with the early design of the machine.

In 1830 the mill was run by Robert Hawkes & Co., and from around 1836 by the company of Day and Robberds who also operated the mill at Lyng.' In 1845 the manufacturers were Messrs. Blyth and Milbourn, being taken over the following year by Delane Magnay & Co. who also operated the nearby Bawburgh paper-mill. From 1846 until the late 1880s the mill was at its zenith, using eleven steam engines as well as three water-wheels and employing an army of over one hundred workers. Paper was made for the 'Times' newspaper and for the 'Oxford English Dictionary'. From 1890 the mills were again under new ownership, this time by J. H. Walter & Co. who operated until 1899 but were unable to make either mill pay and closed them down.
David Stoker

I lived in Taverham Mill when I was a little boy 41 years ago (1963), the estate was then being used for a chicken batteries business by Mr Shroeder who my father worked for.
Robin Box - 11th January 2005


O.S. Map 2005
O.S. Map 2005
Image reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey

I'm writing a biography of Bryan Donkin, who, as you say, visited the mill in October 1809, and met Richard M. Bacon. I think Simon Wilkin of Costessy put money into the mill when Bacon's partnership with Noverre and Burks failed in 1812, and between the two of them, Wilkin and Bacon lost everything and became bankrupt by 1816.  I think it's unlikely that the first partnership failed because of Donkin's faulty paper-making machine: he'd started developing the machine in 1802 and it worked well. Bacon swindled Donkin out of several hundreds of pounds over their joint venture, a printing machine.
Dr. Maureen Greenland - 1st February 2009


1701: First recorded reference to the mill by Francis Burges

1711: William Paultlock - papermaker died (also corn miller)

1758: John Hamerton & Co. recorded as having John Golden as an apprentice

1768: John Hamerton insured the mill and shortly took John Anstead as a partner - both also ran Lyng mill

22nd June 1768: Hannah Coldham buried - wife of William Coldham, papermaker

1st March 1787: Isaac Brown died - illiterate papermaker from Taverham

8th April 1777: Margaret Daly buried - wife of James Daly, papermaker

1783: Hamerton & Anstead partnership expired - Anstead remained at Taverham and Hamerton at Lyng

1786: John Anstead presumably retired as all his furniture, stock and trade were advertised for sale

March 1787: John Burgess, papermaker, married Elizabeth Anstead by banns

Faden's map 1797: Paper Mill

14th Sept 1803: John Anstead buried in Taverham aged 77

1st July 1807: Partnership of Francis Noverre, John Gilbert Burks & Richard Mackenzie Bacon installed one of the first Fourdrinier paper-making machines in the country

Friday 6th October 1809: Bryan Donkin, engineer, visited the mill in connection with the new Fourdrinier paper making machine. His diary mentions
Jno Blyth, millwright, who has been about the mill for 14 years...

1812: Noverre, Burks & Bacon partnership dissolved

12th January 1817: Sophia Ann Jones baptised - daughter of Thomas Jones, Clerk of the Mills and Mary Ann

Pigot's 1830: Robert Hawkes & Co

c.1830: Mill lease taken over by Henry Robberds and S. Day

White's 1836: Day & Robberds - also at Lyng

December 1841: Henry Robberds and S. Day became bankrupt

1842: Mill taken over by Mr. Blyth of Ipswich and new machinery installed by millwright William Thorold

April 1843: Machinery advertised for sale

White's 1845: Blyth & Milbourn

1847: Mill acquired by the Delane family to make paper for The Times - John Thadeus Delane, editor

Census 1851: Lydia Barnard (19) working at Paper Mills
Charlott Brewster (17) working at Paper Mills
Rachael Bell (21) working at Paper Mills
Edmund Hunt (23) working at Paper Mills
William Hunt (28) working at Paper Mills
Thomas Miller (33) working at Paper Mills
Mary A. Miller (21) working at Paper Mills
Maria Plunkett (19) working at Paper Mills
All living in Felthorpe

White's 1864: Delane Magnay & Co

Kelly's 1883: Delane Magnay & Co

1884: Mill taken over by John H. Walter, cousin of the proprietor of The Times

White's 1890: John Henry Walter (J. H. & Co.); h. Seven Oaks, Old Catton. Also Bawburgh

Kelly's 1892: J. H. Walter & Co

Kelly's 1896: J. H. Walter & Co

1899: Taverham Mill closed

Spring 1957: 15 foot diameter and width wheel removed



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