John Dickinson - Papermakers

    The family tree of John Dickinson, b 1782, the founder of the firm has been traced back at least two generations to Captain John who married Alice Quin. They had four children the youngest of which, Thomas, was also a seafaring captain. He and his wife, Frances de Brissac had 10 children, the eldest was John, the firm's founder. Curiously John's third sister, Anne married Rev'd Arthur Benoni Evans and it was their second son who came into the firm when he married Harriet Ann, principal John's youngest child, a marriage of cousins. Thereafter the principal was an Evans!

    John Dickinson started to manufacture paper in 1804 for a stationery business. It was the beginning of the Dickinsons paper empire. In 1806 at the age of 24 he devised a hand made writing paper and subsequently built paper mills at Apsley and Nash Mills. The ultimate development was to replace the hand made batch process by a continuous one. The opportunity came when Fourdrinier went bankrupt in 1806. Buying two machines Dickinson experimented with them in order to produce paper continuously. Success came and some of the slides shown demonstrate aspects of the talk.


    Initially to make good paper rags were required and a continuous supply of water from a good chalk stream or from a well into the chalk, both possible in the Chilterns. In the next part of the process the rags are shredded and ground into a watery pulp. The continuously stirred pulp is then spread over a wire mesh and shaken carefully, the water drains off leaving a soft matt of wet paper. The drained paper is separated from the mesh and hung up to dry.


    The Fourdrinier process converted the hand making process into a continuous machine operation aspects of which were shown. Other developments included the use of wood pulp instead or as well as rags, and later, esparto grass. The latter was a considerable cause of trouble because of the use of excessive amounts of alkali and chlorine bleach which when the residual liquor was run off polluted the receiving waters badly.


    We were treated to a view of the continuous processing machinery as it was when used by the speaker.