Papermaking at Tuckenhay Mill

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Past - Growth

Reference: One of Devon's Industrial Hamlets - Tuckenhay by Richard Evans (1969)

The present mill survived these early troubles and we find substantial rebuilding or perhaps completely new extensions took place in 1889. A stone in this new part records the letters 'HS' and the date. This would seem to indicate that Henry Symons was now the person responsible for the mill though White's 1890 directory showed 'Turner, Symons & Co' as 'Paper manufacturers at Tuckenhay Mill'. At all events the mill must have been prosperous at this time to support such a vast extension. A study of the building stone and the use of bricks around the windows and doors is evidence enough that the greater part of the present mill dates from this extension, though some parts of the older buildings, to which the extension joins, are still in use. The Totnes Times and Devon News of 9th February 1889 carried the following advertisment:

"Wanted immediately, a good general servant - Apply Mrs Henry Symons, Springbank, Tuckenhay."

The mill extension is crowned by a clock made by William Brokedon, a well known Totnes painter and designer. The clock had been used in the Totnes Parish Church until 1887. Although still to be seen here at Tuckenhay, it has unfortunately not been working for several years now.

At this time the mill was producing its own gas with which to light the mill. The 25" ordnance survey map of 'Southern Totnes Division' surveyed 1885 revised 1904 clearly shows the Gasometer on the site. This form of lighting was dispensed with in the early 1900s when the mill began to produce its own electricity. The gasometer has long since been removed and all that now remains are a few fittings around the mill and the ruins of the stone building inside which the gas was made.

Three years after the completion of this extension Henry Symons was trying to run his mill without the services of certified and properly trained papermakers. Not surprisingly he ran into trouble. The Original Society of Papermakers, formed to replace the old Guild in 1800, were jealous of their craft and worked hard to see that this mill should continue to employ their skilled men. The fight to bring Tuckenhay Mill back into the the fold caused trouble within the trade as a whole, and the committee, though successful in their fight, were obliged to resign.

However several members of the Society, did move to take up employment at Tuckenhay Mill. The OSP minutes of the 7th May 1898 gives the names of some of the men who were granted loans to assist their removals:

F. Martin ............... £2

G. Ware ................. £2

G. A. Nicholls ....... £4

J.A.B. Johnson .... £15

C. J. Phipps .......... £12

F. A. Young ......... £12

P. Aiston .............. £12

F. Cox ..................... £5

Jas Bourne .............. £2

The descendents of some of these men are still found in the valley, though not necessarily in the trade. Young David Phipps farms at Bow Mills. The Aistons provided one of the Mill foremen and the Cox family are still to be found at the mill.

The intake of new papermakers continued in the early 1900s with the:

Elstones from North Wales

Smiths from Wookey Hole

Lovelands from Kent

Lynns from Carlshalton

Godwins from North Wales

and many others.

This influx raised the need for more houses. Orchard Terrace added eight houses to the hamlet by 1900 and numbers 9 and 10 were completed after the 1914-18 war.

In 1916 the craftsmen of the vathouse withdrew their labour for a fortnight in their effort to gain improved wages and conditions. The other workers in the mill were not satisfied with their lot either, for we fmd in the Devon Times Guardian of 5th September, 1969, the following reminiscence:-

"50 years ago - Pay Increase at Tuckenhay."

"At the Tuckenhay Papermills an increase of wages has been obtained by the Workers' Union for their members, making ½ d per hour for labourers, ½ d for mechanics, 5/- per week for women and an increase all round for other employees".

By this time the mill was in the hands of Arthur Millbourn and Co. Ltd. and was reasonably successful, specialising in "Best hand-made writings, drawings and ledger papers, loans, bank-notes, cheque papers, old style hand-made printings, vellum parchment for deeds and deckle edged note and envelope papers". Although specialising in hand made paper, a machine had been in use here before this time in addition to the vats, but had disappeared by 1910. New vats were installed in 1910 and five vats were in operation then. The boom years after the first world war led to the addition of a further three vats. Eight were now running, producing a lot of paper for export as well as the home market. There was a demand for bank note paper from such countries as: Siam, Jamaica, Seychelles and Cyprus amongst others. Other notable orders included Double Cap for the Cape Times and ledger papers for the gold mining companies of Tanganyika. It is claimed that the paper used by King George VI to mount his stamp collection, was made here.