Papermaking at Tuckenhay Mill

Home * Past * Product * Process * People * Paper Talk * Places * Profession * Pay * Phillpotts * Pictures * Links

the mill * rag house * boiling * beater * vat house * the stroke * drying * finishing * the book

Phillpotts - The Mill

Reference: [4] Storm in a Teacup by Eden Phillpotts (1919) - Chapter IV

A man stood on the crown of a limestone quarry, where it bit into the slope of a green hill. Perched here, three hundred feet above the valley bottom, a varied scene spread round about, but he was only concerned with the other side of the coomb and the great pile of Dene Paper Mill † that stood over against him.

Reference: The Story of Handmade Paper (1924)

Tuckenhay Paper Mill, Devon

On his left opened the creek heavily fringed with trees. Mud banks oozed out upon it and the river channel twinkled in the midst of them. The beholder saw that the sea ascended to this rural scene, bringing its weeds and shells to the little beaches and its birds to the air. From this inlet, the great valley broke and pointed west. It expanded and widened among such rolling green steeps as that upon which the stranger stood, and the heights were capped at the skyline, here by clumps of Scotch fir; here, by spinneys of oak and elm; here, by arable or pasture. Rows of small houses lay among the orchards in the bottom, where a stream wound, and the methodical ordering of those tenements marked a sharp contrast with the irregular and older cottages round them. They were the homes of busy people drawn hither for one purpose, and above them towered the great hive wherein they worked. The Mill spread under a knoll of trees on the hillside and shone out grey and blue against the autumn colour of the hanging woods behind it.

Wide roofs glittered with glass and the northern face rose finely with tier on tier of windows outlined in red brick. Lesser buildings supported the mass to right and left and a clock-tower and weather-vane surmounted the whole. The architectural form, piled without design through the accretion of years, had yet taken a dignified and significant completeness. It was stern and plain, but not ugly and meaningless. Its shape, with outstretched wings and uplifted turret, like a head, suggested a sentient organism that could well fight for itself and protect its interests. It seemed not aggressive, but watchful; no tyrant to destroy, but a potent, receptive and benevolent over-lord of the green valley, which it had indeed modified and awakened, but not robbed of its distinction and beauty.

The building must have been imposing on a plain, but the hills rolling round about tended to dwarf its size by their immense contours. Under some lights indeed the Mill bulked greater than the surrounding scene and to the meditative mind far transcended the inert matter heaved and heaped around it ; but to-day Nature was clad in glory and no building built with hands could compete against her splendour of blue sky, emerald green grass lands and autumn groves of beech and oak. Seen in this brilliant setting Dene Mill was an impression of restrained grey and silver. Broad lights and shadows brooded over it and sunshine found the roofs but not the face of the buildings. Yet no sobriety marked the mass. It never brooded or sulked, unless the sky lowered and dropped darkness upon it. There was joy in the feathers of steam that leapt, and laughter in the broad golden weather-vane above the clock-tower. Labour pursued in this rural valley seemed to offer some hope of lessened asperity. Eyes weary with work might lift to the windows and mirror green and gracious things meadows climbing and orchards and thatched roofs; or shorn stubbles spreading like cloth of gold upon the shoulders of the eastern hills.

The beholder marked the people moving about the many mouths of the great hive beneath him, and being a man apt to link impressions, he guessed that the Mill had been built of the stone from the quarry that gaped at his feet. The rift in the hill extended to a road at the valley bottom, then sprang trees to fill the space between, so that the works beyond seemed bowered in foliage on all sides and framed in thinning boughs. A bell rang and the people streamed away men and women in a little thin trickle, like beads irregularly scattered on a thread. Here and there the line was brightened by a flash of colour from a bright sun bonnet, or gown. The watcher descended now, gained the road below, then climbed the other side to the Mill.

Tuckenhay Mill is referred to as Dene Mill throughout Storm in a Teacup