Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Okestubbe Mill

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Okestubbe Mill, of Little Paxton

A water-powered medieval corn-grinding mill by the Great Ouse in Little Paxton, owned by the monks of St Neots priory.

1799 Acquired by Owsley Rowley, who rebuilt and let the mill to Mr Hobson of Eaton Socon.

1804 Leased to a firm of paper-makers, Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier and John Gamble. They spent £60,000 on machinery to change it from producing flour to a paper mill. Henry had invented a process to make rolls of paper instead of just single sheets. Unfortunately they did not patent the process and other entrepreneurs used their ideas and competed with them.

1808 The Fourdinier brothers went bankrupt and sold the company to Matthew Toogood who employed experienced paper makers and used sound business methods to make a success of the venture.

1823 A flood left the machine room five feet (1.85m.) under water and four men were trapped for four days.

1851 Steam power was introduced and updated in 1861 to reduce the mill’s reliance on water power.

1887 Toogood, and his sons after him, operated the paper mill until 1887 when the business closed.

As the mill had provided employment to hundreds of local men and women, some local businessmen (John McNish of Paine’s Brewery, Joseph Wilcox, W. Emery, James Paine and W. Bowyer) set up a consortium and reopened it in 1888 as St Neots Paper Mill Company Limited. They took no money from it themselves until the business became profitable again.

1903 new turbines and steam engines were installed.

1912 many of the wooden buildings were destroyed in a fire, but rebuilding using brick and improving the equipment made the mill safer and more profitable. 200 people were employed at the mill. By 1913 the mill produced the finest grades of bank, writing, ledger, drawing, chart, cartridge, typing, loan and envelope papers, and cream and tinted typing and envelope papers.

1920 The mill's fortunes declined during the economic depression and it closed down in 1939.

WWII Wiggins, Teape and Co evacuated their paper mill at Dover and moved to the safer inland site of Little Paxton.

After the war there was a trade in paper to countries like India, Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon and the Far East that had previously purchased paper from Japan.

The mill was converted to manufacture nylon but had closed by 1948

1950 The lease was sold to Samuel Jones and Co Limited.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Little Paxton mill