to Isle of Wight History CentreThe Island's 18th Century Paper Mill

The Isle of Wight's only paper mill was established at Clatterford early in the 18th century. It seems to have had a brief life and passed without any detailed record of its activity. Here we include what little is known together with an insight into how a typical mill of this size and period would have functioned.

Published References
There are few references to the mill. The earliest is in The Delineator of the Isle of Wight, James Clarke 1829:
"In the beginning of the last century, when the emigrations from the Palatinate to America were so general, a paper-maker, who was one of the emigrants, came to the Island, and erected a small mill near Clatterford, in the year 1710, for the manufacture of paper. The speculation, however, did not succeed, and in a few years it was abandoned. Vestiges of the mill, pond, &c., are still remaining, and the house is known to this day by the name of the paper-mill."
In 1832 the Hampshire Telegraph reported the demise of a cottage which was presumably the only habitable remains of the mill:
"On Sunday last, about three in the afternoon, a cottage, called Paper Mills, occupied by a poor widow and her family, at Clatterford, was observed to be on fire entirely destroyed."
A Summer Tour of the Isle of Wight, T Roscoe 1843, carried a few lines which were merely an abbreviated version of James Clarke's comments:
"About the commencement of the last century, an enterprising foreigner, an emigrant, erected a paper-mill near Clatterford; but the undertaking did not succeed, and was eventually abandoned. Vestiges of the mill and pond are still seen, and the house is known at this time as the Paper Mill."
Clarke's reference to the mill being abandoned 'in a few years' suggests it had a period of production, albeit eventually failing for technical or economic reasons.

The Papermaker
On 22 April 1711 Isaac Tipps was recorded as being a papermaker from Carisbrooke, upon his marriage to Christian Rutter. There seems little doubt Tipps established the Clatterford paper mill. Although the papermaker is described as being from the Palatinate, the word Palatines became a general 18th century term for all German emigrants. In 1709 Britain invited Europeans to settle in its American colonies but German arrivals at London were far greater than shipping could take. Some returned to Germany but others were relocated, mainly in Ireland. Isaac Tipps clearly decided to settle on the Island, perhaps with others, including Christian Rutter. Much expertise in papermaking at this time was Dutch and German.

The Site
Nothing now remains of the mill. A survey of the area found structural remains in the stream but these appeared to be of a later date than the mill. The mill was within an area known as 'Rack Close' and there is evidence of a fulling mill on the site from the early 17th century. In 1618 it's described as 'decayed' but in subsequent records it appears to be in operation. The last record of a fulling mill is in 1708. There is no contemporary record of it as a paper mill. The property is recorded in 1756 as 'late in the possession Isaac Tipps, deceased'. Buildings appear on late 18th and 19th century maps and it is still called the 'Old Paper Mill'.

site map
The site is located SW of Carisbrooke Castle: SZ483875. The existing stream runs along the side of the lane
1792 map shows two buildings on the site
The building identified on c1820 map is still called 'Old Paper Mill'

Water Sources
It is significant that it was a fulling mill prior to becoming a paper mill as the mechanical fulling process may have readily converted to the stamping operation of a paper mill. However, with the exception of preparation of stock, papermaking was a hand made process and demanded large volumes of water for the washing, cleaning and formation of sheets of paper. This water must be 'pure' i.e. free from suspended materials (leaves, weed, particles of sand or silt). Simple filtering processes were employed but it is of interest that at Clatterford there were three nearby springs from underlying chalk. These would have providing abundant water, generally pure and free from suspended matter.
tithe map 1843 This 1843 Tithe map shows the streams running from three springs, at lower left, lower right and from the middle of the field

Product and Market
A small mill like Clatterford would probably only have been able to produce coarse wrapping paper, rather than fine writing paper. Quantities would have been small: 1 or 2 tons per year. By the 18th century several paper mills were operating in Hampshire and paper could have easily been imported to the Island. A mill at Clatterford therefore suggests a specific local demand, probably in Newport. We have been unable to identify a particular trade which might generate this demand. There was a build up of military presence around this time and it's possible their draw on local businesses created an increased call for wrapping paper.

Business Failure
Paper mills required high expertise and could not be established without experienced journeymen. Any shortcomings in these skills might result in technical failure. A shortage of, or increase in price of, raw materials, periods of low rainfall (reducing water flows) and non-payment of bills are a few of the more obvious reasons for reducing production and profit, causing eventual closure of the mill

Description of the manufacturing processes most likely to typify the Clatterford operation

Raw materials used for making paper
Basically paper is a fibrous mat formed in a very dilute fibre/water mixture (suspension) by draining. The wet sheet of paper is then pressed to remove more water and finally dried in air. During the latter operation the fibres stick (bond) to each other, thus increasing the strength of the product so that it becomes usable. Historically it had been discovered by the first papermakers that plant fibres (containing a high percentage of cellulose) gave the best results. The European paper industry was based on old rag or other waste textile material, which could be recycled as its fibre source. On the Island, as well as discarded (wool free) clothing, marine waste e.g. old sail cloth and rope, would provide additional fibre. The latter are very good for making coarse wrapping paper with good strength properties and would include linen, hemp and jute. Wrappings were not made from bleached rag or specifically coloured with dyes. Consequently they retained the colour of shade of the raw fibres, which accounts for the variability in appearance of these grades.

Basic processes for making hand-made paper in the 17th/18th cent

Collecting (rag etc from merchants sold to mill)

Hand sorting and cutting the rags. Female labour generally used. Sitting at wire meshed topped tables the material was sorted and graded (not required for coarse wrapping). The removal of buttons and other non-fibrous materials and then cutting into smaller pieces, normally 4"x 4"

Boiling the cut pieces in open tanks using wood ash as a source of alkali. Considerable supplies of wood needed.

Washing the rag to remove wood/ash particles using plentiful supply of fresh water and eagle-eyed human sorters. This would be done in shallow tanks or stone troughs.

The washed rag then had to be 'disintegrated' i.e. the fibres returned to their pre-spun and woven state. In some cases fibres were also shortened. Iron shod stamping hammers, similar to the type used for fulling cloth, were used. The wet rag - held in a trough- was subjected to intensive pounding for several hours, the duration and extent of the beating depending on the type or grade of paper required.

stamping hammers
stamping hammers

When disintegration had occurred the fibrous material (called 'half-stuff') was moved to a different set of stampers (called 'beaters') where the fibre was subjected to a less vigorous treatment. This opened up the fibre so that it would 'felt' better during paper formation.and 'bond' better when dried. Beating is a very critical process and the old time beatermen declared that "paper is made in the beater". After beating the fibrous material is called 'stuff' (In Holland in the 17th cent a piece of equipment was developed for beating rags. Known as a 'Hollander' it was essentially a rotating heavy barred roll, which could be raised and lowered over a stationary set of metal blades. Rag and water circulated in the troughs and the 2 sets of blades treated the fibre. It is unlikely that Clatterford had this equipment).

The beaten 'stuff' then has to be diluted from about 5 parts of fibre and 95 parts of water (5% consistency) to 0.5% fibre in 99.5% of water. It is then called 'stock' and is the basis for the papermaking process. This involves the dipping of a wire mesh screen, sewn into a wooden frame and supported by cross ribs (the 'mould'), into a stone tank (the 'vat') containing the prepared stock. A removable wooden frame covers the edge of the mould (the deckle-Dutch=cover) and contains the stock on the wire mesh surface, so that water can drain back into the vat and the wet fibres form a sheet on the mould surface. The forming of the paper is the most critical stage of the papermaking process, demanding great skill and expertise. The 'vat man', as the operator is called, would have undergone a 6 or 7 year apprenticeship before becoming a qualified journeyman, allowed to carry out his craft.

The sheet of wet paper having been formed, the deckle is removed and the vat man passes the full mould to his assistant and proceeds to make another sheet of paper in a second mould. The term 'couching' (French 'couche' - laying) is used for this operation and the craftsman is the 'coucherman'

Having built up a pile of wet sheets, sandwiched between absorbent woollen felts, the 'post' (German 'posten') is moved to a press (similar to a wine press) where the paper is subjected to considerable compression. This squeezes out the water and consolidates the paper, making it possible to be handled.

sheet making
papermaking vat and press

The wet sheets of paper (still approx 50% water) are then parted from the felts (which are re-used) and taken to a drying loft. Here they are hung over ropes or placed flat on open weave sheets. The loft has movable shutters built into the walls so that wind and air currents can evaporate moisture in the paper until it's dry and contains only about 6-7% moisture.

The dry sheets of paper are then removed to a checking area (the salle, French - room) where women sorted and checked the paper. Sub-standard sheets have been removed and the remainder were counted into reams (normally 480 sheets) which were then packed/wrapped ready for despatch to the customer.

As can be seen from the description of the papermaking process, a basic team of 3 craftsmen were required. (Beaterman, Vatman, Coucherman). These could double up as press men, loft men and sizermen. In larger mills women rag sorters and salle staff would be employed. At Clatterford the latter would probably be female members of the craftsmen's families. Profits of a one vat mill (which Clatterford probably was) would be small. It was quite normal in mills of this type for paper mill employees to also work as labourers on local farms, orchards, or their own smallholdings.

The Northern Journey and the Tour of Kent (1697) , Celia Fiennes

"There are also Paper mills which dispatches paper at a quick rate; they were then makeing brown paper when I saw it; the mill is set agoing by the water and at the same tyme it pounded the raggs to morter for the paper, and it beate oatmeale and hemp and ground bread together that is at the same tyme; when the substance for the paper is pounded enough they take it in a great tub and so with a frame just of the size of the sheets of paper, made all of small wire just as I have seen fine screens to screen corne in, only this is much closer wrought, and they clap a frame of wood round the edge, and so dip it into the tub and what is too thin runs through; then they turn this frame down on a piace of coarse woollen just the size of the paper and so give a knock to it and it falls off, on which they clap another such a piece of wollen cloth which is ready to lay the next frame of paper, and so till they have made a large heape which they by a board on the bottom move to a press, and so lay a board on the top and so let down a great screw and weight on it, which they force together into such a narrow compass as they know so many sheets of paper will be reduced, and this presses out all the thinner part and leaves the paper so firme as it may be taken up sheete by sheete, and laid together to be thoroughly dryed by the wind; ..."

Links to papermaking history sites

July 2001


We are indebted to Barry Watson of Bembridge for the wealth of technical knowledge and guidance on papermaking processes of this period


The Papermaker

21 April 1711 H.M.L. 1669 - 1837
Isaac Tipps of Carisbrooke, papermaker, widower and Christian Rutter, spinster, at Newport or Carisbrooke.

22 April 1711 NEWPORT
Tipps Isaac married Christian Rutter.

2 Sept. 1728 CARISBROOKE
Burial. Tipps, Christian (wife of Isaac Tipps)

Isaac (1717 - ?)
Catherine (1718 - 1720)
Ann (1719 - 1720)
Mary (1721 1724)
Elizabeth (1723 - ?)
Rebecca (1725 -1726)
William (1726 - ?)
(All baptised at Carisbrooke)

The Site

George Trenchard of Wolveton, Dorset, sold one decayed fulling mill and 16 acres of land to the then tenant, John Kingswell.

1686 Dec. 10 (HAR-POW/2/1)
Agreement for the partition of premises between Thomas Read of Newport, mercer and Thomas Ridge of Newport, grocer. inter alia.
A. ...
G. half part of a close of meadow (1 1/2 acres), parish of Carisbrooke, bounded with the fulling mill of Robert Clarke, clothworker, on south-east part, the ground belonging to Carisbrooke Priory on west and south part, and the land of John Oglander, Gent., on north and now in the tenure of Thomas Champion.

29 March 1703
Jam. March for Cooks 0-2-3
ffor fulling mill and rack close 0-9-0

26 April 1704 (12d upon the pound)
Occ. of fulling Mill and Rack close 00-09-00

8 April 1708
Occ. fulling mill and Rackclose 0-9-0

1 and 2 June 1756 (RP/123)
Lease and Release of 1 messuage with garden and orchard adjoining late in possession of Isaac Tipps, deceased, but now of James Warder, situate in the parish of Carisbrooke, I.W., and 1 barn, fodder house and Gate room and several parcels of arable and pasture, in the parish of Carisbrooke and in occupation of the said James Warder near the said messuage that is to say
A) the Rack Close (7 1/2 acres)
B) 1 little parrock (3/4 acre) south of the lane adjoining to the said Rack Closes
C) Barn Close (3 3/4 acres) and 2 other pieces (3 acres) adjoining to the said Barn Close in a field called Little Dean
D) 3 fields of arable and pasture, (8 1/2 acres) called Noddy Hill near the Borough of Newport
E) 1 other meadow (1 3/4 acres) and 1 other piece of arable (1/2 acre) called Cold Harbour all of which premises last mentioned are likewise in the parish of Carisbrooke and in occupation of James Warder.
(1) John Shute of the Vine,ants., Esq., [brother and heir at law of Anthony Shute of the same, deceased, who was devisee of Francis Keck of Great Tew, Co. Oxford, Esq., deceased]
(2) John Bussell of the parish of Arreton, Gent.
[Endorsed: "Paper Mill"]