• Somerset Heritage Centre
Reference number
  • A\COT
  • There has been a long tradition of paper making in the Wells area, with the recording of six separate paper mills along the River Axe and Lower River Axe, with two more recorded at Dulcote. This collection hold papers relating to two of these mills; St Cuthbert's Mill and Wookey Hole Mill. ST CUTHBERT'S MILL St Cuthbert's Mill began its life as the Lower Wookey Mill although the date when paper making began is unclear. In 1738 Edward Band (also the tenant of Wookey Hole Mill) took over the lease of the Mill from Joseph Mussock White, at this point it certainly was already being used in the manufacture of paper. In 1788 Joseph Coles took over the lease and then soon purchased the property from the widow of Revd Kingston of Wells. The Coles family retained ownership of the Mill and were joined in 1832 by Thomas Barratt of Kent. The introduction of a new design steam engine driven machine, probably led the business into difficulties and the ownership of the mill change often over the next two decades. In 1856 the new owners, Burgess and Ward installed a traditional Fourdrinier machine, and began to manufacture paper from straw and esparto, which caused water pollution lower down the Axe. Unfortunately a financial crisis led Burgess and Ward to abandon the business and a series of owners came and went. In 1886 Dixon, Horsburgh and Co., brought the Mill and changed its name to St Cuthbert's. In 1896 Pirie, Wyatt and Co. became the owners and developed the Mill's overseas business. In 1923 St Cuthbert Paper Works Co., took over the business and the company was reconstituted in 1931. In 1938 the Inveresk Paper Company took over the administration of the Mill. In 2011, Inveresk went into receivership; a new company, the St Cuthberts Paper Making Company, was formed are continue to make machine-made paper. WOOKEY HOLE MILL Wookey Hole Mill is the earliest known paper mill in Somerset, with the first reference to a paper mill on the site occurring in a lease of 1610. In 1728 the lease was offered for sale in Farley's Bristol Newspaper and in 1736 the lease was taken over by Edward Band, a paper maker from Dulcote. The Band family continued ownership of the prosperous mill until 1808, when John Golding purchased the lease and ran the mill with James Snelgrove. Snelgrove took sole tenancy in 1819 and upon the death of his son John in 1833 the mill lease was sold to Robert Barlett Coles. In 1853 William Sampson Hodgkinson purchased the Mill outright from the trustees of Wells Old Almshouses, with the sale being completed in 1856. The Mill was purchased for the low sum of £800, due to the buildings being in disrepair as a result of a fire on 20 April 1855. Under W. S. Hodgkinson the mill expanded and the family gradually built up their lands and properties in the Wookey area; by 1910 their estates were valued at £57,700. In 1854 Nicholas Ennor, a Cornish mining engineer, gained possession of the mineral rights of Priddy Minery and quickly established the St Cuthbert lead works. Part of the mining process meant Ennor had to cleanse the ore which was brought to the surface. The water used fed into the Mill streams and the lead pollution in the water meant it was unsuitable for the manufacturer of finer grade papers. This led to an enquiry into the river pollution, which eventually was settled in favour of the Mill. The Mill continued in the ownership of the Hodgkinson family throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century, becoming a highly profitable company. In 1920 Guy Hodgkinson, the nephew of W. S. Hodgkinson, turned the mill into a private company. By 1910 the Mill's fortunes began to wane and by 1932 output was considerably reduced. In 1950 the company was sold to Inveresk. In 1972 the paper mill was put up for sale and ceased making paper. Production of paper was transferred to St Cuthbert's Mill. In 1973 the Madame Tussaud Group brought both the paper mill and Wookey Hole Caves and reintroduced handmade papermaking as a tourist attraction. THE COLLECTION This collection relates mainly to the 20th century history of the two mills. Series 1 relates to St Cuthberts Mill, series 2 to Wookey Hole Mill and the Hodgkinson family, series 3 to the records of T. H. Saunders of Darenth Mill, Kent, a subsidiary company of Wookey Hole Mill and series 4 items which can not be linked to either Mill. For further information on the history of the Mills and paper making at Wells see 'Paper and Papermakers around Wells' by Brian Luker (Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Proceedings vol. 153), 'Mill 364: Paper Making at St Cuthberts' by B Luker, 'Wookey Hole: Past & Present' ed. D Hudsmith and 'The Parish of Wookey: A New History' by Joan Hasler and Brian Luker. Please note that due to the Data Protection Act, staff records are on restricted access for 84 years.
  • 1863-2002
  • 31 boxes, 1 large vol
Access status
  • Mixed
  • Collection
  • Paper mills
  • Paper making industry