Our Heritage

The Gade Valley (located between Hemel Hempstead and Watford) has a place in world history as the region where paper’s industrial revolution was born and flourished for more than 150 years.  At the heart of our heritage are seven paper mills, of which only Frogmore Paper Mill survives, and the many thousands of people who made history whilst working in them.  The industrial sites, workers homes and local economies shaped the Gade Valley of today.  On a national and international scale, their technology and products supported modern civilisation by helping to democratise knowledge, culture, education, commerce and communications.

We have acquired two historic paper mill sites, one monument and 10 collections relating to this heritage. 

1. Historic Sites

Apsley Mills

Site of the world’s first cylinder mould paper machine in 1809, and the largest of the Gade Valley mills measured by area, turnover and numbers employed. The two heritage buildings owned by APT are now operated by the Trust as a business centre under the title of John Dickinson Enterprise Centre.  This is a major contributor to the Charity’s revenue funding.

Frogmore Paper Mill

Site of the world’s first conveyor mould paper machine in 1803 and continues to make paper to the present day.

The complete mill site is operated by the Trust as a working museum and visitor centre.  Thanks to a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the site blends modern visitor facilities with buildings dating back centuries.  It is widely recognised as the Charity’s “jewel in the crown”.

Frogmore Paper Mill is one of APT’s most iconic and historically significant assets.

2. Monument

John Dickinson & Company War Memorial

The monument is situated in the garden of Apsley Mills Cottage, Apsley Mills, and includes the names of 265 employees who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.  It is one of the UK’s largest company war memorials still standing ‘in situ’.

3. Heritage Collections

Buildings & Infrastructure

The combination of buildings and related waterways on both mill sites provides a practical window into the evolution of paper’s industrial revolution in the Gade Valley and a glimpse of life in the Valley as far back as medieval times.

Static Paper Making Machinery and Equipment

Frogmore Paper Mill still retains the paper making machine and related equipment in the positions left by the last commercial operator, British Paper Company Limited.  Although having the capacity of just one hundredth of a 21st century machine, the static collection provides visitors with a practical indication of the large scale and complexity of machines required to make a ‘simple’ piece of paper.

1n 2018 the trust acquired most of the working parts of the ‘Cornwall’ cylinder mould paper machine from Whatman’s Springfield paper mill in Maidstone. The trust intends to install this machine as part of its future exhibition plans.

Working Paper Machines and Equipment

In daily operation at Frogmore Paper Mill is the 1902 Hemmer Bros pilot paper machine and equipment acquired by APT in 2004.  This machine makes paper for commercial sale as well as to demonstrate the process for visitors.

In addition there is also a set of handmade papermaking equipment which is used to produce specialist inclusion and media papers.

All machines are small and slow running, enabling visitors to see and appreciate the ‘magic’ of making paper. They also demonstrate the kind of jobs executed by earlier generations.

Printing and Converting Machine Collection

Frogmore Paper Mill also houses several heritage machines and equipment for printing, embossing, die-cutting and book-binding.  This collection enables close-up displays of production techniques and the running of craft courses in traditional printing and converting industries, preventing the permanent loss of vital skills and trades.

Heritage Fire Brigade

Frogmore Paper Mill is proud to host a working heritage fire brigade.  The main fire engine was acquired by APT from the British Paper Company.  In addition to being a feature of the visitor attraction the Brigade helps to connect local communities with their paper industry heritage by putting on demonstrations at outreach locations. 

Heritage Transport

A heritage canal boat is the start of a transport collection held at Frogmore Paper Mill.  It provides visitors with river and canal trips between the Apsley and Frogmore sites.  The transport collection is being extended by the acquisition of a former John Dickinson delivery lorry which will be restored.

End Products

The collection of 1,313 end products made by the mills and their customers over a period of 200 years creates a unique view of the social, industrial and commercial history of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Visitors are able to handle products made and used by their ancestors.

The Archive which contains

John Dickinson and Company Archive

Held at Frogmore Paper Mill, the John Dickinson and Company archive collection acquired by APT is made up of documents and artefacts held at Apsley Mills and Nash Mills when they ceased operating, supplemented subsequently by donations from local authority collections and private individuals.  This collection plus those of three other collections held by registered museums provides the greatest potential of connecting local and paper industry communities with their heritage.

British Paper Company Archive

Following formal closure in 2002, the former owners of British Paper Company donated their entire archive to APT.  This collection is of particular interest to social and industrial historians with an interest in the period from 1890 to the end of the 20th century.

Heritage Library

A collection of technical and production related books previously owned by John Dickinson Company and British Paper Company have subsequently been added to by multiple donations from paper trade institutions, organisations, companies and individuals.  This continuously expanding collection provides a special opportunity for the national paper industry to connect with its heritage.