The main site here at Apsley, Hemel Hempstead had in 1809 no trains, buses or cars but what it did have was a wet motorway system of the 1800`s called the Grand Jct. Canal. The London & Nth. Western Railway came along in the 1830`s but it was not until 1938 that Apsley station was built because of the paper mills. It was about this time the railways played a big part in the transport of the mills products.
Up to the railway era and for a long time after the canal played a big part in distribution of the mills paper products and in fact J. Dickinson`s had its own fleet of steam powered narrowboats bringing in coal and raw materials and re-loading paper and stationery for shipment not just in the UK but across the world.
Esparato Grass was a raw material used in paper making and came from Africa never touching dry land until being unloaded at Apsley having been transshipped onto narrowboats in London.
In 1818 Mr Dickinson had negotiated with the canal company to re route the canal closer to his mills (must try and find some evidence of the old route sometime) which i suppose must have been the reason boats played a big part in the daily life at the mills for so long.
Workers at the mills were treated fairly well and in the late 1800`s a whole train would be hired to take workers to the south coast. The 1904 centenary saw every worker getting an extra weeks pay and many workers were in the company Silver Band that often played to radio audiences.
Well before the NHS came about Dickinson maintained a ward at the local hospital for his workers.
this my 6th time cruising through the lock pictured above that being moored here for 2 weeks it was time to find the answer. Where does that bit to the left of the lock go?. So i set off wandering around the streets at the side of the canal until i traced the end and it turned out that it lead to Frogmore Mill. The mill wasn`t part of the JD site but they did do business with each other.
This is the basin by the mill that is behind me and here boats would un-load coal used to power the steam driven paper making machines.
The mill is owned and operated, yes still making paper today, by Apsley Paper Trail Charitable Trust- http://www.thepapertrail.org.uk/ using machinery a 100yrs+ in age.
In 1803 the first commercial paper making machine was developed here. The mill is open during the year giving guided tours and boat trips during the warmer weather.
The trust has recently been awarded a £1 million lottery grant to preserve the site and hopefully re-instate the mills waterwheel.
So i`ve enjoyed my myself delving into a bit of history and if you would like to read more try http://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/ scroll down the page almost to the bottom to" Local History "and click on" Hemels Mills " Happy reading.
Red text added Thursday-must employ a proof reader.