Local History Society

 Properties - The Mill's Owners


Information on the Mill's owners is taken from notes provided by Dr. Daven Chamberlain, to whom we are very grateful.

Thomas Hodgson 1784 - 1794

Thomas Hodgson and the paper mills are first mentioned in the Arborfield Rate Book in 1786, though there was already a fire insurance policy dated 29th September 1795: Sun Fire Insurance Policy No. 509761:

Thomas Hodgson at 425 in the Strand, Paper Maker and Stationer, On his Paper Mill at Arborfield near Redding in Berks, brick timber and tiled £400. Utensils and stock therein £600, House and Drying house communicating near brick timber and tiled £300. Utensils and stock therein £200. (vol.331).

In 1786 the paper mill was insured by Thomas Hodgson and Richard Bloxam, paper makers (S.F.I.P. 522631, 3rd October). This was an early instance of a partnership involving stationers and a paper maker. It led to the present-day firm of Spalding & Hodge; in 1789 Thomas Spalding and Henry Routh, both stationers of the Strand, went into partnership with Thomas Hodgson, stationer, of the Strand and paper-maker of Arborfield, Berkshire. (Coleman “The British Paper Industry”, quoting Spalding & Hodge Ltd. 150th Anniversary Souvenir, 1789-1939).

Whilst the Paper Mill was in operation, there was also a Corn Mill, as recorded in this advert in the Reading Mercury on 9th June 1788:  Reading: “A new brick corn mill, at Arborfield, two miles from Wokingham, two pairs of French and one pair of Cullens, extensive store rooms. Situate on a most excellent stream of water of vast improvement, and where a most profitable and certain business may be carried on. To be entered under lease on Michaelmas next, 1788. Enquire to Mr. Smallbone, Arborfield.”

We discover the new owner of the corn mill  from a Sun Fire Insurance Policy No. 555957 dated 1st April, 1789:  John Simonds of Hurst in Berks, Miller. On his utensils and stock in his Water Corn Mill at Arborfield in Berks, Brick and Tiled £500. (vol.360).

By 1794, the Paper Mill business had to be sold because Thomas was in financial difficulties.

The following advert appeared in the Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette on 14th July 1794:

Reading: “Paper Mills - Bucks and Berks. To be peremptorily sold by auction by Messrs Skinner & Dyke, on Tuesday 5th August at 12 o’clock, at Garraway’s Coffee House, in 3 lots, late the property of Thomas Hodgson, papermaker.

Lot 1. An eligible leasehold estate held for 33 years, advantageously situate in REXTON, a small distance from Colnbrooke, Staines, on the river Thames, comprising a very good single-vat paper mill called Horton Mill supplied by the Rivers Coln and Usk, with every convenience; for the business, and the mill is capable of being made a two-vat mill.

Lot 2. An eligible leasehold estate held for 31 years, advantageously situate at Arborfield, 3 miles from Reading and 3 miles from Wokingham, comprising a very good 2-vat paper mill called ARBORFIELD MILL, well supplied by the River Loddon, with every convenience for a considerable business, and a convenient new-erected dwelling house, offices and garden.

Lot 3. 6 acres of meadowland and garden ground adjoining, with a new-erected brick stables held for 31 years, clear from rent.

Immediate possession may be had of the whole, and the purchaser accommodated with the practise and implements, &c, at a fair valuation.

To be viewed and particulars had on the premises; at the Bear, Reading; Red Lion, Henley; Sun, Maidenhead; King’s Arms, Bagshot; [], Staines; place of sale, and Messrs Skinner and Dyke, Aldersgate Street.”

The London Gazette, recorded the bankruptcy and eventual winding up of Thomas Hodgson's affairs as follows:

November 21-24, 1795: Thomas Hodgson, late of Arborfield Mills, in the Co. of Berks, Paper Maker. Meeting of creditors 5th December.

December 12-15, 1795: Thomas Hodgson, late of Arborfield Mills, in the Co. of Berks, Paper Maker, but now a prisoner in the Kings Bench Prison declared bankrupt and to surrender December 19th at the Guildhall, London.

January 30th - February 2nd, 1796: Thomas Hodgson, late of Aberford Mills, Co, of Berks, Paper Maker. Creditors to meet assignees 9th February at Anderton’s Coffee House, Fleet Street, London, re legal matters concerning the estate.

December 24-28th, 1805: Commission of Bankrupt bearing date 14th December, 1795 awarded against Thomas Hodgson, late of Arborfield Mills, in the Co. of Berks, Paper Maker, Dividend 30th January next at Guildhall, London.

A photo of the Mill from the W.I. scrapbook 1928

John Love and Thomas Webb 1794 - 1810

In 1794, the Mill seems to have passed briefly through the hands of Charles Nicholas:

Royal Exchange Fire Insurance Policy No. 141987: 15th October 1794: Charles Nicholas of Reading in the Co. of Berks.

On his dwelling house situate in Broad Street, Reading £150.

On a Paper Mill brick timber and tiled situate at Arborfield in the Co. Aforesaid £700. On utensils and trade therein £300.

Two weeks later, it was insured by John Love and Thomas Webb:

Royal Exchange Fire Insurance Policy No. 142150: 24th October 1794: John Love and Thomas Webb of Arborfield in the Co. of Berks, Paper Makers.

On a Paper Mill brick and timber and tiled situate in the parish Arborfield in the Co. of Berks £700. On utensils and trade therein £300
Total £1000

The new owners had a spot of bother with one of their employees, according to the following article from the Reading Mercury on 15th June 1795:

“To all Master Papermakers. Whereas Charles Roberts, papermaker, late of High Wycombe in the County of Bucks, did abscond from his employ at Arborfield Mill in the county of Berkshire, on Monday 1st June 1795, being apprehended, his promises of future good conduct, and return to his work, the clemency of his master interceded with the Magistrate for his enlargement; not having returned the [exertion] of his Master, Paper Makers are requested to apprehend the said Charles Roberts.

He is about 18 years, 5’5” high, of a ruddy complexion, and straight dark hair; had on when apprehended a blue coat, striped waistcoat, and leather breeches - he is supposed to have gone towards Manchester.

A reward is hereby offered of 2 guineas for apprehending the said Charles Roberts, so that he can be brought to justice and convicted of the said offence, to be paid by us Thomas Webb and John Love.”

The partnership lasted until 1810, when the London Gazette recorded on November 13-17th, 1810: Partnership between Thomas Webb and John Love, of Arborfield, Co. of Berks, Paper Mfgrs., dissolved 15th November, 1810. Debts due and owing to Thomas Webb.

The Reading Mercury, November 8th, 1813 featured advertised the business for sale: Arborfield Paper Mill. To be sold by Private Contract. The Beneficial Lease and utensils of the above valuable paper mill, twelve years unexpired. Apply for particulars to Mr. Love on the premises.


Francis Deane 1813 - 1824

We don't quite know when Francis Deane took over the Paper Mill, but at the time of the allocation of Excise numbers in 1816, Francis Deane, Paper Maker, of Arborfield in the Reading Collection was given the number 296. (Gen. Letter 8th October.). 

By 1824, another entry stated: Mill No. 296 at Arborfield in the Reading Collection occupied by Francis Deane, paper maker, now discontinued. (Gen. Letter 18th May, 1824.)

Charles Jones - mid 1820's

The only details we have so far about Charles Jones is:

Entry having been made of a new Paper Mill at Aberfield in the Reading Collection, occupied by Charles Edward Jones, the Commissioners order that it be distinguished by the number 296. (Gen. Letter 13th September, 1826.)

Thomas Rogers 1827 - 1839

We first hear of Thomas Rogers as follows: Change of occupation at Paper Mill No. 296 at Aborfield in the Reading Collection. Present occupier is Thomas Rogers. (Gen. Letter 3rd May, 1827.)

There are two newspaper accounts of a fire in 1829 which devastated the adjoining Corn Mill - see the articles from 'The Times' and the 'Reading Mercury').

The next reference is 3 years later: Check list issued 29th November 1832. Mill No. 296. Aborfield in the Reading I Ride of the Reading Collection. Thomas Rogers.

Francis Wansey - 1839 on

Francis Wansey had taken a lease on the Mill in 1839 for a period of twenty-one years. The business of paper making appears to have been thriving at Arborfield, for Kelly’s Post Office Directory of 1847 describes it as “extensive, and business being carried on to a great extent...”

Alfred Towgood - 1851 on

We know that Alfred Towgood was at the Mill from at least 1851, as the following entry shows: Change of occupation at Mill No. 296 at Aborfield in the Reading Collection, Reading Ist. Ride; occupier is now Alfred Towgood, Paper Maker.  (Gen.Letter 20th May, 1851.)

The Parliamentary Return for 1851 gives two beating engines for Arborfield, both in use.

In 1862, Alfred Towgood was recorded as running Aborfield Mill, near Reading, making Best Air Dried Browns.

In 1864 and subsequent years it appears as Aborfield Mill, Helpstone, Lincs, still occupied by Alfred Towgood and turning out Best Air Dried Browns.

There was one machine, 72in. The number of the mill at Helpstone was the same as originally, No.296 In 1882 the motive power is given as steam. In 1894 the firm is entered as Alfred Towgood & Son. In 1898 production had increased to include Cylinder Dried Rope Browns, Leather Boards in addition to Air Dried Browns. There was now one paper machine 72in. and one board machine 48in. The raw materials were stated to be Hemp, Manilla and jute. In 1904 the firm is listed as Towgood & Beckwith Ltd. (late Beckwith & Co.) There was no change in details up to 1917, the latest directory consulted.

A Lease - and a Dispute

In 1860 John Hargreaves (the then owner of Arborfield Hall and estate) leased the mill to a papermaker from Riversfield, near St. Neots in Huntingdon, Alfred Towgood. The occupier of the Hall and their friends, companions and servants were allowed to fish in the river except the part of the river which ran between the mill and the end of the garden. However soon afterwards there followed a serious dispute concerning this Lease.

Mr. John Hargreaves sought to restrain Alfred Towgood from carrying out alterations to the mill. These included the installation of two steam engines with the necessary 45 foot chimney and coal store all of which Towgood had already carried out. It was felt that these alterations “would entirely alter the nature of the said Mill and Property and be a nuisance and annoyance to the occupier for the time being of Arborfield Hall” Alfred Towgood insisted upon his alleged right to make these alterations and additions in and to the Mill and Property.

The dispute was unresolved and on the 18th September 1860 a Bill was filed against Alfred Towgood in the High Court of Chancery. However, things must have been resolved by February 1861 as on the 14th a “Deed of Arrangement” (for full text, click here) was signed by all parties in which Alfred Towgood was permitted to keep his alterations and be responsible for maintaining them. He was prevented from increasing the steam power any further and he needed written permission to make any more alterations or additions. He was also to use Welsh coal or any other smokeless Fuel so that the Chimney smoke would not be a nuisance to the occupier of Arborfield Hall.

John Hargreaves requested his solicitor to draw up the Deed of Arrangement. The yearly rate was to be two hundred and ten pounds "clear of land tax and all other taxes, rates and assessments except landlords property tax now or hereafter to be imposed upon or in respect of the premises or any part thereof." (see below for text).

The terms of this lease stated that Towgood was only to use the mill as a paper mill. He was to keep the grassland in a "husbandlike and proper manner." The occupier of the Hall and their friends, companions and servants were allowed to fish in the river except the part of the river which ran between the mill and the end of the garden.

See also the Deed of Arrangement drawn up in 1861.

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