Basted Mill 1880


A visit to Basted

Reprinted from the British and Colonial Printer and stationer


Hall and English, Printers, High Street


Basted paper mills

KENT is styled “the Garden of England,” and the title is well

deserved. It is a county full of lovely scenery, valleys, dales, streams

of pure water, and its soil_ is of the kindest fertility.

This historical impression lost none of its reality, in our minds the other

Morning as we travelled from London to Wrotham —pronounced Rootam.

The change from smoky, dirty, yet our own dear city, was perceptible long

before we were at our journey’s end. With the carriage window open, we

sniffed the country air, and admired Sir W. Hart Dyke’s domain near the

Cray. We saw the great paper mills on our immediate left, and in the

distance rose the chimney of another mill. On through Swanley, Eynsford

—another paper mill near here—-amid sandstone, and woods, and hop

gardens, until we arrived at the little station of Wrotham, some twenty-five

miles from town. Here a carriage awaited us, and in a few minutes we were

driving down a really charming lane, even  one that we would fain had had

“without a turning”. High hedges, through which we caught sight of the

hops ever and anon, mossy banks, country cottages with neat gardens, all

reduced the well-known ideal English country scenery to a reality. After

driving a mile, a stream ran beneath the road, widening rapidly until the

mills suddenly became visible.  Two shafts stood up from the valley, where

the buildings lay nestled together in such a “ sheltered and secluded spot ”

as it is only possible to see in Kent and at Basted.

Here we were welcomed by Mr. Monckton and his partners, who showed

us many additional beauties of nature which we could not gather together in

one glimpse of the place. Here were beautiful gardens, with flowers whose

perfume filled the air, and whose rich and varied colours delighted the eye.

But there is a walk alongside of the mill stream, which seemed to us to

Possess a very charm of its own. To step from the mill a few yards – to leave

The whirr of machinery and the unceasing hum of the knotter room, and to

find one’s self buried mid foliage, and with no sound but the rippling water

only, is equivalent to a spell. The walk winds round the hill-side through

woods and by water for some hundred yards, and we thought, “What a

place, for a wearied brain to regain its composure, or what a spot for romantic

souls.” For once we believe the novelist, who revels in the description of

Nature, and who ascribes to her inspiration many scenes and incidents

which, to us town-worried mortals, seem gross improbabilities.

After meanderings in such pleasant paths, and after also partaking of that

which revives the inner man, we proceeded to go round the mills.

Paper-making is an art which to the uninitiated partakes of the

mysterious. We are not going to describe the art in this review of these

page 6

mills. We shall rather take it for granted that our readers are all acquainted

with paper-making. Those who are not soon will be, if they continue to

read our journal and the essays which will appear in our columns from time

to time.

To begin at the beginning, we go to the rag warehouse. Here are the

bales standing, and here are bales and bags being opened and sorted over.

Women at tables do this, and at the same time cut the rags into small pieces.

Labour is not very plentiful here, and many of the rags are accordingly

purchased in such a condition that they go straight to the boilers—just across

the yard. Here they are boiled and washed until the dirty rag is clean and

free from all impurity whatsoever. We go through a door and find ourselves

in the beating room, where the rags are reduced to a finer state of division.

Some are bleached here also, but most of the bleaching is done in tanks in

another department, adjoining the engine room. (By the word engine we do

not mean the steam engine, but the beating engine, which reduces the rags

into fine pulp). The bleaching is effected by chloride of lime, and the

greatest economy is used here so that nothing is lost, either in the strength of

the fibre or the chemical itself. Indeed a loss of either involves a loss of

both. After bleaching, our dirty-looking rag which we saw tumbled out of

the bag is now white as snow. What a transformation! The pulp is now

pumped into the beating engine, and is reduced to an exceedingly fine state,

like “ pap.” This process takes hours to accomplish, and when finished, the

pulp, having been coloured with suitable materials, is run into the stuff chest

–          a large vessel in which an agitator is incessantly moving. With a

monotonous regularity the stud‘ or pulp moves slowly and sluggishly round.

It keeps going without stop or rest, and is consequently always consistent

in density of solution. None settles to the bottom. As required, this pulp

runs through the knotter apparatus, which removes grit, dirt, or lumps. This

is effected by running the pulp over brass plates with fine slits in them, and

which have a shaking motion given them. From the knotters the pulp goes

to the machine, and the running fluid pulp flows leisurely upon a slowly

revolving wire cloth, 60 in. wide. The wire moves forward from us for

some feet, and the liquid pulp loses water all this distance. The filtration

of the water is, moreover, aided by suction boxes underneath the wire, which

help to draw the water through. An endless india-rubber strap, called a

“ deckle,” runs along with the wire at both sides to provide an edge for the

liquid pulp. Towards the end of the wire the pulp appears to set, and

really becomes a solid mass. As the wire ends and passes over a roller to

return to the head of the machine, the solid pulp is stamped by the dandy

roll with its watermark, and is then carefully lifted off, squeezed, and goes

the usual journey of all paper made by machine.

This being good rag paper, it is treated differently en route to the

commoner papers. It is sized before it reaches the fan-wheels. The size is

made from the finest cuttings of hide, and from calves and ox feet. The

jelly is pure, and is, in fact, the same as what we eat as a luxury, with the

one exception of the flavouring material. The size makes the paper “hard”

and enables it to carry ink. After being conducted through a trough of size,

the sheet passes over the drying wheels. There is a “ wheel within a wheel”

page 7

here, the inner one revolving at a very high speed, creating a current of

wind against the outer wheel, which is also revolving, but slowly, and in the

opposite direction. The paper passes over some of these, and is at length

cut into sheets and laid by two boys at the machine end into piles.

In addition, however, to this system of sizing – the commonest one in

practice—Messrs. Monckton & Co. employ “hand-sizing”: to a certain

extent, and they have a very interesting process in use. The paper is run

upon the machine as usual, but it is conducted direct from the press-rolls to

the drying wheels without touching a heated cylinder at all. This is

important. The great advantage of this lies in the fact that no sudden con-

traction takes place among the fibres. The sheet is, in point of fact, treated

precisely as in hand-made paper. The “water-leaf,” as unsized paper is

called, goes over the fan drums and is cut the same as the other. The

sizing, however, is accomplished in a trough, through which an endless felt

moves, carrying the sheets with it. They thus become thoroughly

saturated  with size, and come out through a press roll, which squeezes out

any excess of size, and the latter runs back into the trough. No waste takes

place whatever. The sheets are then suspended and dried in the loft. This

system of sizing is always used with ledger and account book papers, and

makes the paper very hard, and enables it to bear severe inking and

“ scratching out.” Thus these ledger papers are as near hand-made papers

as it is possible to imagine, the only real difference being the slight tension

of the machine.

The cutting is effected direct, and is managed by an ingenious machine

of Mr. Monckton’s own invention and manufacture at his works at Maidstone.

Page 8

With the machine running at any speed under thirty-five, this cutter works

Admirably -in fact, perfectly— always true and exact. At higher speeds it

wont do so well.

The piles of paper are now suspended, eight to ten sheets together, over

cow-hair lines, an allowed to dry in a warm room. This gradual drying

imparts strength to the paper, as it allows the fibres to contract and arrange

themselves slowly and without tension.

When dry, the sheets are overhauled and “finished.” They are glazed

by powerful rolling, and any amount of surface can be given them according

to the pressure exerted. The finished sheets are then counted, made into

reams, put into wrappers, duly labelled, and, we may assuredly say, go all

over the world.

Such is our imperfect outline of paper making at Basted. There are two

machines, each 60 in. wide, at these mills. The best quality papers are

made here, and many classes are turned out, including fine ledgers, stamps,

banks and loans, drawings, and writings. There are papers, specially for

abroad, with watermarks not to be found in England at all. Such an order

was being executed on the machine whilst we were at the mills. _

There is a splendid water supply, and a good water-wheel—once the

largest in the county. The present proprietors have removed the old one,

and put in a new wheel, which is driven by the water from the stream we

mentioned at the beginning of this sketch. There are several steam engines

in the mills besides this wheel.

The water supply is obtained from a spring which is a marvel in itself.

In a remarkably short distance, this spring assumes the ‘proportions of a wide,

though shallow river. We noticed the bye-wash chiefly from its purity and


There are several cottages near, and ample stabling. The private house

on the right of our illustration has been lately rebuilt.

There is here, in this lovely, this beautiful spot, a great enterprise, and it

is, perhaps, only in Kent where we can see Manufacture and Nature so

curiously blended. We are not paper makers, but we fancy we could be,

and put up with very bad times with such company as the surroundings of

our business provide! There is here a capacity for turning out twelve tons

of good paper per week. This means a very large and extensive capital,

and a capital not only of money, but of brain.

The home, foreign, and colonial Agents for Messrs. Walter Monckton & Co.

are as follows :-

London-Messrs. Frank Green 8c Co., 193, Upper Thames Street, E.C.

Manchester—Mr. John Heywood.

Foreign Agents :-—Paris : Mr. L. Avril, 73, Rue Vivienne ; and

(London House) 12, Castle Street, Holbom, E.C.

Colonial agents :–Sydney: Mr. john Sands. Melbourne : Messrs. Sands

and M‘Dougall.

Canada—Messrs. A. Buntin 8  Co., Montreal.


First-class Ledger Paper, Machine made, Hand-

sized, Loft-dried.

In all the usual sizes, of all Wholesale Stationers.

International Exhibitions:

LONDON, 1872. PARIS, 1878. SYDNEY, N.S.W., 1879.


“ A very good machine-made Account Book Paper which in hardness seems superior

to any at present in use.”—Journal of the Society of Arts.

“ Of improved makes of imitation hand-made Papers, _the principal is MONCKTON’S,

which year by year is gaining ground, not only in the quality, but in general acceptance

by the Trade, and has now made for itself a good position.”—Paper Trade review

“ Monckton’s Ledger Papers, so well known to the Trade, are very tough, and quite

equal to many hand-made papers. This paper, in manufacture, does not touch a hot

surface, and is hand-sized and loft-dried. Messrs. Walter Monckton & Co. were the

first makers who introduced this class of paper, and the have achieved a wide reputation

for excellence of quality.”—The British and Colonial paper Trade Review, 1879.

2 responses to “Basted Mill 1880

  1. Robert Holden.

    The story and description of the paper mill took me back to a different age. I have a lot of very old newspapers with a very different texture then today’s papers. Obviously produced using the process described. Thank you very much.

  2. Derek Shelbrooke

    We visited Basted Mills yesterday. It is still a beautiful place. The mill has gone and replaced by expensive private housing. The woods have been changed into public walks and picnic areas.

Leave a Reply on a relevant page

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s