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
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 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”
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.
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
Canada—Messrs. A. Buntin 8 Co., Montreal.
First-class Ledger Paper, Machine made, Hand-
In all the usual sizes, of all Wholesale Stationers.
LONDON, 1872. PARIS, 1878. SYDNEY, N.S.W., 1879.
“EXCELLENT QUALITY, MODERATE PRICE.”
“ 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.
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.
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.