Information by John Robson, who provided Genealogies for the Charles Smith and the Lepard Families included the following historical Information:


Pigot's 1839 Directory for Hertfordshire lists under the heading Paper Maker:
“Smith, James (for drawing, writing and copper-plate) Hamper Mills, Watford.”
The 1850 Post Office Directory entry for Watford includes:
Smith, James, paper maker, Hamper Mills”


Further afield in the parish, one of the oldest buildings is Hamper Mill recorded in Domesday. In 1300 it is referred to as Hanpole Mulle or Hanpole Mill, hana being Old English for cock. In 1356, there is a record of it being called Hamper Myll but at the Dissolution it had fallen into the hands of a man called Zowche and was called Souches Mill. In 1750 it was still being used for grain but twenty six years later it became a paper mill under one, Lepard. It was rebuilt in 1793 and last used in 1908. Oxhey Hall (N.G.R. T.Q. 104944) with its noted panelling is built on a moated mediaeval site. Silk Mill Road reminds the passerby that there was a silk mill operating as "Rookery Mill" by 1771 and continued doing so for a hundred and ten years, using water from the River Colne. – [Source unknown]



The following information was kindly supplied by Michael Stanyon, Voluntary part time archivist with the Apsley Paper Trail


Extract from an article published in the Paper Trade Review in 1957.  The research was for a doctoral thesis, the author having died about two years ago. – [Source and Date of this Information is unknown, as is the Date of the Author’s death]




Hamper Mill (1776)

In one form or another Hamper Mill had existed from the 14th century, but it was not used for paper making until the late 18th century, by which time it had passed into the hands of the Clothworkers Company. On 16th April, 1776, they advertised in the " London Evening Post " thus: " To be lett... on a lease for 21 years, or ... longer ... a corn mill, and a paper mill, new erected, but not completely finished." Further advertisements appeared in August, and as a result Robert Williams, of Rickmansworth, was interviewed in October and November by the Court of the Company. In the final agreement Williams leased the mill for 42 years at a yearly rental of £55, providing he spent £700 on completing the mill during the first 18 months.


In January 1780 Williams died, owing his administrator, William Lepard, a stationer and rag merchant of Newgate Street, London, £820 for goods supplied. The leasehold paper mill was auctioned in April, 1780, and the equipment and stock were bought by Lepard through one Revell as an agent. Lepard subsequently petitioned the Company, saying the mill had been completed, and surrendered William's lease. In June, 1781 one Cromps received on his behalf a new lease to run to Midsummer 1833. Further leases extending to 1874 were granted to James Smith, grandson of William Lepard, and in June 1874 Joseph Gutteridge Smith, great-grandson of Lepard, bought the freehold of the mill for £5,000.


William Lepard was only 23 when he started in 1757 a stationery business in Tooley St., London. This was moved first to Upper Thames St., and later to Newgate St. It seems probable that when Williams began making paper at Hamper Mill, Lepard obtained much, if not all, his paper there, and in view of his readiness to acquire the mill when Williams died he evidently believed it would be cheaper to make his own paper and desirable to ensure an adequate and regular supply for his London stationery business. Moreover, he removed his residence from London to Hamper Mill and lived there until his retirement in 1798. Though not apprenticed to the trade, he must have made himself proficient as a paper maker, for in 1786 he was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Society of Arts " as a mark of the Society's approbation of his attempt. . . for making . . . paper for taking impressions from engraved copper plates equal to that imported from France." In addition he took part in the activities of the Master Paper Makers. On 14th December 1791 he attended a meeting at Batson's Coffee House, London, to discuss representations to the Government about the Excise duties, and in February 1796 he was present at a meeting of the Hertfordshire paper makers when they decided on a lockout of their workers in reply to the men's threat to strike if their wages were not raised.


In 1788 William Lepard's daughter, Elizabeth, married John James Smith, who left his trade as a watchmaker to become a paper maker. On the 6th December 1791 he became a freeman of the Stationers Company by redemption, and a liveryman 2 years later. He succeeded his father-in-law at Hamper Mill in 1798, where he continued to work and live until his death at the age of 60 in 1821.


After the disastrous fire in January 1793 which destroyed almost everything except the dwellings and the rags, the mill was quickly rebuilt. A valuation of the property dated 3rd December 1806 gives the following details:

". . . The estate comprises a brick built Dwelling House, a Coach house, Stabling and tenements, Garden and about 20 acres of Meadow land.

"A two Vat Paper Mill with presses, water wheels and compleat drying rooms and warerooms, tenements and outbuildings.

"... value thereof is Two Thousand Five Hundred Pounds (£2,500 0s. 0d.) . . .".


John James Smith's two sons, James and William Lepard, were both "bound apprentice at Stationer's Hall" for 7 years in 1803 and 1810 respectively. James Smith became a liveryman of the Stationers Company on 4th November 1816. On the death of his father in 1821 he succeeded to the business. Like his father and grandfather he became well known in the paper trade. In 1825 he was chairman of the Paper-makers Association; between 1831 and 1860 he joined with other paper makers in petitioning the Treasury about abolishing the Paper Duties, and in 1859 he was admitted to the Court of the Stationers Company.


Mill No. 405 in the Uxbridge Collection, as Hamper had been designated by the Excise authorities in 1816, was greatly expanded during its management by John James Smith. About 1830 a Fourdrinier machine was erected by George Tidcombe, of whom more will be said later, with the help of a Mr. Strudwick. Until then, water power had been sufficient to drive the beating engines and to pump the water necessary for the various processes. But a paper-making machine required greater power and in consequence a steam engine was installed and a chimney stack built.


It seems likely that with the advent of the machine the number of workers was reduced. Although James Smith recorded in May 1849 that there were 24 men and boys and 36 women and girls at work and 32 unemployed, the Parliamentary return suggests that the mill was in full production since all 6 beating engines were at work in 1851. In 1860 there were about 45 workers, and in 1880 about 25. Admittedly by this latter date, when Joseph Gutteridge Smith had succeeded his father at the mill, it was definitely declining, despite the introduction of new products based on paper, such as papier-mache and Chapman's patent paper cloth. It was impossible for the mill to compete with other mills which had tended to expand greatly with increasing mechanisation and which, moreover, were more conveniently situated in regard to transport. Thus, about 1908, when J. G. Smith was over 80, paper making at Hamper came to an end.


During the 130 odd years it was at work many kinds of paper had been made, some of excellent quality. Reference has already been made to the plate paper for which William Lepard was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Society of Arts in 1786. Examples of his wove plate paper are found in the following books:


Undated. Gardner, John. Views taken on and near the River Rhine, 1791.

Dated 1794              Stowers. T. Six views in the vicinity of Hampstead.    1796.

Labillardiere. J. J. Voyage in search of La Perouse.    1800.

Rennell, James.    Herodotus.    1800

Wollet. W. Observations on modern gardening  ...  1801.


Later, in his "Tour of the Grand Junction" (1817-18) J. Hassell described the mill and referred to its products thus: "Messrs. Smith and Son's manufactory are, what are termed, the fine wove drawing papers, of every size, and certainly are considered of the finest quality in the market." Later .still there were machine made papers, and varieties multiplied— writing, account book, litho and tissue papers, as well as " middles," paper cloth and papier-maché.


Of all these only three kinds can now be seen. The earliest is a hand-made wove paper with a deckle edge, made from moulds about 25 in. x 24i in. in size. Each sheet was divided into three sections and in each section there is a large watermark, measuring in. x 4i in. Unfortunately on the piece seen only half of the watermark is found. This consists of the Royal Standard within a double circle which con­tains the words " Mal y pense," the whole supported by lions rampant with the motto "Dieu et Mon Droit" underneath, with a double ellipse circumscribing the whole design and containing the words "... . Office," presumably "Stamp Office." The second kind of paper is a machine-made white wove writing paper cut into sheets (14 ½ in. x 9 in.) and then folded to form double sheets (9 in. x 7 ¼ in.). In the top left corner of the front leaf is an engraving of the mill (3 in. x 2 ½ in.), and it is watermarked -



From this it seems probable that although John James Smith had died in 1821 his name continued to be used for business purposes. The third is a hand-made thick blue laid ledger paper cut into sheets 19 in. x 15 ½ in. In one half of the sheet there is the watermark –



and in the other half the counter-mark consists of a crown. Evidently after Joseph Gutteridge Smith had completed his apprenticeship, perhaps c. 1845, he joined his father and the name of the business was accordingly changed.




Uploaded to Airgale WebSite, October the 19th, 2007. – HUS.