Glossop Heritage Trust
Popular Papers and their Manufacture.
Olive & Partington, Dover Mills and Turn Lee Mills, Glossop.
This article is transcribed from an original in “The British Printer”, published at the end of the nineteenth century.
A portion of Olive and Partington's mills
With perhaps the exception of “that hundredth man” the mystical individual who is supposed to prove the rule by being its notable exception—all can appreciate the charms of a district where ridge upon ridge of heather-capped hills stretch far as eye can reach, their grassy slopes gradually descending to long winding valleys through which rivers, scarce free from their headwaters, roll along seawards, absorbing the numberless noisy torrents leaping to meet them from either bank.
When it is hinted that this sort of thing forms not merely the ideal secluded spot for a summer afternoon's “laze,” but the situation of a colossal business, the site of many buildings, the working home of a not inconsiderable community, and possessing the essentials and characteristics of busy commercialism at every turn, one not unnaturally demands to know “right now” where such conditions exist, so that “when our ship comes in” we also may establish the home of our labours under similar idyllic conditions.
Near the head of one of the valleys at the fool of the “Scout”—the famous Peak of Derbyshire—and close to the borders of three other counties, lies the cleanly, stone-built manufacturing town of Glossop, the home of certain celebrated calico printing and cotton businesses, and embracing in its boundaries two large groups of buildings situated further up the valley, known as the paper mills of Olive and Partington.
In some degree, all paper mills have a certain amount of interest to the fraternity whose daily toil or pleasure it is to adorn or spoil their product, but these possess an especial claim to attention on account of the efforts made by the firm to supply “art” papers, coated surfaces, tinted and coloured papers for the use of printers doing really good modern work. In company with the engineers, artists, and ink manufacturers who in their respective branches have of late provided such facilities for the printer, the paper makers are well to the front in no less valuable enterprise, and it is but due to the firm of Olive & Partington to recognise the great influence they have exerted in this direction.
In attempting any description of the works producing the popular papers, we must not omit to express our admiration for their situation and arrangement especially when we compare the surroundings of workers in our large cities. Erected thus in the country to secure the desired water supply, light, air, and accommodation, the mills comprise quite a number of substantial-looking buildings. They are divided into two groups, the larger and the one nearer the town including the “Turn Lee Mills” and the fine “New Dover Mills,” and some quarter-mile up the valley are the compact “Dover Mills.” In both groups the remarkably clean and modern appearance of the buildings strikes the stranger, who is truly “taken in,” all being built of good light-faced Derbyshire stone. The group known as The “Dover Mills” comprises a series of buildings ranging from one to three storeys and of various sizes, access being obtained through a large yard opening on to the main road. To the right is the boiler house, holding a fine new boiler capable of working at some 120-lb. pressure, and backed by a set of economisers. Near the rear is housed an admirably kept horizontal engine of some 100-h.p. To the left of the yard is a two-storied building, the second floor of which is devoted to the clerical management. The large office is furnished in modern orthodox fashion, including a typewriter, a large staff being busily occupied. Beyond this are the private offices of the manager, the equipment of which—half laboratory and half commercial—indicates the occupation of the responsible inmate. On the same floor a large room contains an enormous number of filed papers, being samples of supplies issued, so that reference may be made when necessary. Other portions of the building house various classes of stock.
Section of Paper-Staining Rooms, “New Dover Mills”
Across the yard is reached the main portion of the group, and which may he entitled The Paper-Staining Department. The first portion of the lower floor is devoted to colour mixing, and provided with an extensive plant, including appliances tor crushing, boiling, mixing, and sieving. Here the colours are prepared ready for application to the paper, being sent to the machine-rooms in an easy-working, fluid condition. Hydraulic lifts carry the colour thus prepared to the machine-room above. Here is to be seen plant of a special character, and the long, broad, and well-lighted room forms quite a fascinating sight, as the extended rows of paper festooned from ceiling to floor are seen slowly sailing along from end to end of their tether.
At one end is the apparatus for dealing with the colour, and adjacent are the staining machines, these being vertical and many-cylindered erections, first bringing the paper into contact with the colour, then carrying it forward and onward to dry. The paper is fed in by single rolls, and naturally the problem is how to handle and dry it after receiving the damp coating. The machines in use are marvellous in the ingenuity with which they appear to tackle the problem. The colour is transferred to the surface by a series of brushes and felts, and distributed by brushes working against the carrying rollers. From the impression cylinders the paper is carried upwards and onwards over a frame ; at the right moment a brush handle sort of a holder drops into position under the paper, lifts it, and is itself with its burden placed on a slowly travelling rack overhead. This operation is repeated at regular intervals until the whole room is hung with folds of paper slowly moving from the colouring machine down the room and returning to the accessory winding machinery. It is truly astonishing to find the whole of this action to be perfectly automatic, and those of a mechanical turn of mind must be delighted with the regular, easy action of the huge yet simple apparatus. The whole department is specially interesting as shewing the first important step of providing tone, tint, enamel, coat, or whatever term we choose to apply to the addition to the surface of the plain paper.
In adjacent rooms the next process is carried on, this consisting of running the coated paper through various burnishing machines, which by friction rollers, brushes, and the use of French chalk, ground flint, etc., impart a high degree of finish and polish.
An almost equally interesting department is located on the floor above. One portion of this is devoted to making boards, partly by machine and partly by hand, according to the kind of board required. One of the machines at work quite fascinated us, this being yet another combination of the steel rollers seemingly a necessary constituent of all the machines in the place. The one in question takes in from two to six rolls simultaneously, gums, brings together, dries the whole, and cuts in sheets as required, all so quietly and easily that one expects to hear it say, “Is there anything else I can do for you? Shall I sell the stuff, for instance?” Through the flooring of this room also are run the rolls from the tinting machinery, being here re-rolled and brushed to keep the edges perfect and the whole smooth and straight.
The Tin-Foil Department is responsible for one of the specialities of the “Dover Mills,” the manufacture being carried on in extensive fashion. A series of lower rooms is solely concerned with the preparation of the liquid “foil” from the pure tin. In one section the gradual evolution of the block tin to a semi-fluid of the consistency of printing ink forms an interesting set of chemical processes. Only pure tin is used, and the firm guarantees that no lead or other poisonous material is utilised, so that the completed foil is exactly suitable for wrapping such articles as teas and tobaccos.
Section of the Tin-Foil Department, “Dover Mills”
The adjacent tin-foil printing and perfecting room—a view of which is given herewith—is of considerable size, and contains a heavy plant, the arrangement of which is best understood by reference to the illustration. Along one side are arranged bulky coating machines and huge calenders, the former being engaged in coating and drying the rolls receiving the tin-foil, and the latter working at various speeds promptly transforming the leaden-hued surface to the polished appearance one associates with tin-foil. From the bright steel-cylindered calendering machines the rolls pass to rotary cutters, and then to the upright guillotines to be cut to the size desired. The other side of the room is fitted with broad, ample tables, on which the succeeding sorting, counting, and packing are carried out. A noteworthy portion of the process the otherwise finished sheets undergo is that of pressure between powerful rollers. The sheets from the guillotines are taken half-a-dozen together and interleaved between thin polished flexible steel plates, and the whole is run in between powerful rollers, corning out with a dazzling polish, and now quite ready for counting and packing. Stock-rooms are provided close at hand. On the floor overhead is a section devoted to making tin-foil boards, the pasting being accomplished by muscular lassies who deftly handle, lift, and carry the heavy sheets with the ease of athletes. A large area of drying racks is used for the hoards, and here we notice various special and smaller jobs, such as gold and other varnished papers, on order for particular purposes. No less interesting are the Embossing Machines located here, consisting of feeding and take-off cylinders enclosing a couple of rollers engraved as male and female dies. There is a splendid set of designs, and the work produced is wholly pleasing and even brilliant in results.
The mills so briefly described formed up to the last two or three years the sole accommodation for the manufacture of “art” papers, but the steady growth in popularity demanded increased facilities, and the “New Dover Mills” were therefore erected. We reach these by returning along the road, and find that the various buildings occupy quite a considerable area between the two main outlets from Glossop running either side the valley. To their rear are two enormous buildings, the one forming the “New Dover Mills,” the other being the latest addition to the “Turn Lee Mills,” whilst along the course of the valley run the various other sections of these mills completing the series.
The Roll Stock Room, “New Dover Mill”
Very brief reference must suffice for this portion of the work, because so multifarious are the details, so enormous the plant, and so great the facilities, that adequate description would require a special edition of the B.P., and thus we have selected the “art” paper departments for special reference. One great fact more and more impresses itself upon the notice of those privileged to examine the plant, and that is the very up-to-date character of the equipments. Nothing is too good or too expensive an adjunct to these mills; the best and most modern machinery must be obtained, causing constant changes, and not only is this the case, but the observant note-taker soon finds out that the skilled inventor is ever at work. Mr. Partington himself is responsible for some of the most important developments in the production of paper-making machinery and the improvement of processes, and this inventive skill finds its outlet in all departments. It is evident, too, that everyone is on the qui vive, so that it is difficult to keep pace with the improvements and developments so constantly taking place.
The “New Dover Mill” is a handsome stone structure of three storeys, 200-ft long by 80-ft. in width. Between the new mills is a large reservoir, and on the further side the ground rises to the elevated position occupied by a handsome series of villas erected by the firm. “New Dover Mill” is devoted to the production of art papers and chromo papers, only here the whole appliances and accommodation are on a greatly extended scale. When we see rooms of 120 x 60-ft., three in number, lofty and well lighted, we realise the importance of this section of the industry. The two lower floors are devoted to stock, and one of our illustrations—shewing a section of the second floor—will help to bear out the claim made by the firm's representatives, of maintaining in stock all sizes, weights, and qualities of paper in reels ready for instant treatment in the coating and staining departments, so that nothing debars orders for all kinds of printing papers being taken and, what is more to the point, fulfilled promptly.
The third storey includes the manager's laboratory, where colours are mixed ready for the machines, but with this exception almost the whole of the floor is devoted to staining and coating machinery. This class of plant has already been described in connection with the “Old Dover Mills,” only here there are more machines ; one of our illustrations indicates how closely they are massed and the manner in which the great lengths of papers go sailing round in the heated air. Some half-a-dozen calendering machines, somewhat on the principle of the printer's hot-rolling machine, are adjacent. In the room above the rolls receive further burnishing and smoothing, Following the processes, we proceed to a large room devoted to cutting, counting, sorting, and packing, and here a large staff of girls are busily at work sorting and counting, and with deft fingers unerringly deciding whether the sheets shall go out or be retained.
The other sections of these mills are devoted mainly to stock in reams, an illustration shewing the enormous capacity of the splendid room. Hydraulic lifts afford communication between the floors, and there is every facility for removing and reaching the great variety of stock here placed ready for transit. Everything is on a large scale, and this department alone suffices to impress the printer with the colossal proportions of the business he deals with.
Edward W. Allen
The manager of these departments is Mr. Edward W. Allen, whose portrait we have pleasure in presenting herewith. Mr. Allen is still a young man, and has been with the firm for his whole working life, sixteen years, the last ten as manager of the “Dover Mills.” He is one of the busiest of the busy men responsible to the tireless head of the firm, is thoroughly practical, and most successful in his branch of the business. A wide circle of business acquaintances will recognise the excellent portrait.
At the head of the private road descending to the “Turn Lee” works stands a fine two-storied building looking out on to the road on one side and separated from the mill yard by a turf-banked reservoir. These are the offices of the “Turn Lee Mills.” The lower floor forms the counting-house, where the cashier and his staff are accommodated, Mr. Partington's private room being alongside. Upstairs are two ample rooms, one devoted to the mechanical engineers and equipped with the necessary instruments, appliances, and tables for draughting, besides a photographic plant and accessory materials. The other room proclaims itself afar off—we have reason to sadly remember its odours—here being housed the laboratory occupied by the firm's chemist. This talented individual occupies an important part in the working of the mechanical-chemical operation of paper making, especially where, as in this case, the firm makes its own “liquors.” It is also his care to chemically test all stages of the processes, thereby affording a guide to the condition of appliances and plant.
In the centre of the mill yard stand a couple of offices, one utilised for the management and time-keeping, and the other provided with instruments proving a strong attraction to us. These are in the care of officials, who test the weight, strength, thickness, and quality of the paper being made. Printers are not unnaturally puzzled to understand how the makers can exactly provide definite weights and qualities, so that this department possesses no small interest. Adjacent is the central boiler house with its four fine boilers.
A Stock Room, “Turn Lee Mills”
As the product of the “Dover Mills,” New and Old, rather than the news, wrapper, and pulp sections, chiefly concerns our readers, special reference may be made to their output. The firm's “art” papers were first made some ten years ago, and have met with extraordinary success. Amongst the very first to take up this class of paper, the reward soon came, and the product increased by leaps and bounds. Undoubtedly the firm made its mark with these papers, and printers will heartily acknowledge the facilities the handsome papers afford. So popular are they that no description is required, and we may merely mention that they are made in white, tinted, and duplex—the two latter being supplied in an immense variety of tones and surfaces. The “art” boards are made in similar classes. The chromo papers form another very strong line, and we see that heavy stocks are kept on reel ready to cut to almost any size. There is much variety in this series, but the chief members are the dull and bright white enamels, tinted bright litho enamels (in a great variety of tints), surface-coloured litho enamels in tints, waterproofed or imitation calf papers, and two-sided surfaced papers.
The tin-foil department has already been mentioned as of much importance, its output including plain, embossed in various designs, two-sided, and duplex-coloured foils. The embossing is applied with the greatest success to “art” papers, tin-foil, coloured, enamelled, or surface papers, imitation calf papers, which are all embossed in a variety of designs. This department has been in existence nearly forty years. The pasteboard department specialises the making of plain white boards, silk boards, and duplex-coloured boards.
We note that in the various sections any colour may be matched, and as with every other department, every one is constantly on the alert to discover something new and improved.
In the portrait of Mr. T. Smith, printers will recognise the genial representative of the firm as regards the “Dover Mills” output. Mr. Smith is a member of a most successful company of commercial gentlemen waiting upon the trade, and quite alive to the position occupied in representing so well known and important a house as Olive & Partington. Our references are more particularly devoted to the “art” paper manufacture, or we should have endeavoured to present to our readers the whole staff entrusted with the duty of bringing “grist to the mill.”
Turning again towards the central portion of the mills—The Paper-Making Department proper—we are attracted by the din of hammers and the sound of fitters' tools, and turning aside we find a surprise in the shape of a large engineers' “shop”— strongly reminding us of certain peregrinations about Otley. This department occupies a large and skilled staff, not only in the necessary repairs for such an enormous plant as is maintained at the works, but in adapting and even making appliances for more expeditiously turning out the work.
Wood Pulp Making. Alongside the “New Dover Mills” are lofty stacks of timber, maturing for use in the pulp-making departments, for whilst esparto is used for the finest classes of “art” papers, the chief proportion of the paper produced by the firm originates as Finland and Scandinavian spruce. These logs arrive in 6-ft. lengths, 8 or 9-in. in diameter, and are stacked until the demand for the average of 250 tons weekly calls for their removal. Outside the mills parallel circular saws cut the timber into two-foot lengths; they are taken into the second floor of the pulp department, where a number of terribly noisy machines are at work. The lengths are “barked” by pressure against a revolving cylinder, and then placed upright on the anvil of an automatic wood-chopper. Being split into narrow lengths, these are fed into the maw of a powerful cutter, which, by an arrangement of sharp knives attached to a broad wheel, hurriedly drags in and grinds exceedingly small the material with which it is fed. An endless band carries away the resulting chips—now about the size of a penny—under the eyes and ready fingers of an attendant, who picks out knots and rough pieces. The fragments are first sent through dusting machinery, and then gradually piled into great mounds over trap doors leading to enormous spherical rotary “pans” on the first floor. These pans are of steel, with a lining of acid-proof cement and tiles which has succeeded the former leaden lining in use, the composition of which has only been arrived at after much experience and research. There are three pans 12-ft. in diameter, and eleven pans 10-ft. in diameter, made to slowly rotate, and the effect of a row of these huge spheres revolving side by side lends to convey quite an inadequate and erroneous impression of the enormous weight represented. Below each pan is a perforated acid-proof and tile-lined bed. The smaller pans contain 50-cwt. of wood and the bi-sulphite liquor; the larger contain 84-cwt.
Self-contained, the works include the whole manufacture of the Sulphite Liquor which is a chief agent in the transformation of wood to paper, and an enormous plant is occupied in the preparation of the potent fluid. A series of huge pans, a maze of pipes, pits, tanks, and tubes need to be followed in noting the progress made in the manufacture. We closely followed our courteous guide in this department on the occasion of our visit; he was as full of information as his pans were of heat, and kindly dwelt on each stage, especially, it seemed to us, where the sulphur was strongest and keenest; it was a broiling hot day—and, well, after this, a very short reference will be sought for at our hands. Briefly, the sulphite liquor is primarily made from magnesium Yorkshire limestone, prepared In Partington's Patent Apparatus, which is contrived on a novel system; the milk of lime is made to pass through three tanks, one above the other, flowing continuously downwards. Whilst thus forming a stream, sulphur dioxide gas is drawn through in a diverse direction, so that the strongest gas meets of necessity the strongest liquor, and the weakest vice versa. The sulphur dioxide is prepared by burning sulphur recovered from alkali waste by the Chance process, which contains 99-95 per cent, of pure sulphur. The liquor used contains about 3½ to 4 per cent, sulphur dioxide.
A Beating House, “Turn Lee Mills”
This liquor is run into the spherical pans already mentioned as receiving the crushed wood, and steam is applied at a pressure of 70-lbs., the pan being maintained slowly revolving for from fourteen to eighteen hours, chemical tests and experience affording an indication of the time when the contents are properly “cooked.” When this desired stage is reached sulphur dioxide gas is partly blown off through long lead coils in cold water, which condenses the gas, thus effecting economy, and simultaneously preventing a nuisance on blowing the pan off which may be imagined rather than described. After the blowing-off the liquor is allowed to drain, and the remainder washed two or three times in fresh water; the contents are then emptied on the tiled floor beneath. At this stage the product is a soft pulpy mass of a yellowish colour, turning grey on being squeezed dry, and strongly acid in flavour. The next stage is to convey the material to a patent disintegrator, which gets merrily to work, breaking up and opening out the fibre. From here it falls into one of the “stuff chests.” The next stage carries to the press, where on something like a crude paper machine it is freed from knots, sulphite of lime, and other impurities, and delivered in a condition suitable for bleaching. The unbleached “stuff” is only good for the commoner papers, and 95 per cent, of the paper made here is bleached. The greyish-green pulp is then removed to the three large bleaching engines, each holding 10-cwt. of stuff, and after treatment with solutions of bleaching powder, it is emptied into the “stuff chests,” where it stands five or six hours, and is then pumped into large drainers, each holding eight or nine tons of dry pulp.
At last we arrive at The Paper-Making Proper. From the drainers the pulp is removed in trucks to the beating engines, of which there are four or five to each machine. Here it is mixed with the other necessary ingredients—size, clay, colour, etc.—in suitable proportions to the kind of paper required. Each engine contains 450 to 550-lbs., and when ready the contents are pumped through a new beater— Partington's Improved Kingsland—and after passing through stuff chests is ready for flowing on to the machines.
A Paper-Making Machine, “Turn Lee Mills”
Our illustration shews one of these enormous and complex machines, of which there are four in use, taking a breast roll of from 96 to 116 inches, the set turning out 130 tons of paper weekly, and running day and night, Monday morning to Saturday noon. The machines are some 120-ft. long, and take in the liquid at the feeding end, pass it rapidly along over the moving bed, and then over and under cylinders innumerable, until the result is attained by the completed paper being gradually evolved and produced as a huge roll at the other end. The partition noticeable half-way is a screen to take away the steam—a boon to workers, although spoiling our view. These machines are marvellous in all respects, and rival in size and complexity even the fast rotary perfecting presses.
The “Turn Lee Mills” issue paper both in reels and in reams, printings forming the largest output, while white and toned super-calendered papers, cartridges, engine-sized writings, and imitation parchments are included, reaching a total weekly product of 120 tons for Turn Lee alone.
The sole proprietor of this huge industrial enterprise is Mr. Edward Partington, who, still in the very prime of life, has successfully inaugurated and carried on not only the Glossop business but half-a-dozen other and kindred achievements. The firm-name of “Olive & Partington” was obtained when Mr. Partington and a Mr. Olive commenced business together ; Mr. Olive died some years afterwards, and by paying out the Olive interest Mr. Partington became sole proprietor. The business is closely connected with the Kellner-Partington Wood Pulp Co., Ltd. Mr. Partington is sole proprietor of the Broughton Mills, part proprietor of two others, and is so directly or indirectly associated with the various branches of the industry, that he stands practically at the head of the British paper trade. We have pleasure in presenting his portrait and those of his two sons.
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Page last updated: 9 April 2018.
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