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John Dickinson, the paper maker, turned Croxley from a village into an industrial community. That happened in 1830, when he opened Croxley Mill beside the Grand Union Canal at Croxley, on Common Moor.
He was born in 1782 and began his career as a stationer in London, becoming interested in the making of the goods he sold, and being of an inventive turn of mind, he devised and patented paper-making machinery in 1807 and 1809. This was an advance on the first machine to make paper as a continuous web. Before then, paper had been made by hand and sheet by sheet.
Seeking a suitable site to exploit his inventions; he came to Hertfordshire, where there were already some 18 paper mills and in 1809 he bought one at Apsley from George Stafford. A year later he bought Nash Mills - and in that year he married Ann Grover.
By 1824 he owned mills there and at Batchworth, in Rickmansworth, and in 1826 he started to negotiate with Gonville and Caius College for the purchase of the site for the Croxley mill. Since this was on a common, an Act of Parliament was needed to authorise it. The mill started work in 1830 and by 1838 was producing 14 tons of paper a week.
About 1886 the area was extended by 16 acres. A year later the Batchworth mill was closed and paper making was concentrated at Croxley. It was a busy period. John Dickinson & Co. Ltd. was formed and 50 cottages were built at Dickinson Square to house its workers. In 1888 the first shorthand typist was taken on.
Meanwhile, John Dickinson's reputation had spread and in 1845 he was elected a member of the Royal Society for his many inventions in paper making. Among the many famous brands of paper made at Croxley were Croxley Script, Colne Valley Parchment and the range of Lion papers.
John Dickinson had a reputation for a hot temper and for the use of intemperate language. But among his good works, he helped to build the church at Leverstock Green.
He retired from the firm in 1858, at the age of 76, and died in 1869, aged 87. His wife Ann survived him and she died in 1874.
The firm prospered famously for many years. Between January and July 1928, as much as 5,280 miles of Croxley paper were turned into books. But 50 years later the firm was in decline. In the five years up to 1980, the mill made losses of œ8,000,000 as a result of rising costs and falling demand.
Croxley Mill was finally closed on 19 December 1980, just 150 years after it opened and was demolished for development. The site is now occupied by the Croxley Business Centre.
- Text by Don Tilley, from sources including "The Endless Web" by Joan Evans (1955) and the files of Croxley and Rickmansworth Libraries.
- February 1993, Published by the Council's Information Office, Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth, WD3 1RL