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Friday’s Snapshot … Off at a tangent!

September 21, 2012

I go off at a tangent; I will bring you back to the library theme I hope. In 1978 aged 28 years old for reasons not necessary to discuss at the moment I found myself in need of a full-time employment. I had been an accounts clerk; but out of the job market for 6 years, so I had to gain experience for my future career and settled for a job as a clerk in the Buying Office,  for John Dickinson Paper and Board, Croxley Mills in Watford.

John Dickinson was pre-eminent among the English papermakers in the period 1810-1860.  In partnership with the publisher George Longman he acquired Apsley Mill in Hertfordshire  in 1809 and nearby Nash Mill in 1811.

During the next twenty years steam engines and machines were installed.  And then Croxley Mill was built, while high quality rag paper was produced at Nash Mill and Apsley Mill produced stationery and cards; the firms paper manufacture was concentrated at Croxley.


When I joined the late 1970s the company was in decline.  It was easy to see why; the machines in use had not changed much from the previous century.  Any replacements were not functioning to their full capacity.  Also the working conditions were poor there were no health safety rules in place. Unfortunately the management were inadequate and the trade union was growing more and more dissatisfied  and becoming outspoken.
I was directly responsible to the Buyer who bought everything required to make paper, such  as the  wood pulp that came from Canada by ship and then up the grand Union Canal by barge to Croxley.
My boyfriend at the time worked in the sales office as a Progress Chaser. So while I was ensuring that the wood pulp had arrived and that the quality was good.  He would be making sure that the paper for his customers was being delivered on time and that it was to a high standard.
One of his customers was Ladybird Books; they expected the best paper. To make a profit it was necessary to run the paper once. For example from the wood pulp to paper; if there was a flaw or blemish then the paper was repulped and re-run.
Unfortunately while using machines that were outdated and unreliable; the paper needed to be run two or three times before it was perfect .  Also Croxley Mills and her paper had a reputation to keep.  So for 50 years or so; while they made the finest paper the mill was making a loss.

It was a  wonderful opportunity for me to get back into the employment.  I have many stories to tell about my time there.

But the main point of my story is that here at the the Museum of English Rural Life and Special Collections we are the custodians of the entire collection of Lady Bird Books.
Books that I remember as  child, my children enjoyed and now my grandchildren have a small collection.
More importantly I actually had a significnt part in their production.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rose-Ann permalink
    September 21, 2012 9:03 am

    That was fascinating, Helen!

    • September 21, 2012 9:07 am

      Thanks! I was shocked/disappointed/pleased that there was little about the old place where I began working again! So I might look a bit further into the social history. There is loads about JD and his Machines! In Longman!

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