The Mill Job

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2023

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones studies the coal traffic carried by boatmen-contractors to the papermills of John Dickinson & Co Ltd

For over a century the paper manufacturer John Dickinson & Co Ltd on the Grand Junction Canal used independent boatmen-contractors to transport coal to its mills, making them the largest single employer of these men and women. Established by John Dickinson in 1809, the company operated four main mills during the 19th and 20th centuries – Apsley, Nash, Home Park and Croxley – although other mills were employed or leased over the course of time. The first mill he bought was Apsley in 1809 and his first steam plant was established there in 1815. Dickinson’s use of canal transport for coal supply probably dates from this time. The three mills north of Croxley were known collectively as the ‘upper mills’. Nash Mill was bought in 1811 and Home Park started production early in 1826. All these mills were altered over time due to the changing nature of the business and upgrading of equipment and machinery. The workers in these mills were said to be largely po…

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