Coal to Sandford Mill

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2018

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones studies the history of one of the many paper mills on the upper Thames and the traffic that served it.

The mill at Sandford-uponThames in Oxfordshire was of considerable antiquity, and was originally used to grind corn, before James Swann bought it in June 1823 and converted it to paper production. He had already bought two other old mills at Wolvercote, near Oxford, and the close-by village of Eynsham, which he also used to make paper. Sandford Mill later passed to brothers Henry, John and William Swann. Initially, paper-making was done by hand using water power but there were difficulties maintaining a consistent flow due to fluctuating levels. Then, in about 1840, paper-making machinery was installed at Sandford and it was probably about this time that steam power was first introduced, even though it was considered expensive. It is likely that steam was used primarily for rag boiling, as this was the main raw material in paper-manufacturing at the time, with waterwheels continuing to provide the primary power well into the 20th century. Coal was brought to the mill by boat. Even af…

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