John Dickinson Stationery
John Dickinson Stationery Limited was a leading English stationery company founded in southwest Hertfordshire. Later merged to form the Dickinson Robinson Group. In the 19th century, the company pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making.
The company was founded in Apsley, Hertfordshire in 1804 by John Dickinson, who invented a continuous mechanized paper-making process. Dickinson patented his ideas in 1809 and in the same year he gained financial backing from George Longman, whose family controlled the Longman publishing firm. He established paper mills at Apsley (a former flour mill), Nash Mill (formerly a mediaeval corn-mill) in 1811 and Croxley. The canal at Apsley, Nash Mills and Croxley provided power for the mills and transport for materials and product.
The mill-house at Nash Mill, called Nash House, became the family home for Dickinson and his new wife Ann (née Grover) whose father Harry Grover supported this business development through his Grover's Bank. In a very few years Nash Mills was renowned for its production of tough thin paper for Samuel Bagster's "Pocket Reference Bible". A major fire in 1813 was a setback, but, being covered by insurance, enabled redevelopment towards large scale production.
John Dickinson & Co. Ltd had their Engineering Department at Nash Mills until 1888, when it was transferred to Apsley Mill. By the end of the nineteenth century, Nash Mill, which was small and had a reputation for independence, experienced a drop in profitability. Continuous minor changes were implemented until, in 1926 it underwent improvements with expansion, remodelling and refurbishment. The Lion Brand was adopted as the company logo in 1910. Companies were then formed in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere (thirteen countries in all).
The Basildon Bond brand of stationery was created by Millington and Sons in 1911. The brand is named after Basildon Park, where some of Millington's directors were staying and liked the alliteration of "Basildon" and "bond". The Millington & Sons company was acquired by John Dickinson in 1918, who then took over the Basildon Bond brand. The name "Basildon Bond" was used by comedian Russ Abbot for one of his characters.
John Dickinson patented a method of paper-making in June 1807, that rendered his rivals' techniques (principally the Fourdrinier machine) obsolete. In 1850, the company started mechanical envelope manufacturing, with gummed envelopes for the first time. The production of fine rag paper on electrically driven machines was a successful innovation at Nash Mill. The company pioneered the production of window envelopes in 1929.
Second World War
The company produced various paper and cardboard products for the war effort, and also branched out into engineering, producing items such as fuel tanks for long range fighter aircraft, 20 mm cannon shells, aircraft fuel pumps, magnetos and spark plugs. The company also made the foil strips codenamed Window used by the RAF to blind enemy radar.
Dickinson Robinson Group
Dickinson Robinson Group Ltd (DRG) was formed out of E. S. & A. Robinson Packaging of Bristol and John Dickinson & Co Ltd. in 1966, creating one of the world's largest stationery and packaging companies. In 1989, the asset-stripper Roland Franklin (Pembridge Investments) acquired DRG (by now including the Royal Sovereign group acquired in 1978) with a leveraged buyout worth £900 million.
In 1990, the paper mills in the group, Nash Mills, Keynsham Paper Mill and Fife Paper Mills, were sold to Sappi of South Africa. These mills were all subsequently closed down by Sappi as were all other acquisitions (Kymmini Oy, Blackburn Mill and Wolvercote Mill) they made in the UK. In 1999, what had been the Stationery Division of the Group was bought by Spicers Ltd and moved from Apsley to the village of Sawston, south of Cambridge.
Frogmore Paper Mill
Just north of the former Apsley Mill site in Hemel Hempstead is Frogmore Paper Mill, the world's oldest mechanised paper mill. It was here that Bryan Donkin first demonstrated the paper machine he developed for the Fourdrinier brothers. Now operated by a conservation and education charitable trust, Frogmore Mill is open to the public and incorporates a visitor centre, museum exhibition hall and art gallery as well as continuing to make paper on machine and by hand.
Black n' Red
Black n' Red, a brand of books and pads of paper produced by John Dickinson Stationery Limited, featured a striking black and red design. The front and back covers of such books are black, with the text "Black n' Red" written in red font in the bottom right corner of the cover. The spine or bind is also red.
John Dickinson & Co, Book Department produced a range of notebooks and pads but under their brand of "Challenge" - "Black n' Red was the market leader but produced and registered brand for the then Spicers Stationery Co.
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