Paper Mill at Adderbury Grounds

The bridle path off the Oxford Road at the end of Berry Hill Road is still known as Paper Mill Lane from the days when it led to a mill making watermarked paper for bank notes. A mill existed here as long ago as 1086 when it is recorded in the Domesday Book , which mentions that in the parish of Dadintone (Deddington) there were three flour mills. Although, according to the Ordnance Survey map, the mill site is just inside Deddington parish, it has always been associated with Adderbury. All that remains on the site today are Paper Mill Cottages.

The first paper was made in England probably in the 1490s, when Thomas Tate’s watermark is found overprinted with Caxton’s mark. Although it is known that countless small mills began producing paper from time to time, there is little information on them. However, the 1983 edition of the Victoria History of Oxfordshire records that in 1660 Christopher Doyley of Adderbury asked leave of John Cartwright to convert the Old Mill into a paper mill. Michael Hutton of Hampton Gay made a similar proposal in 1684 and workmen were then engaged to make the conversion.

Good quality writing and bank note paper were made at the mill until 1873 according to one authority. A mineral spring produced water for pulping and this enhanced its suitability for bank note paper. Records show that John Emberlin (1791) carried on his business of papermaking here and Sophia Emberlin (1846) was probably the last of the papermakers of that name. Subsequently a Mr Hobday occupied the mill, and then in the 1870s Zachariah Walden Stilgoe of Adderbury Grounds purchased it and converted it into a corn mill, for which purpose it remained in use until 1962. Apart from minor repairs the mill wheel, 15 feet in diameter, is still in its original state.

The only other relic of the mill’s papermaking days is the double foolscap laid-mould for the watermark. Dusty, worn and partly disfigured, the watermarks were discovered when an old type meat safe was removed from one of the farm buildings. They had been used as two sides of the safe!

The reason for the introduction of watermarks is not well established. It is possible they served as a trade mark, showed the location of the mill, the owner’s name or indicated the size or quality of the sheet or date of manufacture. The laid hand mould was a rectangular frame on which a delicate mesh of wires was sewn forming a sieve through which water could drain, leaving the paper pulp on the surface of the mould.


June Stilgoe, writing in Contact in April 1983

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