Withnell Fold Paper Mill,

Centenary Celebrations on 29th June 1953

Return to Withnell Fold page

Extract from 'The Paper-Maker and British Trade Journal - July 1953'


Centenary celebrations at Blackpool

Directors, staff, workpeople and friends celebrated, on June 29, the 109 years' existence of Withnell Fold Paper Mill; but for the war the 100 years would have been celebrated in 1944. This mill, therefore, with its tradition of high quality papers known throughout the world, was being toasted on this wonderful summer's day in June, 1953, just nine years after its actual centenary. As the various speakers stressed, Withnell Fold has always been a family mill and to this day is referred to by many of the villagers as Parke's mill. To this happy family gathering, and responding to the toast of "Withnell Fold Paper Mill," came a Parke; a link with the founder of the mill, Thomas Blinkhorn Parke, for Mr. T. L. Parke, director, is the grandson of "T.B.P."

After the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty The Queen, proposed by Mr. G. Kenneth Whitehead, the manager of the mill, the toast of the Withnell Fold Paper Mill was proposed by Mr. G. B. C. Johnston, director, who said how honoured he was on this occasion to propose that toast.

"I was with Mr. Cozens-Hardy last Saturday," continued Mr. Johnston, "and he asked me to send you all his best wishes for a happy day and to apologise for not being able to be with you all on this very happy occasion. I wonder what Thomas Blinkhorn Parke, would have thought of this celebration. Of one thing I am very sure, he would have been proud of his mill and the reputation it has built up for itself in the paper trade. T. B. Parke was a rigid disciplinarian and used to rule with a rod of iron and there are many stories told of him but one will illustrate his strictness. In the mill was once a notice stating that a fine of 2s. 6d. would be made for anyone swearing in the mill . . .  ls. of this went to the informant and ls. 6d. to the missionary box."

A family mill

Mr. Johnston then went on to outline the founding of the mill and its ultimate amalgamation with Wiggins Teape in 1890. Mr. Johnston explained that since the amalgamation, new machinery and new production methods had increased output, keeping them up-to-date with present-day requirements, still bearing in mind the high quality of their products. Concluded Mr. Johnston, "Withnell Fold has always been known as a family mill and there is always a family atmosphere about the mill and so long as that exists Withnell Fold Paper Mill can look forward to another 100 years."

In response to the toast, Mr. T. L. Parke said: "I must first express the pleasure we all feel that Mr. Johnston had persuaded Mrs. Johnston to come with him. Now Mr. Johnston needs no introduction, as it was as far back as 1928 that he came to this mill when Mr. Cozens-Hardy was manager along with Billy and Isaae Hoyle, and they taught him all about making paper, although previous to this he had a good schooling at the Basted Mills under Mr. Low who was the manager then, and before that was the head paper maker at Withnell Fold. In his speech, Mr. Johnston has referred to many things and I must say that as a grandson of T. B. Parke, the founder of this mill, it gives me the greatest pleasure to be here today and naturally I feel very proud indeed to be replying to the centenary toast. This pride many of you can share with me as you are grandchildren or descendants of some of the original hands my grandfather first employed to cut the first sod, build the mill and then start up the machine. As a matter of interest, I will read to you the names of the first pay roll, which is dated March 5, 1843:

"Time book of the men employed at Withnell Fold Paper Works commencing 5th March, 1843"

"Joseph Marsden, Thos. Miller, L. Miller, Jno. Waring, Jno. Bury, Thos. Marsden, Thos. Bennett,?? Cliffe, Robert Saul, Thos. Livsey, Wm. Livsey, James Howarth, Jno. Marsden, P. Brindle, Geo. Thompson, Thos. Walton and Moses Miller."

The start of Withnell Fold

The idea of starting up a paper mill at Withnell Fold was conceived by my great-grandfather, Robert Parke, of Withnell Hall, who was a cotton spinner, but as the cotton trade at that time was so bad he had no intention of letting his son, T. B. Parke, follow in his footsteps. A paper mill at Darwen was burnt down about this time and this gave him the idea of starting up in the paper trade and I think that some men from the Darwen Mill formed the nucleus of his paper making system.

My grandfather religiously kept diaries from 1843 and these are preserved in the office today and were kept up after his death by my father and there are some very amusing entries. I should like to read you quite a few of them, but it would take far too long. The first entry re. paper making was on January 13, 1844, which reads: " . . Ran the machine for 20 minutes without a break." The paper trade also had its ups and downs in those days for another entry says: ' . . . went to Manchester today, could not sell a ream, neither could I collect a 1s."As you will see from the brochure he used to make newsprint from the start, making his own wood pulp. Rag papers were also made soon after and there are records in the diary that say he had a shot at making photographic base paper but with little success."

First mention of W. T. & Co.

The first mention of an order from W. T. & Co. was in 1847 for double cap, such as was never made here before and again in 1848 there must have been a repeat order, as it reads: " . . . this day brought an order from W. T. & Co., requiring some paper at 8d. per lb., telling me to make it as good as I can and charge at that price." Where will you find another that will say, take a little additional pains and charge another l/2d. per lb.'?

"Well, as years rolled on, my father, Herbert, found that the orders from W. T. & Co. had increased to something like 50 per cent. of his output. W. T. & Co. were also getting rather perturbed about the size of their orders to the Withnell Fold Mill, so they both decided to amalgamate and from 1890 the mill was taken by W. T. & Co. This made the first mill that W. T. & Co. owned as stationers, and after this, as trade increased, other mills were acquired and brought into the organisation. I am proud to say that the village of Withnell Fold has produced such families as the Eccles and Marsdens who made names for themselves as mill managers, both at the firm's mills and with those of our competitors. Although none of the Eccles family are with the firm now, the name of Marsden still flourishes well to the front and this is something to be proud of as the third generation, namely Dan Marsden, is head paper maker at Dartford and as I have a nephew who has been in the firm over a year now, this makes the fourth generation of the Parkes to carry on the family tradition of paper makers."

Fifth celebration

"I am glad to say that the number here today is a record. The first function of this sort was the celebration of the mill's 21st birthday by a tea in 74 Salle and a magic lantern show afterwards. The second was my father's coming-of-age in 1880. The third was the 50 years' jubilee in 1894 with a 'do' in the reading room. The fourth was an outing to Blackpool for my own coming-of-age and the fifth is this centenary outing, which, as you all know, could not be held on the exact date owing to the war."

"It is only left to me now to wish success to the paper trade in general and to the Withnell Fold Mill in particular, and may our grandchildren enjoy the happy comradeship which has always existed at this mill and celebrate the next centenary in such happy conditions. I hope that you will all enjoy yourselves this afternoon."

Mr. G. Kenneth Whitehead, mill manager, proposed the toast to the directors and guests and said that it was his very pleasant duty to welcome three of their London Directors to their centenary celebrations: Mr. G. B. C. Johnston, Mr. C. E. L. Whitehouse and Mr. J. R. Illingworth. He also extended a welcome to Mrs. Johnston and Mrs. Whitehouse.

"We are always very delighted," said Mr. Whitehead, "to see Mr. Tom Parke at the mill, and in the village the mill to this day is referred to as Parke's mill, and it is most appropriate that he should have responded to the toast of his mill. We are very pleased to see that he is accompanied by Mrs. Parke and Brian. I have a number of telegrams here apologising for absence and one is from our Chairman, Mr. L. W. Farrow, which reads" : "heartiest congratulations on your centenary, hope everyone will enjoy themselves to the full." S. N. Cozens-Hardy, Commander W. B. Pirie, J. A. Talbot, and the Secretary, E. W. Renwick, are the others who, owing to business commitments, cannot be with us today, but send their best wishes to you all for a happy time. A letter from Tom Davidson at Dover Mill sends his congratulations to all at Withnell Fold. Lastly, I should like to extend a warm welcome to all members of the staff, husbands, wives, friends and children and I am also particularly glad to see so many of our pensioners present. I wish you all a happy day and in years to come we shall all be able to look back on this occasion of our centenary celebration with pride and happiness."

Mr. C. E. L. Whitehouse said that it was a very great privilege for him to be associated with this centenary and also with the high quality papers of the W. F. Mill, which were known throughout the world.

"I was speaking only this morning by 'phone to our Chairman, Mr. L. W. Farrow," continued Mr. Whitehouse, "who owing to business commitments could not get up to join us in Blackpool and he sent me a personal message: 'hope you all have a wonderful time today.' "

The backroom girl

"To organise a function of this kind there is an enormous amount of work which goes on behind the scenes and for the success of this work there is one name which ought to be mentioned and that it Miss Callis, Mr. Whitehead's secretary. She is the backroom girl of these centenary celebrations and organisation. When I look at the record of service of the personnel I am very greatly impressed and the long service which has been given speaks well and augurs well for Withnell Fold Paper Mill."

Employees' tribute

Mr. W. Poynter (42 years' service with the firm) proposed the vote of thanks on behalf of the employees to the directors, for "This enjoyable outing on the memorable occasion of 109 years' existence of W. F. Mill, which has seen very little stoppage. Whenever anyone mentions directors, some workpeople conjur up in their minds a type of person or persons who make unreasonable demands on people and make them miles away from the production centre. This may be true of some directors but it is certainly not true of ours."

"During the past 20 years, I have had to meet our directors on many occasions and have always found them considerate and interested in their employees and interested too in their welfare. I have the greatest pleasure in proposing a sincere and hearty vote of thanks to our directors for making this day so enjoyable."

Mrs. J. Duxbury suitably seconded the vote of thanks.




Return to Withnell Fold page

*****Bottom of File*****