Stroudwater and PaperMaking

The Paper Industry in the Cotswolds

By Laura Housden

Photo:The Case of Stroudwater Navigation

The Case of Stroudwater Navigation

Iris Capps

Photo:Tonnage Book Cover

Tonnage Book Cover

Iris Capps

Photo:Company Seal

Company Seal

Iris Capps

The Stroudwater Navigation Company officially began as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1776 which approved the Stroudwater Navigation system that is still present today. However, it had been around since the 1730s when the first acts were put forward for consideration. Prior to the Act in 1776, there had been two previous attempts dating from the 1730s which had to be amended due to conflicts between mill owners. The canal was finally completed and opened in 1779. Due to the long history of the company, which is still around today, there are a large number of documents relating to all manners of the company which are stored at Gloucestershire County Archives under the catalogue number D1180.

 

There were several mills in the area surrounding the canal which would have benefitted from the canal as well as benefitting the company itself. Some of these mills were paper mills which would have both benefitted from the canal and provided the company with materials. As well as mills, there were also stationary shops which would have provided materials such as paper and ink. Thus, it can be seen that there are several different methods in which the company would have received the materials needed to produce their documents.

 

Due to the long existence of the Stroudwater Company, there have been many changes particularly relating to the production and presentation of documents. At the creation of the Stroudwater Navigation Company, there was a mixture of both printed and handwritten documents. One such example of a printed document is The Case of Stroudwater Navigation for the Bill of 1775 which details the reasoning for and against the creation of the Stroudwater Canal. As a printed document from 1775, it can be seen that technology was advanced enough to create printed documents that reassemble modern-day documents. This can be seen in the photo The Case of Stroudwater Navigation which shows the printed nature of this document. 

 

As well as the differences between the methods of writing, there are also differences with the material being written on. The package D1180 5/2, which includes The Case of Stroudwater Navigation, contains different types of paper depending on the document itself. For handwritten notes, the paper is much finer than paper for printed documents due to the method of printing in this period. As the company was also involved in court cases, several of these documents are within the archive which are written on much thicker paper than other documents. One notable difference is between vellum and ordinary paper. Vellum is parchment made out of calfskin and thus tends to be much thicker than ordinary paper which is made from rags. This type of paper from rags relies on a large supply of water thus would have been made in the mills along the canal.

 

As well as individual documents in the archive, there are also several books such as the tonnage books which date from the beginning of the company and documented the passage of freight along the canal. The tonnage books were bound with a leather substitute which was significantly cheaper than real leather. As well as the tonnage books, there are also minute books whose covers are made of cardboard covered in leather. The intricate cover can be seen in the photo showing the tonnage book above. 

 

Another important part of the company’s documents was the official seal which can be seen on documents such as share certificates. The seal has changed a few times over the history of the company. The seal was made of wax and placed on the document. On the share certificates, the seal is covered with blue tissue paper though over documents have exposed seals. The intricate nature of the seal can be seen in the photo above showing the seal covered with the blue tissue with the faint embossing of the seal. 

 

Therefore, it can be seen that both the canal and the paper industry were closely entwined throughout the course of the company’s life as the paper industry needed a large regular water supply. 

This page was added by Laura Housden on 04/06/2015.
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By Kevin
On 12/08/2015

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