Dacorum’s industrial heritage on display

Ward's horses resting with timber
Ward's horses resting with timber

Dacorum has mainly been an agricultural area over many centuries, but some major industries were set up in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, aided by the coming of the Grand Union Canal and railways.

Cottage industries such as lace-making and straw plaiting also thrived, until competition from abroad caused their decline.

Original container used by H. Lee and Sons PNL-140516-135352001

Original container used by H. Lee and Sons PNL-140516-135352001

A display at Hemel Hempstead Civic Centre, called Early Industry in Dacorum, introduces a sample of the industries that gave employment to many inhabitants in the 1800 to 1900s.

The industries featured include James Davis’s Boxmoor Ironworks (makers of agricultural machinery), Cooper’s of Berkhamsted (manufacturers of the famous sheep dip), Berkhamsted’s H. Lee and Sons (mineral water suppliers), Ovaltine of Kings Langley, Tring Silk Mill and Ward’s (timber merchants), who were once based in Bourne End Lane.

These have mainly disappeared and new businesses have come to take their place in Dacorum’s history.

Before 1800, all paper was made by hand; ancient water mills, such as Two Waters, were adapted to hand paper-making in the 18th century. A proto-type machine to manufacture paper was invented in France in 1798 by Nicolas Louis Robert.

The world’s first viable machine was installed at Frogmore Mill by engineer Bryan Donkin in 1804. It was sponsored by the Fourdrinier brothers, wholesale stationers, who together with John Gamble, had obtained the English patent. It was an invention with far-reaching consequences.

The Gade valley subsequently became home to several major paper manufacturers, particularly John Dickinson Ltd and the British Paper Company, whose long and distinguished stories are now told at the Frogmore Mill Visitor Centre in Apsley.

The civic centre display – put together by the Dacorum Heritage Trust (DHT) – features free-standing panels full of information, as well as artefacts and images in glass cases.

It is on the first floor of the civic centre (there is a lift) and admission is free. Further details can be found at www.dacorumheritage.org.uk

If you have any information to add to any of the stories about our industrial heritage, DHT would love to hear from you. You can contact DHT on 01442 879525 or by emailing collectionsmanager@dacorumheritage.org.uk