Visits and walks 2016

Removing the screen from the stock - a suspension of fibres in water

The 1895 paper-making machine

Some of the steam-heated drying drums on the 1895 machine

The steam-heated drying drums of the 1902 machine

Until the 19th century the basic paper-making process had changed little over nearly two millenia: a dilute suspension of cellulose fibres, typically from rags and cotton, in water is drained through a screen so that a mat of randomly orientated fibres is laid down. Water is removed by pressing and drying to make paper. A labour intensive process.

Frenchman Nicholas Louis Robert invented the first continuous paper-making machine in 1799. Unable to develop his patent he came to England and the Fourdrinier brothers commissioned Bryan Donkin to develop Robert's model. Frogmore Mill, formerly a fulling mill and later a corn mill, was on the market; the Fourdriniers installed the world's first continuous pape-making at Frogmore in 1803. An improved and larger machine was installed the following year.

Built in 1895 and acquired from Kinleith Mill in 1907 this paper machine only ceased full-time production on 2009 when the then-business failed.

The Apsley Paper Trail trust was set up to keep the site open for public visits and to conserve the unique history it represents and the industrial heritage it contains. The trust has acquired, and commissioned, the 1902 prototyping machine which is now used for the commercial production of specialist papers.

A completed shoe upper

Trimming excess material from the upper after attaching the insole

Welding a composite sole to the rubber welt

Shoes fitted with an inner sole waiting for the outer leather sole

NPS Shoes can trace its origins back to 1881 when five shoeworkers formed the Northamptonshire Productive Society. Their first factory was in a dove house in Thrift Street and in their first year they secured a government contract to supply army boots.

By 1899 they had 80 workers and built the present factory, which was extended in 1907 and the 1950s. Today the factory produces some 50,000 pairs of shoes annually from a work force of 55.

The group was shown all of the stages in the manufacture of shoes; some of the machinery in use appeared to be very old in indeed. Production of both leather-soled and composite-soled shoes using the Goodyear welted process was seen.

Once the upper has been tacked to the last and the insole attached, excess material is trimmed from the upper. Then the welt is sewn on; for composite-soled shoes this is a rubber material to which the sole is welded using a red-hot knife. For leather-soled shoes the welt is a strip of leather to which first the inner sole and then the outer sole are stitched. In bother cases the as-fitted soles are over-sized with excess material being cut off after attaching the sole.

Samples of polystyrene beads and a tool holder

The internal part of a mould

The two halves of the mould have been separated showing the components

A high density moulding for a beehive comes off the conveyor belt

Polymerised styrene beads containing a hydrocarbon gas, usually pentane, are the starting material for a whole range of packaging and structural components; from the ubiquitous soft white packaging material protecting 'white goods' to the dense black tool carriers and structural components found in modern cars.

In a pre-expansion process the beads are allowed to expand in controlled manner as determined by their intended application.

Once charged with the required quantity of expanded beads, the mould is heated causing the beads to expand further to form the required shape. Once formed the mould is cooled down, the two halves are separated to allow the component to be ejected.

In additional to seeing the production of components for various packaging and insulation applications, the group saw high density structural components for a beehive being moulded. Having a smooth finish, these components are lighter and stronger than their wooden equivalents.

one of the barrel-vaulted cellars

the brewing kettle and mash tun

leaded window with the NBC star

leaded window with the NBC star

One of the regular maintenance jobs on a traditional-built wooden narrow boat is that of replacing the bottom and side planks. The former are scoured by water-borne silt whilst the latter rot from the inside from the rusting iron nails and bolts.

In this boatyard stainless steel bolts are used to minimise rust-induced rot in the planks. Slow progress on a restoration can allow the planks to shrink as in the second image; wooden strip-wedges will be made to fill the gaps before caulking. The bottom of the boat is filled with sawdust that is kept wet to prevent the bottom planks drying out.

Rescued from the canal bed butty boat Lucy is in need of major restoration work. Having transported the remains of the boat to the yard on a steel cradle, its surviving timbers are held in place by a series of jigs.

Meanwhile work is progressing on the stern structural elements and the cabin is starting to take shape.

The main forge building with its crane at Top Forge

No 2 hammer with its lifting cam, the shaft being connected to a waterwheel

Inside the forge building with No 2 hammer on the left

The beam of mill engine Elizabeth

Our visit to Wortley Top Forge provided an introduction to iron and its manufacturing processes, which started at Wortley about 1620.

Early in the 19th century Top Forge turned to the production of railway axles and by the end of the century it was producing 250 per week. Each axle was formed from 16 2 inch square iron bars. The site closed in 1912.

Originally the main forge building would have stood in isolation but extensive alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the forge extended to join up with, and make use of part of, the workers cottages.

Inside the noise would have been unbearable: No 1 hammer had a strike rate of about 150 blows per minute each equivalent to a 25 cwt steam hammer; although smaller in size No 2 hammer, with its heavier hammer, delivered 120 blows per minute each of some 3 tons weight.

Each of the hammers had its own furnace for heating the work piece and crane for moving the work piece between furnace and hammer.

The site also has a fine collection of machinery and engines.

New growth on a freshly coppiced mature hazel stool

Some of the products from coppiced hazel

Brushwood fence to keep deer out of newly-coppiced areas

The small kiln has been closed down to cool off - the lid and air vents sealed and the chimney pipes replaced with tin cans

Rawshaw Wood is one of the largest areas of semi-natural ancient woodland in what was Rockingham Forest. Designated an SSSI, the wood was again brought under the traditional method of woodland management by coppicing in c.1996 after being neglected for many years. Essentially it is a hazel wood interspersed with tall standard trees such as oak, ash and field maple.

Here coppicing takes place on a ten year cycle and it was quite evident how vigorous the new growth is after coppicing. Coppiced hazel produces long straight poles that are sold for pea sticks, bean canes, binders for hedge laying and staples for thatching.

Newly coppiced areas have to be fenced to prevent deer from feeding on the new shoots; this is achieved using hazel sticks and the brushwood.

Timber which cannot be used in its raw state is burnt to produce charcoal. In medieval times charcoal was used extensively in Rockingham Forest for smelting iron.