Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,103 pages of information and 233,633 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
1766 February 11th. Born in Lombard Street, London, the son of Henry Fourdrinier, a wholesale stationer of Huguenot descent, and his wife Jemima White(1730-1781).
1790 December 6th. Married Sarah Ann Walker (1768–1841)
1793 Birth of son Joseph William Fourdrinier
1794 Birth of son Charles John Fourdrinier
1795 Birth of son George Henry Fourdrinier
1800 Birth of son Edward Newman Fourdrinier
1801 Trading as a stationery business at Sherborne Lane with his brother Sealy Fourdrinier and William Bloxham when they met John Gamble who was seeking an English patent on a machine for making paper in continuous rolls, devised by Nicolas Robert and patented in France in 1799. They bought a one-third share in his patent rights.
The first machine was imported and erected at John Hall, the Fourdriniers' millwright. There, a third brother, Charles Fourdrinier, worked alongside John Gamble, Leger Didot, and Bryan Donkin (one of Hall's former apprentices), to develop it.
In June 1803, at Fort Place, Bermondsey, close to Donkin's own works, the Fourdrinier brothers erected and fitted out a factory, which they rented, and from 1811, leased, to Donkin who manufactured and sold the machines. The intention was that users would pay the Fourdriniers an annual royalty, according to the size of machine supplied.
Later they installed it in a mill at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, acquired for the purpose. Gamble remained technically and financially associated with the Fourdriniers until 1811.
1804 Birth of daughter Harriet Elizabeth Fourdrinier
1806 July. With his brother, Sealy Fourdrinier, he invented and improved the Fourdrinier machine, a paper-making machine that could make continuous paper (rolls). A patent was granted for a machine that could make any size of paper, very quickly.
1807 Extension of 1801 patent. '...Invention of Paper-Making by Machinery.......Henry Fourdrinier and Sealy Fourdrinier, of Sherborne-Lane, in the City of London, Paper-Manufacturers, and John Gamble, of St Neott's, in the County of Huntingdon, Paper Manufacturer, are now making Application to Parliament for Leave to bring in a Bill for prolonging the Term of certain Letters Patent hereinafter-mentioned, in relation to the Inventions hereinafter also mentioned...'
1809 The company became Fourdriniers, Towgoods, and Fourdrinier, in the persons of Henry and Sealy, Matthew Towgood, senior and junior, and Charles Fourdrinier. Matthew Towgood was Henry's banker.
1809 Later in the year it became Towgood, Fourdrinier, and Hunt (Matthew Towgood junior, Charles Fourdrinier, and Joseph Brooks Hunt), at which point Towgood moved to Sherbourne Lane and took over the Fourdriniers' stationery business.
The invention had cost £60,000, and caused the brothers to go bankrupt. Due to various laws, it was difficult to protect the patent on the machine, and the new system was widely adopted.
1810 Leaves a partnership. '...Copartnership between Henry Fourdrinier, Charles Fourdrinier, Matthew Towgood, the Younger, Joseph Brooke Hunt, William Abbott, and Francis Morse, of Sherborne-Lane, London, Wholesale Stationers and Paper-Manufacturers, is dissolved by mutual Consent as to the said Henry Fourdrinier. — The Business will be continued on the Premises, in Sherborne-Lane, by the other Partners...'
1811 Birth of daughter Mary Anne Sarah
1812 Bankrupt. '...Bankrupt awarded and issued against Henry Fourdrinier, of Cannon-Street, London, Paper Manufacturer, and Sealy Fourdrinier, of Charing-Cross, London, Paper-Manufacturer, and also Manufacturers of Patent Machines for the Making of Paper, in Copartnership, in Blue-Anchor-Lane, Bermondsey, in the County of Surrey...'
In 1814, two machines were made in Peterhof, Russia, by order of the Russian emperor on the condition £700 would be paid to Fourdrinier every year for ten years — but, despite petitioning Tsar Nicholas, no money was ever paid.
1832 Bankrupt. '...Bankruptcy is awarded and issued forth against Henry Fourdrinier, Joseph Fourdrinier, and Edward Newman Fourdrinier, all of Hanley, in the County of Stafford, Paper-Manufacturers, Dealers, Chapmen, and Copartners (trading at Hanley aforesaid, under the style and firm of Henry Fourdrinier and Company...'
1836 Application for an extension of their patent. '...for further prolonging the term of fourteen years granted by certain letters patent, for the invention of a machine for making paper in single sheets without seam or joinings, for one to twelve feet and upwards wide, and from one to forty-five feet and upwards in length, and for certain improvements on, and additions to, the said machine; and which letters patent were assigned to Henry Fourdrinier and Sealy Fourdrinier, and the original terms thereof prolonged by an Act, passed in the forty-seventh year of the reign of His Majesty King George the Third, intituled "An Act for prolonging the term of certain letters patent assigned to Henry Fourdrinier and Sealy Fourdrinier, for the invention of making paper by means of machinery."
In 1839, a petition was brought before parliament, and in 1840, £7000 was paid to Fourdrinier and his family.
After the lengthy legal wrangle over ownership of the patent, eventually the courts decided that the machine should be called the Fourdrinier, even though Bryan Donkin had done much of the hard work to nurture the machine from inception to completion.
Henry Fourdrinier spent his last years at the Old Rectory, Mavesyn Ridware, Rugeley, Staffordshire
1854 September 3rd. Fourdrinier died at the age of 88.