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British Industrial History

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W. and R. Balston

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Makers of high-quality writing and drawing paper, of Maidstone.

1793 James Whatman sold his paper making business to the Hollingworth brothers of Maidstone (see Hollingworth and Co). The sale was completed in August 1794. He lent his manager William Balston £5000, which enabled him to buy a partnership in the new firm. Whatman allowed the new firm to use the J Whatman watermark

1804 William Balston started to make paper on his own part, at a small (leased) mill at Eyhorne Street near Hollingbourne just outside Maidstone[1]

1805 William Balston left the Partnership with Finch Hollingworth and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, of Boxley, in Kent, Papermakers; the Business was carried on under the firm of Finch Hollingworth, and Thomas Robert Hollingworth[2] William Balston, gained sole use of the Whatman trademark.

Balston built his own mill, the Springfield Mill nearby on the River Medway. The Springfield Mill became the first in the world to install a steam-powered Fourdrinier-type machine. That machine remained in operation on the site for more than 90 years.

1814 Jacob Bosanquet, brother of Susanna, was asked to put together a restructuring plan, including a family consortium to re-finance the business and save the mill. Balston and Co. was set up, owned by William Balston, Richard Bosanquet, and his cousin William Gaussen.

1822/3 William's sons, William and Richard, started work in the business.

William and Richard Balston took over the paper company's operation after their father's death.

1859 William Balston’s two sons acquired the Turkey Mill watermark from the Hollingworths.

1861 The company's name was changed to W. and R. Balston.

1862 A fire destroyed nearly all of the Springfield Mill, sparing only the Fourdrinier steam engine. The Balston brothers quickly rebuilt the business and were back in operations after only three months.

By the end of the century the Springfield site operated 18 vats, while the company had built a second mill, with an additional four vats, nearby. By then, Richard Balston was in sole charge of the family business.

WWI The company took advantage of the opportunity provided by the cut-off in supplies of German filter papers, to introduce these as new products, which soon led to more business in paper-based filtration products, not only for industrial applications but for the scientific community as well.

1914 the company contracted with Harry Reeve Angel, which had opened an office in New York, as its North American sales agent.

1930s Despite a drop in demand for many papers, the need for filter paper products continued to grow.

1944 The Whatman No. 1 filter paper was used in experiments that led to the development of paper chromatography. The company quickly became one of the world's leading makers of analytical papers.

By the 1950s, Balston's production had turned almost entirely toward its filter and analytical paper production. The company began phasing out its remaining fine quality papers production.

1955 Ceased making handmade watercolour paper.

1962 Stopped production of mold-made papers.

1970 Project with N. R. D. C. on highly purified enzymes[3]

1973 Balstons merged with Reeve Angel International, which by then had built up its own successful filtration materials business, as Whatman Reeve Angel Ltd.

The company continued to market papers under both Whatman and Balston brand names.

1980s The company expanded quickly during the 1980s

1982 Reintroduced Whatman's mold-made paper.

1990 The company restructured its operations in 1990 and renamed itself Whatman Plc

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] summary of Springfield mill collection of papers
  2. London Gazette 24 September 1805
  3. The Times May 22, 1970
  • [2] Company Histories
  • [3] Turkey Mill