John Dickinson (March 29,1782 – January 11, 1869) invented a continuous mechanised papermaking process and founded the paper mills at Apsley and Nash Mills in England, which evolved into John Dickinson Stationery Limited. He built and lived at Abbots Hill, Nash Mills, on a hillside site looking down upon his mills in the valley bottom.
John Dickinson was the eldest son of Captain Thomas Dickinson RN and his wife Frances. Thomas Dickinson was the superintendent of the Ordnance Transports at Woolwich. Frances Dickinson was the daughter of a French silk-weaver in Spitalfields.
At the age of 15, Dickinson started a seven-year apprenticeship as a stationer with Messrs Harrison and Richardson in London. He was admitted to the Livery of the Stationers' Company in 1804 and began to trade, in stationery in the City of London. He had already demonstrated his inventive nature by inventing a new kind of paper for cannon cartridges. These did not smoulder after the cannon had fired. This had been the cause of constant accidental explosions in the artillery. His invention was taken up by the army and was said to have been of great value in the battles against Napoleon.
In an age of technical innovation, attempts had already been made to build a machine capable of the continuous manufacture of paper to replace the handmade techniques then used, notably by the Frenchman Henry Fourdriner.
Dickinson patented his own design in 1809. In that same year he found financial backing from financier George Longman. He was then able to purchase a former flour mill at Apsley, Hertfordshire which had already been converted to paper manufacture by the previous owner. The seller, a man called John Stafford, had been one of Dickinson's suppliers. Dickinson installed his own design of machinery at the mill.
From small beginnings his company went on to become John Dickinson Stationery, one of the largest stationery manufacturers in the world.
The process consisted of a perforated cylinder of metal, with a closely fitting cover of finely woven wire, which revolved in a vat of wood pulp. The water from the vat was carried off through the axis of the cylinder, leaving the fibres of the wood pulp clinging to the surface of the wire. An endless web of felt passed through what was known as a 'couching roller' lying upon the cylinder drew off the layer of pulp which when dried became paper.