Research of Sarah Tanner



The Turner Family and Chafford Mill No 389,

Fordcombe, Penshurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Sarah Tanner

[This article appeared in ‘The Quarterly’ the Journal of the British Association of Paper Historians No 52 September 2004]






In 1877, Richard Tuppen Tanner started the family business of R.T.Tanner & Company, wholesale stationers and paper merchants, in the City of London, which finally ceased trading in 1999.  Having researched the Tanner ancestors for many years it came as a surprise to find that another branch of the family, the Turners,  were involved with a paper mill for a hundred years from 1796. Richard Tanner’s youngest son Arthur married a great great granddaughter of Ann Turner.


The family of William Turner of Chafford Mill appear to have been blacksmiths in Maidstone, Kent from as early as 1718[1]. His father, also William,  is shown as a blacksmith and patten maker on the freedom of an apprentice in 1775[2], and  William   having been apprenticed to his father, blacksmith, became free of the Corporation of Maidstone in 1782[3].  It is not clear whether the family were already involved with the paper industry, but certainly there is a William Turner in 1783 paying £1.2.6d on a property with a rateable value of £15 in Stone Street, Maidstone,  next to Thos Pine[4].  William junior and his siblings were all baptised at the Earl Street Presbyterian Chapel, Maidstone and would therefore have been known the Pines, another family with a long tradition of presbyterianism and papermaking.


At the time of his death in 1792 William Turner senior appeared to be paying rates on several properties/land in Maidstone and in his will dated 1792[5] left all his goods and chattels to be divided between his son William and daughters Elizabeth, Sarah,  and Ann.  William junior is shown as ‘of  this Town’ in the register of Earl Street Chapel, Maidstone when his son Richard was baptised there in 1796[6], the same year he first appeared paying rates in Penshurst.  By 1799 no Turners appear paying rates in Maidstone.  William’s  three sons were all made free of the Corporation of Maidstone by patrimony when his occupation is given as a papermaker, the elder sons George William and William in 1812,  and the youngest, Richard in 1818[7]. 


In 1800 William’s sister Ann married John Green[8], who's occupation is given as a paper maker of Penshurst  in 1808,  when he acted as an executor of his uncle’s will[9].  John remained working at Chafford until circa 1812 and in 1813 he appears paying rates for Hayle Mill[10] which he subsequently purchased from John Pine in 1817[11].


William Turner appears as a paper maker of Chafford when the Mill was allocated excise number 389 in 1816[12],  but in the Excise General Letter dated 8 October 1817 it stated that there was a change of occupation of Mill No 389 at Chafford  ‘the present occupiers being G. W. & R. Turner Paper Makers’[13] and from that date they paid the rates on the mill. It would appear that William was no longer running the business but he continued paying the land tax and rates on some of the property until his death in 1828[14]. Unfortunately he died intestate and administration of his goods and chattels was granted to his wife in May the following year[15].


On Friday 18th June 1830 the following appeared in the London Gazette “ Notice is hereby given that the partnership heretofore existing between us the undersigned, George William Turner and Richard Turner carrying on a business as paper manufacturers under the firm G & R Turner at Chafford, in the Parish of Penshurst, in the County of Kent, and at Bermondsey, in the County of Surrey, but which business at Bermondsey was in fact the sole property of the said George William Turner, was on the 11 day of June dissolved by mutual consent.  The debts due to and from the said partnership, in respect of the business at Chafford, will be received and paid by said Richard Turner who will continue the business there on his separate account.  The business at Bermondsey will be carried on by said George William Turner on his own account, separately as heretofore, and all debts due in respect of thereof will be received and paid by him”.  George William was subsequently declared bankrupt in the London Gazette on 5th May 1835[16] and does not appear again in respect of Chafford.


It is not clear whether George and Richard’s other brother William was involved in the business. He does not appear in the rates books,  and the only reference found to him is in Pigots 1831 London Directory where he is listed with George William at the address in Bermondsey.  William was shown as having no occupation on his death certificate in September 1838 when he died at Peckham House, a lunatic asylum  in Peckham[17], and from the district of Camberwell when he was buried at Penshurst[18]. 


Wednesday 17 September 1834 was a highlight in the life of the Turner family when the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria visited Chafford.  Richard Turner took them round the mill explaining the various manufacturing processes and before the Royal visitors left they ‘passed through’ the dwelling house meeting Richard’s mother in the drawing room.[19]


At the time of the census in 1861[20] Richard Turner was still proprietor of the mill employing 34 men, 11 boys, 30 women, and 8 girls,  and in 1864 is listed producing writing, drawing and bank papers, hand and machine made, copying papers tissues etc[21].  However, in the rates books for 1865[22] Henry Warden Esq appears as the owner of the house, paper mill and land with Richard’s son, Richard David Rains Turner Esq as occupier.


In 1848 Richard’s daughter Arabella had married Harry Warden, then a railway contractor, who is shown as a gentleman living at Oakfield Court in Tunbridge Wells in 1860 and 64 respectively, when two of his sons were baptised at Trinity Church.


Henry Warden and RDR Turner entered into a partnership at Chafford but notice of the dissolution is found in the London Gazette in February 1868[23] when Henry took over and the firm was styled Turner and Co.


In the 1871 census[24]  Henry Warden is listed as a Paper Manufacturer/Land Owner employing 31 men, 45 women, 6 boys, 6 girls, living at Oakfield Court, Tunbridge Wells.   Richard Turner senior appears as an annuitant with Richard D.R. shown as a paper maker living at Chafford House[25].   Richard Turner senior died in January 1872[26] and is buried in Fordcombe church yard.


In the Tunbridge Weekly Express in 1873 a report appears about a cricket match played on 26th August between Gentlemen of the Neighbourhood and Eleven Ovendens of Fordcombe (most of whom appear to have been employed at Chafford).  “Through the kindness of Messrs. Warden and Turner of Chafford Mills, a general holiday was granted to their employees part of whom went to Brighton and the rest were provided with an excellent tea upon the grounds and spent the afternoon very enjoyably in different games[27].


Therefore it appears that although the partnership with Henry Warden had been dissolved Richard. D.R was still involved with the mill and is listed living at Chafford in the 1878 Post Office Directory of Kent.  However,  by December that year he had moved on and is listed as the occupier of Roughway Paper Mill, which was owned by Walter Monckton[28], and is shown there in  the 1881 census.[29]


Henry Warden is again shown as a Paper Manufacturer in the 1881 census[30]  employing 68 persons and in July 1886 he paid the fares for the employees annual outing to Eastbourne[31].  His wife Arabella died in 1883 and was buried in the Turner family grave in Fordcombe Churchyard.   


No.389 Chafford Mill, Kent, is listed under the heading of ‘Mills not in working order, to let, sell etc’ in Kent’s Paper Mill Directory published on January 1 1886, but in the following year’s edition,  and subsequent issues,  it appears as a working mill. 


In the 1891 census Henry Warden is still listed as a paper manufacturer living in Tunbridge Wells but does not give the number of persons he was employing at the mill[32].  


In his will, which was drawn on  27 March 1895 and witnessed by William Reading, Manager,  and Owen Reading, Foreman,  of Chafford Mills,  Nr Tunbridge Wells he stated that it was his "desire that the Chafford Paper Mills should be sold as speedily as possible after my decease”.  When probate was granted to his son Richard on his death aged 75,  on the 8 January 1897 he was shown of Chafford, Penshurst, Kent. He left net £41.251.13s 4d.


Thus the Turner’s involvement with Chafford Mill ended although the family side of the association did not as on the 22nd September 1898,  Herbert Green, of Hayle Mill, near Maidstone, a cousin,  became Chairman and Managing Director.  Chafford Mill finally passed out of the family ownership in November 1905 when ‘A Resolution was passed for voluntary winding up of "Turner & Co (Chafford Mills) Ltd’ with Mr Herbert Green of Hayle Mill, Maidstone, and Mr Lawrence Green of Oaklands, Maidstone, appointed liquidators"[33].  



[1] William Turner, having served his apprenticeship to John Taylor, blacksmith, was made free of the  Corporation CKS ref:  Film 568

[2]21/4/1775 ‘At this Court also came William Barnett having served his apprenticeship to William

  Turner  jnr of this town Blacksmith and Patten Maker a Freeman of this Town’ [CKS ref: Film 569]

[3]  CKS ref: Film 569

[4] CKS ref: Film 1161

[5] Prob 11/1213/43 p.344

[6] RG4/936

[7] CKS ref: Film 569

[8]  John Green married Anne Turner Christ Church Newgate Street [Film at Guildhall Library] 

[9] Will of Samuel Green Prob 11/1477/309

[10] Loose Poor Rate CKS ref P233

[11] Ref HMA

[12] Excise General letter 8 Oct [Info Simmons collection on wind and water mills held at Imperial

   College Library].

[13] Excise General letter 8 Oct [Info Simmons collection on wind and water mills held at Imperial

   College Library].

[14] 19 November  William Turner aged 65 was buried at Penshurst [Transcripts of Penshurst PR’s at

    Sevenoaks Library]

[15] 23/5/1829 On the twenty third day of May admon of the goods and chattels and credits of William

    Turner late of Penshurst in Kent Paper Maker deceased was granted to Elizabeth Turner widow the

    relict  £1.500 [Prob 6/205 pp179-250]

[16] London Gazette Tuesday 5th May 1835

   Bankruptcy awarded against George William Turner and Henry Davey of Bermondsey in the County of Surrey Paper Manufacturers, Dealers and Chapman they being declared bankrupt hereby required to surrender themselves to Charles Frederick Williams 12 May at Ten and on the 16 June next at 12 noon and make a full disclosure of their estates and effects, when and where the creditors are to come there to prove their debts.

[17] Peckham House, the former mansion of the Spitta family which later became a lunatic asylum, was

    demolished as recently as 1954 London Encyclopaedia][Peckham House, Peckham licensed to

    Dr Armstrong appears in a list of Metropolitan Licensed Houses 1870 – 24th Report of

    Commissioners in Lunacy – pp XXXIV]

[18] Ref:  CKS DR6/RT2/287/1-4 BT's Penshurst]

[19] Tunbridge Wells Advertiser 20 September 1834

[20] RG9/490/22/8

[21] Paper Trade in Great Britain & Ireland 1921-22 [St Brides Printing Library]

[22] Penshurst Church Rates CKS ref: film 958

[23] London Gazette February 7 1868  p.612

     Notice is hereby given that the partnership heretofor subsisting between Richard David Rains Turner and Henry Warden of Chafford Mills in the parish of Penshurst in The County of Kent Paper Manufacturers under the style of R.D.Turner & Co has this day been dissolved by mutual consent.  All debts due and owing by the said late firm will be respectively received and paid by the undersigned, Henry Warden, and the said business carried on by him and on his responsibility alone, under the style of Turner & Co – dated 4 February 1868.

[24] RG10/928/116

[25] RG10/925

[26]Administration of the effects of Richard Turner late of Chafford in the Parish of  Penshurst in the County of Kent Paper Manufacturer who died 19 January 1872 at Chafford was granted 4 May 1872 at the Principal Registry to Eliza Turner of Chafford widow the relict - effects under £2,000

[27] Ref: T/Wells Library

[28] Wrotham Rural District Council Rates CKS ref RD/M1/Pb/22/32

[29] RG11/902/26/6

[30] RG11/914/32/7

[31] Fordcombe Parish Magazine [Private Collection]

[32] RG12/678/78

[33] Original Papermakers Recorder November 1905




My thanks to Maureen Green, Jean Stirk, and Daven Chamberlain for their generous help with information and my brother Dr Mike Hinton for his input.




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Copyright Sarah Tanner 2008