Paper making and the printing press have been critical innovations throughout modern human evolution. Paper and printing will form an important aspect of the Fourth Portal.

The following blog post is on Norfolk Paper Mills, by Joe Mason, from 2016, following the industrial paper making process in Norfolk.

There is once again a paper-mill in Norfolk, over sixty years after the last of the old mills closed. This new mill belongs to the German firm Palm Paper, and is a huge facility just to the south of Kings Lynn on the Great Ouse river. It produces 450,000 tonnes of newsprint a year, and it is one of the largest paper-mills in the world. This is a far cry from the first paper-mill in Norfolk which opened not many miles away from Kings Lynn in 1695. This was converted from a fulling mill (for the treatment of woollen cloth) in Castle Rising. This was known as the Upper Mill to distinguish it from another one further downstream on the Babingley river. There are records of five mills (including wind-mills) in Castle Rising, although not all were working at the same time. There was no printing industry in Norfolk until the early 18th century and although a certain amount of writing paper was required this first mill probably made paper used in pressing cloth or wrapping paper.

The next paper-mill in Norfolk was also converted from a fulling mill – a popular choice as the water powered hammers used to beat the cloth could easily be converted to making pulp for paper. This was in Taverham, a small village on the river Wensum about five miles outside Norwich. It opened in 1701. From the first it advertised itself as making ‘paper suitable for printing’ although there was then no printer to make use of it. Lacking this essential industry, Norwich was obviously keen to attract a printer, and this they soon did in the person of a young craftsman from London called Francis Burges. The capital in London and the two university towns of Oxford and Cambridge were the only places where printing had been allowed until 1695, when Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act which controlled printing. Bristol had been quicker off the mark than Norwich in setting up a printing office, but the City was not far behind, and it was Norwich that produced the first newspaper outside London.

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