Historian Mark Muller concludes his two-part series on paper making in Pembrokeshire

IN the sometimes forgotten history of paper making in Haverfordwest (for which, in the early 19th century, it became famous), one name appears high above any of the others.

Benjamin Harvey was a master of the skill, to the extent that he was commissioned by the Russian Czar, Alexander 1, to build several machines and install them in the Imperial paper mills at Peterhof (St Petersburg, then capital of Russia).

By 1824 he was back in this country and at Haverfordwest. He started with the St Martin Mill at Crowhill but took on additionally a mill at Prendergast that had been used as both a corn mill, and primarily as a cotton mill.

This mill had been rebuilt around 1800 to the highest and most enlightened standard; fireplaces in the offices, toilets (with the effluent being suitably discharged), large Georgian windows to allow maximum light and all constructed out of red brick.

It is extremely uncommon for such investment to have been ventured in a cotton mill this far west. At its busiest, it is estimated that 150 people must have been employed.

By 1842, Harvey had converted the Prendergast Mill (also known as Millbank) to paper making. A copy of a bill issued by Harvey’s Company still exists.

The envelope has a Penny Black affixed, bears the Haverfordwest post mark and is addressed to Messrs J Morris & Co, Grocers, Knighton, Radnorshire which is a few miles west of Ludlow. It is dated 17 November 1848 and contains a list starting off with, 10 reams of ‘Grey Royal’ costing £5 1s 5d. The total is for 23 reams of various papers (a ream of paper is 500 sheets), costing £10 3s 8d.

A note has been added to the bill which reads as follows;


The above left this day which I wish safe. There are two reams of Blue Royal and two reams of Fools Cap still on order, these will follow next week. We have but one quality of the latter paper and must therefore send two reams of it as one ream will not pack well. If this arrangement is disapproved of please write by return as the parcel will be made up on Wednesday.

I remain your obedient ...

Benjamin Harvey.’

In 1855 the tax on newspapers, introduced to prevent any circulation that might, ‘excite hatred and contempt of the Government and holy religion’, was removed, but whilst a spiral upwards in paper usage followed, there were fundamentally different and new procedures appearing.

The Harvey family stuck at it for another 20 years, making it seems, a substantial fortune on the way, but decided in the mid 1870s to call it a day. Remaining in Pembrokeshire, they went, with the same enthusiasm that they had devoted to paper making, into farming (in the Talbenny area) but seem to have kept an interest in at least the Prendergast Mill.

By this point, paper making had ceased in the St Martin Mill (Crowhill) although it remained as a corn mill for a few more years. Priory Mill (Haroldston) it seems had long since moved away from paper and after 1865 may not have operated as a mill at all.

Prendergast still appeared a viable proposition to some; it was leased to Samuel Read who seems have tried desperately to make the business a success; travelling to Liverpool for example in trying to drum up custom and even reducing the number of working days at the mill, but despite all of this, he died insolvent in 1890.

By the turn of the century the buildings were empty and so began the slow decline of this beautiful structure. With every decade and every winter storm there is further damage. The owner, Mr Nigel Richards, to whom I am indebted for photographs and research papers, has lived in the equally beautiful adjoining property for upwards of 30 years.