WS Hodgkinson - handmade paper at Wookey Hole

W.S. Hodgkinson & Co., Ltd.

A few years ago we were fortunate enough to buy around 8000 sheets of handmade paper by WS Hodgkinson from the mill's in-house artist who bought them when the mill closed down in 1972.

These papers were due to be sent for re-pulping and converted into South American currency before he stepped in and saved them at the very last moment (they were about to be loaded onto a train). He used them for his own work until he retired. 

Designed as "Drawing Papers", essentially for watercolour, over the past few years these have also been used in letterpress, screen printing, digital inkjet, drawing, pastel, pen & ink, marbling and bookbinding. 


History of WS Hodgkinson at Wookey Hole.

W.S.Hodgkinson and Co., Ltd, were based at Wookey Hole, England; the earliest known paper mill in Somerset with its first documented lease for papermaking dated 1610.

By the end of the 18th century it consisted of a typical three-storey mill, driven off the west leat from the river, with an additional drying loft, the maker’s house and various other sheds.

Wookey Hole Mill made many papers and was well known in later years for fine drawing papers, security and bank note paper as well as many writing papers.

After a disastrous fire in 1855, the first W.S. Hodgkinson bought the freehold. The mill buildings were expanded successively holding 13 vats at the time of maximum use. He and his son built houses for the mill workers, a school, church and social club for the village.

They appear to have taken a paternalistic interest in village life. School sports and treats were held in the grounds of their home where the villagers were also allowed to play cricket. 

Under the Hodgkinson family, new technology was not installed despite the arrival elsewhere of machine-made paper. After peaking in 1891, profit declined into loss. In 1915 ten vats were operating and by 1932, after G.A. Hodgkinson gave just under half the company away to his four senior managers in 1920, only five.

The family owned the paper mill until 1950/51 when it was sold to the Inveresk Paper Company and paper continued to be made there until 1972 when production ceased. 

Today Wookey Hole is a tourist attraction and paper is made there on a small scale as an experience exhibit.  

ws hodgkinson handmade paperws hodgkinson handmade paper at wookey hole

ws hodgkinson at wookey hole handmade paper

ws hodgkinson at wookey hole handmade paper

Why use old paper?

We get asked this question a lot! Like many products made using natural materials, rag paper seems to get better with age, it matures, strengthens and develops its own character.

Most of us will not have used or even handled paper of this quality simply because it isn't made any more and hasn't been for many years. 

The difference between these papers and  budget paper is like night and day and when compared to modern mould-made papers these outshine and outperform.


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  • Diana Hughes

    I fell in love with paper in Wookey Hole about 40 years ago, while watching the magic of making a sheet of paper from a vat of liquid. Since then I’ve made, marbled, decorated, embossed, painted, framed and bound paper. I’m an incurable paperholic!.

  • Paula Denby

    I bought 10 sheets of high grade Art paper from Wookey Hole during a visit.

    It sat on a shelf until the end of 2019 when l used a sheet for an outdoor watercolour. It holds colour layers really well so l am intrigued by your post as l am impressed with this newer wookey paper what is the old one like to paint on ?

  • Century Papers

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  • Sue (Richards) Peterson

    My father, Albert George Richards, was born and raised in Wookey Hole. He was a 4th generation papermaker. He and his father and many cousins worked there.

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