Thomas Openshaw – paper maker

I found your Milton Creek memories website and thought I’d write as you may be able to help me with the history of (Lloyd’s) Sittingbourne Paper Mill during the late 19th century.

I think it’s possible my great-great grandfather Thomas Openshaw may have worked at the Sittingbourne Paper Mill in the 1880s but would like to know if I’d be able to confirm this.

I’ve lived in Surrey all my life but my paternal family originates from the Bolton area.  My great-great grandfather Thomas Openshaw (b1828,d1898), his father Robert (b1807,d1877) and his father were all paper makers.  Thomas was a paper maker all his life, since he was 13 or younger.

In the late 1850s Thomas took his family down south so he could seek employment in the north Kent mills.  Censuses suggest he was employed in the Dartford mills throughout the 1860s, ’70s and ’80s and may’ve been working at Eynsford mill in 1891.  However, because 10 years is a huge gap in time between censuses I have no proof he was actually living with his family and working in Sittingbourne, perhaps at the paper mill, between the 1881 and 1891 censuses. Why I think he may’ve had a connection with Sittingbourne is because Thomas’ son, also Thomas, met, and in 1887 married, Ann Anderson, the daughter of the keeper of the “Man Of Kent” pub in Cockleshell Walk.  Perhaps you know of this road since it’s just the other side of the railway from the former mill site.  I think it’s called St Michael’s Road now – the A2 – where the car park is, but I know exactly where on the road the pub once was and it’s mentioned on a website about dead pubs, listing my ancestor George Anderson as proprietor.  One of the memories on your site, that of Bill Hilliard in 1961, said in 1889 the men on the night shifts would be paid at the end of the shift but their money would be handed out “in a pub near the mill”.  I wonder if this pub was the Man Of Kent and if so, could it explain how Thomas senior and junior got the chance to meet Ann and her family?  Maybe the Openshaws had indeed moved away from Dartford and were living in Sittingbourne, Thomas senior perhaps working at the mill and frequenting the Man Of Kent with his son !

I know it sounds a bit fanciful, but it’s a possibility.

Are there any surviving records to suggest Thomas Openshaw was at the Sittingbourne Mill?  I know most mill owners didn’t keep employee records but as the Sittingbourne mill hasn’t been gone too long I wondered if there was any way I could prove, or disprove, my ancestor worked here between the 1881 and 1891 censuses.

Were any of the Victorian terraces, since demolished, in the neighbouring streets owned by the Sittingbourne Mill?  Would there be any surviving rent books for these properties?

Thank-you for your help.

Regards, Rebecca E. Openshaw.

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