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Beam from a beam engine set on a plinth at Springfield Mill

A Grade II Listed Building in Maidstone, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2815 / 51°16'53"N

Longitude: 0.5164 / 0°30'58"E

OS Eastings: 575591

OS Northings: 156600

OS Grid: TQ755566

Mapcode National: GBR PR0.RC1

Mapcode Global: VHJMD.W1VY

Plus Code: 9F327GJ8+HH

Entry Name: Beam from a beam engine set on a plinth at Springfield Mill

Listing Date: 2 August 1974

Last Amended: 11 September 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1266431

English Heritage Legacy ID: 173472

Location: North, Maidstone, Kent, ME14

County: Kent

Electoral Ward/Division: North

Built-Up Area: Maidstone

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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Beam engine beam. Beam of the steam engine installed by Boulton and Watt in 1806 to power Springfield Mill. De-commissioned in 1896-7 and erected on a plinth in the late C20.


Cast-iron beam of the 36hp steam engine installed by Boulton and Watt in 1806 to power Springfield Mill. Set on a plinth in front of the office block of the mill.


Paper making developed as a major industry in the Maidstone area from the late C17 due to the suitability of the River Len for water-power and its proximity to London, the major market for paper and source of rags, its raw material. There were seven functioning paper mills between 1671 and 1700 and by 1733 there were 14 mills. By 1865 this number had increased to around 40.

Springfield Mill, the first paper mill to be successfully powered solely by steam, was founded in 1805 by William Balston (1759-1849). Balston had been apprenticed in 1774 to James Whatman II (1741-1798), owner of Turkey Mill and one of the most successful paper makers of the C18. By 1794, when Whatman sold Turkey Mill, Balston was his principal subordinate and he entered into partnership with the new owners to form Hollingworths and Balston with a loan of £5,000 from Whatman. The outbreak of war with France in 1793 had cut off the import of superior French paper and the new firm prospered. By 1805 Balston had decided to open his own steam-powered mill on the banks of the Medway at a site with a spring providing the clean water necessary for the paper making process. The new mill opened at the end of 1807. Its 36 horse-power Boulton and Watt beam engine powering a Hollander (the machine which broke down the rags into a pulp) had been installed in 1806. Running for 440 ft, parallel with the River Medway, the mill consisted of a Drying Room at the north and Rag Room at the south with rooms for the various processes, and the engine and its boilers, set between them.

William Balston was succeeded by his two sons, William and Richard, but in November 1862 the mill was severely damaged by a fire necessitating the rebuilding the Drying Room and much of the central section of the mill. The beam engine remained in use until decommissioned in 1896-7. During the early C20 Springfield Mill was the largest producer of hand-made paper in the world. The mill remained in the ownership of the Balston family until 1974 when W & R Balston merged with Angel Reeve International to form Whatman Angel Reeve, later Whatman International Ltd.

In the late C20, the beam of the Boulton and Watt engine was placed on a plinth in front of the mill offices.

Reasons for Listing

The beam from the Boulton and Watt steam engine of 1806, set on a plinth at Springfield Mill, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reason:
* Historic interest: as a tangible reminder of the steam engine which powered Springfield Mill, the first paper mill successfully powered by steam;
* Technological interest: as a surviving element of a steam engine by Boulton and Watt, a company which played a major role in the Industrial Revolution.

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