Industrial Innovation

Some of Edward Lloyd’s investments brought dynamic change to the newspaper industry, notably the import of Hoe’s rotary presses in 1856 and the bulk use of esparto grass in paper-making. The more technical aspects are outlined in The rotary press and Paper-making. Photographs of the processes involved can be found here and here.

Lloyd adopted anything new that improved his processes. For example, in the 1840s his editorial office used speaking tubes — an 18th century device mainly used on board ship — to coordinate the publication of multiple periodicals. His curiosity and knowledge of production prompted many improvements that he worked out with his suppliers. Although he was a persuasive negotiator of bargains, they could rely on long-lasting business relationships if what they supplied met his needs.

He applied enormous energy, intelligence and money to advancing the productive efficiency of his operations. In innovation, he rivalled, possibly surpassed, the John Walter family at the Times. He kept his competitive edge sharp, always serving his ultimate purpose — to create good reading material that the general public could afford to buy.

After looking at printing and paper-making, it is impossible not to be struck by the malign influence of taxation policy on progress. The iniquity of stamp duty on news is well known, but the 1½d/lb duty on paper delayed the rational development of the supporting industries for decades, harming the economic viability of the press.

The revolutionary Fourdrinier machine for paper-making at the turn of the 19th century allowed paper to be made as a continuous sheet. Unfortunately, paper was taxed by the sheet and had to be supplied as sheets. Meanwhile, the Stamp Office insisted that newspapers first submit all sheets to it for stamping before printing.

London, the most vibrant European market at the time, thus had no demand for printing presses fed from a continuous reel. Provincial papers were even more hamstrung since the only stamping offices were in London and Edinburgh. The tax added a deadweight cost and led to inefficient employment of labour. When Gladstone eventually managed to secure abolition in 1861, it was another decade before reel-fed presses came fully on stream.


Clearly Lloyd had a growing need for printing by the late 1830s—a 50,000 print run of the Penny Pickwick could not be produced on a small hand-cranked press behind a Wych Street shop and by then, cylinder printing presses were available in great variety from more than 100 manufacturers at relatively modest cost. Lloyd applied for permits to run a press in 1835 (44 Wych Street), 1838 (62 Broad Street) and 1842 (23 Shoreditch High Street). In 1843, he moved to Salisbury Square and housed his presses at No 12, expanding to neighbouring buildings as need arose. The addresses he used are listed on the Houses page.

Lloyd&rsqui;s Weekly brought more success sooner than Lloyd could handle. In June 1843, the paper announced that it was equipping itself with improved machines to meet demand for 32,000-odd copies with capacity to spare. The presses were made by Middleton, a well-established manufacturer in Loman Street, and the steam boiler was made by George Howe of 119 Great Guildford Street, both in Southwark.

In 1854, Lloyd discovered Richard Hoe, a printer and contemporary of his in New York. On a visit to England and France in 1847, Hoe had obtained an English patent and sold one rotary press in France, to La Patrie. As he had to share the proceeds with his brothers, he only covered his out-of-pocket expenses and returned to New York disappointed. An order by La Patrie for six more was countermanded after stamp duty was re-introduced by Louis Napoleon in 1848 and demand for newspapers evaporated. The Hoe company recovered substantial damages, but Hoe was discouraged from exploring European markets further.

Lloyd was looking for extra speed to keep up with Lloyd’s Weekly’s booming circulation under Douglas Jerrold and to anticipate a surge in demand when the stamp duty on news was abolished, reducing the price from 3d to 2d.

Hearing of Hoe’s machine, Lloyd went to Paris to inspect it and ordered one to be delivered to London with all haste. Hoe was eager to make the sale and offered it at half price. When Lloyd ordered a second at the same price, Hoe insisted that he should pay the full price.

Lloyd was so keen to make his point, and possibly to meet Hoe, that he planned a visit to New York. He wrote explaining how important a second press would be for Hoe: a breakdown of the only one would harm Hoe’s reputation, while success would undoubtedly ensure demand from other papers.

Hoe succumbed to this persuasion — rightly, since he went on to sell 12 more in London at full price. Lloyd never went to New York, which was a good thing for us all. The ship on which Lloyd was booked, the Arctic, sank on that voyage with loss of all but 85 of the 400 on board.

Lloyd was the first English proprietor to import the 6-cylinder model into England “and, indeed, into the Old World” (Lloyd’s Weekly, 22 June 1856). They were assembled by a team from New York whose work-wear was so unusual that Fleet Street was intrigued even before the presses began to print newspapers at breakneck speed. Lloyd went on to upgrade his Hoe equipment many times during the rest of his life.

The two met in 1861 when Hoe was applying to have his English patent extended and probably again on his not infrequent visits to Europe. They seem to have got on well with each other. Hoe comes across as a straight-playing businessman running a successful company. If he was interested in another person’s patented technology, he was more likely to buy the patent than infringe it.

In 1861, Lloyd moved on to buy four “ten-feeder” machines (Lloyd’s Weekly, 15 September 1861, p.6). Successful sales spurred Hoe on to complete the design of a press printing on both sides of the paper using plates that could be easily replicated. Lloyd acquired one of those in 1864.

As that model was significantly different from the 1847 one, Hoe’s improvements continued and eventually included printing from continuous reels of paper. Lloyd was the first proprietor in the world to buy that model in 1874. The complete specification was patented in 1877.

By then it incorporated a new delivery system (for a drawing, see Moran, p.194). The Telegraph and Standard very soon ordered 14 between them (Tucker, p.433), to be made at the factory in London that Hoe had set up.

Hoe pre-deceased Lloyd in 1886. His obituary in Lloyd’s Weekly said: “Genial, kindly, and hearty in all circles of life, it is gratifying also to know that Colonel Hoe’s relations with his army of over a thousand skilled workmen were of the most amicable kind.” Remarkably similar comments were made about Lloyd by those who knew him.

On 27 November 1892, Lloyd’s Weekly’s 50th jubilee issue reported that “eight monster web machines, each printing two copies at a time, run off Lloyd’s at the rate of over 200,000 copies an hour.”


In 1843, Lloyd secured supplies of newsprint direct from a manufacturer: “The proprietor has associated himself as partner in one of the most extensive and best established firms amongst the paper manufacturers of the country. From this day the material for his newspaper will be fabricated exclusively for that purpose.” The muddled second sentence is more likely to mean that he had exclusive rights to all the paper-maker’s output than his promising not to obtain it elsewhere.

By the late 1850s, not only Lloyd’s Weekly but the printed press generally was expanding rapidly. Newsprint supplies became unreliable. Paper-making was moving from a small-scale craft largely dependent on linen and cotton rags to a highly productive mechanised process. Pressure to abolish paper duty was also growing stronger, although Parliament resisted Gladstone’s reform until 1861.

Raw materials were in short supply. The cotton market was declining from an unsustainable boom and the merchants were buying up all surplus cotton stocks cheap to store until prices rose again. Straw was inadequate to meet the needs of publishing as well as agriculture.

Lloyd’s propensity for innovation met the challenge. He decided to make his own paper. The move was carefully thought out and well timed in typical Lloyd fashion. He acquired the lease of a site at Bow Bridge in 1859 and started making paper there in 1861.

His researches into the trade uncovered the potential use of esparto grass, a tough North African grass imported from Spain since the 1840s for book publishing in Edinburgh. A method for using it in paper-making had been patented in England in 1837. It was harvested from plants growing wild and existing imports were not sufficient to meet Lloyd’s needs.

Lloyd promptly went to Algeria, where it was plentiful, and investigated its potential. He leased the rights to harvest esparto on 100,000 acres and set up business centres at Oran and Arzew. He also opened operations at Cartagena, Almería and Águilas in southern Spain where the grass is also called atocha. The price in London was £3 a ton in 1867.

Once in Bow, the esparto was cut into centimeter lengths and subjected to bruising before boiling. Lloyd patented a bruising process that cut out a lengthy stage and reduced the amount of chemicals needed. Whether he invented this himself or patented a process developed in his works is not known.

Of esparto, Crory (left) wrote: “The gathering and utilising of this plant is a most important enterprise, on public grounds, and Mr Edward Lloyd has made his mark in connection with Esparto even more clearly than as a paper manufacturer, printer, or newspaper proprietor” (p.102). Although we may disagree with the comparison, there is no doubt that Lloyd had a revolutionary effect on the mid-century paper trade.

The Algerian economy also benefited, hence the memorial to Lloyd in Holy Trinity Church, Algiers, honouring him as "the first to show the value of alfa fibre for the manufacture of paper". Lloyd was the biggest single operator and the most efficient, but many others were engaged in it too. They were generally paid a 5% commission by buyers, yielding a hardly lavish return of three shillings a ton.

As a cargo, the large bulk to weight ratio of esparto made transport expensive and ill-packed bales wasted money. Lloyd first compressed the esparto into bales using hydraulic pressure, so making it more economical to transport. He chartered his own shipping and so kept the cost under control.

The efficiency of his operation soon led to surpluses that he sold to other papers, so alleviating the general shortage caused by the Cotton Famine when American exports dried up during the Civil War of 1861-63. These accounted for about three quarters of British supplies. The Confederates first boycotted them in the hope of enlisting British help (unlikely since cotton was harvested by slaves), then the Unionists imposed an embargo.

Even when supplies resumed, recovery was slow. The cotton merchants made a fortune while Lancashire suffered a catastrophe. Lloyd’s Weekly ran an appeal for the relief of victims and contributed the profits from higher than average sales in December 1862. This came to £3,676 (nearly £400,000).

Lloyd’s method of doing business combined adventurous thinking, research into the subject-matter and willingness to risk failure. It was a winning formula. Using esparto and straw, he supplied other newspapers at home and increasingly in the British colonies, so becoming an industrialist as well as a publisher.

Establishing a paper mill and growing his own raw material made Lloyd the only Victorian newspaper proprietor to apply vertical integration — ownership and control of every aspect of the supply chain—to his business.

In 1863, Lloyd went on to buy an old paper mill at Sittingbourne in Kent. It was ideally placed with plentiful fresh water and easy access for sea-going shipping. His agent stored straw there, and fire destroyed the mill later that year.

After building new plant, Sittingbourne and Bow Bridge were both in use. To begin with, Sittingbourne was used to process the pulp ready for making into paper at Bow. The bigger of the two machines at Bow was 90in wide.

In 1876, Lloyd installed a machine 123in wide at Sittingbourne, built for him by George and William Bertram of Edinburgh. This giant caused consternation, and even some misgivings on the part of George Bertram, but Lloyd’s judgment was vindicated and the machine was a great success.

In 1877, he imported a 126in machine from the US. This marked the final move from Bow Bridge and coincided with the transformation of the Chronicle into a national newspaper. At some point after 1877, the mill at Sittingbourne was renamed The Daily Chronicle Paper Mill.

Lloyd continually experimented with anything that contained fibre. North African dwarf palm was being used in 1880, but it was dropped, probably due to the cost—£8–£10 a ton (if esparto still cost as little as £3). Hemp and waste paper were among the other raw materials used. In 1875, Crory expected home-grown flax to take over the English market, but that never happened. Both flax and esparto are suitable for the finer types of paper.

Lloyd was among the first in England to experiment with wood pulp. He used it but the company only invested in its production after his death in 1890. Its use had been developed by Friedrich Gottlob in Germany in mid-century and, from the 1860s, papermakers in North America turned to wood as their main source. A method had been invented but not patented in the 1840s by the Canadian Charles Fenerty, a poet. England was slower because coniferous forests were not a big feature of the landscape.

Frank Lloyd—Edward’s fourth son and eldest of his and Maria’s sons—took to wood pulp with a will and in 1892 bought a pulping plant and the rights to use the rapids and river in Hønefoss in Norway. A pulping plant at Hvittingfoss was added a few years later.

Frederick, Edward’s third son, worked in his father’s paper mills and, according to Nigel Lloyd’s family history, managed the Sittingbourne plant. For how long is not known as when their father died, Frank was in charge.

Frank continued his father’s work, applying similar methods and expanding it greatly. Enormous additions were made to the company’s physical assets. A second mill was opened at Sittingbourne in 1891 and a US-made machine 137in wide was imported in 1896. Roads and a railway limited further expansion of the site, so Frank bought 500 acres in the neighbouring Kemsley. Two 225in machines were installed and it started operations in 1924.

Thanks to local enthusiasts, one Lloyd legacy remains — the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. Edward Lloyd had built a 2ft 6in track in 1889 for horse-drawn wagons to connect the paper mill with Milton Creek where barges moored. Frank Lloyd converted it to steam in 1905. In 1924, it was extended to Ridham Dock, used by sea-going ships, and continued in company use until 1969 when Bowaters converted to transport by road.

The SKLR had to fight battles to keep it open in 1970 and again in 2008 when the last company to use the Sittingbourne Mill, Metsä Serla, sold up. It is now a very successful attraction for visitors and uses the old company rolling stock. It is commemorated in a mural on the wall leading to the SKLR Viaduct station.

Edward Lloyd used Thames sailing barges moored in Milton Creek. Three were named after the first of his and Maria’s children, the Annie Lloyd, Frank Lloyd and Alice Lloyd.

As the company’s export trade grew, the convenience of a nearby port for sea-going ships became apparent. Lloyds began to build Ridham Dock, six miles from Sittingbourne and one mile from Kemsley, in 1913 but it was requisitioned the following year to ship supplies to the western front. The Navy completed the building work in 1919 and Lloyds regained it in 1922. The railway linked both Lloyd plants to the dock.

Edward Lloyd was a good employer and Frank adopted even more enlightened methods. A works committee consisting of representatives from each division met a management representative monthly to consider conditions of work and staff suggestions on safety.

In the early 1870s, a sickness and funeral benefit society was set up for the workforce. In 1912, it had 500 members. In 1929, it covered healthcare, widows’ allowances, a fully equipped ambulance service and a fire brigade.

Frank Lloyd was an active philanthropist and devoted further resources to the lives of his staff. The plant at Kemsley included a model village. The plan was for 750 houses, but he died before they were all completed. The village was self-sufficient, with its own sewerage system, and included sports grounds, pavillion, library, club house and concert hall. It later passed into local authority ownership.

The Sittingbourne operations were bought from Bowaters by Metsä Serla, the Finnish paper company trading as M-Real, in 1998. It closed them early in 2008. The water tower was demolished separately in 2012. All other traces of the Lloyd operation had been obliterated in 2010.