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30 September 2014

Devon watermarks

Devon printed ephemera 1717-1818
and some of their watermarks.

This page is based on a presentation made at the annual meeting of the British Association of Paper Historian, held in Exeter in October 2014. The figures given in the tabulations may be modified by the results of subsequent tracings made of watermarks. The watermarks are illustrated on the following pages:

British arms
Fleur de lys and Strasbourg lily
Pro patria and other heraldic designs
Crown GR and similar countermarks
Names, initials and monograms

The watermarks of early printed ephemera currently held in the Devon Heritage Centre, mainly on items formerly in the Westcountry Studies Library, were examined. The 242 items, extend in date from 1717 to 1818, with the bulk falling within the period 1761-1812. The year 1812 has the largest number of items: 58.

Table 1. Breakdown by decades

No wmk12401221155224621

The printers represented are mainly from Exeter with a few from other Devon towns. Most known printers produced ephemera - jobbing printing kept a provincial printing office afloat - but certain printers seemed to specialise in ephemeral material, particularly if they did not have the regular work for their presses of producing a weekly newspaper. Andrew Brice, Shirley Woolmer and Robert Trewman all produced long-running newspapers in Exeter during this period, but among the most prolific printers of ephemera are those who were not newspaper publishers, notably Elizabeth and Thomas Brice in the 1780s. They started publishing jointly in 1781, but Thomas soon set up on his own, leaving his mother to produce printed scraps that were shoddy even by the standards of printing at that time. Robert Cullum, who set up in the first years of the 19th century also printed large amounts of ephemera. Apart from the election items included here, he was a prolific printer of broadside ballads. From the 1780s there were also printers outside Exeter, producing ephemeral items for local needs.

Table 2. Breakdown by printer

Exeter[s.n.] [of 215 Exeter titles]1740-181244
ExeterBesley, Thomas1802-181314
ExeterBliss, Joseph17171
ExeterBrice, Andrew1756-176512
ExeterBrice, Andrew and Sarah17451
ExeterBrice, Andrew and Thorn, Barnabas17702
ExeterBrice, Elizabeth1781-178617
ExeterBrice, Elizabeth & Thomas17812
ExeterBrice, Thomas [1]17561
ExeterBrice, Thomas [2]1781-180231
ExeterCullum, Robert1809-18188
ExeterDrew, Joseph17481
ExeterFloyde, George18021
ExeterGrigg, Emanuel1795-17982
ExeterHedgeland, Philip1812-18153
ExeterM'Kenzie, Joseph17952
ExeterSpencer, J17611
ExeterSutton, T.17781
ExeterThorn, Barnabas1767-17742
ExeterTrewman, Robert1775-178422
ExeterTrewman, Robert and Son [Trewmans]1789-181338
ExeterWoolmer, Shirley1792-18128
AxminsterBull, Richard17961
BarnstapleMurch, Grace17951
Bodmin [Cornwall]Liddell, James1790-18032
DartmouthJackson, James17905
Newton AbbotWeatherdon, John1789-17937
Plymouth[s.n.] [of 3 Plymouth titles]17311
PlymouthCollins, John17801
PlymouthNettleton, Peter18001
Plymouth Dock[s.n.] [of 3 Plymouth Dock titles]17851
Plymouth DockCongdon, Lazarus18121
Plymouth DockPhilp, Thomas18031
Tiverton[s.n.] [of 3 Tiverton titles]17931
TivertonBoyce, Edward17971

Main categories of literature represented in the sample:

- Political items: election addresses, details of the poll. The Devon and Exeter Institution Library holds a volume of some thirty items for the 1790 election which were not examined for this project. For the City of Exeter election of 1812 Cullum reprinted 17 items in a volume entitled The spirit of election wit an uncontested election. For the election for the county of Devon he recorded 38 items. For Exeter there was also the burlesque election for Ide, which could generate almost as much material as the election proper. The 1761 Ide election is represented by a couple of items, as is the 1790 burlesque election but for 1812 there are 11 items.

- Satirical and polemical items, often in verse. Thomas Brice followed in the tradition of his relative Andrew Brice as a versifier.

- National events, often wholly or partly in verse, sometimes with a woodcut illustration. In 1814 the printer Cullum went so far as to use gold ink when reporting Stanhope's speech on the Corn Laws.

- Local government: official notices, printed forms (not examined for this project).

- Crime and execution broadsheets, particularly for the 1780s.

- Playbills: almost 50 in the sample, extending from 1756 to 1818.

- Popular literature: ballads and slip songs, humorous items, the occasional dialect works and chapbooks.

- Religious and devotional material: little survives; it does not compare to the amount of religious imagery that can be found in France.

- Commercial material: trade cards, advertisement sheets, auction sales, lottery notices.

There were a number of problems in locating and identifying watermarks. Many of the items are badly discoloured or stained and others have been repaired or mounted. Nevertheless even in the case of mounted items it was sometimes possible to tentatively distinguish a watermark.

Most items were printed on half or quarter sheets of paper, so it is rarely possible to link watermark and countermark. Many watermarks are only fragmentary, particularly those printed on quarter sheets. Of the 242 sheets examined only 124 have a watermark of any kind. Given that most watermarked paper would normally have a countermark, this leads to the conclusion that perhaps half of this ephemeral material would have been printed on lower quality unwatermarked paper. This is particularly true of the cluster of items produced during the 1780s where very few watermarks are visible and the paper is frequently shoddily produced. Eleven whole sheet items give some evidence linking a watermark with a countermark. This indicates that the Crown GR was frequently used as a countermark. As an alternative the names or initials of the master papermaker were used, sometimes in conjunction with the date.

Table 3. Full sheets with watermark and countermark

Exeter : S.N., 1740An account of the Devon and Exeter Hospital, which is proposed to be erected on the plan of the County Hospital at Winchester.Britannia? [unclear]Crown GR
Exeter : Trewman, 1776A list of the freemen and freeholders who voted at the election for a representative in Parliament for the city of Exeter, in the room of John Walter, Esquire, John Baring and John Burridge Cholwich, Esquires, candidates.Strasbourg lily with P [below]A VL [?]
Exeter : S.N. , 1780Particulars of the extensive manor and borough, or lordship of ChulmleighHorn GRWJ
Exeter : Brice, 1784The charter of the citizens of Exeter, granted by king Henry VII. July 10, 1498 ...BritanniaGR [and] T & T [?]
Exeter? : S.N., 1791Cruwys pedigree.Fleur de lysM P [?]
Exeter : Cullum , 1809List of charities, for the benefit of the city of Exeter.British armsO & P 1807
Honiton : S.N., 1793Feniton in Devonshire. Particulars of the estates and lands there … to be disposed of … 14th of December, 1793.HornS Lay
Newton Abbot : Weatherdon, 1790William Baker, [grocer?], mercer, linen and woollen-draper, haberdasher, and iron-monger, Newton Abbot, sells at the lowest prices, wholesale and retail, the following goodsBritish armsMS
Plymouth Dock : S.N., 1785The busy fellows in the suds. A new song [and] The town in a hurry; or, the Dock dance. A new ballad. Signed: Julius Gingle. Dated: Dock, August the 11th, 1785.British armsCrown GR, F & T
Bodmin : Liddell, 1803Particulars of the valuable and highly improveable manor of Stanton St. Gabriel.Fleur de lysAL
Bodmin : Liddell?, 1790Table of fees and rates, to be taken by the head gaoler and turnkeys, at Bodmin.BritanniaCrown GR
In all some 79 instances of what could be considered watermarks proper have been noted. Countermarks, apart from the Crown GR can include dates and names or initials. In all some 59 countermarks have been identified, sufficiently close to the previous total to indicate that during that period most watermarks would have their countermark.

Table 4. Main designs of watermark

Britannia511740-18132 with countermark Crown GR
British arms121761-18121 with countermark Crown GR
Horn61789-1718Including 1 dated 1809
Fleur de lys41791-1813Including 1 dated 1807
Pro patria31752-1792
Strasburg lily11776
Lion of the Seven Provinces11784Worn mould
Lion rampant11793
Orb and supporters11717
Crown GR211740-1813Normally found as a countermark: 2 with Britannia, 1 with British arms, 2 with date 1810

Dated watermarks are confined to the 19th century, a dozen examples extending from 1801 to 1812. Dates of usage are from one to as many as nine years later than the watermark date, the main range being between one and four years. The fact that the life of a paper mould in continuous use could be less than a year indicates that both mills and printers may have held stock of paper for some time before use.

Table 5. Dated watermarks

YearName or initialsNo.Imprint
1801Oxenham and Co1(Exeter: Besley, 1802)
1807Fleur de lys
(Exeter Trewman, 1810)
(Exeter: Cullum, 1809)
(Exeter: Cullum , 1812)
(Exeter: Besley ; s.n. ; Cullum, 1812)
1809Horn1(Exeter: Cullum, 1818)
1810Crown GR
(Exeter: Trewman, 1812)
(Exeter: Besley 1812)
1812O&P1(Exeter: Trewman, 1813)

About 37 sheets of paper bore traces of names or initials, not always easy to decipher. The initials are normally impossible to interpret with any certainty but in a few cases local mills can be identified.

Table 6. Names, initials and monograms

B1(Exeter: Trewman, 1801)
D1(Exeter : Brice, 1802) Perhaps Dewdney?
Dewdney3(2 Exeter s.n., 1790, 1 Trewman, 1793).
F&T4(Exeter: Brice, 1784 ; Plymouth Dock: s.n. 1785 ; Newton Abbot: Weatherdon, 1791)
IA1With fleur de lys. (Bodmin : Liddell, 1803)
J&H Matthews1(Axminster: Bull, 1796)
JM2(Exeter: s.n., 1812, Exeter: Cullum, 1814 - unclear)
L2(Exeter: Trewman, 1778)
L & I1(Newton Abbot: Weatherdon, 1792)
Matthews1(Exeter: Grigg, 1795) Incomplete.
MF 18101(Exeter: Besley, 1812)
MP1(Exeter? : s.n.,1791) With fleur dy lys
MS1(Newton Abbot: Weatherdon, 1790)
O&P10Of which:
- 18071(Exeter: Cullum, 1809)
- 18083(Exeter: Besley and Cullum
- 18121(Exeter: Trewman, 1813)
Oxenham and Co.18011(Exeter: Besley, 1802)
P A VL1(Exeter: Trewman, 1776) The P is within a Strasbourg lily.
The AVL is reminiscent of the LVG initials harking back to the Netherland maker Lucius van Gerrevink
S Lay1(Honiton: s.n.,1793).
T Bond3(Exeter: Trewman, 1778-1783)
TB 1801 [?]1(Exeter: Floyde, 1802)
WJ1(Exeter: s.n.,1780). With horn

Some identifications:

O&P: Hugh Oxenham and John Pim of Wear Mills, Countess Wear, Topsham. They are recorded from 1789 to 1818 with a warehouse in South Street, Exeter from 1798 to 1816, where they are listed in several trade directories and also in the Exeter Flying Post newspaper on 4 October 1798 and 10 October 1799. On 17 October 1799 the partners Hugh Oxenham and John Pim deny an allegation by Edward Pim that "many mistakes have been made to his disadvantage owing to the sameness of name ... they or their clerks are totally ignorant of any mistake ... surprised as they have constantly endeavoured to mark all their invoices, cards, letters, avertisements and other public communications under the firm of Oxenham and Co. The partnership dissolved 24 June 1810, with a new partnership from 29 September 1811 to 27 June 1818.

Matthews: (Exeter: Grigg, 1795) may also identify the monogram JM (Exeter : [s. n.], 1812) as John Matthews of Etherleigh Bridge Mills, Broadclyst, recorded from 1791 to 1842. J. & H.Matthews is also recorded on an item I was not able to examine printed in Axminster by Bull in 1796. The London Gazette 8 Feb 1803 has an advertisement: Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership lately carried on by John Matthews, of Broadclist, in the County of Devon, Paper-Maker, and Richard Matthews, of Huxham, in the fame County, Paper-Maker, under the Firm of John and Richard Matthews, was dissolved from the 29th Day of September last by mutual Consent. All Persons having any Demands on the said Partnership are requested to transmit an Account thereof to Mr. John Matthews or Mr. Richard Matthews, who respectively carry on the Business of Paper-making on their separate Account only ; and those who are indebted to the said Partnership are to pay their respective Debts forthwith. Dated this 4th Day of February 1803. John Matthews. Richard Matthews.

Dewdney: (2 Exeter s.n., 1790, 1 Trewman, 1793) probably refers to John Dewdney of Hele Mills, Bradninch - or possibly Stoke Canon, where Dewdney and Son is recorded in 1803.

T. Bond: (Exeter: Trewman, 1778-1783) refers to Thomas Bond, also of Wear Mills, Topsham. Shorter records (fig. 16) a watermark on document dated 1780. The Bower Collection has a T Bond watermark with Britannia on document dated c.1780.

F & T: probably refers to Francis Fincher and Robert Turner of Aller Mills, Abbotskerswell. Shorter fig 60 and Heawood 220 have a watermark from a 1788 document and the Bower Collection has a watermark on 1789 document. London Gazette 4 Mar 1797: The Public are desired to take Notice, that the Partnership of Mess. Joseph Turner and Francis Fincher, of Aller Mills, within the Parish of Abbotsearwell [sic], in the County of Devon, Paper-Makers, is dissolved by mutual Consent: As witness their Hands this 27th Day of February, 1797. Joseph Turner. Francis Fincher. Shorter also records T & F (fig. 175/6) from a document dated 1794. Richard Turner is recorded as proprietor of Aller Mills from 1813 to Pigot's 1830 trade directory.

There are also several script monograms and other partly decipherable inscriptions.

Other initials remain shadowy. D could refer to Dewdney, T&T could have some connection with the Tremlett family. Certainly there is one that is not local.

S Lay: (Honiton: s.n.,1793) is identified by Shorter as Samuel Lay of St Mary Cray or Sittingbourne in Kent. Shorter records (figs 98-101) watermarks on documents dated 1789-1795, also Heawood no. 1857.

So, based on the relatively few instances where identifications can be made, it would appear that local mills were supplying much of the paper for printing ephemera.

This can be supplemented by a number of other examples which were not included in the sample examined:

T. Chorlock: recorded by Shorter (fig. 24) on a document dated 1788. It also appears on an unsigned Exeter imprint of 1789: To the gentlemen, clergy, freemen, and freeholders of the city of Exeter, a half sheet signed at the end: Charles Warwick Bampfylde. Bampfylde-House, November 10, 1789. This is in a volume of 1789/90 election items in the Devon and Exeter Institution. Thomas Chorlock is recorded from 1789 to 1803, as a paper maker in St. Sidwell in directories between 1791 and 1796. His death is reported in the Monthly Magazine July1803, p.599. He was trading as Chorlock and Pim between 1791 and 1793 according to trade directories. He was a proprietor of Wear Mills and also a newspaper proprietor in 1789. He dissolved his partnership with Thomas Warren according to the Exeter Flying Post 4 July 1793 and with John Hill according to the London Gazette 21 March 1795. The Bower Collection also has an example of his watermark.

MP: the initials which appear in an anonymous broadsheet probably printed in Exeter in 1791 with a fleur dy lys watermark, also appears in an 1816 publication: CARPENTER, Lant. A brief view of the chief grounds of dissent from the Church of England by law established : a discourse first delivered in Exeter, May 13th., 1810, and repeated in Plymouth, April 5th. 1812. - Second edition.-- Exeter : Printed by T. Besley , 1816. Paper watermarked: MP 1814.

The noted Kent papermaker J. Whatman supplied paper for the plates of WILLIAMS, Thomas Hewitt. Outlines, the subjects from the scenery of Devon. - Exeter : Trewman and Son , 1811. - Plates are watermarked J. Whatman 1810.

RLC appears in another anonymous Exeter imprint in the collection in the Devon and Exeter Institution: To the gentlemen, clergy, freemen, and freeholders of the city of Exeter, signed at the end: James Buller. Exeter, October 29, 1789.

Dewdney is also represented in the same volume on: To the independent and hearty yeomen of the county of Devon, signed at the end: An Old Devonshire Yeoman. Watermark: Dewdney.

Finally paper watermarked "Oxenham and Co" 1800 was used as endpapers to a marriage register book printed by J. Busvine in Kingsbridge.

Some sources for English watermarks:

Churchill, W. A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France. 1935, reprinted 1967.
Heawood, E. Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries. – Hilversum , 1950. Illustrates 4080 watermarks.
Heawood, E. Historical review of watermarks. 1950.
Heawood, E. Articles in Library Dec 1929-Mar 1930, Dec 1930-Mar 1931, Sep-Dec 1947.
Shorter, A. H. Paper mills and paper makers in England. Hilversum, 1957.

Copyright © Ian Maxted 2014
This page last updated 30 September 2014