Before the invention of continuous paper making, paper was made in individual sheets by stirring a container of pulp slurry and pouring it into a fabric sieve called a sheet mold. While still on the fabric in the sheet mold the wet paper is pressed to remove excess water and then the sheet was lifted off to be hung over a rope or wooden rod to air dry.
In 1799, Louis-Nicolas Robert of Essonnes, France, was granted a patent for a continuous paper making machine.At the time Robert was working for Saint-Léger Didot, with whom he quarrelled over the ownership of the invention. Didot thought that England was a better place to develop the machine. But during the troubled times of the French Revolution, he could not go there himself, so he sent his brother in law, John Gamble, an Englishman living in Paris.
Through a chain of acquaintances, Gamble was introduced to the brothers Sealy and Henry Fourdrinier, stationers of London, who agreed to finance the project. Gamble was granted British patent 2487 on 20 October 1801.
With the help particularly of Bryan Donkin, a skilled and ingenious mechanic, an improved version of the Robert original was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803, followed by another in 1804. A third machine was installed at the Fourdriniers' own mill at Two Waters. The Fourdriniers also bought a mill at St Neotsintending to install two machines there and the process and machines continued to develop.