Springfield House was built for Richard James Balston in 1891 as part of the paper mill complex started by his father William Balston.
He commissioned renowned architect Alfred Waterhouse whose gothic designs were much admired and led to many famous commissions including Manchester Town Hall; Balliol College, Oxford and Pembroke College, Cambridge. In London, he designed The Natural History Museum and the George Street Headquarters of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He was President of The Royal Institute of British Architects from 1888 – 1891 and became a member of The Royal Academy in 1885.
Richard Balston preferred life as a country gentleman to papermaking and became a J.P and was made High Sheriff of Kent in 1894.
n 1st July 1907, Balston entertained workers at the Springfield Mill to celebrate 100 years of papermaking but later the papermaking business was to decline and the house became surplus and was purchased by Kent County Council in 1921 for offices. KCC went on to develop its headquarters on the site in the 1960’s and operated there until 1999 when the site was sold for redevelopment.
Balston Family History
True to Whatman's founding tradition, William Balston was also an innovator and at the forefront of technological awareness. For example, instead of using the nearby river as a source of power, William chose to use steam. The renowned engineer Sir James Watt supervised the installation of a steam engine - believed to be the first steam engine ever to be used as the main source of power for a paper mill. The engine's original beam is still on display at Springfield Mill today. In addition, inspired by his great interest in chemistry, William even built a small laboratory at Springfield Mill, which was a radical step for this period.
He was born at Liverpool, and studied architecture under Richard Lane in Manchester. His earliest commissions were for domestic buildings, but his success as a designer of public buildings was assured as early as 1859 by winning the open competition for the Manchester assize courts. This work not only showed his ability to plan a complicated building on a large scale, but also marked him out as a champion of the Gothic cause. Nine years later, in 1868, another competition secured for Waterhouse the design of Manchester Town Hall, where he was able to show a firmer and more original handling of the Gothic style. The same year he was involved in rebuilding part of Caius College, Cambridge; this was not his first university work, for he had already worked on Balliol College, Oxford in 1867.
A HISTORY OF THE KENT COUNTY COUNCIL, 1889-1974
The rise in the number of staff created an accommodation problem as early as 1920. Though it had been hoped that the enlargements made to the Sessions House in 1913 would enable most of the County Council's office staff to be housed in one building instead of in scattered premises in the town, soon after the end of the war the building was overcrowded. In the autumn of 1919 the Stores and Requisition Department of the Education Department moved to premises in Union Street, Maidstone, but the problem remained.
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