Paper has been made at the Middle Mill at Leonen, south of Apeldoorn, since 1622. Papermaking prospered in the heathlands of the Veluwe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and in 1740 it was estimated that there were 168 paper mills in the region. Many, like that at Leonen, were worked by farmers who raised crops and kept animals on the adjoining fields.
There were originally two mills on the site but both were destroyed by fire in 1886 after which one building, that which survives, was erected in their place. It passed through several changes of ownership in the early twentieth century, and in 1955 the business was merged with other paper manufacturing concerns in the region. It produced special kinds of paper for which demand was diminishing, and was closed in 1969.
The buildings fell into disrepair but in 1989 a trust was formed by papermaking companies to conserve the mill as evidence of the history of the industry. Production on the nineteenth-century paper machines resumed in 1991. The machines are worked by belts from rotating shafts driven either by the power of the mill’s waterwheels or by a horizontal steam engine. The mill is open several days a week, and visitors are able to see the production of paper by a Fourdrinier-type machine, and by traditional hand methods, which they can try for themselves. Old clothing, which usually contains synthetic fibres, is no longer suitable for papermaking, and the mill uses cotton, linen with some cellulose manila (from banana trees) and some wood pulp.
The mill is claimed to be the only one in the Netherlands still producing paper by traditional methods in an original building.