A Huguenot refugee who escaped persecution in France, Henry Portal founded the Portal paper mill which went on to produce paper for Bank of England notes. Portal's paper milling and bank note paper production continues to this day.
Henri de Portal or Henry Portal, as he became known, was born around 1690 at Poitiers in France of a Huguenot family. The story goes that with the family facing possible torture and death for their beliefs, Henry and his brother, Guillaume were safely smuggled to England in wine casks aboard a ship. Their perilous journey ended safely, and it is believed that they landed at Southampton.
By about 1710 Henry Portal was working at a paper mill in South Stoneham, learning the trade which would make his name. He became a naturalised British subject on 10 July 1711 at the Quarter Sessions at Winchester. Henry founded the Portal papermaking business the following year when he obtained the lease of Bere Mill in Whitchurch. The business was handed down from father to son for almost 250 years.
By 1718, with the business proving to be successful, the Portal empire expanded as Henry acquired the lease of Laverstoke Mill, which he rebuilt and modified the following year. In 1724 he gained a contract to make paper for Bank of England notes, which continued until the company was acquired by De La Rue in 1995. Henry Portal died on 30 September 1747 and was buried in Whitchurch Parish Church.