Fletcher and Sons’ paper factory mill closed unexpectedly in 2001 and hasn’t been touched since, remaining in a state of suspended animation.
The mill’s offices and hallways are filled with personal belongings, work boots, safety goggles, and equipment, including seven paper machines. It almost seems as if the workers simply walked out of the factory and never returned.
Located in the valleys of east Oldham, the origins of Fletcher’s Mill can be traced all the way back to the Industrial Revolution. It was first owned by the Crompton family, trading under the name Ralph Crompton and Nephews. The mill was based in Stoneclough, Manchester and produced paper for the first time in 1829.
Robert Fletcher entered the firm in the year 1830. He was an ambitious young man and his competence and high performance were quickly noticed by his employers. He rose gradually through the ranks of the company, becoming a manager of the bleaching department first and later of the whole mill.
The Crompton family held him in high regard, so much so that Roger, the last of the brothers, passed ownership of the firm on to him.
After the death of Roger Crompton, the business went to the Fletcher family, passing down from son to son. Following his death on May 17th, 1865, Robert was succeeded by his sons John and James Fletcher, who in turn passed ownership down to their sons also named John and James.
By 1897, many things had changed for the factory. The mill was incorporated as a Limited Company and employed about two hundred people. It continued to expand over the next few years, building upon its reputation for quality and craftsmanship.
A second mill opened at Greenfield, near Oldham, in 1921 and specialized in the manufacture of cigarette paper and owned over several hundred of acres of land around Greenfield.
Robert Fletcher and Sons Limited had a good reputation and was known for its quality products, good service, and reliability. The firm also had agencies in foreign countries and sales offices in London and Manchester. At its height, Fletcher’s Paper Mill employed 1,000 workers.
However, by the 1990s, the Company was struggling financially. By 1999, the Greenfield site turnover was down to £8.2m and the shareholders’ funds dropped to little over £4m. In an effort to save the company, a decision was made to shut down the mill at Stoneclough.
As a result, 120 workers lost their jobs. Nevertheless, despite this move, the company continued its downward spiral, eventually not being able to sustain its increasing losses. Fletcher’s Mill declared bankruptcy in July 2001 and closed overnight.
The mill at Stoneclough was demolished, but to this day, the Greenfield mill still remains exactly as it was, giving the place a sense of being frozen in time.