Withnell Fold Paper Mill, Chorley



There were once many small rural paper mills around the countryside, and Lancashire was once a major paper making area, but the rise in energy prices over the past 10 years or so has seen most of them close. Withnell Fold Paper Mill is a remarkable survivor although it is not a recent closure, having closed as far back as December 1967 and a large section of it was demolished in 1983. That area has been replaced by housing, perhaps inevitably considering it's attractive canalside setting in the Chorley countryside. A stone chimney and some buildings do remain, although these weren't used for paper manufacture, rather they were used for packaging and warehousing which is probably why they've survived as I imagine once the paper making machinery had been stripped from the main mill, the building would have had limited utility. What does remain is in a somewhat decrepit state, and much of it is occupied by various businesses in the motor trade. It reminds me a lot of Bradshaw Works, near where I grew up in Bolton in this respect, and I'm surprised that it's not been redeveloped yet. Planning permission was granted for demoltion and construction of 37 houses in 2012, but that hasn't been acted upon and has since expired as far as I can tell.

The adjacent village of Withnell Fold was built for mill workers and is a most attractive little place, although some distance away from the actual village of Withnell - it's actually closer to Wheelton.

Wikipedia describes the early history thus:
The mill was started in 1843 and opened and began production on 15 January 1844, with one machine. Three years later a second machine was installed and the business was so successful that a third machine was installed in 1855. The machines were known as "74", "66" and "60", the widths of the paper produced. The quality and variety of the paper improved and in 1849 tissue paper was made, followed by coloured tissue.
Writing papers were introduced in 1863 and had a reputation for being of the finest quality. Cartridge paper came in 1878. The mill supplied newsprint for Preston, Bolton and Liverpool newspapers. The firm continued as a family concern until 1890 when it combined with Wiggins Teape & Co., an old established firm of stationers. Although the merger did not take place until 1890 the mill had supplied paper to Wiggins and Teape from 1847 and in an old diary kept by Mr. T. B. Parke there's an entry for February of that year which reads "Am now making double cap ordered by Wiggins & Teape".

A 1940's aerial view of the mills and village can be seen here. The mill buildings on the right of the picture have been demolished, the ones on the left are still standing.

An interesting insight into the mill and village can be read here.