Robert Fletchers, Oldham

Date Visited: December 2007

I've been trying to piece together a history of this from various internet sources and oral histories, and it's slowly coming together. I suspect a visit to Oldham library may be in order though.

The exact date the company (Robert Fletcher and Son ltd) was formed is unknown, but it is probable that it was one of the first concerns which the industrial revolution brought to that part of Lancashire. It is known the firm was once owned by the Crompton family who traded under the name Ralph Crompton and Nephews, Bleachers and Papermakers, Stoneclough and Manchester. Paper was first made in 1829.

Following the death of the last of the Crompton brothers, the principal trusteeship and the option of succession was offered to Robert Fletcher who had entered the firm in 1830 and whose ability had seen him rise through the ranks to manager of the bleaching department, and later the whole mill.

Fletcher controlled the mill for many years and on his death on May 17th 1865 was succeeded by his sons John and James who were in turn followed by their sons, also named John and James.

In 1897, the firm was incorporated as a limited company and employed 200 people (later rising to 1000 at the height of production). The top wage in those days was 6 and a half old pence an hour. There were 7 paper making machines which between them produced only a fraction of the paper 3 more modern machines later produced.

A second mill was opened in 1921 specialising in the production of cigarette papers and the company had sales offices in London and Manchester and agencies in many foreign countries.

The company was bought in 1986 by the Melton Medes conglomerate who reportedly turned round a loss making business into a profitable one. However, it later appears that by 2001 / 2002 the business was bankrupt and a year after the Stoneclough mill near Bolton was shut, Greenfield was also closed.

However, unlike the Stoneclough factory, which was quickly demolished and housed over to feed the insatiable demand for housing near Manchester, the Greenfield site has just been left to rot. Consequently, other than a few roof leaks, and the inevitable pigeons, the entire place is pretty much just as it was when the last shift finished.

Thanks to an anonymous former employee who has furnished me with lots of additional information on the mill.