Home / Industrial / Robert Fletcher & Son Ltd – Greenfield, Oldham

Robert Fletcher & Son Ltd – Greenfield, Oldham

Sometimes refereed to as ‘Fletchers mill’ or ‘Fletchers Paper Mill’ this mill sits tucked away in the valleys of east Oldham as if one day they walked out of the factory and never returned. Infact this probably wasn’t far from the truth. An unbelievable explore.

History of the company (September 1964)

The beginnings of the firm of Robert Fletcher & Son Limited are lost in the mist of time. It is probably that it was one of the first concerns which the industrial revolution brought to this part or Lancashire. It is know that the firm was first owned by a family called Crompton. They traded under the name of Ralph Crompton and Nephews, Bleachers and Papermakers, Stoneclough and Manchester. The influence of the bleaching side of the business is traceable in some of tte terms still in use in the mill. Paper was first made at Stoneclough in 1829.

Robert Fletcher entered the firm as a young man in his twenties in the year 1830. His ability brought him to the notice of his employers and he became manager of the bleaching department and later manager of the whole mill. The Crompton family held him in high regard and Roger Crompton, the last of the brothers, left him both the principal trusteeship and the option of succeeding him in the firm.

After the death of Roger Crompton, Robert Fletcher controlled the business with conspicuous ability and integrity for many years. He died at Vale House, Stoneclough, on May 17th, 1865, and was succeeded by his sons John and James Fletcher. They in turn were followed by their sons, John Robert Fletcher and James Fletcher, who are well remembered by many old employees today.

In 1897, the firm was incorporated as a Limited Company. Many things have changed since those days. The Company then employed about two hundred people; now the number including Greenfield Mill, is about one thousand. The top wage in those days was 6½d. an hour. There were 7 paper machines which between them produced only a fraction of the paper which three paper machines produce today.

Throughout the succeeding years, the firm continued to expand and to increase its volume of business. A relation for high quality, reliability and fine craftsmanship was steadily built up.
A second mill, at Greenfield, near Oldham, was opened in 1921. This mill specialises in the manufacture of cigarette paper. There are also sales offices in London & Manchester and agencies in many foreign countries. The Company owns several hundred of acres of land around Greenfield Mill, which supports a mixed farm.

The company’s products cover a wide range of fine tissues; in this field, Robert Fletcher & Son Limited has a world-wide reputation for quality, reliability and good service to the customer which is founded upon more than a hundred years of experience.

Financial Strain & Eventual Closure

Towards the late 90’s the two mills of Robert Fletcher & Son Ltd started to struggle. The increased cost of wood pulp and energy combined to make it tough financially. In 1997 the greenfield site had a turnover of nearly £17m and shareholder funds exceeded £9m. By 1999 turnover was down to £8.2m and the shareholders funds had dwindled to little over £4m. In 2000 in an effort to save the business going to the wall resulted in the closure of the Stoneclough site and 120 job losses resulted from the closure although 50 new jobs would be created at the Greenfield site. Despite this move the company continued to spiral into financial ruin and in July 2001 several suppliers and creditors formally applied to wind up the company and resulted in the closure, overnight, of the Greenfield site.

Check Also

George Dyke Forgemasters, Willenhall

The original site in Willenhall at Doctors Piece was once a piece of land belonging …

29 comments

  1. Mike Horbury – do you have any contact details for the security office there? would like to get in touch with them!

  2. Shauna Bracken

    Hi all,

    I was just wondering if someone could give m the address of the mill?
    A couple of friends of mine are studying photography and they are doing a project on derelict buildings and would love to take some snaps of the Fletcher’s mill as its such an amazing building with great history but I can’t seem to locate it haha

    It would be great if someone could help me out 🙂 thanks guys

  3. Jacqueline langton

    My father,mother,sister,and I worked for Fletchers, I couldn’t work in the mill but when the steward retired I took over the social club,and I loved every minute,my father’s name was Roy norcliffe,luckily he had retired just a few years before it closed,sadly my father died in 2009,but when I go up to dovestones I still look down on the mill and remember the good times,when I was little I used to think it was the only place in Greenfield were people worked who lived in the village,it was the mill at top off the hill,like in the 1800 films and books.

  4. Abdul Rasid Nordin

    l was studying for RMN fr 2 years from 1976 to 1978 in Tone Vale Nursing School.

  5. I worked there 1990-2000 I Loved it, worked on the paper making machines, never had a job like it, or since, sat on ur backside for up to 3 hours waiting for the reel of paper to spool up, take it out, hand it over to the slitters and sit back down again! I think high raw material prices was only partly to blame, we went over to china to help them build their own paper machine! Our biggest customer would you believe! We even said in a meeting when things were going down hill, ‘why are we helping them to make their own paper?’ We were told ‘the chinese consume so much cigarette paper they will always want paper off us’…… They didnt. My dad John Grenfell, was 1 of the lucky ones, he managed to get his pension when it closed, many didnt

  6. My dad worked at this mill with his family and lived at no 13 in the cottages in the 1930’s
    His brother had a tragic accident with his arm and died at the time there
    The family still live locally
    It’s a beautiful place

  7. To add, I have visited many times and was there yesterday and walked around the entire site (in and out) then I spoke to the security guy (Mitie) he was nice and friendly but knew only that the factory was to be demolished for housing – which of course the plan undoubtably is, for why would Purico reopen a factory that would be competing with the companies own Indian factory?

    The simple fact is that the honest and hard working people of Britain have not been protected from the unscrupulous. The old chestnut used is; ‘Britain needs to compete and our lot just won’t work!’ This is a most disingenuous excuse! National and International financiers – aided by the most naive politician in British History, Margaret Thatcher created opportunities for already wealthy investors to make vast profits simply by using the imbalance of countries at different stages of their growth. Inversely (or very similar) in much the same way as international finance and investments caused the depression that destroyed the Weimar Republic, leading to vast unemployment and poverty – oh and Hitler of course!

  8. Fletcher’s is owned by Purico an holding company and an hiding place for the unscrupulous; here’s their contact details;
    Telephone No telephone number available.
    Email Address No email address available.
    Contact Person No contact person available.
    Business Activity Activities of head offices
    (SIC code 70100)
    Headed up by an Indian guy ‘professor’ Nathu Ram Puri.
    See!
    Purico Group was founded by Professor Nathu Ram Puri in January 1983. Nat Puri arrived in the UK from the Punjab in 1966 with a degree in mathematics before training as a consulting engineer. Within twenty years, he had established the beginnings of an international company that would evolve to become one of the most diverse and successful private enterprises in the UK. (the last sentence is pure guff) because all he did was to see how he could use foreign finance and industrial espionage to duplicate factories abroad – especially India. Fletcher’s Paper Mill production of quality tissue, tobacco paper and others is now manufactured in India by Mr Puri’s group.

    Yet another community devastated by just one greedy individual who used the privilege of dual nationality to enhance his own wealth at the cost of British communities.

  9. Hi all,what a sad and sorry state fletchers mill has ended up in. It should never had come to this. Economy /management/lack of government support to keep britains manufacturing strong. I Believe everything should now be done to return this building to it’s industrious past creating new businesses within this amazing landscape the mill stands in. Demolition is a dam shame and should not be an option and not aloud to happen. funds should be funneled into this historic mill to convert it into new business premises creating a real future for the community. Far too many of these buildings are being lost forever or are being turned into apartments although I personally prefer apartments than demolition . I myself run a engraving business which is a old trade , engraving rollers for the of embossing and converting industry. I noticed in picture 12 at fletchers mill there are rollers and boxes I presume containing rollers .Is there anyone who worked at the mill who can please tell me what type of rollers these are. Emboss or Anilox or calender ect and are they still there. Also does anybody know of any other mills in a similar state with engraving machines and mill tools still inside.

  10. Hi all, I’m just fishing for Information here at the moment so I thought I’d leave a message.

    I’m currently studying Environmental Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University and for my research project I am undertaking a study of soil pollution within local industrial sites around Oldham and Tameside, Fletcher’s Paper mill being one and possibly the most interesting. The work will be solely for my use only towards my degree and will go unpublished.

    If anyone has any information regarding access to the mill or any information on my chosen topic about the site, could you please email me at the following address;

    B.Lavin@2010.ljmu.ac.uk

    Any information is greatly appreciated and if used it will be cited in my work.

    Thanks!

  11. Can anyone tell me when the cottages facing the new houses were built please ?

  12. christine mccardell

    My granddad worked at Fletcher’s and retired from there; watch and all. Harold Mccardell was his name.

    I wanted to know if Fletcher’s had a watermark in their paper. If so, I would like to know what it was, so I can use it as a tattoo for my daughter and I.

    If anyone monitors these comments, maybe they will know and can email it to me at
    iamchristine2012@yahoo.ca

    Thank you
    Christine Mccardell

  13. I too live in the old mill workers cottages and it’s a beautiful place to live there is a lovely community spirit as we can be sometimes especially in the winter quite isolated. It would be amazing if the social club where to re open. One of my neighbours used to work in the mill and he too tells of the day it closed. The areas close to the mill are very run down and it would really only take a bit of hard work to tidy the area up a bit but it appears the current owners have no interest.

  14. i started work on leaving school in 1954 as a trainee manager, i worked in every department in the mill ,from the choppers right through the whole process. the wages were ok but not enough for a adveturous lad, so at 18 i gave up the trainee managers job and went on shifts my wage trebled and with overtime i was a millionair if on 2 10 you could work 3. 6 2 shifts and then pick your own shifts on nights, the cash flowed in remember overtime was time and a half and weekend was premium time. i still remember the names of the people i worked with in most of the departments.i left when i was 20 and moved to oxford where i worked at WOLVERCOTE PAPER MILL this mill was once managed by R H CLAPPERTON who had been manager at fletchers. sorry to see its demise

  15. @martin hobson I remember your Grandfather Wilf, he used to work in the new Building where all the converting was done. If its the same Wilf he worked on BS 4 and after the reorganization (1982) he worked as part of the guillotine crew. If I remember rightly he had a son who worked there too called Steven who drove the tow master.

  16. No. Yes it was back then. Is it now? Not at all, security is extremely tight these days and security do actually move outside of there cabin at the front these days!

  17. Did you enter the buildings without permission? & if so was it easily accesible?

  18. I am enquiring about a B. Steele who worked at Robert Fletcher & Son Ltd, Stoneclough, he was awarded a inscribed gold watch in 1968 for 25 years service. I am assuming B. Steele is a man as the watch is a gents watch.
    My interest is solely that I now own this watch and I would be fascinated to know more about B. Steele, the original owner. Any information would be much appreciated and my email address is:- kav211202@aol.com

    Thank you.

  19. I am making this inquiry for my uncle who is 86, he has lost his memory and lost his pension The only information we have is he worked at Fletchers and paid into a private pension He moved into a nursing home without informing the pension company of his new address. We cannot find any record of his pension because some yes man from the council put all his private papers into the dustbin, all we need is the name of the pension fund the employees paid into at fletchers. Any help would be greatly appreciated, my email address is: t_lees@hotmail.com

  20. my grandad Wilf Piper worked at kearsley for many years, does anyone remember him?

  21. Myself and my husband used to work for this mill, my husband right up to the day it shut down, he turned up for work (6-2 shift) and was told to go home and if you wish to claim redundancy speak to the government as we Fletcher’s would not be paying it!

    Having said that, all of the above comments are true, the mill had a great community about it, I dont ever remember getting up to go to work thinking to myself “I wish I didn’t have to go”, I loved everyday that I work there. It really does break my heart to see the place in the state that is now in and I believe this is the feeling of a lot of other local ex employees

  22. A good few years ago I used to cut the grass and keep the garden tidy at a cottage on Anglesey North Wales for a couple Nigel and Anne Plackett – did they have anything to do with this mill? I seem to recall them saying a few times he worked there. If indeed they are still about I would like to hear from them.

    John
    jcliftics@msn.com

  23. Hi, I currently live in one of the houses (Ley Butts) near the site of Greenfield paper mill, where I believe, ex-employees of the mill used to live. When I talk to the people that used to work in the mill, who have lived in Greenfield for years, they always comment how there was a great community when the mill was open. There was a social club with tennis courts and a bowling green and the football field, it was a thriving community.
    Unfortunately, it has all been left empty to deteriorate. I have applied to the current owners to see if they would allow the community/social club on the old mill road to be re-opened and run by a committee of locals from Greenfield. It is something that would bring a community that once was, back to life again. I know the mill is no longer, but the club could be put to great use. Does anyone who is familiar with the area agree? Would anyone be interested in forming a committee if the permission to reopen is granted???
    Sarah
    csarah523@hotmail.com

  24. I am retired now and live in the USA in Connecticut. Around 30 years ago I was National Sales Manager for the Black-Clawson Company in Fulton, New York. Two people from Fletcher’s Kearsley Paper Works came to Fulton to run lab tests. They were W. Ian Porteous, Director/General Manager and W.Ken Allen, Research & Development. I came upon their calling cards in a file today. It brought back memories of two individuals I considered to be among the finest gentlemen I have met. We had dinner and great conversation one evening and I was grateful for their visit. The experience validates the expression “It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey”. Should Mssrs Porteous or Allen still be amongst us, and learn of this commentary, it would be my pleasure to hear from them.

    Daniel Ticson
    email: joyce.ticson@cox.net

  25. It closed down in July 2001. It went bust at lunchtime and the members of staff were given bags to pack their stuff and leave. Most just left assuming it would reopen. The best description I can give is that it’s like the fire alarm went off mid shift and nobody ever returned. There are many tales of what happened to the company, it was very cash rich early to mid 80’s and then lost huge amounts of its reserves. The buildings have remained in an almost mothballed status for the years since. Recently it was used on a Warburton’s advert, you may notice a few of my externals towards the end of the advert.

    Recent rumours hint that demo is soon on the horizon.

  26. When did this mill close down? what happened to the mill? company bankrupt?

  27. Thanks for the comment and history.. it really does have quite a tale to tell this place!

  28. I worked at Fletchers back in the 80s as a slitter’s assistant – cutting the large rolls of paper into wheels for shipping to cigarette firms. The people who worked there, on the shop floor, were on the whole brilliant. Hard working men and women who were treated like scum by the management. Our lunch we ate in the toilets, cos we could smoke in there. Later they provided us with a battered old, cold portacabin to eat in. They also had a policy of “No union” and “No blacks”. It was hard, poorly-paid work. Most, under duress, worked six days a week. Some, now and then, did seven. The shifts changed each week. 10am-6pm/6pm-2am/2am-10am and on, and on. Mental stuff. Lovely setting though. In the valley with the trees, the river and the bowling greens, etc. – a throwback to older mill days when the patronage of mill owners could at least on occasion offer some care and respite to its grafting workers. That soon disappeared though, and all the owners then cared about was not the welfare of their men and women, but purely profits. Of which they obviously ended up sorely lacking, going off the massive unpaid bills that haunt the derelict building, along with the silence of dead machinery that once unrelentingly turned and mashed and rumbled for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  29. My father worked at Fletchers for 40 years and I still have his Gold watch presented to him on his early retirement due to lung problems after working with the beaters and stench of Chlorine gas. Iworked for a nearby haulage firm and shipped tons of paper to the docks etc. The main concern for most who lost their jobs is the pension funds. It vanished with the new owner. He did a Maxwell!

Leave a Reply