Lost on Planet Earth | Exploring Decay: Robert Fletcher Paper Mill

Exploring Decay: Robert Fletcher Paper Mill

April 24, 2012  •  2 Comments

Rotting away in the North West of England is an industrial site that used to make paper, I take a little tour with some fellow Urbexers to capture some of its majesty before it is either subsumed by nature or replaced by boring box houses.

The History

There are plenty of sites already describing the history of this old paper mill, so I'll give a quick overview and suggest the following links to give you a place to research further.



broken wheel in abandoned paper millsoftly spoken

The site was originally owned by a company called Ralph Crompton and Nephews in the early 1800s, who originally hired Robert Fletcher within the bleaching dept.  

As Robert Fletcher rose in the ranks he soon became a trusted friend of the Crompton family, ultimately taking over the ownership and management of the mill, with his sons and grand sons taking over as the years progressed.  The company flourished into the 1990s, but toward the end of that decade revenues dwindled to the point where shareholders decided to fold the company in July 2001, practically overnight.  And this 'overnight' effect is very apparent in the way the site still exists today, offices strewn with the papers and workers' artefacts left in place from the day before the site was closed.  A site frozen in time, just waiting to be restarted.


The Adventure

Well, the site is not the most secure in the world, and has been accessed many times before by eager urbexers, especially the locals :-)  

But, knowing how disappointing it can be to get so close to photographing the wonderful interiors of these places, only to have some security bod ask you to leave, gets one a little eager to get in as quickly and efficiently as possible (without just smashing a window  or something).  It can take time to find a suitable entry point, though thankfully I'd secured a few tips from previous visitors on where previous access points existed, and they worked out pretty well.. just a slight adjustment here and there (the site entry had been bricked up on one side), and we were in with little fuss or bother.

Big Balls

Now, I have to admit that our first warehouse/room was a complete balls up... 

giant balls for creating the mushy pulp for making paper destroyer of worlds

Well, what I mean to say, is that it was full of these large pulping balls used to mix and mash up small wood shavings into a mushy pulp under pressure.  These were pretty awesome I have to say, looking more like something out of a star wars movie than a boring old paper mill.  One of my fellow urbexers, Ian, fell in love with these things... check out his little love affair on Ian's blog or flickr stream :-)  They are very photogenic though, and our other cohort captured a cool grungy futuristic image of one of these things in his flickr stream.  There is another room above this where they feed material into these things, which we were to discover on our way back from the main manufacturing room.  

Though, in true explorer fashion, despite spending a good couple of hours faffing around in this room capturing all sorts of funky images, we found we needed to move on further to satiate our appetite for more dirt, grunge and pigeon poop.  Or at least the machinery, though the other things kinda come as a package deal :-)  

paper mill loading warehouse water works

We got through a couple of different levels and fairly empty rooms as we progressed down to the main rolling room where the bulk of machinery was used to roll the paper.  It was in here where we lost our rights to be called Men.. hearing a footstep or two in the dim black rooms behind us meant we became uber sensitive to the fact that security might be doing their rounds and all but quivered gripping our tripods and tiptoeing to safety (I may exaggerate a little, but you get the idea).. and then we saw them... first one, then two, then a whole bunch... of other urbexers?  damn it, now I felt daft - nothing more than another group visiting the site :-)  Ah well, on with taking pictures...

The remainder of the warehouse we explored contained the offices, main loading warehouse (see left) and staff rooms (dining hall, locker room,etc).  There is literally so much to photograph here that we could have spent all day and still had more to do.   I think another visit will be in order at some point :-)  

It is worth noting that in the offices most of the floors are now rotting away underneath carpet, so one should be careful where one puts their feet... 

Just around the corner whilst Ian spent a few hours in this little office, I had to fulfil my stairs fetish once again and capture these metal containers and wooden steps leading to the upper floors - just underneath here there is running water, which I suspect is directly linked to the nearby small river.

steps to the upper floor of the paper millpaper grunge

By this time we'd already spent a good 4-5 hours there, so soon started to make our way back out to the original room with big balls, a couple of detours found some nice images of nature reclaiming the industrialised site, which I always find quite poetic:

nature taking over industry at robert fletchers paper millnature will find a way


More photos of Robert Fletchers Paper Mill

The Finish

Well, Robert Fletchers Paper Mill was a great explore - one I would do again, and one I would highly recommend.  But onward and upward as they say, and onto some more beautiful examples of the human influence on nature being reclaimed by time.  Hopefully I'll get more like this:

machinery at robert fletchers paper millghost in the machine


Lost on Planet Earth
Thanks Ian :-) I've only really just started the blog up (when I refreshed the site) - and still got some work to do, so not really been publicising it a great deal. Talking of content, are you up for another jaunt soon? We should pick up the thread on facebook for planning the next outing... :-)
Ian Andrew(non-registered)
Didn't know you had a blog going and have just come across this. Very nicely put together and an Interesting read :)
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